April 30, 2013

A police state's wet dream

Regular readers know that I don’t often write about current television because I don’t often watch current television.* I’m going to make an exception today, however, and I’m also going to be touching a bit on politics, though not to advocate – so I’ll issue my standard disclaimer, that if neither of these topics interest you, feel free to come back for the TV Guide piece on Saturday. No questions asked, no hard feelings.

*Although I admit that two of my favorite shows of all time – Top Gear (the UK version) and Doctor Who – are current. Neither, however, is on network television and both are British series, which may or may not mean something.

If you’re still with me, we’ll proceed. A show that I do catch (albeit involuntarily) from time to time is NCIS, and I’ve also seen the other police procedurals, CSI, Law & Order, etc. And there’s something about NCIS that disturbs me quite a bit – namely, the seeming disregard for civil liberties.

Now, politically I’m no civil libertarian, but it troubles me that series like NCIS are so cavalier with these basic rights.  Of course, television shows aren't quite as encumbered by the Constitution as real life tends to be, and they tend to draw a much clearer line between the good guys and the bad guys.  Every week we’re supposed to be amazed at how quickly the agents can find the information that points the finger of judgment at the guilty. We’re properly satisfied when incriminating evidence is uncovered through means that most likely would be tossed by the trial judge. We chuckle appreciatively when strong-arm interrogation techniques are used, and smirk knowingly every time a wisecrack is tossed out.

As I said, NCIS is just a television show.  Its portrayal of government agents in search of criminals and terrorists may or may not be accurate, and it may exaggerate things from time to time for dramatic effect (as has been the case since TV began).  We shouldn't take it as a documentary on how the real-life NCIS is run.  

But it's because NCIS is a TV show that I worry.  Like most TV cop shows (though not all, particularly in this day and age), we're supposed to root for the good guys against the bad guys.  And in the pursuit of justice, we're taught that it's allowable for certain corners to be cut.  Like files copied from a computer without a warrant.  Like agents looking in a house without probable cause.  Like evidence being shared without permission.  Knowing what we do of the fictional criminal, and being witness to the virtues of the fictional agent, we trust that in this case the end justifies the means.

And we know how influential television can be.  We know about the so-called CSI effect, in which real-life jurors have increasingly come to expect the same kind of forensic evidence from the prosecution as they are accustomed to seeing every week on TV.  I've written in the past about the relationship between television and the Cold War – how series such as Mission: Impossible made it easier for an American audience to accept the idea of covert government action in the affairs of foreign nations. I fear the same type of effect is at work in today’s procedurals.

After all, we’re much less likely to be troubled about enhanced interrogation when it’s used against someone who’s clearly planning a terrorist attack. We’re grateful for the surveillance cameras that catch the murderer in the act, the bank records that show the trail of illegal payments, the face recognition software, the cellphone tracking devices, the instantaneous access to all kinds of private information, mostly pertaining to private citizens. 

Yes, it’s always very simple to appreciate the powers of the government when they’re clearly used against the guilty. After all, we want the guilty caught and punished; so what if we happen to trample against their civil liberties by questioning them without an attorney, by entrapping them into making a confession, by intimidating them with threats of dire consequences to come.  And in doing so, television may be playing its part in training the rest of us to accept the curbing of individual liberties -  an increase in surveillance cameras, a broadening of the government's right to tap your phone and read your email - all in the name of security.  We've seen how effective this can be in catching the bad guys on TV, and it may well transfer to our regarding them as necessities in real life.

***

But, you see, in real life things aren’t always that simple. How would you feel if all those things the agents are miraculously able to pull up on their computer screens - the surveillance camera pictures, the phone calls, the banking statements, the credit card receipts, records of travel and acquaintances and facial recognition - what if it was your life up there on the screen for all and sundry to see?  Do you feel comfortable with that idea?  Do you like the thought that there's nowhere you can go, nobody you can see, without there being a photographic record of it (even if nobody ever looks at it)?  I don't.

But, you say, why would they want my records?  Why would the Feds be after me?  I haven't done anything, have I?  Yeah, but that's what they all say.  As far as I know, they all say that on NCIS.  But we know better, don't we?  They may say they're innocent, but . . .

My concern is that we’re faced with a “frog in the boiling water” scenario.  Unlike television, real life is complicated.  That suspect in the interrogation room - you know, the ones Gibbs and Tony and Ziva are sure did it - might be innocent - and even if he (or she) isn't, it's likely that half a dozen different Constitutional rights got violated, and the confession's going to wind up getting tossed out by the judge.*  The end doesn't always justify the means - in fact, it seldom does.

*I'm biased on this since I don't like NCIS (in case you hadn't noticed), but on the occasions I have seen it I've invariably found myself rooting for the bad guys.  I can't help it - no matter the cause, you just can't run roughshod over basic civil liberties like they do.  Enhanced interrogation, questioning without a lawyer, taunting people, physicial intimidation - I've heard judges aren't too thrilled about that kind of thing.  And they shouldn't be.

If there's good news to be had, it's that even in the wake of the Boston Marathon bombing, the public seems to share this concern about the government's reach.   A Washington Post poll earlier this week indicated that 41 percent of respondents were worried that the government “will not go far enough” in compromising individual rights in favor of investigating terrorism while 48 were worried that the government “will go too far.” That suggests the public isn't being stampeded into thinking the police state is the answer to our security threats, especially since the initial post-9/11 polls suggested the public was far less concerned with individual rights than they were with security.

And I don't want to put too fine a point on this. I might be making too much of all this, and I might not be articulating my case well enough to prove my point.  After all, this is a TV website and we're talking about a handful of TV shows. 

Popular TV shows.

TV shows that emphasize the importance of stopping the bad guys.

The ends justify the means.  The audience watches.  The water gets hotter and hotter, and the frog doesn't feel a thing.

April 27, 2013

This week in TV Guide: April 27, 1957

There’s discontent rising in the land, my friends, and it’s about to boil over. It pits neighbor against neighbor, city against city, network against network; and there’s no telling how far it may go before it’s done. I speak, of course, of: Daylight Savings Time.

Daylight Time was scheduled to go into effect for the year at 2am on Sunday, April 28.  That is, in places where it was observed.  And what a mess that was, as TV Guide points out.   "Duluth, Minn., and Superior, Wis., lie right next to each other in the Central Time Zone.*  Both receive programs from the same TV stations.  During the winter, everything is fine.  Come summer, Superior goes to daylight time; Duluth, however, stays on standard (unless the state legislature passes a new law).  To which of the two times should programs be geared?"

*I can vouch for this, having been in Duluth before.  The area is often referred to as "Duluth-Superior."

See, at this point both the federal and some state governments have left it up to local communities to decide whether or not to go on Daylight Savings Time.  Minnesota, as a state, did not observe it; the legislature, however, was in the process of debating a law that would put Minneapolis-St. Paul and Duluth on it, leaving the rest of the state on Standard Time.  This becomes a major issue for the networks, who are at this point still dealing with a substantial number of live programs.  The advent of tape has helped things to an extent, but it's still confusing, as this example of the Ed Sullivan and Steve Allen shows illustrates.  The shows are initially broadcast live at 8pm in New York.  New York follows Daylight Time.

