May 25, 2013

This week in TV Guide: May 25, 1968

As you're reading today's piece, I'm likely in our new home, waiting for our furniture to catch up with us. Fortunately, thanks to the miracles of technology, I've written this post weeks in advance!  Let's hope that the movie wasn't as big a fiasco as the story that follows.

***

In the long and occasionally glorious history of television, there have been many fiascos. Some of them, such as Turn-On and You're In the Picture, each of which ran for only one episode, have become synonymous with failure.  The program which we are about to discuss, which TV Guide calls "The worst disaster of the TV season," is not one of them.  In fact, it's likely you've never even heard of it.  That doesn't make Edith Efron's autopsy of a story any less fascinating, though - after all, most train wrecks are.

The program, a television play entitled Flesh and Blood, aired on NBC on January 26, 1968.  There were high hopes for the program, "a powerful and  compassionate drama of a contemporary American family": written by award-winning Broadway playwright William Hanley, directed by Oscar-nominee Arthur Penn, and starring Oscar-winner Edmond O'Brien and Emmy winners E.G. Marshall, Kim Stanley and Suzanne Pleshette, along with a very young Robert Duvall.  NBC had paid Hanley $112,500 for the script - the largest amount ever for a television script - and touted the coming special for the better part of a year.

In case the article's title didn't give it away, the show did not go over well.  I love the quotes the feature - "a compression of enough emotional depression and disaster to sustain a soap-opera series through 1970" (New York Times), "a grim, depressing piece" (Boston Record American), "a catalog of calamities" (Philadelphia Inquirer), "an unrelieved chronicle of human misery" (Denver Post), "a numbing two-hour tirckle of unsjpeakable secrets" (Time) - well, you get the idea.

So, Efron asks - what went wrong?  A number of things, as it turns out.  NBC wanted a prestige program, and thought they could get it by outbidding Broadway itself - except, as Hanley himself points out, the show never was headed to the Great White Way.  With its depressing subject matter, Hanley says, "[i]t wouldn't have lasted five minutes on Broadway."  The network executives saw Hanley as an award-winning playwright, but his awards had been for off-Broadway work, and he'd never had a box-office hit.  The cast, many of whom were going through personal problems of their own, never really learned the script, and often ad-libbed their lines.  Most important, perhaps, was the grim story itself.  Hanley, refreshingly candid about the whole thing, says that "I do have a very dark vision of life" that is not for everyone.

The whole thing's a prime example of how network executives, through ignorance, hubris, arrogance, stupidity - for starters - can foul things up.  One executive tells Efron, "Some people thought we shouldn't put it on.  But we thought we could get away with it.  What the hell, we'd paid for it, we'd publicized it.  And any special will get you some praise."  And they did get some - at least the critic Rex Reed liked it.  Soon after, NBC would announce a policy change regarding their dramatic programming, signing an agreement with Prudential Life Insurance to produce "five original 'upbeat' dramas" in the coming season - dramas that will be "exciting, hopeful and affirmative."

And here is where we come to the moral of the story.  Clearly we have a disaster here, and although there are many reasons why, pretty much everyone would agree that William Hanley wrote a flop.  Conventional wisdom might suggest that this would signal the end of Hanley's career, at least when it comes to television.

But you'd be wrong.

William Hanley went on to write over two dozen TV scripts, winning two Emmys and being nominated for three others.  He wrote the landmark TV movie Something About Amelia with Ted Danson, as well as adaptations of Tommy Thompson's bestseller Celebrity and Shana Alexander's bestseller Nutcracker: Money, Madness and Murder, and The Attic: The Hiding of Anne Frank.  When he died last June at age 80, his New York Times obituary describes him as an "uncommonly gifted writer" who "received critical acclaim as a Broadway and Off Broadway playwright in the 1960s and who later won Emmys for television scripts."  Of Flesh and Blood, the newspaper that had described it as " emotional depression and disaster" merely mentioned that it had received "mixed reviews."

So let that be a lesson to you: failure does not have to be permanent.  Time can heel all wounds, and people have short memories.  Flesh and Blood did not ruin William Hanley's career; it merely disappeared into the ether.  He didn't give up, and neither should we.

***

There are some great things teased on the cover of this issue (if you can get past the picture of Diana Hyland - more on that later).  We're given a preview of "Patrick McGoohan's puzzling, intriguing new summer series," and unlike so many promises, this one actually lives up to the billing.  The series in question is The Prisoner, McGoohan's legendary cult-fav that's part espionage, part sci-fi, part mystery, and completely compelling.

"It would be a grave error to pretend that this is anything other than a piece of entertainment of a certain type," McGoohan tells interviewer Joan Barthel, but at the same time it's clear McGoohan has something he wants to say about modern society.  "I've always been obsessed with the idea of prisons in a liberal democratic society," he says of the series, in which a former intelligence agent is kept captive by an unknown authority in an unknown place where people are known not by name but by number.*  "I believe in democracy, but the inherent danger is that with an excess of freedom in all directions we will eventually destroy ourselves."

*Many afficianatos of The Prisoner (including yours truly) believe that McGoohan's character, Number 6, is in actuality John Drake, the secret agent of McGoohan's previous series, Danger Man (the hour-long version of which was known in this country as Secret Agent). McGoohan always denied this, quite possibly because, since he didn't create Danger Man, he didn't own the name "John Drake" and would have had to share credit for it.

Speaking of America's obsession with opinion polls, McGoohan says that "[t]he reason we're so concerned with these polls is that we're so desperately concerned with saying, 'We're free!'  And I want to know, how free are we?  I think we're being imprisoned and engulfed by a scientific and materialistic world.  We're at the mercy of gadgetry and gimmicks; I'm making my living out of a piece of gadgetry, which is a television set, and anyone who says there aren't any pressures in it has never watched a commercial."

The Prisoner was one of the most puzzling, most controversial television programs ever shown.  Its ambiguity and its failure to provide a definitive end to the series outraged many, enthralled others, and confused most everyone.  And McGoohan wouldn't have had it any other way.  "I just hope there are a couple of thoughts in it somewhere that relate to the things that are going on around us, to our situation at the moment.  It will be interesting to see what viewers thing the symbols are.  I will say this: There are, within it, answers to every single question that can be posed, but one can't expect an answer on a plate, saying, 'Here you are; you don't have to think; it's all yours; don't use your brain.'"


