Tuesday, May 01, 2012
Network TV --and that's all there was--in 1971 did not offer viewers many choices. It was slowly improving in quality, but there was not much to excite us--and certainly almost no presentation of classic literature.
But that year a new kid moved onto the block and for years dominated my Sunday nights. Sunday nights in 1971 were not the food fight they are now. There was a Sunday night movie, Bonanza, some musical shows, but nothing to get you excited.
Until Masterpiece Theater came on the scene. This was the first season. It was our first year in Detroit--we didn't know people here yet and this was one of the biggest topics of conversation with people we met. Believe it or not, MT was the water-cooler conversation then.
PBS was a relatively new entity, coming off of NET, which had broadcast the very successful THE FORSYTE SAGA in 1967, giving folks the idea America might be ready for classics. Masterpiece Theater was hosted by Alastair Cooke for many years and imported its programs from British TV. It really took off the third season with the introduction of Upstairs, Downstairs, which seemed livelier than much of their fare.
Season 1: 1971-1972
The First Churchills
The Spoils of Poynton
Jude the Obscure
Cold Comfort Farm
The Six Wives of Henry VIII
The Last of the Mohicans
For years, we watched it every Sunday night. But commercial TV caught up with the quality over time and MT began to seem stodgy. Every series, no matter who the writer of the original material, seemed to be written by the same writer. The introduction of Masterpiece Mystery, at first seeming innovative, eventually seemed equally generic.
However, recently with series like Downton Abbey, the new Sherlock series and several other more dynamic productions, things may be headed in the right direction again.
For more forgotten movies, see Todd Mason.