Tag Archives: 80s tv

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


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…


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…


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.


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…


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…


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.


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…


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!



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!


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!


You Can’t Do That on iTunes!

I have to admit that I’m pretty horribly about embracing modern technology and junk.  Honestly, when it comes to paying attention to nostalgia television and film releases I’m still stuck in the days of DVD, even though they are waning (I’m already getting flashbacks from the dying days of VHS back in the late 90s.)  So it pretty much goes without saying that there’s a wealth of fun shows that have had resurgences that I’ve ignored because they were only released via streaming or for download.  I’m kind of scared to dive into the Amazon and iTunes digital pool for fear that I’ll end up going broke (or die while trying to pump the content directly into my vein via a coaxial cable or something.)

That being said, the wonderfully up-to-date proprietor of the Old School 80s blog tipped me off that the first seven episodes of You Can’t Do That on Television were just released as digital downloads on iTunes, and I couldn’t help myself I had to buy them.  They’re only $8 right now!  Though I would prefer access to all the episodes, this is a pretty big move on Viacom’s part.  In fact it reminds me of a similar situation from a few years ago prior to the release of another favorite series, The State.  In an attempt to test the interest in a possible DVD release of The State, MTV/Viacom released both seasons as digital downloads from iTunes.  This led to the release of the show on DVD, and I’m keeping my fingers crossed that You Can’t Do That on Television will follow suit (either though a company like Shout! Factory or through Amazon MOD since they have a deal with Nickelodeon already in place for manufacture on demand titles…)

Regardless, I’m currently obsessively rewatching those first seven episodes, which by the way are from the 1981 season of the show so they’re technically not the first seven.  Still, there’s plenty of Les Lye, Barthy Burgers and Moose to keep me smiling for hours!

Visiting the Jim Henson Exhibit at the Center for Puppetry Arts in Atlanta…

It’s so easy to get lost in the sea of social media sometimes, pining after all the cool events and places other people are visiting and enjoying that are either too far away or too expensive to take advantage of.  At times like this that I have to remind myself that I take the area I live in for granted and forget that there’s a bunch of really cool stuff just under my nose.  This past weekend I decided to tune out the internet and take a stroll down to Atlanta’s Center for the Puppetry Arts to visit their semi-permanent Jim Henson Exhibit.  I’ve known about the center’s museum for awhile and I drive past it every time I find myself at the downtown Ikea, so it was way past time that I stopped and took a look…

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I’m a pretty big fan of Jim Henson, though I’d hardly call myself an expert.  While I may not know the proper names of all the c-list muppets, I can say that I can’t imagine what my childhood would have been like had I not been introduced to the Muppet Show, Sesame Street, Fraggle Rock, Labyrinth, the Dark Crystal and Emmet Otter’s Jug Band Christmas.  I’d heard that the exhibit featured some fun props and artifacts from Henson’s career, but I wasn’t quite prepared for just how many of the Henson Company’s beloved creations I would have the opportunity to see up close and personal.

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All told, there were thirteen different projects represented, my six childhood favorites that I listed above as well as puppets and materials from Henson’s advertising work (the La Choy Dragon), The Jim Henson Hour, Dinosaurs, Farscape, and others.  Each section of the exhibit has plenty of anecdotes, behind the scenes information and pictures, as well as videos and a couple of hands-on activities.  It’s not a huge collection, but what’s included is certainly breathtaking.  For me, the magic of this museum is getting a chance to get so darn close to the actual puppets and props from the shows, specials and movies I love so much.  Whether it’s the majesty of seeing Big Bird…

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…or the chance to spend some time with the critter’s from Labyrinth (like Sir Didymus and the lying door guard pictured below.)

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Just getting a chance to see the detail and craftsmanship of these characters was an astounding experience!  My pictures do absolutely no justice to the actual props, but are merely presented to give you an idea of what’s included.  I know that there is a down side to seeing these puppets sitting so static behind glass.  All the energy and life is lost without the performer, and in some cases this can almost be criminal or traumatic (as in Sir Didymus’ case), but I’d still recommend anyone with the opportunity to visit the Center to try and put that at the back of you mind.


By far, some my favorite pieces had to be in the Fraggle Rock section which features a couple different scales of Fraggles (Mokey and Red in the normal/large scale, as well as all five – including Gobo, Wembly, and Boober – in a smaller scale as shot during the scenes with the Gorgs) and some Doozers…


…but I also loved seeing Emmet and Ma Otter from the Jugband Christmas special.  Honestly, I almost tear-ed up when I turned and saw the two in their little green rowboat.  All the songs came flooding back in, and I just stood and stared at them, trying to soak in all the little details…


For you Muppets fans, there are plenty of Henson’s characters on display including Rolf, Dr. Teeth, and the Swedish Chef, as well as a couple others in a separate part of the museum (lets just say they were Out of This World…)


Though the Henson section of the museum is pretty darn rad, there is also a more permanent puppetry exhibit that’s also very illuminating and features all sorts of puppets from across the globe (including Madame!)  But it was at the end of the second wing that I stumbled across my favorite piece in the entire museum, a full-size Skeksis (the General), including his gnarly sword, from the Dark Crystal.  There are no words for how amazing this piece of Henson history is.  Again, my iPhone camera did the Skeksis absolutely no justice…


If you get a chance to stop in Atlanta, do yourself a favor and visit the Center for Puppetry Arts and peruse the Jim Henson Exhibit.  It’s well worth your time and money for sure.  If you want to see some more of my crappy photos, they’re on my facebook page

