April 12, 2014

This week in TV Guide: April 12, 1969

What's with the talk about the Academy Awards, you're thinking.  Wasn't that last month?  Why are you bringing it up now, in the middle of April?

Well, that's the way it used to be, back in the days when the only significant movie awards show besides the Oscars was the Golden Globes, and those were confined to an hour-long broadcast on the Andy Williams Show.  Back then, the Oscarcast was held in early April or late March, usually on a Monday night, and it was the only awards show for most people.  Now, it's just one of many.

TV Guide's take on the Oscars concerns the revamping of the show, under the direction of famed Broadway choreographer Gower Champion.  Bob Hope has been banished as host, to be replaced by ten "Friends of Oscar" who will share the emcee duties.  The venue has changed, from the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium to the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles.  The dress code is relaxed, with black tie replacing white tie and tales.  He even proposed getting rid of the bleachers outside the auditorium, where the fans gather to watch the stars walk down the red carpet, but that was going too far in the eyes of many, and Champion eventually relents.

Dwight Whitney, writing the article, expresses an appropriate level of skepticism regarding Champion's plans.  After all the Academy Awards are now "an electronic monster which no one seems able to control on any level."  But, in the end, the broadcast comes off pretty well.  It's one of the longer broadcasts in recent years, checking in at what now would be considered a svelte two hours and 33 minutes, but it brings in good ratings, along with some surprise winners, and Champion is accorded a standing ovation when he arrives at the after-broadcast party.  As stagnant and dull as recent broadcasts have been, it's a pity we don't have another Gower Champion waiting somewhere in the wings.

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No "Sullivan vs. The Palace" this week, even though we're in the right era for it.  Ed's preempted this week in favor of a variety special starring Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore, together again after the success of their famed sitcom.  There's still plenty to look at this week, though.  Lawrence Welk has a tribute to the Academy Awards*, consisting mostly of Oscar winners of the past.  Dinah Shore features in a special on NBC, with guests Lucille Ball, Rowan and Martin, and Diana Ross.  Opposite her, the Smothers Brothers welcome Mason Williams, Pat Paulsen, Biff Rose, Ike and Tina Turner, and Ralph Story.  Later in the week, Bob Hope and Dean Martin appear on NBC, the great Duke Ellington is on NET, and there's one of the ill-advised Thursday night showings of The Hollywood Palace.  (Diahann Carroll as hostess, with Mort Sahl, Richard Harris, the Checkmates Ltd., and her Julia co-stars Marc Copage and Michael Link.)

*Welk and the Oscars shared the same network, ABC.  Conicidence?

And on Monday night, The Monkees return to the airwaves in "a superpsychedelic hour" with guests including Fats Domino, Jerry Lee Lewis and Little Richard.  The special isn't named, but it's the infamous "33⅓ Revolutions Per Monkee," which the always-reliable Wikipedia describes as "chaotic, both on-screen and off-screen,."  and was described by Peter Tork as being the television version of their equally infamous movie Head.  The network was said to have been so disappointed by the result that it scheduled the West Coast telecast opposite ABC's live broadcast of the Oscars.  (It was seen two hours before the Oscars in most areas.) But why talk more about it when you can see for yourself? The commentary track on this video is by Mickey Dolenz.


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Sports:  NBC kicks off its Saturday afternoon Game of the Week with the San Francisco Giants taking on the San Diego Padres.  It's the first weekend for the new era of Major League Baseball - 12 teams in each league, two divisions, and playoffs.  Some would argue the game hasn't been the same since.

Both the NHL and the NBA are in their playoffs, so Sunday's matchups have yet to be determined.  The final two rounds of The Masters run on Saturday and Sunday, and there's a local telecast of the Twins playing the California Angels in Anaheim.  Otherwise, a pretty quiet week on the sports scene.

