Stage 67. This week: "A Time for Laughter: A Look at Negro Humor in America," produced and hosted by Harry Belefonte, and featuring Sidney Poitier, Godfrey Cambridge, Redd Foxx, Richard Pryor, Dick Gregory, and Diahann Caroll - to name a few. I wonder what this show was like? One sketch features Pryor as a nervous undertaker forced to deliver the eulogy when the clergyman doesn't show at the funeral, while another has Gregory as a civil-rights marcher discussing "Black Power." Would we see this today as an example of ethnic African-American humor, or cheap racial stereotypes?
In all likelihood, it's a moot point: since the show was up against Dean Martin (this week's guests: Phil Harris, Sally Ann Howes, Paul Winchell, comedian Bob Melvin and the singing Kessler Twins), it's likely nobody saw it at all. It was successful in one way though, winning an Emmy nomination for best variety special.
"Television Fights the War of Ideas," is one of the feature articles in the issue. When I first saw that, I figured the author might be talking about how TV fights to keep ideas off the air, but in reality it's an examination of the United States Information Agency, the government's propaganda arm, and how it beams the American ideal into living rooms around the world.
The comely cover girl on the right is Cheryl Miller, one of the stars of CBS' series Daktari. Her co-star on the right is Judy the Chimp, who was apparently quite the scene stealer (along with Clarence the Cross-Eyed Lion, who had a stand-in lion for tough stunts). I don't remember a whole lot about this show, nor do I remember Cheryl Miller. In fact, until I ran across this issue, the only Cheryl Miller I knew of was the former basketball player. She does not seem to have had a long career, and whenever TV Guide does a piece like this touting someone I haven't heard much of (for example, Laurie Sibbald, who played Sammy Jackson's girlfriend in the TV version of No Time for Sergeants*), I wonder if they were expected to become the next big thing, or if they were just actors and actresses filling a role.
*Not to be confused with the televised version of the play, which appeared on the U.S. Steel Hour, starring Andy Griffith and adapted by Ira Levin, who later would write something a little less gentle: Rosemary's Baby.
Dean Rusk, the U.S. Secretary of State, appears on an hour-long NBC news special which looks a lot like its Sunday morning regular, Meet the Press. The main topic, of course: Vietnam. CBS presents a repeat showing of its acclaimed production of Death of a Salesman, starring Lee J. Cobb and Mildred Dunnock. It's one of the rare TV plays of the 60s that is available on DVD, and it's well worth watching. CBS also reruns Frank Sinatra's special A Man and His Music: Part II, which is also on DVD and well worth watching, except for the part with Frank's daughter, Nancy. And TV Guide's resident critic, Cleveland Amory, reviews Tim Conway's Western comedy Rango. Ever heard of it? Says Amory, "[I]f you've seen one episdoe, you've seen them all. And although this is, in such a show, by no means bad news, the fact remains there are men still alive who claim to have seen several episodes. They are not many, though, and they are fading rapidly." That explains a lot.
Finally, does anyone other than me remember when CBS used to run what they called "National Tests"? There was the "National Citizenship Test," the "National Driving Test," and on April 4 of this week, the "National Science Test." Each of these shows came complete with an answer sheet for you mark your answers if you're scoring at home - or if you're just watching the show.