*Not to mention, especially for women, the chance to act in juicy, quality roles long after you've been portrayed as "too old" to carry a motion picture.
The 1971-72 television season is filled with such crossovers from movies to television: Rock Hudson, Tony Curtis, Shirley MacLaine, Anthony Quinn, James Stewart, George Kennedy, James Garner, Glenn Ford and Henry Fonda are some of the stars who've headed new series, and with the exceptions of Hudson and Ford, all of them have failed. These are all very, very big stars, with a long line of movie hits to prove it - how can this be?
It seems as if everyone you ask has a different explanation. According to Freddie Fields, president of the mega-agency CMA, it comes down to "prostitution." "Too many peole were concerned about the deal rather than the show," he says. "Their failure has to do with that." Martin Starger, head of programming at ABC, offers a different hypothesis: the reason for such spectacular (and expensive) failure "has simply been a matter of the concept not being good enough." No matter how good the money is, he thinks, no star sells out just for the money - "it's an incalculable blow to their prestige." No matter how big the star, nobody - even John Wayne - can last week after week with bad material.
Les Brown, author of Televi$ion: The Business Behind the Box thinks the networks are to blame for signing the wrong stars. Networks and their advertisers, then as now, are most interested in the young demographic, and to that end "they should have been trying to sign Dustin Hoffman, Jon Voight, Robert Redford and Jack Nicholson." Shirley MacLaine, whose series Shirley's World was cancelled after 17 episodes, accuses Hollywood executives of being "out of touch with the culture," while others who worked on the show say MacLaine had "a major say" in the stories and directors, proving she might be as out of touch as anyone.
Indeed, Anthony Quinn's political drama The Man and the City tried to be so "in touch," it lost touch with what the viewers might have been interested in. As one critic said, "They were so busy making social points that they forgot to make television stories." Aaron Spelling, who knows a hit when he sees one, thinks that there has to be a connection between the star and the story; "The right star in the right series can take off, but a good star in a bad series can be a disaster."
The networks say they aren't going to make this mistake again, and they mean it! but only time will tell. CBS is asking Yul Brynner to reprise his role as the king in a weekly version of The King and I, but that series, which will debut in September 1972, will only run for 13 weeks. Julie Andrews will star in her own variety series on ABC, which should be right up her alley, but that show only makes it to 24 episodes before disappearing. Richard Boone has Heck coming up, which winds up being called Hec Ramsey; it will run for two seasons as part of NBC's Sunday Mystery Movie. Likewise, George Peppard's Banacek is on the network's Wednesday Mystery Movie rotation for two years and does well, playing off Peppard's established smooth-character persona.
Television has a way of making minor characters into major stars - take Denzel Washington in St. Elsewhere, for example - and can humble big stars, as in just about every example above. As more than one so-called expert puts it, who knows why some shows succeed and others bomb?
Speaking of bombs - well, you can't really say that Emergency!was as a bomb. It did, after all, run for six seasons, and even after it left the regular schedule it returned for a half-dozen TV-movies. You wouldn't be able to prove that by Cleveland Amory's review, though; while he acknowledges that real-life paramedics do very good work, he adds that "To say Emergency! is a good show about the, though - well, for that you should try a paracritic."
The show's exceptional at outdoor shots: from tops of buildings, bottoms of mine shafts, mountain ledges, etc., but the dialogue is pedestrian to say the least - every single medical situation, no matter what, seems to involve Dr. Brackett barking out, "I want an i.v. and an EKG. Start the i.v. with the Ringers' lactate. Wide open." - and the situations are awfully contrived. There are so many rescues in each hour-long show that "there's never time to get interested in the victims," who exist mainly as human props for the rescue attempts. There are signs of desperation in the way the producers try to build the "human" angle with the regulars, particularly Kevin Tighe and Randolph Mantooth as Roy DeSoto and John Gage. Shows such as NCIS and CSI have come to perfect this kind of formula (emphasizing human interaction between the regulars at the expense of guest stars), but I guess writers and directors have learned a lot more about how to do this than they did at the time. It's possible that a couple of today's quirkbots - a Goth firefighter, for example - might have meant Emergency! would still be running today, to which we can only ask: WWAW. What Would Amory Write? I think we all know the answer to that one.
In the feature story above, you got a glimpse of some of next season's new shows, and there's more to come in other parts of the issue. The Doan Report mentions Cousin Maude, which we all know simply as Maude, and the question Richard Doan asks is "Can funny bigots pay off for CBS the way funny hillbillies did?" I hadn't thought of it that way actually, but that's about right. And the answer appears to be, "Yes." Other possibilities for CBS: "a new Bob Newhart show and a TV adaptation of the hit movie 'M*A*S*H'." Right on both counts, I'd say.
