That Wacky Redhead

Discussion in 'Alternate History Discussion: After 1900' started by Brainbin, Nov 18, 2011.

  1. Threadmarks: The Archie Bunker Vote (United States Elections, 1972)

    Brainbin Kingpin of the Cultural Cartel

    Jul 26, 2009
    The British Empire
    The Archie Bunker Vote (United States Elections, 1972)

    Archie Bunker.jpg

    Archie and Edith Bunker at their famous spinet piano.

    Those Were the Days
    was the top-rated program on television in the 1971-72 season (despite being virtually ignored in its first season), and unlike nearly all American sitcoms that had come before, it was unabashedly topical, and refused to shy away from covering controversial topics. The show also refused to appear neutral or unbiased, consistently taking a liberal tack to most issues of the day. But the broad spectrum of opinions held by many people on most matters were ably represented by the four main characters in the Bunker household. And indeed, their perspectives would also become a microcosm of those presented by the candidates seeking office in the elections of November, 1972; the campaign leading up to which becoming a constant touchstone of plots and character interactions.

    Richard Higgins, the "Meathead", was played by Richard Dreyfuss. He was intended as a shining example of the "modern man": the adult Baby Boomer, the new generation. He repudiated many traditional American values, though he embraced others – or at least, he claimed to embrace them. The decision was made to play the character as a stereotype of the conservative boogeyman – bleeding-heart, limousine liberal, ivory-tower intellectual, unmanly – though their success in doing so was limited. [1] Dreyfuss played the character as milquetoast and deferential to all of those whom he did not wish to offend: his wife and his friend, the African-American Lionel Jefferson, in particular. His father-in-law, on the other hand, was a different story. Richard had an unfortunate tendency to believe that he knew what was best for everyone else in his life; though he could not really be described as pushy, condescending fit very nicely.

    Gloria Bunker-Higgins, the "little goil", was played by Penny Marshall. The writers – including star Carroll O'Connor – faced considerable difficulty in crafting the character, an unapologetic feminist who fought for women's rights. Marshall herself took an active role in Gloria's development, inviting the frequent comparisons to the character's mother, a conventional housewife who was eternally deferential to her chauvinistic husband. Though Gloria's views were generally liberal, she was more independent-minded than Richard, and took a more "common sense" tack to societal problems. [2] She worked full-time as a clerk in order to support her husband, a career student. She and her mother were very close; and though Gloria did love her father, she fought with him almost as frequently as her husband did.

    Edith Bunker, the "Dingbat", was played by Jean Stapleton. Her character was an oasis of warmth and compassion in the often combative Bunker household, and without question, she was the only character with whom all the others got along. Perhaps only her husband occasionally refused to react to her good cheer in kind, though she in turn was the only one who really seemed to understand him. Indeed, she was without question the wisest character on the show, despite her leaps of "illogical logic" that came to rival even Gracie Allen in her heyday; hence her nickname. She was the only one of the four central characters who could not be described as "realistic", and was not meant to represent a segment of society; however, her portrayal by Stapleton emphasized her humanity.

    And then there was Archie Bunker himself, the "lovable bigot", played by Carroll O'Connor. Not nearly as abrasive or as mean-spirited as his inspiration, Alf Garnett, Archie was portrayed sympathetically; he was a victim of circumstance, namely, those same "good old ways" that he so staunchly defended. Stories generally used one of two means to arrive at this end: either the plot would demonstrate that societal changes were indeed making things better for everyone; or his continuing resistance to make new changes, or adapt to them, would result in Archie becoming worse off than he was before. [3] It was the primary objective of showrunner Norman Lear that Archie always be proven wrong before the end of each episode; O'Connor favoured a more nuanced approach. He was not fond of ivory-tower types like Richard, and often encouraged storylines that put both Archie and Richard in the wrong; in those cases, Gloria or (especially) Edith would be vindicated. Audiences, for their part, instantly took to Archie; everyone knew an Archie, and indeed, some of them were Archie. But even those who did not agree with the character ideologically found him easy to like, and to relate to. Lear insisted that Archie was popular because audiences enjoyed laughing at him; the truth was a good deal more complex than that.

    Throughout the early 1970s, polls generally showed incumbent President Hubert H. Humphrey (or Herbert A. Hump-free, as the malapropism-prone Archie often referred to him) with a commanding lead; certain of his policies (ending the overseas quagmire, aggressive racial integration) met with some resistance particularly with Archie himself, as he made very clear on numerous episodes of Those Were the Days but on the whole, his Great Society agenda was met with approval by the American people, continuing the liberal consensus of the post-New Deal era. [4] Richard and Gloria were both Humphrey supporters, though with differing levels of fervour: Gloria liked him well enough, whereas Richard, though a passionate supporter of some of his policies, would occasionally lament his relative moderation, expressing a preference for more liberal candidates, such as Eugene McCarthy.

    The field of Republicans seeking to defeat Humphrey was fairly large, but more noteworthy were those who had declined the opportunity: former Vice-President Richard Nixon, who had staged a strong comeback from seeming oblivion in 1968, held firm to his refusal to return to the political arena, refusing any interviews or queries on the subject: his famous quote on the matter was "All I have to say to you is something that can't be printed in tomorrow's paper." Another, more surprising, withdrawal came later, when presumed frontrunner, conservative Governor Ronald Reagan of California, opted out of the race. He would eternally cite his interest in continuing to serve the fine people of the Golden State as the primary factor in this decision; but his aides would later admit that he was turned off by polls showing Humphrey comfortably ahead, coupled with the presence of George Wallace, running as a third-party candidate. Reagan believed that he and Wallace appealed to the same core constituency – the white working-class, who, in one of the greatest legacies of Those Were the Days, came to be known as the "Archie Bunker vote". [5]

