A Year in TV Guide: January 21st, 1989

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.

Week #3
January 21st, 1989
Vol. 37, No. 3, Issue #1869
Toledo-Lima Edition

On the Cover: Montage of Rock Stars

  • Scan of the front cover to the January 21st, 1989 issue of TV Guide magazine
    Cover to the January 21st, 1989 issue of TV Guide | Copyright 1989 Triangle Publications, Inc.

The Magazine


This week’s issue includes five articles:

  • Rock Stars on TV: Elvis is Still King!, by David Hiltbrand
  • Spying at the Super Bowl, by Vic Carucci
  • Jasmine Guy of A Different World, by Betty Goodwin
  • Background: Nuclear War, by John Hersey
  • Karen Burnes of West 57th, by Doug Hill

I skimmed the article about rock stars on TV, which names the December 1968 NBC special “Elvis” the greatest televised rock performance of all time. A sidebar examines rock ‘n’ roll sitcoms, including The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, The Monkees, The Partridge Family, and the short-lived sitcom Dreams, which ran for just five episodes on CBS in October 1984.

As someone who doesn’t follow sports, the idea that someone would try to spy on an NFL team during practice seems ridiculous. And yet Vic Carucci’s article about spying and the Super Bowl treats the idea very seriously. For all I know, it was a serious issue back in 1989 (and may continue to be a problem today). TV Guide contacted coaches and players like Mike Ditka, John Elway, and Joe Montana and asked what information would be useful, if someone wanted to spy on another team. “With all the film you have on your opponent,” John Elway explains, “the only thing you could possibly get would be new formations the team is using or an h special or trick plays they’ve installed. You could also get an idea of how they are using their personnel–who’s in or out in certain situations.”

John Hersey’s two-page article about nuclear false alerts probably had more of an impact thirty years ago. Reading about false alarms due to a malfunctioning computer chip at an Air Force Base in June 1980 or a false alert in November 1979 due to human error isn’t particularly scary in 2019. Perhaps it wasn’t in 1989, either. The two-page article is little more than promotion for an upcoming PBS documentary series, “War and Peace in the Nuclear Age”. [It debuted January 23rd.]

The two-page profile of West 57th correspondent Karen Burnes is of interest to me because the CBS newsmagazine is largely forgotten today. It aired sporadically from August 1985 to September 1989. Karen Burnes replaced correspondent Jane Wallace on West 57th in January. Before that, she spent nine years as an investigative reporter and producer at ABC. Here’s perhaps the most intriguing part of the profile:

The opportunity to do a wider variety of stories as one of the things that attracted Burnes to West 57th in the first place. Once she got there, however, she became concerned that the show’s prodigious appetite for material in general and its penchant for celebrity profiles in particular threatened to leave no time for the painstaking investigative reporting she’s known for. One of her first assignments called for her to interview Michael J. Fox; she wasn’t sure, but she thought he might be a stockbroker. Told he was a big TV and movie star, she said to herself, What am I going to talk to him about?”

Burnes also had to get used to having less control over her stories. She refuses to go into detail about her unhappy childhood. While working on a story about the child-welfare system in Oklahoma for ABC, Burnes realized her calling. “That’s when I was really changed profoundly in terms of feeling I had to do this work. I had never before seen the deliberate abuse of human beings. It totally changed my sense of the world, my sense of justice. I was so angry.” That anger may explain why she works more than she should, leading friends to worry about her. Due to constant pain from back problems, she’s unable to exercise, so she throws herself into her job instead.

There’s also a profile of actress Jasmine Guy, who plays Whitley Gilbert on NBC’s A Different World, which I skipped.

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 Lee Remick performing at the Polo Lounge, Bill Kirchenbauer getting heckled during his stand-up routine, the stories James Earl Jones tells his son, how Ray Milland teased Peter Graves about his Millsion: Impossible fame, and more. Alan Carter shares stories about Brian Starcher, Elizabeth Dennehy, and Brad Sanders in Soaps. Mel Durslag’s Sports View tackles the projected audience for the upcoming Super Bowl, the cost of Super Bowl Rings, and what Al Davis has to say about the importance of good kickoff coverage.

