My obsession with television is legendary. I’ve been a fan of TV since I was little, um, okay, young. While I don’t remember when we got our first color television set, my recollection of the programs is fairly solid. Sitcoms were my favorites. Shows like Andy Griffith, Dick Van Dyke and Beverly Hillbillies come to mind. I also remember being titillated as a 10-year old boy, watching Goldie Hawn and Judy Carne gyrating on Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. On any given night you sit down to a lineup of quality programs.
What makes this so remarkable is back in those days there were only three networks to choose from. Because the programming was so good that you didn’t need a remote control. It wasn’t unusual to tune into one station and leave it there for three straight hours.
When the ‘70s began, there were televisions in 59 million households. At the end of the decade, there were 75 million. By the end of the ‘80s there were televisions in more than 90 million homes and cable television was exploding.
Out of curiosity, I called Time Warner Cable to find out how many channels I have available to me right now. A customer rep named “Daniel” informed me that with the current plan, I have over 275 different channels to choose from.
No wonder there is such a plethora of reality shows being produced today. It would be safe to say that the Kardashians would not be millionaires back in the ‘60s. I’ll take the girls from Petticoat Junction - Betty Jo, Bobbie Jo and Billie Jo over Kourtney, Kim and Khloe any day.
When you factor in the exorbitant cost of today’s cable with TV being completely free back in the days of only three networks, there really is no comparison in value. The lineups back then make those of today pale in comparison.
You don’t agree? I did a little bit of research and came up with my top three TV lineups from the days of free television. Take a look at these schedules and tell me that I am wrong.
Number 3 – Friday Nights in ‘71-‘72 on ABC:
7:00 – Brady Bunch
7:30 – Partridge Family
8:00 – Room 222
8:30 – Odd Couple
9:00 – Love American Style
Nice, huh? Leading off it was Marcia, Marcia, Marcia, although I definitely preferred the much underrated Jan. Next up was Shirley’s talented brood, featuring David Cassidy aka Keith serenading you each and every week.
In the third spot you had Karen Valentine portraying teacher Alice Johnson. She made all of the young male students drool, me included. In the cleanup spot was the classic battle of neatnik vs. slob with Felix and Oscar as the main combatants.
The night ended with Love American Style, which featured several tales of romance with a humorous spin. Recurring guests included Phyllis Diller, Milton Berle, Rich Little, Paul Lynde, Charles Nelson Reilly, Soupy Sales and Tiny Tim.
That was only my third favorite lineup. It gets better.
Number 2 – Thursday Nights in ‘84-‘85, ‘85-‘86, ‘86-‘87 on NBC:
7:00 – Cosby
7:30 – Family Ties
8:00 – Cheers
8:30 – Night Court
9:00 – Hill Street Blues
Right off the bat, you had Heathcliff, Clair, Sondra, Theo, Vanessa and Rudy. When dad was an obstetrician/gynecologist and mom a lawyer, you knew that you could count on hilarity on a weekly basis.
Family Ties was a hit from ’82-’89 and I feel it would be just as popular in 2012. Imagine liberal parents Steven and Elyse bringing up the über conservative Alex today. We wouldn’t need Michael Moore and Sarah Palin.
At 8:00 you got to go where everybody knew your name. Whether it was Coach or Woody pouring you a cold one, you knew there was going to be a laugh. I wasn’t a big fan of Rebecca, though.
After you left Cheers, the gavel went down and the laughs continued. Lasting nine seasons and three bailiffs, I will always remember the Halloween episodes on Night Court. Public defender Christine Sullivan (Markie Post) always wore outstanding costumes.
Finally, Thursday nights wrapped up with Hill Street Blues. The extensive cast included Kenosha’s very own, Daniel J. Travanti as Capt. Frank Furillo. It was one of the first shows that conveyed good guys having flaws and bad guys possessing redeeming qualities.
Believe it or not, there was one lineup that I felt was even better.
Number 1 – Saturday Nights in 73-74 on CBS:
7:00 – All in the Family
7:30 – M*A*S*H
8:00 – Mary Tyler Moore
8:30 – Bob Newhart Show
9:00 – Carol Burnett Show
This lineup is so strong; how do you comment on its’ greatness? Well, let’s start at the very beginning, a very good place to start…
You saw Archie and Edith at the piano singing off key, you knew it was time for All in the Family. Next, when the helicopters flew overhead to the strains of “Suicide is Painless”, it was M*A*S*H starting.
Mary Tyler Moore followed when she cheerfully tossed her hat into the chilly Minneapolis air. A simple, “Hello” as Bob Hartley answered the ringing telephone on his desk, signified that the Bob Newhart Show was beginning.
Sadly, when you heard Carol Burnett sing, “I’m so glad we had this time together, just to have a laugh, or sing a song. Seems we just get started and before you know it comes the time we have to say so long”, you knew the greatest lineup of television programs had come to an end for another week.
Until next time…from the booth.