SOURCE: HADLEY TV GUIDE COLLECTION
In honor of the opening of baseball season, Sunday night brings a rerun of one of the oldest, and least well-known, of the Peanuts specials.  Charlie Brown's All-Stars, which premiered in 1966, is an annual feature on CBS until 1972, and makes its last appearance on the network in 1982.  There was a big promo effort for the cartoon when it first came out; I remember the baseball caps with the "Charlie Brown's All-Stars" logo on the front, and there was a book version of the special (differing slightly from the televised version).  In the story, a company offers to sponsor Charlie Brown's team and provide them with real uniforms, but there's a catch: no girls and no dogs allowed on the team.  Charlie Brown refuses the offer, and then tells the team about it (without telling them why he turned the sponsor down).  Predictably, they heap abuse on him, until Linus and Schroeder step up to defend Charlie Brown, berating the girls for attacking him.  The idea of making females the heavies, along with the dated concept of girls not playing baseball, probably accounts for its disappearance from the rotation.

Some other quick hits: speaking as we were about pilots, there's a repeat of the TV-movie Prescription: Murder on Tuesday night.  Gene Barry, whom we loved in Burke's Law and is now appearing in The Name of the Game, stars as a doctor who's killed his wife.  The police are after him, of course, particularly one dogged detective who won't give up.  He's played by Peter Falk and his name is Columbo - might have heard of a series he later appeared in.

Barbara Bel Geddes makes a rare TV appearance on NBC's Daniel Boone Thursday night.  Her TV exposure will become considerably less rare in a few years, when she takes on a starring role in a series called Dallas.  Also Thursday is a CBS TV-movie entitled U.M.C., which stands for University Medical Center and is the pilot for a new fall series.  The movie stars Richard Bradford as Dr. Joe Gannon, with James Daly as his colleague Dr. Paul Lochner.  Daly, father of future TV-star Tyne Daly, stays with the project but Bradford, whom us classic TV fans will recognize from Man With a Suitcase, is replaced by Chad Everett when the series, now called Medical Center, makes its debut in September of 1969

By the way, do you find yourselves wondering if any of those shows would have been worth watching?  Well, if it were up to Dr. Frank Stanton, you'd have a little more information to go by when making your viewing decisions.  Stanton, the president of CBS, is advocating giving TV critics a chance to review shows before they're broadcast, ostensibly to warn of content that might seem "too risque or violent for younger audiences."  The other networks, NBC and ABC, are aghast at the idea; one says "What are sponsors and their agencies going to say the first time the critics blast a CBS show before anybody else has seen it?"

Many think Stanton is overreacting to the latest Congressional push against TV violence, and with talk of a ratings system continuing to grow, it may be that Stanton is proposing advance screenings as an alternative.  But when a CBS spokesman is asked when the previewing will start, he says not before next fall.  And as for NBC and ABC, "the betting was it'll never happen."

In this case, I think we can say "never" didn't last quite as long as those networks thought."  With a few exceptions, most shows are made available for preview nowadays; hence, all the TV critics who get a chance to sharpen their knives before airtime.  After all, how else would we know what to watch?

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HADLEY TV GUIDE COLLECTION
I wrote about Garry Moore a while back, in which the television star talked about wanting to do something "new and different."  Three years later, we get a closer look at the fall of Moore's career.  He's bored, to be blunt about it.  He's still under contact to CBS, and although he makes about $200,000 a year, CBS doesn't have (or doesn't want to have) anything for him to do.  Although he insists there are joys in his life (even though he doesn't name them), he laments that "I don't want a leftover life to lead."  But the fan mail has disappeared, he's seldom recognized anymore when he walks down the street, and the man who once had a radio show and two television series now has more time on his hands than he can count.

It's really a rather sad article.  Although he's only 54, he's aged dramatically in the two-plus years since his last CBS show went off the air; one executive says he looks closer to 70.  Moore wants to work, but nobody's interested in him - they tell him he appeals to the wrong demographic.  He'd like to do something substantial, "like CBS Reports," but the network doesn't mingle its news and entertainment divisions, and while he's under contract to CBS he's prohibited from appearing on other networks without their permission.  He's about to start a stint as host of the syndicated To Tell the Truth, which he'll stay with until 1977, and he's making guest appearances on shows like The Carol Burnett Show, but it's just not the same thing.  He says he's not bitter, just that "I'd like to be used somehow."

