Saturday, September 18, 2021

Weekend Post

 

I talked about this yesterday -- NBC Week.  Today I thought I'd go into more depth.  

The networks are rolling out their new fall shows.

I think.

The premieres are scattered; some not even airing in their regular time slots. Or they premiere and are re-run later that same week. Or re-run on a sister cable network.

Some shows premiered in August. Others will debut after the World Series (which is now what, Christmas?).

And many shows now have two premieres. This is primarily a cable convention. A series is on for six weeks in the summer and then returns in January.

A few network series don’t even premiere on television. They get sneak previewed online. I once got a DVD of some new show in my ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY.

And the notion of the Fall Season itself is becoming antiquated. Shows are premiering all year long. What’s a TV nerd to do?

This is understandable, of course. With the current dizzying number of channels and series, anything conventional or unconventional a network can do to scare up an audience is good programming.

But what’s lost in all of this is the “event” status that the Fall Season used to have. Back in the Pleistocene Era when there were just three networks (there’s a real good book about life in the ‘60s written by… oh wait – that’s my book). Shows premiered only twice a year – the Fall and Mid-Season (January). New programming in the summer was either “Failure Theater” (airing the pilots they didn’t pick up) and variety shows hosted by guys hoping to snare a regular slot (some like Johnny Cash made it, others like John Gary didn’t).

There was great anticipation for the Fall Season. Promos ran all summer. And by promos I mean fifteen seconds, not the movie trailers we see today.

By September we were whipped into an utter frenzy. Only two weeks left before the world premiere of CAMP RUNAMUCK! How will I last that long?  After a summer of interminable reruns, suddenly there was NEW STUFF again! Oh, the joy!

Of the three networks, no one did premieres better than NBC. First off, you have to really use your imagination to picture NBC as a major influential network but it once was. And they billed their rollout as NBC WEEK. All of their shows – new or returning – premiered over one seven-day period in mid-September. You knew the date as well as your birthday.

They also offered a written program – like a yearbook – that you could send away for. Uber geek that I was (am) I used to send away for that sucker every year. There were big color pictures of all their new shows. Wow! PLEASE DON’T EAT THE DAISIES! I would pore through those pages with awe and wonder. 90 BRISTOL COURT – three sitcoms set in the same complex. What a concept!! (Forget that two were canceled by January.)
In a way, I think the anticipation made the shows seem better than they actually were. I call this the “Dark Knight Rises Syndrome.” But there were usually enough cool new shows that NBC WEEK was never a disappointment. It’s not like the Oscars.

Today I don’t even bother to watch premieres. Most are so dreadful anyway. Kristen Bell moves into a neighborhood of space aliens. No thanks. If a show is good and gets decent buzz I will catch up with ON DEMAND or find it online. But I miss the days when the Fall Season was important to me. On the other hand, spending an afternoon studying a glossy multi-page brochure for NBC WEEK is the true definition of “Get a Life.”

41 comments :

TroyDeVolld said...

And the jingles! "Let's All Be There" is still seared into my brain.

Steve Bailey said...

I still remember the "Thi-is Fa-all, NBC HAS IT ALL!" from (I think) 1971.

Rays profile said...

Actual slogan: "NBC Week! A week so great it lasts eight days!" (Two Sundays)

Lemuel said...

I liked when ABC used Burt Bacharach's "Nikki" for their promos. Or maybe I'm remembering it wrong.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

On a conferencing system I use, the TV conference has a topic in which one indefatigable user posts, every week, the list of "new this week" shows. In two sections: By the season, and By the episode. Every week.

wg

thomas tucker said...

What I eagerly anticipated and pored through was the big, fat TVGuide edition that discussed all the new shows.

Chuck said...

@thomas tucker: I was going to post the same thing. The TVGuide Fall Preview. All those exciting, glossy photos. As a kid I actually kept a notebook log of all the prime time shows I watched and gave them *star ratings. I was a bit weird. But I sure did love those big 3 networks back then. And yes, those network preview shows were a "can't wait!" How did Archie and Edith put it? "Those were the days."

Craig Gustafson said...

“Failure Theater”
They didn't always go for similarity of programming. I vividly remember the year that the summer replacement for "The Jackie Gleason Show" was Patrick McGoohan's "The Prisoner."

Gary said...

The main thing I remember about the new show promos was that seeing them meant school would be starting soon. This horrible feeling pretty much cancelled out any excitement about new TV shows.

Dana King said...

I feel much the same about most of the changes in baseball over the past twenty years.

Elf said...

As I recall the story told to me, the only reason shows premiered in the fall was because automobile manufacturers sponsored programs and would bring out their new car models in the fall. So by combining their big ads with new shows, they'd get maximum exposure.

Now if we could get Apple, Samsung and Google to all release their new phones at the same time we might be able to get back to the traditional Fall TV season model.

gottacook said...

