Syndicated Shows of 1987
Originally Published February 15th, 2005
In the late 1980s as FOX burst onto the scene and snatched up dozens of independent television stations, there was still an impressive amount of programming produced for the syndicated television market. Although most of the shows that premiered in 1987 have largely been forgotten, one series has withstood the test of time: Star Trek: The Next Generation.
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Audio and video courtesy an anonymous source who allowed us to use copies of Star Trek: The Next Generation, originally taped from a local FOX affiliate in Connecticut.
The landscape of television was changing in the late 1980s. With the introduction of the FOX network and the increasing popularity of cable, broadcast television (traditionally the playground of The Big Three: ABC, CBS and NBC) was losing its stranglehold on the viewing audience.
But more importantly, as FOX gobbled up more and more independent stations, the primetime syndication market was beginning to decline. However, in 1987 FOX was only broadcasting once a week and there was still plenty of airtime for the new FOX affiliates as well as regular independent television stations to fill.
First-run syndication, made up of new programs produced expressly for the syndicated market, was a perfect fit. Every year dozens of new syndicated sitcoms, dramas, game shows and talk shows are offered up to hundreds of local television stations, both independent and network affiliates. As the 1987-1988 television season began, one syndicated drama in particular was expected to draw huge ratings.
In fact, over fifty network affiliates pre-empted network programming to broadcast the two-hour premiere Star Trek: The Next Generation when it was originally broadcast in early October of 1987. Several continued to do so after the premiere; ratings for the syndicated series were much higher than whatever the networks were offering at the same time.
Generally, however, syndicated shows were used as filler by network affiliates, airing before or after primetime. Independents, on the other hand, could program syndicated programs whenever they felt they could reach the largest audience. Many stations would air syndicated comedies at 7:30PM, the half-hour timeslot called "prime access" that led into primetime.
Due to the nature of syndication, the shows described in this article may not have been broadcast in your area or they may have aired at unusual times.
You Can't Take It With You
Star Trek: The Next Generation
Proving that within the television industry you can go home again, Gene Roddenberry brought his unique vision of the future back to the small screen in October of 1987. Almost two decades after NBC cancelled the original Star Trek series, a new hour-long drama featuring a new ship and a new crew hit the airwaves.
Set some eighty-five years after Captain KirK, Spock and Doctor McCoy adventured through space on the Starship Enterprise, Star Trek: The Next Generation starred Patrick Stewart as Jean-Luc Picard, captain of the new Starship Enterprise. Joining him for seven seasons were Jonathan Frakes as William Riker, Picard's intrepid first officer; LeVar Burton as Geordi La Forge, chief engineer; and Michael Dorn as Worf, the Klingon security officer.
Although the initial season may have proven a bit shaky in terms of quality, it still garnered massive ratings and an early renewal for a second season. After seven years on the air, the series came to an end in 1993, spawning several additional spin-offs and feature films.
Unlike the original Sea Hunt, which was quite popular, this version was unable to recapture its ratings success. A total of 155 episodes of the classic series were syndicated between 1958 and 1961, for a total of four seasons. The show, which starred Lloyd Bridges as Mike Nelson, helped popularize skin diving.
The 1987-1988 remake didn't last nearly as long or reach as many viewers. Only twenty-two episodes were broadcast over the course of a single season. The series starred Ron Ely, best know for portraying Tarzan in the 1960s series, as Mike Nelson. Kimberly Sissons played his college-age daughter Jennifer.
In The New Monkees, a quartet of four new Monkees were brought together for the syndicated show due to the popularity of repeats of the 1960s series and sales of the albums. Over 5,000 auditions were held before Larry Satlis, Dino Kovas. Jared Chandler and Marty Ross were chosen to take on the mantle of the original band. A total of thirteen episodes were produced but low ratings and poor response to their album sunk the endevaur.
