Once upon a time, before cable TV and the internet were a thing, pop culture junkies like me had to get our information about things like new stuff coming out, hot trends on the public’s mind, and so on and so on, from newspapers and magazines. Even “infotainment” shows like Entertainment Tonight didn’t really exist. Print was IT.
I devoured everything I could find on the subject of mystery and SF and adventure fiction back in the day, which meant I was a devout reader of TV GUIDE.
Especially the Fall Preview issue every September.
Goddamn but I loved those things. I read them cover to cover, obsessively, even when the articles were describing shows I was forbidden to watch because they were on too late at night or too adult or whatever other arbitrary reason my incredibly tightly-wound mother landed on.
But TV GUIDE wasn’t my only source. The Sunday papers of the time also usually had some sort of weekly TV tabloid guide as an insert.
These were usually hard-to-read grid schedules sandwiched between dozens of ads and the occasional little filler bits of trivia about this or that.
I read those too, but more often than not, they irritated me with their shallowness and inaccuracy. I was reminded of this a few days ago when a couple of different nostalgia websites I enjoy resurrected these particular dimwit articles from TV newspaper supplements. I thought I’d share them here just to give you an idea of the severe nerdrage they evoked in my young self.
Here’s the first one…
Clearly the guy writing this held The Six Million Dollar Man in complete contempt. Because I was there and I can tell you exactly why the ratings ramped up, and it wasn’t really Steve at all. It was writer/producer Kenneth Johnson and his tearjerker introduction of the Bionic Woman, Jaime Sommers, close to the end of the second season.
Lindsay Wagner could ACT. She raised Lee Majors’ game just by being in the frame with him. America loved Jaime and because Steve loved her too the whole country was rooting for them. Jaime’s tragic passing absolutely undid me… and I guarantee you I was not normally into ‘mushy stuff.’
It was a hell of a piece of TV coming from a show not normally noted for its emotional content. Almost a sucker punch, even for a jaded genre fan like me who knew that Steve could never really get married or have any other permanent change happen, because, y’know, next week they have a new episode.
But America loved them. You kids today and your ‘shipping… before Castle and Beckett or Buffy and Angel or any of those, we had the star-crossed bionic couple. You have no idea. America wanted Steve and Jaime together damn it. Killing her off launched a nationwide wail of dismay that ABC could not ignore.
So they resurrected her.
My parents thought it was farfetched but I was from comics, I shrugged it off. (Comics fans and Trekkies understood resurrection was a thing. I was both.) Steve and Jaime’s tormented romance became the engine that drove the third season launch…. and they teased us with it for the next couple of years. Jaime got amnesia. Steve met a hot alien. Jaime couldn’t commit. And so on.
It eventually led to Jaime getting her own show, and of course it was a huge success.
This in turn let ABC do multipart crossovers just like Marvel Comics. I was in heaven. This was EPIC.
Once in a while we’ll screen Kill Oscar for kids who are visiting and you know, it still works. They love it.
That success, back in 1976, is what cascaded into the bionic wave that gave us Man From Atlantis and Incredible Hulk and so on.
The Hulk, incidentally, also launched with a Kenneth Johnson tearjerker. Never quite forgave Johnson for killing off Susan Sullivan in the pilot.
The point being, I was a fourteen-year-old kid at the time and I knew this stuff. People who get paid to write about TV for newspapers should have known it too.
But this earlier one was even worse. Check it out:
I WAS NOT AMUSED.
Okay, let the writer have his damn dad joke. Honestly, though, it’s embarrassing to admit that I almost missed the Clark Kent thing because I was so appalled at the “Robin and Alfred” part. I mean, really? Batman never unmasked as Bruce Wayne??
Are you fucking kidding me? Villains find out all the damn time.
There’s Joe Chill…
(And his mother….)
And her dad….
Even Bruce’s Aunt Agatha, who makes Aunt Harriet look like an Einstein.
Then there’s all the times Bruce just up and TELLS people. Kathy Kane…
(He told her a BUNCH of times, actually…)
His fellow Justice Leaguers…
Honestly, I’m pretty sure the only ones in Gotham City who haven’t figured it out by now about Batman being Bruce Wayne are about four muggers and Commissioner Gordon. And he tried to tell Gordon.
It’s just that Gordon didn’t want to know.
So get out of here with your Robin and Alfred bullshit. We’re probably in triple digits by now, especially if you count all the guys in the League of Assassins who were working for Ra’s Al Ghul back in the Daughter of the Demon.
Those newspaper guys, they should have come and asked me. I’d’a told them. Hell, I used to grump to my mom and dad about this sort of thing and they didn’t even ask.
Come to think of it, no one ever has, not to this day. I guess it’s a good thing I got a column gig. I’d hate to think I wasted my life learning all this nerdlore.
Back next week with something cool.