January 2, 2016

This week in TV Guide: January 1, 1966

How lucky we are to get to celebrate New Year's Day twice in one week! It's a quirk of the calendar, as well as the limitations of the TV Guides available to me at the time, but I've always enjoyed these holiday issues, and if it's all right with you to see New Year's one more time, well, then, it's all right with me.

I've never been a big fan of holidays falling on Saturdays or Sundays - it's too much like a regular day off. And since Saturdays are full of college football anyway, we shouldn't be surprised to see the four games on tap for today. Things start, though, with the late, lamented Cotton Bowl Parade from State Fair Park, with Allen Ludden and Marilyn Derbur reprising their roles as hosts. In fact, the faces at today's parades are quite familiar when you compare them to what we saw in last week's issue, with Bess Myerson back on CBS' coverage, this time joined by Arthur Godfrey (while Ronald Reagan is off running for governor of California), and Betty White holding down the fort for NBC's coverage, paired with John Forsythe (starring in his eponymously named sitcom on - surprise - NBC) while her former partner, Lorne Greene, is shipped off to Miami to emcee the Orange Bowl Jamboree, taped the previous evening.

Following the parade, both CBS and NBC head off for football coverage. CBS has the Cotton Bowl, where undefeated, #2 ranked Arkansas is upset 14-7 by unranked LSU. NBC, meanwhile, continues its football widowmaker lineup with a triple-header of the Sugar Bowl (#7 Missouri holding off Florida 20-18), the Rose Bowl (where top-ranked Michigan State is shocked by #5 UCLA 14-12), and the Orange Bowl (#4 Alabama winning the mythical National Championship by beating #3 Nebraska 39-28 in possibly the game of the day).

What's that, you say? You're not interested in parades or football? What are you, some kind of communist? Well, maybe that's overstating things a bit, but if you fall in to that category, you can see the premiere of Magilla Gorilla at 11:30am on ABC, a first-run Jackie Gleason on CBS followed by Secret Agent, or ABC's variety trio of The King Family, The Lawrence Welk Show and The Hollywood Palace. More on that one below.

***

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: Scheduled guests: comedians Wayne and Shuster, Alan King and London Lee; singers Leslie Uggams and Jimmy Roselli; the King Family; and the Bel Caron Trio, adagio dancers. On tape, Ed interviews Brigitte Bardot.

Palace: Bing Crosby hosts the series' second anniversary show, with comedian Danny Thomas; comic Bob Newhart; the folk-rock singing team of Sonny and Cher; pantomimist Ben Blue; actor David Nelson, who performs on the trapeze with the Flying Artons; songstress Marilyn Maye; 8-year-old singer-actress Donna Butterworth; and Los Angeles Mayor Samuel W. Yorty.

Ed Sullivan really had a thing for the Canadian comedians Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster; they appeared on the show 58 times. I can't recall ever having seen them myself, but their humor was apparently an acquired taste; many of the reviewers I've read from the time didn't really think they were all that funny. Alan King often is that funny, but I don't think he can compete with Bing Crosby, Danny Thomas and Bob Newhart. Once again this week, it's The Palace in a laugher.

***

I've always enjoyed the witty banter in Cleveland Amory's reviews, the way he can slide the knife in between the ribs without even drawing blood. But now it's time to put things to the test; Amory's reviewing one of my favorite shows, The FBI. Will he like it? Will his literate humor be enough to satisfy me if he doesn't?

Fear not; the review of the series' first season is, on balance, a favorable one. In this era of "Bondian" adventures on television, "it's a relief to find in this series a serious 47-year-old hero - Inspector Lew Erskine, who plays as fine a lead as you will see on any show this year." Erskine is played by Efram Zimbalist Jr., who Amory finds very good, working "with a minimum of hokes, jokes and cloaks." The supporting cast, with Philip Abbott as assistant director Arthur Ward, and Erskine's partner Jim Rhodes (Stephen Brooks) are adequate; Ward is hard on Erskine (although by the second season he's mellowed considerably, probably at the behest of viewers), and Rhodes seems to be there for the youth in the audience, but they still do the job.

Amory notes something that I've always appreciated, the strength of the guest cast. These actors, and the compelling backstories they're given, are one of the series' strengths. The show is based on actual FBI cases, some of which are better than others, "depending on how good these actors [the guests] are, as well as how intrinsically interesting is the particular crime involved." One episode, "The Problem of the Honorable Wife," was particularly good, with a "truly remarkable performance" by Miiko Taka, which seemed to leave even the normally unflappable Erskine unnerved.

