May 25, 2018

Around the dial

See that picture up there? Now that's the house I would have liked to have grown up in! Anyway, on to this week's highlights.

At Thrilling Days of Yesterday, Ivan has a truly captivating review of the latest 3-disc set of the 1960s Jackie Gleason Show, put out by Time-Life. I'm old enough to remember this iteration of the Gleason show, though I was young enough at the time that not much of it stuck in my memory. Ivan captures the spirit of the show in his review, though - go read it and see if it makes you want to buy the set.

Inner Toob has the latest on the remake of Magnum, P.I., with Jay Hernandez in the Sellick role. Now, I know what you're thinking - I'm going to rag on another remake of a classic series because I live in the past and can't stand updating the old shows. Well, that's partly right, I'll grant you that. But this typifies the laziness that I see infiltrating television everywhere (and that's nothing new, either) - I mean, what is the point? For those with fond memories of the old show (and I wasn't really a fan, by the way, although I didn't dislike it), why ruin them? And if you're changing enough that you're not going to attract the old fans, then why remake it in the first place? Aren't there enough places in the world to set a private detective drama? Or doesn't the new Hawaii Five-0 pay for the studio?

In a similar vein, Comfort TV asks the question: can new episodes of classic television shows work? Most often they don't (remember the remake of Family Affair? I didn't think so), but on occasion, as with the new Will & Grace and Roseanne, they can strike paydirt. I think it helps to have members of the original cast, but as I said above, I'm leery about something like this unless it can give you something the original couldn't, or didn't, have. The key, as David says, is that "the new episodes [stay] true to what made the source material successful, with no self-awareness, no casting or scripts based on 21st century sensibilities, and no winking at the audience."

"The Day of the Bullet." an atmospheric Stanley Ellin story of two young friends and the divergent paths their lives take, is the latest episode of The Hitchcock Project at bare-bones e-zine. As usual, Jack does a terrific job of taking us through the original short story and how it was adapted into one of the classics of Alfred Hitchcock Presents. 

The Twilight Zone Vortex is back with a a look at another issue of the old Twilight Zone Magazine. This time it's the 1981 Halloween edition, with book reviews by Theodore Sturgeon, Gahan Wilson's review of the movie Dragonslayer, the continuing episode guide by Marc Scott Zicree, a classic TZ screenplay from Rod Serling, and more!

Cult TV Blog takes a rare, but not unprecedented, look across the pond at American TV - this time, it's "Miracle Man," an episode from The X-Files. As was the case with Ivan's Gleason review, John really captures the essential nature of this episode - I think any great review is one that makes you want to see the episode, or read the book, or go out and watch the movie, and that's what this does. It's also nice to see a non-American's perspective of this episode and some of its provocative themes.

The great Clint Walker, star of Cheyenne, died earlier this week at the age of 90. He was a towering presence on television - tall, handsome, with a rich, deep voice. I read somewhere a comment from a man who remembered his girlfriend thinking that Walker was the most handsome man ever; the man didn't resent it because Walker was his hero, too. That's the kind of guy Clint Walker was. A Shroud of Thought has a fine appreciation of his life and career.

Although Roger Moore is The Saint, at least for my money, you can't not like the radio version of Leslie Charteris' famous character, played by the always suave Vincent Price. The Saint on the Radio is one of two new books by Ian Dickerson reviewed this week by Martin Grams; the other is Who Is The Falcoln?, referring to the movie series about Michael Arlen's "gentleman detective" played by George Sanders.

At the always-interesting Garroway at Large, Jodie reports progress on her biography of Dave Garroway, and gives us a fascinating look at the "what-ifs" - books that were never written, people who have since died, programs that no longer exist - that would have given us even more insight into the always interesting, often enigmatic Garroway. Another reason we should all be pack rats. TV  

May 23, 2018

The defense that never rests

Stick with me here - it may be slow going at first, but I think you'll agree the payoff is worth it.

