*See here for today's curtain-riser.
Problem is, next season the show's moving to 7:30 pm, and Martin claims that ABC asked him to "find another series for him" that ran at 10 pm. "Had we remained at 10 P.M., Bob would have continued." Now, quite frankly that sounds ridiculous to me, but Lansing, who's being replaced by former Naked City star Paul Burke, is sanguine about it. "My contract was with Quinn Martin, and he's the only one I've talked to. I can't be mad at Quinn, either. He says it was the network's decision, and I have no evidence to make me doubt him." To show that he's a team player, Lansing adds that he feels the show's quality will suffer from being moved to an earlier time with, presumably, a younger audience. "12 hours a day is too long to work at something you don't like."
I don't know about all this. I've always liked Robert Lansing; he projects a tough, masculine image but has a softer side that still resonates with the audience. For instance, as Detective Carella in 87th Precinct, he was able to portray a no-nonsense cop who still had a sense of humor, not to mention a dedication to protecting the public. As the character Gary Seven, he's one of the few guest stars to hold his own with Mr. Spock and the rest of the Star Trek crew, outwitting them at almost every turn. He did a better job on the short-lived series The Man Who Never Was than the series deserved, and he had a memorable guest role in The Equalizer many years later. Cleveland Amory, a hard man to please, describes Lansing's work in 12 O'Clock High: "Make no mistake about it. Robert Lansing is magnificent." The idea that he has to have a "10 pm" timeslot is just - odd.
A second theory about Lansing's departure is that it was hard for the audience to accept that his character, General Frank Savage, would be out there in the middle of the war himself rather than directing things from behind a desk.* The series was based on the Academy Award-winning movie of the same name, which starred Gregory Peck as Savage and Dean Jagger as Colonel Harvey Stovall, played in the series by Frank Overton. and if memory serves there were a couple other characters from the movie who show up in the series (played by different actors, of course.)
*Paul Burke's character, by contrast, is a Colonel.
This leads to today's trivia question, which might make for some fun comments below. The second season of 12 O'Clock High begins with Savage's plane being shot down and the General being killed. Paul Burke's previous series, Naked City, was also based on a movie, the stars of which were Barry Fitzgerald as Detective Lt. Dan Muldoon and Don Taylor as his partner, Jimmy Halloran. When the series transitioned to television, John McIntire assumed the Muldoon role (right down to Fitzgerald's Irish brogue; it's a wonderful portrayal), while James Franciscus played Halloran. McIntire soon tired of the weekly grind of a series, however, and was killed off late in the first season, to be replaced by Horace McMahon as Mike Parker.*
*I'll bet you thought I was going to say he was replaced by Paul Burke, right? No, his character replaces Halloran, who disappears for no apparent reason.
Having given you those examples, can you name any other television series adapted from a movie that then proceeded to kill off one of that movie's star characters? I can't, but then I don't want to think too hard about it.
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: Ed's special guests are Rudolf Nureyev and Dame Margot Fonteyn, stars of London's Royal Ballet Company. Also on the bill are Welsh recording star Petula Clark; comedian Alan King, who tells about the New York World's Fair; the West Point Glee Club; the rock 'n' rolling Beach Boys; comedienne Sue Carson and pop singer Frankie Randall.
Palace: Host George Burns introduces operatic soprano Mary Costa; singer Jack Jones; comics Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks in an interview sketch on dating; the Young Americans, vocal group; pantomimists Cully Richards and Company; the Flying Zacchinis, trapeze artists; and the Almiros, jugglers.
The Palace really starts strong this week, both musically (Costa and Jones) and comedically (Burns, Reiner and Brooks), but just when I was starting to get excited - the Young Americans, mimes (I hate mimes), jugglers, trapeze artists...
On the other hand, your affection for Ed will depend largely on what you think of ballet; since Nureyev and Dame Margot are two of the very biggest names in the business, you can bet they're getting a lot of airtime, with three excerpts from Nureyev's version of Swan Lake. I happen to like ballet, and since this is my blog, and since I also like Petula Clark and Alan King and think the Beach Boys are probably the best American rock act of the time (which may not be saying much, granted), I'm giving this week to Ed as he dances rings around Palace.
