January 25, 2014

This week in TV Guide: January 29, 1966

I'm generally not one to make hay of other people's misfortunes, but there's a line in Robert De Roos' cover story profile of Pat Crowley that shouts out for contextualization.

The actress, currently starring with Mark Miller in NBC's Please Don't Eat the Daisies, is talking about her marriage to attorney Ed Hookstratten.  De Roos asks her if the marriage, now eight years long, will last now that she's working on a weekly series.  "It sure is," she tells him.  "We are Catholics and there is a little solidity there."

That sounded like such a refreshing attitude to me that I immediately went to Google, to find that the Hookstrattens had divorced sometime in the 70s or 80s - Crowley remarried in 1986, to producer Andy Friendly.*

*Fun fact: Andy Friendly's father is legendary TV newsman Fred Friendly; his brother, David Friendly, was nominated for an Oscar in 2006 as producer of Little Miss Sunshine.

I hasten to say here that I have no knowledge of why Crowley and Hookstratten divorced, and I don't want to play either a pop psychologist, a pop marriage counselor, or a pop theologian.  But one of the many tragedies of the Catholic Church in the latter half of the 20th Century - particularly the post-Vatican II turmoil, which reached a peak in 1968 with Paul VI's encyclical Humanae Vitae - is the breakdown of basic Catholic beliefs.  By the late 60s, Catholic doctrine had become a smorgasbord; if you didn't like what one priest had to say on birth control, for example, you could shop around and find a priest who would readily sanction it.  Similar situations existed for everything from premarital sex to divorce and remarriage to a whole host of previous elements of Catholic teaching that had rarely been questioned.  Inevitably, this kind of confusion among the faithful led many to doubt the Church's sincerity, authority, - what have you.  Bottom line: no solidity.

Again, I have no reason to think that this might have had any role to play in Pat Crowley's divorce from Ed Hookstratten. But I do think it's part of this blog's narrative to fit these kinds of things into the larger cultural environment.  The 60s were already a period of flux by now, and they were headed toward even more cataclysmic change. Understanding the climate of the times (even though the insufficient space here hardly scratches the surface) puts little moments like this into some sense of context.  It even adds, I think, a note of poignancy.

*Hookstratten, Elvis Presley's personal attorney, represented The King in his divorce from Priscilla, which certainly suggests mixed feelings regarding divorce.  


***

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..

Sullivan: Scheduled guests: Dinah Shore; puppet Topo Gigio; comic Jackie Vernon; the rock'n' rolling Four Tops; Les Feux Follets, Canadian folk dancers; guitarist José Feliciano; comic Dick Capri; Markworth and Mayana, trick bow-and-arrow act; and Army sergeant Barry Sadler, who sings "The Ballad of the Green Berets."  In a special film segment, Sir Laurence Olivier is seen in excerpts from his film of Shakespeare's "Othello."
  
Palace: Host Arthur Godfrey presents comedian Sid Caesar; singer Abbe Lane; The Mamas and the Papas, rock 'n' roll group; comic Corbett Monica; the Berosinis, Czechoslovakian acrobats; and Les Apollos, balancing act.

I like Dinah, and you can't beat Olivier doing Shakespeare (nor the beat of "The Ballad of the Green Berets"), but I think Abbe Lane and Sid Caesar, with a little help from The Old Redhead, are enough to push Palace over the finish line first this week.

Now, if you lived in LaCrosse, Wisconsin and were so inclined to tune to WKBT, Channel 8 (the NBC affiliate), you would have been able to catch last week's episode of Palace at 10:30pm on Tuesday night*. Let's see if that might have made for a better show:

*Since Western Wisconsin lacked an ABC affiliate at the time.

Palace (from last week):  Fred Astaire hosts this night at the Palace making a rare TV appearance with dancer Barrie Chase.  Guests include Mickey Rooney and his nightclub partner Bobby Van; British singer Petula Clark; the Nitwits, musical cutups; the Lenz Chimps; and comedian Ray Hastings.

Yes.  It definitely did make for a better show. See?


***

In the early days of this blog, I did a piece on the short-lived Sammy Davis, Jr. Show, which featured the oddity of its star having to sit out nearly a month's worth of shows immediately following the premiere due to a no-compete clause.  Seems that Sammy had done a special for ABC, and the terms of that contract prohibited him from appearing on any other network for the three weeks immediately preceding the show. The Sammy Davis, Jr. show was on NBC.  You can, of course, see the problems coming a mile away.

