December 6, 2014

This week in TV Guide: December 4, 1965

It is the first full week in December 1965, which means Christmas programming (and advertising) should be starting, right?  We only have three seasonal specials, but two of them are part of television history.

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On Saturday, Channel 11 presents syndicated coverage of the Santa Claus Lane Parade, taped on Thanksgiving Day in Los Angeles and hosted by Bill Burrud.  (At least that's what TV Guide says, although according to the always-reliable Wikipedia, the parade was actually held on Thanksgiving Eve.)  At any rate, the parade, which continues to this day, is a tradition in Hollywood; it's said that Gene Autry, riding his horse in the parade, was inspired by children shouting "Here comes Santa Claus" to write the song of the same name.  The rest is - well, you know the rest.

It's the next afternoon that things start to get interesting, as NBC's 4:30 p.m. (CT) General Electric Fantasy Hour presents a rerun of last year's smash animated special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.  That's right; it's only the second year for Rudolph, and yet it's already clearly destined to become a Christmas classic.  And classic it is, although this second showing is not quite the same as what audiences saw the year before; as author Rick Goldschmidt writes in his wonderful book, there were several changes made after the first year, including a new scene showing Santa stopping at the Island of Misfit Toys, a new song ("Fame and Fortune", replacing a duet of "We're a Couple of Misfits"), and the inevitable cuts made in order to squeeze in a few new commercials.  In fact, that inaugural telecast of 1964 has never been seen in toto again.

From one classic to another: Thursday at 6:30 p.m., CBS presents the debut of A Charlie Brown Christmas, perhaps the most beloved of Christmas cartoons.  It seems like a sure thing now, but most people know that CBS was very nervous about the whole thing, from the use of real children's voices to Charles Schulz' insistence on the scene of Linus reciting the Nativity from the Gospel According to St. Luke.  Schulz himself had misgivings about the quality of the animation and the cohesiveness of the script, which was written on short notice.  The special is finished only a few days before December 9, with everyone convinced it will be a disaster.  By the end of the premiere broadcast, however, it's clear that the show's a smash, destined to "run for a hundred years."  I don't know about that, but this year it will be halfway there.

TV Guide could sense how special it would be, though, as evidenced by this original two-page strip written exclusively for the magazine by Schulz.


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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..

Palace: Host Milton Berle's guests include Liberace, whom he joins in a song-and-dance number; actor Cesar Romero; singer-dancer Joey Heatherton; the singing McGuire Sisters; Johnny Puleo and his Harmonica Gang; the Berosinis' teeterboard act; and the juggling Peiro boethers from Argentina.

Sullivan:  Scheduled guests include singers Robert Goulet and Jane Powell; comedian Shelly Berman; rock 'n' rollers Tom Jones, and Martha and the Vandellas; comic Bobby Ramsen; the Idla Girls, Swedish gymnasts; Chong and Mana, a balancing act; and Burger's Animals - dogs, ponies and a monkey.

Both shows are heavy on the vaudeville acts this week, so let's concentrate on the big name stars.  I suppose it would be easy to make jokes about Liberace appearing with the in-drag Berle, so we'll let that pass; Cesar Romero has always been a personal favorite; Joey Heatherton's nice to look at; and the McGuire Sisters are OK.  Here's a pretty funny skit from the show featuring Berle as a stuntman, Romero as a pampered star, and Liberace as ruthless killer Irving Goldjacket.


On the other hand, Ed has Robert Goulet, who is very big, and Shelly Berman, who can be very funny.  And Tom Jones!  Tom Jones, who can still bring it!  With that kind of lineup, it's not unusual that we're going with Sullivan as the winner this week.

Here's Tom on that Sullivan show, singing the theme to Thunderball.



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Youth Version:  In 1965, there were three music shows trying to capitalize on the new wave of youth-oriented music born of the British invasion - in other words, pop and rock.*  They were American Bandstand and Shindig!, both on ABC, and Hullabaloo, on NBC.  The later two shows would only last a couple of years each, although they both produced some memorable moments; Bandstand, hosted by the world's oldest teenager, had started in 1952, and would survive until 1989.  Let's see what their lineups tell us about the culture of '65:

*Or as Sullivan and The Palace would say, "the rock 'n' rolling ..."

