Tuesday, March 29, 2022

This Day in TV History: The Academy Awards and the NCAA Championship!

Nowadays, putting a big event like the Academy Awards on the same night as the NCAA Men's Basketball Championship, or vice versa, might be seen as a slap in the face. Yet back then the hoops wasn't as big a deal as it is today, and things were just different. So it wasn't that unusual that 40 years ago tonight, March 29, 1983, both events went head to head in prime time.

In the 1982 Oscars, hosted by Johnny Carson on ABC, the big winners included Chariots of Fire (most wins and Best Picture), Raiders of the Lost Ark (tied for most wins with 4), and On Golden Pond. The stars of the latter film, Henry Fonda and Katharine Hepburn, won the major acting honors, so this night was sort of a commemoration of two screen legends.

Over on CBS, starting an hour earlier, North Carolina got coach Dean Smith his first title in a win over Georgetown. The Tarheels featured a young guard named Michael Jordan, who hit the go-ahead bucket with 15 seconds left. So this was kind of like the first step in the creation of a legend (and don't forget Hall of Famers James Worthy and Patrick Ewing, who also starred in the game).
With its hour head start, the basketball drew an average of 17 million viewers, but the Oscars' rating was over 46 million! it seems strange to see two huge events going against each other, but as we mentioned in a bonus episode a while back, it was not unprecedented. The previous year, both events were scheduled to go head to head, but the attempted assassination of President Reagan made the Academy and ABC move the awards a night, while the NCAA deliberated before deciding to continue the game as planned.

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