The Eighties Club
The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s
The Television Time Machine
The Television Time Machine is set for 
Monday, August 13, 1984 . . .

Yesterday ended a temporary respite from the long summer doldrums for television viewers, when the fabulously successful Summer Olympics held in Los Angeles came to close. Now the networks have to worry about keeping people tuned in for another month or so until the new season begins. Endowed with a healthy skepticism, let's take a look at how well they do in that regard.
7:30 PM (EST) -- Syndicated on both ABC and CBS, PM Magazine is offering a look at The Jacksons on tour as well as a report on a flying car. (Don't rush out and get your pilot's license just yet.) Meanwhile, Kurt Russell is featured on Entertainment Tonight, which is aired on those ABC affiliates that passed on PM Magazine. And on some independent channels you might catch Solid Gold Hits, with guests Air Supply and Yarbrough & Peoples, not to mention a new video by the Go-Go's, "Head Over Heels." (Less than a year from now this all-girl group will disband.)
8 PM -- On CBS, the two-hour premiere of Airwolf is being shown -- again; the series debut was back in January. Jan-Michael Vincent stars as Stringfellow Hawke, who is hired by The Firm to retrieve a special helicopter stolen by its creator and sold to (gasp!) the Libyans. This seems to be the night for high-flying action, because over on ABC the much-touted series Call to Glory debuts; Craig T. Nelson stars as Col. Ray Sarnac, who flies U-2 missions over Cuba during the 1960s -- the height of the Cold War, in case history was never your strong suit. Critics who have previewed this new series were generally impressed -- which is often the kiss of death. (Sure enough, Call to Glory will be permanently grounded in February 1985.) A repeat episode of TV's Bloopers & Practical Jokes (NBC) is a classic, with Rod Stewart playing a joke on Dick Clark and Robert Klein doing a delightful skit on romance in New York; Burt Reynolds, Sammy Davis, Jr., Debby Boone and Jay Leno are also involved in various shenanigans. Over on Showtime's Faerie Tale Theatre, Susan Sarandon and Klaus Kinski have an unusual romance in a retelling of the classic "Beauty and the Beast."

9 PM -- As if you haven't had enough series repeats, NBC is recycling a 1980 TV-movie entitled Rage, in which David Soul stars as a convicted rapist undergoing therapy. A great supporting cast that includes James Whitmore, Yaphet Kotto, Vic Tayback and Craig T. Nelson is the film's saving grace.
10 PM -- When Cagney (Sharon Gless) is shot by a bank robber, her partner Lacey (Tyne Daly) is besieged by guilt on CBS's Cagney & Lacey. (Surprise, surprise, it's a repeat!) Daly must really emote, because she wins a Best Actress (Drama) Emmy for the 1983-84 season. And on ABC there is a wrap-up on the XXIII Olympiad which that network has been airing for . . . well, it seems like forever! It's been a great Summer Games for the U.S. athletes, especially since the Soviet Union and its Eastern Bloc satellites boycotted them. (You may have been one of the 2.6 billion people who watched the closing ceremonies last night, during which a spaceship descended on the L.A. Coliseum and deposited a 10-foot "alien" beside the Olympic torch, after which Lionel Richie performed "All Night Long" backed by 200 breakdancers. Only in America!) HBO is airing its well-received movie, Heart Like A Wheel, which is all about the career of drag racer Shirley Muldowney, played by Bonnie Bedelia. (This very year, Muldowney would be in a near-fatal crash, followed by five major surgeries and18 months of recuperation.)
Late Night -- Dabney Coleman and C. Thomas Howell are being interviewed about their new films -- Cloak and Dagger and Grandview USA, respectively -- on Seeing Stars (USA). NBC is going all the way back to May 1983 to resurrect an episode of The Tonight Show featuring Jacqueline Bisset and George Burns. (Well, okay, with a line-up like that, who can blame them?) And if you've got two and a half hours to spare, ESPN is showing the most recent Baseball Hall of Fame induction ceremonies. (You'd have to be a diehard fan of America's favorite pastime to hang through all of that!)

IMAGES: Airwolf; cast of Call to Glory; Jacqueline Bisset

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

The Television Time Machine is set for 
Saturday, August 26, 1989 . . .