Bandstand:  Dick Clark's guests are Gary Lewis and the Playboys and Diane and Anita.

Hullabaloo:  Host Frankie Avalon sings and introduces Nancy Sinatra; singer-dancer Lola Falana; the Ronettes; the Yardbirds; and the Hollies.

Shindig:  (Saturday)  The Animals; the Moody Blues; and Georgie Fame.  (Thursday)  Manfred Mann; the Yardbirds; the Who; and the the Graham Bond Organization.

As you might notice with the Yardbirds, there can be a lot of overlap between the three shows.  In fact, going through YouTube, it's not uncommon to find clips of the same groups on all three of the shows.  But we'll just take a look at what we have this week.

In September of '65, Shindig! went the Dr. Kildare/Peyton Place/Batman route by airing twice a week, which gives it twice the number of guests.  This week's pair of programs, originating from London, include a very strong lineup, including three of my favorites: the Animals, the Moody Blues and The Who, not to mention the post-Clapton Yardbirds.  And that's enough, in my opinion, for Shindig! to outpoint Bandstand's Gary Lewis (son of Jerry) and Hullabaloo's Nancy Sinatra (daughter of the Chairman) and the vivacious Lola Falana.

Here are The Yardbirds singing "For Your Love" from this very episode of Shindig!  Although the clip is in B&W, the show itself was broadcast in color.


These programs are interesting for a variety of reasons.  First, as we know, the transition from traditional variety performers (popular singers, crooners, various comedy acts) to contemporary musical groups have often made for awkward moments on shows such as Sullivan's,* and both Shindig! and Hullabaloo (along with their predecessor, the folk-oriented Hootenanny) are attempts to bring the new era of entertainment to a prime-time audience.

*As Gerald Nachman points out in his flawed but informative book, Sullivan's willingness to bring big-name rock acts on his program meant a temporary boost in the ratings, but ultimately led to the downfall of the "one-size-fits-all" variety show.

Just as important, though, these shows demonstrate the evolution of rock-pop music.  Groups such as The Who, The Yardbirds and The Animals understood and were heavily influenced by the roots of American R&B*, and incorporated it into their music, often in a sophisticated manner.  Other singers, such as Avalon and Nancy Sinatra, would be seen today as representing a much milder version of pop music.  To the extent that today's rock groups merely mimic the sounds of The Who, the Rolling Stones and Led Zeppelin, rather than understanding where these sounds are coming from, the contemporary sound is just so much noise, with none of the musicology behind it.  In that sense, these programs really do present us with a unique snapshot of a given time in music.

*Clapton, in fact, left The Yardbirds in a dispute over what he perceived as the group's evolution beyond pure blues.

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Today (if you're reading this piece on the day it was published) is more or less the final day of college football's regular season (excepting next week's Army-Navy game), and so it is also in this issue of TV Guide, with Penn State-Maryland bringing down the curtain.  Each team is 4-5, meaning neither will go on to the bowl season, which starts the following Saturday with the Tangerine Bowl.  There are no conference playoffs in 1965; in fact, many of the biggest schools belong to no conference at all.  Competition is intense, as only 18 teams will be invited to the nine bowl games.  The games themselves are still transitioning from being merely exhibitions; while UPI still chooses its national champion at the end of the regular season, the AP has recently moved their final poll to after the bowls.*

*Michigan State, #1 at the end of the season, will lose to UCLA in the Rose Bowl, justifying AP's decision to wait after the bowls, when they select Alabama.

It's also nearing the end of the pro season, and the networks are ramping up their coverage; NBC follows the Penn State-Maryland game with a Saturday AFL special featuring the New York Jets and the Chargers in San Diego; Sunday's NFL doubleheader on CBS has the Vikings and Packers followed by the Lions and 49ers, while the AFL on NBC continues with the Bills and Oilers in Houston.