Instead of being televised [live to other parts of the country], they are recorded on tape.  The tape is held for three hours, then transmitted at 8 o'clock  Los Angeles PDT.  The tape is simultaneously fed back to stations in the Central Standard Zone for broadcast at the usual air time there of 9 o'clock and in the Mountain Standard Zone at 8 o'clock.

Do you have a headache yet?  If not, consider that Seattle remains on Standard time, which puts it an hour behind Los Angeles.  Seattle is frequent host to televised boxing.  With an air time of 10:00pm EDT, this means the main event must begin at 6:00pm PST, with the undercard starting even earlier.  As an NBC exec says, "What fight fan wants to watch a fight at 6 o'clock?  He hasn't even had is dinner yet."

The effect of this national confusion isn't limited to TV, of course - airlines and railroads have to deal with the shifting sands of time as well.  Whatever you have to say about Daylight Savings Time (I'm against it, personally), I think everyone can agree that things were much worse back then.

***

As you can see from the cover, the feature story this week is on Groucho Marx, whose show You Bet Your Life is one of the top-rated programs on TV.  Groucho  was seldom at a loss for words, and this week's interview, conducted at Romanoff's restaurant by staff writer Dan Jenkins (not this one)  is no exception.

Groucho on criticism of TV: "I don't see why everybody, including myself, should spend so much time criticizing television.  I think television has done a remarkably good job considering the circumstances.  If you were the advertising man entrusted with the spending of two or three million dollars, would you try to elevate the public or would you try to find yourself a good commercial show?  When the public wants to be elevated, it will do its own elevating."

On Hollywood creativity: "People look upon Hollywood as a great outdoor lunatic asylum.  This is not true.  There are some very intelligent people in Hollywood - intelligent enough to know what all the rest of the lunatics want in the way of entertainment."

On appearing as a guest on other programs:  "I've regretted most of the guest spots I've done.  But for one of them, a four-minute spot, I got $25,000.  How can I regret that?  If somebody wants to spend his money that foolishly, I am quite happy to help him out."

On the unfairness of the TV ratings system: "The only way to judge a show's value is to examine the sales record of the show's product.  I think I am safe in saying that De Soto [the car company that sponsored his show] barely existed in the public's mind before You Bet Your Life, and then only as a character who preceded Mark Twain on the Mississippi.  I think they know now that De Soto is an automobile.  I drive two of them myself, though not at the same time."

On the photographer suggesting Groucho might want to hide his drink before being photographed: "Why?  And if it looks like tomato juice, tell 'em there's vodka in it.  I don't see why I should hide the fact that I have a drink with my lunch.  Let's order a drink for the photographer.  He probably needs one more than I do."

On the future:  "The future will have a TV screen covering your living-room wall.  All in color."  Lest this sound too scholarly, considering this has to an extent come to pass, he adds, "The set itself will erupt popcorn at regular intervals.  They'll even send a man to your house to put his feet on your shoulders and provide background talking and paper rustling."

***

Saturday morning's presentation of Winky Dink and You on CBS is the last show of the series, to be replaced the next week by Susan's Show, hosted by Susan Heinkel.  Susan's Show debuted in 1956 on Chicago CBS affiliate WBBM before moving to the network a year later.*  The premise of Susan's Show was pretty simple: using a magic flying stool, Susie would travel to mystical lands, where she would engage in adventures with her dog Rusty.  In other words, pretty standard kids' TV fare.

*Chicago was a hotbed of television in the early days, and many series made the transition from local to national broadcasts.

By the way, did I mention that Susan Heinkel is 12 years old? Not only that, she's a show biz veteran, having started her career in St. Louis at the age of three, and she's a hit in Chicago, trailing only the Mickey Mouse Club in the daytime ratings.  Notes the article, "Susan ad-libs commercials with astonishing poise." 


Think about that next time you get a bumper-sticker talking about how your kid's an honor student.  Impressive, but does she have her own TV show yet?

***

As alluded to earlier, Ed Sullivan and Steve Allen continue their battle for Sunday night ratings supremacy.  NBC attached such importance to Allen's show that he gave up the Tonight Show to concentrate on Ed.  Since we don't have The Hollywood Palace to look at, let's see how Ed and Steve match up.

Tonight Ed welcomes Lena Horne, singer; young actor Anthony Perkins, in his TV singing debut; Bill Haley's Comets; comedians George de Witt and Jack Paar; Apaka, Honolulu's top recording star; the Happy Jesters, instrumental group; Heidi, Toronto's adding dog; and Jim Piersall, Boston Red Sox outfielder.

Meanwhile, Steve greets comedians Jack Carson and Don Adams' songstresses Brenda Lee and Abbe Lane, who is joined by Xavier Cugat and his band; and dancers Peter Gennarro and Ellen Ray from the Braodway musical "Bells Are Ringing."

Not bad.  You can clearly see Ed's vaudeville roots showing, far more than Allen, who concentrates on more established stars.  Abbe Lane, profiled in the front of the magazine, is not only a talented singer and dancer, she's a knockout (with "one of the world's most remarkable torsos"), who's married to the bandleader Cugat (his fourth wife; he later divorces her and marries Charo).  Don Adams will eventually become Maxwell Smart, and Jack Carson is a TV mainstay.

On the other hand, it's hard to top the great Lena Horne, and although Perkins is supposed to sing, he's also there to plug the movie Fear Strikes Out, the true story of Jim Piersall's struggle with mental illness.*  But the reason I'm giving this one to Sullivan is a more whimsical one: Jack Paar, who's appearing on Ed's show, will - three months later - take over the Tonight Show; the very program that Steve Allen had given up.  I love that kind of irony.

*Perkins' widow, Berry Berenson, was killed on American Airlines flight 11 during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

***


Wouldn't be able to get away with this today.
Baseball season!  But it's pre-major league baseball in the Twin Cities, so there's no Minnesota Twins.  Instead, there's the Minneapolis Millers, the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Giants,  who the year before moved from Minneapolis to the brand-new Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington (even though TV Guide, which lacks the subtleties, says the Met is in Minneapolis).  The new digs have been built in hopes of luring a major league team, and in time they will - the Washington Senators, who make Minnesota their home in 1961.  On Thursday night the Millers take on the Louisville Colonels.  A quick glance at the lineups gives me the name of at least one future star, Orlando Cepada, who plays for the Millers before being called up to the Giants, now in San Francisco, in 1958.  Cepada is elected to the Hall of Fame in 1999.

There is major league baseball on TV Saturday afternoon, though it isn't seen in the Twin Cities. (Perhaps the Millers were playing at home and the games were blacked out?)  Lindsay Nelson and Leo Durocher are behind the mic for NBC as the Brooklyn Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates face off from Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, while the irrepressible Dizzy Dean and Buddy Blattner call CBS's telecast of the Detroit Tigers and the Cleveland Indians in Cleveland's Municipal Stadium.

***

"To a national audience, Mike Wallace is known as the sympathetic quizmaster on "The Big Surprise," which recently left the air.  New Yorkers, however, know him as the incisive interviewer on a late evening local program which made its debut last fall and created widespread interest."

And with that, ABC launched the debut episode of The Mike Wallace Interviews, which introduced us to the Mike Wallace we all came to know and love (or hate).  I've seen clips of Wallace as game show host, actor and commercial pitchman, and I'm sure that acting experience helped hone his skills when it came to interviewing.  Still, it's hard to imagine Mike Wallace as anything other than the newsman and 60 Minutes star, isn't it?  Kind of like finding out your parents were once young - it just doesn't compute.

