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 25th, 1989
Vol. 37, No. 8, Issue #1874
On the Cover: Victoria Principal, by Mario Casilli
This week’s issue includes the following eight articles:
- Behind Dan Rather’s Odd Behavior, by Roderick Townley
- Boxer Frank Bruno’s Secret Weapon, by Alan Coren
- Victoria Principal in “Naked Lie,” by Susan Littwin
- The Best Children’s Shows on Cable, by James Morrow
- Eddie Murphy Comes to Prime Time, by J. David Stem
- Athletes in Ads, by Howard Polskin
- Truth is in TV’s Fiction–Not the Reality Shows, by Thomas Fleming
- A Clown and an Anchorman Take on a Dictator, by Dave Marash
James Morrow tackles cable in the second part of his exploration of children’s television. “The Disney Channel,” he writes, “is like a Disney theme park. It’s safe, respectable and classy. And you pay.” Shows like Dumbo’s Circus and You and Me, Kid are worthy of the Disney name. “But I wish Walt would return from the grave and fire whoever is reediting his old cartoons into music videos.”
HBO’s Encyclopedia “depresses” Morrow. “The tacit message is that human intellectual achievement counts for nothing per se; it needs to be hot-wired, set to music, turned into vaudeville.” He much prefers Fraggle Rock, an HBO production currently airing on TNT. CBN/The Family Channel offers classic TV shows like Green Acres and The Rifleman, plus three original half-hour action shows on weekends: Crossbow, Bordertown, and the low-budget Rin Tin Tin K-9 Cop.
Morrow praises Nickelodeon for offering pre-school programming like Pinwheel. “Yes, it owes its soul to Sesame Street,” he admits, “but at least its creators knew to steal from the best.” Sharon, Lois and Bram’s Elephant Show is “really essential” for pre-school viewers. As for Nickelodeon’s school-age shows, Morrow considers You Can’t Do That On Television the “only clinker” due to lack of humor. Super Sloppy Double Dare and Mr. Wizard’s World are far better.
What’s left after The Disney Channel, CBN/The Family Channel, and Nickelodeon? After-school cartoons. She-Ra: Princess of Power and Ducktales are worth watching, Morrow says. “More typical of the breed, alas, are the crypto-fascist G.I. Joe, the hyperactive Transformers and the noisy and pointless C.O.P.S. Even Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, with its promising put-on of a title, turns out to be just the usual brain-dead writing and frenzied staging.”
Morrow’s advice? Stick with Disney, Nick, and The Family Channel.
He concludes the article with the following:
On the downside, the profusion of high-quality choices may seduce us into over-employing the electronic baby-sitter; too much good TV is still too much TV. On the upside, this cornucopia means that, for the first time since television’s birth, restricting a child’s viewing hours to kidvid does not smack of deprivation. And I think there’s a compelling argument for such a limit–the notion that, when we let kids randomly absorb mainstream adult programming, we make them worldly before their time. I like to think that, used astutely, kidvid can help children steer clear of adulthood until they’re ready for it.
The two-page article about CBS comedy pilot “What’s Alan Watching?” is exactly what I’ve been hoping to find in the pages of TV Guide from 1989. Unfortunately, but perhaps understandably, the focus is on producer and guest star Eddie Murphy, not the pilot itself. “There’s nothing like it on television,” Murphy says of the pilot. “It’s real safe to do a show where you got a funny family and a wisecracking kid and a smart-talking grandparent. There’s room for something different.”
“What’s Alan Watching?” is different. Corin “Corky” Nemec stars as Alan Hoffstetter, a teenager obsessed with watching television. It’s half traditional family sitcom, half skits based on what Alan imagines he’s watching on the TV set in his bedroom. [CBS aired “What’s Alan Watching?” on Monday, February 27th, 1989 but decided against turning it into a regular series.]
The article about Dan Rather’s strange behavior is strange, for lack of a better word. I did learn something new reading it, however: that media psychology is a real field.
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 Linda Ronstadt’s “Canciones de mi Padre” tour, Barbara Howar’s take on Richard Nixon, how even Gregory Hines can trip over his own feet, and more. Alan Carter shares stories about Susan Pratt, Catherine Hicks, and Lane Davies in Soaps. Mel Durslag’s Sports View tackles high-paid baseball players and how the hormone adrenaline is “flowing” whether a team is winning or losing.
Prices from the Video Cassette Report for movies on VHS: The Big Blue ($89.95), Black Eagle ($89.95), Feds ($89.95), A Fish Called Wanda ($89.98), Hero and the Terror ($89.95), Married to the Mob ($89.98), Midnight Run ($89.98), U2 Rattle and Hum ($24.95). Cheers ‘n’ Jeers praises ABC’s Mr. Belvedere for an episode that helps treat children who’ve been abused, applauds the “consistent quality” of 48 Hours on CBS, criticizes ABC’s thirtysomething for too many fantasy sequences, and laments how the ACE awards show turned into a “long-winded orgy of boring acceptance speeches.”