In fact, the only place in which The FBI seems to fall short is the way in which the bad guys fall. Efrem Zimbalist was trained by the FBI to shoot properly; "It's a pity somebody doesn't also teach the villains how to be shot. The long, starry-eyed, double-take stagger and equally drawn-out fall went out, we thought, with "The Perils of Pauline."

***

There's other sports on tap besides the bowl games. On Sunday, the Cleveland Browns take on the Green Bay Packers in the last pre-Super Bowl NFL Championship. The Browns, defending champions, are led by Jim Brown, playing his final game for the Browns.* It's their misfortune, though, to travel to Green Bay where they play the Packers on a muddy, snowy field. The Browns keep it close for the first half but under the battering attack of Jim Taylor, Bart Starr and Ray Nitschke, the Pack emerge triumphant, 23-12.

*Brown's final game would come later in the month in the NFL Pro Bowl, although nobody knew it at the time.

Interestingly enough, a companion article by Melvin Durslag wondering whether or not it's time to move the pro championship games to a warmer climate where the weather wouldn't be the deciding factor. This is exactly what happens next season, when the first Super Bowl is played in sunny, smoggy Los Angeles - because, according to legend, the owners were leery of playing a Super Bowl in Green Bay in below-zero weather.

Also on Sunday, it's the network season-debut of the NBA on ABC, with the New York Knicks travelling to Philadelphia's Convention Hall to play the 76ers. As an indication of how long ago this was, neither the NBA nor NHL (when the later was on network TV) debuts until after football season, except for the occasional NBA game on the day after Thanksgiving. College basketball is the same; it isn't until the conference schedule starts that the games appear regularly on TV. Nowadays, of course, they've televised about, oh, a hundred games or so by the time January 1 rolls around.

Another mark of how long ago this was: the Philadephia 76ers are actually good in 1966.

***

Continuing the sports theme, "For the Record" has the following look at the business side of sports. The NFL, still battling for football supremacy with the AFL, is at loggerheads with CBS over the upcoming television contract, with CBS offering $76 million for four years (covering the time period up to the merger), and the NFL countering with a demand for $96 million. But in these pre-cable days, where else can the NFL go? NBC's already tied up with the AFL, and ABC has no interest, given the high cost and ABC's current deal with the NCAA for college football. Ultimately, though, the two groups come to a two-year agreement (with an option for a third) for $18.8 million, plus $2 million additional per year for covering the championship game.

But here's what I find interesting about this: the being bandied about that the NFL might start its own network, hiring a third party to syndicate the games to stations nationwide, as NFL Commissioner Pete Rozelle doesn't want the league running the network itself. Of course, eventually the NFL does just that, with a few differences. For one, the NFL does control the network, and even though they still work through the networks, broadcasting only the Thursday night game themselves, it has only helped boost the league's popularity.

And why wouldn't they continue with the networks, at least for now? In 2011, the NFL signed nine-year contracts with CBS, Fox and NBC, to go along with an eight-year deal with ESPN. Combined with money from DirecTV for the league's Sunday Ticket program, the total from all television partners should come to about $39 billion for the lives of the contracts. One can imagine that when sports goes to over-the-top streaming, bypassing networks altogether, the NFL will be at the front of the line.

Also at "For the Record," we learn that the producers of Peyton Place were sent reeling after star Mia Farrow hacked off her blonde tresses between scenes, leaving little more than a crew cut.

BEFORE (LEFT) AND AFTER; COURTESY WWW.LETTERSOFNOTE.COM
They assure us that it's nothing personal, that Mia wasn't hacked off at the show or anything. "Her reasons were personal," producer Paul Monash says. "I don't understand them." He does think it will fit into the continuing story though, perhaps trying to make lemonade out of lemons. As it happens, the decision is to have her cut her hair during an amnesia-induced nervous breakdown. Later in 1966, Mia will give producers fits again when she marries Frank Sinatra and goes on her honeymoon, leaving everyone up in the air as to whether or not she'll return to the show. The thought is that Frank doesn't want her to return to work, and if you're Paul Monash do you want to be the one to tell Frank Sinatra that his wife has to honor her contract?

***

On Saturday, WDTV in Fairmont, PA gives us Love and Laughter, a benefit for the March of Dimes narrated by Sergio Franchi and starring Sammy Davis Jr., Linda Lavin, Walter Matthau, Dina Merrill, Allen and Rossi, Ruth Buzzi, and others.  Later, the 11:15 pm movie on Altoona's WFBG is The Amazing Colossal Man,starring Glenn Langan but missing the silhouettes that will make the movie so famous. At 11:20, WBOY in Clarksville opts for something a little more serious: the Academy Award-winning All the King's Men, with Broderick Crawford.

