June 1, 2013

This week in TV Guide: June 5, 1965

By the time you read this, I may - emphasize may - be unpacked.  I might have at least found the box with the TV Guides in them.  Of course, there's no assurance of that, as indeed is the case when talking about life in general.  But as I write this, weeks in advance, all that is in the future.  And I've taken care to make sure my readers aren't left out in the cold - aren't I a thoughtful blogger?

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When political satirist Art Buchwald was funny, there were few writers who could touch him.  And his droll article on The Fugitive in this week's TV Guide is Buchwald at his best.

The Fugitive has just finished its second season, the most successful (ratings-wise) of the show's four seasons, and its success spelled the end of CBS' The Doctors and the Nurses, which I wrote about here.  Buchwald relates a story about how The Doctors and the Nurses could have won back the Fugitive audience:

In the first show of the season, a man [is] wheeled into the emergency room of the hospital, and as one of the doctors took the sheet off him, the audience would discover he had one arm.  Just before he dies on the operating table he would gasp, "I am the one-armed man the Fugitive is looking for.  Richard Kimble is innocent and I killed his wife."

The network didn't take the suggestion, however, and so the show was doomed.

Buchwald is a faithful Fugitive viewer, but he has some hilarious problems with the show.  For one thing, he thinks Kimble is guilty, and each week he bets his wife $20 that Kimble's going to be caught.  He now figures he owes his wife $480, "which only adds to my determination to see Richard Kimble put behind bars."  Kimble's nemesis, Lieutenant Gerard, is a bungler who ought to be taken off the case.  "One of the things that makes me livid is that every time Gerard is close on the trail of Kimble, he never bothers to look in the kitchen," where the doctor is invariably hiding behind the door.  "Sometimes I get so infuriated at Gerard I start screaming at him, 'Dope, why didn't you have the back door covered?'  This gets the neighbors pretty mad."

Buchwald has a simple solution for catching Kimble.  For one thing, Kimble is a do-gooder, always stopping to help people in need.  Therefore, the first thing he'd do is find the 100 neediest cases in every city he thought Kimble might be in, and have them staked out.  The dramatic necessities of the show demand that he has to stop at one of these house, or the ratings will drop to zero.  He'd then have NBC and CBS each put up $50,000 rewards for the capture of Kimble dead or alive.  "It would be worth it to them to get The Fugitive out of circulation."

Most of all, he's mad at ABC.  "It's obvious to anyone who watches the show that neither the producers nor [ABC] is making any effort to see that Richard Kimble is brought to justice.  If they were sincere in their efforts, they wouldn't have a dummox like Gerard on the case."  And Buchwald wouldn't be out $480 to his wife.

Funny, funny stuff.  You can read the whole thing here.

***

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: musical-comedy star Tommy Steele, doing numbers from his Broadway show "Half a Sixpence"; Metropolitan Opera soprano Roberta Peters; singer Trini Lopez; Herman's Hermits, rock 'n' rollers; comics John Byner and George Kaye; Mr. Cox, magician; and the Malmo Girls, gymanists.

Hollywood Palace: In a repeat, host Victor Borge introduces former motion picture star Alice Faye; pop singer Nancy Wilson; the Swingle Singers, French vocal group; Japanese comic Pat Morita; the tap-dancing Nicholas Brothers; bicyclist Rih Aruso; and De Mille, a 15-year-old high-wire performer.

Interesting week.  The Swingle Singers, who are still around, are an incredibly talented a capella  group, as you can see here; and the jazz great Nancy Wilson just retired from club dates a couple of years ago.  You'll remember Pat Morita* from Happy Days and his Oscar-nominated role in The Karate Kid.  The Nicholas Brothers were without peer - "tap-dancing" doesn't seem nearly adequate enough.  And of course, Victor Borge was one of the funniest comics around.

*I love the description - "Japanese comic Pat Morita" - presumably so the audience won't be shocked by his appearance. Seems very odd, doesn't it?

On the other hand, Ed has Roberta Peters, one of the greatest opera singers America ever produced - and his most frequent guest, appearing on his show 65 times.*  She made her debut at the Met when she was 20 years old, which is just another little something to make you feel inferior, and if I'm not mistaken she might still do recitals.  John Byner remains active and funny; Trini Lopez just did an album with Andre Rieu.  Herman's Hermits was a very big deal at the time, and they too remain active, albeit in two versions: one featuring lead singer Peter Noone, ("Herman's Hermits starring Peter Noone") and the other led by longtime member Barry Whitwam ("Herman's Hermits starring Barry Whitwam").

