August 10, 2013

This week in TV Guide: August 6, 1966

Pernell Roberts, lately Adam Cartwright of Bonanza, hasn’t had a lot to do since leaving the hit show in 1965. Most of his work has been in on stage, with touring musicals, although he does make the odd guest star bit on TV. When asked by Jerry Kobrin if he’s concerned about having steady work to pay the bills, he replies, “I’m not exactly hungry. I’ve got $25,000 in the bank, and there’s that $500 every week in deferred payments from Bonanza, for the next five years.”

Roberts comes across as prickly, difficult and pretentious. There’s no question that he considers himself an artist, rather than a mere actor. And yet I can appreciate his frustration. He wasn’t happy with the Bonanza storyline and scripts, feeling that the Cartwright sons had basically been emasculated by poppa Ben. He found series television itself to be constricting and limiting to someone trained in classical acting.

Still, methinks he doth protest too much when ridiculing Bonanza. He talks of seeing a recent episode, which he describes as “funny as hell” – unintentionally, of course. He describes his six years on the series as “utter frustration,” and wonders that he was able to survive it. He’s more interested in discussing the “tragic farce” that is Vietnam, which strikes me as an effort to validate himself as something more than a grown man dressing up and playing roles onstage. I grant many of the things he says; still, it’s hard not to see him as one who would be far more comfortable reading dialogue written by Sterling Silliphant.

***

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..

We’ve got a pair of reruns this week. On Saturday night’s Palace, host Robert Goulet introduces singer-dancer Chita Rivera; singer Nancy Sinatra; comic Jan Murray; the Muppets, puppets; comedy magician Mac Ronay; and the Nerveless Nocks, sway-pole acrobats.

Ed counters with Judy Garland; actor Peter Sellers, who appears in a filmed sketch as an Italian movie director; the Swingle Singers; comics Jackie Vernon, and Hendra and Ullett; rock ‘n’ roller Tom Jones; the Swinging Lads, singing-instrumental group; mouse puppet Topo Gigio; Leyte Filipiana, a Filipino dance group; and the Marquis Chimps.

Unlike many weeks, both shows have strong lineups. Robert Goulet was starring in ABC’s World War II spy drama Blue Light, which despite being well-regarded, ran for only a half-season. Points off for Nancy Sinatra, though; it seems as if I’m running across her in these listings all the time.

However, I don’t think there’s any beating Ed this week. Judy Garland sings three songs, a surprising number for a show packed with as many guests as this one. Peter Sellers was likely as funny (and strange) as ever, and you’ve got to love the description of Tom Jones as a “rock ‘n’ roller,” although for the time, that’s exactly what he was. The verdict: Sullivan.

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Although we don’t have the Piccadilly Palace this week, we do have its stars. NBC’s Friday night London Palladium special features Morecambe and Wise and Millicent Martin, this time as guests of host Roger Moore*, along with the Dublin trio The Bachelors, music-hall performer Joe Brown, and illusionists Rita and Arno Van Bolen.

*Fun fact: this isn’t the first time Millicent Martin and Roger Moore have appeared together on TV. When Moore appeared as a guest on Martin’s own 1964 variety show, the two did a skit in which Moore played none other than James Bond.


Palladium is up against ABC’s Honey West, which my six-year-old self wouldn’t have been watching, but might have been considerably more interesting to the adult me. (Read: Anne Francis.) I haven’t seen the episode in question on MeTV, but it has potential, with Nehemiah Persoff* likely chewing the scenery as a fake clairvoyant.

*Fun fact: Persoff’s character, Faustini, predicts an attempt on the life of heiress Tina Tilson. Coincidentally, Tilson is also the last name of Gary Conway’s detective Tim Tilson on Burke’s Law, the show on which Honey West was first introduced. Given that the two shows are supposed to inhabit the same universe at the same time, I wonder if Tina Tilson and Tim Tilson were supposed to be connected in some way?

***

I’m always intrigued by the profiles of upcoming stars and starlets, each of whom is forecast to be the next big thing, few of whom ever hit the jackpot – relatively speaking, that is, since most of them had already accomplished more that I’ll probably manage. At any rate, this week’s profile is of “Typical Hollywood Kid” Julie Payne.*  Her father is It’s About TV favorite John Payne; her mother is silent film star Anne Shirley. She’ll make a few TV and movie appearances in small parts, but never becomes “the next big thing.” However, had things turned out differently, Danica Patrick might have grown up wanting to be “the next Julie Payne.” Her first love was auto racing, and she was part of a racing team by the time she was sixteen. “I know more about the inside of a car,” she says, “than I do about the inside of a beauty parlor.”

*Fun fact: In 1977, Payne will marry Robert Towne, Academy Award-winning screenwriter of Chinatown. Their daughter, Katharine Towne, goes on to some TV and movie success of her own. You can, I think, see some of John Payne in her face. If you’re looking at her face, that is.

