December 8, 2012

This week in TV Guide: December 9, 1967

It's a little more than two weeks until Christmas, and the networks start to ramp up their holiday presentations.  After all, it isn't too late to plug those last-minute gift ideas!

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For once, we're actually looking at a football weekend more like the ones we know today.  We're still in the two-league, two-network era, and NBC (AFL) and CBS (NFL) battle on both Saturday and Sunday; in the meantime, ABC counters with the final college football game of the regular season, Florida vs. Miami at the Orange Bowl.  It's interesting how Miami is referred to in TVG as "Miami of Florida"; as they often were back then.  They were a good but not great college team, and the Miami that everyone usually thought of in the college game was Miami of Ohio.*

*Known as the "Cradle of Coaches", having produced, among others, Paul Brown, Sid Gillman, Woody Hayes, Ara Parseghian, Bo Schembechler, Weeb Ewbank and Jim Tressel.  You could start a coaching hall of fame right there.

It's interesting that both leagues offered games on Saturday.  The AFL had Saturday games from time to time throughout their existence (see here), but the NFL didn't usually go that route until the college season was done.  Of course, back then it was also unusual to have a college game as late as December 9.  How unusual?  Well, 1967 was the last year that the college national champion was selected before the bowl season - from 1968 on, Associated Press would take their final poll following the January 1 games.  But on December 9, 1967, the national champion had already been chosen, the poll having been taken following the November 25 games.  (The champ that year was USC, by the way; most of the top-ranked teams concluded their season on November 25.)  The fact that regular season games continued to be played after the final poll - well, it's hard to explain, particularly on a TV blog.  But I think we can conclude that the NFL considered the college game to be no longer a threat by December 9.

NBC offered viewers three of the four AFL games played that weekend, and had the early game on Saturday, the Bills vs. the Patriots in Boston.  (On head-to-head against the Florida-Miami matchup, at 1pm CT.)  CBS had the late game, a key late-season matchup between the Packers and Rams* in Los Angeles (3pm CT).  The Rams take it, 27-24,  but the Packers will win a playoff rematch two weeks later 28-7 en route to yet another championship.

*The Los Angeles Rams.  You younger kids might have heard of them, once upon a time.

Sunday offered a rare opportunity for two network doubleheaders.  As part of the post-merger TV contract, the primary networks of the two conferences alternated doubleheaders, but there were no such rules in 1967, and both NBC and CBS took full advantage.  The AFL doubleheader seen in the Minnesota market was Kansas City vs. New York at 1pm, followed by Oakland at Houston, joined in progress at 4pm.  (Oakland won 19-7; the two teams would meet again on New Year's Eve in the AFL Championship, won by Oakland 40-7)  The NFL twin-bill also started at 1pm, with the hometown Vikings playing the Bears in Chicago, followed at 4pm (again in progress) with the Cleveland Browns and the St. Louis Cardinals in St. Louis.*

*The new Cleveland Browns, not to be confused with the team now calling itself the Baltimore Ravens; and the St. Louis Cardinals, not to be confused with either the St. Louis Rams, the Arizona Cardinal, or the St. Louis baseball team.  Again, to my younger readers - it's complicated.

And then there's this howler of a typo: Sunday night the Minnesota North Stars are in Pittsburgh for a hockey game against, we're told, the Pittsburgh Pipers.  No, you're right - the hockey team in Pittsburgh was called then, as it is now, the Penguins.  So who are the Pipers?  You'd be right to be confused - they're the ABA team in Pittsburgh.  Basketball, not hockey.  And as if that weren't enough, the Pipers would move the following season to - you guessed it - Minnesota.  The move to Minnesota didn't work out so well , so the Pipers headed back to Pittsburgh for 1969.  They then changed their name to the Condors.  And a couple years later they folded altogether.  As I said above, it's complicated.


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Isn't that a great ad for GE on the right?  I always loved those Lighted Ice lights - have a few of them in my possession from the early 60s (still work, although we don't use them anymore; don't want to burn them out), and you can find them in many antique stores and on eBay this time of year.  I don't have a great regard for GE products nowadays; I think their appliances are cheap and poorly made - but I'll always love those ads. 

