First, the football. As I alluded to in my article earlier this week, years of segregation (officially or unofficially) had left the Sugar Bowl as the weakest of the Big Four New Year's games, and by 1973 ABC had moved the game to New Year's Eve, in an effort to build an audience apart from the Cotton Bowl on CBS, against which the Sugar Bowl was usually shown.* 1973 would be different, though, as the game hosted a marquee matchup for the ages: top-ranked, undefeated Alabama vs. third-ranked, undefeated Notre Dame for the national championship.**
**Second-ranked, undefeated Oklahoma was on probation, making them ineligible for a bowl game. It was understood that if Notre Dame defeated Alabama, they would leapfrog the Sooners into the number one spot.
It had been dark and rainy during the day, with tornado warnings in the area, and at one point ABC sports head Roone Arledge allegedly wondered out loud if he might be able to persuade the two schools to postpone the game for a few days, so that the weather wouldn't play a factor. Absurd, I know - even he didn't have that kind of power back then. (Today, who knows?) At any rate, the moment passed and the game kicked off as scheduled. The lead seesawed back and forth, and late in the fourth quarter Notre Dame, nursing a slim one-point lead, found themselves staring at third and long from inside their own five-yard line. In a daring bit of play-calling, the kind that wins national championships, Notre Dame QB Tom Clements, from his own end zone, hit Robin Weber on a play-action pass for 35 yards and the first down. Notre Dame would hang on to win this first-ever meeting between the two college giants, 24-23, and claim the national championship.
The next year the two teams would meet again, this time in the Orange Bowl. Alabama was again undefeated and top-ranked; Notre Dame was an also-ran at 9-2, but in Ara Parseghian's final game as coach, the Irish would beat the Tide again, 13-11.
Notre Dame vs. Alabama for the national championship. Sounds familiar, doesn't it? I wonder who's going to win this time?
|The 1974 Rose Parade on independent WTCN|
The bowl games started at 1pm, with the Cotton Bowl on CBS. (Nebraska 19, Texas 3), followed at 3:45 with the Rose Bowl on NBC (Ohio State 42, USC 24), and concluded with the nightcapper, also on NBC, the Orange Bowl (Penn State 16, LSU 9). Back then college football games didn't run four hours; NBC even scheduled a recap of the day's coverage for 9:45, before the local news.
More sports? A quadruple-header of college football on Saturday: in the afternoon it's the Sun Bowl on CBS (Missouri 34, Auburn 17), the Astro-Bluebonnet Bowl on ABC (Houston 47, Tulane 7) and the East-West Shrine Game on NBC (East 35, West 7); ABC has the nightcap, the Gator Bowl (Texas Tech 28, Tennessee 19).
Sunday belongs to the pros, with the NFC and AFC championships. In the NFC, Minnesota defeated Dallas 27-10, while in the AFC it was Miami over Oakland by the same score. The Dolphins would defeat the Vikings in the Super Bowl two weeks later, the second of the Vikings' four defeats. By contrast, this year the NFL's regular season won't even be done on December 30.
Here's something else that's changed: the NHL played hockey! The local game was the Minnesota North Stars vs. the New York Rangers on Sunday night (Rangers won, 4-3) and NBC presented a special Friday night edition between the Rangers and the Boston Bruins (the Rangers won that one as well, 4-2).
And now the news. In The Doan Report, Rhode Island Senator John Pastore calls again for hearings on television violence. Like that did a lot of good. And there's a new movement to curb the proliferation of network reruns. In favor: unions, who hope that more episodes will increase studio employment. Opposed: the networks, who claim that cutting back on reruns would pose a significant financial hardship.
Speaking of episodes, the new year used to introduce what was called the "Second Season," when the networks introduced their first wave of replacements for their failed shows, and so a number of series make their swan songs this week: Tenafly and the anthology Love Story on NBC, and Roll Out! on CBS. Roll Out! was the network's attempt, some thought, to copy M*A*S*H's success with World War II, while Tenafly was notable for being one of the first series to feature a black in the lead role, with James MacEachin as a former police detective turned private eye.
And with the shifting of the schedules, a few favorites prepare for new timeslots. ABC's Toma, which would become Baretta next season, prepares to move from Thursday to Friday to make way for two new series, Chopper One* and Firehouse. Neither would make it past the Second Season. Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law is also on the move, from its Wednesday time to Saturdays. An upcoming CBS series, Dirty Sally, is previewed on Gunsmoke. That one didn't go far, either.
*A type in TV Guide rendered this series "Hopper One." Perhaps that's why they weren't able to find an audience; the audience wasn't able to find the show.
And then there's a series that did make just a little splash. On PBS' Masterpiece Theatre, a postscript indicates that "Next week: 'Upstairs, Downstairs,' a 13-part drama about life in Edwardian England" will begin. As I recall, that went over a bit more than those other series...
The 90-minute Midnight Special featured a compilation show spotlighting million-seller artists, including the Edgar Winter Group, Jim Croce, Loggins and Messina, Al Green, Curtis Mayfield, Billy Preston, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Dr. Hook and the Medicine Show, the O'Jays, and Gilbert O'Sullivan. The hour-long In Concert countered with Seals and Crofts, Jessie Colin Young, Eddie Kendricks and Walter Heath.
This isn't really a fair fight; Midnight Special is cherry-picking its best acts from the year, so it isn't hard to assemble an all-star cast. Nevertheless, when your big guns are Seals and Crofts, you're in trouble. The verdict: the clock strikes twelve for In Concert; a special night for the winner, The Midnight Special.
I'll offer this matchup whenver the occasion arises, and as a bonus I'll throw in the syndicated Don Kirshner's Rock Concert whenever it's in the listings.
And since we're on the subject of comparisons, there was something else on Monday night besides the Sugar Bowl - the battle of the network New Year's Eve programs. On NBC it's the second edition of Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve*. which comes from the ballroom of the Queen Mary in Long Beach, CA and features host George Carlin, Billy Preston, the Pointer Sisters, Tower of Power and Linda Ronstadt, with a live cut-in to Dick in Times Square as the new year approaches.
*Yes, you read that correctly. The first two New Year's Rockin' Eve shows were telecast not on Clark's longtime partner ABC, but on NBC. In 1972 the show was called Three Dog Night's Year's Rockin' Eve, hosted by - appropriately enough - Three Dog Night, and also taped on the Queen Mary. Beginning in 1974, the show would add Dick's name to the title and would move to ABC, where it remains to this day.
Ironically, ABC's Wide World of Entertainment would counter-program that night with American Bandstand's 20th Anniversary Show, starring - of course - Dick Clark.
Meanwhile, on CBS Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians would make their 18th consecutive New Year's Eve appearance on TV, having started on CBS radio in 1929. Guy's sole guest was singer Barbara McNair. Among the pieces the Royal Canadians would play that night, besides "Auld Lang Syne": "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown." This clip is from three years later, but I think you get the picture.
Channel 4, the CBS affiliate in Minneapolis, always tape-delayed Lombardo's show so that it would ring in the new year at midnight Central time. To fill in the gap until Lombardo's show started, local children's TV host John Gallos would host an annual airing of Laurel and Hardy's The Music Box. To this day, I'll associate The Music Box with New Year's Eve.
And that kid on the cover? That's "Mason Reese, 7-year old huckster." Back in the early 70s, Reese was ubiquitous on television, appearing on commercials for Ivory soap, Post Raisin Bran, Perdue chicken, Underwood chicken spread, the Zayre store chain, and more. If he wasn't pitching products, he was chatting it up with Dick Cavett and Mike Douglas.