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On Wednesday I told you about my appearance on the Dan Schneider show, where I was part of a discussion on sitcoms. As I was prattling on, I became aware that I must have sounded awfully negative about people; I wasn't a fan of Hal Linden (Barney Miller), I wasn't a fan of Mary Tyler Moore (The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Mary Tyler Moore Show), I wasn't a fan of the casts of M*A*S*H and Friends. I probably would have been in the "Get off my lawn!" phase if the show had run any longer. I don't mean to sound negative, you know - it just happens.
And yet here I go again, about to tell you all that I'm not a fan of Barbara Feldon, the shimmering Agent 99 of Get Smart. I watched the show as a kid, and I can remember not being enthused by her character even then, at an age when I shouldn't have been able to be that discerning. But I always thought of Get Smart as stupid humor (not meaning that in a dismissive fashion, but more in the Stooges type of vein; it was far too clever to be literally dumb), and nobody does stupid humor better than guys. Get Smart suffered from the inevitable marriage that seemingly has to occur every time you put unmarried men and women characters as co-stars in the same series over a protracted period, and while some (many?) would disagree with me, I didn't think the show ever recovered.
Having said all that, Dick Hobson writes a flattering portrait of her in this week's issue, from her successful marriage to Lucien Verdoux Feldon, of which she says, "in eight years I've never criticized him for anything, nor he I." (they'll divorce the following year), to her reputation as "a girl totally without guile" (she insists she's not a sex symbol, and she remains oblivious to the attention that surrounds her, partly because of her myopia), to her intelligence (as a Shakespearean scholar, she won the jackpot on The $64,000 Question, without help from the sponsors), to her successful run as a model and commercial actress. Even Don Adams' Maxwell Smart treats her as one of the guys, albeit a statuesque one.
So I can't exactly put my finger on what it is about her that didn't appeal to me. Perhaps it's the story I read about, many years after the fact, about how her husband had pitched her to What's My Line? producer Mark Goodman to replace the late Dorothy Kilgallen on the panel - the day after Kilgallen died. Of course, maybe that was one of the complaints she had against him as well, even though she'd "never" criticized him. Perhaps I wouldn't have liked anyone in that role on Get Smart. Most likely, it's just me. As usual.
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: Ed is the ringmaster at the Krone Circus Arena in Munich, Germany, for performances by some of the world's great stars of the big top. Acts include the Golojews, a Cossack riding troupe; the Four Gaonas, a trapeze act; the Schickler Sisters, a riding trio; Sam and Samy, father-and-son foot jugglers; sword balancer Rogana; and two of Europe's leading clown acts, the Gentos and Pio Nock. Also highlighting the bill are Gert Siemoneit's lions, panthers and tigers; the Sembach Elephants; Kroplins' Chimps; Rupert's Bears; Miss Mara, high-trapeze artist; and Katharina, a high-wire ballerina.
Palace: Hostess Janet Leigh welcomes comedian Allan Sherman; F Troop's Forrest tucker, Ken Berry and Larry Storch; the comedy team of Rowan and Martin; singer Andy Russell; table-tennis experts Bob Ashley and Erwin Klein; and magician Michel de la Vega.
Well, could this be any harder to compare? Unless you're a European circus aficionado, it's very difficult to know how good any of these acts are. Let's assume, however, that their description as "some of the world's great stars of the big top" is accurate. In that case, what this really amounts to is a classic Sullivan show - vaudeville acts left and right. On the other hand, at least we know what we're getting with Palace - Janet Leigh teaming with Allan Sherman on the very funny song parody "Sarah Jackman," Rowan and Martin before their Laugh-In days, and F-Troop's absurd comic trio. Ultimately, your preference depends on how much you like circuses. I'm calling this a push.
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It's that time of the year, when summer winds down and networks start making room for their new fall offerings. As such, we're treated this week to a number of series making their network swan songs, although many of them will find second life in syndication and, later, video.
