November 28, 2015

This week in TV Guide: November 26, 1966

A fun issue this week, though not one with any particularly noteworthy items, so we'll do what most people do on Thanksgiving evening - graze on the leftovers.

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Ron Ely is on the cover this week, the new Tarzan, and apparently playing the king of the jungle isn't all it's cracked up to be - what with "multiple injuries, torrential rains and a berserk elephant" to deal with.

Nancy Sinatra's mentioned on the cover as well, as she works with daddy Frank on his upcoming CBS special. And speaking as we are of celebrity progenies, author John Gregory Dunne writes about the challenges of doing an interview with Patrick Wayne, son of The Duke.

Isaac Asimov tells us that from a scientific point of view, most science fiction on television is laughable. Surprisingly, according to Asimov, most television writers have no idea what a galaxy is. Martin Mayer has an article on the FCC, second of two parts, in which he details how some commissioners are lobbying for greater latitude for the agency to become more involved in network programming. My observation has always been than when the government wants to poke its nose in that, it isn't a good thing.

NBC is cutting back on its news specials, while CBS is beefing them up. However, one thing they have in common is that most of them, regardless of which network they're on, will wind up on late Sunday afternoons, where they're no ratings threat to the rest of the broadcast schedule.

And with that, let's gt to the fun stuff!

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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 singers Leslie Uggams and Glenn Yarbrough; comedians Wayne and Shuster, Richard Pryor and Kovin and Wilder; the Muppets puppets; Fiesta Mexicana (performing native songs and dances); and All-American college football stars.

Palace: Host Bing Crosby introduces his old movie co-star Dorothy Lamour; comedians Sid Caesar and Bill Dana; singer Vikki Carr; singer-dancer Liliane Montevecchi; fire-eater Tagora; and the tumbling Gimma Brothers.

This one is short and sweet - Sid Caesar, a frequent guest on Palace, is famously funny. Bill Dana's José Jiménez character would be considered most politically incorrect by the PC fascists today, but the character (this week playing a CIA agent) is very funny, Dorothy Lamour was always an exceptional foil for Crosby and Bob Hope in their Road movies. See which way this is going? Ed does have talent as well this week, but it's not as much, and not as much to my taste. Palace wins in a romp.

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We continue our new feature, Cleveland Amory's review, with his look at a series that was - or could have been - a bold experiment, or about as bold as television was going to get in the late '60s. It's ABC's Stage 67, billed as a weekly show highlighting the best in culture. (Never mind that it's still 1966; it's a progressive show.) Amory was intrigued by the premise:

When we first heard that ABC was going to bring culture to TV in prime time every week, we repaired to our dictionary. We found there several definitions of culture. The first was "The act or process of tilling and preparing the earth for crops." The second was "The raising, improvement, or development of some plant, animal or product." The third was "The growth of bacteria or other microorganisms in a specially prepared nourishing substance, as agar." Ha, we thought. And we immediately looked up the definition of agar. It was, we found, "a substance containing agar-agar." This was hard news. Obviously, we were not only not gaining, we were losing. But one thing was certain. As ABC knows by now, however you look at this agar stuff, it's evidently very important. And so far, Stage 67 just hasn't had enough of it.

Like me, Amory thought it a noble concept, but his enthusiasm begins to wane as he gets a sample of the program. "Olympus 7-0000 was the most appalling production with which we have been in any way concerned since the school Christmas play in which we played the part of an avenging angel." Olympus 7-0000's only virtue was "in places so bad it was funny," whereas the comic review "Where It's At" "was just so bad it wasn't funny."

In fairness, Amory notes some successes so far, including The People Trap and The Love Song of Barney Kempinski, but in the end he adds that one of the major problems with Stage 67 is that "if the pace is slow enough, and not too much happens, and the point is not only labored but also belabored, then it must be culture." It isn't, and the fact that so many people think - or fear - it is is one reason why so many people think they don't like cultured things. It doesn't have to be that way, trust me. Besides, as Amory concludes, "it's very very agar-vating."

