October 8, 2016

This week in TV Guide: October 9, 1965

When last we visited this issue, in October 2012, our focus was on the phenomenon of the local station, particularly KCMT in Alexandria, Minnesota, and how it (and others like it) had been gobbled up by a station in a larger metropolitan area.* That made this a good issue to revisit, since there's plenty more content that we didn't get to the first time.

*There was also a mention or two of cover girl Anne Francis; I'll leave it to you as to whether or not you'd care to revisit that yourself.

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There's no one big feature this week, so let's start off with something we usually use to wind up the day - Letters to the Editor. What makes these so interesting this week is that they represent such a cross-section of television programming, and so many of them tell so much about the climate of the times.

For example, the first two letters have to do with a recent CBS Reports documentary on the Ku Klux Klan, entitled "KKK - The Invisible Empire." The Klan, in 1965, is still a major presence in American culture, and Jim Vickrey of Auburn University writes to praise CBS for the documentary, with the wise words that "Exposure to light is still an effective way to destroy a destructive - albeit 'invisible' virus." Ann Carlson of Devon, Connecticut wants to remind CBS, however, that two wrongs don't make a right, asking the pertinent question "Now how about a report on the Black Muslims?"

Television has, of course, always contained shows that have an element (or two) of implausibility, and Lamont Dixon of Coronado, California, thinks there are just too many to contend with in Juliet Prowse's sitcom Mona McCluskey. "I can't believe a childless couple, living on a sergeant's pay of $500 a month, has to exist on peanut butter and crackers for breakfast and dinner. I can't believe that the sergeant is a buddy of his commanding general. This is more fantastic than a magical Martian, a witch with a twitching nose, an instant genie from a bottle, a car that talks, or a Smothers Brother from heaven."* Meanwhile, Kevin Burford of Iowa City, Iowa, has had it with Hogan's Heroes - "There's nothing funny about prisoner-of-war camps." Considering the widespread approval the show met with from veterans, one wonders if Mr. Burford is, like so many people, confusing a POW camp with a concentration camp? Or perhaps he just doesn't believe humans can continue to be human even in inhuman conditions?

*Bonus points if you're the first in the comments section to identify each of the series to which Mr. Dixon refers.

Advise, solicited or not, is always something generous viewers are free to give the networks, and a trio of letters closes out the section, offering executives ideas that they think will improve their programming dramatically. In response to NBC changing Dr. Kildare from an hourly drama seen once a week to a half-hour, two-nights-a-week program (a la Peyton Place), Betty Norris of Jacksonville, NC, begs the network to "Please stitch Dr. Kildare together again!"* Dave Sepulveda of Santa Rosa, California, advises NBC to "Get smart!, and turn off the laugh machine." (A common complaint of the era.) And Diana Werner of Park Ridge, New Jersey, has perhaps the harshest verdict of all. After watching Robert Lansing get written out of ABC's Twelve O'Clock High by having his plane shot down in the opening moments of the new season, she says that "That finished us (our family) too, as far as this show is concerned." A good point; though Paul Burke is a fine actor (see Naked City, for example), this WWII drama was never the same after Lansing's General Savage left the scene. It lasted only another season-and-a-half.

*Hint to letter-writers who want to see their missives in print: humor always helps, as does cleverness.

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Throughout the 60s and early 70s, TV Guide's reviews were written by the witty and acerbic Cleveland Amory. Whenever we get the chance, we'll look at Cleve's latest take on the series of the era. 

This week Cleveland Amory's critical eye focuses on I Spy, "a kind of spin-off, or perhaps we should begin to call them spy-offs, of The Man from U.N.C.L.E."  - which itself was, he points out, something of a spin-off of the James Bond style of movie. Amory doesn't take long to get to the point, describing I Spy as "the best of the new shows we've reviewed so far."

As might be expected, Amory makes note of Cosby's status as the first black ("Negro") co-star in a regular dramatic series, but he also mentions that in the series' first show, Ivan Dixon was a guest star - "a truly memorable performance" as an athlete who defects to Red China. He likes Cosby, who "plays it all pretty straight but with just enough hint of glint to fill the bill," and favors Culp as well; the actor is "excellent, all the way from karate to kissing, and, like Cosby, can turn on rare humor when the situation warrants." Indeed, Culp and Cosby make a formidable team, not only as spies, but as co-stars, as they "carry on through the series their own offbeat series of remarkable shaggy spy sorties which along are worth the price of admission." Culp even does double-duty on the series, having written the script for that first episode.

All in all, Amory sees I Spy as a winner: strong acting, not only from the regulars but an admirable roster of guest stars; exotic scenery, with episodes shot on location in Hong Kong, Japan and Mexico, and good, solid writing. Provided the series doesn't forgot what makes it successful in the first place, it should be one of the can't-miss shows of the season.

