Well, well, well. I was on Youtube watching network closing credits/intershow sequences from the '80s and '90s. The great thing about Youtube is that you can see primetime TV as it used to be, as it seems to be the repository for people to upload their old off-air video recordings. And I stumbled upon this video with the closing credits/commercial breaks for the CBS March 10, 1989 broadcast of This Is America, Charlie Brown. At the 0:14 mark - marked in the URL for your convenience (just add &t=XmXs after the YouTube video URL to make the video start at whichever time marker you wish, M for minutes and S for seconds and X for any number 0 to 60) - the closing credits roll. Shortly, the end credits drum & pipes music (sounds like a 4th of July marching band) gets quiet as the voice over announcer says, "Later tonight, a failed drug deal opens the door for J.R. to ruin the competition. A night of surprises on Dallas."
Ya see that? Quite a jump right there. Following a kids' cartoon special touting great American inventors and before another family oriented special Marvin: Baby of the Year, many kids must've been like, "Mommy, what's a drug deal?" (No word how many of them suffered negative consequences such as, y'know, prison time 25 years after.) And startled parents lie with a reference to the drugstore.
The PTC argued against ABC's scheduling of the Charlie Brown specials in their "Worst of the Week" review of last week's Scandal episode:
The ABC network is really at fault in this situation because they are ultimately responsible for the content that actually makes it to broadcast. But it doesn’t seem like anyone at ABC cares whether or not a beloved family-friendly Peanuts cartoon should be shown immediately before an adult themed drama rated TV-14 for suggestive dialogue, offensive language, with depictions of sex and violence.
The ABC network appeals to different audiences on different days of the week. No one is questioning whether Scandal and the other Shonda Rhimes’ dramas, are meant for adults. The creator herself admits that she does not “self-censor” based on principle. The fact remains that ABC advertised and aired a program meant for young children and families to view and they intentionally aired an episode of a series that is clearly meant for adults. On any other day of the week, ABC’s programming is significantly less violent and sexually explicit than on Thursdays. Which begs the question, what is the system the networks use to determine which shows are to air at what times? Until a more consistent representation of a family oriented primetime block is established, ABC’s Scandal will remain the Worst TV Show of the Week.
- The networks typically show the Charlie Brown holiday specials whether Great Pumpkin or A Charlie Brown Christmas at most 7 days before the respective holidays. In this case, ABC showed Great Pumpkin on Oct. 30, the night before Halloween. This way, the show reaches a potentially larger audience of families on Oct. 30 as opposed to Oct. 31 when children will more likely trick-or-treat than watch TV.
- Also, could ABC have shown Great Pumpkin any other night? No, since the specials would've pre-empted other youth-oriented, higher-rated 8pm shows that the PTC would favor...
- Sunday: Once Upon a Time (not to mention being up against Sunday Night Football on NBC as well)
- Monday: Dancing with the Stars
- Tuesday: The Great Halloween Fright Flight, a show that got the PTC's "Best of the Week" award.
- Wednesday: The Middle (a show that the PTC has awarded multiple "Best of the Week" reviews) and The Goldbergs
But to my greater point. It's not a new trend for networks to put kid friendly primetime specials right before the grown-ups' shows as my example of scheduling This Is America, Charlie Brown and Marvin: Baby of the Year before Dallas in March 1989 shows. Also, for more recent times, I wonder if the PTC complained about:
- Dec. 18, 2012: Happy Endings, a show the PTC doesn't recommend for viewers under 18 due to frequent sexual content, following A Charlie Brown Christmas on ABC?
- Or Dec. 2, 2010, when Grey's Anatomy followed Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town on ABC?
- Dec. 8, 2008: A 2-hour Boston Legal followed Charlie Brown Christmas on ABC. The PTC's take on Boston? "Offensive sexual content is the show’s primary concern. Denny Crane in particular makes many jokes of a sexual nature."
- Dec. 11, 1987: Dallas followed Charlie Brown Christmas and How the Grinch Stole Christmas on CBS (both holiday specials' rights transferred to ABC by the millennium). If the PTC were around in the '80s, it'd be frequently trashing Dallas as "Worst of the Week" given the kind of storylines in the show and pretty much any soap opera.
- Dec. 19, 1990: Crime drama Jake and the Fatman followed Charlie Brown Xmas.
- Another interesting juxtaposition. During commercial breaks of ABC's Dec. 16, 1987 broadcast of A Muppet Family Christmas, there was a promo for Sledge Hammer! showing a character firing a gun in a police station then looking at the barrel as the announcer says, "Sledge lets his gun do the talking." An anthromorphized gun with a barrel moving like a mouth says, "read my lips." Definitely not a good advertising fit for a special featuring Sesame Street characters. What's worse? That ad was right after a kiddie cereal ad with a young girl and animated animals. Source: 44:44 of this video.