memories of the ’80s – MASH series finale

The beloved drama about the Korean War ended its successful run on February 28, 1983 with a two and a half hour series finale to wrap up what happens to all the characters of MASH.

After 11 seasons, the last episode, a two and a half hour extended episode was written and directed by lead star Alan Alda.

Titled “Goodbye, Farewell, Amen”, the MASH 4077 unit hears that a ceasefire has occurred in the war, and that they’re to close the camp and head back to the United States.

In the backdrop, lead character Hawkeye Pierce (Alda) has had a nervous breakdown and is trying to deal with his repressed memories with the help of camp psychiatrist Dr. Sidney Freedman.

As the characters struggle with their lives changing with the end of the war, viewers wanted to desperately know what happened to Margaret, Charles, Potter, Radar, Klinger, BJ and Hawkeye. Would they get to go home? Get the job they want? See their families?

To date, the most watched season finale ever in television history, with over 105 million viewers and over 60 per cent of American households tuned in to see the last hours of MASH.

In 2011, TV Guide ranked this episode as the best season finale ever. And for fans of the show, which still runs in syndication on television channels, its a series that ended on the right note.


memories of the ’70s – All in the Family series finale

A television series that dominated the decade and spawned many spinoffs, All in the Family ended its successful run on April 8, 1979.

After nine seasons on CBS TV, the lives of Archie, Edith, (Carroll O’Connor & Jean Stapleton) their kids and friends was coming to an end. Gloria and Mike (Sally Struthers and Rob Reiner) had left  and friends had gone off to their own lives (and shows such as Maude and The Jeffersons).

All in the Family changed television with its content as well as being the first television series that was videotaped in front of a live audience.

The first television series to achieve number one status in the Nielson ratings for five years, All in the Family had won numerous Emmy Awards for its unique combination of humour to address many issues: prejudice, bigotry, politics, feminism, war, poverty, drugs and the changing American society.

Its last episode, titled “Too Good Edith” shows Archie demanding Edith cook for a St. Patrick’s Day party. Edith’s health should prevent her from doing so, but she does, getting herself in worse health and getting Archie in trouble from her doctor.

Their last scene shows their relationship as well as foreshadows her demise, as seen here.

Watched by over 40 million viewers, everyone needed to see the final moments of this influential television series and say goodbye to Archie and Edith. And a lucky studio audience got to witness it live.

memories of the ’80s – Paradise

In the late 1980s, the western genre came back onto TV in the series Paradise.

Starring Lee Horsley, Paradise was created by David Jacobs and Robert Porter, about a gunslinger named Ethan Allan Cord, who is given the responsbility of taking care of four children after his sister’s death.

Living in the fictional town of Paradise, Cord rents a farm and focuses on the kids, but his previous life as an outlaw follows him to Paradise, where he often has to deal with people popping up into his life.

Debuting on CBS TV in October 1988, the series featured four kids (Claire, Joseph, Benjamin, George) as well as ranch owner Sigrid Thornton and Indian medicine man John Taylor.

Episodes dealt with the strains of the new family unit as well as Cord’s past, and how he reconciles his present with the way he dealt with past conflicts.

The series got early praise from many family groups, for showing a family drama on primetime TV and received editing and cinematography awards in its first season, as well as many critics praise and a Western Heritage Award after its first season.

The series was renamed in its third season, Guns of Paradise, to more closely link the past and present of the main character, as well as reignite viewers interest in a series set in the wild west.

But ratings didn’t keep viewers tuning back in and CBS cancelled the series, despite a small loyal group of fans and lots of critical praise for the storylines of Paradise.


memories of the’ 70s – Nichols

In the early 1970s, tv star James Garner tried to reinvent the TV western with the series Nichols.

Created by Frank Pierson, the series decided to take a different view of a typical western.

Starring James Garner as the lead character, Garner portrayed an Army man who comes home to his small town in Arizona and gets shoved into the job of sherriff by the family now running the town.

But he’s not interested in being a lawman, doesn’t want to use a gun and rides a motorcycle or drives a car instead of riding a horse. He’s more interested in spending time with a barmaid named Ruth (played by Margot Kidder) and making money.

Receiving low ratings in its first episodes that debuted in September 1971 on NBC, the writers decided to reinvent the series, by killing off the lead character and introducing his identical twin brother to avenge his death.

Renaming the series James Garner as Nichols, the series refocused on a more typical western, administering frontier justice. But NBC cancelled the series, and re-ran the episodes in early 1972 to fill the gap in programming.

Garner felt the series was never given the proper chance since it was unconventional and its sponsor, Chevrolet, didn’t like the story lines that went against the grain of a traditional western.