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And now, a spin around the dial.

Game 3 of the World Series between the Minnesota Twins and Los Angeles Dodgers is the centerpiece of Saturday's broadcasting day, but I was also drawn to the night's episode of Gunsmoke (9:00 p.m. CT, CBS) in which "After killing a young gunman on the road, Matt finds three more gunfighters waiting for him in Dodge." Those three, unless I miss my guess, are played by Nehemiah Persoff, Warren Oates and Bruce Dern. Talk about an all-star lineup of character actors, and two of them pretty well-known in the Western field, too.

On Sunday, there are two episodes of CBS's morning religious programs that tell much about the apparently prosperous America of the early 1960s. The first, on Lamp Unto My Feet, is entitled "The Pit," a play by Jan Hartman. "The pit is a huge garbage dump* where 'people live in the refuse, building their houses out of the city wastes.' A doctor who has left his comfortable practice to minister to the outcast inhabitants learns the true meaning of charity when he is placed in a position where he cannot save the life of a man." Look for performances from future TV figures Clarence Williams III and Billy Dee Williams.

*Sounds very much like John Lindsay's New York, doesn't it?

That's followed by an episode of Look Up and Live that could have been aired today: It's called "Reformation: Chicago," the first of a three-part report "on the problems facing Chicago clergymen in their attempt to make Christianity a working force in urban society." Judging by the statistics on murders and shootings this year in Chicago - far higher than they were in 1965 - I'd have to guess the clergy may have failed in their attempt.

With the warning that Monday's programming may be preempted by the papal visit, the highlights include an episode of the aforementioned Twelve O'Clock High (ABC, 6:30 p.m.) in which Jack Lord stops in England on his way to Hawaii to play the brother of new series star Paul Burke. Lord also appears earlier in the week on a syndicated telecast of Stoney Burke, which proves there is life before Five-0. Andy Williams hosts what sounds like a pleasant hour of variety (NBC, 8:00 p.m.), with guests Bob Hope, Mary Tyler Moore, and Roger Miller.

SOURCE: HADLEY TV GUIDES
On Tuesday, it's the television premiere of 1957's "Funny Face" on NBC Tuesday Night at the Movies, starring Fred Astaire and Audrey Hepburn, with model Suzy Parker making her television debut. And you'll be seeing Dorothy Malone on Tuesday night's Peyton Place (ABC, 8:30 p.m.). Why is that worth mentioning? Because at press time she's recovering from a fight for her life, one that included 7½ hours of surgery, during which her heart stopped once, and a tracheotomy was performed to assist in her breathing. That was followed by a fever that ran as high as 105, and blood transfusions that drained the hospital's supply, necessitating an emergency blood drive that resulted in donations from co-stars and many Hollywood figures, as well as ordinary folk. During her long recovery, Peter Gunn's Lola Albright will fill in.

Wednesday features something that ties in vaguely to what I'll be mentioning below: the debut of a syndicated color program (WTCN, 7:30 p.m.) called Wanderlust, in which host Bill Burrud "narrates films of foreign lands and their heritage." I'm sure it must have looked quite exotic at the time. At 8:00 p.m. on NBC, it's an episode of one of the more underrated anthology series of the time, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theater, with a petty good cast of familiar faces - Mickey Rooney, Don Gordon, Jack Weston, Harold J. Stone and Joey Foreman, and Melodie Johnson in her first major TV appearance - in the gambling drama "Kicks." I also see ABC's Amos Burke, Secret Agent on at 9:00 p.m., which reminds me of what Cleveland Amory was writing about Man from U.N.C.L.E. spin-offs - when Burke's Law became Amos Burke, it was definitely not for the best.

Thursday's best programming is during the daytime; CBS's Captain Kangaroo celebrates former President Dwight Eisenhower's 75th birthday with a look back at an amazing career that took Ike from West Point to the battlefields of Europe to the White House. I doubt we'll ever again see a president with a resume like that - nor a kids program that wouldn't take the opportunity to become a fawning partisan broadcast. And at 12:30 p.m., NBC presents the seventh and final game of the World Series, as Sandy Koufax - pitching on just two days' rest and without his best stuff - breaks the hearts of all Minnesotans, pitching the Dodgers to a 2-0 victory over the Twins, and their third world championship since moving from Brooklyn.

The end of the week begins with Channel 9's syndicated broadcast of The Eleventh Hour (Friday, 11:00 a.m.), an intriguing story starring Harry Guardino as the author of a book on capital punishment whose own story is rapidly coming to an end - in the death house. On Art Linkletter's House Party (1:30 p.m., CBS) Rod Serling, president of the Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, discusses the Emmy Awards, to be telecast in September (rather than the end of the television season) for the first time. It won't do that again until 1977, when it settles into the slot it maintains to this day.