On Monday, the pop music show Hullabaloo exits NBC (6:30 CT), to be replaced by "a comedy series" called The Monkees. Definitely a trade-up for NBC. In fact, much of the network's Monday schedule is changing; The John Forsythe Show, the unsuccessful follow-up to Bachelor Father (7:00 p.m.), disappears after this week, with I Dream of Jeannie beginning its new season in this time slot. That's followed by the last Monday episode of Dr. Kildare at 7:30 p.m., the fall replacement for which is the short-lived Roger Miller Show, and at 8:00 p.m. John Davidson's summer replacement show goes away, its spot to be taken by the single-season Western drama The Road West (which will be bumped once a month for Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall specials). Only Run For Your Life remains in place, and it has a couple more seasons to run.
ABC's also shaking up their Tuesday night schedule. The much-loved McHale's Navy sails into port for the last time, replaced at 7:30 by The Rounders, a sitcom that lasts but 17 episodes. At 8:00, F Troop makes its Tuesday night swan song, moving to Thursday next week; it makes way for the ill-fated Pruitts of Southhampton, aka The Phyllis Diller Show, At least it runs a full season. And at 8:30, Peyton Place closes its Tuesday run; the second of its twice-weekly episodes will be on Wednesday next season.
Wednesday's changes begin with the end of ABC's The Patty Duke Show at 7:00 and Robert Goulet's spy drama Blue Light at 7:30; taking their place will be the hour-long Western The Monroes. ABC's Wednesday Night Movie is the next to go; the two-hour timeslot will be filled by The Man Who Never Was at 8:00, Peyton Place at 8:30, and the variety/drama anthology Stage '67 at 9:00.
It isn't until Thursday that CBS gets in the act (at least for this week), with The Munsters going off the air and Gilligan's Island moving to Mondays, to be replaced by the adventure series Jericho. ABC makes wholesale changes, ditching Gidget at 7:00 (F Troop moves here) and The Double Life of Henry Phyfe at 7:30 (replaced by The Tammy Grimes Show*). At 8:30 it's the last Thursday episode of Peyton Place; the new place will be filled by That Girl, one of the true hits in this group of new series. And at 9:00 The Avengers breathes its last, with Burt Reynolds' police series Hawk taking its place.
*One of the shortest-lived shows ever, lasting only four episodes before being replaced by the nighttime version of The Dating Game. I'll leave it to you as to how well that trade-off worked.
NBC's changes are fewer, but no less notable. Laredo vacates the Thursday night scene, moving to Fridays to make room for the network's new science-fiction drama, Star Trek, while the summer replacement Mickie Finn's makes way next week for the absurd The Hero.
Friday sees ABC continue its purge of well-known programs; in fact, I'd argue that on the whole, the shows leaving the air are better known and more loved than those replacing them, although there are a couple of exceptions. For example, at 6:30 p.m. The Flintstones leaves, The Green Hornet will arrive. At 7:00 Summer Fun, one of those anthologies where failed pilots go to die, disappears forever, with The Time Tunnel traveling to take its place. The last half of the hour-long Tunnel takes the place of another iconic series, The Addams Family. At 8:00, the network says goodbye to two more well-known shows, Honey West and The Farmer's Daughter, with the disastrous revival of The Milton Berle Show taking their place - briefly. At at 9:00, completing the makeover, Court-Martial airs its last episode, its slot being filled by 12 O'Clock High.
Nobody else can really compare to that, but NBC does sack Camp Runamuck and Hank* in favor of Ron Ely's Tarzan. while Sing Along With Mitch and Mister Roberts bid adieu, replaced by The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (in a new timespot) and T.H.E. Cat, respectively.
All in all, quite a week - and I expect more will come next week. I hope you caught your favorites while you could!
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Any interest in sports? It's a quiet week, but not without some drama. In baseball, the Baltimore Orioles have the American League pennant wrapped up, but in the National League a three-way battle continues between the Dodgers, the Giants, and the Pirates, with two of those teams - Los Angeles and San Francisco - facing off in NBC's Game of the Week at 2:00 p.m. Saturday afternoon. The Dodgers wind up on top (one of the few times they best the Giants in a pennant race), only to be swept by the Orioles in the World Series. On Sunday, KHOU in Houston presents syndicated coverage of the final round of the Philadelphia Classic golf tournament, won by Don January. And of course there's always wrestling.
