20170730

TELEVISION

By 1987, TV's pendulum took another swing when sitcoms such as 'The Cosby Show' regained their old popularity. As a result, dramas such as 'Dynasty', "You may see more issue-oriented shows," Esther Shapiro outlined. "The characters will be involved in more family stories. They will be more realistic and less fanciful. The Alexis character got a little too much larger than life. The serial form has to change and move into other directions. We want to keep experimenting until we find the things that will keep the interest of the audience."

The experiment included showing "a taste of how the other nine-tenths live." On 'Dynasty', Krystina Carrington suffered a heart failure and required a heart transplant. Cassie Yates joined the cast as Sarah Curtis from Wyoming who daughter Cathy, survived a car accident but declared brain dead, allowing Blake and Krystle to find a heart donor for Krystina. 

In the news in May 1987, Associated Press reported, "The nation's first living heart donor, Clinton House, a cystic fibrosis victim and his recipient John Couch agreed today that they would keep in touch and closely watch each other's progress after their rare transplant. Less than two weeks ago, Clinton House gave his healthy heart to John Couch while he received a heart and lungs from an unidentified automobile accident victim. The living heart transplant was the first in the nation. 'Fortunately in my case, I didn't have to die to donate. Unfortunately, my donor had to. He's the star in all this,' said Clinton House." 

In another scene, Alexis was shown eating fast food instead of sipping champagne and dining on caviar. In the same scene Alexis was shown playing with the pinball machine instead of dressing up to attend the ballet opening. Instead of riding in a limousine, Alexis rode on a motorcycle. "The Alexis character is always a little larger than life. I think she got a little too much larger than life," Esther Shapiro reiterated.

'Dynasty' was once the most-watched but by 1987 the least-talked-about program on television. Aaron Spelling explained, "Every nighttime serial has peaks and valleys. The most important thing to us is, can we make the show better? If we make the show better, the ratings will be better." Hence Esther reminded, "Our big storyline coming up is one that's going to be involving them (Blake and Krystle) and their daughter, Krystina."

In January 2011, the proposed film version of 'Dynasty' was announced with the release date scheduled possibly for 2012. In the proposed script, Richard Shapiro revealed, "Everybody has wanted to know about the beginning. During the course of all of 'Dynasty,' Alexis was in love with Blake, and obviously, there was a time when he was in love with her. That is the center focus of this film, the Blake and Alexis love story."

Esther Shapiro added, "In this movie, what we're going to try to do is address a lot of the questions the fans had over the years." Set in 1961, Richard Shapiro continued, "In that day, the elite class did what it wanted. It had no rules. To watch Blake, a very straight shooter, step into that world - it's fascinating to us and we hope it will be to the audience. People are asking about Krystle and so forth. At the particular time, when we're setting this film ... we may run into her briefly and anticipate that we'll see her again in the future."

For 8 years between 1984 and 1992 (from Ronald Reagan's second term in office to the end of George W Bush's first term in office), 'The Cosby Show', about a black middle-class family living in Brooklyn, had given people a good feeling about themselves. At its peak, some 82 million viewers made 'The Cosby Show' the biggest sitcom hit on American television for 4 years in a row.

As at 2009, the episode, "Say Hello to a Good Buy" (first shown in January 1987) remained one of the highest-rated 100 TV programs of all time, attracting 41.3% households ratings and 56% audience share. 'Entertainment Weekly' noted, "'The Cosby Show's' 201 episodes have already (by May 1992) generated more than $730 million."

Sandy Carpenter made the comment in June 1985, "With the lion's share of the Thursday night TV audience – 30 million viewers – and up to a 46 share of Nielsen ratings, 'The Cosby Show' can command approximately $175,000 per 30 seconds from its advertisers. 'The Cosby Show' is oriented to the mass market, with a predominantly white audience (about 89% of the viewers, as compared to 11% of black viewers)."

David Poltrack of CBS recognized, "'The Cosby Show' is extraordinary. It's a bona fide, absolute, certified hit.'' He also stated, "This group (yuppies) constitutes about 2% of the population (at the time) and despite the mystique created by the press, it spends most of its income on housing and has relatively little discretionary income. If you're talking about 35mm. cameras and yuppy things like that, then maybe the manufacturer should advertise to them, but network television might be an expensive way to do it. As for the baby boomers, the core is now past its 35th birthday.''

"The name of the game is still hits," Peter Tortorici of CBS emphasized. "We believe in networks programming for the biggest and widest audience and not worrying too much about demographics. If you believe just in demographics, that means that nobody else in the audience has to watch. Viewers want to know, 'What are you giving us to watch? Where's the showmanship?'"

By 1990,  the animation series about a white, blue-collar family 'The Simpsons' was moved from Sundays to Thursdays to make Thursday night of television interesting. As it turned out, 'The Simpsons' "brought additional viewers to the networks on Thursday night. ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox were watched in 84% of all homes using television from 8 p.m.-8:30 p.m. Their normal audience share is about 65%."

