THE TELEVISION NETWORKS of America present: A New TV Season.
It isn't easy to characterize this brave new whirl, nor even to decide when it starts. The original date was Sept. 19. Then ABC got the drop on the competition by deciding to launch "Washington. Behind Closed Doors," a six-night block-buster serial, on Sept. 6. Now CBS is planning to debut two of its new shows on Sept. 5.
Why don't we just say the new TV season began when you started reading this article. Now, what's in store? There are a number of developments, including:
More Sex, as ABC's already controversial glandular farce "Soap" advances TV's frankness threshold one small step, although some pressure groups contend it's more in the nature of a giant leap.
Less Violence, thanks to public outcries over TV brutality last season that have resulted in only one new cop opera showing up this year - NBC's cotten-candy "ChiPs" - and returning crime-time shows toning down their mayham level as well.
Super Serials, such as ABC's "Washington," NBC's "The Godfather Saga," and other multi-part multi-night dramas that along with more one-time specials will see scheduled fare disrupted more frequently than ever before.
Wacky Packs, with comedy clearly dominant among new entries and several of them cast in the groovy-gang-of-zanies mold established by hit slike "Welcome Rack, Kotter" and "MASH."
Situation Fantasy, TV's answer to the success of "Star Wars" and the search for action formats that don't involve Los Angeles police or urban psychos - incluing NBC's "Man From Atlantis" and "Logan's Run" on CBS.
Even if these prospects don't thrill the nation, chops are being licked in anticipation along Madison Avenue, because the TV economy is rosier than Pasadena on New Year's Day. This is especially true at ABC, which won the season in a "Roots" abetted landslide last year and this year can get away with charging advertisers an average of $20,000 more per commercial minute than NBC or CBS.
Advertising costs generally are up by 25 to 30 per cent over last year, with ABC's goods the most eagerly bid for. Last year the average mimute on ABC cost about $69,000. This year it's $101,000. Last year one minute of the top rated "Happy Days" went for about $122,000. This year they're getting around $160,000. Prices will go up still more for the lucrative fourth quarter, starting Oct. 1.
The money is being gambled on the fates of beachbums, androids, cruising singles, lovable, rednecks, co-ed sailors, battling mates, too-cute cops and a pair of imbecile families in a perpetual state of carnal melec. Such types populate the new shows.
If you don't like the new fall season, wait around a few weeks. The networks may come up with another one. Never in history have so many shows been waitin gin th wings. ABC is ready to spring "The Harvey Korman spinoff called "Potsie and Ralph," and others to replace feeble starters. The CBS bullpen includes "Shield and Varnell" of the summer series and a Spooky anthology called "World of Darkness." And NBC might revive of slightly canceled "C.P.O. Sharkey" traditional episodes have already been filmed) for fall but later dropped.
The American television program, always the paper plate of entertainment, has become more disposable than ever, and the time given a new series to prove itself gets increasingly shorter. One may go out to the kitchen for a beer and return to find a favorite has gotten the Kibosh.
A good year or bad year? That's going to be in the eyes of the beholders, as ever. It will be the best of prime times, will be terrible. It will be enriching, it will be demeaning.
The San Pedro Beach Bums have names like stuf, Dancer, Boychick and Moose and live in tough and rumble male conraderie on a rough and tumble leaking Lena. Critics groaned at the Original pilot for this one-hour low-brow comedy so ABC redid the show and for safekeeping has assigned "Charlie's Angels" to visit the boys on the premiere (Monday, 8 p.m. starting Sept. 19)
Soap may need no introduction since ABC's hollywood "adult character comedy" has already been condemned by religious groups, spurned by some sponsors, rejected by some affiliates and prematurely blamed for everything but the high price of coffee. A saagely satirical serial about two loathsome households. "Soap" will depend for its success on how pleasurably. America is shocked by it. The characters include a philandering father a vitriolis buller, a shellshocked old cramps, a homosexual who dates a profootball player, and a straying mom who's having an affair with the same twit her daughter is. Much talk of "boffing" much trading of insults (Tuesday, 9:30 p.m., Sept. 13).
Carter's Country might be called "In the Heat of the Day," since the sitcompits soft-edged rednecks against a hip black New York cop transferred to a small Southern town. The slurs and arrows are supposed to be in good clean fun (Thursday, 9:30 p.m., Sept. 15).