***

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: Mike Douglas; Nancy Sinatra; Spanky and Our Gang; comedians Scozy [sic] Mitchell, Bobby Ransen, and Hendra and Ullett; the acrobatic Trio Rennos; the roller-skating Bredos; and the Muppets Puppets.

Hollywood Palace: Co-hosts Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme (Mrs. Lawrence) introduce comics Tim Conway and Corbett Monica, dancers Szony and Claire, and the Mascotts, German head-balancing act.

Perhaps these lineups are indicative of the beginning of the end of variety shows, for neither is very strong.  The Palace, airing on Thursday night for a spell instead of its traditional Saturday night timeslot, is a rerun; Sullivan's show just sounds like a rerun, because we've seen it all before.  One point for Ed due to the Muppets, and Mike Douglas is always pleasant, but Steve and Edie, along with the very funny Tim Conway, are enough to carry the day.  The verdict: The Palace, somewhat indifferently.

Better to go with Dean Martin, airing opposite the Palace.  Deano's guests are singer Eddy Arnold, Phil Silvers, Janet Leigh, the Mills Brothers, and comedian Jeremy Veron.  I think that one would be hard to beat.

***

In 1968, Memorial Day was still celebrated on May 30; the holiday wasn't moved to its current fourth-Monday-in-May status until 1971. Then, as now, Memorial Day meant one thing for many people: the Indianapolis 500.

Besides the date, there were other things different about 1968. The race wasn't televised live, but instead was presented in highlight form on Wide World of Sports a couple of weeks later. No, if you wanted to follow the race, there were only two ways to do it: either on the radio, or via closed-circuit in a movie theater. And if you did, you'd have seen and heard how Joe Leonard, in one of Andy Granatelli's legendary turbine cars, leads the race only to have his car fail with 10 laps to go, leading to the first of Bobby Unser's three 500 victories.

In lieu of live race coverage, Channel 11 has something else in store: the Indianapolis 500 Festival Parade, taped Tuesday evening, with Garry Moore alongside Sid Collins, the famed radio "Voice of the 500." Unlike so many things, the 500 Festival Parade is still around, and still on TV - it will be on NBC Sports Network the day before this year's race.


***

Well, ABC is at it again.  How many times have I written that ABC's talking about moving their evening news broadcast to prime time?   Several times, at least.  They even did it once, though that didn't last long.  This latest idea is to move the broadcast to 9:30pm CT, and to start their prime-time programming at 6:00pm rather than the then-starting time of 6:30.  It "could be fully competitive with the morning paper," says Bill Sheehan, second-in-command at ABC News.  It never happens, though.  ABC's news remains in the traditional time slot, against Walter Cronkite and Huntley-Brinkley.  It won't be until ABC Sports head honcho Roone Arledge takes over the news department and introduces World News Tonight in 1978 that the network finally catches up - and passes - the rest.

***

This week's cover girl, as we mentioned earlier, is Diana Hyland, currently appearing as "the nymphomaniacal drunk minister's wife" in ABC's prime-time soap Peyton Place, and author Burt Prelutsky is in love with her.  She's got it all - a dazzling smile, lovely blue eyes, and legs that won't quit.  She's interesting, too - she believes in flying saucers, said good evening to Nikita Khrushchev at the UN and was winked at by Fidel Castro, and has remained 27 for the last five years*, the previous time when she was interviewed by TV Guide.  "I lied then," she tells Prelutsky.

*According to the always-reliable Wikipedia, Hyland was born in 1936, which means she was in fact 27 - in 1963.  She told the truth then; she's lying now.

She's a dedicated actress, and a successful one - "everything I've ever tried I've done well," she says.  Her Peyton Place director, Walter Doniger, calls her "an elegant, brigt, witty dame" who's also svelte, sophisticated, and a nonconformist.  In fact, she only has two vices - she owns 200 pairs of shoes, and she smokes three packs of cigarettes a day. 

I don't know if that last vice is significant or not.  Flash forward to 1977: she's in a happy relationship with John Travolta, she's signed to play Dick Van Patten's wife in Eight Is Enough - and she's diagnosed with breast cancer.  She dies in March of that year, aged 41. 

***

The Teletype tells us that Elvis Presley will be highlighting a special for NBC.  I suspect they're talking about this.  The rest, as they say, is history.

***

Finally, is it possible that the most interesting item in this week's issue is not an article, but an advertisement?


Hmm.  Could be.

May 21, 2013

Ken Venturi, R.I.P.

I first heard of Ken Venturi when I was ten or so. It was in Phil Pepe’s book Winners Never Quit, one of those books that I’d buy at the scholastic book sales they had when we were kids. Pepe’s book told the stories of athletes who’d come back from extraordinary adversity of one kind or another to become champions, and one of those chapters was on Ken Venturi.

Venturi had been a hotshot golfer with an ego to match. He’d finished second in the Masters as an amateur, had won early and often on the tour as a pro, and lived the life of the celebrity. Then, almost overnight, his game went south, that sweet swing turned into a mess, his mechanics crumbled. Soon he was reduced to begging for spots in tournaments. Even the Masters forgot about him. But because Venturi had ruffled so many feathers along the way with his cockiness, few people felt sorry for him, and even fewer believed he’d ever make it back. But he did, and the story of how the new, humbler Venturi overcame exhaustion and heat stroke to win the 1964 U.S. Open at Congressional is one of the great chapters in golf’s long history.

His rebirth was short-lived; carpel tunnel syndrome in both wrists devastated him, making it almost impossible for him to even feel the club in his hands. Without that touch, his game again faltered. Surgeries and endless practice brought him back, to the point that Pepe’s chapter ends with Venturi winning the 1966 Lucky Invitational in San Francisco, his final tournament victory.

Venturi retired from the tour the next year, and then began the remarkable next stage of his life, one that would surely have qualified for an entirely new chapter in Pepe’s book. As a child he had stuttered so severely that doctors told his mother he’d never be able to pronounce his own name; he’d overcome that, just as he would overcome the challenges that threatened his golfing career, and now Venturi would turn to broadcasting, where the next 35 years he would be the lead golf analyst for CBS.

I loved listening to Venturi cover golf, and over the years he became one of my favorite broadcasters. He might not have been as smooth as some, might not have had the way others had with words, but – like so many other broadcasters I’ve eulogized over the years, including his good friend and colleague Pat Summerall – Venturi was a big-match announcer. When you heard his hushed voice as Nicklaus stood over a put, you knew this was a big moment.

