August 31, 2015

What's on TV? Thursday, August 31, 1972

Here we are on the last day of August, 1972.  I believe by this time I'd already moved on from the Twin Cities to The World's Worst Town™, because I never did get to see any of the Summer Olympics that year.  It was culture shock for me, to be sure.  So I share this particular listing with you with a sense of mourning, as I started to get used to being away from the city in which I'd grown up and lived my entire life.*  I was, truly, away from civilization.

*When I moved to Texas, it was by my own choice, and a better one I've seldom made.

August 29, 2015

This week in TV Guide: August 26, 1972

Well, what do you know - a brand-new, never-before seen TV Guide!  Yes, our brief summer rerun series is finished, and we're back to first-run issues.  And at the center of the return, we'll take a look at preparations for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany - one of the most highly anticipated, and most tragic, sporting events of the century.

***

Final bidding for the 1972 Summer Games was held in Rome in 1966, after years of preparation by the cities competing to host.  The finalists were Madrid, Montreal, Munich and, if you can believe it, Detroit.

The selection of Munich was a significant decision for several reasons; it was the first major international sporting event held in Germany since the end of World War II just 21 years before, and gave the West Germans an opportunity to present the "New Germany" to the world.  It was a chance for Munich to overcome its reputation as one of the centers of Nazi Germany, and to instead focus on the beauty of the Bavarian countryside.  It was also, at least in the eyes of the East Germans, an act of supreme provocation.  The two Germanys didn't require prodding from the United States and the Soviet Union; there was real antagonism between them, and one of the concessions made by the West Germans in order to ensure participation by the Eastern bloc was to allow the East Germans to march in the Opening Ceremonies under their own name, national flag and national anthem, rather than a generic Olympic flag.

The shadow of the 1936 Berlin Olympics hung heavily over preparations for the Games, and organizers took pains to avoid any hint of the nationalism that had dominated Berlin.  As Bill Marsano's preview article puts it,

The atmosphere surrounding the Games should be thick with Bavarian Gemutlichkeit. A German Olympic official has promised, "We know only too well that crimes have been committed in the German name, and how many people have suffered . . . These Olympics will be what they are supposed to be: the great meeting of the youth of the world; of the new, hopefully enlightened generation; and thus a small contribution to world peace."  Amen!

To that end, the color scheme for the Games was dominated by pastels, and the logo for what were billed as "The Happy Games" was an abstract with no hint of German culture.  The centerpiece of the Olympic Village was a stunning stadium built partially into a hill, covered by a futuristic glass, tent-like canopy that extended into the Village itself.  Most significantly, it was decided that security for the Village should be as unobtrusive as possible, and the officers, dressed in leisure suit-like uniforms, would not be armed.  (For more on the history of the Munich Olympics, dating back before the city's choice as host, David Clay Large's Munich 1972 is an excellent place to start.)

I imagine in the chaos that followed - the hostage taking and standoff in the Village, the shootout at the airport that resulted in the massacre of the Israeli athletes, Jim McKay's memorable marathon coverage of the tragedy - not very many people recalled that paragraph from TV Guide, and thus its impact is greater to us today, knowing as we do what will be happening in the days to come. Its words, as an original cultural document, have a timelessness, a sense of context, that is often missing in the dry words of a history book written long after the fact.

***

ABC's coverage of the Olympics begins with the opening ceremonies, telecast live at 9:00 a.m. Central time on Saturday morning (imagine TV doing that nowadays). The network is promising an unprecedented 61.5 hours of coverage, including three prime-time hours each night.

That doesn't leave us a whole lot of room for other sports - the NFL regular season is still a couple of weeks away, so there's a scattering of practice games - but for those of you interested in obscure sports that aren't shown on TV every four years, there's the weekly series covering the Bobby Fischer-Boris Spassky world chess championship (on PBS, of course). Hard to remember now just what a sensation this was at the time - the Cold War transported to a chess board. It offers us a glimpse of the eccentric Fischer, perhaps the Howard Hughes of the sports world, a brilliant champion whose life since seeded to have devolved into one erratic, oddball encounter after another until his death in 2008 - a most unlikely American surrogate for the Cold War.

***

SOURCE: HADLEY TV GUIDE COLLECTION
And then there's Dick Adler's article called "Hitchhiking on the Road to Success," about a "young would-be director" named "Steve Spielberg." That's right, the Steven Spielberg, with long hair and minus the beard. He's an experience TV director, coming off the fame from his TV movie Duel, but at this point hasn't even made a big-screen movie. The question raised in the article: "Why does every television director, with access to 50 or 60 million people, still yearn for a movie feature that might reach five million if it's a smash hit?" I guess "Steve" answered that question, didn't he?  Many years later, Steven Spielberg would direct Munich, a somewhat unsuccessful attempt to tell the aftermath of the Munich massacre.

***

Speaking of old favorites (as we were, in a sense), a note on Friday morning's listings that the 9am Lucy Show reruns will be going off, replaced by a new game show called The Joker's Wild with Jack Barry.  That would stay on the air in network and syndicated runs until 1991 - not too bad at that.

Following Lucy, CBS has been running reruns of The Beverly Hillbillies - this had been a morning combo since the mid '60s - but the Hillbillies, too, will be leaving the daytime schedule, their place to be taken by a game show that's had an even longer run than The Joker's Wild.  It starts out with the designation "new" in order to differentiate it from the late '50s-early 60s' version hosted by Bill Cullen, but soon drops that designation and will be known simply as The Price is Right, which continues to this day, hosted by only two men: Bob Barker and Drew Carey.*

*Not counting Dennis James, who did the nighttime syndicated version.

The third new game show to debut on Monday, taking the place of Family Affair reruns (as Family Affair moves to the afternoon) is Gambit, hosted by Wink Martindale.  Gambit runs for four seasons, defeating - among others - NBC's Wizard of Odds, hosted by Alex Trebek, and has an additional run as Las Vegas Gambit for a season on NBC.

Sticking with morning television for a bit, The Hollywood Squares remains a stalwart of NBC's lineup, with its colorful cast of characters turning the morning schedule upside down.  Filling one of the squares this week is Sandra Dee, the ex-wife of singer Bobby Darin, profiled by Leslie Raddatz, whose Bobby Darin Amusement Company subbed for Dean Martin during the summer.  I don't know how many of you saw Beyond the Sea a few years back, the Darin biopic starring Kevin Spacey.  It was a pretty good movie as these things go, but if you'd seen it, you would have been under the impression that Darin and Dee had stayed together until Darin's death in December 1973, whereas they'd actually divorced in 1967, and Darin had married his longtime girlfriend Andrea Yaeger earlier in 1973.

