September 13, 2021

This week in TV Guide: September 13, 1980

It's time once again for the Fall Preview issue (postponed from last Saturday), and as I see it, there are three ways I can lay this out for you. I can, of course, try to cover everything, which would take a very long time, and if true would mean that I am probably writing these words in July. I can concentrate on those shows that were huge successes, programs like Hill Street Blues that became a household name. Or I can do the opposite, look at the shows that failed miserably, which can be a lot of fun—especially if some of them were highly rated and had big names fronting them. 

I'll admit that each of these three options has something going for it. I'll be honest, though: since I'm not writing this in July, but in the middle of August, you can assume I've decided not to go the comprehensive route. The only fair way to decide this, then, is the age-old solution of flipping a coin. Heads I go for the winners; tails and it's the losers. And you're here to keep an eye on things to make sure I'm honest, right? So here we go—wait. What do you mean it landed on its edge? Yes, I know what it means, but—no, of course I'm not suggesting you'd lie in front of all these people. Of course I trust you. All right then, I'll just have to compromise and do a little of each. Fair enough?

A proviso, though: as we're warned in TV Guide, there's an actors' strike in progress, and some of the shows listed in this issue may be postponed, or even cancelled, because of it. I'll try to point that out as I go along.

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I mentioned Hill Street Blues (NBC), which is certainly the most acclaimed of the new shows, although it will come perilously close to being cancelled before it catches on. It won't actually air until January 15 of next year, and it airs on three different nights during that first half-season (including Saturdays!) before it finally settles down to Thursdays at 10:00 p.m.

The most popular series of the new batch, though, is probably CBS's Magnum, P.I., and it's pretty hard to bet against Tom Sellick's charm and an exceptional supporting cast; the Hawaii scenery doesn't hurt either. It's up against Barney Miller on ABC and Thursday Night at the Movies on NBC. It does a little better than Hill Street Blues in terms of debuting—it hits the airwaves on December 11. It does better in the ratings as well, finishing the truncated season #14, as opposed to #87 for the Blues.

Three new series base their hopes on the popular movies they're adapted from, and—well, one out of three ain't bad. rate. Breaking Away (Saturdays, ABC), based on last year's Oscar-nominated movie, actually premieres in November, but while it's heavily publicized by the network and even brings some of the same cast members as the movie, only seven of its episodes are broadcast, and it's actually off the air before Hill Street Blues premieres. Freebie and the Bean (Saturdays, CBS), based on the 1974 buddy cop comedy, it fares no better; seven and out. Harper Valley, P.T.A. (Fridays, NBC), birthed by both a popular movie and song, actually survives for two seasons, and I'd suggest that a big reason for that success lies in its star, Barbara Eden.

Imitation is, they say, the sincerest form of flattery. In Hollywood, it's also the surest way to survival. What other way to explain the resurgance of the prime-time soap opera, spawned by the success of Dallas and Knotts Landing. NBC has Flamingo Road on Tuesdays, with a big-name cast including Morgan Fairchild, John Beck, Mark Harmon, Howard Duff, Barbara Rush, and Stella Stevens, and it lasts two seasons.* CBS hopes to continue its success with Saturday's Secrets of Midland Heights, but even though it's produced by Lorimar, maker of Dallas, and stars Lorenzo Lamas and the pre-Terminator Linda Hamilton, it remained a secret to audiences, and disappeared after eight episodes. 

*It, too, was based on a successful movie, the 1949 hit starring Joan Crawford .

Closely related to the series based on a movie is the series spunoff from another series, and we've got a couple of those as well: Enos (Wednesdays, CBS), which takes Sonny Shroyer's character from The Dukes of Hazzard and puts him in his own series, actualy makes it through an entire truncated season of 18 episodes before Enos returns from whence he came. A spinoff of a different kind is Those Amazing Animals (Sundays, ABC), inspired by the same network's That's Incredible!, right down to having three hosts of its own: Burgess Meredith, Priscilla Presley and Jim Stafford. It's good for a full season.

Bosom Buddies (Thursdays, ABC) is almost a spin-off; its men-in-drag scenario is certainly reminiscent of Some Like it Hot, and while it lasts for four successful seasons, both of its stars went on to bigger and better things: Peter Scolari, and—especially—Tom Hanks. And there are two other ABC sitcoms that deserve some mention: Too Close For Comfort (Tuesdays), which, between its network and syndication runs for seven seasons, makes Ted Knight the second most-successful alum of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, right after Gavin MacLeod; and It's a Living (Thursdays), which played the same network/syndication parlay to six successful seasons. 

And finally a brief moment of silence while we recite the names of those series whose names are, if not known only to God, remain nonetheless relatively anonymous: Ladies' Man (Mondays, CBS. Episodes aired: 15) and I'm a Big Girl Now (Fridays, ABC; couldn't make it even with Diana Canova and Danny Thomas. Episodes aired: 19) I've heard of the latter, not the former, but I just can't think of anything else worth saying about them.

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One of the continuing trends is the star-studded, epic scale miniseries (even though many of them are nothng more than two-part movies, but of course that isn't sexy enough), and for all the talk of coming attractions (Masada, East of Eden, The Gangster Chronicles), the biggest one of the season kicks off on Monday: Shōgun, NBC's $20 million gamble, a 12-hour adaptation of James Clavell's massive (1,152 pages) best-seller starring Richard Chamberlain and Toshiro Mifune.

