Monday, January 10, 2011

This week in Television History: January 2011 PART II

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As always, the further we go back in Hollywood history, the more that fact and legend become intertwined. It's hard to say where the truth really lies.

January 10, 1971
Masterpiece Theatre debuts.

Among the show's many presentations are Upstairs Downstairs (1974-1977), I. Claudius (1978), and A Tale of Two Cities (1989). Program hosts included Alistair Cooke and Russell Baker.

January 12, 1971
All in the Family debuts

The show, which was one of TV's top hits for much of its run, starred Carroll O'Connor as bigoted Archie Bunker; Jean Stapleton as his wife, Edith; and Sally Struthers and Rob Reiner as the couple's liberal daughter and son-in-law. The show changed the course of television by portraying the harsh realities of bigotry and racism and dealing with controversial subjects like birth control, rape, and politics. The show changed its name to Archie Bunker's Place in 1979, when the action shifted from the Bunkers' living room to the bar Archie owned.

January 12, 1981
Dynasty premieres on ABC.

The oil tycoon Blake Carrington (John Forsythe) prepares to marry his former secretary, the beautiful and innocent Krystle (Linda Evans), in the three-hour television movie that kicks off the prime-time ABC soap opera Dynasty.
Over the next eight years, the Carringtons, a rich Denver oil clan, and another wealthy family, the Colbys, would form the center of the campy, glamorous universe that was Dynasty. Envisioned as bitter rivals, in the style of the Montagues and Capulets of Romeo and Juliet, the two families intermarried and plotted against each other with equal enthusiasm. At the beginning of the second season, as buzz around the show began to grow, the British actress Joan Collins entered the mix as Blake Carrington’s evil ex-wife, Alexis; her clash with the good girl Krystle became one of the central plotlines of the show. In one of the series’ more memorable moments, Alexis and Krystle had a catfight in a lily pond.
Dynasty’s elaborately melodramatic plot lines resembled those of the daytime soap operas (kidnappings, amnesia, characters returning from the dead, etc.) and its style fit perfectly with the over-the-top excesses of the 1980s. It was no wonder, as the show was produced partially by Aaron Spelling, the man behind such hit shows as The Mod Squad, Charlie’s Angels, The Love Boat, Beverly Hills 90210 and Melrose Place. By the end of the 1982-83 season, Dynasty was fifth in the top-rated programs; it climbed to third place in 1983-84 and grabbed the number one spot in 1984-85. Its success spawned a short-lived spin-off, Dynasty II: The Colbys, and an entire line of licensed products such as clothing, bedding and perfume.
The over-the-top cliffhanger ending to the fourth season in May 1985 marked the beginning of the end, as the entire Carrington family gathered for a wedding in the fictional country of Moldavia. The festivities were disrupted by a terrorist attack, and while all of the main characters emerged unscathed, the show’s ratings began to drop precipitously. During its final season, 1988-89, Dynasty fell to a dismal 57th place and was unceremoniously dropped from the ABC lineup. Various plot lines were left unresolved, but disappointed fans got their long-awaited closure two years later, when ABC aired a two-part movie Dynasty: The Reunion in October 1991.

January 15, 1981
Hill Street Blues premieres on NBC.

The show, which ran until 1987, won Emmys for Outstanding Drama Series in 1982, 1983, and 1984. The show revolved around police officers in an unidentified city.

January 16, 1976
Donny and Marie premieres

Music variety show Donny and Marie premieres, starring 18-year-old Donny Osmond and his 16-year-old sister, Marie. The show ran for only three years, but the brother and sister were reunited in 1998 with a daytime talk show.

To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was".

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa
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