October 19, 2013

This week in TV Guide: October 16, 1965

One of the things I miss about today's television is the celebrity-driven game show. Of course, there aren't many game shows at all today, let alone ones with TV and movie stars in them, but back in the 60s it was a great way to publicize an upcoming movie or show, or at the very least (for those stars who had gone a while between hits) to remind the audience that you were still alive.

CBS is always good for some of these. There's the venerable Password,, which this week features singer Jack Jones and actress Sheila MacRae, followed by the daytime version of To Tell The Truth, with the regular panel of Tom Poston, Peggy Cass, Orson Bean and Kitty Carlisle. NBC, the network with the most daytime game shows, has a couple of celebrity versions of their own: You Don't Say!, with this week's stars psychologist/TV personality Dr. Joyce Brothers and educator/TV personality Frank Baxter, followed by the original Match Game, with Gloria Swanson and Chester Morris.

I've mentioned before how ABC struggled with their daytime lineup, and while they'll eventually become a powerhouse with Chuck Barris' duo of The Dating Game and The Newlywed Game, their current schedule is a mix of local programming, reruns of prime-time series (Donna Reed, Father Knows Best, Ben Casey, trendy talk (The Young Set, hosted by Phyllis Kirk) and soaps (mostly forgettable, with the exception of General Hospital).

There are, of course, all manner of other game shows on, ones that don't feature celebs: Concentration, Jeopardy! and Let's Make a Deal (all on NBC) being prime examples, and shows such as Fractured Phrases where the stars aren't listed, at least in this issue. I have great affection for these old shows, even for some of the soaps that my mother watched and were on in the background while I was playing. The reason - if I was watching daytime television, it meant that school was on break or off for the summer. Growing old is, on balance, a good thing; but one of the bitter pills you have to swallow, until retirement, is the realization that you don't get to take summers off anymore.

Here are some other highlights from the week:

On Tuesday, CBS presents master documentarian David L. Wolper's adaptation of Theodore White's best-seller The Making of the President 1964. Neither the book nor the documentary have quite the cachet of White's original 1960 book (and subsequent documentary), but it's still a valuable portrait of the tumultuous 1964 campaign, as LBJ tries to step out of the shadow of JFK. As with the previous documentary, stage actor (and frequent What's My Line? guest panelist) Martin Gabel provides the dignified narration.*

SOURCE: HADLEY TV GUIDE COLLECTION
*Also in the programming pages for Tuesday is this ad for the John F. Kennedy half-dollar coin set, a valuable collectors item as silver is being phased out of coin-making. Is the placement a coincidence?  And what about that Dallas mailing address?

Barbra Streisand burst onto the television scene in April 1965 with her special "My Name Is Barbra," and CBS repeats the Emmy-winning show on Wednesday night. Also on Wednesday, NBC's Hallmark Hall of Fame presents James Daly and Trevor Howard in the orginal drama "Eagle in a Cage," the story of Napoleon in exile on St. Helena. Now tell me - can you see Hall of Fame showing something like that today? Not quite enough of a chick flick, I'd say.

Awards shows haven't quite progressed to the point where they're stand-alone programs. The Golden Globes, for example, have been presented for several years on the Andy Williams show, and on Friday night the Country Western Music Awards are handed out on The Jimmy Dean Show. The show runs the typical one hour; nowadays, it seems as if there's a Country music awards show every other week.

What's that? You say there is?

***

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..

Hollywood Palace: Host Frank Sinatra welcomes Count Basie; comic Jack E. Leonard; dancer Peter Gennaro, choreographer for Perry Como and the recent Andy Griffith special; West German singer-dancers Alice and Ellen Kessler; and Colombian high-wire acrobat Murillo.

Sullivan: In Hollywood, Ed's scheduled guests are Sid Caesar; actor Sean Connery; the singing McGuire Sisters; singer Pat Boone; the rock 'n' rolling Animals; comics Guy Marks and Totie Fields; and the Fiji Military Band.

What a week! After so many weeks of so-so lineups, both shows really deliver this time. Sullivan may have a deeper lineup, there's no way I'm going to go against Frank Sinatra and Count Basie. The verdict: The Palace, but in this pre-DVD era watch for Sullivan on reruns.

