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.
February 18th, 1989
Vol. 37, No. 7, Issue #1873
On the Cover (clockwise from top): Mighty Mouse, ALF, Bill Cosby and Keshia Knight Pulliam, Big Bird, Pee-wee Herman, and Garfield, by Michael Smollin.
This week’s issue includes the following nine articles:
- This Year’s Grammys, by David Hiltbrand
- The Best Children’s Shows on TV (first of two parts), by James Morrow
- “Swimsuit”: A Gift to Shivering Americans, by Andy Meisler
- Jere Burns the Bad Boy, by Jane Marion
- The New Reporting Teams in Washington, by John Weisman
- A PBS Series to Bring History Alive, by Neil Hickey
- John Goodman of Roseanne, by Michael Leahy
- Ellen Greene in a Movie About a Sinning Evangelist, by Howard Polskin
- This Week: “Passion and Paradise,” by Lawrence Eisenberg
James Morrow spent two months researching his two-part article about the best children’s shows on television. This issue’s installment tackles children’s TV shows on network television and PBS. Saturday morning TV on the networks surprised Morrow. “It would appear that, upon finding their audience radically eroded by new technologies,” he writes, “the kidvid moguls have in desperation tried an unprecedented tactic: imagination.”
Morrow praises The New Adventures of Winnie the Pooh (ABC), Kissyfur (NBC), and Disney’s Adventures of the Gummi Bears (NBC) for “theatrical-grade animation, sprightly stories, conscientious eschewing of laugh tracks and, best of all, the willingness to let the visual jokes speak for themselves.” He also has positive things to say about shows like Alf (NBC), Mighty Mouse: The New Adventures (CBS), Pee Wee’s Playhouse (CBS), and Hey Vern, It’s Ernest! (CBS).
There’s still “twaddle” on Saturday mornings, Morrow laments, naming A Pup Named Scooby Doo (ABC), The Chipmunks (NBC), and Jim Henson’s Muppet Babies (CBS). Not to mention all the commercials. The “high point” of the rest of the week is The Magical World of Disney on NBC. ABC and CBS have afternoon specials, as well.
Morrow spends more than an entire page running through the list of kid-friendly PBS programs. There are dramas like WonderWorks and Degrassi Junior High; “education-as-entertainment” shows like Sesame Street, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood, Reading Rainbow, 3-2-1- Contact, and Shining Time Station; and new programs like Square One TV and CE News Magazine.
The profile of John Goodman is interesting because it describes how drastically his life has changed with the huge success of Roseanne on ABC. He can’t go anywhere without people recognizing him. Yet he’s constantly worrying about his career and the right way to handle his newfound fame.
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 Diahann Carroll’s marriage, Jim Varney’s ancestry, Elizabeth Hurley’s desire to do an American teen movie, Patty Duke’s history of abuse, and more. Alan Carter shares stories about Nina Arvesen, Marcia McCabe, and John Stamos in Soaps. Mel Durslag’s Sports View tackles the upcoming Goodwill Games from Ted Turner and the upcoming Tour de Trump from Donald J. Trump.
Prices from the Video Cassette Report for movies on VHS: The Deceivers ($89.95), J. Edgar Hoover ($79.98), Redneck Zombies ($79.95). Cheers ‘n’ Jeers praises the McDonald’s ad campaign reuniting characters from classic TV shows like Gilligan’s Island and The Beverly Hillbillies, criticizes the networks for too many repeats and pre-emptions early in the strike-delayed season, laments too much merchandising on PBS stations, and applauds third place CBS for turning to quality to improve its fortunes.
Merrill Panitt watched five episodes of China Beach for his review, two more than the minimum required for review purposes. Why? The show intrigued him so much he watched the extra episodes out of “sheer admiration.” He praises casting director John Levey for “fusing his brilliant ensemble cast with actors who play sharply drawn roles in only one or a few episodes.”
“This is not a show for the squeamish,” Pannitt states. “The operating-room and morgue scenes are done as realistically as possible, and they’re sometimes gruesome. Apparently he producers deliberately try to shock viewers into realizing what war is. They succeed.” China Beach is “a remarkable series,” he concludes, “one that has already gained a respectable audience and deserves an even larger one.”
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 three In the News reports this week. 1) Producers are upset with ABC censors, including thirtysomething co-executive producer Marshall Herskovitz, who has simply stopped talking to ABC’s standards and practices department. Alfred R. Schneider, ABC vice-president of policy and standards, defends the network’s position. 2) TV Guide regrets any confusion stemming from a misspelled name in an October 22nd, 1988 article. 3) CBS will spend a week examining Japan in-depth to help viewers understand what the death of Emperor Hirohito means for the country and the world.