SOURCE: HADLEY TV GUIDE COLLECTION
Well, this is the week that Sammy and His Friends, the ABC special in question, airs, and he hangs out with a pretty cool bunch of people: Frank Sinatra, Count Basie, Edie Adams and Joey Heatherton.  It's on Tuesday night at 7:30pm ET, up against Red Skelton on CBS (with guests George Gobel and The Hollies) and Dr. Kildare on NBC.*  As for Sammy's own show, it airs its fourth episode on Friday night, the third to feature a guest host - this week, Jerry Lewis, who welcomes Peggy Lee, the comic Weire Brothers, singer Danny Costello, and The Skylarks.  Debuting your own show and then having to follow it up with three weeks' worth of guest hosts doesn't seem to me to be a successful formula.  I said it in my earlier article and I'll say it again here - what a strange, strange situation.

*I wonder how NBC felt about all this?  On the one hand, a ratings win for Sammy might well have boded well for the ratings on his NBC series; on the other, the network would probably have wanted to see Kildare beat Red.  Should such an absurd thing happen nowadays, I wonder if the network would consider airing a Kildare rerun?


***

Sammy's show probably didn't stand much of a chance anyway - it's opposition was Hogan's Heroes and Gomer Pyle on CBS, The Addams Family and Honey West on ABC.  But later on that Friday night, we'll see another oddity: Garry Moore on a network other than CBS.

Moore had been a fixture on the network since his radio show debuted in 1949; from 1950 on he'd had both morning and evening variety programs, as well as his long-running emcee duties on I've Got a Secret.  But Moore's prime-time show had been cancelled by the network in 1964, after which he'd left Secret and the network.  Now, a year and a half later, Moore's ready to come back.  There's only one problem - CBS, to whom he's still under contract, doesn't want him.  Or, to be precise, they don't want what he has to offer.

Moore acknowledges that the variety format he'd been so successful with has seen better days, and he's ready for something new and different.  He thought he'd found the answer when CBS news chief Fred Friendly approached him about working on some public affairs programs, but the network's policy forbade entertainers from working in news or public affairs.  In later years, Moore will talk with TV Guide about his desire to move into news and "people" programming, even becoming a news reporter, and his immense frustration at CBS' reluctance to see him in that light.  You can see the seeds of that disappointment here, as Moore chafes at being paid "to sit around and do nothing."  His exclusive contract with CBS, which prevents him from doing a series for any other network and requires him to give CBS first refusal on any one-shot special, still has nine years to run. He's asked the network to release him from the contract, but they refuse to do so.  His only recourse is to sue, an option he says he'd consider.

In the meantime, an agency came up with an idea right up Moore's alley.  Garry Moore's People Poll, a special in which he gets to travel around the country interviewing ordinary people and asking them basic questions: Do you kiss your wife when you get up in the morning?  Are you stricter than your own parents?  Are you satisfied with your life - and what changes would you make if you could start over? Things like that.  Per the provisions of the contract, the show is first offered to CBS, which turns it down.  So he turned elsewhere.  "We were delighted," Moore says, "to find a more flexible policy at ABC."

Earlier in the article, Moore mentions a project he and Jay Ward are working on for CBS, a comedy-variety program.  It debuts in the fall, and is quickly wiped out by Bonanza.  Moore will eventually come back to regular television as host of the syndicated To Tell the Truth (with CBS' approval) in 1969, and will host it until 1977, after which, suffering from throat cancer, he'll retire for good, dying in 1993.

Here's footage from Moore's final appearance on To Tell the Truth in 1977.

***
Some classy programming this week, the kind you'd never see today:  Sir John Gielgud stars in part two of Ages of Man, in which he gives dramatic readings from Shakespeare's works.  It runs for an hour on CBS, which split the original two-hour version of Gielgud's one-man Broadway show into two parts and broadcast them on Sunday afternoons, because they worried that viewers wouldn't be able to sit still long enough to listen to a longer show, and wouldn't tune in if it were on prime-time.  At least they showed it at all - I doubt they would today.  If you're curious about what kind of show it was, here's a brief excerpt:


If you liked that, you can get the whole program (both hours) here.

And on Thursday night, NBC reminds us of what Hallmark Hall of Fame used to be before it became home to tear-jerking sentimental chick flicks, when they present a rerun of "The Magnificent Yankee," a biography of the Washington years of Supreme Count justice Oliver Wendell Holmes starring the husband-and-wife team of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, two of the greats of the theater.  "The Magnificent Yankee" won five Emmy awards when it was originally broadcast, including Best Actor (Lunt), Best Actress (Fontanne) and Best Drama.

SOURCE: HADLEY TV GUIDE COLLECTION
Oh, and one of the co-hosts of the 1965 Emmy Awards show?  Sammy Davis, Jr.

***

John Schneider, president of CBS, had this to say at the recent convention of the Association of National Advertisers:
By 1975 virtually every television home in the United States will be capable of receiving programming from six times as many sources as today!. . .
By 1975 it looks as if three out of four homes will own at least two sets. . . No longer will every member of the family be forced to look at the same program.  Viewing will become fractionalized and selective. . . 
The teen-ager, the intellectual, the tired businessman, the housewife - each will be able to tune in the particular kind of entertainment, information, music or discussion that suits his or her respective desires.