There used to be annual ad campaigns energetically promoting the fall lineups of the broadcast networks, with original jingles (I remember one from the late 1970s: "This year like last year / The best is right here / on CBS"). Later, preexisting songs were adapted, such as Randy Newman's "I Love L.A." becoming "On ABC". I guess they each ran these "house ads" primarily because the other two did?

Jeff Boice said...

Three networks, but more like two and one-half (ABC of course being the one-half).

Also there was the frustration factor of the networks scheduling two cool shows against each other (Gilligan's Island or The Monkees? Wild Wild West or The Green Hornet?)

Rob Greenberg said...

And comparing to today… what’s with these recent promos billing their new series billing as ‘an NBC original’? As opposed to what? It’s like a restaurant suddenly branding their menu items as ‘edible’!

maxdebryn said...

I seem to recall NBC airing an ad a few weeks prior to the premiere of "CHEERS," showing a big wrapped gift box, and the announcer stating: "NBC has a present for viewers, coming soon."

I could, of course, have dreamed this.

Otto Tarague said...

As a kid growing up in the sixties, our family never really was dedicated to watching a particular show each week. We just bounced from show to show, channel to channel, trying to see all that was being presented. Actually a lot was bad back then on TV that is still being broadcast today. Some were real good and didn't last that long. Does anyone remember the show "United States" with I believe Beau Bridges? Each week the show jumped to different periods in a married couple life. Sure would like to see if that show held up over the years. But it did not last long. Curious if anyone can think of shows that should have been a hit but died out quick.

Philly Cinephile said...

Yes, yes, yes! The TV GUIDE Fall Preview issue! I would read that thing from cover to cover. Not only did it feature write-ups of all the new network series, but also it listed all of the theatrical films that were scheduled to make their network TV debuts, the various specials planned for the season, and all the shows premiering in first- and second-run syndication.

That issue was second only to the Sears Christmas Wish Book in terms of the amount of excitement its arrival generated.

Jeff Weimer said...

IIRC, counter-fall-programming started with the upstart Fox network 30 years ago or so. I remember them making a big deal about summer episodes of 90210, emphasizing everyone else was on reruns.

Having all these channels (and streaming!) is still better than just the 3/4/5 we had 40 years ago. Most of the best TV in the last 20 years was not on broadcast.

DwWashburn said...

We lived in a rural area of Tennessee. This was the day of the antenna and we could only get one station relatively clear, an NBC affiliate. So NBC week was always of interest to me. Occasionally I would visit the other two networks but I had to watch them through a lot of snow. Of the three major networks, I think NBC has collapsed more than the others and that makes me a little sad.

zapatty said...

@maxdebryn: Either you dreamed the "gift box" advert, or you read this three years ago -- kenlevine.blogspot.com/2018/06/the-very-first-cheers-promo.html

I wish I knew how to post links !

Charles Bryan said...

One more nostalgic note of the TV Guide Fall Preview issue. Also, I guess, a nostalgic note about TV Guide generally. I remember when a subscription was pretty much essential.

Mark said...

Friday Question We’ve been watching our way through The Big Bang Theory for the first time, and we’re near the end of its run. The season nine finale ends on a bit of a cliffhanger involving some guest stars (Christine Baranski, Laurie Metcalf, and Judd Hirsch) that gets resolved in the first episode of season ten.

My question is this, since all three of those guest actors are known enough to have other projects in motion when they agree to the guest spot, or to be offered other work between seasons, how would they go about ‘guaranteeing’ that those actors would be available? A contract that would preclude them from agreeing to take other work that week?

Any chance they would just film the entire season ten premiere at the same time as the season nine finale? Or at least the portions involving the guest stars? By that point in its run TBBT was popular enough that they probably didn’t have any doubts about whether it would be back the next season, so it’s not like they’d be filming an episode for a season that wasn’t going to happen.

Randy @ WCG Comics said...

That fall preview approach also worked best when that was the only time to catch those premiere episodes in the days before VCRs and, now, DVRs. There are shows I have been interested in and sometimes forget to check out until it's been well underway or even seasons(!) later. Personally, network broadcast shows aren't even on my radar anymore, so I'm referring primarily to cable and streaming. I didn't catch Resident Alien until pretty much the whole season dropped, but the advantage was that I was able to binge it.

Kaleberg said...

What I find interesting is that the networks didn't see it coming. It was rather obvious by 2000 or 2005 that digital on-demand delivery was going to be the next big thing, and the networks seemed to completely ignore it. It was like Detroit in the 1970s, building and promoting cars as if it were 1952. I'm sure some of the networks' problem was that they still had a big pile of advertising money.

Nowadays, I tend to find out about new shows on Netflix which has a great PR department and a monthly cycle. Apple, with its reality distortion field, gets automatic promotion. A few others, particularly Disney and others who do fan service stuff, seem to get covered, but the rest of the media barely acknowledge that the networks still exist. Now and then there is an article, some company is still making buggy whips for buggy fanciers and S&M fans.

