June 30, 2013

This week in TV Guide: June 28, 1975

We've been spending some time lately in the dark years of the late 60s, and frankly I'm a little tired of it, so let's jump ahead a decade to the beginning of the Bicentennial year.  True, when we think of the American Revolution Bicentennial the date that comes to mind is July 4, 1976 - but it was a year-long celebration, which actually ended on that date.*  And we needed to celebrate - we were coming off from Watergate, "Whip Inflation Now" Buttons were in vogue - come to think of it, maybe the times weren't that much better than 1968 at that.

*It doesn't quite explain why the Rose Bowl chose to adorn the gridiron with an American shield and eagles on January 1, 1975 - I guess they really wanted to get a head start.

***

I realize that 1975 is almost 40 years ago, but when viewed from the perspective of 50s and 60s TV, it most definitely was the future. The Western was dead, and the variety show was dying, and the era of live broadcasting was pretty much confined to sports and news. The networks had long since gone to an all-color schedule, so much so that TV Guide had stopped indicating which shows were colorcast, and now saved that distinction for old movies and occasional reruns in black and white. TV Guide itself had introduced a new, more modern typeset that was supposed to be sleeker, even as it lost something in character. And yet for all that, there’s still something familiar about this week’s listings, the past casting a shadow over the present.  In fact, they read something like the schedule for Me-TV, Antenna or Cozi.

This 1968 ad for WTCN shows that what's old is new again.
And that's the interesting thing - we consider those shows classics, we cheer their arrivals on DVD, and we debate the status of the ones that have yet to be released.  But in 1975, so many of them were still on TV, years after they'd disappeared from network schedules, and for old farts like me, we probably didn't think twice about them.

Channel 11 was the independent channel in the Twin Cities in 1975, so you'd expect they'd have a host of old reruns on their schedule, and they do.  Just look at their regular Monday through Friday lineup: (I've put an asterisk next to the shows that were in color; everything else was in B&W.)

10:00am - Father Knows Best
10:30am - The Andy Griffith Show
11:00am - The Lucy Show
12:30pm - That Girl
3:00pm - Petticoat Junction*
3:30pm - Bewitched
5:00pm - The Mickey Mouse Club
5:30pm - Star Trek*
6:30pm - The Andy Griffith Show
7:00pm - Ironside*
10:00pm - The F.B.I.*
11:00pm - Perry Mason
12:00am - Alfred Hitchcock Presents
12:30am - Alfred Hitchcock Presents

And that doesn't even count the weekends, which included shows like Gentle Ben, It Takes a Thief, Bracken's World and The Virginian.  Granted, several of these series were only a few years old, and they probably still would have been considered part of the TV landscape in the same way as we might look at Friends, Cheers or Seinfeld.  Still, it's entertaining to think about this, especially if you're a classic TV buff.  Think of what we could have done with a VCR back then!

The network affiliates have less room for old reruns, but they have their share as well, especially on the weekends.  Channel 4 (CBS) has The Saint, Channel 5 (NBC) offers a weekday afternoon block of Dick Van Dyke, The Mod Squad and Hogan's Heroes, and Channel 9 (ABC) runs The Name of the Game and The Untouchables.*

*The most interesting program in this lineup.  It's already been off the air over a decade, and during its original run it was considered one of the most violent programs on television; more about that in a minute.

Again, not to put too fine a point on this, but its quite interesting how many of these shows were on without any particular fanfare.  A decade later there was Nick at Night, and locally Channel 41, KXLI, would offer "TV Heaven," with nothing but old programs.  Today we love our classic TV networks; back then, they were just part of the programming day.

***

Another thing we loved in the day was the local movie.  They're all over the place on this week in 1975 - Channel 4 with one in the afternoon (following CBS' game show block) and another following the 10pm news (CBS doesn't have a late night show at this point), Channel 9 with a late movie following ABC's Wide World of Entertainment, and Channel 11 with a 1pm matinee.  Only Channel 5, with Johnny Carson and Tom Snyder established in the late night hours, lacked a weekday local movie slot.

The weekends, though - that's where the movie payoff is.  All four stations have movies on Saturday night following the local news - Channel 4 has Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?, Channel 5 follows the Carson rerun* with a double feature - The Giant Claw and The Monolith Monsters, Channel 9 has the movie version of McHale's Navy, a 93 minute movie which they've managed to stretch into a 2½ hour timeslot, and Channel 11 has Guns at Batasi and Horrors of the Black Museum.  Channel 4 also has morning and late-night movies on Sunday, and they're joined in the overnight hours with movies on both Channel 9 and Channel 2, the PBS station.

