(Television History and Trivia)




Victor Edward Swanson,


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- - - T.H.A.T., Edition No. 24 - - -

    February 2006--it was another "sweeps" period, which is a ratings period for many television stations and television networks (or television channels).  During the period, to attract viewers, television stations and television networks (or television channels) put on programming that it was hoped would attract the most television viewers as possible so that the stations and the networks would look good in the ratings books and attract more advertisers and more advertising dollars.  For instance, maybe, during the period, you noticed television news programs aired stories that could be described as more "sensational" than the stories that you could expect to see during non-"sweeps" periods.  I know, for instance, the television soap opera entitled General Hospital had a special storyline that involved characters that had been prominent in the series during the 1980s and early 1990s, such as Holly Sutton Scorpio, and I know the producers of the show even put a little baby (which looked to me like a rubber doll or a "rubber baby") in jeopardy.  What I realize about the February 2006 sweeps period is how few "specials" were used by the broadcast television networks.  I remember when the broadcast television networks often aired "specials" during the sweeps periods (which are, generally speaking, in November, February, early May, and early July), or at the very least, I remember, in decades past, broadcast television networks felt "specials" were important in the process to attract viewers.

    Let me interrupt my train of thought here.  A "special" is some type of unique program, such as The Ford 50th Anniversary Show (which was shown on CBS-TV and NBC-TV at the same time on June 15, 1953), Elvis (which featured Elvis Presley and which was shown on NBC-TV on December 3, 1968), Mitzi Gaynor and a Hundred Guys (which was shown on CBS-TV on March 24, 1975), and Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever (which was shown on NBC-TV on May 16, 1983).  A "special" is usually a "one-shot."  Remember:  To me, a "special" is not a special episode of a series.

    It seems to me broadcast television networks no longer think it is worthwhile to air specials, maybe thinking specials cost too much or feeling they need not give their networks something different that will make viewers take notice.  At the beginning of this month (March 2006), it occurred to me that I should do some research and make this edition of T.H.A.T. show whether or not broadcast television networks used more specials in long-past February sweeps periods than in the recent February sweeps period, and, so, I chose to look at and compare the most-recent February sweeps period with six other past February sweeps periods, but since this past February sweeps period did have an Olympics, which began on Friday, February 10, and ended on Sunday, February 26, I chose to use only a nine-day period in my research, the first nine days of all the Februarys (if I use all the days of the Februarys, I might get a bad research result, since, for instance, in relation to the February 2006 sweeps period, broadcast television networks that did not have the rights to air Olympic coverage might have decided not to air any specials against the Olympics coverage, which was offered by NBC-TV).  You should understand I am only looking at the prime-time day-part of the first nine days of the Februarys that are involved in this research project.

    The first February that we will look at is February 2006, and I take into consideration seven broadcast television networks (ABC-TV, CBS-TV, Fox, i, NBC-TV, UPN, and The WB).  NBC-TV had The Biggest Loser: Special Edition on Wednesday, February 1, but it is not a special since it is related to a series The Biggest Loser.  CBS-TV had Super Bowl's Greatest Commercials: Top 40 on Saturday, February 4.  CBS-TV had Super Bowl XL on Sunday, February 5, but it does not get counted, since it is an annual NFL event.  CBS-TV had an annual Grammy Awards telecast on Wednesday, February 8.  On February 8, NBC-TV had another special edition of The Biggest Loser, which I do not think of as a special.  And that is it.

    This paragraph covers February 1999, and I take into consideration seven broadcast television networks (ABC-TV, CBS-TV, Fox, NBC-TV, PAX TV (which would become known as i in 2005), UPN, and The WB).  On Monday, February 1, Fox had TV Guide Awards.  On Thursday, February 4, Fox had Robbie Knievel: Building to Building Death Jump Live! and World's Most Shocking Moments Caught on Tape 2.  CBS-TV broadcast The 48th Miss USA Pageant on Friday, February 5.  PAX TV had Quest for Noah's Ark on Sunday, February 7.  (ABC-TV had part of an NFL Pro Bowl broadcast on Sunday, February 8, and it does not get counted.)  Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman was a series that was shown on CBS-TV from the 1992-1993 season through the 1997-1998 season, and on Monday, February 8, PAX TV aired a special that saluted that series, and the special was entitled A Salute to "Dr. Quinn: Medicine Woman".

    Look at what people could see in February 1994, and I take four networks into consideration (ABC-TV, CBS-TV, Fox, and NBC-TV), since there were only four networks.  On Friday, February 4, NBC-TV showed Days of Our Lives: "Winter Heat" and The 10th Annual Soap Opera AwardsIBM Skates of Gold was a special shown on ABC-TV on Saturday, February 5.  A show called The 21st Annual American Music Awards was aired by ABC-TV on Monday, February 7.

    You are going farther back in time, and now you are at February 1986, and I take three networks into consideration (ABC-TV, CBS-TV, and NBC-TV), since there were only three networks.  ABC-TV had a special entitled Life's Most Embarrassing Moments #9 for viewers on Saturday, February 1, and it was the only regular special that was aired during the period of 1986 that is under consideration.  However, the period had three mini-series, which are big-budget television movies that have at least two parts (each of which is at least 90-minutes long).  CBS-TV had a three-part mini-series on the air during the period, and it was Sins; part one was shown on Sunday, February 2, and part two was shown on Monday, February 3, and part three was shown on Tuesday, February 4.  NBC-TV showed a four-part mini-series entitled Peter the Great, and the mini-series was shown on February 2 (for part one), February 3 (for part two), February 4 (for part three), and February 5 (for part four).  ABC-TV aired Harem (part one) on Sunday, February 8, and Harem (part two) on Monday, February 9.