Garry Moore was a unique figure in television - he wasn't a singer (although he could sing) and wasn't an actor (although he could act).  Mostly, he played himself, on his variety show as well as his long run hosting I've Got a Secret.  In 1963 he was the highest paid entertainer on television, making $43,000 a week.  He was friendly and avuncular, and he put viewers at ease when they watched him, making them feel like his friends.  But as we know, the times are changing; CBS isn't far away from the "Rural Purge," and the people who have grown old with television are now seen as being too old for television.  As the song at the end of Paul Wilkes' article puts it, "oh, how the years have flown."

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An interesting editorial on the front page, which makes a humorous point about how those years have flown: the editors declaim the state of modern language, and the new catch phrases that dominate: "hang-up," "blow your mind," "generation gap," "tell it like it is," and more.  "Are you up-tight about thel anguage orf the acid heads, the teeny-boppers and the flower children?" they ask.  "Would you, in short, think it groovy if the English language were discovered to be alive and well and living int he United States - its old turf?"

Humorous, as I say, but making a point.  "We are brought to a state of nausea whenever we hear or read one of these banal or crude or cloddish substitutes for thinking that are so horribly ubiquitous these days in broadcasting and in print."  I wonder if you couldn't make the same sort of statement today?  We don't write or even think in words so much anymore - it's more likely abbreviations, concepts, half-thoughts.  Such is the life of a post-literate society, though.  And it has consequences, which we see play out today with ever-increasing frequency: "people talking about commitment and value judgments" which they use as weapons against those who have the temerity to disagree with them.

Although this blog is about television, it's also about language, especially the written word.  I find there's a great deal of eloquence in writing about TV, even though I may only capture a fraction of its potential.  Television, and its history, has painted a vast panoply of imagery over the years, which words are uniquely suited to describe.  It's ironic, in that television is mostly a visual medium, one that's been blamed by many for leading to the death of the written word.  And yet millions of words have been, and continue to be, written about it, words oftentimes more powerful than those images they describe.  And as long as I'm writing It's About TV, I intend to keep looking for the beauty in those words, as well as the pictures which accompany them.

6 comments:

  1. Excellent piece, Mitch - people back then complaining about 'crude or cloddish substitutes for thinking' didn't know how good they had it.

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    1. Thanks, David. I love looking at these articles with a retroactive sense as well. Ironic, isn't it?

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  2. I thought Garry Moore only got the "To Tell The Truth" gig when Bud Collyer took ill in 1969 (he'd pass away a few months later), and that Coll\yer been healthy en9ough, he would have continued with the show.

    Moore was a pro, and he did an excellent job hosting the 1970's "To Tell The Truth". Had there been daytime Emmy Awards prior to 1974, he might have won one for hosting "Truth".

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    1. Yes, I've heard that as well (from sources other than this particular TV Guide article, which does not mention it) - I've read that when Moore was offered the job, the first thing he did was call Bud Collyer to make sure, and Collyer assured him that he was not up to it.

      You're right - both Moore and Collyer were real pros. Not like the smarmy hosts we see too much of nowadays.

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  3. Hello again.

    The reason you haven't heard from me lately: My long-time employers "retired" me, and I've only just acquired a "confuser" for my own home.

    I'm sending you the news at this entry, partly because jts subject matter coincides with my situation; i.e., being told that I'm "of a Certain Age".
    I won't dwell too much on that, save that I remember reading the Garry Moore article back in '69 - when I was just out of high school and having some problems finding a job at all.
    After a few false starts, I found a "permanent" position in April of '71 - the one I lost last month.
    Mind you, I ain't complaining - the Company gave me a pretty good severance/pension/401K package, which should see me through the foreseeable future, so don't pass the hat.

    Admittedly, I got a little hung up here now, so I'll just take some time and look over the last month's worth of entries and get back to you.

    'Til then ...

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    1. I've missed you, Mike! Was hoping everything was OK - hope your new status works out well.

      By the way, contact me via the blog email when you get a chance - got a couple of offline questions for you.

      Good to have you back!

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