What’s on TV: December 31, 1988

scanSome of you are wondering, “Hey, what’s on TV tonight?” More of you are wondering what was on TV a generation ago, however! New Year’s Eve fell on a Saturday in 1988, the year that Michael Dukakis became a household name, Axl Rose’s band and face were in pristine condition, and Geraldo Rivera weathered a broken nose alongside the dark side of Satanism. Here’s a rundown of what dreck you’d encounter on TV in the last hours of 1988:

On Broadcast:

CBS: The short-lived sitcom version of Dirty Dancing at 8 PM, followed by another sitcom called Raising Miranda (anyone remember it?) and the final episode of Simon & Simon! The exciting logline: “Rick (Gerald McRaney) wants to settle things out of court when Cecilia’s lawyer friend grills him on the stand in the murder case of a law student involved in insider trading.” Scandalous!

NBC: The King Orange Jamboree Parade at 8 PM features appearances by George Wendt, Kadeem Hardison and other NBC mainstays amongst competing marching bands. Reruns of The Golden Girls, Empty Nest and Hunter follow. At 11:30, the Matthew Broderick-hosted Saturday Night Live featuring the notorious “Nude Beach” sketch.

ABC: An 8 PM rerun of Superman III! Evil Superman’s heinous sins are smoking, drinking and straightening the Leaning Tower of Pisa. A thousand times better than Man of Steel.

Fox: Hard-hitting investigative journalism on The Reporters at 8, followed by a rerun of their weird-science docuseries Beyond Tomorrow at 9. The SunSentinel of Ft. Lauderdale called it “Mr. Wizard for yuppies,” one of the same core demographics sought after by The Adventures of Buckaroo Banzai Across the 8th Dimension. Mind you, this is mere months before the premiere of Cops.

Winner: Fox, but only if you had Superman III taped off cable.

On Cable:

Cinemax: No Way Out airs at 8 PM, late-night airings of The Witches of Eastwick and Trading Places.

HBO: Wall Street had the big premiere on New Year’s Day. What are we left with on New Year’s Eve? The Burt Reynolds/Liza Minnelli nightmare Rent-a-Cop, which is nonetheless a laugh riot as fuckup Chicago cop Burt protects HIGH PRICED CALL GIRL Liza from James Remar as a serial killer dressed as a welder. Lethargic, outdated even for then and best suited for the late-night slot. Speaking of welders…

Showtime: Flashdance, a film that I has played a significant role in three books on filmmaking I have read. And say what you will, but the movie is fucking beautiful and atmospheric if thin on plot. An Elton John concert follows. Late-night airing of the Andy Sidaris softcore favorite Malibu Express.

TBS: MASH at 8:05, most likely cut to ribbons.

USA: A New Year’s Porky’s marathon that most likely bled into USA Up All Night, one of the touchstones of late 20th century television. Night of the Living Dead followed at 2 AM.

MTV: Big Bang ’89 hosted by Sandra Bernhard. No Headbanger’s Ball tonight, sadly. Wonder if Downtown Julie Brown was around for the countdown.

Winner: Channel surf. Flip on MTV at 11, watch Eastwick during the commercials. If you’re a guy, Malibu Express is sure to satisfy the potato in your pants, despite the fact that the movie is a malfunctioning doomsday clock when there’s no T&A.

Theoretically, you could also consult listings for your local pay station, such as SelecTV, Prism or Wometco Home Theater. Wanna rent a movie without the video store lines? Perhaps Viewer’s Choice or Request are offering some recent hits. Call your local cable provider for details.

For New Year’s entertainment, ABC has New Year’s Rockin’ Eve ’89, featuring performances by Natalie Cole, Taylor Dayne, the Fresh Prince and DJ Jazzy Jeff, Richard Marx and Graboid hunter Reba McEntire. CBS had this alternative:


I really hope Ernest fucked something up good on that.

See you in 2014, everybody.


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