ABC’s new version of Battle of the Network Stars has one thing the original didn’t: nostalgia value.
Twenty performers who participated in the specials that ran from 1976 to 1988 are among the 100 competitors from 14 past and current TV series in the new weekly edition of the celebrity athletic competition (Thursday, 9 ET/PT).
For Willie Aames, 56, who competed in 1979 while starring in Eight Is Enough, returning to Pepperdine University in Malibu, Calif., site of the original edition, was “nostalgic and bittersweet. … The first thing I thought of was (late Eight star) Dick Van Patten, (who) was always our team captain. I made sure I spent a few minutes remembering Dick.”
As TV has changed since the 1970s, so has the structure of Battle. The original featured big TV stars, including Telly Savalas (Kojak), Lynda Carter (Wonder Woman) and Mike Farrell (M*A*S*H), from top-rated hits on the three broadcast networks.
With TV now fragmented, and a less cooperative relationship among broadcast networks leery about sharing their actors with rivals, the new version primarily features cast members from current shows on Disney-owned networks, including ABC, Freeform and Disney Channel, along with stars of past series.
The stars are divided into 20, five-member teams, with two — one clad in blue and the other in red — competing each week. The opening episode features TV sitcom stars (Perfect Strangers’ Bronson Pinchot, Roseanne’s Tom Arnold, Full House’s Dave Coulier, The Goldbergs’ AJ Michalka and Growing Pains‘ Tracey Gold) against TV kids (Blossom’s Joey Lawrence, High School Musical’s Corbin Bleu,…