Redd Foxx stars the 55-year-old faded blue comic and "Sanford and Son" escapse in a comedy variety hour to be taped a mere 48 hours before broadcast so as to be tangily topical (Thursday, 10 p.m., Sept. 15).
Operation Petticoat, adapted from the hit Cary Grant movie, finds a lot of fun loving gobs and fun-hunning gals aboard the same pick co-ed submarine, with John ("Addams Family") Astin at the comedy's heim. A two hour pilot airs tonight at 9 (Saturday, 8.30 p.m., Sept. 17).
The Love Boat, which sailed through two TV movies last year returns as a weekly comedy anthology - a "Love American main. Gavin Mary Tylor Moore Show) is the skipper, with guest lovebirds each week (Saturday, 10 p.m., Sept. 24).
oung Dan't Boone encounters the well known man-about wilderness of ex-singer Rick Moses, who plays him. Moses moseys around early Tennesse, Kentucky and North Carolina in an easy-going adventure show that may easily go down the drain (Monday, 8 p.m., starting Sept. 12)
The Betty White Show stars the former Sue Ann. resident brat on "Mary Tyler Moore" as a 40-year-old actress who learns that her new networks series, is to be directed by her ex-husband, played by John Hillerman. Soon the pair are fighting like they were still married. Except, they're funny. And they are joined in the cast by Georgia ("Georgette") Engel, playing a girl so haples she's fired from her job at the unemployment office. Peppery patter, salty gag (Monday, 9 p.m., Sept. 12)
Battery crosses Marcus Welby, M.D with Norman Mailer, the result being a TV doctor considerably crustier than any before him. Patrick McGoohan returns to television in a gritt, one-hour drama off man against The System (Monday, 10 p.m., Sept. 5).
The Fitzpatricks are the Waltons with bingo - a warm Catholic clan whose "Our Town" lives make for low-key drama set in Flint Mich. No, they never considered calling it. "How Green Was My Flint" (Premises Monday, Sept. 5 at 9 p.m., then moves to Tuesday, at 8 p.m. Sept. 20)
Lou Grant got fired from the WJM newsroom in Minneapolis, remember? So he kissed Mary Tylor Moore Good-bye and wound up in LA, as who doesn't, and landed the city editor's job at the fictitious Daily Tribune, where the burly beer-belty will face crises both coming and socially significant, the premiere will find him taken hostage by terrorists (Tuesday, 10 p.m., Sept. 20).
The New Adventures of Wonder Woman marks the debut of this coming book fantasy as a weekly series, after occasional shots on ABC last year. Lynda Carter remains the heroine but she's left World War II for tougher times 1977. No talk of "boffing" so far as we know (Friday, 8 p.m., Sept. 16).
Logan's first taxes us to the year 2319, whether we want to go or not, and the [WORD ILLEGIBLE] Mr. Logan, on the lam since he does not wish to be zizzed to bits just because he's turned 30. It's the custom, you see, in this sci-fi series, which is based on the flop movie CBS is showing Sept. 6. Logan runs intonew persons each week and one near-person first week : a debonair droid who's obviously in kin to C3PO in "Star Wars" (Firday, 9 p.m., starting Sept. 16 with a minute premiere at 9:00.
We've Got Each Other, created by Tom Patchett and Jay Tarse of "Bob Newhart" fame, stars Beverly Archer, who played the woebegone daughter on last season's "Nancy Walker Show," in a domestic sitcom about a wife who works and manages things and a roly-poly husband who stays home cooking and dreaming up doomed inventions.
Tom Poston steals many a scene as a nervous wreck photographer (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., Oct. 1).
The Tony Randall Show, with Randall as a finicky Philly judge, was dropped after one season on ABC and caught by CBS, which elected to extend the stick sitcom's life - by at least a few weeks (Saturday, 9.30 p.m., Sept. 24).
On our Own, the only new series to be produced in New York City, follows two young women as they stumble their way to the top of he ad biz, thwarted by a tart boss (Gretchen Wyler) and also no doubt by New York City (Sunday, 8:30 p.m., Oct. 9).
The Richard Pryor Show offers a weekly one-hour comedy-variety showcase for one of our most imaginative young social satirists. Pryor, known for rather raw material in nightclubs and concerts, proved himself TV-able with a well-received NBC special last May. Guests on the opener will include The O'Jays and Paula Kelly (Tuesday, 8 p.m., starting Sept. 13).