*You'll win a few bets with that information.

I'm calling this one a push, but for those of you who don't like ties, I'll give you an alternative winner: Thursday night's Jimmy Dean Show on ABC, which featured the Mills Brothers, Norm Crosby, and Buck Owens.  And of course there's Rowlf the Muppet.  The star wattage on this week's programs is immense.

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Gemini IV was the second manned Gemini spaceflight and the first American spacewalk, and was a crucial step in the American race for the moon.  As each phase of the space program became more successful, the public became more blase about it, but the early flights were filled with excitement and drama.  The networks have extensive coverage throughout the mission, which began with the liftoff the previous Thursday and is scheduled to end with live non-stop coverage of the splashdown Monday morning.  ABC planns 60-second updates on the hour; CBS counters with five-minute reports throughout the day; and NBC has a one-minute report prior to the start of each prime time program.  In addition, all three plan half-hour daily progress reports.  I would have watched as much of this as I possibly could.

Here's some of ABC's coverage, anchored by Peter Jennings, and including animated simulation of Ed White's spacewalk.


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Teletype highlights: The new CBS series originally entitled Country Cousins is now The Eddie Albert Show.  But you probably know it by its final title - Green Acres.

Screen Gems is working on a pilot for a Western called Lazarus, which would be the first dramatic series to star a Negro.  Some additional research turns up a quote from actor Jackie Cooper, who's a Screen Gems executive, that "The Old West had lots of Negro gunslingers," and that this series would be based on the real-life Negro gunfighter Lazarus Benjamin.  However, if the pilot ever made it to air, I've yet to find it.

And ABC has big plans for the new Early Bird satellite, including live coverage of the 24 Hours of Le Mans, which would be won by Masten Gregory and Jochen Rindt.  More important, the 1965 race marks the beginning of Ford's challenge to Ferrari, and although the GT40s would fail in 65, they would be back the next year, and would finish 1-2-3.  For all you racing fans, here's some vintage footage of the live broadcast from French television.  I would have watched this as well - that footage brings back vivid memories for me.


***

We're No Angels, starring Humphrey Bogart, Aldo Ray, Peter Ustinov and Basil Rathbone,  is NBC's Wednesday Night movie, and I find that strange, since it takes place at Christmas and, just a couple of years ago, was run during Christmas pre-week by NBC.  it's a Christmas movie.  It's kind of like watching It's a Wonderful Life on the 4th of July - which, come to think of it, is just about the time of year when I first watched it.

***

We've talked about both game shows and soaps in the past.  Many of them are legendary: General Hospital, As the World Turns, Another World, Password, Jeopardy, Match Game.  But what about the rest - the ones that don't stick in the memory, that aren't readily available on YouTube, that produce not fond memories but puzzled looks?

In the midst of their legendary game shows Truth or Consequences, Jeopardy, You Don't Say! and Concentration, NBC has three games that don't mean much to me: What's This Song? which ran for one year and was the first game show hosted by Wink Martindale (known then as Win); Call My Bluff, hosted by Bill Leyden, which was in the middle of its six-month run; and I'll Bet, hosted by Jack Narz, which started and was cancelled on the same dates as Call My Bluff.  As for "daytime dramas," NBC had some heavyweight soaps like Another World and The Doctors, but they also had lesser-knowns like Moment of Truth, a Canadian soap that ran on NBC for most of 1965*.  Of the three networks, only NBC stayed away from airing reruns of their prime-time shows.

*Sample listing: "Lila embarrasses her daughter."  With plotlines like that, it's no wonder it only ran a year.

Bill Cullen, who had polio as a child,
was seldom seen from the waist down



ABC, which was not much of a daytime presence in the mid-60s and filled much of their time with reruns of Father Knows Best, Donna Reed, and Wagon Train (aka Trailmaster), had a pair of soaps you might not have heard of: A Flame in the Wind, which actually ran for two seasons; and The Young Marrieds, also a two-year runner.  They had an interview show hosted by newswoman Lois Leppart, a Concentration-wannabee hosted by Art Linkletter's son Jack called Rebus, and a game show with a very familiar name, but a much different format: The Price Is Right, hosted by Bill Cullen, which in its ABC incarnation included a celebrity player.

Only CBS has a thoroughly familiar look, but even there you can see differences if you know where to look.  Their soap schedule is a heavyweight one: Love of Life, Search for Tomorrow, The Guiding Light, As the World Turns, The Edge of Night and The Secret Storm, but Search and Guiding Light run for only 15 minutes each, a carryover from their radio days. CBS rounds out its daytime schedule with more familiar faces: I Love Lucy, Andy Griffith, and The Real McCoys (renamed The McCoys for daytime) in the morning, and Password, To Tell the Truth and Art Linkletter's House Party in the afternoon. 