Sifting through mountains of old magazines pays off…

I’ve spent an inordinate amount of time in my life combing through paper.  Aside from the thousands of hours of flipping through comics that I’ve logged since I was a kid, sorting and folding paper was a large part of my day-job for years.  Every day I’d sift though reams of medical claims, arranging them into piles by insurance company so that I could send out as many in bulk as possible.  But there was always a pile of singles left over, two to three hundred a day that needed to be folded by hand.  Yes, I’m well aware that there are machines built for this task, and believe me our office had one that must have been constructed around the turn of the century.  It was older than sin and only worked about a fourth of the time.  Even then it would eat up and shred claims which was more of a headache than folding them by hand.  Besides, there was no way that company was going to invest in a new folder/stuffer when they were already paying me.  I became so adept at sorting and folding that I was almost as fast as the machine when it was working properly.  At one point I started having nightmares about spending the rest of my life folding paper and stuffing it into envelopes.  It was around this time that I came up with the brilliant idea of securing a second job, working nights at my local Kinko’s.  Yet more paper.  Sorting, folding, and stuffing.

Around five years ago I made the jump into IT, laughing manically as I left the paper behind.  The blurred sorter’s vision, the constant paper-cuts, and the smell of printers ink on my hands were all fading away.  Of course, around five years ago I also started this site, and thus began a second wave of kneeling before the gods of paper as ephemera because an important passion in my life.  I’ve replaced the medical billing clearinghouse drudgery with the never-ending search for amazing forgotten tidbits that are hidden in million comic long-boxes, tucked away in the corner of an antique store cubical, and buried in mountains of 30 year-old stacks of magazines. Articles, postcards, stickers, posters, packaging, calendars, flyers, magazines, books, and of course, advertisements; this is the ephemera that keeps this site running.  Sometimes, in the middle of investigating every page of practically every single issue of Woman’s Day magazine from 1983, I swear that I’m going to go blind (just like Donald Pleasance in The Great Escape.)  But every so often I find something so irrevocably awesome, that it makes the whole process completely worth the struggle.  Below is one of those finds.

Maybe I’ve built this up a bit too much with this long-winded intro, but every time I set eyes on this poster (which will hopefully soon be hanging in my office) I get a bit giddy because it transports me so effortlessly back in time to when I was six and my family was having cable TV installed for the first time.  1983 was my first introduction to the wonder of the classic children’s programming on the first channel devoted to kids, Nickelodeon…

The only thing keeping this poster from being the perfect piece of 80s era Nickelodeon ephemera is that it was released about a year and a half before the network really came into its own with the introduction of all sorts of animated series and game shows.  Even so, 1983 was the year that they really took a step in the right direction with the debut of Mr. Wizard’s World, which cemented the last corner of the triumvirate of series (along with Pinwheel and You Can’t Do That on Television) that more or less defined the look and feel of early Nickelodeon.  And that is what this poster is all about!

Well actually this poster is all about the 1983 Nickelodeon Sweepstakes.  In an effort to get the word out about the network to the millions of new cable subscribers during the boom in the early 80s, Nickelodeon concentrated their efforts on two fronts, non-violence and educational programming.  This Sweepstakes offered one lucky kid a $10,000 dollar college scholarship (though in the fine print you can see that this can be transferred to a cash payout when the winner turns 18, I guess in case attending college just wasn’t in the cards.)  You can tell, from the pages that make up the back of the poster below, that a lot of the original programming on the network was geared more towards education than entertainment.  Of course there was always the Canadian sketch comedy of YCDToTV and the insanity of Wild Ride, the live action series hosted by Matt Dillon focusing on the countries best roller coasters and thrill rides.


Anyway, back to the poster.  It was painted by a fella named W.S. “Bill” Purdom, a talented artist who’s worked with huge companies on everything from advertising to movie posters, and is currently specializing in capturing classic moments from baseball on canvas.  The poster features a ton of celebrities and characters including Reggie Jackson, Mr. Wizard, Matt Dillon, Chris Makepeace (from Meatballs and My Bodyguard fame), Leonard Nimory, Bill Bixby, Slim Goodbody, Christine McGlade and Les Lye (from YCDToTV), as well as Jake, Coco, Plus & Minus, Aurelia, Ebeneezer T. Squint, Silas the Snail, Luigi, and Admiral Bird from pinwheel.  Hell, even the Nickelodeon pinball makes an appearance!  Sigh.

Yup, finding a poster like this tucked away in a 28 year-old issue of Woman’s Day is the whole reason that Branded in the 80s exists.  It makes all the work, the hunting, the sorting, the flipping, the scanning & digital enhancement, and all the ailments, the paper-cuts, the old-mildewy-ink-stink on my fingers, completely worth it.  Hope you guys dig seeing stuff like this as much as I do.

The Essential TV Guide Fall Preview Issues of the 80s, Part 9: 1985!

While 1984 was an insanely banner year for television, where almost every single new series was a hit that would run throughout the rest of the decade, 1985 was more about trying to capitalize on the previous year’s successes.  Though there are a few shows that could easily be deemed TV classics, a lot of the new series were either directly aping recent hits, or were trying to carry on the torch of shows that were on their last legs.

