As some people know, I've become relatively intense when it comes to hoarding archiving media of all kinds, and recently that means '70s and '80s TV shows, cleaning out all the box sets I can find from Goodwill and antique stores and ripping them. For some time Natalie and I have been toying with the idea of taking a day from a random '80s TV Guide and watching that day in TV shows.
In the last few weeks, we've also started to listen to Ken Reid's excellent TV Guidance Councillor podcast, and have decided there's no time like the present. And in fact, driven by Reid's format, we decided to do a whole week. We pretty much pre-planned the whole week, though in some cases I wasn't able to get the exact episode of a show, so we had to make due with something else from the series. We also decided to stick to the 3 major networks, since that's all either of us knew, living in the sticks and all.
We started with Saturday, January 7, 1984, with TJ Hooker, The Love Boat with Charo, and Fantasy Island with Vic Tayback, Katherine Helmand and Richard Hatch. Natalie decided she likes TJ Hooker, and so we'll hunt down more of those even though I killed the show because I tend to immediately ID "The Guy". Whoops. We just chose a Charo episode of Love Boat because I couldn't get the one from the day, and Charo is delightful at all times. We need more Charo.
On Sunday, we stuck largely with sitcoms, since we've seen things like the Knight Rider episode from that day. So it was Ripley's Believe it or Not, Alice, One Day at a time, and the Jeffersons. Ripley's and Alice were both harder to find than I would have thought. We had to settle for like the second episode of Alice, and just any Ripley's I could find.
Monday was a mix, starting with That's Incredible, then Newhart and Emerald Point N.A.S. Emerald Point /should/ have been an awesome show. Within the first 3 minutes you've got: MacGyver O'Neill. Crashing an F-14. Into a Cuban. How can that fail? By making it a soap opera, that's how.
Tuesday NBC took it all. A-Team, Riptide, Remington Steele. Natalie does like a good crime-fighting buddy-show, so there really wasn't any contest. I couldn't get excited about a late-season Three's Company or Happy Days.
Wednesday got us to hit ABC for The Fall Guy, then back to default NBC for a Very Special Facts of Life, Night Court and St. Elsewhere. As I remember, all Facts of Life were very special.
Thursday night was another NBC sweep. Gimme a Break!, Family Ties, Cheers, Buffalo Bill and Hill Street Blues.
Friday, ABC rounded it out with Benson and Blue Thunder, which we kind of loved. It was our second 'Copter-Based show after Riptide, and had me yelling at the TV most of the time.
We opted for Episode 1 of Blue Thunder, since the schedule had us watching Ep 2, and figured we'd start at the top. A maniac with a pre-Vietnam era light observation aircraft was flying over We-Can't-Call-This-LA shooting down police helicopters and even strafing the funeral of one of the pilots he killed. Obviously the answer to this isn't "send up two fighter jets immediately after the first incident to knock him out", it's "Regular LAPD cops need a stealth helicopter with a goddamn gatling gun mounted on it to fly silently around and light up bad guys". There was some confusion over organizational affiliation, since everything points to these guys being regular cops (right up to the annoyed Captain yelling "CHHHHEeeeneyyyyy!"), except Butkis or Bubba Smith were all "Freeze, Federal Agents". On the other hand, who cares, all I know is Darryl Gates would have given his right eye for one of these things in 1992.
So far, likes and dislikes:
As I mentioned, Natalie loves her some buddy-shows and dumb action and so she definitely wants more TJ Hooker, Hardcastle and McCormick and Remington Steele. Natalie also remembered how much she liked The Jeffersons and Newhart, though she was kind of "meh" on One Day at a Time. For that one, we watched both the "current" episode, and the first episode of the series, since this was the last season, and wasn't really "representative' in my mind. I think I'd get more Alice if we can. For as popular a show as it was, it seems pretty hard to find. Similarly, Benson and Webster, long running show, stupidly hard to get.
On the other hand though, Emerald Point Naval Air Station. Wow. Just. Jeez. I think Richard Dean Anderson had to do MacGyver and Stargate SG-1 just as penance for the existence of this show. I can't say for sure that the debt has been fully repaid.
Ripley's Believe it or Not and That's Incredible are kind of hard to find, and that's a shame, since we live in The Future and so it was fun to go look up the people on those shows for a "Where are they Now" running commentary between us.
This kid had a pretty decent career at one point.
This week of TV really does show how much we just wanted to be entertained in the '80s, versus everything having to be Real and Gritty as it is now. Sure there was Hill Street Blues, but there was also Magnum, Riptide and Hardcastle and McCormick. We weren't weighed down with SVU type bummers every week. I saw an analyst who chalks this up to Vietnam. In the same way that Magnum, coming back from Vietnam didn't want to process it, and chose instead to live as a large child for a little while, so the US chose to amuse ourselves with dumb escapism.
I can't say I disagree with that theory, since I'm basically doing just that right now. I'll take my Cylons toaster-headed and shelve the HD Edward James Olmos version until happier times.