Demographically, 'The Simpsons' had a higher audience share than 'The Cosby Show' among viewers ages 2 to 49. In the first week of the 1990-91 season 'The Cosby Show' was more consistent across the board, although more popular with women, kids and teens than with men. Among adults 18 to 49, 'The Simpsons' won the men, 'The Cosby Show' the women.

"'The Cosby Show' turned out to be the top-rated series of the 1980s, with 20% more viewers than '60 Minutes', its nearest competitor," The 'New York Times' reported. Bill Cosby reportedly used his own experiences as basic material which contributed to the runaway popularity of 'The Cosby Show' throughout much of the 1980s. In the 1984-85 season 'The Cosby Show' averaged 24.1% households ratings and 37% audience share.

In the 1985-86 season, 'The Cosby Show' averaged 33.7% households ratings and 51% audience share. In the 1986-87 season, 'The Cosby Show' averaged 34.9% households ratings and 53% audience share. In the 1987-88 season, 'The Cosby Show' averaged 27.8% households ratings. In the 1988-89 season, 'The Cosby Show' averaged 25.8% households ratings.

In the 1989-90 season, 'The Cosby Show' finished a close second to 'Roseanne', with an average 23.1% households ratings and 38% audience share. In the 1990-91 season, 'The Cosby Show' averaged 17.6% households ratings. And in the 1991-92 season, 'The Cosby Show' averaged 14.8% households ratings. Preston Beckman of NBC told the 'Los Angeles Times' in May 1991, "I think to say that 'The Simpsons' has no impact on 'The Cosby Show' would be foolish. On the other hand, when the dust settled, 'Cosby' held up exceptionally well. It still ranked as the No. 5 show for the season (1990-91), and it's been in the Top 5 every year of its existence (1984-1991). No other comedy in the history of this business has been in the Top 5 for 7 consecutive seasons (at that time)."

For the first 10 weeks of the 1986-87 season, 'The Cosby Show' scored the highest average Nielsen rating (34.3% households). On an average Thursday night, over a third of all TV sets turned on were tuned to 'The Cosby Show'. 'Knight-Ridder Newspapers' noted the audience share of 52% meant that over half the TV sets in use at that time slot on Thursdays were watching 'The Cosby Show'.

"Bill Cosby single-handedly and uncompromisingly brought a new level of consciousness to prime time," 'The New York Times' observed. "The Huxtables don't just happen to be black. They are triumphantly black and protective of their heritage, in addition to being upwardly mobile. How do they jibe with the reality of most black Americans? Never underestimate the power of images. In the role of quiet revolutionary, Bill Cosby has been cleverly using an old lure: the American dream. Obviously, it still works."

Rachal Jones of 'Detroit Free Press' shared about the black middle class in 1992, "I now make more money in one year than both my parents made in 5 years when I was growing up. Thirteen years (since 1979) after leaving the dusty back roads of Cairo, Illinois, I am officially a member of the black middle class. But on September 20, 1984, when I watched the very first 'Cosby Show' on TV, I was a struggling free-lance writer living upstairs in my parents' house.

"Eight years later, I'm sad the last 'Cosby Show' will air Thursday night (back in April 1992). As the Huxtables say goodbye, I'm seeing parts of their lives mirrored in the lives of my friends, associates and myself. Crossing a hazy barrier has landed us plop in the middle of the mythic mainstream. For many of us, it's been one hell of a ride.

"The term 'black middle class' was a vague concept to me in 1984. I had spent a year at elitist Northwestern University, alongside children of well-to-do blacks, but otherwise had no idea about these people. I had never known a black doctor or lawyer, never associated with upper-class blacks. They were as alien as the Boston Brahmin lockjawed crowd. I was poor but proud. 

"For my 9 brothers and sisters and me, television was a way of life, our after-school and weekend companion, a magic carpet ride away from the hardship and lack in our lives. Images of my youth mirror those of many other 30-year-old Americans - 'The Bullwinkle Show', 'The Brady Bunch', 'Gilligan's Island', 'Gunsmoke', 'Laugh-In'. Later, 'All in the Family', 'The Carol Burnett Show', 'The Mary Tyler Moore Show'. By my teen-age years, television finally offered images of people who looked like me - sort of. 'Get Christie Love', 'Good Times', 'The Jeffersons', 'Sanford and Son'.

"While these caricatures had sprung from the brains of white male executives with no idea of black life, they were black, and in living rooms where no one else black had ever set foot. Today (in 1992) I have very little empathy with the plight of the black urban poor, no real way to understand just how desperate their lives can be. They are black and they suffer hardship, so I can connect on those levels.

"But as I ponder their daily, mind-numbing challenges, often all I do is spin my wheels. I've even lost touch with the semi-rural brand of poverty I knew in Cairo. A little confidence, experience and poise, and you'd never guess at my humble beginnings. So where do I go from here? Do I embrace my new black-middle-class status, my boosted earning power, my prestigious journalism job and bright future, waving them all like a kente-colored banner? Or do I eschew all those trappings, keep things close to the bone, denounce the mainstream and promise never to sell out and abandon my people?"

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