A Year in TV Guide: 1989 is a year-long project to review all 52 issues of TV Guide magazine published during 1989. Every week, I’ll share my thoughts about the issue of TV Guide published exactly 30 years earlier. My goal is to examine what was written about television three decades ago while highlighting the short-lived and forgotten TV shows on network television during 1989.
January 28th, 1989
Vol. 37, No. 4, Issue #1870
On the Cover: John Goodman and Roseanne Barr, by Richard Stark
This week’s issue includes nine articles:
- TV’s Battle of the Sexes: With Roseanne, It’s No Holds Barred, by Jack Hicks
- It’s Miami Nice for Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith
- They’re Russian to See Our TV, by Neil Hickey
- Casting for Guiding Light, by Howard Polskin
- Midnight Caller’s Gary Cole, by Bill Davidson
- Is Geraldo Rivera Running Out of Control? by Doug Hill
- Background: “A Raisin in the Sun,” by John Edgar Wideman
- Inside Vanna’s Dressing Room, by Jane Marion
- How TV Can Cover the White House a Whole Lot Better, by Sam Donaldson
The cover article is a profile of Roseanne Barr, not the behind-the-scenes look at her ABC sitcom Roseanne I was expecting. The brief article about Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith rekindling their romance is almost shockingly pointless. The profile of Gary Cole is slightly more interesting.
The long article about casting a role on Guiding Light ends exactly the way you’d expect. Although nearly everyone involved in casting the role thought UCLA theater major Suzy Cote was the right choice, they all worried she was hiding something under the long, shapeless brown dress she wore to her auditions. She was asked to send pictures of herself in a bathing suit. She did. The pictures revealed she had a “great figure.” She got the part.
My favorite article is Neil Hickey’s one-page explanation of how Soviet citizens in Tallinn, the capital of Estonia, videotape TV shows broadcast on Finnish television from nearby Helsinki (including many shows produced in the United States like Dallas, Hill Street Blues, and The Cosby Show) and sell them illegally throughout the Soviet Union. According to Hickey, Tallinn is “the only place in the Soviet Union where Western television shows are routinely available to anybody with a TV set and an antenna.” It is therefore the center of an enormous bootleg operation:
For this exercise in offbeat capitalism, budding entrepreneurs bearing VCRs travel to Tallinn from many parts of the Soviet Union, check into a hotel or bunk in with an accomplice, and then spend days or weeks videotaping the output of Finnish television. Returning to their home districts, they then duplicate the tapes and sell them on the black market, or exhibit them for profit in makeshift video parlors where the public views them for a fee.
Hickey claims “the police rarely snag a perpetrator” for engaging in illegal distribution of presumably forbidden TV programs.
TV Guide Insider
[TV Guide Insider includes the following features: Grapevine, Soaps, Sports View, Video Cassette Report, and Cheers ‘n’ Jeers.]
Lawrence Eisenberg’s Grapevine includes tidbits about Betty White’s desire to work with Robert Redford, Mark Linn-Baker and Bronson Pinchot getting hurt on the set of Perfect Strangers, Meredith Baxter Birney’s thoughts on one day becoming a grandmother, and more. Alan Carter shares stories about Doug Sheehan, Michael Bays, Frank Dicopoulosand Charles Shaughnessy in Soaps. Mel Durslag’s Sports View tackles the “nicest” guys in sports: George Steinbrenner, Brian Bosworth, and Peter Pocklington.
Prices from the Video Cassette Report for movies on VHS: Bull Durham ($89.98), The Dead Pool ($89.95), Die Hard ($89.98), The Nest ($79.95), The Presdidio ($89.95). Cheers ‘n’ Jeers criticizes pay cable for the long delays between the start time for boxing matches and the actual start of the fight, praises Brian Starcher of As the World Turns for his portrayal of the first ongoing gay male character, applauds President Bush for refusing to answer shouted questions from the press, and commends Murphy Brown as “one of the season’s few comedic bright spots.”
Merrill Panitt reviews the PBS series Ethics in America, comparing it favorably to an earlier PBS series called The Constitution: That Delicate Balance. Former CBS news chief Fred Friendly created both shows. Ethics in America features a panel of experts tasked by a moderator with answering thorny ethical questions. “When so much much is being written and said about the decline in ethical behavior in our country,” says Panitt, “Ethics in America is a timely effort to allay confusion over the difference between what we have a right to do and what is the right thing to do.”
