Thursday, June 18, 2009
NBC Saturday Night At The Movies - WNBC-TV Channel 4
I've always felt that NBC Saturday Night At The Movies was the best example of "appointment Television" that I could think of. Quite frankly, I've always thought that TV as a whole back in the day was "appointment television" but that this famous movie showcase was the standard bearer in that regard. More on that in a moment.
Briefly, Saturday Night At The Movies got it's start in 1961 and lasted until the conclusion of the 1978-79 season if what I have read is correct. The goal was to bring fairly recent theatrical films into the home and broadcast them in their entirety. No splitting into multiple parts. It was probably the first movie showcase to do that and was still one of the few doing it until it's end in 1979. For one night at least, the local news took a back seat to entertainment. Sure, some films would end at 11PM but many times, the local news got pushed back 10 minutes, 25 minutes, 40 minutes, whatever it took. The idea was to turn the living room into a theater and it worked. Saturday Night At The Movies was consistent enough in the ratings to warrant an 18 year run. An 18 year run that has given folks multiple memories and multiple good times. The fact that the idea was a good one and that it worked for so long speaks volumes about it's loyal audience considering the competition the movie showcase had from other networks. It wasn't easy going up against the powerhouse CBS line-up from the early-to-mid 70's. It held it's own against programs like ALL IN THE FAMILY, MASH, MARY TYLER MOORE, BOB NEWHART and CAROL BURNETT. It didn't get much easier later on towards the end of it's run when it had to go up against ABC's one-two punch of THE LOVE BOAT and FANTASY ISLAND. When all is said and done, it turned out to be a remarkable idea and one that ranks among NBC's finest ever.
Why was it "appointment television"? Well, because it just was. Saturday Night At The Movies was a weekly event. It was something to look forward to every week at 9PM. It was something the family could do together. It was, after all, Saturday night so the kids could stay up late. Mom, Dad and the kids could slip into their PJ's, pop some corn, pour some soft drinks and have a fun family night. But, it wasn't just for parents and kids. Adults could also partake. Friends gathering together at someones house on a Saturday night, pouring some cocktails, heating up the hors d'oeuvre's and enjoying a film. Pretty much something for everyone. As I mentioned in an earlier entry, the very first movie I remember seeing on Saturday Night At The Movies was THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING, THE RUSSIANS ARE COMING. It aired on Saturday, June 24, 1972 and I'll never forget it. I'm sure many others have fond memories of this classic movie showcase. If so, please post them because I'd love to hear about them. BTW, I'll post some TV Guide ads a bit later on.