Tuesday, September 04, 2012

Forgotten TV: Battle of the Network Stars



The first Battle was broadcast on ABC in November 1976. The program proved popular and continued for an additional eight and a half years, with subsequent episodes airing approximately every six months until May 1985. One final competition aired in December 1988. NBC tried to revive the competition in 2003, but with an intra-network contest consisting of personalities from the NBC family of networks. (from Wikipedia)

Sports broadcaster Howard Cosell hosted or co-hosted almost all of the specials, and commented on the action with a semi-serious version of the style for which he was famous. Each network forked over several stars to compete in a variety of events.

This program followed a series called SUPERSTARS, which ABC used to fill in on Sundays after football season ended. This series featured athletes in a more serious competition.

The reason I watched both series was because it was a show I could share with my son who loved such competitions. Certainly not a highlight of television, but a precursor perhaps to reality TV and maybe no more authentic.


TODD MASON HAS MORE LINKS HERE,

18 comments:

Todd Mason said...

Well, immediate precursors to AMERICAN GLADIATORS, and thus onto SURVIVOR and US versions of Japanese humiliation stunt game shows, sure. To say nothing of SCTV's "Battle of the PBS Stars" with William F. Buckley's team consistently cheating to vanquish Carl Sagan's, till Fred Rogers can take no more and hits Julia Child, who's pummeling him in boxing, with King Friday the XIII.

Truly the television cousin of Robert Coover and his jolly crew, at their best.

pattinase (abbott) said...

HA! Your trajectory is hilarious.

Margot Kinberg said...

Patti - Oh, my gosh, I haven't thought of this show in years! Honestly I can't say I watched it but I do remember when it was on the air.

Bill Crider said...

Reality TV has been around a while.

Jerry House said...

I never bothered with this show but I remember vividly SNL's "Battle of the Network Ts and As." Wonder why?

Anonymous said...

If you scroll around the dial you might see reruns of some of these today. I did watch, especially some of the women in their bathing suits. Another highlight (in a way) was Joe Frizer (I think it was him but my memory could be playing tricks) doing the dog paddle and looking like he'd have to be dragged out of the pool and resuscitated.

I liked the precursor, SUPERSTARS, because athletes from lesser known and popular sports could win (like Kyle Rote, Jr., who won three times) because they had all-around skills.

Jeff M.

Anonymous said...

Frazier

I'm pretty sure Smokin' Joe was on the SUPERSTARS show.


Jeff M.

eviljwinter said...

Gabe Kaplan running hurdles. Now that was funny!

And I suppose it is nostalgic to remember a time before OJ Simpson was a homicidal maniac.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I remember him being one of my heroes, in fact. Always seemed like the nicest guy.

Anonymous said...

Here's the reference: However, it was heavyweight champion boxer Joe Frazier who nearly stole the show, almost at the cost of life and limb. In the very first event, the 50 meter swimming heats, Frazier nearly drowned, and only after he was retrieved from the pool did he admit to commentators that he didn't know how to swim. When a reporter asked him why he tried the race, Frazier replied, "How was I to know I couldn't unless I tried it?" He also famously opined, "That Mark Spitz," (who had won several gold medals for swimming at the 1972 Olympics) "is a tough muthafucker!"

Jeff M.

pattinase (abbott) said...

That is hilarious.

Anonymous said...

OK, he didn't really almost drown, but swimming was definitely not his sport.


Jeff M.

Charles Gramlich said...

I vaguely remember this.

Deb said...

My favorite moment was a Superstars episode on which Pittsburgh Steeler Franco Harris was disqualified from a race for crossing into an opponent 's path and his classic response: "Nobody told me I had to stay in my own lane."

Dan_Luft said...

As I remember, Robert Conrad acted like he was taking it very seriously.

pattinase (abbott) said...

Oh, I remember that too, Dan. He took everything seriously, I think.

Erik Donald France said...

Welcome back, Gabe. Too funny.

I avoided this show when it was on, however.

pattinase (abbott) said...

I would have too but for kids who loved it.