A Year in TV Guide: December 16th, 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 #50
December 16th, 1989
Vol. 37, No. 50, Issue #1916
Toledo-Lima Edition Edition

On the Cover: Lucille Ball; Neil Patrick Harris, by Mario Casilli

  • Scan of the front cover to the December 16th, 1989 issue of TV Guide magazine
    Cover to the December 16th, 1989 issue of TV Guide | Copyright 1989 Triangle Publications, Inc.

The Magazine


This week’s issue includes nine articles:

  • Neil Patrick Harris of Doogie Howser, M.D. by Bill O’Hallaren
  • Would-be Doogie Howsers? by Dawn Hudson
  • Christmas Memories by Wynton Marsalis
  • The Holiday Evergreens We Never Grow Tired of by Kenneth Turan
  • Lucy’s Lost Christmas Episode, by Ileane Rudolph
  • A Prince Film Festival Comes to TV, by John Milward
  • William Shatner of Rescue 911, by Lawrence Eisenberg
  • The NFL Broadcast Booth: Enter at Your Own Risk by Melvin Durslag
  • Terry Rohe of Good Morning America, by Jane Marion

After almost an entire year, there’s finally an all-too-brief article in this issue that truly fits with the Television Obscurities brand. Ileane Rudolph reveals that the so-called “lost” Christmas episode of I Love Lucy, aired just once in December 1956, was actually rediscovered in 1981 by Bart Andrews.

An expert on Lucille Ball and a consultant for NBC’s Television: Inside & Out, Andrews learned of the episode while researching a book about I Love Lucy. The show’s producer, Lawrence Einhorn, was able to secure permission from CBS to use a few minutes in an episode of Television: Inside & Out that aired on December 19th, 1981. Roughly 18 seconds from the episode also aired during the April 27th episode of The Today Show the day after Lucille Ball’s death.

Still, for fans of Lucille Ball and I Love Lucy, watching the Christmas episode on CBS in prime time on December 18th will be a new experience. What else is missing from I Love Lucy? The original unaired pilot episode. “We were told for years that Desi Arnaz had a copy under his bed,” explained Bart Andrews. “But when he died, there was no sign of the film. That’s the only thing that is truly lost and that we’d all kill to see.”

I skimmed the cover article about Neil Patrick Harris, star of Doogie Howser, M.D. as well as the brief essay about how unrealistic the show is.

The two-page “The Scoop” profile of William Shatner includes several stories about how the actor is not very heroic, including the tale of his experience sky-diving (he screamed the whole way down). He doesn’t mind being known as Captain Kirk, explaining “there’s nothing untoward that could happen to me as a result of Star Trek that would mitigate the joy that I’ve had.”

I skipped the article filled with Christmas memories from Wynton Marsalis, the one-page article about Cinemax’s Prince film festival, the article about the NFL broadcast booth, and the one-page “The Scoop” profile of Terry Rohe.

TV Guide Insider

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

Lawrence Eisenberg’s Grapevine includes tidbits about Fred Dryer executive-producing Hunter, the corset Marina Sirtis wears as Deanna Troi on Star Trek: The Next Generation, Julia Duffy’s plans for life after the end of Newhart, and more. Alan Carter shares stories about Elizabeth Dennehy, trivia card game Soap Opera Challenge, and how NBC dealt with rape on Days of Our Lives in Soaps. Mel Durslag’s Sports View tackles why the NBA saw ratings growth throughout the 1980s.

Prices from the Video Cassette Report for movies on VHS: Cutting Class ($89.95), Obsessed ($89.95), Shag ($89.99), Third Degree Burn (N/A), Traveling Man ($89.99), When Harry Met Sally ($89.98), The Winds of War ($139.95). Cheers ‘n’ Jeers laments commercials for Breakfast with Barbie cereal, praises HBO’s useful holiday special “Buy Me That!”, criticizes ABC for airing a promotional spot for Small Sacrifices during an episode of Roseanne featuring a dream sequence in which Roseanne kills her family, and applauds MTV’s The Big Picture as “the best of TV’s current plethora of movie magazines.”


Robert MacKenzie reviews NBC’s Baywatch, a show that is “eye-appealing, brain-numbing and leaves one feeling vacant and pacified.” It’s hard to take the show seriously, he says, but wonders if landlocked viewers may enjoy it. “I do find the cleaned-up, surf-city scene in Baywatch rather tame compared to the real thing,” MacKenzie concludes. Maybe the show’s producers didn’t think viewers would accept the “otherworldly spectacle” of Venice Beach.

The Program Section

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

TV Guide Plus

[TV Guide Plus includes news reports.]

There are eight news reports this week. The first examines how ABC’s World News Tonight overtook CBS Evening News in the ratings.

Other reports: Hugh Wilson fears his new CBS sitcom The Famous Teddy Z will be cancelled soon; Jill Clayburgh refuses to accept feminist roles; NBC is looking for a host for its new, expanded NFL Live! show; Scott Bakula shares his experience playing a woman on Quantum Leap; TV violence continues to decline; Arsenio Hall forced Coca-Cola to agree to support his causes before appearing in a commercial; and Kara and Kimberly Albright will replace Morgan and Whitney White on Knots Landing, playing Meg MacKenzie.


[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.]

Two of the seven letters respond to an article about Gil Gerard published in the November 25th issue. Here they are:

I think it’s high time Hollywood realized that people come in all shapes and sizes [“Gil Gerard: MY Weight Cost Me $1 Million in TV Roles,” Nov. 25]. If someone has talent, it shouldn’t matter whether they’re a size 6 or size 16.
Sharon D. P.
Melrose Park, Pa.