The 12 hours are spread out over five consecutive nights, with three-hour episodes on Monday and Friday, and two hours each on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. It's interesting scheduling, especially having it conclude on Friday; nowadays, I think we've become accustomed to Sunday being the big television night of the week, with multipart events skipping a night or two so that they can begin and end on that date. Having it air on consecutive nights is far more sraightforward, almost like the binge programming of today.

Shōgun is a huge hit for NBC, with the network garnering its highest weekly rating in its history. It will be nominated for 14 Emmys, winning three, including best limited series; it also wins a Golden Globe and a Peabody. Almost makes the rest of the season an anticlimax, doesn't it?

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One of the most anticipated sections of the Fall Preview is Judith Crist's look at the big-screen movies coming to television for the first time. Even with VHS and cable on the horizon, most of us still rely on the networks for the movies we missed in the theaters, or want to see again. Last year, there were 111 theatrical premieres on network TV, and that doesn't include 13 that had been announced but won't make it until this season. With that to look forward to, what are some of the highlights?

NBC's list is headed by two prestige hits from the middle of the last decade, 1976's All the President's Men, with Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman; and 1977's Julia, starring Vanessa Redgrve and Jane Fonda. Other features include The Boys from Brazil, with Lalurence Olivier and Gregory Peck; Eyes of Laura Mars, starring Faye Dunaway and Tommy Lee Jones; New York, New York, with Liza Minelli as the last person to sing the theme before Frank Sinatra appropriated it as his own; and the 1970 documentary Woodstock.

Over at CBS, the emphasis, says Crist, is on "froth rather than 'class'," including the "wonderfully witty" Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe; George Hamilton and Susan Saint James in Love at First Bite; Same Time, Next Year, with Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn, and Foul Play, with Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase. Their headliner is 1979's The Amityville Horror, which Crist calls "the most boring, illogical and inept horror movie to have made $35 million at the box office," which was quite a bit of money at the time; and The Champ, with Jon Voight, Faye Duanway, and Ricky Schroder.

Last but not least, ABC has a lot to offer, beginning with 1977's Saturday Night Fever, which made John Travolta a star; 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me, which introduced us to the villain Jaws; Sally Field's 1979 Oscar turn in Norma Rae; Neil Simon's California Suite, and a doubleheader of Barbra Streisand: the "self-indulgent remake" of A Star is Born, and The Main Event. There's also Midnight Express, which details the horror of Turkish prison; and The Enforcer, Clint Eastwood's third turn as Dirty Harry Callahan. It's enough to make up for the "tedious, mindless" trucker movie Convoy.

All in all, says Crist, the season gives promise of being a good one for viewers. Even if you have to wait years, not weeks, for some of your favorites.

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In our hurry to look forward to the coming season, let's not forget that there are shows worth watching right now—depending on your tastes, of course. On Monday, it's the debut of Solid Gold (various stations throughout the week), with hostess Dionne Warwick welcoming Paul Anka, Irene Cara, and Johnny Lee. Hour Magazine, hosted by Gary Collins (and not to be confused with PM Magazine), debuts in syndication on Monday, while Alan Thicke premieres a weekday variety show; no, this isn't Thicke of the Night. Tuesday night gives two dubious changes: The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson goes from its traditional 90 minutes to an hour, while Tom Snyder's Tomorrow expands to 90 minutes to fill in the gap. An hour has since become the standard for such shows; it's hard to call them "talk shows" anymore, since nobody ever sticks around to talk. It is, in my opinion, a great, great loss to television, as well as the art of conversation.

On Saturday night at 10:30 p.m., PBS broadcasts the world television premiere of the opera The Ocean Flight, by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. The original title was Der Flug der Lindberghs, telling the story of Charles Lindbergh's historic transatlantic solo flight; Brecht, who would become disillusioned with what he saw as Lindbergh's wartime isolationism and Nazi sympathies, later changed the name and removed all references to Lindbergh from the text. 

I was curious as to what it was like. Perhaps you will be, too.

There are some excellent movies on this week, starting with the Oscar-winning A Man for All Seasons (Sunday, 11:30 p.m., KIRO); it took me many years to warm to this movie and watch it all the way through, but now that I have, it's one of my favorites. (You should watch it, too; we may be living this way sooner rather than later.) The Man in the White Suit (Sunday, 11:45 p.m., CBUT) is a very funny Alec Guinness satire on modern business.And I quite like the movie Badlands (Friday, 12:15 a.m., CHEK), based on the 1957-58 murder spree of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate, with Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek. 

Of course, we can't forget Casablanca (12:15 a.m., CBUT), can we? Otherwise, we'll never have Paris. 

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Since this piece was postponed from September 11, you can read another piece later this morning: this week's retro TV listings. Be sure to return for it! TV  

1 comment:

  1. I remember this issue well, as it came only a few weeks into my (what was eventually) 26-year subscription to the magazine. Since you mentioned shows that never appeared, both the 1981 & 1982 Fall Previews included THE POWERS OF MATTHEW STAR, which was delayed out of the 1981-82 season because of the death of a key producer and a major injury to Peter Barton, who starred in the series. MeTV is currently rerunning this show very early on Sunday mornings.
    BOSOM BUDDIES only lasted 2 (not 4) seasons, but I remember it well, along w/ its stars, Tom Hanks & Peter Scolari.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!