It’ll be weeks before we see new episodes of CBS’s various “CSIs” and “NCISs,’” ABC’s “Modern Family” and “Cougar Town,” or Fox’s “House” and “Bones.”
It hasn’t always been this way.
Before the networks began hibernating during the Winter Olympics, they aggressively tried to woo viewers from the games.
Twenty-two years ago tonight, while ABC was airing its ninth night of Olympics coverage from Calgary, NBC launched “James Clavell’s Noble House,” a $20-million adaptation of the author’s best-selling saga of corporate intrigue in the Orient.
The four-night, eight-hour miniseries starred Pierce Brosnan as Ian Dunross, the “tai-pan” – Cantonese for “supreme leader” – of Straun and Company, a prestigious Hong Kong trading firm on the brink of ruin.
John Rhys-Davis co-starred as Quillan Gornt, Dunross’s longtime rival, and Deborah Raffin played Casey Tcholok, the hero’s love interest. The cast also included Ben Masters as Linc Bartlett, a wealthy American who conspires to bring down Dunross’s “Noble House,” and Julia Nickson as Orlanda Ramos, whom Gornt hires to seduce Bartlett.
Critics raved, comparing “Noble House” to NBC’s previous Clavell adaptation, the 1980 hit “Shogun.”
“‘Noble House’ is great. It is the salvation of the miniseries,” wrote People’s Jeff Jarvis. The Washington Post’s Tom Shales called it “the most satisfying fit of lavishness a network has had in years.”
Viewers were less enthused.
“Noble House’s” first installment was seen in 15.8 million homes, beating its time-slot competition – ABC’s Olympics coverage and CBS’s “Bring Me the Head of Dobie Gillis” reunion movie – and finishing 16th for the week.
The miniseries continued over the next three nights, but only the final installment cracked the weekly top 20.
ABC, of course, went on to win that week, placing six Olympics broadcasts in the top 20.
OK, so maybe NBC’s gamble didn’t work as well as it probably hoped – but at least the network tried to give viewers an alternative to the games.
Elsewhere on Television
TV Guide listings for February 21, 1988:
8 PM NBC FAMILY TIES (CC)
Alex (Michael J.
Fox) soon regrets encouraging Lauren (Courtney Cox) to quit work on her thesis:
she turns into a Stepford girl friend, watching soap operas, clipping recipes
and devoting herself to Alex’s every need.
… And in the News
New York Times excerpts from February 21, 1988:
HOUSTON, Feb. 20 – The government is sending message in tortilla packages to remind illegal aliens about the deadline to apply for immigration amnesty.
The Immigration and Naturalization Service has printed 80,000 Spanish-language reminders on 4-by-6-inch pieces of paper, and next week it plans to send them to tortilla factories in Brownfield, Odessa and Lovington, N.M., where they will be inserted into packages.
The note says the deadline for applying for amnesty is May 4. “For more information,” it adds, “please contact your local legalization office.”