Raddatz gets this part of it right, and does a pretty good job of describing the arc of Darin's career, from the fame of his early years to his personal collapse following the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, his unsuccessful turn as a protest folk singer, his return to his singing roots, and the success of his current replacement show ("Jack Benny always let the people around him get the laughs.")  There's talk as well of Darin's heart condition; he was born with rheumatic fever, and always assumed a short life, which lead to his reputation as a young man in a hurry.  Indeed, for Bobby Darin the clock is about to run out; his series will return as The Bobby Darin Show in January of 1973, running for 13 weeks, but those heart problems will finally catch up with him and cause his death in December of that year, at the age of only 37.

***

In other highlights of the week, Saturday features one other sporting event, the final game of the Little League World Series on ABC's Wide World of Sports, with Mickey Mantle joining Bud Palmer for the broadcast.  And while the sitcom Maude won't start for a couple of weeks yet, we see the roots of the series tonight as Bea Arthur's character appears in a rerun of CBS' All in the Family.

On Sunday it's a blast from the past, as Dave Garroway returns to television to host the National Automotive Trouble Quiz, an afternoon broadcast on Channel 5 that might have been syndicated.  Garroway is joined by professional racer Peter Revson, along with Peggy Cass and Louis Nye, which suggests it might be played for laughs more than seriousness.

One of my favorite composers, Gian Carlo Menotti, is back on PBS Monday night, with his 1939 opera The Old Maid and the Thief, the first opera ever written for radio - in this case, NBC, which also commissioned the first opera ever written for television, Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors in 1951.

On Tuesday, Ted Knight does his Ted Baxter routine from the Mary Tyler Moore show, spoofing a Lowell Thomas travelogue on the final episode of the CBS summer replacement series The John Byner Comedy Hour.  Also going off on Tuesday is Ponderosa, a summer replacement for Bonanza, consisting of old reruns of - Bonanza.  

Wednesday's episode of Night Gallery on NBC features Laurence Harvey starring "in a gruesome assassination plot aimed at his rival in love"; you'll recall a movie in which Harvey was also involved in an assassination plot - The Manchurian Candidate.  Not a great type of role to get typecast in, huh?

SOURCE: HADLEY TV GUIDE COLLECTION
Thursday features a repeat showing of Horton Hears a Who, the delightful Dr. Seuss story involving the elephant Horton trying to protect the residents of Whoville, the home of Seuss' other CBS television cartoon, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Finally, on Friday, a number of interconnected shows, including Channel 11's late night movie Tammy and the Bachelor, with Debbie Reynolds playing the role originated by none other than - Sandra Dee.  It's on against NBC's Tonight Show, with Joey Bishop guest hosting for Johnny Carson.  Bishop is up against himself, appearing as well on Channel 9's late night move, Ocean's 11, starring Frank Sinatra and set in Las Vegas, home of Bobby Darin's most successful years as an entertainer.  And then there's CBS' Friday Night Movie, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, which isn't up against anything similar and doesn't star anyone appearing on anything else that night.  It's just proof that sometimes, the TV spinoff is actually better than the movie.

August 26, 2015

For your consideration

WILLIAM HOPPER (LEFT) AS PERRY MASON?  NO, I DON'T SEE IT EITHER.
This video keeps popping up as a suggestion based on my viewing habits, so I decided to finally give in and go with it.  You all know of my affinity for Perry Mason, and if I hadn't already writing about it as one of my ten favorites, I'd be doing something on it today as part of my personal Saturday TV lineup.

The video is introduced by Mason's Della Street, Barbara Hale, and features screen tests for the various Mason roles.  The photo above is from a test given to William Hopper*, who auditioned for Mason but wound up playing his loyal detective Paul Drake instead.  Tell me if you think any of these would have worked.

*Barbara Hale is the mother of William Katt, who played Paul Drake Jr. in the early Mason made-for-TV movies.  Not to be outdone, William Hopper, the original Drake, was the son of the legendary gossip columnist Hedda Hopper.


August 24, 2015

What's on TV: Monday, August 27, 1979

The new television season should be starting in just a couple of weeks, so if you can hang in there a little longer, you'll be rewarded with new, fresh shows, right?  Right?

At any rate, we're back to the Twin Cities this week, so let's look at how things have changed since last week's look, and how they remain the same.

August 22, 2015

This week in TV Guide: August 25, 1979

I've always been pleased by the "This Week in TV Guide" feature, but in preparing this summer second look series, I've started to wonder.  For the second wee in a row, I bring you a TV Guide that was virtually untouched when I first looked at it three years ago.  What was I thinking?  More to the point, dear readers, what were you thinking that you allowed me to get away with such shoddy work?  Seriously, here's a question for you all, for which I seek to solicit a serious answer: do you like the longer pieces I've been doing the past couple of years, or do you prefer the short, stick-to-one-issue articles with which I was apparently so enamored back at the start?  I only write - you decide.

***

Morton Kondracke, the longtime panelist on PBS' The McLaughlin Group (at the time of this writing) and future mainstay of Fox News pundit shows, has a provocative Cold War-era article this week on television's obligation to provide in-depth coverage of the Pentagon.  The trigger is the SALT arms limitation treaty with the Soviet Union, which went through a bruising time in the Senate, and while Kondracke approves of the amount of coverage the networks have given the important topic (including NBC's coverage of a 90-minute live debate from the Kennedy Center), he mourns that "television doesn't devote itself to national-defense coverage consistently."  According to most D.C.-based defense experts, television's usual coverage of defense issues is "lousy" - and TV is routinely being scooped by newspapers on the most important defense issues.

CBS does well in their coverage, at least better than the other two, but that's primarily because Cronkite himself has an interest in it.  The other national defense correspondents complain that the message they get from their headquarters is a short one: not interested.  The reasons for the lack of coverage are varied: fallout from Vietnam, causing some producers to shy away from anything military; complete disinterest by other producers; and a feeling that defense spending isn't "visual" enough, doesn't make for good television.  One ABC official complains that the current Defense Secretary, Harold Brown, is too dull, not like Henry Kissinger or Robert McNamara, and that most of the real defense-related news comes from either the State Department or the White House itself.  He agrees, though, that the issues are too complex, too abstract and jargon-filled,  to be covered properly in a brief television spot.