Mulligan Stew was a late addition to the NBC lineup, rushed in when a two-hour TV-movie version proved successful last summer. It's another of TV's group romps: high school coach and wife with three kids of their own inherit four more when his brother and sister-in-law die in a plane crash. Lawrence Preston is dad and Elinor Donhue, for years Betty Anderson on "Father Knows Best," is mother (Tuesday, 9 p.m., Oct. 25).
The Oregon Trail features Rod Taylor as a wagon-train captain watching over a flock that includes his own family - "the kind of family," says an NBC ad, "that America has never stopped caring about." This could be a first, then? (Wednesday, 9 p.m., ecept for the two-hour premiere, 8 p.m., Sept. 21).
Big Hawaii is what you might call a Far Western, a "Bonanza" gone Hawaiian and set on a pineapples Ponderosa where a rebellious son struggles not to inherit his father's vast domain. Lots of sunsets, sunrises and cows (Wednesday, 10 p.m., Sept. 21).
CHiPs seeks to prove that a cop show need not be violent. Basically it's "Adam-12" on motorcycles as we tag along after two California Highway Patrol officers who charm the victimized and snare the victimizers with minimum mayhem. On the premiere, in fact, not a shot is fired nor a gun drawn. Dashing Erik Estrada, the fun-loving ethnic of the pair, could become a star. Larry Wilcox, a real Willy-the-WASP, probably won't (Thursday, 8 p.m., Sept. 15).
Man From Atlantis, a Mr. Fixit from 20,000 leagues, has webbed fingers and the world's fastest breast-stroke, and fortunately for fools such as we, he puts his talents at the disposal of the U.S. government. Yayyy! Patrick Duffy plays the part swimming as he did in a few "Atlantis" samples aired last season. Kareem Abdul Jabbar will guest-star in a future episode (Thursday, 9 p.m., Sept. 22).
Rosetti and Ryan was going to be an action crime show, but then the network sent out the word on violence, so it's turned into the comedy capers of two pal lawyers, one brash and one stuffy, but both "loose, lovable and legal," according to NBC. The network also states: "Though they often have female clients, neither will exploit a woman's vulnerability to promote a romance." Not so loose after all (Thursday, 10 p.m., Sept. 22).
The Bionic Woman can even foil that TV demon, cancellation. After ABC dropped her in a fit of self-confidence, NBC picked her up in a fit of desperation. Lindsay Wagner once again plays superstrong Jaime Sommers, this season aided by - it had to happen - a bionic dog. Ars gratia artis (Saturday, 8 p.m., Sept. 10). Specials and Mini-serials
The min-series, novel-for-television or super-serial - all the rage last season - is even more the rage this year. ABC blasts off with the six-night, 12-hour political potboiler "Washington: Behind Closed Doors," based, just barely, on "The Company" by convicted Watergate conspirator John Ehrlichman. It begins Tuesday, Sept. 6, at 8:30 p.m. and stars Jason Robards as conniving President "Richard Monckton." You'll never guess who that's supposed to be.
CBS, meanwhile, is working on an adaptation of John Dean's book "Blind Ambition," but that will occupy a mere four hours on one night. CBS does plan a multi-night serialization for spring of "The Dain Curse," with James Coburn as Dashiell Hammett's private eye Hamilton Nash. A biography of Aristotle Onassis, John Hersey's "The Wall" and an adaptation of that hot number from the stone age, "Forever Amber," are also due.
NBC's major multi-parter will be "The Godfather Saga," a re-edited, nine-hour version of the two "Godfather" movies prepared by director Francis Ford Coppola, who put back in some footage taken out for the theatrical editions. Other toney-serials will include Arthur Hailey's "Wheels," the "Airport" of the auto industry, James T. Farrell's "Studs Lonigan," Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World" and "79 Park Avenue," a Harold Robbins bon-bon centered around a posh bordello.
Of the announced TV-movies and drama specials, two themes seem evident: Kennedyiana and bugs. ABC will air "Young Joe, the Forgotten Kennedy," starring Peter Strauss, ex-"Rich Man," on Sept. 18 at 9 p.m. Producer Larry Schiller is completing an unappetizing little item called "The Trial of Lee Harvey Oswald" for the same network. CBS has its own three-hour "Four Days in Dallas" in the works.
