A Year in TV Guide: May 6th, 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 #18
May 6th, 1989
Vol. 37, No. 18, Issue #1884
Toledo-Lima Edition

On the Cover (clockwise from top): John F. Kennedy Kr., by UPI/Bettmann Newsphotos; Keshia Knight Pulliam and Bill Cosby, by Mario Casilli; Edwin “Buzz” Aldrin, by NASA, courtesy of Life Picture Service; Carroll O’Connor, by Robert Phillips; Harry Morgan, Mike Farrell and Alan Alda, by Scott Enyart; Desi Arnaz and Lucille Ball; Georgia Engel, Valeria Harper and Mary Tyler Moore, by Albert Watson

  • Scan of the front cover to the May 6th, 1989 issue of TV Guide magazine
    Cover to the May 6th, 1989 issue of TV Guide | Copyright 1989 Triangle Publications, Inc.

The Magazine


This week’s issue includes an astounding 12 articles:

  • Unforgettable TV Moments, by Jeff Greenfield
  • TV That Changed Our Lives, by David Halberstam
  • Test Your TV IQ, by Teresa Hagan
  • How TV Sets Have Evolved, by David Lachenbruch
  • Our TV Hall of Fame, by Alan Carter
  • 50 Years of Soaps, by Alan Carter
  • The Day Lucy Set Fire to Her Nose, by Lawrence Eisenberg
  • 50 Years of News Anchors, by Joanna Elm
  • How TV Numbers Have Shot Up, by Teresa Hagan
  • Our TV Heroes, by Robert MacKenzie
  • 50 Years of Sports, by David Hiltbrand
  • Where TV Is Headed, by Ron Powers

If only every issue of TV Guide was like this one. To celebrate the 50th anniversary of television, TV Guide dedicated an entire issue to looking back at five decades of television, with lists and trivia and articles and more.

“Television is by nature an ephemeral medium,” Jeff Canfield declares. “Yet once in a long while, a television event makes an enduring mark: either because of what we saw on our screens or because it marked a milestone in the history of this medium.” Here are “The Moments You Can Never Forget”:

  • June 8, 1948 – Debut of Texaco Star Theatre on NBC
  • Nov. 18, 1951 – Edward R. Murrow and the first live coast-to-coast TV broadcast
  • Sept. 23, 1952 – Senator Richard Nixon’s famous “Checkers” speech
  • Jan. 19, 1953 – Birth of Little Ricky on I Love Lucy
  • June 7, 1955 – Debut of The $64,000 Question on CBS
  • Nov. 22-25, 1963 – Assassination of President Kennedy and aftermath
  • Feb. 9, 1964 – First appearance of The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show
  • July 20, 1969 – Neil Armstrong takes his first step on the Moon
  • Sept. 5, 1972 – Terrorists take the Israeli Olympic team hostage
  • Jan. 30, 1977 – The final episode of Roots on ABC
  • Nov. 4, 1979 – The U.S. embassy in Iran is seized, starting a 444-day siege
  • Jan. 28, 1986 – The space shuttle Challenger explodes live on TV

David Halberstam suggests the first evidence that television would dramatically change our lives may have been the popularity of Milton Berle in the late 1940s and 1950s. “If that was the first sign, there have been countless others as television has transformed our society politically, culturally, demographically.” Here are six important examples of “TV That Changed Our Lives”:

  • December 1955-December 1956: Martin Luther King and the Montgomery bus boycott
  • September 1956: Elvis Presley goes on The Ed Sullivan Show
  • December 1958: The New York Giants-Baltimore Colts sudden-death NFL title game
  • September 1960: The first Kennedy-Nixon debate
  • August 1965: The coverage of CBS’s Morley Safer of the burning of Vietnamese hutches by American marines in the village of Cam Ne
  • November 1979-January 1981: The Iran hostage drama

Here are some of the questions in Teresa Hagean’s TV quiz:

  • 1. This young actor played Lassie’s owner, Jeff Miller, when the series premiered in 1954. Who is he?
  • 5. During the Watergate hearings, who wanted to know “What did the President know and when did he know it?”
  • 9. What was Lucy Ricardo’s maiden name?
  • 11. On All in the Family, Mike Stivic was an unemployed student. What was his major?
  • 18. What was the Lone Ranger’s real name?
  • 22. What sportscaster celebrated his 11th Olympic telecast at the 1988 Winter Games in Calgary?
  • 25. What was Dr. Ben Casey’s medical specialty?

David Lachenbruch’s look at the evolution of TV sets ends with a preview of what’s to come:

The digital television set is basically a computer that shows television. It can be the heart of a home media center. New digital TVs give you two pictures on the screen (picture-in-picture) if you wish, or they can double the number of lines in the TV picture (improved definition TV), and they’ll lead to the TV of the future, high-definition TV (HDTV), a wide-screen picture with all the detail of a movie.