Carter and Brezhnev sign the SALT II treaty.
Kondracke does see signs of progress: PBS, with its MacNeil/Lehrer Report devoting several shows to significant segments on defense problems; ABC, with an 11-part series on World News Tonight anchored by its diplomatic correspondent Ted Koppel, and CBS, with a five-part series on the Cronkite report using a simulated war to ask serious questions about nuclear capabilities and the ultimate cost of war.  Perhaps the SALT debate has jump-started the networks into getting past their post-Vietnam lethargy.  Even so, Kondracke concludes, "television hasn't begun to tell the public all it needs to know about America's ability to defend itself."

Over 35 years later, one has to ask the same question: with all of our 24-hour news channels, do we get any better coverage of what's going on?  One issue Kondracke doesn't address is the question of media bias in its reporting of the SALT debate, something we would pretty much take for granted today.  In these days when the media reports frequently on the media, and we can see detailed breakdowns on the number of hours each news program spends on given topics, I wonder if our news coverage today is not only worse, but more controversial, than it was even then?

***

The new fall season is less than a month away, and NBC has gotten off to a head-start on programming for the September start.  It plans a repeat of its blockbuster miniseries Holocaust for four nights starting September 10, and has moved two of its big Hollywood movie premieres - Coming Home and Semi-Tough from November to run on consecutive nights September 17 and 18.

The other networks have been forced to respond by juggling their own schedules:  ABC is moving the debut of 240-Robert to August 28, and will be starting The Lazarus Syndrome on September 4.  They've also made moves with program schedules for series such as Out of the Blue, Nobody's Perfect, Angie and Detective School.  I didn't provide links to these series, because I wanted to see first of all how many of them you remember.  Hint: there wasn't a big hit in the batch.  CBS is doing the same thing, juggling the start dates for four of its sitcoms: The Last Resort, Struck by Lightning, Working Stiffs and The Bad News Bears.  Again, not exactly setting the world on fire, are they?  The biggest attraction for the new season: the season premiere of Charlie's Angels and the introduction of the newest Angel, Shelley Hack.  Remember her?

***

It's a light sports week, due primarily to the absence of ESPN.  Let me explain.

The U.S. Open Tennis Championship kicks off this week, and CBS provides 15-minute nightly recaps after the late local news*.  Today, ESPN covers the tournament's morning, afternoon and evening sessions, giving viewers a complete look at the grand slam classic.  I'd estimate the increase in coverage from then to now would be about, let's say, 50 to 1 on a weekly basis.  That could be conservative, though.

*In Minneapolis-St. Paul, where the CBS affiliate WCCO did not carry the network's late-night programming, the updates were shown on the independent KMSP.  For many years, as I mention in next week's piece, Channel 9 was also the home of the CBS Morning News.  Very confusing for a kid.

In baseball, the pennant races are down to the last month, and we're treated to two national games: the Red Sox and Royals on NBC's Saturday Game of the Week, and a TBD matchup on ABC's Monday Night Baseball.  Today we'd probably have five or six games; a Saturday game (or two) on Fox, a Sunday afternoon game on TBS, a Sunday night game on ESPN, and perhaps two or three additional games during the week.  In addition, for those living in a baseball market, you'd have your local games.  In Minneapolis there are two Twins games; living here in Texas, where all the Rangers games are on TV, we'd probably see six.

There's one football game on this week, a pre-season clash between the Steelers and Cowboys on NBC Saturday night.  For the last week in August, we still wouldn't have much pro football today, since the NFL insists on starting its regular season the Thursday following Labor Day, but we more than make up for it with a deluge of college football.  If we were looking at the same week this year, we'd probably have at least six games, perhaps as many as a dozen, between ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNU, Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2, the Big 10 Network, the Pac 12 Network, the Longhorn Network, and various regional broadcasts.  Maybe a dozen is selling it too short?

And then there's a special on NBC Sunday afternoon profiling golf's new stars.  There's no program description though, which is a pity.  I would have liked to have seen who they were predicting for future stardom, and whether or not they were on the mark.

***

On Saturday late night, Channel 5 has the conclusion of the miniseries Evening in Byzantium, based on the bestseller by Irwin Shaw, starring Glenn Ford,  This was one of the projects from Operation Prime Time, the so-called "occasional network" that existed in the late '70s and early '80s.  There were a lot of movies such as this on OPT, including the John Jakes stories (The Bastard, The Rebels, etc.) and programs like Solid Gold and, if I'm not mistaken, Entertainment Tonight.  I remember when this started, and there was a lot of discussion about whether or not OPT would coalesce into a legitimate fourth network - a Fox network before its time.  It never did, and I'm not sure it was ever intended thus, but it was interesting nonetheless to see original programming on independent television stations*, even if it was just an occasional event.  Could anything like this work today?  I don't think so; in addition to Fox, there's the CW, MyNetwork, and micro-networks such as MeTV, Antenna, Cozi and the rest, and that doesn't even begin to get into cable.

*Although in the Twin Cities, OPT programs were shown on Channel 5, the ABC affiliate.

In fact - and I just thought of this - if there's any analogy to OPT today, it might be in the area of streaming video.  I mean, Amazon, Netflix, they're all producing their own programs, and while it's not the same as a network in that they don't have to program 24/7, they are the closest we're coming to being an occasional network.  The only difference is that instead of providing the programming to an independent station, they're providing it directly to you, the viewer.  So maybe OPT's legacy lives on, after all.

August 21, 2015

Around the dial

I'd been hoping for more from the new Man From U.N.C.L.E. movie, although I don't know why; very few of the TV-to-movie translations have done justice to their small-screen brethren.  Based on the commercials and the early reviews, I'd already decided to give it a pass, and my opinion was confirmed based on this insightful AV Club piece by Sarah Kurchak, which not only explains what the movie gets wrong, but also gives us some perspective on why David McCallum will always be Illya Kuryakin, no matter how many years NCIS runs.  For U.N.C.L.E. fans, it's a reminder of (or a lesson on) just how provocative, how groundbreaking, Kuryakin's character really was.

Cult TV Blog has another typically good article, this one returning to a favorite stomping grounds (for us both), The Prisoner, and how various episodes - in this case, A, B and C - give us echos of South African apartheid.  There's a particularly good line here - "it seems that it is possible to see almost anything referred to in The Prisoner is you try hard enough" - that, for me, sums up both the greatness of The Prisoner, and the pleasure I get in writing about television and culture.  Because things like cultural indicators do show up when you look for them, and the excitement is often in seeing how the thread plays out.

