The Eighties Club
The Politics and Pop Culture of the 1980s
The Television Time Machine
The Television Time Machine is set for 
Tuesday, September 20, 1988 . . .

In television news this week: The biggest sports event of the year is being aired on NBC -- the 1988 Summer Olympics from Seoul, South Korea. The network is airing a total of 179.5 hours of the Olympiad, much of it in primetime, between September 16 and October 2.  It's the first time the U.S. has competed against the Soviet bloc countries in the Summer Games since 1976. Potential highlights include the much-hyped 100-meter match between Canada's Ben Johnson and Carl Lewis of the U.S., who won four gold medals during the 1984 Summer Games, only to lose to Johnson in a match a year ago, at which Johnson broke the world record.* Florence Griffith Joyner, she of the brightly-hued, one-legged track suits, is another one to watch; she ran the three fastest 100-meter women's races in history during the Olympic trials. Greg Louganis captured two golds in the previous Summer Games; if he can win two more this time he can claim to be the best male diver ever. This time Louganis will confront the challenge of two superb Chinese divers, Ten Liangde and Li Kongzheng. Tennis will be featured as an Olympic sport for the first time since 1924; pros like Boris Becker and Chris Evert will compete. The extravanganza is hosted by Today cohost Bryant Gumbel, and the music NBC uses in its broadcasts is composed by John Williams.
8 PM (PST) -- On NBC the Olympics broadcast has already begun; tonight, swimming dominates, as medals will be awarded in the women's 200m freestyle and 200m breast stroke, as well as the men's 100m butterfly, 400m individual medley and the 4 x 200m freestyle relay. In basketball, the USA will take on Brazil, and then there's equestrian cross-country, boxing and water polo. CBS counters with that perennial favorite, Bugs Bunny in Bugs Bunny: All-American Hero; Bugs tries to help his nephew prepare for an American history test. ANC airs a 1987 repeat of Growing Pains, while over on PBS you'll either see Nova (a program on "Pioneers of Surgery") or Canada: True North, a tribute to the 100-year old Toronto-based magazine. Fox is showing the 5th Annual Video Music Awards, taped September 7 in Los Angeles and hosted by Arsenio Hall; performers and presenters include Rod Stewart, INXS, Cher, Aerosmith, Crowded House, Cyndi Lauper, Belinda Carlisle and Depeche Mode.
8:30 PM -- ABC follows Growing Pains with a repeat episode of Head of the Class and CBS runs the 1985 film White Nights, starring Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gregory Hines in this political thriller about a daring escape from the USSR. Patriotism -- and American superiority over the Soviets, seems to be a recurring theme tonight.  Hmm, might have something to do with the Olympics...
9 PM -- Tom Hanks stars in the comedy thriller The Man With One Red Shoe on ABC; he's a musician mistaken for a spy. Disney offers A Conversation with Carol Burnett and MTV has an episode of Monty Python's Flying Circus scheduled.
10 PM -- What a surprise! PBS is airing a documentary entitled Global Rivals, which focuses on the superpower rivalry between the United States and the USSR. The program reviews American-Soviet relations since World War II, differences in ideology, and Mikhail Gorbachev's new program of political, social and economic reforms called perestroika. A&E is advising viewer discretion for the crime drama Naming the Names, a 1987 British made-for-TV production about a Belfast woman (Sylvestra Le Touzel) caught up in the violence of Northern Ireland. Stevie Wonder and Patti LaBelle are the guests for Disney's musical special Ashford and Simpson, featuring the singing-songwriting team of Nickolas Ashford and Valerie Simpson. (They wrote "Ain't No Mountain High Enough" among many other great songs.)
LATE NIGHT -- TBS airs a real classic, The Philadelphia Story (1940) starring Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn and Jimmy Stewart. You can't get much better than that. Disney counters with the 1984 blockbuster The Karate Kid, while if you're an insomniac you can stay up long enough to view the famous two-hour documentary Olympia on USA; it's Leni Riefenstahl's record of the 1936 Olympics, intended as Nazi propaganda to demonstrate Aryan superiority. They hadn't counted on Jesse Owens, though! It's a fitting end to a real red-white-and-blue night on television.
[* Ben Johnson would defeat Lewis with a world record time of 9.79 in the 100-meter dash, only to lose his gold medal when a post-race drug test found he'd used steroids. Florence Griifth Joyner would win four gold medals, and Greg Louganis would capture two before the Games were over. The USSR would make off with 55 golds, compared with 37 for East Germany and 36 for the USA.]

