The Essential TV Guide Fall Preview Issues of the 80s, Part 6: 1979!

By Shawn Robare

I think winter is finally passing in my area and the theme for Spring here at Branded in the 80s is certainly spring cleaning.  Along with diving into my mostly un-read collection of Choose-Your-Own-Adventure-style books, I’m also going to try and dive back into some of the other projects I started on Branded awhile ago, namely looking at my collection of TV Guide Fall Preview issues from 1977-1990.  I’ve already covered the 1977, 1978, 1980, 1981, & 1982 issues, so this week I thought I’d fill in the gap by taking a look at the 1979 issue…


As you can read in the short segment labeled Changes in the pages above, 1979 was all about change, not only as the decade came to a close, but in the TV landscape as well.  A number of beloved and new hit shows were experiencing drastic cast changes, from the majority of the cast of All in the Family taking a proverbial hike, to Kate Jackson and Radar (Gary Burghoff) leaving Charlie’s Angels and M*A*S*H respectively.  Mork & Mindy also saw the dismissal of the matronly but fun Elizabeth Kerr, as well as a diminishing role for Conrad Janis who played Mindy’s father in lieu of new cast members including Jay Thomas and Jim Staahl.  Heck even the Ropers left Three’s Company making way for Don Knott’s return to prime time as Mr. Farley.


On a side note, and I think I’ve mentioned this sort of advertising in the TV Guides before, but I am still surprised to see the Coke brand so prominently displayed in the above Bacardi rum ad.  I know rum & Cokes are pretty damn common, but it just goes to show how much more loose companies used to be with their image and branding. Also, it’s kind of awesome to see dueling tampon ads.  I guess feminine hygiene companies think alike with the same ideas when it comes to promoting just how well their products work.  Honestly, I have to agree that if it works for a gymnast, it’ll work for anyone… As for the slate of new shows in the ’79-’80 season, though there were only a few stand-outs that would go on to become TV classics, we were introduced to a ton of emerging actors and actresses that would graces our screens for years to come.   Right off the bat we have the show Working Stiffs which features the first big roles for both Jim Belushi and Michael Keaton.  Keaton had done some walk-on and guest star roles before, but this was his first starring role (as Mike O’Rourke, brother to Belushi’s Ernie.)   Belushi, though he hadn’t done a whole lot of broadcast TV yet was certainly an up-and-comer having done a stint at Second City and of course as the heir-apparent to his real-life brother’s insane comic styling.


Some other stars getting their initial breaks were a young Rob Lowe in what looks like a dra-medy (in the vein of 8 is Enough) called A New Kind of Family, Martin Short and Joe Regalbuto (of future Murphy Brown fame, though I’ll always know him for his role on Street Hawk) in the Associates (also starring Tim Thomerson who graduated to a ton of great B-movie work in the 80s), Mark Harmon (hot off his appearance in the ginormous mini-series Centennial) in the show 240-Robert, a young Lorenzo Lamas in California Fever, Kim Basinger & Don Johnson in early roles in the adaptation of From Here to Eternity, as well as Rosanna Arquette and Tracey “Growing Pains” Gold in Shirley (yet another widowed mother with a bunch of kids vehicle for Shirley Jones.)  Though none of these shows lasted more than 1 season, all of these actors and actresses would go on to become pretty big stars in either television or on the silver screen in the subsequent decade.   Just goes to show that everyone starts out at the bottom…


There were also a lot of other shows that featured some more established actors and actresses, though none of these lasted all that long either.  Brian Dennehy played single father and hotel detective Arnie Sutter in Big shamus, Little Shamus, James Earl Jones took on the titular role of detective captain Woody Paris as a part time criminology professor, part time sleuth in the show Paris, Robert Conrad put on his best James Bon impression for the spy thriller A Man Called Sloane, Claude Akins headed up the semi-successful Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo, and Louis Gossett Jr. took on the Lazarus Syndrome.


There are a couple of shows that I never got a chance to watch and am really interested in.   One is the Mork & Mindy spin-off Out of the Blue starring James Brogan as an honest to goodness guardian angel to a family of five orphaned kids in Chicago.   I find it fascinating that the writers and producers decided to take an wacky science-fiction comedy and pair it with a wacky theological comedy.  The other sounds like it was scripted just for me, Struck By Lightning, which is a sitcom about the further adventures of the Frankenstein monster (played by the perfectly odd Jack Elam who I know mostly from the Cannonball Run film as the doctor you don’t want sticking you with anything, but he was also in Once Upon a Time in the West, at least for the opening credits) and the descendant of Dr. Frankenstein, science teacher Ted Stein.  Basically Stein inherits an Inn, and while inspecting the property he meets the caretaker Frank who claims to be the 229 year-old monster from Shelly’s novel.  Hilarity ensues, at least I assume as I couldn’t find any video on youtube to back this assumption up. I’m also glad to see an ad for an ancient 26″ Sony Trinitron television set.  It’s like seeing the grandfather of my current 27″ Trinitrin that I’ve had since I first moved out on my own 14 years ago. The Proud-As-a-Peacock NBC T-shirts are pretty neat as well, though honestly, who was rushing out to pick up an NBC T-shirt?  Granted, they’re only five bucks, but c’mon, these should have been free considering all the free promotion and all…


Similar to the insane plastic jogging suits of the 70s and 80s, we also have and ad for Slim-Sleepers, pajamas made out of the waterproof Tyvek material that basically makes you sweat while you sleep.  Now I’ve used Tyvek for years, not to lose weight mind you, but to ship out packages.  Pretty much most Fed-Ex and USPS “paks” are made of the material which is great for keeping paperwork safe and dry in transit, but seems just this side of insane to consider as sleepwear.  Besides, even if it does work, who wants to wake up in a pool of your own sweat! Not every new show was a bomb in ’79 as we got to see the start of a handful of successful series including Hart to Hart, Trapper John, M.D., Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, and the much more down-to-Earth spin-off of Soap, Benson.

Next time I dip into the collection I’ll have some highlights from the 1983 Fall Preview issue.

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  • Wings

    Wow. This post is total win! Love the scanned pages and the commentary. I remember some, not all, of these, so it was a great trip. That \””Struck By Lightning\”” seems so cheesy – I would have freakin\’ loved it! Great post.

  • Paxton Holley

    Yes, I love these TV Guide articles, Shawn. Struck by Lightning looks awesome. Buck Rogers kicks ass. The Last Resort and Shirley both look terrible. The \””17 year old\”” Bill looks like he\’s 35. Keep these articles coming, my friend. You need to backtrack to 1974 (the year I was born). Or, maybe I\’ll just go find that issue myself.

  • Michelle

    I just started getting into old TV guides myself, looking for ads for my blog about 70’s/80’s ads. They’re like little time machines. And yes, it’s amazing how many feminine hygiene ads are to be found as well as alcohol and cigs. Great post!!

  • Luv my Juju™

    Awwww you’ve taken me back. I used to read these cover to cover growing up.

    • Me too, the new thin magazine format is just not the same… :p

  • John

    That California Fever show probably didn’t work out because it was done wrong, and it was on the wrong network (CBS is not usually the network for that type of show. It should have been on ABC or NBC).

  • Randy Hansen

    What regional edition is that 1979 Fall Preview of TV Guide?

    • I believe my entire collection came from either the Central or Southern California region. I bought a large lot of these on ebay over a decade ago and I’m 99% sure they were all sourced from the same collection originally.