September 27, 2014

This week in TV Guide: September 28, 1963

On the cover this week is the lovely Inger Stevens, star of the ABC series The Farmer's Daughter.  The show ran for three seasons, from 1963 through 1966, and was based on the 1947 movie of the same name that starred Loretta Young (who won a Best Actress Oscar) and Joseph Cotten. Stevens played the Young role, that of a young Swedish woman who became the housekeeper to a widowed Congressman (played by William Windom in the TV series, Cotten in the movie).*  (You can tell how things have changed since this series, by the way; it's so old that here a Congressman is the good guy.)

*Two months after this cover appeared, a commercial voiceover for The Farmer's Daughter, narrated by Windom, appeared following the November 22 lunchtime airing of Father Knows Best.  It would be the last commercial anyone would see on ABC for the next four days.

There are other hints that the times have changed, however.  In the article, Stevens, then 28, is asked by the interviewer Robert De Roos if she wanted to get married. “Yah, very much,” she said.” [Yes, she did talk that way!] “I love men. But I think it would be unfair to get married when I’m tied up with the series. I’ve no time for a husband.”

What’s ironic about this comment is that at the very time she issued it, she was married – to actor Ike Jones, who happened to be black – and had been since 1961 (their marriage remained secret until her death). It reminds us again of a different time, when marriage was often seen as a liability for an attractive young actress whom the moguls hoped would have the right kind of sex appeal to the audience. Add to that the extraordinarily explosive connotations of interracial marriage in the early 1960s, and, as Paul Harvey would say, now you know the rest of the story.

Knowing how that story ends, one searches the interview for some hint, some clue as to what was to come. She’s interested in working with children, she says. She doubts acting is all there is to life: “I like acting and I’m not knocking the theater. It’s just that I don’t know whether acting is the way I ought to spend my life.” As for the rest of that life, which at this point has less than seven years to run: “I’m working so hard I feel I’m wasting time. … When I lie down at the end of the road, I’ll want to have left something behind – even if it is just having helped one other person. I would like to utilize myself to the best possible advantage.”

Inger Stevens died in 1970, of a drug overdose that might have been intentional.  One wonders what went through her mind in those last moments of life – did she feel she’d left anything behind at all?

***

No "Sullivan vs. The Palace" this week, for one very good reason - it's week two of The Jerry Lewis Show, ABC's massive (two hours!), expensive ($8 million for 40 episodes!) and ultimately disastrous (13 weeks and gone!) variety show.  I may have written about this in the past; if not, you can read more of the gory details here.  This week, Jerry's guests are "Liberace on the piano, Ruby Keeler on her toes, Kay Stevens on her vocal chords, and Dr. Julius Sumner Miller on - of all things - physics!"  That part about physics doesn't surprise me; Lewis was a pretty smart guy himself, curious about a lot of things.

Here's part one of a typical Lewis show; you can see the entire episode over there at YouTube.  Because I like Jerry, I won't say any more.


I will say a word more about something relating to Jerry, though.  A couple of times I've noted various celebrity-studded benefit programs that usually appeared each year around Christmastime as a benefit for the Muscular Dystrophy Association and were, I suppose, a precursor to the Labor Day telethons.  This Saturday morning we have something similar: a live special at 10:00am on Channel 11, hosted by kids' show host Dave Lee, which "honors area children who put on street carnivals and donated the proceeds to the Muscular Dystrophy Association."

Does that ring a bell with any of you out there?  Growing up, I can remember how you could send away to Channel 11 for a kit that would give you everything you needed to put on a show - flyers, tickets, posters, ways for your friends to help out, the roles different people could play, the whole thing.  I sent away for one, once, because it sounded like fun.  I never put on a carnival, though, primarily because I didn't have any friends.  Well, that might be a bit of an exaggeration, but doing it right and doing it well required a lot of work, and then (as now) I tend to shrink away from anything that sounds too much like that.