IMAGES: Greg Louganis at the Olympics; the cast of Growing Pains

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The Television Time Machine is set for 
Sunday, October 14, 1984 . . .

In television news this week: Disney Home Video announces that it will release a series of its best-loved animated features, entitled The Classics, and starting with Robin Hood (1973), due out in December, just in time for the holidays. ABC catches some flak because the presidential debate between Ronald Reagan and challenger Walter Mondale, set for Sunday, October 21, at 9 PM (EST) coincides with an NFL game between the Dallas Cowboys and the New Orleans Saints -- a game ABC said it would not preempt. In the network's defense, it is contractually obligated to show the game. A compromise is worked out by ABC and the League of Women Voters, the organization responsible for the debate; the debate is moved ahead one hour, and the game will be delayed a half-hour, so that ABC can show them both. Meanwhile, Meredith Baxter Birney of Family Ties has given birth to twins, Peter and Molly. And there seems to be some question now whether the already much-hyped pairing of Elizabeth Taylor and Lauren Bacall in a made-for-TV movie about the rivalry between Hollywood gossip mavens Louella Parsons and Hedda Hopper will take place, as rumors abound that CBS could not meet Bacall's financial requests. Finally, Marvelous Marvin Hagler defends his middleweight boxing crown against Mustafa Hamsho on October 19, on HBO.
7 PM (EST) -- On ABC's Solid Gold, co-hostess Anne Murray is joined by Vanity, Chris DeBurgh, Sparks and Herb Albert, among others. Rick (Ricky Schroder) is excited to learn that his mother, played by Christine Belford, is going to move in next door to the Strattons, along with her fiance (John Matuszak), in an episode of NBC's hit sitcom Silver Spoons. CBS counters with 60 Minutes. Some PBS affiliates are airing the comedy Wonderworks, in which Milo takes a course in "perfectology" taught by the eccentric Dr. Silverfish, while other affiliates have opted for an episode of the documentary Vietnam: A Television History; this one's all about 1968's Tet Offensive. And Jerry Clower goes fishin' on the Nashville Network's Country Sportsman.
8 PM -- An all-star cast join Angela Lansbury in a new episode of Murder, She Wrote (CBS), in which Jessica learns that her niece's fiance, who works in a San Francisco cabaret, is a suspect in the club owner's untimely demise; among the guests are Carol Lawrence, Genie Francis, Gabe Kaplan, Harry Guardino and Jeff Conaway. On NBC's Knight Rider, Michael (David Hasselhoff) challenges the homicidal driver of a futuristic sports car to a street race, while over on ABC, Trish Van Devere guests in an episode of Hardcastle and McCormick as Hardcastle's sister-in-law, who's involved in a surveillance project for a police procedures course. Tonight's episode of Nature (PBS) explores "Sexual Encounters of the Floral Kind," having to do with the role of insects in the cross-pollination of plants. (What were you thinking it was about?)  Ruby Dee stars in a three-hour production of Eugene O'Neill's autobiographical drama Long Day's Journey Into Night on A&E, while HBO offers Scott Glenn in a riveting 1983 TV-movie, Countdown to Looking Glass about a nuclear showdown between U.S. and Soviet naval forces in the Persian Gulf; Rep. Newt Gingrich (R-GA), Eugene McCarthy, and Eric Sevareid play themselves. Cinemax airs the hilarious National Lampoon's Vacation, while Showtime has Burt Reynold's Hooper. And ESPN is showing the Third Annual Legendary Pocket Billiards Stars competition, pitting Robert Woods against Jimmy Caras.
9 PM -- CBS launches the 11th season of The Jeffersons with an episode in which George (Sherman Hensley) pays a friend to donate blood in his name, only to become a hero when the donation saves a life. NBC is showing the first of a three part V: The Final Battle, a sequel to the 1983 TV-movie V; this one stars Marc Singer and Faye Grant as a pair of Los Angeles freedom fighters mixing it up with the invading aliens. Shelley Hack, Tony Danza, Paul Michael Glaser , Christine Lahti and Mare Winningham star in the 1984 TV-movie Single Bars, Single Women on ABC. (We trust we don't have to tell you what it's about.) And over on PBS, Part 5 of "Private Schulz" -- a drama about a Nazi POW camp during World War II -- is tonight's Masterpiece Theatre offering.
10 PM -- Trapper's son signs on at San Francisco Memorial Hospital in a new episode of Trapper John (CBS), starring Pernell Roberts and Gregory Harrison. USA is airing an episode of the shortlived 1973 ABC sitcom Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, which stars Robert Urich, Anne Archer and Jodie Foster, followed at 10:30 by Seeing Stars, which features interviews with the likes of Nick Nolte, Ryan O'Neal, Judd Hirsch, Lee Grant and Ralph Macchio. (Wow, talk about a star-studded hour of television.)
LATE NIGHT -- Some PBS affiliates will show Billy Sunday: Baseball, Bible, Ballet, a 60-minute documentary about the National League outfielder who became a fire-and-brimstone evangelist; Johnny Bench narrates. Showtime has the comedy Young Frankenstein, the 1974 Mel Brooks classic, while NBC airs the conclusion of Eleanor and Franklin, a 1976 TV-movie that won a record 11 Emmy Awards, after episodes of Diff'rent Strokes and Gimme A Break. The Movie Channel offers Clint Eastwood in 1982's Honkytonk Man while Cinemax counters with the Sean Connery thriller The Next Man (1976). At least insomniacs have plenty to choose from tonight.

