January 15, 1967. This season the playoffs don't even start until January 5, but the 1966 season for both the NFL and AFL ended in December, and the leagues played their championship games on New Year's Day*. Even with the bye week, the game would still be played in mid-January.
*New Year's Day being on a Sunday. As per tradition, the college bowl games were played the next day.
Legend has it that the Super Bowl wasn't called that at first, that it only got its name later, but this isn't quite right. True, the game was officially known as the "AFL-NFL World Championship Game," and the TV Guide lists it thus, but as you can see below, ads for both networks use the phrase "Super Bowl," so it must have been in common-enough usage by then.
|Both CBS (left) and the NBC affiliate in Minneapolis-St. Paul (right) |
used the phrase "Super Bowl" in their gameday advertising.
The game started at 3pm Central time, for a 1pm kickoff in LA, and I still remember my six-year-old self waiting impatiently throughout the afternoon - the hands on the clock just couldn't move fast enough. There was only a 30-minute pregame show on CBS; NBC, perhaps eager to give the game (and the AFL) more credibility, had a one-hour review of the season as well as its half-hour pregame. And then, finally, game time.
For years that first Super Bowl game was one of the holy grails of lost television shows. You would have thought that with two networks carrying it, at least one would have managed to keep it, but we all know how careless networks were with video tape back in the day, more interested in saving money by reusing the pricey tape than preserving it for future viewing. Then, back in 2011, a breakthrough - a copy of the game had been found, and restored by the Paley Center in New York. It wasn't the complete game; some plays were missing, and some of the tape was too damaged to preserve, but most of it was there, and watchable.
So why haven't we watched it, you might ask? Well, long story short, the owner of the tape, who donated it to the museum in return for the restoration, and the owner of the copyright, the NFL, can't agree on terms. The league offered $30,000; Sports Illustrated once valued it at closer to $1 million. And I haven't read anything more about it, so until we learn something new the game remains in limbo. Which, I guess, is better than nothing.
basketball games on aircraft carriers. (Great when it works, but not so great when the weather's a factor.) Big deal, right? Not for the Harlem Globetrotters, who also played a basketball game on the deck of a carrier - in 1966. On January 15, CBS Sports Spectacular airs the Trotters' game against the New York Nationals* taped on the flight deck of the USS Enterprise in Hunters Point, California. Of course, since ESPN wasn't there, I guess it didn't really count.
*Presumably the Washington Generals, the Globetrotters' traditional rival, refused to set foot on a naval carrier.
The cover story this week is on Art Carney, who's making a bit of a comeback - in more ways than one. Ted Crail's profile discusses Carney's recent hospitalization. "I don't like the word 'breakdown,' Carney says. "It could be called exhaustion. I just had to get out of the show [the Broadway run of The Odd Couple] and get some rest." He was in the sanitarium for three-and-a-half months and then went back for another month "because he needed it." Unsaid in the article is that the second trip was to break a growing addiction to drugs. Though he beat that, it would take another decade before he was able to overcome his alcoholism, which the article sidesteps by referring to Carney as a "hard drinker."
The other comeback by Carney is a professional one - as Ed Norton, his famed role in Jackie Gleason's Honeymooners skits. Gleason, now hosting his variety show from Miami Beach, originally brought "The Honeymooners" back as a one-off musical, but its success turned it into a regular feature, often comprising the entire show. Carney was considered by many to be almost equal to Gleason, and he'd go on to win an Oscar in 1974 for the movie Harry and Tonto - during which he finally kicked the booze.
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: Scheduled: comics Alan King and Allan Sherman; the rockin' Rolling Stones; singer Petula Clark; Monroe, a balancer; the singing Sisters '67; and dancers from Broadway's recent "A Joyful Noise."
Hollywood Palace: Bing Crosby is host as the Palace starts its fourth year. Guests: Senate Minority Leader Everett Dirksen (R, Ill.), who offers "the Gallant Men," a dramatic reading; comics Jimmy Durante and Tim "Rango" Conway; songstress Edie Adams; and pole-climber Danny Sailor. Also seen: last month's Palace anniversary parade in Hollywood, and a collection of celebrities' fluffs made during the past two seasons.
Some history here - this is the infamous Sullivan show where the Stones, scheduled to perform "Let's Spend the Night Together," are asked by Sullivan and CBS to change the lyric to "Let's spend some time together." Jagger complies, but not without long and loud complaints, and when it comes time he sings the lines with a smirk and a roll of the eyes.
It might seem strange for a United States Senator to be appearing on a variety show, but Everett Dirksen spoke with a marvelous, rumbling bass voice, and had recorded several spoken word albums. Despite the turmoil beginning to engulf the country, politics wasn't polarized along party lines quite as much as it is today, and so it's not as much of a stretch to envision the Republican Dirksen appearing on network television, as he frequently did. "The Gallant Men" album (ignore the distracting video accompaniment if you can) topped out at #16 on the Billboard charts.
So on one hand you've got the Stones, the very funny Allens (King and Sherman), and the lovely Petula Clark; on the other, there's Bing, Dirksen, the very funny Durante and Conway, and the lovely Edie Adams. Could the Palace's blooper reel make the difference? I want to call this a push, but that's such a cop-out. The verdict: The Palace, by Durante's nose.
How about movies? According to TV Guide's movie critic Judith Crist, it's a "star-watcher's week," and here are the stars to back it up. On NBC's Saturday Night at the Movies, it's Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn and William Holden in Sabrina. Sunday night ABC has The V.I.P's, with Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor. ABC also has Elvis Presley in The Flaming Star on Wednesday, and CBS finishes the week on Friday with Jerry Lewis in The Delicate Delinquent. From the available evidence, all of these movies were making their network premieres, which is a reminder that it often took quite awhile for Hollywood favorites to make it to TV (Sabrina was a dozen years old at that point), and how their premieres really were big deals.
Local stations were big movie consumers back then as well, especially on weekend afternoons and late-nights. Science fiction and westerns were always good on Saturdays, and more than one movie buff was born from watching classic noir mysteries on the late late show. Most of that time is now filled with sports, infomercials, and syndicated talk shows.
Back then we were more easily pleased; we didn't realize how "deprived" we were, having to watch movies that had been trimmed for time and cut up to fit in commercials. Nowadays, between movie rentals, premium cable and Turner Classics, I'm not sure I can even imagine watching a movie on regular TV anymore. What's the old saying: how ya gonna keep 'em down on the farm after they've seen movies uncut and without commercial interruption? Something like that, anyway.
A few loose ends to finish up. ABC is touting its Second Season (which tells you how bad their First Season must have been), including the return of The Avengers on Friday night. For you youngsters who only think about comic book and movie superheroes when you hear The Avengers - well, you haven't seen a superhero until you've seen Diana Rigg in a leather catsuit.
Now, where was I? Oh, yes - TV Teletype New York: "Cartoonist CHARLES SCHULZ is at work on another "Peanuts" animated cartoon for CBS, this one with love as its theme." That would be this one, which I don't think ever caught on the way some of the others did.
And finally, from TV Teletype Hollywood: "JOEY BISHOP hired boyish-faced REGIS PHILBIN as the announcer on his new ABC nighttime show which starts this April." You know, I wonder whatever happened to that Philbin guy?