August 29, 2016

What's on TV? Wednesday, August 31, 1966

As I mentioned on Saturday, we're looking at another part of this vast state this week, but in the long run television is television no matter where you're at. Oddly enough, though, I think the regional differences between stations were far more pronounced back then as opposed to today. They all get the same syndicated shows nowadays, their news people all went to the same school where they all learned to talk the same way, their local shows all come from the same media people, the graphics are identical from one market to another. Odd, isn't it, that we can be so homogenized in that way, yet so divided in every other way.

August 27, 2016

This week in TV Guide: August 27, 1966

Several times we've looked at my adopted hometown of Dallas, but this is our first visit to the Southeastern part of Texas, the largest city in our state: Houston. It's the first in a series of several TV Guides from areas around the country, courtesy of Friend of the Blog Jon Hobden. Although Dallas and Houston are part of the same state, only four hours apart, they couldn't be more different as cities. Let's see if the differences extend to their television as well.

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On Wednesday I told you about my appearance on the Dan Schneider show, where I was part of a discussion on sitcoms. As I was prattling on, I became aware that I must have sounded awfully negative about people; I wasn't a fan of Hal Linden (Barney Miller), I wasn't a fan of Mary Tyler Moore (The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show), I wasn't a fan of the casts of M*A*S*H and Friends. I probably would have been in the "Get off my lawn!" phase if the show had run any longer. I don't mean to sound negative, you know - it just happens.

And yet here I go again, about to tell you all that I'm not a fan of Barbara Feldon, the shimmering Agent 99 of Get Smart. I watched the show as a kid, and I can remember not being enthused by her character even then, at an age when I shouldn't have been able to be that discerning. But I always thought of Get Smart as stupid humor (not meaning that in a dismissive fashion, but more in the Stooges type of vein; it was far too clever to be literally dumb), and nobody does stupid humor better than guys. Get Smart suffered from the inevitable marriage that seemingly has to occur every time you put unmarried men and women characters as co-stars in the same series over a protracted period, and while some (many?) would disagree with me, I didn't think the show ever recovered.

Having said all that, Dick Hobson writes a flattering portrait of her in this week's issue, from her successful marriage to Lucien Verdoux Feldon, of which she says, "in eight years I've never criticized him for anything, nor he I." (they'll divorce the following year), to her reputation as "a girl totally without guile" (she insists she's not a sex symbol, and she remains oblivious to the attention that surrounds her, partly because of her myopia), to her intelligence (as a Shakespearean scholar, she won the jackpot on The $64,000 Question, without help from the sponsors), to her successful run as a model and commercial actress. Even Don Adams' Maxwell Smart treats her as one of the guys, albeit a statuesque one.

So I can't exactly put my finger on what it is about her that didn't appeal to me. Perhaps it's the story I read about, many years after the fact, about how her husband had pitched her to What's My Line? producer Mark Goodman to replace the late Dorothy Kilgallen on the panel - the day after Kilgallen died. Of course, maybe that was one of the complaints she had against him as well, even though she'd "never" criticized him. Perhaps I wouldn't have liked anyone in that role on Get Smart. Most likely, it's just me. As usual.

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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 is the ringmaster at the Krone Circus Arena in Munich, Germany, for performances by some of the world's great stars of the big top. Acts include the Golojews, a Cossack riding troupe; the Four Gaonas, a trapeze act; the Schickler Sisters, a riding trio; Sam and Samy, father-and-son foot jugglers; sword balancer Rogana; and two of Europe's leading clown acts, the Gentos and Pio Nock. Also highlighting the bill are Gert Siemoneit's lions, panthers and tigers; the Sembach Elephants; Kroplins' Chimps; Rupert's Bears; Miss Mara, high-trapeze artist; and Katharina, a high-wire ballerina.

Palace: Hostess Janet Leigh welcomes comedian Allan Sherman; F Troop's Forrest tucker, Ken Berry and Larry Storch; the comedy team of Rowan and Martin; singer Andy Russell; table-tennis experts Bob Ashley and Erwin Klein; and magician Michel de la Vega.