    In Reagan's absence, the natural frontrunner was Nelson Rockefeller (rendered in Archie-ism as that Rocky Nelson fellah), the liberal Governor of New York, who had finished second in 1964, to another conservative, Barry Goldwater. An elder statesman of the party, Rockefeller naturally had the largest cash advantage of any candidate, and also had strong support – and strong opposition. Another returning candidate was Senator George Romney of Michigan [6] – who had run in 1968, while sitting as Governor of the Wolverine State. Despite his strong credentials, he could not recover from the mistakes of his previous, disastrous campaign – the famous "brainwashed" remark in particular continued to haunt him. But he was Rockefeller's only real competition amongst moderates, though in the end he only won two states in the primaries: his home state of Michigan, along with Utah, bulwark of his Mormon coreligionists (and, ironically, a very conservative state otherwise). Among the major conservative candidates were Rep. John Ashbrook of Ohio, Sen. John Tower of Texas, and Gov. Paul Laxalt of Nevada. [7] Ashbrook, being a mere Congressman, could not build a significant infrastructure; Tower dropped out of the Presidential race early, to focus on running for re-election to the Senate and preventing several upwardly mobile House members from nipping at his heels. Laxalt thus emerged as the conservative candidate and the only real threat to Rockefeller. As a natural proxy for Reagan, Laxalt became good friends with the Gipper during the primary campaign; that friendship would endure throughout their careers.

    But eventually, Rockefeller prevailed, finally given the chance to carry the Republican banner into a Presidential election. Needing to choose a conservative running-mate in order to balance the ticket, he selected one of his strongest supporters: Gov. Daniel J. Evans of Washington State. This would serve to balance the ticket geographically, as well as ideologically. On Those Were the Days, Edith supported Rockefeller, against the protests of both her husband and her son-in-law (relatively muted, as both would much rather attack the politics of the other). She praised his long years of service as their Governor, and believed that he would make a fine President. Gloria, though a committed Humphrey supporter, admired Rockefeller and claimed that she would not object to his winning the Presidency. Richard refused to qualify his support for Humphrey in the same way, claiming vehemently that Rockefeller's party would bring their agenda into the White House. Archie, though he had voted for Rockefeller in the past, did not care for his liberal policies, and, like Richard, often described him as "just as bad" as the other candidate that he opposed.

    And then there was Gov. George Wallace (George E. Wall-izz), the staunch segregationist from Alabama, who, incensed by Humphrey's liberalism and his racial policies, decided to turn his 1968 vehicle for a Presidential run into a legitimate third party. The American Party, as it became known (though many commentators continued to refer to it as the American Independent Party, listed in short-form as AIP) appeared on the ballot in 49 states, absent only from Hawaii. [8] Wallace extended his attempt to thwart an Electoral College majority for Humphrey by running House and Senate candidates, in hopes of preventing one for the Democrats in Congress as well. Wallace scored a bipartisan coup when the extremely conservative Republican Congressman, John G. Schmitz of California, offered to serve as his running-mate. [9] The American Party campaign was unabashedly populist and nativist; in searching for a symbol for their party, they were aided by an editorial cartoonist, who chose the turkey – which, unlike both the donkey and the elephant, was native to American shores. The turkey was also seen as proud, stubborn, and folksy, much like Wallace. Intended as, at the very least, a ribbing of Wallace's ideals, if not an all-out condemnation, the American Party co-opted the symbol wholeheartedly. The turkey, being a fowl, much like the NBC peacock, inspired one of the more subtly racist slogans of the 1972 election: Vote for turkeys, and stay away from peacocks – a derogatory reference to NBC's popularity with black audiences. Unsurprisingly, this was one of the few elements of the campaign that did not percolate into Those Were the Days, which aired on CBS.

    As the campaign wore on, it became increasingly clear that despite Humphrey's strengths at governing, he was far from the best at campaigning; though he was certainly not helped by considerable voter fatigue with total control by the Democratic Party, who had held the Presidency and both houses of Congress since 1961. A critical decision, to allow the first televised debates since the famous Kennedy-Nixon match of 1960, was later perceived to have severely damaged his chances for re-election; for he was outmatched in oratory by both Rockefeller and Wallace, who naturally took very different – but equally successful – approaches to debating with him. In this regard, Muskie proved a valuable asset, for he easily triumphed over Evans and Schmidt in the lone Vice-Presidential debate. By contrast, Evans proved something of a drag on Rockefeller; one of the campaign's biggest scandals broke out when one of his aides was discovered to be eavesdropping on the Humphrey campaign.

    Map of Presidential election results. Red denotes states won by Humphrey and Muskie; Blue denotes those won by Rockefeller and Evans; Gold denotes those won by Wallace and Schmidt. (Note also that a faithless elector in South Carolina cast his vote for Wallace and Schmidt, instead of Rockefeller and Evans; this is not indicated on the map above.)

    Turnout for the election was approximately 55%, or just above 78 million. Humphrey and Muskie carried 22 states out of 50 (along with the District of Columbia), which translated to 276 electoral votes out of 538; in contrast to Rockefeller and Evans, who won 23 states but only 217 electoral votes (though they were entitled to 218). Wallace and Schmidt won the remaining five states and 45 electoral votes. A large number of states were marginal, won by fewer than five points in either direction.

    Though the electoral vote was relatively close, the popular vote was closer still. Humphrey had a lead of just over one-and-a-half million votes; approximately 35 million to 33.5 million. This translated to a victory margin of slightly more than 2% of the vote: 44.8% to 42.7%. Wallace received over 9 million votes, or almost 12%. The Socialist Workers Party won 50,000 votes; no other ticket received more than 25,000 votes nationwide, though Governor Ronald Reagan received over 20,000 write-in votes in his native California.

    Despite Wallace's efforts, the Democrats (narrowly) retained control of the House, returning 220 representatives; majority control required 218. The Republicans elected 204 members; the American Party saw 11 of their candidates elected. This was the largest Congressional delegation of any third-party throughout the 20th century to date. [10] Alabama Rep. Walter Flowers, a close Wallace ally, and a relative moderate within his party, was chosen as House Leader. Because of Wallace's strength in his home state, he co-opted the entire Democratic Party machine, and the American Party became known in that state as the American Democratic Party of Alabama, or ADP. The National Democratic faction, opposed to Wallace, avowed their loyalty to the federal Democrats, officially becoming the National Democratic Party of Alabama, or NDP. The ADP won most of the local offices up for election in the state, and took control of the State House. The Republicans, though they managed to win two seats in the state's Congressional delegation, were utterly marginalized.