David Hofstede has a wonderfully wry piece at Comfort TV on The Lawrence Welk Show, both echoing my own memories of the show ("I grew up with the series, but like many in my generation it was against my will."), and providing an intriguing explanation for why the show has always been popular, and why, no matter when it was on, it always seemed to be old-fashioned.  The money quote:

From my current perspective the 1970s seem like a kinder, gentler time. But many seniors back then were convinced the world was going to hell. The popular music of the day was like a foreign language to them, and the nightly news brought stories of Vietnam War protests and Watergate and gas shortages and American hostages held in Iran, while a feckless government had no answer for what Ted Koppel called “terrorism in the Middle East.”

That's the definition of Comfort TV.  What series from today would you choose to fit that bill?

Classic television fans will remember Will Jordan from his many variety show appearances.  He was a terrific impressionist, especially of Ed Sullivan, and he's also a very interesting interview subject.  Kliph Nesteroff has been giving us excerpts of his interviews with Jordan for some time over at Classic Television Showbiz, and the latest installment is no exception.  I particularly enjoyed reading Jordan's perceptive perspectives (try saying that five times fast!) on other stars from the era.  I hope you'll read this one, and then go back to look at previous segments.

This week's Classic TV Guide at Television Obscurities is from August 21, 1965, and I'll really miss this series when it's concluded.  It's been a great way to follow an entire television season, and it does such a good job of demonstrating TV Guide's look and feel.  I love the story about Volkswagen executives listening to a pitch to advertise on the WWII drama Twelve O'Clock High, just at the moment when our heroes bomb a German factory.

Perhaps shorter than usual, but the long-form articles should give you more than enough to read until tomorrow, when I'll be back when a TV Guide of my own.

August 19, 2015

Yvonne Craig, R.I.P.

When I heard the news this morning of Yvonne Craig's death at the too-young age of 78 (and no classic television blog worth its weight could ignore it), I knew there was only one picture I could use for this story. In that one picture, we see Yvonne Craig's two great callings: dance, and Batgirl.

She was a trained dancer the day a chance encounter with a producer made an actress out of her; according to her story, a producer was trying to talk her into acting, an offer which she was refusing, when the son of the great director John Ford, walking past their table, stopped and asked "Are you an actress?" Before Craig could answer, the producer replied, "She is and I'm her manager. What can I do for you?" The rest, as they say, is history. That encounter led her to the movie The Young Land with Patrick Wayne (son of the Duke), and from then on Yvonne Craig, dancer became Yvonne Craig, actress.

Her movie career was nothing too sneeze at - two pictures with Elvis, and a role in Our Man Flint (naturally) among them - and her television roles were numerous and winsome, as in an episode of The Man From U.N.C.L.E. I saw a few months ago. She was cute, vivacious, and she had presence. There were other attributes as well, but this is a family site. And then she wound up on the hottest program on television, Batman. Make no mistake about it, it was a role that was perfect for her.

Was Batgirl a superhero? I'm sure that there's fierce debate about this on the web and at comic-cons; my own opinion is that the very word "superhero" denotes some kind of super power (the ability to fly, to spin spiderwebs, x-ray vision, that kind of thing). According to those standards, none of the crimefighters on Batman were superheros in the strict sense. And Craig wasn't the first ass-kicking female; Honor Blackman's leather-clad Cathy Gale on The Avengers preceded her. But she was something quite different for American television when she joined the show in its third season. As that picture shows, it was an unfortunate criminal who got in the way of that foot.

There's also something so fitting about her character's name - Batgirl - because Yvonne Craig was a girl, in the very best sense of the word.  She radiated youthful energy and a natural charm that jumped off the screen, big or small, no matter what role she was in.  Her characters were always active, always up for adventure, the kind of people you want to hang around with, even if you're in a speeding car with her, watching the world pass by through parted fingers while you cover your eyes..  William Shatner today called her one of "America's Sweethearts"; Lou Grant might have said she had "spunk."  Whatever it was, she had it, and the costars who expressed sadness at her death seemed to be speaking from the heart.

Usually the public only knows celebrities from their, well, public work; Yvonne Craig had battled cancer for a couple of years and was a crusader for free mammograms.  From all accounts, she was a popular costar and a nice person..  Most people would never know that.  Instead, they would know her fondly from her work and her public appearances, and while friends and loved ones will mourn her passing, her fans will have the consolation of her work, which is not a bad way at all to be remembered.

August 17, 2015

What's on TV? Wednesday, August 16, 1967

We really are in the dog days of summer this week, straddling that line when returning series are in reruns, when summer replacement shows are winding down their time, and when cancelled programs run out the clock before disappearing into the mists of time.

This week's listings are once again from the Twin Cities.  Have a look!


August 15, 2015

This week in TV Guide: August 12, 1967

Well, this is a pleasant surprise.  In looking back at the first time this issue was reviewed, back in 2012, I find I've hardly touched the surface of the available material.  Back then, the weekly review tended to focus on one main component; in this case, it was the article profiling Michael Reagan's appearance on The Dating Game.  And that was pretty interesting, but it means we've got a whole issue left to look at!  Let's get to it.

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.

Groovy!
I'm not going to rehash it here, but you really should go back and see what I wrote about Mike Douglas in the previous review, because it really does tell you a lot about the tenor of the times.  Daytime television is firmly in the province of female viewers, and it's that market to which Mike appeals the most.  I will acknowledge that I was never a big fan of Douglas; that doesn't mean I didn't like him, just that he never had the appeal for me that Merv had (more willing to take on serious topics) or Johnny (the biggest entertainment names) or Cavett (intellectuals - just ask him) or Bishop (because, Rat Pack!).  He was a success for a long, long time though, so who's to complain about that?

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.

August 12, 2015

Frank Gifford, R.I.P.

The thing about Frank Gifford was this: although he was a certifiable part of NFL history - before, during and after it had become America's sport - and had been a broadcaster for, it seems, forever; and though he was sometimes the butt end of jokes about how he wasn't always spot on with his game callas as an announcer, and he'd perhaps overstayed his time on Monday Night Football, and his wife was way younger than he was; despite all this, it didn't seem, at least to me, that he was old enough to die, to be a mere mortal.  It just didn't seem possible.

