The Essential TV Guide Fall Previews of the 80s, Part 3: 1977! Yeah, I know that makes no sense…


By Shawn Robare



Well, I finally got around to throwing a banner together for these TV Guide posts.  Makes it seem more official I guess.  Anyway, I was planning on getting to the 1982 Fall Preview issue, but I received the ’77 and ’78 editions in the mail this week, so I think I’ll go ahead and get to them first.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, I sort of have this odd Quantum Leap-centric idea about the time period I want to cover on this site (nostalgia and ephemera-wise that is.)  I like the idea of covering stuff that has taken place over my own lifetime, much in the way Sam could only leap (time travel for all those non-initiated Quantum Leapers out there) throughout the timeline of his own life.  Honestly, I think this was a coy way that the writers could keep the show relevant for the viewing audience’s experiences, straying away from the idea of leaping into medieval or prehistoric times for instance.  It provides a bit of grounding I guess.  Anyway, it worked well for that show, and I think it’ll do for me as well.

So with that in mind, I present the highlights from the 1977 TV Guide Fall Preview issue.  Again, the first thing I noticed about this issue (like the 1980 issue) is that the digest itself was folded and stapled instead of being perfect bound like a book.  This makes for very difficult scanning; well difficult while trying not to destroy the issue as well as trying to keep relevant pages together.

    

Also, as I’ve been noticing with these older issues of the Guide, most of the advertising is set aside for cigarettes and booze, but there are a few other odds and ends that are interesting.  I didn’t realize that there was a deluxe version of Kraft Mac & Cheese available in the 70s.  Mainly I subsisted on ramen during my college days, but every once in awhile as a treat I’d pick up the deluxe Mac & Cheese dinner (in particular the one with bacon bits included, you know to simulate eating something a little more substantial.)  At first glance I thought the plated dinner in the ad looked a little weird with the two strips of bacon and the paltry makings of a BLT on the side of the plate, but right now it actually sounds pretty good.  I do have to say that it throws off the illusion of a quick and easy dinner though; I mean if you’re going to fry up some bacon and slice a tomato, why not go ahead and cook?

I also dug the heck out of the Quaker Oats cookies ad.  First off I really love spot illustrations in ad work, especially when it’s quality like this (are those watercolors?)  But I also love it when the company mascot is front and center without just using the familiar iconographic image (like the Quaker man on the boxes in the coupon.)  It’s kind of interesting (and a little weird maybe) to see Quaker man fishing with some kid and his dog while enjoying a picnic of cookies and what I can only hope is milk in that thermos.  It’s kind of nice to think that Quaker man enjoys relaxing in his off time with hobbies like this, though I think in this modern world it’s a little creepy that he’s off alone with a strange kid.  Heck, maybe it’s his nephew or grandson, but then for continuity’s sake I’d like to see the kid in a Quaker outfit as well.  Also, who developed the crosshatching pattern for peanut butter cookies anyway?  My mom always stuck to this tradition when baking them for our family when I was younger.

The Toyota Celica ad is kind of cool too.  I like that the designers were trying to ape the look and feel of a Mustang with the liftback version of the Celica.  Making them feel a little more American I guess.  Did you realize that car is ‘hot’?  On the other hand we have what I believe to be one of the most annoying ads I’ve seen in a long time (barring TV and radio that is) for the Vivatar 603 pocket camera.  I get that the ad guys were trying to visually put a spin on the idea of other brands offering only ‘half a camera’ because the new Vivatar offers a build in flash, but because they cut the ad in half and shuffled with around like that on the page it’s just annoying to read.

    

As far as the previews go for 1977, there sure are some whoppers as well as some weird ones.  Above we have a preview for a show called Operation Petticoat (based on a movie of the same name) starring John Astin and Jamie Lee Curtis.  I think it’s kind of weird to have a sitcom set aboard the claustrophobic confines of a submarine (in particular with the main crux of the story surrounding the sexual tension of the crew vs. a bunch of military nurses that they are transporting.)  After doing a little research though it looks like this was truly a vehicle for John Astin as he directed the first few episodes as well as starred as the sub’s captain.  I’m not sure how well the show did though as it only lasted for a season and a half, not to mention that Astin and Curtis jumped ship after the first season.