Also, there's a note in the Teletype that confirms "CBS's new Perry Mason show, starring Raymond Burr, will replace Jackie Gleason next fall."  Who could have imagined how that would turn out.

***

Speaking of which, we'll end today with the kind of footnote to which I'm so often drawn.  Again from the Teletype:

"Charles Van Doren, Twenty-One winner, has signed an exclusive contract with NBC.  Tentatively, they'll build a quiz show around him, use him as consultant on educational shows.  He'll continue as college prof."

This was, of course, before the Quiz Show Scandals, before he was exposed as being part of the rigged show, before he was fired from NBC and Columbia University.  In other words, before everything fell apart.

But as far as this issue of TV Guide is concerned, all of that is in the future.  And what impresses me the most is looking at this note, so innocent and without guile.  It's not a reprint, it's not a message that blinks on a computer archive.  (As you'll be reading it.)  No, what I hold in my hands is the actual TV Guide, a historical document, if you will, which came out before anything had hit the fan.  It was not only written in the context of the time, it was printed and sold in that context as well.  It's kind of like the difference between a lithograph of the Declaration of Independence and the real thing, though not nearly as important, of course.  It is, nonetheless, living history. Our history.  And that never fails to impress me.

April 26, 2013

Around the Dial

A day late and a dollar short, as they say, but better late than never, as they also say.*  Let's take a look at some of this week's storylines from classic TV land.

*Whoever they are.  I wish I knew; I'd love to get the royalties for every time one of those phrases is uttered.

At Thrilling Days of Yesteryear, Ivan gives us an update on classic TV coming to video.   Do you live to add some of these programs to your collection?  I have to admit that I can probably hold my money for the time being.  Dobie Gillis is a program I vaguely remember from my youth, but I'd probably have to give it a trial run on MeTV before I'd plunk down the dollars for the complete set.  I love Jack Benny, and I've already got a set of his classic episodes, so I'd be interested in this if it has content I don't already own.  The one show I'm intrigued by is Dr. Kildare, based mostly on reputation.  I think I'll check out the content from YouTube and then look for a sale.

I always like to check out Classic Sports and TV Media, because I like both classic sports and TV, but also because Jeff's always telling me something I didn't know, or confirming something I thought I did know.  This week he catches CBS in an error-filled press release regarding the history of its Masters golf coverage.  As I told Jeff, they should have just asked him in the first place; his records are much more comprehensive than theirs.

Not strictly TV-related, but Rick at Classic Film and TV Cafe has another in a series of quizzes on movies you've probably seen on TV or DVD - We Describe the Movie, You Name ItNo peeking at the comments before you've had a chance to take a shot at the quiz yourself.  I didn't know most of them, but it did make me want to check some of them out.

At Classic Television Showbiz, Kliph has been sharing a host of clips from classic talk and variety shows of the time, including Steve Allen, Merv Griffin, and Perry Como.  The Allen shows in particular are a treat, giving us not only a look at the stars of the day, but also a glimpse of one of the most talented men in showbiz, the anti-Sullivan if you will, who was also a serious threat to Ed in the ratings.

And for those of you who missed it, I'm quoted in this article at iPoll about TV trends through the decades.  As we always say, there was some great stuff left on the cutting room floor. but it's still well worth reading, and not only because of me!

That's it for today - tomorrow's TV Guide piece might appear a little later in the day than usual, but it will be here nonetheless, and so should you.  Aloha.;

April 23, 2013

How life imitates art (or, at least, television)

You might have noticed that reruns are popping up more frequently on the broadcast stations at this time of the year. So why, I ask you, should a television blog be any different? I originally wrote this piece back in 2009 for Our Word, but its central figure - disgraced former South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford - is very much back in the news today. And so this would seem to be an appropriate time to revisit how his hijinks validate the hokiest TV movies.  But if you want something new, check out this article, for which I was interviewed last week.

I’ve often said, in relation to the news, that “you can’t make this stuff up.” Well, here’s one that you not only could make up, but someone already did. Almost, that is.

Now, it’s not unusual to see a movie or television program with a plot that seems suspiciously to have been “ripped from today’s headlines,” but how often do you see a real-life story that seems to have been ripped off from fiction? It occurs to me that, in reading the tragic/absurd/outrageous story of South Carolina Governor Mark Sanford, that this is the very kind of tale we might dismiss as ridiculous if we saw it in, for example, an episode of Matlock. Yet here is a true-life story that truly sets itself up for this kind of treatment.

In the TV movie The President’s Plane is Missing (1973, based on the novel by Robert Serling), the president’s plane – aka Air Force One – goes missing from radar screens. It isn’t missing for long, however, as the wreckage of the plane is soon discovered, the crash killing everyone on board including, presumably, the president. After all, he was on board, wasn’t he?

As you might expect, this story isn’t nearly that simple.

(Warning: Plot Spoilers Ahead!)

The surprise of The President’s Plane is Missing is that it isn’t really the President on the plane, you see. He’s off in secret conducting sensitive negotiations regarding a treaty that could defuse a potential nuclear war with China. Oh, that man whom everyone saw getting on Air Force One? Wasn’t him – it was an imposter (a relative, as I recall) whose purpose is to trick everyone into thinking that the President is headed out west for a little R&R in the midst of this Cold War tension. Meanwhile, the President can conduct the negotiations personally, without the glare and pressure of the press and others.

Buddy Ebsen, forced to leave a cushy job as VP to
become Acting President

If you’re still with me here, then it’s obvious that the crash of Air Force One (due to sabotage) throws a bit of a monkey wrench into the President’s plan. Soon enough, it becomes clear that the President wasn’t on that plane at all – it’s not the plane that’s missing, it’s the President! The negotiations are at such a sensitive point that he can’t afford to come out in public and reassure the nation of where he is – so he has to let the mystery fester. Throw in an incompetent, insecure Vice President (Buddy Ebsen, left) who assumes the mantle of Acting President with a determination to engage the Chinese in war, and you have the stuff of which potboilers are made.

Although there are some fairly preposterous twists and turns, it winds up being a pretty entertaining tale of politics, intrigue, and espionage, with a healthy dose of insight into what makes airplanes fly – and crash. (Which is to be expected from Serling, a noted aviation expert as well as the brother of Rod.) In the end though, both readers (of the novel) and viewers (of the movie) are left thinking that The President’s Plane is Missing is a gripping beach read, or a couple of diverting hours on television, and nothing more. A good story, in other words, but ridiculous.

Or is it?

When Governor Sanford was first discovered to be “missing,” the immediate question raised by many was what would happen if there was an emergency in South Carolina and the governor couldn’t be found. State law, apparently, requires a transfer of power from the governor to the lieutenant governor (if the governor is going to be traveling, for example) in order for the LG to exercise any executive power. Failing that, the speculation was, the state could have been up a creek if anything had happened while Sanford was incommunicado. Was he out on the Appalachian Trail, as his aides first reported? No, it turned out he was in Argentina, and – well, the rest of the story kind of goes downhill from there.

While it’s true that Sanford was incredibly incompetent in this whole situation (not to mention a real knucklehead), he also presented validation to a score of screenwriters, authors, and others who over the years have cooked up the kind of quasi-outlandish plots we saw in The President’s Plane is Missing. I mean, there are easily a half-dozen story ideas alone in this situation.