***

Frank Gifford was one of the first football players I ever read about.  It was in one of my first "grown-up" books, from the NFL's "Punt, Pass and Kick Liberary" - what we'd today call Young Adult books.  They were real\-life adventures of famous football stars, unforgettable games, strange-but-true moments.  The first of these books that I read was, appropriately enough, entitled Heroes of the NFL, and along with tales of Elroy Hirsch, Eddie LeBaron and the like, there was a chapter on Frank Gifford.

Gifford's one was a compelling story, and remains so.  He'd been a star at the University of Southern California and then joined the New York Giants, perhaps the most glamorous professional football team of them all.  There, he had helped to revolutionize the game by utilizing his multidimensional skills (he could pass, catch, run and play defense) to popularize the option pass, in which he'd take a handoff, roll out to the left or right, and then loft a pass to a waiting receiver.  It helped him win the MVP in 1956, when the Giants beat the Chicago Bears to win the NFL championship.

And then came 1960, and Chuck Bednarik.  It was one of the reasons Gifford appeared in the book, and one of the reasons his story was compelling to me.  Late in the game, with the Giants trailing Bednarik's Philadelphia Eagles but on the move, Bednarik laid out Gifford with a hit that was one of the most memorable in the history of the game, forcing a fumble that the Eagles recovered, giving them the win and a major leg-up en route to winning their last NFL title.


It also knocked Gifford out cold.  Stone cold.  More than one Giant said they thought Bednarik had killed Gifford.  Bednarik celebrated the victory, not realizing the seriousness of Gifford's injury.  The end result was a massive concussion, forcing Gifford to miss the remainder of that season as well as the entire 1961 campaign.  In the interim he went into television, took up broadcasting.  Many thought he'd retired.  His decision to come back for the 1962 season as a receiver was a major story.  He played three more successful seasons before retiring for good in 1964.  He went into the Hall of Fame in 1977.

That was what put Frank Gifford in Heroes of the NFL, and if that was all there was to it, it would have been quite a life.  But in a way, the rest of the story had just begun.

He was a commentator on NFL games for CBS until 1971, when he became the play-by-play man (one of the first former players to do play-by-play rather than color) on ABC's Monday Night Football, along with Don Meredith and Howard Cosell.  The trio became one of the most famous broadcasting partnerships of all time, turning the broadcast into an event, and making MNF into something of a travelling zoo, "coming to your town next week!"  Gifford was cast as the straight man, the only sane one in a chaotic booth with Dandy Don and The Mouth, struggling to focus on the game while anarchy surrounded him.  While many preferred his predecessor in the role, Keith Jackson (on the way to a storied career of his own), and he was often knocked for getting calls wrong, it was probably a wonder, in that environment, that he got anything right at all.

Gifford did other sports besides football; one of his most famous calls was Franz Klammer's gold-medal winning downhill run in the 1976 Winter Olympics, and he was also there to cover Evel Knievel's triumphs and tragedies as a motorcycle jumper.  He was on Monday Night Football until 1997, when he was more-or-less eased out.  He was married three times, the last of which was to Kathie Lee.  He was entrapped by an airline stewardess who had been paid big bucks by a tabloid to catch Gifford in incriminating positions.  As I said, what a life.


***

If you hadn't grown up with Frank Gifford in his various phases of stardom (he had just retired, in fact, the year I first remember watching football), he might have felt to you like one of those celebrities who appear in "dead or alive" spots on morning radio shows.  And yet, as I wrote at the outset, he ever quite stopped being one of the golden boys you thought would live forever.  So it was something of a surprise to hear of his death last Sunday at the age of 84, and when the obituaries started retelling the facts and figures and you realized what a great career he'd had, and then thought back on the longevity of his announcing career, you found yourself a little more surprised, reflecting on those things you'd known about but had forgotten, or downplayed.

Frank Gifford was never my favorite announcer, but he had something of that "big game" sound that I've written about so often.  His voice was a warm and familiar presence that reminded viewers that you were watching an event.  I thought back on that, last Sunday, and reckoned that, indeed, Frank Gifford was one of the heroes of the NFL, and always will be.

August 10, 2015

What's on TV? Thursday, August 15, 1963

Today's is a pretty typical lineup for a Thursday in the dog days of Minnesota's summer.   There's not a lot to add from a local angle (which I hate, because it's always great to go trolling in the memory banks) but that doesn't mean there aren't some memories to be had here, so let's go right to the programming.

August 8, 2015

This week in TV Guide: August 10, 1963

In our little summer rerun series, we're looking back this week at August 10, 1963 - an issue I first covered three years ago.  Now that I see it, it was actually a pretty short piece as these things go, so there should be plenty more material out there.  Remember, although I've done this TV Guide once before, everything you're reading today is new.

***

We don't talk as much today about political correctness as we used to, back when we were a little more naive, primarily because in so many ways it's evolved into a malignant form of fascism.  But in truth, the fear of offense has always been present in television: offending the sponsor, offending the network, even offending the viewer.

I wrote plenty last time about Henry Morgan, but I'm going to borrow a line from the interview with him, in which he says that mass audiences can't "stomach" strong opinions.  "That is why aired humor is bland and foolish."  It's a pity, because the Founders had strong, even violent, opinions.  But "after opinion goes, the nation must."  That's a good lead-in to Edith Efron's cover story, in which the offending language is literally political, as she examines why there is so little political criticism of the current Administration.  I mentioned this briefly last time, but this time we'll examine it a little more closely.

The answer is an easy one, at least according to the stations themselves: fear of the federal government.  The former head of the National Council of Broadcasters, LeRoy Collins, says "The broadcasters are more deeply worried about the FCC than has been the case for many years."  Newton Minow, back when he was head of the FCC, acknowledged that "there is fear of Government in the broadcasting industry, particularly in radio."  Current commissioner Kenneth Cox says "My lawyer friends who practice before the Commission say: '[The networks] tremble in their boots.  They're terrified!'"  And the new FCC Chairman, E. William Henry, says it most bluntly: "They're afraid of reprisals and lost profits."

How did this come to be?  The two men most feared, most experts agree, are John and Robert Kennedy.  Some compare the power of the government to Orwell's "Big Brother" and accuse the administration of flexing its muscle, while others point to the vagueness of FCC rules (just what is "the public interest" anyway?) and say this makes it too easy for the government to expand its power through how they interpret the law.  Many agree that the administration is using the FCC to intervene in programming - to, in their words, manage news.  FCC commissioner Rosel Hyde talks about organized campaigns of letter-writing being used to help hold up the renewal of some broadcasting licenses.  "Apparently the Commission does not think there has been 'enough' public affairs programming. . . Nowhere does the [Communications] act permit this type of intervention."  Concludes Hyde, "I regard the present situation as restrictive of freedom of expression."

