A Year in TV Guide: February 4th, 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 #5
February 4th, 1989
Vol. 37, No. 5, Issue #1871
Toledo-Lima Edition

On the Cover: Photo montage of upcoming miniseries and specials.

  • Scan of the front cover to the February 4th, 1989 issue of TV Guide magazine
    Cover to the February 4th, 1989 issue of TV Guide | Copyright 1989 Triangle Publications, Inc.

The Magazine


This week’s issue includes seven articles:

  • What’s Coming: Get Ready for a Hot February, by Michael A. Lipton
  • Rumpled and Ready, Columbo Returns! by Peter Falk with Jeff Kaye
  • On Location with Lonesome Dove, by Loren D. Estleman
  • Vanessa Williams in “The Sex Tapes,” by Helen Newton
  • Background: Davy Crockett, by Paul Andrew Hutton
  • PBS Unearths “The New Dinosaurs,” by Neil Hickey
  • Breezy Rider Park Overall, by Jane Marion

This week’s cover article isn’t much of an article. It’s a list of all the February sweeps programming on the networks, including miniseries like Lonesome Dove (CBS) and Dead of Night (NBC), TV-movies like The Hijacking of the Achille Lauro (NBC) and Bridesmaids (CBS), plus special episodes of regular series, specials, and sports.

The Columbo article co-written by Peter Falk includes a sidebar about the famous sleuth’s famous car, a beat-up 1960 Peugeot 403. Sold after the show wrapped production in 1978, it ended up in the hands of a couple who purchase it from an add in Old Cars Weekly. They kindly lent the car to Universal Studios for free.

Helen Newton’s article about NBC’s made-for-TV movie The Sex Tapes ends with the following quote from executive producer Robert Sertner: “Maybe we’re slimebuckets. But if the ratings weren’t high, these projects wouldn’t get made.”

I wanted to be a paleontologist when I was a kid, so of course I read the article about “The New Dinosaurs,” a segment included in the February 8th installment of the PBS series Discover: The World of Science. I skipped the articles about Lonesome Dove and Davy Crockett, plus the brief profile of actress Park Overall.

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 Angela Lansbury’s exercise tape, Estelle Getty and the Queen Mom, Rick Schroder learning to tango, and more. Alan Carter shares stories about Brenda Epperson, Another World head writer Donna Swajeski, and Richard Burgi in Soaps. Mel Durslag’s Sports View tackles the NBA’s plan to combat fights and the reason nobody watches golf on television (it’s too polite).

Prices from the Video Cassette Report for movies on VHS: Dr. Alien ($79.95), The Good Mother ($89.95), Waxwork ($89.98), The Wizard of Loneliness ($89.95). Cheers ‘n’ Jeers criticizes CBS for canceling Raising Miranda, praises Saturday Night Live‘s recent musical guests, boos USA Network for cancelling Night Flight, and applauds the “offbeat imagination” of Alf: The Animated Series on NBC.


Merrill Panitt reviews Murphy Brown, lamenting how “CBS simply has no good place on its schedule where a new sitcom can follow a hit series and inherit a big audience.” If CBS had such a time slot, Murphy Brown would be a ratings leader. Why? Because “the show is put together like a fine watch by creators-producers Diane English and Joel Shukovsky.” Panitt praises star Candice Bergan, the supporting cast, and the scripts. Hopefully, he concludes, “before too long this intelligent comedy will be earning the audience it deserves.”

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 two In the News reports this week. The first discusses a pair of television bills in front of the 101st Congress: one restoring the Fairness Doctrine and the other limiting advertising on children’s programs. The second report examines the controversy surrounding Channel One, a 12-minute news program to be tested in several school districts in March. Why is it controversial? Because it includes two minutes of commercials in each program.

On the Grapevine contains four reports this week. Two are about guest stars. Dick Van Patten will appear in an upcoming episode of Growing Pains as the bigoted manager of a convenience store where Mike Seaver (Kirk Cameron) gets a job. Cleaven Little will show up in the February 9th episode of Dear John.

According to The Ratings Race, both Moonlighting (ABC) and Dallas (CBS) are no longer “impregnable in their time slots.” Both shows have fallen to second place in recent weeks. Also, Super Bowl XXIII (NBC, January 22nd) earned a massive 43.5/68 Nielsen rating/share, placing it 30th on the list of highest-rated programs of all time. Finally, the January 18th episode of The Wonder Years tied the show’s season best (in its regular time slot) with a 16.5/25 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 an article in the January 7th, 1989 issue about the TV networks pushing boundaries. Here are two of them:

In Howard Polskin’s article regarding the broadcast networks’ relaxed standards, producer Steven Bochco is quoted as saying that NBC programming executives are hoping that the producers “won’t behave like children run amok.” But that has already happened. L.A. Law has become Dr. Ruth in a $500 suit. The networks had better regulate themselves, before the audience demands that Congress do it for them [“TV’s Getting Sexier … How Far Will It Go?” Jan. 7].
Roger K.
Duenweg, Mo.

Relaxed standards? Give me a break! The networks excise anything that would offend a backwater fundamentalist. Their goofy euphemisms are enough to make a lexicographer weep. “Edited for television” is their dastardly battle cry. Arched backs? Racy garments? Silhouette shots? Either Howard Polskin is pulling our legs–or he’s just escaped from a monastery.
Jon R.
San Carlos, Cal.

