(Television History and Trivia)




Victor Edward Swanson,


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- - - T.H.A.T. , Edition No. 2 - - -

    In the first edition of T.H.A.T., I said that in this edition I would present a short history of made-for-TV movies.  The history that I will cover only pertains to the commercial broadcast networks, especially ABC-TV, CBS-TV, and NBC-TV.  Commerical network broadcast television began in 1946, and I will say that, between 1946 and today, made-for-TV movies have existed in two main periods.  The first period is from 1946 to October 1964, and the second period is from October 1964 to today.
    Before made-for-TV movies would be aired on the broadcast television networks (and the affiliated television stations), theatrical movies (movies orginally made for movie houses or theaters) were aired.  Between 1946 and September 23, 1961, the movies that were aired were old movies and even old low-budget movies, such as westerns; for example, in the 1950s, a movie aired on network television was very likely to be a movie that had been made in the 1930s or 1940s.  Then, on September 23, 1961, NBC-TV began to air somewhat recent theatrical movies or recent big-budget theatrical movies in prime time, and the first movie that NBC-TV aired was How to Marry a Millioniare, a 1953 theatrical movie that featured Marilyn Monroe.  (For several decades afterward, the umbrella title for movies that NBC showed on Saturday evenings was "NBC Saturday Night at the Movies.")  The other networks soon began to air more recent theatrical movies, too.
    Around 1964--before Wednesday, October 7, 1964--Universal Studios and NBC-TV came together and decided to make movies that would be shown on NBC-TV before being shown in Europe, such as in movie houses.  On October 7, 1964, the first movie to be shown through the association of Universal Studios and NBC-TV (considered a product of "Project 120") was See How They Run, and some of the performers in the made-for-TV movie were John Fosythe (who would later work on Dynasty, the 1990s TV series), Jane Wyatt, Senta Berger, and George Kennedy.  See How They Run is the first movie of what could be called the modern-day age of made-for-TV movies.
    Before October 7, 1964, there had been a couple made-for-TV movies or there had been what some people of today would call made-for-TV movies, but such movies sort of stretch the definition of made-for-TV movie.  For example, some of the made-for-TV movies were shown as episodes of prime-time series in the 1950s, such as Disneyland.  Some people argue that Arrest and Trial was made up of made-for-TV movies, since it had 90-minute episodes; Arrest and Trail aired on ABC-TV from September 15, 1963, to Deptember 6, 1964.  In addition, on November 26, 1957, NBC-TV aired The Pied Piper of Hamelin, which featured Van Johnson as the Pied Piper, and it can be considered a made-for-TV movie (or nearly a made-for-TV movie).
    Since the movie entitled See How They Run was not made as an episode of a television series and was made to have a quality that was similar with the quality of the theatrical movies that NBC-TV was currently airing around 1964, I say that the history of the modern-day made-for-TV movie started on October 7, 1964.
    And that is a little history about made-for-TV movies, and it seems some time in the future, I will present more history about made-for-TV movies.

    Through this edition, I must answer trivia questions that were posed in the previous edition of T.H.A.T.  One question dealt with the 1987 movie entitled "Family Sins."  In the previous edition, I wondered if you knew who played Ken McMahon in the 1987 movie.  The answer is Brent Spiner, who went on to play "Data" in Star Trek: The Next Generation" (a TV series that was started up in syndication in September 1987).  Another problem that you were to solved was: Who played Charles Manson in the 1976 mini-series entitled Helter Skelter?  The answer to that question is: Steve Railsback.  I also wanted you to think about the two actors who played the lead characters in the TV-movie called Dead Man's Curve.  In that 1978 made-for-TV movie, Richard Hatch played Jan Berry, and Bruce Davison played Dean Torrence.

    I now can bid you: "Many Happy Returns."  I will be back with another addition of T.H.A.T. soon.  But I leave you with one more bit of television history.  In my files, I have cards for only two programs that were entitled Many Happy Returns; that is, I have listings for only two programs that were aired as Many Happy Returns.  Both were comedies.  One program was a sitcom that began to be aired on the  CBS-TV network on September 21, 1964.  The program featured such performers as John McGiver as Walter Burnley, Elinor Donahue as Joan Randall, and Mark Goddard as Bob Randall.  The other program was a 1986 made-for-TV movie, which had such performers as Ron Liebman, Helen Shaven, and Walter Olkewicz.  The main character for that movie was called William "Bud" Robinson, and I shall tell you who played William Robinson in the next edition of T.H.A.T.

    By the way, "Will Robinson"  might make you think about a television series from the past?

Stay well!


Date: May 10, 2004

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