According to ABC, more than 200 made-for-TV mystery movies were telecast during the 1973-1974 season alone. To save on production costs, these cheapies were shot very quickly on videotape instead of 35mm film and ran only around 70 minutes. Despite the small budgets and audiences, ABC attracted many popular television actors to star in these mysteries, which probably took only a few days to shoot: Christopher George, Michael Parks, Julie Newmar, Meredith Baxter, John Vernon, John Astin, Claude Akins, Fritz Weaver, Anne Francis and Tim Matheson, just to name a few. None of them ever air on television these days, and very few made it to home video. Some of them may no longer exist, as it was common then for networks to erase videotaped programming so they could reuse the tapes, which is why many game shows and even the first ten years of THE TONIGHT SHOW no longer exist.
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A few days ago Marty McCee (above) wrote a piece about the CBS series of the early 70s that is mostly lost to time. This made me think about a book from the late 70s I look through from time to time.
The American Vein: Directions and Directors in Television by Christopher Wicking and Tise Vahimagi evaluates the contributions to tv drama of the Fifties, Sixties, Seventies by such directors as Sydney Pollack, Robert Aldrich, Bob Rafelson, Steven Speilberg, Budd Boetticher, Don Siegel and many, many more.
To be sure, much of tv deserved(s) its "vast wasteland" knock but the writers here make a convinaing case for many of the episodic series and original movies that are lost to film vaults, much like so many of the silent films and a fair share of the talkies right on up through the Forties.
What I like about the book is how its tough-mined evaluation of directorial careers make its recommendations all the more persuasive. There are a lot of black and white shows I'd love to check out again.
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That was the era when we had Monday Night at the Movies, etc. for almost every night, wasn't it? I don't remember those movies as being any worse than the other shows of the time.
In the early '70s, they averaged better than the episodic dramatic series. They started to fall apart in the latest '70s, when they started morphing into the kind of Problem Dramas that Lifetime is still sponsoring.
Not every night of the week (unless you counted the CBS LATE MOVIE and the telefilm components of ABC'S WIDE WORLD OF ENTERTAINMENT in late night), but close enough.
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