Also, I think the shift to digital broadcast TV hurt more than people generally acknowledge. If you weren't savvy enough to get a tuner box or affluent enough to get a new TV, odds are you just stopped being able to watch TV except online.

Leighton said...

Yep, yep, yep. The TV Guide Fall Preview. I still have about twelve of them from the 70s/early 80s. I couldn't WAIT to get one, when a teenager in the 70s. They were sacrosanct.

Mike Doran said...

What's thirty minutes long -
Comes in a box -
And is coming to your TV this fall?
Find out on NBC!


That was an NBC promo ...
... but the show was Family Ties.

Cheers was in the same season, with the snarky promos Ken wrote about all those years ago.
NBC's promo guy was Steve Sohmer, who maintained a policy of knocking the competition directly for several seasons, until the Suits realized that the negative campaigning was backfiring almost every time ...

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

I remember "United States." Larry Gelbart helmed it. Had a brief run on NBC in 1980. Probably deserved a longer life.

Kevin FitzMaurice said...

ABC might've used Bacharach's "Nikki" for promos. The network certainly used it for "Movie of the Week" in the seventies. Such a pretty instrumental.

-bee said...

The only magazines I remember getting in my household as a kid were Good Housekeeping, (of virtually zero interest to me) National Geographic (I liked it but it was a bit over my head) and TV Guide.

I really miss that phenomenon of eagerly awaiting the Fall issue of TV Guide to arrive in the mail, what the new shows would be and even better, a a little advances information about returning shows.

I can't say those days were better, per se, but you know nostalgia and all of that.

Breadbaker said...

My dad ran an ad agency, so he'd bring us those books once his ad buyers were done with them. And, yes I couldn't wait for that Camp Runamuck debut. Don't recall seeing the second episode.

Tom said...

In 1972, CBS's New Show Theme was "Have we got a show for you!" Alan Alda's promo for the spinoff of the movie MASH is still in my head, as is one done by a bunch of Asian kids who were in the can't miss surefire smash hit-to-be TV version of The King and I. Looking them up just now, I see that Gene Reynolds directed the pilots for both. Two all-time classic hits in the same year....!

thirteen said...

Re The Prisoner, it proved to be so popular that it was rerun the following summer, once again in Jackie Gleason's time slot. I understand McGoohan made additional episodes in order to pad out the summer.

Peter said...

Love that art work in the brochures. I always liked that style from my childhood. And seeing Kirk, Mannix, tremendous memories.

thomas tucker said...

That’s great! I read TV Guide religiously in those days. One summer we visited my aunt in New Mexico and she gave me 10 years worth of TV Guides that she had saved. I was in heaven.

NOT RACHEL said...

I co-wrote the Catch the Brightest Stars jingle for CBS in the 70’s. This was an annual cluster f***
helmed by the brilliant Lou Dorfsman and his demented assistant Warren Spellman,

Roger Owen Green said...

I still own about 30 Fall Preview issues. When it went full-size, it started to matter less.
I WATCHED the John Gary Show! (Summer, 1966, in the Danny Kaye slot.)
Kevin FitzMaurice - my recollection was that "United States" was a good show, but I haven't seen it in three decades

gottacook said...

Peter: Unless you're referring to some fall premiere artwork not pictured here, that can't be Mannix you're seeing; The series didn't premiere until fall 1967 and was on CBS.

Concerning The Prisoner, my understanding is that the lengthening of the series (McGoohan originally wanted to do only seven) was a result of disagreements between him and Lew Grade of ITC. Whether Grade allowed CBS (the US network that rebroadcast it) any say in this in return for financial backing is unclear. The show was filmed in two blocks some months apart; that's why Leo McKern is "shaved" on camera between his appearances in the last two episodes, "Once Upon a Time" and "Fall Out" - he was filming a different, clean-shaven role while "Fall Out" was being produced. But the last group of episodes including "Fall Out" wasn't added between two separate American broadcasts of the series. All 17 episodes had been shown in the UK by early 1968.

JS said...

There is too much. Unless it's someone I like, I just flip the channels until something gets my attention. I do like "The Hustler". Craig Ferguson is not everyone's cup of tea but it holds my attention.

tvfats said...

Da good old days!

John Schrank said...

gottacook, what you call "house ads" are what the industry calls promos, or what most of us think of as "commercials for the shows". I think these have been part of the television industry from the very beginning. One of the biggest reasons all the networks bid big money for NFL coverage is that it gives them a great opportunity to run promos for shows to a very large audience

Dave Dahl said...

I do recall the giganto-sized TV Guide Fall Preview issue !!

At one time, "Please Don't Eat the Daisies" had the distinction of being the oldest tee vee program whose main cast members are all still alive. If I am correct, even now only one of the actors - who played one of the children - has passed.