Channel Directory

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

The Listings

Close Ups

  • [Cable Close Up] A Pair of Welterweight Title Bouts (HBO, Saturday at 10PM)
  • Lonesome Dove (CBS, Sunday at 9PM)
  • Movie: Ruthless People (ABC, Sunday at 9PM)
  • [ABC Monday Mystery Movie] Columbo Goes to the Guillotine (ABC, Sunday at 9PM)
  • Presidential Address (ABC/CBS/CNN/C-SPAN/NBC, Thursday at 9PM)

Do You Remember…?

Saturday, February 4th, 1989
8:00PM CBS (2D) (7) (10) (15) DOLPHIN COVE (CC)–Adventure; 60 min.
Delbert’s mysterious ailment makes Katie (Karron Graves) feel uneasy on her first day of school. Meanwhile, David (Trey Ames) looks for work, and Kevin (Antony Richards) celebrates his birthday with the arrival of his father. Larson: Frank Converse. Didge: Ernie Dingo.

9:00PM ABC (24) (2) (6) (7D) (21) MAN CALLED HAWK (CC)–Crime Drama; 60 min.
Hawk (Avery Brooks) goes a few rounds with a determined cop (Jay O. Sanders) when a vengeful ex-con fingers him for the murder of a policeman. Old Man: Moses Gunn.

CBS (11) (2D) (7) (10) (15) SMOTHERS BROTHERS; 60 min.
On tap: Phyllis Diller, singer Jennifer Warnes, ventriloquist Ronn Lucas and his teenage dragon Scorch, illusionist Ed Alonzo, Appalachian fiddler Mike Cross, comic song stylist Jim Stafford and comic Gallagher. Also: the pseudoclassical music of P.D.Q. Bach.

10:00PM CBS (11) (2D) (7) (15) WEST 57TH (CC); 60 min.
Scheduled: Reports on an Arizona company that claims to market inventions; efforts in the Netherlands to combat the problem of AIDS contracted from prostitutes.
[Time approximate on Ch. 11.]

10:00PM ABC (24) (2) (6) (7D) (21) MURPHY’S LAW (CC)–Crime Drama; 60 min.
A grief-crazed claimant out to kill Wes (Josh Mostel) holds Murphy’s co-workers at gunpoint in the insurance office, while Murph (George Segal) copes with a visitor who’s not what he purports to be: a fellow AA member lurching off the wagon. Kimi: Maggie Han.

Sunday, February 5th, 1989
8:00PM ABC (24) (2) (6) (7D) (21) STUDIO 5B (CC)–Drama; 60 min.
Sam (Kim Myers) could be the sacrificial lamb after an actor poses as a sexual surrogate in a news interview; Lionel (Jeffrey Tambor) tries to keep Douglas (George Grizzard) from being put out to pasture Gail (Wendy Crewson) is torn between two possible lovers. Jake: Justin Deas. Woody: William Thomas Jr.

Wednesday, February 8th, 1989
10:00PM NBC (13) (35) (4) (4D) (22) (33) NIGHTINGALES–Drama; 60 min.
Allyson (Kim Ulrich) is hesitant to report the doctor she’s dating after a patient almost dies because of his negligence; Becky (Kristy Swanson) has had enough of L.A. after she’s attacked by a mugger in a parking lot; Chris (Suzanne Pleshette) goes apartment hunting when the hospital finds a replacement for her at Nightingale House. Garrett: Barry Newman. Yolo: Roxann Biggs. Bridget: Susan Walters. Sam: Chelsea Field. Nurse Ritt: Fran Bennett.

Thursday, February 9th, 1989
8:00PM ABC (24) (2) (7D) (21) FINE ROMANCE (CC)–Comedy-Drama; 60 min.
Louisa’s ploy to land a table at a crowded restaurant lands Michael (Christopher Cazenove) in hot water with the CIA, which considers him a Soviet spy, and with the KGB, which suspects he’s a lousy spy. Louisa: Margaret Whitton. Friday: Dinah Lenney.

Friday, February 10th, 1989
10:00PM NBC (13) (35) (4) (4D) (22) (23) UNSUB (CC)–Crime Drama; 60 min.
A protege of Ned’s accompanies Ned and Tony (M. Emmet Walsh, Joe Maruzzo) to British Columbia for a shot at a rape-murder case in which the victim was a preteen boy. Westy: David Soul. Norma: Andrew Mann. Alan: Kent McCord. Ann: Jennifer Hetrick.

Final Thoughts

The most interesting thing about this issue is the incredible number of advertisements it contains. And not just for network prime-time programming. There are full-page ads for daytime soap operas Another World (NBC) and One Life to Live (ABC) as well as syndicated, cable, and local programming. Why all the ads? The start of February sweeps, I assume.

That’s it for this issue. Check back next week for my review of the February 11th, 1989 issue of TV Guide. As always, hit the comments with any thoughts or reactions.

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3 Replies to “A Year in TV Guide: February 4th, 1989”

  1. Is Trump writing your articles? Certainly TV Guide had a proofreader so they wouldn’t print the phrase “follow a hist series and inherit a bid audience”! Spellcheck might not correct “bid” since it is a real word, but certainly they wouldn’t miss “hist”!!!

    1. Yikes. Spellcheck missed both typos and I didn’t catch them during my final proofreading pass. I’ve corrected them. Thanks.

  2. According to The Ratings Race, both Moonlighting (ABC) and Dallas (CBS) are no longer “impregnable in their time slots.” Both shows have fallen to second place in recent weeks.

    Cybill was a maternity leave and Bruce was shooting Die-hard and the viewers were stuck with booger and the receptionist. “Dallas” was beginning it’s death march.

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