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Finally, it will probably come as no surprise to you that I think television, on balance, has been a good thing. (Granted, I could still get a lot of mileage out of it even if I didn't think so, but it's not much fun writing about things you don't like.) I'm not blind to its faults though; ironically, one of them comes about because it does its job too well. I'll get to that in a minute.

Pope Paul VI is arriving in New York this coming Monday - not just his first papal trip to the United States, but the first time any sitting pope has ever visited America. The networks are planning all-out coverage, the most, says Henry Harding, "since the funeral of President Kennedy." The nets have not only had to pool their coverage, they're also leaning on the help of New York's three independent stations. They'll need all that assistance, as they've "planned for continuous coverage of all aspects of the Pope's visit, from the time his plane was to touch down at Kennedy Airport until departure following the scheduled Mass at the stadium and visit to the World's Fair." This will require some 65 cameras in and about the city, including cameras at 27 locations for the Pope's motorcade from the airport to Manhattan, 15 more at the United Nations for his address there, a helicopter for aerial shots, and seven color cameras for the primetime Mass at Yankee Stadium.* Even the Pope's departure from Rome for the United States will be aired, via Early Bird satellite.

*Which provides a great punchline to the joke: "Who's the only Cardinal with a monument in Yankee Stadium?"

That, you might think, sounds great, so why am I complaining? Well, near as I can tell, it's because television can do this kind of big event so well, it kind of removes the wonder from it all. And that's the nub, and one way television has impacted culture in unexpected ways. Thanks to various technological advances over the decades, we're now accustomed to getting live pictures from pretty much anywhere on Earth, and if we ever go back to the Moon, I expect the coverage from there will be astonishing - for the first couple of flights, that is. Then, as was the case during the initial Moon landings, it will all become ho-hum, we'll get tired of it, and move on to something else.

That television can reduce if not eliminate the sense of the world's true auwe, that it make the ordinary out of the extraordinary is much like the baseball player who never gets the acclaim he deserves because he makes things look so easy. Edward R. Murrow once marveled at the ability of live television cameras to show both the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans, live and simultaneously, on a split screen. Today I don't think that would merit much of a second look.

It isn't just television, of course; technology itself has a way of doing this, so that we don't think anything of carrying around a computer/television/telephone in our pockets. We just take it for granted. But, if I can venture a thought, I think television's impact has in some ways been more unexpectedly far-reaching. Let's take that satellite coverage I was talking about a couple of paragraphs ago. One of the main attractions of the early James Bond movies was the exotic locale that featured in them, the ability to see these lands of intrigue and beauty in color on the big screen. In other words, the movies could take you places you couldn't go to see things you couldn't see.

Nowadays that isn't so; physically we can travel much easier, much farther, than previous generations. But even before we were able to travel to these locales, we were able to see them on television. And pretty soon you didn't have to plunk down money to see Bond pursuing a SPECTRE agent through the crowded streets of Hong Kong (or something like it); you had a pretty good chance of seeing Hong Kong on any one of a number of travel shows, all shown in your home and in color. For Bond to provide that selling point, that reason to draw you to buy what is now a very expensive movie ticket, there has to be more - more chases, more explosions, more sex, more special effects. That, in turn, affects our other forms of entertainment, not only in terms of content but, increasingly, in shortening our attention spans, which were pretty short to begin with. The effects go on and on.

It isn't just television responsible for all this, of course. The ability of a pope, or any other world leader, to take advantage of this same ease of travel that we do, means a papal trip itself isn't the phenomenon it once was. John Paul II, for example, visited America several times, and while the networks went all-out for his first visit here in 1979, it was never quite the same sensation again. Additionally, the explosion of cable news networks has not only freed the networks up from covering many of the news events that once dominated our screens, it's made it far more difficult to tell what news events actually are important and what's just filler for a 24/7 news cycle.

Perhaps this is a simplified, even naive, answer. Perhaps I'm asking a question that doesn't even need to be asked, or one that doesn't merit an answer any more complicated than "Duh." It is, nonetheless, striking to see the extremes to which the trip of Paul VI dominated our news in 1965, and why it might seem so foreign to us today.

5 comments:

  1. If my memory serves me correctly, the shows referenced are: My Favorite Martian, Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, My Mother the Car and the Smothers Brothers Show (the 1/2 B/W comedy). (This should be good for at least four out of 5 points.)

    Rick

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  2. - Funny Face, made in 1957, was Suzy Parker's movie debut - oddly enough, the same year that she made her TV debut on the live Producer's Showcase.

    By 1965, Ms. Parker had married Bradford Dillman, and had decided to scale back her own career in favor of family life - while her husband had decided to become, in his words, "the Safeway Actor" in all media.

