Wednesday evenings on NBC in the fall of 1984 welcomed back peacock net favorites Michael Landon and Victor French (both of LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE) in a contemporary family drama called HIGHWAY TO HEAVEN.The series was a big hit for NBC - landing in the top 25 shows for its first three seasons and continuing until 1989. The show undoubtedly inspired the later CBS hit TOUCHED BY AN ANGEL.
At 9PM, one of my favorite guilty pleasures, THE FACTS OF LIFE was in the middle of its nine season run (1979-88). The show started as a spin-off of DIFF'RENT STROKES with chubby Mrs. Garrett (Charlotte Rae) and a gaggle of girls at the Eastland School including Molly Ringwald as Molly. In 1980 the show got an overhaul and only chubby rich snob Blair (Lisa Whelchel), chubby Jewish adopted chick Natalie (Mindy Cohn) and eventually chubby rollerskating Tootie (Kim Fields) remained. Joining them now was non-chubby tough tomboy Jo (Nancy McKeon). As the show evolved Edna's girls moved on from Eastland to Langley College. Mrs G. went from housemother to dietitian to running Edna's Edibles to a gift shop called Over Our Heads. When Charlotte Rae left the show, Cloris Leachman came aboard as her sister Beverly Ann. Along the way young George Clooney and cerebral palsy afflicted comedienne Geri Jewell made frequent appearances. There were also two NBC TV-movies: FACTS OF LIFE GO TO PARIS (1982) and FACTS OF LIFE DOWN UNDER (1987) which introduced annoying Australian student Pippa. An abysmal 2001 TV-movie called FACTS OF LIFE REUNION aired on ABC as an episode of THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY. Don't ask. In real life, Kim Fields later became the star of the FOX hit LIVING SINGLE and Lisa Whelchel became a right-wing Christian whacko. Nancy McKeon shows up now and again on Lifetime and Mindy Cohn is alive and well.
IT'S YOUR MOVE, airing at 9:30 is notable for introducing us to Jason Bateman. Jason later went on to star in the likable VALERIE/VALERIE'S FAMILY/THE HOGAN FAMILY (1986-91) followed by a string of other short-lived sitcoms including the gay-themed SOME OF MY BEST FRIENDS (2001). He, of course, eventually found fame as the star of the hysterical FOX cult hit ARRESTED DEVELOPMENT (2003-2006) which he parlayed into feature films. Supposedly there is a AD film in development, which this fan thinks is a bad idea.
IT'S YOUR MOVE lasted only 18 episodes. ST. ELSEWHERE followed at 10PM.
There so much to say about this MTM-produced series that it would require its own post. (Maybe I'll get to that one day). Suffice to say that this medical drama, set at Boston's St. Eligius Hospital, was the best doctor show ever broadcast on US network television. You can keep your ERs, CHICAGO HOPEs and GRAY'S ANATOMYs, ST. ELSEWHERE has already been there and done that tens times better. The show was never a "hit", but it was a critical darling and constant award winner. It ran from 1982 to 1988 and it's powerhouse cast included veteran actors Ed Flanders, Norman Lloyd and William Daniels, and notable "newcomers" like David Morse, Alfre Woodard, Bruce Greenwood, Christina Pickles, Begley, Jr., Stephen Furst, Howie Mandel, Mark Harmon and Denzel Washington. To me, the recent NURSE JACKIE, is the only show that comes close to recapturing the feel of St. Eligius. Tomorrow: Thursday.