The Doomsday Clock was ticking at 3 minutes to midnight in 1984. It was the height of the Cold War. Each minute approaching midnight was said, signaled the beginning of the nuclear holocaust and according to experts, the extinction of mankind. Ronald Reagan had reassured the public during his Presidential debate in 1984, "No one knows whether those prophecies mean that Armageddon is a thousand years away or the day after tomorrow. So I have never seriously warned and said that we must plan according to Armageddon." However Professor A. Berkeley Mickelsen cautioned, "If you're not careful, pretty soon it's Buck Rogers. To take apocalyptic language and make it scientific language is wrong."
To explain the post-apocalyptic world, the children's TV series, 'Ark II', went on air between 1976 and 1977. Set in the 25th century, 'Ark II' which was a vehicle manufactured by the Brubaker Group, told a story of a highly trained crew of young people dedicated to re-civilizing what remained of humanity. In the series, Ark II was described as a mobile storehouse of scientific knowledge. It was noted the crew names had been derived from the Hebrew Bible:
Jonah - "truth seeker";
Ruth - "companion";
Samuel - the last Hebrew judge and the first prophet; and
Adam - the name of the first human male.
Meanwhile in the battle for viewers, television mini-series were the gods of 1983. The biggest windfall were the $21 million production of 'The Thorn Birds', about a priest torn between his devotion to the church and his love for a woman, which averaged 49.1 rating and 59 share over 10 hours (or 4 nights) and 'The Winds of War'.
Part I of 'The Thorn Birds' was watched by 42.1% of all American households with TV sets (some 83.3 million homes in total) and on 56% of the TV sets actually switched on.
Part II of 'The Thorn Birds' attracted a 42.5% rating and 59% share.
Part III of 'The Thorn Birds' attracted a 43.2% rating and 62% share.
Part IV of 'The Thorn Birds' attracted a 43.1% rating and 62% share.
Colleen McCullough's 'The Thorn Birds', about 4 generations of Irish family life in Australia's outback from 1915 to 1962, was the most popular novel during the American summer of 1977. Warner Brothers bought the rights to 'The Thorn Birds' but could not find the right director. Producer Ross Matthews made known, "The director changed 3 times, the script never came together and it just turned out to be too big a story." In the end the project was given to David Wolper and Stan Margulies.
Stan recounted, "First of all I talked to Colleen McCullough, who told me that Drogheda did not exist, that it was a figment of her imagination. The (previous) 3 directors had gone on extraordinary far-ranging trips to try to find a sheep station that would fit the bill as Drogheda. They did find one or 2 that were possible but they were so far out in the country they would have had to build some kind of tent city for the cast and crew."
Shot primarily in Calabasas, Santa Monica mountains (north west of Los Angeles), Stan maintained, "We did everything we could to make everything else as authentic as possible, considering that we weren't in Australia." Esther Shapiro expressed, "My feeling was that a mini-series wasn't worth tackling unless it was almost impossible."
In 1983-84, 'Dallas' finished the season ranked the No. 1 program in the United States averaging a 28.4% rating and a 42% share. However it was in daytime David Poltrak of CBS told the press the network was most pleased, "There's no question that is probably a bigger story even than prime time in terms of the turnaround. We have been leader in prime time for 7 (straight) years. Daytime changes are a glacier-like movement. Viewing habits during that period are very habitual."
In its first run, 'Dallas' was regarded a phenomenon throughout the Western world. Of its popularity, Jim Davis offered, "You can go to any city and find a family like that. Not everybody, but there's always one family." One teacher added, "The Ewing family is a kind of mirror of that retreat into privacy. The Ewings have all the problems of society – alcohol, infertility, etc. And they handle all their problems within the family."
"The 'Dallas' series is one of the main draws for tourism in the city," one official disclosed in 1991. "The series also helped the city's image as far as international business is concerned. Japanese and European car companies know what Dallas looks like because of the beginning of the TV show and they want those same glass buildings in the background of their commercials."
Patrick Duffy spoke to Dan Lewis after 'Who Shot J.R.?' in 1979, "I know it appears to be an accident but I guess the country was ready for something like this. It's a combination of circumstances: the oil crises, western fever, recession and the popularity of Dallas as Super Bowl champions. That cult is there – on Friday nights – no matter what the opposition is. I'm getting as much fan mail from '(Man From) Atlantis' viewers as I am getting from 'Dallas'.
"Fortunately the production company takes care of answering the mail." In the wake of the 'Who Shot J.R.?' phenomenon, "It's the divine right of kings to be successful. I realize that America watches television. And also, it's a real – but pleasant shock to be recognized overseas, in Japan, Australia, New Zealand and London – where 'Dallas' is now (in December 1979) seen."
In 1965, the hills came alive with the sound of Rodgers and Hammerstein music. Songs such as "Do - a deer, a female deer....." had since became synonymous with movie-goers. Art was rooted in democracy. Symphony conductor Arthur Fiedler believed music and democracy were synonymous because it was said art (such as music, painting, architecture, literature) and democracy (or the masses of the people) were one.
An education authority told the press in 1919, "Art is the world speaking to itself. It comes from the great font and belongs to the people. We must break through the barriers which prevent them from receiving it. No education worthy this name is possible without music. It should take second place only to the rudiments, reading, writing, and arithmetic."
On 'Dallas', the individual scrolling boxes and 3-way split-screen main title designed by Wayne Fitzgerald had become synonymous with audiences around the world, along with the 'Dallas' theme composed by Jerrold Immel. Symphony conductor Dr Walter Damrosch told the world in 1941, "Music is the one great international language, and if through music we can create a feeling of universal brotherhood, isn't this just another way to express the ideals of democracy? And that's what being an American means. Here we do not stop to ask a man what his racial antecedents may be – German, French, Italian, Norwegian, English – he is still an American. And so, if a man has a soul for music and learns to love it culturally, his nationality will not matter."
In an interview in 2011, Jerrold Immel told Randall Larson, "'Dallas', I can tell you fairly specifically. I was a little different each time. With 'Dallas' I didn’t find out that I was going to do the theme for that until it was well into production. It was originally a mini-series, and so when I was selected to be the composer, I got in touch with Leonard Katzman, who at that time was in Dallas while they were still in production on the film.
"I talked to him over the phone and I said, 'What elements are you looking for in it?' He said, 'Well, it's got to be Western and it’s got to be urban.' So I took those 2 key words and thought in terms of the spaciousness that I would usually put into Westerns at that time and the vernacular of Western scores, and then I hooked it together with what was sort of the driving dance stuff at the time, disco music.
"So I put together an orchestra that was very Western – lots of strings and horns, a rhythm section, a good sit-down drummer, a guitar, sit-down bass, things like that. I had 4 or 5 musicians that gave me a rhythm section and put that disco beat down, and then I just layered the orchestra and came up with the main theme and then counter themes featuring the French horns. In structuring the score I referred a lot to the theme, and of course wrote many other themes for characters and situations and things like that. But 'Dallas' was a show where I could always use the main title. When I did the episodes, I could always refer to the main title and make constructions of it, and that was fun to do."