Saturday night at 9:00pm ET CBS has an episode of the police drama Brenner, starring Edward Binns and James Broderick as father-and-son cops. I picked this series up a few years ago at Half Price Books*, more out of curiosity than anything else. I'd never heard of it, and wasn't even a particular fan of Binns, who usually plays the heavies in the movies and shows in which I've seen him. To my surprise, I found this a terrific show - Binns is very, very good as a policeman working in Internal Affairs, while the young Broderick, better known from Family, is interesting to see as a first-year policeman. The music, which is probably by Frank Lewin, adds a lot to the atmosphere, as does the black-and-white cinematography, and the stories themselves are not all of the standard cops-and-robbers variety. The box set I purchased has 15 of the 26 episodes that were produced; I wish the others were available. I'd have liked to see a lot more of this underrated series.
*Truth in advertising department: you can buy more than just books at Half Price Books. Just yesterday I bought a sonic screwdriver.
There's a big spread for Sunday's Ed Sullivan show, which comes to us from the Spoleto Festival in Spoleto, Italy. It was founded last year by composer and blog favorite Gian Carlo Menotti (Amahl and the Night Visitors, among other NBC Opera productions), and features performers from around the world and around the entertainment spectrum. Tonight, Ed's guests include Sir John Gielgud, opera star Eileen Farrell, the Jerome Robbins dance corps, Louis Armstrong's jazz band (without Armstrong, who was ill), and an orchestra conducted by Menotti favorite Thomas Schippers. That's quite a lineup, and it's only part of the guest list!
Jimmy Fund.* It's a simple explanation; the Braves played in Boston until they moved to Milwaukee after the 1953 season, and had a connection to the Jimmy Fund themselves. Logical that the two teams would come together at Fenway to benefit the fund.
*For many years, until sports owners decided there was no such thing as too much money, an ad for the Jimmy Fund was the only in-stadium advertising allowed at Fenway Park.
Later that night on Desilu Playhouse (10pm, CBS), John Drew Barrymore and Earl Holliman star in the Western "Silent Thunder." At the time, John Drew Barrymore was best-known as the son of the famed John Barrymore; his aunt and uncle were Lionel and Ethel Barrymore. Today, his claim to fame is as the father of Drew Barrymore. The man just can't win.
Going through the listings from the first couple of decades of television, you often see the same names popping up - Rod Serling and Paddy Chayefsky, for example. Another is Don Mankiewicz, part of the famed Mankiewicz family that we've talked about from time to time here. His name first appears on Monday night as co-writer (with Larry Marcus) of "U.S. vs. Alexander Holmes" on CBS' Joseph Cotten Show, and on Tuesday we see him again, as writer of "The Navagator" on Alcoa Presents, which most of us probably know better as One Step Beyond. Now there's a show that deserves a proper DVD release.
If you're not watching that, you might be taking in The Andy Williams Show on CBS. This isn't Andy's regular series yet, but a summer replacement series for Garry Moore's variety show. It won't be until 1962 that Andy settles in to the NBC schedule on a permanent basis. One of tonight's guests is "comedian Andy Griffith"; his show won't begin until the fall of 1960, and at this point he's best known for his wonderful stage, screen and TV turn in No Time For Sergeants, and his brilliant dramatic portrayal of the megalomaniac in A Face in the Crowd. I've written about that one before; it really is a shame Griffith didn't get more dramatic roles.
Wednesday features another summer replacement show we might not have heard of before; it's the game show Keep Talking, on CBS at 8pm. It sounds to me like a pretty lame idea; from the always-reliable Wikipedia: "Six celebrity panelists, divided into two teams, would try to guess a secret word given to one player on each team. These two players would then proceed to tell a story to their team involving that word, yet not using that word. Narration of the story would jump from team-mate to team-mate, often leaving the new narrator at a loss as to how to continue the story. Little attention was paid to scoring and points—the point was for the panelists to build their ad-lib story seamlessly and entertainingly." On tonight's show, Vincent Price is the guest host, and Caesar Romero fills in for regular panelist Joey Bishop.