IMAGES: The cast of Silver Spoons; Angela Lansbury stars in Murder, She Wrote

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The Television Time Machine takes a look back at 
the new shows in 1983's Fall Schedule . . .

Everyone knows that the TV addict's Christmas comes early -- four months early, in fact. September is the long-awaited month when the summer of reruns and discarded series pilots finally comes to an end. It's the month when, with much fanfare, the networks put forward their new line-up. After all these years it's still an indisputable fact that no one has a foolproof formula for what makes a successful television series. It's really hit or miss. A horse race. There are odds-on favorites and longshots, but at this point no one can tell which is a thoroughbred and which is a nag. With the benefit of hindsight, let's see how the major networks fared in the Fall of 1983...
SATURDAY -- Cutter to Houston (CBS) stars Shelley Hack as Dr. Beth Gilbert, an ambitious sawbones stuck in a small hospital in the dusty little town of Cutter, Texas. She aspires to be a heart surgeon in Houston. Dr. Hal Wexler (Alec Baldwin) just aspires to get through his probation -- he's been relegated to Cutter because he was a little too fast and free with prescriptions. Something of a ladies man, he finds consolation in the arms of pretty Texas cowgirls -- at least until their two-fisted boyfriends come a'lookin' for him. The Rousters (NBC) is all about the Sladetown Carnival, featuring Wyatt Earp III (Chad Everett) -- the famous lawman's great-grandson as chief roustabout, his dumb brother Evan (Jim Varney), and Ellen (Mimi Rogers) who tames wild beasts when she isn't teaching carny kids their three Rs. Oh, and the whole thing is run by Slade (Hoyt Axton). To cover all the bases, NBC touts the series as an action-adventure-comedy. The Yellow Rose (NBC), a sprawling saga in the tradition of Giant) is a primetime soap opera focused on the trials and tribulations of the Champion family, owners of a modern West Texas ranch. It has an all-star cast that includes Sam Elliott, Cybill Shepherd, Ken Curtis, David Soul, Chuck Connors and Noah Beery.
SUNDAY -- Hardcastle and McCormick (ABC) features Milton Hardcastle (Brian Keith) is a tough-as-nails ex-judge bent on dispensing justice. He teams up with a wisecracking ex-con named Mark "Skid" McCormick (Daniel-Hugh Kelly) who races around in a bright red Coyote righting wrongs. Scarecrow and Mrs. King (CBS) presents viewers with a somewhat different duo: Lee Stetson, codename Scarecrow, is a handsome, daring American secret agent who recruits an attractive young divorcee (Kate Jackson) as his partner in cloak-and-daggering.
MONDAY -- Boone (NBC) is the brainchild of Earl Hamner, who brought us The Waltons, and stars Tom Byrd as Boone Sawyer, a Tennessee feller who wants to be a country-and-western star. His pa would rather Boone go to work with him at the fillin' station. After-MASH (CBS) is a sequel to  the hit comedy M*A*S*H; the setting is a VA hospital in Missouri during the 1950s, and Col. Potter (Harry Morgan) is chief of staff, Sgt. Klinger (Jamie Farr) is his assistant and Father Mulcahy (William Christopher) dispenses religion. Emerald Point N.A.S. (CBS), from the creators of Dynasty, is all about life at a naval air station run by Rear Adm. Thomas Mallory (Dennis Weaver), who has his hands full keeping three daughters (Sela Ward, Susan Dey and Doran Clark) in line. Richard Dean Anderson and Andrew Stevens also star.
TUESDAY -- Just Our Luck (ABC) will need a LOT of luck going up against NBC's hit The A- Team. It features Richard Gilliland as a mediocre TV weatherman who finds an old green bottle that produces a genie named Shabu, who happens to be a hip black guy (T.K. Carter). Oh Madeline (ABC) stars Madeline Kahn and James Sloyan in what a producer describes as a comedy about modern marriage. Bay City Blues (NBC) relates the misadventures of a minor-league baseball team and is created by Steven Bochco of Hill Street Blues fame. It's cast includes Pat Corley, Michele Greene and Dennis Franz.
