Retro : ABC Throws Itself a Happy 40th

TIMES STAFF WRITER

Forty years of broadcasting can be summed up in two hours. ABC does it Saturday night in a birthday bash attended by a multitude of actors who've appeared in one of the network's series, movies or miniseries.

ABC's 40th Anniversary Special is hosted by network stalwarts Tim Allen, Brett Butler, Dick Clark, John Forsythe, Judith Light, Susan Lucci, Jim McKay, Craig T. Nelson, Bob Saget, Cybill Shepherd, Peter Strauss, Jerry Van Dyke, Barbara Walters and Henry Winkler.

Also sprinkled throughout the audience are more members of the ABC family: Muhammad Ali ("Wide World of Sports"), Gene Barry ("Burke's Law,") Barbara Billingsley and Jerry Mathers ("Leave It to Beaver"), Edd Byrnes ("77 Sunset Strip") Michael Cole and Clarence Williams III ("The Mod Squad"), Vince Edwards ("Ben Casey") and Hugh O'Brien ("The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp").

Clips are divided into 14 topics:

"Growing Up Before Our Eyes" focuses on family comedies over the years, from "Ozzie and Harriet" to "Full House."

"Cops, Angels and Private Eyes" examines police and private-eye series ranging from "77 Sunset Strip" and "Charlie's Angels" to "NYPD Blue."

"ABC Daytime" salutes the history of soap operas such as "All My Children" and "General Hospital" and other daytime fare.

"Monday Night Football" pays tribute to the long-running sports series.

"Movie of the Week" explores the many award-winning movies, including "The Day After" and "Brian's Song," which have aired on ABC.

"Dick Clark Salute" honors the oldest living teen-ager who kept audiences hopping for nearly 30 years with "American Bandstand."

"Live Annual Events" looks at the live special events that have aired on the network from "Night of the 100 Stars" to the Academy Awards.

"TV Drama Comes of Age" is a retrospective of such trend-setting miniseries as "QB VII," "Roots," "The Thorn Birds," "The Winds of War" and "War and Remembrance."

"Watching History Happen" examines the historic and dramatic events chronicled by ABC News.

"Best Friends, Odd Couples & Strange Bedfellows" looks at some of the network's unconventional comedy fare, from "The Odd Couple" to "Three's Company."

"A Salute to Drama Series" looks back at such landmark series as "The Naked City," "Family," "thirtysomething" and "China Beach."

Executive producer John Moffitt acknowledges that producing the special was difficult. "We worked very hard on it," he says. "The worst part was my late partner, Bill Lee, produced the 25th anniversary special of ABC for dick clark productions and they had four hours to do 25 years. We pleaded for more time."

But ABC informed Moffitt the network wasn't keen on asking audiences to invest four hours on one program, considering competition from cable and other channels. Still, Moffitt managed to cover everything but children's programming.

Don't look for a lot of clips from ABC's early years. Some of the material, Moffitt says, has been lost. And a lot of what they found wasn't very good.

"ABC's 40th Anniversary Special" airs Saturday at 8 p.m. on ABC.

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