There is that natural disaster idea that so preoccupied everyone at first, that South Carolina is hit by a hurricane while the governor is out, and there’s nobody around to take charge. Sanford could have been injured or kidnapped in Argentina, with nobody knowing where he was. (Thrown in some kind of secret illness requiring medicine that he needs to live, and you’ve really got a story.) He and his mistress could have been involved in a auto accident that kills the mistress. (In that case I suppose he could place a call to Ted Kennedy for advice, but that’s a different story altogether.) Or it could have been Sanford killed or injured in the crash. (see: Fordice, Kirk.) As you can see, the possibilities are endless – and that’s without having to even touch Serling’s plot.

(As an aside, we haven’t even mentioned Fletcher Knebel’s novel Vanished (which, in 1971 was made into the very first two-part made-for-TV movie) dealing with a top presidential aide who – well, vanishes. As I recall, the plot of this story closely parallels that of Serling’s story, in that the vanished aide is actually conducting sensitive, top-secret negotiations. And perhaps that’s what Sanford should have been doing; as Jim Geraghty commented upon learning that Sanford was in Argentina, he’d better be returning with some long-lost elderly Nazi in handcuffs. But we digress.)

It is rare that one is handed such an opportunity in real life. We’re often fond of saying that art imitates life, but in reality life imitates art just as often. We should, one supposes, be grateful to Governor Sanford for providing us with the suspension of disbelief that so many of the summer blockbusters require. We can now go to the movies, watch television, and read potboiler novels without guilt, secure in the knowledge that what we’re really doing is researching how our national leaders operate.

April 20, 2013

This week in TV Guide: April 21, 1973

NBC's Friday night documentary series The American Experience looks at three turbulent eras in U.S. history - the Revolution, the Civil War and the Depression.  The program is entitled "Strange and Terrible Times," and after a strange and terrible week in America, the conclusion to which is playing out on the television set behind me as I type these words, let's take a look at something a little more lighthearted and escape the real world for a few minutes.

***

I showed my wife the cover of this week's TV Guide with Raymond Burr as Pope John XXIII, and added that the Pope was actually the good guy in the program, she remarked, "Boy, they wouldn't do that on TV today, would they?"

The program in question is Portrait: A Man Whose Name Was John, an ABC special airing at 7pm CT on Easter Sunday night.  It tells the true story of Archbishop Angelo Roncalli, who in 1958 would be elected John XXIII, but during World War II was the apostolic delegate (i.e. ambassador) to Turkey, and his battle to save over 600 Jewish children from being shipped to Nazi Germany.  It was a cherished experience for Burr, who had personally met John four times* during his papacy and called him the most impressive human being he had ever met.  "There was absolute communication between us," he said of their first meeting in 1959, which had been arranged by Family Theatre producer Father Patrick Peyton.  Though not Catholic - he describes himself as "believing in all religion" - Burr had long hoped to do a film project based on John's life (a film for "all people"), when he was approached by producer David Victor with the idea for A Man Whose Name Was John.  It was less ambitious than Burr's plan, but "it told a lot about the kind of man Roncalli was."  Eventually, Burr decided, "it wouldn't be a bad idea" to take it on.  As far as I know, Burr's own movie on John was never made.

*At this point I should point out, not unkindly, that given Burr's predilection for creating events in his own life, one has to be careful not to put too much stock into this.  Still, his impressions of John are so strong I'm inclined to give him the benefit of the doubt.

The whole movie is, not surprisingly, available on YouTube; here's the first installment.  Burr makes for a very convincing John; dare I suggest that the cover shot makes him look even more papal than the current pope?


***

Because Easter doesn't have a set day every year, we've seen several TV Guides lately that have had Easter programming of one kind or another, and this issue is no exception.  In addition to John, there are several religious-themed movies, mostly on Saturday night on local TV: The Robe on Austin's WEAU, A Man Called Peter on WKBT in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, The Nun's Story on WDIO in Duluth, and The Song of Bernadette on WCCO in Minneapolis.

As for Easter itself,  CBS has a live broadcast of an Easter service from New York, conducted by the famed positive thinker Dr. Norman Vincent Peale, NBC presents a Sunday morning documentary on the rebuilt Coventry Cathedral in England, while ABC's Directions covers the Easter Mass from St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York.  Later in the day, Eau Claire's WEAU gives us an hour of sacred music from the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and PBS has Handel's Messiah (which Handel had always intended as an Easter, rather than Christmas, piece), featuring the Arion Musical Club of Milwaukee.  In case you're looking for ABC's annual airing of The Ten Commandments, that didn't start until 1973.

***

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.

Don't know if you can call this week's matchup entirely fair, as In Concert goes with a three-hour marathon (originally broadcast as two separate shows) featuring Alice Cooper; The Allman Brothers Band; Blood, Sweat and Tears; Curtis Mayfield; Seals and Crofts; Chuck Berry; Poco; and Bo Diddley.  I count eighteen songs during the show, with almost everyone doing at least one of their biggest hits ("School's Out," "Ramblin' Man," "Roll Over, Beethoven," "Summer Breeze," etc.)  The 90-minute Midnight Special counters with an all-50s show hosted by Jerry Lee Lewis with Little Anthony and the Imperials, Chubby Checker, the Shirelles, the Ronettes, Freddy Cannon and teh Diamonds.

You can't say the stars weren't out this Friday night, can you?  I'm going to give it to In Concert strictly on the basis of it being twice as long; as far as the talent, it's a push.

***

Besides John, there are some other very interesting specials on this week - or at least they were interesting to me, even though I didn't see any of them.  You see, this was my time in the wilderness, literally; the six years I spent in the world's worst small town,which for the bulk of my time there had only two television stations.*  The main channel, KCMT, was primarily an NBC affiliate, but picked up additional programming (mostly sports and some specials) from ABC.  We did get TV Guide up there; unfortunately, it was the Minnesota State Edition, which meant I was continually being taunted with glimpses of shows I would never see.  Nonetheless, a number of these shows intrigued me - they seemed fraught with a suggestion of gravitas that lent them importance, or so it seemed.

*Yes, I realize I'm being quite shallow in judging quality of life based on number of television stations received, but you have to remember I was only 13 at the time.  On the other hand, the promoters of cable TV would surely have agreed with me.

Tuesday night, for example, Cliff Robertson starred in ABC's The Man Without a Country, available (naturally) on YouTube.  The final 30 minutes dovetailed with CBS's Playhouse 90 special of Ingmar Bergman's The Lie, the story of a husband and wife (George Segal and Shirley Knight Hopkins) struggling to hold their marriage together.  As one of them comments, "People have to lie and deceive in order to live together."  Does this in any way resemble The Secret Life of Dentists?

PBS weighs in with a couple of specials of their own: on Sunday night the opera great Joan Sutherland continued a series of abridged operas on Who's Afraid of Opera (this week: La Traviata), and on Thursday evening the network presents a restored version of David Lean's epic Oliver Twist, which included nine minutes of footage originally cut from the American film version.  Not to be outdone, CBS counters with its own special Monday night, as Rex Harrison stars in The Adventures of Don Quixote," a co-production with the BBC.

