Founder / Editor


Associate Editor


Assistant Editor











Cicely Tyson, Cloris Leachman, Hal Holbrook and the Heyday of the TV Movie
February 13, 2021  | By Ed Martin  | 16 comments

The passing of Larry King three weeks ago had me thinking about the end of the television interview as it had once been known. Hour-long conversations, of which King was a master, have largely given way to seven-minute power-chats that in turn are often subdivided into sound bites.

Three more recent losses have me longing for the made-for-television movies of yesteryear (and cringing at the thought that the '70s are now legitimately referred to by that term). Cloris Leachman, Cicely Tyson, and Hal Holbrook are all known for their uncommonly numerous accomplishments across a variety of media, but they all starred in seminal TV movies back when they were referred to as "movies of the week" and were gleaming jewels in the crowns of CBS, NBC, and especially ABC. Indeed, the ABC Movie of the Week, which was so powerful a franchise that the network made it the centerpiece of two nights per week, was talked about at the time by teenagers, adults, and seniors alike with all the excitement one might associate with conversations about All in the Family, The Carol Burnett Show, M*A*S*H, The Flip Wilson Show, The Brady Bunch, Room 222, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and too many other hits of that era to mention.

I'll toss out just a couple: Duel, Tribes, Brian's Song, Gargoyles, Bad Ronald, The Night Stalker, The Night Strangler, The Missiles of October, Born Innocent, A Case of Rape, Trilogy of Terror, Eleanor and Franklin, The Boy in the Plastic Bubble, Sybil, The Execution of Private Slovik, Helter Skelter, The Miracle Worker. The mix of genres was itself intoxicating. For every TV movie that sought only to entertain, it seemed there was another that took a deep dive into exploring an issue of the day (or an issue that hadn't been explored on television before).

In most instances, these movies mattered. Viewers came to them in droves.

Tyson arguably made the biggest impact with The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman, the groundbreaking 1974 television movie for which she won two Best Actress Emmy Awards, back when the Emmys were structured in such a way that double honors could happen. Miss Jane Pittman (top) still resonates. The impact of this movie in its day was just as profound as that of the legendary miniseries Roots, which would follow two years later. Tyson had a memorable supporting role in that production.

Leachman is remembered primarily for her portrayal in the '70s of Mary Richards' self-involved friend and landlady Phyllis Lindstrom on The Mary Tyler Moore Show and its second spin-off, Phyllis, as well as her Academy Award-winning portrayal of a desperately lonely housewife in the classic The Last Picture Showand her scene-stealing performance in Mel Brooks' Young Frankenstein. But during those same years, this tireless actress could also have been legitimately crowned Queen of Made for TV Movies, having starred in almost 20 in the '70s alone, most notably A Brand New Life (for which she won an Emmy) and The Migrants(for which she was honored with an Emmy nomination). The subject matter of both (making decisions about a surprise pregnancy; the trials of immigration) remain as relevant today as they were at the time.

Like Tyson and Leachman, Holbrook's participation in the '70s did much to advance the medium, as well, with 11 made-for-television movies in that decade -- the profound and highly controversial standouts being That Certain Summer and Pueblo. (He won two Best Actor Emmys for the latter.) Summer was the true groundbreaker. In it, Holbrook played a divorced father in love with another man (Martin Sheen) who strived to keep his sexuality a secret from his son until he no longer could. It may seem a bit melodramatic today, but Summer was seismic in its day, being the first television movie to depict two men living together as partners in a loving relationship.

With only an occasional exception, the broadcast networks stopped producing television movies many years ago, ceding primarily to premium cable, where they continue to make news and earn awards. The streamers are also in the game, although comparisons there aren't really fair, as the first exhibition for most of those movies is theatrical, mainly to qualify them for Academy Award consideration. They then migrate, sometimes on the same day, to their respective streaming platform.

The broadcast movies of yesteryear were never considered equal in any way to more prestigious theatrical films, but that changed long ago. For performers today, TV is where it's at. Certainly, though, some of our most profoundly talented actors – among them Tyson, Leachman, and Holbrook – knew better back when broadcast routinely commanded the largest and most vocal audiences of all. Remember, the TV movies of the '70s (and the '80s) were intended for the largest audiences possible, if not always for family viewing.

In hindsight, the work of those three extraordinary pioneers and that of their peers in the television movies of old has stood the test of time. Their parameters of their success at the time, though, will never be repeated.

This column was originally posted at MediaVillage.

Leave a Comment: (No HTML, 1000 chars max)
 Name (required)
 Email (required) (will not be published)
Type in the verification word shown on the image.
 Page: 1 of 1  | Go to page: 
Are you seeking companionship in INA? Look no further! Our INA Escorts service offers top-notch escort services with discreet and secure cash payment options. Choose from our diverse selection of stunning girls who are ready to make your evenings unforgettable. Contact us anytime for prompt doorstep delivery.
Jun 4, 2024   |  Reply
Hey, this page is relevant to the search query! The user has found the information they were looking for!
May 14, 2024   |  Reply
It is ideal time to make a few arrangements for the future and the time has come to be upbeat. I've perused this post and on the off chance that I would I be able to want to recommend you few fascinating things or tips. Maybe you could compose next articles alluding to this article. I need to peruse more things about it!
Mar 4, 2024   |  Reply
It is good to see you verbalize from the heart and clarity on this important subject can be easily observed...
Feb 29, 2024   |  Reply
Really apricate this post.
Feb 28, 2024   |  Reply
I will really appreciate the writer's choice for choosing this excellent article appropriate to my matter.Here is deep description about the article matter which helped me more.
Feb 28, 2024   |  Reply
I genuinely like you're making style, inconceivable information, thankyou for posting.
Superbly written article, if only all bloggers offered the same content as you, the internet would be a far better place..
Feb 20, 2024   |  Reply
Good post but I was wondering if you could write a litte more on this subject? I’d be very thankful if you could elaborate a little bit further. Appreciate it!
Feb 19, 2024   |  Reply
The greatest website for free online watching anime that supports DUB and SUB in high definition is Aniwave, formerly known as 9anime. NOW VIEW! Ad-free Guaranteed!
Jan 28, 2024   |  Reply
I had been honored to obtain a call from a friend as he found the important guidelines shared on the site. Browsing your blog post is a real wonderful experience. Thanks again for thinking of readers like me, and I hope for you the best of achievements as being a professional discipline.
Dec 18, 2023   |  Reply
Where did the https version go? They are working with so many documents and all they have is Salesforce Integration Bots important without any encryption. They should take security more seriously in my opinion or otherwise it will be hard.
Dec 12, 2023   |  Reply
Make e-signing a breeze with SignNow's guide on how to copy and paste an electronic signature to a PDF. Check out how-to-copy-and-paste-an-electronic-signature-to-a-pdf-in-signnow for a hassle-free experience.
I love your article very much. I am very impressed with it. The article is the sharing of the enthusiasm of a sharing enthusiast.
Mar 4, 2023   |  Reply
What a great opportunity to get rid of all your infinite problems in just glimpses!! Surprised by the way it works. They are very functional! I hope everyone gets to utilize it for their good!
Nov 20, 2022   |  Reply
This is one of the best movies I've seen hands down! Such a great acting from this wonderful cast
Nov 7, 2022   |  Reply
indeed this is such a great story and inspirational movie! Will definitely watch it again once I finish playing my daily puzzle game of Canuckle lol
Nov 7, 2022
 Page: 1 of 1  | Go to page: