On Wednesday, when ABC airs its next edition of Live in Front of a Studio Audience—its live comedy special in which actors perform two episodes of legendary ’70s sitcoms from producer Norman Lear—it will be extending the night’s throwback vibe to the network promos as well.
ABC has created ’70s-style promos for several of its current shows, including The Good Doctor, The Bachelor and A Million Little Things, to air during the 90-minute holiday special, which will feature episodes from All in the Family and Good Times.
The network’s marketing team resurrected ABC graphics packages and music from the 1970s and crafted promos that mimic the voiceover, music and promo copy used in the network’s spots four decades ago. They also appear in the classic 4:3 TV aspect ratio, instead of the 16:9 ratio employed on current high-definition TVs.
Produced by Jimmy Kimmel, the original Live in Front of a Studio Audience special, which featured episodes of All in the Family and The Jeffersons, was a surprise hit in May, averaging 10.4 million viewers and a 1.8 rating in the 18-49 demo.
After ABC ordered additional Live specials, Shannon Ryan, president of marketing for ABC Entertainment and Disney Television Studios, met with Kimmel over the summer to discuss turning the next installment in a major event.
“We came up with the idea to ‘retrofit’ all of our promos, so that when viewers turn on ABC Wednesday, it will literally appear like they’re stepping back in time,” Ryan said. “All the promos will look and feel as if it’s 1975.”
To enhance the classic TV vibe, each spot features scratches and skips, and the picture is frequently wavy, as if being viewed on a television set with rabbit ears.
The marketing team “tracked down the original ABC graphics packages from 1975 and recreated them exactly,” Ryan said. “We went back and looked at promos from the ’70s and used those as templates, so we actually are creating these spots to look as if they were ABC spots from the mid-’70s.”
Ryan’s team took inspiration from cop dramas Starsky & Hutch, The Streets of San Francisco and Kojak when creating the spot for The Rookie, which relies heavily on hard-boiled narration, like “He’s a new kind of cop, with an eye for trouble!”
For its spot focusing on ABC’s Tuesday sitcoms (The Conners, Bless This Mess, Mixed-ish and Black-ish), the team incorporated the “Come on Along With ABC” jingle than ran during actual promos in the ’70s.
New drama Stumptown had filmed a ’70s-style dream sequence earlier in the season. The marketing team tapped that footage for a promo that pays homage to Charlie’s Angels and Hart to Hart.
And the promo for drama A Million Little Things incorporates the theme song from ABC’s drama Family, which aired in the ’70s.
Other spots will feature footage from two major 1975 events that aired on the network: the Oscars and Dick Clark’s New Year’s Rockin’ Eve. The network will also air promos featuring its Wednesday comedies (The Goldbergs, Schooled, Modern Family and Single Parents), The Bachelor (which uses The Dating Game’s theme song), Jeopardy! The Greatest of All Time and that evening’s Jimmy Kimmel Live.
ABC News also created a retro spot for Good Morning America, and some ABC affiliates have pulled together ’70s-era spots for the local news, which will air during the program.
“The plan is to have every break feature at least one of those retro spots, which we think will help with our C3 numbers” as viewers watch the ad breaks in order to spot the promos, Ryan said.
ABC will release each “retrofit” promo on its social platforms after their linear broadcast on Wednesday.
The cast for Wednesday’s Live in Front of a Studio Audience includes Woody Harrelson and Marisa Tomei reprising their roles from May as All in the Family’s Archie and Edith Bunker. The Good Times episode stars Viola Davis and Andre Braugher as Florida and James Evans.