ABC Movie of the Week

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ABC Movie of the Week
Premiere September 23, 1969
Latest May 14, 1975
Creator Barry Diller
Network ABC
Style 90-minute TV movie
Produced 248
Origin USA

Launched in 1969, the ABC Movie of the Week banner ran for six seasons through 1975, during which time it proved immensely popular and spawned the movie of the week craze which would persist until 2006, when CBS ended the last time slot set aside for TV movies in American network primetime. Billed at the time as "the most costly series in network history," the ABC Movie of the Week was hardly a series in the same sense of its anthology series predecessors. Nonetheless, over its six-year run, it would inspire numerous imitators, win dozens of awards, launch or give a boost to the careers of some of the biggest names in film and television in the 1970s—Steven Spielberg (Duel), James Caan (Brian's Song), Jeff Bridges (In Search of America) Burt Reynolds (Run Simon, Run) and others—and result in several TV shows.

What distinguished the ABC Movie of the Week from its predecessors were two things, which were spelled out by ABC vice president and the mastermind behind the Movie of the Week, Barry Diller. "First, the 90-minute form provides us with the opportunity to do justice to that special echelon of story ideas, which don't quite work in the standard one- and two-hour television program forms. Second, unlike previous movies-for-television packages, Movie of the Week is drawing its films from several production companies. And coupling the individual movie to the company best equipped to produce it." One of those production companies would be Spelling/Thomas Productions, the partnership between television legends Aaron Spelling and Danny Thomas. Although Spelling had been working in television for over a decade by the time of the ABC Movie of the Week, his numerous successes (amongst more than a few flops) there would play a central role in his rise to power in the television industry throughout the 70s, 80s and 90s. In fact, three of the hit 1970s TV series which established him as one of the most powerful men in Hollywood—Starsky and Hutch, Fantasy Island and The Love Boat—premiered as movies of the week on ABC, although only Starsky and Hutch debuted under the ABC Movie of the Week banner.

That was due to another difference between the ABC Movie of the Week and its predecessors—one which Diller skillfully avoided mentioning in his press release touting the series as "the most costly" ever made. The ABC Movie of the Week gave the network a chance to test out new pilots for which it had already paid. Many of the pilots filmed never air, and the networks just lose that money. By airing some of those pilots as a Movie of the Week, ABC could both test their appeal on television audiences and recoup some of its money in sponsorship. Several of those pilots became series, and at least four of those series—The Six Million Dollar Man, Kung Fu, Kolchak: The Night Stalker and the afore-mentioned Starsky and Hutch—are today considered classics in their own right. The ABC Movie of the Week would also see the live-action debut of Wonder Woman on television, albeit in a form vastly different from the one she would have when portrayed by Lynda Carter in the later (non-ABC Movie of the Week) ABC movie The New Original Wonder Woman and subsequent series.

The ABC Movie of the Week, however, had a far greater impact on ABC than just boosting its ratings, bringing in ad revenue, giving it new talent and recouping some of its pilot expenditures. It also breathed new life into a network which had, in one sense, struggled since the dawn of television. Since the days when radio shows first started to gain pictures, rival CBS had planted its flag on the sitcom and variety show genres with such pioneering classics as I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners and The Ed Sullivan Show. By the end of the 1950s, NBC was dominating the various drama subgenres with such series as Dragnet, Bonanza and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. To be sure, all three networks had their successes in the 1950s and 60s in all genres, but the "alphabet network" had never dominated one type of programming as thoroughly as its competitors. As a result, it would lack a network "identity" or brand recognition—a problem which would plague it once again, three decades later, in the early 21st century after the decline of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire? and before the arrival of its dramas Lost, Grey's Anatomy and Desperate Housewives.

In the 1970s, however, ABC became the "movie network." By 1975, when the ABC Movie of the Week logo (itself noteworthy, in that it was an early use of "slit-scan" technology, still used today in IMAX special effects and famously used in the ending sequence of the classic film 2001: A Space Odyssey) aired for the last time before a movie debut, ABC was airing a movie (either original or theatrical) almost every night of the week, and on those nights when it aired more traditional series, NBC and CBS took up the slack with their own imitations. Despite the other networks' success, ABC would continue throughout the decade to be the leading network for original, dramatic, non-series programming even as it branched out into miniseries. Many of the classic miniseries of the format's American high water mark of the late 1970s and early 1980s were ABC productions, including Rich Man, Poor Man, QB VII, and, of course, the 1977 smash Roots—the most successful English-language American miniseries of all time.