You'll notice that none of these are on NBC, which means none of them were seen in our household.  Oh, there was an NBC special: The Going Up of David Lev, a musical saluting the 25th anniversary of the creation of Israel, starring Topol (Fiddler on the Roof), Brandon Cruz (The Courtship of Eddie's Father), Melvyn Douglas and Claire Bloom.  It wasn't on KCMT - preempted by a Minnesota Twins baseball game, which is what I would have watched anyway.

***

This week's "Shape of Things to Come" feature: this note in The Doan Report, asking "Will the Senate's Watergate probe early next month develop, as some observers predict, into a major TV show?"  The Senate committee, led by North Carolina Democrat Sam Ervin, is welcoming the cameras into the hearing room, and NBC News president Richard Wald tells Doan that "We'll air a live pickup if the hearings are interesting enough."  Oh, they will be, Mr. Wald - trust me on this.

That note makes all the more poignant a CBS news special on Thursday, Five Presidents on the Presidency, in which the incumbent, Richard Nixon, is quoted as saying, "The most important thing about a public man is not whether he's loved or disliked, but whether he's respected.  I hope to restore respect to the Presidency."

Doan also tells us of the strange Star Trek craze; even though the show has been off the air for several years, there are still devoted fans "hold[ing] reunions to bemoan its loss."  For them, producers hope to provide some solace with a new sci-fi series entitled Starlost, created and written by legendary writer Harlan Ellison, starring Keir Dullea (2001). It winds up being called The Starlost, and if you've never heard of it, this article - with the title "Is The Starlost the Worst Science Fiction Series Ever Made?" might provide an explanation.

And then there's the coming end of the third and final incarnation of Jack Paar's talk show, the one that featured on ABC's Wide World of Entertainment.  Paar had made the comeback, in part, to help out his old friend and protege Dick Cavett, but speculation is that ABC and Paar "will mutually call off his late-night comeback as an unsalvageable disappointment."

***

Finally, at the end of a most entertaining issue, a couple of articles that I'm saving for later: the conclusion of an interview with FCC Chairman Dean Burch on how much permissiveness should be allowed on TV, and the final part of Edith Efron's three-part series on the disaster that is children's television.  These articles deserves more space than I can give here, so in the coming months you'll read Tuesday essays on each.  They provide a very interesting look at the current state of television and its interaction with the culture of the early 70s, and it will be hard to understand how TV got to where it is today without looking at what they have to say.

April 17, 2013

Pat Summarall, R.I.P.

My favorite Pat Summarall moment was from the 1990 Super Bowl, back when I still watched the game.  The San Francisco 49ers were in the process of crushing the Denver Broncos - had, in fact, just scored twice early in the fourth quarter to make the score 55-10 (the eventual final), and as CBS prepared to go to commercial, Summerall summed it up as only he could.

"This," he said, "is just unfortunate."

That he didn't resort to hyperbole, trying to be clever or the coiner of a new phrase, tells you what you need to know about Summerall the broadcaster.   In the past, I've referred to announcers like Summerall (Curt Gowdy, Chris Schenkel) as "big-game" announcers, because the sound of their voices lent gravitas to the event they were broadcasting, but as I think about it I think one could add another description: "gentleman announcer."

This shouldn't be read as sexist, of course.  What I mean is that, like those other men, Pat Summerall was a gentleman in the way he broadcast a game.  There was no shouting or hyperventilating every time someone made a routine play, no attempt to make himself the center of attention - the broadcast wasn't about him, it was about the game.  He had a rich, smooth voice, was clear and spare with his words, and understated in his delivery.  He enjoyed great chemistry with his broadcast partners, notably Tom Brookshier, John Madden and Ken Venturi, and they all profited from working with him.  And he respected the viewers.

Pat Summerall was one of the first former athletes to make the successful transition to the broadcast booth.  He had been an NFL placekicker, most notably for the New York Football Giants, and it was supposedly through his kicking that George Allen Summerall earned the nickname "Pat," for Point After Touchdown.  After retirement he moved to the broadcast booth at CBS, first as a color commentator on NFL football (working with, among others, Chris Schenkel), then to lead NFL announcer in 1974, from which he would ultimately broadcast 16 Super Bowls.  Besides announcing live events, he was also the host (with Brookshier) of NFL Films' This Week in Pro Football, back when that show (along with Howard Cosell's Monday Night Football halftime show) was the main delivery method for highlights of the week's action.

Eventually, Summerall became lead broadcaster on all of CBS' major events, including the NBA, the Masters and the U.S. Open tennis championships.  (He even filled in once for the ailing Harry Carey on a Chicago Cubs game for WGN.)  It didn't matter that Summerall had never played professional tennis or golf or basketball; he had experts to provide the analysis.  His job was to be the professional broadcaster, and he did it as well as anyone.

Summerall and Madden moved to Fox in 1994 after the network won the NFC television rights from CBS, and that was good news for the NFL - but not so good for the rest of us, since Summarall's move meant he'd no longer be heard on those other signature events.  Nothing against Jim Nantz, but Pat Summerall never felt the need to turn the 18th hole at the Masters into a Hallmark Moment.

Outside the booth, Summerall fought a long and ultimately successful battle against alcoholism.  In 2004 he underwent a liver transplant, and he had other assorted health concerns over the past couple of decades.  He was the longtime commercial spokesman for True Value Hardware, which meant that even non-sports fans probably recognized his voice. 

Pat Summerall died on Tuesday at the age of 82, and the more I think about it, the more I like that description "gentleman announcer."  I certainly like it for Pat Summerall - one of the very last of an era we'll likely not see (or hear) again.

April 16, 2013

Jonathan Winters, R.I.P.

Simply put, Jonathan Winters was one of the funniest men ever to appear on television.  For that matter, he was probably one of the funniest people ever - often, his mere appearance was enough to start one laughing.

He had his demons, as so many creative people do, and battled them.  He had hits and misses, as we all do, creative or not.  But he had a wonderful gift, of which he made abundant use - the gift of the ability to make people laugh.  And rather than any prattling around on my part, let's let Jonathan Winters leave his own legacy, in his own words.

I've posted this one before - it's Winters with Dean Martin.  It's funny every time you watch it, and it shows just how unpredictable he could be.


Winters made the big time with his appearances on Jack Paar's program.  He was a master of improv: again, you want to start laughing even before he gets going.


More fun with props.


Another clip of Winters from the Paar show.


Maude Frickert - one of his most famous characters.


Another clip of Winters with Deano - playing another famous character, Elwood P. Suggins.


Finally, although I've never been a big fan of Robin Williams, there's no question but what putting the two of them on the same show at the same time was as dangerous - and hilarious - as television could get.

April 13, 2013

This week in TV Guide: April 15, 1967

In the past (most notably here) we've seen issues of TV Guide where circumstances have contrived to make programming listings subject to change.  This week, however, we have something completely different - the strike by AFTRA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which has already thrown the networks for a loop and threatens to complicate things for an indefinite period of time.

The strike, which ran for 15 days, had actually been settled by the time this issue hit the newsstands*, but at press time there was no telling when the end was going to come; thus, almost every other page contained some variant of the warning that programming - mostly newscasts, soap operas, variety programs and game shows - was affected due to the AFTRA strike, and therefore might change.  However, "[b]ecause the strike might end soon, TV GUIDE's listings are based on normal network schedules."

