Saturday, May 9, 2020

This Day in TV History: A pair of deuces on NBC 40 years ago today

An unusual programming strategy crafted NBC's prime-time lineup 40 years ago today.  On May 9, 1980, NBC featured two movies--but it showed the second part of each one.  Yes, rather than show 1976's King Kong on Thursday and The Curse of King Tut's Tomb on Friday, it started each the first night and finished them the next.

Notice how Casey Kasem kind of glosses over Tut in that promo and instead rushes to hype Capricorn One, which is "coming soon." Tut stars Raymond Burr, as Kasem says, but top billed is Eva Marie Saint in the original TV movie, with Robin Ellis as famed archaeologist Howard Carter.  Also in the cast: BOTNS favorite Tom Baker, AKA the Fourth Doctor!

The 1976 Kong is of course the Dino DeLaurentiis remake, a big-budget production that did well in theaters despite its less-than-stellar reputation.  NBC spent a then-record amount to license the movie and got an expanded ("bloated?) edition of the film that was 134 minutes in its original theatrical run. This 1980 screening was NBC's second of the movie; it debuted to much hype in 1978 (Multiple sources call it "October 1978," but I can't find the actual airdate).

The longer running time encouraged NBC to do it as a two-night event (or maybe it was the other way around), but it seems odd to pair it with a TV movie instead of an hour long program each night. So the Kong-size Kong is split into two two-hour slots, but the regular-length Tut gets two one-hour slots.

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