Two of the stand-out new series that would go on to help define the decade couldn’t have been more disparate in theme.  On the one hand we have the Golden Girls starring Bea Arthur, Rue McClanahan, Estelle Getty, and Betty White, which had a much broader audience than I’d bet the studio predicted.  On the other we have MacGyver, which was finally the vehicle that would launch Richard Dean Anderson into stardom as pacifist secret agent Angus MacGyver who can solve any problem with some bubblegum, a toothpick, and a lock of his inspiring mullet.  Whereas the Golden Girls would prove to studios that age had no bearing on comedy success, MacGyver was a good 15 years ahead of it’s time illustrating that there is an audience for detailed procedural science and technology outside of PBS (even if most of it’s science and tech was pure hokum.)  Think about it, would we have shows like CSI and Mythbusters without MacGyver?


Getting back to the apparent theme of capitalizing on other series successes, in 1985 we were introduced to three long-running shows that were direct descendants of other productions from the early 80s.  Mr. Belvedere picked up where Benson and Who’s the Boss left off, dusting his was way into America’s hearts and minds, while Growing Pains introduced the world to the wicked smile of Kirk Cameron, and one of America’s most famous stars, Bruce Willis, got his first big break as David Addison opposite Cybil Shepherd’s Maddie Hayes in Moonlighting.  Whereas Moonlighting was aping multiple hits such as Remington Steele and Scarecrow & Mrs. King, Growing, Growing Pains was taking sight as just one show, Family Ties, stealing not only the basic family dynamic, but also the concept for it’s opening credits sequence (told in a series of family photos.)  At least Moonlighting would find it’s own kooky voice as the years went on, setting it apart from the series it took inspiration from.


Similarly, based on the success of the relatively new anthology series Tales From the Darkside, 1985 would see an explosion of scary and interesting anthology TV that lasted well into the 90s.  Making their debut that year were three new series, the Steven Spielberg Produced Amazing Stories, as well as two series reboots, the all new Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents.  Though none of these three series would run for that long, they were the first big wave of anthology television that would be followed by shows like Monsters, Freddy’s Nightmares, Tales From the Crypt, and eventually a second Outer Limits series.

My favorite new series of 1985 was also probably one of the least successful shows that year, Misfits of Science.   Starring Kevin Peter Hall (the guy inside Harry from Harry and the Hendersons, as well as the guy inside the original Predator), Dean Paul Martin (son of Dean Martin, and ex-husband of Olivia Hussey and Dorothy Hamill), Courtney Cox (yeah, that Courtney Cox), and Mark Thomas Miller (ex-bodyguard for Van Halen) as a group of super-powered scientists and their subjects.  Though Martin’s character, Billy Hayes, doesn’t have any powers, he leads the team consisting of his assistant Dr. Elvin Lincoln (Hall), who can shrink down in size to a mere 11 inches (Hall in real life was a towering 7′ 2″), and two research subjects, Johnny Bukowski (Miller) who is a rock star that was electrocuted and now has the power as a conduit and can shoot bolts of lightening from his hands, and Gloria Dinallo, a telekinetic young girl who believes her father was an alien…


There were a few other interesting debuts in 1985.  For one, we got our first exposure to Jaleel White in Charlie in Company (four years before he’d set the world alight with his obnoxious Steve Urkel.)   We also got a chance to see a young Michael Madsen fresh off his small cameo in Wargames, in the cop show Our Family Honor.


One of the things I love about looking through these old TV Guides is getting a glimpse at the various cartoon schedules and advertisements.  In this issue we got a chance to see a variation of the 1985 CBS ad that ran in comic books back in the day. In this version we get a slightly more accurate portrait of Hulk Hogan as well as a clearly depiction of the “Monsters” from the retooled Muppet Babies cartoon.  In ’85 Muppet Babies was popular enough to have a second live action half hour added to the show that revolved around the adult Muppets and a series of monster characters.  Jim Henson pulled the plug on the this addendum series after three episodes though, and the for the remainder of the season they ran two MB episodes back to back.

There’s also an ad for the regular Challenge of the Go Bots cartoon (returning for a full series run after the previous year’s 5-episode miniseries debut.)…

The other thing I really dig about this 1985 issue is all of the awesome artwork for shows like Knight Rider, Small Wonder, and Webster.


The art looks a whole heck of a lot like Drew Struzan’s work, but I don’t know for sure.  Though I’m sure its extremely cost prohibitive, it would have been so damn cool if the TV Guide company or the studios had commissioned this type of artwork for the entire season of these shows…

The last thing I wanted to point out in this issue is a series of star-studded specials that ran in the fall of 1985.   Seems like all the stations were gearing up for these gala events to get the word out on the new fall season.   Though the art is awesome in the below CBS ad, I love the NBC ad the most because of Don Johnson’s swagger.  Though this is a composite shot, apparently the network wanted to play up his bad boy attitude by putting him front and center as the only guy who is too damn cool to wear a tux.  I wonder if he was all Miami Viced up for the actual special as well?


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The Essential TV Guide Fall Preview Issues of the 80s, Part 8: 1984!

1984?  It was a crazy year.  We saw the first Apple Mac computer (with mouse driven graphical interface.)  Michael Jackson claimed the crown as the king of pop winning all sorts of Grammys for Thriller.  Crack was introduced into the US while over a million people died of famine in Ethiopia.  The world didn’t quite succumb to a secretive snooping big brother as foretold in Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, at least not at that time.  One thing is for sure, in the midst of all of this American television was having one of its best years ever with the debut of fourteen “classic” new series (though I’ll let you all decide on the following show’s classic status…)


Jane Curtin found her way back into the spotlight after her inaugural stint as one of the not-ready-for-prime-time players on Saturday Night Live.  Joined by Susan St. James, the duo launched Kate & Allie which would run for six seasons throughout the rest of the decade.  Night Court debuted, instantly making Richard Moll an unmistakable TV icon as well as making stars out of Harry Anderson and John Larroquette.   Airwolf took to the Skies blasting away a plethora of terrorist piloted bubble helicopters and making it cool to serenade eagles with a cello.  Soleil Moon Frye taught a generation of kids that it was cool to be weird and eclectic as Punky Brewster, a show that for all intents and purposes defines a lot of what we think of when remembering what it was like to be a kid in the 80s.  Scott Baio finally found his niche as a babysitter/heartthrob in Charles in Charge (brining along good friend Willie Ames for the ride.)