Lawrence Welk "serves up a holiday sampler" on Saturday night (ABC), and A Charlie Brown Christmas (CBS) makes its third yuletide appearance on Sunday, already considered a classic.  Also on Sunday, NBC presents the Radio City Music Hall Christmas special - probably not as flashy as the ones they do today, but it features the Doodletown Pipers and the US Military Academy's Glee Club.  Plus, there are the Rockettes - what else do you really need?

Nancy Sinatra stars in her first TV special on Monday, but she's going to need help from her dad and his friends - Dean Martin and Sammy Davis, Jr. - to carry the load for a full hour.  Danny Thomas is on Monday as well.  Neither of these are Christmas specials per se, although as I've mentioned before the period between Thanksgiving and Christmas is rife with opportunities for advertisers to hawk their wares. 

Andy Williams' Christmas show is Wednesday night, featuring the Williams brothers, the Osmonds, and the whole Williams clan.  Quite a few clips from this show are in the Andy Williams Christmas DVD that came out a few years ago, which I highly recommend.  Bob Hope's Christmas special (the stateside version) airs on Thursday night; footage of him entertaining the troops will appear after Christmas. 

The local stations aren't missing - the infamous (to me, at least) Channel 7 presents a 3½ hour telethon called "Jingle Bells," starting at 10:30 Friday night, to raise money for food banks.  They were still doing this show in the 70s, when I got Channel 7 while living in the worst town in the world.  The show was awful, but the cause was a good one.  And Channel 12 in Mankato has what I find to be a poignant reminder of how we used to celebrate Christmas - local high schools and colleges singing Carols and other Christmas music, nightly at 10:30.  I wonder if they're even allowed to speak the word "Christmas" in public schools nowadays?

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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..

Ed Sullivan: In the midst of Ed's 20th anniversary year, CBS goes all out, honoring the veteran showman by renaming it's Broadway theater - Studio 50* - in his honor.  Guests from some of Ed's earliest shows are scheduled to appear tonight.  Pearl Bailey, who first graced Ed's stage in 1948 and is now starring in Broadway's "Hello, Dolly"; opera star Robert Merrill (1951); Gwen Verdon (1953); and Alan King (1956).  Los Ninos Cantores, an Argentine singing group, are making their "Sullivan Show" debut.  New York's Mayor John V. Lindsay officiates at the unveiling of the theater's new marquee.  Also on hand: the famed Emerald Society pipe bands of New York City's fire and police departments.

Hollywood Palace:  Tiajuana Brass leader Herb Alpert explores new sounds in music.  Guests: Liza Minnelli, the Baja Marimba Band, Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66, composer Burt Bacharach, jazz guitarist Wes Montgomery, and singing songwriters Tommy Boyce and Bobby Hart.  A film segment by Palace writer Steven H. Stern conjures up visions to match the music.

Where to start?  This week we see a real dichotomy between the past and the present.  The Palace lineup is about as hip as you can get - you can probably hear most of it on one of those Time-Life 60s collections.  For the time, this would have been a very strong show, but that film-segment-conjuring-up-visions bit really gives me pause.  If there's anything worse than psychedelia, it's psychedelia produced by the establishment.  This does not sound good.

Ed, on the other hand, pulls out all the old warhorses.  It's not particularly creative or challenging, and it was probably a bit hoary in spots, but hey - that's entertainment.  Points off for John Lindsay's appearance, though.  It's not a time for politicans to be making speeches, and they could have done just as well by having CBS chief Bill Paley do the honors.

So who gets the nod?  I would have been a youngster back when this was on, but I'm an old fart now.  However, nobody likes an old fart.  The verdict:  Palace.

*Home today, of course, of Late Night with David Letterman.

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Frank Sutton, Sergeant Carter on Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.*, is the subject of an interesting, un-bylined profile.  Sutton discusses the differences between himself and his character, particularly his personal discomfort with how hard he sometimes has to be on Gomer, and his rejection of the military-tinged violence existing in the present culture.  In that context he talks about his efforts to raise his son, Joey, now 12, to be "not a bully and not a sissy but 'all boy.'"  "Guns, violence and war are evil and horrible. I didn't want my kid to be hostile."  And so when Joey was three, Sutton wouldn't allow him to accept a birthday present of a toy tommy gun.

