Fleezle – Rants R Us

Archive for September, 2017

Why ABC’s Battle of the Network Stars won’t survive – and why it should

by on Sep.14, 2017, under Rants, Television

I grew up with television from the 70s and 80s, and one of the things I looked forward to most was the once or twice a year specials which featured the stars doing different things…like ABC’s Battle of the Network Stars – that was reality TV back then. I loved it so much that I still have recordings of all but two episodes, and when ESPN Classic started showing the old ones, I watched them over and over…

The show was a variety sports competition based on the similar format of NBC’s SuperStars and SuperTeams, pitting three teams – one from each of the three major broadcast networks back then, ABC, NBC and CBS – consisting of eight to nine competitors from that network’s current shows. And it was very competitive…each were competing for real money, and some of them were just naturally competitive. There was a variety of competitions, from standard running, cycling and swimming relays, to more fun stuff like the dunk tank and Simon Says, as well as 3-on-3 football, the famous obstacle course, and the infamous finale, the Tug Of War. ABC’s own Howard Cosell would host with a different co-host each time, with the exception of the 18th Battle, filmed in Hawaii instead of the usual Pepperdine University and hosted by Joan Van Ark and Dick Van Dyke.

Who could forget the very first running relay, where ABC captain Gabe Caplan protested the NBC team’s run as one of the men moved backwards to get the baton from one of the slower women early, and NBC captain Robert Conrad went NUTS, made some comments that would get fried on Twitter these days, and challenged Kaplan to a run off, which Kaplan agreed to…and Kaplan promptly blew the doors off the cigar-smoking Conrad…

The battles were filmed on location at Pepperdine University in Pasadena, California, over a couple days with live crowds with cheerleaders to help elevate the excitement and energy levels.

Looking back, it was interesting how ABC managed to get people from the other networks to compete, something that probably wouldn’t fly these days. But the other networks and their shows got promoted, and I don’t know if there was an agreement to co-share with the other networks – CBS had a “spiritual cousin” of the show, Circus Of The Stars. I can’t remember if NBC had one. Even for the second battle, it seemed as if appearances weren’t sanctioned by the other networks – the teams were instead known as “Friends of NBC”, etc. and logos weren’t used, but by the third battle that seemed to be resolved.
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