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SOURCE: CBS NEWS
White House Wedding! Back in December, we read about the 1967 wedding of First Daughter Lynda Bird Johnson, the first wedding to take place in the White House in many years. In a back to the future moment, this week we have the previous year’s wedding of LBJ’s other daughter Luci Baines, to Patrick J. Nugent. Unlike her sister, Luci’s ceremony takes place at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, but there’s still plenty of doings at the White House. Television coverage starts at 10:00am Central time, including the departure of LBJ and Luci from the White House at 10:30 and their subsequent arrival at the Shrine, and continuing with the newly married couple’s decent down the church steps (cameras were not allowed in the Shrine during the ceremony), and the return of the wedding party to the South Portico. There’s also no live coverage of the reception, but the networks return between 6:00 and 6:30pm with taped highlights.

As will be the case in 1967, coverage is anchored by male-female teams; society columnist Betty Beale joins Peter Jennings and Frank Reynolds on ABC, Nancy Dickerson teams with Ray Scherer on NBC, and on CBS Washington Post columnist Scottie Lanahan* provides insight for Harry Reasoner and Roger Mudd. Interestingly enough, despite the co-ed composition, they’re all referred to as “anchor men.”

*Fun fact: Scottie Lanahan’s mother and father were Zelda and F. Scott Fitzgerald.

The marriage was annulled in 1979. (I wonder what the grounds were?)

***

Boy, there was a lot of boxing on Wide World of Sports in the 60s. As I’ve mentioned before, the sport had virtually disappeared from prime time by 1966, except for syndicated or closed-circuit broadcasts. But hey, it’s prime time in London, where this week heavyweight champion Cassius Clay takes on Brian London.* London’s fought for the title once before, losing to Floyd Patterson in Indianapolis in 1959; he was knocked out in the 11th round. He’s lost eight more times since then, but has won five of his last six leading up to his title shot against Clay. And shot is perhaps the right word for it, as he’s knocked out by the champ in the third round. According to Edwin Newman, one of the more memorable headlines following the fight was one which read “London is Blitzed!”

*The only instance of a title fight in which one of the fighter’s names is the same as the city in which the fight is being held.



It's early in August, football season is just around the corner, and exhibition games actually outnumber baseball on TV this week, with three games on tap. I loved watching these games when I was a kid; the pre-season meant a lot more back then, before players went to year-round training, and many of these were competitive games in which the starters saw extensive action. What’s more, they represented the welcome return of football after a nearly eight-month absence, and everyone was ready to watch. And as if that weren’t enough, we’re still in the era of the NFL-AFL war (although the leagues had announced their merger plans mere weeks before), and the two leagues would begin intra-league pre-season games the following year, ramping up the intensity level even more.* With school still out for the summer, it was a pleasant way to spend a summer evening.

*Case in point: the Kansas City Chiefs, fresh off their appearance against Green Bay in the first Super Bowl, destroyed the iconic Chicago Bears in their 1967 tilt by a score of 66-24.

I’m most interested in Saturday night’s game between the Minnesota Vikings and Detroit Lions, which was played in New Orleans. It wasn’t uncommon back then to have games played at neutral sites; ticket sales were usually strong, as the fans in these cities were being given a rare chance to see pro football in person, and it gave the leagues an opportunity to check out the cities as possible expansion sites. New Orleans had received a black eye just the previous year, when the AFL had been forced to move their All Star Game from the Crescent City to San Diego because of unequal treatment for black players. (I discussed the history of racial segregation and sports in New Orleans here), and the city needed to rehab its reputation if it had any hope of getting a future team. Exhibitions such as this likely went some way toward reassuring the NFL that New Orleans was ready, and the less than three months later the New Orleans Saints were introduced, to begin play the next season.*

*It’s also true that Louisiana’s influential congressman, Hale Boggs, was chairman of the House committee responsible for approving the NFL-AFL merger. Shortly after the Saints were born, Boggs’ committee gave the thumbs-up. Fun fact: Boggs is the father of ABC correspondent Cokie Roberts.

***

Ever had that feeling you were missing something when you sat down to watch that movie on television? Well, you’re right. The editing of movies for television, whether for content or running time, is becoming an increasing controversy. Otto Preminger, who failed in an effort to get a court injunction preventing his movie Anatomy of a Murder from being chopped up by TV stations, calls it “a principle which I think concerns everybody in my profession very much.” The movie did get a network airing without cuts after a judge issued a temporary injunction but, Preminger grumbled, “the 36 commercial interruptions are just as bad.”

George Stevens faced a similar problem with his movie, A Place in the Sun, claiming that NBC’s commercials “emasculated” the “artistic quality” of the movie. A judge disagreed, contending that Stevens had actually made a movie so powerful and dramatic that “it prevailed over the commercial interruptions.” George Sidney, head of the Directors Guild, thinks of commercials as rivals to movies, competing with their own story. “You’re not giving them the work the sponsor advertised any more than if you buy a book and on the fiftieth page you insert a short story.”