Only when large people campaign to eliminate weight bias in programming can overweight TV stars–and we who watch, love and support them–truly feel like the normal, intelligent and reasonably attractive people we are.
John Howard
Lansing, Mich.

The Collins Report

[The Collins Report–written by columnist Monica Collins–appears every two weeks.]

Collins explains why holiday episodes can be tricky to pull off. “Santa Claus is always a star,” she writes. “Religious storylines are acceptable. But any religious tale must be diluted down for a mass audience so as not to cause offense to any member of that audience who does not share that belief.”

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] Movie: Age-Old Friend (HBO, Saturday at 8PM)
  • Bob Hope: Christmas in Hawaii (NBC, Saturday at 10PM)
  • I Love Lucy Christmas (CBS, Monday at 8:30PM)
  • Christmas in Washington (NBC, Monday at 10PM)

Do You Remember…?

Saturday, December 16th, 1989
8:30PM ABC (24) (2) (6) (21) LIVING DOLLS (CC)–Comedy
With Trish away, her sister Marion (Marion Ross) comes to help out, most immediately with Martha (Alison Elliott), who’s unaware that working for an escort service may not be the best way to help her suddenly unemployed father.

9PM ABC (24) (2) (6) (7D) (21) B.L. STRYKER (CC)–Crime Drama; 2 hrs.
Stryker (Burt Reynolds) is hired to protect a TV comic someone is trying to lower the curtain on. Ted McGinley returns as B.J.’s would-be partner Mitch Slade.

Sunday, December 17th, 1989
7:00PM FOX (36) (28) (50D) (55) BOOKER (CC)–Crime Drama; 60 min.
Booker (Richard Grieco) finds himself facing off against his childhood idol, a pugnacious hockey star who’s trying to make a comeback on a Teshima-owned team.

8PM NBC (13) (35) (4) (4D) (22) (33) ANN JILLIAN (CC)–Comedy
Ann (Ann Jillian) is asked out for the first time since her husband’s death, but she may not be ready to plunge into the dating pool just yet.

ABC (24) (2) (6) (7D) (21) FREE SPIRIT (CC)–Comedy
Thomas (Franc Luz) leaves the house on a stormy night to be a guest on a radio talk show, setting off a storm within Gene (Edan Gross), who’s been having nightmares about losing his father.

8:30PM NBC (13) (35) (4) (4D) (22) (33) SISTER KATE (CC)–Comedy
Freddy’s father Nick (Dan Hedaya) pays a visit while on furlough from prison. A saint Nick ain’t, but he makes Christmas memorable.

ABC (24) (2) (6) (7D) (21) HOMEROOM (CC)–Comedy
Darryl (Darryl Sivad) lets Lisa (Daphne Lyn Jones) direct her contest-winning play, but the real drama takes place behind the scenes when director and star have a falling-out.
[Postponed from an earlier date; last show.]

9:30PM FOX (5) (61) OPEN HOUSE (CC)–Comedy
Ted (Philip Charles Mackenzie) begs the most unlikely woman to play the part of the wife his visiting mother (Marian Mercer) expects to meet. (Repeat)

Monday, December 18th, 1989
9PM FOX (36) (28) (50D) ALIEN NATION (CC)–Drama; 60 min.
Sikes (Gary Graham) learns that the officer investigating a break-in at Cathy’s lab is a phony, while George (Eric Pierpoint) wrestles with his hazy recognition of two murder victims; and both partners wrestle with the presence of a psychologist doing officer profiles.

Thursday, December 21st, 1989
9PM CBS (11) (2D) (7) (10) (15) ISLAND SON (CC)–Drama; 60 min.
Christmas brings sad tidings as bubonic plague breaks out among street people working as elves in a charity scam, and Kenji (Clyde Kusatsu) and his wife face a future without children after she loses a baby.

Friday, December 22nd, 1989
9PM NBC (13) (35) (4) (4D) (22) (33) TRUE BLUE (CC)–Drama; 60 min.
A boy is trapped on the ledge of a bell tower, 25 stories up. Meanwhile, as the ESU cops deal with a disgruntled man holding hostages inside a building he’s threatening to blow up, a pregnant woman trapped inside the building’s elevator goes into labor.

10PM NBC (13) (35) (4) (4D) (22) (33) MANCUSO, FBI (CC)–Crime Drama; 60 min.
Mancuso and Kristen (Robert Loggia, Lindsay Frost) try to make the case that a corrupt lawyer is connected with the disappearance and possible murder of an undocumented alien. Meanwhile, Jean’s ex-husband, an aging pro-football player, throws her emotions for a loss.

Final Thoughts

Although I wish the article about the “lost” Christmas episode of I Love Lucy was longer, it was easily one of the most interesting articles I’ve come across during my journey through the pages of TV Guide in 1989. With the holiday season underway, there were plenty of specials and special episodes airing this week on TV, yet viewers still had the opportunity to watch new episodes of most shows.

That’s it for this issue. Check back next week for my review of the December 23rd, 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: December 16th, 1989”

  1. Let’s clear the air about the so-called lost Lucy! It was always in possession of CBS, but held back for 33 years for 2 reasons: [1] CBS felt a Christmas episode was inappro for non-holiday broadcast and [2] since it was made up of old clips, it was considered redundant! Today with so many clip shows on the air, CBS has no problem with this episode now and in fact it runs again this Friday!

  2. PS about the other lost Lucy: It was actually owned by a clown who appeared in this episode and it ran on CBS in 1991! That episode is available on DVD!

  3. One line that made me curious on the cover was “ooh, those Hollywood girls!” We all know now that Neil Patrick Harris is gay, so my question is did Harris know then he was gay or was there a cover-up by ABC and/or Fox?

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