On the Grapevine contains three reports this week, one of which is about ABC’s China Beach. The show plans to to incorporate interviews with Vietnam veterans in an upcoming episode.
According to The Ratings Race, the first two installments of the Lonesome Dove miniseries scored high ratings for CBS, potentially reviving both the network miniseries and Westerns on network TV. In fact, the miniseries may become one of the ten highest-rated miniseries of all time. Also, ABC’s January 31st Barbara Walters special earned a 24.3/37 Nielesn rating/share, making it her highest-rated special in four years. And FOX earned its best ratings ever on February 5th with America’s Most Wanted (11.6/17 rating/share) and Married… with Children (10.9/15 rating/share).
[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.]
Four of the eight letters respond to TV Guide‘s Eight Annual J. Fred Muggs Awards, published in the January 7th issue. Here are two:
Bryant Gumbel was awarded “The Peacock Award for Olympic Splendor.” Gumbel is a positive role model for young black males. His impeccable taste in suits requires no apology.
Mary H. M.
You gave Jane Fonda “The Damage-Was-Already-Done Award” for going on 20/.2 to apologize for her 1972 trip to Hanoi. I would suggest that the only absurdity in Fonda’s apology was that she felt it was necessary at all.”
Jeffrey M. M.
Two other letters respond to the January 14th article about the President and the media by Richard M. Nixon . Here’s one:
With all due respect to our former President, isn’t asking Richard Nixon to give George Bush advice on press relations a lot like consulting Mike Tyson about marital relations?
Hermosa Beach, Cal.
See my review of the January 7th, 1989 issue for the Channel Directory to the Toledo-Lima Edition.
- Auto Racing: Daytona 500 (CBS, Sunday at 12 noon)
- [Cable Close Up] Movie: Glory! Glory! (HBO, Sunday at 9PM)
- Grammy Awards (CBS, Wednesday at 8PM)
- Movie: My American Cousin (PBS, Wednesday at 9PM)
- President Bush in Asia (ABC/CBS/NBC/PBS/CNN, various days and times)
Do You Remember…?
Saturday, February 18th, 1989
8PM CBS (11) (2D) (7) (10) (15) DOLPHIN COVE (CC)–Adventure; 60 min.
Trent’s personal project for the dolphins during Michael’s absence seems to be disturbing them, and Didge (Ernie Dingo) ponders where his loyalties should lie. Trent: Nick Tate. Katie: Karron Graves. David: Trey Ames.
9PM CBS (11) (2D) (7) (10) (15) SMOTHERS BROTHERS; 60 min.
Spotlighted: the Kingston Trio, Bob Moore’s Mongrels, music-hall performers Nuts and Bolts, storyteller Geoffrey Lewis, Jim Stafford, arrow catcher Larry Cisewsky and comic Steven Wright. Also, Agent Double-Yo Seven (Tom) matches wits with Yofinger (Lewis).
ABC (24) (2) (6) (7D) (21) MAN CALLED HAWK (CC)–Crime Drama; 60 min.
Hawk aids an old friend, an aging lawyer (Earle Hyman) who’s defending a young man accused of beating another man to death.
10PM CBS (11) (2D) (7) (10) (15) WEST 57TH (CC)–Newsmagazine; 60 min.
Scheduled: A profile of director David Lean includes comments by Omar Sharif and Peter O’Toole, and a look at the restoration of Lean’s film “Lawrence of Arabia.” Also: profiles of two doctors who treat AIDS patients; and a segment on Smart magazine, a bimonthly, New York-based pop-culture publication launched last August.
ABC (24) (2) (6) (7D) (21) MURPHY’S LAW (CC)–Crime Drama; 60 min.
The loft gets a bit crowded as Murphy (George Segal) plays unwilling host to his aunt, a murder-mystery writer fascinated by the macabre; an imperious co-worker dispossessed of everything; and Wes (Josh Mostel), who’s a suspect in a murder. Kimi: Maggie Han.
[Time approximate on Ch. 6.]
Monday, February 20th, 1989
9PM ABC (24) (2) (6) (7D) (21) GIDEON OLIVER (CC)–Crime Drama; 2 hrs.
Debut: Louis Gossett Jr. plays Gideon Oliver, an anthropology professor who calls on his knowledge of cultures to help solve crimes. In the opener, Gideon probes the murder of a woman he once loved, a writer who was investigating pornography, snuff films and Satanism. Zina: Shari Headly.
