THE NANCY DREW MYSTERIES Nancy Drew was the girls' equivalent of The Hardy Boys Mysteries, with which it alternated on Saturday nights on ABC. Both programs featured teenage sleuths helping adults solve exciting (but not usually violent) mysteries, such as robberies, haunted houses, blackmail attempts on a college football star, etc.
Nancy (Pamela Sue Martin) was 18 and the daugher of famed criminal lawyer Carson Drew (William Schallert), a widower. George (a girl, first played by Jean Rasey and later by Susan Buckner) was her buddy, not particularly brave but willing to stick by Nancy through thick and thin. Ned Nickerson (George O'Hanlon) was her father's law-student assistant, always willing to help (later he became an investigator for the district attorney's office, and more anxious to keep Nancy out of cases than in them). The Drews' home base was River Heights, a suburb of New York, but the mysteries took them far and wide.
In the fall of 1977 Nancy Drew appeared in several joint episodes with the Hardy Boys. Then in February 1978 the two series were combined under the title Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, at which time Pamela Sue Martin left the program.
THE NBC SATURDAY NIGHT MOVIE
THE NANCY DREW MYSTERIES
Nancy Drew was the girls' equivalent of The Hardy Boys Mysteries, with which it alternated on Saturday nights on ABC. Both programs featured teenage sleuths helping adults solve exciting (but not usually violent) mysteries, such as robberies, haunted houses, blackmail attempts on a college football star, etc.
Nancy (Pamela Sue Martin) was 18 and the daugher of famed criminal lawyer Carson Drew (William Schallert), a widower. George (a girl, first played by Jean Rasey and later by Susan Buckner) was her buddy, not particularly brave but willing to stick by Nancy through thick and thin. Ned Nickerson (George O'Hanlon) was her father's law-student assistant, always willing to help (later he became an investigator for the district attorney's office, and more anxious to keep Nancy out of cases than in them). The Drews' home base was River Heights, a suburb of New York, but the mysteries took them far and wide.
In the fall of 1977 Nancy Drew appeared in several joint episodes with the Hardy Boys. Then in February 1978 the two series were combined under the title Hardy Boys/Nancy Drew Mysteries, at which time Pamela Sue Martin left the program.
THE NBC SATURDAY NIGHT MOVIE
Most of television's early efforts at showing theatrical films were unmemorable. It was not until the advent of Saturday Night at the Movies on NBC in 1961 that major contemporary films would become part of the television scene. Saturday Night at the Movies was the first movie series that could air movies in color, and also had access to recent movies showcasing popular stars, not the poor grade-B films, imports, and dated films previously seen in the late Forties and throughout the Fifties. The popularity of good-quality movies on TV was demonstrated by the rapid growth of such programming. Within a year of the premiere of Saturday Night at the Movies, ABC was carrying theatrical films on Sundays (The ABC Sunday Night Movie) and NBC had added a Monday movie to its schedule (The NBC Monday Night Movie). By the end of the decade there were as many as nine network movies on each week.
The increased demand for movies on television eventually led to another major development, the made-for-television film. The acceptance of these films, which began in 1964 with See How They Run on NBC, resulted in the first series of made-for-television films only, The ABC Movie of the Week, in the fall of 1969. The attraction was that every week would be a "world premiere" of a new motion picture. Over the years, a number of series relying on new films have appeared under titles such as World Premiere Movie and Movie of the Week, and later trends tended to minimize the distinction between theatrical and made-for-TV films. In fact, by the 1978-1979 season, with the available supply of theatrical films dwindling while demand for motion pictures on network television remained strong, a milestone was reached. Fifteen years after the first made-for-TV film aired on network television there were more of them aired during an entire season than there were theatrical features.
In addition to the various prime-time movie series, CBS premiered The CBS Late Movie, a Monday-Friday 11:30 P.M. collection of theatrical and made-for-television reruns in 1972; ABC incorporated a large number of made-for-television films in ABC Late Night beginning in 1973; and NBC added the NBC Late Night Movie on Sunday nights starting in 1977.
THE NBC SUNDAY MYSTERY MOVIE
The NBC Mystery Movie was an umbrella title used to cover a number of rotating series that appeared in the same time slot on different weeks. The first Mystery Movie series premiered in 1971 on Wednesday nights, and included Columbo, McCloud, and McMillan and Wife, three series that had considerable success over the years.
Due to the popularity of the Mystery Movie concept in the 1971-72 season, NBC decided to try another one. The three original elements were moved to Sunday night (retitled The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie) and three new ones were introduced on Wednesday, under the new blanket title The NBC Wednesday Mystery Movie. However, Madigan, Cool Million, and Banacek were not as successful as their predecessors, nor were any of the elements that were subsequently tried.
THE NEW DICK VAN DYKE SHOW
During its first two seasons on the air, The New Dick Van Dyke Show was filmed on location at Carefree, Arizona. Dick Preston (Van Dyke) was the host of a local talk show on KXIV-TV, a mythical Phoenix, Arizona, television station. The series revolved around his personal life with his wife Jenny (Hope Lange) and their nine-year-old daughter Annie (Angela Powell), and his professional life with the talk show. His manager, Bernie Davis (Marty Brill), and Bernie's wife Carol (Nancy Dussault) were personal friends and his sister "Mike" (Fannie Flagg) doubled as his secretary. Seen occasionally was Dick's son Lucas (Michael Shea from 1971-73, replaced by Wendell Burton in the final season), who was away at a private boarding school.
For the third season, the setting of the show moved to Hollywood, and so did its production. Dick moved his family there so that he could take advantage of an opportunity to star in a daytime soap opera, Those Who Care. New series regulars were the soap opera's writer, Dennis Whitehead (Barry Gordon); its producer, Max Mathias (Dick Van Patten); its stage manager, Alex Montenez (Henry Darrow); and the soap opera's star, Margot Brighton (Barbara Rush). In the soap Dick played Dr. Brad Fairmont. At home the Prestons had acquired new neighbors in Richard (Richard Dawson) and Connie Richardson (Chita Rivera).
NFL MONDAY NIGHT FOOTBALL
Professional football made its first appearance on ABC in the fall of 1959, but it wasn't until a decade later that it really became successful as a prime-time series. The 1959 series, which ran at 11:00 P.M. on Saturday nights, consisted of a full-length videotape replay of a game that had been played earlier that day. Commentators were Chuck Thompson and Howard Cosell. When, in the spring of 1970, ABC secured the rights from the National Football League to carry a regularly scheduled Monday Night Football game that fall, it was around Cosell's caustic personality that the announcing team was organized. Whereas the traditional way of covering football was with two people, a play-by-play announcer and a color man to add insights and observations, ABC dediced to put three people in the booth. Keith Jackson did the play-by-play during the first season, with Frank Gifford assuming that role in 1971. The other two commentators, Cosell and Don Meredith, were there to inform, observe, and entertain. It was this last aspect of their work that offended sports traditionalists. At times, especially during boring games, the men in the booth seemed to lose touch completely with what was happening on the field. They were accused of turning a sport into an entertainment show, but as long as the ratings were high enough (which they always were), they received full support from ABC's management. When Don Meredith left the show after the 1973 season, Fred Williamson was picked to replace him. The easy banter that had existed between Cosell and Meredith was absent; Fred was wooden and seemed intimidated on the air, and lasted less than one month. Alex Karras, another former player who was more relaxed (he had announced Canadian football the previous season) and a natural clown, replaced Williamson, staying with the show until Meredith's return in 1977. Fran Tarkenton, former Minnesota Vikings quarterback, joined the ABC team for the 1979 season, taking Meredith's spot on random weeks when the latter was not on the show.
Later years saw periodic changes in the broadcast booth, as new faces were brought in to do color. Easygoing Frank Gifford was for many years the play-by-play announcer, switching to color in 1986. Howard "The Mouth" Cosell got most of the press, however, and it marked the end of an era when he retired in 1983. ABC briefly tried a two-man team in 1986 (Gifford and Al Michaels), reverting to the former three-person arrangement the following year.
Starting in 1988 ABC also telecast several pre-season games on Monday, beginning 8:00 P.M. rather than the regular season's 9:00 P.M. start. From 1989 onward, the first of these games was seen in August. Buy ABC Monday Night Football: 25th Anniversary at Amazon.com
Night Gallery was one of the original elements in the 1970-1971 NBC series Four in One. It aired for six weeks from December 16, 1970, to January 20, 1971, and was rerun on a rotating basis with the other three elements of the series -- McCloud, San Francisco International Airport, and The Psychiatrist -- from April through the end of the season. It remained in the Wednesday time slot by itself during the 1971-1972 season and was then moved to Sunday nights.
Night Gallery was a weekly collection of short, supernatural vignettes. Rod Serling introduced each one from a bizarre gallery, in which grotesque paintings foreshadowed the stories to follow. Not all of the stories were frightening, and many times humorous blackouts were used between more serious stories. In many respects, Night Gallery was the supernatural equivalent of Love, American Style. Buy this series on DVD at Amazon.com
THE ODD COUPLE
If comedy thrives on contrasts, The Odd Couple offered a perfect situation. Felix Unger (Tony Randall) was a prim, fastidious photographer, a compulsive cleaner; Oscar Madison (Jack Klugman) was a gruff, sloppy sportswriter for the fictional New York Herald, to whom a floor was a place to toss things. Both were divorced, and only a mutual need for companionship and a place to stay brought them together to live in the same apartment. Well, co-exist in the same apartment. The conflicts were obvious and endless, as each upset the other's way of life and attempted to mix with the other's friends. Frequently seen were Oscar's poker parties, notably Murray (Greshner) the cop (Al Molinaro), "Speed" the compulsive gambler (Garry Walberg), and meek Vinnie (Larry Gelman). Dr. Nancy Cunningham (Joan Hotchkiss) was Oscar's girlfriend druing the first season, and Myrna Turner (Penny Marshall) his secretary. The Pigeon Sisters, Cecily (Monica Evans) and Gwendolyn (Carol Shelly), were two nutty English girls who lived upstairs, and Christopher Shea for a time played the obnoxious kid next door. Oscar's ex-wife Blanche was played by Jack Klugman's real-life wife Brett Somers, in occasional appearances. Seen infrequently was Felix's daughter Edna (played by Pamelyn Ferdin in the first few seasons and Doney Oatman later).
For a couple of seasons Miriam Welby (Elinor Donahue) served as Felix's girlfriend, but by the final season he had reconciled with his ex-wife Gloria (Janis Hansen). The situation on which the series had been built was neatly resolved in the final episode when Felix moved out to remarry Gloria. Oscar returned to the apartment alone, looked around, and exploded into noisy, messy celebration at the prospect of uninhibited chaos -- at last!
Notwithstanding this clear-cut ending to the original Odd Couple's run in 1975, the series returned to the ABC schedule seven years later as The New Odd Couple, with an all-new cast. This time the principals were black, with Ron Glass as fussy photographer Felix and Demond Wilson as sloppy sportswriter Oscar. The setting was the same, and many of the favorite supporting characters were black, although Felix's ex-wife was now called Frances (played in a couple of episode by Telma Hopkins). It was no more successful than most other revivals of the former hit series.
An animated spinoff of this series, titled The Oddball Couple and starring a neat cat and a sloppy dog, ran as a weekend daytime entry on ABC from September 1975 to September 1977.