    Sen. John Sparkman, running for re-election in the Heart of Dixie, remained neutral, and his friendship with Wallace allowed for his re-election as an Independent Democrat, joining Harry F. Byrd of Virginia. The two joined the Democrats and the Republicans, tied at 48 seats apiece; New York Conservative James L. Buckley; and the lone AIP Senator, Lester Maddox of Georgia. [11] With both Independents caucusing with the Democratic Party, this gave them exactly half of the seats in the upper house, resulting in the need for Vice-President Muskie to remain on-hand to break ties. [12] The Republicans did surprisingly well in several southern states, thanks to strong support from such established figures as Strom Thurmond (who had himself run a third-party campaign for President in 1948); South Carolina Gov. Albert Watson [13] and Tennessee Gov. Winfield Dunn, both of whom governed states that swung from Wallace to Rockefeller; and Winthrop Rockefeller, former Governor of Arkansas and brother to the Presidential candidate, who campaigned for him throughout the South.

    Those Were the Days followed the campaign throughout 1972, and anticipated it throughout 1971. The second episode of the series, "Writing the President", featured Richard writing a letter of praise to President Humphrey, which inspires Archie to write a condemnation, famously imagining his scathing criticisms being read on-air in a dream sequence. Episodes produced in the second season included "The Election Story", airing in late 1971, and covering a local election (in which it is revealed that Archie last voted for Rockefeller
    in 1958) [14]; and "The Man in the Street", in which Archie is polled to answer a topical question, and will appear on that evening's news with Walter Cronkite. However, not all episodes were so narrowly focused. A purely comedic episode featuring Sammy Davis, Jr. was one of the most highly-regarded. Two episodes also featured Edith's cousin Maude Findlay, the antithesis of Archie, played by veteran stage actress Beatrice Arthur; the second would serve as a backdoor pilot for her own series, "Maude", which premiered in the 1972-73 season.


    [1] Richard is essentially an effete milquetoast; basically the "Sensitive New Age Guy" before his time. His passion for left-wing politics is more intellectual, his convictions more patronizing. He's also more fastidious in his appearance. Contrast Michael from All in the Family, who was loudmouthed, hot-headed, and obnoxious. It's not easier to like Richard than it is to like Michael, but it's harder to dislike him.

    [2] Gloria on All in the Family was a classic case of Depending On The Writer; Sally Struthers, in turn, was only as good as the material she was given. Marshall, a more consistent performer than Struthers, also seeks greater creative input (a logical assumption, given her eventual directorial career IOTL). Thus the contrast of the modern young woman with her mother strengthens the interactions between both characters. She's also more assertive in general, to compensate for Richard being more passive.

    [3] Archie's portrayal is slightly more sympathetic ITTL, given the overall theme of his generation being left behind, or being forced to adapt to the rapidly changing society. This ties in nicely to O'Connor's interpretation, held even IOTL, viewing Archie and his ignorance as victims of circumstance. To compensate for this, he is the aggressor more often in his confrontations with Richard, whereas on All in the Family he and Michael were about equally quarrelsome.

    [4] Given the candidates, 1972 is often reckoned as the height of the liberal consensus, much as 1924 was reckoned as the height of the conservative consensus IOTL. In both cases, a strong third-party candidate emerges to challenge that paradigm.

    [5] The Archie Bunker vote was a real-life phenomenon
    – and it spoke to the tremendous cultural cachet of the show that it was already being discussed ahead of the 1972 election. All in the Family correctly predicted that they would overwhelmingly break for Nixon; IOTL, Tricky Dick carried Archie's native Queens, the last Republican candidate to do so. ITTL, though Wallace does not wins Queens outright, it is his best New York City borough by a considerable margin (Brooklyn and Staten Island are too "ethnic" to vote AIP in large numbers).

    [6] Romney was appointed Secretary for Housing and Urban Development by President Richard Nixon in 1969 IOTL; here, Nixon is not elected, and Romney accordingly finishes his term as Governor of Michigan. Deciding that he would need foreign policy experience for a later run at the Presidency, he runs for the Senate in 1970, narrowly defeating incumbent Democrat Philip A. Hart. (IOTL, his wife Lenore ran instead, as a proxy, and was defeated by Hart in a landslide.)

    [7] Laxalt did not seek re-election to the office of Governor in 1970 IOTL.

    [8] For obvious reasons, the AIP also does not appear on the ballot in DC.

    [9] Schmitz was defeated for renomination to his Congressional seat in the 1972 election IOTL, thanks to finagling by none other than President Richard Nixon. Here, he becomes enraged at Rockefeller's nomination as Presidential candidate, and decides to abandon the GOP in protest. Schmitz was the AIP candidate for President that year IOTL; here he settles for joining Wallace on the ticket. Andrew J. Hinshaw wins the nomination contest to replace Schmitz, and is duly elected to replace him.

    [10] All eleven AIP/ADP Congressmen are from the South: 4 from Alabama, 3 from Louisiana, and one each from Mississippi, Arkansas, Georgia, and South Carolina. Both the Democrats and the Republicans make a point of not inviting those members to caucus with them.

    [11] Maddox would become the AIP candidate for President in 1976 IOTL. Here, he runs for Senate while sitting as the incumbent Lieutenant Governor, narrowly defeating Democrat Sam Nunn (the OTL victor) and Republican Fletcher Thompson in a three-way race.

    [12] Among the candidates to be returned to the Senate are Republicans Margaret Chase Smith of Maine, and Gordon L. Allott of Colorado. Among those challengers to be defeated are Democrat Joe Biden of Delaware, and AIP candidate Jesse Helms of North Carolina. Note that the tally includes changed election results in the previous election, including Romney's victory in Michigan.

    [13] Watson lost the 1970 gubernatorial election IOTL; here, he narrowly succeeds.

    [14] "Writing the President", IOTL, naturally had Michael writing a letter critical of Nixon, and Archie writing a letter of praise in response. The Rockefeller tidbit in "The Election Story" replaces an OTL tidbit, in which it is revealed that Archie last voted for Nixon - in 1960.


    Special thanks to vultan for his assistance and very helpful suggestions on this update!

    So there you have it, the 1972 election results, and the continuing broadcast history of Those Were the Days, provided in more or less equal measures. It's certainly not all sunshine and roses for the USA; the population, as IOTL, is highly politicized and increasingly polarized. We can only be grateful that everything seems to be going smoothly, now and for the foreseeable future. Though things can always change...

    To those of you who dislike politics, I apologize. I promise that this will be the high-water mark of political coverage for quite some time to come. As always, I aspire to cover all aspects of TTL from a pop culture perspective, and I will continue to do so in the future.

    Archie Bunker.jpg
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2012
    Mackon likes this.
  2. vultan Defying Gravity

    Dec 12, 2008
    Somewhere Only We Know
    Using Archie Bunker to talk about the election was an interesting move, really creative.:cool:

    Glad I could be of service!:)
  3. Unknown Member

    Jan 31, 2004
    Corpus Christi, TX
    Has Degrassi been butterflied away, Brainbin?

    Good update, especially tying in Archie Bunker to the 1972 election.

    O'Connor based Archie on working-class Irish types he saw growing up, BTW (and he was a socialist, too.).

    Brainbin, John Schmitz's daughter just happens to be...Mary Kay Letourneau. Yes, that one.
    Last edited: Mar 4, 2012
  4. Glen ASB & Left Hand of IAN Moderator

    Apr 20, 2005
    Update seems solid. Clever interweaving of pivotal TV and politics.

    Have to say, looks like Reagan will be the candidate to beat in 1976....
  5. joea64 Unabashed Edwardian Era fanboy

    Feb 14, 2007
    A few miles south of Henry House Hill
    I agree. It seems to be a consensus of post-WWII American political TL's here that Reagan's first really good opportunity at winning the Presidency was in 1976; 1972 is just too early, and he no doubt recognized that. The interesting thing is that in the absence of Nixon and the "quagmire", and with two main candidates who really aren't that far off ideologically from each other (witness how Gloria, while staunchly supporting Humphrey, is OK with the possiblity of Rocky winning), and with Wallace drawing off the hard-right vote, the 1972 election is MUCH closer than OTL. This will have interesting implications for Reagan's campaign in 1976 should he decide to run then, as one path to victory for him will probably be to hold on to the '72 Republican voters while drawing as many of the conservatives as he can.

    I'm assuming, by the way, unless I missed it in my first read-through of the new installment, that Arthur Bremer didn't attempt to assassinate Wallace, or his attempt failed (either by missing Wallace or only slightly wounding him).

    I think I can see the seeds of future creative conflict on Those Were The Days between Lear and O'Connor, as Lear continues to push for a more simplistic "conservatives are always wrong and stupid" line whereas O'Connor stands firm for the more complex, nuanced approach that's worked so well so far.
  6. Brainbin Kingpin of the Cultural Cartel

    Jul 26, 2009
    The British Empire
    Thank you all for your lovely replies to my latest update! Once again, here are my responses:

    Thank you. I thought that a framing device might bring some new life to this well-worn material :)

    As you may know, the development of the Degrassi franchise was a very long and gradual one. But it's still several years off from where we are ITTL. And there will be significant butterflies facing Canadian society, thanks to the election of Robert Stanfield. So it's hard to say.

    Thank you very much, Unknown, and glad to know that you're still reading! I have to admit, OTL did half the work for me: the Archie Bunker vote was very much a real-life phenomenon, and it was indeed the topic of much discussion in the run-up to the 1972 election. So I decided to flip the focus: the election becomes a peripheral aspect of the history of Those Were the Days, rather than the reverse.

    Very true. I touch on aspects of the character's development quite a bit more in my first post to cover the series.

    Oh yes, I'm definitely aware of his family ties. Little Mary Kay Schmitz (just ten years old at this time) is just one of a number of very... colourful characters associated with those men who were seeking higher office in this era.

    Thank you, Glen! I'm glad that my fusion update went over well.

    That may well be the case, though I seem to recall you having that inclination long before this update, in any event ;)

    Reagan and Wallace would be competing for the same kinds of voters, who, when prompted to choose between them, would almost certainly break for the folksy politician from Dixie, as opposed to the actor from California. And Humphrey was polling very well in early 1972; and of course, he's built his entire Presidency on continuing the Great Society and the resurrection of Camelot. Reagan can't really blitz him with his patented optimism, the way he could against an incumbent mired in scandal or malaise.

    Those are some very astute observations. Rockefeller (narrowly) won his home state of New York, and Gloria's receptiveness to him reflects his popularity among the Northeastern intelligentsia. She can't actually be made to support him - the show is run by a bunch of "commie pinkos", as Archie would describe them, after all - but yes, her acceptance of Rocky does reflect that. As far as the surprisingly close result goes, there are a few reasons, all of which were mentioned in the update: the Wallace candidacy; Humphrey's surprisingly lackluster campaign; and voter fatigue with continuing Democratic dominance. The results, in their entirety, could probably be described as "disappointing" by all three sides.

    Reagan isn't the only person whose political future is worth speculating about. Certain other Republicans have no intention of letting the Gipper take the nomination, after all. And then there's Wallace, and the nascent American Party infrastructure now supporting him (and other rising stars, such as Flowers and Maddox). Finally, of course, there's the Democratic nomination - surely they wouldn't just let Muskie win it in a cakewalk, now would they?

    After some deliberation, I decided that Bremer would not make the attempt. Everything had to be just so for that to go off ITTL.

    Another very perceptive observation. These two interpretations of the show's success are very much taken from OTL, and it really does inform the show's development, and how Norman Lear's empire endured over time; or more accurately, how it didn't. He hasn't had a hit show on the air in over a quarter-century.

    The next update, another look at science-fiction, and how it percolates into television, the movies, and even popular music, should be ready in the next few days. And then, that will be it for the 1971-72 cycle! Imagine that...
  7. Brayds2006 Emperor of Australia, TL#38941

    Aug 5, 2010
    I've been addicted to reading this TL since coming across it a day ago. This has to be the best timeline I have ever read on this site. I've always been more into Pop-Culture TL's so it's good to see more popping up recently, plus I'm a fan of both Doctor Who and Star Trek, so the crossover post was incredible.

    Well done, Brainbin. :)
  8. Brainbin Kingpin of the Cultural Cartel

    Jul 26, 2009
    The British Empire
    Thank you very much for that incredible compliment :eek:

    I'm really glad to see more of them, too - especially since they're all wonderfully written, and incredibly creative.

    And I'm glad you liked the crossover! That was one of my earliest ideas for TTL, and I thought it would be fun to give it a try.

    Thank you once again, and welcome aboard! :)

    The next update should be ready in a couple of days.
  9. Threadmarks: The Inexorable March of Progress(ive Rock)

    Brainbin Kingpin of the Cultural Cartel

    Jul 26, 2009
    The British Empire
    The Inexorable March of Progress(ive Rock)

    The continuing popularity of the science-fiction genre continued to make its presence known in television and the movies – where, alongside Porno Chic and Blaxploitation, it was one of the key "fad" genres of the early 1970s. Naturally, it too was subject to the raw, gritty Z-grade exploitation treatment that defined the era. Roger Corman directed (and later produced) a number of schlocky science-fiction films in this era – though, as was always the case with speculative fiction, describing the precise genre of any work was always more art than science. And indeed, this became a major point of contention. [1] The Saturn Awards, first presented in 1972, specifically recognized only science-fiction, to the consternation of many within the community (Harlan Ellison, for example, wrote two separate essays on the subject), but in practice nominated several works more aptly described as fantasy and horror.

    The tried-and-true route of adaptations of classic works by H.G. Wells and Jules Verne was carefully followed during this period. Many of the heaviest hitters had already been adapted in the 1950s and 1960s, however, and some of their lesser-known stories were chosen instead; this policy yielded mixed results. However, theirs was not the only material that was mined for adaptation; The Andromeda Strain, the smash-hit novel by a current author, Michael Crichton, was also turned into a major motion picture in 1971. [2] On the television side of the ledger, many shows had come and gone, none managing to match the success of Star Trek, increasingly regarded as lightning in a bottle; precious few were even able to crack the Top 30. It seemed that more successful science-fiction programming – from Doctor Who to "UFO" – were British in origin, cementing the notion of a second wave of the British Invasion.

    Certainly, big ideas continued to percolate with regards to genre programming on television. Producer Glen Larson wanted to create a science-fiction setting informed by his Mormonism, as Gene Roddenberry had created Star Trek, informed by his secular humanism. [3] He had begun to devise such a potential series as early as 1968, when it had become clear that Star Trek was successful, but development was slow going. His ideas for big effects and spectacular visuals raised a great many eyebrows among network executives, and the studios balked at his projected price tag. Even Desilu, the most lavish outfit in the television industry, declined to commit; Lucille Ball did not want her studio so tightly pigeonholed. In addition, she, along with Herb Solow and Robert Justman (who, admittedly, were too close to be fully objective) felt strongly that Star Trek was an extremely tough act to follow in that arena. However, Larson did have an "in" with someone very close to the voyages of the Starship Enterprise: Gene L. Coon, who agreed to serve as consultant to Larson for the duration of his show's development, however long that would take. [4]

    And then there was James Bond. The venerable spy series, a symbol of the Swinging Sixties, was beginning to fall behind the times. The initial departure of Sean Connery after completing the first five films resulted in the disastrous miscasting of Australian George Lazenby for On Her Majesty’s Secret Service – Lazenby obviously felt the same way, for he had declined to return for the follow-up, Diamonds Are Forever, presciently sensing that the spy genre was in decline. The producers, Albert "Cubby" Broccoli and Harry Saltzman, were able to lure Connery back for one last hurrah, but even he could not recapture the magic of his original run for the resultant film. [5] Despite a strong performance at the box office, reviews were ambivalent; and Connery declined to return for any subsequent sequels, forcing the producers to cast a third Bond in as many films.

    In addition to deciding on an actor to play the lead role, a decision would also have to made as to which Ian Fleming novel would next be adapted. In the end, the dictates of societal changes forced their hand. At the start of pre-production, Moonshot Lunacy and the continuing wave of science-fiction dominated popular culture, and inspired the producers to consider an outer-space setting. The nearest match among the Fleming novels – however tenuous it might have been – was Moonraker, so that was chosen; the script would be heavily re-written. [6] Given the science-fiction setting, an actor with experience in the genre was considered an asset. Thus, "UFO" star Michael Billington was chosen as the third James Bond. Relatively youthful, like both Connery and Lazenby when they first essayed the role, he was chosen over runner-up Roger Moore. [7] Both Billington and Moore were known to American audiences, Moore having appeared in the 1960s program, "The Saint". Moore's age (three years older than Connery, and in his mid-forties) coupled with his close association with the passé aspects of 1960s culture, resulted in his being passed over.

    Against the backdrop of the impact of science-fiction on television and film was the effect it had on music. Progressive Rock, or "Prog", reached the mainstream at this time, and it was the first popular genre in decades to predominantly focus on themes other than love and/or sex. [8] It became known for complex musical arrangements and narrative-driven lyrics, part compositional virtuosity and part epic poetry; essentially, opera for the twentieth century. The subject matter of many songs, even whole albums (in particular concept albums), was science-fiction, along with fantasy; among the key influences were authors in both genres. In another sign of the enduring British Invasion, many of the leading lights of this style themselves hailed from Britain. [9]

    Funk proliferated primarily through its ubiquity in the two other defining film genres of the era, Blaxploitation and Porno Chic. The emphasis on instrumentation, the simple, direct, and occasionally crude lyrics, and the casual "jam" atmosphere of the music stood in marked contrast to the far more elaborate and carefully structured melodies and fanciful lyrics of progressive rock. As is so often the case, preference for one of the two styles took on more meaningful connotations: Prog came to be seen as "White" music, and Funk as "Black" music. [10] Though this was far from universally true, it spoke to the interconnectedness of various facets of popular culture.


    [1] What is emerging ITTL is a weaker delineation between the various genres of speculative fiction; instead, a popular interpretation sees them as part of a continuum. This mitigates the OTL classification problem with terms like "science fantasy", "gothic horror", or "haunted house in space". On the other hand, mainstream audiences continue to refer to "sci-fi" and little else at this point.

    [2] The Andromeda Strain has a higher budget ITTL, and gets better reviews and higher box-office grosses. Crichton, though not directly involved with the adaptation of his novel, still gets greater cachet, which will help his attempts to transition into screenwriting.

    [3] IOTL, Larson would find success with this idea, but only after the post-Star Wars boom: his series, tentatively titled Adama's Ark, was renamed Battlestar Galactica and aired for one season, 1978-79. (Science-fiction series of the 1970s had short runs.)

    [4] Coon would also advise Larson on the project IOTL, until his death in 1973.

    [5] Diamonds Are Forever - widely regarded one of the weakest films in the Bond canon (and certainly Connery's worst turn therein), actually did very well at the box-office that year IOTL (over $40 million in the US alone, good for #3 overall). It did slightly worse ITTL (enough for Dirty Harry to edge it out - at least in the USA), due to the decreased interest in the spy genre relative to OTL.

    [6] The decision is made early enough that the end credits of Diamonds Are Forever announce that "James Bond Will Return In Moonraker".

    [7] IOTL, of course, the opposite is true. (It should be noted that Billington has screen-tested for the role of Bond more than any other actor.) Here, Billington is signed to a seven-film contract, two more than Connery, and as many as were originally offered to Lazenby.

    Though, to be fair, few artists ignore those matters entirely.

    [9] The term "Second British Invasion", musically speaking IOTL, refers to New Wave in the 1980s. Here, it obviously refers to Prog.

    [10] This "racial division" is slightly stronger ITTL than IOTL.


    Thus concludes the 1971-72 cycle! I hope that this update has shed some light on "being there". Thank you all for reading!
    Mackon likes this.
  10. Glen ASB & Left Hand of IAN Moderator

    Apr 20, 2005
    Liking the update a lot - love the 1970s dominated by British Sci Fi and Prog Rock! Makes me wish it was OTL! Glad you didn't forget Funk, though I would imagine a synthesis at some point, especially with the improving race relations compared to OTL 1970s that you hinted at. Recall as well that many Brits were heavily influenced by 'Black' music.

    I guess you're hinting that TTL's Battlestar is stuck in development hell since Star Wars hasn't broken through here. I know that you said Star Trek had some really breakthrough effects budgets, but perhaps not enough to make TTL's Battlestar seem a good bet yet? Hopefully it will arrive at some point.

    Really clever getting Billington to be the next Bond, and of course Moonraker greenlighted even earlier....

    Not real fond of the development of more of a continuum for speculative fiction ITTL - while in reality of course there is one, I like a lot of our categories and find them useful landmarks. On the other hand, I see nothing implausible about it.

    So what's next, eh? The Porno Chic update?:eek:
  11. Kaiphranos Hydraulic Despot Donor

    Oct 9, 2009
    Southern Hos-Harphax
    Hmm. I admit, I don't know much about musical trends, but I wonder: with increased cultural interest in science fiction, does prog rock end up being influenced at all by filk?
  12. The Professor Pontif of the Guild

    Feb 22, 2006
    Republic of Beerhaven
    Yet another tasty update tho more of a light snack than a meal ;)
  13. Falkenburg CMII Donor

    Jan 9, 2011
    Interesting Update, Brainbin. :cool:

    There are intriguing possibilities in a Billington Bond. ;)
    Hopefully a less comic Bond but possibly even more reliance on SF influenced gadgets.
    If Billington retains the role for his full contract (by no means certain) that would bring the franchise up to the late 80s.
    By that point ITTL who knows where we'll be? (Other than You -Possibly?)

    Still, the idea of an earlier Brosnan Bond appeals. :D
    And now the obligatory List of favourite OTL Bonds...

    #1 Connery - Just. Only because I've judged every subsequent Bond against him.
    #2 Craig - Excellent. Could be the best, in time (If the Production doesn't become bloated all over again).
    #3 Brosnan - Could have been great. Instead was just very good (for the time)
    #4 Lazenby - Poor actor but a more interesting portrayal of the Character
    #5 Dalton - Close but no cigar because, although better Movies than OHMSS, Tim never appealed to me
    #6 Moore - Sorry Roger.No offence but you were bloody awful.

    It would be nice to think that the relatively better race relations ITTL might lead to a greater coss-over success for Blaxploitation films.

    Even a little more commercial and critical success could have a major cultural impact.
    Slightly better production values, slightly better opportunities for Black Actors and Technicians, slightly better prospects for Black Writers and Directors.
    Imagine the groundswell of talent from the African-American community if there is a more respected 'Hothouse' to nurture it.

    As things seem to be only slightly better, I'd still expect to see Rap emerge as a distinct genre.
    Possibly even sooner, actually, if Funk gets good cultural traction.

    At the very least, please don't have Butterflied Gil Scott Herons' seminal work. :(
    EDIT: Hadn't realised just how early The Revolution Will Not Be Televised was released. So it should be safe, either way.
    Not going to delete the Link, though. :p

    Last edited: Mar 8, 2012
  14. vultan Defying Gravity

    Dec 12, 2008
    Somewhere Only We Know
    Good stuff all around. Nice to see BSG get off it's feet.

