The New Fall TV Season - 1989: A 20 Year Retrospective


It was Twenty Years Ago Today...

Last week we previewed the new dramas and comedies launching on the major TV networks this coming fall season.

We thought it would be interesting to take a quick look back at the network promos that ran 20 years ago to introduce the 1989 Fall TV season.

How did the ratings shake out that season?
Here are the
top ten shows in 1989-1990:

1. The Cosby Show (NBC)
2. Roseanne (ABC)
3. Cheers (NBC)
4. A Different World (NBC)
5. America's Funniest Home Videos (ABC)
6. The Golden Girls (NBC)
7. 60 Minutes (CBS)
8. The Wonder Years (ABC)
9. Empty Nest (NBC)
10. Monday Night Football (ABC)

CBS didn't have a single scripted program in the top ten. Nor did FOX, which had just come on the scene a few years before.

Interestingly, NBC premiered, perhaps, the biggest and best hit show in television history on July 5, 1989, but didn't think it was good enough to make the cut that fall season.

cbs logo
The CBS promo was working some kind of social responsibility vibe, as if that had something to do with its programming.

Jon Cryer is the notable survivor here.
Today, he's the co-star of CBS's Two and a Half Men, one of the highest rated comedies on television. In 1989, he starred in the short-lived Famous Teddy Z, based on the real life story of a man who worked his way up from a talent agency mail room to being Marlon Brando's agent.

nbc logo

It's clear in this promo that Bill Cosby was the king of NBC in 1989. But Jerry Seinfeld was the prince waiting in the wings. His show premiered that summer and had such a shaky start NBC took it off the schedule and tried to palm it off on an unimpressed Fox. Jerry and the gang weren't considered good enough to be scheduled for a September start until 1991, their third season.


This is a pretty poor quality video clip so allow us to sum it up for you.
A bunch of highly paid actors who hadn't been seen before 1989 and who haven't been seen since, laughing and mugging to a much-too-up-tempo generic music ditty.

fox logo

In 1989, Fox was running only three nights of programming and would not have a full seven-day-a-week schedule until 1993. Their promo song has the interesting lyric -- no looking back 'til we're on top. That achievement came in May 2008 when -- powered by American Idol and Super Bowl XLII -- Fox was crowned TV's highest rated network.

Yes, that's Johnny Depp in there as the star of the new 21 Jump Street along with some of the people whose voices would help make The Simpsons one of the longest running shows in TV history.

Be Wary of Befriending Bloggers


The State of the Blogosphere
According to Technorati data published last year, there are over 112 million blogs out there, growing at a rate of 175,000 per day. That's about one blog for every two adult Americans.

Every second of every day, 18 blog posts are uploaded. That's over 1.6 million posts daily.

This may have happened to you, even if you didn't know it was happening.

You're at cocktail party, or in Starbucks, or standing in line at the DMV. You begin a dialogue with a friend or strike up a conversation with a stranger. Suddenly his or her eyes get that thousand-yard stare. The gears are turning within.

What's going on here?

He or she may have just started mentally composing their next blogpost. Something you said just inspired a 200 word essay which, within the next 24 hours, will be accessible to six and a half billion people on the planet yet read by not a single one of them.

You've just been blog-whacked.

coffee shop

How should you react?

Should you feel proud that your ideas or actions are so noteworthy that they should be shared with the world?

Or should you feel a sense of outrage and trespass that somehow a moment you thought was private and personal has been captured and exposed by the blogorati and the twitterazzi?

What used to be private is now public and, to some extent, vice versa.
If you're really concerned about being blog-whacked, do what politicians have been doing for years. Preface conversations with known bloggers with the this-is-off-the-record phrase.

Of course, that didn't work for President Obama when he commented on Kanye West.

Get Your Beer, Here!

How We Sell Beer Now

But things were different back in the day.
In 2007, consumption of beer in the US climbed to 22 gallons per capita. Riding the upswing, beer ads are humorous and clever.

But in the 1950's, beer -- with the image of being bloating and boorish -- had a hard time finding a market.

These beer commercials from many years ago have a very different vibe, don't they?