Garner’s brief return to Warner Bros. (where he had made the successful Maverick TV series) allowed him to meet two key people – one who would become his co-star on his next series and one that would become his producer on the same series – The Rockford Files.


memories of the ’80s – The A Team

Action, adventure and ex-soldiers trying to help people, on the run from the US military and work as soldiers of fortune – that was the premise of The A Team.

Created by popular TV producer Stephen J. Cannell and Frank Lupo for NBC TV, the series was Cannell’s first after being fired by ABC TV for Brandon Tartikoff.

The series was inspired by previous shows and films like Mission: Impossible, The Magnificent Seven, Mad Max and The Dirty Dozen, and based on a reference to special teams during the Vietnam War.

Airing its first episode after the Superbowl in January 1983, the series starred George Peppard as Lt. Col Hannibal Smith, Dirk Benedict as Lt. Templeton “Face” Peck, Dwight Schultz as the pilot, Capt Howling Mad Murdock and the strongman/mechanic member of the team Sgt. First Class BA Baracus, played by Mr. T.

There was a token woman – Amy Allen, a reporter, played by Melinda Culea in the first season and Marla Heasley as Tawnia Baker in the second season.

The team would have to routinely avoid the military police and each episode showcased their talents, as they fought, flew and conned their way out of situations, usually with a lot of gunfire and explosions, but with rarely any severe injuries or showing any deaths on-screen.

Peck would routinely use his charm on women to acquire things and people, especially Murdock, who was a resident of a mental hospital, while Baracus was unusually strong and a crack mechanic but refused to fly and would have to be knocked out before being transported, usually tricked by Hannibal, who was a master of disguise.

The first three seasons were successful with the series, especially scoring high with male viewers. The cult devotion to Mr. T also helped the show, which had spun off plenty of merchandise, and used the infamous lines “I love it when a plan comes together” and “pity the fool!” from the characters to become integral to current pop culture.

After four seasons the series lost viewers and 1987 was cancelled by NBC TV. The series was  heavily syndicated in North America and around the world, making it a successful series of the 1980s and a memorable contributor to pop culture for its comic style and unique characters.

memories of the ’70s – Baretta

File:Baretta Title Screen.jpgAn oddball cop who got the job done – in the 1970s Baretta was a unique cop show.

Played by Robert Blake, Det. Anthony (Tony) Baretta lived in a non-descript apartment with his cockatoo Fred, and is a regular undercover cop exposing the bad guys.

The series Toma, showcasing a highly realistic view of cop life and played by Tony Musante aired in 1973-74 and although popular, was criticized for its extreme violence.

Musante left after one season and the ABC TV series was reworked to become Baretta with Blake in 1975. Although still gritty, the series toned down the depictions of violence but didn’t shy away from the reality of crime from theft and organized crime to drugs, prostitution and murder.

Blake’s character had several catch phrases including “You can take dat to da bank” and “And dat’s da name of date tune”. Every episode showed him in disguise and when not on the job, he wore a trademark t-shirt, jeans and cap.

He used his neighbourhood pals as informants to make his job easier, including Rooster the pimp, Little Moe the shoeshine guy and Mr. Muncie, who owned the local liquor store, while keeping an eye on Mr. Nicholas, the local mob boss.

At the precinct, Inspector Shiller, Lieutenant Hal and Detective Fats kept their eye on Baretta while Detective Foley was always watching to see if Baretta would make a mistake.

After four seasons, Baretta’s run was done, but the realistic view of the world of cops was once again shown on the small screen.

memories of the ’80s – Educating Rita

This view of university was first shown on stage and then was interpreted for the big screen: Educating Rita.

Commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company in London from Willy Russell, the play debuted at The Warehouse in 1980 starring Julie Walters and Mark Kingston.

Walters played Rita, a Liverpool hairdresser who begins a relationship with Dr. Frank Russell played by Kingston, a university lecturer. Rita initially takes a class in literature and Frank becomes her tutor.

As the two grow closer, their relationship reveals the prejudices and beliefs of each other and how their judgments and assumptions start changing each other.

In 1983, Lewis Gilbert, produced and directed the screen adaptation of the play, debuting at the Toronto International Film Festival in September. Starring Julie Walters and Michael Caine, the film follows the same path, showing how both grow and change, overcoming social class and society constrictions.

Although the film received mixed reviews, it won three BAFTA Awards, two acting awards at the Golden Globes for Walters and Caine as well as was nominated for three Academy Awards, including an adaptation nomination for Willy Russell and best actor and actress nominations.

Made for a small budget of just over US$6 million at Trinity University in Dublin, the film went on to gross over US$14 million, as viewers appreciated the story of Rita and Frank, and how they learn from one another.

As a commentary on the world of university, this play and film showed how assumptions and prejudices can be overcome, and everyone can become better, no matter where they think they currently stand.