Now, I don't know how things were by 1975, but his predictions become very interesting when viewed in light of today's cultural norms.  For example, every home today has at least six times as many programming sources, but Schneider couldn't have anticipated how they would shake out.  Streaming video on laptops, tablets, iPhones, Roku; original programming on services like Netflix that mean you don't even have to have access to conventional television broadcasting; DVDs and DVRs that enable viewers to watch an entire season of a series over a weekend,even if that series is 50 years old - it has, indeed, resulted in fractionalized viewing.

But even more, technology has forever changed the impact of television viewing.  Because people can watch whatever they want whenever they want, the shared experience of watching television has virtually disappeared, except for the Super Bowl.  Schneider did indeed foresee this kind of individual viewing, with the concurrent result that programs no longer had to appeal to a broad audience, but could he have predicted the kind of Balkanization that resulted?

TV Guide's editors wonder about this vision of the future.  They look at the current state of television in Los Angeles, where numerous multi-TV homes and ten stations have merely produced programming "given over to hundreds of old movies and old TV series."  And isn't that what we have today?  I've made this complaint before (as have others) so I won't belabor the point, but who can tell TNT from TBS from USA from Cloo from Bravo from Hallmark? What's the difference between A&E and History and TLC and Discovery?

Reality programming of one kind or another dominates networks as diverse as HGTV and TruTV.  MTV is all about lifestyle, and ESPN spends half their broadcasting day with editions of SportsCenter.  Cultural programming, which used to be seen at least occasionally on some of these networks, is all but gone.  And overnight hours (on both cable and OTA stations) is dominated by informercials and replays of previously broadcast shows.  Is this really what the future was supposed to give us?

The editors compare Schneider's view of TV's future to the state of radio in 1966, "which long since has become fractionalized (several sets per home) and selective (there's a choice of many stations everywhere).  In most areas these days, once you've heard the news, radio offers records, talking disc jockeys and very little else."  Is TV today any more diverse than that?

TV Guide's conclusion was this:  "Improvement and variety in programming will not just happen in television any more than they happened in radio.  There must be planning.  There must be direction.  So far we have neither."  I'll end by asking the question: is there any evidence that television executives are doing any planning today?  Or are they simply waiting for things to happen?

8 comments:

  1. In recent times - the last decade or so - Tthe Catholic Church that I was raised in has had to weather more than a few sea changes.
    I recall being surprised when Harry Caray, the Voice of the Cubs (and before that the White Sox), recieved a full-scale Mass of the Resurrection at Holy Name Cathedral.
    WGN Radio and TV carried the services live, on the coast-to-coast satellite feed.
    Harry Caray's marital track record (his widow was wife # 3) was discreetly ignored - almost;
    one of the speakers was Harry's old carousing pal Pete Vonachen, who delivered what was probably the raciest eulogy ever heard within the walls of Holy Name Cathedral.
    Not too long thereafter, WGN Radio's long-time morning-drive man, Uncle Bobby Collins, was killed in a plane crash. He too was funeralized at Holy Name; I had no idea that he was even Catholic (I knew that Harry was Italian-Catholic by birth), but I was also aware that he had a marital history of his own, not unlike Harry's (Uncle Bobby's widow, known to his listeners as "Ol' Agnes", was #3 for him)..
    In between these two events, my boss Jim, a cradle Catholic like me, came in wondering very loudly why Frank Sinatra had merited a full-dress Catholic memorial. When I threw Harry Caray back at him, he quieted down (sort of).
    Since that time I've read of Catholic send-offs for Sonny Bono, Ed McMahon, and Merv Griffin, all with seemingly disqualifiable marital histories of their own (at the very least).
    And last year, a Solemn High Mass of the Resurrection was accorded to Roger Ebert, who was only married the one time, but who allowed that his own Catholic attitudes were somewhat modified by his not really believing in God.
    Roger didn't think of himself as an atheist or an agnostic; he simply didn't go for the mystical side of things.
    I'm not really making this clear; one of the last entries on his Journal blog was titled "How I Am A Roman Catholic", and you ought to look it up sometime (it's still up at his website and if you do look it up, I hope you have better luck getting the oedipusrexing website to work than I usually do).

    Tomorrow I'll bring this TVG to work and see what I can add to that part of the post.

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    1. Mike, you point out so much of the chaos that has ensued in the Church since VII. Regardless of the situation that each individual found themselves in (to coin a phrase, "Who am I to judge?"), it shows how confused the average Catholic has to be at the mixed messages they receive.