And like them, Venturi didn’t make the broadcast about himself. He told it like it was, but without the smarmy snark of a Johnny Miller or the harshness of a Curtis Strange. He wasn’t interested in showing the viewers that he was smarter and cleverer than the golfers on the course. And, perhaps most important, he was always on the golfer’s side. He didn’t want to see them fail out there, and took no delight when misfortune befell them. I remember during Jean van de Velde’s meltdown at the 1999 British Open that ABC’s team of Mike Tirico and Strange almost seemed to relish what was happening. Venturi wasn’t like that – he knew the pain of losing, and though he’d tell you what went wrong out there, he never suggested that he would have been above making that same mistake.

Venturi’s work with Vin Scully, Summerall, and Jim Nantz made CBS’s golf coverage the best on TV. When he retired a few years ago, to be replaced first by Lanny Wadkins and then by Nick Faldo, it just wasn’t the same. Don’t misunderstand me – I think Faldo can be very good, but he’s not Venturi.

When I’d heard a couple of weeks ago that Venturi was too ill to attend his (richly deserved) induction into the golf Hall of Fame, I worried that this might be the challenge he wouldn’t be able to overcome. His death on Friday, at age 82, leaves a void in both the sporting and broadcasting worlds. Ken Venturi was a class act, on the course and behind the microphone. He was a winner.

May 18, 2013

This week in TV Guide: May 21, 1966

Lately I've been checking out Mr. Lucky, a show I'd never seen before, which has been running on MeTV.  Mr. Lucky, produced by Blake Edwards and starring John Vivyan, ran for only one season in 1959 on CBS; it's a charming-enough piece of fluff, the story of an honest professional gambler running a floating casino, but the storylines are often flimsy and the tone a little too silly for my taste.  Had it gone in the direction of Edwards' other hit of the era, Peter Gunn, it might have had more staying power.

However, one of the pleasures of Mr. Lucky is Ross Martin as Lucky's partner Andamo, whose slightly cynical sense of humor often redeems questionable scenes.  And it's that same Ross Martin who shares the cover of this week's TV Guide with his Wild Wild West co-star Robert Conrad.  

Although Conrad was the focal point of the CBS series, it was Martin's performance as Artemus Gordon, master of disguise, that I always appreciated.  After many years in the business, Martin, an exceptionally talented actor, has resigned himself to the fact that he'll never be the star, the heroic romantic lead.  "I can't say I'm happy being a second banana," he says, although he concedes that the role of Gordon, in which he eventually plays over 100 different characters, is "a show-off's showcase!"  He has a friendly but somewhat guarded relationship with Conrad, as he did with Vivyan on Mr. Lucky, but has the admiration of his colleagues.

Although The Wild Wild West was Martin's best-known role, he remained working in television (including two subsequent West movie sequels) until his death from a heart attack in 1981.


***

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: singers Maria Cole and Nancy Sinatra; Metropolitan Opera baritone Robert Merrill; the comedy teams of Allen and Rossi, and Stiller and Meara; Elva Miller, a housewife-turned-singer; and the West Point Glee Club.

Hollywood Palace:  Host Bing Crosby introduces comedian Shelly Berman; singer Leslie Uggams; lyricist Johnny Mercer; the singing King Family; the Three Mecners, Polish acrobats; Mac Ronay, French comic magician; and British vaudevillians Pat Daly and Bill Wayne.

On the one hand you have the great Robert Merrill, the occasionally funny Stiller and Meara, the funny-then-but-not-so-much-now Allen and Rossi; on the other you have Bing Crosby, Shelly Berman and Johnny Mercer.  Almost a push, but not quite, so we'll Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive. The verdict: Palace.


***

Seagram's ads were a staple of sports coverage in the 60s
Some fascinating similarities in the sports coverage from this week, compared to the 1958 TV Guide we looked at a couple of weeks ago.  Let's take a look at them.

This week, as was the case two weeks ago, horse racing was a big event.  Then it was the Kentucky Derby; this week it's the Preakness Stakes, second jewel of the Triple Crown.  And just as Tim Tam would win the Derby and Preakness in 1958 before falling short in the Belmont, Kauai King would win the Derby and Preakness in 1966, only to have his Triple Crown hopes dashed with a fourth place finish in the Belmont three weeks hence.

That TV Guide from two weeks ago featured a championship boxing match on ABC; so does this one. Then, it was the lightweight title bout between Joe Brown and Ralph Dupas; this week, ABC's Wide World of Sports brings us an even bigger fight - Cassius Clay, defending his world heavyweight title against England's champ Henry Cooper, live via satellite from Arsenal Stadium in London.  As I'd mentioned a couple of months ago, boxing was an irregular prime-time performer on network TV by the 60s, but it maintained a steady presence on Wide World - as did its favorite boxer, the soon-to-be-known-as Muhammad Ali.  Ali was good to Wide World, and the show was good to him.

Cooper was thought to have a real chance - he'd knocked Clay down in their previous fight in 1963 before Clay rallied to win.  This time, though, the champ would open up a cut above Cooper's left eye (which would later require 12 stitches to close), and the referee would stop the bout in the sixth round, with Clay retaining his title.

And, now as then, there were a pair of baseball games on Saturday afternoon; now, as then, the Yankees and Indians were involved, though not playing each other.  NBC's Game of the Week has Cleveland taking on the Chicago White Sox, while the Minnesota Twins play the Yankees in Channel 11's Twins broadcast.

There's even bowling on Sunday, as the CBS Bowling Classic kicks off its season on Sports Spectacular.  However, since 1958 we've learned that Sunday afternoons are meant to be filled with sports, so the keglers have to share the limelight with another Twins game, pocket billiards (!), and the final round of the Colonial Invitational golf tournament from Fort Worth (won by Bruce Devlin, in case you're interested).

***

Speaking of sports, there's another article of interest in this issue, notable as much for what it doesn't say as for what it does.  It's Neil Hickey's "Is There An Athletic Gap?", a look at Sunday night's NBC documentary The Russian Sports Revolution.  The question on everyone's mind is why the Soviets have become such a athletic superpower.  The reasons given are the standard ones: special training for promising athletes identified at a young age to be groomed for success, governed and subsidized by a government organization called the All-Union Committee for Physical Culture and Sport.  "It's a sports-crazy country," sportscaster Jim Simpson says, and international success by Soviet teams and individuals has become a prime weapon in the ongoing Cold War.