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The college football season is nearly at an end, and before we look at what's on, we'll talk about what isn't on. When last we saw #1 Notre Dame, they were walking off the field in East Lansing after playing #2 Michigan State to a 10-10 tie, and while this is the end of Michigan State's season, the Fighting Irish have one more game, a game which they have to win if they're to stay #1. That game is against one of their most bitter rivals, USC, and while it would be nice to say this was our lead game this week, it would not be true. Because of the NCAA's rules governing how many times a team can appear on national television in a single season, Notre Dame's 51-0 thrashing of the Trojans, earning the Irish the national championship, goes unseen. Our consolation game is another classic, the annual Army-Navy game, which Army wins 20-7 before a crowd of over 100,000 in JFK Stadium in Philadelphia.

If, like me, your tastes run to the Canadian version of football, Saturday morning's game on WTCN, Channel 11 features the Ottawa Rough Riders and Montreal Alouettes in a game taped October 30. In a game only a CFL fan could love, Montreal comes out on top by the very Canadian score of 1-0.

On Sunday, where the pro season still has a few weeks to go, we have three games to choose from. At noon CT, NBC's AFL game of the week pits the Kansas City Chiefs, who will win the AFL championship and go on to the first Super Bowl, against Joe Namath and the Jets in New York.  At 12:45pm*, the NFL kicks off with the Los Angeles Rams and the Colts in Baltimore. That will be followed by the Green Bay Packers at the Minnesota Vikings, blacked out in Minneapolis-St. Paul and Mankato but seen in the rest of the viewing area.

*The late start is due to Baltimore's Blue Laws (since revoked), which prohibit a game beginning before 2pm. 

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There are no single standout shows this week, so we're going to go a little deeper into the nightly listings and give you more of an idea of TV's really like.

SOURCE: HADLEY TV GUIDE COLLECTION
On Saturday night, NBC features the first of the season's made-for-TV movies, Fame is the Name of the Game, starring Tony Franciosa and Jill St. John. A couple of years later, the movie will evolve into a full-fledged series, and Franciosa will return in his role as magazine writer Jeff Dillon, one of the three stars of The Name of the Game, which runs for three season. Meanwhile, for its late Saturday movie, WKBT in LaCrosse has the 1962 movie The Courtship of Eddie's Father, which will eventually become a series in 1969, with Bill Bixby taking over the role played in the film by Glenn Ford.

Perhaps I'm the only one interested by Sunday's Bell Telephone Hour, which documents the September opening of the new Metropolitan Opera House in the relatively new Lincoln Center in New York. I'm certainly not the only one who watched Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea back in the day, but this week's episode is one of those really hokey ones, in which Admiral Nelson's 200-year-old ancestor appears on the submarine and tries to force Nelson to join him in immortality. Right. It's About Time, the CBS sitcom about astronauts who go back in time and meet a community of cavemen, is only slightly less realistic. And in a delayed broadcast (which CBS affiliate WKBT picks up from ABC), it's a late-night broadcast of the aforementioned Stage 67, with Stephen Sondheim's musical "Evening Primrose" starring Tony Perkins, one of the few Stage 67 broadcasts to be released on DVD.

I think the most notable program on Tuesday is a local one, WCCO's Our Men in Viet Nam, the first in a series of ten-minute reports that feature Phil Jones, who eventually graduates to CBS news, interviewing troops from Minnesota and Western Wisconsin during his trip to Vietnam. That pushes back the airing of The Merv Griffin Show, which features an eclectic lineup: Minnie Pearl, straight from the stage of the Grand Ole Opry, actor (and personal favorite) Orson Bean, impressionist David Frye, and future star of Starsky and Hutch David Soul, perhaps from his iteration as the "Covered Man." There's also an episode of NBC's Occasional Wife in which "talentless Carol Zogerdorfer," an important client's daughter, is played by a guest star who doesn't even get top guest star billing - Sally Field.

Wednesday features part one of Batman's adventure against the notorious criminal Shame, played by Cliff Robertson. The episode, which concludes tomorrow night, is entitled "Come Back, Shame," a nice parody of the Western Shane. Danny Kaye also has a standout episode of his CBS variety show, with guest stars Peter Ustinov (I'll bet the two of them had a great time), singer Nancy Wilson and impressionist Frank Gorshin - the Riddler on Batman. And on Stage 67 (have we ever given more extensive coverage to such an obscure show?), it's a documentary by David L. Wolper on Marilyn Monroe, who we have to remember had only been dead a little over four years at that point. Best oddity, though, might be Gloria Swanson playing herself in a rare television appearance on - The Beverly Hillbillies. "Convinced that Hollywood has turned its back on a great star, Jed charges to the rescue, and a startled Miss Swanson soon finds herself on the set of a new silent film - 'Passion's Plaything.'"

On Thursday, Batman concludes its story with the villainous Shane. I think one of the series' all-time great lines comes in that concluding episode ("It's the Way You Play the Game"), where s solemn Caped Crusader tells the villain, "You're nothing but a sham, Shame." Love that line. Robertson also stars, more seriously, in CBS' Thursday Night Movie, "Love Has Many Faces," with Lana Turner. Meanwhile, Jack Benny returns to network television for the first of his two specials this season, with Phyllis Diller, Trini Lopez, and the Smothers Brothers, who are still a couple of years away from real controversy. I think I'd rather go with Dean Martin's show later in the evening, which stars Arthur Godfrey, Eddy Arnold, Dom DeLuise and singer-dancer Elaine Dunn. To each his own, but as W.C. Fields says in WTCN's 10:00 movie, "Never Give a Sucker an Even Break."

Friday wraps up the week with Tony and Doug trying to prevent the assassination of Abraham Lincoln on ABC's The Time Tunnel. When are they ever going to learn you can't change history? Just ask Doctor Who. Danny Kaye, whom we last saw on Wednesday, returns on CBS' Friday Night Movie with one of his most recent movies, "The Man From the Diner's Club." You'll miss the first half-hour of that if you want to catch NBC's The Man From U.N.C.L.E. which presents an outrageous episode that stars Jack Palance and Janet Leigh as guest baddies, and features Napoleon Solo working with "the notorious Stilletto brothers." And in a reminder of when politicians could appear on talk shows and retain their dignity, Senator Everett Dirksen is a guest with Johnny on The Tonight Show. Dirksen was always good for a quote, and perhaps this was the appearance in which he uttered the memorable line, "A billion here, a billion there, pretty soon you're talking real money."

***


The approach of year's end means it's time for charities to make their pitches, and here's an ad featuring Jerry Lewis for the Muscular Dystrophy Association, back when they weren't too good to have Jerry appear. We usually think of MDA around Labor Day, but in these pre-national telethon days, it's a reminder that MDA is a charity like other charities, reminding people that they can make their contributions before the end of the year.

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Finally, a brief observation. As I'm sitting here on the couch typing the words you've been reading, I heard a commercial on ABC for tonight's broadcast of the Rankin-Bass Santa Claus is Coming to Town, with Mickey Rooney and Fred Astaire. Tonight is November 27, and I've gotten used to the Christmas shows premiering before December 1, but I'll have you know that in this issue, which runs from November 26 through December 2, I didn't see one Christmas special except for local choirs. As I often ruefully point out, things were different then.

10 comments:

  1. Of the Fall premieres, TARZAN ended up being the second biggest hit for the season at # 27, behind THE RAT PATROL (23rd) on ABC. It actually had THE WILD, WILD WEST in trouble; that 1965-66 success fell all the way to 53rd place in its second season, but survived the hit and drove TARZAN off the air the following season. Both TARZAN and THE RAT PATROL were cancelled after two seasons. Given all the injuries, Ron Ely might have been thankful.

    I love both variety show lineups. Bill Dana and Sid Caesar were reliably hilarious, but it would be fascinating to see early Richard Pryor, and Wayne and Shuster were pretty much to the CBC what Bob Hope was to NBC for many years. Wonderfully talented Leslie Uggams had her own show a couple of years later, but it didn't last long.

    The GREEN ACRES episode this week is also a riot ("A Home Isn't Built in a Day")

    Mitchell, just a quick aside to end; thinking about doing a TV Guide review of my own in two weeks, when we have the 50th Anniversary of the Horn Section's patron saint (Forrest Tucker) getting the cover story (Dec. 11-17, 1965) Okay with you if I briefly encroach on what is normally your turf? :-)

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    1. Hal, it's not only OK with me, I'm honored! Have at it; I'll be looking forward to reading it!