Below is a list of made-for-TV movies created for ABC under the various banners—including The ABC Movie of the Weekend, The ABC Suspense Movie, Tuesday Movie of the Week and Wednesday Movie of the Week. It also includes those productions made for ABC and aired as part of The ABC Sunday Movie and Monday Night Movie banners, although both of those sometimes also aired theatrical films. For pilots which were picked up, the films listed below link to the pilot listings on the respective series pages.

Movies

# Title Airdate
1 Seven in Darkness September 23, 1969
2 The Immortal¹ September 30, 1969
3 The Over-the-Hill Gang October 7, 1969
4 Wake Me When the War Is Over October 14, 1969
5 The Monk October 21, 1969
6 The Young Lawyers¹ October 28, 1969
7 The Pigeon November 4, 1969
8 Spy Killer November 11, 1969
9 The Ballad of Andy Crocker November 18, 1969
10 In Name Only November 25, 1969
11 Three's a Crowd December 2, 1969
12 Daughter of the Mind December 9, 1969
13 The Silent Gun December 16, 1969
14 Honeymoon with a Stranger December 23, 1969
15 Gidget Grows Up December 30, 1969
16 Black Water Gold January 6, 1970
17 Foreign Exchange January 13, 1970
18 Carter's Army January 27, 1970
19 Along Came a Spider February 3, 1970
20 The Challenge February 10, 1970
21 Quarantined February 24, 1970
22 Mister Jerico March 3, 1970
23 The Love War March 10, 1970
24 The Young Country March 17, 1970
25 How Awful About Allan September 22, 1970
26 Night Slaves September 29, 1970
27 But I Don't Want to Get Married October 6, 1970
28 The Old Man Who Cried Wolf October 13, 1970
29 Wild Women October 20, 1970
30 The House That Would Not Die October 27, 1970
31 Tribes November 10, 1970
32 The Over-the-Hill Gang Rides Again November 17, 1970
33 Crowhaven Farm November 24, 1970
34 Run Simon, Run December 1, 1970
35 Weekend of Terror December 8, 1970
36 The Man Who Wanted to Live Forever December 15, 1970
37 Alias Smith and Jones¹ January 5, 1971
38 Assault on the Wayne January 12, 1971
39 Dr. Cook's Garden January 19, 1971
40 The Feminist and the Fuzz January 26, 1971
41 The Point February 2, 1971
42 Love, Hate, Love February 9, 1971
43 Maybe I'll Come Home in the Spring February 16, 1971
44 Longstreet¹ February 23, 1971
45 Yuma March 2, 1971
46 River of Gold March 9, 1971
47 In Search of America March 23, 1971
48 Sheriff March 30, 1971
49 Escape April 6, 1971
50 The Forgotten Man September 14, 1971
51 The Birdmen September 18, 1971
52 Congratulations, It's a Boy September 21, 1971
53 Deadly Dream September 25, 1971
54 Five Desperate Women September 28, 1971
55 Sweet, Sweet Rachel³ October 2, 1971
56 The Last Child October 5, 1971
57 Thief October 9, 1971
58 A Taste of Evil October 12, 1971
59 In Broad Daylight October 16, 1971
60 Suddenly Single October 19, 1971
61 Death Takes a Holiday October 23, 1971
62 The Death of Me Yet October 27, 1971
63 A Little Game October 30, 1971
64 Two on a Bench November 2, 1971
65 Revenge! November 6, 1971
66 Do Not Fold, Spindle, or Mutilate November 9, 1971
67 Duel November 13, 1971
68 Mr. and Mrs. Bo Jo Jones November 16, 1971
69 The Reluctant Heroes November 23, 1971
70 The Failing of Raymond November 27, 1971
71 Brian's Song November 30, 1971
72 The Devil and Miss Sarah December 4, 1971
73 If Tomorrow Comes December 7, 1971
74 See the Man Run December 11, 1971
75 The Trackers December 14, 1971
76 What's a Nice Girl Like You...? December 18, 1971
77 Gidget Gets Married January 4, 1972
78 The Astronaut January 8, 1972
79 The Night Stalker¹ January 11, 1972
80 Madame Sin January 15, 1972
81 Getting Away from It All January 18, 1972
82 The People January 22, 1972
83 Women in Chains January 25, 1972
84 The Screaming Woman January 29, 1972
85 Hardcase February 1, 1972
