April 13, 2013

This week in TV Guide: April 15, 1967

In the past (most notably here) we've seen issues of TV Guide where circumstances have contrived to make programming listings subject to change.  This week, however, we have something completely different - the strike by AFTRA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which has already thrown the networks for a loop and threatens to complicate things for an indefinite period of time.

The strike, which ran for 15 days, had actually been settled by the time this issue hit the newsstands*, but at press time there was no telling when the end was going to come; thus, almost every other page contained some variant of the warning that programming - mostly newscasts, soap operas, variety programs and game shows - was affected due to the AFTRA strike, and therefore might change.  However, "[b]ecause the strike might end soon, TV GUIDE's listings are based on normal network schedules."

*The strike ended at 8:05pm on April 10, just in time for the broadcast of the Academy Awards.  I'll leave that to you as do whether or not that was a good thing.  Had it not been settled, the Academy had announced the show would go on with or without television; Bob Hope himself was unsure as to whether or not he would appear as host.

The effects of the strike were quite noticeable, and in many cases more entertaining than the regular programming.  Take news, for example.  Many of the major newscasters - Walter Cronkite, Peter Jennings, David Brinkley - honored the picket lines and refused to appear.  Others, including Brinkley's co-anchor Chet Huntley (who famously said he was "a newsman, not a performer"), Frank McGee and Ray Scherer, continued to work.  Cronkite's place on the CBS Evening News was taken by program manager Arnold Zenker, who developed a cult following during his two-week stint, while Jennings was replaced by producers Daryl Griffin and William Sheehan.  Huntley continued on sans Brinkley, and some speculated that the perceived split between the two damaged their chemistry and led to Cronkite's subsequent rise in the ratings.   

Equally hard-hit were the soaps, most of which were still broadcast live.  In place of the stories, networks ran repeats of shows such as Candid Camera and Father Knows Best.  Some regular viewers were thrown into a panic by the sudden withdrawal, which left some key characters in life-threatening situations.  "Oh please, bring them back," one said.  The effects were not all bad, however, as many other viewers felt a sense of relief - much like an alcoholic drying out, as one put it.  Many housewives, the soaps' main audience, told reporters they found themselves getting much more housework done than they used to; as a Mount Pleasant mother of four put it, "Once you break the habit, you feel free again."  (I wonder, though, how many of them went back to it once the strike ended?)

The Doan Report tells us that Johnny Carson announced he was "quitting his show for good" because NBC was running repeats of The Tonight Show, turning Carson into, his attorney claimed, "a scab against himself."  NBC, however, responded that the star, who'd already developed a reputation for difficulty (remember his 15-minute flu?), already making $780,000 a year, was merely holding out for more money.

NBC newsman Edwin Newman, in a TV Guide piece entitled "Confessions of a Rookie Picket," humorously confesses that there is an upside to pounding the pavement in the line outside Rockefeller Center: "the females in the area are quite personable, and miniskirts add a new dimension to picketing.  Male pickets who appear downcast aren't.  They are actually looking about two feet above the ground."

***

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 guests include singer Nancy Wilson; Norman Wisdom of the Broadway musical "Walking Happy"; and comedians Norm Crosby, Totie Fields, and Hendra and Ullett.

Hollywood Palace: Host Milton Berle talks with baseball's Willie Mays, Maury Wills and Jim Piersall, and joins them for a parody of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend."  Also: Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Buddy Rich and his band, singer Marilyn King, illusionist Prassano Rao and the tap-dancing Dunhills.

OK, this week is gonna be a little different.  I was struck, as you might also be, by how thin Ed's guest list was, so I did something I don't usually do: I checked with another source to see if there might have been a change in the final lineup.  And there was.  According to TV.com, the actual list of guests was: Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, Tony Bennett, the Count Basie Orchestra, 14 year-old Australian pianist Alan Kogosowski, South American guitarists Los Indio Tabajaras, acrobat act The Mercners, Totie Fields and Hendra & Ullett.

Just a bit of a change, don't you think?  Now, Ed's show was notorious for incorporating last-minute changes after the afternoon rehearsal, as Sullivan moved around, cut or added to the lineup, so that could have been part of it.  It might have had something to do with the AFTRA strike, there could have been last-minute cancellations, or the guest list might simply have been incomplete at press time.  (It did say "scheduled," after all, and it was a live show - anything could have happened.)

So do we review what was, or what was supposed to be?  There's no question the actual Sullivan lineup is stronger than that listed in TV Guide,  but Buddy Rich, Roy & Dale and Willie Mays can still hold their own with Tony Bennett, Count Basie and Nancy Sinatra.  My verdict: I'm still giving it to The Palace.  And that'll teach you to mess around with TV Guide.

***

Ready for some sports?  The baseball season has opened, and NBC kicks off its Game of the Week coverage with the defending National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers taking on the St. Louis Cardinals, who will win this year's National League title (as well as the World Series).  Newly retired Dodgers ace Sandy Koufax joins the NBC broadcasting team.  Koufax was never a good fit in the broadcast booth, and he leaves NBC after the 1972 season.

The Minnesota Twins open their local television schedule on Friday night with a game against the Detroit Tigers.  These two teams finished second and third in 1966 (behind the champion Baltimore Orioles), and they'll be key players in the four-team death match for the American League crown.  The Twins plan to telecast 50 games during the regular season, although they'll be adding some at the end due to the pennant race.  Interesting how times have changed, isn't it - nowadays, between OTA and cable, almost every team televises almost every game.

