September 1, 2012

This week in TV Guide: September 3, 1966

It's the last week of summer reruns, but before the 1966 TV season officially gets started, ABC fills the airwaves with sneak previews of its most anticipated new shows, including the Batman-inspired The Green Hornet (one season), Hawk (the Burt Reynolds one-season bomb), The Time Tunnel (yep - one season) and That Girl (which actually made it to 1971), and season premieres of the aforementioned Batman, F Troop (final season) and 12 O'Clock High (final season). 

Of course, there was also The Tammy Grimes Show (which, in an era when the worst shows usually made it at least 13 weeks, was cancelled after only four), The Milton Berle Show (which ran only 17 weeks, a disasterous comeback for Uncle Miltie), Robert Lansing's The Man Who Never Was (18 weeks), and The Pruitts of Southampton (aka The Phyllis Diller Show, which at least made it the whole season)Notice a theme with ABC shows?  (Hint: it involves "one season.")  You can read more about what became of ABC's season here.

Not to be outdone, NBC had their own "Sneak a Peek" at three of its new offerings, as well as an ad hyping next week's premiere of The Girl From U.N.C.L.E. with Stefanie Powers [*sigh*] and Noel "Windmills of Your Mind" Harrison .  Two of the sneak peeks were bombs: Tarzan, with Ron Ely, and The Hero, with Richard Mulligan.  The third?  Well, let's just say it boldly went where no man had gone before.

Which of these shows are not like the others? Which of these shows just don't belong?

Interestingly enough, CBS didn't have any teasers, other than its Fall Preview show, which Channel 4 aired at 12:30 on Sunday afternoon.  Apparently the Tiffany Network felt it didn't need to work that hard on introducing its new series.  However, since I spare no effort for my devoted fans, you can watch that show right here:


But while we were saying hello to a host of new shows, we were also saying goodbye to some old favorites: Branded (replaced by Hey Landlord), The Donna Reed Show and Ozzie and Harriet (bumped in favor of Shane, starring the pre-Kung Fu David Carradine, My Favorite Martian (replaced by It's About Time), and Perry Mason (Garry Moore moved into the timeslot).  That last episode of Mason, by the way, was a rerun of "The Case of the Deadly Verdict" - that's the one where Perry actually loses to Hamilton Burger, because his client won't level with him.  Don't worry, though - Perry finds out who did it anyway, and gets his client out of the slammer before they throw her in the gas chamber.  All in all, I'm not sure the new shows were an upgrade on the old.

Many of these programs have episodes (or at least clips) on YouTube - after you're done reading here, mosey on over and take a look.
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There are several mentions of the upcoming Gemini XI launch, the penultimate launch of the Project Gemini program, which was scheduled for Friday, September 9.  In fact, it wouldn't take off until the following Sunday, the 11th, with Pete Conrad and Dick Gordon aboard.  I'm sure, considering the number of reruns on the remaineder of the TV schedule, that the networks probably would have preferred the launch take place on time - after all, there wasn't much else to watch.

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Today the NFL makes a big deal of its Thursday-night* prime time kickoff, but that was nothing compared to the AFL's opening weekend in 1966. The "other league" got the jump on the NFL with a tripleheader, beginning the previous Friday and Saturday nights and concluding with Sunday's matchup between the Buffalo Bills and San Diego Chargers, two of the AFL's dominant teams. But that wasn't all, as NBC would be back this week with another Friday night game, between Joe Namath's New York Jets and the brand-new Miami Dolphins. The NFL, meanwhile, wouldn't start until September 10.

*Except for this year, when opening night was moved to Wednesday to avoid a conflict with President Obama's convention acceptance speech. Instead, the Giants and Cowboys will conflict with Bill Clinton's convention speech instead.

Appropos for the start of the season is Stanley Frank's behind-the-scenes cover story of how CBS and NBC influenced the NFL-AFL merger.  Not surprisingly, it had a lot to do with money.  Back then, the NFL (which became the NFC after the merger) was shown by CBS, while the AFL (which became the AFC) was on NBC.  Now, of course, the AFC is on CBS, the NFC is on FOX, and Sunday Night Football is on NBC.  Got it? 

One interesting sidebar to the TV debate concerns the blackout policy that existed back in the day.  Nowadays games are blacked out in the home market only if they aren't sold out (and even this policy has been liberalized), but back then not only were those games blacked out regardless of how many tickets had been sold, you couldn't see any other game on TV at that time either.  How times have changed - and yet, I suspect there was some progressive owner out there who was envisioning something like Sunday Ticket, and seeing dollar signs.

Elsewhere in the shiny section, Dwight Whitney profiles Eva Gabor and tells us how Green Acres changed her life, Edith Efron writes on the singing heartthrob Jack Jones, and the recipie section gives us new uses for apples.  (Apple-Stuffed Roast Chicken and Zesty Apple Dumplings; write me for the recipies.)  Finally, Monica Furlong, TV critic for the British humour magazine Punch, discusses the best and worst of American TV as seen on British TV.  Her likes: The Virginian ("the British have learned more about the roots of American life, with its neighborliness, its idealism and its guts, from watching The Virginian than from any number of self-conscious cultural exchanges."), The Defenders (which has "a basic honesty - they debate things like drug addiction, mob law, violence, with a passionate sincerity.") and The Dick Van Dyke Show ("we have never yet managed to produce a native television family of undisputed charm.").  Dislikes: Perry Mason ("rolls on interminably, Perry and Della linked as platonically as ever.") and The Fugitive ("[older] ladies want to mother him, the younger ones want to love him, and I suspect that the men would probably quite like to hunt him.").  But her favorite?  "The wit, the grace, the charm, of Yogi Bear, Augie Doggie, Snaglepuss and all the rest" of the Hanna-Barbera cartoons - "the best productions, from any source, which we see on our television screens."

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