Merrill Panitt reviews the PBS children’s show Long Ago & Far Away, which includes a mixture of fairy tales and folk tales from around the world as well as adaptations of classic children’s books and original scripts. Some of the episodes are cartoons, some are live-action, and others feature clay animation or puppets. James Earl Jones serves as host. Panitt lavishes praise on the show, which he calls “a treat for the ears as well as the eyes.” He hopes children used to mindless cartoons will be able to appreciate “the ancient and respected art of storytelling” and maybe, as the producers envision, crack open a book after watching Long Ago & Far Away.
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 just two In the News reports this week. ABC may move Moonlighting to Sundays when it returns from hiatus in April. The FOX network, buoyed by high ratings for its Sunday line-up, is no longer considered doomed by the television industry and will launch a third night of programming on Mondays in September.
On the Grapevine contains five reports this week. One is about the upcoming NBC drama Dream Street about a group of twenty-something blue-collar workers in New Jersey, from the producers of thirtysomething. “I would not call it an examination of working-class life,” supervising producer Mark Rosner says. “We have simply chosen a group of people who don’t drive Hondas and wear suspenders.” [Dream Street debuted on April 13th, 1989. It ran for six episodes.]
According to The Ratings Race, the debut of B.L. Stryker (a segment of The ABC Monday Mystery Movie), easily beat its competition with a strong 18.8/30 Nielsen rating/share. Also, Lonesome Dove on CBS earned an average 26.1/39 rating/share, the best performance for a miniseries since Master of the Game on CBS in 1984. It ranks 15th on the list of top-rated miniseries of all time.
[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 respond to TV Guide‘s article about Roseanne Barr, published in the January 28th issue. Here they are:
Cheers to Roseanne [“TV’s Battle of the Sexes: With Roseanne It’s No Holds Barred,” Jan. 28]. This is the first really good show since Happy Days and The Beverly Hillbillies.
Roseanne Barr is funny and real–she buys brand-B peanut butter, throws afghans over a worn-out couch and doesn’t have a live-in housekeeper. I hope Barr is able to keep creative control of her show so that it doesn’t become another “Brady Brats” clone.
Oh, I get it. Now, with Roseanne, all the obnoxious fat people in America have a show they can identify with. I’ve had the displeasure of encountering that sort in real life. I’ll pass on Roseanne.
See my review of the January 7th, 1989 issue for the Channel Directory to the Toledo-Lima Edition.
- [Cable Close Up] Boxing: Tyson vs. Bruno (HBO, Saturday at 10PM)
- College Basketball: Illinois at Ohio State (ABC, Sunday at 4PM)
- Murphy Brown, “It’s How You Play the Game” (CBS, Monday at 9PM)
- Movie: From the Dead of Night, Part 1, (NBC, Monday at 9PM)
- [Cable Close Up] NBA Basketball: Pistons at Cavaliers (50D/TBS, Tuesday at 8PM/8:05PM)
- Miss U.S.A. Pageant (CBS, Tuesday at 9PM)
- College Basketball: Indiana at Ohio State (Various Stations, Wednesday at 8PM)
- [Cable Close Up] Movie: Moonstruck (HBO, Wednesday at 8AM and 8PM)
- [Cable Close Up] Movie: Broadcast News (HBO/Showtime)
- The Magic of David Copperfield XI: The Explosive Encounter (CBS, Friday at 8PM)
Do You Remember…?
Saturday, February 25th, 1989
8PM CBS (11) (2D) (7) (10) (15) DOLPHIN COVE (CC)–Adventure; 60 min.
Katie (Karron Graves) deals with an admirer, David (Trey Ames) deals with an adversary and Didge (Ernie Dingo) deals with a dilemma: his family thinks Trent’s estate is on their sacred land, and they consider Didge’s work a betrayal of family tradition. Larson: Frank Converse. Trent: Nick Tate.
9PM CBS (11) (2D) (7) (10) (15) TV 101 (CC); 60 min.
Chuck (Matthew LeBlanc) falls passionately in love for the first time, but his relationship with his girlfriend (Lisa Trusel) goes too far, too fast. Meanwhile, Steadman (Leon Russom) recruits the class to videotape his daughter’s wedding. Part 1 of three. Keegan: Sam Robards. Emilie: Brynn Thayer.
[New day and time.]
ABC (24) (2) (6) (7D) (21) MAN CALLED HAWK (CC)–Crime Drama; 60 min.
After a kidnap attempt on a young boy (Herbert Duarte), his worried parents hire Hawk (Avery Brooks) to protect the family, but the youngster remains troubled emotionally as he comes to understand the motives of his South American pursuers.
10PM CBS (11) (2D) (7) (10) (15) WEST 57TH (CC)–Newsmagazine; 60 min.