TV Guide asked a panel of TV luminaries (Fred Friendly, Elton Rule, Fred Silverman, and David Wolper) to help create a TV hall of fame. The four agreed on just two on-air personalities, one reporter and one actor. Here’s the full list:

  • Edward R. Murrow (4)
  • Bill Cosby (4)
  • Lucille Ball (3)
  • Milton Berle (3)
  • Carroll O’Connor (3)
  • Walter Cronkite (2)
  • Barbara Walters (2)
  • Howard Cosell (2)
  • Ted Koppel (2)

Runners-up included Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Mike Wallace, Steven Allen, James Garner, Mary Tyler Moore, and Dick Van Dyke.

Lawrence Eisenberg presents various stories from television’s first five decades, including tidbits about Mike Wallace’s first TV appearance on WBKB in 1946, the cast of Bonanza wearing lifts in their boots, Oprah Winfrey’s first TV job in Nashville in 1973, and more. Joanna Elm’s article about news anchors starts with Douglas Edwards having his tie replaced minutes before going on the air for the first coast-to-coast nightly newscast on CBS in 1951 and ends with a brief mention of Dan Rather wearing a sweater in 1982 and seeing his ratings go up.

Teresa Hogan explores TV statistics. Milton Berle averaged a 61.6 rating and an 81 share during the 1950-1951 season but because only 3.8 million households in the U.S. had television, that meant just 2.3 million households were tuned in. That’s fewer than the least-watched network TV show (2.4 rating and a 4 share) during a recent week.

Robert MacKenzie asks “What Would Matt Dillon Have Thought of Sonny Crockett?” and explores how TV’s good guys and bad guys have evolved over the past 50 years, before asking what the next generation of TV heroes will look like. “The time is undoubtedly ripe for Asian and Hispanic heroes,” he declares. “A gay hero may no longer be unthinkable (but don’t hold your breath), and there are even signs that good-looking guys in nice suits are coming back.”

The final article, by Ron Powers, looks ahead at the next 50 years of TV:

To take the worst-case scenario first: who’s to say that television will not continue its rapid plunge into the American Id? We are already half-anesthetized to the spectacle of protofascist passions being stirred up on our talk shows and to vicious minority-bashing and sexual loathing serve up to cheering audiences on our “respectable” cable comedy showcases. How many more years are we from the “right” to watch voluntary shark-wrestling or a live execution?

Powers has hopes for a different future, one in which decentralization, destabilization and colonization create “a democratic and creatively rich New Age” for television in which dissatisfied viewers, unable to change the industry, become the industry instead. “Technologically and economically, a video ‘Declaration of Independents’ is now possible,” he declares.

I skipped the special 50th anniversary articles about soap operas and sports.


There is no review in this issue.

TV Guide Insider

[TV Guide Insider includes the following features: Grapevine, Soaps, Sports View, Video Cassette Report, and Cheers ‘n’ Jeers.]

TV Guide Insider does not appear in this issue.

The Program Section

[The Program Section includes the following features: TV Guide Plus, Letters, This Week, This Week’s Movies, Four-Star Movies, This Week’s Sports, Channel Directory, Pay-TV Movie Guide, TV Crossword Puzzle, and Horoscope.]

TV Guide Plus

[TV Guide Plus includes the following categories: In The News, On The Grapevine, and The Ratings Race.]

There are four In the News reports this week. One is a lengthy look at the steps NBC took to avoid controversy with its Roe vs. Wade telefilm while another reports the death of Lucille Ball. Also, ABC has all but cancelled Moonlighting, cutting the season short by one episode while NBC’s new vice-president of program standards and community relations is causing headaches for Dream Street creator and supervising producer Mark Rosner.

On the Grapevine contains three reports this week, one of which reveals Michael DeLuise has his father Dom DeLuise in the audience when episodes of NBC’s One of the Boys are taped.

According to The Ratings Race, more women are watching NBC’s Nightingales than men despite the fact the network tried to lure male viewers with “glitzy and suggestive” promos. The show is regularly beating Wiseguy (CBS) and China Beach (ABC) in the Wednesday 10-11PM ET time slot.


[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 seven letters respond to Robert MacKenzie’s “A Busy Person’s Guide to TV” published in the April 8th issue. Here are two:

Does Robert MacKenzie have an age hang-up? First he calls David Brinkley elderly and frail. Then he calls the regulars of 60 Minutes senior citizens eligible for half-price bus fares. Charles Kuralt got off easy. MacKenzie just called him “jowly.”
Gail L. C.
Norristown, Pa.