***

Speaking of Saturdays, the nets are starting to roll out their new Saturday morning cartoon lineups.  Debuting on CBS are Tennessee Tuxedo (at 8:30am CT) and Quick Draw McGraw at 9:00.  Over at NBC, Shari Lewis, who once replaced Howdy Doody, is going off the airwaves, as is King Leonardo.  The later is being replaced by Fireball XL-5, one of those Supermarionation shows from Gerry and Sylvia Anderson.  Those shows really were dreadful, weren't they?*  Their main appeal today is nostalgic, I think, at at that it's hard for me to sit through an entire episode.  I remember they got the MST3K treatment once, and that seems about right.

*And the names.  I mean, Colonel Steve Zodiac?  Doctor Venus?  Professor Matthew Matic?  Give me a break.

Apparently I loved this show when I was a kid, though.  My mother used to insist that I'd sent away for a Fireball XL-5 spaceship, which even at the time I couldn't remember.  Today my memory has improved only to the extent that I vaguely recall it.  It would have looked something like this:


Nope, still not coming back for me.

***

Here's ground I know we've covered before: the start of the Fall Classic, and another reminder of how much sports on TV have changed.  Game 1 of the series, between the Dodgers and the Yankees.  Nothing particularly new there, except for the starting time: noon (11:00 Central time) on Wednesday, October 2. In an age where nighttime Series games played in the shadow of Halloween* and seldom finish before midnight, the thought of a game starting at noon (regular afternoon programming scheduled to resume at 2:30 p.m.) on a crisp autumn day is almost unthinkable. Is there anyone out there who can even remember such a time, except us?

*Next season, a potential Game 7 in the World Series would be held on November 5.  Excuse me while I throw up.  There.  I'm better now.

Those who were able to catch the game (and many, many people did), they were rewarded with a magnificent performance by Sandy Koufax, who struck out a then-World Series record 15 Yankees en route to a 5-2 victory for the Dodgers (the first of a four-game sweep, the first time the Yankees had ever been swept in four games in the Series).  Reports had it that, in the ninth inning with the game out of reach for the Yanks, even the fans at Yankee Stadium were cheering for Koufax to get the record.  No reason not to have seen the game on TV, even if you were at work - just take a long lunch hour, as the game only ran 2:09.  Here are some highlights.


Other sports for the week: college football Saturday, as CBS' Game of the Week features Oklahoma vs. USC at the Coliseum in Los Angeles.  USC is the nation's top team coming into the contest, but Oklahoma emerges with the victory, 17-12.  The Sooners would finish the year 8-2, while the Trojans would wind up 7-3.  Neither team would go to a bowl, back in the day when there were only a handful out there, often reserved for conference champions.

On Sunday the Minnesota Vikings are at home, which means no televised NFL game in the Twin Cities due to the league's restrictive blackout rules of the time.  Back then, if your team was at home, you got nothing on television, not even games between two other teams - the league's way of preserving the live gate.  That didn't apply to the rival AFL, of course, which meant that the new league would, for half the season, be the only show in town (or on television, at least) in cities such as New York, Detroit, Chicago and Los Angeles.  Exposure being vital to the league's survival, this was one of the main reasons the AFL was able to establish a foothold, leading up to their big-money contract with NBC in 1965.  Eventually the NFL would figure this out, limiting the blackout to the home team's game alone, which meant that even if the Vikings were at home, you'd at least be able to see the Bears and Eagles, or some such contest.  Oh, the AFL game?  It was the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Diego Chargers, one of the great early rivalries of the AFL. The Chargers, who would win the AFL title that year, beat the Chiefs 24-10.

***

Ads from the networks touting their new fall lineups are all over the place this week.  Here's an example of ABC's technique: full-page ads promoting the network's entire schedule for the night:

ALL: HADLEY TV GUIDE COLLECTION
NBC's ads are fairly unremarkable, heavy on pictures and text:


It's CBS's ads that I find most interesting.  They're simple; sparse, even - so much so that you might not pay any attention to them unless you happen to recognize that the caricatures are drawn by the famed cartoonist Al Hirschfeld.  The drawings had been commissioned by T. Lou Dorfsman, vice president and creative director of advertising and design at CBS, who did so much to establish the network's visual look over the years.  The ads are stunningly original, quite a coup, I think.  Everyone's a critic, though, as is illustrated in the following from the always-reliable Wikipedia:

One of the programs was Candid Camera, and Hirschfeld's caricature of the show's host Allen Funt outraged Funt so much he threatened to leave the network if the magazine were issued. Hirschfeld prepared a slightly different likeness, perhaps more flattering, but he and the network pointed out to Funt that the artwork prepared for newspapers and some other print media had been long in preparation and it was too late to withdraw it. Funt relented but insisted that what could be changed would have to be. 