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  2. My Chicago edition at the ready:

    - Looking at the local movies available that week, I noted the first one that I would have watched on Saturday afternoon:
    Channel 9, 12 noon - Charlie Chan On Broadway (1937), with Warner Oland and Keye Luke, and an "all-star" Fox B-movie cast - J. Edward Bromberg, Donald Woods, Marc Lawrence, Joan Marsh, Joan Woodbury, Douglas Fowley, Harold Huber, Leon Ames, Louise Henry ... and in a one-line bit a few years before The Wolf Man, Lon Chaney Jr.
    (That last is one of the factors that turned me into a movie buff as young as 16, as I was in 1966.)
    All the local stations had movies at all hours all during the week.
    On Tuesday afternoon, channel 2 (CBS) had the Chicago TV Debut of The Fat Man (1951), based on the old radio show, with the original radio star, J. Scott Smart, who truly fit the part.
    Also in the cast: Rock Hudson (in his screen debut), Julie London, Jayne Meadows, John Russell, Emmett Kelly (as -surprise! - a circus clown), and as the detective's stalwart sidekick, Clinton Sundberg (who was sort of the Charles Nelson Reilly of that day).
    I actually bypassed Merv Griffin that day to watch this - and now I have it on a DVD (as I have all the Charlie Chans, comes to that).

    - A while back, I mentioned that Bill Veeck had a late-night talk show on Channel 32, which had only signed on earlier that year.
    A half-hour each weeknight at 10:30. Here's the scheduled lineup for this week:

    Monday: Otto Preminger (probably promoting Hurry Sundown).
    Tuesday: Educator John Bartlow Martin (promoting a book).
    Wednesday: photojournalist David Douglas Duncan (promoting a book).
    Thursday: Crime reporter Art Petacque and legendary con artist Yellow Kid Weil (you can probably guess the topic).
    Friday: "Skiing Is Fun!" (Well, it was off-season for baseball ...)
    I regret to say that I don't remember seeing any of these at the time - my loss.

    I have to comment on this week's Man From UNCLE.
    This was from the third (or "comedy") season, which everybody hates, but which I kinda liked.
    The Stiletto Brothers - Allen Jenkins, Jack LaRue, and Eduardo Ciannelli!
    (We had a local movie host here who just loved saying that name - EdUARdo CiaNELLi!!!)
    There was a "gang" as well - Elisha Cook, Vince Barnett, Slapsie Maxie Rosenbloom - plus Joan Blondell as "Mrs. Fingers Stiletto". (See what I said above about being a movie buff.)

    Now I wonder which day you'll select for the full rundown (probably the wrong one again ...).

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    1. The Bill Veeck show - I would have loved to see that! What a great character.

      That third season of UNCLE - certainly I preferred the other seasons, and I thought the fourth (and final) season surprisingly good (they did straight thrillers prettywell), but I agree with you that there was some great humor in those third season episodes.

      Mrs. Fingers Stiletto - what a great name!

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  3. Regarding the Baltimore blue laws; that was around for the entirety of the Colts' tenure there; though 1984 would have been the first year the Colts would have had 1:00 p.m. EST start times in Baltimore (ultimately, Bob Irsay loading up the Mayflower trucks for Indy in the middle of the night ultimately made that academic).

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    1. And with the Colts having been my second favorite team when I was growing up (thanks to Johnny U, Tom Matte and the rest), I'm still bitter about Bob Irsay.

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  4. "Friday wraps up the week with Tony and Doug trying to prevent the assassination of Abraham Lincoln on ABC's The Time Tunnel. When are they ever going to learn you can't change history? Just ask Doctor Who."

    And don't forget to ask The Professor, who also tried to stop Lincoln's assassination in The Twilight Zone.

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    1. You're right - I remember that one! Reminds me of a line from a historian who was trying to prevent JFK's assassination in the revived TZ - something like "you can never change history - you simply become a part of it."

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  5. I wonder if the title of ABC's "Stage '67" production of "Olympus 7-0000" was influenced by the fact that the five TV stations ABC owned at the time (WABC New York, WXYZ Detroit, WLS Chicago, KGO San Francisco, and KABC Los Angeles) all broadcast on Channel 7?

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  6. The 2 PM start time rule, had it not been revoked, would have been a blessing for the Redskins had Mr. Irsay not played with the Mayflower vans and the NBC affiliate in Baltimore. They should have been able to have worked with the Colts back then to arrange only 4 PM games.

    As for the "very Canadian" score in the CFL game? Kickoffs, punts and missed field goals that do not touch the uprights (remember, as was pre-1974 NFL, the goal posts are on the line, and prior to 1986, it was 25 yards, not 20 as it is now) must be run out of the end zone. The kicking team earns a single as a special teams reward for a kickoff that is not run out of the end zone.

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Keep those cards and letters coming in!