So imagine all the multi-million dollar stars from the major networks (think Kelly Ripa, Charlie Sheen, Simon Cowell, and Dr. Phil) competing against each other in death-defying athletic competitions, with Howard Cosell giving the play-by-plays. Sound bizarre? Well, it once happened … sort of. Battle of the Network Stars is the name of 19 US television specials featuring competitions among teams of popular television performers representing the three major broadcast networks in the 70s and 80s: ABC, CBS, and NBC.
The first Battle was broadcast on ABC starting in November 1976, and new tapings aired about every six months thereafter until May 1985. The TV specials featured a two-hour sequence of physical challenges, which were real and sometimes even aggressively competitive. Each team had a captain; they and their fellow teammates were interviewed during the contest, engaging in rather earnest and downright nasty discussions about the competition. Regular events included swimming, kayaking, volleyball, golf, tennis, bowling (on custom-made outdoor lanes), cycling, 3-on-3 football, the baseball dunk, running, an extremely competitive game of simon says, and the obstacle course. The final event of each competition was the tug-of-war in which the top two scoring teams at the end of the regular events faced off to determine the overall winning team.