Prices from the Video Cassette Report for movies on VHS: Bellman and True ($79.95), Hot to Trot ($89.95), Iron Warrior ($19.95). Cheers ‘n’ Jeers praises syndicated Super Bowl specials “The Road to the Super Bowl” and “John Madden’s Super Bowl Special,” criticizes the TV networks for airing inappropriate commercials during certain programs, and boos Moonlighting and Hooperman for spending last season focusing on pregnancies only to write the babies out of the plot line at the start of this season.


Merrill Panitt begins his review of ABC sitcom Roseanne by stating simple fact: viewers either love Roseanne and her show or they hate her and the show. Based on the ratings, viewers love both her and the show. He praises John Goodman’s acting. As for Roseanne, “while she’s no actor, she doesn’t have to be.”

Here’s the final paragraph:

The show may have gained its instant success because viewers were ready for something other than sitcoms with perfect parents, adorable children, grammatical English and white-collar characters. They may have been ready for a family–a close and loving family, under all that surface fussing–that seems just a bit closer to reality.

[I wonder what Panitt, who died in 1994, would’ve thought of the recent Roseanne revival or its continuation/spin-off The Connors.]

The Program Section

[The Program Section includes the following features: Update, Letters, Sports Calendar, Pay-TV Movie Guide, Channel Directory, and TV Crossword Puzzle.]


[Update categories include the following: In The News, On The Grapevine, and The Ratings Race.]

There are only two In the News reports this week. The first is about the behind-the-scenes shakeup at Roseanne, with creator and executive producer Matt Williams being pushed out. The second is about local TV stations upset at a new ESPN contract to televise major league baseball games four nights a week.

On the Grapevine contains three reports this week. The most interesting is about how actor Sam Sells had to be rushed to the emergency room after being accidentally punched in the face while filming an eipsode of Dynasty. The doctors started treating the gunshot wound on his leg, not realizing it was fake.

According to The Ratings Race, Knots Landing has overtaken Dallas as TV’s top-rated soap opera. Through the first 17 weeks of the 1988-1989 season, Knots Landing has averaged a 15.6/26 Nielsen rating/share while Dallas has a 15.5/26.


[Although TV Guide published the first and last names of those who wrote letters, for privacy reasons I will only be sharing the first name and the first letter of the last name.]

Three of the eight letters in this issue are about the movie It’s A Wonderful Life:

How come all of a sudden “It’s a Wonderful Life” is being hailed as practically the greatest movie ever made [“Don’t Miss Jimmy Stewart Talking the Shrubbery–or Donna Reed Losing Her Bathroom,” Dec. 24]? It’s been playing every Christmas for as long as I can remember and, frankly, I am sick and tired of it. Granted, it’s an entertaining little movie, but it’s hardly a Christmas “Gone with the Wind.”
Mary I.
Asheville, N.C.

It’s good to see the richness of Frank Capra’s greatest work is finally being recognized. Its magnificent performances will continue to enthrall audiences for decades. How many actors in their prime today could make such a “corny” script come alive with compassion?
Mel H.
Beebe, Ark.

Roger Ebert called colorization “the worst thing” ever to happen to “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Worse than being butchered by every local V station and cut-rate video duplicator at will? If you can’t stand the color, turn down the color knob.
Peter M.
Los Angeles

[I wonder if anyone writes or e-mails TV Guide these days complaining about TV shows cropped to the wrong aspect ratio?]

Channel Directory

See my review of the January 7th, 1989 issue for the Channel Directory to the Toledo-Lima Edition.

The Listings

Close Ups

  • Bob Hope: A Musical Comedy Pep Rally (NBC, Saturday at 8PM)
  • [Cable Close-Up] Comedy & Magic Club’s 10th Anniversary (Showtime, Saturday at 9:30PM/Wednesday at 8PM)
  • Super Bowl XXIII (NBC, Sunday at 5PM)
  • Movie: Brotherhood of the Rose, Part 1 (CBS, Sunday at 9PM)
  • Masterpiece Theater, “All Passion Spent, Part 1” (PBS, Sunday at 9PM) [Some PBS stations at other times]
  • War and Peace in the Nuclear Age, “Dawn” (PBS, Monday at 8PM) [Some PBS stations at other times]
  • Television Academy Hall of Fame (FOX, Monday at 8PM)
  • Movie: The Day After (ABC, Monday at 9PM) [Repeat]
  • Secret Intelligence, “The Only Rule is Win” (PBS, Monday at 9PM) [Some PBS stations at other times and other days]
  • Schoolbreak Special, “My Past Is My Own” (CBS, Tuesday at 4PM)
  • Hooperman, “Hooperman Goes to Hell in a a Handcart” (ABC, Wednesday at 9:30PM)
  • Movie: Chariots of Fire (WFFT, Thursday at 7:30PM)
  • Mystery!, “Inspector Morse” (PBS, Thursday at 9PM) [Some PBS stations at later times]

Do You Remember…?