Of course, after all that, we have to show the Candid Camera one, don't we?  Frankly, I'm not sure what Funt's problem is - looks like a perfect likeness to me.



***

In 1954, Sammy Davis Jr. lost an eye in an automobile accident.  Nine years later, he's starring in an episode of Ben Casey on ABC Wednesday night as "a baseball player who adjusts to the loss of an eye, but can't take the venomous anti-white hatred of his Negro doctor [Greg Morris]."   In real life, Davis was often the target of similarly venomous anti-black sentiment, but I'd imagine that an episode like this would have been tough for Davis with the black community.  The Rev. Martin Luther King Jr.'s peaceful civil rights campaign is in full swing by this time, but there was always a radical element advocating violence and accusing King of not being aggressive enough.  Davis' turn in this drama might have played well in the white community, but - and far be it from me to make this statement as fact - I wouldn't be a bit surprised if others, who already thought Davis did too much to play to white audiences, might have been muttering "Uncle Tom" under their breaths.  All of it - anti-white, anti-black, anti-everyone - gets tiresome after awhile.

***

Finally, just to demonstrate that you really never do know what you’re going to run across, there’s this program listing on NBC at 9:30am on Monday – a new game show, hosted by Merv Griffin, called Word for Word. The premise: a “word game, played like anagrams. The contestant who accumulates the most words in a best two-out-of-three series is then pitted against the electronic Word-Ometer.” Merv created as well as hosted this short-lived game show, and one can almost imagine him thinking, “hmm, that anagram game didn’t go over so well. But I still like the word idea – hey (snaps fingers), I've got it: what about a game based on hangman?” The rest, of course, is history…

9 comments:

  1. I LOVED Fireball-XL5!
    It even had a cameo in "That Thing You Do!"
    Really fueled my imagination.
    Then I got older and loved Inger Stevens.
    Really fueled my imagination.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Would love to see The Farmer's Daughter again. Last remember it on CBN and local Ch. 39 (same owners) in 1985-86. (The latter had a killer late night lineup for buffs starting at midnight on weeknights: Farmer's Daughter, Love That Bob, New Dick Van Dyke Show, Bachelor Father & You Bet Their Life, with signoff at 2:30 AM)

    Farmer's Daughter should have had the wedding as the series finale IMO. Was a very good show the first two seasons, but after the wedding, the anticipation was gone.

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    Replies
    1. Yes, I'd like to see it as well - I have to admit (shame-faced) that I've never seen it, though I like both William Windom and Inger Stevens (you'd have to be a FOOL to not like her, right?). I agree that the wedding would have made a perfect final episode - but, you know how the networks make decisions...

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  3. Merv Griffin around the same time thought of a quiz show where contestants were given the answers and had to come up with the questions.

    That show became "Jeopardy!", premiered in March of 1964, and is still on the air.

    ReplyDelete
  4. About Inger Stevens - she had me at Yah!
    She starred in a Twilight Zone that eerily foreshadowed her death.
    In it, as some people may recall, she played a woman who didn't realize that she was dead.

    She was one of my two teenage crushes - the other was Barbara Eden - I DID Dream of Jeannie!


    Thanks for the memories, Mitch!

    Lloyd

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, Lloyd! Inger Stevens and Barbara Eden - I think that deserves TWO **sighs**!

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  5. Regarding the Vikings-49ers game that the Twin Cities was blacked out of; the final points of the game were a 12 yard fumble recovery touchdown for defensive end Jim Marshall, a year before Marshall's infamous "wrong way" return.

    ReplyDelete

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