It would seem that one could almost devote an entire blog to an issue of TV Guide! After this post I'll have written three pieces about this issue and we've barely scratched the surface of it. In fact, this post really does only scratch the surface. That's because this story focuses on the cover of the magazine (or "the surface" as it were). The covers of TV Guide have always been an important part of its popularity, and just who or what was featured on the cover has a lot to do with a particular issue's value to collectors. An early Lucille Ball cover from the 1950s or 60s would fetch a lot more than, say, a cover featuring the Olsen Twins from the 1990s.
Anyway, the March 22-29, 1980 cover features the cast of the show "The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo". I'm not sure what the collectibility of that issue would be (especially in the less-than-pristine condition that my copy is in), but we're actually not going to focus on the front cover. No, we're going to check out something interesting on the back cover this time. I suppose there might be some interest in what's on the back cover of certain issues of TV Guide. There used to be a lot of cigarette and beer ads there in the days before they were banned from print advertising. The Marlboro Man and the "You've come a long way baby" lady from Virginia Slims jostled for space with Budweiser and Miller Light. I'm sure some of these ads hold interest for someone out there.
But this back cover features none of that stuff. It's pretty bland as far as color ads on the back cover of a magazine go. About the only interesting thing about it is the fact that it's an ad for the Bell Telephone System, which has gone on to have many different names since 1980 (including AT&T). What caught my eye about this one was the photo on the lower half of the ad.
More specifically, the dog in the lower photo caught my eye. It's pretty obvious that the dog is lying on the ground and yawning in front of the tractor--a very tranquil and pleasant scene indeed. But, when I first took a look at the ad I kind of saw the second photo in my periphery vision while looking at the top photo. Instead of a dog lazing on a hot summer afternoon I saw a poor dog yelping in agony as it is being crushed by the guy on the tractor--who's paying more attention to his phone conversation than to where he is going (or what he might be crushing).
While I realize that I saw something in this ad that wasn't meant to be what I thought it looked like, I can't help but wonder if the photo was somehow set up to look like this (either intentionally or subconsciously). And when you think about it, the unintentional apparent horror in the photo actually provides a pretty good lesson for people today--more than thirty years later. There was no such thing as cell phones in 1980. A "car phone" was something big and expensive that you mostly saw in the movies. Of course today tiny cell phones are ubiquitous and no one seems to remember a time when we could actually survive without one of these things stuck to our ear (or without our fingers constantly on the little buttons). Nowadays driving while talking or texting on a cell phone is a major problem (and a major annoyance, in my opinion). The general populace doesn't tend to drive tractors much these days, but the big tractor in this photo could be looked at as a metaphor for the humongous, gas-guzzling SUV's that I'm surprised are still seen in such abundance on roads today. If only we could learn from this cautionary tale and stop texting and talking while driving (or stop talking on the kitchen phone while driving a tractor) and stop crushing poor defenseless dogs!