’78 Network Promos!

Proud As A Turkey!

Proud As A Turkey!

 

Continuing a fine Kriofske Mix tradition, this year’s Turkey Day post was inspired first and foremost by this clip:

Behold, the Fall TV Season Promo! Back in the day, the Big Three networks advertised their lineups via a series of commercials centered around a theme or slogan, often in song. In their ’70s/’80s heyday, they were inescapable every September. Although they never entirely went away, in an age of the internet, streaming platforms and 1,000+ channels, they’re obviously far less necessary. Still, if you once wanted to learn anything about the new fall season which constituted a crushing majority of what you could watch on TV, well, these promos and TV Guide were your best bets.

NBC had some catchy, memorable slogans; their 1978 effort was not one of them. Of course, considering that year’s slate of new shows, perhaps the excruciating pun of “NB Seeeee Us” was the least of their problems. Not one of those shows lasted beyond one season–only Diff’rent Strokes survived (it’s absent here because it was actually a mid-season replacement that premiered in November.) In fact, the 1978-79 season might be NBC at their pre-Comcast nadir, with only three shows rated in the entire top 25 (Little House on the Prairie, NBC’s Monday Night Movie and CHiPS)! I haven’t even mentioned Supertrain.

CBS looked only slightly less desperate that season, despite their somewhat silly (though less clunky than NBC’s) slogan–do you really want to “be turned on” by the likes of Archie Bunker, Lou Grant and Weezie Jefferson? Sure, they had the great WKRP In Cincinnati on their schedule, but have you even heard of Flying High or American Girls? Why feature Bob Newhart when his show ended the previous season? That they led off by stumping for Mary Tyler Moore’s spectacularly ill-advised variety show Mary suggests they were lazily resting on star power rather than quality. I haven’t even mentioned the Star Wars Holiday Special.

In the late ’70s, ABC was by far the most popular of the Big Three (their ’78 season alone had Mork and Mindy and Taxi), but this wasn’t always the case. Prior to those halcyon days of Happy Days and Charlie’s Angels, ABC was usually a distant third place. Concerning promos, this worked in their favor, for there’s a treasure trove of stylistically daring ABC material on YouTube from the late ’60s and early ’70s–just look at this Fall ’72 extravaganza, whose opening graphics nearly emulate the trippy vortex sequence from 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Alas, by ’78 the network toned down the visuals, although those bright colors violently swirling around the ABC logo are quite something. The most interesting thing about that fall’s “We’re The One” campaign is how the network gathered any of its stars who were willing (or maybe contractually obliged–remember, this is also the time of Battle of the Network Stars) to appear in a rousing, strained musical number (this being ’78, it has more than a hint of disco in it.) The first few scenes in the above clip are reasonably entertaining, with various stars toting ginormous, gaudy lightbulb-dotted letters around L.A, hamming it up as some stars do (Hi, Rerun!). Naturally, they all converge on a charmless, cramped soundstage in order for the letters to spell out the slogan, and passionately sing about their employer. They just don’t make ’em like this anymore; despite their unintentional charms, I’m mostly thankful for that.

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