The Eighties Club
The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s
The Television Time Machine
The Television Time Machine is set for 
Tuesday, February 17, 1987 . . .

Where television viewing is concerned it often seems to be feast or famine -- either there just isn't much worth watching on the tube, to the point where you might have to do something desperate like pick up a book (gasp), or there's so much good stuff on that there is no way you're going to be able to see it all.  We know why this is -- the networks are constantly at war, airing their best programs in the same time slots in a battle for rating points.  (In 1987, each Nielsen rating point equals 874,000 households.)  Take tonight, for instance.  Unless you have several televisions and videocassette recorders you're gonna miss out, big time.
8, EST -- CBS is airing a Candid Camera special in which Allen Funt, that cheery expert in the art of wickedly funny humiliation, narrates vintage highlights from the show he created forty years ago.  (Do you ever wonder, as we do, whether Funt was the brunt of a lot of practical jokes when he was a child?)  Or you could catch the first episode of a two-part Matlock in which an Army private is accused of knocking off an officer.  Angela is all geared up to get a marriage proposal on  ABC's Who's the Boss? -- and it isn't from Tony -- while Nova (PBS) gives us Sam Waterston narrating an analysis of Sigmund Freud's theories.

8:30, EST -- Part Three of the controversial 14-hour miniseries, Amerika (which started last Sunday and concludes the following Sunday) airs tonight.  There has been much fuss over this $40 million made-for-TV epic about a Soviet takeover of the United States starring Sam Neill, Kris Kristofferson, Robert Urich, Christine Lahti and Mariel Hemingway.  Liberals -- including many of the left-leaning stars -- have been critical of the production because it makes the Soviet Union the villain of the piece.  (Gee, that's awful, isn't it?)  Really, it's much ado about nothing, but you might already be hooked if you've seen the first two parts, so read on to see what you're going to miss if that's the case . . . .

9, EST -- It's as American as apple pie, and tonight's the night for the 36th Annual Miss U.S.A. Pageant (CBS), hosted by the impeccably bland Bob Barker.  Broadcast live from Albuquerque's Trigley Coliseum, the competition is laced with footage of all 52 contestants sampling the culture of the American Southwest.  Over on NBC, though, the 2-hour finale of the popular crime series Remington Steele will be shown.  Will Laura and Remington live happily ever after?  After five years we'll find out -- maybe.  The PBS documentary series Frontline continues it's disturbing look at teenage drug and alcohol abuse.
10, EST -- If you're not watching Pierce Brosnan be sauve and debonair on NBC, or 52 of the most beautiful women in America model evening gowns and swimsuits on CBS, or the land of the free becoming the home of the repressed in ABC's Amerika -- well, you might want to just turn in because there isn't a lot left.  Having said that, you could catch Virginia Madsen in an episode of HBO's Hitchhiker, while Henry Kissinger puts himself on the Firing Line (PBS) by giving his opinion of last year's superpower summit at Reykjavik, Iceland.  (Hmmm, Madsen or Kissinger, Kissinger or Madsen -- decisions, decisions!)
Late Night -- TBS is airing a colorized version of the 1941 classic, The Maltese Falcon,  (Bogie looks a little orange around the gills, don't ya think?)  In HBO's Control, Burt Lancaster stars as a scientist studying how a diverse group of people react during a 20-day stay together in a bomb shelter.  Ben Gazzara and Kate Nelligan co-star.  Billy Vera and the Beaters are Johnny Carson's Tonight Show (NBC) guests.  Or you could spend your time poring over the newspaper for sales on VCRs, because if you didn't have one already you'll be convinced you need one of those expensive contraptions by the time this night is over!

IMAGES: Tony Danza and Judith Light in Who's the Boss?; Stephanie Zimbalist and Pierce Brosnan star in Remington Steele

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

The Television Time Machine is set for 
Sunday, September 11, 1983 . . .