I’m tired of the critics’ constant whining about what they call the “whining” in thirtysomething. Robert MacKenzie was the latest to overwork the word. The people in thirtysomething are concerned with such subjects as the breakup of a marriage, a failing business, a child in emotional trouble, a parent dying, growing older, being alone. They also savor the beauties of young children, good friends, the possibility of romance. These are not yuppie concerns. They are human concerns, written and acted with compassion and humor.
Francesca B.
Flushing, N.Y.

Channel Directory

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

The Listings

Close Ups

  • Kentucky Derby (ABC, Saturday at 4:30PM)
  • Tennis: Tournament of Champions (ABC, Saturday at 12:30PM/Sunday at 1:30PM)
  • War and Remembrance (ABC, Sunday at 8PM)
  • Movie: Witness (CBS, Sunday at 9PM)
  • Movie: Top Gun (NBC, Monday at 9PM)
  • Head of the Class, “Arvid Takes a Stand” (ABC, Wednesday at 8:30PM)
  • American Playhouse, “A Walk in the Woods” (PBS, Wednesday at 9PM)

Do You Remember…?

Saturday, May 6th, 1989
8:30PM NBC (13) (35) (4) (4D) (22) (33) ONE OF THE BOYS (CC)–Comedy
Ernie (Dan Hedaya) and the kids return earlier than expected from a ballgame, nearly catching Maria Conchita (Maria Conchita Alonso) wearing nothing but Mike’s shirt and a smile.

9PM CBS (11) (2D) (7) (10) (15) JESSE HAWKES (CC); 60 min.
Jesse (Robert Conrad) goes undercover as a hard-nosed Army platoon sergeant to investigate the murder of a general’s son.

ABC (24) (2) (6) (7D) (21) MAN CALLED HAWK (CC)–Crime Drama; 60 min.
A hit man wants to put Hawk (Avery Brooks) on ice when Hawk comes into possession of stolen South African diamonds. Singer Valerie Simpson performs in a cameo.
[Last scheduled show.]

10PM CBS (11) (2D) (7) (10) (15) WEST 57TH (CC); 60 min.
Scheduled: The investigation of eight serial killings in New Bedford, Mass. Also: behind the scenes at the Kentucky Derby.

Monday, May 8th, 1989
8PM CBS (11) (2D) (7) (10) (15) LIVE-IN (CC)–Comedy
Danny (Chris Young) insists it’s his charm that prompts his college-age tutor (Wendy Kaplan) to invite him to a party, where he meets her father and his college-age date.

8:30PM CBS (11) (2D) (7) (10) (15) HEARTLAND (CC)–Comedy
Johnny comes down with a major case of puppy love for a farmer’s daughter, while Casey (Kathleen Layman) is doggedly determined not to care for another family pooch.

NBC (13) (35) (4) (4D) (22) (23) NEARLY DEPARTED (CC)–Comedy
Grant and Claire (Eric Idle, Caroline McWilliams) act as chaperones for Grampa (Henderson Forsythe), who’s going on his first date since his wife died.
[NOTE: This episode did not air.]

Wednesday, May 10th, 1989
8PM CBS (11) (2D) (7) (10) (15) HARD TIME ON PLANET EARTH (CC)–Adventure; 60 min.
Jesse (Martin Kove) is roped into a rodeo after meeting a former champ whose better days are behind him and would prefer saddling up with an old pal who sells cars.
[At press time, it was likely that CBS would air this episode and not the one described in CBS’s ad for the program.]

Thursday, May 11th, 1989
8:30PM NBC (13) (34) (4) (4D) (22) (33) JACKEE (CC)–Comedy
In this spinoff of “227,” Sandra Clark (Jackee) moves to New York to take a bite out of the Big Apple, but for now she’ll take a job as an assistant manager at a health club on the recommendation of her new neighbor Stephanie (Deborah Stricklin).

Final Thoughts

This was easily the most enjoyable issue so far, with its focus on the history of television. There’s even a mention of the very first TV commercial from 1941. Alas, this was a special episode dedicated to the 50th anniversary of TV, so next week’s issue will be back to the regular collection of dull articles and useless profiles of actors and actresses.

That’s it for this issue. Check back next week for my review of the May 13th, 1989 issue of TV Guide. As always, hit the comments with any thoughts or reactions.

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One Reply to “A Year in TV Guide: May 6th, 1989”

  1. Interesting blog post, but there are some typos.

    In the Jeff Canfield quote (2nd paragraph after the list of articles) the phrase “either because of what we saw” has either and what misspelled.

    The David Lachenbrush quote (after TV Quiz) has computer misspelled.

    Those are the only problems I saw. I would enjoy reading the entire issue of TV Guide, I’m sure it’s full of interesting information.

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