*The strike ended at 8:05pm on April 10, just in time for the broadcast of the Academy Awards.  I'll leave that to you as do whether or not that was a good thing.  Had it not been settled, the Academy had announced the show would go on with or without television; Bob Hope himself was unsure as to whether or not he would appear as host.

The effects of the strike were quite noticeable, and in many cases more entertaining than the regular programming.  Take news, for example.  Many of the major newscasters - Walter Cronkite, Peter Jennings, David Brinkley - honored the picket lines and refused to appear.  Others, including Brinkley's co-anchor Chet Huntley (who famously said he was "a newsman, not a performer"), Frank McGee and Ray Scherer, continued to work.  Cronkite's place on the CBS Evening News was taken by program manager Arnold Zenker, who developed a cult following during his two-week stint, while Jennings was replaced by producers Daryl Griffin and William Sheehan.  Huntley continued on sans Brinkley, and some speculated that the perceived split between the two damaged their chemistry and led to Cronkite's subsequent rise in the ratings.   

Equally hard-hit were the soaps, most of which were still broadcast live.  In place of the stories, networks ran repeats of shows such as Candid Camera and Father Knows Best.  Some regular viewers were thrown into a panic by the sudden withdrawal, which left some key characters in life-threatening situations.  "Oh please, bring them back," one said.  The effects were not all bad, however, as many other viewers felt a sense of relief - much like an alcoholic drying out, as one put it.  Many housewives, the soaps' main audience, told reporters they found themselves getting much more housework done than they used to; as a Mount Pleasant mother of four put it, "Once you break the habit, you feel free again."  (I wonder, though, how many of them went back to it once the strike ended?)

The Doan Report tells us that Johnny Carson announced he was "quitting his show for good" because NBC was running repeats of The Tonight Show, turning Carson into, his attorney claimed, "a scab against himself."  NBC, however, responded that the star, who'd already developed a reputation for difficulty (remember his 15-minute flu?), already making $780,000 a year, was merely holding out for more money.

NBC newsman Edwin Newman, in a TV Guide piece entitled "Confessions of a Rookie Picket," humorously confesses that there is an upside to pounding the pavement in the line outside Rockefeller Center: "the females in the area are quite personable, and miniskirts add a new dimension to picketing.  Male pickets who appear downcast aren't.  They are actually looking about two feet above the ground."

***

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 guests include singer Nancy Wilson; Norman Wisdom of the Broadway musical "Walking Happy"; and comedians Norm Crosby, Totie Fields, and Hendra and Ullett.

Hollywood Palace: Host Milton Berle talks with baseball's Willie Mays, Maury Wills and Jim Piersall, and joins them for a parody of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend."  Also: Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Buddy Rich and his band, singer Marilyn King, illusionist Prassano Rao and the tap-dancing Dunhills.

OK, this week is gonna be a little different.  I was struck, as you might also be, by how thin Ed's guest list was, so I did something I don't usually do: I checked with another source to see if there might have been a change in the final lineup.  And there was.  According to TV.com, the actual list of guests was: Nancy Sinatra and Lee Hazlewood, Tony Bennett, the Count Basie Orchestra, 14 year-old Australian pianist Alan Kogosowski, South American guitarists Los Indio Tabajaras, acrobat act The Mercners, Totie Fields and Hendra & Ullett.

Just a bit of a change, don't you think?  Now, Ed's show was notorious for incorporating last-minute changes after the afternoon rehearsal, as Sullivan moved around, cut or added to the lineup, so that could have been part of it.  It might have had something to do with the AFTRA strike, there could have been last-minute cancellations, or the guest list might simply have been incomplete at press time.  (It did say "scheduled," after all, and it was a live show - anything could have happened.)

So do we review what was, or what was supposed to be?  There's no question the actual Sullivan lineup is stronger than that listed in TV Guide,  but Buddy Rich, Roy & Dale and Willie Mays can still hold their own with Tony Bennett, Count Basie and Nancy Sinatra.  My verdict: I'm still giving it to The Palace.  And that'll teach you to mess around with TV Guide.

***

Ready for some sports?  The baseball season has opened, and NBC kicks off its Game of the Week coverage with the defending National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers taking on the St. Louis Cardinals, who will win this year's National League title (as well as the World Series).  Newly retired Dodgers ace Sandy Koufax joins the NBC broadcasting team.  Koufax was never a good fit in the broadcast booth, and he leaves NBC after the 1972 season.

The Minnesota Twins open their local television schedule on Friday night with a game against the Detroit Tigers.  These two teams finished second and third in 1966 (behind the champion Baltimore Orioles), and they'll be key players in the four-team death match for the American League crown.  The Twins plan to telecast 50 games during the regular season, although they'll be adding some at the end due to the pennant race.  Interesting how times have changed, isn't it - nowadays, between OTA and cable, almost every team televises almost every game.

Channel 11 follows-up on its Friday Twins telecast with The Winning Team, the life story of Hall of Fame pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander, starring Ronald Reagan.  Many years ago Terry Cashman wrote a hit song called "Talkin' Baseball," which included the line "the great Alexander is pitching again in Washington."  A lot of people didn't get that line, but he's talking about Reagan, the newly-elected president, playing Alexander in this movie.  A nice touch.

On Saturday, CBS presents coverage of the Stanley Cup playoffs, with game 5 of the semifinal series between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Black Hawks; or, if that series has concluded, game five between the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens.  If both of those series have already concluded, we'll be seeing game one of the Stanley Cup Final.  It would in fact be the Toronto-Chicago game that was seen, with the Leafs winning 4-2 on the way to a 4-2 series victory, and an eventual Cup triumph over Montreal.  This is a historic season for the NHL, the last of the six-team era.  In September the league will kick-off its new season with six new expansion teams, and since then the teams just seem to keep coming.

The NBA's in playoff mode as well - Sunday's game on ABC is expected to be from the finals, and indeed it was: game two between the San Francisco Warriors and Philadelphia 76ers.  The Sixers are led by Wilt Chamberlain, who used to play for the Warriors, who used to be in Philadelphia before moving to San Francisco.*  Philly's going to win this game, 126-95, on the way to a six-game victory over the Warriors.

*They now play in Oakland and are called the Golden State Warriors, but in 2017 they're scheduled to move back to San Francisco.  No word yet on what they'll be called.

Also that Sunday CBS presents the premiere of a brand-new soccer league, the National Professional Soccer League, forerunner to the North American Soccer League*, as the Baltimore Bays tangle with the Atlanta Chiefs.  I love this attempt in the listings to explain soccer for American fans who don't understand much about the game: "Placing best foot (and head) forward, 11-man teams maneuver the ball in a field roughly 110 by 75 yards.  Only the goalkeeper can touch the ball with his hands or arms.  Each goal is worth one point."  I guess that does describe it.

*The NASL was formed in 1968 by a merger between the aforementioned NPSL and the rival United Soccer League, and lasted until 1984.  The name has since been taken by the country's number-two soccer league.

***

It was a big week for Ronald Reagan, too.  In addition to The Winning Team, the California governor is scheduled to appear on the premiere of Joey Bishop's late-night ABC talk show.  The show itself was in doubt, due to the strike, but it goes on as planned.  Not planned is that due to a scheduling mixup, Reagan shows up late for the live broadcast.  Nowadays people say this was a harbinger of things to come, but as we know Bishop was actually serious competition for Carson for a time.