10PM CBS (11) (2D) (7) (10) (15) ALMOST GROWN–Drama; 60 min.
After Joey (Albert Macklin) saves a drowning boy, he’s buoyed by the resulting publicity and kudos from family and friends. But as the attention ebbs, his self-esteem begins to sink. Suzie: Eve Gordon. Norman: Timothy Daly. Dick: Richard Schaal. Vi: Anita Gilette.
Wednesday, February 22nd, 1989
10PM NBC (13) (35) (4) (4D) (22) (33) NIGHTINGALES–Drama; 60 min.
Yoyo (Roxann Biggs) rekindles an old romance with a childhood sweetheart, now a famous tennis star who faces an uncertain future; Chris (Suzanne Pleshette) has an uneasy reunion when she returns to Garrett’s house to care for his sick son; and Sam (Chelsea Field) gets up the nerve to fight for her daughter. Garrett: Barry Newman. Allyson: Kim Ulrich. Becky: Kristy Swanson. Bridget: Susan Walters. Nurse Ritt: Fran Bennett.
Thursday, February 23rd, 1989
8PM ABC (24) (2) (7D) (21) FINE ROMANCE (CC)–Comedy-Drama; 60 min.
In the French countryside, an auto mishap spawns a tale set during World War II, when downed RAF pilot Michael (Christopher Cazenove) coerces stranded American dancer Louisa (Margaret Whitton to help the Resistance foil German rocket plans.
10PM ABC (24) (2) (6) (7D) (21) HEARTBEAT (CC); 60 min.
Joanne and Leo (Kate Mulgrew, Ben Masters) try to convince a distraught mother that her seriously ill baby should have the same open-heart surgery that resulted in the death of her other child; Eve (Laura Johnson) has a difficult time playing mom to her visiting teenage niece; Marilyn (Gail Strickland) receives signals from a flirtatious man. Cory: Lynn Whitfield. Nathan: Carmen Argenziano. Paul: Darrell Larson. Alice: Julie Ronnie.
Compared to the previous week, there are very few Close Ups in this issue. I wonder why. The articles are mostly the usual mix of profiles and promotion for upcoming programming, with one or two exceptions. The lengthy look at children’s programming is probably the best article. I must’ve watched a lot of public television as a kid because I recognize nearly all of the PBS shows. One show I hadn’t heard prior to reading about it in this issue is Timeline, also on PBS. It sounds truly bizarre.
That’s it for this issue. Check back next week for my review of the February 25th, 1989 issue of TV Guide. As always, hit the comments with any thoughts or reactions.
6 Replies to “A Year in TV Guide: February 18th, 1989”
I remember reading a few of the articles from this week’s issue 30 years ago. The story about “Swimsuit” began with an incident which I wonder how it got past the performers’ & extras’ unions. The director is looking at the setup for a scene, seeing a “t-shirt & shorts-clad towel boy” and tells him, “You’re now a sunbather, so lose the shirt.”. I never saw this movie, so I guess I didn’t take or appreciate the “gift”.
I also remember the article about Ellen Greene, whom I remembered from the movie version of “Little Shop of Horrors”, and how she caused a few difficulties in the production. I never saw this movie either, but I remember seeing either from this article or its listing that it starred Barry Morse & Richard Thomas as father & son evangelists in Waco, TX (where I attended college) of all places. Waco was unfortunately in the news 4 years later for a very different type of evangelism.
This was around the time that Disney’s TV animation was just getting going. It was also when we saw afternoon cartoons showing up, with the Disney Afternoon block starting just a year later. The fantasy trend lasted until the late 90s when Disney started putting out shows like Recess which were more grounded in reality and dealt more with character interaction.
This was also when all three big networks were still running Saturday Morning blocks so the amount of cartoons were abundant.
new to this site but love it
what city edition of tv guide are you using?
Most of the issues are from the Toledo-Lima Edition of TV Guide. I specify the edition at the very top of each review.
Producers are upset with ABC censors, including thirtysomething co-executive producer Marshall Herskovitz, who has simply stopped talking to ABC’s standards and practices department. Alfred R. Schneider, ABC vice-president of policy and standards, defends the network’s position.
ABC got in a lot of hot water because of a episode of “thirtysomething” that had two men talking in bed after having sex. Every group under the sun was upset because ABC didn’t preceded the show with a disclaimer that “viewer discretion” was advised even though the show aired at 10pm eastern.
Things have changed quite a bit in 30 years! Today, shows such as Will & Grace and Brooklyn Nine Nine have gay characters and no one gets upset. Even 8’clock shows like Empire deal with this topic!