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NBC Network Jingles
by Matthew Anscher


Once in my youth, I heard of a superstition claiming that the peacock brings bad luck. However, one tumultuous decade at NBC would disprove the old wives who told that tale.

In the good old days of TV, the National Broadcasting Company, ratings-wise, was traditionally behind CBS but well-ahead of ABC. In the 1970s, that balance changed dramatically.

foxxThe Peacock's major hit series in the mid-1970s were Sanford and Son (second only to All in the Family in the ratings), Chico and the Man, The Rockford Files, The Wonderful World of Disney, and Little House on the Prairie.

However, in 1974, the network that pioneered color television started phasing out its colorful peacock intro that denoted a color program. By early 1975, it was history.

With the start of the 1975-1976 television season, NBC replaced the peacock entirely with a simple, two-colored, geometric "N".

Unfortunately, none of the nine shows they introduced that fall: The Family Holvak, McCoy, The Invisible Man, Joe Forrester, Doctors' Hospital, The Montefuscos, Fay, a revival of Ellery Queen, and Medical Story, were renewed for a second season. In fact, The Montefuscos and Fay, two sitcoms hoping to compete with CBS's The Waltons on Thursday night, were gone before Halloween.

Story Continues After This Message!

That year, Disney fell out of the Top 20 for the first time since the 1968-1969 season as audiences were turning away from wholesome "family" entertainment and towards more "sophisticated" programs, such as All in the Family and M*A*S*H. Everyone's favorite junk dealer, Fred Sanford, fell from 2nd place in 1974-1975 to 8th place in 1975-76. Chico and the Man was "looking gooooood" in its first season, with a 3rd place rating, but fell from the top 20 during the second season.

It didn't help matters that the network found itself being sued over its new geometric 'N" logo by a small educational TV station in Nebraska.

A glimmer of hope came in late night when NBC's vice president Dick Ebersol replaced Tonight Show reruns on Saturday night with an irreverent sketch comedy called NBC's Saturday Night. Though criticized by some critics for allegedly being in poor taste, it caught on as a popular program.

Midseason replacements didn't fare much better. The Rich Little Show, The John Davidson Show, Jigsaw John, City of Angels (not to be confused with the 1990s CBS series), The Dumplings, Grady (the first of three ill-fated Sanford and Son spinoffs), The Cop & the Kid, and The Practice failed to salvage the season for the network, the last show being the only one to make it to the next season. Movin' On, supposedly a favorite of then-President Gerald Ford, was also canceled.

The following season, 1976-77, (the last for Sanford and Son, Emergency!, McCloud, Columbo, a wife-less McMillan, and Police Story) was not that much better. NBC's only successful new series was Quincy M.E. starring Jack Klugman, a hybrid of the medical and mystery dramas. Also a success was The Big Event, which was merely an umbrella title for movies and specials, including the phenomenally successful network television premiere of the movie Gone With the Wind that November.

Of the flops, there were Baa Baa Black Sheep (which returned midseason as Black Sheep Squadron only to be cancelled again), The Quest, Gemini Man, Best Sellers (an anthology series made up of several serialized novels), Van Dyke and Company, and Serpico. Midseason gave us CPO Sharkey, The McLean Stevenson Show, Sirota's Court, Tales of the Unexpected, Kingston Confidential, Grizzly Adams (all of those on Wednesday!), Fantastic Journey, and Gibbsville. Only Grizzly Adams made the fall schedule.

After the 1977-1978 season, what was once the peacock network could now be called the turkey network.

Sanford ArmsSanford Arms (a disastrous spin-off of Sanford and Son) was canned after 4 episodes, replaced by the return of CPO Sharkey with Don Rickles. The Richard Pryor Show, despite all the hullabaloo around it, was a failure in the ratings and was also gone after four episodes.

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The Bionic Woman moved to NBC from ABC for what would ultimately be its final season. Mulligan's Stew, The Oregon Trail, Big Hawaii, The Man From Atlantis, and Rosetti and Ryan all crashed and burned. James at 15 was also a one-season wonder.

Midseason brought The Chuck Barris Rah-Rah Show, a second installment of The Big Event, Project UFO, The Hanna-Barbera Happy Hour, What Really Happened to the Class of '65, and Quark.

On top of NBC's new show failures, ABC had successfully lured Redd Foxx away from his hit series for a variety show that flopped and Freddie Prinze's suicide spelled disaster for the ratings of Chico and the Man, this season being the last.

The only hit NBC had to show from 1977-1978 was CHiPs, a series about the California Highway Patrol. NBC Saturday Night at the Movies, CPO Sharkey, Grizzly Adams, and Police Woman were gone by the end of the season as ABC claimed the number one spot in the ratings for the first time ever.



Plus - the network jingles that put
NBC on top - from the 1970s - 1990s!


PAGE 1 / 2/ 3/ 4

The story of how the NBC peacock's feathers were plucked only to have them regrow brighter than ever


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