Saturday, January 21st, 1989
9:00PM CBS (11) (2D) (7) (10) (15) DOLPHIN COVE (CC)–Adventure; 60 min.
Debut: Seeking a new start after his wife dies, dolphin researcher Michael Larson (Frank Converse) moves with his two children to Australia, where he’s hired to figure out the mammals’ communication system. But it’s a tough beginning Down Under: Larson’s son David (Trey Ames) dislikes the lifestyle and his new school; daughter Katie (Karron Graves), who hasn’t spoken since her mother’s death, dislikes her new therapist (Virginia Hey); and the dolphins don’t seem to care much for Larson–but Katie’s a different story. Series co-creator Peter Benchley (“Jaws”) wrote this episode. Diego: Ernie Dingo. Trent: Nick Tate.

NBC (13) (35) (4) (4D) (22) (33) NIGHTINGALES–Drama; 90 min;
Debut: An edited repeat of the 1988 TV-movie pilot launches this series about some student nurses who try collective living and a taste of the fast life in Los Angeles.
[Another episode airs Wednesday a half hour later in the series’ regular time slot.]

10:00PM CBS (11) (2D) (7) (15) WEST 57TH (CC); 60 min.
Scheduled: A report on what senior producer Tom Yellin calls a “controversial” outpatient drug-treatment program for teenagers in Hackensack, N.J.; a segment on whether Scotland’s Loch Ness monster exists; a profile of Miami personal-injury lawyer J.B. Spence (postponed from an earlier date).

10:00PM ABC (24) (2) (6) (7D) (21) MURPHY’S LAW (CC)–Crime Drama; 60 min.
Promoted to claims manager, Murphy (George Segal) gets all fired up over the torching of a warehouse full of medical-relief supplies for Ethiopian children. Wes: Josh Mostel. Kimi: Maggie Han. Tapplinger: Lynne Randall.

Monday, January 23rd, 1989
10:00PM CBS (11) (2D) (7) (10) (15) ALMOST GROWN–Drama; 60 min.
A frustrated Suzie (Eve Gordon) squawks at her parents as their extended stay stretches on, and then she remembers another lonely visitor who left a great impression–and left behind his pet parrot. Vi: Anita Gillette. Dick: Richard Schaal. Norman: Timothy Daly.

Tuesday, January 24th, 1989
9:00PM ABC (24) (2) (6) (7D) (21) STUDIO 5B (CC)–Drama; 60 min.
Debut: The high-powered world of a network morning show as seen through the bleary eyes of its workaholic staff. In the opener, producer Gail Browning (Wendy Crewson) and top anchorwoman Carla Montgomery (Kerrie Keane) square off over an interview with a soon-to-be-paroled child molester; and newcomer Samantha (Kim Myers) tries to snag an “impossible” interview. Lionel: Jeffrey Tambor. Jake: Justin Deas. David: Kenneth David Gilman. Rosemary: Kate Zentall.
[Next week, the series moves to Sunday.]

Wednesday, January 25th, 1989
8:00PM CBS (11) (2D) (7) (15) TV 101 (CC)–Drama; 60 min.
Conclusion. Vance (Andrew White) follows the lead of his new girlfriend (Sherilyn Fenn) deeper into the school drug world. Meanwhile, Keegan (Sam Robards) discovers his own ambition by helping a colleague come to terms with his career disillusionment.

10:00PM NBC (13) (35) (4) (4D) (22) (33) NIGHTINGALES–Drama; 60 min.
Suzanne Pleshette joins the cast as Chris Broderick, director of student nursing, whose deceased best friend was married to chief of staff Garrett Braden (Barry Newman). Meanwhile, a dangerous man stalks Bridget (Susan Walters); and Sam (Chelsea Field) finds a true friend in a terminal patient. Becky: Kristy Swanson. Nurse Ritt: Fran Bennett. Yolo: Roxann Biggs. Allyson: Kim Ulrich.

