October 1, 2016

This week in TV Guide: September 30, 1967

This week we make a return to the last day of September, 1967. As always with these encore presentations, all the information you read today (and Monday, with the listings) will be new; if you want to see what I wrote about last time, you can read it here.

Suffice it to say that when Sally Field was 20 years old and flying around in that odd-shaped habit, nobody could possibly have foreseen she'd wind up as a two-time Academy Award-winning actress. Not that they didn't think she'd be a star; she'd made quite an impression in the single season that her first series, Gidget, was on the air, and The Flying Nun was written expressly for her (although creator Harry Ackerman had to sweat out a period when Sally wanted to try her hand at the big screen, a moment that ended for the time being when she lost out on roles in The Graduate and Valley of the Dolls.

She's popular with her colleagues, who call her a hard worker and thorough professional. Her stepfather, actor Jock Mahoney, calls it "a wonderful, opulent time for her - to be accepted in her profession and all the money and the adulation. Of course, it's all quicksilver." Her mother, Maggie, says that Sally's "great ambition" is to do a Broadway musical, although she and Sally both agree she's no singer - yet. Almost as an afterthought, she adds that "[s]he would also like to do feature pictures." "I guess every actor wants to get into pictures," she says, and adds that "I can't imagine not acting, not wanting to act. It's what I've wanted all my life."

Next year, this issue will be 50 years old, and Sally Field will probably still be acting. Her career hasn't quite been the quicksilver that her stepfather foresaw, for she has lived with the adulation and the money and the awards all this time. In addition to her two Oscars (she was nominated for a third in 2013), she's won three Emmys, and been nominated for and won countless other awards. But right here, right now, she's just a kid starring in her second TV series, with a future of endless possibilities in front of her. But no Broadway.

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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. 

Have you ever heard of a series called Maya? Cleveland Amory has, much to his misfortune, for "Children's programs - particularly those in the 7:30 to 8:30 time slot - are perilous watching for those over the age of 8:30." Maya is a series set in India, and it tells the story of an orphan boy, played by Jay North of Dennis the Menace fame, whose father, a Great White Hunter, was killed by a tiger. (Don't blame the tiger, Amory notes; the hunter "was shooting at the tiger at the time the tiger apparently decided to have a Great White Sandwich.") North's sidekick is an Indian boy played by Sajid Khan, who has an elephant named Maya - hence the show's title.

The series isn't completely irredeemable, according to Amory, who very much likes that the interiors and exteriors were actually filmed in India. However, the worst parts of the program "are, in order, the plots, the dialog and the acting." That's not very promising. "The plots are so bad that you never even accept the premises, let alone believe their solutions. As for the dialog, you have to hear it to believe it - and the trouble is, of course, you don't." Several times, Amory swears, he's heard conversations "which must have been beamed at an audience which hasn't yet been born" And don't even start on the acting of North and Khan; North "talks most of his dialog as if he were trying out a new and rather inferior mouthwash," while Khan "has been told once too often that he's cute. He is - but don't let him know it."

Worst of all, perhaps, is the violence - surprising and appalling in a children's show broadcast in an early time slot. Amory counts "shootings, knifings, chokings, stompings, buried alivings, etc." among other things, and "[a] bloody fight between the elephant and a tiger is nothing to this show." Even the teaser to one episode had, Amory says, "one and a half murders." It's nice to know we've gotten beyond that kind of television, isn't it?

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Go ahead, have a drink - it's already noon!
Back when we initially looked at this issue, the major story in sports was The Great Race, the four-way battle for first place in the American League, which didn't end until the season's final day when the "Impossible Dream" Boston Red Sox won and the Detroit Tigers lost. However, if a couple of games had gone differently, the race could have ended in a four-way tie that would have required multiple playoff games to settle, so it's by no means certain that the World Series will be starting on Wednesday. It does, though, as the Red Sox host the National League champion St. Louis Cardinals, who clinched their pennant on September 18. The Series goes the full seven games, but the Dream ends for the Bosox, who can't continue their comeback from a 3-games-to-1 deficit and lose Game 7, 7-2.

