The Essential TV Guide Fall Preview Issues of the 80s, Part 10: 1986!


By Shawn Robare

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So last month during my blitzkrieg of Monster Squad shenanigans I had the opportunity to check out an (at the time) unreleased episode of Ken Reid’s awesome TV Guidance Counselor podcast where he sat down with special guest André Gower.  The episode is finally live and I highly suggest checking it out as it’s a great interview with Gower that sidesteps your typical questions as well as shedding some light on aspects of The Monster Squad that don’t get discussed a lot.  Ken has a real knack for conversational interviewing that keeps the banter interesting and strays from fanboy indulgences.  Listening to the episode got me in the mood to dig out my collection of 80s era TV Guides, so this past weekend I did just that and figured it’s been way too long (4 years!) since I took a look at a vintage Fall Preview issue here at Branded.  So I might as well pick up where I left off, which was the September 13-19 issue from 1986…

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1986 makes one of the first years where I actively started paying attention to prime-time TV, specifically first-run sitcoms.  I’d just turned 9 years-old and there were two new shows that debuted that felt like they were created especially for me (Perfect Strangers and ALF), so much so that for once I actually fought my father for control of the TV on certain nights…

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By this point I’d already become aware of Bronson Pinchot via Beverly Hills Cop and his role in After Hours (my mom used to expose me to some weird movies when I was a kid), and the bits and pieces I saw of him as Balki Bartokomous had 9 year-old me in tears.  This was the gateway drug that led to years of watching TGIF on ABC, way , way, way past when I was still enjoying it.  Regardless, to this day one of my immediate responses to good news is to initiate the Dance of Joy (usually with an imaginary partner that I “catch” at the end.)  As for ALF, that premise was just too insane not to watch.  I should also mention that I was still hip deep in my appreciation for pint-sized aliens (E.T. and Ewoks), and good ‘ol Gordon Shumway made that love a nice trifecta.

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This was also the year that I was introduced to the wonder that is Ernie Reyes Jr when I fell in love with a little show called Sidekicks!  What’s kind of weird for me is that at the time I had no idea who Gil Gerard was even though I was a huge fan of Buck Rogers.  Maybe I was too mesmerized by the tiny martial arts master to even pay much attention to the rest of the show…

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There were  a handful of other shows that I remembered watching at the time, stuff like Head of the Class, Valerie, Sledge Hammer, The Wizard, and even L.A. Law, but the other main show that really hit my radar that year was Starman (starring Robert Hays from the Airplane movies.)  I was a huge fan of the movie and followed along right into the series.  It was probably my first real bout of appointment television where I was really sucked into the story from week to week, and would freak out a little if I missed an episode…

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In the slew of new series that were released this year there were a couple that I missed at the time and never stumbled upon until I flipped through this issue.  Stuff like You Again?, the John Stamos/Jack Klugman series that is a weird mash-up between The Odd Couple and Silver Spoons.  Obviously the show didn’t make it as it would only be the next year before Stamos would finally hit it big in a little show called Full House.

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There was also a series that I’m super curious about called Together We Stand with Ke Huy Quan (Data from the Goonies), Dee Wallace (speaking of E.T.), and Elliott Gould.  It looks like a 80s modern take on the Brady Bunch, just with 100% more multi-ethnic adoption instead of merging two families.  I’m similarly curious about the dramatic series called Heart of the City which starred a young Christina Applegate and one of my favorite obscure child actors Johnathon Ward (first season of Charles in Charge and White Water Summer.)  Looks fun…

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There’s also Our House, though I both never watched it and never really cared to track it down, as well as a few other shows that I have zero interest in (like Easy Street with Jack Elam and Loni Anderson or My Sister Sam with Pam Dauber and David Naughton…)

1986 was not only a good year for sitcoms, but it was a great year for Saturday morning cartoons and shows seeing the debut of some of my favorite series like Galaxy High, Teen Wolf, and Pee Wee’s Playhouse!

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This issue also features some fun interior ads for new and returning shows…

Not to mention the debut of the insanity that is Zoobilee Zoo!

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Last, but not least I’m going to leave you with this advertisement for the ABC Afterschool Special, A Desperate Exit starring Malcom-Jamal Warner and Rob Stone (of Mr. Belvedere) which you can watch on youtube!