The television series co-starred Lynnie Godfrey as Helen, a giant pair of floating lips who mused about what was going on. Also appearing was Gordon Oas-Heim as Manford, the Monkee's butler and Bess Motta as Rita, a waitress at the diner the foursome frequented. Today, The New Monkees is but a footnote in the history of the made-for-TV band.
Although Friday The 13th: The Series shared its name with the popular feature film franchise, this hour-long drama series had very little else to do with the movies. In the series, Louise Robey (credited only as Robey in this series) starred as Micki Foster. She was the niece of the late Lewis Vendredi, a man who had made a deal with the devil that enabled him to get rich selling antiques.
Obviously, the antiques were cursed. Thus, whoever purchased usually died shortly thereafter. After her uncle died, Micki was left with the task of tracking down all the antiques that had been sold and hide them away somewhere safe. Helping Micki in her quest were Ryan Dallion, her cousin (John D. LeMay), Jack Marshak, an antiquities dealer (Christopher Wiggins) and Johnny Venturea, a friend of Micki (Steven Monarque).
Due to the subject matter of the series, it was usually aired in late night timeslots, typically 10:00PM or 11:00PM. In an example of fantastic scheduling, the series premiered on a month and a half before Halloween (or October 31st for non-trick or treaters). A special "Halloween" episode was broadcast around the 31st; it dealt with the supposedly deceasesd uncle Lewis Vendredi rising from the dead. The final episodes were broadcast in 1990.
Technically, this series didn't premiere until January of 1988. Still, T And T falls under the banner of the 1987-1988 syndicated season. Mr. T, famous for playing B.A. Baracus on NBC's The A-Team, starred as T.S. Turner, boxer turned private eye. Instead of B.A.'s gold jewelry, Turner wore suits. On occasion, he would slip into something a little less professional in order to kick some butt.
The series aired in syndication for two seasons before moving to the Family Channel in 1990. Alex Amini appeared as Amy Taler, the attorney Turned worked for, while David Nerman played Dick Decker, owner of the gym where Turner blew off steam.
Comedien Dom DeLuise (who had starred in a variety series also called The Dom DeLuise Show back in 1968) was joined by several of his pals from the stand-up comedy circuit for this one-season sitcom. The action was centered in Dom's Barber Shop, which was situated across from a major motion picture studio, meaning plenty of interesting folk could drop by for a trim. A total of twenty-four episodes were produced. The series was cancelled in March of 1988.
Occasionally, the regulars spoke directly to the camera with witty comments about one another or a specific situation they were in. Dom's co-stars included George Wallace as George Wallace, Dom's Partner, Charlie Callas as a private detective working out of the barbershop, Maureen Murphy as Maureen, a manicurist, Angela Aames as Penny, who worked down the street, Michael Chambers as Michael Chambers, a pizza delivery boy, and Billy Scudder as Billy, who wore a sign for the barbershop on his back.
In Marblehead Manor, Paxton Whitehead starred as Albert Dudley, head butler for Randolph Stonehill (played by Bob Fraser), a multi-millionaire living in a magnificent mansion. The series revolved around Stonehill and his wife Hilary (played by Linda Thorson) interacting with the workers. Whether they were inept or just lazy, things almost always went wrong and Albert and Hilary were stuck keeping Randolph from blowing up at the staff and the staff from revolting against Randolph. A full season's worth of episodes was produced.
You Can't Take It With You began life as an award-winning play, written in 1936 by Moss Hart and George S. Kaufman. Fifty years later it came to television in this half-hour sitcom starring former M*A*S*Her Harry Morgan as Martin Vanderhof, a cantankerous old man who also narrated the series. Produced by Christopher Hart, the son of author Moss Hart, the series ran for a total of twenty-six episodes.
Lois Nettleton co-starred as Penny Vanderhof Sycamore, Martin's daughter, whom he lived with. Richard Sanders portrayed Paul Sycamore, Penny's husband. He was a toy inventor. Theodore Wilson appeared as Durwood Pinner, who lived next door and built some of the toys Paul came up with. Lisa Aliif and Heather Blodgett played the Sycamore children, Alice and Essie. The theme song was written by Christopher Hart.
