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Memories of Analog TV: The 1980s Part 3

The 1980s saw its daytime schedule add daily cartoon strips that were more commercial than entertainment, as the shows were designed as 30-minute commercials to sell the toys. The game shows all but vanished from the networks, but many were in syndication. Match Game and Gong Show were in syndication for a while. Wheel of Fortune did better in nighttime than it did in daytime. KCST aired "Wheel" delayed at 3pm instead of airing it at 10am because it ran "Sally Jesse Raphael", a talk show. Talk shows were growing in daytime as it replaced rerun strips of old prime time shows.

"Weird Al" Yankovic did a parody of Greg Kihn's song "Jeopady" in 1984, and his video, which featured Don Pardo, Art Fleming, and the original Jeopary! game show setting, inspired the game show to return in syndication and hosted by Alex Trebek. Greg Kihn's song had noting to do with the game show.

Prime Time networks were shifting from sitcoms, which had gotten dumber in 1980, to adventures in 1983, most of which were inspired by the popularity of Indiana Jones. That's why you saw Tales of the Gold Money, Airwolf, The A-Team, and Riptide in the 80s.

The 80s also had the sitcoms hit a nadir in 1983, but in 1984, Bill Cosby launched "The Cosby Show", which helped out the genre, as well as boosting the struggling shows it followed on NBC, Family Ties, Cheers, and Night Court.

While ABC was stuggling in the mid 80s, NBC was finally getting some ratings under the late programmer Brandon Tartikoff. In 1982, he launched what is now considered to be the most successful fall TV launch of any network in my memory: Family Ties, St. Elsewhere, Knight Rider, Silver Spoons, Remington Steele, and Cheers. Though a few other shows failed such as Powers of Matthew Star, and Voyagers, it was still mostly a success as viewers fled ABC's dog schedule for other networks including cable. Taxi moved to NBC for its final season that year.

In 1984, "MTV Cops", which went from the working memo title to a series "Miami Vice" premiered. In 1984, MTS stereo TV became a reality. Terrestrial broadcasters had three additional channels of audio to broadcast: two for stereo, and one for Second Audio Programming. Regular stereo transmission of NBC shows began in 1985. KCST was the first local station to broadcast in stereo in 1985. ABC And CBS followed suit in 1986 and 1987 respectively.

Cable TV was slowing upgrading its system to add more stereo TV channels as most in the early 80s were in mono on the broadband TV side. FM cable was used to transmit MTV and HBO in stereo, so you had to tune in the FM cable channel for the stereo sound. Nowadays, you get stereo TV sound when you tune in a TV channel, and there's no longer an FM cable band for stereo simulcasts anymore because it's now obsolete.

Since the MTS stereo TV standard is associated with the NTSC broadcast standard, it's associated solely with analog TV. Low Power broadcast TV and analog cable TV will be the only ones using NTSC after the full powered TV stations cease analog broadcasting after June 12, 2009. Digital television (ATSC, QAM) uses a different kind of encoding that uses Dolby Digital AC-3 format to provide 5.1 channel surroung sound. We have yet to hear about any HD Radio stations that use 5.1 sound locally.

During the 80s, radios that picked up VHF TV audio were still selling. The only problem was that it didn't pick up the audio from the UHF TV stations, but if you lived close to channel 39's transmitter near Rancho San Diego, you could pick up its audio between channels 9 and 10 or 10 and 11.

Of course the prime time soaps were part of the 80s, mostly because of Kristin shooting J.R. on Dallas in March of 1980. Knots Landing launched months before. Later came Flamingo Road, Dynasty, Falcon Crest, and The Colbys.

As for daytime, just about every TV at work had that Luke and Laura wedding showing as workers shifted their lunch to 2pm to catch "General Hospital" on September 17, 1981.

Sitcoms rebounded in the mid 80s, but a lot of the syndicated sitcoms bombed in the ratings and in quality, though some network shows like ALF, Newhart, Golden Girls, Facts of Life (don't laugh, it bombed in the first season, but rebounded with Nancy McKeon replacing four of the cast members), Perfect Strangers, Wonder Years, Doogie Howser, Cosby Show, Family Ties, Cheers, Night Court, Tracey Ullman Show, and Married...With Children were just a few of the sitcoms in the decade that didn't stink.

Saturday morning cartoons were overpowered by The Smurfs in popularity on NBC. Pee Wee Herman had a weekly CBS live action kid show in 1986-1991. The Chipmunks returned under the direction of the son of the creator of the Chipmunks, better known as David Seville. Mister T, Punky Brewster, Flintstone Kids, Muppet Babies, Charlie Brown and Snoopy, Richie Rich, Spiderman, Incredible Hulk, Fonz, Rich, The Happy Days Gang, Mork and Mindy, Laverne and Shirley, Plasticman, Pac-Man, and more cartoons came and went on the Saturday morning sked.

Weeknights had KFMB-TV trying something different in the mid 80s. Larry Himmel at Large. San Diego Evening Tribune critic Gus Stevens raved about it. Readers hated it.

XETV tried Uncle Floyd's show from New Jersey in the 12:30am slot in 1982.

That's it for the memories of analog TV of the 80s.

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