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The Troubled 1980-81 TV Season

by Billy Ingram

The 1980-81 TV season got off to a bad start, an actors' strike that summer meant the fall schedule was a no-go. In most cases, returning programs and premieres were pushed back by a matter of months, until November, December, and even later. Beginning July 21, the strike lasted 3 months. The reason SAG/AFTRA players refused to report to work? They wanted residuals for new media like pay-for-play and home video releases.

You knew there was desperation in the airwaves if the networks once more hand over a TV show to Steve Allen, original host of the Tonight show in the 1950s. Variety shows were seriously out of fashion by 1980 but NBC was so desperate for new programming they could put on the air as soon as the strike was over that they scheduled The Steve Allen Comedy Hour. Featured players included Bob & Ray, Kaye Ballard, Foster Brooks, Bill 'You doesn't have to call me Ray' Saluga, Catherine O'Hara, Joe Baker, and Tom Leopold.

Debuting in October, The Steve Allen Comedy Hour ran for 5 episodes before being replaced by Flamingo Road, a mildly popular soap opera. Here's the first episode with guests Lucille Ball, George Kennedy, Steve Landesberg, Steve Martin, and Louis Nye. You can't say they didn't try!

 

New shows that debuted in the fall or mid-season 1980-81 include such hits (and unexpected flops) as Those Amazing Animals (from the producers of the top 10 show That's Incredible!), The Greatest American Hero, Enos (Dukes of Hazzard spinoff), Bosom Buddies, It's A Living, Barbara Mandrell and the Mandrell Sisters, Hill Street Blues, Magnum P.I., Too Close For Comfort, The Brady Brides, Nero Wolfe, Harper Valley PTA, Private Benjamin, and Foul Play (the last 2 based on theatrical motion pictures).

Midseason flops Walking Tall, and Freebie and the Bean were also adapted from hit movies. This was the last season for The Waltons, Vega$, Soap, Buck Rogers in the 25th Century, Disney's Wonderful World (first airing in 1954), and The White Shadow.

Dynasty was the breakout hit of the season although that potboiler didn't really take off until Joan Collins joined the cast for season two.

Here's a sampling of the new shows for 1980-81:


THE EIGHTIES: EARLY EIGHTIES NETWORK PROMOS / TV 1986 / WOODY HARRELSON AS WOODY ON CHEERS / FALCON'S GOLD: CABLE TV'S FIRST MOVIE / FALCON CREST / HOW NBC GOT ITS GROOVE BACK / 1980's WCW WRESTLING / 1990-91 TV SEASON / 1991-92 TV SEASON / WHY SHELLEY LONG LEFT CHEERS? / JASON ALEXANDER BEFORE SEINFELD / PEOPLE vs JEAN HARRIS / TROUBLED 1980-81 TV SEASON / "KISS MY GRITS" FLO HAD HER OWN SHOW? / CULLY HOLLAND / ONE SEASON WONDERS... THAT GOT RENEWED! / DWIGHT SCHULTZ ON WORKING WITH GEORGE PEPPARD / DEMPSEY & MAKEPEACE / THE BAXTERS / G.L.O.W. / FRIDAYS / GREATEST AMERICAN HERO / Great 1983 Carson Tonight Show / EARLY '80s TV COMMERCIALS / LOST MOVIE POSTERS /RICH HALL /FILTHY RICH/1980's TV WRESTLING STARS / TV DADS / FOX'S JOAN RIVERS / CHEVY CHASE DEBACLES 

 

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Shows cancelled in 1980-81:

ABC
240-Robert
Aloha Paradise
Breaking Away
Charlie's Angels
Eight is Enough
Foul Play
I'm a Big Girl Now
Soap
Those Amazing Animals
Vega$

CBS
Checking In
Enos
Flo
Freebie and the Bean
Ladies' Man
Palmerstown, U.S.A.
Park Place
Secrets of Midland Heights
That's My Line
The Tim Conway Show
Walter Cronkite's Universe
The Waltons
The White Shadow

NBC
B.J. and the Bear
The Big Event
The Brady Brides
Buck Rogers in the 25th Century
Disney's Wonderful World
Games People Play
Nero Wolfe
Marie
Lobo
Number 96
The Steve Allen Comedy Hour
Walking Tall


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