I remember watching it at the time and not really getting it, and it would appear this was a concern to others as well. Carolyn See suggests it "sounds a little like a wonderful cake with a few too many ingredients, or maybe an Indian recipe where you're expected to throw in the onion along with the coconut along with the pickled ginger and 23 other items besides." Windom, however, feels that for viewers willing to give it a chance, to "think outside the box" as we might say today, it's worth forgetting any preconceived notions you might have, particularly if you're a Thurber "purist" who might have trouble with his famous cartoons walking and talking. For those who do so, he says, "Then you can make the decision to take it or leave it alone." You might even wind up learning something about Thurber.
I don't know what Windom's reputation was up until then. His most famous role might well have been as the Senator in The Farmer's Daughter, which firmly established him in the good-guy pantheon. I was surprised that most of the guest appearances in which I've seen him cast him against type as the villain, the smarmy, slightly greasy con man or killer. Later, of course, he'd go on to have a long, long run as Seth in Murder, She Wrote. It appears as if people accepted him as a bad guy as long as he was a guest star, but that he was destined to play the wise, humorous, good-natured type in a series. Whatever - I always enjoyed him, regardless of what he played, up until his death in 2012.
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: Guests are Liza Minnelli, actor David Hemmings, Henry Mancini, composer-guitarist Mason Williams, Laugh-In's Judy Carne, the rocking Santana and the Trio Hoganas, aerialists.
Palace: Host Engelbert Humperdinck presents Sid Caesar (with Maureen Arthur and Mickey Deems), Nancy Ames, Gladys Knight and the Pips, comedian Jack E. Leonard and English musical-comedy performer Lonnnie Donegan.
Well, this is an interesting pair of lineups. As we move ever closer to 1970, we see a very different set of guests from what we're used to. Sullivan's lineup, for example, features Judy Carne, one of the stars of the hippest show of the time; David Hemmings, who starred in Antonioni's iconic Blow-Up; Mason Williams, who composed "Classical Gas" and hung out with the Smothers Brothers; Liza Minnelli, now on the verge of moving beyond being Judy Garland's daughter and Santana, who apparently is ageless.
Englebert, who would get his own variety series in a few month, was ABC's attempt to clone the success they had with Tom Jones, but it didn't pan out. I don't think Nancy Ames ever evolved beyond the B list of the era's singers, and I've never been much of a fan of Gladys Knight, et al. Of all the guests on both shows, it's only Sid Caesar who really hearkens back to an older time. And I'm afraid this isn't going to be enough to save Palace; this week, Sullivan takes the title.
That's not the case this week with Room 222, which Amory quite likes. It's a prime example of the move by sitcoms of the era to become more relevant, dealing with issues such as race which previously had not gotten a lot of attention. Amory approves of this, as well as how the characters - black as well as white - stay away from stereotypical characterization, showing various shades of grey instead of (pardon the expression) simple black and white portrayals. The writing and acting are both thoughtful, Amory says - "with a little extra work on the writing, a little extra care on the characterizations and, above all, fine acting . . . a half-hour show can give you more for your money than all the old hour-long bang-bangs and beat-beats put together" and in particular he singles out Lloyd Haynes and Michael Constantine for praise. Based on the first two episodes he's seen, Amory finds Room 222 an engrossing new series.
This week's issue is from upstate New York, which gives us an interesting look at the sports programs of the week. The World Series is over, with the New York Mets having put the finishing touches on their remarkable championship run almost ten days before this issue came out,* and so for the most part the stage belongs to football.
*Remember when the World Series ended before Halloween?
CBLT, Channel 6, coming from Toronto, has Canadian Football Saturday at 2:00pm ET, with the Toronto Argonauts taking on the Ottawa Rough Riders in Ottawa. South of the border, ABC's college Game of the Week is a Big 10 showdown between Iowa and Michigan State - showdown being a relative word, I guess, since these two former powerhouses had fallen on hard times, with Iowa finishing the season 5-5, while Michigan State wound up 4-6. A far cry from the success these two have achieved this season; as I write this, both teams are undefeated. Saturday night belongs to hockey, as Channel 6 picks up CBC's famed Hockey Night in Canada, with the St. Louis Blues facing the Maple Leafs in Toronto.
On Sunday it's more conventional action, although CFTO, Channel 9 in Toronto, has another CFL contest, this one between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Montreal Alouettes. NBC has the AFL doubleheader this week, with the early game giving us the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins starting at 1:30, followed at 4:00 by the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers. Meanwhile, on CBS' NFL coverage, most of the stations in the area get the St. Louis football Cardinals and the Cleveland Browns, with CBLT picking up coverage of the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Colts.