The Odd Couple was based on Neil Simon's hit Broadway play (1965), which was made into a movie (1968) starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. The New Odd Couple, which ran in May-June 1983, marked ABC's second unsuccessful attempt to stage a Neil Simon comedy with black actors -- the first being Barefoot In the Park.
ONE DAY AT A TIME
After seventeen years of marriage, Ann Romano (Bonnie Franklin) found herself divorced and living with her two teenage daughters in an apartment building in her home town of Indianapolis. The problems of trying to keep a job and be an understanding mother to two headstrong girls provided the plots for most episodes of this series. Ann resumed use of her maiden name while both 17-year-old Julie (Mackenzie Phillips) and 15-year-old Barbara (Valerie Bertinelli) kept their father's. The building's super, who regarded himself as the Rudolph Valantino of Indianapolis, was Dwayne Schneider (Pat Harrington, Jr.). His first name was virtually never used -- all the tenants referred to him only as Schneider. David Kane (Richard Masur) was Ann's romantic interest during the first season, and at one point they did almost get married, but he departed early in the fall of 1976. Not long after his departure, Ann acquired an outspoken, brassy new neighbor in Ginny Wrobliki (Mary Louise Wilson), but she only lasted one season in the cast. It was during that season, however, that Ann found herself a substantial job working as an account executive for the advertising agency of Connors and Davenport. Although not a regular in the series, Joseph Campanella made occasional appearances as Ann's ex-husband, Ed Cooper.
In 1979, while still in college, Julie married Max Horvath (Michael Lembeck), an airline flight steward. No sooner did they get married than he got laid off from his job, forcing the newlyweds to move in temporarily with Ann and Barbara. Max did get back to work and, when he got promoted to a new position in Houston, he and Julie moved away from Indianapolis (series star Mackenzie Phillips had developed a serious drug problem during the 1979-80 season and was written out of the show to allow her to rehabilitate herself). When Ann left the advertising agency in the fall of 1980 she started a new professional, and eventually, personal, involvement with Nick Handris (Ron Rifkin). They became partners doing freelance advertising -- Ann writing copy and Nick doing the art work -- and despite initial hostility, romance did bloom. Nick was divorced with a young son. Ann's mother, Katherine (Nanette Fabray), also became a frequent visitor to the Romano household, especially after her husband died and she moved to Indianapolis to be close to her daughter.
Reruns of One Day at a Time were seen on the CBS daytime lineup from September 1979 to September 1982. Buy this series on DVD at Amazon.com
THE PAPER CHASE
James T. Hart (James Stephens) was a first-year law student whose upbringing in rural Iowa had not prepared him for the intensity and ruthlessness that he found at a highly competitive law school. His nemesis was Professor Charles Kingsfield, Jr. (John Houseman) the world's leading authority on contract law, who inspired both awe and terror in his students with his imperious and authoritarian manner. To help cope with the heavy work load, Hart joined a study group consisting of other students who were working together sharing notes and assignments. The group had been organized by Franklin Ford III (Tom Fitzsimmons), a would-be third generation lawyer from a socially prominent family. Others in the group were Thomas Craig Anderson (Robert Ginty), Willis Bell (James Keane), Elizabeth Logan (Francine Tacker), and Jonathan Brooks (Jonathan Segal). Brooks, the only married member of the group, left school after he got caught cheating.
Even with his heavy work load, Hart had to find time for a part-time job at Ernie's pizza joint. There he met Carol (Carole Goldman), a waitress who admired him but couldn't understand his dedication to his studies. Also seen occasionally was Mrs. Nottingham (Betty Harford), Professor Kingsfield's secretary.
Despite being hailed by critics as the most praiseworthy new series of the 1978-1979 season, The Paper Chase never attracted a competitive audience and was canceled at the end of the year. PBS aired reruns of The Paper Chase for a few years following its departure from CBS and, in the first case of its kind, the pay-cable television service Showtime revived it in the spring of 1983. Under the title The Paper Chase: The Second Year, these new episodes introduced Hart's love interest, first-year law student Connie Lehman (Jane Kaczmarek), as well as students Rita Harriman (Claire Kirkconnell), Laura (Andra Millian), Vivian (Penny Johnson), and Gerald Golden (Michael Tucci), who was editor of the Law Review for which Hart was writing. 1985 brought a title change -- The Paper Chase: The Third Year -- and two new first-year law students. Ford's younger brother Tom (Peter Nelson) and older, former housewife Rose Samuels (Lainie Kazan). When Hart finally graduated in 1986 (it had taken eight years since the series' original premiere to complete three years of law school), he had hoped to get a teaching post at the law school. His appointment failed to materialize, however, and he joined a law firm in the last orignal episode. The series was based on the movie of the same name, for which John Houseman (as Kingsfield) won a supporting-actor Academy Award. Although the movie took place at Harvard, no mention was made of a specific university in the television series. Buy this series on DVD at Amazon.com
This was a gentle comedy about an itinerant Bible salesman/con artist named Moses (Moze) Pray (Christopher Connelly) and his precocious daughter Addie (Jodie Foster), traveling across Kansas during the Depression years. If Moze and Addie never had much money, it wasn't for lack of trying every fast-buck scheme in the book. Though they just "got by," and were often only one step ahead of the law, they at least had each other. Much period flavor was featured in this series, including an authentic 1933 theme song. The series was filmed on location in Kansas.
Based on the 1973 hit movie starring Ryan and Tatum O'Neal, which had in turn been taken from the novel Addie Pray by Joe David Brown.
THE PARTRIDGE FAMILY
Oscar-winner Shirley Jones and her stepson David Cassidy starred in this comedy about a family that hit the big time in the music business. Shirley Partridge was just another widowed suburban mother with a houseful of rambunctious kids, until one day the kids asked her to take part in an impromptu recording session they were holding in the garage. Seems they needed a vocalist. The song they were recording was "I Think I Love You," and to everyone's surprise they sold it to a record company, the record became a smash hit, and the Partridges were soon setting off in a wildly painted old school bus to perform around the country. They were authentic members of the rock generation. Stories depicted their exploits on the road, and in their California home town.
Besides Shirley and 16-year-old Keith (Cassidy), the band included Laurie, 15 (Susan Dey); Danny, 10 and the freckle-faced con man of the family (Danny Bonaduce); Christopher, 7 (Jeremy Gelbwalks from 1970-1971; Brian Forster from 1971-1974); and Tracy, 5 (Suzanne Crough). Reuben Kinkaid (David Madden) was their fast-talking, child-hating agent -- and perpetual foil for Danny. During the 1973-1974 season a neighbor's son, four-year-old Ricky (Ricky Segall), joined the cast, and he sang too. Simone was the family pooch.
The Partridges were heavily promoted in the real-life music business, and they caught on with several hit singles, including "I Think I Love You," which sold four million copies, as well as albums. David Cassidy became the hero of the subteen set and had considerable success as a solo act. Unlike the Monkees, the Partridges had no artistic pretensions -- none of them were professional musicians -- and the backgrounds on their records were in fact done by professional studio musicians, with Shirley and David providing the vocals. Their success was as spectacular on the record charts as on TV, but it did not last long in either case.
An animated Saturday morning sequel, The Patridge Family, 2200 A.D., ran on ABC from September 1974 to September 1975.
The Partridge Family was loosely based on the experiences of a real-life popular recording family, the Cowsills. Buy this series on DVD at Amazon.com
Set in the fictional Southwestern town of San Remo, Petrocelli was not quite a typical legal series. Harvard-educated Tony Petrocelli (Barry Newman) had decided to practice law in a part of the country that was not always receptive to big-city, Eastern ways. He and his wife Maggie (Susan Howard) moved to the Southwest, set up housekeeping in a camper-trailer, and opened up his law practice in the middle of wide-open cattle country. Tony hired Pete Ritter (Albert Salmi), a local cowboy, as his investigator. Tony's propensity for taking on cases whether or not his clients could really afford his services often made it rather hard for him and his wife to make ends meet. Lt. John Ponce (David Huddleston) of the local police, a good friend of Tony's despite the fact that they found themselves in adversary positions in the courtroom, was often involved in investigating the cases Tony was working on. An interesting technique used in this series was showing the actual crime in flashbacks from the perspective of various people involved. The flachback, naturally, differed depending on whose recollections were being shown.
After five years playing Mary Richards' neighbor, friend, and landlady on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Cloris Leachman began her own spinoff series. Phyllis Lindstrom returned to her home town of San Francisco following the death of her husband Lars. In her mid-40s, and with teenage daughter Bess (Lisa Gerritsen) to support, Phyllis moved in with Lars' scatterbrained mother, Audrey (Jane Rose), and Audrey's second husband, Judge Jonathan Dexter (Henry Jones). Though not a member of the household when the series started, Judge Dexter's mother Sally (Judith Lowry) was also living with them before the season's end.
Phyllis found a job working as assistant to Julie Erskine (Liz Torres) at Erskine's Commercial Photography Studio. Also working as a photographer for Julie was Leo Heatherton (Richard Schaal). Barbara Colby was the actress originally signed for the role of Julie Erskine but only appeared in the first episode of the series. Miss Colby was brutally murdered soon after production had started and was replaced by Liz Torres. This job, with Phyllis being her busybody, self-centered, oblivious self, lasted only one season.
At the start of the 1976-77 season, in an effort to improve upon the mediocre ratings of the first season, Phyllis was given a new job as administrative assistant to Dan Valenti (Carmini Caridi), a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. She worked in an office with another supervisor, Leonard Marsh (John Lawlor), and his assistant Harriet (Garn Stephens). On the home front things were also changing. Witty, sharp-tounged Mother Dexter, far and away the best member of the family when it came to putting down Phyllis, had become involved with a man. She was 87 and Arthur (Burt Mustin) was 92, but love flowered and they were married in December 1976. Ironically, elderly actress Judith Lowry ha died while on vacation in New York during a break in production early in December, before the episode aired, and Burt Mustin, who was too ill to see it, died not too long after. Bess also found a man, in the person of Phyllis' boss' nephew Mark (Craig Wasson). They sneaked off to Las Vegas and were married in the spring. The changes in the cast and multiple marriages didn't help the rating enough to save the series. It was canceled at the end of the 1976-77 season.
One of the more realistic police series to be seen on television was Police Story, created by former Los Angeles policeman Joseph Wambaugh. After retiring from the force, Wambaugh had written two highly successful novels about police operations, The New Centurions and The Blue Knight (the latter also became a TV series in its own right). Wambaugh served as a consultant to this series, insuring that everything was treated with authenticity. Stories covered the more mundane aspects of police work as well as the excitement. They probed the psychology of individual police officers and even dealt with their home lives, how their jobs affected their families, and personal problems such as drinking, injuries, and forced retirement.
Two episodes from Police Story were turned into two series of their own. "The Gamble" was aired on March 26, 1974, with Angie Dickinson in the role of policewoman Lisa Beaumont. That fall, with her named changed to Pepper Anderson, she became Police Woman. "The Return of Joe Forrester," aired as a special 90-minute episode on May 6, 1975, became Joe Forrester that fall, with Lloyd Bridges re-creating his role. Although Police Story was an anthology, characters occasionally made return appearances. The most notable examples were Tony Lo Bianco (as Tony Calabrese) and Don Meridith (as Bert Jameson). During its first two seasons on the air, these two appeared four times as partners and once each separately as detectives on various cases. Despite the frequency of their visits, they never got a series of their own. NBC aired occasional two hour Police Story specials after the series ceased weekly production in summer 1977.