“Lively, intelligent, surprisingly witty and down-to-earth,” Panitt continues, “Ethics in America is fun to watch. It proves once again that when abstract subjects are presented in a palatable, entertaining form, television does indeed have the ability to make us think–and enjoy it.”
[I had never heard of Ethics in America before flipping through this issue of TV Guide. Ten episodes aired during 1989. All ten are available for viewing online through the Annenberg Learner website.]
The Program Section
[This week’s Program Section includes Midseason Review in place of Update and Letters, plus the following regular features: Sports Calendar, Pay-TV Movie Guide, Channel Directory, and TV Crossword Puzzle.]
This special three-and-a-half page Midseason Review showcases the best and worst of the 1988-1989 TV season so far. In the Series category, Roseanne and Murphy Brown are the Rookies of the Year. Tattinger’s, on the other hand, is the Biggest Disappointment. Other entries include Saddest Sight (Dick Van Dyke in The Van Dyke Show and Mary Tyler Moore in Annie McGuire); Most Stylish First Episode (Midnight Caller); Most Consistently Funny Sitcom (Designing Women); and Most Compelling Storyline (Elliot and Nancy’s breakup on thirtysomething).
In the TV-Movies and Miniseries category, NBC’s Twist and Fate miniseries is the Most Tasteless Exploitation of the Holocaust, the CBS made-for-TV movie The Karen Carpenter Story is the Best Public Service, and NBC’s made-for-TV movie Shootdown is the Most Provocative Drama.
Finally, in the Sports and Specials category, NBC’s Olympics coverage is Most Over-Seouled Spectacle, various specials marking the 25th anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination are the Saddest Trip Back Through Time, and “The Human Rights Now! Tour” on HBO is the Most Overhyped Musical Special.
See my review of the January 7th, 1989 issue for the Channel Directory to the Toledo-Lima Edition.
- College Basketball: Ohio State at Louisville (ABC, Sunday at 2PM)
- [Cable Close-Up] AFC-NFC Pro Bowl (ESPN, Sunday at 8PM)
- Movie: Home Fires Burning (CBS, Sunday at 9PM)
- Movie: Ghostbusters (ABC, Sunday at 9PM)
- Cousteau’s Rediscovery of the World, “Twilight of the Alaskan Hunter” (TBS, Sunday at 10PM)
- Preparing for Power (PBS, Sunday at 11PM)
- American Music Awards (ABC, Monday at 8PM)
- Movie: Runaway Train (NBC, Monday at 9PM)
- “Barbara Walters: Two Men and a Woman” (ABC, Tuesday at 9PM)
- American Playhouse, “A Raisin in the Sun” (PBS, Wednesday at 8PM)
- [Cable Close-Up] Garry Shandling (Showtime, Friday at 10:30PM)
Do You Remember…?
Saturday, January 28th, 1989
8:00PM CBS (11) (2D) (7) (10) (15) DOLPHIN COVE (CC)–Adventure; 60 min.
Michael (Frank Converse) comes to a parting of the ways with an old college buddy whose efforts for an environmental-protection group have grown more radical. Meanwhile, David (Trey Ames) gets intro trouble thanks to a precocious girl. Katie: Karron Graves.
9:00PM CBS (11) (2D) (7) (10) (15) SMOTHERS BROTHERS; 60 min.
Return: Tom and Dick welcome illusionist Harry Blackstone; Bill “Jose Jimenez” Dana; singer John Hartford; ventriloquist Ronn Lucas; storyteller Geoffrey Lewis and the Celestial Navigations; English music-hall performers Nuts and Bolts; dancer Toni Basil and actress Danitra Vance, with an interpretation of “Romeo and Juliet”; comic Gallagher.
ABC (24) (2) (6) (7D) (21) MAN CALLED HAWK (CC)–Crime Drama; 60 min.
Debut: In this “Spenser: For Hire” spinoff, Avery Brooks reprises his role as Spenser’s enigmatic pal Hawk, who leaves Boston and returns to his home town of Washington, D.C. In the opener, Hawk renews acquantiances with old friends and a former employer, who asks his help in locating a rogue Government agent. Old Man: Moses Gunn.
