The Eighties Club
The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s
The Television Time Machine
The Television Time Machine is set for 
Monday, November 17, 1986 . . .

Your Monday has probably been "blue" or "manic" or something that can't be repeated in polite company, but at least the workday (for most) is over, and it's time to recuperate. Maybe there's something entertaining to watch on TV. (It pays to be optimistic -- especially on a Monday!)
8, EST -- CBS airs the second part of a six-hour, five-part miniseries entitled Fresno, starring Carol Burnett, Dabney Coleman, Teri Garr and Charles Grodin. A spoof of primetime soaps like Dynasty, Fresno offers up characters with names like Tyler, Talon and Torch in a saga "crammed with passion...stuffed with lust" and (CBS hopes) enough humor to keep viewers tuning in until Thursday's conclusion. NBC counters with its popular sitcom, Family Ties, in which Alex (Michael J. Fox) must side with either a friend or his frat brothers, and over on ABC, MacGyver finds his vacation spoiled by an escaped felon. (Don't you just hate it when that happens?) It's movie time on cable, with Tom Selleck starring in the 1984 cops-and-robots flick Runaway on HBO, while Showtime airs Gremlins (1984) and WGN brings us the 1982 Canadian classic Porky's. Talk about tough decisions!
9, EST -- We all know what comes on after MacGyver on ABC -- it's Monday Night Football, this time featuring a clash between a pair of NFC powerhouses, the San Francisco 49ers and the Washington Redskins, led respectively by Joe Montana and Doug Williams. Will one of these teams make it to Super Bowl XXI? (Click here to find out.) If you're one of those who couldn't care less, you might opt for a made-for-TV movie on NBC called Kate's Secret, in which Meredith Baxter Birney (of Family Ties) stars as a homemaker suffering from bulimia. And in case that's too grim, CBS airs Newhart; in this episode the relationship between Larry and his brother Darryl -- not to mention his other brother Darryl -- is on the rocks. Now that's tragic! Meanwhile, PBS offers a documentary, Making Of A Continent, that chronicles the geological history of the Mississippi River.
10, EST -- On CBS, Cagney & Lacey tackle the pornography issue, as a prosecutor in a child-porn case is murdered and Lacey discovers that her son possesses an adult magazine. (Maybe he was just reading the articles.) Showtime airs Cocoon (1985), the acclaimed fountain-of-youth fantasy directed by Ron Howard. Don Ameche breakdancing, anyone? Or you could resort to PBS, where the conclusion of the documentary The Story of English examines how it came to pass that natives in remote regions of the globe speak "pidgin" English. And no, Brooklyn is not one of those regions.
Late Night -- Randy Travis and Susan Lucci join host Joan Rivers on the syndicated Late Show, while a repeat of a 1985 Tonight Show features comedian Robert Klein, tennis great Boris Becker and cellist Yo-Yo Ma. The fairly new Lifetime Network is running a 1978 British film, The Class of Miss MacMichael, starring Glenda Jackson as a teacher facing numerous challenges at a reform school for girls. (That sounds suspiciously like Sidney Poitier's To Sir, With Love, doesn't it?) But then, it's back to the old grind early tomorrow morning, so maybe you should just tune out and turn in.

IMAGES: Richard Dean Anderson as MacGyver; Cagney & Lacey on CBS

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

The Television Time Machine is set for 
Saturday, October 3, 1981. . .

It's Saturday, and if you're not out on the town that probably means you either couldn't get a date or you're married. Either way, you need to be entertained. Nothing depressing, nothing thought-provoking -- just fun. Some laughs, maybe some music. And that's exactly what you're going to get if you've settled in on the couch and turned on the TV tonight.
7, EST -- Marilyn McCoo and Andy Gibb, the cohosts of NBC's music series, Solid Gold, will bring you an hour of the latest hit tunes, including a (taped) performance of "Start Me Up" by the Rolling Stones -- oh, and we almost forgot (yeah right!), there's always the Solid Gold Dancers. Over on CBS, the TV "newsmagazine" Look At Us examines youth gangs in a West Philadelphia neighborhood as well as how to prepare for a nuclear holocaust or economic disaster. (Now, that's what we call fun!) Nova (PBS) opens its ninth season with a look at computer spies. Hey, the Computer Age is just getting under way and there's a lot of anxiety about it out there. For those who choose to forego anxiety, turn to HBO, which is airing the 1980 flick Smokey and the Bandit II, starring . . . well, surely you know!
8, EST -- Barbara Mandrell and her sisters Irlene and Louise launch the second season of their hour-long variety series (NBC) with guest stars Alabama and Debbie Reynolds. You haven't lived until you see Barbara play the banjo, Louise the fiddle, and Irlene the drums. (Just kidding.)  Or you could set sail for romance on the Love Boat (ABC), where we have Donny Osmond playing a singer (chuckle) embarrassed by the fact that his folks are hillbillies. Meanwhile, Robert Guillaume and Pam Grier play a couple of passengers cheating on their spouses. Guess they thought they took the Lust Boat. If that isn't enough love for you, CBS's Walt Disney brings us (for the umpteenth time) the conclusion of The Love Bug.
9, EST -- Barry Bostwick, William Devane and Joan Van Ark star in the 1981 TV movie Red Flag: The Ultimate Game on CBS. Seems the Air Force is simulating aerial combat against Soviet invaders in the skies over the Nevada desert. (Tom Cruise, where are you?) NBC has countered with the Brooke Shields epic Tilt  (1979), in which America's darling plays a 14-year-old pinball wizard. It's the flick's first time on TV (and possibly it's last.) If jet fighters screaming through the stratosphere or Brooke playing with the paddles doesn't do anything for you, there's always HBO's airing of the boxing match between middleweight champion Marvelous Marvin Hagler and Mustafa Hamsho, televised live from the Horizon Arena in Rosemont, Ill. Gee, we wonder who'll win. (Mustafa who?)
10, EST -- How do you top Love Boat? Easy, you follow it up with Fantasy Island. That's what ABC has done tonight, repeating an episode in which a would-be detective is given an assist by a veteran shamus -- who just happens to be a ghost. (The plane! The plane! Sorry, couldn't resist.)
Late Night -- NBC's Saturday Night Live has its seventh-season premiere with Rod Stewart as guest host and a moving three-minute film by Yoko Ono on her life with the late John Lennon. For those who want to laugh until their cheeks hurt, HBO presents 1980's hilarious Airplane! Some ABC affiliates are  countering with Omar Sharif and Jack Palance in The Horsemen. Any buzkashi fans out there? (We didn't think so.) A little later on you could catch an Evening At The Improv on CBS, hosted by the comedic duo, Shields and Yarnell. (For you trivia nuts, this show would be picked up by A&E in 1985 for a ten-season run.) Soooo, did you have fun tonight? We hope so.