A decade after the original series left NBC, ABC aired four new Police Story movies at the beginning of the 1988-1989 season, using scripts from the orignal run, to fill in for its strike-delayed ABC Saturday Mystery Movie. There were no recurring characters. The leads included Ken Olin (as a troubled cop), Robert Conrad (as an imprisoned cop), and Jack Warden (as a cop who didn't want to retire).
Sexy Sgt. Suzanne "Pepper" Anderson (Angie Dickinson) was an undercover agent for the criminal conspiracy department of the Los Angeles Police Department. Working on a vice-squad team than included Det. Joe Styles (Ed Bernard) and Det. Pete Royster (Charles Dierkop), two other undercover cops, she was called on to pose as everything from a prostitute to a gangster's girlfriend. The team reported directly to Lt. Bill Crowley (Earl Holliman), who was the coordinator of its operations. Although not seen on a regular basis, Pepper's autistic younger sister Cheryl (Nichole Kallis), was visited occasionally at the Austin School for the Handicapped during the first season of Police Woman. Her role was dropped in the fall of 1975.
The pilot for Police Woman, which starred Angie Dickinson and all of the series regulars except Earl Holliman, aired as an episode of Police Story titled "The Gamble." Buy this series on DVD at Amazon.com
Jack Webb applied his highly successful drama-documentary technique to the unlikely subject of unidentified flying objects (i.e., flying saucers) in this 1978 series. To prepare the series Webb spent eight months pouring over the files of the real-life U.S. Air Force investigation into U.F.O.'s, Project Blue Book, which had been disbanded in 1969. Many of the sightings had turned out to be mistaken or simply fraudulent, but about 30 percent remained unexplained -- and it was those that Webb dramatized in this series.
Regulars were Maj. Jake Gatlin (William Jordan) and S/Sgt. Harry Fitz (Caskey Swaim), Project Blue Book's stolid investigators, who traveled around the country interviewing people who had reported seeing a U.F.O. Some of the stories verged on character studies of these people, but there was always a certain amount of hardware seen, including vivid recreations of the flying saucers and spacemen that the people had claimed seeing. Off-screen narration reinforced the series' appearance of authenticity.
Maj. Gatlin was replaced in the fall of 1978 by Capt. Ben Ryan (Edward Winter) as Project Bluebook's chief. Libby Virdon (Aldine King) was Gatlin's and later Ryan's secretary. Colonel William T. Coleman, who had headed the real life Project Bluebook, was producer of the series.
Quincy (Jack Klugman) was a man with a strong sense of principle. He had given up a lucrative private medical practice to join the Los Angeles County Coroner's Office as medical examiner ("M.E."). His understanding of forensic medicine led him to conclude that many of the supposed "normal" deaths that he was assigned to investigate were actually murders. Whenever this happened, Quincy tended to resemble a detective more than a pathologist, as he sought evidence to prove his contentions. These wanderings out of his field into the province of the police did not endear Quincy to Dr. Robert Austin (John S. Ragin), his vacuous, pompous, and insecure superior in the Coroner's Office. It also alienated many of the police officers who were involved in the investigations and got in the way of his social life, much to the consternation of his girlfriend Lee Potter (Lynette Mettey). None of this seemed to bother Quincy, however, as he and his young assistant Sam Fujiyama (Robert Ito) plugged away at solving cases. Quincy lived on a boat and spent much of his free time at Danny's Place, the bar adjacent to the marina where the boat was docked.
Although Quincy's first name was never mentioned on the show, he did, apparently, have a first initial. His business card was seen briefly in one episode and it read "Dr. R. Quincy."
Quincy was one of the four rotating elements in the 1976-1977 edition of The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie -- the others being Columbo, McCloud, and McMillan. It proved so popular during the fall of 1976, however, that after the first of the year it was moved to Friday nights as a weekly series. Buy this series on DVD at Amazon.com
Producer George Schlatter was truly one of television's comic innovators. In 1968 he introduced Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, a classic series that mixed burlesque with topical satire, and in 1979 he was responsible for this trend-setter. As the title implied, the stars of this series were not celebrities but "real people" with offbeat professions, hobbies, and interests. Each episode opened with the hosts roaming the studio audience soliciting comments and opinions (which led to a short-lived offshoot series called Speak Up, America). Then a succession of "real people" were profiled in filmed reports, among them the world's fastest artist (more than 83,000 paintings), a man who ate soil, a man who went through life walking backward, and a shapely lady truck driver. There were features on a hollering convention, barbershop quartets, and a disco class for senior citizens. Some of the segments were heartwarming, others bizarre. The hosts, who went on location to film the stories, chatted about them in the studio and generally maintained a lighthearted pace. In between segments they read humorous letters from viewers, and showed photos of strange signs, unusual names, and funny typographical errors from newspapers and magazines -- all submitted by viewers. Each one used won its sender a Real People T-shirt. On occasion, the subject of one of the stories would be present in the studio, presumably to prove that he was real.
Real People premiered as a limited series in the spring of 1979. When it returned that fall Fred Willard, one of the original hosts, had been replaced by Byron Allen. Allen, Sarah Purcell, John Barbour and Skip Stephenson appeared regularly in the studio and on location in the filmed stories. Bill Rafferty was a roving reporter who did all of his commentary on film, never appearing in the studio, and political satirist Mark Russell made pungent comments on the federal bureaucracy, from Washington. Fred Willard returned to the show for two seasons, starting in 1981, and the following fall young Peter Billingsley was added to the roster to cover stories with particular emphasis on children. Kerry Millerick, another roving reporter, was also added in 1982, but appeared infrequently. When Kerry was added, former roving reporter Bill Rafferty began to appear in the studio, as well as on location. Only moderately successful when it began, Real People soon grew into one of the top hits on television, spawning a host of imitators -- That's Incredible, Those Amazing Animals, and That's My Line among them.
As Mary Richards' friend and neighbor on The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Rhoda (Valerie Harper) had been somewhat overweight, insecure in her relationships with men, and jealous of the trim Mary. Over the years, however, she had slimmed down, and when she returned home to New York for a visit at the start of Rhoda in the fall of 1974, she was a more attractive and self-confident person. The visit turned into a permanent change of residence when she met and fell in love with Joe Gerard (David Groh). Joe was the owner of the New York Wrecking Company, divorced, and the father of a 10-year-old son, Donny (Todd Turquand). Rhoda moved in with her sister Brenda (Julie Kavner), since living with her parents Ida (Nancy Walker) and Martin (Harold J. Gould) was just not working out, and got a job as a window dresser for a department store. The romance blossomed and, in a special full-hour telecast on October 28, 1974, Rhoda Morganstern the husband-hunter became Rhoda Gerard.
The newlyweds moved into the same building in which Brenda and Rhoda had been living. Joe went off every day to the office to deal with his partner Justin (Scoey Mitchell) while Rhoda was a relatively unoccupied housewife. Boredom precipitated her decision to start her own window-dressing business with a high school friend, shy Myrna Morganstern (Barbara Sharma) (no relation to Rhoda), as a partner. With Rhoda happily married, the comedy shifted to her chubby sister Brenda, a bank teller with constant problems trying to get a boyfriend, sort of a younger version of the Rhoda who started on The Mary Tyler Moore Show in 1970.
After two years of stories about wedded bliss the producers of Rhoda decided that a happily married couple was just not as funny as two single people trying to cope with the world. In order to create more flexibility in Rhoda's role, she and Joe separated soon after the start of the 1976-77 season. Now they were able to make new friends, suffer the adjustments of living apart, and again deal with the world of the lonely "single." Joe was gradually phased out of the show, preparatory to the inevitable divorce, and Rhoda joined her sister at mixers and singles bars. She found a new friend in 39-year-old divorced airline stewardess Sally Gallagher (Anne Meara), and both she and Brenda were frequently escorted by platonic friend Gary Levy (Ron Silver). In the middle of that season Rhoda began an off-again on-again romance with egocentric Las Vegas-based entertainer Johnny Venture (Michael Delano).
The 1977-78 season brought another raft of changes. Rhoda found a new job working at the Doyle Costume Company, a rundown business struggling to survive. Jack Doyle (Ken McMillan) was the owner of the company and his assistant was Ramón (Rafael Campos). Brenda had a new boyfriend in Benny Goodwin (Ray Buktenica), and mother Ida had just returned from a year's traveling around the country. By the start of the last season Ida too was single, having been deserted by Martin. Buy this series on DVD at Amazon.com
RICH MAN, POOR MAN
If it had not been overshadowed so quickly by Roots, Rich Man, Poor Man would probably be ranked today as the biggest dramatic spectacular in the history of television. It was an enormous hit, not only spawning a separate series the following season, Rich Man, Poor Man -- Book II, but also stimulating a rash of novels-for-television.
The source was Irwin Shaw's sprawling (720-page) 1970 best-seller about the divergent careers of two brothers in the years from 1945 to the 1960s. Rudy Jordache (Peter Strauss) was the "rich man," the ambitious, educated entrepreneur who triumphed over his impoverished immigrant background to build a business and political empire. Tom (Nick Nolte) was the "poor man," the trouble-prone rebel who turned boxer for a time, and was eventually murdered in the last episode by the vicious Falconetti (William Smith). Axel (Edward Asner) and Mary (Dorothy McGuire) were the parents, and Julie (Susan Blakely), Rudy's lifelong love. An enormous, all-star cast paraded through the 12-hour presentation as lovers, enemies, scoundrels, and friends. The entire 12 hours was repeated in May-June 1977.
A sequel, Rich Man, Poor Man - Book II, began in the year 1965 after the death of Tom Jordache, and followed brother Rudy's further career as a U.S. senator. It aired beginning September 21, 1976, and was repeated in February-March 1977. Buy this mini-series on DVD at Amazon.com
THE ROCKFORD FILES
Jim Rockford (James Garner) was a private detective with a difference. He was an ex-convict. Once imprisoned for a crime he had not committed, but eventually exonerated when new evidence turned up, Jim had a penchant for taking cases that were closed -- those the police were sure had been resolved. His knack for turning up information that might reverse the already established verdict did not endear him to the police, particularly to Det. Dennis Becker (Joe Santos) with whom he had a love-hate relationship. Jim was always getting Dennis involved in situations he would have preferred to avoid, aggravating the cop who, despite it all, had a personal affection for him. Jim lived in, and worked out of, a house trailer at the beach in Los Angeles and was not the cheapest detective available, charging $200 per day plus expenses. His father Joseph "Rocky" Rockford (Noah Beery), a retired trucker, helped him on occasions and his girlfriend, attorney Beth Davenport (Gretchen Corbett), was always around to bail him out when he ran afoul of the law. Having been in prison, Jim had many ex-con friends. One of them, his former cellmate Angel Martin (Stuart Margolin), was constantly in need of Jim's help because of his tendency to get involved with his former criminal associates. Another friend was John Cooper (Bo Hopkins), a disbarred lawyer whose ties to the Corporation for Legal Research proved useful.
Jim used all the seamier ploys for which detectives are known -- impersonating others to get information, cheap disguises, petty bribery, eavesdropping -- but his power of reasoning and dogged hard work usually solved the case. If, along the way, he got beaten up, had his car damaged, and got shot at -- well, he had a sense of humor. He resented fellow private investigator Lance White (Tom Selleck) who, during The Rockford Files' last season, always seemed intuitively to know all the answers and have everything fall into his lap without effort. That final season was cut short when Garner, tired of the role and suffering from a variety of ailments, abruptly quit the show.