***

For political junkies, the Sunday interview shows are a feast. On NBC, Meet the Press interviews the three major candidates for mayor of New York City: Republican John Lindsay, Democrat Abe Beame, and Conservative William F. Buckley, Jr. Buckley's stated reason for entering the race is an attempt to deny victory to the liberal Lindsay (indeed, Beame may well be less liberal than Lindsay), and although he fails (Lindsay wins with 43% to Beame's 39% and Buckley's 13%), WFB does get off the best line of the campaign: declining his rebuttal time during a debate, he remarks that "I am satisfied to sit back and contemplate my own former eloquence."*

*I've used this line many times over the years myself. Although there are those who would have preferred I stop with "I am satisfied to sit back."

With the death of President Kennedy last year, former President Dwight Eisenhower is seen even more as the elder statesman of the presidency, and on ABC's Issues and Answers he sits down for a one-on-one interview with White House correspondent Bill Lawrence from the Civil War battlefield at Gettysburg. General Eisenhower* analyzes military tactics in the Vietnam War, discusses the final volume in his memoirs, and talks politics, including "a plan for limiting Senate and Congressional terms of office." Ah, Ike always was a man ahead of his time.

*As a five-star general, Eisenhower was given the choice as to what title he wished to use following his presidency. He always chose to be referred to as "General" rather than "President."

There's no guest listed for CBS' Face the Nation, but a quick Google search reveals that it was Alabama Attorney General Richmond Flowers, who's there to discuss the trial of KKK member Collie Leroy Wilkins for the murder of civil rights worker Viola Liuzzo following the march from Montgomery to Selma. Wilkins' first trial ended in a hung jury, and the moderate Flowers, a proponent of civil rights legislation, has announced that he will personally take over prosecution of the retrial because, as state AG, he won't be subject to the pressures that local prosecutors might face. The sensational case has drawn worldwide attention, as well as a move to have the KKK investigated by the House Un-American Activities Committee. Wilkins is never convicted by an Alabama court (thus escaping the electric chair), but is found guilty of civil rights violations in a subsequent Federal trial.

*Fun fact: Flowers' son, Richmond Jr., was a football player at Tennessee and went on to play in the NFL for Dallas and the New York Giants. (He chose Tennessee over Alabama because of his father's controversial politics.) He was also a star hurdler, a contender to make the 1968 Olympic team (a torn hamstring prevented him from qualifying), and was known at the time as "the fastest white boy alive."

***

Let's continue with the sports theme for a moment. The World Series has ended, and now the spotlight turns fully to football. (Another sign of how the times have changed - today, it's the World Series that struggles - unsuccessfully - for a place in the spotlight.) The college game of the week on Saturday features a Southwestern Conference showdown between Texas and Arkansas, two of the top teams in the South. Arkansas, after blowing a 20-0 lead, rallies to defeat Texas 27-24. Four years later the two teams would play for the national championship. Today, the SWC is but a fading memory, as are (increasingly) the glory years of both teams, especially Texas.

SOURCE: HADLEY TV GUIDE COLLECTION
On Sunday, the defending AFL champion Buffalo Bills take on the Kansas City Chiefs in NBC's feature game. Buffalo, led by a stalwart defense and the quarterbacking of future political star Jack Kemp, defeats Kansas City 23-7 on their way to a second straight AFL title. To date, it's the last league championship for the Bills, who've only come as close as four Super Bowl losses since then. No TV doubleheaders yet; the game is followed by the season premiere of Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, as Marlin Perkins and Jim Fowler go in search of a marauding mountain lion in Arizona.*

*Did you ever notice how often Marlin let Jim do the dangerous work while he sat back with the segue to the commercials? Typical line: "While Jim risks his life to capture that poisonous rattlesnake, you risk your financial security every day without the income protection you get from insurance by Mutual of Omaha.