Angela Lansbury started solving crimes faster than she could make them up in Murder, She Wrote.  Michael Landon joined the must-have-been-blessed as one of a handful of actors to have three hugely successful television shows with the debut of Highway to Heaven (after the duo of long-running stints on Bonanza and Little House on the Prairie.)  Whereas Michael Jackson was the verified King of Pop, Bill Cosby took the crown as the king of television with the start of one of the most successful shows of all time in the titular Cosby Show.   Who’s the Boss showed that there was still life in Tony Danza and Katherine Helmond after Taxi and Soap respectively, as well as introducing the world to a cute and scrappy Alyssa Milano.  Stephen J. Cannell was also having a banner year with not one but two new hit shows, Hunter (starring Fred Dryer in a career defining role as Detective Sgt. Rick Hunter) as well as Riptide, which introduced us to an awesome orange robot (the Roboz), as well as filling in the awesome aquatic vehicle action void left in the wake of or vehicle oriented shows (like Streethawk & Airwolf which also debuted in ’84, as well as Knightrider and the Dukes of Hazzard which were already dominating the airwaves.)


And finally, the show that defined the look of the mid to late 80s, Miami Vice starring Don Johnson, Edward James Olmos, and Phillip Michael Thomas.  It vies with Hill Street Blues as the quintessential 80s cop drama and single-handedly ushered in the jacket over a T-shirt look for men in their 30s.  Mixed in with all of this scripted entertainment was another new series that would run off and on in one form or another for 20 years, TV’s Bloopers & Practical Jokes (hosted by Ed McMahon and produced/hosted by Dick Clark.)  TVsB&PJ, most likely inspired by Candid Camera, would keep the practical joke game going and eventually inspire more insipid programming like Punk’d.  Ashton Kutcher is no Dick Clark, though, not even an Ed McMahon.   Also, debuting in the same year, though months later was ABC’s answer to TVsB&PJ, Foul-Ups, Bleeps & Blunders hosted by perennial agitator Don Rickles and co-host Steve Lawrence.  The show was short-lived, never gaining the ratings of its predecessor.


Even though some of the other series wouldn’t necessarily fall into the “classics” category, it doesn’t mean that there weren’t some interesting offerings.   Stacy Keach tried breathing new life into Mickey Spillane’s Mike Hammer (after Darren McGavin’s run decades prior.)  One of my favorites from this season, Street Hawk also made its initial bow (and short 12 episode run to the cancelation finish line.)  Spinning-off from the Jeffersons was the zany emergency room sitcom E/R, which starred Elliot Gould and oddly enough George Clooney 10 years before he rocketed to stardom in another show also titled ER.   I remember catching this in reruns on the USA network when I was home sick from school.  Speaking of Spin-Offs, John Ritter exited Three’s Company to star in Three’s a Crowd as a more responsible Jack Tripper looking to get married to his girlfriend Vicky.  Even though he’s free of the Farleys and Ropers of the world, he still has an overbearing landlord, Soap’s Robert Mandan who plays James Bradford who also happens to be Vicky’s father.  Before he became a household name on Valerie (later the Hogan Family) Jason Bateman was looking to parlay his experience starring on Silver Spoons with a new series, It’s Your Move (also starring David Garrison of Married With Children Fame.)   I only remember catching a couple episode of the show, but I liked what I saw.  Bateman was the essence of conniving and smarmy as a kid which is what made his performance as Michael Bluth on Arrested Development all that much more surprising to me when it first aired…


Rounding out the failed but notable series in ’84 was the first and only, full-on season of V, a continuation of the two highly successful mini series that preceded it.  As a kid I had two huge crushes, one on Jane Badler (who played the villainess alien lizard woman Diana) and Faye Grant who played doctor and revolutionary Julie Parrish.   I don’t think I caught that many episodes of the regular series but I was obsessed with the two mini series and honestly I think I enjoyed it even more than Star Wars at the time.   I was always bummed that we only ever got one real toy from the franchise, the nazi-esque Visitor figure, though there was a planned 3.75″ line that unfortunately never materialized


1984 also saw the 1st annual MTV Music Awards.  I wonder if the music awards show will stop now that MTV has dropped the Music Television byline from their logo?

There were a couple more Saturday morning cartoon specials as well.  On NBC we had the Laugh Busters co-hosted by Alfonso Ribeiro, Thom Bray (of the new show Riptide), and Danny Cooksey the newest addition to Diff’rent Strokes who would go on to star in the Nickelodeon live action show Salute Your Shorts as Bobby Budnick (as well as voicing Montana Max on Tiny Tune Adventures.)  In addition to the Smurfs and Alvin and the Chipmunks the special also featured the Mr. T cartoon, the Snorks, Pink Panther and Sons and my favorite Kidd Video.  On CBS later in the week we got a chance to see Saturday’s the Place hosted by Joyce De Witt and Ted Knight of all people.   This special featured the Richard Pryor series, the various shows on the Saturday Supercade, the Get-Along-Gang, the Muppet Babies, and Dungeons and Dragons.  I really wish these specials would find their way to DVD someday.   Speaking of kid’s shows, 1984 also saw the introduction of the cable-only series KIDS Incorporated which always reminded me of a musical version of Saved By the Bell.  Though he wouldn’t appear as a regular until the following 1985 season, the show introduced me to Ryan Lambert who played the badass Rudy in the Monster Squad.