The theme song from this series was on the hit parade in mid-1975. Buy this series on DVD at Amazon.com
Three wet-behind-the-ears rookie cops in a large Southern California city provided the focus of this series. The trio, Officer Terry Webster (Georg Sanford Brown), Officer Willie Gillis (Michael Ontkean) and Officer Mike Danko (Sam Melville), were variously fresh out of college, a government social program, and the Army, and were dedicated to the new, more humane methods of law enforcement, which often put them at odds with their hard-nosed commander, Lt. Eddie Ryker (Gerald S. O'Laughlin). The combination of their youthful enthusiasm and Ryker's experienced guidance helped mold them into effective officers. The only married one of the three was Mike, whose wife Jill (Kate Jackson) was a registered nurse. In 1974 a cast change occurred when Willie was replaced by Chris Owens (Bruce Fairbairn), a new recruit. Buy this series on DVD at Amazon.com
Schoolroom drama about Pete Dixon (Lloyd Haynes), a black history teacher in an integrated big-city high school. An idealist, Pete instilled his students at Walt Whitman High with gentle lessons in tolerance and understanding. The number of his home room was 222, but wherever he went he was surrounded by a cluster of kids. They loved him for his easygoing manner and willingness to side with them when he knew they were being short-changed by the system. Seymour Kaufman (Michael Constantine) was the cool, slightly sarcastic principal, Liz McIntyre (Denise Nicholas) Pete's girlfriend and school counselor, and Alice Johnson (Karen Valentine) an exuberant student teacher (in the second season she was promoted to full-fledged English teacher). The rest of the regulars were students.
The program was highly regarded for tackling current problems relevant to today's youth (prejudice, drugs, dropping out, etc.) and it received many awards and commendations from educational and civil rights groups. Its sense of reality was heightened by the fact that it was based on, and partially filmed at, 3,000-student Los Angeles High School. Buy this series on DVD at Amazon.com
In this spinoff from Three's Company, landlord Stanley Roper (Norman Fell) sold his apartment building in Santa Monica and bought a condominium town house in posh Cheviot Hills. His new foil was balding realtor Jeffrey P. Brookes III (Jeffrey Tambor), who felt that the earthy Roper was downgrading the neighborhood. Helen Roper (Audra Lindley), socially aspiring but ever frustrated by Stanley's crass ways, found a supportive friend in Jeffrey's wife Anne (Patricia McCormack), however. David (Evan Cohen) was the Brookes' young son; Jenny (Louise Vallance), an attractive art student who rented a room; and Ethel (Dena Dietrich), Helen's snobbish sister. Muffin was Helen's little dog.
ROWAN & MARTIN'S LAUGH-IN
Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In was one of TV's classics, one of those rare programs which was not only an overnight sensation, but was highly innovative, created a raft of new stars, and started trends in comedy which other programs would follow. Laugh-In crystallized a kind of contemporary, fast-paced unstructured comedy "happening" that was exactly what agitated America wanted in 1968.
Laugh-In was first seen as a one-time special on September 9, 1967. It was such an enormous hit that it inevitably led to a series premiering the following January. Its lightning-fast pace took full advantage of the technical capabilities of television and videotape. Blackouts, sketches, one-liners, and cameo appearances by famous show-business celebrities and even national politicians were all edited into a frenetic whole. The regular cast was large and the turnover high, and of the 40 cast regulars who appeared in the series only four were with it from beginning to end -- the two hosts, announcer Gary Owens, and Ruth Buzzi.
The essence of Laugh-In was shtick, a comic routine or trademark repeated over and over until it was closely associated with a performer. All the great comedians have at least one, but what was remarkable about Laugh-In was that it developed a whole reertoire of sight gags and catch phrases using little-known talent exclusively (though some became quite famous later). Among the favorites: Arte Johnson as the German soldier, peering out from behind a potted palm and murmuring "Verrry interesting!"; Ruth Buzzi as the little old lady with an umbrella, forever wacking the equally decripit old man who snuggled up beside her on a park bench; Lily Tomlin as the sarcastic, nasal telephone operator (even the company wanted to hire her to do commercials using that routine -- she wouldn't); Gary Owens as the outrageously overmodulated announcer, facing the microphone, hand cupped to ear; Alan Sues as the grinning moron of a sports announcer; Goldie Hawn as the giggling dumb blonde, and so on.
Some of the devices of the show were the Cocktail Party, Letters to Laugh-In, The Flying Fickle Finger of Fate Award, Laugh-In Looks at the News (of the past, present, and future), Hollywood News with Ruth Buzzi, the gags written on the undulating body of a girl in a bikini, and the joke wall at the close of each show, in which cast members kept popping out of windows to throw each other one-liners -- or a bucket of water.
Laugh-In went straight to the top of the TV ratings and was the number one program on the air for its first two full seasons, 1968-1970. It then began to drop off as the best talent left to pursue newfound careers, and finally ended its run in 1973. Buy The Best of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In on DVD at Amazon.com or The Best of Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In at TimeLife.com
SANFORD AND SON
Fred Sanford (Redd Foxx) was a 65-year-old Los Angeles junk dealer whose 34-year-old son Lamont (Demond Wilson) was his partner, a situation that Lamont was not always happy with. At his advanced age, Fred was very happy with his little business and the marginal income it provided him. Lamont, on the other hand, was looking to better himself by getting out of the junk business and trying something more challenging and, hopefully, more lucrative. Fred, whose wife Elizabeth had died some years before, would do anything to keep his son from deserting him and the business. Every time Lamont threatened to leave, Fred would fake a heart attack and start moaning, "I'm coming, Elizabeth, I'm coming." Lamont wasn't really fooled by his father's machinations but did love him and, despite what he said about his future, really wouldn't have left the old man or the business.
Sanford and Son was producer Norman Lear's second major hit (All in the Family was the first) and, like All in the Family, was based on a successful British TV comedy. Sanford and Son's source was called Steptoe and Son. Sanford and Son was an instantaneous hit and ranked among the top ten programs throughout its run. Fred had a steady girlfriend in Nurse Donna Harris (Lynn Hamilton), whom he was always promising to marry, and was constantly at odds with Aunt Esther Anderson (LaWanda Page), who ran the Stanford Arms, a run-down rooming house that was located next to the junkyard. Early in 1976 Lamont found a serious romantic interest in Janet (Marlene Clark), a divorcée with a young son, Roger (Edward Crawford), and they became engaged at the end of the 1976-77 season. The marriage never took place, however, as the series left the air in the fall of 1977. Redd Foxx had committed himself to do a variety show for ABC and co-star Demond Wilson left the series in a dispute over his remuneration as the sole star of the series after Foxx's departure. With the two stars gone, NBC premiered The Sanford Arms (named after Aunt Esther's rooming house) in the fall of 1977, which featured most of the supporting players from Sanford and Son.
For a three-month period during the summer of 1976, a second episode of Sanford and Son was seen each week on Wednesday nights. The second episodes were reruns from previous seasons and titled The Best of Sanford and Son. Reruns were also telecast weekdays on NBC from June 1978 to July 1978. Buy this series on DVD at Amazon.com
SATURDAY NIGHT LIVE
NBC's Saturday Night Live was one of the landmark programs of the 1970s, an attempt to bring fresh, often outrageous comedy and the excitement of live TV to late-night viewers. It featured "The Not Ready for Prime Time Players" (Chevy Chase, John Belushi, Dan Aykroyd, Gilda Radner, Garrett Morris, Jane Curtin, Laraine Newman and, beginning in 1977, Bill Murray) a repertory company of wacky comics who presented 90 minutes of topical satire, straight comedy, and music every Saturday night. Each week a different guest star served as the host and the person around whom many of the sketches were written. Some of the more familiar guests were George Carlin (host of the first telecast), Candice Bergen, Buck Henry, Elliott Gould, Lily Tomlin, Dick Cavett, Steve Martin, Eric Idle, Richard Dreyfuss, and Paul Simon. Some hosts weren't from the entertainment world at all, such as New York Mayor Ed Koch, consumer advocate Ralph Nader, football star Fran Tarkenton, Georgia legislator Julian Bond, and even Presidential Press Secretary Ron Nessen (in a controversial but good-humored appearance). Perhaps the most unusual was 80-year-old Mrs. Miskel Spillman, who happened to win an "Anyone Can Host" write-in contest during the 1977-1978 season.
Each week also had a musical guest, ranging from some truly offbeat and eccentric musicians to such major rock stars as Blondie and the Rolling Stones.
The chief "discovery" of Saturday Night Live during its initial season was comic Chevy Chase, famous for his opening pratfall and his role as the earnest young newsman reporting preposterous headlines on "Weekend Update." His trademark line was "Good evening. I'm Chevy Chase and you're not." Jane Curtin took over the role as newscaster after Chevy left the show in November 1976, and was later joined by Dan Aykroyd when an anchor team was instituted. Other frequent bits included Chevy as bumbling President Ford; Dan as candidate, and later President, Jimmy Carter; Gilda Radner as a lisping Barbara Walters (Ba Ba Wawa), a confused Emily Litella making editorial replies on Weekend Update, and later as rambling, loudmouthed newscaster Rosanne Rosanna-Danna; John Belushi as Samurai warrior; Aykroyd and Belushi as the Blues Brothers; Don Novello as Father Guido Sarducci; and practically everyone in ridiculous constumes as the Bees or the alien Coneheads.
Originally Jim Henson's Muppets were a regular feature, as was a short, offbeat film produced each week by Albert Brooks (later films were by Gary Weis). Still later came "Mr. Bill" films, about the hapless little puppet made of dough who was always being squashed or dismembered by Sluggo. These evolved from a short film submitted by a young man named Walter Williams. And of course there were ersatz "commercials," satirizing everything from the telephone company to milk.
Over the years Saturday Night Live developed a large and loyal audience, and by the 1977-1978 season it was by far the most popular program in late-night television, surpassing the longtime champ The Tonight Show. With the success of the show came success for its stars, and eventually the departure of the original cast. Chevy Chase left in the fall of 1976 to pursue a career in films and prime-time specials. Three years later Belushi (a major film star in Animal House) and Aykroyd left to make a large-screen production based on the Blues Brothers characters they had developed on Saturday Night Live. By the spring of 1980 producer Lorne Michaels decided he wanted to do something different, and when he left the remainder of the original cast went with him. A new producer, Jean Doumanian, a new cast, and new writers took over in the fall of 1980, to generally poor reviews. Declining audiences resulted in considerable behind-the-scenes turmoil, with more cast changes and a new production team taking over in 1981. Michaels returned in 1985.
The major discovery of the recast Saturday Night Live was youthful black comic Eddie Murphy, whose career exploded with the success of his first feature film, 48 Hrs, in 1982. Later favorite characters included Billy Crystal's oily interviewer Fernando ("Mahvelous, mahvelous!"). A frequent musical guest in the mid-'80s was David Johansen as gravelly voiced singer Buster Poindexter.
