March 30, 2013

This week in TV Guide: April 1, 1961

Soap opera fans have always been known to be a loyal and hearty lot.  It might be hard for many to appreciate today, with the soaps all but gone from television, but in those first decades of TV fans were consumed by the stories of their favorite series, with a level of fanaticism perhaps unrivaled today, with stories of actors and actresses accosted on the street by fans furious over some misdeed they'd perpetrated in a recent story.

However, things reached a new high (or low) earlier in the year when CBS' The Edge of Night decided to kill off D.A. Mike Karr's faithful wife Sarah, by having her hit by a car while saving her small daughter from being run over.  Although it was actress Teal Ames' choice to leave the show in order to pursue work on Broadway, that didn't stop the show's devoted fans - over seven million each day, mostly housewives - from letting the network and the show's sponsors know how they felt about it.

CBS received 2,500 letters the the first week, and the mail was still pouring in as this article was written.  A "disillusioned" viewer from Columbus, Ohio wrote that she was finished with Edge, and with CBS.  "I had baked a Pet-Ritz cherry pie, but I could hardly eat it last night for supper after that terrible episode.  No more Pet products for me."   Meanwhile, a high school in Delco, North Carolina said that "Shakespeare himself did not create a more convincing cast of praiseworthy personalities," and wondered "what perversion of common decency prompted anyone to shatter such a team?"  One writer suggested that "you have these sadistic writers locked up in a safe place."

Here's that complete episode, including the exciting conclusion that triggered so much angst in the faithful.

 
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This week's cover story is on Roger Smith, co-star of ABC's 77 Sunset Strip, destined to become one of the luckiest men in Hollywood in a few years when he marries Ann-Margaret.  But for now the focus is on Smith's penchant for being accident-prone - he tells author Richard Gehman that "I was sewed up 22 times before I was five," and since then was knocked out while playing football in college, has had nine car accidents, sprained his ankle doing a stunt for the show, and suffered a blot clot after bumping his head that was diagnosed only hours before it would have been fatal.
  
He's charming and engaging as he tells the stories, saying that "my mother used to say I would never live to be 21," but it seems less humorous in retrospect, when a few years later he was diagnosed with the neuromuscular disease myasthenia gravis; Ann-Margaret stepped away from her career to take care of him, before the disease went into remission in 1985. 
 
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And now the sports.  
 
On ABC's Saturday Night Fights, Emile Griffith wins the world welterweight championship, knocking out Benny "Kid" Paret in the thirteenth round.  Just under a year later, on March 29, 1962, the two men would fight again (their third fight), and this time Griffith would deliver a twelfth round KO, putting Paret into a coma from which he would never recover; his death ten days later would start the death knell for regularly scheduled prime time boxing on TV.
 
Here's an interesting note about the NBA playoffs. NBC has Saturday/Sunday coverage, which wouldn't be particularly unusual, except: Saturday's tilt is Game 7 of the Western finals between the St. Louis Hawks (now in Atlanta) and the Los Angeles Lakers.  Sunday's game is Game 1 of the finals, between the winner of Saturday's game (the Hawks) and the Boston Celtics.  Two remarkable things about this: 1) St. Louis being expected to start the finals with no rest, flying from their home to Boston; and 2) the finals began on April 2.  April 2, people!  This year, the playoffs don't even start until April 20, and the finals begin between June 4 and 6.  That's two full months later than they did in 1961.  Of course, today 16 teams make the NBA playoffs; back in 1961, there were only eight teams in the whole league.

Making sure we give all three networks some coverage, The Masters begins on April 6, and CBS will be there next Saturday and Sunday with coverage of the final four holes.  To prepare viewers on what to watch for, PGA champion Jay Hebert* (pronounced AAY-bear) profiles those holes, and warns golfers that "there are no let-up holes at Augusta."  There was no let-up in the weather, either; rain forced the final round to be played on Monday, when Gary Player would win the first of his three green jackets, beating Arnold Palmer and amateur Charles Coe by one shot after Palmer double-bogeyed the final hole.

*Or, more likely, his ghostwriter.

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Next, some scattered programming notes.

Saturday morning at 10am, Channel 11 presents a perfectly awful movie called Granny Get Your Gun which, believe it or not (and I'd rather not) was based on Erle Stanley Gardner's Perry Mason novel The Case of the Dangerous Dowager, only without Mason.  It was said that Gardner wept when he saw it, which was one reason it was so hard to convince him to agree to a television series. Fortunately, he changed his mind.

Sunday night, CBS' G.E. Theater, hosted by Ronald Reagan, presents the iconic  French movie The Red Balloon, the charming story of a balloon that takes on a life of it's own.  This was unusual for G.E. Theater, but would not be unprecedented for CBS; three years later, perhaps inspired by this showing, The Twilight Zone would air the French short feature An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, which won the Best Short Subject award at the Oscars.  But back to The Red Balloon for a minute, or actually 34 minutes, which is the running time of the movie.  I wonder how much was edited from it to fit into G.E.'s half-hour timeslot?

