The ABC Movie of the Week: Big Movies for the Small Screen

The ABC Movie of the Week: Big Movies for the Small Screen

by Michael McKenna
     
 

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On September 23, 1969, five years after the first made-for-television movie premiered, the ABC network broadcast Seven in Darkness. This was the first television film for an anthology show called the Tuesday Night Movie of the Week. Dedicating ninety minutes of weekly airtime to a still-emerging genre was a financial risk for the third-place network—a risk

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Overview

On September 23, 1969, five years after the first made-for-television movie premiered, the ABC network broadcast Seven in Darkness. This was the first television film for an anthology show called the Tuesday Night Movie of the Week. Dedicating ninety minutes of weekly airtime to a still-emerging genre was a financial risk for the third-place network—a risk that paid off. The films were so successful that in 1972 the network debuted The Wednesday Movie of the Week. Although most of the movies are no longer remembered, a handful are still fondly recalled by viewers today, including Duel, Brian’s Song, and The Night Stalker. The series also showcased pilot films for many eventual series, such as Alias Smith and Jones, The Six Million Dollar Man, and Starsky and Hutch. By the end of both shows’ regular runs in the spring of 1975, the network had broadcast more than 200 made-for-television films.

In The ABC Movie of the Week: Big Movies for the Small Screen, Michael McKenna examines this programming experiment that transformed the television landscape and became a staple of broadcast programming for several years. The author looks at how the revolving films showcased the right mixture of romantic comedy, action, horror, and social relevance to keep viewers interested week after week. McKenna also chronicles how the ratings success led to imitations from the other networks, resulting in a saturation of television movies.

As a cultural touchstone for millions who experienced the first run and syndicated versions of these films, The ABC Movie of the Week is a worthy subject of study. Featuring a complete filmography of all 240 movies with credit information and plot summaries, a chronology, and a list of pilots—both failed and successful—this volume will be valuable to television historians and scholars, as well as to anyone interested in one of the great triumphs of network programming.

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Editorial Reviews

Booklist
This volume focuses on the history of the ABC network’s made-for-TV 'Movie of the Week,' which ran for six seasons, from 1969 to 1975. The prologue gives an overview of this aspect of television history, and the growth and then demise of this type of production is documented in the chapters (each covering a season). Appendixes include both an alphabetical and a chronological list of the movies. A concise bibliography and an index complete the volume. This title would be helpful and support studies that focus on film and television, and public libraries might consider this an interesting selection for the circulating shelves.
The Journal of American Culture
Michael McKenna’s book breaks important scholarly ground by treating the series in both breadth and depth. The first half offers an interpretive history of the series in roughly 180 pages: a chapter per season, and a page or two of text apiece for the films that McKenna judges to be the most significant of that season. The second half uses another 180 pages to provide a chronological listing and alphabetical filmography of all 243 films aired in the series. The two pieces of the book reinforce one another: the second providing an authoritative guide to the series and the first making a case for its social and aesthetic significance. . . .The ABC Movie of the Week: Big Movies for the Small Screen recovers films both individually and collectively. McKenna notes, in a brief epilogue, that he wrote it in an attempt to save the films from historical oblivion. He has, unequivocally, succeeded.

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780810891562
Publisher:
Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Inc.
Publication date:
08/22/2013
Edition description:
New Edition
Pages:
392
Product dimensions:
6.30(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.30(d)

Meet the Author

Michael McKenna teaches history at Farmingdale State College. His primary research interests are urban history and American popular culture, particularly television programming.

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