10:00PM CBS (11) (2D) (7) (15) WEST 57TH (CC); 60 min.
Scheduled: A report on a policeman who, says producer Tom Yellin, works to expose racism in the Long Beach, Cal. Police Department; a profile of Tracey Ullman. Correspondents: Steve Kroft, Meredith Vieira, John Ferrugia.
10:00PM ABC (24) (2) (6) (7D) (21) MURPHY’S LAW (CC)–Crime Drama; 60 min.
A stolen-motorcycle case vrooms through Murphy’s life just as he’s trying to become a model of quiet stability for a family-court caseworker. Murphy: George Segal. Kimi: Maggie Han. Wes: Josh Mostel.
Sunday, January 29th, 1989
8:00PM ABC (24) (2) (6) (7D) (21) STUDIO 5B (CC)–Drama; 60 min.
The previous day’s shooting weighs heavily on Gail (Wendy Crewson) and Lionel (Jeffrey Tambor), who wrestle with the decision of whether to air the footage again, while Carla (Kerrie Keane) seems unaffected by the incident. Douglas Hayward: George Gizzard.
Wednesday, February 1st, 1989
8:00PM CBS (11) (2D) (7) (15) TV 101 (CC)–Drama; 60 min.
Amanda (Teri Polo) clicks with one of Vance’s friends (Rodney Eastman), but her friends clash with him. Meanwhile, Keegan (Sam Robards) gets a date with the former Spring Fever Dance queen. Vance: Andrew White. Emilie: Brynn Thayer. Chuck: Matthew LeBlanc.
10:00PM NBC (13) (35) (4) (4D) (22) (33) NIGHTINGALES–Drama; 60 min.
Becky’s relationship with her boyfriends runs hot and cold, but Becky (Kristy Swanson) doesn’t figure out why until it’s too late; the little girl brought to the hospital for child care turns out to be Sam’s daughter Megan (Taylor Fry); and Chris (Suzanne Pleshette) gets fed up with hospital red tape–and with Garrett (Barry Newman). Sam: Chelsea Field. Bridget: Susan Walters. Allyson: Kim Ulrich.
[Time approximate on Ch. 35.]
Thursday, February 2nd, 1989
8:00PM ABC (24) (2) (7D) (21) FINE ROMANCE (CC)–Comedy-Drama; 60 min.
A man with malice seeks a hidden chalice,and he thinks Louisa (Margaret Whitton) knows its whereabouts, as do Irish villagers who stalk her as she seeks a lawyer. Meanwhile, Miles (Kevin Moore) seeks a beagle. Michael: Christopher Cazenove. George: Ernie Sabella.
10:00PM ABC (24) (2) (6) (7D) (21) HEARTBEAT (CC); 60 min.
Paul (Darrell Larson) rattles the cages of the prison system in trying to get permission to treat an inmate; Eve (Laura Johnson) has a brush with crime; Joanne and Marilyn (Kate Mulgrew, Gail Strickland) push to get a nurse reinstated. Leo: Ben Masters. Cory: Lynn Whitfield. Nathan: Carmen Argenziano.
Friday, February 3rd, 1989
10:00PM NBC (13) (35) (4) (4D) (22) (23) UNSUB (CC)–Crime Drama; 60 min.
Debut: A Justice Department team uses high-tech evidence analysis to establish psychological profiles of “unknown subjects” who’ve committed gruesome crimes. In the opener, the quarry is a serial killer who strikes on Friday nights, leaving behind a cryptic ID in blood and a peculiar wound on his victims. Wes: David Soul. Ned: M. Emmet Walsh. Tony: Joe Maruzzo. Ann: Jennifer Hetrick.
From my perspective, the special Midseason Review section in place of Update and Letters is a disappointment. I’d much rather read about news and ratings from mid-season 1989 than TV Guide‘s mostly silly take on the first half of the 1988-1989 season. Two more mid-season replacements debuted this week: Hawk (ABC) and Unsub (NBC). I had heard of both prior to flipping through this issue.
That’s it for this issue. Check back next week for my review of the February 4th, 1989 issue of TV Guide. As always, hit the comments with any thoughts and reactions.