86 When Michael Calls February 5, 1972
87 Second Chance February 8, 1972
88 Hound of the Baskervilles February 9, 1972
89 Call Her Mom February 15, 1972
90 Kung Fu¹ February 22, 1972
91 Two for the Money February 26, 1972
92 The Eyes of Charles Sand February 29, 1972
93 A Very Missing Person March 4, 1972
94 The Rookies¹ March 7, 1972
95 The Longest Night September 12, 1972
96 The Daughters of Joshua Cabe September 13, 1972
97 No Place to Run September 19, 1972
98 Haunts of the Very Rich September 20, 1972
99 Moon of the Wolf September 26, 1972
100 Say Goodbye, Maggie Cole September 27, 1972
101 Playmates October 3, 1972
102 Rolling Man October 4, 1972
103 Night of Terror October 10, 1972
104 Lt. Schuster's Wife October 11, 1972
105 Goodnight, My Love October 17, 1972
106 A Great American Tragedy October 18, 1972
107 Short Walk to Daylight October 24, 1972
108 Family Flight October 25, 1972
109 The Bounty Man October 31, 1972
110 That Certain Summer November 1, 1972
111 The Crooked Hearts November 8, 1972
112 The Victim November 14, 1972
113 All My Darling Daughters November 22, 1972
114 Home for the Holidays November 28, 1972
115 The Heist November 29, 1972
116 The Couple Takes a Wife December 5, 1972
117 Pursuit December 12, 1972
118 Every Man Needs One December 13, 1972
119 Weekend Nun December 20, 1972
120 Firehouse January 2, 1973
121 The Devil's Daughter January 9, 1973
122 Trouble Comes to Town January 10, 1973
123 The Night Strangler² January 16, 1973
124 Female Artillery January 17, 1973
125 Go Ask Alice January 24, 1973
126 A Cold Night's Death January 30, 1973
127 Snatched January 31, 1973
128 Divorce His February 6, 1973
129 Divorce Hers February 7, 1973
130 The Great American Beauty Contest February 13, 1973
131 The Girls of Huntington House February 14, 1973
132 A Brand New Life February 20, 1973
133 And No One Could Save Her February 21, 1973
134 The Connection February 27, 1973
135 You'll Never See Me Again February 28, 1973
136 The Letters March 6, 1973
137 The Six Million Dollar Man¹ March 7, 1973
138 The Bait March 13, 1973
139 Class of '63 March 14, 1973
140 Beg, Borrow or Steal March 20, 1973
141 Toma¹ March 21, 1973
142 Deliver Us from Evil September 11, 1973
143 She Lives! September 12, 1973
144 Dying Room Only September 18, 1973
145 Satan's School for Girls September 19, 1973
146 Hijack September 26, 1973
147 Runaway! September 29, 1973
148 Isn't It Shocking? October 2, 1973
149 Letters from Three Lovers October 3, 1973
150 The Alpha Caper October 6, 1973
151 Shirts/Skins October 9, 1973
152 Don't Be Afraid of the Dark October 10, 1973
153 Double Indemnity October 13, 1973
154 Third Girl from the Left October 16, 1973
155 The Man Who Could Talk to Kids October 17, 1973
156 The Six Million Dollar Man: Wine, Women and War² October 20, 1973
157 Money to Burn October 27, 1973
158 Ordeal October 30, 1973
159 Guess Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed? October 31, 1973
160 Linda November 3, 1973
161 The Girl Most Likely To... November 6, 1973
162 My Darling Daughters' Anniversary November 7, 1973
163 Death Race November 10, 1973
164 Trapped November 14, 1973
165 The Affair November 15, 1973
166 The Six Million Dollar Man: Solid Gold Kidnapping² November 17, 1973
167 Scream, Pretty Peggy November 24, 1973
168 Outrage November 28, 1973
169 A Summer Without Boys December 4, 1973
170 Bloodsport December 5, 1973
171 Maneater December 8, 1973
172 The Cat Creature December 11, 1973
173 Message to My Daughter December 12, 1973
174 What Are Best Friends For? December 18, 1973
175 Pioneer Woman December 19, 1973
176 The Death Squad January 8, 1974
177 Shootout in a One Dog Town January 9, 1974
178 Mrs. Sundance January 15, 1974
179 Scream of the Wolf January 16, 1974