It was shown in black-and-white on CBS, but was made in color, and here it is in its entirety, if you're interested:


Wednesday, Danger Man premieres on CBS, starring Patrick McGoohan as globe-trotting NATO agent John Drake.  This half-hour show will eventually morph into a one-hour series, renamed (in the United States) Secret Agent Man* which McGoohan would quit after three seasons to begin a new series: The Prisoner.  Now, die-hard fans of the series (like me) will argue endlessly as to whether or not John Drake is also The Prisoner's Number 6.  McGoohan did not have contractual rights to the name "John Drake," which  could explain why he always denied that Drake and Number 6 were one and the same.  Personally, having watched all 86 episodes of Danger Man/Secret Agent Man through to the 17 episodes of The Prisoner, I think there are too many similarities between the two - in manner, forms of speech, and the like - for there to be any doubt.  But that's just my opinion.

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The teletype gives us some info on coming attractions, in this case two animated series, both among my favorites.  First, Hanna-Barbara is auditioning voices for the six cats in the upcoming ABC series Top CatSo far they've heard from Hack Oakie, Ken Murray, Stubby Kaye, Jesse White, Herschel Bernardi and the man who would, legendarily, eventually voice Top Cat himself, Arnold Stang.

There's also a note about CBS' upcoming Alvin and the Chipmunks, which would eventually air as The Alvin Show.   Now, to emphasize, this is not the Alvin and the Chipmunks of the recent movies, the chipmunks with an attitude (left), nor the pseudo-children version of the 80s revival (center); we're talking about the originals (right):


I know, I know, I'm showing my age.  Next think, I'll be telling kids to get off my lawn (one of the great things about condo life: no lawn).  But the original chipmunks had attitude enough - ever hear Dave yell "Alllllllvinnnnn"?  They weren't punks, they weren't the kind of kids you'd cross the street to avoid.  They weren't kids at all - they were chipmunks.  Oh well.  Classic TV wouldn't be so distinctive were there not so much to contrast with contemporary life.

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Sunday April 2, is Easter, and there's appropriate programming for the day.  At 9am CBS presents Songs of Triumph from the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston, followed at 10am by a Protestant service live from Riverside Church in New York City, the former home of William Sloane Coffin.

Also at 10, NBC has a live broadcast of the Mass, back at Holy Cross in Boston, celebrated by Richard Cardinal Cushing.  (Which leads me to believe the musical program was on tape - otherwise, you'd think one network would have carried them both.)  The broadcast of the Cardinal's Mass is only scheduled for an hour, which seems awfully short for an Easter Mass - I surmise it may well have been a Low, rather than High, Mass.  And locally, Channel 11 presents a live broadcast at 11 from the Episcopal Cathedral of St. Mark in downtown Minneapolis.  (I've been in that church, which is architecturally stunning.)

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And on that note, for those of you celebrating, have a happy Easter, and we'll see you in a few days.

3 comments

  1. This issue is at home (I'll look at it when I get home and get back to you). There are a couple of things I can address right now:

    - Danger Man was renamed Secret Agent when ITC expanded it to an hour.
    Secret Agent Man was the name of the song that was added to the American airings only. Johnny Rivers was a US artist, not known in the UK.
    The British theme music of Secret Agent was the super-fast harpsichord number that played under the episode credits at the start of each show. In the original British episodes (a couple sneaked into the post-network syndication package) the opening credits consist of a head-shot of McGoohan which breaks up inot a circular puzzle thing with these words:

    PATRICK McGOOHAN
    is the


    The circular puzzle breaks up again, rearranging itself into:

    SECRET AGENT

    The British closing credits consisted of the circular puzzle spinning into various combinations, with the harpsichord theme playing away in back.

    I don't know whether the Johnny Rivers Secret Agent Man ever played in airings outside the USA. (Corrections welcomed.)

    - Top Cat did settle on Arnold Stang for the lead, but only after announcing that Daws Butler (in-house) had the job, and later Michael O'Shea (who'd starred in the early sitcom It's A Great Life).
    And by the way, that's Jack Oakie, a staple of '30s/'40s movie comedy, who was among the early candidates.

    - Alvin And The Chipmunks:
    May I mention Ross Bagdasarian, the creator of the whole franchise - by accident?
    Bagdasarian had been fooling around with a variable-sped tape recorder when he came up with the voices, which he used on a couple of novelty sides (Witch Doctor was the first). His record label, Liberty, gave him the go-ahead for a Chritmas novelty, which nobody thought would go anywhere, but it seemed like fun.
    Not Liberty's president, Si Waronker.
    Not the chief engineer, Ted Keep.
    Not the A&R man, Al Bennett.
    That's Simon Waronker, Theodore Keep, and Alvin Bennett.
    And certainly not Ross Bagdasarian, who used "David Seville" as a pseudonym for his own records.
    The original Chipmunk success made Bagdasarian a wealthy man. He died early (not yet 50), and so could not know that his son, Ross Jr., would pick it up years afterward and turn the Chipmunks into the family empire it is today.
    I saw a featurette about Ross Bagdasarian Sr. and Jr. on FX Movie Channel (I think it may be on one of the DVDs); the Bagdasarian family seems to be having nothing but fun doing it all.

    And now that I'm showing my age, I'll pull back and see what happens next.

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  2. Didn't actress Teal Adams appear as herself at the end of an "Edge Of Night" episode a few days later to tell viewers that while her character had been killed-off that she was alive and well and looking forward to a career on Broadway and in Hollywood, after some rumors floated around that the actress herself had died??

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    Replies
    1. That's what I've heard. I looked to see if I could find a clip of her appearance (granted, I didn't look that hard!) but couldn't come up with one. Do people get that emotional about shows today?

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