Also, I'd assume that most of you know The Price Is Right did exist before Bob Barker and Drew Carey. If you're a faithful reader of the Monday TV listings feature, you've probably seen it quite a few times. The host is the incomparable Bill Cullen, and it actually has quite a different format than the one we're familiar with, including celebrity guests. Here, take a look at it:
We've been looking at our fair share of obscure shows this week, and two of them appear in Thursday's daytime listings. The first is the sitcom Beulah, at 11am on Channel 5. Everyone always thinks of Amos 'n' Andy when discussing leading black characters in early television, but Beulah was in fact the first series to feature a black actor or actress in the lead role. Like so much of early television, it was a crossover from radio, where it had started in 1945 before migrating to television, running on ABC from 1950 to 1952. I'm not sure who's playing Beulah at this point, since there were two actresses known for the role. My guess is that it's Ethel Waters, the great gospel singer who toured for so many years with Billy Graham on his crusades. It could, though, be Louise Beavers, who was known for "maid" roles in a long career that dated back to the '20s.
In the afternoon, we have a discussion show that sounds as if it belongs on PBS but in fact is an NBC program: The Court of Human Relations. This too started out on radio before going on to a brief run on television. Not much more to offer for this one, but this was the first time I'd noticed it in the listings.
Every so often, TCM will run the movie Pete Kelly's Blues, which starred Jack Webb in one of his non-Dragnet roles. The movie - yes, it was based on a radio series as well - came out in 1955, and featured Webb as a bandleader and musician. Four years later it's a TV series on NBC Fridays at 7:30pm, with future FBI agent William Reynolds taking over the lead. I've never seen an episode of the series (nor, for that matter, have I seen the movie, although I think I caught the end of it a few months ago), but it seems as if I catch an ad for the movie in a TV Guide every few months.
TV fans with good memories probably recall NBC's Ellery Queen series from the mid '70s (written up nicely here), a fun show that starred Jim Hutton and David Wayne as Ellery and his inspector father. However, that's far from being the first time Queen made it to TV; at 8pm with George Nader as Ellery and Lee Phillips as the inspector. And on Channel 5 it's Markham, a short-lived private detective series starring Oscar winner Ray Milland.
Otherwise, it's familiar faces this Friday, sometimes because of moves for the summer schedule. ABC has Disneyland, which eventually winds up on NBC Sundays; NBC has M Squad, the great Lee Marvin police show, and CBS is running I Love Lucy and The Phil Silvers Show, with Silvers as the marvelous Sgt. Ernie Bilko.
Really, who can resist that? Makes you want to get a cat just so you can buy their cat food.
Starlet of the week: It's Audrey Gellen, who's actually not an actress at all, but "TV's best-paid writer . . . pound for pound." She's 25, 112 pounds*, and has scribbled scripts for five DuPont Show of the Month specials: "The Member of the Wedding," "The Browning Version" and "Billy Budd" among them. She went on to be script editor for Dupont producer David Susskind's East Side/West Side, and adapted the classic Harvey for a 1972 telefilm. Despite this, I think her greatest success may well have come as a producer; she continue to work with Susskind for many years, winning an Emmy as co-producer of the 1970s TV movie Eleanor and Franklin, and receiving a nomination that same year for Moon for the Misbegotten. She also was one of the producers of Martin Scorsese's Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, before dying in a car crash in 1975 at the unthinkable age of only 38.
Fashion show of the week comes from our cover story on Janet Blair. Blair is a big-band singer turned successful actress, but that isn't the talent that TV Guide's interested in this week. It's all about what the fashionable housewife wears around the house. After all, whether you're vacuuming, dusting, making the bed or doing the dishes, it's important for you to look your best.
I often lament how TV Guide changed from these classic years, but this is one area I'm not really sorry to see go.