There seemed to be a ton of candy ads in this issue, but the one that really caught my eye was a mail-in offer for a Skittles or Starburst belt.   I wonder if any of these are still circulating around on the secondary market? 

Anyway, next time, 1985…

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The Essential TV Guide Fall Preview Issues of the 80s, Part 7: 1983!

When looking through the TV Guide Fall Preview issues that came out between 1977-1990, I find all sorts of little nostalgic gems, not to mention a parade of stars that I know and love.  Even when a lot of the new shows don’t last, the stars do, eventually going on to successful series and some even making the jump to film.  But for some reason 1983 just doesn’t seem to be a big year for television, at least not in terms of classic shows starting up or getting any before-they-were-stars insights.   It’s not totally devoid, but it’s a little sparse on excitement.


The first thing that really jumped out at me was the introduction of the A-Team, which is by far the most notable new show that year (at least in my skewed perception.)  Sure there are a few other notable shows making their debuts, namely Webster, Hardcastle & McCormick, and Scarecrow and Mrs. King, but the A-Team is really where it’s at, at least in the iconic television department.  Honestly, I wonder if it has anything to do with the fact that 1982 had twice as many lasting and memorable debuts (Cagney & Lacey, Knightrider, T.J. Hooker, Remington Steele, Cheers, Silver Spoons, Family Ties, St. Elsewhere, and Newhart)?  Maybe with all of those shows still on the air, as well as shows that had been going from years prior (Simon & Simon, the Fall Guy, Gimmie a Break, Hill Street Blues, Too Close For Comfort, and Magnum P.I. just to name some of the shows from the previous two years) there wasn’t a real big push for new programming in 1983.   Of course, 1984, when we get to it, will introduce like thirteen long-lasting and memorable series, so I guess ’83 was just a dud.


That isn’t to say there aren’t a few interesting faces popping up in some of these short lived new shows.  In Goodnight, Beantown we get to see Bill Bixby looking for his third hit show (after the Incredible Hulk and the Courtship of Eddie’s Father.)  Alec Baldwin pops up in his first adult performance as Dr. Hal Wexler, part of a trio a doctors in Cutter to Houston (which sounds like the core plot of Northern Exposure six years before it would premier on television.)  Jim Varney, in a rare pre-Ernst role, rounded out the cast of The Rousters about a family of carnies (sounds like he still plays for the same kind of Ernst laughs though.)  Cybill Shepherd, David Soul, and Sam Elliot star in The Yellow Rose, a failed attempt (looking back 27 years later) at taking on Dallas.  Richard Dean Anderson makes a pre-MacGyver appearance in Emerald Point N.A.S., a naval romance set somewhere on the coast of the Southern U.S.  Madeline Kahn got her own titular show Oh Madeline.   We also get to see a pre-NYPD Blue Dennis Franz in the Bay City Blues.   The star-studded Hotel makes its debut featuring a young Connie Sellecca alongside James Brolin and Bette Davis.   Bill Bixby wasn’t the only Incredible Hulk star looking for work after the show ended, Lou Ferrigno stars as paramedic John Six in the emergency room drama Medstar.   All in all 1983 feels like the eye of a hurricane (the hurricane of 80s television history that is.)


Joining the ranks of the almost forgotten, yet interesting shows of TVs past is slightly odd entry called Manimal, a Glen A. Larsen production (who also brought us Knight Rider, Battlestar Galactica, Buck Rogers, BJ and the Bear, and Magnum P.I.)  The series centered on animal behavior professor Jonathon Chase who had the unique ability to shape-shift into animal (including mammal, reptile, or fish), which he uses to fight crime, secretly helping out plainclothes cop Brooke McKenzie.   Even though the series was cancelled after eight episodes, it has developed a pretty strong cult following over the years.  From what I can gather the special effects were pretty good, which shouldn’t come as a surprise as they were crafted by master artist Stan Winston.  I’d be willing to bet that had the show managed to hang on a little longer, and given a slightly larger production budget, Manimal could have easily become the next Knight Rider.

There were some other fun tidbits in the issue though including an interesting ad for the Atari Service Centers.  At first blush it makes total sense, I mean 1983 was pretty much the peak of their domination and it was just before the crash of the home video game market.  It seems strange though that they were so successful that they could afford to run and staff 1,600 locations across the country.  I’m assuming it was in conjunction with another established company and maybe Warner/Atari either certified/trained some existing staff or maybe just had one employee placed at an existing electronics repair shops.  Seriously though, didn’t it make more sense to have customers mail in their systems for repair, even 27 years ago?


Also, I’ve talked about this before, but I miss all of the spot illustrations that used to pepper magazines, not to mention the paintings for movie posters and advertisements.   There’s an awesome watercolor portrait ad for the flick Between Friends, an HBO film starring Elizabeth Taylor and Carol Burnett in this issue.  In the 70s, TV Guide used to have a ton of Jack Davis style illustrations (drawn by Dave Arke) done for movies and specials premiering on the local affiliates that were just awesome, but some time in the early to mid 80s there was a switch to cut & pasted photo collages that were just sort of fugly.  Ever since there’s been a steady progression of perfecting the superimposed photo and integrating CG artwork that’s just made most magazine ads and movie posters boring and homogenous.  In addition to the Between Friends art, there’s alao a couple of pieces of Arke work, one for the season premiere of Real People and a second for the debut of the show We Got It Made.  Just look at that insanity!