IMAGES: The cast of The Love Boat; the cast of Fantasy Island.

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

The Television Time Machine is set for 
Wednesday, January 11, 1984 . . .

It's January, and you know what that means -- mid-season replacements! This is when the networks tout those new series they didn't think were good enough for a Fall premiere, but use now to replace the series they did think were good enough, but weren't.  If that makes any sense.  It's also Wednesday, aka "hump" day, as in it's all downhill from here to the weekend. If ever there was a day in the week you needed a good laugh, Wednesday is it.  And tonight it looks like the TV powers-that-be are trying to deliver.

8, EST -- On the new CBS comedy series Domestic Life (which is produced by Steve Martin and had previously been nixed by NBC), Martin Mull stars as a radio station commentator with a somewhat offbeat family.  Over on ABC's The Fall Guy, stuntman/bounty hunter Colt Seavers is tracking down a hit lady, while a salute to Olympic heroes, including George Foreman and Jesse Owen, is the offering of this week's Real People (NBC). On PBS, National Geographic launches its eighteenth season with a look at Jane Goodall's pioneering study of wild chimpanzees. Speaking of Steve Martin, he has a one-hour special airing on Showtime. So, who's funnier, Steve or those rascally chimps?  Um, you decide. And if you're in a more serious mood you could always catch Part 4 of Centennial, starring Richard Chamberlain, Robert Conrad and Barbara Carrera. This 26-hour made-for-TV epic is in the middle of a twelve-night run on TBS. (Twelve nights! Now, that's serious.)

8:30, EST -- CBS has another mid-season comedy in this time slot, a satire on corporate America called Empire, starring Dennis Dugan and Patrick Macnee (of The Avengers fame.) This series will vanish in about a month, so catch it while you can!

9, EST -- Natalie accepts a dance invitation from Tootie's cousin on the hit NBC sitcom, Facts of Life, while over on ABC's Dynasty Blake gives Fallon some business advice, Jeff announces his imminent divorce, Steven plans to move back into the mansion and...well, it goes on and on. CBS counters with a 1981 Chevy Chase movie, Modern Problems, in which Chevy plays an air traffic controller who is endowed with telekinetic powers after being exposed to nuclear waste. (Now, that sounds funny -- but it's just silly.) If none of this tickles your funny bone, try Airplane II: The Sequel on Showtime.

9:30 EST -- Michael J. Fox guest stars when Santa Claus is dragged into NBC's Night Court on trespassing charges.

10, EST -- Looks like Ehrlich (Ed Begley, Jr.) may be in love while the hospital's computers might have a glitch on NBC's St. Elsewhere. Christine (Connie Sellecca) captures the attention of McDermott (James Brolin) at a charity ball, while Emma Sands guest stars as a modern-day Cinderella who has a date with a prince (Jon-Erik Hexum) in Hotel (ABC). "Rich and Jealous" and "The Date Debate" are two of the sketches on tonight's episode of SCTV, that ensemble live comedy show recently cancelled by NBC but now resurrected for its sixth (and final) season in Cinemax. (The show has been a vehicle for John Candy, Martin Short, Andrea Martin, Rick Moranis and a host of other comedians.)  Oh, and look, there's Airplane II: The Sequel on HBO, too.

Late Night -- Itzhak Perlman and William F. Buckley, Jr. are Johnny's hosts on The Tonight Show; a hidden camera in the White House provides plenty of chuckles on HBO's Not Necessarily the News; Robert de Niro stars as a slightly-deranged, would-be comedian who kidnaps a talk show host (Jerry Lewis) and asks for a ransom of ten minutes on national TV in The King of Comedy, airing on Cinemax. (Some people will do anything to get a laugh.) And comedian Richard Morris guests on Late Night With David Letterman (NBC). After all that, if you're still not amused, then give up.  You're a hopeless case.

IMAGES: The cast of Facts of Life; the cast of Night Court.

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