    You talked briefly about Z-grade exploitation flicks of various varieties... any details there?
  15. Brainbin Kingpin of the Cultural Cartel

    Jul 26, 2009
    The British Empire
    Thank you all, as always, for your lovely comments. And now, as always, for my responses:

    There will indeed be considerable synthesis, fusion, and crossover between the two genres as the decade progresses. But Prog is more popular than it was IOTL, largely because things like proto-metal are too dark and nihilistic for the general public ITTL. More popular, that is, with white audiences. Black audiences, of course, have their funk. This racial divide between "white music" and "black music" endured for quite some time IOTL - witness hair metal vs. hip-hop in the late 1980s. But for all intents and purposes, you're right. It stands out now, but will certainly fade with time, and as tastes in music further evolve.

    I've alluded to part of the reason for reluctance to develop Larson's brainchild; Star Trek is increasingly considered an anomalous success, that it had some ineffable quality that captured the popular imagination and cannot be easily replicated. The willingness to take risks on a lavish, epic science-fiction series is steadily declining. Larson will have to bring some of his more outlandish ideas down to Earth (no pun intended) in order to be taken seriously by those who control the purse-strings.

    Well, they went with Live and Let Die because of Blaxploitation's popularity IOTL - it just turns out that here, something even more popular was the source of inspiration instead. Given that, and in keeping with my butterfly policy, the appeal of an actor with ample experience in the genre was, I think, enough to tip the scales in Billington's favour. He also has other advantages over Moore...

    There are a lot of heavy thinkers working in speculative fiction who can and would (and did, IOTL) submit categorization to the kind of withering analysis that it's going to receive ITTL. Expect Ellison, in particular, to make his feelings on the matter known; Tolkien, the dominant voice on the fantasy side of the ledger, is of course still alive at this time, and might also opine on the subject.

    That would be no. The last thing I need is for all of you to start discussing your favourite porn stars :p

    Glad you're still reading, Kaiphranos. As to your question: I think that there are already some similarities between Prog and filk as it is IOTL (many Prog songs were thinly-veiled Lord of the Rings fan fiction, after all). But since Filk has important roots in science-fiction fandom, and since that genre will more strongly influence Prog ITTL, I think that's a fairly safe bet. I'll have more occasion to talk about fan works in an upcoming update, so I'll revisit this topic then.

    Well, the last update before this one could be described as a buffet, yet it went without comment from you, Professor ;)

    Thank you, and indeed there are. And oh yes, everybody drink! :p
    A fair assumption. It's interesting that, as with Batman, people seem to resist comedic interpretations of James Bond.

    Of course, Moore appeared in seven Bond films IOTL, which brought him up to 1985. Assuming roughly the same production timetable (which I will obviously neither confirm nor deny at this point), Billington will still be younger while filming *A View To A Kill, than Moore was when filming Live and Let Die IOTL. That's really my primary reservation with his casting.

    Well, I know where we'll be on September 20, 1986, I can tell you that much ;)

    I'm not sure where I said that Brosnan would ever be cast as Bond. At this early juncture, I can easily butterfly his entire screen career, silver and small, away. Are you referring to his "type"? Or just someone who isn't like Moore?

    And I'll rank them too, because why not? The rest of you are welcome to join in, as always:

    #1 - Connery - Because it's a violation of international law to rank anyone else higher.
    #2 - Moore - What can I say? He was my Bond, growing up (my parents loved him). When I was a kid, I liked Funny Bond. And even watching it today, I find him charming in an absolutely disarming way. Also, people are way too harsh on the comedic Bond (and the comedic Batman, for that matter).
    #3 - Dalton - Looks like Bond, sounds like him too. Did the whole Craig thing first, did it better, and did it as James Bond.
    #4 - Brosnan - Meh. I find him overrated. Also - it's time to admit it - he's wooden, and not a very good actor.
    #5 - Craig - That is not James Bond. Maybe I'll bump him up above Brosnan if Skyfall is actually a James Bond movie.
    #6 - Lazenby - Single-handedly ruined what could have otherwise been one of the greatest Bond films.

    The interesting thing that I've noticed about Bond ranking orthodoxy is that the most recent Bond is always the second-best Bond (after Connery, of course). This has been true throughout the history of the films (Lazenby by default, Moore because he was better than Lazenby, and then the three successive Bonds thereafter.)

    I would imagine so. There's one coming up that's going to appeal to a fairly large number of white people, actually.

    I'm not sure if it'll ever fully break into the mainstream, or into respectability; remember that the genre, at its core, is exploitation. Certainly, some of the genre's leading lights will become "legitimate", as they did IOTL. Or, at the very least, they'll coast on their Blaxploitation glory with cameos and personal appearances for the rest of their lives, also per OTL.

    I still have seven years to find a way to avoid it. One possibility? Remember which genre was popular with black audiences after funk, but before hip-hop, IOTL. One that actually did break into the mainstream and become popular with white audiences.

    Well, in a manner of speaking...

    Imagine the schlock sci-fi of the 1950s, subtract the paranoia, add in gritty "realism" and naked attempts to ape the "New Hollywood" style, and you should have a rough idea of how they would look. Also remember that Corman believes in budget below all else :p

    Expect "More To Come" tonight or tomorrow, depending on how the conversation goes ;)
  16. joea64 Unabashed Edwardian Era fanboy

    Feb 14, 2007
    A few miles south of Henry House Hill
    I'm going to be interested to see how the trajectory of Fleetwood Mac (and of the Seventies "California Sound" pop-rock genre) is changed, or not changed, by all the developments so far. At this time, if memory serves me:

    - Peter Green and Jeremy Spencer have both left the Mac due to mental-health issues in the former case and due to being seduced by the Children of God cult in the latter case, and have been replaced by Danny Kirwan and Bob Welch; I believe, at the time of current writing (November 1972) Kirwan has left the band after Bare Trees and has been replaced by Bob Weston and Dave Walker, and the group is now recording Penguin;

    - Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham have left the Bay Area at this point to seek fame and fortune in L.A. They haven't recorded/released Buckingham Nicks yet, IIRC, and the incident in which Mick Fleetwood became interested in the pair after hearing samples of their work played to demonstrate a recording studio's facilities is still nearly 2 years away OTL.