Well, it's Sunday, and this afternoon you've either done the yard work, watched NFL football, or hauled yourself off to the golf course (if male) or a friend's house (if female) to chat about . . . well, you know, what women chat about.  Now the sun's going down and you're faced with the daunting prospect of another week at work, which probably gives you a moderate case of the blues.  Can't go out, so what else is there but to see what's on TV?  Read a book?  Yeah, right!  Click!
7, EST -- There's a Ray Charles music special on NBC, and people like Andrae Crouch, Engelbert Humperdinck, Lou Rawls and Stevie Wonder have all gathered to help Ray celebrate 40 (count 'em) years in showbiz.  Or, you could catch the final episode of Powers of Matthew Star on NBC in a few (a very few) areas.  You remember Matthew, don't ya?  The crown prince of the planet  Quadris, exiled to Earth?  Well, he's been with us for one season, but now I guess he has to go home.  On CBS we have that perennial favorite, 60 Minutes, just getting into its umpteenth season -- it premiered in 1968, so you do the math.  Otherwise, you could discover the origin of the potato chip (and a lot of other interesting things) on ABC's Ripley's Believe It Or Not.
8 -- ABC is showing Airport '77 for the sixth time in as many years, and if you don't watch (it's only three hours, for crying out loud) you'll miss President Reagan's United Way appeal after the credits.  (I know, you're wishing he would appeal to ABC to leave Airport '77 on the shelf next year.)  Guess the prez was upstaged for a change -- First Lady Nancy Reagan showed up last night on an episode of "Diff'rent Strokes."  If you have cable you've got some other movies to choose between; HBO offers Carol Burnett and Elizabeth Taylor in the worthwhile Between Friends, while Warren Beatty's Reds is airing on Showtime.  (Be warned, it's even longer than Airport '77, and that without all the commercials, too.)
9 -- On CBS there's a repeat of the Jeffersons episode in which Louise can't stand not knowing what's on an old photo George keeps locked away from prying eyes.  (You know what curiosity killed, right, Louise?)  Or, if you want to firm up the rest of the week's viewing right now, you might catch the first installment (there'll be three) of Beulah Land on NBC.  This made-for-TV Gone With the Wind wannabe originally aired in 1980.  Or, if you haven't had your fill of gridiron action you could watch college football on USA; it's LSU vs. Florida State -- only problem is it was taped yesterday, so hope you didn't read the sports page.
10 -- On Trapper John, M.D., Gonzo seems to be letting his love life interfere with his work (wow, he has a job AND a love life), and President Reagan shows up again to make his United Way pitch.  For you cultured types, PBS is repeating the Guilini Concerts; Carlo Guilini conducts the L.A. Philharmonic, which performs parts of three of his operas.  For those with a taste for something less high-brow, but a lot more hilarious, HBO's Not Necessarily the News looks at recruitment commercials for the underworld.
Late Night -- MTV is airing The Concert for Kampuchea -- in case you hadn't noticed, there was benefit concert for just about everything in the Eighties.  If you do have to work tomorrow you could be in trouble because there are a LOT of classic movies on late tonight: The Sea Wolf (1941) starring Edward G. Robinson on WGN, Bette Davis in The Little Foxes (1941) on TBS, followed by The Buster Keaton Story (1957) with Donald O'Connor in the lead role.  So, if you show up at the office bleary-eyed you'll know you should have read a book.  (It would have put you right to sleep.)

IMAGES: Ray Charles; cast of The Jeffersons

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

The Television Time Machine is set for 
Friday, September 13, 1985 . . .

The week is over, thank God.  Tomorrow evening you'll go out on the town, but tonight all you want to do is sit back, relax, and watch a little TV.  You pick up the remote and tune in . . .
7:30, EST -- The nightly newscasts are over, so what to watch? Louis L'Amour is interviewed on PM Magazine, while Dustin Hoffman talks about his TV production of "Death of a Salesman" on Entertainment Tonight. On the other hand, the hilarious Not Necessarily the News on HBO takes an irreverent look at a yuppie shopping center.  (Hope you have cable.)
8 -- On CBS you can catch the last episode of the crime drama I Had Three Wives, but why bother when NBC's Knight Rider (Michael Hasselhoff) is tangling with a hit man who drives a killer car?  Social awareness is the theme on ABC: this week's episode of Webster deals with sexual child abuse, followed by a Mr. Belvedere in which Kevin ends up in jail for staining a mink coat to impress his animal-rights activist girlfriend.  If you have cable, A&E is airing the United Nations Gala hosted by Richard Burton in which a lot of top entertainers are doing their thing for the sake of famine relief, while HBO is broadcasting a cool movie, All the President's Men.
9 -- If you watch All the President's Men, though, you'll miss The Cannonball Run, a 1981 slapstick starring Burt Reynolds and Roger Moore and Farrah Fawcett and, well, the list goes on and on.  Okay, missing that flick might not be so bad, but then you also miss Barbara Walters on ABC, and tonight Barbara is interviewing tabloid-favorite Princess Caroline, the daughter of Monaco's Prince Rainier, as well as Barbara Streisand and Priscilla Presley.  But the decision is even tougher because the Video Music Awards are showing on MTV; Eddie Murphy is hosting this three-hour event from the Big Apple's Radio City Music Hall, and Sting, Tears for Fears and John Cougar Mellencamp are going to perform.
10 -- Assuming you're not in the middle of a movie or the music awards, you can catch Miami Vice on NBC.  It's a repeat (the new season hasn't started yet) about drug-crazed teenagers on a rampage, but since when did the plot really matter with this show?  It just looks good!  Then again, Cinemax is airing Purple Rain in case you haven't had enough of Prince, whose "Raspberry Beret" video is numero uno in the MTV rotation these days.  Or, if you're into spectator sports you could catch the pro karate bouts on ESPN.
Late Night -- Joan "Can We Talk?" Rivers is the guest host on The Tonight Show, and her guests include Oprah Winfrey, who is the host of a Chicago-based talk show herself.  This is followed by Friday Night Videos, with offerings by UB40, Whitney Houston and the ubiquitous Sting.  If you're really into the music video thing, you can also catch USA's Night Flight; its a profile of the group, Power Station.  (You know, "Some Like It Hot.")  Meanwhile, it's hang gliders versus bikers in the movie The Great Skycopter Rescue on CBS (snicker) or a British flick called The Savage Curse (doesn't that sound interesting....NOT!) on ABC.

IMAGES: Knight Rider, Miami Vice, and Joan Rivers hosting The Tonight Show.

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