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Battle Of The Network Stars: This Is Celebrity Sparta!

Entertainment | January 12, 2019

'Battle of the Network Stars' - 11/13/76 on the ABC Television Network competition 'Battle of the Network Stars'. Source: (Photo by ABC via Getty Images)

When famous people do battle, everybody wins. On ABC's Battle Of The Network Stars, celebrities from different TV networks competed against each other in a gripping spectacle that was part Dancing With The Stars and part Spartan: Ultimate Team Challenge. Beginning in 1976, the show featured such stars as Tom Wopat and Morgan Fairchild wearing tank tops and those short '70s workout shorts, and asked the question: Can actors and actresses, who are used to non-exertional roles of acting be up for the challenge of strenuous physical workouts? 

Each team from NBC, ABC and CBS consisted of a lineup of eight to ten stars from one network (one serving as team captain). The three-way competition (this was in the pre-Fox era, pre-WB, pre-CW era) included sporting events like tennis, golf, swimming, bowling, running, obstacle courses, and more. The lowest scoring network team would be eliminated, and a tug-of-war finale between the remaining two would determine the winner of the day.

A Who's Who Of TV

CBS teammates Tom Selleck and Catherine Bach. Source: eBay

The original Battle of the Network Stars was aired on ABC with Howard Cosell as the announcer. The show aired twice each year from 1977 to 1988, once in the spring and once in the fall. The all-time standings finished remarkably even: ABC won the most Battles, with seven, and CBS and NBC each won six times apiece.

There was only one episode that Cosell did not host due to a falling out with ABC.  

CBS To The Competition: 'We Have A Hulk'

Victoria Principal. Source: (pinterest.com)

Victoria Principal (Dallas) along with Catherine Bach (Dukes Of Hazzard) and Valerie Bertinelli (One Day At A Time) were on the same team as Patrick Duffy (Dallas), Lou Ferrigno (The Incredible Hulk), Leif Garrett (Three For The Road), and Gary Sandy (WKRP In Cincinnati) in 1979. Jamie Farr (M.A.S.H.) was captain of that CBS team who won that season in May of that year.

The events that took place that day included the swimming relay, the kayak race, the baseball dunk, the obstacle course, the running relay, the 3-on-3 Football, the Tug of War, and Simon Says. When it came to the Tug of War event, ABC did not really stand a chance against CBS with Lou Ferrigno (Incredible Hulk) on that rope. Really? Young Scott Baio, Billy Crystal, and Dick Van Patten were no comparison to the strength of Lou Ferrigno.  

Worlds Collided On 'Battle Of The Network Stars'

William R. Moses with Tracy Nelson. Source: (williamrmoses.org)

Battle Of The Network Stars brought together actors from dramas, comedies, and other programming, resulting in pairings and teamwork you never thought you'd see. Known for his role on the nighttime soap opera Falcon Crest, which aired on CBS from 1981 through 1987, William (Billy) R. Moses participated in four seasons being on the winning team only one of those seasons. Tracy Nelson from Square Pegs was one of his teammates in 1983, which was the only season that she participated in. That particular season was not a winning season for CBS.

ABC's Powerhouse Squad From 1983

Heather Locklear, Scott Baio, Morgan Fairchild, Meredith Baxter, Nancy McKeon, Peter Barton, David Birney, Howard Cosell, Rachel Dennison, Audrey Landers, Randi Oakes, Bruce Weitz and Tom Wopat in Battle of the Network Stars XIV Source: (pinterest.com)

It was ABC who won in May of 1983 with team captain John James (Dynasty) and players Scott Baio (Happy Days), Rachel Dennison (Dolly Parton’s younger sister, who played Dolly's role on the sitcom version of 9 to 5), Lisa Marie Eilbacher (Winds of War), Heather Locklear (Dynasty), Randi Oakes (ChiPs), Geoffrey Scott (Dynasty), and Adrian Zmed (T. J. Hooker). Scott Baio was one, in particular, who participated six years in a row, skipped one year and came back for one more year.

Morgan Fairchild was co-host alongside Howard Cosell for this episode. A lot of night-time soap opera stars competed in this one from all three networks, but as John James bragged in the opening interview about winning, they did succeed in beating out the other two networks.  

The Return Of 'Battle Of The Network Stars'

Team “Troublemaker”: Julie Benz, John Barrowman, Vivica A. Fox, Catherine Bach, Paul Johansson. Source: (vulture.com)

NBC aired a two-hour special in 2003 in an attempt to bring back the show. Later, in 2017, ABC successfully did bring the show back as a weekly event with hosts Mike Greenberg and Joe Tessitore. These competitions differ from the original show as a professional coach is on each team of five celebrities. The celebrities are chosen based on a specific genre such as soap opera stars versus comedies and usually have a celebrity on each team that appeared on the original show.

The show trades on a tried-and-true spectacle that viewers always love: watching the beautiful and handsome stars who are normally seen in their TV roles out there breaking a sweat, huffing, and puffing trying to outdo each other in sporting events.  

Tags: ABC | Battle Of The Network Stars | Celebrities In The 1970s | Celebrities In The 1980s | Howard Cosell | Remember This?... | TV In The 1970s

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Penny Chavers

Writer

Penny, besides writing, loves to spend her time with family and friends. In her spare time, she also enjoys playing the piano, board games, and taking online classes on topics that interest her.