Even though 1983 wasn’t all that big for live action television debuts, it was freaking huge for the world of animation, in particular syndicated weekday after-school fare.  Not only did He-Man and the Masters of the Universe start running all over the country (though it’s strangely absent from my TV Guide copy so I guess the Canoga Park, California local affiliates didn’t carry it), but ’83 also saw the debut of the original G.I. Joe sunbow miniseries.  This was the beginning of a boom that would rock the world of animation and usher in hundreds of shows throughout the rest of the 80s and on to today.  If you’re curious about that first G.I. Joe mini series you can listen to me wax nostalgic about it with my co-hosts Jerzy Drozd and Kevin Cross in a two-part special of the Saturday Supercast.


One of the things that I completely missed out on in the 80s were a series of prime time specials that gave a sneak preview of the Saturday morning cartoons starting that season.  1983 featured a couple (though one of them is billed as an awards show), one on CBS hosted by Scott Baio fresh off the set of Joni Loves Chachi while the other aired on NBC and was called the Yummy Awards (which was hosted by both Dwight “Howling Mad Murdock” Schultz and Ricky Schroder.)  The CBS special also featured Sorrell Booke and James Best (I’m sure as their Dukes of Hazzard characters Boss Hogg and Sheriff Rosco P. Coltrane), as well as previews of shows like the Saturday Supercade line-up (Donkey Kong, Q*Bert, and Frogger), Dungeons and Dragons, and the Biskitts.  The NBC special was a bit more star-studded featuring appearances by Mr. T, Kim “Tootie” Fields & Mindy “Natalie” Cohn from the Facts of Life, Justine Bateman, Bozo, and Gumby.


Also, repeated from the 1982 issue, there’s another ad for Beefeater’s Delight.  To keep from misquoting myself I’ll just provide an excerpt from that previous post:

“Probably the weirdest ad I’ve seen so far in any of these TV Guides was the small one above called Beefeaters Delight!   From what I can gather the ad is for entire sides of hanging beef at amazing prices, but what I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around is the idea that it’s being presented to the general public instead of in another more industry-centric fashion.   I mean, I realize there are a ton of hunters out there that kill, keep and eat entire deer carcasses, but seriously, who invests in an entire half cow?  That’s why we have supermarkets right?  I do have to say that the insert advertising 5lbs of hotdogs or Bacon for $.99 a pound is mighty tempting.   I wonder what that would work out to in 2008 dollars?”


Lastly, I found it kind of interesting that the real life husband and wife duo of Alex Karras and Susan Clark not only had the debut of their new sitcom Webster, but also a made-for-TV movie called Maid in America that they also produced.   I guess it was a big year for the couple.

Next time I’ll take a look at the 1984 issue which is jam packed with classic TV debuts…

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

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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The Essential TV Guide Fall Previews of the 80s, Part 5: 1982!

Apparently I really started perking up and paying attention to the new fall schedule sometime in 1982 because this is the first issue of TV Guide that I’ve flipped through where I recognize and remember watching most of the shows previewed.  I guess it kind of makes sense in a strange way.  I just turned five, started kindergarten, and was probably very aware of my nightly impending bedtime, and thus was more prone to arguing so that I could stay up and, I don’t know, watch Knight Rider or something.  ’82 was also the year that I missed out on a ton of Saturday morning cartoon time as my Dad decided that it would be good for me to get outside and meet new kids, so he enrolled me in the local soccer league (which he co-coached.)


When I first starting taking a close look at these TV guides I was figuring that there’d be a ton of crazy ads with way out of date prices (either insanely expensive appliances or insanely cheap food items), but for the most part everything has been about the same as it is now (at least for what would qualify for the equivalent by today’s standards.)  That VCR above though is exactly what I was hoping to see.  Granted the video revolution was still in its infancy and no where near the peak it would reach in the mid 90s, but seriously, was $600 ever a good ‘on-sale’ price for a piece of hardware like a VCR?  It was normally $900.  In 1982 dollars!  I think that’s like 1/10th what my parents paid for their Mazda 626 around that time.  I mean, doing the whole automobile divided by electronics equation for today’s standard, well, I think…  Wait, no, I think that computes (scratching my head and doing the little calculator mine in the air)…  Yup, I guess you could evenly divide about 10 decent sized HD TVs into one Volkswagen Rabbit.  Damn!  Still though, I can’t bring myself to buy an HD TV so I guess if I were in my parents shoes back in ’82 I also would have waited until about 1987 to get our first VCR as well.  Going by those theoretical calculations, I should be joining the HD movement sometime in the next decade or so.