Thursday, January 26th, 1989
8:00PM ABC (24) (2) (7D) (21) FINE ROMANCE (CC)–Comedy-Drama; 60 min.
In Dublin, Michael (Christopher Cazenove) is at a loss when Louisa (Margaret Whitton) uses his paycheck to buy a horse with a partner, who suddenly disappears and then reappears the next day, only to be killed in front of her–apparently. Meanwhile, Louisa’s Aunt Grace tries to reunite the former couple; newlywed Miles (Kevin Moore) thinks his wife has run of with the butcher. George: Ernie Sabella. Friday: Dinah Lenney.

10:00PM ABC (24) (2) (6) (7D) (21) Heartbeat (CC); 60 min.
Eve (Laura Johnson) thinks about starting a family, while Cory and Dixon (Lynn Whitfield, Robert Gossett) debate stopping theirs; Joanne (Kate Mulgrew) treats the difficult pregnancy of a middle-aged woman; Leo (Ben Masters) samples a new relationship. Marilyn: Gail Strickland. Paul: Darrell Larson. Nathan: Carmen Argenziano. Alice: Julie Ronnie.
[Time approximate on Ch. 6.]

Final Thoughts

Once again, the articles don’t provide much insight into network television in January 1989. Before reviewing this issue, I’d never heard of Dolphin Cove (CBS) or Studio 5B (ABC), two short-lived mid-season replacements. It’s always nice to stumble upon forgotten TV shows I’ve never heard of and the 1980s and 1990s have plenty of them. Those decades are a bit of a dead zone for me. I do most of my research and writing about the 1950s, 1960s, and 1970s.

That’s it for this issue. Check back next week for my review of the January 28th, 1989 issue of TV Guide. As always, hit the comments with any thoughts or reactions.

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8 Replies to “A Year in TV Guide: January 21st, 1989”

  1. A quick explaination of the time appox notice on Heartbeat: Up until cable became the dominant sport outlet in the ’90’s, it was common for many local affiliates to either not carry network programming or delay it in order to run local sports, which made more profits because they kept all the ad revenue. I’m sure if Robert checked the local listings, channel 6 was proably carrying such an event that would end at 10 UNLESS it went overtime. This happens quite frequently with NFL playoff games today.

  2. About spying on other teams, yeah it’s still an ongoing problem, the Patriots got in trouble for doing it in the early 2000’s.

    1. Yep, in the 80’s spying was simply a plot gimmick on TV, but now it’s everywhere, even in some very high places certain people don’t want to talk about [i.e. the MAGAS!].

  3. Nightingales : bangin’ nurses :: Grey’s Anatomy : bangin’ interns/doctors

    Nightingales was one of Aaron Spelling’s misses.

  4. When I first began reading these series of blogs my overall opinion was that 1989 was a boring year for television viewing. Then, starting with this week, I began wishing I’d known Dolphin Cove had existed. I may not have liked it, but with the combination of Frank Converse, Australian accents, and episodes that did not take place in a (yawn) big city, I figured it may have had the potential to interest me.

    Yesterday I discovered that — at least for now — several episodes of Dolphin Cove were on YouTube, so I watched the first episode, mentioned in this blog. It’s a bit on the “contrived” side, so I didn’t get so involved that I forgot I was watching a bunch of actors pretending to be a troubled family moving to Australia, but I liked it. I suspect the daughter will end up having some sort of psychic bound with dolphins, but I look forward to watching more episodes on YouTube to see what happens next.

    Thanks for letting me know about Dolphin Cove.

  5. Schoolbreak Special, “My Past Is My Own” (CBS, Tuesday at 4PM)

    I can remember watching a few ABC After school specials when I was younger but for some reason don’t remember the existence of the CBS School break specials.

    According to The Ratings Race, Knots Landing has overtaken Dallas as TV’s top-rated soap opera. Through the first 17 weeks of the 1988-1989 season, Knots Landing has averaged a 15.6/26 Nielsen rating/share while Dallas has a 15.5/26.

    DALLAS would leave the air waves in 1991 and KNOTS LANDING is cancelled in 1993.

    1. I remember watching & taping “My Past Is My Own”. If I remember right, Whoopi Goldberg had a part in it as the teens’ aunt who helped them go some 25 years into the past. ABC’s Afterschool Specials were the best-known, but CBS did have these Schoolbreak Specials and NBC occasionally had something called “Special Treat” in the afternoons. So all the networks attempted to give their preteen to teen audiences something “special”.

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