Well, could this be any harder to compare? Unless you're a European circus aficionado, it's very difficult to know how good any of these acts are. Let's assume, however, that their description as "some of the world's great stars of the big top" is accurate. In that case, what this really amounts to is a classic Sullivan show - vaudeville acts left and right. On the other hand, at least we know what we're getting with Palace - Janet Leigh teaming with Allan Sherman on the very funny song parody "Sarah Jackman," Rowan and Martin before their Laugh-In days, and F-Troop's absurd comic trio. Ultimately, your preference depends on how much you like circuses. I'm calling this a push.

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It's that time of the year, when summer winds down and networks start making room for their new fall offerings. As such, we're treated this week to a number of series making their network swan songs, although many of them will find second life in syndication and, later, video.

On Monday, the pop music show Hullabaloo exits NBC (6:30 CT), to be replaced by "a comedy series" called The Monkees. Definitely a trade-up for NBC. In fact, much of the network's Monday schedule is changing; The John Forsythe Show, the unsuccessful follow-up to Bachelor Father (7:00 p.m.), disappears after this week, with I Dream of Jeannie beginning its new season in this time slot. That's followed by the last Monday episode of Dr. Kildare at 7:30 p.m., the fall replacement for which is the short-lived Roger Miller Show, and at 8:00 p.m. John Davidson's summer replacement show goes away, its spot to be taken by the single-season Western drama The Road West (which will be bumped once a month for Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall specials). Only Run For Your Life remains in place, and it has a couple more seasons to run.

Tuesday kicks off with more changes for NBC, as Please Don't Eat the Daisies and My Mother the Car are replaced at 6:30 and 7:00 by the hour-long The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. At least Daisies has a second season ahead, moving to Saturday night; My Mother the Car has only sitcom infamy to look forward to. Incidentally, both Daisies and Mother are preempted tonight tonight in favor of an Up With People musical special hosted by Pat Boone. Dr. Kildare's final Tuesday night episode is also tonight; next time a series appears in this timeslot, it will be Occasional Wife.

ABC's also shaking up their Tuesday night schedule. The much-loved McHale's Navy sails into port for the last time, replaced at 7:30 by The Rounders, a sitcom that lasts but 17 episodes. At 8:00, F Troop makes its Tuesday night swan song, moving to Thursday next week; it makes way for the ill-fated Pruitts of Southhampton, aka The Phyllis Diller Show, At least it runs a full season. And at 8:30, Peyton Place closes its Tuesday run; the second of its twice-weekly episodes will be on Wednesday next season.

Wednesday's changes begin with the end of ABC's The Patty Duke Show at 7:00 and Robert Goulet's spy drama Blue Light at 7:30; taking their place will be the hour-long Western The Monroes. ABC's Wednesday Night Movie is the next to go; the two-hour timeslot will be filled by The Man Who Never Was at 8:00, Peyton Place at 8:30, and the variety/drama anthology Stage '67 at 9:00.

It isn't until Thursday that CBS gets in the act (at least for this week), with The Munsters going off the air and Gilligan's Island moving to Mondays, to be replaced by the adventure series Jericho. ABC makes wholesale changes, ditching Gidget at 7:00 (F Troop moves here) and The Double Life of Henry Phyfe at 7:30 (replaced by The Tammy Grimes Show*). At 8:30 it's the last Thursday episode of Peyton Place; the new place will be filled by That Girl, one of the true hits in this group of new series. And at 9:00 The Avengers breathes its last, with Burt Reynolds' police series Hawk taking its place.

*One of the shortest-lived shows ever, lasting only four episodes before being replaced by the nighttime version of The Dating Game. I'll leave it to you as to how well that trade-off worked.

NBC's changes are fewer, but no less notable. Laredo vacates the Thursday night scene, moving to Fridays to make room for the network's new science-fiction drama, Star Trek, while the summer replacement Mickie Finn's makes way next week for the absurd The Hero.

