AM America

AM America was a morning news program produced by ABC in an attempt to compete with the highly-rated Today on NBC. Premiering on January 6, 1975, the show never found an audience against Today or the CBS combo of the CBS Morning News and Captain Kangaroo. Lasting just under ten months, its final installment aired on October 31.[1]

AM America
StarringBill Beutel
Stephanie Edwards
Peter Jennings
Country of originUnited States
Production
Running time120 minutes (two hours) (including commercials, and local news/weather cut-ins [on some affiliates])
Release
Original networkABC
Original releaseJanuary 6 – October 31, 1975
Chronology
Followed byGood Morning America
(1975–present)

History

The program's concept was based on Ralph Story's AM, the local morning show on the network's owned-and-operated Los Angeles station KABC-TV.[2] Like Today, AM America employed two hosts and a news anchor. Originally selected in August 1974 as cohosts were Bill Beutel who was co-anchor of Eyewitness News on the network's New York City flagship station WABC-TV, Stephanie Edwards from Ralph Story's AM and Bob Kennedy who hosted morning talk show Kennedy and Company on Chicago's WLS-TV.[3] Kennedy died of bone cancer on November 5, 1974, just two months prior to the series' debut,[4][5] and was eventually replaced by ABC's Washington correspondent Peter Jennings who provided the news reports.[6]

One notable episode of AM America aired on April 25, 1975, when members of the British comedy troupe Monty Python (with the exception of John Cleese, who had temporarily left the group) made one of their earliest appearances on American television. (The program ended with the Pythons attempting to tear apart the set and abscond with everything that wasn't nailed down, including Edwards.)[7]

Edwards quit the show by the end of May, and Beutel followed her out a few months later.[2] On November 3, the Monday following its final broadcast, it was replaced with a more well-known, more successful effort, Good Morning America.[1]

The logo for AM America had the letters A and M colored in blue while the rest of the word "America" was colored in red. The "AM" overlapped with "America". Also, a star was placed inside the "A".

Theme music

The series' theme music was "Spirit Of '76 (AM America)," an instrumental composed by William Goldstein which was released as a single for Motown in November 1975.[8][9]

Franchising

The AM (city name) name was franchised to ABC stations across the United States, for locally produced morning talk programs (which generally aired during the 9 a.m. hour, after the national program ended). AM Los Angeles, the successor to Ralph Story's AM, featured Regis Philbin and Sarah Purcell. Purcell was replaced by Cyndy Garvey in 1978, and the show moved to New York City in 1983 (where it replaced AM New York), eventually evolving into the current Live with Kelly and Ryan. WLS-TV's AM Chicago, hosted by Oprah Winfrey, evolved into The Oprah Winfrey Show in 1986. AM Buffalo, which replaced a Dialing for Dollars franchise on WKBW-TV, also remains on air. Additionally, KATU in Portland has aired AM Northwest since the debut of AM America. There also was a short lived AM Northwest program on Seattle's KOMO (sister station to KATU) in either the 1980s or 1990s. The KATU and KOMO versions had different hosts and guests, but the debut broadcast on KOMO included on air interaction with the hosts at AM Northwest in Portland.

References

  1. ^ a b Robertson, Campbell. "Bill Beutel, 75, Dies; Longtime Anchor of 'Eyewitness News' in New York," The New York Times, Monday, March 20, 2006.
  2. ^ a b Ehrman, Mark. "Why Is This Woman Smiling?" Los Angeles Times, Sunday, August 30, 1998.
  3. ^ Londino, Cathleen M. The Today Show: Transforming Morning Television. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2017.
  4. ^ "Bob Kennedy Dead at 41; Chicago TV Broadcaster," The New York Times, Friday, November 8, 1974. Retrieved August 14, 2018
  5. ^ Witt, Linda. "Her Husband's Big Break—Then He Died and Bev Kennedy Carries On," People (magazine), May 26, 1975. Retrieved August 14, 2018
  6. ^ Brown, Les. "TV Is Forging a New Format Ailing ‘A. M. America’ on ABC," The New York Times, Friday, September 12, 1975. Retrieved August 14, 2018
  7. ^ AM America, Friday, April 25, 1975 – ABC News (A 9:43 video compilation of Monty Python parts from the actual telecast).
  8. ^ "Spirit Of '76 (AM America)" by William Goldstein – YouTube. Retrieved August 14, 2018
  9. ^ Betts, Graham. Motown Encyclopedia. AC Publishing, 2014. Retrieved August 14, 2018

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