Saturday night is, arguably, the favorite night of the week for most of humanity. One exception would be network television programmers, who must somehow put together a primetime line-up that entices at least some people into switching on the boob tube. They know television-viewing can't compare to going out to dinner with the apple of one's eye, or down to the neighborhood bar to shoot some pool with a gang of friends, but they're not paid to simply throw their hands up in despair, either. So we thought it would be interesting to take a look at how they fared on a particular Saturday night in the summer of 1989...
8 PM (EST) -- In an endeavor to make some inroads into NBC's Saturday primetime line-up, considered unbeatable in 1989, ABC unveiled Family Classics this summer, a short-lived series providing wholesome entertainment, like tonight's conclusion of Student Exchange (1987), in which Viveka Davis and Todd Field masquerade as foreign students. (Don't ask why -- you know you really don't care.) This happens to be the series' final scheduled broadcast. In a repeat episode of ABC's western series Paradise, Ethan and Claire (Lee Horsley and Jenny Beck) are bitten by a rabid wolf, more proof that life on the frontier was certainly no picnic. Meanwhile, Thelma's gourmet dinner very nearly becomes a last supper for Reverend Gregory's fellow ministers in a repeat episode of NBC's popular Sherman Hensley sitcom, Amen. If you're not interested in anything wholesome, western, or irreverent, you have recourse to an episode of Cops (Fox). Though it premiered only a few months ago (March, to be exact), this half-hour docudrama has captured -- or should we say arrested -- America's interest. All red-blooded American males, of course, will be tuned in to the two-hour special, Supermodels of the World, on WGN.
8:30 PM -- On Empty Nest (NBC), Harry (Richard Mulligan) offers to take daughters Barbara and Carol (Kristy McNichol and Dinah Manoff) to Paris if they'll stop fighting. (Fat chance!) The second season of Beyond Tomorrow (Fox) opens tonight with new correspondents (David Marash, Barry Nolan and Renee Chenault) and a report on a drug that could make you live longer.
9 PM -- Sensing that his movie career has stalled, Burt Reynolds has come home again to TV in the role of Palm Beach private eye B.L. Stryker, one of three series incorporated into the ABC Mystery Movie. In this two-hour episode, Stryker tries to save a young man from an evangelist who's after his trust fund. (In case you hadn't noticed, religious leaders caught a lot of flak in the Eighties.) Over on NBC, the hit sitcom Golden Girls follows Empty Nest ; in this outing, Dorothy's high-school rival, played by Anne Francis, returns to torment her again. Roseanne Cash and Chris Hillman's Desert Rose Band wow the crowd on Austin City Limits on some PBS affiliates, while on others Tommy Tune and the Manhattan Rhythm Kings join John Williams and the Pops for a tribute to Fred Astaire on Evening at Pops. Now that's entertainment! If your tastes run to something less glamorous, try Tour of Duty (CBS), one of two series about the Vietnam conflict currently on TV -- the other being China Beach. A&E presents the first segment of a 13-episode biographical drama entitled Lillie about British actress Lillie Langtry, played by another British actress, Francesca Annis.
10 PM -- L.A. police chief Daryl Gates (who had not yet heard of Rodney King), plays himself on NBC's hit crime drama Hunter; this is the first installment of a three-parter involving a task force to fight crime in certain dangerous neighborhoods. (Bet you didn't realize they had dangerous neighborhoods in L.A., huh.) On the CBS newsmagazine West 57th, described as a yuppy version of 60 Minutes, we are treated to a 1988 tribute to singer Roy Orbison (who died in '88) and a feature on an ex-policeman who exposes racism in California police departments. (One wonders if Chief Gates was watching.) Over on Fox, a college student fascinated by werewolves gets to become one on Friday the 13th. USA has its own thriller series, Hitchhiker, and tonight David Soul guest stars as a greedy developer  framed for murder. Peter Benchley, author of Jaws, hosts a report about --- guess what? -- on National Audubon Society (PBS).
Late Night -- Hockey superstar Wayne Gretzky hosts Saturday Night Live (NBC), with guests Fine Young Cannibals singing their hit "She Drives Me Crazy." Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Victoria Jackson and Dennis Miller are some of the regulars. CBS is airing an action flick, Let's Get Harry (1986), in which Robert Duvall stars as a mercenary hired to rescue a hostage. Mark Harmon and Gary Busey also star. Fox offers up a much better movie, On the Beach (1959), the Stanley Kramer classic about nuclear holocaust, starring Gregory Peck, Fred Astaire and the inimitable Ava Gardner. All in all, we have to say that staying home to watch TV on this particular Saturday night wasn't so bad.

