July 20, 2013

This week in TV Guide: July 21, 1973

Back in the days before the internet, Americans relied on television to give them the information they couldn’t get from their doctors. And what better “virtual” physicians to have than the kindly Marcus Welby and the dedicated Joe Gannon? Muriel Davidson’s cover story shares real-life incidents of lives being saved because of what viewers had seen on their favorite medical shows. A boy in Inver Grove Heights, Minnesota, administers mouth-to-mouth and heart massage on his asthmatic brother because he’d seen it done on Marcus Welby, M.D.; a man in Springfield, Missouri watching Welby self-diagnoses himself with a bleeding ulcer (he was right); a woman living in Los Angeles sees a man on Medical Center suffering from slurred speech, numb hands, and difficulty seeing – symptoms identical to hers. She tells her doctor she thinks she has M.S., because that’s what the character on Medical Center had. The skeptical doctor runs the tests, which confirm her suspicions. It’s not all WebMD-type diagnoses, though; another Welby episode tells the story of a brain-damaged boy who’s been labeled “slow” – the sensitivity and compassion of the episode produced thousands of letters of commendation.

Doctors caution people not to rely on fictional television stories in place of actual medical care, and point to patients having cancelled scheduled needed surgeries after seeing a Bold Ones episode about an unscrupulous doctor performing unnecessary surgery for profit. The producers of the shows say that their purpose is not to replace doctors, but to provide awareness education for viewers, pointing out potential health concerns or de-stigmatizing others, such as sexually-transmitted diseases.

Ultimately, the money line in the story points to the growing role of television in American society, and its power – at the time – to unify. Says a mother of a child suffering from a similar brain-damaged syndrome, who used the Welby episode to educate teachers and classmates on his condition, “It’s a miracle what can be done when people no longer are alone.”

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TV's two definitive 70s-era rock music shows, NBC's The Midnight Special and ABC's In Concert, faced off on Friday nights.  Midnight Special was a weekly show, airing after Johnny Carson, while In Concert was an every-other week part of Wide World of Entertainment.  Whenever the two slug it out, we'll be there to give you the winner.

Funny thing about Channel 9, the then-ABC affiliate in MSP. Throughout the sixties and seventies, Channel 9 would show a movie in place of the network’s Friday late-night offering, showing the pre-empted program instead on Sunday after the late local news. Has to do with revenue from those commercials, I know, but it’s still an interesting quirk in KMSP’s programming.*

*They also frequently delayed the Monday through Thursday offering, particularly during the Les Crane and Joey Bishop eras, until after their 10:30 movie.

So even though there wasn’t a Midnight Special-In Concert clash scheduled for this week, we’ll have one anyway, using Channel 9’s Sunday night’s broadcast of last Friday’s episode. Talk about luck!

In Concert: The Guess Who, B.B. King and Melanie perform in this rock concert taped at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. Produced by Dick Clark Teleshows, Inc.

Midnight Special: Hostess Dionne Warwicke, with Johnny Mathis, Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, folk singer Leo Kottke, rock group Malo and pop singer Bud Brisbois.

Dionne Warwicke was in her “e” phase in 1973*, and was also making the talk show rounds. Just before this Midnight Special appearance, she’s appearing with guest host Jerry Lewis on the Tonight Show, and – at least on the Special – she’s going with what made her famous: the songs of Burt Bacharach, including 1968’s hit “I Say a Little Prayer.” Johnny Mathis follows with one of his hits, “Killing Me Softly with Her Song.” Throw in the pre-Gambler Kenny Rogers and singer Leo Kottke (later a frequent guest on radio’s Prairie Home Companion), and you have the kind of eclectic music mix that was a hallmark of top-40 radio, and is virtually non-existent nowadays.

*From the always-reliable Wikipedia: “Warwick, for years an aficionado of psychic phenomena, was advised by astrologer Linda Goodman in 1971 to add a small "e" to her last name, making Warwick ‘WARWICKe’ for good luck and to recognize her married name and her spouse, actor and drummer William ‘Bill’ Elliott. Goodman convinced Warwick that the extra small ‘e’ would add a vibration needed to balance her last name and bring her even more good fortune in her marriage and her professional life. Unfortunately, Goodman proved to be mistaken about this. The extra ‘e,’ according to Dionne, "was the worst thing I could have done in retrospect, and in 1975 I finally got rid of that damn ‘’e” and became “Dionne Warwick“ again.’” You’d think she would have known that would happen, don’t you?

Meanwhile, In Concert features some hits of its own: The Guess Who’s “American Woman,” B.B. King’s “The Thrill Is Gone,” and Melanie’s “What Have They Done to My Song, Ma?” So who’s the winner this week? I’m afraid I’m going to show my age here, but if you can’t share it with your friends, who can you share it with? Midnight Special, on style points alone.

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If it’s July, it must be football season, right? This Friday night the gridiron greats return with ABC’s coverage of the College All-Star Game from Soldier Field in Chicago, pitting the NFL champion Miami Dolphins (coming off their undefeated season) against a team featuring future pro stars Bert Jones, Otis Armstrong and John Matuszak. Melvin Durslag’s preview article discusses the history of the game, which started in 1934 as a benefit for the Chicago Tribune Charities.*

*The game was started by Tribune sports editor Arch Ward, who was also responsible for major league baseball’s All Star Game.

One of the problems the game faces (which helped end the game in the mid 70s) is a growing reluctance of NFL teams to allow their newly drafted stars to participate, due to both a concern about injuries and the amount of training camp the rookies will miss. This helps explain why the game’s usually a rout, and this year’s edition is expected to be no different, but the All Stars, coached by USC’s legendary John McKay, give the Fins all they can handle, and more. In the fourth quarter, buoyed by a strong defense led by Matuszak, the Stars trail the Dolphins only by 7-3, before Miami running back Larry Csonka scores the clinching touchdown in a surprisingly tough 14-3 victory.