Milller: Sparkling Flavorful, Distinctive
In those tough years, Miller tried to spin beer as something classy and special. They pitched Miller High Life as the Champagne of Bottled Beer.

Pabst Blue Ribbon Beer
Now these are people who knew how to chillax!

The tavern setting has somewhat of a blue-collar feel but the guys are in suits and ties and the ladies have on dresses and make-up. And the beers are being served by a guy in one of those fancy restaurant outfits so beer must be snazzy stuff, right? After all, it won a Blue Ribbon, don't you know. Am I right, or am I right?

Schlitz: Grab for the Gusto

By the 1960's beer commercials took a different tack. Schlitz downplayed the merchandise and hyped a life of danger and adventure. Life was about grabbing for all the gusto or it just wasn't worth the trip at all.

This ad is a good example of the lifestyle marketing approach that Pepsi used to battle Coke. Notice that in this commercial, the product isn't mentioned until 40 seconds in.

Let it be Lowenbrau
Each beer brand staked out its territory. Schlitz was about living life to the fullest while Lowenbrau was about kicking back with family and friends.

The great Arthur Prysock sang the Lowenbrau theme song for years, adding a genuine dimension of class to the brand,

It looks like this particular commercial was shot in black and white but they ran out of money half way through the colorization process.

Hamm's: From the Land of Sky Blue Waters
Hamm's took a more confusing approach, mixing cartoon characters with couples dining elegantly, albeit in the middle of a river.

But the bottom line is that there's a lot going on in this 1950's vintage beer commercial. Too much going on here. W-a-a-y too much.

How well do you think the Dos Equis campaign might have worked in 1956?

From Annette to iCarly: The Torch Is Passed to a New Iteration

icarly annette

What Goes Around, Comes Around
There's a good chance that if you know the young lady on the left, you won't know the young lady on the right, and vice versa.

They do have a lot in common. Both are pop culture icons, both symbolize energy and charm, and both helped put the organizations they've worked for on the map.

The Mouse that Roared
Baby Boomers will recognize Annette Funicello, the real reason for watching Disney's Mickey Mouse Club during its four year run on afternoon TV in the mid-1950's.

World War II's boom children were crazy about all the Club's Mouseketeers but it was Annette who captured the heart of the generation.

The Big Cheese
The Mickey Mouse Club (MMC) lured a huge share of the 70 million baby boomer kids, providing a cross-promotional platform for every piece of the burgeoning Disney empire.

With MMC on the TV schedule, other Disney programs like the Wonderful World of Disney, Davy Crockett and Zorro could be pitched to loyal adolescent viewers five days a week.

In fact, profits from the Mickey Mouse Club program, reportedly, helped Walt Disney stash enough cash to fund the launch of Disneyland.

Annette's curly brunette locks and perfect smile were, literally, money in the bank.

New Mouse in the House

miley cyrus

If Annette was the first reigning queen of the Disney's TV dynasty, Miley Cyrus is its current monarch. Her Disney-Channel hit show, Hannah Montana, is viewed by an average of 4 million people each week.

She released two albums which debuted at #1 and, last year, Forbes found a place for her on their list of the 100 Most Influential People in the World.

What Annette was for Disney in the mid-1950's, Miley Cyrus is today.

But now there's a new icon in town.

In the Nick of Time
Today's generation of kid's will recognize the photo of Carly (of iCarly) above, known off-screen as Miranda Cosgrove. She's causing quite a stir of her own.

iCarly is Nickelodeon's monster hit show about kids doing their own variety show on the web.

Last May, 6.5 million viewers tuned in to see a special iCarly episode, making it that week's top show among all cable sports and entertainment programs. And that includes the NBA Playoffs that iCarly was up against.

Look out Disney Channel. Led by iCarly, Nickelodeon, this spring, was the top-ranked basic cable network with kids.

Though only six months younger than Miley Cyrus, Miranda Cosgrove -- and the iCarly powerhouse franchise -- is the fresh face that seems poised to give the Mouse a run for his money.

Take that Hannah Montana!

Bonus Material:

Who is iCarly's Walt Disney?