***

Finally, here's another of those "news quizzes" that double as ads for KSTP, Channel 5.   It's another fascinating look at how times have changed - at least in the case of Question #1, literally.


Question #3, regarding the 1965 tornado, hits home on a number of levels.  I remember that storm vividly, one of the most famous ever to hit the Twin Cities, although the tornado didn't touch down in our part of Minneapolis.  It did hit Fridley, a Minneapolis suburb, where my best friend lived.  She remains somewhat traumatized to this day, remembering how she and her family huddled in the basement while the tornado mowed through their neighborhood.  This is how it sounded, and it looked like this:


As for the other two questions - yes, it's true that in 1965 Minneapolis and St. Paul didn't observe the same rules on Daylight Saving Time.  I've written about how in the 1950s Minnesota was considering allowing the Twin Cities and Duluth to go on DST while the rest of the state remained on Standard Time.  In 1965 St. Paul started "early," with the rest of the country, while Minneapolis started "late," per state law.  This meant that, at least for a time, it could take you an hour to cross the street.

And it's also true that there was no sales tax in Minnesota in 1965.  It started in 1967, at 3%.  It's now the sixth-highest in the country, at nearly 7%.  Ironic also that Governor Rolvaag, a Democrat, vowed to veto the tax; it was Republican Harold LeVander who pushed it through.  I guess some things actually do change.

3 comments:

  1. Since this is an issue I don't have, my capacity to comment is limited.

    However ...

    Didn't I mention Call My Bluff in an earlier comment I made here?

    I seem to recall identifying it as a favorite of mine back in '65, when I was halfway through high school.

    Recapping, CMB was a Goodson-Todman game involving obscure words from the unabridged dictionary.
    Two teams - a celebrity and two civilians - competed in a two-out-of-three match: one team would get a weird word, and three folders - one with the definition, the other two with the word BLUFF. The Bluffers would have to make up - on the spot - a convincing definition for the weird word. A player from the other team would have to guess which of the three proffered definitions was the real one.
    Some of the guest celebs had a real flair for Bluffing, such as Gene Rayburn, Orson Bean, and particularly Elliot Reid (whose deadpan fooled many of the other players).
    This is a show that could be brought back today, if you could find the right players, celeb and otherwise.
    The other game you mention was I'll Bet, which was a kind of early take on TattleTales, with celebrity couples playing on behalf of audience members.
    The questions were mainly straightforward quiz: one spouse would bet on whether the other knew the answer to the question.
    There was an aftergame which got personal, and that's where the big laughs came.
    I still remember one of those afterquestions:
    Comedienne Pat Carroll was asked if her husband (whose name I've forgotten after all these years) would know what kind of bathing suit she favored for beach wear. She was given thre choices, written on a board thusly:

    1 PIECE

    2 PIECE

    0

    Pat Carroll looked at these choices and politely asked host Jack Narz what exactly "0" meant. Narz couldn't get specific with the husband right there, and so Carroll said that she would choose "0" just to see what would happen.
    Hubby is sitting there, blushing, when Narz speaks aloud the choices, thusly:
    "One piece, two piece, or birthday?"
    Hubby blushed even more, and answered "Birthday?", to roars from the audience.
    As I mentioned above, I was midway through my adolescence when this show aired. That I remember it all these years afterwards is a tribute to the educative powers of TV - I think.

    About the original Price Is Right:
    The show had been running for a number of years, first on NBC, later on ABC; 1965 was close to the end of the line for this version.
    The basic game was what is now the opening game of the current show: four players trying to outbid each other for the prizes. The day's winner was whoever accumulated the most money (in terms of prize value) over the half-hour.
    The celebrity player was only added when the show moved to ABC.
    One thing I remember: on NBC, Price's announcer was Don Pardo; when the show moved to ABC, the job went to Johnny Gilbert.
    Of course, both men went on to announce different incarnations of Jeopardy!
    Stranger Than Truth!

    That's all I got for now.
    Til next week ...

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  2. I thought ABC carried two-and-a-half hours of live-by-satellite coverage of LeMans both in 1965 and 1966: a half-hour live at the start, 90 minutes during the regular "Wide World Of Sports" slot, and the last half-hour Sunday morning. I think they again did it in 1967, only this time in color.

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  3. Cooper was correct...it's not common knowledge, but some accounts say as many of one-fourth of the cowboys in the post-Civil War West were black.

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