Mural-size TV screens that hang on the wall like paintings! Two-way television conversations with your Aunt Hazel and Uncle Fritz! Banking and shopping via TV sets hooked up to your home computer! These are some of the promises of television in the '90s.
Unfortunately, they were also among the promises of television in the '80s and '70s, too. Mural-size TV screens have been just around the corner for about 30 years now.The public deserves more practical predictions, nuts-and-bolts stuff, when it comes to looking into television's future. Of course, if the future is like the past, there will be many more nuts than bolts. But the point is, TV has changed greatly in the '80s and will continue to do so in the '90s.
Here are some of the things likely to happen in the first half of the last decade of this bedraggled old century of ours:
- Dan Rather will turn over "The CBS Evening News" to Connie Chung by 1992. Rather, stressed out by the daily grind, will concentrate on "48 Hours" and specials.
- As early as March, Tom Brokaw will no longer be sole anchor of "NBC Nightly News" but will be joined by a partner, probably Bryant Gumbel of the "Today" show. Bob Costas will take over Gumbel's spot in the chair next to news kitten Deborah Norville. Michael Gartner, the avidly disliked president of NBC News, will only hold the job a few more months.
- General Electric will sell NBC and make a zillion trillion dollars. Disney may buy CBS Inc. All three networks will become so heavily involved in cable that cable will no longer be thought of as the competition, only a subsidiary.
- "Monday Night Football," an ABC fixture for 20 years, will move to CBS in the fall, as part of the new resurgence of CBS Sports. Where once CBS was known as first in news and ABC first in sports, the roles will reverse. CBS will become the No. 1 sports network and ABC will be first in news.
- Sam Donaldson will be quietly dropped from the ABC News magazine show "PrimeTime Live," and producers will either leave Diane Sawyer the sole anchor or team her with another star, possibly someone from the entertainment side instead of the news side. Despite the cosmetic improvements, the show will not be around to see the light of fall.
- Fox Television's "Married . . . with Children," the racy and foul-mouthed sitcom, will be the most imitated series of the next couple years. All the networks will try similarly raunchy shows of their own. Rear nudity could become fairly common, and so may bare breasts in late-night TV and the last hour of prime time. Stock up on videotape now.
- CBS will fold the disastrous "Pat Sajak Show" early in 1990, and many network affiliates will replace it with syndicated programming, rejecting whatever lame replacement for "Sajak" CBS comes up with and thus costing the enfeebled network yet more millions of dollars.
- At least one of the three major networks will cancel all its Saturday morning cartoons and fill the time instead with a news and informational service along the lines of "Today" or "Good Morning America."
- Jim Bakker will begin live inspirational telecasts from a special studio constructed for him in prison. (All right - I admit it. This isn't a prediction so much as wishful thinking). Oh, and Tammy Faye will drop by for guest shots.
- In a fit of overconfidence typical of him, Arsenio Hall will try to bring his rackety late-night talk show into prime time, and fall flat on his fist.
- Johnny Carson will still be on television on New Year's Eve, 1999.
- Brandon Tartikoff of NBC Entertainment, Robert Iger of ABC Entertainment, and Jeff Sagansky of CBS Entertainment will all come to their senses sometime within the next two years and admit that they should have been paying more attention to TV critics all along and faithfully following their majestically intelligent counsel.
They will ply the critics with effusive apologies, and beg for forgiveness on bended knee.
But - I digress . . .