Last week the Church celebrated Pentecost, the day in which the Holy Spirit descended upon the Apostles. There are many titles given to the Holy Spirit, depending on the religion, the region, and the language; one of the most common is Paraclete, which comes from the Greek word παράκλητος, or Parakletos, and roughly translates as, among other things, "Advocate," "Intercessor," or "called to one's aid in a court of justice." (The literal translation is "at one's side.") As the priest teaching our Bible study class said, "Think of the Paraclete as being like a defense attorney." And, of course, that got me to thinking.

The most famous defense attorney in the history of television, of course, is Perry Mason. Perry - Paraclete. Paraclete Mason. Similar, or at least uncanny. I'm not suggesting in any way that Erle Stanley Gardner had this in mind when he named his beloved literary creation; in fact, the name comes from the Perry Mason Company, publisher of Youth's Companion, one of Gardner's favorite magazines as a child.*

*I have to admit that when I had this thought, which came to me instantly, I had to stifle the urge to laugh out loud - which would have been very unbecoming in a Bible study class.

Still, as I've written before, we oftentimes play the role of inadvertent prophets, speaking the truth without even being aware of it. In this case, I can't think of a better name for the greatest defender of them all, I'd like to think that, somewhere in Greece, someone who knows about the show could hear the name "Paraclete Mason" and smile. Or even laugh out loud. TV  

May 21, 2018

What's on TV? Wednesday, May 25, 1966

As was the case with last week's "encore presentation," I was not doing a "What's on TV?" feature back when Saturday's TV Guide story was first run, so this is brand-new. We're looking once again at the Minnesota State Edition, and you'll notice a few things that call out for attention. WTCN, Channel 11, has yet to incorporate colorcasts of Minnesota Twins baseball on a regular basis. (I'm sure there's someone out there who could tell us when that started.)

At 3:25 p.m., ABC has Arlene Dahl's Beauty Spot, a five-minute segment featuring the actress giving beauty tips. Although the program ran in color, the existing copy is in black-and-white.


And one of the guests on Today is famed architect Philip Johnson, who coordinated the design of Lincoln Center, Rev. Robert Schuller's Crystal Cathedral (now the Christ Cathedral) in Garden Grove, California, and the iconic IDS Center in my hometown of Minneapolis. The IDS was by far the tallest building in Minneapolis when it went up in the early 70s; we're so passive-aggressive about these things that for years no other building would attempt to top its height, but would always wind up a foot or two shorter than IDS. That's Minnesota for you.

May 19, 2018

This week in TV Guide: May 21, 1966

Here's another encore presentation, which is a fancy way of describing how I've simply repeated a piece from five years ago. Fear not; we'll return with something new next week, just in time for the long Memorial Day weekend!

Lately I've been checking out Mr. Lucky, a show I'd never seen before, which has been running on MeTV.  Mr. Lucky, produced by Blake Edwards and starring John Vivyan, ran for only one season in 1959 on CBS; it's a charming-enough piece of fluff, the story of an honest professional gambler running a floating casino, but the storylines are often flimsy and the tone a little too silly for my taste.  Had it gone in the direction of Edwards' other hit of the era, Peter Gunn, it might have had more staying power.

However, one of the pleasures of Mr. Lucky is Ross Martin as Lucky's partner Andamo, whose slightly cynical sense of humor often redeems questionable scenes.  And it's that same Ross Martin who shares the cover of this week's TV Guide with his Wild Wild West co-star Robert Conrad.  

Although Conrad was the focal point of the CBS series, it was Martin's performance as Artemus Gordon, master of disguise, that I always appreciated.  After many years in the business, Martin, an exceptionally talented actor, has resigned himself to the fact that he'll never be the star, the heroic romantic lead.  "I can't say I'm happy being a second banana," he says, although he concedes that the role of Gordon, in which he eventually plays over 100 different characters, is "a show-off's showcase!"  He has a friendly but somewhat guarded relationship with Conrad, as he did with Vivyan on Mr. Lucky, but has the admiration of his colleagues.

Although The Wild Wild West was Martin's best-known role, he remained working in television (including two subsequent West movie sequels) until his death from a heart attack in 1981.

◊ ◊ ◊

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..

Ed Sullivan: Scheduled guests: singers Maria Cole and Nancy Sinatra; Metropolitan Opera baritone Robert Merrill; the comedy teams of Allen and Rossi, and Stiller and Meara; Elva Miller, a housewife-turned-singer; and the West Point Glee Club.

Hollywood Palace:  Host Bing Crosby introduces comedian Shelly Berman; singer Leslie Uggams; lyricist Johnny Mercer; the singing King Family; the Three Mecners, Polish acrobats; Mac Ronay, French comic magician; and British vaudevillians Pat Daly and Bill Wayne.

On the one hand you have the great Robert Merrill, the occasionally funny Stiller and Meara, the funny-then-but-not-so-much-now Allen and Rossi; on the other you have Bing Crosby, Shelly Berman and Johnny Mercer.  Almost a push, but not quite, so we'll Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive. The verdict: Palace.

◊ ◊ ◊

Seagram's ads were a staple of sports coverage in the 60s
Some fascinating similarities in the sports coverage from this week, compared to the 1958 TV Guide we looked at a couple of weeks ago.  Let's take a look at them.

This week, as was the case two weeks ago, horse racing was a big event.  Then it was the Kentucky Derby; this week it's the Preakness Stakes, second jewel of the Triple Crown.  And just as Tim Tam would win the Derby and Preakness in 1958 before falling short in the Belmont, Kauai King would win the Derby and Preakness in 1966, only to have his Triple Crown hopes dashed with a fourth place finish in the Belmont three weeks hence.

That TV Guide from two weeks ago featured a championship boxing match on ABC; so does this one. Then, it was the lightweight title bout between Joe Brown and Ralph Dupas; this week, ABC's Wide World of Sports brings us an even bigger fight - Cassius Clay, defending his world heavyweight title against England's champ Henry Cooper, live via satellite from Arsenal Stadium in London.  As I'd mentioned a couple of months ago, boxing was an irregular prime-time performer on network TV by the 60s, but it maintained a steady presence on Wide World - as did its favorite boxer, the soon-to-be-known-as Muhammad Ali.  Ali was good to Wide World, and the show was good to him.

Cooper was thought to have a real chance - he'd knocked Clay down in their previous fight in 1963 before Clay rallied to win.  This time, though, the champ would open up a cut above Cooper's left eye (which would later require 12 stitches to close), and the referee would stop the bout in the sixth round, with Clay retaining his title.

And, now as then, there were a pair of baseball games on Saturday afternoon; now, as then, the Yankees and Indians were involved, though not playing each other.  NBC's Game of the Week has Cleveland taking on the Chicago White Sox, while the Minnesota Twins play the Yankees in Channel 11's Twins broadcast.

There's even bowling on Sunday, as the CBS Bowling Classic kicks off its season on Sports Spectacular.  However, since 1958 we've learned that Sunday afternoons are meant to be filled with sports, so the keglers have to share the limelight with another Twins game, pocket billiards (!), and the final round of the Colonial Invitational golf tournament from Fort Worth (won by Bruce Devlin, in case you're interested).

◊ ◊ ◊

Speaking of sports, there's another article of interest in this issue, notable as much for what it doesn't say as for what it does.  It's Neil Hickey's "Is There An Athletic Gap?", a look at Sunday night's NBC documentary The Russian Sports Revolution.  The question on everyone's mind is why the Soviets have become such a athletic superpower.  The reasons given are the standard ones: special training for promising athletes identified at a young age to be groomed for success, governed and subsidized by a government organization called the All-Union Committee for Physical Culture and Sport.  "It's a sports-crazy country," sportscaster Jim Simpson says, and international success by Soviet teams and individuals has become a prime weapon in the ongoing Cold War.

Accepting the idea that the Soviet system has its advantages, how can the Americans hope to compete?  The ongoing rivalry between the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and the NCAA is blamed for much of the nation's problems.  "We have such a hit-and-miss, shoddy athletic system here it's unbelievable," Simpson says.  A special Senate committee investigation produces such a gloomy prognosis that Vice President Humphrey appoints a special arbitration committee in hopes of resolving the intra-organizational dispute.

Doubtless all of this was true, but we now know much more, including the preponderance of performance-enhancing drugs that were used by Eastern bloc countries, especially East Germany.  Hormones, steroids, blood doping, and the like were thought responsible for as many as 10,000 athletes, many of whom had no idea they were being turned into addicts by their trainers and coaches.

There had always been rumors about what the Eastern Europeans were doing; I wonder if any of them made their way into NBC's broadcast?

◊ ◊ ◊

Scattered notes from the Teletype: Batman, after just one week, has hit the top 10 in Japan.  Johnny Carson begins a five-week vacation in July; Joey Bishop will guest host.  And Martin Landau has a recurring guest-star role in the new Mission: Impossible, playing a makeup artist who's a master of disguise.*

*Possibly a descendant of Artemus Gordon?

The thing is, if you watch the first season of M:I, you'll notice that Landau is in every episode, albeit listed as "Special Appearance by" - but how special can it be if he's there every week?  In fact, one of the reasons for Landau's expanded presence on the series was that star Steven Hill, an Orthodox Jew, refused to work after 4pm Friday until after sundown Saturday, and Landau's character, who in fact was only supposed to appear as one of several rotating guest stars, took up much of the slack.  (Indeed, in several episodes Landau's assignment has little to do with disguise.)  Landau himself refused to sign the typical contract in order to maintain availability for feature film work, and didn't become an actual "regular" until the second season - by which time Hill had been replaced by Peter Graves.

◊ ◊ ◊

In the fall of 1965 the Politz Media Service surveyed 4,020 viewers on their television preferences. Nothing particularly unusual about that; Nielsen's been doing it for quite a while.  What Politz did, however, was break down the results by various demographic characteristics*, and the results produced a number of surprises.

*I'm assuming, based on the amount of ink used on this article, that such extensive demographic profiling was fairly uncommon for the time.

For one thing, it appears that education level is not a defining characteristic when it comes to the most popular television programs.  Shows that might ordinarily be thought of as "low-brow" -  Red Skelton, Gomer Pyle, Lawrence Welk, Ed Sullivan and The Beverly Hillbillies were among the shows cited - were among the most popular programs for college graduates.

In search of an explanation for these seemingly counter-intuitive results, Herbert Kay Research, Inc. came up with some "tentative" conclusions, including: "People of high intelligence tend to like the same programs that people of lower intelligence like."  That sounds obvious considering the findings of the Politz poll, but it's interesting nonetheless; we've long heard about how television viewers don't really want intelligent programming.  Is this evidence of that, or do intelligent people watch "non-intelligent" shows because that's all that's on?

Ah, you might say, but intelligent shows don't get high ratings because there aren't enough smart people to watch them.  Everyone knows smart people have better things to do with their time than watch the boob tube!  But you'd be wrong - according to Kay Research, "proportionately more people of high intelligence than low were found among those who habitually watch a great deal of television."

I suppose you could argue that TV had already succeeded in dumbing down even the smartest audience.  But it's probably a question we'll never be able to answer.  TV  

May 16, 2018

G-Men vs. Commies

Efrem Zimbalist Jr., left, receives an award for "patriotic civilian service" from FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, center, and Gen. William C. Westmoreland, Army chief of staff, in Washington, Dec. 4, 1968. (AP)
i
I've mentioned in the past that our Sunday night routine includes watching The FBI, starring the great Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. and a succession of partners, fighting criminals and making the country safe from Communism. Although J. Edgar Hoover never appeared in the show, his fingerprints - so to speak - are all over it, and it must break not only his heart but that of Zimbalist and everyone else who worked on the series to see the mess the Bureau has become. Therefore, let us think of happier times, when the FBI was seen as the shining light of American law enforcement. The following, a kind of compendium of past mentions of the show, is one of the essays included in my forthcoming book. 

Although J. Edgar Hoover first came to prominence with the FBI’s 1936 capture of gangster Alvin Karpis, “Public Enemy #1,” I think it’s safe to say that his real passion in life (at least from a law enforcement perspective) was protecting the nation from the threat of Communism. Hoover not only viewed Communism as the greatest danger to the stability of the American government, he also saw other groups (anti-war radicals, civil rights protesters) as working in tandem with the Reds, either intentionally or inadvertently, to undermine American democracy.

