Here’s the latest from the crossroads of faith, media & culture: 09/18/23

The white lowercase "abc" letters in a black circle.

Silence is compliance. So suggests Atlanta-based Worship with Wonders Church Pastor Myles Rutherford. In his new book Raise Your Voice: An Urgent Call to Speak Out in a Collapsing Culture, due out tomorrow, he sounds the alarm over silence and complacency in the face of what he sees as an ongoing assault on traditional values. As the pastor said to me “While everyone is entitled to have free speech, we do not tolerate our children being the recipients of those ideologies.” I think that’s reasonable, particularly amid the current push for clearly inappropriate sexual materials in the classrooms and dangerous life-altering gender-denying therapies on minors in the culture at large.

Now, a small window of opportunity may be opening at Disney. The crumbling company which has seen its stock price collapse since its utter embrace of the brand-destroying cult of Wokism has become apparent to almost everyone would be wise to just put itself on the auction block because, IMHO, the only way to restore its tarnished brand (as well those of its Marvel, Star Wars and ESPN divisions) is to be taken over by some person or group that clearly has the intent of pushing back and fixing things.

That’s not happening yet but, as has been reported last week, there have apparently been talks about Nexstar (owner of NewsNation and The CW) buying Disney’s broadcast network ABC – causing entertainment entrepreneur Byron Allen to jump in with an $11-billion bid for the network (with a proposal that would also include Disney’s FX and NatGeo cable outlets).

While, due to Disney’s own mismanagement, ABC is a shadow of what it once was – with smart leadership – it could be restored to its previous luster and, in fact, become a media juggernaut (and leader) again. I, in fact, think there is a huge public appetite across generations and party lines (whether realized or not) for traditional four-quadrant network programming that doesn’t try to convert anybody to any particular religion or political affiliation but, broadly speaking, is pro-faith, pro-family, pro-optimism and pro-America. And, BTW, happens to be free.

As a traditional TV fan, I know ABC has a great heritage of such programming. Creating new line-ups (albeit with more diverse casts) that draw on some abandoned genres and themes offers great potential for both financial success and restoring and building up goodwill across the country. Plus, people are tired for paying cable operators and streamers for dark, pretentious and, frankly, mostly crappy shows.

Anyway, I’m going to geek out here and present what I call an Ultimate ABC Schedule. I’m not saying all these shows should be rebooted but there’s a huge market for new shows that capture their spirit and reflect similar values. Here goes.

7:00 – The Young Rebels (1970)
The literally revolutionary take on a successful ABC series of the era called The Mod Squad was actually not a hit and may indeed seems a bit hokey by today’s standards. Still, I think the time is a ripe for a youth-oriented idealistic series that would present the founding of our country in a positive light.

8:00 – Land of the Giants (1968-70)

This Irwin Allen-produced classic actually could stand to have an updated reboot. It’s big and exciting and could be next Lost. It’s the kind of big swing broadcast TV needs more of. BTW, re: the opening below, Don Marshall who played the African-American co-pilot of the craft that crash-landed into the Land of the Giants seriously deserved second billing, not fourth behind the kid.

9:00 – The ABC Movie of the Week (1969-75)

I don’t think ABC actually invented the concept of made-for-TV movies but it’s Movie of the Week presentations certainly popularized them. Notable presentations included the classic thriller Duel (directed by a young Steven Spielberg), the survival drama Seven in Darkness and Death Be Not Proud (based on the book). Keeping a two-hour movie slot open is also a great way to launch big miniseries (a programming concept which ABC did pretty much invent). Memorable presentations in that class included Rich Man, Poor Man(1976), Roots (1977), The Thorn Birds (1983), The Winds of War (1983), North and South (1985) and Stephen King’s The Stand (1994). For the most part, miniseries disappeared from network schedules during the nineties. It’s a shame because that’s the kind of stuff that creates viewer excitement.

8:00 – Hardcastle & McCormick (1983-86)

This goodhearted action show about the bond between two men with opposite backgrounds was the perfect lead-in to Monday Night Football.

9:00 – NFL Monday Night Football (1970-2005)/Lost (2004-2010)
Though I can’t claim to be an actual fan, it doesn’t get more American than football. I’m blaming corporate greed to moving it to ESPN in 2006.  Meanwhile, Lost may just be the last really great ABC series. Here’s perhaps my favorite scene.


8:00  – Happy Days (1974-84)
It may have been sorta dopey but Happy Days was goodhearted, often funny and celebrated working-class America. Plus, you can’t beat it feel-good song. Ditto its lead-out.

8:30 – Laverne & Shirley (1976-83)

9:00 – Room 222 (1969-74)
A great instrumental start to a solid show that tackled relevant issues of the day in a way that didn’t make parents out to be the villains. It might be interesting to do a similar show today set in a charter school. The sheer catchiness of this opening sequence begs the question of why current TV has abandoned them. I don’t know anyone who doesn’t miss them. If it’s money, perhaps they could include a sponsored advertiser’s logo in the bottom right corner.

9:30 – Taxi (1978-83)
This comedy classic (which moved  to NBC for its final season) offers the sort of laugh-out-loud non-political humor our country could use right now. Here’s a classic scene.