But this is Texas, which means football is never far away, and as the NFL and AFL continue their six-game exhibition schedules, the games start popping up. On Saturday night (8:00) the hometown Houston Oilers take on the Chiefs in Kansas City in a local broadcast, while NBC chimes in Sunday afternoon (2:30) with the Oakland Raiders meeting the Broncos in Denver. Not to be undone, CBS has an NFL game between the Minnesota Vikings and Dallas Cowboys, from the Cotton Bowl.*
*That same night, though not on television, the AFL begins its regular season with the brand-new Miami Dolphins (co-owned by Danny Thomas, with TV's Flipper the dolphin as mascot) playing the Raiders. The NFL starts its regular season the following week.
Which is precisely the situation the NCAA finds itself in late in November, when the top two teams in the nation, undefeated Notre Dame and undefeated Michigan State, meet in the "Game of the Century." I wrote about that game here, including the near-hysteria that was created when it appeared parts of the country would be prevented from seeing the broadcast. Durslag concludes his article by mentioning that on November 26 (the week after the Game of the Century), Notre Dame would be playing USC, while ABC would be telecasting the Army-Navy game, meaningless except to the military academies. Durslag confessed, at the risk of being called a Communist, that he'd rather see the Fighting Irish battle the Trojans any day, a game that turned out to be more meaningful than he could have known: while Army was defeating Navy 20-7, Notre Dame - on the heels of its controversial 10-10 tie with Michigan State - rebounded to crush USC 51-0, thereby clinching the 1966 national championship.
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Lainie Kazan. The failure was particularly disappointing to his mother, who has persistently asked why he isn't already married and given her grandchildren.
In an editor's note, we're told that two weeks following this show, Lewis was asked back on The Dating Game, this time as the bachelor asking questions of three attractive bachelorettes. One of them was actress Luciana Paluzzi*, another a Playboy Club bunny. He chose the third, who turned out to be actress and former Miss Canada Joan Patrick. Twelve days later he proposed, and the rest is . . . history?
*Who will be appearing at next month's Mid Atlantic Nostalgia Convention. Maybe I'l ask her about this.
But what kind of history? A Google search of Richard Warren Lewis yields his obituary, which after a little cross-referencing establishes beyond doubt his identity as our subject. Among other things, we learn that he was survived by his wife, Glenda Edwards Lewis. So what happened? There's a good amount of information regarding their engagement, which was widely reported, but nothing more. Were they married? If so, it appears to have ended some time before Lewis' death. Which is too bad, because every fairy tale deserves a happy ending.
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Surprise! She's a fan of Hillbillies. Now in its fifth season, the show is past its lightening-rod status: is it a "social satire" that gives viewers a "vicarious fulfillment of the great American dream," or does it "[prove] beyond doubt the 12-year-old mentality of the wanderers in the wasteland," i.e. the viewers in what we'd today call flyover country. And as a television veteran, Hillbillies provides comfort food for its viewers. There are no surprises in store: "Banker Drystale's schemes will go agley and his apoplexy will gets its exercise; Granny is going to be the enfant terrible that we love to think all elderly folk are at heart; the wicket and the worldly will get their comeuppance; and the canned laughter - above all, the canned laughter - will tell us where the jokes are."
That may not sound like much, but Crist points to "what makes the show both durable and endurable," which is its "utter lack of pretension." And I think this is an aspect of the show that many critics tend to overlook. Crist compares it to that old, familiar song - "sweet and simple," with likable personalities, good musical support, and comedy that "may be low, but so is the pitch; the irritation, therefore, is minuscule."
In other words, The Beverly Hillbillies is a sitcom that has found the vein of humor in the situation it's mining, and it mines that humor for all it's worth, providing simple (as opposed to simplistic) entertainment to its fans. For a nation that's riding the express lane to a collective nervous breakdown in the next couple of years, that's probably pretty welcome.