Monday, January 19, 2015

1980's Television Retrospective: 1985 - 1986.

There was no better decade for prime-time television than the 1980's. In this series of retrospective articles, I hope to share my love of this televised decade with you. Perhaps I'll jog your memory of a hit from the past. Better yet, maybe I'll introduce you to something new to watch! In this series, I'll be analyzing each year of the decade in no particular order.

Tonight, I'll start with the 1985 - 1986 season.

Here's the rundown of each network by day, along with my comments. Please note that this list will not include news programs, sporting events, network broadcasts of feature films or made for television movies. Also, the Fox Network had yet to make its premiere, so you won't see any listings for them. If a program moved around the schedule within the season, I'll only mark it once with the day it premiered originally.

Punky Brewster


ABC - Ripley's Believe It or Not, MacGyver,
CBS - Murder She Wrote, Crazy Like a Fox, Trapper John, M.D.
NBC - Punky Brewster, Silver Spoons, Fathers and Sons, Amazing Stories, Alfred Hitchcock Presents

  • As a kid, the two big ones for me were MacGyver and Punky Brewster. I followed both programs and watched them faithfully. To be honest, I probably had a small crush on Punky (who didn't?). Who thought a program about an orphaned girl would be so darn appealing? As to MacGyver, he was the MAN! I can remember trying to guess every week what devices he'd cook up in the episode. It premiered in the fall of 1985, went on for seven seasons and two made-for-television movies. MacGyver went down as one of the most successful shows of the 1980's.

Cagney and Lacey


ABC - Hardcastle and McCormick
CBS - Scarecrow and Mrs. King, Kate & Allie, Newhart, Cagney & Lacey
NBC - TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes, You Again?, Valerie

  • There really wasn't much for me to watch as a kid on Monday nights this season. In terms of '80s TV nostalgia, this night has come to be known as "The Night of And's". You can obviously see why. TV's Bloopers and Practical Jokes was decent. I recall watching it for the animated segments drawn by MAD Magazine's very own Sergio Aragones! As I've grown older, though, I've come to like and appreciate Newhart. Cagney & Lacey was a program I watched occasionally, but don't remember too much of it. It's great to watch in reruns, though. Interesting fact -- in the first season of Cagney and Lacey, Meg Foster (They Live) originally portrayed Cagney. She was replaced after the first season by the fantastic Sharon Gless because CBS's executives thought Foster gave off too much of a lesbian vibe. Times sure have changed for the better in that department!

The A-Team


ABC - Who's the Boss?, Growing Pains, Perfect Strangers, Moonlighting, Our Family Honor, Spenser: For Hire 
CBS - Hometown, Stir Crazy, Melba, Charlie & Co., Mary, Foley Square, The Equalizer
NBC - The A-Team, Riptide, Hunter, Remington Steele, Stingray

  • Tuesday night was one of the best nights on television during the 1985-1986 season. I had tons of great shows to watch, but there was always a tough decision to make at 8 PM -- do I watch Who's the Boss? or The A-Team? Usually, The A-Team won out if I had any control over the television remote (that wasn't always the case). I can remember my mother not caring for The A-Team very much, but it wasn't a huge loss. To this day, I think Tony Danza is highly under-rated as an actor. Perfect Strangers was a show I can remember being very fond of, but not at this point. It premiered with a short six-episode run in the spring of 1986 before it found its way to Friday night in 1988. There, Perfect Strangers would go on to become a fan favorite with TGIF! In terms of greatness, though, the best show was by far the new series The Equalizer. Many times, I would sneak into the hallway and try to watch this from afar without getting caught by my parents. As I grew older, I was allowed to stay up later and watch it -- particularly with my grandpa when I stayed overnight with my grandparents! Robert McCall stands proudly in the pantheon of great television characters, in my opinion. The stellar performance by Edward Woodward turned me into a lifelong fan of his work. Moonlighting was a series I didn't watch until I was much older, but it's an instant romantic-comedy classic in a time before rom-com's were at thing.



ABC - The Insiders, Dynasty, The Hotel
CBS - Fast Times, West 57th, Tough Cookies, Crazy Like a Fox, Airwolf
NBC - Highway to Heaven, Hell Town, Blacke's Magic, Gimme a Break!, St. Elsewhere

  • Wednesday was sort of the bummer night during this season. Not much aired that I liked except for Airwolf , but I rarely got to see it because it was on at 10PM. I watched a lot of Highway to Heaven, though I didn't like it as a kid. As a teenager, I came appreciate the sincerity of the program and grew to like it during syndication. I remember Gimme a Break! distinctly for Nell Carter, a fine comedic actress in her own right. Gimme a Break! is also where successful actor Joey Lawrence hit it big as a child star.

Simon & Simon


ABC - The Fall Guy, Lady Blue, Shadow Chasers, The Colbys
CBS - Magnum, P.I., Simon & Simon, Bridges to Cross, Knot's Landing
NBC - The Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers, Night Court, Hill Street Blues

  • Thursday was another very difficult evening to watch television. At 8PM during the fall, you had The Fall Guy going up against Magnum, P.I.! Talk about difficult to choose. Many times, I can recall flipping back and forth between the two programs because I loved them both so much. Ten minutes here, then minutes there -- I'd work up a sweat just trying to keep up. Thankfully, both shows would be repeated on other nights throughout the week, so I could catch up if I missed something. Simon & Simon aired in the Magnum, P.I. slot during the spring, but it didn't make the choice any easier. I loved all three programs. As luck would have it, Simon & Simon was very successful in syndication, so I saw many of the episodes I missed previously. Hands down, it's one of the best private detective shows ever produced. Cheers and Night Court were also programs I watched fairly regularly. Obviously, Cheers went on to become the most successful series of the 1980's. The Cosby Show, believe it or not, wasn't something that appealed to me at all -- and it still doesn't. Considering how popular it was, my sentiment is certainly in the minority. Maybe I just don't get its vibe.

Knight Rider


ABC - Webster, Mr. Belvedere, Diff'rent Strokes, Mr. Sunshine, Benson, He's the Mayor, Joe Bash, The Love Boat
CBS - The Twilight Zone, Leo & Liz in Beverly Hills, Dallas, Falcon Crest
NBC - Knight Rider, Misfits of Science, The Last Precinct, Miami Vice

  • WHOA! In the 1980's, Friday night was not a death slot where TV shows went to slowly die like today. I usually watched (geeked out over) Knight Rider unless it was a rerun, to which I then watched Webster and Mr. Belvedere. For some reason, I don't believe I was even aware of The Twilight Zone as a kid, which was a real pity. The '80s revival series was a great one and still holds up if you watch it today. While I didn't watch them, both Dallas and Falcon Crest were huge programs that dominated the ratings. Perhaps the biggest of all the programs shown on Friday was Miami Vice, which has come to epitomize much of what the '80s represents. Miami Vice didn't really appeal to me as a kid, either. I wouldn't appreciate it until later on in syndication, when I was older.

The Golden Girls


ABC - Hollywood Beat, The Redd Foxx Show, Mr. Sunshine, Lime Street, Lady Blue, Fortune Dane 
CBS - All Repeats
NBC - The Facts of Life, The Golden Girls, 227, All Is Forgiven, Hunter

  • Saturday was usually the day networks would broadcast repeats of their programs from earlier in the week. This gave folks like me the chance to catch up on shows that I'd missed due to competition or a bed time (Magnum, P.I., Fall Guy, Airwolf, etc.). Though, NBC premiered a massive hit that went on to win many awards over the course of seven seasons -- The Golden Girls. While I didn't appreciate it in its first-run, The Golden Girls became a show I watched later on in syndication. I was just too young to "get it" at the time. While not something I made a point to watch, my grandma absolutely LOVED Hunter. It seems like she screamed commands at the show every time she watched it. Look out, Hunter!

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