Speaking of which, For the Record notes that the NFL is on the verge of a record-breaking contract with CBS, one that will pay the league $75 million for four years, an increase of over $20 million from the previous contract.  This breaks the record set by the AFL's $36 million five-year contract with NBC.  By contrast, today's NFL TV rights are somewhere north of $6 billion a year.

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I've written here about this week's cover story - no, not Juliet Prowse, but historian Arnold Toynbee's "Television: The Lion That Squeaks," and since that's an article in itself, I won't copy it here, but take a moment to check it out.  Hard to believe, considering the fanmag TV Guide has turned into, that serious, intellectual articles such as this used to be published in it.

And as for the leggy Miss Prowse, survivor of a broken engagement to Frank Sinatra, niightclub singer and dancer and current star of the sitcom Mona McCluskey, this is her second appearance on the cover of TV Guide in a little less than a year, the previous one having been in December 1964.  Alas for her, the show - which tells the story of an entertainer married to an Air Force sergeant, wouldn't even have spanned that length of time: premiered September 1965, cancelled April 1966.

6 comments:

  1. This was the week that TV Guide stopped carrying the Rockford listings and started carrying listings for the two UHF stations - WXXW ch 20, which was all classroom shows, and WCIU ch 26, which was mostly low-end reruns and lower-end Poverty Row westerns and crime movies - plus bullfights on Saturday nights, announced by ch26's chief announcer, Carlos 'Gus' Chan.

    - Actually, Batman didn't get on until January of '66, when it effectively replaced both nights of Shindig (Ozzie And Harriet moved to Saturday).

    It took some getting used to

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    1. Interesting to read about these small-town UHF channels that seemed to pop up with obscure programming and such.

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    2. First off, apologies for the abruptness of the post; I wasn't feeling well when I cut it off.

      For Television:AU ('ey, you!):
      Because I'm a semi-regular here, I didn't think I needed to mention that the small town I'm mainly writing about is Chicago, Illinois - which ain't exactly 'small'.
      In 1965, UHF was only starting to get traction in big cities like Chicago, after more than a decade of "it's coming soon!"
      Ch26 had only gone on the air the previous year (1964), while ch20 had just started as an satellite of the educational station, ch11. The watchwords were "bare bones" and low budget".
      When Marshall Field launched ch32 at the start of 1966, he poured a bundle of bucks into the property, resulting in somewhat higher-end programming than ch26 could afford - but that's another story for another time.

      I'm still trying to recall what that last sentence fragment of mine meant. so just forget about it, OK?

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    3. Apologies, I'm still fairly new here :) Also I googled WXXW after making that comment and saw it was in Chicago and thought 'small-town' was a poor choice of words on my part. My bad.

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    4. Not feeling too well myself tonight, but just wanted to chip in with thanks for the coments, guys!

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  2. December 4th, 1965 was also the launch of Gemini 7, first part of a dual mission of two manned capsules launched within twelve days of each other.

    How NBC dealt with it: They had a live half-hour from 12 Noon to 12:30 P.M. EST. Then they aired the football game at 12:30 EST with a split-screen of both the game and pre-launch preparations at Cape Canaveral. At first, the game was on most of the screen and pre-launch preparations were in the upper-left corner.

    Until the countdown reached T-Minus 30 minutes, the audio was from the game announcers (Curt Gowdy and Paul Christman?). Once the countdown hit T-Minus 30 minutes, the audio was that of NBC space anchor Frank McGee at the Cape, along with Mission Control announcements. At the same time, the launch took up most of the screen and the game in the upper-left corner.

    The launch was at 2:30 P.M. EST, at which point, the game had hit halftime and the launch was full-screen.

    When the game resumed, it was on a split-screen (with the game in the upper-left corner of the screen), but for a time, the audio was still of the space coverage.

    At the end of the game, the game was full-screen.

    I recall this because I was watching....and I recall that NBC was the only way to see space coverage (even with he split-screen) until 2 P.M. EST, when ABC and CBS finally began their coverage.

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Thanks for writing! Drive safely!