IMAGES: The cast of Tour of Duty; Fred Dryer and Stepfanie Kramer in Hunter.

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

The Television Time Machine is set for 
Sunday, January 13, 1980 . . .

As the decade opens, ABC has been the Numero Uno network for years. But last November, CBS became the first network in a while to beat ABC in the November sweeps, while the Nielsen ratings for the week ending December 23 showed CBS only .6 of a ratings point behind the leader. This was largely due to the fact that CBS had no less than five out of the 1979-80 season's Top Ten series in its Sunday primetime line-up (Archie Bunker's Place, One Day at a Time, Alice, The Jeffersons and Trapper John, M.D.) Poor NBC lagged well behind the rest of the pack. So, as the 1980s begin, let's see what ABC and NBC will do to try to break the CBS monopoly on Sunday night TV viewers...
7 PM (EST) -- On NBC, Disney's Wonderful World offers the umpteenth showing of 1965's That Darn Cat, starring Elsa Lancaster, William Demarest, Dean Jones, Roddy McDowall, Frank Gorshin, DC the cat and, of course, the inimitable Hayley Mills. (By the way, Hayley will appear for the second time on The Love Boat in an episode airing February 9, 1980.) ABC News Closeup airs a report on allegations that over 200 Nazi war criminals currently reside in the United States, including a Michigan archibishop. (There goes the neighborhood!) Some PBS affiliates are showing a repeat of Christmas Time with Mister Rogers, just in case you didn't get enough of Fred during the holiday season.
8 PM -- Gavin MacLeod hosts the ABC special, Guinness Book of World Records; guests include Mark Harmon, Charlene Tilton and Cathy Lee Crosby, while would-be record breakers dive into a pool filled with rattlesnakes and plunge a helicopter into an airbag. This only goes to show that some people will do anything for attention. Carroll O'Connor and Martin Balsam are worried that robbers are going to target Archie Bunker's Place (CBS), while a PBS documentary, Memories of Eubie, features jazz pianist Billy Taylor and tap dancing brothers Gregory and Maurice Hines in a tribute to Eubie Blake.
9 PM -- The NBC Sunday Night Movie is a 1980 made-for-TV sci-fi thriller called The Franken Project starring Robert Vaughn as a modern-day Frankenstein. ABC Sunday Night Movie counters with Dallas Cowboys Cheerleaders II (1980), in which the squad gets ready for a Far East USO tour; John Davidson stars. (Some guys have all the luck!) If you seek something a bit more highbrow, PBS provides Part 5 of The Duchess of Duke Street II on Masterpiece Theatre, yet another English melodrama in the Upstairs, Downstairs mold. Or you can watch Tommy (Philip McKeon) air the family laundry on a TV talk show in an episode of Alice (CBS).
9:30 PM -- On The Jeffersons (CBS), Louise is so wrapped up in local TV coverage of her suicide prevention work that she neglects a young woman's cry for help.
10 PM -- Gonzo (Gregory Harrison) can't convince a crippled man that surgery may cure him on Trapper John, M.D. (CBS), while some PBS affiliates are airing a documentary, Yulya's Diary, on World -- Yulya being a dissident Russian poet who was confined to a Siberian labor camp in 1977; former Soviet actress Victoria Fyodorova plays the protagonist, while another refugee from the "evil empire," poet Konstantin Kuzminsky, plays himself. (Sure beats hanging out at the Gulag.)
Late Night -- Most ABC affiliates are showing Inside Daisy Clover (1966), in which Natalie Wood plays a teenage tomboy who becomes a popular film star in the Thirties. CBS answers with 1972's Butterflies Are Free, a good film adaptation of a great stage play about a young blind man (Edward Albert) and his free-spirited neighbor (Goldie Hawn.)

IMAGES: A scene from Alice; cast of Trapper John, M.D.

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