The rerun season is beginning, and many of the biggest shows will be doing second-runs throughout the summer (except for the variety shows, many of which had summer replacements).  One show presenting the first in a series of reruns: The Fugitive, in its final season.  But as the listing notes, "Viewers will learn the truth about Dr. Kimble's guilt or innocence in a two-part episode to be telecast in August."  As I've mentioned before, this may be one of the only times the concluding episode of a series has been shown after the rerun season, as the final episode of the show's run.

*** 
 
The word "starlet" can be taken two ways, I suppose.  It can refer to a female star, or (like the word "boomlet") can mean a star whose sheen peters out, never attaining the brilliance that had been hoped for.  In this case, both definitions apply to cover girl Karen Jensen, "The Starlet, 1967." 

Have you heard of Karen Jensen?  I haven't, although that in and of itself doesn't mean anything.  Her Wikipedia entry (again, not a be-all and end-all) wouldn't suggest someone who made it big-time, although her IMDb listing gives us more information.

In a not-altogether flattering
article (today we might think of it as snarky), TV Guide goes into detail on how Jensen has all the prerequisites for stardom: vacuity and giggling innocence combined with sexual qualities, interests in obscure philosophies and material goods like furs and jewels, dates with the right men, and an attitude "which must exude the essence of Starletism."

Karen Jensen has it all going for her: she's "bright, pretty, affable, affected and a bit vague about just what it is she's saying."  She reads the "Right" books - Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet and Siddhartha by Herman Hesse.  Of the later, Jensen reports, "It's about this young man who wants to find himself.  I identified with him.  He walks with his soul!"

Mind you, I'm not making fun of Karen.  She's done a lot more in the industry than I ever will.  She worked steadily, if not spectacularly, for a number of years.  No, I think, if anything, this shows how hard it is to make it big in Hollywood, and perhaps how our perceptions have changed over the years.  There's a sexist, patronizing tone to this un-bylined story, which I doubt you'd read today.  But the thing is - I suspect it's just as accurate as it was then.

***

Finally, TV Teletype tells us that comedians Rowan and Martin are being considered for an NBC series for the '68-'69 season, and will be doing a special as lead-in to the networks' Miss America coverage.  There are always false alarms in the Teletype rumor mill, but that special - Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In - would indeed lead to a series, which actually debuted as a replacement for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in January of 1968.  And the rest, as they say, is history.

April 11, 2013

Around the Dial

There were some fine tributes this week to Annette Funicello.  Rick at Classic Film and TV Cafe shares a review of the Mickey Mouse Club serial Annette, Michael's TV Tray gives us a retrospective of Annette's career, and Dawn's Noir and Chick Flicks offers a rundown of some of her favorite Annette moments.  Meanwhile, the University of Maryland's Broadcast Archives has a couple of great Disney pictures of Annette.

Elsewhere, if it's the second weekend in April it must be time for the Masters, and Classic Sports TV and Media gives us a history of CBS' coverage of the tradition like no other. 

Classic Television Showbiz has some classic television clips from the 1960 Steve Allen show.

And speaking of the classic '60s, at TVParty! Cary O'Dell has a great piece on the music from the detective series Peter Gunn, including the fact that it's the only TV theme listed on the Library of Congress’s National Recording Registry.

Check them all out, and check us out on Saturday with the latest TV Guide!

April 9, 2013

A day in the week

I thought I'd do something different for this week's Tuesday essay.  Those of you who come from the Radio Discussions.com board know that every week I post a link to the newest "This Week in TV Guide" piece, along with a random day of TV listings from that week.  Today we're going to try an expanded version of this for those of you who don't frequent Radio Discussions (and, by the way, why don't you?), with an additional day's worth of listings from Saturday's issue, along with some added personal commentary that might help put things in perspective.

Ready?  Let's give this a try, with the listings for Minneapolis-St. Paul for Wednesday, April 8, 1970.  This is an issue that, for some long-forgotten reason, was part of my personal collection (as opposed to one I acquired later on), which means that my nine-year-old self looked through these listings compulsively.  And remember, stations reserve the right to make last-minute changes.


KTCA, Channel 2 (NET)
08:30a
Classroom (until 3:00p)
03:00p
Management: A Joint Venture
03:30p
TBA
03:45p
Teaching Spanish
04:00p
Profiles of Progress
04:15p
The Friendly Giant
04:30p
Sesame Street
05:30p
Misterogers' Neighborhood
06:00p
Irish Diary
06:30p
Supervisory Practices
07:00p
Minnesota Meets the Challenge
08:00p
Law Night
08:30p
Urban Partners in the ‘70s
09:00p
Students Search for Religion
10:00p
NET Festival


Throughout the 60s, KTCA's affiliation had been shown only as "Educational," but by 1970 they were part of NET (National Educational Television), forerunner of today's PBS.  And you'll notice that their programming is, for the most part, purely educational, with some even broadcast from city classrooms.  Two of NET/PBS' earliest mainstays can be seen here - Sesame Street and Misterogers' Neighborhood.  In fact, one of the few places you can see the old NET logo is on very old repeats of Misterogers, during the end credits.  Later, of course, you'd know the show by its more familiar name: Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.  At the time I was a bit old for both of these shows, and besides I'd already cast my lot with Captain Kangaroo.



Channel 4, WCCO (CBS)
06:00a
Sunrise Semester – Iranian Culture
06:30a
Siegfried and his Flying Saucer
07:00a
Clancy and Carmen
07:30a
Clancy and Willie
08:00a
Captain Kangaroo
09:00a
‘Morning
09:30a
The Beverly Hillbillies
10:00a
Andy Griffith
10:30a
Love of Life
11:00a
Where the Heart Is
11:25a
Live Today
11:30a
Search for Tomorrow
12:00p
News (local)
12:30p
As the World Turns
01:00p
Love Is a Many-Splendored Thing
01:30p
Guiding Light
02:00p
The Secret Storm
02:30p
The Edge of Night
03:00p
Gomer Pyle, USMC
03:30p
Lucille Ball
04:00p
Mike Douglas
05:30p
CBS News (Walter Cronkite)
06:00p
News (local)
06:30p
Hee Haw
07:30p
The Beverly Hillbillies
08:00p
Medical Center
09:00p
Hawaii Five-O
10:00p
News (local)
10:45p
Merv Griffin
12:15a
News (local)
12:25a
Movie – “The Frightened City”

Siegfried wasn't a character from a Wagner opera, but he was the "host" of an early morning cartoon show.  Actually, host is generous - he was nothing more than a non-animated line drawing, exiting from and entering a flying saucer.  Hey, kids are easily entertained!  The feature I remember most from Siegfried was a character called "Wallace the Weather Bear," another non-animated cartoon character, who would appear on slides giving the forecast for the day. The "Hi" and "Lo" were standard viewing for grade school kids who might be called on in class to repeat them.  (Weather was a big part of growing up in Minnesota.)

In fact, with the exception of Sunrise Semester, all the programming up to 9am is for kids.  It used to be that after-school TV was for kids as well, but by this time that's been replaced by series reruns and Mike Douglas.  That kind of change is one of the more noticeable things one sees as the 60s transition to the 70s.

You can see, with both Hee Haw and The Beverly Hillbillies in the lineup, it isn't quite time for CBS' rural purge. The presence of a show like Hawaii Five-O, however, would suggest that the purge isn't long in coming.