This was evident at the very start of The FBI. Right there in the show’s original opening credits, viewers were informed of the Bureau's mission: to “protect the innocent and identify the enemies of the United States Government.” That opening title scene was perfect, really; perhaps only the start of Perry Mason did a better job of summarizing what the show was all about. After a cold opening that gave us a look at the episode’s criminal, along with the case number and why he or she was wanted by the FBI, the scene dissolved into shots of Washington icons: the Capitol, the Washington Monument, and the Supreme Court, ending with a zoom-in on the Justice Department, home of the Bureau. Between that and the majestic theme, written by Bronislaw Kaper, it was enough to make you run right out there and sign up. I’m sure Hoover must have loved it.

Hoover and the FBI had had a brilliant public relations machine for years, dating back to radio programs such as I Was a Communist for the FBI, and favorable articles in the nation’s publications and periodicals. By the mid-60s, though, the Bureau was going through some tough times, what with the twin barrages brought by Vietnam and civil rights (and Hoover’s surveillance against leaders of both movements), and though the Bureau’s reputation was probably far above where it is today, a little good publicity couldn’t hurt. "We finally decided to clarify for the public what the FBI does," Cartha DeLoach, Hoover's #2, said. "We're simply an investigative agency. We can't protect people - like civil rights workers, for instance. There's some confusion about what we do and I hope this program will show people how we really work." Nicely played.

Over the years, Hoover had received many requests from television people interested in doing a weekly FBI series, and it’s been said that he personally wanted producer Quinn Martin, he of The Untouchables and The Fugitive, to be the one who did it. Martin had resisted the idea at first; he was, he said, "much more politically left of the FBI," but he eventually too up the challenge, and despite their political differences the two men liked each other and got along well.

A cynic might be tempted to dismiss The FBI as an entertaining piece of propaganda designed to show the Bureau in the best light possible, and in fact it does come across as a paragon of law enforcement, more interested in getting the guilty party than simply making a quick arrest (although ideally doing both); one of the highlights of each episode is when the fugitives realize the Feds are on their trail. “It’s one thing to have the cops after us,” one of them will always say to the other, “but now we’ve got the FBI out there.” It’s a sobering moment - from then on, no matter how much they may try, they know in their heart of hearts that the jig is up.

The perfect man to embody that philosophy was the show’s star, Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. Hoover may not have hand-picked the cast on each week’s show, but the Bureau did have approval rights, and supposedly screened the background of every potential actor and actress who appeared in order to make sure they upheld the image that Hoover wanted projected. Over the years Zimbalist and Hoover became lifelong friends; every year, when the show’s production team would come out to the Capital to shoot some exterior shots establishing location, Hoover would have him come to his offices where they'd chat a bit, and then Zimbalist would address the agents, who cheered him as their hero. (At Hoover’s funeral in 1972, Zimbalist was seated in the FBI section.) For years afterward, Zimbalist recounted, men and women would come up to him, current or former FBI agents, and they would tell him of how watching him on the series had inspired their own career choice. It was humbling, he said, and how could it not be?

Give credit to Efrem, though, because his portrayal of special agent Lewis Erskine was an iconic one, the very definition of the hard-working, incorruptible FBI man. So identified was Zimbalist with the role that for the political satirist Art Buchwald he was the FBI; in a hilarious column about the first known wiretap (President Grant tells a Hooveresque surrogate “I want you to go to Boston and find out what Alexander Graham Bell is up to”) the agent registers in the hotel under the name of “Zimbalist”; another of his columns features an agent named “Efrem Zumgard.”

The FBI didn’t spend all its time fighting Communist agents; there was a fair share of bank robbers, kidnappers, corrupt union officials, organized crime bosses, and other lawbreakers whose nefarious activities took them across state lines (and therefore into the jurisdiction of the FBI); and Quinn Martin tended to shy away from hot-button issues such as civil rights (he was as sensitive to audience and sponsor reaction as anyone). It’s probably true, though, that the most frequent heavies were those who spoke with eastern European accents and preyed on the weaknesses of those who could be blackmailed into helping them – particularly if those people worked with Department of Defense contractors. Occasionally, you’d even meet a true believer, someone who of their own free will was involved in providing aid and comfort to the enemy, in the form of top secret information on a new missile guidance system which they hoped would lead to the victory of the peace-loving Soviets or Red Chinese.

No matter. The FBI always got their Commies.

As was the case with Mission: Impossible, The FBI had to adapt as the public began to adopt a more cynical attitude toward government, and in lieu of Communist agents, La Cosa Nostra became a favorite target. I wonder, though, if The FBI wasn’t one of the last dramas of the ‘70s to actually portray the war against Communism in a favorable light. Although several of the Red agents were given very complex treatments, with some of them even emerging as sympathetic characters, there was never the slightest suggestion that what they were doing could be ignored or excused. They were involved in espionage, and if they were Americans, they were also betraying their country. Neither the FBI nor The FBI thought much of that.

There was, in that day, great dignity – even nobility – in the idea of being a part of the world's greatest police organization, which brings us back once again to those opening credits. As much as anything, they showed us how the FBI was, even if it was never how it was. TV  

May 14, 2018

What's on TV: Thursday, May 18, 1961

I promised the TV listings would be new this week, and so they are. It is, I think, a pretty average day TV-wise, but as always what strikes me most from this time period is the local flavor of the programming. With national educational programming in its infancy, many of the shows on KTCA are locally produced, and, in particular, WCCO's daytime schedule is heavily local. That's not to say we don't have local programming today as well, but much of it has the feel of an infomercial, especially the features presented on what passes for local morning "news." Oh well. I think on the whole, you'll find these Minneapolis-St. Paul listings, as always, worth a read.

May 12, 2018

This week in TV Guide: May 13, 1961

I'm on vacation the next couple of weeks. Not the kind of vacation where you go on a trip or take time off your job - just a blogging break. In the meantime, we'll be revisiting a couple of TV Guides from the past, starting with this issue from five years ago, which is long ago enough to introduce it to new readers. I'll throw in new programming listings on the Mondays, but otherwise it's best-ofs for the next two weeks, with new TV Guides resuming after that.

The new Chairman of the FCC, Newton Minow, kicks off this week's edition of TV Guide with an Open Letter to the public, asking for their help in improving television.

Minow is responding to a recent Open Letter to him by the editors of TV Guide, in which they had called on the FCC to take action on several fronts, including the amount of violence on TV, the tendency of local stations to pre-empt educational shows being broadcast by the networks, and that programming decisions are being governed almost completely by the ratings.

In his response, Minow quite rightly points out the public's role in keeping TV responsible - after all, each station's license is reviewed by the FCC every three years, during which time they must show how they've served "the public interest."  If the public doesn't feel that its interests are being served, speak up!  He also talks about a study the commission is conducting regarding the influence of the ratings system and the role of talent agencies in casting decisions.

Minow also stresses how little of the TV band is actually being utilized - "85% of available television broadcasting frequencies are hardly used."  With the advent and continued development of UHF, the time will eventually come when "we will be able to provide every community with enough stations to permit all parts of the public to receive programs directed to their particular interests."  That's a very intriguing statement - in one sense it prefigures today's glut of specialized cable stations, especially when he references how some stations "will recognize the need to appeal to more limited markets and to special tastes."

However, Minow also makes the assumption - no, that's not quite right.  He doesn't assume that educational and cultural programming will thrive in this environment.  What he says is that after this model has come of age, "[t]here will be time to prove that television stations can make money by appealing to our highest capacities instead of our lowest."  In fact, it is here that he throws it back in the public's lap, saying that while the FCC can provide leadership in this area, "the best leadership rarely can take people where they do not want to go."

What's interesting about this is that it had only been four days earlier - undoubtedly after this issue had gone gone to press - that Minow had given his famous speech to the National Association of Broadcasters in which he excoriated television as "a vast wasteland."   So while we know Minow well, he was probably far less well-known to the public at the time of this article.  I personally think the timing of the article, coming so closely to the speech, is fascinating.  (I wonder which one was written first?)  It causes you to read the article more closely, to look for signs of it being something of a talisman, a sign of Minow's attitude toward the medium.  In the article he concludes by saying that television "has a responsibility to serve the Nation's needs as well as its whims" and a duty "to assist in preparing a generation for great decisions."  It's no stretch to connect the article to his speech, in which he states that when television is good, "nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse."

Television, Newton Minow concludes, "has a deep obligation to guide our country in fulfilling its future." And I suppose it a way it has.  For better - and for worse.

◊ ◊ ◊

Click to enlarge
The Emmys (or "Television 'Emmy' Awards" if you prefer) are Tuesday night on NBC, hosted by Dick Powell in Hollywood and Joey Bishop in New York.*  As is the case with Oscar telecasts of the time, this year's show is relatively late in the evening (9pm CT), and is scheduled for a compact running time of 90 minutes.  NBC was the broadcaster of record for the first few Emmy shows, but by the end of the 60s it will be rotated among the networks, a situation that exists (with a few exceptions) to this day.  You'll also notice that back then the Emmys were held in May, at the end of the TV season.  It's not until 1977, when they were delayed by a strike, that they moved to their current date at the start of the following season.

*Coincidentally, I'm sure, both Dick Powell and Joey Bishop were at the time starring in series on NBC.

The most noticeable thing about this year's program, viewed from today's perspective, is the list of nominees. For example, in the since-abandoned category "Program of the Year," the nominees include specials by Fred Astaire and Danny Kaye, a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation of "Macbeth," NBC Sunday Showcase's "Sacco-Vanzetti Case," and - NBC's 1960 political convention coverage. Not something you'd be likely to see nowadays. (It didn't win, though - "Macbeth," starring Maurice Evans and Judith Anderson, which was the evening's big winner, took home the award.)

Other categories included "Outstanding Program Achievements" in humor, drama, variety, news, public affairs and education, and children's programming. The acting awards were for acting in a special, series (comedy or drama; there were no individual categories), and variety show. Then there were the usual directing and writing awards.

I think this, as much as anything, shows the evolution of television over the years. The preponderance of variety shows, the inclusion of public affairs (low-rated though they might be), even the number of nominees (five in programming categories, but only three in each acting category) - well, it was just a different time. As for the winners - you can find out about them here.

◊ ◊ ◊

Even without Hollywood Palace, I can't seem to shake the urge to see what Ed Sullivan's got going.  It's such a good way to find out what's hot right now.  And this week Ed has Metropolitan Opera star Richard Tucker, singer Teresa Brewer, Gene Barry, star of Bat Masterson, The Three Stooges, clarinetist Pete Fountain and his jazz group, comedians Larry Griswold and Adam Keefe, and the Idlers, Coast Guard vocal group.  And that would be a hard act for anyone to follow. 

Dinah Shore's got a pretty good lineup on Sunday as well, on NBC.  Her guests include jazzman Red Novaro, the great musical-comedy star Carol Channing, singer Jack Jones (who's still going strong today), and the NORAD Command Band.*  And opposite the Emmys, Garry Moore's CBS show (a repeat) has comedian Alan King, singer Denise Lor and calypso singer Steve DePass.  Of course, he also has a regular who went on to some variety show fame of her own - Carol Burnett.

*With all these military groups on TV, one wonders if this was a recruiting tool?

And an interesting note, apropos of nothing in particular.  Dave Garroway, host of the Today show, is on vacation for the week.  Subbing for Dave is none other than John Daly, host of What's My Line?  Daly was, until the previous year, VP of news for ABC, as well as the evening news anchor.  He did this while hosting What's My Line? for CBS.  And now he's appearing on Today on NBC.  What a guy!

◊ ◊ ◊

I’ve mentioned in the past how popular bowling was on TV of the early 60s, and this week is no exception, as Wide World of Sports devotes 2½ hours to the semifinals and finals of the National Invitational Bowling Championship from Paramus, New Jersey.  The winner takes home a whopping $15,000 first prize - by contrast, Gene Littler, winner of the U.S. Open golf championship the following month, only gets $14,000.  How times have changed.

This was actually replayed on ESPN Classic a few years ago, as you can see here.  You're going to have to watch it to see who wins, though!


The best sports story of the issue is Melvin Durslag's profile of Leo Durocher, who's left his job as color commentator on NBC's Game of the Week to return to baseball as a coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers.  It's widely rumored that Leo the Lip will succeed Walter Alston, but it doesn't happen.  Leo's next job managing will be with the Chicago Cubs, and his tenure will be remembered for the Cubbies' collapse in 1969, as the Amazin' New York Mets storm ahead late in the season on the way to their improbable championship.

Durocher has some interesting ideas on the business of baseball.  "My policy would be no televising of home games," he says.  "It doesn't build fans.  In most major league towns there already are enough fans.  Your problem is getting them to buy tickets."  TV doesn't help, says Durocher, "when you give them the games for nothing.  I would televise only a few road games.  You show home games and it will murder you."

That was the conventional thinking for a long, long time - even as recently as the early 90s.  Today, of course, almost every team televises almost every game, home and road.  It's not quite free, though - the vast majority of these games are on cable sports channels.  But Leo's right about one thing: the revenue streams that come to sports from rights fees, marketing fees, naming fees and the like, mean that nowadays the least important part of the equation is the fan.

◊ ◊ ◊

This week's cover story is on Lorne Greene, star of NBC's hit Bonanza.  I have to admit that Bonanza was not my favorite show growing up; my grandparents liked it, possibly because they'd been farmers once.*  Even despite my ongoing infatuation with classic TV, I've never warmed to it.  Maybe if I made a concerted effort to sit down and watch it - or maybe not.

*Of course, they liked Lawrence Welk, too.

I was never a big Lorne Greene fan back then, either, but I have come to appreciate him.  There was a dignity to his speech and his on-screen manner that we don't see as often today.  And it's not surprising; after all, Greene was the chief radio broadcaster for the CBC, becoming known as the "Voice of Canada," before relocating to the states in the early 50s and turning to acting.  His career on Broadway and was hit and miss - mostly miss - before he went to television and Bonanza.  The rest, as they say, is history.

It's amusing that Greene's three TV sons - Michael Landon, Pernell Roberts and Dan Blocker - "are apt to fall into the son role despite their best intentions," often asking Greene for advise of various kinds.  Greene had other series after leaving the Ponderosa - most infamously, perhaps, as Commander Adama in the original Battlestar Galactica - and was the longtime host of NBC's Macy's Parade coverage.  But it will always be as Pa Cartwright that Lorne Greene will be most remembered.

◊ ◊ ◊

Some histrionics here, wouldn't you say? What would Newton Minow think?


It's a good companion to this week's "sign of the times" article, a debate between Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice John Dethmers and NBC News Executive VP William McAndrew, on the question "should television be permitted to cover courtroom proceedings?"  Justice Dethmers says no - there are too many potential pitfalls.  The witnesses would be too aware of the camera.  Judges up for reelection might gain an unfair advantage from their on-air exposure.  Most of all, Dethmers is concerned that TV's insatiable appetite for ratings (and the revenues they produce) might cause them to focus on the more "sensational" aspects of trials, rather than the "mundane and prosaic monotony of learned discussion of legal and Constitutional questions." 

On the flip side, McAndrew feels that by televising trials, the broadcaster is fulfilling "part of his obligation to keep the public as fully informed as possible on as many vital matters as possible."  The public, he contends, "has a right to know what goes on in the courtroom" - it's the best guarantee of a fair trial.  He assures us that broadcasters don't "look to the courtroom for a show" but for news "that at times may have an important impact on history."  He also contents that many of the concerns about exposure would exist with or without the presence of the cameras.  Act against them, he urges the Bar Association, rather than blaming TV.

We know how the argument ultimately ends, but one thing's for sure: I doubt that either of these men - nor Newton Minow, for that matter - could possibly have foreseen how television would develop, that one of those dedicated stations of which Minow speaks would wind up broadcasting nothing but courtroom trials, and that the coverage would be both a public service and a sensational circus, and that the very news channels that in 1961 might have been seen as a dream come true would, by 2013, be far closer to the vast wasteland. TV