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This Day in 1980-something: The Oscars, TV Listings, Nintendo, and More.

March 31st, 1988

As the world (or maybe just Twitter) spent the past few days talking about a grown man slapping another grown man in front of a live audience during The Academy Awards, I got to thinking: What were people saying about the Oscars in the ‘80s? Since I’d been planning a new series called “This Day in 1980-Something” anyway, I decided to dive into the digital stacks and see what I could uncover.

Turns out, quite a bit. There will always be news reported about the Oscars, but the kind of salacious gossip we’ve grown accustomed to in recent years was much more toned down, if evident at all, in the reports I found. Though, admittedly this first one does fit the bill: “Oscar Opening Number Bombed.” The writer, John Horn, doesn’t pull any punches in his sarcastic description of an admittedly confusing series of events. Though, to be fair, it sounds like the opening number was universally reviled, as Horn reports the host herself, Lily Tomlin, cracked a joke or two about it on stage. There’s even an article explaining how this opening number apparently ruined Allan Carr’s Career: “The Worst Oscars Ever.” I wonder if they hold the same opinion after this year’s ruckus.

The only other noteworthy piece of reporting here was about Doris Day being unable to present an award due to lacerating her leg while…walking through her garden?

We also get a fairly benign listing of the major winners from the 61st annual Academy Awards. But let’s face it. In 1988, I was definitely not watching the Oscars. So let’s take a look at what else was on TV.

Oh look! There’s Quantum Leap airing at 9 p.m. on channel 2. I also see a block of shows from 6-8 p.m. that I likely would have watched, even if only in the background while I sketched some new pages for my superhero comic, Fly Boy: Benson, The Jeffersons, and Cheers.

Now we’re talking! On channel 28 at 10 p.m. we have an episode of Nightmare on Elm Street, and then starting at midnight Tales from the Darkside and The Twilight Zone. I would have been a little young for that timeslot, but a couple years later that was my jam (and apparently still is).

While perusing the television listings, my eyes kept drifting to the advertisements lining the edges. Some are pretty humdrum, but others feel like perfect time capsules of the ‘80s. Like the one for 8-foot TV rentals, insisting this would be a great addition to your next business meeting or sporting event. Or the offer to publish a child’s birthday photo for free. I guess the Internet took the steam out of that particular gimmick.

On another page there’s a half-page spread for Lawson Video, who has $5.00 VCR rentals. And Nintendo games are only $1.50 to rent for club members. That's a deal I would have begged my parents to pay for.

This last sampling from 1988 is probably my favorite of the bunch. It’s a full-page ad for the grand opening event of Food Bag. They celebrated with a raffle that included prizes like a 10-speed bike and a Nintendo video game, though they don’t bother mentioning which game they were gifting the winner (I suspect a cheap one). They had some fun free offerings, like coffee and a Food Bag lighter, though I suppose I was too young for either.

That wraps up the first in what I hope will become a weekly series. Was this a blatant excuse for me to rummage through old newspapers and dive deep into the minutia of a single day in the 80s? Yes, I don’t deny it. But it was also, I hope, an opportunity for you to do the same. To take some of the things about our current lives and compare them to how we lived only a few decades ago. I hope you enjoyed, and as always, I leave you with a question:

From the TV listings above, what would you have been watching on this day in 1988?


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Photog Smurf
Photog Smurf
Apr 01, 2022

Looks like I would have been watching a couple hours worth of Knight Rider in the evening for sure. Then maybe Night Tracks or Letterman.

Photog Smurf
Photog Smurf
Apr 01, 2022
Replying to

You never know what lost treasures of TV you might find in a TV guide or program listing.

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