On November 29, 1988, CBS introduced “TV 101,” a critically acclaimed high school drama that fell victim to a lethal combination: controversy and low ratings.
The show starred Sam Robards – Jason Robards and Lauren Bacall’s son – as rebellious Kevin Keegan, the new English teacher at his alma mater, Roosevelt High School.
Kevin also oversees the student newspaper, which he turns into a weekly TV newscast shown in classrooms. Among the journalists: sensitive jock Chuck Bender, portrayed by Matt LeBlanc in his first series role.
The New York Times’ John J. O’Connor praised Robards (“slyly charming”); the Washington Post’s Tom Shales applauded the show’s depiction of teenagers “as individuals … not just as stock types.”
CBS aired “TV 101” on Tuesday nights, opposite three of the era’s biggest hits: ABC’s “Who’s the Boss?” and “Roseanne” and NBC’s “Matlock.”
“TV 101’s” debut was seen in 6.5 million homes, finishing 63rd in the weekly ratings. Two months later, CBS shifted the show to Wednesdays (opposite ABC’s “Growing Pains”), then to Saturdays (opposite NBC’s “The Golden Girls), where it presented a three-part episode in which Chuck’s girlfriend becomes pregnant and has an abortion.
Several affiliates boycotted the episodes; CBS cancelled the show when the storyline concluded.
See for yourself: “TV 101” isn’t online or on video; visit TVShowsOnDVD.com and petition its release!
Here’s the prime-time lineup for Tuesday, November 29, 1988:
8: “Who’s the Boss?” (ABC), “TV 101” (CBS), “Matlock” (NBC)
8:30: “Roseanne” (ABC)
9: “The Barbara Walters Special” (ABC), “Stripes” (CBS), “The Delta Force” (NBC)
For the week of November 27, 1988:
Top novel: “The Sands of Time” by Sidney Sheldon
Top song: “Bad Medicine” by Bon Jovi
Top movie: “Scrooged”
Top TV show: “The Cosby Show” (NBC)
In the news: President-elect Bush and Bob Dole made up
Captions: “TV 101” cast members, from top left, Andrew White, Alex Desert, Mary B. Ward, Matthew LeBlanc, Andrew Cassese, Brynn Thayer, Sam Robards, Teri Polo, Stacey Dash and Stewart Goddard in a photograph from TV Guide’s October 1, 1988, fall preview issue (top, photographer unknown); CBS’s advertisement for the series premiere, from the magazine’s November 26, 1988, edition (bottom).