This time: 1976, and the Bicentennial

The Bicentennial was one of the most exciting events in modern American history. Or at least I think it was. I'll never truly know for myself. What's annoying about the Bicentennial is that I'm too young to have experienced it, and to see the Tricentennial I'll have to live into my nineties. America better make a big deal out of its 250th, or else.

Bicentennial programming was what I expected it to be: nonstop fireworks, parades and celebrations, with nary a Carol Burnett nor a Carol O'Connor in sight. As circumstance would have it NASA's first robotic probe for Mars, the Viking, touched down on the same day--or the same day the speed of light could carry information back to Earth.

And then there was also Bob Hope, but he was always around. No one I've met who's old enough to remember a Bob Hope special has fond memories of them; they say Hope's routine was always more miss than hit, and the guest stars stroked his ego constantly, which got irritating. The secret of Hope's appeal was mainly understood to the older crowd--and they kept it a secret. Innat wa-a-ald?

TV Guide ads had a different focus in the 70's than they did in the 80's, and by that I mean over half the ads are for things other than television.

Did anyone look through a TV Guide trying to decide what brand of skin graft to trust? I theorize the reason is because this was TV Guide's peak era. There was no other way to get thorough TV listings--everyone HAD to have a TV Guide by necessity. And since the circulation numbers were so high, it could be seen as a good financial decision to get the word out about a product via TV Guide. Yeah, that makes sense.

The further I go back, the more alien things get. In all the TV Guides from 1971, 90% of the ads are for cigarettes (The other 10% are for feminine products with extremely ugly design patterns on them). But we're in 1976, so cigarettes only take up 50%.

Can't argue with math like that.

They're Pinky and the Fonz, they're Pinky and the Fonz,
One is probably not a genius, the other's the......Fonz.

Doesn't get more 70's than this. Look at poor Alice Cooper, stuck in that rainbow. He's miserable there.

There has never been a good show that came out of a pitch ending with "But he's REALLY a ROBOT!!" Yet it sounds really interesting spoken aloud (try yelling it in a supermarket sometime), so networks kept falling for it. You can stop looking for Mr. T in the bottom half of that ad--it's a different Mr. T. It's MR. MIYAGI. "Ah pity fool! Wax off!"

Before there was "The Cosby Show" or "Cosby," there was just "Cos." Bill's turn as a variety show host was unsuccessful, and I don't see how it couldn't work when it was preceding something like THAT. The Six Million Dollar Man and the Bionic Woman TOGETHER, BATTLING SPACE ALIENS AND BIGFOOT AT THE SAME TIME. Cos had also managed to book not only Wonder Woman but Jabberjaw, and he had the Bigfoot from this episode booked for NEXT week. Shoot, I woulda watched.

They mention Wonder Woman got her own show because programs like Six Million Dollar Man and Bionic Woman were already so close to the concept. It remains the only thing DC has ever done with Princess Di outside of her comic books, yet they continue to market her next to Superman and Batman as part of a "trinity." Marvel's cleaning house at the box office these days and scraping the barrel for every hero they have left to make a movie from. Warner Bros, which owns DC wholesale, has been content to let Marvel make millions with little competition. Do you think it's time for them to let the third biggie out of the box?

Maybe that time already came and went. These days people want relatable superheroes, and Wonder Woman is....not all that relatable. Joss Whedon wrote a Wonder Woman movie script that was considered but tossed, and if Joss can't make it work, no one can.

"FORGET those bionic shows and magic-lasso women--OUR guy can DISAPPEAR, what's COOLER THAN THAT???" Never mind that the fight scene depicted really shouldn't have worked. He grabbed Gemini Man by the shoulder and threw a punch with the other hand, but GM disappeared before it it went right through him? Only if he'd disappeared out of existence itself....and he couldn't come back from that, fifteen-minute limit or not.

"What Criminals Learn From Television," the "startling survey" announced on the Wonder Woman cover, is priceless. We hear from inmates who owe all their criminal prowess to what they gathered from 1970's TV. Who knew Welcome Back Kotter was so corruptive?

How much do you really need to know to rob a gas station? If I were a bad guy and I saw an opportunity to pass the blame from myself to Hawaii Five-O, I'd take it. The trend continues today with video games.

Man, are those ugly. I've observed porcelain junk in the houses of old ladies, and I've assumed they only developed a taste for it once their brains got old and corroded. But apparently this stuff really was popular with their generation. When I hear "porcelain," the first word that comes to mind is "toilet," not "rose."

Another thing that came out in 1976 was Frosty's lame sequel special that I already talked about in detail here. It was so bad, Frosty made a deal with the devil to erase his marriage in exchange for a bow tie and the voice of John Goodman. Now this never happened.

People gripe about the dearth of animation on popular kids' TV these days (or at least they do around websites devoted to animation), forgetting that history is cyclical, and that the late 70's was the same way. Some of these descriptions sound vaguely familiar. "Big John, Little John" is the EXACT kind of premise Disney Channel would buy right now.

Can you blame them though? When the only 'toons on TV are Scooby Doo ripoffs, of course no one's going to care.
"Mumbly" is actually supposed to be Muttley from "Wacky Races," but due to arguments over who held the rights to the character, he was changed to a mumbling dog in a trenchcoat without warning. They figured kids were too stupid to tell the difference either way.

Don't be fooled by CBS--half the shows here are live-action, just interpreted through graphical drawings. The "Live" balloon denotes what's real vs. what's not.

All three networks ran Saturday Morning preview specials. ABC had several Osmonds, which apparently meant guaranteed attention in 1976....but running in the same time slot on another channel was "NBC's Smilin' Saturday Morning Parade," which--if the TV Guide description is to be believed--was a real parade.

Is this Cybill Shepherd? Look at it again. I think it's her...

The Muppet Show made its first appearance in 1976. It was never officially a network show but a weekly syndicated program owned by a company in England, hence the 7:30 timeslot.

Charlie's Angels debuted at this time too. C.A. recently returned to over-the-air broadcast on the Ion Network, and I thought I'd like it, but it wasn't the wacky, over-the-top cavalcade carnival Drew Barrymore's production company would have you believe. The original Angels, in my opinion, were pretty boring and it could pass as a children's program now.

The Love Boat began as the TV movie advertised here, with a wacky assembly drawing reminiscent of the Animal House poster (though this was two years before Animal House).

This better be what I think it is. If it's really the Brady Bunch Variety Hour, you're looking at the ad for one of the worst TV shows ever broadcast.

To this day, I've only seen one Brady Bunch in its entirety, which I saw in syndication one lazy summer afternoon as a kid. Fortunately, it was the one where Jan broke her nose, so I was in on all the jokes from that point.


Come on....everybody "oh yeah."

I might as well explain, then....KPTV, a local station, kept this "12" until 1995. Of all the ancient symbols that get a reaction around Portland, the old "12" is at the top of the list.

What a feeling!