The FCC looks to push public affairs programming into prime time, but such shows are often thwarted by the deadly combination of low ratings and the avoidance of anything that might offend someone.  And that someone is, according to critics, the government.  Cox, who believes that the broadcasters' fears that his lawyer friends tell him about is exaggerated, counters that this is not the government causing the  "due to taking the line of least resistance."  Networks know the shows are ratings killers and that sponsors aren't interested, so "let's not get into a hassle over anything."

There are no easy answers to the situation.  Some say the answer is to get the government out of the communications business altogether.  Newton Minow comes up with the most interesting proposal: abolish the FCC.  His argument is that you can't both make policy and judge cases.  Better that you have an administrator to lay down the policy, and an administrative court judge how it's implemented.

Are things any different today, 50+ years later?  Well, yes and no.  Networks certainly don't have any trouble criticizing politicians nowadays, as long as they belong to a particular political party.  Try criticizing the other party, though, and the fear of reprisal is strong.  I think everyone would agree that political coverage itself remains woefully weak and unchallenging.

***

Sports is always a favorite here at the blog, and I was going to give it some quality space here - but there's not much to talk about.  The Twins must be at home this Saturday, which would explain the lack of baseball on Saturday afternoon; in fact, aside from Championship Bowling, the only sports to be found is on ABC's Wide World of Sports, which offers coverage of the AAU National Swimming Championships and the Formula 1 Grand Prix of Germany.  Saturday night offers ABC's prime time boxing, as welterweight champion Emile Griffith takes on Holly Mims in a middleweight non-title bout.  Griffith takes a 10-round decision.  As for Sunday, CBS' Top Star Bowling is all you're going to get.  I've said it before and I'll say it again - what a difference from today.

***

Last week we took a look at some ads for local TV news; let's see some of the other ads you might find in this Twin Cities edition.


Critics Award Theater - yes, I have fond memories of this.  Not so much for the movies, although some of them were pretty good, but for the format.  As you can see, the program was sponsored by the Iron Mining Industry of Minnesota and hosted by Earl Henton, who would present a short film at the beginning of the program extolling the virtues of taconite mining.  In return for sitting through the extended commercial, you'd be treated to a movie run without commercial interruption.  That was a big deal back then.  Check out that link to Henton; it's a great look at the TV of the era.


I wondered last week where the ad was for the Channel 4 news, and here it is!  Dave Moore was, and still is for those who remember him, a legend in Twin Cities news.  Trained as an actor, he was able not only to deliver the news in a straight, no-nonsense way, he also could do the outrageous Bedtime Nooz, as well as his thoughtful Andy Rooneyesque essays.  He helped establish Channel 4 as the news leader in the Cities, a role it has seldom relinquished since.


One Step Beyond.  It was known as Alcoa Presents when it was a first-run network program, but it's best known by its subtitle, which is how it was billed in syndication.  It's the kind of show that indy stations such as WTCN were made of, along with -


At this point Death Valley Days is on Channel 9, the ABC affiliate, but for most of my youth it too appeared on WTCN.  If I'm not mistaken, Death Valley Days is one of the longest running syndicated shows ever made - it was never a network program.  Ah, for the days of 20 Mule Team Borax.


This would have been when Wagon Train was still on its network run on ABC.  Later on, it would be seen afternoons under the title Major Adams, Trailmaster.  Of course, that was when Ward Bond, as Major Adams, was in the series.  By this time it's John McIntire, whom I like so much in the first season of The Naked City, playing the trail boss.


I wrote about this the last time we visited this issue, but this is a great ad for the International Beauty Spectacular, featuring NBC's go-to guy, Lorne Greene.  What impresses me is how they made Long Beach into a glamour spot.

Speaking of two scoops, as we may well have been, puts me in mind of the most popular ice cream of my youth, made by Bridgeman.  You could buy it in the stores, but most of the time you got it in one of the many Bridgeman restaurants scattered around the Twin Cities.

I used to love going to Bridgeman's for dinner on Saturday nights.  They'd have the menu printed on the paper placemats, each choice numbered and accompanied with a drawing of the entree and the sundae that accompanied it.  Just as vividly, I remember not feeling well one Saturday and having my grandma bring a chocolate malt home for me to eat while watching USC play UCLA.  UCLA won the game, but didn't go to the Rose Bowl, which leads me to think that the time I'm thinking of must have been in 1970.  Don't ask me how I remember these things, I just do.  I'll bet a lot of people used to eat Bridgeman's ice cream while watching television - someday I'll show you the ad for their "Shamus Sundae."

The ad below has nothing to do with television, although I suspect you might have been able to purchase one at W.T. Grant.  I don't particularly remember the store, but I know exactly where it was located in downtown Minneapolis.  This was the kind of ad you used to see all the time in TV Guide, although you think of it more as being in the newspaper.

There are other ads in this issue for reupholstery stores and glue.  They give the magazine a real slice of local flavor, aside from the programs themselves.  It is, again, a look into the time capsule of TV Guide.

August 7, 2015

Around the Dial!

My apologies that I haven't done this for a couple of weeks.  I don't know why, because it doesn't take very long and it's simply linking to pieces I've enjoyed over the course of the week.  Actually, I do too know why - I've been busy on a project you'll hopefully find out one of these days.  In the meantime, enough about me - let's see what others have to say.

This is the culmination of a set of posts on the great Stan Freberg, which you can see at the Broadcasting Archives at the University of Maryland.  I was listening to an episode of his radio series the other day; that man was very, very funny.

I really enjoy the Hitchcock recaps at bare-bones e-zine, because I like Hitchcock and there's always a pretty good chance I haven't seen the episode in question.  This week's story is one I have seen, and I can highly recommend Jack's writeup on it.

Did you read Joanna's Christmas TV Party posts at Christmas TV History?  If not, here's a recap here.  I know, shame on me for not being part of it this year, but maybe next time.  In the meantime, these bring back a lot of memories.

If you pay attention to the TV Guide archives as I do, you'll notice that sports broadcasters used to be anything but specialists.  Chris Schenkel, for example, called everything from pro and college football to boxing to bowling to the Olympics, and Pat Summerall did just about everything for CBS.  Classic TV Sports looks at Mets broadcaster Bob Murphy doing college football over 30 years ago.