There's no NFL football on WCCO today, as the Vikings are playing at home and the current blackout rules mean that when the home team is home, there's no broadcast of any game into that market. They do get the Vikings-Chicago Bears game on KGLO in Mason City, IA, though, and (apparently on a one-hour delay) on KDAL in Duluth. WKBT in LaCrosse carries the Green Bay Packers game (naturally) against the Detroit Lions. WCCO, meanwhile, has to make do with its long-running bowling show Bowlerama, the movie Martin Luther, and what we would recognize today as infomercials.

***

Some interesting feedback in the Letters to the Editor section regarding that writers' roundtable I spent so much time on last month. There's an interesting response from Howard Bell, the NAB Code Authority Director, who takes issue with the idea that the Code is responsible for the decline in TV drama. "[T]he TV code is not designed to stifle creativity in writers, nor does it do so in actual practice," Bell writes, quoting extensively from Section 1 of the Code: "It is in the interest of television as a vital medium to encourage and promote the broadcast of programs presenting genuine artistic or literary material, valid moral and social issues, significant controversial and challenging adult themes." While the Code isn't responsible for television's premier dramas, Bell writes, neither has it been a deterrant. If there has been a decline in the quality of television drama there are undoubtedly reasons for it, but "from the Code Authority point of view, the excuse of censorship through the TV Code is misleading."

Leo Monaghan of Springfield, MA also sees the issue of censorship as a straw man, pointing out that "Movies, paperbacks and magazines have amply shown that elimination of censorship is not the answer to mediocrity, but merely an invitation to degradation." According to Monaghan, the answer is not license, but talent. And while Maureen Bendich of Saratoga, CO says that the article was "appalling and stimulating," suggesting that she sympathizes with the writers, she says it also "confirms my impressions that there is no room left for creativity." Finally, Robert Shaw, a visiting Briton writing from Jamaica NY, finds the whole thing ironic, having "been lectured on the 'evils' of government-controlled TV [i.e. the BBC] compared to the free enterprise system, as practiced ehre where 'no censorship exists.'" It's not clear whether Shaw finds the complaining or the assertion of no censorship to be the most humorous.

***

The networks lost a combined $10,000,000 in revenue during their coverage of Pope Paul VI's historic visit to New York City earlier in October, but it was worth it, as Henry Harding reports they "rose magnificently to the occasion." The networks devoted virtually all of October 4 to coverage of the papal visit, with 90 pool cameras broadcasting images to over 140 million viewers during the 14 hours of coverage, including a high point of 70,000,000 at one point. Compared to "the esteem and gratitude of millions of viewers," the loss of revenue may be well worth it.

And they could use it, according to Samuel Grafton, in the first of a three-part series on how television covers the news. His question: does TV news really give the viewer the whole story? His answer: no. It's quite interesting, and another indication of how times have changed, that the article is full of comparisons between television and newspapers. NBC's Reuven Frank, for example, says that "A television news show is a front page. It is not a full news service, like a complete newspaper." Washington correspondent Clark Mollenhoff, who covers the capital for the Des Moines Register and Tribune and the Minneapolis Star and Tribune, says, "They touch the surface," but to do anything further would take "depth knowledge of a subject, which they don't have, or don't have time to acquire." Even Walter Cronkite, in a recent interview on the educational station WNDT, admits that "I do not think we cover the news"

Grafton compares the newspaper reporter, who "works through contacts he develops over the years, with many people, great and small," with the television reporter, who "comes through like a parade, with his truck and his cameras." Complicating things is television's fear of boring viewers, requiring them to reduce stories "to a small enough compass so that the viewer can take all of it," unlike the newspaper reader who commits himself to a thorough review of the daily paper. For the same reason television news avoids stories that lack mass attention - "news of music, of the theater, paintings and new books." As Frank says, although "[t]here's no subject that can't be covered on television," it should only be covered if it's of interest to the layman - "not if it is interested only in a specialist's way."

By comparison, local television news is seen as a strength of the medium. Now, most sane people today consider local news to be pretty much, not to put it too delicately, crap. The "if it bleeds, it leads" mentality, combined with the boy-girl happy news anchor teams, most of which look as if they're auditioning for a fashion runway rather than the newsdesk, has heavily influenced network television. But the advantage that local news has in the mid 1960s is that its audience is interested - these are stories that have a direct impact on viewers, from commentaries to reviews of new plays.