Sunday highlights include St. Bonaventure taking on Earlham College on NBC's G-E College Bowl. There's no truth to the rumor that host Robert Earle gave Earlham an unfair advantage. A little later in the evening, NBC follows with The Bell Telephone Hour presenting "Music of the West," hosted by former Wyatt Earp star Hugh O'Brian, and featuring Eddy Arnold, Peter Nero, Dolores Gray and Jack Haskell. I would've thought there might have been a few more C&W stars in there.

Monday is the first weekday of the new year, and with it a raft of new daytime programs. Chief among them is a game show making its debut on ABC: The Dating Game, "which seeks to match eligible young ladies with 'Mr. Right,' one of three bachelors hidden from view." In the late night spot, Johnny Carson has the week off (surprise, surprise) and "a former guest will take over" the hosting duties each night. Tonight it will be comic Henry Morgan; tomorrow night Sammy Davis Jr. moves behind the desk.

Milton Berle is the guest star on Tuesday's Red Skelton Show, with the two old hands doing a spoof of Robin Hood movies - Forsooth (Red) plays a door-to-door torture implement salesman.

On Wednesday, it's the last night in 7:30pm timeslot for The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, which moves to the same time Saturday night starting next week. Premiering in this timeslot next Wednesday: the new adventure series Batman. Opposite Ozzie and Harriet, CBS' Young People's Concert with Leonard Bernstein presents a birthday tribute to the Soviet composer Dmitri Shostakovich (one of my favorites), who's turning 60 years old.

CBS' Thursday Night Movie presents the big screen adaptation of one of the truly big shows from the Golden Age of Television, Rod Serling's Requiem for a Heavyweight, starring Anthony Quinn, Jackie Gleason and Mickey Rooney - a stellar cast. Also stellar is the guest lineup for The Dean Martin Show later that evening, as Deano welcomes Peggy Lee, Frankie Avalon, Allan Sherman, Guy Marks and Rose Marie. That might have been a better lineup than either Sullivan or The Palace. Also, on Gilligan's Island Gilligan and The Skipper find a newspaper item suggesting one of the castaways is a killer! I wonder which one it was...

On Friday night Richard Burton and Elizabeth Taylor appear together on TV for the first time as guests on the debut of NBC's The Sammy Davis Jr. Show. You may remember that I wrote about this series and its odd history in the early days of this blog; after this initial airing, Davis will be forced to miss the next three episodes due to a clause in the contract he'd signed for an ABC special.

***

Finally, the Teletype notes that the next U.N. special, "Poppies Are Also Flowers," debuts in April with Yul Brynner, Trevor Howard, Rita Hayworth, Omar Sharif, Marcello Mastroianni, E.G. Marshall and others. Last week I mentioned the U.N. series of movies, and linked back to my TV Party article about the same subject. There's also a note about a potential ABC series that did, in fact, make it to air: The Rat Patrol. And Samantha has her baby on the January 13 episode of Bewitched. It's nothing to turn your nose up at!

3 comments:

  1. Here's Chicago for that week, night by night:

    - Saturday:
    Since it was New Year's day, everything was closed, so I had nowhere to go (I was halfway through high school at the time).
    There wasn't much I was a big fan of on Saturdays back then.
    Looked at fifty years on, of course, things are a bit different.
    One example to serve for many: Take a look at the listing for Gunsmoke, taking note of who's playing the main outlaw that night (no spoilers; I want to see if you're really reading this).

    At 9:30pm, channel 9 has a local origination called The Big Bands, which they had some success syndicating. This was a half-hour of straight music, with an audience to listen and sometimes dance.
    There were still quite a few of the big-name bands around in the '60s, touring and concertizing, and most of them made their way to WGN's studio for this show (This week's band was Ralph Flanagan's, who was probably second-tier, but ch9 did manage to snare most of the big-name survivors).

    -Sunday:
    Religion seems to be big this week on the dramas.
    Tonight's FBI has an extortionist threatening a "minority religious sect (sort-of-Amish, if I remember correctly).
    Typically, ABC followed this up with the movie "Bachelor Flat", a sex comedy remembered mainly as one of Terry-Thomas's misfired attempts to become a "Hollywood star".

    -Monday:
    Winter vacation from school, so I got to stay home and watch game shows and soaps.

