The Essential TV Guide Fall Previews of the 80s, Part 4: 1978! Yeah, I know that still makes no sense…


By Shawn Robare



I’m back this week with the fourth installment of this series on vintage TV Guide fall Preview issues.  As I’ve explained in the previous posts, though I generally talk mostly about the 80s, I have a weird preoccupation with the Quantum Leap time travel theory, so I decided to include the ’77-79 issues as well.  So this week we’re going to take a look at the highlights from 1978.  By the time this issue hit newsstands and grocery store checkout lanes I think my parents had just moved into a house in Austin and were ready to stop referring to my age in months.  I’m sure I was still completely unaware of TV in general, probably spending more time on trying to grasp, walk and understand one-syllable words, you know all the basic fundamentals for an enjoyable TV watching experience…

    

As has been the case, the first chuck of the TV Guide is mostly ads, like the obligatory Toyota one above.  What I found interesting in this issue was the sort of sloppy, left-field-ness of the ads.  Take for instance the Anacin ad opposite the Corolla one.  Where is the word Anacin?  In the small print.  Weird.  You’d think it’d be in big block letters over that disturbingly moster/robot looking ‘medical’ pain diagram.  Heck, you’d think there’d at least be a picture of the pill bottle down at the bottom.  The other ad that really got to me was the one for Vantage cigarettes on the next page featuring a very Photoshop filtered looking image of a one Vince Dougherty (who looks like the lovechild of Kevin Nealon and Tom Snyder.)  I guess this got to me because I’ll be honest, I can’t figure out who the guy is and why he’s telling me all about Vantage giving him the good taste and low tar he desires.  After googling him I came up with a Vince Dougherty that is a member of the Pennsylvania government (which corroborates the ad location), but makes me wonder if he was paid off by the tobacco company to back their brand.  Again, weird, especially set against the article on the new fall lineup of cartoons and children’s programming on the facing page.

Back on a more normal level is the great Zenith System 3 television ad up next.  Why doesn’t anyone make a TV that feels like a piece of furniture anymore?  That’s the kind of setup that can really tie a room together (design and flow-wise.)

One awesome aspect to flipping through these old TV Guides is seeing all of the shows that either didn’t make it very long or featured familiar stars on the rise.  The preview for Apple Pie stuck out for me because it starred Dabney Coleman (who I fell in love with after repeatedly watching him help out Henry Thomas as a secret agent in Cloak and Dagger, and terrorize Dolly Parton, Lilly Tomlin, and Jane Fonda in 9 to 5 as a kid), but it wasn’t until I took a closer look that I realized the lady in the picture is Rue McClanahan from the Golden Girls.  I’m so used to seeing her a little older that I totally didn’t recognize her.

    

It was also pretty cool to see Pricilla Barnes in the Preview for The American Girls making her first big jump from guest starring on a bunch of shows to starring in one of her own (that is before she replaced Suzanne Somers on Three’s Company.)  She was one of those actors that I never really put a name to the face until I saw her in Mallrats (playing the topless fortune teller with three nipples) and then in her very disturbing turn in Rob Zombie’s the Devil’s Rejects (probably the most uncomfortable I’ve ever felt watching an actress on screen ever.)

Also, I’d like to reiterate just how much I love illustrations in ads, even airbrushed work like in the Right Guard advertisement above.  I wonder where the artwork for that piece is right now?  Probably in a landfill or something, which I think is a shame because it would make a nice piece of pop art.

Up next we’ve got a preview for a show that I’ve surprisingly never seen, the original Battlestar Galactica.  Of course it’s making a resurgence these days, what with the uber popular reinvisioning that all of the geeks are aflutter about (and yet another show I haven’t seen.)  Coming on the heels of the Star Wars explosion, the show (much like Buck Rogers) seemed like it was reaching for something it couldn’t quite provide yet (at least not on a TV budget.)  I’m honestly surprised at myself for never taking the time to watch the show as I’m really into 70s sci-fi and Dirk Benedict.  My only real connection to BG were the toys that I saw floating around in the various comic book shops I frequented in the late 80s.  It’s also the second time I’ve thought about Lorne Greene this week after reading about an awesome Bonanza View Master reel that he helped to goof up for the kids back in the day (in an article written by Brian Heiler of Plaid Stallions.)

At first blush I was going to pass up scanning the preview for Mary, but after reading the description I was intrigued.  It wasn’t the toned-down, sketch-comedy approach Mary Tyler Moore was going to take at a variety show, but the cast she had lined up to help her out.  Along with some names I don’t immediately recognize are Swoozie Kurtz, David Letterman, and Michael Keaton.  Really!?!  I’m dying to see this now as I’ve always wondered where Michael Keaton learned to hone his genius comic timing.  I didn’t think he did stand-up (though you never know), and this would go a long way to explaining it.

