When I was 11 years ago, NBC introduced a new television show called “Flipper” staring Luke Halpin and Tommy Norden as Sandy and Bud, the sons of Ranger Ricks, a Florida wildlife warden. The story revolved around a single-parent family who among other things, were the “keepers” of the highly talented dolphin, Flipper, who was actually the main star of the show and probably.
It was one of the most unique plots of the time and I became an instant fan as the two boys were about my age and the theme of the show involved being at the beach 24 hours a day and driving around in outboard boats all day long. Add to that Flipper and I was ready to pack my bags and join the Ricks family.
One of the interesting things NBC did that summer was publish a special viewer guide that had lots of great photos of the stars and detailed descriptions of the new shows. I remember sending away for the guide and cherished the slick, full-color mini-magazine when it arrived in its smooth manila envelope addressed to Master John Brandt. I had this fixation at that time in my life for catalogs and other mail order junk and was always sending away for all kinds of neat stuff.
This was the heyday of commercial television and the three networks (Fox who?) reigned supreme. Even Public Television was a blip on the screen (literally) and the networks worked feverishly to grab the largest audiences. The special viewer guide fixed me as an NBC fan for the next 20 years.
In the decades that have followed I have almost always taken an interest in what new shows were to appear in the new fall season. For many years I have made an effort to purchase the “Fall Premier Issue” of TV Guide eager to pore through and pick out what I viewed would be the “winners” of the upcoming season. I think the last time I actually picked a winner was 1999 when The West Wing hit the air. Seeing the “coming attractions” over that summer I predicted correctly that it would be my favorite show. After viewing the first episode, I had my doubts predicting the plot was too complicated and cerebral for the average American viewer. Happily I was wrong, at least that year, but in the years that have followed I have not found anything that garners my interest. I’ll admit to being a secret Heros fan last year, but by the end of the season I thought the show has lost its edge and was becoming too predictable.
So, this summer I was rather cynical when it came to the announcements of the upcoming fall season. There has been nothing in the summer promos that look remotely interesting and it appears all network TV executives now do is find the stupidest idea possible for a new show. I think they have really reached a new low, by my count only eleven new shows on the major networks – nearly all of them losers in my eye. Sorry that does not include Fox or any of the other fringe networks. I don’t even bother to look at those “networks.” So, I’m old fashioned – shoot me.
Last Saturday while at the local supermarket I looked high and low for a copy of TV Guide’s Fall Premier issue. It took quite a bit of doing since sometime in the past year TV Guide changed from its historic pocket sized template to a new larger, magazine size. Completely in full color – gone are the funky newsprint pages and special yellow sections. This is not your father’s TV Guide for sure.
What I was looking forward to was the opportunity of predicting which of the new shows would crash and burn in the first few weeks of the season. I love looking at the issue the following February and seeing if I can even remember the show.
In recent years my ability to guess the winners and losers has just about vanished. It seems that anything that looks remotely interesting to me is bound to be a failure and everything that looks like its design to appear to Neanderthals is a big winner.
So it should not come as a surprise to learn that the only thing I am looking forward to viewing in this new fall season is my old buddy Ken Burns’ new film The War on PBS.
Thank God for PBS.
Do you think a show about two boys and a dolphin might work?