After considerable turmoil during the early 1980s (42 regulars appeared on the show between 1980 and 1985), things settled down in the late 1980s with a stable cast of nine players: Nora Dunn, Jon Lovitz, Dennis Miller, Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Jan Hooks, Victoria Jackson, Kevin Nealon, and A. Whitney Brown. Carvey's "Church Lady" and Lovitz's pathological liar Tommy Flanagan ("That's the ticket!") were favorite characters, as was newcomer Mike Meyers' Wayne. While no program can be expected to recapture the magic of its youth (or of ours), many felt that SNL was once again one of television's best comedy showcases.
Edited reruns of Saturday Night Live were telecast in prime time in 1979-1980, under the title The Best of Saturday Night Live. Buy this series on DVD at Amazon.com
THE SIX MILLION DOLLAR MAN
The Six Million Dollar Man touched off a wave of superheroes on TV in the mid-1970s. It was first seen as a series of 90-minute movies run on ABC in March, October, and November 1973 (part of the ABC Suspense Movie package), then became a regular weekly series in January 1974. At first the ratings were mediocre, but the program grew steadily until by 1975 it was one of TV's biggest hits.
Handsome, athletic Col. Steve Austin (Lee Majors) was a U.S. astronaut who had been critically injured when the moon-landing craft he was testing over a Southwestern desert crashed to the ground. Fighting to save his life, government doctors decided to try a new type of operation devised by Dr. Rudy Wells (Martin E. Brooks) -- the replacement of certain human parts by atomic-powered electromechanical devices, capable of superhuman performance. Steve lived and became cyborg -- part human, part machine, endowed with powerful legs that permitted him great speed, a right arm of incredible strength, and a left eye of penetrating vision (it even had a built-in grid screen!). Armed with these weapons, Steve set out on dangerous missions for the Office of Scientific Information, battling international villains, mad scientists, and even a few alien monsters such as Bigfoot.
Early in the series Steve learned that he was not the only bionic wonder around. It seemed that Dr. Wells had built a seven-million-dollar man as backup for Steve, using an injured racecar driver named Barney Miller (Monte Markham). Unfortunately the other superhuman ran amok, and Steve had to find a way to dispatch him, in a battle of the bionic men. A few months later, in January 1975, Jaime Sommers (Lindsay Wagner) was introduced as Steve's love interest and a former tennis pro who had been grievously injured in a sky-diving accident. She was reconstructed into the Bionic Woman. Unfortunately her body rejected its bionic parts, and she died -- at least Steve (and viewers) thought she did, until she was brought back ("out of a coma") for several more episodes in the fall. Then she got her own spinoff series called The Bionic Woman.
Steve and Jaime's romance seemed destined never to be fulfilled, but nevertheless in November 1976 the series did produce a bionic boy -- not theirs, but 16-year-old athlete Andy Sheffield (Vincent Van Patten), whose paralyzed legs were replaced by Andy Wells. Using his new powers the boy promptly set out on a crusade to clear his dead father's name.
Oscar Goldman (Richard Anderson) appeared as Steve's government boss, and Peggy Callahan (Jennifer Darling) was seen occasionally as his secretary. The role of Dr. Rudy Wells was played by a number of actors, including Martin Balsam in the movie pilot and Alan Oppenheimer and Martin E. Brooks in the series.
The Six Million Dollar Man was based on the novel Cyborg, by Martin Caidin. Buy this series on DVD at Amazon.com
When it debuted on Tuesday nights in 1968, 60 Minutes was the Time magazine of the air. Each telecast opened with a "table of contents" (brief excerpts from the three or more stories that would be covered on that episode) superimposed on what appeared to be a magazine cover. Also superimposed at various times, usually between stories, was a moving stopwatch letting viewers know precisely how much of that night's "60 Minutes" was left. Within the magazine trappings lay a documentary series with remarkable scope. There were pieces on politics and politicians; the workings of governments, both domestic and foreign; personality profiles on artists, athletes, and citizens whose stories had mass appeal; and light feature pieces on everything from trade shows, to new inventions, to the shopping phenomenon that was Bloomingdale's department store. Indeed, 60 Minutes was sufficiently diversified that, like each issue of a successful magazine, it had something to appeal to, concern, or interest almost everybody.
Among the more provocative stories featured in segments of 60 Minutes were numerous items on politics in the Middle East; a 1971 feature on the situation in the Gulf of Tonkin; "The Poppy Fields of Turkey -- The Heroin Labs of Marseilles -- The N.Y. Connection" (1972); "The Selling of Colonel Herbert" (1973); "The End of a Salesman" (1974); "Local News and Ratings War" (1974); several items on, and interviews with, participants in the Watergate scandal during the 1974-76; a controversial story on the plight of Jordanian Jews (1976); a feature on brain damage suffered by workers in a chemical plant manufacturing Kepone (1976); and a dramatic report by Dan Rather from inside the sealed borders of Afghanistan, reporting on resistance to the Soviet invasion (1980).
60 Minutes spent its first three seasons on an alternate-week schedule with CBS News Hour. It was during this period that one of the original two correspondents, Harry Reasoner, left the show to join ABC News. His last appearance was on November 24, 1970. Two weeks later, Morley Safer joined Mike Wallace. When it moved into its own weekly time slot on Sunday evenings, a new regular feature called "Point Counterpoint" was added. Each week two columnists at opposite ends of the ideological spectrum -- conservative James J. Kilpatrick and liberal Nicholas Van Hoffman (replaced by Shana Alexander in 1975) -- would debate a current issue. They never agreed about anything. Dan Rather joined the show in December 1975, when it moved into the prime 7:00--8:00 P.M. hour, expanding the correspondent team from a duet to a trio. It was here that 60 Minutes became a major hit, violating the traditional rule that documentary programs are marginal audience attractions. The summer of 1978 saw the addition of "Three Minutes with Andy Rooney" as a weekly feature filling in for the vacationing debaters from "Point Counterpoint." At the start of the 1978-79 season Mr. Rooney's musings shared time with "Point Counterpoint," each feature airing on alternate weeks. It was also that fall that Harry Reasoner returned to 60 Minutes, bringing the number of correspondents to four.
In the spring of 1979 Shana Alexander decided to leave 60 Minutes and, although there was an attempt to find a new liberal to debate James Kilpatrick, the "Point Counterpoint" feature was dropped from the show (last telecast May 29, 1979) and Andy Rooney's observations became a weekly feature. The 1979-80 season was a milestone for 60 Minutes as it became the highest-rated series in all of prime time. It was in the spring of 1980 that CBS announced that Dan Rather would leave. Despite leaving 60 Minutes to anchor the CBS News in the spring of 1981, Rather had already recorded enough features to remain a 60 Minutes regular through the end of the 1980-81 season. Ed Bradley replaced Rather in 1982 and Diane Sawyer joined in late 1984.
When Ms. Sawyer left 60 Minutes in 1989 to become co-host of ABC's PrimeTime Live, Meredith Vieira and Steve Kroft were added to the roster of correspondents. Vieira's departure in early 1991, reportedly due to a dispute with 60 Minutes' executive producer Don Hewitt, brought Leslie Stahl to the show. Longtime correspondent Harry Reasoner retired that May, with a nostalgic collection of excerpts from stories he had done for the show over the years. In failing health, he passed away less than two months later.
The conclusion of 60 Minutes telecasts, in true magazine fashion, consisted of one of the correspondents reading a collection of letters to the editors, followed by that ever-moving stopwatch signalling the end of the hour while the closing credits rolled.
Soap was undoubtedly the most controversial new series of the 1977-1978 "season of sex." Even before it went on the air ABC had received 32,000 letters about the show -- all but nine of them against it -- ABC affiliates had been picketed for planning to air it, and sponsors had been urged to boycott the show (which a few did). Some ABC affiliates refused to carry it, and many who did ran it late at night.
The object of all this ire was a half-hour comedy which was billed as a satire on soap operas. It had a continuing story line of sorts, but was populated by a cast such as was seldom seen on any serious dramatic show. Stories centered on the wealthy Tates and the blue-collar Campbells. Chester Tate (Robert Mandan) was a pompous businessman with an affinity for extramarital affairs; no wonder, since his wife Jessica (Katherine Helmond), was a spaced-out fluttery idiot. Of their three children, sexy Corrine (Diana Canova) was always putting her best attributes forward; Eunice (Jennifer Salt) was quieter and more conservative; and Billy (Jimmy Bain), 14, was a wise-cracking brat. Living with the Tates was Jessica's father, "the Major" (Arthur Peterson), who crawled around the floor in his old Army uniform, still fighting World War II; and Benson (Robert Guillaume), the insolent and obnoxious black servant and cook, who commented on the proceedings.
Across town lived Jessica's brother, Mary Dallas Campbell (Cathryn Damon). Her husband, Burt (Richard Mulligan), was a "working stiff" whose main problem lay in dealing with stepsons Jodie (who was gay, played by Billy Crystal) and Danny (who was involved with organize crime, played by Ted Wass). Surreptitious sex was on practically everyone's mind, and formed the basis of many of the stories.
Soap attracted a large and loyal audience, and the controversy over it was confined largely to the first season. ABC intimated that the program represented a major breakthrough in TV comedy, and claimed that "through the Campbells and the Tates many of today's social concerns will be dealt with in a comedic manner." Others considered Soap to be nothing more than an extended dirty joke being piped into America's living rooms. Much of the opposition to the program was led by religious groups, including the National Council of Churches. Rev. Everett Parker, a longtime critic of TV, called Soap "a deliberate effort to break down any resistance to whatever the industry wants to put into prime time... Who else besides the churches is going to stand against the effort of television to tear down our moral values and make all of us into mere consumers?" Buy this series on DVD at Amazon.com
THE SONNY AND CHER COMEDY HOUR
After almost a decade performing in clubs and auditoriums, Sonny and Cher were given their own summer variety series on CBS. The interplay between the two stars -- Sonny's ebullient enthusiasm and Cher's sardonic wit and continual putdowns of her husband -- was one of the strong points of the program. The 1971 summer show did well and returned that December to become a hit regular series. During its initial run, The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour utilized several recurring comedy sketches. There was a "Vamp" segment in which Cher would portray several more of the more notorious women throughout history; a "Sonny's Pizza" segment featuring Sonny as the dumb owner of a pizzeria and Cher as his sexy, beautiful waitress Rosa; the "Dirty Linen" segment with housewife Laverne (Cher) giving her views on men to her friend Olivia (Teri Garr) at the laundromat; and a segment in which news headlines, both current and past, were treated in blackouts. Frequently seen were full-scale operas, television commercials, types of TV programs, and almost anything else that could be spoofed.
All was going well, the ratings were good, the couple seemed to be the picture of happiness (they had even made their daughter Chastity a semi-regular at the show's close when they would sing their record hit "I've Got You Babe"). Unfortunately, reality and appearances were two different things. The Bonos were having marital problems, and it was announced in the spring of 1974 that they were getting divorced and would give up the series. They went their separate ways. Sonny failed with The Sonny Comedy Revue, his own show for ABC that fall, and Cher had only middling success with Cher, her solo effort that began on CBS the following January. With her solo venture limping along after less than a year on the air, a professional reconciliation was arranged with Sonny so that they might work together again. Cher had since married rock singer Gregg Allman and given birth to a son. The new venture was titled The Sonny and Cher Show, but it could never regain the magic of the original. Cher's putdowns of Sonny, which seemed funny when they were married, just didn't work as well after they were divorced. The new series limped along for two season and was cancelled in the summer of 1977. Buy Sonny and Cher: The Ultimate Collection on DVD at Amazon.com
THE STARLAND VOCAL BAND SHOW
The four members of the popular music group The Starland Vocal Band (Bill Danoff, Taffy Danoff, Margot Chapman and Jon Caroll) starred in this whimsical variety show which featured music and satirical comedy sketches. Political satirist Mark Russell was also a cast regular in this series, which was taped on locations in such diverse places as a concert at Georgetown University in Washington, D.C., and at an outdoor picnic in Great Falls, Virginia. The group's main claim to fame, and the reason they got this summer series, was a 1976 hit record called "Afternoon Delight." Featured regularly in comedy sketches were three of the show's writers -- David Letterman, Phil Proctor, and Peter Bergman.
