Monday, May 18, 2009

TV Guide Fall Preview 1973 – The Comments

I've been light as far as posting goes over the past couple of weeks. Chasing the dream I suppose you'd call it; the dream being winning a seat at the World Series of Poker without it costing me anything. Full Tilt has a Sit 'n' Go thing set up where, if you can be successful in three tournaments you can win a seat at the big event. I've come close in the first step but haven't quite made it to the second stage yet. Hope springs eternal, but it does tend to cut down on writing time.

Todd Mason:
I remember most of these, as I'd give most things a try in these days.

Did you get to see much of the PBS programming in those days? I don't know how well the magazine previewed them as early as 1973 (I probably began buying the preview issues a couple of years later), and oddly enough this office of the legatees of the magazine doesn't have the back issues at hand. ((Remarkable, I know.))).

Me: No I didn't. You have to understand, I am one of those "rare" Canadians who doesn't live within a hundred miles of the US border (I'm not absolutely sure but I think that something like 80-90% of Canadians live within a hundred miles of the border, or at least that was the case in the 1970s). Worse, in those days we didn't have cable until later in the 1970s. Even when cable finally did arrive here we didn't get PBS (or ABC for that matter) for a couple of years after that. (Remind me someday to tell you of the days when we got TV out of Williston North Dakota – there were things they did that would make you want to bang your head in frustration, but that's a story for another time.) That said, some of the shows that were shown on PBS – I'm thinking almost entirely of the British series that aired mainly as part of Masterpiece Theatre – did make it to my part of Canada. I vividly recall seeing the Lord Peter Wimsey mysteries with Ian Carmichael, and Upstairs Downstairs, both on CBC (of course). But really my exposure to PBS programming was seriously restricted.

Speaking of the CBC, I forgot to mention that in the 1973-74 season the network unveiled one of its greatest miniseries, The National Dream. The saga of the building of the Canadian Pacific Railway the show was one part history, narrated by the authror Pierre Berton, and one part drama, eaturing some of the leading names in Canadian theatre of the day, including John Collicos as William Cornelius Van Horne and William Hutt as Sir John A MacDonald. It was also the season that the private network CTV introduced The Starlost, which was a hugely expensive series at the time and was supposed to make CTV a big player in the international market. They tried, but from what I can recall of the show (which amazingly to me is out on DVD) tended to drag more than a little, with less than exciting plots and less than stellar acting from the leads.

Todd: Amusingly, the Hartford ABC station, one of the two local ABC affiliates for Northeastern Connecticut, chose to pre-empt HAPPY DAYS for the 1975-76 season, so as to gamble on a 7:30-8:30p run on Tuesdays for this new syndie thing, SPACE: 1999. You can imagine how quickly into that season this decision was reversed, as HD managed to climb the charts even w/o the help of Hartford (unless Sunday 6p displacement ratings were added to its total).

Me: In its defence, Space 1999 was supposed to be the "next big thing" and had both an interesting premise and a strong cast (in the first season Martin Landau, Barbara Bain and Barry Morse). The problem with the show was that while the plots were action filled the scripting and continuity, probably less so (reportedly when Barry Morse left after the first season in a salary dispute he also said "I would rather play with grown-ups for a while."). For what it's worth though, the second season of Happy Days hadn't had the success of the first season. The 1974-75 season was the one season between 1973 and 1983 when the show was out of the top 30 in the ratings, thanks to an aggressive counter-programming campaign by Fred Silverman, who moved Good Times opposite Happy Days. So a station's programming director might be excused for thinking that the trend would continue and wanting to get hold of the "latest hot show."

Mike Doran:
Reporting in from Lost TV Central: (a) Missing replacement shows: The ABC show from Thursday was Chopper One, about two cops in a 'copter; it lasted about as long as it took me to type this sentence. NBC Follies gave way to Music Country, Dean Martin's summer replacement from the year before. (b) I've listened to the CBS promo twice now, and I'm about 86% sure that the voice is Ernie Anderson. He doesn't flex it as much as he did later when he became the voice of ABC, but the low tones are pretty distinctive. If I have the timeline right, Anderson made the move to ABC at about the same time that Fred Silverman became that net's programming boss. Coincidence? Probably... still, you never know. More to follow, when (if) I can think of it...

Me: Chopper One was yet another series from Aaron Spelling and Leonard Goldberg. After all they were just coming off The Mod Squad (which ended the year before), and had started The Rookies the year before. In a couple of years they'd have SWAT. Hard to remember that the guy who gave us Dynasty, Fantasy Island and Beverly Hills 90210, not to mention Seventh Heaven also gave us shows like this.

I've listened to samples of Anderson's pre-ABC work and in honesty I'm inclined to believe that it wasn't him in the CBS promo show. Maybe it's my ear but I just don't hear the similarity.

"Toby" O'Brien:
That fall was a big transition for me - first semester in college - so I didn't get to see much TV. Most of these shows I only know from the TVG preview. (And I can still see some of their pages in my mind!)

The one show I did want to see was
'Diana'; I'll have to check the Paley Center to see if they have an episode....

Me: I don't really recall much about Diana itself, although as a typical North American teenager of the period I had the hots for Ms. Rigg thanks to Mrs. Peel. I do recall feeling disappointed and I think the reason is that this was just not a good property for her, I suppose because it was really rather pedestrian. One thing I do recall (my memory is screwy in this way) is that Diana's female co-star on the show (Carol Androsky if I'm not mistaken – okay I had to look it up) being outraged when Diana Rigg got married. Apparently it was some sort of breach with her personal "liberated women's code" or something. Anyway, there are at least three clips from the show available on YouTube, including one featuring Patrick MacNee's appearance on the show ("full time lovers and part time spying partners"). Only this short one appears to be embeddable.

But I did make sure to catch the Mystery Movie wheel; I was a big fan of those.

Me: So was I. Hard to believe that things were going to collapse in a couple of years.

BTW, the ABC affiliate in Ct. is in New Haven; trivial, I know.

Oh - and your mention of
'Toma' inspired me to run David Toma as today's "As Seen On TV" showcase.

Me: Which would have been a lot more immediate if I'd gotten this out when I should have!

So here are a couple of opening sequences. First up we have the intro and theme from a second season episode of Kojak

Next up we have a montage of the two different opening sequences from the Bill Bixby series The Magician. Remember, this series changed its entire premise halfway through its only season. In the first half of the season the character was a globe-trotting magician who lived out of his personal airplane. In the second he was essentially living at The Magic Castle. I think I like the graphics and the use of black and white in the montage sequence in the first version.

This coming week is the Network Upfronts, so I probably won't be posting a new Fall Preview article next weekend.

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