There's a nice feature on the new young comedian hosting Away We Go, the summer replacement for Jackie Gleason: George Carlin. He's described as "slight, soft-spoken, serious," with shell-rimmed glasses that he replaces with contacts when he's on the air. He followed an "undistinguished" high school career with a stint in the Air Force, where he became a huge success as a DJ, providing such good PR for the Air Force that he was relieved from most of his military duties. After finishing with the service, he started an act with Jack Burns, who went on to great fame with Avery Schreiber*, but although they were a hit, he was not happy. "I knew I wanted to stay in saloons as a stand-up single," so he and Burns split up. He's happily married with a daughter, he loves New York but lives in Beverly Hills in order to do the series, and he gives us a preview of the future when he talks about the "cerebral, far-out things the 'new' comedians do."
*Fun fact: Burns and Schreiber host their own summer replacement series, Our Place, taking the place of the Smothers Brothers.
In fact, there is no mention of the bits that Carlin will eventually make famous: the Hippie-Dippie Weatherman and the Indian Sergeant, both of which have already appeared on Carlin's 1967 comedy album, and his notorious "Seven Words" routine, which is still a few years away. His guests on this week's show are singer Grace Markay, comedian Charlie Manna, and pianist Buddy Greco. And while Away We Go didn't leave a lasting impression, George Carlin has nothing to worry about when it comes to his legacy. Carlin is part of the new breed, to be sure, but could anyone imagine the success he has in his future?
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..
We haven't done one of these for awhile, have we? And because it's summer, we won't be doing what we usually do, because The Hollywood Palace has been replaced by The Piccadilly Palace for a few weeks. Hey, I promised you a Palace, but I didn't say which one.
Sullivan: Ed's guest in this rerun are actors Eddie Albert and Carroll Baker; comedians Allan Sherman, Pat Cooper and Stiller and Meara; singers Sergio Franchi, the Four Tops, and the Kessler Twins; the Suzuki Violins; and trampolinist Dick Albers.
Palace: British comedians Morecambe and Wise are the permanent hosts of Piccadilly Palace, so by definition there's a limited guest lineup, but this week it is pianist Peter Nero and the rockin' Tremeloes. Singer Millicent Martin is part of the permanent cast.
Well, this really isn't a very impressive week, but then, I wouldn't have cared. Back then, I was watching the Minnesota Vikings pre-season game against the Philadelphia Eagles from Tulsa, Oklahoma. You see, even in the '60s, exhibition games weren't the most sought-after, so both the NFL and AFL often took them on the road, a practice that served two purposes: it brought professional football to an area that never got to see it in person, which meant you'd have a pretty good crowd, and it gave the league a chance to check out a potential market for an expansion team.
There were other things about exhibition games of the era, though, that made them much more watchable than they are today. First of all, the starters were much more active in these days before year-round workouts, using the games to play themselves back into shape. As well, it was the only chance to see teams from the NFL and AFL play each other prior to the merger. The AFL teams in particular took this very seriously, their opportunity to show their teams belonged on the same field with the older, established league. You get an example of that on Friday evening, when those same Vikings traveled to Denver to play the Broncos. I distinctly remember that game; the Broncos weren't very good, while the Vikings were one of the rising teams in the NFL. I never have been a Vikings fan - remember, my teams were always the Packers and Colts - and I thoroughly enjoyed watching the Broncos come out on top.
Oh, that's right - we were talking about Sullivan and The Palace, weren't we? Shows you how memorable the matchup is, doesn't it? Very well, I'll take Sullivan by majority decision.
There's a short bit in The Doan Report about the networks taking yet another look at prime-time news programs, this time the idea of a show that would fill the last half-hour of the night's schedule. These kinds of ideas come up all the time; it seems as if there was never an era when there wasn't serious discussion about prime-time evening news, most of the time involving the perennially ratings-challenged ABC, but this one specifically mentions NBC as the network most likely to check it out, with the others to follow if it's a success. It doesn't happen, and they don't follow along.
There's also a bit about how audiences are more likely to watch a taped drama such as Death of a Salesman, which recently scored big ratings on CBS, if they think they're watching a movie. ABC plans to capitalize on this "misunderstanding," as all ten of their upcoming dramas are remakes of well-known movies such as Dial M for Murder. Their plan is to advertise them not as they'd originally intended, with the title A Night at the Theater, but simply as a special presentation. Ultimately it's too late; the days of dramatic theater-like programs on television will never come back on a full-time basis.
Some quick hits of the week: Boris Karloff is the guest star of what must have been a fun episode of I Spy Wednesday on NBC. Also on Wednesday, Steve Allen wraps up his latest comedy/variety effort, a prime-time summer replacement airing on CBS. The English rockers Chad and Jeremy guest star on Batman, where the villainous Catworman (Julie Newmar version) plans to steal their voices! William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy guest on Tuesday's episode of Today, which is guest-hosted by Burgess Meredith.* And for no particular reason, CBS reruns the Easter-themed movie Barabbas Thursday night, starring Anthony Quinn in the title role. Says critic Judith Crist, "Quinn had best be forgotten for his portrait of the sturdy dimwitted thief."
*A little Batman tie-in there.
Finally, I don't know if I've ever written about That Girl, the series with Marlo Thomas, but this week's episode gives us a real cultural snapshot. From the listings: "No matter how you add it up, Ann and boy friend Don face a delicate situation: They're stranded with newlyweds in a hotel -that has only two vacant rooms." It's clear what the dilemma for Ann and Don is: they can't share a room because they're not married, but if the two men take one room and the two women the other, they'll be separating the newlyweds, something the other couple wants no part of. This is interesting for so many reasons: first, the idea of an unmarried couple sharing a hotel room is nothing today - hell, probably most of the couples in hotels aren't married.* Thing is (and I'll admit I haven't seen the episode, so this could be a moot point), this very type of scenario (unmarried couple sharing hotel room) has been a stalwart of the screwball comedy for decades. You can hang a bedsheet down the middle of the room, you can have the guy sleep on the floor, etc. etc. - in other words, there's a myriad number of ways they could handle this. I wonder which ones they used?
*And then there are those who are - but not to each other...
For sure, you wouldn't see this dilemma on TV today.