STARSKY AND HUTCH
Starsky and Hutch was one of the light, youth-oriented police-action shows that populated TV in the 1970s. The two young plainclothes cops were both swinging bachelors, and their personalities fit each other perfectly -- they almost seemed to operate as one. Det. Dave Starsky (Paul Michael Glaser) was the streetwise member of the team, and Det. Ken "Hutch" Hutchinson (David Soul) the better-educated, soft-spoken one. Together they tackled cases in the roughest neighborhood in town (presumably Los Angeles), full of pimps, muggers, dope pushers, and big-time hoodlums. Sometimes they went undercover, but often they were highly visible, racing around the city, tires squealing, in Starsky's bright red hot-rod (a 1974 Ford Torino). Capt. Harold Dobey (Bernie Hamilton) was their quick-tempered but understanding boss, and Huggy Bear (Antonio Fargas) their flamboyant informant. Buy this series on DVD at Amazon.com
THE STREETS OF SAN FRANCISCO
There always seems to be room on TV for a police show set in San Francisco (remember The Lineup?). The Streets of San Francisco was such a show for the 1970s, following the cases of Lt. Mike Stone (Karl Malden) and his young partner as they used modern police methods to track down criminals, against the backdrop of the Bay Area. Mike was a 23-year veteran of the force, a widower, assigned to the Bureau of Inspectors Division of the San Francisco Police Department. His original partner was 28-year-old Steve Keller (Michael Douglas), a smart, college-educated man who rose from assitant inspector to inspector during his tenure on the show. In 1976 he left ("to enter teaching") and was replaced by the athletic Dan Robbins (Richard Hatch).
Mike's co-ed daughter was seen occasionally during the early years (played by Darlene Carr), but later the emphasis was shifted to the cases, rather than the home lives, of the principals. Some scenes in the series were filmed in actual San Francisco police buildings, such as the communications center, the morgue, etc. Buy this series on DVD at Amazon.com
Based on characters from the novel Poor, Poor Ophelia, by Carolyn Weston.
This series brought army-style warfare to big-city police work. S.W.A.T. stood for Special Weapons and Tactics, whose job it was to tackle situations -- usually violent ones -- that line police couldn't handle, with whatever weaponry was necessary. Vietnam veterans all, the S.W.A.T. squad dressed in semi-military attire, and were organized along the lines of a front-line patrol. Capt. Dan "Hondo" Harrelson (Steve Forrest) was the C.O.; Sgt. David "Deacon" Kay (Rod Perry) the observer and communicator; Jim Street (Robert Urich) the team scout; Dominic Luca (Mark Shera) the marksman; and T.J. McCabe (James Coleman) the backup. Often the young junior officers were a bit too eager to use their firepower, and Capt. Harrelson had to hold them back. But as often as not, it was blast away. The team travelled in a specially equipped van, since tanks don't work too well in urban locales.
Filmed in Southern California and based, loosely at least, on real-life S.W.A.T. teams formed in several large American cities following the disturbances of the late 1960s. Buy this series on DVD at Amazon.com
It was an unusual partnership. Pete Ryan (Robert Wagner) was a former con man and Frank McBride (Eddie Albert) was a retired bunco cop. Together they had formed a private detective agency that specialized in pulling "switches" on the other con men still operating on the wrong side of the law. They would concoct elaborate schemes that would, hopefully, result in the swindlers swindling themselves. Based in Los Angeles, the two of them traveled far and wide on assorted cases. Malcolm Argos (Charlie Callas), a small-time thief and con man who had gone straight and opened a restaurant was recruited by Pete and Frank to help them on cases, and Maggie (Sharon Gless) was the firm's combination secretary-receptionist and all-around girl Friday.
By the middle of its second season, Switch had become a somewhat more traditional detective series, with fewer elaborate con games, and in the fall of 1977 Pete moved into a new apartment above Malcolm's bouzouki bar, where Revel (Mindi Miller) was the hostess and Wang (James Hong) the new cook.
The happy cabbies of New York's Sunshine Cab Company were the focal point of this comedy. Cab driving may be fun, but it was just a job for this crew, most of whom were working part-time as they tried to make it in other fields. Alex (Judd Hirsch), the most experienced and most conservative of the group, was the only full-time driver. Bobby (Jeff Conaway) was a frustrated actor, waiting for his big break; Elaine (Marilu Henner) was an art gallery receptionist, trying to pick up a few extra bucks; Tony (Tony Danza), the boxer who never won a fight; and John (Randall Carver), the student and all-around lost soul. Latka (Andy Kaufman) was the company's mechanic, of indeterminate nationality and fractured English, and Louie (Danny De Vito) was the dispatcher, a pint-sized petty tyrant who ran things from a wire cage in the center of the garage. Joining the cast as a regular driver in the second season was Reverend Jim (Christopher Lloyd), a spaced-out ex-hippie who had earlier presided over Latka's bizarre "marriage" ceremony.
During the 1980-1981 season Latka started to date a rather scatterbrained lady from his homeland named Simka Gravas (Carol Kane), and at the end of that season they were married. Falling ratings led ABC to cancel Taxi in the spring of 1982 and, for a time, it seemed that the pay-cable network Home Box Office would pick up the series. That was not to be, however, as NBC decided to give Taxi a new life. Promotional announcements on NBC during the summer of 1982 showed series star Danny DeVito looking up at the camera and gloating, "Same time, better network!" Despite critical acclaim for the ensemble acting, the wit and charm of the writing, and the faith of a new network, Taxi obtained the same low ratings on NBC as it had in its last season on ABC, and faded from sight the following summer. Buy this series on DVD at Amazon.com
A dentist who cures pain with clothespins! A man who catches arrows with his bare hands! An acrobat who leaps over cars speeding at him at 60 m.p.h.! A dog that catches sharks! A skydiver who jumps out of an airplane handcuffed and straightjacketed! A daredevil who catches a bullet in his teeth! (Six others lost their lives trying the last one.) ABC's That's Incredible!, conceived as an imitation of NBC's hit program Real People, seemed to be the freak-show annex of the earlier series. From a yogi sandwiched between two slabs of nails (sealed with a sledgehammer) to the band of karate experts leveling a barn, this show had less to do with "real people" than with those craving attention at any cost. When Time magazine announced its 1980 dubious achievement awards, "Most Sadistic Show" went to ABC's That's Incredible!, which, in the search for thrills and ratings, had caused one man nearly to lose his foot, another to burn his fingers to stumps, and a third to suffer several fractures and a ruptured aorta.
To be fair, there were informative segments on breakthroughs in medicine and people overcoming their handicaps. But the show was perhaps best represented by the picture of a man juggling whirring chain saws, while a caption on the screen read, "Do not try this yourself!"
Four years after the program left the ABC schedule, it returned for an additional season, under the new title Incredible Sunday. Otherwise, little had changed. Smiling John Davidson was once again host, joined by Christina Ferrare (and in early 1989, by teen actress Tracey Gold). The feature story on the first episode in October 1988 was about a South American woman who became the surrogate mother for her own daugher; implanted with her daughter's fertilized eggs, she gave birth to her own grandchildren. That's incredible!
THIS IS TOM JONES
Pop singer Tom Jones, he of the booming baritone, raw, driving energy, and ability to turn grown women into putty [read "sex appeal"], starred in his own musical variety series from 1969-1971. Jones is a Welshman and the first few telecasts originated in London and featured many English stars. Later the origination alternated between London and Hollywood, and top American stars, especially popular musicians, appeared as well. The show had a very contemporary quality, especially during the second season when the Ace Trucking Company, an improvisational comedy troupe consisting of four boys and one girl, joined as regulars.
After the last big, brassy musical number, dynamic Tom would wish his viewers good night in traditional Welsh, saying, "Gwyn eich byd a dymunaf i chwi lawenydd bob amser." Although there was some speculation about what he was really saying [how many Americans understand Welsh?], it meant, simply, "May you always be well and happy." Buy this series on DVD at Amazon.com
In this comedy, two contemporary young single girls found themselves in need of a roommate for their Santa Monica apartment so they decided to settle for the man they found sleeping in their bathtub -- after a going-away party for their last roommate. Jack was harmless enough, but the problem was in convincing everyone else of that.
Parents objected and humorous misunderstandings abounded, but Jack stayed. In addition to his other virtues, he was the only one of the three roommates who could cook. His favorite ploy was to intimate that he was a homosexual, and therefore uninterested in the two sexy girls (in fact, nothing did go on between them). The landlady, Mrs. Roper (Audra Lindley), who lived downstairs, worried less about what was going on upstairs than about the fact that nothing was going on in her love life with her husband, Stanley (Norman Fell). Away from their confused home life, Jack (John Ritter) was studying for (and eventually got) his chef's diploma; Janet (Joyce DeWitt), the brunette, worked in a florist shop; and Chrissy (Suzanne Somers), the frivolous blonde, was a typist.
After a short run in the spring of 1977 Three's Company was picked up as a regular series on ABC's fall 1977 schedule. The comedy was based almost entirely on sexual double-entendres, and religious leaders and critics found the program almost as objectionable as Soap, which followed it on the Tuesday night schedule. Nevertheless viewers made it one of the major hits of the 1977-78 season, especially after it was featured on the cover of Newsweek magazine in February 1978. The cover photo was a staged shot of Chrissy with her negligé seemingly falling off, and Jack leering over her shoulder -- something that never happened on the show.
Norman Fell and Audra Lindley left the series in 1979 for their own show, and were replaced by Don Knotts as Ralph Furley, the new landlord. Then, in 1980, Suzanne Somers, who had become a media celebrity as a result of this series, demanded a huge increase in salary plus a piece of the profits in recognition of her new importance. The producers adamantly refused, and her role was reduced to an occasional brief scene in which she was seen phoning her roommates long distance (she was supposed to be in Fresno caring for her sick mother). Eventually Somers was written out of the show altogether, and her career went into decline.
Jack and Janet promptly found a new roommate in Cindy (Jenilee Harrison), who was introduced in December as Chrissy's cute but clumsy cousin. She moved out in 1981 in order to study veterinary medicine at UCLA, though she continued to visit for another season. Her replacement was a smart, vivacious nurse named Terri Alden (Priscilla Barnes).
Meanwhile, Jack pursued his career as a chef, first at Angelino's Restaurant (whos owner Frank Angelino, played by Jordan Charney, was seen occasionally). In 1982 Mr. Angelino and landlord Ralph Furley put up the money to open Jack's own place, called Jack's Bistro, specializing in French cuisine. When not at the restaurant or the apartment, the gang hung out at the Regal Beagle, a neighborhood pub.
When he lost his roommates (Janet got married and Terri moved to Hawaii) Jack moved in with his new girlfriend Vicky Bradford (Mary Cadorette) and a new series, Three's a Crowd, began in 1984.
