The time: 1980! The place: TV Guide! Where the networks showcase the finest programs they currently know how to offer, and an optimistic America looks forward to a time when things will be even better: when computers and televisions merge as one!
"For a nation Touch-Toned, Insta-Cashed and microprocessed for a decade, computers have tended to remain answers in search of questions. And in spite of post-Sputnik promises of technology's building a better tomorrow, the average American's closest encounters with the Space Age have been digital wristwatches, pocket calculators, microwave ovens and Tang.
"All that--along with the nation's television-viewing habits--may change very quickly now...no longer will the commercial networks or PBS have a lock on evening entertainment. Instead, the TV screen will become the standard display unit for a thinking, speaking, remembering, interactive electronic brain that makes the computer Hal in the film '2001' seem not so farfetched after all.
"For example, when baseball season opens this spring, viewers will have the option of tuning into available broadcasts--or playing their own nine innings at home. Hook the $280 Mattel Intellivision unit up to the TV antenna, slip in its $30 baseball cartridge and the home team runs out from the dugout. The pitcher warms up and the players toss the ball around the infield. The solid smack of ash meeting cowhide sounds as the first batter connects with the ball--"
Time out; has this journalist even seen an Intellivision in his life or is he just reciting some information Mattel gave him? Sounds like the latter; he goes on to interview Mattel spokespeople:
"We purposely avoided calling our system a computer," says Mattel Electronics president Jeff Rochlis. "That's been a word with negative connotations. This is a device that will entertain the kids and be a learning aid."
What's interesting is that this would be the same language Nintendo would use five years later, after the video game market crash, when they named their first machine an "Entertainment System" because by then, the word "VIDEO GAME" was negative.
That was more Atari's fault than Mattel's, but still.
YES! This is the kind of thing the investment in a scanner pays off in. If you've never heard of Pink Lady and Jeff, it was even worse than this ad makes it look. In fact, it's been called one of the worst television programs ever made. EVER.
"Pink Lady" was a popular J-pop act in Japan around this time. Their pictures were everywhere on the streets of Tokyo, but no American had heard of them. One scatterbrained NBC exec decided to change that, so he brought them over and made them the stars of their own new variety series. The biggest problem with this? Pink Lady didn't know a lick of English.
Their lines were fed to them, which they robotically recited while standing around awkwardly. Being singers, they were expected to sing, but not their own material. They had to butcher a few late 70's easy listening tunes, which they'd never heard before. (Except for "In the Navy" by the Village People, which they had "borrowed" for one of their own hits in Japan, changing the lyrics to "Pink-a-Laaa-dy!")
What I find even more unbelievable is that NBC actually used the show's most infamous line in the promotional materials.
"Proud as a Peacock," indeed.
The second and last ad for Pink Lady and Jeff. In the listings, however, it's just called "Pink Lady," and there was a reason for this. "And Jeff" was never officially part of the main title; NBC just promoted it in such a way that we'd be led to believe it was. The Japanese music producer who loaned out Pink Lady demanded that this be Pink Lady's show. They were to be the focus, the main hosts, and "Jeff" was supposed to be in the background. He threatened to sue over Jeff's name being in all the promotions.
Of course, NBC had no intention of giving the entire show to two people who no one in this country had heard of. The simplest solution would have been to, maybe, NOT USE people no one had heard of. I guess this didn't occur to them then.
To learn anything else you might want to know about Pink Lady and Jeff, go to this site--NSFW. By NSFW I don't mean it's profane--it's 100% clean. What I mean is that if anyone else in your office EVER catches you viewing a site that looks like this, you're going to have a lot of explaining to do.
"You! You're not Sylvia;
"Ha ha! I punk'd you good!"
By the way, my favorite "robot" episode of anything I've run across so far is this Dukes of Hazzard promo from 1984.
It's even better than it looks; listen to the description: "Rosco loses his job to a robot stolen by thieves planning to frame the ex-sheriff and the Dukes for the robbery of Boss Hogg's bank." How does something like this come together?
"GIVE ME ALL YOUR
"Tarnation! That robot's done gone and robbed our bank!"
"YES, I AM A ROBOT--I MEAN, I AM SHERIFF ROSCO. AND BO DUKE. AND LUKE DUKE. AND POSSIBLY DAISY."
"Oh my golly, it's THEM!"
How far out is the Tim Conway Show? It's so far out, buses don't go there.
Among his sketches: "Horse theft is investigated in a 60 Minutes spoof." It's funny because they're horses, right? Tim also does a televangelist sketch--wow, that hadn't been seen before.
At this point, they were running out of holidays.
Nightline made its debut in 1980. After the same demographic, so did Strawberry Shortcake. You might have noticed Nightline is referred to as "Nighttime" everywhere in this ad but the logo. Is that just an absentminded error or did this show go by another name at one point?
NBC seemed to like the variety show format. Was this as much fun as they're promising? ...Well, there's Pink Lady again; you be the judge. And there must have been some congressional law in the 80's that required every stage-based show in existence to contain an appearance from at least ONE Osmond. Donny was on "Pink Lady," they didn't miss a single one.
I'm going to tone down the snarkiness for a bit and admit that I'd probably watch this one.
As far as Stockard Channing goes, I'm indifferent--I barely even know who that is, but I love TV reporter humor. The adventure/mystery element of tracking down guilty people combined with the comedy of stupid gimmick-filled newscasts is always a winner, at least to me. It's too bad this genre doesn't show up very often, and when it does nobody knows how to handle it properly.
Does anyone remember Pepper Dennis? It starred Rebecca Romaine-Lettuce and aired for 13 weeks on the dying WB. The frequent promos leading up to the show's debut showed Pepper tripping over things and fumbling news reports amid K.T. Turnstall music, and I thought "I'm gonna love this." When the show itself came on, it started out that way, but within minutes the focus turned to Pepper's friendships, Pepper's relationships, and Pepper's love life...and I realized in horror, "IT'S A GIRL SHOW!!" Shoot.
There's been only one more attempt since then. Fox debuted something called Anchorwoman over the summer about a bubbleheaded bleached blonde who comes on at 5--and in typical Fox fashion, it was cancelled within hours of its first and only broadcast. I hear it was a terrible show anyway. Can't anyone pull this off? It's interesting when people die; give me dirty laundry!
It's my sincere hope that this isn't some kind of weird metaphor and that there was an actual giant gorilla on this soap opera.
Fridays is best
described in two words and three letters: "Bad SNL
ripoff." It had a weekly special guest, a weekly musical
guest, weird and topical sketches, drug humor, racist humor, and
"Friday Edition" instead of "Weekend Update."
The thinking was that since it came one day before SNL, and had
the same things, people would abandon SNL for it.
Fridays stayed on longer than it should have, as they were about to compete with SNL's rebooted 1980 cast. Weekend nights were better spent out on the town at this point.
Finally, here's the 1980 ad you've all been waiting for: the official promotion of the "Who Shot J.R." episode of Dallas. Notice how the Dukes get a larger slice of this page than he does. No wonder he looks so angry.
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