      I haven't had a chance to track down the Ebert post, but I know exactly what you're talking about; I recall him at the time making those points, and thinking to myself, "okay....."

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  2. I believe Garry Moore got to host "To Tell The Truth" because CBS likely had it's owned-and-operated stations pick up the show when it went into first-run syndication in 1969.

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    1. Excellent point - Moore himself is the source of the info that CBS had given him permission; this added piece pulls everything together.

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  3. Back after a day's hiatus, with the Guide in hand:

    - Paging through the listings, I note that we're looking at the last gasp of black-and-white TV.
    Much of ABC and CBS programming is still on the gray scale, while NBC's last prime-time B&W opus is I Dream Of Jeannie; several of their daytime shows were also B&W.

    - On the Chicago side:
    This was the fourth week on the air for WFLD-tv, channel 32.
    They were following the standard roll-out pattern - sign-on at 4:30pm, sign-off midnight or thereabouts.
    In between, news from the Sun-Times (ch32 was owned by the Marshall Field family), syndicated programming (ch32's were somewhat higher-ended than those of the low-budget ch26 - Richard Boone, Profiles In Courage, old Charlie Chaplin silent comedies), and lots of local sports.

    Some while back, I mentioned ch9's Sherlock Holmes Theatre, hosted by Basil Rathbone in person. Because of the small number of actual Holmes films, ch9 had to fill out the schedule with their other detective asset, Charlie Chan. I often wonder if WGN held onto the tapes Rathbone made for these shows; I've always wondered just what he had to say about Mantan Moreland.

    - Not long ago I happened to see on YouTube a clip of Jerry Lewis introducing the Wiere Brothers, doing their old variety act. After seeing the listing, I wonder if the clip comes from the Sammy Davis Show mentioned here, of if it's from Lewis's own NBC series of a few years afterward.
    You ought to take a look at this clip; the Wieres had a very funny act, well worth remembering.
    ... and when you're looking it up, the correct spelling is W-I-E-R-E, pronounced weer.
    ... and I also want to mention that the actress Kim Darby (from the original True Grit) is the daughter of the Wiere Brothers's sister.

    - Back to your lead item for a moment:
    While checking out this issue, I also took a look at some of the surrounding issues from that period.
    I don't know if you have the issue from the following week - February 5-11, with Barbara Eden and Larry Hagman on the cover.
    If you do, I suggest checking out the color section for a feature story about a popular TV actor whom we've had occasion to mention in a past post (no spoiler here - unless you don't have the issue).
    In the course of his interview, this actor says something that touches on your lead subject (indirectly, but the connection is there).

    By the bye, you seem to have lost the To Tell The Truth video you had imbedded, sometime between Monday and now; it happens, and it's annoying, but there you are.

    Any questions?

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    1. Great, great stuff. I don't believe I have the Eden/Hagman issue (I don't think I'd forget Barbara Eden), but now you've made me want to track it down. When the next Paypal bill comes in, I'll tell my wife that you're to blame...

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    2. Since you don't have the issue, I won't keep you in the dark.

      The article I refer to is about Paul Burke, who'd just assumed the lead in 12 O'Clock High that season.

      In the interview, Burke mentions that he considers himself "religiously an atheist."
      That wouldn't raise many eyebrows these days, but in 1966 it was a shocker.
      Burke's subsequent comments sound more agnostic than outright atheist ( "... I believe there is a scheme of things ..." , etc.), and while he doesn't slam a particular faith, the facts that he was raised in New Orleans, and was of Irish descent would indicate a Catholic upbringing.
      Years later, in the mid-'90s, Paul Burke's career came to a crashing halt when he and some old New Orleans friends were indicted by the Federal Gov't. on a racketeering charge.
      Three of the friends were convicted; Burke was acquitted, along with an old boyhood friend, Harry Connick, who had been the District Attorney in NOLA, as it's now popularly abbreviated (and yes, he's the Sr. to Harry Connick Jr., and I've read that that family is still Catholic).

      Oh, by the bye, the To Tell The Truth video is back, along with its many afterpieces; one is a mid-50s appearance by Melvin Purvis, G-Man, who years later was played by Dale Robertson in two TV-movies. (Just so you know I've seen the new entry.)
      You really ought to take a look at the Purvis/Truth clip, just for comparison purposes.
      I'll see if I can come up with something at the new post in a little while.

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    3. Paul Burke! Now that you mention it, I wonder if I'd read about that somewhere else. You're right - that would have created quite the stir back in those days. Your reasoning about a Catholic upbringing is pretty perceptive, I think - it sounds right to me.

      I'll check out that TTTT clip - I assume you've seen the one with Neil Armstrong's parents? If not, I think I've written about it somewhere on the site.

      Great comments as always!

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Thanks for writing! Drive safely!