As much as I love the hometown TV Guides from my youth, it's always fun to see other markets from time to time. A couple of this month's offerings are from Phoenix, and this week's issue is from New York City. Let's see how things are done in the Big Apple.
One thing to notice: lots of movies. But that doesn't necessarily mean more movies, just more times that movies are on. For example, WNEW, Channel 5 (now WNYW, the Fox affiliate, but an independent in 1965) has a movie which they show daily at 10:00 am and 1:30 pm*, presumably for those housewives who either go shopping or have to pick up the kids from kindergarten or, I don't know, entertain the milkman in the morning. Whatever the case, when a movie's shown twice during the day, you don't really have any excuse for missing it unless you work outside the office, in which case it wouldn't matter how many times it's on.
*Just so there's no confusion, they show the same movie at 10am and 1:30pm. Not part 2 of the movie, the same movie. The same exact movie.
Next, there's Million Dollar Movie on WOR, Channel 9. Million Dollar Movie, which began in 1955, was really a quite clever way of exploiting the showing of a big-time movie - which, due to the continuing antagonism between movie studios and television, weren't always that commonplace. Million Dollar Movie's hook was twofold: the movies would have never before been seen on television, and they would be shown multiple times a day for the entire week - as many as sixteen times a week, according to some. By 1965, the number was down to seven times a week: 11:00 am and 11:00 pm on Sunday, and then 11:25 pm Monday through Friday. This week's feature: The Lost Missile, starring Robert Loggia and Ellen Parker. "New Yorkers have little more than an hour left to live, as a radioactive missile circles the earth, destroying everything in a 10-mile-wide swath." *
*In other words, they only have a hour to live - until the next showing. And you should not confuse this with Channel 3's Satellite in the Sky airing Monday at 11:20pm, in which "a rocket ship heads for outer space to explode an experimental bomb," or Channel 2's Abandon Ship, where 27 passengers of a luxury liner that sank try to fit into a lifeboat that can only hold 12 .
And then there are the two movie shows that have the most iconic names of all: The Late Show and The Late Late Show, both of which air on WCBS, Channel 2. Here's the famous opening to The Late Show:
Channel 2's couplet of The Late Show and The Late Late Show were billed as "post-midnight entertainment for 'television's other audience'," back in a time when it was somewhat sophisticated and grown up to stay up late during the week. The Late Show stars at 11:20 pm, and The Late Late Show at about 1:25 am, which brings us up to about 3 am most times, when Channel 2 airs a couple more movies to take the viewing audience up to Summer Semester that morning.
Of course, there's a lot more to local television than movies. There's news, for example, and it's probably no surprise that many of the local news anchors in New York are also tied in to network broadcasts. WNBC's (Channel 4) early evening newscast, for example, was anchored variously by NBC correspondents Gabe Pressman, Robert MacNeil and Bill Ryan, while Frank McGee appears as the anchor of a 10-minute news update at 11pm, with Jim Hartz (like McGee, a future host of The Today Show) presents 15 minutes of local news at 11:15. Robert Trout augmented his correspondent's work for CBS by anchoring the 6:30 pm news on WCBS,
|On the left: Roger Grimsby and Bill Beutel|
*If you want to find out how his career came to an end, check his Wikipedia page.
Of course, not being from New York, I'm sure I'm missing a lot of names and data here, so if any of you want to chime in with more details, you're always welcome!
Here's a quick look at the rest of the TV week:
Sports: The Preakness, live from Pimlico in Baltimore. The favorite is Lucky Debonair, winner of the Kentucky Derby, but Dapper Dan winds up in the winner's circle with the Black-Eyed Susans. If horse racing's not your game, there's plenty of baseball, with both the Yankees and Mets appearing numerous times throughout the week, and the final round of the New Orleans Open golf tournament airs on Sunday.
