1 9 8 0 (USA)
6 x 60 minute episodes
Pete “Skag” Skagska (Karl Malden) was a 56-year-old union foreman at a steel mill in Pittsburgh. It was a hard life, but the only one he knew until he almost lost it when a crippling stroke temporarily forced him to stay at home and try to put his life back together.
He was concerned about his second wife, Jo (Piper Laurie), the only Jewish member of an otherwise staunchly Serbian Orthodox Catholic household, and 12 years his junior.
His relationships with his children were troubled. The eldest, David (Craig Wasson), worked with him at the mill but felt uncomfortable about it; 24-year-old John (Peter Gallagher) was in medical school and more concerned with making money than with his family; 18-year-old Patricia (Kathryn Holcomb) was extremely shy and insecure and 15-year-old Barbara (Leslie Ackerman) was sleeping around to make herself popular despite her obesity.
Skag’s elderly father, Petar (George Voskovec), left speechless and partially incapacitated by a major stroke of his own, also lived in the Skagska household. Whalen (Powers Boothe) was the young steelworker who had taken over Skag’s crew while he recovered from the stroke and coveted the job on a permanent basis.
All the while, Skag, the stubborn traditionalist, was trying to adjust to a changing world whose values he did not fully understand. The issues dramatised on Skag made for heavy viewing: impotence, senility, prostitution, labour problems, jealousy, family discord, and the conflicts caused by different value structures.
The critics loved the show. They called it the season’s “most thought-provoking, realistic depiction of contemporary life”.
Boosted by tremendous advance publicity, the special Sunday three-hour premiere of Skag attracted a large audience. Unfortunately, the viewers did not stay with it when it moved to its regular Thursday time slot.
Maybe it was too depressing to see that much hard reality. The producers of the show took out full-page newspaper ads in major cities beseeching the public to save Skag, but it didn’t help. After its original limited run, Skag was largely rejected by the viewing public.
Pete “Skag” Skagska