Battle of the Network Stars

Battle of the Network Stars

Remember back when there were only three major networks on TV? ABC, NBC and CBS each fought vigorously for their slice of the ratings pie. While viewers might not have been privy to the cutthroat nature of the business behind the scenes, they were at least able to get a glimpse of their favorite stars try to best each other on the wildly popular Battle of the Network Stars.

In what was likely one of the first reality shows, Battle of the Network Stars gave viewers a look at celebrities out of their element – their clothes dirty, their perfect hair out of place. All of the biggest stars of the day appeared in their color-coded sweat suits and competed in obstacle courses, tug-of-wars, kayaking, “Simon says” and a number of other events – all playfully taunting each other while iconic sportscaster Howard Cosell called the play-by-play action.

Gabe Kaplan, Robert Conrad and Telly Savalas were all team captains for multiple years, coaching a cavalcade of stars that included (at one time or another) Farrah Fawcett, Ron Howard, Robin Williams, Valerie Bertinelli, Linda Evens and even David Letterman.

Filmed at Pepperdine University,The Battle of the Network Stars appeared on ABC bi-annually from 1976-1985. An attempt was made by NBC to revive the series in 2003, sans Howard Cosell and featuring stars who only appeared on the host network, but the original charm of the show couldn’t be recaptured.

Sure it was corny, sure it was somewhat tongue-in-cheek, but for almost a decade this was must-watch television – a chance to see the glamorous let their hair down, fall into the water, trip in the mud and, for a change, appear … almost human.

If you have fond memories of regularly tuning into Battle of the Network Stars, tell us all about it in our comments section, as we tip our hats to this well-remembered televised competition.

6 Responses to “Battle of the Network Stars”

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  1. Dawn says:

    Used to LOVE Battle Of The Network Stars. I miss that! I miss the 70s and 80s.

  2. Rod Whitenack says:

    The best episodes chronicled the rivalry between hot-headed, tough as nails Robert Conrad and mildmannered Gabe Kaplan which ended in an epic foot race with an unexpected finish.

  3. jennifer harris says:

    my favorite was the baseball dunk and the canoe race.

  4. TK says:

    OMG I’m laughing so hard right now!! I watched all of these, not to see the stars make fools of themselves (!!!) but just to glimpse candid shots of my fave stars: Happy Days cast, Kristy Macnicholl’s brother (?) and John Schneider (Dukes of Hazzard) . Hilarious!! They should rerun these.

  5. Howard Cosell was everywhere back in the 70’s!

    Does anyone else remember Howard Cosell’s “little monkey” comments on TV? One was in 1972, another in 1973, and a third one in 1983. I was very curious about what he said after seeing Howard’s picture in the Battle of the Network stars.

    From the website:

    As recently discovered, it was not Alvin Garrett that Howard Cosell first said “Look at that little monkey run” about. It turns out that the player Cosell was actually referring to was another Washington Redskins player named Herb Mul-Key as he was doing his voice-over play recaps during Halftime Highlights on ABC Monday Night Football in 1973. The play in question was Mul-Keys 97-yard kickoff return for a touchdown against the St. Louis Cardinals on Sunday, September 23, 1973.

    In the Sunday game, two 97-yard kickoff returns for touchdowns were made back-to-back, one by Don Shy of the Cardinals, followed by Redskins wide-receiver and kickoff return specialist Herb Mul-Key. The 97-yard kickoff return took place in the regular season Sunday game between the Redskins and Cardinals, but the Cosell comment wasn’t made until the next evening during the Halftime Highlights segment of the Monday Night Football game between the New Orleans Saints and Dallas Cowboys on September 24, 1973.

    The Alvin Garrett comment came almost exactly ten years later, on September 5th, 1983 during live play action of the Dallas Cowboys vs. Washington Redskins game, when Howard Cosell made his most memorable reference to Redskins player Alvin Garrett, saying “Joe Gibbs wanted that kid, and that little monkey gets loose doesn’t he.”

  6. Morley says:

    Well, I’ve gotta tell ya…being a mid-teen aged boy during the heyday of this series, it had a LOT more interest than some simple competition. For those of you who are too young to remember, swimsuits in the ’70 weren’t quite as obscure as typical underwear. And when they got wet….whew!
    That being said…it was one of my favorite shows during the summer when I was on break from school. It WAS really cool to see people who always played characters anytime you saw them suddenly turn into ‘regular’ people; no script, no special lighting…just them.
    A show like this would never work again, probably because of the nature of the “stars” these days.
    Anywho…fantastic show and good times.

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