The Eighties Club
The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s
The Television Time Machine
The Television Time Machine is set for 
Thursday, June 6, 1985 . . .

Once again the summer is upon us, and the networks are doling out a steady diet of repeat episodes, pilots to shows that didn't make the fall schedule, and just about everything else they can think of, save the kitchen sink. Let's see if we can find a glimmer of gold in all the dross...
8 PM (EST) -- Sharon Stone guest stars in the conclusion of a two-part Magnum, P.I. (CBS); she plays Magnum's love interest as well as a twin sister who wants to wreck the relationship. On The Cosby Show (NBC), Cliff Huxtable (Bill Cosby) waxes nostalgic about his school sports days when Theodore (Malcolm-Jamal Warner) makes the high school football team. ABC News Closeup gives an alarming (or should we say alarmist?) report on the perils of nuclear technology; it's a three-hour program, and that's pretty alarming in and of itself. (Didn't they cry wolf fifty years ago about how television would destroy society as we knew it?) Jane Seymour can be seen on some independent channels in the conclusion of the syndicated miniseries Jamaica Inn. (Millions of  red-blooded American males pray they have the right independent channel!) Even though he's considerably less attractive than Jane, Michael Spinks is worth watching on WGN as he defends his world light-heavyweight championship (26-0, 18 KOs) against the also-undefeated Jim MacDonald (16-0, 15 KOs) in a 12-round bout televised live from Las Vegas. Meanwhile, Christopher Lambert stars in Greystoke: The Legend of Tarzan (1984) on HBO. (No, this isn't the one with Bo Derek in it, but it's commendable for a somewhat different take on the famous story.)
8:30 PM -- Alex (Michael J. Fox) becomes intrigued by the concept of fatherhood after meeting an unwed mother attending Lamaze classes at the Keaton house in Family Ties (NBC), while on some PBS affiliates Sneak Previews provides a glimpse of new films Perfect starring John Travolta and Jamie Lee Curtis, as well as The Goonies, starring Josh Brolin and Sean Astin.
9 PM -- PBS fires up a second showing of the gripping 12-part miniseries Reilly: Ace of Spies tonight; it stars Sam Neill as the remarkable turn-of-the-century masterspy. Over at Cheers (NBC), Coach is a big hit with a woman whose daughter won't give Sam (Ted Danson) the time of day in the first segment of a two-parter. Meanwhile, Rick and A.J. get involved when a small-town mayor is accused of murdering his wife, who happened to be the town's police chief, on Simon & Simon (CBS).
10 PM -- Hill and Renko dispense street justice while Belker loses a prisoner (but wins a jackpot) in a repeat episode of Hill Street Blues (NBC), while CBS airs the pilot for Dirty Work, a series that didn't make the final cut for next fall's schedule; it's about a secretary (Kerrie Keane) who works for a private eye and gets into hot water when she tries to find out why her boss and a scientist have both disappeared. Cinemax is airing the Al Pacino classic Dog Day Afternoon (1975), and at 10:15 you can catch the famous 1981 Simon & Garfunkel reunion concert held in New York Central's Park -- the one attended by a half million fans. (Makes you wonder how many would have shown up if they'd actually charged for tickets.)
Late Night -- Showtime presents an hour-long performance by Grammy-winning superstar Stevie Wonder, who returns to Detroit, where his career began. Joan Rivers is guest host on The Tonight Show (NBC), featuring appearances by Bonnie Franklin (One Day at a Time), singer Patti LaBelle, and Mr. Nice Guy himself, Don Rickles, who will endeavor to insult everyone in the building before his ten minutes are up. Comedians John Candy and Joe Flaherty do a lot of cutting up on Late Night with David Letterman (NBC). A&E's Fashion: The Inside Story airs for the last time and features an interview with designer Bill Blass, and that's after the St. Paul's Cathedral Boy's Choir performs "Agnus Dei," among other tunes. (Now, who said TV didn't have class?) Speaking of class, ESPN offers the 1984 U.S. Open Golf Highlights while over on WGN you can watch 1974's The Sugarland Express, a great film starring Goldie Hawn and directed by Steven Spielberg. There's a little something for everyone on the tube tonight!

IMAGES: Sharon Stone guest stars on Magnum P.I.; Sam Neill stars in Reilly: Ace of Spies

Stay Tuned -- There's no telling where the
Television Time Machine will take us next time!

The Television Time Machine is set for 
Friday, April 29, 1983 . . .

It's April. That means a mixed bag of treats on network television, some series with new episodes, others with repeats, and more than a fair share of movies to fill in the gaps. Here's what you had to choose from if, for lack of anything better to do, you were sprawled on the couch and turned on the tube.

8 PM (EST) -- Johnny Paycheck guest stars on CBS's Dukes of Hazzard, singing "Take This Job And Shove It" -- did he ever sing anything else? -- in a repeat episode that has Boss Hogg engaged in his latest nefarious undertaking, a stolen motorcycle ring. NBC counters with a special Candid Camera, in which Allen Funt is joined by Angie Dickerson, Bob Hope and Telly Savalas for a look back at memorable moments from the long-running show's past. Over on ABC, the final episode of the sitcom Baby Makes Five, which debuted a mere four weeks ago. is available for viewing. (If you remember this series, we're impressed!) Or, if you're a movie buff, you have several to choose from at this hour: WGN is showing Cannonball (1976), starring David Carradine -- and yes, it's about a cross-country auto race, just like 1981's The Cannonball Run (but not nearly as successful.) Then there's Showtime's Love and Money (1982), in which Ray Sharkey plays a banker enmeshed in Latin American political intrigue. HBO offers Clint Howard in 1982's Evilspeak, a movie about Satanism at a military academy. (You're just not safe anywhere.)

9 PM -- On tonight's Dallas (CBS), an accident involving J.R.'s car puts an unidentified man in the hospital, while NBC's Knight Rider (David Hasselhoff) finds his investigation into the theft of computer secrets hampered by an overzealous private eye. The 1983 case of a news team that filmed a man setting himself on fire in Alabama, rather than trying to save him, is the focus of Inside Story on some PBS affiliates. On others you might get Part 12 of I, Claudius; Derek Jacobi stars in this sword-and-toga miniseries that has plenty of sex and politics, Ancient Roman-style. The ABC movie offering is 1979's Prophecy, in which mutated animals terrorize a rural community. It's directed by John Frankenheimer (who should have known better!)

10 PM -- After a long stint on The Waltons, Ralph Waite signed up for a new series about a big-city criminal attorney who chucks it all by buying a riverboat and trying to make a living on The Mississippi (CBS). In tonight's episode, a wealthy woman accuses her housekeeper of stealing a valuable necklace. (You just can't get good help these days -- or any other days.)  On NBC you could catch the last episode of Bare Essence -- a series, a la Dynasty, all about sex, power and corruption in the perfume industry, and starring the likes of Genie Francis (whose character's name was Tyger Hayes -- we kid you not) and Jennifer O'Neill. Though spawned by a well-received 1982 TV movie based on a successful novel, this series lasted all of two months -- and for some people that was entirely too long! Nova (PBS) takes us on a journey into the human body to observe the development of an embryo, while HBO airs 1982's Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan; Ricardo Montalban takes a break from Fantasy Island to play an awesome bad guy.

Late Night -- Music lovers might want to catch Night Flight (USA), featuring Clarence "Gatemouth" Brown, Steve Miller, a Jim Morrison tribute and a "Space Patrol" episode. Bob and Ray join Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show (NBC). (You were going to ask: Bob and Ray who?  Well, don't!) Lee Horsley stars in The Sword and the Sorcerer, aired by HBO and filmed back in '82, before Lee donned cowboy boots and a drawl to make the ABC detective drama Matt Houston. (Hey, at least he's a versatile actor.) Or you might (we can only hope!) prefer the classic 1967 spy spoof, In Like Flint, starring the inimitable James Coburn as the waycool superspy who infiltrates a beauty resort to foil the dastardly scheme of world domination cooked up by a secret society of women. It's on TBS, if you're interested.

IMAGES: Tom Wopat and John Schneider are Luke and Bo in Dukes of Hazzard;Genie Francis stars in Bare Essence.

Stay Tuned -- There's no telling where the
Television Time Machine will take us next time!

The Television Time Machine is set for 
Saturday, September 27, 1986 . . .

It's the most exciting and hopeful time for TV junkies and network execs alike -- the fall season is upon us once again, and now we can check out the new lineups, the new shows, and the season premieres of all our favorites. Is there a better way to spend a Saturday evening? (Okay, don't answer that!) Just settle back with the remote control in one hand and a bottle of . . . Evian? the other, and let's see what's cooking on the "boob tube" . . .
7 PM (EST) -- Robert Palmer performs and Paul Simon is interviewed on NBC's Solid Gold, with Big Country and Johnny Mathis rounding out the show. (Johnny Mathis?) If your musical tastes run more to country & western, there's always Hee Haw on CBS; guests this time include Mr. and Mrs. Man in Black, um, we mean Johnny and June Carter Cash, accompanied by the Gatlin Brothers and Kathy Mattea. Some PBS affiliates are airing Wild America, featuring an episode on the social behavior of wild canids -- i.e., wolves, coyotes and foxes -- while on others you'll find Nashville Skyline. And Showtime is offering Star Trek III: The Search for Spock; as you'll recall, they killed off Mr. Spock in the second installment, but you can't keep a good Vulcan down.
8 PM -- CBS unveils a new crime drama, Downtown, starring Michael Nouri, who plays Det. John Forney, a streetwise veteran of the LAPD who also works as a parole officer. In the debut, Forney has 24 hours to solve a brutal murder. Robert Englund and Blair Underwood are members of the cast. NBC's Facts of Life launches its eighth season with Mrs. Garrett (Charlotte Rae) torn between her commitment to her girls and a man who wants to marry her and carry her off to Africa. Will she or won't she? Cloris Leachman joins the cast as Mrs. Garrett's sister. On Life with Lucy (ABC), Lucy helps John Ritter look for antique doorknobs. (Poor John!) Plenty of movies to choose from, too: HBO has Tom Selleck battling robots gone haywire in Michael Crichton's Runaway (1984), while Cinemax airs Ladyhawke (1985), a sword-and-sorcery adventure starring Rutger Hauer, Michelle Pfeiffer and Matthew Broderick. A&E gives us a 1952 Kirk Douglas western, The Big Trees, while CBN runs a John Wayne classic, Angel and the Badman (1947).
9 PM -- Stacy Keach returns (after a six-month jail sentence in merry olde England for cocaine possession) in the New Mike Hammer (CBS); Hammer is as hard-nosed as ever, but the blatant sexism of the original series, Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer (1984-85), has been toned down in an effort to attract more female viewers. The second season of NBC's hit sitcom, Golden Girls, has Blanche mightily depressed when she discovers she's going through menopause. In Heart of the City (ABC), a crime drama that debuted last week, Det. Wes Kennedy (Robert Desiderio) stalks a killer. (Maybe he and Downtown's Det. Forney should compare notes.) Some PBS affiliates are airing Native Land: Nomads of the Dawn, a documentary about American Indian mythology, while others opted for Austin City Limits, featuring Juice Newton and Mark Gray.
9:30 PM -- Sherman Hemsley of The Jeffersons fame stars in a new sitcom on NBC entitled Amen; in the debut tonight, we are introduced to his new character, Ernest Frye, a holier-than-thou deacon of a Philadelphia church in search of a new minister.
10 PM -- Twilight Zone (CBS) launches its second season with a story about an Elvis impersonator traveling back in time to meet the King himself, and another about a woman (Shelley Duvall) who gets a message from a flying saucer. NBC's Hunter (Fred Dryer) is accused of firing his weapon without provocation in the third season opener. Charles Hallahan joins the cast as Capt. Devane. And the second season of Spenser: For Hire opens with Spenser (Robert Urich) agreeing to help a woman whose fishing fleet is plagued by suspicious "accidents." Four up-and-coming comedians, including Howie Mandel and Paul Rodriguez, are featured on HBO's Detroit Comedy Jam, while on most PBS affiliates, Doctor Who finds his welcome to the planet Karn a little too warm for his liking -- seems the planet's inhabitants want his head for a body controlled by the brain of Morbius. (Doc, can we suggest a new travel agent?)
Late Night -- Sneak Previews (PBS) gives us a look at new flicks including Sean Connery's The Name of the Rose and Paul Hogan's Crocodile Dundee. And speaking of good movies, Jessica Lange portrays country & western star Patsy Cline in 1985's Sweet Dreams, on HBO, while TMC (The Movie Channel) airs Blood Simple (1985), a chilling and stylish film noir starring M. Emmet Walsh. NBC is running a repeat of the 2-hour pilot for L.A. Law as it's late night movie offering.

IMAGES: Stacy Keach is Mike Hammer; the cast of Spenser: For Hire.

Stay Tuned -- There's no telling where the
Television Time Machine will take us next time!