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."
*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|
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.
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...
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!