Sunday, August 23, 2015

What Might've Been: Cliffhangers (1979)

Desperate for a hit series not named Little House on the Prairie in the winter-spring of 1979, NBC decided to pay homage to the thrilling melodramatic cereals of the Golden Age with Cliffhangers. This anthology series squeezed three different serials into a 1 hour block, which was the first mistake. The second was starting each serial with the storylines already in progress. The third? It was airing opposite ABC's 1-2 punch of Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley. Ballgame over. Cliffhangers lasted two months and change with only one of the three serials wrapping, that being Curse of Dracula, which starred Michael Nouri. In this version, the count is over 600 years old, and decides to give up immortality to find a wife. How? By becoming a college professor in California. Real swift, y'think?

Cliffhangers sprang from the mind of producer Kenneth Johnson (Incredible Hulk, Bionic Woman). As I mentioned, this was meant to pay tribute to the serials of the past, some of which were from Universal, which also packaged Cliffhangers. In addition to Dracula, whose TV history hasn't been good at all since, there was Secret Empire, which riffed on Gene Autry's "Phantom Empire" (which later aired on Matinee at the Bijou), and Stop Susan Williams, with singer-actress Susan Anton as a crusading reporter in a riff on "Perils of Pauline".

Brad Crandall, of Sunn Classic Pictures trailer fame, is the show's announcer. Brick Mantooth serves up the open.

I tried watching this on opening night. I didn't quite get the idea of starting the serials in progress, but in hindsight, it might've made more sense if NBC & Universal waited and lined this up for the fall lineup----on a different night. I think they were looking for hits on Saturday nights, too.

Rating: C.

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