The early-Eighties changed the face of television forever. No longer were the networks just competing with each other, they now had cable TV networks to worry about.
The turbulence of the Sixties followed by the 'decadence' of the Seventies brought about the Reagan Eighties - a time of touchy-feely, family oriented entertainment juxtaposed with the wretched excesses of the rich. Network promos reflected that emerging mood.
Daniel Ferriera bring us some excellent examples of how the big three networks promoted themselves (and their shows) in the early-Eighties.
"Going through my 'collection tapes' that I started as a teenager, I came up with these clips." Daniel Ferriera writes, "I got my first VCR in 1982, so the stuff you'll see is from actual air. I had a bit of a fascination with ABC's rigorous promotion and (formerly) predictable and rigid promotion format. It's all gone now."
TV may not be as good as it was forty years ago, some would argue, but it's sure as hell better than it was twenty years ago!
Promotion for NBC's classic Thursday night line-up for 1981. Must See TV back then meant: 'Fame', 'Different Strokes', 'Gimme A Break', and 'Hill Street Blues'.
A clip from the 1982 NBC affiliate convention floor featuring the recently deceased programming genius Brandon Tartikoff.
NBC movie opener from the 1982/3 season, Just Watch us Now. Identical to NBC's 1981/2 season theme 'Our Pride is Showing', except they changed the music track.
This Thursday Night 1982 promo contains the premiere spot for Cheers and touts returning favories, 'Fame' and 'Hill Street Blues' as well as announcing Taxi's move from ABC to NBC as 'same time, better station'. The campaign music in background is 'Just Watch Us Now.'
A clip from the CBS 82-83 season, 'Great Moments' campaign. It was updated for the February 83 sweeps as, 'February Looks Great.'
This is an actual aircheck of CBS for Monday Premiere week 1982. The music playing in the background is the instrumental version of their campaign song 'Great Moments'. This spot introduces a TVparty favorite - Square Pegs.
"Here are several of five spots that ABC produced in 1983. The campaign was That Special Feeling on ABC. Most of the productions were so Reaganesque that they'd make me want to puke." - D.F.
The Cowboy version of the same campaign. Cowboys were popular in the early-Eighties because Ron and Nancy were often photographed on the ranch, and Dallas was the highest-rated show in 1983 over at CBS.
Another from ABC's 1983, That Special Feeling' campaign. Believe it or not, this version is NOT the most syrupy of the litter, but it's darn close - if there are any diabetics nearby, make sure they're at least 1000 feet from your computer before running this promo.
Of course, ABC wasn't the only network going for the heartstrings in 1983.
"Here's one of my favorites, CBS' 1983 promotion We've Got the Touch. CBS used 'We've Got the Touch' for 1983, 1984 and 1985. This is the "soft" version. They had more uptempo cuts as well." - D.F.
Hill Street Blues 1981
The Fall Guy 1981. Big hit show for Lee Majors after 'The Six Million Dollar Man'.
The end-credits for the Love Boat, followed by a promo for Quest - a 1982 show about an assistant shoe buyer. What excitement. Flop.
Hardcastle and McCormick starring Brian Keith ran for three years starting in 1983 on ABC.
Oh, Madeline! was one of the worst sitcoms ever, and this is one of the worst fall promotions ever! This blatant 'I Love Lucy' rip-off starred the recently deceased Madeline Kahn (Blazing Saddles and a supporting player on CBS's 'Cosby'). This spot stars John Ritter from ABC's hit show 'Three's Company'.
This is a promo for a program that never aired, per se. The name of the program promoted is Medstar but before the first episode even premiered in 1983, ABC changed the name to 'Trauma Center'. Show starred Lou Ferrigno as a hulking paramedic.
Lottery was another ABC loser from 1983. The premise- two guys, one a lottery agent giving away millions, flanked by an IRS special agent. Wow. What scenarios they could dream up each week.
CBS was "Looking
Good" in 1979 with lots of hit shows, but their Wednesday
night line-up sure wasn't! Would you watch these shows today - Jack
Elam as the Frankenstein Monster working as a handyman to a young couple
in a show called Struck By Lightning?!? Who thinks this stuff
up? Wouldn't you love to have been in the room when they pitched THAT
one? And then actually SOLD it?!?! I'm going to kill myself...
One of the most
NBC advertised The A-Team heavily on the 1983 Super Bowl and premiered the mid-season replacement series right after the big game. The result was a smash ratings hit that really solidified the Super Bowl as the biggest advertising event of the year. If the yearly playoff game could put a show like this over, it had the power to sell almost anything, presumably.
That strategy has been a crap shoot for the networks since then. Hits include 'The Wonder Years' (1988) for ABC and 'Homicide, Life on the Street' (1993) for NBC. But it didn't always work, remember 'Grand Slam' (1990) on CBS, or 'Davis Rules' (1991) and 'Extreme' (1995) on ABC? I didn't think so.
Melinda Cullea was seen during the A-Team's first season as a regular character, but she quit the series, accusing the principals of creating an atmosphere of aggressive sexual harrassment. Her replacement also left the series after one season, and it was decided that there would be no more female regulars on the 'A-Team'.
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