Scheduled: The major story concerns Karen Thompson, a Minnesota woman whose attempts to care for her female lover, who was seriously injured in a 1983 car accident, have been rebuffed by the victim’s parents, according to senior producer Tom Yellin. “They don’t want to let the woman [Thompson] next to their daughter,” Yellin says. Also: segments on Smart magazine, a bimonthly pop-culture publication (postponed from an earlier date); and songwriters in Nashville.
ABC (24) (2) (6) (7D) (21) MURPHY’S LAW (CC)–Crime Drama; 60 min.
A bad day for Murphy (George Segal): his socks don’t match, the new vice-president is a dragon lady, and an insurance beneficiary and her lover don’t want Murphy to find out why their benefactor’s ticker stopped ticking. Kimi: Maggie Han. Wes: Josh Mostel. (Repeat)
Sunday, February 26th, 1989
9PM ABC (24) (2) (6) (7D) (21) MOVIE (CC)–Comedy; 2 hrs.
“Get Smart, Again!” reactivates Agent 86 (Don Adams) to try to control KAOS. Based on the 1965-70 series, this 1989 TV-movie also reunites Agent 99 (Barbara Feldon), Hymie (Dick Gautier), Larrabee (Robert Karvelas), Agent 13 (Dave Ketchum), and villains Starker (King Moody) and Siegfried (Bernie Kopell).
Monday, February 27th, 1989
8PM CBS (11) (2D) (7) (10) (15) WHAT’S ALAN WATCHING? (CC)–Comedy; 60 min.
Eddie Murphy pops up in this pilot, which tunes in the TV set of 17-year-old Alan Hoffstetter (Corin “Corky” Nemec), for whom television is an escape from reality. Flipping channels, Alan sees George Carlin, the Smothers Brothers and Shelley Berman in a documentary about Mr. Ed; Alex Trebek in a “Jeopardy!” segment about the Hoffstetter clan; and commercials for “Lenny Kling, the Carpet Kin” (Rob Bartlett), Alan’s soon-to-be brother-in-law–maybe. Mom: Barbara Barrie. Dad: Peter Michael Goetz. Jeff: David Packer.
10PM CBS (11) (2D) (7) (10) (15) ALMOST GROWN–Drama; 60 min.
An eventful 1965 party, where several guys including Norman (Timothy Daly) fought for Suzie’s affection, is recalled by Suzie as she and Norman reunite with their high-school cronies to say goodbye to a friend. Suzie: Eve Gordon. Joey: Albert Macklin.
Wednesday, March 1st, 1989
8PM CBS (2D) (7) (10) (15) HARD TIME ON PLANET EARTH (CC)–Adventure; 60 min.
Debut: Martin Kove plays an alien warrior exiles to Earth, accompanied by a rookie “correctional unit” named Control (voiced of Roger Rabbit’s Charles Fleischer). In the opener, the alien leads authorities on a wild chase after getting his first impression of humans from TV, while Control investigates Los Angeles in order to establish the alien “as quietely as possible.” Karen: Marita Geraghty. Capt. Ralston: Roscoe Orman. DeSalvo: Robert Schenkkan.
10PM NBC (13) (35) (4) (4D) (22) (33) NIGHTINGALES–Drama; 60 min.
Garrett (Barry Newman) expresses his true feelings for Chris (Suzanne Pleshette), but Chris must also deal with conflicting emotions over her ex-husband Paul (new regular Gil Gerard); incidents involving vandalism, medication tampering and murder threats unnerve the hospital staff; and Allyson (Kim Ulrich) makes a bad first impression on a snobbish doctor. Sam: Chelsea Field. Bridget: Susan Walters. Becky: Kristy Swanson. Yolo: Roxann Biggs. Nurse Ritt: Fran Bennett. Megan: Taylor Fry.
[Time approximate on Ch. 35.]
Thursday, March 2nd, 1989
8PM ABC (24) (2) (7D) (21) FINE ROMANCE (CC)–Comedy-Drama; 60 min.
Michael (Christopher Cazenove) is willing to forgive and forget all when told that Louisa (Margaret Whitton) has “a week, maybe two”–the result of her medical records being switched with those of a dead woman whose husband is keeping her on ice until her insurance policy is issued. Friday: Dinah Lenney.
10PM ABC (24) (2) (6) (7D) (21) HEARTBEAT (CC); 60 min.
A construction accident at a grade school requires Joanne and Eve (Kate Mulgrew, Laura Johnson) to crawl through the rubble to help a woman in labor. Leo: Ben Masters. Paul: Darrell Larson. Nathan: Carmen Argenziano. Cory: Lynn Whitfield. (Repeat)
The second part of TV Guide‘s in-depth look at children’s shows is the highlight of this issue. I recognize the names of most of the cable shows mentioned in the article. If there are more articles about TV pilots like “What’s Alan Watching?” in future issues, I’ll be happy.
That’s it for this issue. Check back next week for my review of the March 4th, 1989 issue of TV Guide. As always, hit the comments with any thoughts or reactions.