TV, TV In 1983

by Jaime Weinman

YouTube has a bunch of video collections called “TV Show Openings,” where someone has collected together the intros for various shows that were on the air in a particular year, flops and hits alike. These are great to watch if you have time, because they have many intros that aren’t available anywhere else on the internet, and they give you a real collective idea of what television was like (for good and ill) at a particular time.

1983, for example, was not a good time for television on the whole — there were a few good shows, a few hits, but this was the time when the sitcom was dead, hits like M*A*S*H were going away, and the Hill Street Blues-style quality drama was still struggling to gain acceptance with the public. And you can see the signs of a struggling TV business in all the high-concept shows, unnecessary spinoffs (Aftermash) and just plain weird ideas (Mr. Smith, Manimal) that premiered that year.

This is also one reason to miss the full-length main title: it’s a way of understanding what a show was like even if you never get to see the show itself. It’s like a historical tool for us lazy historians.

Here’s the 1983 series of openings; I’ve placed part 2 first because it includes the bomb Mr. Smith (which I mentioned in an earlier post) and the success Scarecrow and Mrs. King (which was just announced for DVD release), as well as the most infamous bomb of that year, Manimal.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=mxzvIB1dDUA

But for sheer 1983-ness, nothing matches the intro to Whiz Kids at the 6:10 mark in part 1: the theme music is Mozart’s 21st piano concerto rearranged for synthesizer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LogaEI3wB_Q

Part 3 brings us such deservedly forgotten shows as Stephen J. Cannell’s country-fied “The Rousters” (with Mike Post’s attempt at a country theme song) and Fred Silverman’s attempt to bring back the “jiggle” show with We Got It Made.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CQ-UUZA_WbY




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TV, TV In 1983

  1. Look at all the variety, which is a lot better than we have now, where every show is about cops or doctors or lawyers. And there are action shows, which the networks have largely eschewed (except 24). There's a lot more diversity in casting in these old shows too than we have today. I'd much rather choose from these shows than what we have now.

  2. Wasn't Dynasty on back then? I really liked that show.

  3. My God! How did I get through the 80's? Oh, yeah–I forgot–we had MTV back then, too.

  4. Look at all these forgotten actors — there they were starring in a TV show, and I've no idea who they even are — except Alec Baldwin, and I have no memory of that show.

    Interestingly, I see the opening credits for Whiz Kids has Mathew Laborteaux's name spelled incorrectly (I think it says Laboratux). A sign of things to come for the show?

  5. Just a few observations:

    I don't even remember most of these show! I hadn't even HEARD of most of them!

    I'm very glad I don't remember most of these shows . . .

    I knew about DYNASTY but never watched it–The theme music was pretty good, particularly the trumpet solo. Also, Joan Collins was hardly the prettiest woman on the show.

    The synthesizer arrangement of Mozart for WHIZ KIDS was, as they used to say, sprightly.

    I'd forgotten how much I enjoyed SCARECROW AND MRS. KING–not just the stars, but the supporting cast (few people could throw withering glances like Martha Smith) — I think that's the only TV show that year I watched with any regularity.

    I'd forgotten that Alec Baldwin used to be, you know, skinny.

    Was it illegal for a black actor to headline a show? Did they always have to play the earnest guy three or four spots down the cast list?

    • When DID Cosby start that Huxtable family show? I remember my kids watching it, so it must have been sometime in the 80s.

      • Actually, it was '82, a year before all of these shows started. At the time, Cosby was probably the ONLY black performer who could have headlined a sitcom, as opposed to playing the street-wise sidekick or some such . . .

        • some such "Huggy Bear?"

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