February 25, 2017

This week in TV Guide: February 24, 1968

When last we looked at this issue, back in 2012, the focus of attention was Joey Bishop's ABC talk show. It was a good article; Bishop's show was far from the laughing stock that many today may think of it (if, that is, they think of it at all), and for awhile it appeared that Bishop might actually challenge the king of late night, Johnny Carson. We all know how that turned out though, don't we?

The good news is that the focus on Bishop leaves just about everything else in the issue untouched. Until now. As is the case* when we revisit these issues, all the material you read here is new.

*Except when it isn't.

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It would be hard to find a moment on television more typical of the cultural milieu of 1968 than Sunday night's episode of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, with guest Pete Seeger. It's Seeger's first appearance on the show since September, and therein lies the tale. During that appearance, Seeger sang an anti-war song called "Waste Deep in the Big Muddy." The network was concerned about the content of the song, which in the context of the show was clearly aimed at President Johnson and his Vietnam policy*, and cut the song from the finished product.

*"Anti-Vietnam and bitterly anti-Administration" was the precise description.

Well, you would have thought the network had been guilty of drowning cats, or some such atrocity. The uproar, one of the more famous in the history of television censorship, was the stuff of political legend; on the one hand, regardless of what one might think of Seeger and the song, it's a challenge to defend the network's actions in snipping the song (and badly, at that) from the program. On the other hand, the network does have the right to control the programs appearing on their airwaves, and considering how notorious Tom Smothers was when it came to providing the network with advance looks at the show, it's hard to blame CBS for clamping down on the brothers. If the network's purpose was to protect Johnson from the criticism implicit in Seeger's song, it backfired spectacularly (as is usually the case), creating more publicity for Seeger and the antiwar movement than had the segment aired uncut.

And so on February 25, at 8:00 p.m. CT, Pete Seeger returns to The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, where he's allowed to "get the history out," as he puts it, with "Waste Deep in the Big Muddy" and other songs. And as this recap of the whole affair points out, it's just the start of a bad week for Lyndon Johnson; three days after the broadcast, Walter Cronkite delivers his famous commentary in which he comes out against the War, at least the way the United States is conducting it.

In a minor way, it's an extraordinary moment in television, and in the ongoing conflict in Vietnam. It may have been a victory for the Smothers Brothers in the short-term, but in fact it's probably one more nail in the coffin as far as CBS is concerned.

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To show you how controversial the show has become, one only has to read these two missives from this week's Letters to the Editor section. Mrs. R.A. Holloway of Harrington, Delaware, asks "Why are the Smothers Brothers turning their program into a political show? We shouldn't have to listen to their views." The opposing viewpoint is held by Richard Buttrick of Nanticoke, Pennsylvania, who compares the brothers to Benjamin Franklin and Patrick Henry and concludes that "If their fight against public apathy ends in the cancellation of this great show because of political controversy, then we as Americans will know that there is no longer any such thing as freedom of speech in this country."

It's a free country, but television is also a commercial medium, dependent on sponsors' dollars and viewers' ratings. Nobody is denying the rights of either Smothers brother or Pete Seeger or anyone else to say whatever they want about whatever they want. Enough people thought they were funny to get them their own show in the first place. But if you make that choice, and viewers tune out because they don't want to hear what you have to say, don't complain about how the rules are written.

On a lighter note, the Editor's responses to some of this week's letters are wonderfully snarky. In response to a writer lamenting how viewers are subjected to the "sheer boredom and cheap slapstick of Carol Burnett," Merrill Panitt's response: "Fascinating! Please send us more information about your amazing one-channel set with no Off button." Another letter writer begs to differ with the assessment that Laugh-In is in poor taste; in his opinion, the show is "hilarious." Replies Panitt, "But couldn't it be both?" And when someone asks why Raymond Burr lately seems to be sitting down in every television program in which he appears, even besides Ironside, Panitt assures the writer that "We are informed that Mr. Burr can stand up if he wants to." That humor is much-needed.

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During the 60s, the Ed Sullivan Show and The Hollywood Palace were the premiere variety shows on television. Whenever they appear in TV Guide together, we'll match them up and see who has the best lineup..

Sullivan: Ed's scheduled guests are Dinah Shore, singer Ed Ames, comic Jackie Mason, Gladys Knight and the Pips, singer-comic Andy Stewart, magician Dominique and Bruski, unicycle act.

Palace: Host Milton Berle welcomes Louis Armstrong, Phyllis Diller, operatic tenor Enzo Stuarti, singer-dancer Elaine Dunn, the singing Lettermen, Irving Benson (as Berle's long-time heckler Sidney Shpritzer) and the "Bottoms Up Revue."

Berle's less than two years removed from his failed comeback on ABC, and while the show tries to turn back the clock (right down to Irving Benson), you have to wonder if the same old shtick is going to work. You know how painful it can be when someone tries a little too hard to be relevant. Skits include lampoons of commercials and hippies, and there's a musical revue called "And a Messenger Was Sent", "hailing and bewailing LBJ - and other Birds of the Johnson feather." I'd expect this from the Smothers Brothers - but The Hollywood Palace? It just doesn't fit. Louis Armstrong sings "Wilkommen" from Cabaret, and that seems more like it. Ed had his share of "fish out of water" moments himself, but this week's show seems pretty safe - and so, just barely, I'm giving Sullivan the nod.

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Throughout the 60s and early 70s, TV Guide's reviews were written by the witty and acerbic Cleveland Amory. Whenever we get the chance, we'll look at Cleve's latest take on the series of the era. 

It takes a special kind of series to succeed in the secret agent genre. It takes a special kind of actor to make it work, and it takes a special kind of storyline to keep viewers tuning in week after week. In short, It Takes a Thief. The question is, does It Takes a Thief have what it takes to be that series?

Well, Robert Wagner is just fine in the lead as Alexander Mundy, a Saint-wannabee forced to work for the government in order to stay out of jail. But, as Cleveland Amory points out, it takes more than a light-fingered hero to make the whole thing work. It also takes a certain amount of believably, enough for the viewer to suspend disbelief for an hour, and it is in this area that Thief fails to take home the prize. Referring to the series' promos, in which Mundy is portrayed as a man who "answers danger with a quip rather than a quiver" and "doesn't want to spoil the line of a $300 suit with a $30 gun," Amory warns that the series treads on thin ice, for "when the same kinds of lines get into the scripts, they get in the way of the believability something awful." Combine this with the sometimes preposterous storylines, and, says Amory, "You may laugh, but you are lost and so is the show."

It's too bad, he says, because there really are some fine elements to the series, and some plots that are quite clever if they don't go too far. One of his favorites, a story that involved Mundy breaking into a foreign embassy under surveillance by security cameras. It was terrific, except for one thing. "Mundy came to the embassy disguised as the most completely irritating socialite writer we've ever seen portrayed on any screen. And what do you think his assumed name was? Brooks Amory. Amory. Imagine! And just when we were going to say it was the first episode we liked." Ah, Amory gives, and he takes away.

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What else is on this week? On Saturday, The Jackie Gleason Show (6:30 p.m. CT, CBS) presents another of the musical-comedy Honeymooners stories. In this one, the Kramdens and the Nortons go on a free around-the-world trip. Kind of a far cry from the grittiness of the New York tenement the original Honeymooners lived in, isn't it? Speaking of The Saint, as we were above, Simon Templar is NBC's answer to Gleason, and this week he investigates the mysterious death (is there any other kind?) of a jeweler making a copy of a fabulous necklace. ABC rounds out the hour with a concert by the Vienna Choir Boys.

The Sunday news shows further demonstrate the pervasiveness of Vietnam; CBS's Face the Nation (11:00 a.m.) interviews the President of South Vietnam, Nguyen Van Thieu, with Walter Cronkite and Martin Agronsky among the questioners. On ABC's Issues and Answers (12:30 p.m.), the powerful chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, J. William Fulbright, discusses his criticism of the Johnson Administration's Vietnam policy. And on The Frank McGee Report (4:30 p.m., NBC), newsman Frank Bourgholtzer looks at U.S. Army deserters who've found shelter in Sweden.

Joan Crawford has it made - or is that maid?
Monday starts out pleasantly, with John Daly, formerly the moderator of What's My Line? and currently director of the Voice of America, as a guest on NBC's Today. That night, the special guest star on The Lucy Show (7:30 p.m., CBS) is none other than Joan Crawford in her television comedy debut, playing herself (left)  - and Lucy thinks she's down and out in her luck. Danny Thomas returns with a variety special at 8:00 p.m. on NBC, and at 9:00 p.m. on CBS, Carol Burnett welcomes her old colleagues Gary Moore and Durward Kirby, along with singer John Gary.

Red Skelton presents a special concert before delegates of the United nations on his Tuesday show (7:30 p.m., CBS), with an introduction by Vice President Humphrey. On ABC at the same time, It Takes a Thief presents one of those storylines that drives Cleveland Amory crazy: "In the Balkans, a kooky lady thief is conned into helping Mundy steal a sable coat. The lining holds top-secret charts planted by a scheming official to wreck an Anglo-Balkan trade agreement." Susan Saint James plays the kooky lady thief.

Steve Allen hosts Wednesday's Kraft Music Hall at 8:00 a.m. on NBC, with one of his trademark comedy bits, reading the great poetry of the day: the lyrics to rock songs. Opposite that, ABC presents Noel Coward's comedy Present Laughter, with Peter O'Toole and Honor Blackman. And at 9:00 p.m., Jonathan Winters (the subject of Amory's review last week) plays host to Art Carney, Connie Francis, and Peter, Paul and Mary. Can't get enough of that counter-cultural folk music!

I can't remember off-hand if we've looked at the November 1967 issue in which Carol Channing was scheduled to appear in her comedy-variety special "Carol Channing and 101 Men," three of which were Walter Matthau, George Burns, and Eddy Arnold. It was supposed to be broadcast, that is, but it was scuttled by, as I recall, a technician's strike. It finally makes it to the airwaves this Thursday at 8:00 p.m. on ABC. I wonder if it was worth the wait? Following Carol, it's The Hollywood Palace, about which we've already talked; better that you should watch Dean Martin's show on NBC, with Jonathan Winters (again!), Arthur Godfrey, Sandler and Young, and comics Grecco and Willard. Thankfully, there doesn't seem to be any discussion of the war.

Finally, the week wraps up with Friday's movie "This Happy Feeling" on Channel 11, starring Debbie Reynolds, Curt Jurgens, and John Saxon. I can't think of a better sentiment to describe Fridays, can you?

February 22, 2017

A program of substance

Here's a fascinating article that was forwarded to me by my friend Marc Ryan, on the week that entertainer Harry Belafonte spent guest hosting the Tonight Show back in 1968. I’ve alluded to this before, mostly in terms of how we no longer see guest hosts on talk shows, and on the sensational lineup of guests* Belafonte presented.

*Somewhat unusually, Belafonte was given free rein to choose his own guests, which he did with a discerning eye toward the agenda he wanted to pursue.

As you know, we try to present a politics-free website for the most part, and some of you may be concerned about reading an article that originally appeared in The Nation. Fear not; although there’s certainly an ideological thrust to the piece, you can skip over any contemporary linkage if you so choose, and still appreciate the content. By all means, read the whole thing. Go ahead; I’ll wait while you do.

Just what does it tell us? For one thing, it’s a remarkable snapshot of the nation’s atmosphere back in 1968, and if the shows for the entire week existed (sadly, all we have are Belafonte’s interviews with Martin Luther King, Jr. and Robert F. Kennedy), they would present a glorious time capsule of those turbulent times, to borrow a cliché. I’ve long said that television cannot be surpassed in its ability to provide us with this kind of contemporary contextual analysis; looking back, we see this era as clearly as if we were looking at pictures from Life or Look magazines. Some of the issues discussed might seem old hat to us today, while others will strike us as inconceivable – but there they are. Belafonte said the driving force behind this week of shows was to present America with a viewpoint it had not previously seen, and that goes for us as much as it does for the viewers who saw the shows at the time.

Did Belafonte succeed in introducing viewers to his different America? It’s true that his week of shows wasn’t the kind of thing that viewers were accustomed to seeing on a regular basis, although Merv Griffin and David Susskind, for example, was known for making executives nervous by veering into controversial subject matter.* Perhaps this wasn’t the first time such viewpoints had been presented on TV, but it was likely the most sustained presentation, viewed by a wider audience that probably was less accustomed to hearing about such issues.

*Not to mention Les Crane, who I think was a little more sensationalistic – like Donahue, perhaps.

It also reinforces my belief that the loss of the talk show guest host is unfortunate, to say the least. It deprives us not only of the opportunity to see someone else sitting behind the desk – and, I have to admit, Harry Belafonte would not have been the first person I would have thought of when it came to hosting the Tonight Show, but he did a great job – it also prevents us from seeing someone who truly does take the show in a different direction. It doesn’t have to be political; with similar freedom to shape the guest list, someone like Fred Astaire would probably have given us a far different look at the entertainment world than, say, Jerry Lewis. When the country singer Roger Miller subbed on Merv Griffin’s show back in the late ‘60s, his guests – other country stars – might not have gotten the visibility they would have if the host had been Joan Rivers, who might have chosen to highlight female comedians. See what I mean? Singers, dancers, comics, actors, athletes, politicians – a talk show shaped around a guest host can present a real variety of experiences to viewers, rather than out-of-date reruns of the same-old same-old. Besides which, hosts might be a little more insecure about the thought of a substitute doing better than them – think Larry Sanders, for instance.

Finally, it hearkens back to a day when talk shows - or "conversation shows," more accurately, could actually present conversations of substance. There isn’t much talking nowadays, guests don’t stick around to engage in banter, and an hour isn’t much time to get a good conversation in anyway. Let’s face it; today’s shows are mostly for actors and singers to talk about their latest movies or albums, and for comedians to tell a few jokes. Everything’s been pre-screened, and the host isn’t much more than a glorified press agent setting the guests up for whatever it is they want to plug. Such has always been the case, to a point, but Carson and Paar and Cavett knew how to interview someone, rather than simply feed them lines. Perhaps more important, they know how to listen.

I doubt there’s room for this kind of talk show on television anymore, and that’s too bad. It’s an example of the power television has to not only stimulate but also enlighten the public while at the same time keeping them entertained, or at least interested. Of course, in today’s short-attention-span culture, any conversation that doesn’t consist entirely of emoticons and abbreviations probably takes too long to follow, anyway.

February 20, 2017

What's on TV? Wednesday, February 21, 1968

I'm back! Well, sort of, anyway. Although I don't have the time to provide in-depth commentary for this week's issue, I can tell you that it is the same one I wrote about on Saturday. This should auger well for next week, since I now have access to everything I've been missing for the last few weeks. But you didn't come here to read about my personal life - you're looking to find out what's on TV. The listings are from the Twin Cities.

February 18, 2017

This week in TV Guide: February 17, 1968

The good news: every room in the house, save one, has been unpacked and set up. The bad news: that one room is the library. The good news: the TV Guides were in one of the boxes that has been unpacked, and they're on a shelf in the closet. The bad news: I wasn't able to get to it until Friday night, which leaves little time to do anything constructive. It was the best of times, it was the worst of times.

What awaits you this week is a hybrid that's strange, even for me. It's based on the original write-up I did back in the early days of the blog, augmented by brand new material made up of some of the features I've added over time (Sullivan vs. The Palace, Amory's Review). It's not perfect, I'll be the first to admit, but it's better than nothing - about 50% new. The good news: next week I should have far more time to spend on TV Guide. The bad news: I don't have a new issue waiting for me. How will this drama play out? Tune in next week and find out.

On the cover this week are the two stars of The FBI, Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and William Reynolds, although judging by the background one would be forgiven for thinking that they were starring in a series about Grand Prix racers. I've written several times about The FBI, one of my favorite law enforcement programs, including the impact Zimbalist's portrayal had on countless young viewers who, because of the series, were motivated to join the FBI.

The focal point of this week's profile, authored by Arthur Hano, is Zimbalist's sidekick, William Reynolds. The FBI is the fourth series Reynolds has worked on in the last eight years, and the first in which he will appear for more than one season. When the call came from his agent telling him he'd snagged the role of FBI special agent Tom Colby, he was either out playing golf (his version) or trying to sell real estate (his wife's version). Either way, it is a life preserver for a man who had waited three years for the big call. He will wind up putting in six years as Colby, but in 1968, he remains uncertain enough that he doesn't let the success of The FBI go to his head, still driving the same used Cadillac that he has nursed for over 50,000 miles. Such is the life of a second banana, he says; "You've got to stay cool. Otherwise you get eaten alive."

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During the 60s, the Ed Sullivan Show and The Hollywood Palace were the premiere variety shows on television. Whenever they appear in TV Guide together, we'll match them up and see who has the best lineup..

Sullivan: Ed's scheduled guests are Jane Powell; George Chakiris; singers Bobby Gentry and Franco Corelli; comics Rodney Dangerfield and Will Jordan; pianist Paul Mauriat; and the Muppets.

Palace: Host Jimmy Durante welcomes Van Johnson singers Jimmy Dean and Vikki Carr, comedian Pat Henry, the rocking Temptations, comic magician Mac Ronay, and strongman Franklin D'Amore and the Bodyguards.

An interesting pair of lineups this week. They both start out strong, but whereas Ed's guest list finishes up with Paul Mauriat (performing his smash hit "Love is Blue") and the Muppets, the Palace can only counter with a comic magician and a strongman group. As soccer experts will tell you, a deep bench is what wins championships, and on that basis Sullivan takes the match.

Here's Paul Mauriat in what may well be a clip from that Sullivan show:

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Throughout the 60s and early 70s, TV Guide's reviews were written by the witty and acerbic Cleveland Amory. Whenever we get the chance, we'll look at Cleve's latest take on the series of the era. 

When I was growing up, I thought Jonathan Winters was one of the funniest people I'd ever seen. Today, speaking from a mature perspective, I still think he's one of the funniest people. So does Cleveland Amory - "pound for pound, sound for sound" - and as only Amory can, he explains why now is the Winters of his discontent.

Amory is a big fan from way back, and for years he's griped about how networks don't seem to know how to handle a man of Winters' talent. His network specials were terrible, but this was actually good news - as Amory's Law says, "if you can't be good, be terrible. That way at least you attract a lot of attention." The problem is that Winters' new weekly series is good, very good - and, according to Amory's Law, it will probably go off the air.

What works with this new series, in Cleve's opinion, is that Winters has to do it all - not only perform, but host, introduce the guests, and so forth. In a strange way all that work works to Winters' benefit, providing just enough restraint for his manic talent to shine through. He cites an example which is so wonderfully convoluted that I have to repeat it in full just to give you a taste of it.

As Mad Dog Wretchen, [Winters] is in command of the Filthy Dozen, who are ordered to attack the Sieg Heil Hilton. "The Nazis are having a little banquet there," Mad Dog explains. "The usual thing, a little chamber music and then they kick the waiters to death. Now you all know your assignments?" Replies guest Fess Parker, "Roger. First Fats goes over the electrified fence. To do that, the twins distract the guard by cleaning chickens in the mine field. Then when the guards turn to look, I short-circuit the fence by riding a rubber cow into the wires. Next I put the Count into a pair of Sta-Prest rocket pants, ignite his zipper and blast him up into the 10th-story window, from which he drops a giant M-3 yoyo and we all ride to the top on the upstroke, just in time to serve the snake-infested sauerkraut and the booby-trapped bratwurst. Well, that's the plan, major. What do you think?" Replies Mad Dog: "Well, it's an old trick, but it just might work."

Sadly, Amory's Law seems to hold true; the Winters show: by 1969, it's gone. Jonathan Winters is never forgotten, though.

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Across the top of this week's cover is a blurb for "The Most Outlandish Game Show Yet," which turns out to be ABC's Treasure Isle.  Not only did the show take place outdoors, it was staged on a one-and-a-half acre man-made lagoon in Palm Beach.  Probably the most interesting item we find out is that the show was financed and packaged for $800,000 by John D. MacArthur, who's probably better known as the founder of the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, supporter of many public television programs over the years.  MacArthur's brother was Charles MacArthur, playwright and co-author of The Front Page  Charles MacArthur was married to the actress Helen Hayes, and her son James MacArthur played Danno on Hawaii Five-0.  When your genealogy is more interesting than the television show you created, you know you're in trouble. But then, here's a sample episode; decide for yourselves.

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The most notable program this week, although nobody knows it at the time, is an NBC made-for-TV movie on Tuesday called Prescription: Murder.  Judith Crist, TV Guide's longtime movie critic, notes that the movie has not been made available for preview by the network, meaning that she'll have to stick to the facts without being able to advise potential views of the "wonders you may or may not behold."  She reports that the movie "stars Gene Barry as a doctor who murders his wife."  And that's true, as far as it goes.  What she doesn't mention is that the murder is investigated by a detective named Columbo.  The listing doesn't even suggest that the movie's a pilot.  But the rest, as they say, is history.

Although made-for-TV movies are really making an impact by 1968, big-screen movies still command the attention of viewers. This week, the big news is the network television premiere on ABC of Shane, the landmark western starring Alan Ladd and Van Heflin.  As Crist points out, Shane is "the original source for many of the cliches of subsequent Westerns - cliches that in the original are matters of inspiration, of genius and of art."  But that isn't all, as CBS counters with Steve McQueen's WW2 hit The Great Escape, "offered again uncut in two installments, each supplemented by equally pleasing short subjects."  Although it's hard to imaging having to wait two nights to see a single movie, that is pretty common back in the day, running a long movie in two parts over two nights if it doesn't fit into a two-hour time slot (except for Saturday and Sunday, when networks are more willing to let a movie run into the local news slot). As for those short films that the nets use to fill up the rest of the time slot, sometimes TV Guide tells us a little about what the films are. In this case, part 1 is followed by a short cartoon, while part 2 is wrapped up by " 'Rainshower,' a 15-minute featurette honored at the Chicago Film Festival."  Quaint.  I probably wasn't watching it though; the state high school hockey tournament is on Channel 11, the independent station, on both Thursday and Friday nights.

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What else?  On Saturday, ABC pre-empts the Pro Bowlers Tour for the penultimate day of the Winter Olympics in Grenoble, France.  The last day, including the closing ceremonies, is shown Sunday afternoon from 1:00 to 3:00, followed by pro basketball - a little different than the saturation coverage we get today, hmm?

And then there are these two curious items: on Tuesday afternoon, CBS presents "the 19th annual Busy Lady Bake-Off."  Now, I've heard of the Pillsbury Bake-Off, but the Busy Lady?  Turns out a Google search suggests they're the same thing.  I wonder if this was a way for TV Guide to avoid the commercial mention for Pillsbury, or if the company itself billed the contest this way. Maybe some enterprising researcher out there can fill us in on the truth.

And then there's a musical version of Robin Hood airing on NBC Sunday night (in place of Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color and The Mothers-In-Law). It has a great pedigree: songs by Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen, and it features a who's who of familiar 60s names - Noel Harrison, Roddy McDowall, Steve Forrest, Walter Slezak, Douglas Fairbanks Jr., Arte Johnson and Victor Buono in supporting roles.  But in the starring role of Robin Hood - David WatsonWho?  I'd never heard of him until checking him out on the always-reliable Wikipedia, and it turns out that he had a pretty good pedigree on the legitimate stage and was one of the apes in Beneath the Planet of the Apes (taking Roddy McDowall's place, it should be noted), but his TV career seems limited to guest roles in various shows.  Well, you learn something new every day.

And then there's this note: "Communications experts seem increasingly agreed that closed-circuit TV (CATV) will gradually replace the over-the-air kind," Richard Doan writes. And what would this new, "cable" TV mean besides the end of ghostly reception and the ability to beam signals into remote rural locations? "It would mean the view would pay for his piped-in TV, much as he now pays for lights and phone service." Not everything that TV Guide predicted came true - but this certainly did. But many thought that three networks constituted a vast wasteland - could they have possibly foreseen the scorched earth that the future would bring?

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And finally, the Letters to the Editor feature a moment of poetic magic from Sidney M. Major, Jr., of Independence, MO, lamenting the replacement on ABC's The Avengers of Diana Rigg with Linda Thorson.

Steed without Emma
Presents a dilemma
With which I, for one, cannot cope;
Without her assistance
Steed can't go the distance - 
Please tell me there yet is some hope.

Sorry, Sid - them's the breaks. But you know the old saying about life giving you lemonade - and trust me, Linda Thorson is no lemon.

February 17, 2017

Around the dial

This week gets off to a flying start with Comfort TV's look back at the TV career of Veronica Cartwright, from Leave it to Beaver to The X-Files. 

A trio of episode reviews is next: "Dear Uncle George" is the episode du jour as bare-bones e-zine continues its study of James Bridges' output on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Twilight Zone Vortex takes a closer look at the TZ comedy-western "Showdown with Rance McGrew," and The Horn Section delights with "Pawn Ticket for Murder" on Get Christie Love!

Back when we lived in Maine, we picked up a number of those albums featuring TV theme songs - a great way to spend the evening with friends. Classic Film and TV Cafe tests your knowledge of these themes with a great video quiz.

On our way from Texas to Minnesota we passed by (but not through) Kansas City, which is as good a reason as any to enjoy Faded Signals look at the career of early KC TV personality Bea Johnson.

Care for some holiday viewing? Christmas TV History keeps the season alive with a review of Family Matters Christmas, while Once Upon a Screen spends Valentine's Day with Jack Benny.

Finally in this somewhat abbreviated edition, a shout-out to Andy Stark's new website on Chet Allen, who played the title role in the historic first broadcast of Amahl and the Night Visitors. Regular readers know my affinity for that opera, and I'm always delighted to share a website that not only gives us more information on it, but also gives us a closer look at television from that era. Do Andy - and yourself - a favor by visiting the site and spiking his hits. He'll appreciate it - and so will you.