Again, as I’ve mentioned before, I love these old TV Guides because of the wealth of Saturday Morning Cartoon ads they have crammed in them.  Above is the ’78 ABC line-up featuring the debut of the Laff-A-Lympics, Challenge of the Superfriends, and Fangface.  Below is a really nice CBS ad featuring some cartoons I’ve never heard of like Web Woman, Micro Woman and Superstretch (though I have a sneaking suspicion that they’re all part of the Space Sentinels cartoon.)  There’s also Jason of Star Command, another 70s sci-fi show I’ve yet to see (but I’m actually excited about as it’s a spin-off of Space Academy, which seems 10 times more action packed not to mention starring the one and only Sid Haig, also of Devil’s Rejects fame.)

    

Rounding out the cartoon ads is the novel approach by NBC, which made advertising into a board game for the kids.  It’s probably the worst board game in the history of the format, but nonetheless it’s still interesting.  I’ve always been curious about the Godzilla cartoon, as it seems like such an odd character for a cartoon series (on the other hand, live action with a man in a suit is no problem.)  Same goes for the Fantastic Four cartoon, which eschewed Johnny Storm in favor of a robot sidekick.

The spot illustration on Us Against the World II is kind of cool if only because it’s a prime example of the quick ad drawings done by Jack Davis in the 70s.  From the stories I’ve read, he’d whip out stuff like this in minutes all day long, getting the work of practically an entire agency’s staff done in a day.

Now if there was one show that my parents never missed it was 20/20.  Growing up this was the one show that my parents never argued over, and it always signaled my bedtime as it tended to come on later in the evening during the 80s.  It also signaled the end of a lot of boyhood debauchery and fun as they always seemed to be right on top of the latest dangerous fads, dishing out the possible consequences to my parents before I even had a chance to try and convince them I was capable of handing what ever it was.  I can vividly remember agonizing over asking my parents for some nunchucks and a couple of Chinese throwing stars, and then completely dropping the idea when I walked in on them watching an expose on the dangers of these exact things.  I also never realized that Carl Sagan was a correspondent in its original incarnation.  I wonder if he and Geraldo ever did any stories together, like unlocking the hidden secrets of the universe (only to find a lot of concrete and nothing much of interest…)

    

This issue also contains the premiere and preview of Mork & Mindy (which has been finally getting more DVDs released) and Taxi, as well as the preview of WKRP in Cincinnati.  This reminds me of the review I did this time last year for the truncated WKRP DVD set that came out.  Though I still enjoyed getting a chance to watch the first season, I still wonder what it was like to watch it first run getting all of the original music, and in turn understanding some of the jokes a little more.

Walking right in step with the rest of the weird advertising in this issue is an ad for the Sunbeam Coney Island Steamer (being hawked by none other than Shirley Jones.)  Honestly, I’m not sure if I can think of a more useless and depressing appliance than a hotdog steamer, which only cooks 1-2 hotdogs at a time.  Talk about wasting precious counter space in the kitchen.  I’m going to have to side with Alton Brown when it comes to appliances like this; if you can’t use it for ten other things, ditch it.

    

I’m pretty much unfamiliar with the rest of the previewed shows in this issue, though I recognize a lot of the stars (like Connie Sellecca, who would go on to star in the Greatest American Hero, or Scott Baio taking a break in between Happy Days and Joni Love Chachi.)  Coming off of his guest starring role in Soap yet before he was Spenser for Hire, Robert Urich was Det. Dan Tanna in Vega$, and after becoming a football legend Joe Namath tried his hand at acting in the Waverly Wonders.  All in all this was a really fun issue to peruse.

I’ll be back next week with the 1982 issue (I still haven’t found a copy of the ’79 issue that isn’t insanely priced on eBay.)

  • Shannon

    Yay! These are so addictive! The color tv ad really took me back in time–I’d forgotten that a colorful hot air balloon was always used in color tv ads (or maybe just Zeniths). I don’t know why!

  • Jay

    i was also going to comment on the Zenith ad. Those old tv’s are awesome. What a flashback!

  • Lemonade

    I remember the old Sunbeam Coney Island hot dog steamer! My brother and I were in grade school and could not be allowed to cook anything since we were too young. But we would put three dogs in there and lay a bun on top for one minute each for the dogs and voila! Perfect after-school munch for kids that are too young to cook on the stove. It was before the age of microwave products. Decent tasting products that is anyways. We used ours so much it died after a few years and we were so sad too cause they tasted so good and we only needed a couple of hotdogs. It was meant for a personal serving. And really it cooked them fast!!! I wish I could find one and share it with my kids.