    In the evening, Dr. Kildare, which was two half-hours a week this season, started a six-part "arc" (the term wasn't in use back then, but you know what I mean) titled "The Atheist And The True Believer", played respectively by Jack Hawkins and Bradford Dillman. You can pretty much guess how this is going to play out over three weeks's time.
    Meanwhile, Channel 9 has the Sherlock Holmes Theater, hosted by Basil Rathbone in person, at 8pm.
    I mentioned this one in a post some time back; because there only twelve Holmes movies with Rathbone, ch9 filled the schedule with Charlie Chan pictures from their inventory, with Rathbone dutifully hosting. To my everlasting regret, I never got to see any of these; this week's offering was Charlie Chan In London with Warner Oland, from 1934. Imagine what Basil Rathbone might have had to say about that.

    -Tuesday:
    This was January 4, the day that WFLD, Channel 32, signed on officially for the first time.
    Field Enterprises, the owners of the Sun-Times and Daily News, owned ch32.They kicked off the week with mainly live news pickups from the Sun-times and Daily News newsrooms, and live coverage of high and college sports events; regular entertainment programming was phased in gradually over time.
    Oh, and the broadcast day started at around 4pm, with sign-off at around 11pm (shades of the late '40s/early '50s).

    I don't know if you still have that character limit, so I'll stand down for now; back with the rest of the week in a bit.




    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It is now "a bit":

      - Back on Tuesday for a sec:
      I mentioned Dr. Kildare above, which this season was two half-hours a week, a la Peyton Place.
      In their "Atheist/True Believer" story, I forgot to mention that Diane Baker appeared herein as Jack Hawkins's daughter. These stars, along with Brad Dillman, will continue for the next two weeks. (Keep this in mind as we go along.)

      - Wednesday:

      - The Big Valley has a story about Nick (Peter Breck) romancing a "beautiful Eastern socialite" who's visiting California that week (you can pretty well guess the outcome).
      Guest-starring as the BES: Diane Baker, who's one-third of the way through her Dr. Kildare stint.

      Meanwhile, I Spy had Robert Culp and The Other Guy Whose Name Escapes Me out to rescue the daughter of a medical missionary.
      Lew Ayres played the missionary; the daughter was France Nuyen.
      Bob Culp wrote the episode, while still married to his second wife.
      About a year later, France Nuyen became his third wife. (Probably just coincidence ...)

      - Thursday:
      In the fall, ABC launched a TV version of The Long Hot Summer, with Edmond O'Brien in the Orson Welles role.
      Midway through the season, O'Brien left the show for various reasons; this week's episode introduced his replacement, Dan O'Herlihy, who bore no resemblance to his predecessor. There was no phony alibi for the sudden tallness and (comparative) slimness of Will Varner; new guy in the part, and that was that.
      In those bygone days, the audience was assumed to be smart enough to know that these were actors playing parts. I wonder when the change came in ...

      - Friday:

      ABC's Honey West is about a thief/kidnapper named Mr. Brillig, who snatches Honey's partner to get back something he stole.

      An hour later, CBS's Trials Of O'Brien is about a duffer named Ben, who has seven foster kids in his flat and lives off their support payments.

      Mr. Brillig and Ben are both played by John McGiver (this comment seems to have developed a theme ...).

      Meanwhile, Hogan's Heroes are up against a 'Major Keitel', played by Howard Caine (his first appearance, and likely what led to the creation of 'Hochstetter').

      The cover story:
      The Carol Channing special written up here was the one that Rex Sparger tried to "rig" the ratings for, something you wrote about here some time back.
      As part of the show, General Foods, which had full sponsorship, trotted out the stars of their CBS shows to do the commercials with Channing; she would pop up on the sets of the various shows and interact with the characters (and boy, did she look strange on the set of Hogan's Heroes ...).

      Now I gotta go and check out your day log; back later.

      Delete
  2. I like Wayne and Shuster a lot; their CBC specials from the 1970's were in syndication in the early 80's and aired a lot on KTVT Channel 11 late night on weekends around 1981-1982. Pretty much to the CBC what Bob Hope was to NBC all those years, and they worked right up to the end when Wayne died of cancer in 1990 (I still have a special from 1989 taped off CBC somewhere). There was some thought that they had outstayed their welcome during the 80's; many said the same thing about Hope around that time.

    I probably would have liked the Sullivan lineup; always liked Leslie Uggams too.

    Zimbalist was solid on 77 SUNSET STRIP and THE F.B.I. but I wish we could have seen more of him as Dandy Jim Buckley on MAVERICK; I'd have watched a spinoff series for sure.

    I have this issue somewhere; I really need to revisit it.

    ReplyDelete

Keep those cards and letters coming in!