Accepting the idea that the Soviet system has its advantages, how can the Americans hope to compete?  The ongoing rivalry between the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and the NCAA is blamed for much of the nation's problems.  "We have such a hit-and-miss, shoddy athletic system here it's unbelievable," Simpson says.  A special Senate committee investigation produces such a gloomy prognosis that Vice President Humphrey appoints a special arbitration committee in hopes of resolving the intra-organizational dispute.

Doubtless all of this was true, but we now know much more, including the preponderance of performance-enhancing drugs that were used by Eastern bloc countries, especially East Germany.  Hormones, steroids, blood doping, and the like were thought responsible for as many as 10,000 athletes, many of whom had no idea they were being turned into addicts by their trainers and coaches.

There had always been rumors about what the Eastern Europeans were doing; I wonder if any of them made their way into NBC's broadcast?

***

Scattered notes from the Teletype: Batman, after just one week, has hit the top 10 in Japan.  Johnny Carson begins a five-week vacation in July; Joey Bishop will guest host.  And Martin Landau has a recurring guest-star role in the new Mission: Impossible, playing a makeup artist who's a master of disguise.*

*Possibly a descendant of Artemus Gordon?

The thing is, if you watch the first season of M:I, you'll notice that Landau is in every episode, albeit listed as "Special Appearance by" - but how special can it be if he's there every week?  In fact, one of the reasons for Landau's expanded presence on the series was that star Steven Hill, an Orthodox Jew, refused to work after 4pm Friday until after sundown Saturday, and Landau's character, who in fact was only supposed to appear as one of several rotating guest stars, took up much of the slack.  (Indeed, in several episodes Landau's assignment has little to do with disguise.)  Landau himself refused to sign the typical contract in order to maintain availability for feature film work, and didn't become an actual "regular" until the second season - by which time Hill had been replaced by Peter Graves.

***

What do we Know Infographic
Graphic Couresy OnlineClasses.org  

The graphic above was sent to me by reader Allison Morris at OnlineClasses.org.  It's a pretty sobering look at the knowledge - or lack of same - of the American public today.  I'll be taking a closer look at this over at the mothership next month.  But it might be worthwhile to take a look at how the intelligence of a segment of the public - the viewing public - was seen at the time of this issue.

In the fall of 1965 the Politz Media Service surveyed 4,020 viewers on their television preferences. Nothing particularly unusual about that; Nielsen's been doing it for quite a while.  What Politz did, however, was break down the results by various demographic characteristics*, and the results produced a number of surprises.

*I'm assuming, based on the amount of ink used on this article, that such extensive demographic profiling was fairly uncommon for the time.

For one thing, it appears that education level is not a defining characteristic when it comes to the most popular television programs.  Shows that might ordinarily be thought of as "low-brow" -  Red Skelton, Gomer Pyle, Lawrence Welk, Ed Sullivan and The Beverly Hillbillies were among the shows cited - were among the most popular programs for college graduates.

In search of an explanation for these seemingly counter-intuitive results, Herbert Kay Research, Inc. came up with some "tentative" conclusions, including: "People of high intelligence tend to like the same programs that people of lower intelligence like."  That sounds obvious considering the findings of the Politz poll, but it's interesting nonetheless; we've long heard about how television viewers don't really want intelligent programming.  Is this evidence of that, or do intelligent people watch "non-intelligent" shows because that's all that's on?

Ah, you might say, but intelligent shows don't get high ratings because there aren't enough smart people to watch them.  Everyone knows smart people have better things to do with their time than watch the boob tube!  But you'd be wrong - according to Kay Research, "proportionately more people of high intelligence than low were found among those who habitually watch a great deal of television."

I suppose you could argue that TV had already succeeded in dumbing down even the smartest audience.  But it's probably a question we'll never be able to answer.

May 15, 2013

Be my guest

Our bags are packed and we're ready to go, and that includes the TV Guides. The Hadleys are moving this week, which isn't a TV story itself; but it does mean the resources are all packed up, so we'll have to do with leftovers. Here's another golden-oldie from Our Word circa July 2009.


One of the many downsides to the modern late-night talk show is that we've seen the virtual disappearance of the guest host. Younger viewers may not believe this, but there was a time when, while the host was on vacation, a guest host came in and took over the show. The substitute might only be on for a night or two while the regular host was enjoying a long weekend, or it could be an entire week - or even two, in some cases.

Johnny Carson was famous for having guest hosts, particularly since he took so much time off, but when Steve Allen hosted Tonight he had Ernie Kovacs as the permanent Monday-Tuesday guest host; Ernie even had his own cast and format. Joey Bishop parlayed his guesting gig into a show of his own (after its cancellation, he returned to the Carson stable); Joan Rivers, who became Carson's permanent guest host, bolted to Fox for her own star turn (unlike Bishop, she and Carson never reconciled). Carson would have guest hosts for a week or two at a time; some, like Jerry Lewis and Don Rickles, were regulars, but he also had more unlikely stars such as Woody Allen sit in for him for a week, and Beverly Sills became the first female to command the host's seat.

Maybe today's hosts feel threatened by the presence of a substitute who might wind up being funnier than they are (remember how "Larry Sanders" was constantly looking over his shoulder at Jon Stewart); perhaps it's just a matter of pure economics (it's easier and cheaper to show reruns than it is to hire a guest host). For whatever reason, the guest host - once a staple of talk shows - has almost completely vanished. In recent years only Letterman has had them, and then it's mostly been due to illnesses that made showing an extended series of reruns impractical.

I think we've lost something by not having guest hosts anymore; there was a variety and a different perspective that viewers got by having someone else in the host's chair. Some were better than others, but all of them were different, and that kept things interesting. Take, for example, the Tonight show's schdule for the week of February 5-9, 1968. The singer/actor/activist Harry Belafonte was the guest host for that week, and just take a look at this lineup:

Monday: Senator and Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy, Bill Cosby, Lena Horne, and actress Melina Mercouri and her husband, movie producer Jules Dasin.

Tuesday: Zero Mostel, Diahann Carool, Petula Clark, folk singers Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, and ski expert Ken White.

Wednesday: Sidney Poitier, Dionne Warwick, George London and Marianne Moore.

Thursday: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Paul Newman, and Nipsey Russell.

Friday: Robert Goulet, Aretha Franklin, and Thomas Hoving (director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art).