TONY ORLANDO AND DAWN
After a number of hit records, most notably "Tie a Yellow Ribbon 'Round the Old Oak Tree," the singing group of Tony Orlando and Dawn (Thelma Hopkins and Joyce Vincent Wilson) was given a summer variety hour on CBS in the time slot that had been vacated by Sonny and Cher. The emphasis was on music, with guest stars joining the trio in song and comedy skits. A summer hit, it returned in December and had a very successful first year, but started to slip in the second. When it moved to Tuesday nights in the fall of 1976, there were a number of changes, including the title, which became Tony Orlando and Dawn Rainbow Hour. Comedian George Carlin was added as a regular with a weekly comedy monologue, and a group of comics was also added to participate in sketches. Emphasis was shifted from music to comedy, but the series failed to last past the end of the year. Buy Tony Orlando and Dawn: The Ultimate Collection at Amazon.com
TV audiences never seem to tire of handsome, wisecracking private eyes, and Dan Tanna (Robert Urich) was the very latest 1978 model. Blue jeans, a sports car (a vintage red Thunderbird), sexy assistants, glamorous Las Vegas settings, and a new homicide every Wednesday night helped make this one of the hits of the 1978-1979 season. Dan was on retainer to Philip Roth (Tony Curtis), the fast-talking, millionaire owner of several of Vegas' bigger casino-hotels -- including the Desert Inn, on whose grounds Tanna's office/apartment was located. Binzer (Bart Braverman), a reformed hood, was his inept but enthusiastic legman; Angie Turner (Judy Landers), his sexy but not very bright receptionist; and Beatrice Travis (Phyllis Davis), his equally sexy and very efficient secretary/assistant. Both women were also showgirls, though the older Beatrice was more often seen teaching the chorus line routines than participating in them. Dan's original contact on the Vegas police department was Sgt. Bella Archer (Naomi Stevens), who gradually faded from the scene after Lt. David Nelson (Greg Morris) was added to the cast midway through the first season. Seen occasionally were Dan's boss Philip Roth, who Tanna affectionately nicknamed "Slick"; Chief Harlon Two Leaf (Will Sampson), a friend of Dan's; and a stylish but hefty gambler named Diamond Jim (Victor Buono). Buy this series on DVD at Amazon.com
Life in the South during the Depression was the subject of The Waltons. John (Ralph Waite) and Olivia (Michael Learned) Walton and their seven children all lived together in rural Jefferson County, Virginia. Walton's Mountain, their property and ancestral home, was located in the Blue Ridge Mountains. The family's modest income came from the lumber mill run by John and Grandpa Zeb (Will Geer). It was a close-knit family, with everyone helping out most of the time, and moralistic homilies abounded. There was no sex, no violence, and very little that could be classified as action or adventure. It was just a warm family drama. Everything was seen through the eyes of John Boy (Richard Thomas), the oldest son. He had wanted to be a novelist and had written throughout high school and during his years as an English major at the local college. At the start of the 1976-77 season he began publishing his own local paper, The Blue Ridge Chronicle, and by the end of the season, when his novel had been accepted by a publisher, he had decided to move to New York. That season had began full of changes, including the marriage of Mary Ellen (Judy Norton-Taylor), who was in nursing school, to young Dr. Curtis Willard (Tom Bower) in November, and her announcement that she was going to have a baby late that spring.
At the start of the 1977-78 season The Waltons moved out of the Depression and into World War II. Young Rev. Fordwick enlisted in the army (John Ritter, who played the role, had a starring role in ABC's Three's Company that season) and was replaced by young Rev. Buchanan (Peter Fox). Grandma Walton was ill in the hospital (actress Ellen Corby had suffered a stroke) and was not seen until the last episode of the season, when she finally came home to Walton's Mountain, even though she was still partially incapacitated. The reunion was tearful, but brief. In April 1978, shortly after the close of the regular season, actor Will Geer, who played Grandpa Walton, died at the age of 76.
The 1978-79 season saw much suffering on Walton's Mountain. At its beginning the family was mourning the passing of Grandpa. Mary Ellen's husband, Curt (Tom Bower), was killed in the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, and Olivia found out she had tuberculosis and went to a sanitarium for treatment (Michael Learned's contract had expired and she asked to be written out of the show to pursue other roles). In the spring there was some good news, however, as Ben (Eric Scott) eloped with a young girl named Cindy (Leslie Winston), who had never met the family before their marriage. Despite a rocky start -- she and Ben hardly knew each other before getting married -- things settled down.
The war continued to affect the Waltons as time passed. Olivia returned from the sanitarium and went off to a domestic army hospital to serve as a nurse. With Olivia gone and Grandma now having passed away, Olivia's cousin Rose (Peggy Rea) arrived to run the Walton household -- adding her two grandchildren Serena and Jeffrey (Martha Nix and Keith Mitchell) to the group. Jason (Jon Walmsley), John Boy, and Ben were all in the military, and a shortage of both materials and help forced John Walton to close his lumber mill temporarily. As the war drew to a close Jason got engaged to WAC Toni Hazleton (played by Jon Walmsley's real-life wife, Lisa Harrison), and Mary Ellen, taking courses in premed, found a new love with fellow student Jonesy Formula (Richard Gilliland). Her romance was almost aborted when she found that Curt had not died at Pearl Harbor but had been badly injured and rendered permanently impotent. He had given up medicine and established a new life with a new name in Florida. After visiting him there, she returned to Walton's Mountain and Jonesy, leaving Curt to make the best of his new life. Meanwhile, Olivia suffered a relapse of TB, John sold Walton's Mill to son Ben and moved to Arizona to be with his wife while she recuperated.
Author Earl Hamner, Jr., was the creator and narrator of The Waltons, which was based on reminiscences of his own childhood. It was the most wholesome of TV programs and, surprisingly, did extremely well in the ratings. When it premiered in 1972 its competition was The Flip Wilson Show on NBC, then one of the most popular shows on television. To the surprise of both critics and TV executives The Waltons not only survived, but it forced Flip Wilson off the air and itself became one of the most viewed programs on TV. It was never a big hit in large cities, but it struck a chord in middle and rural America that guaranteed it a long and prosperous run. Buy this series on DVD at Amazon.com
WELCOME BACK, KOTTER
Welcome Back, Kotter was one of the more realistic comedies of the 1970s. Gabriel Kaplan portrayed Kotter, a Brooklyn-born teacher who returned to the inner-city high school from which he had graduated 10 years earlier to teach the toughest cases -- a remedial academics group. Gabe's "sweathogs" were the outcasts of the academic system, streetwise but unable or unwilling to make it in classes. They were the toughest, and also the funniest, kids in school. Gabe was just as hip as they were, and with fine disregard for rules and a sense of humor he set out to help them pick up a little bit of practical, if not academic, knowledge, during their years at James Buchanan High. The four original "sweathogs" were Epstein (Robert Hegyes), the Jewish Puerto Rican; "Boom Boom" (Lawrence-Hilton Jacobs), the hip black; Horshack (Ron Palillo), the class yo-yo; and Barbarino (John Travolta), the cool, tough leader. John Travolta became a major star through the series. He branched into popular music, where he had several hit records beginning in the summer of 1976 (although the big song hit to come out of this show was the theme, as recorded by its composer John Sebastian). Travolta also began a successful movie career, with such films as Carrie and Saturday Night Fever, while he was still starring on Kotter. By 1978 he was seen only occasionally on the series.
Dozens of other students passed through the series, most seen only briefly, including Rosalie Totzie (Debralee Scott), Verna Jean (Vernee Watson), Judy Borden (Helaine Lembeck), Todd Ludlow (Dennis Brown), and Maria (Catarina Cellino). Other regulars were Gabe's wife Julie (Marcia Strassman), and Mr. Woodman (John Sylvester White), the assistant principal. Julie became pregnant at the end of the 1976-1977 season, and gave birth to twins Rachel and Robin in the fall of 1977, adding to the confusion and crowding in the Kotter's small apartment, and putting new strains on Gabe's limited income. In other developments, Angie (Melonie Haller) turned up in early 1978 with the announcement that she was becoming the first female "sweathog" (she didn't last long), and a slick southerner, Beau De Labarre (Stephen Shortridge), joined the class the following fall. Also in the fall of 1978 Kotter was promoted to vice principal and Mr. Woodman to principal. The sweathogs get part-time jobs, with Vinnie becoming an orderly at a nearby hospital.
Welcome Back, Kotter, inspired by the hit British TV series Please Sir!, was based on a real high school and the real experiences of Gabriel Kaplan. Kaplan had once attended the equivalent of James Buchanan High School, in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, New York, and had been a student in a remedial class there. He credits a Miss Shepard as the teacher who inspired him, and who led, indirectly, to Welcome Back, Kotter. Like Kotter, she cared about her "unteachable" students. Buy this series on DVD at Amazon.com
This series was an urban comedy about three spirited black kids in a large American city. Roger "Raj" Thomas (Ernest Thomas) was the studious dreamer, who wanted to be a writer; Rerun (Fred Berry) the jolly, overweight clown who often wound up with his foot in his mouth; and Dwayne (Haywood Nelson) the shy tag-along, always striving to be "cool." When not involved in some sort of scrape, the three could be found hanging out at Rob's, a soda shop near the school, where Shirley (Shirley Hemphill) was the waitress. Family problems arose when Raj clashed with his no-nonsense mother, "Mama" (Mabel King), who worked as a maid, and with his pesky little sister, Dee (Danielle Spencer). Mama's no-good ex-husband Bill (Thalmus Rasulala), the kids' father, was seen in occasional episodes, as was Marvin (Bryan O'Dell), the gossipy reporter for the high school newspaper.
In 1978 Roger and Rerun graduated from high school and moved into a shared apartment nearby, while Roger entered college and Rerun went to work. Their new neighbors were Big Earl (John Welsh), a police detective, and his smart-mouthed son, Little Earl (David Hollander). "The Snake" (Leland Smith) was the school basketball star.
First seen as a summer replacement show, What's Happening!! was given a spot on the regular ABC schedule in the fall of 1976. Six years after leaving ABC in 1979 it returned to television with a new title, What's Happening Now!!, and most of the original cast. In the syndicated version Raj was newly married and trying to make it as a writer, and Rerun and Dwayne, now a used car salesman and computer programmer, respectively, were sharing an apartment. Shirley and Raj were also partners running Rob's, and Dee (who only showed up occasionally) was in college. Raj and Nadine, who were living in the house he had grown up in, took in a foster child named Carolyn (Reina King) for a time. Added to the cast in the fall of 1987 were a local high school student named Maurice Warfield (Martin Lawrence), who worked part-time as a busboy at Rob's, and his buddy, Darryl (Ken Sagoes). It was also during that season that Dwayne gave up corporate life to open a small magic supplies shop.
The program was loosely based on the movie Cooley High. In the 1980's, a sequel called What's Happening Now ran from 1985-1988. Buy this series on DVD at Amazon.com
THE WHITE SHADOW
After a succession of knee problems forced Ken Reeves (Ken Howard) to retire from his job as a forward on the Chicago Bulls professional basketball team, his college friend Jim Willis (Jason Bernard in the first episode, Ed Bernard thereafter) convinced him to take a shot at being the basketball coach of Carver High in Los Angeles. Carver was in a tough inner-city, lower-middle-class neighborhood, with a racially mixed student body and team. It was a hard job, especially for someone unfamiliar with street-wise kids and coaching them in a game he knew best as a player. Ken could have earned more doing something else, as his sister Katie Donahue (Robin Rose) kept reminding him, but he found greater satisfaction working with these teenagers. Ken's old friend Jim was Carver's principal, and Sybil Buchanan (Joan Pringle) was the vice principal (who became principal in the fall of 1980).