    Here are the special programs related to the time period in February 1981, and I take three networks into consideration (ABC-TV, CBS-TV, and NBC-TV).  On Monday, February 2, CBS-TV had Lily: Sold Out.  CBS-TV aired an animated special on Wednesday, February 4, and it was Bug Bunny's Valentine (which was a repeat presentation). A Love Letter to Jack Benny was a salute to Jack Benny, a famous comedian, that NBC-TV gave viewers on Thursday, February 5.  John Steinbeck's East of Eden was a three-part mini-series that ABC-TV put on the air in February 1981, and part one was shown on Sunday, February 8, and part two was shown on Monday, February 9 (and part three was shown on Wednesday, February 11).

    February  1978 had a lot of specials, and in talking about the period, I take three networks into consideration (ABC-TV, CBS-TV, and NBC-TV).  CBS-TV showed Leapin' Lizards It's Liberace on Wednesday, February 1, and, also on February 1, NBC-TV showed part two of Black Beauty (which was a four-part show, each part of which ran one hour), and CBS-TV aired a made-for-TV movie entitled See How She Runs, which was sort of a special in that it was shown as a G.E. Theater presentation.  On Thursday, February 2, NBC-TV aired part three of Black Beauty, A Celebration at Ford's Theatre, and Taxi, which was a one-hour Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation and not an episode of a series called Taxi, which would not start airing on ABC-TV till the fall of 1978.  NBC-TV gave viewers part four of Black Beauty on Friday, February 3, and NBC-TV showed the last part of Black Beauty on Saturday, February 5.  ABC Silver Anniversary Celebration was the special program that ABC-TV showed on Sunday, February 5.  On Tuesday, February 7, NBC-TV had Dean Martin Celebrity Roast (which was a comedy roast of Frank Sinatra, the well-known singer).

    Here was what February 1973 had, and again I take three networks into consideration (ABC-TV, CBS-TV, and NBC-TV).  On Thursday, February 1, CBS-TV had A Conversation with Henry Kissinger and LBJ: The Last Interview.  On Friday, February 2, CBS-TV aired Joseph Papp's New York Shakespeare Festival: "Much Ado About Nothing".  Thursday, February 8--this date was used by NBC-TV to show a special headlined by Bob Hope, and this special had a lot of guest stars, some of whom were Jack Benny, George Foreman (a boxer), Steve Allen, Danny Thomas, Nipsey Russell, and Jo Anne Worley.  NBC-TV also showed NBC Follies, which was a pilot for a variety series, on February 8.  NBC-TV showed You're a Good Man, Charlie Brown, which was a 90-minute live-action program, on Friday, February 9; this Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation featured, for instance, Wendell Burton as Charlie Brown, Ruby Persson as Lucy, Barry Livingston as Linus, and Bill Hinnant as Snoopy.

    I have given you information about seven Februarys, and now I give you a wrap-up paragraph.  For February 2006, there were two specials, and at the time, there were seven networks.  For February 1999, there were seven networks, and viewers got six specials.  For February 1994, there were four networks and four specials.  For February 1986, there were three networks, and it can be said that there were nine specials.  For February 1981, there were three networks, and it can be said that there were five special programs.  For February 1978, there were three networks and ten specials (if a broad definition is used).  For February 1973, there were three networks and six specials.

    The data that I have presented should convince you that the networks are giving up on airing specials, but the impression is probably not as great as it could be if I were to show, for instance, how many specials were aired from the start of September 2005 to the end of February 2006 and how many specials were aired from the start of September 1978 to the end of February 1979.

    In the previous edition of T.H.A.T., I posed some questions related to a CGI-type series entitled ReBOOT, which you were to find answers to before you saw this edition of T.H.A.T.  One question was really easy to answer, since it was about the person who ran Dot's Cafe.  A gal name Dot ran the cafe, and that is one answer.  The name of the boy was Enzo.  And the final answer is: Hexadecimal.  Hexadecimal was the evil gal.

    I must return to the subject of TV Guide.  I noted in the twenty-third edition of T.H.A.T. that the operators of TV Guide had put in a 6:00 a.m. to noon weekday grid in the February 13-19, 2006, edition of TV Guide, and I said that doing that was at least a little improvement for the new version of TV Guide.  The February 20-26, 2006, edition of TV Guide also had a program grid for the weekday 6:00 a.m. to noon block.  The operators of TV Guide did not put a similar grid in the February 27-March 5, 2006, edition, or in the March 6-12,  2006, edition.  So there was no long-term gain for the readers of TV Guide.

    Somewhere along the line in every edition of T.H.A.T., I ask a trivia question or several trivia questions.  Early in this edition of T.H.A.T., I mentioned the special entitled Elvis, which some television listings of the time called Elvis Presley (which is not the correct title) and which was sponsored by Singer Corporation (the sewing-machine company), and on the same night that NBC-TV showed Elvis, the network showed Bardot, which featured Brigette Bardot and had such other performers as Manitas de Plato and Sacha Distel.  This special was Brigette Bardot's first American special; however, the special had been shown in France already--on December 31, 1967.  NBC-TV altered the special a bit before the special was shown and somewhat missed having a bigger "ratings grabber," which would be prized, it seems to me, by NBC-TV and other television networks today.  My question for you is: What did NBC-TV do to the special to make the special not so much of a ratings grabber?  (Incidentally, "Bardot" should be pronounced as "Bar-doe," and Brigette Bardot was a well-known movie actress and "movie sex kitten" from France.)

Stay well!


copyright c. 2006
Date published: March 10, 2006

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