Walt Disney himself crafted and shepherded the first episodes of the Mickey Mouse Club. And rumor has it that he was the voice of Mickey Mouse in the show's intro.

So who's the brains behind iCarly?

Answer: Dan Schneider, better known as Dennis Blunden on the ABC sitcom, Head of the Class (1986 - 1991)

He's also the creative force behind a string of other children's TV hits, such as: Zoey 101, Drake & Josh, What I Like About You, The Amanda Show and Kenan & Kel.

That's Dan sitting at the stone-age PC in the photo.

head of the class

Mouseketeer Roll Call - Life After Hanging Up the Ears

Darlene Gillespie
In 1997, received probation for shoplifting charges. In 1998, sentenced to two years in prison for a check-kiting scheme. Indicted on fraud charges in 2005.

Cheryl Holdridge
After MMC, played a variety of roles on TV, including Wally's girlfriend on Leave It To Beaver. Died 2009.

Bobby Burgess
bobby burgess
Spent many years as a lead dancer on the Lawrence Welk Show.

Doreen Tracey
Frank Zappa's publicist, amateur weight-lifter, 1976 centerfold model for Gallery magazine.

Cubby O'Brien
cubby o'brien
Drummer for Lawrence Welk Show, Carol Burnett Show and the Carpenters.

Karen Pendleton
(Pictured with her daughter)

Semi-paralyzed in a 1983 auto accident. Later earned a Masters Degree in Psychology. Most recently reported to be the Director of Independent Living in her hometown.

Lonnie Burr

Ph.D in English Literature, extensive entertainment career as an actor, director, writer and producer.

Other Apocalypzia posts about Children's TV and Books:

1950s Children's TV Shows. Baby Boomers Beware..!

Fun with Dick and Jane: The Monocultural Garden of Verse

Sex Sells: Even Back in TV's Golden Age

sex sells

This 2008 Levis 501 Commercial Isn't Going Where You Think
But there's no question what the message is here.

In TV's Golden Age, sex was just as important as it is today.
Though generally handled with nuance and double meaning, Mad Men Ad Men back in the day seemed determined to embed a sexual dimension somewhere in a TV commercial's message.

Maybe TV's Golden Age wasn't so puritanical, after all.

Do you agree with us about the ads below? Or is it just us?

The best part of waking up is Folger's in your cup...
Are you picking up on a sexual subtext in this vintage Folger's Coffee commercial?

The Swedish Mrs. Olson went from house to house mending troubled marriages by teaching young couples new techniques to bring them closer together.

And it wasn't just Mrs. Olson either.
Folgers dispatched Mr. McGregor to push Folger's Instant as some vague kind of marital aid.

Take it Off. Take it All Off!
There was nothing subliminal about Swedish blonde bombshell Gunilla Knudsen begging men to take everything off, backed by the blaring horns of David Rose's "The Stripper."

Shaving never sounded so sexy.

A Silly Millimeter Longer
Could any ad be less subtle than this?

What every man wants ... a pack of smokes with a great set of gams
This commercial doesn't have any sex appeal today but we figure that, sometime during the Eisenhower administration, TV viewers were going Hubba Hubba over this ad.

And by the way, how must it have felt to have been one of the dancers who didn't make the cut at the auditions for this commercial?

I Love Lucy...if you catch my drift...
Rumor has it that Desi had an eye for the ladies and Lucille Ball had some difficulty holding his attention. All this makes more interesting Lucy's line, "You see how easy it is to keep a man happy?"

A Little Dab'll Do Ya
Is this woman doing some kind of creepy breeding potential analysis? Is that what she means by the comment that the guy's hair is "so disturbingly healthy, so full of life?"

Of course, times change...
Big-time Hollywood actor and star of Transformers, Josh Duhamel, here, looks more like the before picture in the Brylcreem commercial.

What's with the Sudden "You Lie!" Trend?!

liar poster

More Signs of the Apocalypse?
In the last few days, we've been hearing one "You Lie" accusation after another.

First it was Joe (Pants on Fire) Wilson:

Then it was Serena Williams, disputing the US Open foot fault:

And now Kanye West, disputing the VMA judges: