March 10, 2012

This week in TV Guide: March 11, 1967

Every once in a while, you have a week where nothing much happens.  Such was the week of March 11, 1967.  Oh, there's a very nice picture of Dorothy Malone of Peyton Place on the cover (although I think the picture of her on the inside is better).  There's a profile of Noel Harrison, the male lead in The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.  Harrison is probably better known for his hit "The Windmills of Your Mind," because let's face it - when you're sharing screen time with Stefanie Powers, you are not the one people are going to notice.  Trust me on this one.

No, this time I think the programming section itself is going to tell us what we want to know about the week.  And what struck me in flipping through these pages was the heavy amount of what Terry Teachout might agree would have been thought of as "middlebrow" programming.  They're the kind of shows that you seldom see on TV anywhere anymore, let alone the major networks.  Maybe Ovation, possibly PBS once in a blue moon, but otherwise your chances of seeing a documentary on Arturo Toscanini, as viewers would have seen Sunday afternoon on NBC, are nil.  Furthermore, the average person back then probably knew how Toscanini was - after all, he'd conducted the NBC Symphony from 1937 to 1954, and he'd only died ten years before.  Would have liked to have seen that show.  I might well have been watching the Black Hawks vs. the Maple Leafs on Channel 11, though.

If classical music wasn't your bag, though (speaking in the vernacular of the time), you might have dug CBS's special "Saigon: The City Behind the Headlines," on Tuesday at 9pm.  Considering the state of the war at that point, and the climate at home, I wonder how positive a report it was.  Might have still erred on the side of the military; I think the real rebellion from the media was about a year away.

Back to Sunday for a minute - CBS had three great cultural programs on Sunday morning: the religious shows Lamp Unto My Feet and Look Up and Live, and the arts show Camera Three.  I was always irritated that we didn't get these in Minneapolis, since our CBS affiliate saw fit to substitute Bowery Boys and Laurel & Hardy movies.  Fortunately, since my copy of the March 11 edition is the Minnesota statewide edition, I can tell you that Camera Three featured a discussion of the English artist Aubrey Beardsley.  ABC countered with Discovery '67, which visited Moscow to find out what life is like for little Russkie kids.

On Wednesday, the local independent (the aforementioned channel 11) had the conclusion of the Royal Shakespeare Company's War of the Roses, with Ian Holm as "Richard III."  The local NET (educational) station was not to be outdone, with its own Shakespeare programming - the epic An Age of Kings.  No word on which episode they were showing.  Later on NET continues with a one-hour profile of the director John Huston.

Project 20 was an acclaimed documentary series on NBC, and on Thursday at 6:30* they presented "End of the Trail," with the western character actor (and three-time Oscar winner) Walter Brennan narrating the story of the American Plains Indians.  Surprisingly, this program is available on DVD.  After that, NBC continued with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans hosting the annual telecast of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus.

*Remembering that at the time, network prime-time programming began at 6:30.  It wasn't until the very early 70s that it was moved to 7pm, so that local stations could present programs of interest to the community - like Entertainment Tonight and Wheel of Fortune.

No documentaries on Friday night, but more prestige programming - the once-great Hallmark Hall of Fame, which presented Lynn Fontanne and Julie Harris in "Anastasia," the story of the woman who claimed to be the sole surviving child fo Czar Nicholas II.  I have to believe that with that cast, it was pretty good, but could it possibly compare to the movie version with Ingrid Bergman?

And then there's the classic middlebrow show - Ed Sullivan, who probably did more to bring culture to the masses than anyone this side of Alexander Fleming.  Ed's show features Lou Rawls, Nancy Ames, and Stiller and Meara, among others.  Mind you, for every program of this type, there were ten times the number of Green Acres, Beverly Hillbillies, and the like.  But ask yourself - how many of these shows would you be able to find on your 250 channels today?

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