I have nearly every issue of TV Guide from the 1970s, but I've mostly stuck to covering the 80s and 90s in these galleries, and it's not just because those are the years I can remember. It's because the 70s ads just aren't as interesting. Half of them are for things other than TV shows, and the ones that do promote TV just....lack pizzazz. 1985, on the other hand, is such a gold mine of over-the-top, incredibly dramatic promos that I could fill multiple installments from that year alone.

Something happened in November of '85 I can't truly explain. For some reason, a solid majority of the ad space in TV Guide that month was entirely soap opera promos. What follows on this page was gathered from just four issues, and the majority from merely three. The saturation was just that dense -- there are suddenly daytime soaps screaming for attention on every page. Then Thanksgiving rolled around and it all vanished as quickly as it came. Bizarre.

I care about TV soaps as much as I care about golf or Beyonce (which is to say, not at all), but these ads are so pulpy and gratuitous I can't help but love them.

The term "soap opera" is derived from the fact that when programs like this first started, they were sponsored by soap....or other such household products. They were usually aimed at a female audience, with the expectation that America was full of housewives doing nothing but cleaning and cooking, and their buying decisions could be influenced by such programs. This is no longer the case, and if anybody is home, technology has provided so many other methods of wasting time that barely anyone goes for soaps anymore.

A handful of network soap operas remain on the air to this day, though I'm not sure how or why. A lot has changed since "Luke and Laura's Wedding," the highest-rated soap broadcast of all time (which will probably remain so). It's a dying genre. But back in '85, however....there were millions of dollars at stake, and for a few brief weeks, it was all-out war. These three issues of TV Guide are like drama out of a soap itself.

I harbor no illusions that the actual programs these promos were glorifying were anywhere near as good as the ads make them look. Promises of exotic locales and high-flying, high-stakes adventure translated to super-low-budget stories shot with cheap video cameras on a handful of cheesy sets.

But the images these promos conjure in my mind? I love it. The imagination produces storylines a million times better than anything the actual shows could do. That's the power of a great hook.
I feel like I could get an entire novel out of this one drawing.

Now that I've seen the "Red Wedding" there's no way this can hold up.

"Guiding Light" began on the radio and was the oldest surviving soap of them all, until it was finally cancelled a few years ago.

On the one hand, this visual would have been better as another painting. On the other, the marquee-like billing they give to the story's players ("THE FRIGHTENED LOVERS!" "THE TREASURE SEEKERS!") is a terrific touch of cheese.

"So you think Alexis Carrington-Colby is outrageous? Wait'll you see our knockoff!" This ad appeared in the Sunday section, and the message at the bottom led me to believe there'd be a follow-up ad in the Monday section explaining who "Estelle" was. Nope -- nothing. The schedule for Channel 8 at 12:30 provided the answer: the name of the show was literally "Search For Tomorrow."

I don't care about the "romance" promos as much as I care about the "adventure" ones. But it was only about the seventh time I looked at this ad that I spotted that guy in the window, so I'll have to give them credit for that.

These are from three separate pages....picking up on a theme here?

The one thing I do know about the world of soaps is that Victor's last name is Newman and that he owns a company called Newman Enterprises. And I know this because my mom was a devoted watcher of Y&R for many years (probably still is) and the one thing I constantly heard from the living room were the words "Victor Newman." His name was said aloud by multiple people every episode. "Newman Enterprises" was a runner-up for most repeated syllables. Boy, do I know this guy's name. I'll never forget it.

November of 1985 was so much about soaps that even the ads that weren't about soaps were about soaps. Channel 49 did not belong to a network and had nothing in the genre to compete with, so...."why watch soaps when you could watch newsmagazines? And you thought Alexis was bad....wait 'till you meet Fred Willard!"

Can you guess what's wrong with this MacGyver ad?

No, not the notion that he would steal diamonds....MacGyver owns everything and the rest of us are just borrowing it.

No, not the implication that he can make a car fly...MacGyver can create Flubber out of baking soda, some chewing gum and a summer squash.


I don't put up many local ads, but this one had to be chosen because they may have picked the strangest-looking model ever. This guy looks like he came out of the Labyrinth.

Out of everything I saw this round, NOTHING topped the sight of this family covering their faces with gas masks to avoid getting The AIDS.

I actually have this episode. I found it in Dad's big collection, but the tape was in the worst condition I'd ever seen (and this is saying a lot). However, a local news show about AIDS at the peak of hysteria was too historically significant to give up on, the ER! After disinfecting the shell with bleach and cycling the tape through the rewind-fast-forward process a few times, I was able to get a picture, but just barely.

I consider it a victory given the circumstances. There are tapes of Dad's that got wet back around 2004, causing the sticker sheet to become a rancid mass and fuse to the bottom of the tape shell. I had to break the shells open and re-thread the tape spools into a different one just to make them play. But they did. Videotape is surpringly resilient.

It's been a long time since we've seen Pippi in anything. When you consider how hungry Hollywood is to endlessly recycle the familiar, this character's modern exile seems odd. Maybe they could update her name to "Pippi Longsocks." Maybe they could make her black this time or change her gender (he could be called "Pipper"). Maybe she could become a dancing CGI Dreamworks character with the voice of Cardi B. Just...anything but what Universal did with Woody Woodpecker.

An All My Children ad without Susan Lucci is like a peanut without butter. I think that's her on the left.

"Marsha! How COULD you??"
"I'm sorry, John, but....he was nakeder than you."

"This is a tough decision. Those handcuffs look really pretty."

For those who haven't seen this movie, I have to tell you it actually ends with Jeannie's relationship to Major Nelson being sacrificed from continuity. He's in space, and he's in trouble, and only a spell from Jeannie can save him, but it's a spell that requires a Joe Quesada-approved tradeoff, so Jeannie must give up his memories of her. Because of this movie, the original show never happened.

So why weren't there riots after it aired? Because the final shot is Jeannie walking down the street and deliberately running into Nelson, who has no idea who she is. Jeannie introduces herself again, then walks away and says to the audience "Some things are worth going through twice! Wink!" Here they go again, I guess.

The movie is different from the show in other ways. Jeannie didn't really have a life outside of Nelson in the show. The audience of 1985 wasn't going to accept that, so Jeannie is much more independent in the film. In fact there was a follow-up, I Still Dream Of Jeannie, that barely has Nelson in it except for one scene where he gives her a phone call.

No! NO! I am NOT seeing this! This never happened!
This feels so wrong. It's like putting Jerry Lewis in a Nazi death camp or something.

"How did you wind up on the street, Lucy?"
"I popped out of parties and was unpoopular."