And speaking of baseball’s All-Star Game, that’s this week as well. Before the days of cable TV and regularly scheduled interleague play, the All-Star Game really was must-see TV. For many of us living in Minnesota, it was one of the rare times we got to see National League players, whom we’d otherwise only see on the Saturday game of the week.

This year’s game is in Kansas City, televised by NBC, and the Nationals will rout the Americans 7-1 for their 10th win in the last 11 years. There were some pretty good players in that game, too – the Nats featured nine future Hall of Famers, including Johnny Bench, Hank Aaron, Joe Morgan, Ron Santo, Tom Seaver, Don Sutton, Billy Willilams, Willie Mays and Willie Stargell – plus that pesky Pete Rose character. The Americans countered with nine of their own – Carlton Fisk, Rod Carew, Brooks Robinson, Reggie Jackson, Carl Yastrzemski, Nolan Ryan, Catfish Hunter, Rollie Fingers and Bert Blyleven. I wonder – will this year’s game do as well?

***

What with so many regular series in summer reruns, we’ve been focusing the last few weeks on summer replacement shows. Ready for some more?

Saturday night, ABS gives us Jack Burns and Avery Schreiber in The Burns and Schreiber Comedy Hour, in place of the cancelled Julie Andrews show, and on Thursday night NBC has Helen Reddy, sitting in for Flip Wilson, followed by the premiere of Dean Martin Presents Music Country, this week starring Johnny Cash, Mac Davis, Loretta Lynn, Marty Robbins and a cast of thousands. There are a lot of movies on this week as well, many of them failed pilots for series that never came to pass, such as “I Love a Mystery” with Ida Lupino (NBC) and “Crime Club,” starring Lloyd Bridges (CBS).

For the most part, though, we don’t see so many summer replacement shows right now. The networks have made many of their scheduling changes in January during the start of the “second season,” and as the variety show fades away there are fewer stars taking the summer off. It will be Fox and cable that really bring the summer season back, introducing many of their new series to compete with the tired reruns on the networks.

There is one kind of summer program not seen anymore, at least in Minneapolis: the twin Aquatennial parades. I’ve mentioned the Aquatennial before; back in the day this was the biggest summer festival around, and the two parades – the Grande Day Parade on Saturday and the Torchlight Parade on Wednesday - were major events. Channel 4 preempts its regular programming Saturday afternoon for the Grand Day parade, featuring a pair of celebrity grand marshals – Larry Linville from M*A*S*H (no coincidence that a CBS star would appear on a parade being televised by a CBS affiliate, right?), and evangelist Billy Graham, and an appearance by Colonel Sanders. Keeping with the “Seas of Antiquity,” there are also a number of representatives from Turkey, Egypt, Lebanon and Greece.

Channel 5 does the honors for the Torchlight parade (preempting Madigan and Search) with grand marshal Simcha Dimitz, Israeli Ambassador to the United States, along with the Israeli consul general, and another appearance by Colonel Sanders. Although the floats are the same ones from the Saturday parade (now with lights attached), I wonder if all of the Arab representatives still participated, considering the company they’d be keeping? After all, the Yom Kippur War is less than three months away.

***

Since we’re talking about old TV, here’s something interesting – a program about TV shows that were already considered old in 1973 . That’s not too meta for you, is it?

Eric Sevareid interviewing
Rachel Carson
It’s CBS News Retrospective, airing late on Sunday afternoons, in which the network dips into its vaults to rebroadcast some of its most acclaimed and influential CBS Reports documentaries from the fifties and sixties. This week it’s the 1963 documentary “The Silent Spring of Rachel Carson,” the landmark program that first shown the spotlight on ecology and the environment – specifically the uses of DDT and other pesticides, and the effects they had on birds, fish and the soil. Carson’s assertions were controversial then, and they remain controversial today.

I never missed this limited-run series, which included several documentaries by Edward R. Murrow. This was advocacy television at its finest (in terms of quality, that is – not necessarily ideology), and these programs were great examples of a type of television journalism that’s pretty much nonexistent today. And I can’t help but wonder about the method behind CBS airing these shows at this particular time. Could it be that the Tiffany Network was reminding viewers of their great news tradition, in order to bolster the division’s credibility during the continuing coverage of the Watergate hearings? Or is that too cynical a thought?

Speaking of which, we’re reminded at the start of the programming section (as well as several times throughout the week) that regular programming stands to be preempted for those Senate Watergate hearings. The nation has just been stunned the previous week by former presidential aide Alexander Butterfield’s casual comment that there was tape recording going on in the Oval Office. On Monday, July 23, special prosecutor Archibald Cox will demand that the White House turn over transcripts of those taped conversations, which President Nixon will refuse to do, citing Executive Privilege.

What’s interesting is that even at this point, roughly a year before Nixon will be forced to resign, the public is still divided over the issue. While 50% believe former aide John Dean’s accusations that Nixon is covering up the affair, they’re also split evenly (38%037%) as to whom they would believe if Nixon denies the charge. Ah, politics.

2 comments

  1. In addition to "In Concert" and "Midnight Special", there was "Don Kirschner's Rock Concert." Where I grew up (CT) it ran late on Saturday nights.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, as I recall it was kind of erratic on TV in Minneapolis, although one of our readers might be able to enlighten us on that. One of the drawbacks I've found is that it seldom lists the guests - but when it does, I'll throw that in as well!

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