Yes we’re in a golden age of television with an abundance of streaming services and content the likes of which we’ve never seen. Programs like Deadwood or Breaking Bad could have never been scheduled for prime time in the 70’s and 80’s by the big 3 network gatekeepers. In addition to the digital age, we should also thank Seinfeld for its ground-breaking and game-changing TV brilliance which stretched our viewing palette coming out of the 80’s. After watching an episode of Seinfeld there was no way you could ever watch an episode of Family Matters or anything like that again.

When Most of the Country Was Watching

So, today we have control over what, how and when we want to view our content. Yet I would like to remind that the golden age of Network TV between the 1960’s -1980’s had its own contribution: The shared national experience. Think of the monolithic cultural impact syndicated reruns of Gilligan’s Island and The Brady Bunch had on an entire generation born between 1965-1975. Or consider that when the mini series Roots premiered in 1977, by the final episode, 70% of the entire country was watching. That type of audience share for a made-for TV series does not exist today. It was all anyone would discuss the next day across the country. Few non-cable channels with scheduled content programming narrows and concentrates the focus of a national audience.

Dark Night of the Scarecrow

CBS (1981) Dark Night of the Scarecrow

The other benefit of a narrow focus for a national audience is adult-drama content that a child can watch with their parents. In 1981 Disney and Nickelodeon channels did not exist for a child to watch in a separate room. When Roots aired, the entire family watched it and kids discussed it with their parents. The content was adult-themed but was also child-safe and appropriate. It was in this cultural context that Dark Night of the Scarecrow aired in 1981 on CBS. These conditions gave us something that is very rare today:

  • A truly scary Halloween themed Network TV movie
  • child-safe and appropriate
  • Adult themed and quality

They really don’t make them like this anymore- and if they tried it would either be too Nickelodeon cheesy, or too hard ‘R’ horrific. Remember, this was the culture that gave us MASH. Dark Night of the Scarecrow comes from that place in American culture where a family could sit down and watch something substantial that nourished the viewing experience of all ages. There is a very dark undertone to this movie that may fly over the heads of kids but that adults will definitely register when they see. Overall, for its time period,  this movie holds up today. Make this one part of your Halloween viewing experience.


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