I was glad there was a different Vivran ad in this issue as well.  It makes a nice sister ad to the one I posted a few weeks ago.  The main difference is the hilarity.  I know when I screw up at work because I’m too tired to count money, I want my boss to give me the equivalent of a low level legal narcotic to keep me going (okay Vivran isn’t really anything near a narcotic, but take enough of them and I’m sure it’ll feel a lot like taking some speed.)  Besides, the ad makes me laugh when I shift the situation in my head to another profession, like a rough and tumble news helicopter pilot ("I destroyed three News11 copters and killed 2 traffic correspondents before my dispatcher gave me some little yellow pills that kept me in the air and flying for hours…") or a daycare worker ("I wiped twenty kids runny noses with the same tissue before I realized that the first kid had the chicken pox.  Thank god my supervisor had some Vivran Stimulant Tablets handy because it was my turn to walk the kids to the bus today…")


Like I mentioned above, in getting to the show previews in this issue I’m finally feeling a little like I’m on more recognizable ground.  Take that first 2-page spread featuring Joanie Love Chachi, the 9 to 5 sitcom spin-off, TJ Hooker and Cagney and Lacey.  Though I haven’t watched many episodes of any of these shows (with the possible exception of TJ Hooker which I have some garbled, yet vivid memories of), I’ve been well aware of them all since they debuted.  I guess my threshold for remembering pop culture starts at 5 years-old.

I guess this is also the beginning of a comfortable time-frame in which these actors and actresses would go on to stay (more of less) in the public eye.  I mean TJ Hooker is Heather Locklear’s beginning of a very long love affair with network television as she’d go on to star in no less than 4 more long running shows (yeah, I’m including LAX as it went to a partial season run, but c’mon, Melrose Place, Spin City and Dynasty all in one career?)  Heck, while I’m at it I might as well point to Shatner as well.  This would be his second big hurrah after Star Trek. I wish I could say the same thing for Adrian Zmed, but this was more of his last hurrah after his turns in Bachelor Party and Grease 2.  He sure does encompass that early 80s hunk look very well (not to mention giving Locklear’s feathered hair a run for it’s money.)  There’s also Scott Baio in his post Happy Days, yet pre-Charles in Charge glory with Joanie Loves Chachi (which I’m all of a sudden dying to see after taking a gander at the opening credits, shudder.)

Of course, then there’s Silver Spoons, my hands down favorite 80’s kid-centric sitcom (with Punky Brewster and Diff’rent Strokes coming in at a tie in second place.)  If there was one person I wanted to be like growing up it was Rickey Schroder, and if I could have two wishes I would have wanted his house.  Rickey was basically a live action version of Richie Rich, though he was a little more frugal (having come from a slightly broken home.)  Looking back though I think I was more influenced by Joel Higgins’ performance as Edward Stratton III, who suffered from the worst case of arrested development ever.  That’s who I basically am these days, though without the family fortune (inherited from a grandfather who invented the inner tube.)  Add to this the awesome Erin Grey (I never made the Buck Rogers connection as a kid oddly enough), and great guest stars like Jason Bateman and Alfonzo Riberio and you had the perfect kid sitcom.

I was surprised to see Rock Hudson in the Devlin Connection preview, as I didn’t realize he was still acting at this point.  I heard his name bandied about by my parents a lot when I was young, but I’ve never really gotten a chance to watch any of his movies, so he’s sort of a name without a face to me.  There’s also a preview for Ripley’s Believe It or Not, which the perennially scary Jack Palance lent his presence and amazing voice to.  Rounding out the group above is a preview for the show Voyagers!, which I had never heard of.  From what I gather after watching the intro, it’s basically the same type of show as Quantum Leap, only with an adventurer and a kid sidekick righting historical wrongs throughout all of history.  It’s weird that I missed it though, because it looks like a show that would be right up my alley, and I see that it’s on DVD, so I might have to check out and see if Netflix carries it.


If you remember back a few posts ago I made a little fuss over another preview, which starred Pricilla Presley, Burgess Meredith and a Chimp (which actually turned out not to be a fictional show, but rather an animal variety show.)  Well, if only I’d waited a little bit I’d have seen that Burgess Meredith took another whack at a sitcom starring along side a bunch of animals (and Sally Struthers, who is actually the true star of the show), and even though it’s no Every Which Way but Loose spin-off (instead it was an All in the Family spin-off), I’m sure it was still enjoyable.

We also get a preview of a show that really seemed to hit the 80s on the head, at least fashion wise (like the Zmed), Square Pegs.  Like Locklear, it was the beginning of a long career in television and film for Sarah Jessica Parker, and coincidentally was just released on DVD this past week.

As a side note, has anyone ever seen a more sexually suggestive design for a television special ad than that one starring Sylvester Stallone ever?  Holy crap, he’s starring as his own penis in that mock up.  Weird.


There’s an interesting little ad for Madame’s Place, a show with a puppet that I have a hard time keeping separate from that crazy Genesis (or was it Phil Collins solo) video with all the weird looking puppets.  Here’s a bit of Madame from youtube.  I guess this was Corey Feldman’s shot at stardom between the Bad News Bears sitcom and flicks like the Goonies.  Always glad to see one of the Coreys pop up.

On the page opposite the Madame ad, there is an interesting advert for a science special hosted by Peter Graves and presented by the fine folks at Atari.

Probably the weirdest ad I’ve seen so far in any of these TV Guides was the small one above called Beefeaters Delight!  From what I can gather the ad is for entire sides of hanging beef at amazing prices, but what I’m having a hard time wrapping my head around is the idea that it’s being presented to the general public instead of in another more industry-centric fashion.  I mean, I realize there are a ton of hunters out there that kill, keep and eat entire deer carcasses, but seriously, who invests in an entire half cow?  I mean, that’s why we have supermarkets right?  I do have to say that the insert advertising 5lbs of hotdogs or Bacon for $.99 a pound is mighty tempting.  I wonder what that would work out to in 2008 dollars?

