September 26, 2015

This week in TV Guide: September 28, 1974

This week we get a look at Paul Sand, whose CBS sitcom Friends and Lovers has been an almost unanimous choice to be the breakout hit of the new season.  It's sandwiched between two of CBS' biggest shows, All in the Family and The Mary Tyler Moore Show. And yet the series barely survives the new year, exiting in early January after a mere 15 episodes.

There's no hint of that in Rowland Barber's article on "Paul Sand's Long Road to Stardom."  Sand comes across as an eminently likable person: modest, unpretentious.  A veteran of the Second City, he's now the rising star of the MTM team, having first been noticed when his old friend Valerie Harper recommended him for a guest spot on Moore's show, and now slated to follow Bob Newhart into the world of MTM sitcom success.  Barber calls him "possibly the most appealing new face on the tube since the debut of Mary Tyler Moore herself."

So what happened?  One theory, suggested by the always-reliable Wikipedia, is that the ratings were good, just not good enough - it lost too much of Family's lead-in, and itself wasn't feeding the viewers to MTM. In another era, it might have been given more time to develop, or moved to a different time slot.  Likewise, in another era, it might have been cancelled even more rapidly, in order to limit the damage.  Its replacement, The Jeffersons, winds up doing exactly what the network wants.  As for Sand, despite a long television career, never again would he headline his own series.

***

Last week we took a look at the new 1967 model televisions, spotlighted in a special section in the middle of the issue, replete with ads from all the major manufacturers.  Eight years later, it's a four-page article, surrounded by car ads (and no Joey Heatherton).  And whereas the story of 1967's sets is COLOR!, the big news in 1975 will be far less sexy: solid state, meaning that except for the picture tube itself, all those little tubes in the set's interior are gone - replaced by transistors, diodes and integrated circuits.*

*Ironically, the first solid state television was introduced by Motorola in 1967.  I can't remember if it was mentioned in that preview or not.

What's good about this is that integrated circuits should allow for "vastly improved" color adjustments, getting rid of virtually all the knobs and dials that used to do the job.  It's more energy efficient as well, a handy thing to have during the energy crisis.  The old dial that you see on my "Around the Dial" features will be a thing of the past as well, replaced by remote control or push button tuners.  Some of them will feature on-screen channel displays.  And in general, the picture should be both clearer and brighter - important things, now that 70% of the public has color TV.

*** 

The ill-fated Morning News duo.
It might seem hard to believe nowadays, but one of the biggest TV stories of 1973 was the debut of Sally Quinn as co-anchor of the CBS Morning News with Hughes Rudd.  Quinn had been a journalist with the Washington Post when she was hired by CBS, and she was thrown on the air with virtually no preparation or training whatsoever, teamed up with an anchor with whom she had no chemistry and who clearly didn't want her on the show.  Not surprisingly, it was a disaster, lasting six months before Quinn returned to the Post.

Well, it's comeback time of a sort for Quinn, as The Doan Report - well, reports.  She's going to be featured in NBC's new magazine show, Weekend, hosted by Lloyd Dobyns.  Weekend will be a once-a-month show, taking the place of the Saturday night Johnny Carson rerun.*  Next year, it will be performing the same function for NBC's new late-night comedy show - Saturday Night Live.

*Except in the areas where Carson reruns are on Sunday; in those cases, the show runs on Sunday.  Which is, I suppose, why it's called Weekend.

Weekend itself runs for five years, the last of which was spent in prime time, when Dobyns was joined by Linda Ellerbee.  Quinn maintained a successful career at the Post, marrying her boss Ben Bradlee, and becoming one of Washington's more successful hostesses.

***

Lots of shows to look at this week, so let's get right to it.

Saturday's college football is nothing special.  In this era of one game per week, the regional choice is Washington State vs. Illinois.  The two teams will combine for eight victories this season; Illinois wins this game 21-19.  Following the game, Wide World of Sports presents the Harlem Globetrotters from London, followed by the Southern 500 stock car race, taped on Labor Day weekend.