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  • The TV Guide fall previews were so great. The promise of what was to come was a great trade off for saying goodbye to summer. This one certainly has some good offerings. I seem to remember discussing our mutual love of Sidekicks on Twitter some time back. I was also a big fan of the similar lately themed Kung fu crime fighting show, The Master with Lee Van Cleef and Timothy Van Patten from a few years before.

    • Oh man, Lee Van Cleef in a Kung Fu themed crime fighting show?! Sold, youtube here I come. This the one? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=OfF1pvaw44U

      • Paxton Holley

        Shawn, please tell me you’ve heard of The Master before now. I f**king lived on that show as a kid. I practically owned the VHS episodes that my local video store rented.

        They actually renamed the VHS episodes Master Ninja. Such a great show I may have to choose it for CFC one day.

        • Yeah, I saw that there was a 90 minute cut on youtube, is there like a pilot movie? And sadly, this is the first I’m learning of The Master. I love Lee Van Cleef though….

  • This is great! Thank you.

    • Hey thank you for producing such a great podcast!

  • Paxton Holley

    I love the treasure trove of awesome that could be found in these issues. You practically run right past the new series announcements for Head of the Class and Valerie, two of my absolute favs.

    That Easy Street looks TERRIBLE, btw. But the cast is actually intriguing enough that I’d want to watch the pilot.

    • I did watch the heck out of Head of the Class, but I didn’t get into Valerie until they “killed” off Valerie and re-branded to the Hogan Family. Also, I’d watch Jack Elam in anything, up to and including any corporate HR safety and security policy training videos (if he made one.)

  • Jason Kaphingst

    I need to find some of these Fall preview specials…gives me some great info on failed TV shows to try to dig up. Ken does have a great podcast, and we’ve traded old TV shows a few times, so if anyone has episodes of “Together We Stand”, I’d bet Ken does. I’ll check my collection too and see if I have any myself, and I’ll let you know. Also, Sledgehammer was pure gold, and I remember watching Zoobilee Zoo quite a bit, which is weird because in 1986 I was 10……

    • I think we all have some of those weird (I’m too old to be watching this) experiences. I remember avidly watching Blues Clues as a teen :p

  • Quaker

    I vaguely remember that show(The Master). I’m not sure I saw too many of them. I remember Ninja were so popular in the 80’s. Ninjas and Robots! Anyone remember this one? http://youtu.be/sOn0m9m6gPU

    • I definitely need to catch up with The Master, Cleef looks pretty awesome with the ninja-ery in the opening titles. I’ve always wanted to see Automan. For me it’s right up there with Manimal in terms of shows with crazy premises that I missed out on when they aired…

  • DUSTINDUSTRIES

    I liked watching Step By Step, Family Matters, The Hogan Family, Full House, Head of The Class, The Cosby Show, and we had Growing Pains and Who`s The Boss back to back. Perfect Strangers Season 4 Episode 11 `That Old Gang of Mine` guest starred the late John Matuszak who played Sloth in The Goonies.

    • Yes! Man, I wish more seasons of Perfect Strangers would come out on DVD. I have that first set they released but I guess there wasn’t enough interest to put out more :/ Yeah, at a point in the early 90s I was OD’ing on ABC TGIF lineup.

  • westvirginiarebel

    There was also The Wizard, which starred David Rappaport as a diminutive (okay, midget/little person) toy maker/inventor.

    • Yeah, I remember watching the show and liking it, but I tink I only got a chance to catch an episode or two. For the life of me I can’t remember it…

      • Jason Kaphingst

        I have 3 or 4 episodes of this show with original commercials if you are interested checking them out – just let me know!

  • As not only a fan but a former employee of TV GUIDE, I love to see old issues! It puts pop culture of the past in such perspective. It reminds you what it was like to see this stuff for the first time rather than as something from the past.

    • Yeah, of all the publications in the 80s, TV Guide stands out as the most densely packed with pop culture (by it’s very nature), not to mention a fountain of weird info like seeing what films were playing on HBO, or when something aired in syndication that can be a key to unlocking all sort of memories. As insane as it would be to try and track it down, I would love a set of the Guide from Jan 1984 through to December of 1989 from the Orlando FL market so I could literally have a hardcopy database of what I was watching, when :p