Saturday, December 22, 2018

This Day in TV History: December 22, 1978

Let's go back in the BOTNS time machine and take a look at what was going on 40 years ago today on December 22, 1978! Our guide for this journey is THE guide--a vintage TV Guide covering 12/16/78-12/22/78 and featuring the Bradfords on the cover (Don't worry, folks, they will return later).

This day happened to be a Friday, but because it's Christmas season, we get plenty of yuletide specials to accompany standard end-of-the-workweek programming.

You get your game shows in the morning. For example, Hollywood Squares had the Lennon Sisters along with stalwarts like Paul Lynde, George Gobel, and Rose Marie. Match Game featured Fannie Flagg and Carol Jones. The Gong Show was more of an evening show, and among its judges today was Steve Martin.

In the afternoon, Mike Douglas' co-host that week was Carroll O'Connor, and wouldn't you know, they just happened to invite Danielle Brisebois on this day's episode. Also on the show: George Carlin and Mac Davis! Now, that sounds like a blockbuster.

Less intriguing is Dinah!'s guest roster. Shore welcomed Robert Logan, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Beth Howland, Marilu Henner, and the Hudson Brothers. OK, I won't scoff at TV's Vera, but this lineup can't compare to Carlin and Mac Davis.

Let's start with the prime-time lineup, and let's go right to two joyous Christmas specials on ABC! (Note that times are central because this is a St. Louis edition of the mag)

In a parallel reality, John Davidson was Mr. Christmas and had a TV special every year up until the early nineties instead of "only" in 1977 and 1978. This particular special co-starred Harvey Korman AND Linda Lavin (poor Beth Howland is relegated to daytime duty). The Guide  description also mentions a ballet rendition of the Nativity and "a disco spoof of Saturday Night Favor/" It doesn't get more festive than that!

The description of Eight Is Enough is deceptive. The "two-hour movie" is a repeat of a two-parter from the previous season of the show, with Will Geer (recently in our Waltons episode) as a thief who makes off with the family's presents and wheels. Also in the guest cast are Judy Strangis and Nicholas "Spider-Man" Hammond! Below is an ad for a syndicated rerun:

Not to be outdone, NBC led off the night with a Bob Hope special presented by Texaco.

Among Bob's guests: Andy Gibb, Dionne Warwick, and the AP All-America college football team.

Note that the special was "still in production as of press time," which surely means Bob's monologue was ultra-topical.

NBC followed Bob with a Rockford Files repeat and an episode of the short-lived Eddie Capra Mysteries.

CBS shunned Christmas programming in favor of its regular lineup: Wonder Woman (in which she takes on...a leprechaun?), The Incredible Hulk (with two-time BOTNS star William Lucking!), and Flying High, the sexy stewardess show with Connie Sellecca that only lasted--you know, I totally would have watched that.

Come back tomorrow for a look at PBS, sports, and late-night options from 40 years ago!

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