*NBC showed "Best of" episodes of Carson prior to the introduction of Saturday Night Live.

Are there many local stations that show movies nowadays?  A few, here and there, but even though all of them broadcast 24 hours, they seem to have less and less time for movies.  Not that there aren't movies on television, of course - there are entire networks devoted to them, and film aficionados have gotten used to seeing their movies uninterrupted and uncut, which they seldom ever were on local television.  But in the timeslots that used to be devoted to movies, we now have sports, daytime talk shows, and infomercials.  Especially infomercials.  What else can I say about infomercials, except that they're a pox on the viewing landscape.

***

The big show on TV this week, one that I remember vividly, is Tom Snyder's six-hour Tomorrow marathon ringing in the Bicentennial year.  Snyder had his share of freak guests, but Tomorrow was often a literate, intriguing program, which I was only able to watch during the summer since it wasn't on Fridays.  (The Midnight Special was.)  Beginning at midnight and running until 6am Friday morning, it's a wonderful glimpse at Americana - cities preparing for parades, a reenactment of the writing of "The Star-Spangled Banner," and experts offering their thoughts on America's future.  Snyder also gets very loopy without enough sleep.*

*Remind me to tell you sometime about his recreation of the sinking of the Titanic.

NBC has another 4th of July show on Thursday night, the Stars and Stripes Show from Oklahoma City, which they broadcast annually from 1972 to 1976.  This year's show features Bob Hope, Charley Pride, Anita Bryant, John Davidson and Juliet Prowse.  It likely wasn't much different from any musical comedy show of the day, and probably was yet another aging reminder of TV's past, with increasingly less and less relevance to today's viewer.

***

There are some other interesting articles on TV's future, which I might get into at a later date.  But before we leave, one final note dealing with local movies.  Channel 9's Friday night feature is the 1964 version of The Killers, starring Lee Marvin, Angie Dickinson and Ronald Reagan, which you might recall was intended to be the first-ever made-for-TV movie before it was deemed too violent and was released to theaters instead. It follows Channel 9's showing of The Untouchables.  Fascinating, isn't it? For all that talk we had last week about violence on TV, here we have the one-time most violent show on television, and a movie that was judged too violent for TV.

So what happened to all that hand-wringing over TV violence?  Did it just fade away?  Did our society become so much more violent that these programs actually paled in comparison?  Did people not care, since these were on late at night?  I wonder, of those people who wrote and campaigned against gratuitous TV violence, if any of them would have been surprised to see these on a local station, just seven years later?

5 comments:

  1. "It's New....If You Haven't Seen It Before" reminds me of a tagline NBC used a few years ago to promote reruns: "If You Haven't Seen It, It's New To You!".

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  2. IIRC, the networks themselves sometimes reran old primetime shows in daytime. CBS ran old episodes of "MASH" on weekday afternoons in the 70s, for example.

    On the subject of the Bicentennial, CBS started its famous "Bicentennial Minutes" series on 7/4/74, so some observances were underway well before the fourth in '75. So maybe the Rose Bowl wasn't jumping the gun at all.

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    1. JB,

      You're right - CBS was particularly adept at this throughout the 60s and 70s, with everything from The McCoys (renamed from the primetime "Real McCoys") to The Beverly Hillbillies to Lucy. ABC did some as well, particularly with their hour-long dramas. NBC, which had a strong daytime schedule, never did that as much.

      I think the Rose Bowl's problem was that they did it up TOO much - the shield remains the largest midfield logo I've ever seen (I think you can find it on YouTube), and the colonial-era eagles in the endzones, while brilliant, probably would have been better-used the next year. Instead, they had a stenciled '76. Of course, that goes to the art form of football field design, for which I suspect someone has a blog somewhere!

      BTW, Andy Rooney has a very good piece in this TVG on the Bicentennial Minute and how difficult it was to create them, to boil a historical event down to 40 seconds or so. Done with a typical blend of complaining and humor!

      Mitchell

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  3. Mitchell--do you have any TV Guide listings from March-May 1975? I'm trying to fix a date on a snippet of a TV show I recorded(on a tape recorder) from that time. Thanks!

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Thanks for writing! Drive safely!