WEDNESDAY -- Whiz Kids (CBS) is all about Richie Adler, a computer whiz who, with the help of four friends and a talking computer named RALF, solves mysteries a la the Hardy Boys. It stars Matthew Laborteaux as Richie and Melanie Gaffin, Todd Porter, Andrea Elson and Jeffrey Jacquet. Hotel (ABC) is based on the Arthur Hailey bestselling novel and features James Brolin as manager of the high-class St. Gregory, Connie Sellecca as his beautiful assistant, and Bette Davis as the hotel's aristocratic owner. It's produced by Aaron The Love Boat Spelling.
THURSDAY -- Medstar (ABC) has James Naughton starring as Dr. Michael Royce, head of a trauma center team that includes former Incredible Hulk Lou Ferrigno along with Dorian Harewood and Jayne Modean. We Got It Made (NBC) is about a pair of bachelors (Matt McCoy and Tom Villard) who acquire a live-in maid for their a Manhattan apartment; the reason they've got it made is, possibly, because the maid is the sexy Teri Copley, although their girlfriends aren't exactly thrilled. It's Not Easy (ABC) is a contemporary comedy about a divorced couple (Ken Howard and Carlene Watkins), who live across the street from one another so they can share custody of their kids. To complicate matters, she's remarried and he's got his mother (Jayne Meadows) living with him.
FRIDAY -- Mr. Smith (NBC) has an IQ of 256, plays a mean game of chess,  is an expert on thermonuclear dynamics and works as a special consultant for the U.S. government. He also happens to be a talking orangutang. Talk about monkey business in that nation's capital! Webster (ABC) is a sitcom starring Emmanuel Lewis in the title role, a lovable 7 year old taken in by George and Katherine (Alex Karras and Susan Clark) after his real parents die in an auto accident. Jennifer Slept Here (NBC) has Ann Jillian portraying a famous movie star -- or rather the ghost of a famous movie star -- who refuses to vacate her Beverly Hills mansion, much to the surprise of the Elliot family that moves in. Lottery$ (ABC) stars Ben Murphy as Patrick Sean Flaherty, who goes around handing out millions to lottery winners. Each week the series will dramatize the effects of such good fortune on several winners -- a premise, by the way, that led to a nice five-year run for a series called The Millionaire back in the Fifties. Manimal (NBC)  features a professor of animal behavioral sciences named Jonathan Chase (Simon McCorkindale) who can transform himself into various beasts. He teams up with  a pretty plainclothes cop (Melody Anderson) to fight crime in the Big Apple. For Love and Honor (NBC) is billed as a military soap opera -- the lives and loves of airborne recruits, in the spirit of An Officer and A Gentleman. Stars include Garry Grubbs, Cliff Potts, Yaphet Kotto, Rachel Ticotin and Shelley Smith.
PLUS -- Goodnight, Beantown (CBS) has Bill Bixby playing Boston TV news anchorman Matt Cassidy and Mariette Hartley as his cohost; they're rivals on the air as well as off. The Mississippi (CBS) is a post-Waltons vehicle for Ralph Waite, who plays a criminal lawyer traveling the Father of Waters on a sternwheel towboat and handling cases with the help of his assistants (Stan Shaw and Linda Miller.) The A-Team (NBC) is a slambang action series about a group of Vietnam vets (George Peppard, Dirk Benedict, Dwight Schultz and Mr. T) and a pretty reporter (Melinda Culea) who go around righting wrongs.

IMAGES: The cast of Cutter to Houston; ad for Goodnight, Beantown.

Stay tuned...There's no telling where the
TelevisionTime Machine will take us next time!