What Was on TV: Saturday, March 14, 1987

I sounds almost cliche to say this, but I've got over 200 channels and cannot find a thing to watch.  I can count on three fingers the number of current television shows that I enjoy watching.  I just missed the boat on the whole reality television thing - I can't get into it. I can't for the life of me give a flying shit about any of these people - why should I care which slut takes home the "bachelor"? or whether the "nanny" can fix some scary dysfunctional family who should probably all be euthanized...

But I digress. I feel like opening up an old TV schedule and checking out what was on TV 23 years ago.  Let's take a look at Saturday, March 14th.  You'll have to click on the images to be able to view it full size anf follow along.

Keep in mind, this is one random night - I'm not choosing this evening because it features anything special. It's just like any other evening in the late 1980's. 

For starters, there's a couple of great British comedies to watch tonight...

Benny Hill at 11:00
Naughty, cheeky brit humor; if for no other reason, watch for "Hill's Angels"

Also at 11:00 - Blackadder
Witty, intelligent brit humor featuring Rowan Atkinson, before he became the buffoon, Mr. Bean.

Best of all may be Night Flight at 12:30 all the way to 6:00 in the morning. I've talked extensively about this show in another post.  An incredible indoctrination to movies and music off the beaten path.

Before there was American Idol and Dancing with the Stars, there were the cheesy talent shows Dance Fever (at 4:30), Star Search (at 7:00), and Puttin' on the Hits (at 6:00 and 7:30). And let's not forget the mother of all music shows, Solid Gold at 7:00 - those Sold Gold Dancers with their gold lame' thongs and legwarmers really got a young man's attention.

What about situation comedies? There was plenty... but this was a case of quantity over quality, so you had to watch out; there were some real stinkers like What a Country!

What a Country! at 6:30
Remember Yakov Smirnoff? He was exceedingly not funny. He made Gallagher look good.  It was the same miserable punchline every time - repeated misunderstandings of American culture get old: "At the grocery store: "Powdered milk, powdered eggs, baby powder . . . what a country!" Ha, ha, ha, ha (if you could hear this laugh, you'd know it was sarcastic).

Other lousy sitcoms to watch tonight: Mama's Family, What's Happening Now?, Small Wonder, The New Gidget, Sanchez of Bel Air, and The Bad News Bears.

You Can't Do That On Television at 7:00
This Canadian program was sort of like Laugh-In for pre-teens, and among the first shows on the new kid's network, Nickelodeon.  There's a couple websites devoted to this show, but it's largely been forgotten, with not much being published about it - other than in Alanis Morrisette references.

The main difference between this TV schedule and today's programming has to be the movies.  I did a post on this subject in July 2009 called "When Late Night Movies Ruled". They just don't play movies on TV like they used to - thank God for Netflix.  I'll spare you the rant on this subject, considering there's a whole post on this issue.  However, I will point out the cornucopia of trash & treasure available on this one night:

Gimme an F (1984) at 11:00
This is one of those stereotypical teen sex comedies like H.O.T.S. and Private School. Good luck trying to watch this gem; unfortunately, it's not on DVD and you can't even find a good quality image of the movie poster - it's like it vanished from all memory, like it never existed.

Maneaters Are Loose (1978) at 11:30
A made for TV movie starring Tom Skerritt and Dabney Coleman about killer tigers terrorizing southern California.... need I say more? Tagline: "These bloodthirsty beasts quickly turn the quaint California town into a carving board of carnage with every man, woman and child only serving one purpose.... food!!" Four stars.

Up the Academy (1980) at 2:00
MAD magazine disowned this teen sex comedy, after it was associated with the magazine in the same way Animal House had been associated with National Lampoon.  It was a failure, but still stands as a better than average example of its genre.  Better than anything you're likely to find on your TV tonight.

Lifeforce (1985) at 12:00
I'll quote from a comment on IMDb: "From the director of The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Poltergeist comes this massive apocalyptic science-fiction and horror epic. It's 2001 and Dawn of the Dead all rolled into one juicy little egg-roll of a movie, spiced with the beautiful naked body of Mathilda May." I couldn't have said it better myself.

Add to all this, you've got handfuls of other programs worthy of watching: Riptide, Klute, F/X, Doctor Who, The Empire Strikes Back, Tales from the Darkside, and Ghost Story - not the movie, but the 1970's TV series that I am dying to watch, but I don't think it's available on DVD. Aaaargg!

I'll stop here. You get the picture: it perhaps wasn't the greatest period in television (shows like The Facts of Life had passed their expiration date, and shows like Solid Gold were beginning to get "old"); however, put this schedule on tonight, and my TiVo is set to record all night long!


  1. Sorry but I gotta spread some well intended love for Mama's Family! I think it's way funnier than most sitcoms on today. Now Small Wonder is one I'm saving for a future post...big wonder is how it managed to stay on the air for an astonishing four seasons.

    And I really want to watch that Tina Turner concert special.

  2. I just found that Tina concert on VHS by way of Amazon. I hope it plays. I am guessing it was a rental copy, or a flea market find.

  3. OK, 23 years ago there were fewer channels. It took less time to click through them all with the same results as today - nothing worth watching.

  4. Man, do I miss the pre-1990 USA Network. Now, it's just a TNT clone. They used to have such eclectic programming, showing some movies & TV shows I haven't seen since. I miss those titillating late 60's-early 70's Spanish & Italian horror movies, "Night Flight", "Commander USA", etc...

    They should start a separate cable channel called "Classic USA" that has the programming they used to show in the 80's. I mean, really; how many "Law & Order" episodes do they have to show in a day?

  5. How about The Cockeyed Cowboys of Calico County at 8:05? They don't make them like that anymore. And what I mean by that (I know nothing about the movie) is I bet it's just kick-back-and-enjoy fun. No worrys about a message, or being ironic, or any of that crap.

    And look, the Wheel of Fortune! How long since that's been on?

    I would love to see Country Music Legends.

    How about The Hitchhiker at 9:30? Late night TV host attracts kinky teen (Helen Hunt)!

  6. Man...I wish they would put "Night Flight" on DVD or something I really miss that.

  7. Hey,

    Wait a minute!

    There are programs on after 1:00 am!!

    You mean there was a time when stations showed something besides infomercials late at night??

    You mean that in the past local TV station realized some people were up late and wanted to watch something besides kitchen gadgets and grills???

    I find this all hard to believe.

  8. I love looking at vintage TV Guides !! This particular week in March 1987 I remember well !! Are you going to showcase any more ??