Jimmy Stewart experienced his own frustration over a telecast of It’s a Wonderful Life – “in the picture I was about to commit suicide and Henry Travers, the Angel, comes down from heaven to save me. That whole scene was cut up, so the introduction of the character was gone. He just shows up.” John Wayne hates watching his movies on TV; “If you have a dramatic point in a story, they have no regard for it.” Cary Grant thinks viewers will have the last word, predicting that eventually “people will say, ‘It’s useless to watch these pictures; they’ve been cut up too much.’” Grant died in 1986, living long enough to see the advent of HBO and American Movie Classics – cable stations that aired movies unedited and without commercials. Indeed, the viewer did have the last word.

***

ABC’s announces it’s joining the talk show scene, with Joey Bishop scheduled to debut his own show in April 1967, taking on Johnny Carson’s Tonight show. Bishop says he’ll model his show more after Jack Paar than Carson. And CBS says it will be part of the late night scene as well, promising a talk show by autumn of 1967, if not sooner. The network’s answer will be to import Merv Griffin, currently with a successful syndicated show; the experiment will fail, and a disgruntled Griffin will head back to syndication. As for CBS, they never do grow a home-grown star in the 10:30 (CT) slot, but they’ll finally succeed by importing another successful talk show host: David Letterman.


Don't forget: a new installment of Hadley's Top Ten this Tuesday!

3 comments:

  1. More or less in order:

    - Pernell Roberts was disenchanted with Bonanza long before he actually quit the show. Proof of that was how he would appear on game or talk shows without his toupee.
    Roberts wasn't completely bald yet, as he eventually was on Trapper John, MD. He had what I called "Barry Morse hair" (or "see-through hair" in more irreverent moments), to the clear disappointment of female contestants he was paired with on the game shows.
    Still, Roberts was committed to his version of honesty, and was proudly bald and bearded to the end of his TV career (and was as much a griper about his later shows as he was about Bonanza).

    -Sullivan vs. Palace:
    The Peter Sellers clip on Sullivan was most likely a scene from After The Fox, which was about to be released theatrically.
    Ed used to do this a lot, when he couldn't get this or that star to appear in person "on ahr stage".

    - This is the second time in as many weeks that you've mentioned, in passing, Morecambe & Wise, probably the most beloved comedy duo in British history.
    Piccadilly Palace would have been more accurately titled The Morecambe & Wise Show, since they were front and center throughout the hour, with Millicent Martin and their writers (Sid Green and Dick Hills) in support.
    Perhaps more telling is that all of this was before they had their greatest success in Britain, with a long-running BBC show that got the top stars in GB to do low comedy with Eric and Ernie.
    You can find a lot of their stuff on YouTube - and you should.

    - Anne Shirley was hardly a "silent film star".
    She was a contemporary of husband John Payne; her career had its peak in the late '30s and early '40s.
    OK, that's seventy years ago, but still ...

    - Not much else I can comment on here that already hasn't been done to death elsewhere.
    I had a reluctantly long weekend, and I'm several entries behind; I'll catch up as I can.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Off-topic, sort of:

    Since this TVG is from the '65-'66 season, I thought I might pass along this reminiscence of a local Chicago "series" from that year.

    WGN, Channel 9, was the independent station in town (UHF was only getting started that year). Ch9, owned by the Chicago Tribune, invested heavily in old off-network series and vintage movies; since this was before the practice of "stripping" (showing series five nights a week), they had a quite diverse schedule in the fall and winter (spring and summer belonged to the Cubs).

    Anyway, in '65 WGN acquired the Universal Sherlock Holmes movies with Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce, and announced The Sherlock Holmes Theater, to run Monday nights in the fall.
    And here was the grabber: the studio host would be Basil Rathbone himself, in person.
    There was a problem of sorts: there were only ten Holmes films in the Universal series, plus two more that Rathbone and Bruce had done previously for 20th-Fox. Not enough for a whole season.
    WGN's solution was to fill out the schedule with their other major whodunit asset - Charlie Chan, all of whose 40-odd films were in the ch9 vaults.
    So it was that late in summer of '65, Basil Rathbone came to Chicago to tape the inros, outtros, and in-betweenos for The Sherlock Holmes Theatre - including the Chans.
    Regrettably, I was still a teenager at the time, with no TV of my own, and my parents had an ongoing commitment to Andy Williams and Run For Your Life.
    So I never got to see the Holmes show, or the Chans included therein.
    Pity - I always wondered what Basil Rathbone would have said about Mantan Moreland.
    Rathbone died two years later, in 1967: WGN paid tribute by running a few of the Holmes Theatres with his interstitials intact.
    And to this day I wonder - did WGN save all of Rathbone's tapes - Chans included? I suppose I'll never know ...

    Anyway, that's the story, which I pass along for its possible amusement value.

    Standing by ...

    ReplyDelete
  3. It's interesting that in the Ali/London fight clip, Howard Cosell is only doing analysis, and not play-by-play.

    Calling the blow-by-blow was Chris Schnekel, who although best remembered for bowling telecasts, did do a lot of boxing in the mid 1950's for the now-defunct DuMont network. In fact, Schnekel called the boxing card at St. Nicholas Arena in New York a decade earlier on August 6th, 1956.

    I believe it was also the first time a live boxing match from overseas was telecast live-by-satellite back to the 'States.

    ReplyDelete

Thanks for writing! Drive safely!