This one's a real oddity: We Got It Made originally aired on NBC from September of 1983 until March of 1984. Three years later the show returned in first-run syndication with many of the same actors. Both versions were more or less updates of Three's Company, with two bachelors and a live-in maid. Fred Silverman produced both shows.
Teri Copley starred as Mickey McKenzie, the good-looking maid, hired by Jay Bostwick and David Tucker, a pair of bachelors living in New York City. The two were as opposite as they come; Tucker was as stiff as Bostwick was carefree. Tom Villard portrayed Bostwick in both the NBC version and the later syndicated series. Tucker was played first by Matt McCoy and later by John Hillner.
Originally, the guys had steady girlfriends who weren't exactly thrilled with the fact that Mickey lived with their boyfriends. However only part way through the NBC run David's girlfriend left the series and Jay's girlfriend was gone when the syndicated series began its run. Joining the series was Max Papavasilios, Sr., a police officer, and his son Max Papavasilios, Jr..
Bustin' Loose was half-heartedly adapted from the 1981 movie of the same name; the film version starred Richard Pryor. The television spin-off starred Jimmie Walker as Sonny Barnes, a former con artist who had been caught by the authorities and sentenced to five years of community service.
He was placed in the home of social worker Mimi Shaw (Vonette McGee), who lived with four orphans. Sonny lived in the basement and worked around the house doing odd jobs. The kids all loved listening to his oft-times exaggerated tales. The kids, Rudey, Trish, Nikky and Sue Anne, were played by Larry O. Williams, Jr., Tyren Perry, Aaron Lohr and Marie Cole, respectively. Watching the opening credits here.
She's The Sheriff starred Suzanne Somers as, you guessed it, a female sheriff. Hildy Granger became sheriff of a small Nevada town after her husband, the former sheriff, was killed. George Wyner played Max Rubin, her power-hungry deputy who had expected to become deputy after Hildy's husband had been killed.
The series ran for two seasons consisting of forty-eight episodes. Stories focused on her adventures as she tried to juggle her job and her two young children, played by Nicky Rose and Taliesin Jaffe. In one episode, Deputy Rubin attempted to first trick Granger into posing for nude photographs and, should that fail, he also tries to get her to marry a rich Arab sheik.
Although Star Trek: The Next Generation was attempting to prove that serious science fiction still had a place on syndicated television, Out of This World was trying just as hard to disprove that theory. The premise was simple: Donna Garland (Donna Pescow) had married an alien (of the outer space variety, not the immigrant kind) fourteen years earlier and her daughter, Evie, suddenly found herself with strange powers.
Thirteen year-old Evie (Maureen Flannigan) could stop time simply by touching her index fingers together. She could also teleport herself and think objects into existence. Burt Reynolds supplied the voice of Evie's father, who she spoke with but never actually saw. The series ran for four seasons and ninety-six episodes, ending in May of 1991 with Evie turning eighteen. Scott Baio created and produced the series.
David Frost hosted The Next President, a political series that aired from November of 1987 up until February of 1988. Frost interviewed Presedential candidates as they campaigned for the office. Road To Calgary was a fifteen-part look at the 1988 Winter Olympics. Geraldo was the newsmagazine of Geraldo Rivera. Win, Lose or Draw was both syndicated and airing on NBC, meaning there were two times the popular game show.
Ironically, the very success of Star Trek: The Next Generation helped lead to the eventual downfall of first-run syndicated series. Over the next decade, as independent stations dwindled, the sheer number of first-runs meant no single program could match the success of Star Trek: The Next Generation. Even the third Star Trek series, Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, was unable to live up to its predecessor.
Faced with competition from other hour-long dramas, as well as the new networks UPN and The WB in 1995, first-run syndicated programs were relegated mostly to Sunday afternoons or late-night timeslots. Game shows and talk shows, however, remained popular.
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Last Updated April 26th, 2006