Friday sees ABC continue its purge of well-known programs; in fact, I'd argue that on the whole, the shows leaving the air are better known and more loved than those replacing them, although there are a couple of exceptions. For example, at 6:30 p.m. The Flintstones leaves, The Green Hornet will arrive. At 7:00 Summer Fun, one of those anthologies where failed pilots go to die, disappears forever, with The Time Tunnel traveling to take its place. The last half of the hour-long Tunnel takes the place of another iconic series, The Addams Family. At 8:00, the network says goodbye to two more well-known shows, Honey West and The Farmer's Daughter, with the disastrous revival of The Milton Berle Show taking their place - briefly. At at 9:00, completing the makeover, Court-Martial airs its last episode, its slot being filled by 12 O'Clock High.
Finally,

Nobody else can really compare to that, but NBC does sack Camp Runamuck and Hank* in favor of Ron Ely's Tarzan. while Sing Along With Mitch and Mister Roberts bid adieu, replaced by The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (in a new timespot) and T.H.E. Cat, respectively.

All in all, quite a week - and I expect more will come next week. I hope you caught your favorites while you could!

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Any interest in sports? It's a quiet week, but not without some drama. In baseball, the Baltimore Orioles have the American League pennant wrapped up, but in the National League a three-way battle continues between the Dodgers, the Giants, and the Pirates, with two of those teams - Los Angeles and San Francisco - facing off in NBC's Game of the Week at 2:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon. The Dodgers wind up on top (one of the few times they best the Giants in a pennant race), only to be swept by the Orioles in the World Series. On Sunday, KHOU in Houston presents syndicated coverage of the final round of the Philadelphia Classic golf tournament, won by Don January. And of course there's always wrestling.

But this is Texas, which means football is never far away, and as the NFL and AFL continue their six-game exhibition schedules, the games start popping up. On Saturday night (8:00) the hometown Houston Oilers take on the Chiefs in Kansas City in a local broadcast, while NBC chimes in Sunday afternoon (2:30) with the Oakland Raiders meeting the Broncos in Denver. Not to be undone, CBS has an NFL game between the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys, from the Cotton Bowl.*

*That same night, though not on television, the AFL begins its regular season with the brand-new Miami Dolphins (co-owned by Danny Thomas, with TV's Flipper the dolphin as mascot) playing the Raiders. The NFL starts its regular season the following week.


Elsewhere, Melvin Durslag - displaying a fascinating, if unintentional, amount of foresight - discusses how "what's good for college football is not necessarily good for television." What he's referring to is the NCAA's practice of limiting the number of times a given school can appear on ABC's Saturday afternoon game during the season. It's done not only to keep certain schools (i.e., Notre Dame) from gaining an unfair recruiting advantage through repeated appearances, but to protect local games from losing fans (and gate receipts), something that would assuredly happen if the top game was shown each week, inducing said fans to stay home and watch it on television.

Which is precisely the situation the NCAA finds itself in late in November, when the top two teams in the nation, undefeated Notre Dame and undefeated Michigan State, meet in the "Game of the Century." I wrote about that game here, including the near-hysteria that was created when it appeared parts of the country would be prevented from seeing the broadcast. Durslag concludes his article by mentioning that on November 26 (the week after the Game of the Century), Notre Dame would be playing USC, while ABC would be telecasting the Army-Navy game, meaningless except to the military academies. Durslag confessed, at the risk of being called a Communist, that he'd rather see the Fighting Irish battle the Trojans any day, a game that turned out to be more meaningful than he could have known: while Army was defeating Navy 20-7, Notre Dame - on the heels of its controversial 10-10 tie with Michigan State - rebounded to crush USC 51-0, thereby clinching the 1966 national championship.


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Before we get to the end, a quick note about the banner at the top of this week's issue. Richard Warren Lewis, a writer for TV Guide along with many other magazines, documents his appearance as one of the three bachelors on The Dating Game, and his failure to win a date with Lainie Kazan. The failure was particularly disappointing to his mother, who has persistently asked why he isn't already married and given her grandchildren.

In an editor's note, we're told that two weeks following this show, Lewis was asked back on The Dating Game, this time as the bachelor asking questions of three attractive bachelorettes. One of them was actress Luciana Paluzzi*, another a Playboy Club bunny. He chose the third, who turned out to be actress and former Miss Canada Joan Patrick. Twelve days later he proposed, and the rest is . . . history?

*Who will be appearing at next month's Mid Atlantic Nostalgia Convention. Maybe I'l ask her about this.

But what kind of history? A Google search of Richard Warren Lewis yields his obituary, which after a little cross-referencing establishes beyond doubt his identity as our subject. Among other things, we learn that he was survived by his wife, Glenda Edwards Lewis. So what happened? There's a good amount of information regarding their engagement, which was widely reported, but nothing more. Were they married? If so, it appears to have ended some time before Lewis' death. Which is too bad, because every fairy tale deserves a happy ending.

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Finally, speaking of that sitcom show as I was, I'd be remiss if I didn't mention Judith Crist, TV Guide's regular movie critic acting here as a TV critic, and her review of The Beverly Hillbillies. After all, we all know how she can carve up her subjects, right?

Surprise! She's a fan of Hillbillies. Now in its fifth season, the show is past its lightening-rod status: is it a "social satire" that gives viewers a "vicarious fulfillment of the great American dream," or does it "[prove] beyond doubt the 12-year-old mentality of the wanderers in the wasteland," i.e. the viewers in what we'd today call flyover country. And as a television veteran, Hillbillies provides comfort food for its viewers. There are no surprises in store: "Banker Drystale's schemes will go agley and his apoplexy will gets its exercise; Granny is going to be the enfant terrible that we love to think all elderly folk are at heart; the wicket and the worldly will get their comeuppance; and the canned laughter - above all, the canned laughter - will tell us where the jokes are."

That may not sound like much, but Crist points to "what makes the show both durable and endurable," which is its "utter lack of pretension." And I think this is an aspect of the show that many critics tend to overlook. Crist compares it to that old, familiar song - "sweet and simple," with likable personalities, good musical support, and comedy that "may be low, but so is the pitch; the irritation, therefore, is minuscule."

In other words, The Beverly Hillbillies is a sitcom that has found the vein of humor in the situation it's mining, and it mines that humor for all it's worth, providing simple (as opposed to simplistic) entertainment to its fans. For a nation that's riding the express lane to a collective nervous breakdown in the next couple of years, that's probably pretty welcome.

August 26, 2016

Around the dial

This is what I've been telling people for years - why I created this blog, in fact: a historian talks about why historians should watch more television, and what it can teach us about our history. It's a job I'm already doing; now, if I could only find a way to get paid for it...

Terry Teachout links to his Wall Street Journal column, in which he reminds all of us why Perry Como mattered. As he points out, Como was one of the most popular singers on television from the late '40s through the '60s, with annual Christmas specials after that. Any chance to catch some of his old shows, and the great (and varied) musical talent that appeared with him, is worth it.

Classic television aficionados are often accused of excessive nostalgia, but it turns out we're not the only one. The New York Times looks at MTV's attempt to appeal to nostalgia for millennials by hearkening back to the Golden Age of music video with MTV Classic - but will it work? Why or why not? Discuss.

At Made for TV Mayhem, Amanda explains why she's been absent for awhile, and what kinds of projects she's currently working on. More power to you - I know how hard that can be. Your absense has been noted, and your presence missed!

Meanwhile, at Comfort TV David offers his opinions on The Defenders following the DVD release of the classic legal drama's first season. I'm still on the fence as to whether or not the show's liberal advocacy will be too much for my conservative senses, but I agree wholeheartedly that it shows how discussing serious issues is not only possible on television, but it can hold people's attention as well.

"The Jungle" isn't one of the great Twilight Zone episodes, but it's far from the worst, either. The Twilight Zone Vortex gives us a comprehensive look at the episode and the Charles Beaumont short story upon which it was based, and shows us how it gives us something to chew on (a pun that won't become clear until after you've read the piece...)

I remember the show Car 54, Where Are You? from my youth, and I must have watched it at some point, but to tell the truth my memories are more of the title than the series itself. Seeing it on MeTV a few years ago didn't slay me with its humor, but as Television's New Frontier: the 1960s reminds us, any series created by Nat "Sergeant Bilko" Hiken has to have a subversive streak in it.

I'm not a big Olympics fan anymore, but I followed the story of NBC's coverage enough to know it left quite a big to be desired, especially when it came to presenting events on tape-delay. Such was not always the case though, as Television Obscurities reminds us with this ad for NBC's coverage of the 1964 Tokyo games. Imagine live coverage of the Opening Ceremonies at 1:00 a.m.

August 24, 2016

Sitcoms: no laughing matter!

Last week I was fortunate enough to be invited back on Dan Schneider's YouTube interview program, along with Daniel Budnik, the greatest Polish-American television blogger ever, and Stephen Winzenburg, Communication Professor at Grand View College in Des Moines* and author of TV's Greatest Sitcoms, to sit around the virtual table and discuss the history of the American sitcom.

*Hopefully he didn't read this piece before the show.

It was great fun spending a Saturday morning talking about TV with two experts, and I don't mind telling you I really had to scramble to keep up with them. Fortunately, once someone thinks you know what you're talking about, you're able to fake it with a couple of smart-sounding lines; the show didn't run long enough for me to be uncovered.


You know, a lot of people think it's intimidating appearing on television, but it really isn't that big a deal, and it helps when you're able to appear from home. For example, although you can't tell from the video, I'm not wearing any pants. It gets hot in Texas in August even with air conditioning, and wearing a sportcoat while sitting under the lights for three hours is enough to make anyone break out in a sweat. Under those circumstances, one takes any little edge he can get. Remember well those words of wisdom from the 1980s, which probably appeared on several of these very sitcoms.


Anyway, be gentle with your comments!

August 22, 2016

What's on TV? Thursday, August 26, 1971

Although we've been in Ohio before (namely, Cincinnati), this is, I believe, the first time we've made a trip to the state's other two population centers: Cleveland and Columbus. I'm still not quite sure I chose the right day and stations to spotlight; there's some quirkiness that I'll point out in due course, but otherwise it's a pretty normal day. Not that normal isn't good. Not at all.

One final note: TV Guide is still indicating what shows are being broadcast in color, despite the fact almost all of them are. This will soon change, and they will simply identify the shows that are in B&W. For my own convenience, I've chosen to accelerate the schedule a bit, so I'm only indicating the B&W shows as well. But then I always ahead of my time.    

August 20, 2016

This week in TV Guide: August 21, 1971

It's easy to exaggerate the differences in television over the last ten years, but after having navigated the cultural disaster zone that was the '60s, I think it's safe to say there are a few programs on this week that you wouldn't have seen in August, 1961.

"Heroes and Heroin" is an ABC News Special on Saturday at 8:30 p.m., hosted by Frank Reynolds. The special is a frank, "chilling" account of the drug addiction problem sweeping the U.S. military. As soldiers return from Vietnam as addicts, both they and the country struggle to cope with the problem, which President Nixon calls "Public Enemy No. 1." Here we are 45 years later, and the drug epidemic seems to be going as strong as ever. At least we treat our returning servicemen and women better than we did when they came back from Vietnam.

Also on Saturday, NBC's Saturday Night at the Movies airs a rerun of the brutal Tennessee Williams story "The Night of the Iguana," with a cast that includes Richard Burton, Ava Gardner and Deborah Kerr, and direction by John Huston. It's a frank, adult story that was probably edited to appear on television in the first place, when it made its network debut in 1968. I can't imagine it airing on TV much earlier than that.

On Thursday night, NET Playhouse presents a group of five short films that purport to depict the world of the future, "where violence, suppression and irrationality reign." Introduced by novelist Kurt Vonnegut Jr., here is the lineup: "1. 'The Scream.' A '1984'-like tape tracks down a nonconformist. 2. 'The Other Side.' An eerie, omnipotent force terrorizes a town. 3. 'Silo.' Two men, trapped in a missile silo, are at odds over starting a nuclear war. 4. 'The Fall of Varema.' Bleak panorama of a city in ruins. 5. 'Faster, Faster!' Aimless activity is dramatized in witty, fast-paced animation." No matter what your tastes, this had to have made for 90 bleak minutes of television. I probably would have liked it.

There are other series appearing throughout the schedule, new and returning, that remind us we're in a new era; The Storefront Lawyers, which by this time has been renamed Men at Law, deals with youth activism in a way you wouldn't have seen back in the days of Father Knows Best. On The Brady Bunch, "Marcia launches a fem-lib campaign," and Dragnet devotes an episode to community-police relations (something which any traditional police drama would probably be dealing with today).

Like, groovy, man.
And yet, we find reminders that this is one of those odd transition years, when the new and the old coexist on the same schedule. On Tuesday night ABC's The Mod Squad, a series that epitomizes the efforts of the networks to capture the youth demographic with "with-it" programming, goes head-to-head with CBS's The Beverly Hillbillies, a show that dates back to 1962 and always offered a subtle spoof of the trendy and absurd. Room 222, the comedy-drama depicting the struggle in urban schools (more on that later), co-exists with the long-running Western The Virginian, even though the latter is now known as The Men From Shiloh; and iconic shows like Gunsmoke to Bonanza remain popular with viewers.

In a way, television was far more egalitarian back then, with a little something for everyone. It had to be, because there was no cable television, no channels devoted to sports or comedy or animals. The VCR was still years away, which meant not only could you not watch your favorite movies and TV shows from years past, you had to be home when your favorite program was shown or try to catch it in reruns, because there was no way to record it.

Of course, such was the case in 1961 as well; it's just that some times bring this home more than others.

Oh, and that extra point about Room 222?: On Wednesday's episode, a 95-pound weakling becomes the new school bully after a few karate lessons. "The episode features karate expert Chuck Norris." Which reminds me - have you heard the one about how there used to be a street named after Chuck Norris? It had to be changed, because nobody crosses Chuck Norris and lives. I wonder if, in 1971, anyone could have imagined...

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By now both Ed Sullivan and The Hollywood Palace are gone; Palace went off the air last year, while Sullivan aired his final broadcast a couple of months ago, although CBS assures us Ed will be back for several specials each year. This doesn't mean, however, that the variety show is completely dead, as we see Sunday night - in some of the most stark images of the difference between "then" and "now."

At 8:30 it's the venerable Red Skelton Show, having moved from CBS to NBC for its final season after running on the Tiffany Network since 1951, and having returned to its original half-hour format. This week, Red's guest is Martha Raye, who joins Red in a trademark sketch, after which he does one of his famed "Silent Spots."

Meanwhile, CBS features the type of variety program that replaced Skelton - The Sonny & Cher Show. Their guest is talk-show host and former band singer Merv Griffin, who teams up with Sonny to spoof the Hollywood lifestyle, and sings a couple of numbers. I've made this comment about The Smothers Brothers Show, and I'll say it about Sonny & Cher as well: for all the countercultural vibe that these stars represent, their shows are strikingly conventional, in style and construction, if not in substance.

On NBC, British singer/comedian Des O'Connor hosts the summer replacement for the Kraft Music Hall, along with co-host Connie Stevens. Their guests are singer Buddy Greco and British comic Jack Douglas. The Peacock Network also has Dean Martin's summer replacement, The Golddiggers*, with Tommy Tune, Marty Feldman, and Charles Nelson Reilly. And pinch-hitting for Carol Burnett, CBS Newcomers features flamenco guitarist Ronald Radford and a cast of regulars including the Good Humor Company and singers Cynthia Clawson , Gay Perkins and Raul Perez. It's hosted by Dave Garroway, who must have spent most of his time thinking to himself, "remember, I had ten years of The Today Show," over and over

*Like Des O'Connor, the Golddiggers broadcast from London. Other than that, any resemblance is purely coincidental.

It's not a variety show per se, but PBS's Evening at Pops has a charming program, with conservative pundit William F. Buckley, Jr. providing the narration (written by Ogden Nash) to Saint-Saëns' classic The Carnival of the Animals.