Comedy: I'll be talking about Gilligan's Island in a moment, but on Saturday we have that delightful situation that finds Jim Backus competing against himself, as Gilligan airs on CBS at 8:30 pm, up against NBC's Mr. Magoo. Only time in TV history that an actor has competed against himself with two shows on different networks at the same time.
Game Shows: Paul Anka is the guest panelist on What's My Line? Sunday night. Roger Smith and singer Carmel Quinn are on What's This Song? on CBS daytime, while Hermoine Gingold is the week's celebrity guest on ABC's The Price is Right. Selma Diamond and Les Crane appear on Call My Bluff on NBC, followed by singer Gogi Grant and her husband Bob Rifkind taking on Alan and Virginia Young on I'll Bet. George Grizzard and Joan Fontaine are on CBS' Password, singers Mel Torme and Sally Ann Howes are on NBC's You Don't Say!, and Henry Morgan and Lauren Bacall (!) follow on The Match Game. Not a bad week of celebrity sightings.
Drama A couple of weeks ago I wrote about the wonderful Twilight Zone episode "On Thursday We Leave for Home." Well, it's the first of 17 reruns to debut in the show's Sunday night slot. A sea monster terrorizes a Norwegian village on ABC's Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea Monday night. And on Thursday, Perry Mason gets involved in the case of an actor taking part in one of Shakespeare's sword-dueling scenes - and winds up dead.
Culture: On Monday, Channel 9 presents the movie version of Gian-Carlo Menotti's sinister opera The Medium, starring Marie Powers, Leo Coleman and Anna Maria Alberghetti. Channel 2 has a documentary Tuesday about a place that'll get plenty of culture: the newly constructed Lincoln Center. And what could possibly be more cultural than the New York State finals of the Miss Universe pageant, shown live Thursday night on Channel 11? The winner is Gloria Jon; I was hoping it might be someone who went on to great fame and stardom, but being Miss New York isn't bad at all.
Finally, Sherwood Schwartz tells Richards Warren Lewis about the difficulties he's had in getting Gilligan's Island from the drawing board to the screen.
For one thing, everyone in the executive suite at CBS loved it - except for Jim Aubrey. And the problem there was that Jim Aubrey was the president of CBS. United Artists, co-producers with Schwartz, hated the idea of a theme song that told the backstory. He submitted the pilot to CBS, sans music, and it was rejected without comment.
The results were a smash. The test audience loved it so much that CBS made another audience sit through it, unable to believe the show had scored so high. When the second audience seconded its approval, the show finally got on the schedule. But even then, Schwartz's problems weren't done. The suits didn't like the Hollywood actress character: "Who can identify?" They didn't like the billionaire: "Who's going to understand a billionaire?" They didn't like the science teacher: "What kind of flair does that have to it?" Schwartz fought their suggestions, and won. Then the network fired three of the seven actors who appeared in the pilot, which required further filming and editing.
The episode that winds up debuting on television is actually a combination of three separate shows, including about half of that pilot. "It was an outlandish beginning," Schwartz says of that first episode. "If you're telling a story about people who get shipwrecked, the only honest way is if the first show is about how they got wrecked. Instead, it was about how they were trying to get off the island. It's like starting on chapter two. You didn't know who they were." He thinks that has something to do with the bad initial reviews from some critics.
Even now, having spent the entire season in the top 40, not everyone at CBS is happy, but it doesn't matter to Schwartz. He's proud of the way audiences have identified with the characters and the situation; "Whether you like my show or not, you turn into Gilligan's Island and in one second you know what show you're looking at."
Reading this, I'm struck by the thought that, for all the accusations that Gilligan was part of the dumbing-down of television, the objections from the suits at CBS suggest they didn't have much confidence in their audience's ability to identify with characters and figure things out. Indeed, one can assume that if the network had had their way, Gilligan's Island would have been far, far dumber than even the harshest critics suggested. And it wouldn't be as loved today.