Now for the bugs. The same producer who is shooting "Tarantulas" for CBS is whipping up "Ants" for ABC. And CBS also will offer a 90-minute pilot for a series based on the comics' "Spider-Man" on Sept. 14 at 8 p.m. Nip-and-tuck in this race, ABC promises a piece of hooey called "Curse of the Black Widow," which the network summarizes like this. "A private investigator looks into the deaths of several men and discovers that the killer may, in fact, be a woman who can turn herself into a giant killer spider." And you thought there was no culture on TV.
ABC entertainment specials will include a 75th birthday salute to Las Vegas, while CBS will include a 50th birthday salute to itself. NBC still hasn't stopped celebrating its golden moment and will air "The First 50 Years - A Closer Look," which could be the most discouraging title of the year. NBC will also present six new special revivals of George Schlatter's "Laugh-In," though with none of the original cast as regulars, starting Monday, Sept. 5 at 8 p.m.
CBS comes through with the class act as usual - Milkhail Baryshnikov dancing "The Nutcracker" on Christmas Day at 7 p.m. Returning Shows
Alterations have been made in some of the shows crawling back for another rollicking year.
On ABC, Fonzie will go to Hollywood for a one-hour season opener and Henry Winkler will thus begin what will probably his last year on "Happy Days." A new character, Fonzie's cousin Chachi (Scott Baio) will be phased in to replace him. Kotter's wife will have twins on "Welcome Back, Kotter," dear old Fish will retire from the force on "Barny Miller" but then re-appear a week later on "Fish," and Marie Osmond, having turned 18, will act more like a lady on "Donny and Marie." Cute, marie - real cute.
Also, "Starsky and Hutch" will let up on the violence, to go with the trend, and punch up the comedy instead. And Gary Frank, who plays Willie on "Family," will start the season by falling in love and acquiring a new Barbra Streisand hairdo.
On CBS, "The Waltons" finally leave the Depression and enter World War II, minus John Boy, who went AWOL from the mountain top. Esther Rolle has left the cast of "Good Times," a year after John Amos left, so now there is no mother or father, but the kids will carry on, with 11-year-old Janet Jackson added to the brood. "Maude" gets a new housekeeper and, because the previous actor grew too tall for the part, a new grandson.
On NBC, two old hits underwent forced surgery. Both Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson left "Sanford and Son" so the show has been retitled "Sanford Arms" and will star Theodore Wilson and LaWanda Page. "Chico and the Man" keeps its title despite the death of actor Freddie Prinze, who played Chico. A new foil for Jack Albertson, 12-year-old Gabriel Melgar, will be introduced and Albertson will tell him, "I call all you people 'Chico.'" The New Offerings
Among the planned public TV offerings:
The Best of Families, an ambitious dramatic series about three American families in the late 1800's - a kind of "Indoors, Outdoors" - produced by the CTW production company, which created "Sedame Street" for kids.
The Dick Cavett Show, half an hour each weeknight with the sometimes deft, sometimes daft Cavett and guests from show biz, politics, the arts and maybe even journalism, if he gets desperate.
Visions, that much-praised series of original dramas for television, will return with 10 new plays and seven repeats, starting Oct. 2. The new plays include "Iowa" by Murray Mednick, "Freeman" by Phillip Hayes Dean. "Alambrista!" by Robert Young and "The Dancing Bear" by Conrad Bromberg.
Masterpiece Theater's lineup includes serializations of Tolstoy's "Anna Karenina" filmed in Hungary and England, the Charles Dickens novel "Our Mutual Friend" and 13 episodes of "I, Cludius," from the novels of Robert Graves. All imported, of course.
Films of Persuasion is the umbrella title for a collection of provocative message movies acquired for telecast by public TV stations in New York, Los Angeles, and by Channel 26 in Washington. Among the titles are D.W. Griffith's 1914 masterpiece "The Birth of a Nation," also a rallying cry for the Ku Klux Klan. It opens the series Sept. 12 at 9 p.m., to be followed by such films as "Triumph of the Will," the Nazi classic by Leni Riefenstahl; "Reefer Madness," a '30s hysteric detailing unspeakable and largely imagined hazards of marijuana use; Noel Coward's stirring "In Which We Serve"; a 1943 pro-Russian Hollywood movie called "The North Star"; and Emile de Antonio's biting documentary, "Millhouse."