You might not recognize all of those names, but trust me - these were very big names of the time, and to have even a few of them on during the course of one week would be something. Having all of them on the week's lineup would have been fantastic. And to think that this was for a guest host! I'm sure Belafonte must have had something to do with choosing the lineup - there was at least one big-name African-American guest each night, he probably knew or had worked with many of them personally, and guests such as King and Kennedy certainly would have reflected his own political philosophy. There's no doubt, though, that Tonight's booking crew really gave Harry a tremendous week's worth.

It's a reminder that talk shows weren't always about mindless entertainment - many of these guests had no songs to sing, nor jokes to tell. They were there to converse and to share their ideas, and I can imagine they did it with more dignity than today's newsmakers do when they appear with Letterman or Leno or O'Brian.

I'm not trying to suggest that shows were better then, or that guests were more interesting, or that television was simply better. (Well, in fact, that is what I'm suggesting - but that's another story, as I like to say, for another day.) My point here is just that times change, and we get used to it - but what a time that week must have been!

May 11, 2013

This week in TV Guide: May 13, 1961

The new Chairman of the FCC, Newton Minow, kicks off this week's edition of TV Guide with an Open Letter to the public, asking for their help in improving television.

Minow is responding to a recent Open Letter to him by the editors of TV Guide, in which they had called on the FCC to take action on several fronts, including the amount of violence on TV, the tendency of local stations to pre-empt educational shows being broadcast by the networks, and that programming decisions are being governed almost completely by the ratings.

In his response, Minow quite rightly points out the public's role in keeping TV responsible - after all, each station's license is reviewed by the FCC every three years, during which time they must show how they've served "the public interest."  If the public doesn't feel that its interests are being served, speak up!  He also talks about a study the commission is conducting regarding the influence of the ratings system and the role of talent agencies in casting decisions.

Minow also stresses how little of the TV band is actually being utilized - "85% of available television broadcasting frequencies are hardly used."  With the advent and continued development of UHF, the time will eventually come when "we will be able to provide every community with enough stations to permit all parts of the public to receive programs directed to their particular interests."  That's a very intriguing statement - in one sense it prefigures today's glut of specialized cable stations, especially when he references how some stations "will recognize the need to appeal to more limited markets and to special tastes."

However, Minow also makes the assumption - no, that's not quite right.  He doesn't assume that educational and cultural programming will thrive in this environment.  What he says is that after this model has come of age, "[t]here will be time to prove that television stations can make money by appealing to our highest capacities instead of our lowest."  In fact, it is here that he throws it back in the public's lap, saying that while the FCC can provide leadership in this area, "the best leadership rarely can take people where they do not want to go."

What's interesting about this is that it had only been four days earlier - undoubtedly after this issue had gone gone to press - that Minow had given his famous speech to the National Association of Broadcasters in which he excoriated television as "a vast wasteland."   So while we know Minow well, he was probably far less well-known to the public at the time of this article.  I personally think the timing of the article, coming so closely to the speech, is fascinating.  (I wonder which one was written first?)  It causes you to read the article more closely, to look for signs of it being something of a talisman, a sign of Minow's attitude toward the medium.  In the article he concludes by saying that television "has a responsibility to serve the Nation's needs as well as its whims" and a duty "to assist in preparing a generation for great decisions."  It's no stretch to connect the article to his speech, in which he states that when television is good, "nothing is better. But when television is bad, nothing is worse."

Television, Newton Minow concludes, "has a deep obligation to guide our country in fulfilling its future." And I suppose it a way it has.  For better - and for worse.

***

Click to enlarge
The Emmys (or "Television 'Emmy' Awards" if you prefer) are Tuesday night on NBC, hosted by Dick Powell in Hollywood and Joey Bishop in New York.*  As is the case with Oscar telecasts of the time, this year's show is relatively late in the evening (9pm CT), and is scheduled for a compact running time of 90 minutes.  NBC was the broadcaster of record for the first few Emmy shows, but by the end of the 60s it will be rotated among the networks, a situation that exists (with a few exceptions) to this day.  You'll also notice that back then the Emmys were held in May, at the end of the TV season.  It's not until 1977, when they were delayed by a strike, that they moved to their current date at the start of the following season.

*Coincidentally, I'm sure, both Dick Powell and Joey Bishop were at the time starring in series on NBC.

The most noticeable thing about this year's program, viewed from today's perspective, is the list of nominees. For example, in the since-abandoned category "Program of the Year," the nominees include specials by Fred Astaire and Danny Kaye, a Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation of "Macbeth," NBC Sunday Showcase's "Sacco-Vanzetti Case," and - NBC's 1960 political convention coverage. Not something you'd be likely to see nowadays. (It didn't win, though - "Macbeth," starring Maurice Evans and Judith Anderson, which was the evening's big winner, took home the award.)

Other categories included "Outstanding Program Achievements" in humor, drama, variety, news, public affairs and education, and children's programming. The acting awards were for acting in a special, series (comedy or drama; there were no individual categories), and variety show. Then there were the usual directing and writing awards.

I think this, as much as anything, shows the evolution of television over the years. The preponderance of variety shows, the inclusion of public affairs (low-rated though they might be), even the number of nominees (five in programming categories, but only three in each acting category) - well, it was just a different time. As for the winners - you can find out about them here.

***

Even without Hollywood Palace, I can't seem to shake the urge to see what Ed Sullivan's got going.  It's such a good way to find out what's hot right now.  And this week Ed has Metropolitan Opera star Richard Tucker, singer Teresa Brewer, Gene Barry, star of Bat Masterson, The Three Stooges, clarinetist Pete Foundain and his jazz group, comedians Larry Griswold and Adam Keefe, and the Idlers, Coast Guard vocal group.  And that would be a hard act for anyone to follow. 

Dinah Shore's got a pretty good lineup on Sunday as well, on NBC.  Her guests include jazzman Red Novaro, the great musical-comedy star Carol Channing, singer Jack Jones (who's still going strong today), and the NORAD Command Band.*  And opposite the Emmys, Garry Moore's CBS show (a repeat) has comedian Alan King, singer Denise Lor and calypso singer Steve DePass.  Of course, he also has a regular who went on to some variety show fame of her own - Carol Burnett.

*With all these military groups on TV, one wonders if this was a recruiting tool?

And an interesting note, apropos of nothing in particular.  Dave Garroway, host of the Today show, is on vacation for the week.  Subbing for Dave is none other than John Daly, host of What's My Line?  Daly was, until the previous year, VP of news for ABC, as well as the evening news anchor.  He did this while hosting What's My Line? for CBS.  And now he's appearing on Today on NBC.  What a guy!