KSTP, Channel 5 (NBC)
06:30a
Minnesota Today
07:00a
Today
09:00a
It Takes Two
09:25a
NBC News (Nancy Dickerson)
09:30a
Concentration
10:00a
Sale of the Century
10:30a
Hollywood Squares
11:00a
Jeopardy
11:30a
Who, What or Where Game 
11:55a
NBC News (Floyd Kalbur)
12:00p
Dial 5
12:30p
Life With Linkletter
01:00p
Days of Our Lives
01:30p
The Doctors
02:00p
Another World/Bay City
02:30p
Bright Promise
03:00p
Another World/Somerset
03:30p
Movie – “The Jackpot”
05:30p
NBC News (Huntley/ Brinkley)
06:00p
News (local)
06:30p
The Virginian
08:00p
Kraft Music Hall
09:00p
Then Came Bronson
10:00p
News (local)
10:30p
Johnny Carson
12:00a
David Frost

Dial 5, with Jim Hutton and Jane Johnston, was a staple of local programming on Channel 5.  Jim Hutton (not that Jim) also hosted Dialing for Dollars when that was a stand-alone show.  I'm not sure, but it's likely it was still around as a feature on this show.  Nobody from there ever called our home, at least as far as I'm aware.  Of course, whenever I hear Dialing for Dollars, I think of this:


Life With Linkletter starred tArt and his son Jack.  I don't know if this was an NBC or a syndicated series; perhaps one of our readers can enlighten us.  Art had, of course, been a longtime staple of CBS' daytime schedule.  Another World was, as I've mentioned elsewhere, one of my mother's favorite soaps.  It wasn't until rereading this issue that I remembered the time when NBC split it into two separate, but connected, shows. 

KMSP, Channel 9 (ABC)
07:30a
News and Views
08:00a
Dennis the Menace
08:30a
Grandpa Ken
09:00a
Romper Room (Miss Karen)
09:30a
McHale’s Navy
10:00a
Bewitched
10:30a
That Girl
11:00a
Best of Everything
11:30a
World Apart
12:00p
All My Children
12:30p
Let’s Make a Deal
01:00p
Newlywed Game
01:30p
Dating Game
02:00p
General Hospital
02:30p
One Life to Live
03:00p
Dark Shadows
03:30p
Peyton Place
04:00p
Steve Allen
05:00p
ABC News (Reynolds/Smith)
05:30p
To Tell the Trugh
06:00p
Truth or Consequences
06:30p
Nanny and the Professor
07:00p
The Courtship of Eddie’s Father
07:30p
Room 222
08:00p
Johnny Cash
09:00p
Engelbert Humperdinck
10:00p
News (local)
10:30p
Dick Cavett
12:00a
Movie – “The Light Touch”

I'm always struck by how TV was before it became 24/7.  Channel 9 doesn't come on until 7:30; nowadays, by that time I've already eaten, caught a half-hour of sports, and headed for work.  I mentioned in Saturday's post that ABC was really into the variety show format, and you can see here that they even try to make a TV star out of Engelbert Humperdinck.  It didn't really work, though.

ABC News went through a lot of anchor combinations prior to World News Tonight.  This was, I thought, one of the better ones, with Frank Reynolds and Howard K. Smith.  Reynolds caught some flack from the Nixon White House for his liberal leanings; he was eventually replaced by Harry Reasoner when he jumped from CBS.  When World News Tonight started, though, Reynolds was back in the anchor chair.  Interesting fact - Reynolds covered Ronald Reagan's campaign in 1976, and from what I understand the families became quite close.  When Reynolds died, the Reagans attended the funeral.  Perhaps Reynolds had moderated in his politics, or maybe the two men just liked each other.  Too bad that doesn't happen more in politics today.

WTCN, Channel 11 (Ind.)
06:55a
News (local)
07:00a
Casey and Roundhouse
08:00a
Dave Lee
08:30a
Hobo Kelly
09:00a
News (local)
09:30a
Jack LaLanne
10:00a
Debbie Drake
10:30a
Joan Rivers
11:00a
Girl Talk
11:30a
The Galloping Gourmet
12:00p
Lunch With Casey
01:00p
Movie – “A Life in the Balance”
02:50p
Fashions in Sewing
03:00p
He Said! She Said!
03:30p
Beat the Clock
04:00p
The Addams Family
04:30p
The Flintstones
05:00p
Gilligan’s Island
05:30p
Star Trek
06:30p
Perry Mason
07:30p
Alfred Hitchcock Presents
08:00p
The Alcoa Hour – “Cowboy”
09:00p
Tightrope
09:30p
News (local)
10:00p
Felony Squad
10:30p
Movie – “Voice in the Mirror”
12:30a
News (local)

Casey Jones (Roger Awsumb) was an icon on Twin Cities' kids television, and here he has two shows with his sidekick, Roundhouse Rodney (Lynn Dwyer).  Follow that link to the Lunch With Casey site; you can learn a lot cooler stuff than I have room for here.

Channel 11 is a pretty traditional independent station of the time, with a mix of syndicated programming, reruns and movies, and a lot of sports during the appropriate seasons (it was the station of Twins baseball, North Stars hockey, University of Minnesota hockey and basketball, plus the high school tournaments).  Boy, I remember a lot of these shows - besides Casey, I watched Graham Kerr's Galloping Gourmet, Virginia Graham on Girl Talk, even Jack LaLanne.  I don't remember seeing Debbie Drake, however; I've been told that if I had seen her, I would have remembered.  Maybe I was just too young...


The 1pm movie would have been hosted by Mel Jass, another local legend.  I never liked him when I was watching him back then; I do miss him, though.

KTCI, Channel 17 (NET)
09:00a
Sesame Street
11:15a
Classroom (until 3:30p)
07:00p
Conversations With James Day
07:30p
Book Beat
08:00p
International Magazine
09:00p
Soul!
 
Channel 17, the second educational channel, was started in 1965.  KTCA and KTCI were sister stations, run by the same organization - Twin Cities Public Television.  It's never really succeeded in having its own identity, alternating between playing repeats of Channel 2 programming (for those who missed it the first time) and being an outlet for local or alternative PBS shows.  I'm not quite sure which category it fits into right now.

In case you're interested in why you'd want to watch a conversation with James Day, he was at the time president of NET.  Book Beat, with Chicago Tribune books editor Bob Cromie, was a long-running show on NET/PBS, much remembered by my wife. 

***

And now a final word about kids' TV shows, because I've mentioned a few today.  I never saw the granddaddy of them all, the Mickey Mouse Club, when it was in first-run, but I saw it in reruns, and I had the requisite share of memorabilia - the ears, the watch, the Transogram game.  And again, I must have been too young at the time, because I'm fairly sure I would have remembered seeing Annette.  I was at the Museum of Broadcast Communications in Chicago a couple of months ago, and as part of one of their exhibits they were running clips from the show.  Just by looking at the shirts, I was able to pick her out, even if I hadn't been able to read the name on the shirt.  (Think about it for a minute; you'll get it.)  I doubt you'd have found too many people who would have been surprised if you'd told them that Annette Funicello would wind up a star - she had talent, personality, and a likeability that woudn't stop.  And if that weren't enough, by all accounts she was a very nice person as well. You can't really beat that combination, can you?  R.I.P., Annette.