’77 was a very nautical year as the Love Boat also launched from port.  Growing up there were two shows that it seemed like my sister never missed, Love Boat and Fantasy Island, so I caught my fare share of episodes while hanging out with her.  Looking back, the concept of the show was just marketing genius.  Having the majority of the stories surrounding the plethora of guest stars that came aboard each show is almost a way of having sweeps episodes year round.  I wish the studios weren’t being so stingy with the DVDs that finally came out this year though (only releasing half a season of a 31 year-old show and charging full season rates is absolutely piratanical I tells ya.)

The TV set in the ad adjacent to the Love Boat preview looks a hell of a lot like the TV my family had until I turned sixteen.  Same faux-wood box, and channel tuners.  I wonder if TVs are being built that can last 16 years like these old monsters did?  I doubt it.

I absolutely love the Camel ad in this issue.  It screams action, adventure, and maybe a little James Bond, though only if an actor that looked like a cross between Tom Selleck and Patrick Duffy played Bond.  I’m as interested as that bikini-clad assistant and the bearded seaman in what Camel man has found in the depths of the sea!  I am seriously considering picking up smoking now…

With these older TV guides I’ve certainly hit the Saturday Morning cartoon ad jackpot as all three major networks make a showing.  Above we have the line-ups for NBC and CBS including shows like The Adventures of Muhammad Ali, the New Archies and Sabrina the Teenage Witch, and Space Academy.  I really dig the illustration done for the Space Academy show as it makes it seem ten thousand times more thrilling and action packed than the actual Filmation show was.  It is kind of odd that the CBS ad is a truncated version of the ad they ran in comic books at the time (which you can see here in this post I did awhile back), and it really shows in how poorly it was translated to the digest size format of the TV Guide.  It’s also sort of weird because the times the shows are listed to air are different.  It raises a question about whether comic book printings used to feature regional ads or if this was just a mistake.  I can see the line-ups jumbling around from city to city, so the different TV Guides might have slightly different ads, but I always figured comic books were distributed country wide with the same ads.  Anyone out there know?

    

Rounding out the cartoon ads is this beauty from ABC featuring one of my all time favorite shows, the Hanna Barbera Laff-A-Lympics.  I never seemed to catch this show at home when it aired in re-runs, but I swear, every single time my family was out of town or on the road it seemed like the only cartoon that I’d find on TV in the various motels we’d stay at.  It brings back a lot of fond memories of waking up to the show, and then off to the complimentary Ho-Jo’s continental breakfast.  I could so go for some plain scrambled eggs, bacon, and corn flakes while watching Blue Falcon and Dynomutt face off against Yogi Bear and Quick Draw McGraw in a battle of river rafting right about now.  Also, I totally missed out on everything Kroft while growing up and I am dying to see the adventures of Bigfoot and Wildboy…

One of the best parts in picking up these old TV Guides is getting a feel for what a week in the life of a 1977 TV viewer was like.  I get a little of this watching shows like Freaks and Geeks (hearing Sam, Bill, and Eli pontificate on catching the latest Three’s Company, Welcome Back Kotter, and Bionic Woman episodes), but it’s really neat to see it for myself in an artifact like this.  Again, I put out a plea to studios everywhere, get over your stupid money grubbing rights issues and put some of these shows out on DVD!  I need to see Jamie Sommers and her bionic dog fight crime.  At least they finally started releasing decent sets of shows like Welcome Back Kotter (instead of the pointless 4-episode best of discs.)  The following page is just as exciting as the Hardy Boys and Nancy Drew face off against Dracula, the Wolfman and Frankenstein, while later on in the evening the Bionic Man is captured by Killer Sharks!  You never see stuff like this anymore.  When was the last time Meredith was captured by sharks on Grey’s Anatomy?  When was the last time a bionic dog was introduced into a show’s cast?  Makes me miss shows like Buffy as it was about the closest we got to stuff like this…

There was also an ad for an odd show called Lucan about a boy raised by wolves.  At first blush I figured this was a werewolf show, but I think it’s more of a raised by animals deal.  I guess they should have thought twice before using the dripping blood font which just confused and unnecessarily excited me.