180 Skyway to Death January 19, 1974
181 Get Christie Love!¹ January 22, 1974
182 Pray for the Wildcats January 23, 1974
183 Heatwave January 26, 1974
184 The Girl Who Came Gift-Wrapped January 29, 1974
185 Killdozer February 2, 1974
186 Can Ellen Be Saved? February 4, 1974
187 Cry Panic! February 6, 1974
188 The Elevator February 9, 1974
189 I Love You... Goodbye February 12, 1974
190 The Morning After February 13, 1974
191 Live Again, Die Again February 16, 1974
192 Hitchhike! February 23, 1974
193 Killer Bees February 26, 1974
194 Unwed Father February 27, 1974
195 Houston, We've Got a Problem March 2, 1974
196 The Stranger Who Looks Like Me March 6, 1974
197 Wonder Woman³ March 12, 1974
198 The Hanged Man March 13, 1974
199 The Gun and the Pulpit April 3, 1974
200 Murder or Mercy April 10, 1974
201 The Last Angry Man April 16, 1974
202 Nakia¹ April 17, 1974
203 The Chadwick Family April 17, 1974
204 Planet Earth April 23, 1974
205 The Story of Pretty Boy Floyd May 7, 1974
206 Hurricane September 10, 1974
207 Savages September 11, 1974
208 The Sex Symbol September 17, 1974
209 The Day the Earth Moved September 18, 1974
210 The Great Niagara September 24, 1974
211 The California Kid September 28, 1974
212 The Stranger Within October 1, 1974
213 Death Sentence October 2, 1974
214 Where Have All the People Gone? October 8, 1974
215 Hit Lady October 8, 1974
216 Locusts October 9, 1974
217 Bad Ronald October 23, 1974
218 The Mark of Zorro October 29, 1974
219 Death Cruise October 30, 1974
220 The Great Ice Rip-Off November 6, 1974
221 All the Kind Strangers November 12, 1974
222 The Gun November 13, 1974
223 It Couldn't Happen to a Nicer Guy November 19, 1974
224 Panic on the 5:22 November 20, 1974
225 The Godchild November 26, 1974
226 Betrayal December 3, 1974
227 Only with Married Men December 4, 1974
228 Roll, Freddy, Roll December 17, 1974
229 Let's Switch! January 7, 1975
230 The Missing Are Deadly January 8, 1975
231 Satan's Triangle January 14, 1975
232 The Hatfields and the McCoys January 15, 1975
233 The Abduction of Saint Anne January 21, 1975
234 The Daughters of Joshua Cabe Return January 28, 1975
235 The Trial of Chaplain Jensen February 11, 1975
236 A Cry for Help February 12, 1975
237 The Family Nobody Wanted February 19, 1975
238 You Lie So Deep February 25, 1975
239 Someone I Touched February 26, 1975
240 Trilogy of Terror March 4, 1975
241 The Desperate Miles March 5, 1975
242 Huckleberry Finn March 25, 1975
243 Dead Man on the Run April 2, 1975
244 Returning Home April 29, 1975
245 Starsky and Hutch¹ April 30, 1975
246 Matt Helm¹ May 7, 1975
247 The First 36 Hours of Dr. Durant May 13, 1975
248 Promise Him Anything May 14, 1975
¹Pilots for series which were picked up (not under the ABC Movie of the Week banner in the Wiki)
²Sequels to pilots for series which were picked up (not under the ABC Movie of the Week banner)
³Pilots for series which were picked up but significantly re-conceived & recast (under the ABC Movie of the Week banner)

Series Launched

Several series were picked up as the result of pilots which aired as part of the ABC Movie of the Week. Below is a list of those series.

Title Series Debut
The Young Lawyers September 21, 1970
The Immortal September 24, 1970
Alias Smith and Jones January 21, 1971
Longstreet¹ September 16, 1971
The Sixth Sense² January 15, 1972
The Rookies September 11, 1972
Kung Fu October 14, 1972
Toma October 4, 1973
The Six Million Dollar Man January 18, 1974
Get Christie Love September 11, 1974
Kolchak: The Night Stalker September 13, 1974
Nakia September 21, 1974
Starsky and Hutch September 10, 1975
Matt Helm September 20, 1975
Wonder Woman² April 21, 1976
¹Series picked up by CBS
²Series re-conceived and recast from ABC Movie of the Week pilot