"What if there is nothing good left to be discovered?"  That's the question at Cult TV Blog, examining the fear of the vintage TV fan.  I'm never surprised to read a fascinating article at that blog, and this one is no exception.  It's always unnerving to see yourself described by someone who's never met you!

My wife tells me she once skipped a long family weekend in order to stay home and catch an episode of The Monkees.  Now, I'll admit I saw the show growing up, but I don't think you could consider me a fan.  (We're happily married nonetheless.)  At Comfort TV, David looks at the 20 best Monkees songs, as well as the five worst.  And you know, some of those songs were very good.

As you might have noticed from my latest TV Guide stories, I've been getting more interested about the old ads for news broadcasts (there's another one coming up tomorrow), and Faded Signals, which has many old radio station ads, has one with a really great illustration today.

Television Obscurities has another TV Guide review, this time the week of August 7, with Gene Barry on the cover.  I've got this issue as well; a terrific writeup on Burke as well as the rest of the comings and goings of the day. I don't comment at that blog the way I should, but this has been a great series.

That's it for this week, though as always I'll urge you to look at the sidebar for more.  And I'll see you back here tomorrow for more TV Guide fun.

August 5, 2015

MST3K: how talking back became an art form

Last month I started a look at the classic TV shows that make up my weekly viewing habits. Today, we continue our look at the Hadley household's Saturday night with a show that made it from a local Minneapolis-St. Paul TV station to the big time - or at least basic cable.  

I was still living in Minneapolis back in November 1988, and because my grandmother didn't have cable TV, I wasn't able to watch the Thanksgiving night Texas-Texas A&M game on ESPN.*  Left to my own devices with the available over-the-air stations, I settled on Channel 23, one of the local independents.  It probably didn't mean as much to me then as it does now, but the fact that I'm able to recount the details means it must have made some impression.

*I did record it though, and got to see it when I got home.  A&M beat Texas 28-24, and I was happy.  Now that I live in Texas, I still root for A&M.

KTMA was having a science fiction marathon that Thanksgiving, and at 6pm they premiered a double-feature of supermarionation movies under the umbrella of a new series they called Mystery Science Theater 3000, hosted by a local comedian named Joel Hodgson*.  I figured, what the heck, why not?

*A friend of mine saw him doing standup in a local comedy club, and was invited to come up on stage and battle him in a game of Rock 'Em Sock 'Em Robots.  He lost to Hodgson, several times, after which Hodgson revealed he'd nailed the head of his robot down so it couldn't pop up.  Gotta love a guy like that.


The premise was pretty simple - science fiction movies with commentary provided by a guy and two robots, who appeared as silhouettes on the bottom of the screen.  The comments were snarky (although that's not what we called them back then), and laced with pop culture references.  I got it, liked it - and then I don't think I ever watched another episode.  Four months or so later I moved to Maine, where of course there was no KTMA, and pretty much forgot all about it.

A few months after that I read that Comedy Central was adding Mystery Science Theater 3000 to their lineup.  "Hey," I thought (or words to that effect), "I remember that show.  They made the big time - great!"  I probably started watching it after it debuted, showed it to my wife, explained how I'd first seen the show back in Minneapolis.  This time I kept watching it.

It was a funny show then, it's a funny show now.  We loved the jokes - they appealed to the absurd sense of humor we both have, and we even got most of the more obscure, foreign film-type references.*  There was the time Joel tried to play Led Zeppelin's "Whole Lotta Love" on electric bagpipes made out of a vacuum cleaner, for example.  Or how any movie with Lloyd Bridges was laced with Sea Hunt jokes, while Peter Graves got the Biography treatment.  The dumber the humor, the better we liked it.  And let's face it, those movies were pretty bad.  No matter how much Joel and the 'Bots trashed them, they deserved it.

*But then, we like Dennis Miller too, so what do you expect?

One of the biggest appeals of the series was how "everyman" it was, creating a television show out of something that almost all of us do: talk back to the screen.  Of course, in the hands of these guys, riffing on bad movies became an art form.  But as we watched the show, we discovered something important: you didn't have to be well-educated to riff, you didn't have to have seen every Ingemar Bergman movie ever seen (although it helped), you didn't need to be a Hollywood star or even a television writer to do it.  Anyone could do it, and if you watched enough of MST3K, you could even hold your own with them.  Another thing we discovered: some people appreciated our talking during a movie - while others didn't.  The ones who did continue to be our friends.*

*I'll admit I can be somewhat irritating when I get on a roll, especially if it's during a show that my wife likes but I think is stupid.  Despite that, sometimes she can't help but laugh at something I say.  However, the fact that I know when I've pushed it far enough and it's time for me to leave the room is part of the reason we've been married 22 years.

Adam West, host of Turkey Day '94
The highlight of the year was the Turkey Day marathon, 24 hours of MST3K (as it had come to be called), starting at 11pm CT on Wednesday night and running all through Thanksgiving day and evening.  I didn't give up parades and football completely, but we were usually good for four or five episodes off and on throughout the day.  It really was addictive - the more you saw, the more you wanted to see.  I think it was Turkey Day, particularly the year when Adam West did the bumpers leading into and out of each episode, that sealed MST3K as one of my favorites.  I even survived the traumatic change from Joel to Michael J. Nelson as host - they were different, but both funny.  It was one of the few shows I've watched that really was laugh-out-loud funny.*

*My personal favorite: "It Conquered the World," with Peter Graves and Lee Van Cleef.  The movie actually holds up, which is more than you can say for most of them, but the commentary is priceless.  Check it out, particularly the period from the end of the movie through the closing credits.


When the show finally left the air quite a few years ago, it became one of those nostalgia things, fondly remembered but secure as a part of the past.  Then, a couple of years ago, it came back - kind of.  Shout!, which did the MST3K DVDs, restarted the Turkey Day tradition as a mini-marathon running on Shout!'s YouTube channel, with best-of (or worst-of) episodes from the show's original run.  Suddenly, it was back as part of our lives.  Then, last year, they included commercials for a coming theatrical event for RiffTrax, a live sort-of MST3K featuring Nelson and two of the voices from the show (but no robots, alas) riffing on a perfectly dreadful movie, Santa Claus.  It was a wonderful, hilarious evening.  And from that point on, MST3K was back as part of my TV lineup.