Channel 11 follows-up on its Friday Twins telecast with The Winning Team, the life story of Hall of Fame pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander, starring Ronald Reagan.  Many years ago Terry Cashman wrote a hit song called "Talkin' Baseball," which included the line "the great Alexander is pitching again in Washington."  A lot of people didn't get that line, but he's talking about Reagan, the newly-elected president, playing Alexander in this movie.  A nice touch.

On Saturday, CBS presents coverage of the Stanley Cup playoffs, with game 5 of the semifinal series between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Black Hawks; or, if that series has concluded, game five between the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens.  If both of those series have already concluded, we'll be seeing game one of the Stanley Cup Final.  It would in fact be the Toronto-Chicago game that was seen, with the Leafs winning 4-2 on the way to a 4-2 series victory, and an eventual Cup triumph over Montreal.  This is a historic season for the NHL, the last of the six-team era.  In September the league will kick-off its new season with six new expansion teams, and since then the teams just seem to keep coming.

The NBA's in playoff mode as well - Sunday's game on ABC is expected to be from the finals, and indeed it was: game two between the San Francisco Warriors and Philadelphia 76ers.  The Sixers are led by Wilt Chamberlain, who used to play for the Warriors, who used to be in Philadelphia before moving to San Francisco.*  Philly's going to win this game, 126-95, on the way to a six-game victory over the Warriors.

*They now play in Oakland and are called the Golden State Warriors, but in 2017 they're scheduled to move back to San Francisco.  No word yet on what they'll be called.

Also that Sunday CBS presents the premiere of a brand-new soccer league, the National Professional Soccer League, forerunner to the North American Soccer League*, as the Baltimore Bays tangle with the Atlanta Chiefs.  I love this attempt in the listings to explain soccer for American fans who don't understand much about the game: "Placing best foot (and head) forward, 11-man teams maneuver the ball in a field roughly 110 by 75 yards.  Only the goalkeeper can touch the ball with his hands or arms.  Each goal is worth one point."  I guess that does describe it.

*The NASL was formed in 1968 by a merger between the aforementioned NPSL and the rival United Soccer League, and lasted until 1984.  The name has since been taken by the country's number-two soccer league.

***

It was a big week for Ronald Reagan, too.  In addition to The Winning Team, the California governor is scheduled to appear on the premiere of Joey Bishop's late-night ABC talk show.  The show itself was in doubt, due to the strike, but it goes on as planned.  Not planned is that due to a scheduling mixup, Reagan shows up late for the live broadcast.  Nowadays people say this was a harbinger of things to come, but as we know Bishop was actually serious competition for Carson for a time.

The rerun season is beginning, and many of the biggest shows will be doing second-runs throughout the summer (except for the variety shows, many of which had summer replacements).  One show presenting the first in a series of reruns: The Fugitive, in its final season.  But as the listing notes, "Viewers will learn the truth about Dr. Kimble's guilt or innocence in a two-part episode to be telecast in August."  As I've mentioned before, this may be one of the only times the concluding episode of a series has been shown after the rerun season, as the final episode of the show's run.

*** 
 
The word "starlet" can be taken two ways, I suppose.  It can refer to a female star, or (like the word "boomlet") can mean a star whose sheen peters out, never attaining the brilliance that had been hoped for.  In this case, both definitions apply to cover girl Karen Jensen, "The Starlet, 1967." 

Have you heard of Karen Jensen?  I haven't, although that in and of itself doesn't mean anything.  Her Wikipedia entry (again, not a be-all and end-all) wouldn't suggest someone who made it big-time, although her IMDb listing gives us more information.

In a not-altogether flattering
article (today we might think of it as snarky), TV Guide goes into detail on how Jensen has all the prerequisites for stardom: vacuity and giggling innocence combined with sexual qualities, interests in obscure philosophies and material goods like furs and jewels, dates with the right men, and an attitude "which must exude the essence of Starletism."

Karen Jensen has it all going for her: she's "bright, pretty, affable, affected and a bit vague about just what it is she's saying."  She reads the "Right" books - Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet and Siddhartha by Herman Hesse.  Of the later, Jensen reports, "It's about this young man who wants to find himself.  I identified with him.  He walks with his soul!"

Mind you, I'm not making fun of Karen.  She's done a lot more in the industry than I ever will.  She worked steadily, if not spectacularly, for a number of years.  No, I think, if anything, this shows how hard it is to make it big in Hollywood, and perhaps how our perceptions have changed over the years.  There's a sexist, patronizing tone to this un-bylined story, which I doubt you'd read today.  But the thing is - I suspect it's just as accurate as it was then.

***

Finally, TV Teletype tells us that comedians Rowan and Martin are being considered for an NBC series for the '68-'69 season, and will be doing a special as lead-in to the networks' Miss America coverage.  There are always false alarms in the Teletype rumor mill, but that special - Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In - would indeed lead to a series, which actually debuted as a replacement for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in January of 1968.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

1 comment:

  1. Ironically, the roots of the NASL is the reason there is the Heritage Cup. San Jose and Seattle play this, thought Portland and Vancouver are both also eligible but choose not to play the derby. Heritage Cup teams must have the same name as their NASL predecessors (although more traditional "FC" tags are often permitted after their name). Portland, Seattle, and Vancouver have their own derby, the Cascadia Cup, and all three clubs use their NASL names (Timbers, Sounders, Whitecaps).

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