1972: 007’s TV debut on The ABC Sunday Night Movie

United Artists re-released Goldfinger in the summer of 1972 as part of a triple feature a few months before it was shown on ABC.

With all the 007 anniversaries this year, one isn’t getting much attention: the 40th anniversary of the first U.S. television showing of a James Bond film when Goldfinger was shown on The ABC Sunday Night Movie.

ABC, which had obtained the TV rights for 007 films, decided to kick off the 1972-73 season with Goldfinger, the third movie in the series made by Eon Productions. ABC had promoted Goldfinger throughout the summer and especially during its broadcasts of the Summer Olympics in Munich, where 007 promos seemed to air every two hours, prior to the tragic kidnapping and murders of Israeli athletes. United Artists, moving to squeeze out money from one last theatrical run, had a triple feature of Dr. No, From Russia With Love and Goldfinger during the summer of 1972.

Finally, on the night of Sept. 17, 1972 (right after the eighth-season opener of The FBI), Goldfinger was broadcast to millions of homes in the U.S. Bond fans who’d seen the film in theaters were caught by surprise immediately. The classic 007 gunbarrel logo had been edited out by the network (though John Barry’s gunbarrel music arrangement remained). It would be the first in a series of changes and cuts ABC would make in the Bond movies.

The ABC broadcast of Goldfinger started at 9 p.m. New York time and ran (including commercials) until 11:15 p.m.. In future showings, ABC would take out the pre-credits sequence altogether and start with the main titles so the TV broadcast would run no longer than two hours.

Still, it was a new era. ABC was the U.S. television home for Bond into the early 1990s. ABC even had a last hurrah in 2002, when the network showed the first nine 007 films in the Eon series on consecutive Saturday nights. Today, with DVDs, streaming video, video on demand, etc., none of this sounds special. But, 40 years ago, it was a big deal when agent 007 was available for the first time in living rooms.

2002: 007’s swan song on ABC

In the fall of 2002, James Bond returned to his original U.S. television home, Walt Disney Co.’s ABC television network.

It ended up being the end of a 30-year, on-and-off relationship between the fictional spy and ABC.

007’s television debut occurred on Sept. 17, 1972, when Goldfinger was shown by ABC. The network was 007’s television home through the 15th Eon-produced film, The Living Daylights.

After that, things began to change. Licence to Kill appeared on Fox. Time Warner’s TBS scooped up the TV rights to the older films in the early 1990s. Pay-cable networks diminished the aura of 007 movies appearing on broadcast television. GoldenEye debuted on NBC, while CBS snared Tomorrow Never Dies and The World Is Not Enough.

So, it was a bit of a surprise when ABC brought 007 back “home” in the fall of 2002. It was an opportunity for MGM and Eon Productions to promote the upcoming Die Another Day. But the media world had changed so much, ABC canceled the Bond Picture Show after nine Saturday nights in the fall of 2002. And truth be told, things weren’t the same after ABC voiceover king Ernie Anderson passed away in 1997.

Below, here’s a promo that ABC aired for the fifth Bond movie, You Only Live Twice.