Revised: Cliffhangers

Revising my three-part article covering NBC’s 1979 umbrella series Cliffhangers was a lot like revising three individual articles so it took a little longer than I had anticipated. I also added a new overview of the series so now it is a four-part article. That meant basically writing an entirely new article from scratch. The overview includes background information on NBC’s ratings woes during the 1978-1979, critical reaction to Cliffhangers and a look at how the series itself fared in the ratings. Believe it or not, NBC apparently felt Cliffhangers could compete from 8-9PM on Tuesdays with ABC’s wildly popular block of Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley because those shows were getting a little long in the tooth. Here’s the new summary:

In February 1979, NBC premiered Cliffhangers, an hour-long series made up of three serialized dramas: Stop Susan Williams, The Secret Empire and The Curse of Dracula. Every week, a new 20-minute “chapter” of all three serials would be presented, each of which would end in a shocking cliffhanger to be resolved the following week. Despite high hopes for the series, Cliffhangers debuted to low ratings and was off the air after 10 weeks, leaving one episode unaired and two of the three serials incomplete.

And here are links to all four parts of the article:

In addition to the new overview, I greatly expanded the article covering The Secret Empire. It now has a much better explanation of the plot and characters. I also went back and revisited both Stop Susan Williams and The Curse of Dracula to do a better job explaining how the serialized versions presented on Cliffhangers differed from the edited versions later released as made-for-TV movies. And I was able to confirm that NBC was considering a spin-off of the series based on The Curse of Dracula. I also learned that the network broadcast a special one-hour The Curse of Dracula recap special in March 1979.

I am still not 100% sure how many telefilms were edited out of The Curse of Dracula; there were apparently at least two (The Curse of Dracula and The World of Dracula) but some sources indicate there was also one called The Loves of Dracula. I have also seen references to Dracula ’79 and now believe that was the recap special covering the first four episodes/chapters of the serial.

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2 Replies to “Revised: Cliffhangers”

  1. Hi: Just wanted to let you know that your belief that “Dracula ’79” is the special NBC-produced recap, you are correct. I’ve even seen a vintage commercial for it. I just don’t remember if I saw it online, or on a vintage beta/VHS tape in my own collection (of other programming, not episodes of the show itself).

    There are currently (6/2014) some NBC trailers for the premiere of “Cliff Hangers” that refers to the Dracula segment as being titled “Dracula ’79”, so it would see that it finally being called “The Curse of Dracula” may have come late in the game (or NBC simply liked calling it “Dracula ’79”)!

    1. The recap special for The Curse of Dracula has always been one of the more confusing aspects of Cliffhangers, in my opinion, and I’m glad to finally get some confirmation about it.

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