That night, it's the bizarre, wonderful movie Theatre of Blood on ABC, starring Vincent Price and Diana Rigg, and featuring a who's-who of British character actors including Ian Hendry, Coral Browne (Mrs. Price), Robert Coote (from The Rogues), Oscar winner Jack Hawkins (Ben Hur), Robert Morley, and Arthur Lowe.  As Judith Crist says in her review, "if the names don't ring a bell, the faces and talents will."  It's the story of Shakespearean actor Edward Lionheart (Price), who embarks on a bloody trail of revenge against the film critics who deny him an important reward.  Crist calls it "a romp and a roll," done with "high style and invention" and serving to "restore that fine sense of fun to a genre more honored of late in its exploitation then by a creative exploration of its intelligent entertainment values."



On Sunday, the NFL doubleheader starts with the Chicago Bears and Minnesota Vikings on CBS at 1pm (CT), followed by the Oakland Raiders and Pittsburgh Steelers at 3pm on NBC.  Not a bad lineup, but it reminds us that before the NFL became a day-long marathon, there was room for other afternoon programming.  Leonard Bernstein became famous to millions as host of CBS' Young People's Concerts, performed with the New York Philharmonic.  But Lenny is gone now, leading the Vienna Philharmonic, and in his place is Michael Tilson Thomas, who presents "What Makes a Gershwin Tune a Gershwin Tune?"  The fact that kids would genuinely be interested in the program speaks volumes about the difference between young people then and now.  Following that, at 5:00pm, a CBS News Special looks at President Ford's struggle with the troubled economy, especially the attempts to curb inflation.  Anyone remember "WIN" buttons?

In prime time, if you haven't had enough music for one day, PBS' Evening at Pops presents the great Ella Fitzgerald in concert with Arthur Fiedler and the Boston Pops, among other things doing an Irving Berlin medley.  And finally, Sonny Bono's failed solo attempt The Sonny Comedy Revue has as guest stars McLean Stevenson (a relic of the '70s if ever there was one) and - hang on - Joey Heatherton!  See, even if you can't get her in the new TV preview, she's still here!

Monday night's highlight is probably NBC's Monday Night at the Movies presentation of 'Support Your Local Sheriff!", a delightfully funny Western spoof with James Garner as the Sheriff, Joan Hackett as the Girl, Harry Morgan as the Mayor, and Walter Brennan and Bruce Dern as two of the most spectacularly inept villains you're likely to ever see.

Also, I'm struck by the lineup CBS has on Mondays, starting with Gunsmoke at 7:00, Maude at 8:00, Rhoda at 8:30 and Medical Center at 9:00.  In a sense, this evening presents television's transition in a microcosm: Gunsmoke in its 20th and final season and Medical Center in its sixth of seven seasons, both series very much cut from the traditional cloth of television drama: self-contained (for the most part) episodes featuring traditional heroes from two traditional genres, Westerns and medical dramas. They're bookending two series in the vanguard of the medium's new wave - Maude, in its third season, featuring abrasive personalities and socially liberal causes, far more outspoken than the typical sitcom; and Rhoda, in its first season, a spinoff from Mary Tyler Moore that combines traditional elements (the single woman looking for a husband, the spectacular wedding) while eventually evolving to subjects infrequently discussed on comedies: separation and divorce.

Tuesday:  All week, Channel 9, the ABC affiliate in the Twin Cities, is advertising how their 6 o'clock news can now be seen at five o'clock.  If you've read some of the program listings from the 1960s, you might have noticed that Channel 9 generally eschewed the 6:00 news, preferring to counter other stations' news with game shows or reruns of sitcoms.  I don't know how long ago they introduced a 6:00 news program, if indeed they had one, but they're now the first with local news, followed by the evening news with Howard K. Smith and Harry Reasoner. and Truth or Consequences at 6.