    The big question is, will the Mac even relocate to the U.S. as they did in '73 (becoming mainstays of the college circuit)? Will the infamous "Fake Fleetwood Mac" incident happen? Will Mick Fleetwood wander into Richard Dashut's studio looking for a good place to record the group's next album?
    Will Buckingham Nicks do better than OTL? (OTL, the duo was huge in exactly one rather unexpected place - Birmingham, Alabama.)

    (Well, actually, that's more than one big question. :p)
  17. Kalvan Well-Known Member

    Jun 28, 2010
    If you're talking about Disco, you've simply made it more millitantly anti-Disco, like Punk and Heavy Metal fandoms were. That said, this will delay the fragmentation of rap somewhat.
  18. phx1138 Bocagiste troll

    Jun 20, 2009
    Charlie Townsend's guest house
    It didn't need bigger budget IMO. "Andromeda Strain" defines the great SF film, IMO. The science is dead solid perfect, the idea is excellent, & the ending is a wow.:cool::cool: (I may be conflating the book's ending...:eek:)
    Anything Corman directed doesn't deserve to be called SF, IMO: it's all "sci-fi".
    An interesting choice. (I did have to look him up, tho. Bishop is who I think of.) I don't suppose he, or Ian Ogilvy, crossed anyone's mind?
    That wouldn't be because they were pretty uniformly awful, would it?:eek::rolleyes: Tho "$6 Million Man" & "Bionic Woman" had respectable runs.
    Have you noticed the trend? The budgets get bigger & bigger, & the profit margin gets less & less. By "Casino Royale" (Craig), they're barely breaking even.
    That puts Oliver Tobias, Sam Neill, or Lewis Collins up for it. If you want hard-edged, go with Collins (tho I personally liked Martin Shaw better, as Doyle). For the classy, Neill. IMO, Tobias is too much the lightweight. (I'm presuming you don't butterfly the renewal of "Remington Steele", unless the suits manage somehow not to be dicks.:rolleyes: You can guess what I think the odds are.:p) If you're up for a wild choice, what about Anthony Head (better known for his coffee commercials,:p & "Buffy")? Or Michael Praed ("Robin of Sherwood")? Or an Aussie, Anthony Hawkins (from "Special Squad")?
    I presume you know Damon Knight had the best definition: "It's whatever I'm holding when I'm talking about it.":p:cool:
    That would suit me.:p Tho I am interested in seeing how Brainbin would deal with it.;)
    I'd swap Dalton & Lazenby. Brosnan had the ice & the class, but he never had the physical presence IMO. Craig has it in him to be better than Connery.:eek::eek: Which I never dreamed I'd say.:eek: Connery has so defined Bond for so long... (Now, if they can only keep the writers away from the silly gadgetastic junk stories...:eek::rolleyes: Tell them to read Quiller.:cool:)

    There is room for humor in the films, IMO. Craig in "Casino" gets a few decent zingers. ("Right. Next time, shoot the cameras.") And I did like Brosnan. ("Onatopp?" "Onatopp.") Broader or sillier IMO, no. (I should also say, "Casino Royale" is the first origin story I've ever actually liked. Very smart use of music, with the trademark line & theme only at the end.:cool::cool:)
    That's what puzzles me about casting him to begin with. (Not to mention I've never been his biggest fan.) It's up there with George Segal:eek::confused::confused: as Quiller.
    Huh. I never noticed. Probably why you're writing this, & I'm not.;) Of course, the casting choices have made a difference. If it'd been Brosnan instead of Dalton in sequence, I'd still pick Brosnan.
    A lot of them seem to have good underlying ideas, but really bad execution: bad casting & low budgets. ("Cleopatra Jones" isn't terrible, frex.)

    One suggestion: butterfly the "Dirty Harry" sequels, by having the black "sequel" made. (I don't recall who was supposed to star...:eek: & turned it down, only to have it offered to Clint as a sequel.) IMO, "Dirty Harry" should never have had any sequels. (None bad films on their own, but they contradict the unequivocal ending. {Of course, I'd have cast somebody else. Harry should've been less Sonny Crockett & more Andy Sipowitz.})
    Hmm... :p
    Last edited: Mar 8, 2012
  19. joea64 Unabashed Edwardian Era fanboy

    Feb 14, 2007
    A few miles south of Henry House Hill
    Oliver Tobias? The same Oliver Tobias who was Joan Collins' boy toy in "The Stud"?

    If Tobias had gotten the nod, Joanie would have to have gone looking for some other hunk for that fine example of softcore. (And speaking of Collins, will her career hit its OTL nadir in the 70's, or will something come along for her during the decade?)
  20. Falkenburg CMII Donor

    Jan 9, 2011
    Intriguing. Hmmm.

    You didn't. I was just pondering on possibles. ;)

    You, Sir, are obviously deranged. :eek::p Connery is a given, as you say. Although I'm prepared to 'Demote' him if a future film really delivers.

    Nostalgic attachments are one thing but Moore at #2? :eek: When you've got Brosnan at #4 for being wooden? :confused: I fear for your sanity. :D

    Dalton just never convinced me. I suppose he was to me as Craig is to you.

    I agree with PHX . Brosnan had a nice edge of cold ruthless bastard to him that I like in my Bonds. Wooden? Have you seen The Matador?

    Craig has potential. Wether he filfills it remains to be seen but I've liked what I've seen so far.

    I think your being a tad unfair to poor old George. Whatever the faults of OHMSS, Lazonby was not 'single-handedly' responsible for them.

    That's an interesting (and convincing) analysis. I nearly said "Intriguing" again but restrained myself. ;) Oh, wait...Damn. :eek:

    Now the obvious question on nobodys' lips is "What are your Top 5 Muppets?" :p

    For the record mine are;
    #1 Rolf
    #2 Gonzo
    #3 Animal
    #4 Statdler & Waldorf (BOGOF!)
    #5 Beaker

    Enquiring minds await with bated breath.:cool: