March 19, 2018

What's on TV: Friday, March 25, 1960

The highlight of today's programming, as we saw on Saturday, is the TV Guide Awards show at 7:30 p.m., but there are other things of interest as well. Don't miss the nice job of cross-promotion on CBS this afternoon, with For Better or Worse at 1:00 p.m., followed by Art Linkletter's House Party at 1:30, where Art's guest is marriage counselor Dr. James A. Peterson, the host of For Better or Worse. 

The listings are, as you probably already know, from the Minnesota State Edition.

March 17, 2018

This week in TV Guide: March 19, 1960

This week's cover story is on Perry Mason, and since you all should know by now this is one of my favorite shows, you can't be surprised I'm going to spend a little time on it.

One of the secrets to the success of Mason, according to this unbylined article, is its strong supporting cast, each of whom brings something special to his or her role. Take Bill Talman, for example, who plays Perry's nemesis Hamilton Burger. According to Talman, Mason creator Erle Stanley Gardner didn't think much of the D.A. "Erle detested Berger," Talman says, "and drew him as the prototype of the loud, blustering sorehaead, like the one who used to plague him as a young lawyer." Talman has worked to flesh out the character, to reduce the temptation by viewers to see him as a heavy. "Otherwise, it would be no credit to Perry to set him down every week."

Ray Collins, the honest (if quick to judge) detective lieutenant Arthur Tragg, is an old pro, one who "can sense other actors' needs and throw the scene their way." For instance, if a young actor, perhaps one playing his first big role, is struggling with his lines, Collins will start fumbling his to take the pressure off - if, that is, Talman or Raymond Burr don't beat him to it.* But, as Collins adds, "we are professionals. Therefore, no matter how fond we are of one another, we all try to protect ourselves. If Willie Talman can get better lighting than I can, well, I assure you I'l try to change that." Barbara Hale, Perry's loyal secretary Della Street, says "It's like the competition in a family."

*I wonder about this. Collins was, by all accounts, a generous colleague, but it's been said that as his health began to fail (he died in 1965), he began to have more trouble memorizing and delivering his lines. It could be that Talman and Burr, almost certainly the sources of this anecdote, were in fact using it to cover for Collins. It's the kind of thing mensches would do.

Bill Hopper, son of the famed columnist Hedda, has learned his share of tricks of the trade, thanks both to his mother and veteran actors. He, too, has become a pro over the years; "If all you know is tricks, you're dead."

It's a tight cast, even if they do compete for better lighting and close-ups. Says Talman, who has shared a dressing room with Hopper for three years, "Can you think of rooming with a guy for three years and never having a quarrel or argument? I can't. But that has happened with Bill and me." Collins adds that "There's something else - call it a great affection, like a legit show on the road. When it closes you may never see each other again. Sometimes we think of that. And so we still speak to each other." "And laugh at each other's jokes," Talman adds.

At the center of it all is Raymond Burr, and Collins accurately sums up the man and his impact on the cast.  "Take Raymond, a man doing 39 hour-long shows a year, appearing in almost every scene, knowing his lines letter-perfect, and who still devotes himself to making it better for other people." He and Talman are inveterate practical jokers, both on each other and on other members of the cast; Hale, who's a favorite target for Burr, once found everything in her dressing room - sink, flower pots, everything - filled with green gelatin.

Judging by the lack of jealousy among the cast, that must be the only thing that's green.

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Starting in 1954, Steve Allen helmed his own NBC variety show which, at the beginning, aired opposite that of Ed Sullivan. It didn't run as long as Ed's, of course, but then Allen said his goal was never to conquer Ed, but to coexist with him, which he did for four seasons. Let's see who gets the best of the contest this week.

Sullivan: Ed presents circus stars from all over the world. In London: Popov, famed Soviet clown; the Boxing Russian Bears. In New York: Emmett Kelly, celebrated American clown; the De Donge Chimps; Linon, high-wire clown; and the Three Murkies.

Allen: Steve's guests are actress Ann Blyth, Nick "The Rebel" Adams, comedian Jan Murray and the Nikolais dancers.

No contest here; unless you're a big fan of circuses, the only name you may recognize from Ed's lineup is Emmett Kelly, although I'll admit to having a soft spot for boxing bears. On the other hand, Steve has an actual lineup of stars, and while it may not be the strongest hand, it's the best one this week. The verdict: Allen takes the week.

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Speaking of Ed, to coin a phrase, we've got some really big stars in specials and regular fare alike, and that dominates our look at the week.

On Saturday Jack Benny gets a full hour special (9:00 p.m. CT) in addition to his regular weekly series, and he fills it up with Phil Silvers and Polly Bergen. Among the highlights, Jack interviews a "typical" TV Western viewer, gives his opinion on television commercials, and wonders about the runner taking the Olympic torch from Squaw Valley to Rome for the Summer Games.

Sunday brings us the return of Dr. Frank Baxter, whom we've enjoyed here before, in another Bell Telephone Science Special, "The Alphabet Conspiracy." (5:00 p.m., NBC) Dr. Baxter plays Dr. Linguistics, who's out to "prevent three plotters who are determined to do away with the alphabet and thus destroy all languages." Who knew they'd go on to invent emojis instead? Hans Conried plays The Mad Hatter, who for all I know may or may not be one of the plotters. If you caught this when it was first on 14 months ago, you may opt for this week's roundtable discussion on Small World (5:00, CBS), featuring Pablo Casals, Isaac Stern and Ernest Ansermet discussing the musician's political and social responsibilities. CBS follows that up at 5:30 with The Twentieth Century, as Walter Cronkite profiles "Patton and the Third Army."

Sunday evening brings a pair of specials; first, Our American Heritage (7:00 p.m., NBC) tells the story of "Autocrat and Son," also known as Oliver Wendell Holms Sr. and Jr. Sr. is played by Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Jr. by Christopher Plummer, and the whole thing was written by Ernest Kinoy, who wrote great teleplays into the 1990s, everything from The Defenders to the TV-movies Victory at Entebbe and Skokie. Then, at 8:30 p.m. on CBS, the General Mills Special Tonight series presents "The Valley of Decision" with Lloyd Bridges and Nancy Wickwire.

Compared to Sunday's lineup, Monday is pretty tame, but it does have its benefits, with Arlene Francis as Jack Paar's guest-host for the week (NBC, 10:30 p.m.), while Jack's in England taping next week's shows. Was Arlene the first woman to host Tonight? I think so, but don't hold me to it; I'm not sure at this point in history who else in might have been.

Tuesday starts off with Playhouse 90's chilling adaptation of Robert Shaw's novel "The Hiding Place" (7:00 p.m., CBS) starring James Mason as a Nazi holding two British flyers (Richard Basehart, Trevor Howard) prisoner in his cellar. They've spent years chained up in there, with Mason as their only contact to the outside world. What he doesn't tell them is that the war has been over for seven years. If that's too dark for you, you can check out a rare television appearance by Rex Harrison in Startime's "Dear Arthur" (7:30 p.m., NBC), co-starring Sarah Marshall and Hermoine Badderly, with Gore Vidal adapting the play by P.G. Wodehouse.

I like the sound of Perry Como's show on Wednesday (8:00 p.m., NBC), with Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé, and Don Adams. (Might be the best variety show of the week, for that matter.) You can also check out Richard Boone, taking time out from Have Gun - Will Travel to star in "The Charlie and the Kid" on The U.S. Steel Hour (9:00 p.m., CBS), with Geraldine Brooks.

The big event on Thursday is a local one, the start of the Minnesota State High School Basketball Tournament. (For boys, of course; it is 1960, after all.) I think most people think of hockey when they think sports in Minnesota, but in the years before professional sports came to town, the basketball tournament was very, very big stuff. The tournament ran for three days, with eight teams battling for the title, ending on Saturday night when nearly 20,000 would pack Williams Arena, home of the University of Minnesota Golden Gophers, to watch the final. If they're lucky, it would be a David-vs-Goliath story, with an unsung small school out of nowhere taking on the big city schools.

In 1960 that's exactly what happened, as Minnesota staged its very own version of Hoosiers, starring the team from tiny Edgerton, Minnesota (population 961). Edgerton, led by coach Rich Olson (so young that security guards demanded to see his identification before letting him into Williams Arena), had finished the regular season undefeated, then knocked off several large schools before making it into the tournament, where the standing-room only crowds adopted the tiny school as its own, cheering them on as they upset top-ranked Richfield in the semifinals before defeating Austin in the final. Edgerton was the smallest school ever to win the state championship, and to this day the tournament remains one of the most storied moments in Minnesota sports history.

On Friday, Robert Ryan and Ann Todd star in a live adaptation of Hemingway's story "The Snows of Kilimanjaro" (7:30 p.m., CBS), which must have been quite an accomplishment considering our hero leads a life of adventure all over the world. At least they have the right man at the helm, with John Frankenheimer directing. Pretty good supporting cast as well, with Janice Rule, Jean Hagen, Mary Astor and James Gregory,

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And the winner is: Last week, you'll recall that we looked at the official ballot for the inaugural TV Guide Awards, and at that time I promised I'd reveal the winners this week. The show airs in color Friday night at 7:30 on NBC, with Robert Young, Nanette Fabray, and Fred MacMurray hosting and performing in some pre-recorded skits, while while the awards themselves are presented live in both New York and Hollywood, depending on where the winner is. Perhaps the most interesting piece of information about this show is that the producer and director are Bud Yorkin and Norman Lear - small world, huh?

Anyway, may I have the envelope please?

Favorite Series of One Hour or Longer: Perry Mason
Favorite Half-Hour Series: Father Knows Best
Best Single Musical or Variety Program: Another Evening with Fred Astaire
Most Popular Male Personality: Raymond Burr (Perry Mason)
Most Popular Female Personality: Loretta Young (The Loretta Young Show)
Best News or Information Program: The Huntley-Brinkley Report
Best Single Dramatic Program: "The Turn of the Screw" (Startime)

So how did you do? Do you think you could have picked them better than the readers of TV Guide? By next year, 1961, the TV Guide Awards are ranked as one of the three important entertainment awards, together with the Academy Awards and the Emmy Awards. They'd run through 1964, and then came back for a brief encore in the early 2000s, before disappearing completely into the television ether, although if it's true that television and radio waves disappear into space, perhaps someone's still enjoying it today.  TV  

March 16, 2018

Around the dial

The credit on that photograph doesn't give the context in which it was taken, only that it was sometime in the early '60s. It could have been during one of the debates with Richard Nixon in 1960; however, considering the family's all huddled together looking concerned, it could just as easily be JFK's speech on the Cuban Missile Crisis. I don't know; anyone with time to watch the debates and the speech could probably pinpoint the moment. But if it is the Missile Crisis (when my mother sat holding me on her lap thinking that this was it), then it would truly invoke the saying about a picture being worth a thousand words. Anyway, on to the week's treasures.

At bare-bones e-zine, Jack's back with another episode in the Hitchcock Project; this one is "Relative Value" from 1959, written by Francis Cockrell. I hope you Hitchcock fans have been reading these pieces of Jack's; they add a wealth of background to your viewing of the episodes. Book, Jack, you need to put them in a book!

Jodie digs deep into a pair of articles about Dave Garroway in Garroway at Large. What I like here is how Jodie explores what the Playboy philosophy really was all about back then; less about girls and more about "being a cool and swinging man," and how Garroway's lifestyle really fit into that description. Again, it puts it all in context.

The Broadcast Archives at the University of Maryland is always good for its pictures, and this week is no exception: the cast of The Munsters on set, perhaps between takes?

Eyes of a Generation hasn't had anything new lately, so I took a random dive into the archives and came up with this picture and story on the man behind the curtain at Kulka and Olliethe great Burr Tillstrom.

And Those Were the Days remembers the television series Tales of the Texas Rangers, which I remember more from its radio version. In case you're wondering, these are not the Texas Rangers that you'd see on ESPN.

That's it for today; tomorrow is St. Patrick's Day, a day I'm entitled to celebrate but seldom pay much attention to. (Green beer and boiled dinners don't do much for me, to be honest. Might have a St. Patrick's Day-themed dinner with friends, though.) However, if you're planning to make a day (or night) of it, stop here first, and then - as the man says - let's be careful out there! TV  

March 14, 2018

Human misery for fun and profit

You're going to have to trust me on this when I tell you that I’ve never, ever watched an episode of ABC’s The Bachelor, nor is it likely that I ever will. In fact, there seems little reason for someone writing about classic TV to mention it at all, other than to speculate on what the bastard offspring of The Newlywed Game and The Dating Game might look like, though I’ve always thought Chuck Barris would have had more class than to come up with something like The Bachelor. 

Nevertheless, there’s a local angle to this most recent season in that one of the finalists involved is apparently from Minnesota, and the finale was apparently so dramatic that it’s been difficult in the last couple of days to avoid the headlines.

A quick recap: this season’s Bachelor, Arie Luyendyk Jr.*, had narrowed his choices down to two: Becca (the aforementioned Minnesotan) and Lauren. We are to understand that he was hopelessly in love with each of them, despite having spent less time with them than the average person might take to buy a pair of shoes. In the end, he chose Becca. However, he apparently began having second thoughts almost immediately, and contacted Lauren to see if she would be willing to give it another shot – while at the same time house-hunting with Becca, in case Lauren’s answer was no. Lauren agreed that yes, she was willing to give him a second chance, whereupon he broke things off with Becca – and here is the key part – blindsiding her while the cameras were running and she was preparing to talk with him about their future life together.

*Son of Arie Luyendyk Sr., famed racing driver and two-time winner of the Indianapolis 500. Arie Jr., a washout as a racer himself, was hilariously referred to by one wag as "Fail Earnhardt, Jr."

As I understand it, the confrontation was riveting, in a morbid sort of way, with the Bachelor staff using a split-screen to air the unedited footage. On one side we had Arie, trying to explain his decision in a way that was not quite the “You deserve someone better than me” schtick that we’re accustomed to, but still highlighted his desire to be loved by someone whose life he had just crushed; on the other side sat Becca, reacting with a fairly impressive amount of poise for someone who’s just been ambushed and humiliated on national television, having the rug pulled out from under her while being asked not only to understand her now ex-fiancée’s decision, but to actually bestow upon him her forgiveness and blessing. The fact that she didn’t pick up the nearest sharp-pointed instrument she could lay her hands on and drive it like a stake through his heart was admirable, although it did deprive the viewing audience of the opportunity to see whether the production crew would have intervened to prevent an on-air murder, or that they might have figured that this truly was real-life TV, warts and gushing blood and all. For a split screen consisting of Becca weeping while Arie is being wheeled out by paramedics, murmuring all the while, “this is so amazing.”

There’s a lot to ridicule in all this, but it would be wrong to simply dismiss The Bachelor, and its reality counterparts, as so much programming designed to prove correct P.T. Barnum’s axiom about there being a sucker born every minute. To do so would be to forget that this was not scripted drama, that these were real people acting out their actual (however unreal) lives on television, and that we were complicit in the whole thing.

As Juliet Litman put it in a very perceptive article at The Ringer, the whole premise of a show like The Bachelor is “the belief that watching heartbreak and disappointment is fun for the uninvolved audience at home.” In order to rationalize our behavior, we remind ourselves that, after all, everyone involved on programs like this know what they’re getting themselves into. Nobody forced them at gunpoint to take part in it, and the inference is that they’re freely exchanging the possibility of losing their human dignity in return for fame and fortune, and the longshot chance of future happiness. It’s about as close as one can get these days to saying of them that “She (or he) asked for it,” without immediately being condemned as suffering from some type of -phobia.

But did they? Does anybody really “ask” for something like this? We may find ourselves in situations where we say that we understand the risks involved, but how many of us actually do? Unless we’re police officers or soldiers, people who truly understand that death can visit them at any moment, few of us would probably agree that we signed up for the possibility, however remote, that something like this could actually happen. To us.

In watching a drama like that on The Bachelor unfold for our entertainment, writes Litman, “We became voyeurs much like the producers and editors who piece together footage to weave a coherent story each season. By watching year after year and demanding that [host Chris] Harrison’s promise that ‘this is the most dramatic season of The Bachelor yet’ eventually come true, the audience was just as complicit in stabbing Becca in the back as the cameras ran.” Arie may have been the villain of the piece but “The split-screen effect implicated the audience as accessories to the Bachelor crime.”

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What is perhaps most depressing about this is the lesson that can be taken from it. While The Bachelor finale may have been grotesque, it was also, as Litman writes, “the best television episode of the year so far, and it was in part because Becca was ambushed.” Viewers in the know were aware of Arie’s switcheroo, thanks to an article in Us Weekly, so the final outcome was no real surprise. It was the way it was aired, and the way we reacted to it, that is the real story. Litman reminds us that “at the heart of this novel and successful TV experiment lies living people with real emotions. Becca’s pain and shock was authentic.” Yes, there are other ways in which the show could have been presented, but for viewers “the TV experience would not have been as compelling.” In other words, the likely lesson that ABC will have learned is not about human dignity, but that surprise revelations, broadcast in such a way as to maximize the sight of naked pain and shock for public consumption, make for successful television.

So we can probably look forward to more scenes like this in the future, although the encore is rarely as successful as the original; the law of diminishing returns suggests that before too long the producers will have to come up with something even more spectacular and gut-wrenching to keep the momentum going. Perhaps we may see that stake through the heart yet.

This brings to mind that article by Erwin D. Canham from last week’s TV Guide, written in 1960, in which Canham wrote of television as a vehicle capable of building up "new standards of life and citizenship," that it was the medium uniquely equipped to help answer the doubts that Americans increasingly had when they looked at themselves in the mirror. “They are asking whether our national standards and values are as sound and true as they should be, or whether too many of them have become shoddy and specious."

The question in his mind was not whether or not television could do this, but whether or not it would. Canham warned that “television must not become the opium of the people,” held hostage to pure entertainment, that the minds of the viewers "must not be merely softened up under a salve of bland relaxation".

Today Canham would be saddened, though probably not surprised, to find that television has mostly failed in this respect; it was, after all, what he saw as the greatest challenge to the medium. What I think would truly dismay him, however, is that those very tendencies which he felt America had to defend against in order to maintain “the true values of a good society” are precisely what television most glorifies today.

Doubtless a show like The Bachelor would have horrified him, but the everpresent drumbeat of programs that revel in excesses of materialism, sex, and violence rather than modesty and education; that celebrate darkness and nihilism rather than light and hope; that find humor in cruelty and crudity rather than gentleness and cleverness; all this would have confounded him. Yes, he might say, there is such a thing as Original Sin, but who in their right mind would want to celebrate programs like this? Who would want to freely choose to live in a world with this kind of entertainment? Are you trying to destroy yourselves and everything which you’ve built up over the centuries?

Erwin Canham and many like him felt that television had a role to play in helping create "a nation of mature decision makers." Imagine what he would feel if he could see the decisions that America’s broadcasters and viewers have made.  TV  

March 12, 2018

What's on TV? Wednesday, March 16, 1960

We're back in the Twin Cities this week, and if you read the Saturday piece, you'll know that one of the highlights of tonight's schedule is Bing Crosby's appearance with Perry Como on Perry's Kraft Music Hall. You'll find that tonight, along with a key heavyweight bout on ABC featuring Zora Folley, the last man to fight Muhammad Ali before the latter's time-out for refusing draft induction.

There's a lot more to choose from, though - let's get out there and see what's on.

March 10, 2018

This week in TV Guide: March 12, 1960

Although the TV Guides in this series are chosen more or less at random, depending on what I happen to have available at the time, I think we're seeing a consistent trend running through the first four decades of the magazine: a constant examination of the role television plays in society, and a challenge to those in charge of programming to do a better job of it.

This week's article is from Erwin D. Canham, editor of The Christian Science Monitor and current President of the United States Chamber of Commerce, and his message is simple and straightforward: "TV should toughen the mind of America, not put it to sleep."

One of the main threats Canham sees - a threat that we also see, over and over, in these essays - is that of depending too much on the ratings to determine which programs survive and which disappear without a trace. He compares the process to that of the print media: if newspapers and magazines used the same criteria to determine their contents, the dominant features would be comic strips, sports, and pictures - what he calls "a completely unbalanced and unacceptable newspaper." Television, writes Canham, must never become overwhelmingly entertainment-based, or else it will lose the tremendous potential it has of "lifting the minds and hearts of mankind into the age which modern technology makes possible." As he puts it, "A dinner composed nine-tenths of chocolate eclairs would be absurd. Popularity is not all."

Canham also warns of "grave challenges" that America faces, and the responsibility to which television must answer. He appeals to the medium to help build "new standards of life and citizenship," that "our minds must not be merely softened up under a salve of bland relaxation". The American people will have to think hard and work hard, and "the pervasive power of television must help them to do so. They need awakening, not tranquilizing. Television must not become the opium of the people. Like all great voices, it must cry out - not by mere editorializing, but by informing and challenging with the factual image it so vividly conveys."

When Canham writes of "the grave challenges we face," I think he's referring specifically to the threat posed by Communism, and the many ways in which Americans have to respond to that challenge. There's an educational one, of course; with talk of the missile gap and the need to match Soviet minds in the space race, it will be vital for America to put a priority on training brighter and better minds, and television must play a role in doing so.

Then there's the value of citizenship itself, and the importance of a free society. "Can we stand up against the earnest, fanatical focused challenge of totalitarian aggression? Will we weaken our society from within? Are our goals and standards the true values of a good society? Have we gone soft?" Here is where television can make the difference; "Nothing can help America to awaken and gird itself for internal and external battles for survival more effectively than television." No other medium can reach so many people or get into their minds. The print media can follow up with the in-depth story, but television must get their attention.

An audio recording of Canham appearing on NBC's Meet the Press in 1959

Like others, he sees the quiz show scandal of the past decade not only in terms of what it says about the industry, but about the public as well. To him, the scandal "reveals a national crisis of confidence. People are wondering not so much about television morals as national morals. They are asking whether our national standards and values are as sound and true as they should be, or whether too many of them have become shoddy and specious." And here I think we again turn to the Cold War, for the "national values" Canham refers to are those which we put on display for the rest of the world to see. What are those, in the winter of 1960? The civil rights movement, voting rights, growing racial unrest, poverty, lack of education. Even though more was to come throughout the '60s, these images are already being broadcast, and while they are assuredly bad enough in and of themselves, they also provide fuel for Communist propaganda.

The way in which television faces all these challenges will be just as important as the fact that they are facing them at all. They must be made "as humanly interesting, entertaining and penetrating as much of the trivia and passion of this world is without half trying." To have any effectiveness at all, to involve television in the coming world in the way it must, the programs must engage the viewer, else they won't be seen at all. Those responsible for this programming must, writes Canham, "work as hard to get truly important facts and ideas into the minds of viewers as they do to put over their commercial messages." It is only then that television will be able to play its role in helping to create "a nation of mature decision makers."

I wonder how Canham would view the evolution of television over the past 58 years? With pessimism, I would think. The warnings he penned about television becoming an entertainment medium have for the most part gone unheeded; while there has been much over these past years that has been very good, it has not, for the most part, strengthened the American character; in fact, were it not for the social media contrivances of today, I'd think that TV would bear the burden of being the single instrument most responsible for dumbing down the nation. Or perhaps social media merely took advantage of viewers already softened up by television? The argument was already raging when this article was written, and by the mid-'60s there were a lot of people who looked at programs such as The Beverly Hillbillies (the one it seems is most cited) and threw up their hands in resignation. As far as the education of the public into a "knowledgeable citizenry," collectively we're probably bigger fools than we've ever been. It's everybody's fault, but ofttimes the greatest responsibility goes hand-in-hand with the greatest potential, and the potential of television - well, how high is the sky?

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Starting in 1954, Steve Allen helmed his own NBC variety show which, at the beginning, aired opposite that of Ed Sullivan. It didn't run as long as Ed's, of course, but then Allen said his goal was never to conquer Ed, but to coexist with him, which he did for four seasons. Let's see who gets the best of the contest this week.

Sullivan: To celebrate St. Patrick's Day, Ed hosts a collection of Irish talent, including song-and-dance man Pat Rooney; singers Eileen Brennan and Lee Sullivan; and from Dublin, playwright Seán O'Casey and veteran actor Barry Fitzgerald.

Allen: Steve's guests are comedian Mort Sahl, singer Tony Martin and dancer Juliet Prowse, along with Steve's regular cast of by Don Knotts, Louis Nye, and Bill Dana.

Back in the days when playwrights were actual celebrities, Seán O'Casey was one of the most prominent, having risen to fame primarily as the result of his 1907 play The Playboy of the Western World. I don't know just how entertaining he'd be though, even with Barry Fitzgerald (Going My Way). On the other hand, Tony Martin was always kind of a B-list singer, and I've never been the biggest fan of Juliet Prowse. Eileen Brennan and Mort Sahl offset each other; the verdict: Push.

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Believe it or not, there was once a time when tennis was primarily an amateur sport, and professionals not only were not allowed into the Grand Slam tournaments (Wimbledon, Forest Hills, etc.), they were segregated into their own little touring company.

It's Sunday's CBS Sports Spectacular (2:00 p.m.), and the event comes to us live from the Everglades Club in Palm Beach, Florida. It's all brought to you by former Wimbledon and U.S. champion Jack Kramer, a pioneer in the "open" movement to integrate professionals and amateurs under one banner. Since the 1950's, Kramer has toured the country with his "traveling tennis troupe," featuring Pancho Gonzales, Ken Rosewall, Tony Trabert, Pancho Secura and others. Typically, these would involve head-to-head matches (As seen at right, Kramer himself played former great Bobby Riggs in an 89-match tour, with Kramer winning 69 of them), with a secondary match and a doubles competition on the undercard. On occasion, as is the case in this event, a semi-final match is played the night before, with the winner getting the opportunity to play the leading man, I suppose you'd say, in the final the next day.

Nowadays we'd consider these exhibitions, since the players were generally under contract and guaranteed a set amount of money for the season. There was more than pride at stake, though; as the preeminent player in the world, Gonzales was playing for commercial endorsement money as well, and the more he won, the more his endorsement was worth. There were also tournaments from time to time, and while none of them were as prestigious as, say, Wimbledon, they helped pay the bills.

The idea that the amateur game was as pure as the driven snow was a farce - there were under-the-table payments galore, including appearance fees - and I'm not sure even people in 1960 were naive enough to believe it. Kramer finally won the battle for Open tennis in 1968, which is why the U.S. Championship is now called the U.S. Open. Seeing a listing like this is a real slice of life, though.

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Kathryn and Arthur Murray are hosting a party for Bob Hope on their Tuesday night program. (8:30 p.m., NBC) No offense to Bob, but one of the things I've noticed in looking through these back issues is that whenever a series needs a ratings boost or seemingly has nothing better to offer, they bring in Bob Hope. Honestly, there's no particular reason for this program; Hope hasn't won any awards lately, he isn't celebrating some type of anniversary, and there's no connection I can see to anything else that he might be promoting - his 1960 movie, The Facts of Life (co-starring Lucille Ball) won't be released until November. Well, I'm sure someone had a good reason.

Hope's old sparring partner, Bing Crosby, is on twice this week, both times with Perry Como. At least he's on twice in this issue; his special on ABC, featuring Como and Bing's sons Philip, Dennis and Lindsay, was actually broadcast February 29, but it's being shown this Saturday night at 8:00 p.m. on NBC affiliate WDSM in Duluth. WDSM, along with the rest of the NBC network, will be airing the return broadcast Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m. on Como's Kraft Music Hall*, where they're joined by singer Genevieve and dancer Peter Gennaro.

*Fun fact: from 1936-46, the host of The Kraft Music Hall on radio was none other than Bing Crosby himself. 

New York Philharmonic conductor Leonard Bernstein is also on twice this week; on Sunday afternoon (3:30 p.m.) his CBS special (last in an irregular series sponsored by the Ford Motor Company) illustrates the use of rhythm in the world of music, using the works of Shakespeare and Aaron Copland to illustrate his points. There's an interesting footnote to this; at the conclusion of the program, Joseph N. Welch, the nemesis of Joseph McCarthy, appears in a five-minute "Message for Americans," a feature which appeared in each of the programs in the series. Bernstein, sans Welch, is back on Wednesday night at 6:30 for his Young People's Concert, featuring young performers. Alas, as was the case with the Crosby special above, CBS affiliate WCCO is only now getting around to this broadcast, which was originally carried on March 6. Oh well, better late than never.

We also ought to look at what probably was the funniest program of the week, NBC's Star Parade (Friday, 7:30 p.m.), which this week features "The Victor Borge Show." His guests include Jane Powell, dancers Allegra Kent and Jacques d'Ambroise, and two of his children. I'm betting that if we're not careful, we might also see some of Borge's classic routines, such as Phonetic Punctuation.

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We can't possibly pass up this appraisal by Chuck Connors of his hit series The Rifleman. For a Western whose titular hero does, indeed, carry around a rifle, Connors knows that the real backbone of the show, the element that brings the viewers back each week, is the relationship between his character, Lucas McCain, and McCain's son Mark, played by Johnny Crawford. "Everybody says, 'We like your show because it's a family show.' It's because of the emphasis we try to put on moral values." Killings occur in, Connors estimates, about half of the episodes. "But if you'll notice, the story always turns on the reasons for the violence, usually in the big scene toward the end between Lucas and his son."

And, Connors concedes, that sentimentality "does make the whole thing a little corny. In one script the boy says to me 'You don't like me,' or something like that. Well, instead of beating around the bush or using psychology or anything like that, I just look right at him and say: 'Look, son, I love you!' I love you! Brother, that's corn. That's as pure as they grow it, but that's what people want."

They do indeed, at least the fans of The Rifleman, and they like the corn they're being fed enough to keep the show going for five successful seasons.

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Finally, it's time again for the TV Guide Awards! We've seen this in past years, sometimes with the nominees, sometimes with the winners. In this issue, we have the official final ballot, which you can clip and mail to TV Guide, Box 515, Philadelphia 5, Pa. And although we'll have to wait for another time to find out who came out on top, we do have a bonus: someone in the household of the subscriber to this issue, L.O. Olson of Chisholm, Minnesota, checked their choices for the awards. I don't know why they didn't mail in their ballot but I'm glad they didn't, because it gives us a "you were there" glimpse of what one American family was watching.

Herewith the nominees (the Olson family's choice is listed in CAPS);

Favorite half-hour series:
Father Knows Best
The Real McCoys

Favorite one-hour-or-longer series:
77 Sunset Strip
The Untouchables 
Wagon Train

Best single dramatic program:
CALL ME BACK (Art Carney)
Jebal Deeks (Alec Guinness)
Moon and Sixpence (Laurence Olivier)
Our Town (Art Carney)
Turn of the Screw (Ingrid Bergman)

Best single musical or variety program:
Another Evening with Fred Astaire
Gene Kelly Show
Meet Cyd Charisse
Tonight with Belafonte

Best news or information program:
CBS Reports
Douglas Edwards with the News
Huntley-Brinkley Report
The Twentieth Century

Most popular male personality:
Raymond Burr
Perry Como
Ernie Ford
Jack Paar

Most popular female personality:
Lucille Ball
Donna Reed
Dinah Shore
Ann Sothern

The show can be seen on March 25 on NBC, hosted by Robert Young, Fred MacMurray and Nanette Fabray. How will your picks do? How did the Olson family's picks do? You'll just have to wait until next week, when as a bonus I'll present you with the answers. Until then...  TV  

March 9, 2018

Around the dial

It's Friday, TGIF and all that! What could possibly make the end of the week any better than a spin around the blogs to see what's new - or old, as the case may be.

At Comfort TV, David introduces us to a classification of television called "The Unshakeables," those episodes "that stay with you long after the credits roll." Case in point: “The Invasion of Kevin Ireland,” a 1971 episode of The Bold Ones: The Lawyers. I'll leave it to you to read David and find out why.

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear reviews the single-disc excerpt from the boxed set of Jackie Gleason's post-Honeymooners show that ran between 1966 and 1970. Now, it so happens that many of these episodes do feature Honeymooners bits, so if that's your thing you've nothing to worry about, but these also feature plenty more great guests and sketches.

An ad you won't want to miss at The Broadcasting Archives at the University of Maryland: Tony the Tiger and Groucho Marx.

Inner Toob picks up on something I always enjoy: an episode of a long-running series that allude, in one way or another, to events of a previous episode. Case in point this week: Columbo, and a very subtle mention of one of the Lieutenant's past cases.

Some Polish American Guy Reviews Things, and what Daniel is reviewing this week is "The Seven Lady Truckers," a third-season episode of B.J. and the Bear. There's no reason to tune in for the seven lady truckers, but there's always The Bear, right? Right?

'Tis the week for episode reviews methinks, at at Cult TV Blog the review is of "The Never Never Affair" from The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (Although, as is usually the case with John, you get plenty more than just a review. I always enjoy his take on these shows. (I still need to get some of his recommendations for my region-free DVD player.)

This has nothing to do with TV, but when I was young I loved Matchbox cars - they were far more interesting to me than Hot Wheels - and so naturally I had to check out this British Pathé film clip on the making of a Matchbox car, courtesy of Silver Scenes.

At Garroway at Large, Jodie reminds us of the wonderful American Radio History website with its treasure trove of issues of Broadcasting and other magazines* (I've made use of that archive a time or two myself); this week, one of those Broadcasting issues includes a review of the first few weeks of Today.

*This, in turn, reminds me to get angry again at the Chicago Tribune for no longer offering their archives for free. Do they really need the money that badly?

I'd say that's a pretty good meal for one day, wouldn't you? If you can finish it all by tomorrow, come on back for more - another issue of TV Guide. TV