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Yes, I know this is actually "This Week in
the NFL," but it's the closest I could come.
One of the favorite shows of my youth was NFL Action, the football highlights show produced by NFL Films. It was a summer standard for many years, filling the gap during the summer break between the end of one season and the beginning of another. I remember it most from the late '60s (not quire sure which year), when it ran at 10:30 p.m. on Channel 4 in the Twin Cities, and I was able to watch it because school was out and I could stay up late.*

*I also remember the one year it had a network run, which was preempted on our local station for a game show or something like that. I don't have any clearer memories of it; probably the bitterness created a memory block.

With the new season only a month away, NFL Action is running full steam ahead, with different episodes appearing on different stations depending on where that station happens to be in the course of the syndicated run. WTVN, Channel 6 in Columbus, has a look at "a young team building for the future" - the Pittsburgh Steelers. The perennial losers have some promising players in the lineup for 1971, including quarterback Terry Bradshaw, defensive tackle "Mean" Joe Greene and running back Rocky Bleier. In 1972, they'll add running back Franco Harris; a couple of years after that it's wide receiver Lynn Swann. The rest, as they say, is history.

Meanwhile, WEWS, Channel 5 in Cleveland, has a look back at the "Sensational Sixties," and there's a lot of it - the Green Bay Packers, winners of five championships in the decade; Johnny Unitas, one of the game's greatest quarterbacks; Jim Brown and Gale Sayers, two of its greatest running backs; and the advent of the Super Bowl, America's greatest religious experience. And WSTV, Channel 9 in Steubenville, looks at the 1970 NFC Champion Minnesota Vikings, whose great claim to fame is that of being the last NFL champion prior to the merger - and, since they lost the Super Bowl to the AFL champion Kansas City Chiefs, the last NFL champion who wasn't really the champion.

In the days before constant coverage of the NFL on every network, before the NFL started its own network, NFL Action was one of the few chances to see many of the teams other than your own home team. In many times, it was a better, less saturated time. Good memories.

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Since it's the cover story, I suppose we should ask the same question: is, in fact, anyone watching PBS? One survey finds that most viewers see PBS "not as a medium for 'the people' but rather as a segregated vehicle for the higher-educated segment of the population, and a little left of center." Probably the same could be said of PBS today, except much of the "higher-educated" content has been replaced by pledge breaks dominated by nostalgic boomer-music groups.

PBS's most popular program, by a long shot, is Sesame Street, which attracts as much as 40% of the viewing audience in some markets. Why the awards and critical acclaim can't translate to more viewers is a mystery, though, not only to PBS but to other networks as well. "I don't know, I just don't know," one top programmer says. One reason could be that many public television stations have been consigned to hard-to-find UHF channels (even FCC Chairman Dean Burch can't pick up Sesame Street on his home television).

The network has also struggled to develop traditional "series" television, relying mostly on "anthologies" such as Masterpiece Theatre and documentaries like Civilisation. Without regular stars to tune in to every week, viewers may feel less attachment to the network's shows. Speaking of which, there's a sheer lack of programming, at least when compared to other networks; while each of the big three provide 21 hours of prime-time programming per week, PBS can only manage 13, plus its daytime feed.

Whatever the cause, PBS officials say they're not about to fall into the ratings-game trap. Says David Davis, a representative of the Ford Foundation (one of PBS's major funders), "You might destroy public broadcasting if you tried." He adds, though, that he wouldn't mind finding out how PBS might at least attract a few more viewers - a sentiment echoed by many at the network.

It doesn't explain, though, why one of the most British series possible, the miniseries The Six Wives of Henry VIII, has become such an unexpected hit - on CBS. The unedited version appears next season on Masterpiece Theatre.

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Care for a little comic relief? There's the story of Dora Hall, the woman whose husband literally bought her a television show. I can't bear to recoup the details; you can read a fine article about her here.

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Finally, the weekly ad from the back cover. I'm not sure what would be considered the greater crime today: the smoking, or the Chinese stereotype.


As much as the difference between 1961 and 1971, that's the difference between 1971 and today.