The following is a reprint of the debut True TV column as it appeared in The Thrifty Saver newspaper on Aug. 2, 1982.
Greetings, everyone! Billy “Scoop” Frost here, writing my first-ever newspaper column! Just knowing that this article will be available in every supermarket, laundromat and muffler shop in the city would be payment enough, but the great folks at The Thrifty Saver are giving me almost a penny per word—even the ones that repeat! The sky is the limit! Journalism is going to make me very rich in the future, I just know it.
I originally applied to be the paper’s film critic, but the publisher told me I’d have to work my way up, and that writing about television is a good temporary steppingstone to bigger and better things. “Only a boneheaded chump would get stuck covering TV for more than a couple of months,” he said. “We have big plans for you, Billy—we’ll have you reporting on city council meetings and mall openings in no time.” Yes, sir!
Enough about me—what’s on the tube this week? Well, since it’s summer, nothing. I’ll admit it: Prior to receiving this assignment, I never watched much television, so I had no idea that the three networks (which are more channels than we’ll ever really need, if you ask me) just shut down from June to August and air nothing but reruns. The only show airing new episodes seems to be this weird after-hours NBC program called Late Night With David Letterman, but I don’t put much stock in it. Comedians making fun of the news and politics so late into the night? It’s just a fad. Decent people are in bed by 10 p.m., anyway.
There are, however, plenty of new shows coming this September, according to TV Guide (which I’m using as source material, just like real reporters do). It looks like the best one will be Matt Houston, which is about a rich Texas oilman (played by promising new actor Lee Horsley) who solves murders for a hobby in California. But that fish-out-of-water hoot will be given a run for its money by Knight Rider, about ex-cop Michael Knight (David Hasselhoff) who fights crime with a talking Pontiac Trans Am. Just like there will never be a better car than the Trans Am, Hollywood will never be able top Knight Rider—it will go down as the pinnacle of science fiction. There’s nowhere to go from here, in this reporter’s opinion.
As for comedies, CBS will be debuting Square Pegs, which stars newcomers Sarah Jessica Parker and Amy Linker as awkward high-school freshmen. I don’t have much faith in this one, as it uses a lot of that “new wave” music, and no one will ever watch a show about teenagers—especially not strange girls with personal problems who talk too much. I also don’t think NBC’s new Cheers will catch on. A sitcom set in a bar? Archie Bunker’s Place proved it can’t be done. NBC should bet on Remington Steele, a spy show starring Pierce Brosnan and Stephanie Zimbalist, who I predict has a long career ahead of her.
Another new NBC show, St. Elsewhere, is set in a hospital—but it’s somehow both a comedy and a drama. I don’t like this at all. A show should be one or the other, so people don’t have to think too much. It’s a trend that won’t last, like cable television. Cable is all right for movie reruns and fringe sports programming (like tennis and that odd European “football”), but it will never be taken as seriously as network TV. Have you heard about this MTV channel that just shows short movies set to pop songs? Grody. [Editor’s note: “Grody” is a slang term popular with today’s youth, meaning “disgusting” or “unappealing.”]
That’s my first report about Tinseltown, thanks for reading! You can write to me care of The Thrifty Saver, even through our new “fax” machine, which is probably the fastest form of electronic communication we’ll ever see. It’s like living in Knight Rider!
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