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PART TWO: ABC Fall Promos / 1971-1979
by Billy Ingram

with video/audio contributions by Dan Ferriera,
Brian Karimzad
and Justin Kaplowitz

After years of successfully promoting a youthful image, ABC finally captured the number-one rated show of the season for the very first time in 1970 - with Marcus Welby, M.D., a show that appealed primarily to older viewers.

This Is The Place To Be

TVparty In 1971, ABC utilized a fresh approach with This Is The Place To Be, a spot offering up the network as a wholesome part of the American family experience. This innovative film, with music written by Dennis Lambert and Brian Potter (arranged and scored by Jimmie Haskell), utilized a kaleidoscope of shows that the network had on the air in 1971 - an amazing array of still recognizable classics like The Mod Squad, 77 Sunset Strip and The Brady Bunch - blended with hip special effects of couples dancing and people having a good time.

TVpartyThis was the same kind of graphic innovation the network was employing on its highly successful ABC Movie of the Week series. The animation may look like it was created by computer, but that was an impossibility at the time. Instead, it was achieved with a complex mirror/camera device that is still used today, most recently by CBS for one of their 1999 prime-time IDs.

ABCThe same This Is The Place To Be jingle was used again in 1972, freshly rearranged by Johnny Mann.

This time the stars were a part of the special effects, their images flying toward viewer amid the hypnotic mirrored animation. The music was warmed-over schmaltz, but the visuals remain modern, grabbing and dynamic - meant to lull audiences into a trance, I suppose, no longer able to reach for the remote.

The results were mixed. ABC's ratings (with the exception of sports programming) for 1972-73 slipped to the lowest point in a decade. The net's only bright spot came with a '73-'74 mid-season sleeper, Happy Days, and that show would change the net's fortunes forever. For 1973, it was CBS that dominated the top Neilsen spots, promising viewers that "CBS is easy on the eyes," a tepid endorsement at best.

In 1974, the graphic effects were minimized and a warm and fuzzy visual approach was embraced for a brand new slogan - "What you see on ABC this fall, you'll be talkin' about tomorrow.". In this syrupy, Bizarro-world concoction (with cringe-inducing lyrics like "You and Me and ABC, We're talkin' it over, and workin' it out") everyday people were seen bonding at work, falling in love and seeking spiritual guidance, having soaked up the 'ABC experience' the night before. "If we talk it out together, we could make it, and I could be your friend," the network pleaded. With only three shows in the top twenty when the last season's ended, ABC was understandably contrite.

In another overblown '74 spot, workers talked about the ABC shows they watched the night before in the most unrealistic way possible (like two construction workers suspended hundreds of feet in the air on a steel girder talking about how frightening The Night Stalker was). Every one of the new shows in that overblown, clearly desperate 1974 promotion was a great big flop. And no wonder - ABC's mediocre line-up that fall could never have lived up to the hype.

The alphabet net knew they had the best promotion guys in the business, what they needed was a new quarterback. Fred Silverman, CBS' programming whiz, was recruited in 1974 to perform the same ratings magic for ABC that he delivered for CBS in recent years.

BarettaBut until Silverman's CBS contract was up and he could start at ABC, interim programmer Michael Eisner (Disney's current president) was given an impossible task - create 6 midseason hits for January, 1975. Rising to the challenge, three of his entries hit and hit big - Barney Miller, S.W.A.T., and Baretta.

Happy DaysBecause of these recent successes, and steadily growing numbers for Happy Days, ABC ended up as the highest-rated network for 1975-76. Suddenly, Happy Days, Laverne and Shirley, Rich Man Poor Man, The Bionic Woman, The Six Million Dollar Man, the ABC Movie, Starsky and Hutch, Welcome Back Kotter and other ABC entries were crowding the top twenty.

The network's stategy was finally paying off, just as they were undergoing a regime change.

The slogan for Fred Silverman's first season as programmer in 1976 was "Welcome to the Bright New World of ABC". The network stayed on top for the next few seasons thanks to still-hot hits like Happy Days, Charlie's Angels, Starsky and Hutch and Rich Man, Poor Man, all primarily developed under Eisner and/or Diller.

Still The One

TVpartyABC was 'Still The One' in 1977. This music-video (based on a 1976 hit song by the band Orleans) emphasized the history of great shows seen on the net over the years with clips from past and present day hits. CBS may have been the 'Tiffany Network' in 1977, but ABC also had a long, rich history of family entertainment to draw on for this spot - and ABC was, solidly, the number-one rated network now.

('Still the One' songwriter John Hall made the news in 2004 when he demanded that the Bush reelection campaign stop using the tune at their rallys.)

We're the One in a Million - ABC

By the 1978-79 season, ABC was in the mood to celebrate, with 13 of the top twenty shows on the air. We're the One (in a Million) was the catch phrase for that year.

By 1979-80, Fred Silverman had moved on to NBC, but ABC was Still The One (yet again) with a jazzy, modern rearrangement of the 1977 promo tune produced by Jam Productions in Dallas .

TVpartyThis time the ABC stars were seen congregating at a big family picnic, meant to bring the net's celebrities down to earth a bit.

But it was ratings that were falling from the sky. ABC was bleeding viewers because the Silverman regime failed to come up with enough renewable programs - ending up with only 6 (rapidly-aging) shows in the top-twenty by the end of the 1979-80 season.

TVpartyIn contrast, CBS was gaining ground and "Looking Good", while "Proud As A Peacock" NBC was dependent on gimmicks, specials and movies for their biggest ratings.

NEXT: The Eighties

It was meant to be - you and me and ABC!

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Match Game on DVD Father Knows Best on DVD All in the Family DVD  Electric Company 2 on DVD Superman on DVD