Friday, September 20, 2013

What Might've Been: Tuesday Night Titans (1984)

Long before Ted Turner created the TNT network, where reruns of Law & Order and other off-network shows get played into the ground, there was another TNT on the air, courtesy of Vince McMahon.

Back when WWE was still the World Wrestling Federation, and during Hulk Hogan's 1st year as champion, McMahon decided to expand his broadcasting empire beyond his twin syndicated programs. He'd had a standing deal with USA Network to air live cards from Madison Square Garden, Boston Garden, and other locales, bringing them to free TV after live events had aired on HBO in the past. That wasn't enough anymore. Since he was the lead announcer, McMahon got it into his head he wanted to be as big a star as his wrestlers, long before his J. R. Ewing-inspired "Mr. McMahon" persona entered the picture.

So what happened? McMahon decided to do a primetime talk show that was a parody of the likes of Merv Griffin and The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, among others. The end result was Tuesday Night Titans, which spent 2 years on USA, getting bumped at least three weeks a year for the Westminster Dog Show and the US Open tennis tournament, back when USA had cable rights to the latter. Lord Alfred Hayes, who was doing sponsor plugs for the syndicated shows, would be Arthur Treacher to McMahon's Merv, Ed McMahon (no relation) to Vince's Johnny Carson. The saving grace was that Vince never tried doing stand-up comedy. A monologue is a foreign concept to him in its traditional context.

Instead, Titans was a mix of comedy sketches, usually performed by Don Muraco & Mr. Fuji, doing parodies of movies and television, conversation, and wrestling matches taped for Coliseum Video, then the WWF's video division. As a result, it was hit or miss, more miss than hit, to be honest, but a 2 hour talk show, as opposed to 1 hour or 90 minutes, was stretching things just a wee bit too much. I don't think Vince had heard of the even longer Spanish language variety shows that would become popular here in due course.

Two years later, the series was cancelled and replaced with a magazine series, Prime Time Wrestling, which allowed manager Bobby Heenan, who was doubling as a color analyst by this time, and Gorilla Monsoon, the two men calling the action on Wrestling Challenge, to spend 2 hours debating the week's action, with their weekend schtick carrying over. That series lasted 6 1/2 years before it was phased out, and by the time it reached its end in 1993, it had morphed into a variety show itself, complete with studio audience, as if McMahon had decided to give the Titans format one more try.

Anyway, here's the 1st episode, from May 1984:

Rating: B-.

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