    

I thought it was interesting that the editors at TV Guide were keen on getting feedback from viewers in the premiere of CHiPs, going so far as to provide a little mail in coupon.  I wonder why this show and not all of them?  Were they being paid by NBC to facilitate it?  Well if I could have at the time, I so would have written "Heck Yeah!" on the back and sent it in.  I talked about my love for this show when I shared my set of CHiPs sticker cards a while back.  I can’t wait to pick up the second season

I was surprised to see an ad for the network premiere of the Making of Star Wars so soon after it hit theaters.  I’d have to say that for once, a crazy claim on an ad has actually stood the test of time as well.  I’d be willing to wager that Star Wars still holds the title as the most popular movie of all time.  I also thought it was cool to see an ad for the season opener of Wonder Woman which boasts the jump in time from the 40s to a modern setting.  I watched my fare share of this show in re-runs growing up and it never dawned on me that it was originally set during WWII.  Shows how on-the-ball I was as a kid.  Oh and lets all make sure not to miss the Muppet show (I really liked that the original owner of this issue circled all the shows they wanted to make sure not to miss.)

Much like my infatuation with the Rodeo Girl TV movie from the last post I made, I am now equally as intrigued by the disturbing ad for Curse of the Black Widow.  I am so speechless.  A spider-woman with huge boobs and creepy human appendages!  Wow!  I bet it has nothing to do with gigantic female spiders, but if it does, please somebody get me a copy of this film…

There’s also another, much better though just as small, ad for Sha-Na-Na in this issue.  Again, what was the draw of 50s nostalgia during the 70s and 80s?  I guess it’s no different than my current 80s obsession.  Also, on the facing page, what’s up with that weirdly sincere cigarette ad that’s playing off of a cover of the Saturday Evening Post?

    

There were a lot of cool shows starting up in 1977, but the one I’ve probably watched the most of over the years is Soap.  My mom introduced me to this sitcom when we’d both stay up late on the weekends during the late 80s and 90s watching Soap in syndication.  I was hooked on all of the spoofy storylines and loved seeing all the actors who I knew from their later work in this earlier hilarious show.  I’m pretty sure I even watched its spin-off, Benson, before I realized that this show existed.

 

Last but not least we have a couple of previews for some more sci-fi oriented shows that debuted in ’77, The Man From Atlantis and the TV version of Logan’s Run.  Though I doubt it’s as cool as I’m making it out in my head, I would really like to see TMFA as I’ve always been curious about the idea of a live action version of either Namor or Aquaman (though I’m completely un-interested in the pilot to the show that they tried to pawn off on us last year.)  Before Dallas and Step By Step, Patrick Duffy sported webbed hands and feet in four TV movies and finally this show, battling mad scientists and criminals.  Who’d of thunk it.  Also, on a totally unrelated note, I just realized that all of the preview pictures in this issue have a spotlight shining on the stars.  Nice design touch TV Guide…

Next week I’ll be back, most assuredly with the ’78 issue of the TV Guide Fall Preview…

  • Deanna

    If you’re sad you missed the Sid & Marty Kroft mania, you’ll enjoy this article: http://atlanta.creativeloafing.com/gyrobase/Content?oid=oid%3A11095

  • Shannon

    I, too, am enjoying the heck out of these! I’m having fun seeing the shows that didn’t make it (or that I don’t personally remember, like “”Mulligan’s Stew””), then looking to see if there’s any YouTube or IMDB info on them. I found the intro clip to “”The Red Hand Gang,”” starring Matthew Laborteaux, who I had a huge crush on back in those days. Also, the elaborate introductions for each of the new shows are almost breathtaking in their attempt to pull the reader in. Given that, the first two sentences of “”The Man From Atlantis”” sound sarcastic, I swear to god! Man, the writers must’ve had a good time with these. Keep up the great posts!

  • John Rozum

    Shawn, I’m really digging these TV Guide flashbacks. Some of those issues I remember so vividly from when they originally arrived in our mailbox way back when. Sadly, most of the shows failed to deliver on what I perceived to be their promise.

  • Evil Dolly

    Well, here’s the Curse of the Black Widow imdb link. http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0075900/ I didn’t notice any reference in there about spider women with huge boobs, though.