It's a big week on television as we approach November. Let's check out some of the highlights.
*Surely it was an injustice that Finney lost the Best Actor Oscar that year to Sidney Poitier, whom I generally like. But his performance in Lillies of the Field can't hold a candle to Finney's.
Monday Night Football won't become a TV staple until next year, but CBS makes a tentative foray into the prime-time market with a exhibition game pitting the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys. CBS supposedly turned down the chance for a weekly Monday night game, leading NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle to offer the game to ABC; the rest, as they say, is history. Perhaps as an indication of CBS' apprehension about football's drawing power, the game starts at 9:30, a half-hour later than next year's start time. That way, it's not so disruptive on the schedule - or the ratings.
Tuesday starts off with "The Desert Whales," the latest episode of ABC's The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, narrated by Rod Serling. That's followed by The Red Skelton Show on CBS, with special guest star John Wayne, who's celebrating his 40th year in films. Opposite that, ABC's back with one of their made-for-TV movies, The Young Lawyers, which will return next season, with a slightly different cast, as a regular series. Whatever the viewers saw in the movie apparently didn't translate to the series, which ran for a mere 24 episodes.
Wednesday has one of the hottest musical acts of the day, along with another big network movie premiere. The musical special stars Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, with special guest star Petula Clark. Herb Alpert (the "A" in A&M Records) and his trumpet are big stuff throughout the '60s, starting with "The Lonely Bull" and featuring five #1 hits; he and his band won six Grammys.
The movie premiere, on ABC's Wednesday Night Movie, is of Georgy Girl, which earned an Oscar nomination for Lynn Redgrave*, a bittersweet comedy-drama which Crist calls "offbeat and kooky and sentimental." You might not have seen or heard of the movie, but I'm willing to bet you might remember the theme song, which also was Oscar-nominated. The Seekers perform it here, on a clip from a Sullivan show of a couple years before:
*That year Redgrave went head-to-head against her sister Vanessa, who was nominated for Isadora. Neither Redgrave sister won.
Thursday's variety night if it pleases you. At 8:00 CBS has The Jim Nabors Show, with Juliet Prowse as guest star. An hour later flip over to ABC, where This Is Tom Jones (the singer, not the movie) boasts Barbara Eden, Wilson Pickett and comics Hendra and Ullett. To round out the evening, turn to The Dean Martin Show at 10pm on NBC, with Tony Bennett, Sid Casesar, Charles Nelson Reilly and Pat Henry.
Friday morning opens with Today, as Judith Crist makes one of her occasional appearances to preview this weekend's new movies. On The Mike Douglas Show, author Irving Wallace promotes his new novel, The Seven Minutes, which is about a book called The Seven Minutes. It's not as strange as it seems, although the story itself is much stranger. At 4pm on NBC is a game show I freely admit I've never heard of, Letters to Laugh-In, hosted by Laugh-In announcer Gary Owens, and featuring two of the show's regulars each week, along with two guest stars. The premise is that viewers send in their favorite jokes, which are then judged by a panel of four. This week, the two Laugh-In stars are Henry Gibson and Teresa Graves, who are joined by Jack Carter and Louis Nye. The show runs for four months. I wonder if it was even shown in the Twin Cities?
Finally, if you've been reading these features for awhile, then you know one of the frequent subjects discussed in TV Guide is the effect on television on children. This week's article, as is often the case, is written by Edith Efron, and asks the question: what can children learn from television?
The process by which children develop their viewing habits is a fascinating one. At age two, the toddler, driven by an overwhelming curiosity, is captivated by "the light and bright and motion." By three, they understand what they're watching and have "distinct preferences." But by the time they reach elementary school, they're being bombarded by so many information and sensory experiences that "no one can untangle, with any precision," what the child picks up from TV as opposed to other sources.
I can understand this. Though I'm often a harsh critic of the quality of TV, particularly in today's programming, I've always defended television in general, particularly the idea that someone who watches a great deal of it tends to be less creative , less communicative, not as smart. For example, I learned much of history not from my time in the high school of The World's Worst Town™, but by watching Alistair Cooke's America. My love of classical music started with Bugs Bunny cartoons, and my fondness for reading was cultivated by Captain Kangaroo. My desire to write, particularly fiction, came from watching movies and critiquing their storytelling as much as by reading, which I often did while watching television. (A habit I maintain to this day, to my wife's exasperation.)
I don't argue that everyone is like me; there are a lot of TV kids who became couch potatoes, and kids who never watched it who are far better at almost everything than I am. But I'll leave it to you, readers, to decide whether or not television is Savior, or Satan.