Again, because the majority of these TV Guides came out of the Los Angeles area there is a smattering of ads for the Z Channel (as well as the listings in the guide itself.)  I thought I’d take a second to point to the wonderful documentary on Z channel again, as well as the trailer for the doc…

There was also an ad for the Miss Piggy Show special that aired in ’82.  Here’s a clip via youtube


Unfortunately there weren’t as many Saturday Morning Cartoon ads in this issue, just the one above (which is almost identical to the version that ran in comic books at the time.)  As I mentioned above, I think I was being forced to ‘take a break’ from SMC’s at the time to play soccer on the weekends (the strongest piece of evidence is that besides the Looney Tunes I don’t recognize any of the shows in the above ad, and I’m only partially familiar with the line-up in the ’82 ABC ad as well, never having seen the Mork & Mindy, Laverne & Shirley, or Little Rascals cartoons.)  The Meatballs & Spaghetti cartoon looks pretty weird and is both a little bit of a holdover from the 70s family as a traveling band sort of show, as well as being kind of progressive in terms of the MTV generation and coming before shows like Kidd Video or that Wolfman Jack cartoon.  It wasn’t until recently that I discovered all of the very odd sitcom to cartoon spin-offs of the late 70s and early 80s like the Gilligan’s Planet cartoon (or the Mork and Mindy/Laverne and Shirley cartoons mentioned above), which featured out favorite castaways building a spaceship and landing on a distant planet, again getting lost/stuck.  I was also surprised by the Pandamonium cartoon, which has a very odd mixture of anthropomorphized animal comedy and action (in the main characters battles with Montragor master of evil.)

Aside from the shows I am familiar with in this issue (like St. Elsewhere above), there are also a bunch that caught my eye, if only because of the actors involved, but like Voyagers! above, some of the plots seem right up my alley as well.  Take for instance the preview for Bring ’em Back Alive, which is an adventure show based on the life of Frank Buck a 30s era animal collector/adventurer starring Bruce Boxleitner (of Tron, Scarecrow & Mrs. King, and Babylon 5 fame.)  Apparently the studio was looking to cash in on the success of Indiana Jones pitting the Buck character against Nazis and junk (not to mention adapting a 30s era adventurer.)  Awesome!  (Here’s the intro via youtube.)  Similarly there was another IJ cash-in with Tales of the Gold Monkey starring Stephen Collins as Jake Cutter, a cargo pilot and all around Harrison Ford wannabe (here’s the intro.)

There were also some shows that weren’t quite up my alley, at least not at the time, like Gavilan (starring Robert Urich post Vega$ and pre Spenser for Hire), or the weird TV spin-off of the 7 Brides for 7 Brothers play and film starring MacGyver himself, Richard Dean Anderson, as well as Peter Horton (who would become a household name in my family later on for his turn on 30 Something), and a young, cute-as-a-button River Phoenix.

Speaking of household names, probably my mother’s favorite show of the 80s was St. Elsewhere. Between having a stellar cast (including Howie Mandel, Ed Beagley Jr., Denzel Washington, David Morse, Mark Harmon, G.W. Bailey, Stephen Furst, Ronny Cox, Helen Hunt, and William Daniels just to name a few) and the intense plot lines (Mark Harmon’s character contracting AIDS was our family’s ‘who shot JR’), it quickly became a must watch series.


Joining Silver spoons and St. Elsewhere were another couple of family favorites, Family Ties and Cheers (though I saw more episodes of Cheers in syndication later on as I think it was on past my bedtime.)  Next to the Cosby Show, I think Family Ties was the biggest show for me in the 80s and Michael J. Fox is certainly up there as one of my favorite actors from my youth.  If I wanted to be Rickey Schroeder, than I wanted to be best friends with Fox.

I thought it was pretty weird seeing Michael Dudikoff in the Star of the Family preview.  I have a hard time not thinking of him as a second rate action star as I watched the American Ninja films religiously.  It’s weird when he pops up in comedies like the above sitcom or Bachelor Party (hmm, another connection to the Zmed.)  Same goes for Ron Glass, who stars as Felix in the fourth incarnation of the Odd Couple (after the play, film, and first sitcom.)  I have to admit that I’m more familiar with Glass from his turn as Reverend Book in Firefly than his time on Barney Miller.

We also have the second attempt to launch the Powers of Matthew Star show.  Apparently Peter Barton had a pyrotechnics accident the year prior which caused the fledgling show to shut down while he recovered.  I wonder if this was the show that helped to typecast Louis Gosset Jr. as the grizzled older mentor character, which he would go on to play throughout his career (in films like Iron Eagle or the Punisher?)


1982 also saw the introduction of a show that I’ve always considered as one part of a trio of action shows that feature a vehicle as the main focal point (and to an extent character) of the series, Knight Rider.  The other two are Airwolf (doing for helicopters what Knight Rider did for Trans Ams) and Street Hawk (ditto for motorcycles.)  I watched the living heck out of KR growing up.  I had the electronic toy and action figure set and would endlessly debate the episodes with friends well into high school.  In the context of this TV Guide Fall Preview issue, it really does seem like 1982 was a stellar year for William Daniels (with this and St. Elsewhere beginning; 2 long running shows.)  I still can’t believe that the show is being reconceived for modern audiences though (I missed the pilot movie, and from what I hear thankfully.)

Well, I didn’t get this up last week like I’d hoped, but I do plan on doubling up this week.  There’s a possibility that I might get to the 1979 issue (as I finally found a cheap copy on eBay), but I might just plow on ahead to 1983.  We shall see.

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

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.)