The TV cold war is over -- the real electronic battle of the decade has been joined. America's three major commercial over-the-air networks have launched a last-ditch counterattack against cable TV -- and at the same time have acted to defuse programming pressure from the Moral Majority.
A total of 23 new shows for the 1981-82 season have been announced, while more than 20 series already on the air have stayed. Many of the discarded series had been attacked by potential boycotters, and many of the new shows seem to be family oriented, in line with the demands of the Coalition for Better TV, PTA, and other such organizations crusading against the proliferation of series depicting "immorality and violence."
Some of these groups voiced their objections to potential advertisers and threatened boycotts of consumer products.
Anticipating a battle for viewers as the number of homes wired for cable grows rapidly, over-the-air broadcasting executives are anxiously checking the decreasing number of homes watching the three major networks. In a few cases, the networks seem to be prematurely canceling some current favorites before they have completely run their course. At the same time they are calling upon dependable and familiar names to star in new series.
A close analysis of all 23 entries show network TV forming its own version of a circle wagons -- falling back on old dependables and staying clear of innovative programming. Except for one of the major, longstanding targets of morality groups -- "Three's Company" -- most of the series under attack have bitten the dust, to be replaced by less controversial shows. Due to air in mid-September, these shows may not all survive the last-minute switches of anxious network programmers.
Some of the old favorites which will not return in the fall: "The Waltons" (CBS), "White Shadow" (CBS), "Eight is Enough" (ABC), "Those Amazing Animals" (ABC).
Some of the shows which were attacked by "watchdog" groups as objectionable for various reasons and have been dropped from the schedules are: "Flo" (CBS), "Ladies Man" (CBS), "Charlie's Angels" (ABC), "Soap" (ABC), "Vegas" (ABC), "I'm a Big Girl, Now" (ABC), "Bosom Buddies" (ABC), "The Gangster Chronicles" (NBC). Also canceled are: "Enos" (CBS), "The Incredible Hulk" (CBS), "Aloha, Hawaii" (ABC), "BJ And the Bear" (NBC), "Buck Rogers" (NBC), "Lobo" (NBC), and "Nero Wolfe" (NBC).
Among the 23 new shows are many which promise to avoid the objections of morality-focused consumer groups:
On CBS: "Walt Disney Presents" (Saturdays, 8-9 p.m.) new and old Disney films; "Close-up: Jessica Novak" (Thursdays, 10-11 p.m.), the adventures of a hardworking TV reporter (presumably not to include offensive episodes).
On NBC: "Star Prince" (Sundays, 7-8 p.m.), about a prince from a distant planet with special powers; "Father Murphy" (Tuesdays, 8-9 p.m.) concerns a gold prospector who establishes a school for orphans; "The Mickey Rooney Show" (Fridays, 8-8:30 p.m.) deals with a feisty grandfather rescued from a retirement home by his grandson; "Gabe and Guich" (Thursdays, 8:30-9 p.m.) stars Gabe Kapland as a New Yorker who moves his family to Texas; "Gimme a Break" (Thursdays, 9:30-10 p.m.) stars Nell Carter as a bossy housekeeper.
On ABC: "Open All Night" (Fridays, 8:30-9 p.m.) the trials of a harassed grocery proprietor; "Maggie," (Fridays, 9-9:30 p.m.) life in the suburbs as seen by Erma Bombeck; "King's Crossing," (ABC, Saturdays, 8-9 p.m.) is a family drama about the Holisters who move into a troubled town and "find love, understanding and a new meaning of friendship."
One show with offbeat material which is bound to be scrutinized carefully by consumer groups: "Love, Sidney," (NBC, Wednesdays, 9:30-10 p.m.) stars Tony Randall as a homosexual surrogate father to an aspiring actress and her young daughter.
Some of the familiar faces returning in new series: James Arness, James Harner, Rock Hudson, Lorne Greene, Mike Connors, Robert Stack, Barnard Hughes , and Jane Wyman.