***

I’ve mentioned in the past how popular bowling was on TV of the early 60s, and this week is no exception, as Wide World of Sports devotes 2½ hours to the semifinals and finals of the National Invitational Bowling Championship from Paramus, New Jersey.  The winner takes home a whopping $15,000 first prize - by contrast, Gene Littler, winner of the U.S. Open golf championship the following month, only gets $14,000.  How times have changed.

This was actually replayed on ESPN Classic a few years ago, as you can see here.  You're going to have to watch it to see who wins, though!


The best sports story of the issue is Melvin Durslag's profile of Leo Durocher, who's left his job as color commentator on NBC's Game of the Week to return to baseball as a coach for the Los Angeles Dodgers.  It's widely rumored that Leo the Lip will succeed Walter Alston, but it doesn't happen.  Leo's next job managing will be with the Chicago Cubs, and his tenure will be remembered for the Cubbies' collapse in 1969, as the Amazin' New York Mets storm ahead late in the season on the way to their improbable championship.

Durocher has some interesting ideas on the business of baseball.  "My policy would be no televising of home games," he says.  "It doesn't build fans.  In most major league towns there already are enough fans.  Your problem is getting them to buy tickets."  TV doesn't help, says Durocher, "when you give them the games for nothing.  I would televise only a few road games.  You show home games and it will murder you."

That was the conventional thinking for a long, long time - even as recently as the early 90s.  Today, of course, almost every team televises almost every game, home and road.  It's not quite free, though - the vast majority of these games are on cable sports channels.  But Leo's right about one thing: the revenue streams that come to sports from rights fees, marketing fees, naming fees and the like, mean that nowadays the least important part of the equation is the fan.

***

This week's cover story is on Lorne Greene, star of NBC's hit Bonanza.  I have to admit that Bonanza was not my favorite show growing up; my grandparents liked it, possibly because they'd been farmers once.*  Even despite my ongoing infatuation with classic TV, I've never warmed to it.  Maybe if I made a concerted effort to sit down and watch it - or maybe not.

*Of course, they liked Lawrence Welk, too.

I was never a big Lorne Greene fan back then, either, but I have come to appreciate him.  There was a dignity to his speech and his on-screen manner that we don't see as often today.  And it's not surprising; after all, Greene was the chief radio broadcaster for the CBC, becoming known as the "Voice of Canada," before relocating to the states in the early 50s and turning to acting.  His career on Broadway and was hit and miss - mostly miss - before he went to television and Bonanza.  The rest, as they say, is history.

It's amusing that Greene's three TV sons - Michael Landon, Pernell Roberts and Dan Blocker - "are apt to fall into the son role despite their best intentions," often asking Greene for advise of various kinds.  Greene had other series after leaving the Ponderosa - most infamously, perhaps, as Commander Adama in the original Battlestar Galactica - and was the longtime host of NBC's Macy's Parade coverage.  But it will always be as Pa Cartwright that Lorne Greene will be most remembered.

***

Some histrionics here, wouldn't you say?  What would Newton Minow think?


***

There's another "sign of the times" article, this one a debate between Michigan Supreme Court Chief Justice John Dethmers and NBC News Executive VP William McAndrew, on the question "should television be permitted to cover courtroom proceedings?"  Justice Dethmers says no - there are too many potential pitfals.  The witnesses would be too aware of the camera.  Judges up for reelection might gain an unfair advantage from their on-air exposure.  Most of all, Dethmers is concerned that TV's insatiable appetite for ratings (and the revenues they produce) migth cause them to focus on the more "senastional" aspects of trials, rather than the "mundane and prosaic monotony of learned discussion of legal and Constitutional questions." 

On the flip side, McAndrew feels that by televising trials, the broadcaster is fullfilling "part of his obligation to keep the public as fully informed as possible on as many vital matters as possible."  The public, he contends, "has a right to know what goes on in the courtroom" - it's the best guarantee of a fair trial.  He assures us that broadcasters don't "look to the courtroom for a show" but for news "that at times may have an important impact on history."  He also contents that many of the concerns about exposure would exist with or without the presence of the cameras.  Act against them, he urges the Bar Association, rather than blaming TV.

We know how the argument ultimately ends, but one thing's for sure: I doubt that either of these men - nor Newton Minow, for that matter - could possibly have foreseen how television would develop, that one of those dedicated stations of which Minow speaks would wind up broadcasting nothing but courtroom trials, and that the coverage would be both a public service and a sensational circus, and that the very news channels that in 1961 might have been seen as a dream come true would, by 2013, be far closer to the vast wasteland.

May 9, 2013

Wither TV's private detectives?

In our last episode, I'd tentatively explored the idea that today's TV police procedurals* were subtly influencing the viewing public to accept the idea of a stronger government control over personal liberty.  Which is a highfaluting way of saying that we cheer when the good guys trample over the rights of the bad guys because we know the bad guys are bad, but things aren't quite that easy in real life.

*Let's admit it - I trashed NCIS but good.  Upon further review, I probably should have included 24 in that list as well.  It's not strictly a procedural, but if you're talking about conditioning the public to accept a certain way of thought, it would certainly qualify.

As I said at the time, this was just a theory - a good one, but merely my own opinion.  But in a roundabout way it lead me to consider another question I've had lately: the absence of the traditional private detective from television. 

The catalyst for the linking of these two seemingly disparate thoughts was Steven Stark's Glued to the Set: The 60 Television Shows and Events That Made Us Who We Are Today.  I've been reading over parts of it lately, primarily because it's the only TV book I have that's not packed away in a box pending our upcoming move. I may have mentioned this book before; if not, I'll undoubtedly mention it again in the future, because it's the kind of book I wish I'd written.  I don't mean to suggest that I agree with everything he writes, or that I wouldn't have said or done some things differently.  But it's the idea of looking at television with an eye to American culture, of identifying how particular television shows have influenced not only other shows but the culture as a whole, that I really like.

Returning to the discussion, Stark writes of the undeniable influence of the 1952 premiere of Jack Webb's Dragnet in how the public viewed police.

Until the advent of television, however, popular culture had traditionally romanticized crime, with the police (or their equivalents) often treated as villains not heroes. A strong antiestablishment distrust of formal legal authority used to run through our popular culture.

Stark quotes a student of American culture who wrote, "If the United States could be said to have a national literature, it is crime melodrama"  The form in which the crime drama took, however, relied less on the institutional police and more on the outsider:

[T]raditional pop-culture crime-solvers before television - Edgar Allen Poe's Auguste Dupin (America's first literary detective), Sherlock Holmes, Sam Spade, and Philip Marlowe - were often private detectives tracking down criminals while outwitting the police  Westerns, too, retained this ideology, with justice often carried out by a single, highly individualistic sheriff or cowboy who disdained the traditional mechanisms of the law.

This all changed with the advent of Dragnet.  Webb's stark, documentary-like portrayal of police work as a job, done well and often without the glamor and intrigue of the mind's eye, made heroes out of the men in blue, investing them with a moral authority that would extend well into the countercultural era of the 70s.

That's not to say that the private eye disappeared from television, however.  From Richard Diamond and Peter Gunn to Remington Steele, The Rockford Files and Magnum, P.I., private detectives were a staple of television drama.  They were rebels, working outside the law (and frequently violating it), carrying an antiestablishment sense of justice with which we could identify - after all, how many times had we been burned by "The Man" in our daily lives?  And yet today they're virtually invisible on television, and those non-police investigators who do show up have a completely different relationship to legal authority than their television progenitors.

For example, shows such as Castle, Psych and The Mentalist feature "consultants" embedded within the police department.*  As consultants, they're free to exercise the kind of outside-the-box thinking that the cops have always been ridiculed as lacking, while still being able to take advantage of the forensic technology of the modern department, and use police muscle to apprehend the criminal.  (They're also free to disregard civil liberties in an even more flagrant, emotionally satisfying way than the police.)  Bored to Death's Jonathan Ames and Burn Notice's Michael Westen are closer to Lord Peter Wimsey and Jessica Fletcher, as unlicensed, "amateur" detectives, than they are to Sam Spade and Philip Marlowe. 

*There's also Monk, whose protagonist was on leave from the department, but still working as a consultant in conjunction with duly commissioned authorities. 

Private eyes have almost always had a detective on the force, an ally/adversary* who would provide them with a crucial piece of evidence, bail them out of a legal jam, or occasionally save their sorry asses by showing up in the nick of time, just before the criminal's about to blast our hero (and, often, his girlfriend) to kingdom come.  But I'd have to think that Jim Rockford (as well as his detective sidekick Becker) would blanch at the thought of any kind of official relationship between PI and PD.

*I'm told the kids call them frenemies.

Now, I'd always assumed that the private eye had nearly disappeared primarily because forensic technology, as opposed to good old-fashioned legwork, has become the predominant mode of plot advancement in today's procedurals.  Unless you're Sherlock Holmes, as in CBS's reimagining*, you're not apt to have access to that kind of technology on your own. But after reading Stark, and thinking on the cultural role of the procedural, I now wonder if there's even more to it than that. Could it be that the individualism epitomized by the private detective is being discouraged as well?

*Lie to Me's Cal Lightman is a technical wizard as well, perhaps the closest thing to a professional detective we've had in recent years.  Like the PIs of yore, Lightman actually has, you know, clients.

Rockford's no stinkin' cop
Take Stark's description of the pre-Dragnet crimefighter as one who's essentially a rebel, an individualist who goes his own way.  They still exist on TV today, but the difference is they're not on their own.  NCIS' Gibbs, for example, does not play well with authority.  In an earlier era, he would have made a perfect private detective.  But nowadays he'd miss out on Abby's lab work, on McGee's computer wizardry, and on the quirky charm that's made the ensemble cast so lovable to TV viewers.*  Not only isn't TV built for non-technological crimefighters, it's increasingly eliminating the idea of a show built around one central character.  In an era when ensembles rule, the loner that is the traditional private detective is virtually extinct.

*That's sarcasm, in case you were wondering.

Modern society is a strange, schizophrenic thing.  On the one had we hold up certain personal freedoms as if they'd come inscribed on the mountain and carried down by Moses.  On the other, we're constantly told how we have to give up certain other freedoms in the name of safety, security, the public good.  A lone wolf like the private detective challenges the authority of the government (in the person of the police) as the sole arbitrator of right and wrong, the legitimate bearer of the knowledge necessary to make such judgement decisions.  The private detective casts aside the idea that you need certain resources in order to solve certain problems.  He or she suggests that one person can solve problems that those of an elite position cannot solve.

As usual, I don' t want to put too fine a point on this.  After all, the police (at least on cable) are often portrayed as corrupt and/or incompetent. The lone wolf PI is now often a lone wolf sheriff who has to fight against a system rigged against them.  In that sense, the idealistic justice of Dragnet has been replaced by a world-weary cynicism.  And criminals are still glorified, even if they're now anit-heroes.

But still I wonder about how the genre has, if not completely disappeared, at least mutated into something quite different. Is there a social meaning to it, a subtle, perhaps unconscious message behind it?  Hard to say - but not hard to speculate on. 

May 4, 2013

This week in TV Guide: May 3, 1958

Nostalgia is never far from the surface when it comes to discussing vintage TV Guides, but this week's issue itself is awash in nostalgia, as Shirley Temple returns to television.

The former child star, now all of 30 years old, is the host and occasional star of Shirley Temple's Storybook, airing on NBC.  She'd retired twice from acting, most recently at 21, having made 33 movies and more than $3,000,000. Since then she's been Mrs. Charles Alden Black, married with three children, but she's never really been that far from the public eye.  Dolls, storybooks, and TV repeats of her movies have ensured that Shirley Temple will always be an American icon.  She relates a story of how her mailman, "a darling old man about 70, said to me, 'Mrs. Black, does Shirley Temple live here?'  And I said, 'Why yes, I used to be Shirley Temple.' 'Oh, my!' he cackled. 'You used to be my favoriet movie star - when I was a little boy!'"

Shirley Temple Black has led probably one of the most successful lives of any former child star.  Although Storybook ended after two years, she continued to make television appearances, then became involved in politics (she'd always had an interest in current events), ran unsuccessfully for Congress, served as a representative to the United Nations, and was appointed U.S. ambassador to Ghana and later Czechoslovakia.  She survived breast cancer and was one of the first celebrities to speak openly about it.  And the name Shirley Temple is still - and will continue to be - magic.