If you're a fan of the show, you know that a big part of its early days was the propensity of viewers to tape the show and then circulate the tapes to their friends - the high-tech version of word-of-mouth.  One of the by-products of that is that most of the episodes are on YouTube, many of them in pretty good shape considering the source.  Thanks to the wonders of Google Cast, it's now easier than ever to stream your laptop on to your television*, and with that a new Saturday night tradition, same as the old Saturday night tradition, was born.

It's the nightcap to our Saturday night viewing most weeks, and, as was the case last week when we saw an episode we hadn't seen before - "War of the Colossal Beast," a sequel to "The Amazing Colossal Man," it's a particular treat.  It's also a great way to go to bed with a chuckle, which, considering Sunday will always be "the day before we have to go back to work," is the very best we can hope for.

Next time: the detective who took a licking and kept on ticking - or sleuthing, as the case may be.

August 3, 2015

What's on TV? Tuesday, August 8, 1967

I don't believe I've ever before used this combination of channels from the Twin Cities edition.  As I've said in the past, this is one of the few editions where I don't go through all the stations; there are just too many of them.  I like to give a general overview of the situation, though, and I think these are a pretty fair representation of what was on this week.  I think I left all my local commentary

August 1, 2015

This week in TV Guide: August 5, 1967

It's another "second-look" week; this issue was first perused here a couple of years ago.  But in case you're thinking of giving today a pass, don't: I promise it's all-new material, never before seen by the eyes of you dear readers.  Unless, that is, you've got the issue as well.

***

When I was flipping through the pages, looking for something of note, the first thing I noticed was the number of ads for local news programs.  Some of them are quite professional; others have a charming homemade quality about them.  Let's start there.

First, there's the vertical ad at the rightfrom KGLO for Tom Anthony's sports show.  Unlike the other stations in the area, KGLO's 10pm news runs 40 minutes, and Anthony's ten-minute wrap-up is the capper to the nighttime news.

One of the biggest changes in the social media area concerns sports, and for people who've been raised in this era, it may be hard to believe how much a part of the local news sports used to be.  It was the viewer's source for the latest in scores and highlights, not only from a local standpoint but nationally as well.  Some local sportscasters were very good, others - well, we'll leave it at that.  Don't think I've ever seen Tom Anthony, so I'm not going to comment on him.

Next there's an ad for the ABC affiliate in Duluth, WDIO.  This definitely falls under the "charming, homemade" category.  Local news takes itself so seriously, even when it's trying to be folksy, it's hard to imagine something like this today.


On the other end of the spectrum, Rochester's KIRO features their lead newscaster Bob Warren, looking very much like the young, very serious Peter Jennings, even though KROC is an NBC affiliate.  No nonsense here, though.


When I was growing up, the traditional local news times were noon, six and ten.*  I don't even know if most local stations continue to have noon news programs, but this series of three ads from KSTP in Minneapolis (one shown each day) shows how seriously they took their local news.  You'll notice viewers are reminded this news is in color.

*Not to be confused with Dr. Pepper's 10-2-4 slogan.


KMSP, the ABC affiliate in the Twin Cities, is one of the first to go with co-anchors on the local news.  Their ad is small but makes up for it in quantity, running several times in the pages.  They also emphasize the hard-news approach as well as the colorcast.


KAUS in Albert Lea gives you good cause (pun intended) to check out their news.  It's also cutting-edge -  I mean, they have their fingers on the pulse of the news, and it looks so high-tech!


My old home station, KCMT in Alexandria, offers this serious take on the weather.  Living in that part of Minnesota, weather is a very important quantity - from blizzards in the winter to tornadoes in the summer, it pays to have someone dedicated to bringing you the latest information.  And Bob Hines assures you the weather's no laughing matter!


Here's this week's obligatory ad for TV Guide; kids (no longer limited to boys) delivering TV Guide to your home are now called TV Guide Young Merchants!


And here's the ad that appeared in the center of TV Guide.  It was always on stiff paper, with a perforated reply coupon that you could send in for records, books, model rockets and the like.  I always ripped it out first thing so the pages would lay flat (still do that with magazines), but thankfully the original owner of this issue left it intact.  It's for one of those infamous Time-Life book sets.


No ad for WCCO, the news leader in the Twin Cities.  Possibly because they didn't need it, they were so far ahead in the ratings?  Or were they preparing a new ad campaign for The Scene Tonight, which would debut early the next year?

***

Bad news for ABC: they've just moved into a glossy new headquarters in anticipation of government approval for their proposed merger with ITT.  However, the Justice Department's just moved to block the merger, and eventually the whole thing falls apart.  One possible victim of the cost-cutting that's suddenly taken hold at ABC: gavel-to-gavel coverage of next year's Republican and Democratic conventions.  Instead, the network will go with a nightly highlights package.  This accomplished two things: first, it made possible the memorable series of debates between William F. Buckley Jr. and Gore Vidal; two, it set the model for the condensed coverage that continues to this day.  Let us now hoist a glass in honor of ITT, which helped make this reduction possible.

There's an article about Sigrid Valdis, also known as Helga on Hogan's Heroes.  She's grateful for the work, but a little frustrated as well; her typical line consists of "Herr Kommandant, Colonel Hogan to see you."  She'd like something a little more challenging, and indirectly she'll find it in her often-stormy eight-year marriage to Hogan himself, Bob Crane.

Finally, there's a profile of Roger Moore, formerly of Maverick, currently in The Saint, and the future James Bond.  In a few weeks I'll be writing about The Saint as part of the Friday night viewing lineup, but what makes The Saint work is Roger Moore, and what makes Moore work is his unusually self-deprecating assessment of his own talent.  He's had a significant career, he allows, "if there is any significance to mediocrity."  Lest you think he might be talking about the shows he's starred in, he continues, "I'm probably not a very good actor."  Of his time in Hollywood, he says, "My luck held out, too, until the studios found out I couldn't act very well."  His humility about his talent extends even to being humble about being humble; while a friend says he truly lacks vanity, he says it's more a case of lacking confidence.

Whatever the reason, what marks Moore's time as The Saint, and later on James Bond, is his refusal to take it all so seriously, combined with the underlying sense of menace often demonstrated by his characters, one that tells you this is a man not to be fooled around with.  The twinkle in the eye along with the steel in the backbone mark Roger Moore as a truly remarkable actor, one who has parlayed his supposed lack of talent into a very long, very successful career, leaving in his wake a legion of very happy fans.  And that's not a bad career, is it?