Thursday, September 20, 2012

1975: The new season (Thursdays)

Thursday nights 1975 look a little more promising than most of the daily prime-time lineups. 

I'm a Waltons fan, and I thought last season ended with one of the strongest stories in the show's three-years-so-far run. Even still, I'm going to have a hard time keeping away from ABC's returning Barney Miller and an intriguing new sitcom, On the Rocks

NBC, meanwhile, is taking its chances with a couple of new entrants, The Montefuscos, which sounds none too appealing, and Fay, which I'm absolutely certain I would've loved.

I'm not much into murder mysteries or crime or hospital dramas, so ABC and NBC pretty much lose me at 8 p.m. Central.

So, that leaves me with The CBS Thursday Night Movies, which I'm thrilled to learn is scheduled to include a re-airing of the fantastic Bob Newhart/Dick Van Dyke delight, Cold Turkey, one of America's all-time-great films.

Previous dispatches:


  1. Here's a comment from IMDB on "The Montefuscos" from the same person who commented on "Beacon Hill."

    "The enormous success of 'All in the Family' inevitably spawned a flurry of imitations. 'The Montefuscos' -- created by Persky and Denoff, both of whom had done excellent work on 'The Dick Van Dyke Show' -- was an attempt at an Italian-American version of the Bunker mentality, as in Archie Bunker. Instead of Archie, the paterfamilias here was Tony Montefusco. He is the absolute boss in his home (I feel sorry for his wife), but of course there are -- as in so many Yank sitcoms -- those usual "Awwww" moments which hint that, deep down, Tony is just an old softy.

    "For some reason, it seems to be permissible on American television to invoke ethnic stereotypes providing the stereotypes are favourable. So, here we avoid the negative Italian stereotypes but we get all the positive ones: they have huge families, they love to eat, they quarrel among themselves but stick up for each other, yadda yadda.

    "At this point in his life, Tony's children have mostly grown and flown the coop (understandably), but they've given him young grandchildren. So, in every episode, we have the big Sunday evening sit-down dinner of the whole Montefusco clan at Tony's house. (I feel sorry for his wife, who has to do all the cooking beforehand, all the serving during, and all the wash-up afterward.) Tony's daughter Angela has married ... which would be fine with Tony, except that Angela has committed the unpardonable sin of marrying a man who (gasp!) is not an Italian. He isn't even Catholic! Angela's husband is Jim Cooney, a bland and hapless schlub who is Episcopalian, a fact which scandalises Tony. He constantly addresses his son-in-law as 'Cooney' and refers to him contemptuously as 'my Episcopalian son-in-law'. Meanwhile, anything Tony's wife has to say about this situation doesn't count ... because she's an Italian wife, which (in this sitcom, at least) means she should shut up and stay in the kitchen, except when she's serving food. Jim Cooney is constantly depicted as the family's jerk: apparently Episcopalians are the only minority group whom it's safe to ridicule.

    "This sitcom was horribly unfunny, which (I hope) explains why it didn't last very long. I found it offensive, not so much because it gleefully perpetrated ethnic stereotypes, but rather because it seemed to think that it was celebrating the richness of Italian-American culture. This show was about as Italian as Chico Marx, but not remotely as funny. Basta!"

  2. The TV show "Ellery Queen" had a big impact on me, even though I never watched it. By around 1978 or 1979, I was really obsessed with detective stories -- mostly stories from the 1920's and 1930's. I read as many as I could find -- but they weren't easy to find, because so many of them had gone out of print. So I mostly stuck to the Agatha Christies (you could always find those, even at Walden Books).

    But eventually I discovered Ellery Queen, who became my favorite fictional detective. Unfortunately, his books -- especially the early ones -- were much harder to find. In fact, they would have been virtually impossible to find if not for this TV show.

    In connection with the show, a bunch of the old books were re-published -- and one day, while I was poring through a used bookstore in downtown Paducah, I came across a whole stack of them. I bought them all, and they were great. In fact, that was one of the very best shopping experiences of my life.

    So I'm very grateful to "Ellery Queen" the TV show.

  3. The new TV season doesn't arrive in earnest until next week in 1975. The returning shows have still be in reruns, or the networks have been squeezing in some late-summer specials. ABC, for example, at 7 last night (Thursday, Sept. 4, 1975) gave us not Barney Miller but instead a special on Evel Knievel--"a look at the past accomplishments of this unique individual who has captured the attention of international audiences and a look at his future plans," according to the Sun-Democrat "Channel Selector" periodical. And instead of a Waltons, CBS went with Dyn-o-mite Saturday Preview--"a look at the new season's children's programs, starring Jimmie Walker, Ralph Carter and BernNadette Stanis." This would've been a tough choice for 7-year-old me. It would've been cool to see the Good Times kid out of their element, but I was pretty gaga for Evel Knievel and might well have gone with that. Mom and Dad (and my youngest brother) probably did the Evel Knievel in the living room, but I probably had the option to go watch the cartoon clips on the black-and-white portable in the kitchen. Tough call.

  4. NBC, meanwhile, jumps the gun on the new season, rolling out pilot episodes for its two new "family hour" sitcoms at 7 and 7:30 Central. It's kind of like when the curling gets started a couple of days before the Winter Olympics opening ceremonies.

  5. Montefuscos is OK. It would grow on me if it had time to settle down and let the actors and writers develop characters together, but the episode I saw was way too broad and stereotypy as the TV Guide description described. It doesn't have a chance to peel Dad or me away from Barney Miller, and it doesn't have a chance to pull Mom away from The Waltons. so what chance does that leave?

  6. Fay is good, potentially great. I could definitely love it (probably about as much as I loved Mad About You, which is not nothing). Again, the TV Guide description is perfect on the nuts and bolts. It's a mild show that probably needed to be born in the age of cable and more ubiquitous remote controls, after TV had figured out how to adjust for the family-hour regulation and once you didn't have to have the obvious firepower to generate a giant audience willing to get up and walk across the room and change the channel at 7:30 after Barney Miller. I will try to enjoy Fay while I can.