    - Noting that WGN-channel 9, the local independent station in Chicago, likely wouldn't pick up the Papal coverage from the networks on Monday night:
    Ch9's Monday prime-time offering would have been Sherlock Holmes Theater, hosted by Basil Rathbone in person, this week showing "Charlie Chan in The Chinese Ring" from 1947, starring Roland Winters and Mantan Moreland.
    And I still wonder what Mr. Rathbone would have had to say about Mr. Moreland ...
    By the way, you can see Roland Winters on Friday night, playing Dick Smothers's boss on The Smothers Brothers Show; you know, the one where Tommy plays the angel ...

    In the 2012 post, you noted the Bonanza/Chevrolet "infomercial".
    This was an annual feature on
    Bonanza during the early '60s.
    I think the first one was in '62; Chevy had three full sponsorships, one on each network - My Three Sons on ABC and Route 66 on CBS were the others.
    Martin Milner and George Maharis trooped out to the Ponderosa, as did Fred MacMurray and the boys, to sing the praises of the new Chevies.
    So how come Bonanza got the promo gig?
    Simple - Bonanza, on NBC, was the only one of the shows that was in color in '62.

    - An old and wise saying (that I think I just made up);
    You can only do something for the first time - once.

    I just turned 66 years of age, and I can still throw myself off with the modern tech that has long replaced that with which I grew up.

    As a kid, I remember a big boxy Muntz console with a 17-inch screen above a speaker that to my kiddish eyes resembled a stage; I used to imagine that the performers were on the "stage", being projected above on that "giant" screen.

    As time went on, the screens got larger, got color, got even larger (early projection TVs), ultimately got wider, and on and on.

    As for news, early on they had to get film of what happened outside the studio, which had to be brought back to the station to be developed in the old fashioned way. Remote live coverage of anything - expensive, and so had to be saved for a special occasion.
    As always, the changes came about one at a time; mostly, we didn't really notice at all while they were happening.
    I remember how TV news people always wished that they could really cover everything "as it happens" - and now they can, and many are complaining about that.
    I suppose that's the lesson that I've had to learn, over and over, through the years:
    You can look at the past and wish;
    You can look at the future and anticipate;
    But you're stuck in the present, like it or not!

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  3. You're right on all those and beat me to it. I think that all 5, including THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS SHOW, were seen on Nick-at-Nite, back in its good days when it saluted classic tv. THE SMOTHERS BROTHERS SHOW was 1 of only 3 prime time CBS sitcoms (The others were THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW & THE MUNSTERS.) remaining in B&W for the 1965-66 season. I DREAM OF JEANNIE was the only sitcom (and 1 of only 2 prime time programs total) on NBC in B&W that season.

    Of those 3 character actors in GUNSMOKE this week, 2 are still living (Oates passed away in 1982.), with Persoff now 97 years old.

    Regarding CHRYSLER THEATER, for some reason I find myself confusing Don Gordon with Phillip Pine at times. They, along with Harry Townes & Ross Martin, shared the role of Arch Hammer, the main character in Season 1 TWILIGHT ZONE episode "The Four of Us are Dying", they both made other TWILIGHT ZONE appearances, and I've seen both of them on later 70s & 80s shows recently on Me-TV, Gordon on THE LOVE BOAT and Pine on HAPPY DAYS.

    The Soupy Sales profile is titled "19,147 Pies Later", referring to the total number of pies which Sales had taken in the face in his 15-year tv career. I wonder how anyone got such an accurate count? This article was written during the time when Sales had a local show on NYC Independent station WNEW-TV and includes the trouble in which he found himself the previous New Year's Day when he'd encouraged kids to mail him "those little green pieces of paper" out of their fathers' wallets. His NYC show lasted until Sept. 1966.

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    Replies
    1. For Jon H:

      Phillip Pine passed away about ten years ago, aged 86, long retired.

      Don Gordon, also long retired, is shortly to mark his 90th birthday.

      The Soupy Sales "little green pieces of paper" incident has a followup.
      Check Mark Evanier's NewsFromME blog; just type in Chuck McCann and find his account of how he had to sub for Soupy on the next day's show and "apologize" for what Soup had done.
      Chuck's "apology" is probably just as good in second-hand prose, but you should really hear Chuck tell the story in his own voices; it's that good.

      BTW, the Sales profile was written by Thomas Meehan, who not long afterward left magazine freelancing to become a full-time comedy writer.
      Meehan wound up as one of Broadway's top comedy playwrights, lately in collaboration with Mel Brooks.
      Kismet, I guess ...

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  4. Lansing was written off "12 O'Clock High" because Quinn Martin productions thought he looked too old for the role...and replaced him with Burke, who's two years older than Lansing.
    On Captain Kangaroo, were his shows more overtly educational in the 60s? I remember reading an old article where the Captain did such unlikely subjects as the United Nations.

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And now for something completely different.