*Not to be confused with Larry Hovis, Sergeant Carter on Hogan's Heroes.  That both shows are on CBS only adds to any possible rupture of the time-space continuum. 

At the same time, Sutton emphasized the importance of knowing how to defend yourself, teaching Joey both boxing and judo, and reminding him of the "Marine Corps thing: Don't be afraid of being hit."  He describes his son at 12 as being a pacifist, as Sutton had wanted him to be - I know there are gradations of pacifists that accept the idea of self-defense and those that don't, but regardless of how one uses the word it seems Sutton had the right idea - raise your son to be a man.

Most telling, and most illustrative of the difference between the 60s and today, is when Sutton talks about his trip to entertain the troops in Vietnam.  "My identification was with the young, healthy guys fighting.  I wanted to be a part of it.  I know what it means to die in a rice paddy with the stink and the filth.  [Sutton served in the Pacific in World War II.]  I saw boys all shot up.  I saw a quadruple amputee and blind.  When I got back everybody put me down.  You'd think I was practically a Nazi.  I am surrounded by dovish people in my business."  Very interesting that Sutton draws a distinction between being a pacifist and being a dove.  And a shameful reminder of how Vietnam veterans were treated when they returned from the war, and how those who supported them were seen.  At least in that regard we've evolved in the right direction.

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The Carol Burnett Show is one of the most revered shows of the era, but was it always thus?  Not according to Cleveland Amory, in his back-page review.  He describes Carol as "an odd choice for an emcee.  In the first place, a little of her goes a long way, and a lot of her - her muggings, tongue-outs, etc. - often goes the wrong way."  He rips many of the sketches, sighs at her running jokes about her appearance and the handsomeness of Lyle Waggoner, and sees her Q&A with the audience as "transparently plotted and planned."   To be fair to Amory, this is the show's first season, and it's likely to have evolved as time went on.  He praises the supporting cast of Tim Conway, Vicki Lawrence and Wagoner, and in truth it's the skits that include Conway and Harvey Korman that we remember so fondly.

But lest we think he has nothing to say in praise of Burnett, he does remind us that he's a fan at heart.  She's "at her very best when she's just herself - she is obviously a very nice person - yet she gives us so little of this that it's positively infuriating."  Perhaps as time went on she started to do just that, becoming the Carol Burnett we know and love; or maybe that was the real Carol - the "muggings, tongue-outs" - all along, and Amory just didn't recognize it.  Regardless, it's likely the critic's lot to be remembered by very few, while Carol Burnett remains remembered - and loved - by millions.

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There are a couple of features on California Governor Ronald Reagan - NET's Sunday night show PBL has a segment on Reagan's Chubb Fellowship visit to Yale University, and on Tuesday CBS Reports broadcasts "What About Ronald Reagan?" in an attempt to discover "just how far below the surface Reagan's appeal runs."  Reagan was elected governor in 1966, and at this point was rumored to be a possible candidate for the Republican presidential nomination in 1968 (as he was; finishing third to Nixon and Rockefeller).

The media was always fascinated - perhaps even obsessed - with Reagan, and never really understood either him or his appeal.  I can't say this for certain, but I suspect the premise of NET's segment was "fish out of water" - the actor and bumpkin Reagan on the campus of the oh-so-sophisticated Ivy League campus.  Likewise, the description of CBS's special sounds like the network's examining a lab specimen rather than the governor of the nation's second-largest state.

Twelve years later, Ronald Reagan would be elected President of the United States - and the media still didn't understand him.  Some things they never do figure out.

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Finally, and tangentially political, there's the social event of the season - the White House wedding of President Johnson's daughter Lynda Bird* to Captain Charles Robb, who went on to become a governor and then U.S. senator from Virginia. (I don't imagine LBJ's connections hurt him any.)  The networks give us extensive coverage of the President escorting Lynda down the staircase and processing into the East Room (TV cameras weren't allowed at the ceremony itself), as well as the happy couple walking under the crossed swords.  NBC's coverage is at 4pm, CBS and NBC follow at 6pm.

*Only the seventh First Daughter to be married in the White House.