The lack of commentary on television news is particularly striking, since the three major anchors - Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley - all have five-minute daily radio spots in which they often make pointed comments. Why radio and not TV? Huntley acknowledges that "We're still feeling our way on television. We'd feel naked on TV doing a one-and-a-half-minute think piece." Lacking commentary, there's always hard-hitting reporting, but even here television falls short. According to Raymond Brand, an editor at the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, it's because TV newsmen are too worried about their own images, too "dignified" and respectful, to lower themselves into the muck. CBS' Fred Friendly hopes this changes; "We want yeast. We want savvy. We want what comes out of a reporter's deep experience. Our reporters are going to dig, not just read."

Much as was the case with that drama writers' roundtable, the main obstacle to television news seems to be a sort of censorship, a reluctance to go beyond self-set limitations. But with expenditures of over $100 million annually, it's clear that television news won't remain static.

***

Harding also reports that CBS' Slatterys' People is the first casualty of the season. Slattery had barely escaped cancellation last season, but was unable to dodge the bullet this time, scheduled to leave the airwaves on December 3 in favor of a talent show hosted by Art Linkletter. Rawhide isn't far behind, as it's due to leave in January in favor of Daktari. Says Slattery star Richard Crenna, "I've always thought the ratings system was a stinking way to program...they never intended to give the show a chance." Calling Sterling Silliphant...

5 comments

  1. This issue's at home; I'll have to bring it in tomorrow to be certain of things.

    Meanwhile, I do have a correction to make:
    Whatever the orginal announcement may have been, Slattery's People's replacement on Friday nights was Trials Of O'Brien, moved over from Saturdays.
    Art Linkletter's Hollywood Talent Scouts went in on Mondays, in place of Steve Lawrence's variety show.

    That's all I can think of for now; more tomorrow (maybe).

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  2. Love it when we can catch TV Guide in an error! (At least I hope it was them, and not me!)

    Hope you've got some more tomorrow.

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  3. Regarding yesterday's "error":

    It wasn't really an error at all; merely a premature announcement.
    I'd momentarily forgotten that the "quick yank" we're all used to now almost never happened in "the good old daze". Even the lowest rated shows got at least their half-season in the sun before fading out.
    Thus, an October announcement that didn't take effect for another couple of months was always "subject to change".
    In this particular case, I'm guessing that the ultimate decision involved keeping Trials Of O'Brien and dropping Steve Lawrence, rather than the other way around (I'm using other issues from around the same time frame for context here). CBS's conservative programming philosophies would have dictated replacing one show with another much like it (continuity of a sort).

    I looked over the scheduled shows for the week; everything seemed to be in a holding pattern.
    Whatever shows weren't doing well were simply marking time until the turn of the year.
    The big turnover would come in January, which saw the beginnings of the takeover by color; the final triumph would happen in September of '66. You can chart this for yourself if you've got the issues for the turn of the year,
    Meantime, you might want to check out the features in the color section of the magazine, such as the cover of Red Skelton by British cartoonist Ronald Searle (of St. Trinian's fame), or Cleveland Amory's review of Trials Of O'Brien (this is an old favorite of mine, and I'll plug it every chance I get), and a wonderful profile of Edward Everett Horton, then 79 and recurring on F Troop.

    There's lots of gold in these old mags, if you know where to look.

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  4. "The Ed Sullivan Show" temporarily relocated to Television City in Hollywood, which had already been converted for color television, for about a month in September and October of 1965 while the Ed Sullivan Theatre in New York was converted to color.

    You may know more about this than I do, but I think Ed's show moved back home the next week and began colorcasts from its regular home.

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  5. Speaking about color TV, an elderly acquaintance who read this post and who had a color TV back then seems to recall that much of the TV coverage of Pope Paul VI's visit to New York was in black-and-white, but that his arrival at Kennedy Airport, his visit to St. Patrick's Cathedral, and the Mass at Yankee Stadium were broadcast in color by the networks.

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