DAVID BIANCULLI

Founder / Editor

ERIC GOULD

Associate Editor

LINDA DONOVAN

Assistant Editor

Contributors

ALEX STRACHAN

MIKE HUGHES

GARY EDGERTON

ROGER CATLIN

KIM AKASS

GERALD JORDAN

TOM BRINKMOELLER

NOEL HOLSTON

 
 
 
 
 
Those were the (Satur)days
November 10, 2007  | By David Bianculli
 
The writers' strike is going to make it trickier to find six outstanding TV recommendations each night, especially as the networks begin stockpiling scripted series like nuts for the winter. (If the producers don't settle the strike soon, they're the nuts - but I digress.) Except for Saturday Night Live being relegated to reruns, though, tonight's TV lineup pretty much is the same as it would have been pre-strike.

And that's a shame, because installments of two unscripted series - COPS on Fox and 48 Hours Mystery on CBS - are the only first-run offerings by the commercial broadcast networks all night. No wonder tonight's BEST BETS are dominated by cable, and by movies at that.

Boys and girls, it wasn't always this way. There was a time when Saturday was a night when the broadcast networks not only programmed first-run series, but hit series. As recently as the 1990-91 TV season, NBC's The Golden Girls was a Top 10 hit, broadcast on Saturdays.

And there was a time, before that, when a lineup of original, non-repeat Saturday night TV shows boasted the most outstanding wall-to-wall lineup in TV history, all on a single network. Granted, it was 34 years ago - but if you tuned to CBS on a Saturday night in the fall of 1973, this is what you could see without changing the channel:

Scene from All in the FamilyAll in the Family. M*A*S*H. The Mary Tyler Moore Show. The Bob Newhart Show. The Carol Burnett Show.

Tonight, the same network's Saturday lineup includes reruns of drama series, and NBC presents a similar program of recycled programs. The networks insist it isn't worth televising original series on Saturdays, by and large, because viewers aren't around to watch on Saturdays. Clearly, it wasn't always that way. Saturday's All in the Family was the most popular show in America that season, M*A*S*H was fourth, and the Moore and Newhart shows were 9th and 11th for the season, respectively.

So which came first: The network chickens, or the eggs they've chosen to lay?

Don't laugh. The way the networks are losing audiences, and are about to lose more as the strike continues, this chicken-and-egg question is no yolk. When the network built good shows, we did come. Now that they're not, why shouldn't we go?

 
 
 
 
 
Leave a Comment: (No HTML, 1000 chars max)
 
 Name (required)
 
 Email (required) (will not be published)
 
 Website (optional)
 
VQSLP
Type in the verification word shown on the image.