***

Last week we took a look at the matchup between Ed Sullivan and Steve Allen, the two variety show titans of the time. Well, we've got another matchup this week; let's see who comes out on top this time.

Sullivan: Ed's guests include singers Lillian Roth, Teresa Brewer, Denise Darcel and Ed Townsend; the Everly Brothers, vocal group; musical-comedy star Helen Gallagher; dancers Carol Haney and Peter Gennaro.

Allen: Steve's guests are singer Jane Powell, comedian Phil Harris, the comedy team of Igor and H., and jazz pianists Count Basie, Teddy Wilson and Joe Buskin.

Well, that was a Staples moment.  Let me Count the ways Steverino wins!

***

I may have commented on this in the past, but it's worth mentioning again, how striking it is that there are virtually no sporting events shown on Sunday afternoon.  What there is, is bowling - Bowlerama on Channels 3 and 4; Championship Bowling on Channel 6.  It makes sense, of course; the NHL and NBA are over (and they wouldn't have had dominant TV coverage anyway), baseball games are few and far between (especially since the Twin Cities didn't yet have the Twins), and golf wasn't anywhere near being a weekly presence on the tube.

Tim Tam, the red horse, circled.
Aside from dueling baseball games on Saturday afternoon (Athletics vs. Yankees on CBS, Indians vs. Orioles on NBC), the sports that is shown represents the last vestiges of the Golden Age of Sports: horse racing and boxing. The horse race is a big one: the Kentucky Derby, which merits 45 minutes of coverage on CBS Saturday afternoon. The Derby's still a TV hit today, but the Triple Crown races as a whole are probably the only races many of us watch, whereas in the 50s and early 60s big races, such as the Washington International and the Traverse Stakes, were regular network productions. The Derby was won in 1958 by Tim Tam, as was the Preakness Stakes a couple of weeks later*; I've always had a fondness for Tim Tam, not because I was around to see him in the Derby, but because of a Kentucky Derby game I had when I was a kid. The "horses" in the game were all named after previous Derby winners; Tim Tam was the red horse; red was, then as now, my favorite color. Hence, whenever we played this game I was always Tim Tam. Makes perfect sense, no?

*Tim Tam was favored to win the Belmont and the Triple Crown, but he suffered broken sesamoids in the home stretch and finished second. The vets were able to save him, and he lived until 1982.


Boxing, though not the thrice-weekly television event it once was, still ran regularly on network television, and ABC's Wednesday Night Fights presented a good one: the lightweight title bout between champ Joe Brown of New Orleans and challenger Ralph Dupas, also of New Orleans - fought, naturally, in Houston, Texas.*  Brown would retain his title, knocking Dupas down three times in the eighth round before the referee stops the fight.

*Actually, there's a good reason for that - Brown was black, Dupas white.  Because of the anti-integration laws in Louisiana at the time (which I've alluded to here), the fight had to take place in more enlightened Texas.

***

Here's another of those programs you're not likely to see on network TV today: Billy Graham in a regular weekly series.  The evangelist's New York crusade (which ran for 16 weeks) had been a weekly event on ABC in the summer of 1957, and the network is now showing broadcasts of his San Francisco crusade, at 9pm CT each Saturday night.  Graham has, of course, long been a staple of syndicated TV, with his crusades and specials running for decades, and this show wouldn't have been that unusual at the time - after all, Bishop Fulton Sheen's Life Is Worth Living had gone off of ABC just the previous year, and CBS maintained religious programming on Sunday mornings well into the 70s, but a network series actively proselytizing the faith today?   Unthinkable.

I got to see Billy Graham in person once, in the mid-90s when his crusade was in Minneapolis at the Metrodome.  He was old and frail even then, but as soon as he stepped to the podium and stood behind that microphone, it was as if time stood still - his voice was strong and decisive, and the familiar cadences rang out as they always had.  It was quite a sight to see.

***

NBC continues to dominate the color airwaves.  Color television is still a rarity, with only 350,000 color sets in use in 1958, but there's no question that color is the future of the medium, and NBC - whose parent company, RCA, just happens to make those color sets - makes sure there's enough programming to intrigue potential buyers.  There are so few color shows being broadcast, TV Guide has a special section listing them all, and with one exception (Red Skelton), they all belong to the peacock network: Perry Como, Your Hit Parade, My Friend Flicka, Steve Allen, Dinah Shore, Matinee Theater, The Price Is Right, George Gobel, Kraft Theater, and Rosemary Clooney.  NBC will hold this lead well into the 60s.

***

At the top of each page this week - a reminder of our discussion last week.


***

This week's cover also asks the burning question: What's Happened to Liberace?  Until last month, the onetime TV regular hadn't appeared on live television since October, 1957, and he only made that appearance because he had a new album to plug.*  So what gives?  "I am purposely staying off TV," he says.  "I've been a victim of overexposure.  I feel a demand for me must be re-created, and to re-create it I must be missed."

*That, and his planned two-week engagement in Havana, Cuba had to be canceled due to the revolution.

If Liberace seems to be displaying a big of an ego with that comment, it's kind of easy to understand.  Although his movie Sincerely Yours was a bomb, ("That was only natural," he says.  "No performer could maintain the white heat I generated."), his agent, Seymour Heller, reminds us he's still pulling down between $500,000 and $750,000 during this "slump."  In addition, his syndicated music program still appears in 99 cities throughout the country, meaning he's never really been off television at all.  And he's praised by those who work with him as a consummate professional.  No wonder he once said, in one of entertainment's more famous quotes, "I cried all the way to the bank."

May 2, 2013

Around the Dial

Apologies for another abbreviated issue - and so with that, let's go to the good stuff.

Kliph Nesteroff at Classic Television Showbiz has this great clip of William F. Buckley Jr. interviewing JFK assassination conspiracy guru Mark Lane on Buckley's TV show, Firing Line.  Buckley's introduction alone is worth the price of admission.

At The Classic TV History Blog, Stephen Bowie's provided a master index to some of his great pieces.  Be sure and check them out - when you've got an hour or two, because it'll be just like Lay's potato chips.


Meanwhile, dig the great noir photos in the latest Postcards from Shadowland from Monstergirl at The Last Drive-In.

Rick's got a terrific interview with Julie Adams at Classic Film and TV Cafe.  Any fan of classic TV will recognize her, especially if you're a fan of Murder, She Wrote.

That's all for today - sorry again for the brevity, which I'll explain later.  In the meantime, have a great end to the week, and I'll see you back on Saturday!