Wednesday, May 20, 2015

The Movie of the Week (MOW)

Born Innocent
Born Innocent
Throughout the 1970s and early 1980s, all of the major networks broadcast made for TV movies about once a week - usually more often. Many times, the MOW (or Movie Of the Week) featured unknowns and/or has-beens bartering on their remaining fame. Sometimes, the MOW was a failed attempt at a feature film which lost backing or interest and was picked-up by a network. Usually though, the network financed and produced the film itself. Miniseries stretching eight to 10 hours or more were also common throughout this time in American TV, shown in two-hour installments over the course of several nights.

Because there were only three major networks in most American homes throughout these decades, almost everyone over age 30 has seen one or more of these at some point in their lives. It was for this reason that some created such a stir upon their release. One of the most well-known is Born Innocent, starring a young Linda Blair of Exorcist fame.

The most well-known of these attained legendary status due to fond memories amongst those who had seen them and word-of-mouth, sometimes fueled by fanzines and Internet posts.
Although some were released to DVD, an overall lack of interest at a reasonable price-point is likely to have been the reason the market was not pursued more aggressively.
These days, many MOW can be found streaming online but for many years, they remained unavailable excepting the rare cable broadcast.

Most MOW are stinkers, though there are a handful of gems to be mined. These films were generally exploitative, capitalizing on popular and divisive issues of the day.
Recurring social issues include Women's Rights, disparity between white and black Americans, divorce and infidelity, children behaving badly, and vaguely religious and/or Supernatural themes. They were cheaply made and rarely as effective as fans nostalgically recall. Many were suspense thrillers and outright horror features.

Made for TV movies were less regularly primetime fare by the late 1980s but persisted well
into the 1990s until the MOW was gradually (then very suddenly) overtaken by the advent of the news magazine. While major networks still aired the occasional movie, most had received a prior theatrical release. The concept persisted on cable networks for years, and still remains.

© The Weirding, 2015

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