The White Shadow was more than just a basketball show, it was also the story of young people and their adjustments to life in an often hostile world. Within the framework of a high school basketball team were stories of personal conflict, drug problems, teenage crime, and the dangers in a tough area. In fact, in the spring of 1980 one of Ken's players, Curtis Jackson (Eric Kilpatrick), was shot to death while witnessing a liquor-store holdup. Studends moved on, as in real life. In the spring of 1980, after the team had won the Los Angeles City Basketball Championship, several players graduated from Carver and were replaced by new players in the fall. The series treated its subjects realistically and sympathetically, and was lauded by numerous educational organizations, although its audience size was marginal. This lead to its cancelation after three seasons on March 16, 1981. Buy this series on DVD at Amazon.com
WKRP IN CINCINNATI
The arrival of a new program director, Andy Travis (Gary Sandy), brought sudden and dramatic changes to WKRP, a Cincinnati radio station that had been losing money for years by playing sedate music. Andy's decision to turn WKRP into a "Top 40" rock 'n' roll station alienated its elderly audience, and also its few sponsors, such as the Shady Hill Rest Home and Barry's Fashions for Short and Portly. It also created a trying situation for "Big Guy" Arthur Carlson (Gordon Jump), the inept and bumbling general manager who held his job only because his mother owned the station. But Lillian "Mama" Carlson (Sylvia Sydney in the pilot only, Carol Bruce occasionally throughout the rest of the run), who had dollar signs in her eyes, decided to give Andy's plan a try -- as long as the station turned a profit.
The staff at WKRP was full of offbeat characters. Les Nessman (Richard Sanders) was the naive, gullible, and pompous news director, more concerned with his farm reports than with national and international stories. Bailey Quarters (Jan Smithers) was Andy's enthusiastic young assistant, who handled billing and traffic and was eventually given the added responsibilities of backup news reporter working with Les. The two WKRP disc jockeys seen regularly were morning man Johnny Caravella, a.k.a. "Dr. Johnny Fever" (Howard Hesseman), a jive-talking counterculture type who seemed constantly spaced out; and night man Gordon Sims, a.k.a. "Venus Flytrap" (Tim Reid), a hip black who had worked with Andy at other stations.
Jennifer Marlowe (Loni Anderson), the sexy but efficient receptionist, actually had a lot to do with holding the station together -- she knew far more about what was going on than did her boss, Mr. Carlson. Loni Anderson quickly became the star of the show, and one of the major sex symbols of the late 1970s. The Farrah Fawcett-Majors posters of a few years earlier gave way to posters of buxom Loni. She guested constantly on other programs, and soon landed the juicy role of Jayne Mansfield in a made-for-television movie about the life of that sex symbol of an earlier era. All the adulation went to her -- or her agent's -- head, and, like Farrah, she quickly demanded a huge increase in salary or she would leave the show. Unlike Farrah, she got it, and stayed.
The final regular was Herb Tarlek (Frank Bonner), WKRP's high-pressure advertising salesman who, though married, spent much of his time making passes at Jennifer. He proved to be more talk than action, however, as he was totally intimidated when she indicated she was willing to take him up on his offer in one touching episode. Station owner Mrs. Carlson was a constant threat to them all but, fortunately, only showed up occasionally, usually to complain about something they either were or weren't doing at the station.
Nine years after WKRP in Cincinnati left CBS, it returned to the air in first-run syndication with three returning characters from the network series -- bumbling station manager Arthur Carlson, sleazy salesman Herb Tarlek, and nerdy news director Less Nessman. New to the station were Donovan Aderhold (Mykel T. Williamson), the recently hired black program director; Dana Burns (Kathleen Garrett) and Jack Allen (Michael Des Barres), the quarrelsome married couple who were known on the air as the "morning maniacs"; Mona Loveland (Tawny Kitaen), the sexy late-night disc jockey; Claire Harline (Hope Alexander-Willis), WKRP's cynical traffic manager; Ronnie Lee (Wendy Davis), the young receptionist; Buddy Dornster (John Chappell), the station's portly rumpled engineer; and Mrs. Carlson's son, Arthur, Jr. (Lightfield Lewis), an ambitious and rather arrogant apprentice salesman working with Herb. Buy this series on DVD at Amazon.com
Wonder Woman, based on Charles Moulton's comic-book superheroine of the 1940s, developed gradually into a regular TV series. It was first seen as a TV movie in March 1974 (with Cathy Lee Crosby in the title role), then in another try in November 1975 (with Lynda Carter), then in a series of specials called The New Original Wonder Woman beginning in March 1976. After popping up in various spots all over the ABC schedule, it had a short consecutive-weeks run in December 1976-January 1977. Finally, in the fall of 1977, it moved to CBS and became a regular weekly series.
The show was comic strip, pure and simple, set in the 1940s. Wonder Woman came from a "lost" island where a band of Amazon women had fled ca. 200 B.C. to escape male domination by the ancient Greeks and Romans. On Paradise Island they found the magic substance Fleminum, which when molded into a golden belt gave them superhuman strength and in golden bracelets could deflect bullets. It didn't help their love life much, though, so when Major Steve Trevor (Lyle Waggoner) of the U.S. Army crash-landed on the island during World War II, Wonder Woman fell in love and returned with him to the U.S. in the guise of his secretary. Major Trevor did not know of her powers, but when trouble threatened, Yeoman Diana Prince could disappear for awhile, and whirl herself into Wonder Woman! She then reappeared, clad in sexy tights and draped in a cape that looked something like the American flag.
Her opponents were mostly Nazi agents, plus a few aliens from outer space, all of whom were dispatched in slam-bang-biff-pow style. Once the Nazis even found and occupied Paradise Island in their quest for Feminum, and they had their own Wonder Woman in Fausta. Seen occasionally on Diana's side was her younger sister Drusilla, the "Wonder Girl" (played by Debra Winger).
Lynda Carter, who portrayed Wonder Woman, did fit the part. A former "Miss World -- U.S.A.," she was very athletic, tall (5'10", not 6" as some publicity releases claimed), and extremely well endowed. Buy this series on DVD at Amazon.com
THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY
Walt Disney was the longest-running prime-time series in network history. It is also historic for another reason. When it premiered in 1954 it marked the first big plunge by a major Hollywood movie studio into television production. Disney changed the face of television in many ways. Previously the big studios, afraid of competition from the new medium, were television's sworn enemies, not only refusing to produce programming but denying TV the use of any of the latest or best theatrical films. Until Disney led the way, the lavish movie-style series so familiar today were an impossibility.
Luring Disney into television was a major coup for struggling ABC. Both CBS and NBC had negotiated with the moviemaker, but neither could agree to his seemingly exorbitant terms. Among other things, Mr. Disney wanted the network to help finance his proposed amusement park in Anaheim, California. Only ABC was willing to take a chance, paying a then-fabulous $500,000 plus $50,000 per program. ABC won big. Both the TV series and the park, Disneyland, were fabulous successes. The program Disneyland was, in fact, ABC's first major hit series.
Disneyland consisted of a mixture of cartoons, live-action adventures, documentaries, and nature stories, some made especially for TV and some former theatrical releases. A liberal number of repeat telecasts was included with each season's originals. At first Disneyland was divided into four rotating segments, listed at the beginning of each week's show by the cartoon character Tinkerbell (from Peter Pan). They were Frontierland, Fantasyland, Tomorrowland, and Adventureland. The first telecast was a variety show, but what really got Disneyland off the ground was a three-part series of Frontierland adventures which began less than two months later -- Davy Crockett. The exploits of the famed real-life frontiersman of the early 1800s took America by storm. The title role was played by Fess Parker (whom Disney had seen playing a bit part in the horror movie Them). Buddy Ebsen played his sidekick, George Russell. Davy's trademark coonskin cap and other Crockett merchandise sold like wildfire to the nation's youth, and a recording of the theme song, "The Ballad of Davy Crockett," was one of the biggest hits of the mid-1950s. (Fess Parker had recorded the song, but ironically a minor-league singer named Bill Hayes, who later went on to appear in the soap opera Days of Our Lives, beat him to it and had the big hit recording.)
There were many other presentations on Disneyland beyond the boundaries of Frontierland. Some were adaptations of classics such as Alice in Wonderland, The Legend of Sleepy Hollow (narrated by Bing Crosby), Robin Hood, Treasure Island, and Babes in Toyland (with Annette Funicello, Tommy Sands, and Ray Bolger). The animated shows tended to feature well-known Disney characters such as Mickey Mouse (voice provided by Walt himself), Donald Duck, Pluto, and Goofy, sometimes in full-length stories, sometimes "narrating" documentaries on various subjects. When the series moved to NBC in 1961 a new character was added, Professor Ludwig Von Drake (voice by Paul Frees), who was supposed to be Donald's eccentric uncle and who co-hosted many of the shows, with Walt.
Documentaries within the series covered subject ranging from space travel to how cartoons are made, and were always entertainingly presented. And of course there were plenty of plugs for the Disneyland park and its Florida counterpart, Disney World, including reports on construction in progress, big opening galas, and, later, on-location variety shows.
Every season of Disney brought all types of presentations, but the mix changed with the times. In the late 1950s and early 1960s there were many Westerns and other early-American adventures, but then the emphasis shifted more to nature stories, often about animals and their young human companions. For many years Walt Disney himself introduced the telecasts, and it was through television that the master showman became a national celebrity. He was such an institution that it was a distinct shock when Walt Disney passed away suddenly on December 15, 1966. On the next Sunday's telecast the prefilmed introductions by Disney were deleted, and tributes by Chet Huntley and Dick Van Dyke were substituted. But the program itself went on as planned -- appropriately, it was a tour led by Walt himself through his pride and joy, Disneyland. In subsequent seasons there was no opening and closing host, simply voice-over narration by announcer Dick Wesson.
In later years Disney suffered the same fate as many other long-running series, gradually declining in audience because viewers apparently took it for granted, or considered it "old hat." The fact that such programs might continue to provide first-rate entertainment meant little in the quest for "novelty." Each year Disney's renewal became more doubtful until NBC finally announced its cancellation in 1981. The Disney magic refused to die, however, The series was picked up by CBS for two seasons (1981-1983), and then after a two-year hiatus returned to its original network, ABC. This latter version consisted of films (theatrical and made-for-TV), and revived the custom of specially film introductions by the head of the Disney studio -- now a young executive named Michael D. Eisner.
The Disney series was originally titled Disneyland, changed to Walt Disney Presents in 1958, to Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color in 1961 (when many of the films previously seen in black-and-white on ABC were repeated in color on NBC), to The Wonderful World of Disney in 1969, and to Disney's Wonderful World in 1979. The 1981 CBS version was titled simply Walt Disney, the 1986 ABC revival, The Disney Sunday Movie, and the NBC 1988-1990 version, The Magical World of Disney. Buy Walt Disney Treasures - Television on DVD at Amazon.com
- excerpted from The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows - Fifth Edition by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh (New York: Ballantine Books, 1992).
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