CBS continues the "big show" lineup they had on Monday, and again it's a blend of the old and the new: Good Times at 7 (black, urban comedy), M*A*S*H at 7:30 (the groundbreaking dramedy), Hawaii Five-O at 8 (old-fashioned police work), and Barnaby Jones at 9 (private detective, albeit a senior citizen version).  But looking at ABC's Tuesday lineup you can begin to see the stirrings of the programming that would soon make it #1: Happy Days, combined with one of the network's first hits, Marcus Welby, M.D.

Wednesday:  It's kind of a lean night for the networks, although there are a couple of pretty successful shows on: Little House on the Prairie, in its first season, on NBC, and Cannon, in its fourth season, on CBS.  Combine that with NBC's Petrocelli at 9:00, rumored to be coming to DVD, and you could replicate the entire season at home.  However, the more unsuccessful shows are more prevalent on this night, with CBS having Sons and Daughters and Manhunter, NBC countering with Lucas Tanner, and ABC following up with That's My Mama, a movie, and the legendary Get Christie Love!

On Thursday PBS premieres one of my favorite shows of the time, the sports documentary series The Way It Was.  It's a nice combination of archival footage, occasionally with the original play-by-play, and interviews with participants from the event.  It's hosted by Curt Gowdy, accompanied by one of the event's announcers.  Tonight, it's a look at the "Miracle of Coogan's Bluff," the "Shot Around the World": Bobby Thomson's home run for the New York Giants to defeat the Brooklyn Dodgers in the final game of the 1951 National League playoff.  The Way It Was ran for two seasons, I think, and it was a terrific show.

It's a good sports night; at 8:00, it's the World Football League Game of the Week, with the New York Stars taking on the Chicago Fire.  If you know anything about the WFL, you'll recognize the historical implication of this listing, for before too much longer the Stars will move to Charlotte, where they're become the Hornets.  I didn't see this game, of course, because I was living in the World's Worst Town™.

Friday is the best night of the week, because, you know, weekend!  But NBC has a hit Friday night lineup, and I think after seeing this you'll agree: Sanford and Son at 7:00, Chico and the Man at 7:30, The Rockford Files at 8:00, and Police Woman at 9:00.  It's what I had on Friday nights, being stuck with Channel 7 for a commercial TV station, but if I'd had the choice, I likely would have been watching CBS' Friday Night Movie, a repeat of Steve McQueen's Bullitt, with hands-down the greatest car chase scene in the history of anything.

Too bad they never spun that movie off into a TV series, isn't it?  Bullitt would have been a great foil for Peter Gunn, don't you think?  Bullett & Gunn?  Gunn & Bullett?  Take your choice.

5 comments:

  1. Excerpts of the first day of Quinn/Rudd are online:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=89TwxJg5wKY
    Sally's so sick she's barely staying awake (I wonder what she was like on a better day), but oh how badly I want a Hughes Rudd on modern day TV; "Actually we've had a lot of people on television delirious...they're usually running for public office.":)

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    1. I'm trying to remember the website where I heard a top of the hour CBS Radio newscast, anchored by Hughes Rudd, where he opens up by saying, "I'm Hughes Rudd reporting on the CBS Radio nitwork". He knew what he said and it broke him up for the first 1-2 minutes of his newscast. His voice was unlike anyone before or since, but when he broke into a laughing fit, it just got better. I had read that he was offered to host "Sunday Morning", but was lured away to ABC in 1979 before the program was green lighted and Charles Kuralt became host later that same year.

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  2. The New York Stars moved to Charlotte the week of the game at Chicago. They would eventually become known as the Charlotte Hornets but for that TVS game, they were the referred to as the Charlotte Stars. The team's equipment manager obtained decals of the Chicago Bears' "C" logo and pasted them over the "NY" on their helmets.

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  3. "Theatre of Blood" was on NBC, not ABC. No doubt heavily edited.

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Thanks for writing! Drive safely!