All three networks feature male-female anchor teams - after all, you couldn't expect to understand the social niceties without having the feminine touch, right? Marya McLaughlin was CBS's first on-air female reporter.  She wanted to cover politics, and did - usually having to cover the "Women of Washington."  Nancy Dickerson of NBC was on-hand at Andrews Air Force Base in 1963 to cover the return of Air Force One from Dallas with the body of President Kennedy.  She appeared in TV Guide in 1964, doing a fashion layout - complete with NBC microphone.  ABC's Marlene Sanders was the first woman to report from the field in Vietnam, and her son is Jeffrey Toobin, CNN's legal correspondent.

I can't say this for sure, but I'm confident that all three were capable of more than covering Washington's social scene.

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Remember, you can see selected listings from this week's edition in my post at Radio-Info's Classic TV message board.



Don't touch that keyboard!  There's more coming up this Tuesday and Thursday.

7 comments

  1. That Packers-Rams game was of note for a few reasons. The Packers had already clinched their division, while the Rams were trying to stay alive in theirs. (The Rams eventually beat the Colts in the final game to win; both teams ended 13-1, and the Rams won the tiebreaker.) Despite this, Vince Lombardi played his starters (Starr, Nitschke, etc.) for the whole game and only lost when the Rams blocked a late punt. Compare that to the Colts of a few years ago who kept starters out when they had a chance for a perfect year. That game is seen a LOT on NFL Films whenever Vince Lombardi is brought up; he was miked for the game, and his "What the HELL is going ON around here?" and "GRAB, grab grab! NOBODY'S tackling!" are staples of their film clips.

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    1. Tony Guillory blocked Donny Anderson's punt ("right up the middle" as Vince yelled out) and Roman Gabriel then threw, I believe to either Jack Snow or Bernie Casey for the go-ahead td. Played on Sat. Dec. 9, 1967. Hard to believe it's been 45 years. Recall the game like it it was just played!

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  2. Great memories, both of you! I remember that Packers-Rams game as well; being a Packers fan, it didn't go down particularly well with me. To see the Rams beat them, and then the Colts at the end of the season (I'm covering that in next week's installment) - that was just too much. I enjoyed the Packers' playoff revenge immensely!

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  3. The Chicago Cardinals moved to St. Louis and later to Tempe and now Glendale, all with the same ownership group (the Bidwell family), and there was an interesting way of how the nicknames of a few "heritage" teams developed -- Lions and Cubs do have important stories.

    The NFL suspended the Cleveland franchise as part of the 1995 controversy for legal reasons.

    Speaking of which, buzz in the Carolinas is that there is some talk of using the ABA Cougars name for Charlotte's NBA team again, considering they wore those uniforms on a Hardwood Classics event of a team that was literally the equivalent of jobbers for a Jim Crockett Promotions event. San Antonio, Brooklyn, Indiana, and Denver are the four NBA teams that were ABA teams. Can't use the old ball for Hardwood Classics games with those teams, or even Floridians (Miami), New Orleans, Carolina (Charlotte), or Memphis when they wear the ABA uniforms.

    A few of my opera singing friends are all Cheeseheads, and I had fun with them when they talk Pack! Even the Philharmonic's conductor is one, and there was the Super Bowl joke a few years ago (PIT-GB). A Steel Curtain win would mean a Terrible Towel would be on the Mori's podium. A Pack win would mean the employee in question (Jason) would wear a Cheesehead. The loser would pay the bet at the next concert.

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  4. I see the 1967 nbc radio city music hall special mentioned above. is there any where on line to see that special in its entirety? My friend Ken sherburne was on that special (I believe) and it would be great to see him alive again(died in 2009 after 55 yrs in entertainment(juggler/unicyclist/globe walker)

    entertainerjim@yahoo.com

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  5. Remember TV Guide used to provide a full page of team rosters with a graphic of each helmet. I'm willing to bet they provided that for the Packer/Ram game on December 9th. To reinforce one of the notes above - 45 years ago and remember it like yesterday.

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    1. Yes! I used to cut those out and save them in a scrapbook when I was a kid. Of course, I had no idea that what I was actually doing was defacing historical materials!

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