TV Teletype notes that Karl Malden will be making his TV series debut this fall, co-starring with Kirk Douglas' son Michael in The Streets of San Francisco. The Teletype also mentions that George Schlatter has signed on to produce Bill Cosby's new comedy-variety show on CBS, and that Gene Rayburn is the host of CBS' new daytime game show The Amateur's Guide to Love. I actually remember this show, which must be saying something since it only ran for three months. Primarily I remembered Gene Rayburn as the guy who used to host The Match Game. Hang in there, Gene - better times are just around the corner.
We know that the ever-present threat of government regulation of television is always hanging over the decisions coming from the networks. This time, as is usually the case, the focus is on violence, with powerful Rhode Island Senator John Pastore, head of the Communications Subcommittee, sending out hints that the government may be ready to step in, with ideas such as confining action shows into late-evening timeslots and instituting a ratings guide for parents, similar to the movie ratings system.
Those network concerns are reflected in the new fall schedules as well, with NBC talking about a medical comedy called The Little People with Brian Keith and Shelley Fabares (which produced 48 episodes, many of them under the name The Brian Keith Show, during a run of just under two seasons) and a '30s private eye series called Banyon, starring Robert Forster (15 episodes). The true test of the threat from Washington, Richard Doan writes, will come from how many Hawaii Five-O/Mission: Impossible-type genre shows are cancelled. Not to worry, though: although Mission: Impossible is on its penultimate season, Hawaii Five-O still has eight seasons to go.
I know it's hard to believe, but come April 1 the pro basketball playoffs are here, and ABC and CBS are tipping off coverage with a weekend doubleheader.
*Fun fact: the Virginia Squires started out life as the Oakland Oaks, where one of their co-owners was Pat Boone.
The next day, the NBA takes center stage with the Los Angeles Lakers facing off against the Chicago Bulls. Chicago, a very tough team in the early '70s (their record for 71-72 was 57-25) are no match for the Lakers, who earlier in the season had a 33-game winning streak and finished up with a then-record 69 regular season victories; the Lakers sweep the Bulls en route to the NBA title. NBA games are set for Sunday afternoons on ABC, along with prime-time coverage of the finals if they go beyond four games.
Baseball predictions from Melvin Durslag, with the new season just around the corner: American League division winners will be Baltimore and Oakland, while the National League pennants go to St. Louis and Cincinnati. The really big news coming out of spring training is the advent of the Designated Hitter as one of the experimental features being tried out in the Class A and Rookie Leagues; it's being tested along with ideas that didn't catch on, such as designated and temporary runners, and allowing a pinch hitter to hit more than once in a game. As such, this is seen as the last season of baseball as it has been.
However, it's the first season of baseball as it's going to be - for the first time, games are cancelled as the result of a player strike, with the first ten or so days wiped out, not to be made up later in the season. That's a bummer for the Boston Red Sox, who lose out to the Detroit Tigers in the American League East because they wind up playing one fewer game than the Tigers. That's one pick that Durslag misses (Baltimore finishes third, five games back), and his St.Louis Cardinals wind up in fourth, nearly 22 games behind the NL East-winning New York Mets, but he's right on with his picks of Oakland and Cincinnati, with the A's winning a thrilling seven-game World Series.
How about the rest of the week?
If you like Sherlock Holmes, Saturday is the night for you on local Bay Area television, with Sacramento's KCRA showing Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon at 12:45 am, starring the unforgettable combo of Basil Rathbone as Holmes and Nigel Bruce as his Watson. Those two also star in the double-feature on San Jose's KNTV at 1:00 am, with Sherlock Holmes and the House of Fear followed by Terror at Night. If you're not a Holmes fan, your choice is elementary: the fiery IRA terrorist Bernadette Devlin is William F. Buckley Jr.'s guest on Firing Line - that should have been an interesting matchup.
Easter Sunday features the network television debut of the 1968 Hollywood spectacular The Shoes of the Fisherman on CBS, and one of Judith Crist's very best reviews, suggesting that the film was "apparently designed to do for the papacy what "The Sound of Music" did for family chorales," and summarizes the movie as a "disjointed, dull, dismally attenuated, pretentious and preposterous piece of pop-piety" that "puts a veneer of banality" on the essential sincerity of the story. I take it she didn't like it, then?
|SOURCE ALL: HADLEY TV GUIDE COLLECTION|
Tuesday brings PBS' distinguished series The Advocates, debating an issue that still remains unsettled over 40 years later: should prostitution be considered a moral threat to society or a victimless crime? That's followed by the first of a two-part Black Journal commemorating the fourth anniversary of the assassination of the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. It must have been hard to imagine, in 1972, that it had already been four years. There's also an episode of The Outer Limits on the Bay Area's KBHK, Channel 44 that I just saw on DVD a couple of weeks ago - Henry Silva, very good as a condemned prisoner given a chance for freedom by volunteering for an interplanetary inhabitant exchange.
To round out the week, a movie that my friend Peter and I talked about over lunch many years ago, remembering the plot vividly but trying to recall the movie's title. I can tell you that now - it's Colossus: The Forbin Project, starring Eric Braeden, which shows on NBC and tells the story of computers linking together in an attempt to take over the world. Purely science fiction, though - right?