10:00 PM – NYPD Blue (1993-2005)
It’s ironic that this gritty cop drama met with such religious opposition prior to its premiere because, while I agree its famous but infrequent nude scenes were not necessary, the overall arc of the story presented a compelling and believable  chronicle of its lead character’s journey from and alcoholic bigot to good and decent man who finds God. This scene – an unexpected and risky step into the supernatural – worked amazingly well at encapsulating his story. A true classic.


8:00 – Batman (1966-68)

Before people started taking their superheroes franchises way to seriously there was this absurdist gem.

9:00 – Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman (1993-97)

Lois & Clark took itself a tad more seriously than Batman but it was still far from the dark. For my money this bright, fun, romantic and swashbuckling version of the Man of the Steel is the best ever committed to the screen – small or big.

10:00 – The Fugitive (1963-67)

This suspenseful and intense drama was a sort of parable about a hero’s persistence in the quest for truth. It also invented the whole idea of giving closure to a TV show. It’s final episode remains one of the all-time best.

8:00 – Nothing Sacred (1997-98)

If this show about an inner-city Catholic parish had been titled Everything Sacred instead of the misleading name assigned to it, this show could have been a faith-themed hit. Instead it drew unfortunate preemptive fire from the Catholic League which which leaped to, perhaps, understandable (but erroneous) conclusions based off the misleading title. In truth, the drama (co-created by Jesuit priest Bill Cain) was very respectful of the Catholic faith and faith in general. In an attempt to make the series sound edgy, the network alienated the very audience that could have made it a huge success. Anyway, here’s a great scene.

9:00 – Ben Casey (1961-66)

Not quite Marcus Welby, not quite House, Ben Casey was a somewhat arrogant but compassionate neurosurgeon who operated in the television world of the early 1960s. It was a serious medical drama that avoided portraying its lead character as either a total saint or egotistical moron. For the most part, the show also humanely tackled serious medical issues generally without the soapiness of a Grey Anatomy.

10:00 – Owen Marshall, Counselor-at-Law (1971-74)

After Ben Casey tackled serious medical issues in medicine, Owen Marshall tackled serious legal issues in the courts. It wasn’t the best show of its type (that would be NBC’s LA Law in the ’80s and ’90s) but I include it here because I think the time is ripe for some network to take on this genre from a more conservative point of view than, say, the predictably Woke Law & Order franchise.

FRIDAY (TGIF – Thank God It’s Family)

8:00 – Leave It to Beaver (1957-63)
While ABC was known for kicking off its well-remembered Friday sitcom blocks with family-centered with shows like The Brady Bunch (in the ’70s) and Full House (in the ’80s), neither compares in quality with the show that defines the genre. Leave It to Beaver ran one season on CBS before moving to ABC for five more in the late ’50s and early ’60s). The show looked at the world from a kid’s point-of-view and featured parents who weren’t idiots. In today’s cynical times, Beaver is sometimes ridiculed but it was a great show. Here’s some of that famed sage wisdom from Ward. It would actually be great if more shows (for both kids and adults) would offer more eternal wisdom and, perhaps, a little less in the way of chic virtue signal of the moment.

8:30 – The Partridge Family (1970-74)
Fluffy, sure – but it was also surprisingly witty and offered some really singable music. A happy show of the type America could use right now.

9:00 – Eight is Enough (1977-81)

Possibly my favorite family show. It was warm, funny, relatively realistic and perfectly cast.

10:00 – The Big Valley (1965-69)

This show actually has all the makings of a great reboot. A sprawling western family saga featuring a strong matriarch. Come on! Somebody get on this!

SATURDAY (Yes, it’s time broadcast networks start scheduling Saturday nights again)

8:00 – The Lawrence Welk Show (1951-82)
I know. This is perceived as the ultimate in demographically-incorrect television. Even for my generation, it’s considered old school. My mother loved it though. The show must have had something because it spanned three decades. For its first four seasons it aired locally in Los Angeles. It’s final eleven seasons were in syndication. In between, it spent 16 years as a staple of ABC’s schedule. Welk’s catchphrase was “Keep A Song In Your Heart” and, as admittedly dated-looking the clip below is, I think a show featuring a diverse cast belting out happy contemporary songs (with, perhaps, some oldies thrown in) could be a big hit.

9:00 – The Love Boat (1977-86)
Pure fluff but perfect weekend escapism.

10:00 – Spenser: For Hire (1985-88)
TV used to be awash in unabashedly heroic private eyes who bucked the system to solve murders and rescue people. It’s a great fantasy that, in its own way, inspires us all to try and be more heroic.Spenser was one of the best (right up there with Rockford, Harry O and Mannix).

The Bottom Line: If some potential buyer out there could recapture the quality, optimism, morality and fun of ABC in its prime, there’s literally good money to made in that their investment will not only be financially profitable but also quite possibly make a dent in turning what Pastor Rutherford’s book terms our “Collapsing Culture” around. Also, it would be nice if they could bring some more balance to ABC News and genuine comedy (as opposed to political posturing) to late night. Dare to dream.

John W. Kennedy is a writer, producer and media development consultant specializing in television and movie projects that uphold positive timeless values, including trust in God.

Encourage one another and build each other up – 1 Thessalonians 5:11

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