With the outcome of the pennant race still undecided on Sunday, NBC decides to carry a special broadcast of the Minnesota-Boston game; the winner of that game will clinch a share of the pennant, and can win it outright if the Tigers don't sweep their doubleheader against California. Since NBC's already scheduled to carry an AFL doubleheader, this means at least one of those games (San Diego vs. Buffalo, followed by Kansas City at Oakland) would have been preempted. I wonder which one it was.* On the NFL side, CBS carries the Chicago Bears - Minnesota Vikings game; for those in the Twin Cities (and the 50-mile-radius blackout area), it's the Los Angeles Rams and Dallas Cowboys. Saturday's college football game is Michigan vs. California.

*According to the invaluable archives of the Chicago Tribune, it was the first game.


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Who knew that you could get from Mannix to The Alvin Show with one move? Well, it's true.

And it only makes sense, once you think about it. After all, Mike Connors, the star of Mannix, is Armenian; Ross Bagdasarian, aka David Seville, voice of the Chipmunks and Connors' best and oldest friend, is Armenian. They've been friends for over 25 years, since their days growing up in Fresno, and Bagdasarian, who remembers Connors as "the best-looking boy in their high school," tells Burt Prelutsky that Mike Connors is "the straightest, most real human being I've ever known."

That last line also makes sense. There's an enduring popularity about Mannix, even after all these years, that transcends the normal nostalgic feeling classic TV fans have about the shows of the era. Time after time, fans of the series talk about the warmth, the humanity, the reality of the character as Connors portrays him. They look at his relationship with his secretary Peggy (Gail Fisher) and see one in which Joe Mannix looks at Peggy not as a woman, not as a black woman, but as a trusted friend and confidant. They look at his dedication to his clients, his determination to get to the truth, and see a character who lacks the hard-boiled cynicism and bitterness that marks so many private detectives of the era (although he certainly trades punches and gunshots with the best of them). It sounds to me a lot like the "straightest, most real human being" that Ross Bagdasarian describes, doesn't it?

Mike Connors' agent says that "When Mannix whether it runs one season or five seasons, Mike will emerge as a big, big movie star." That may not have happened, but on the other hand Mannix runs not one, not five, but eight seasons, and only a dispute over reruns takes the show off the air. This Saturday marks the third episode of that first season, the first of eight, and to this day the series, and its star, remain fan favorites.

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I touched on this in the previous write-up of this issue, but the week is filled with programs we wouldn't see on broadcast television nowadays - or, indeed, on cable.

On Monday, NET Journal has an interview with Stalin's daughter, Svetlana Alliluyeva, taped earlier the same day in New York City. She'd defected to the West the previous year, and had arrived in New York in April 1967, where at a press conference she denounced both her father's legacy and the Soviet government. For their part, Soviet Premier Kosygin dismissed her as "unstable" and a "sick person." Her defection remains mysterious to this day; at the time, many in the West had viewed her with suspicion, speculating she was a KGB plant sent to gather information and spread disinformation. Indeed, she wound up going back to the USSR in 1984, and shuttled back and forth between the United States and Europe, finally converting to Roman Catholicism and living her final years in Wisconsin. An interesting, complicated person.

The following night, NET returns with "Five Ballets of the Five Senses" on Live From Lincoln Center (except it isn't live, and the show isn't yet called Live From Lincoln Center. It is from Lincoln Center though). Tonight's special features five original ballets choreographed by John Butler, all of which touch on some aspect of the human senses: taste, scent, touch, sound and sight. Opposite that, CBS Reports has another in its occasional series of Harry Reasoner features, this one on "one of America's most popular artists," painter Andrew Wyeth. Included in the program is an interview with Wyeth's son James, who as Jamie Wyatt would become quite an artist in his own right.

There are more conventional, but no less interesting, programs on the rest of the week as well. NBC's Saturday Night at the Movies has the 1960 Greek comedy Never on Sunday*, with Melina Mercouri. Like me, you might not have seen the movie, but surely you recognize its Oscar-winning theme. NBC really missed the boat, though, not paring the movie with Danny Thomas' latest special, "It's Greek to Me." That's on Monday. On Wednesday night, NBC's Kraft Music Hall has an interesting revue, with Bobby Darin playing George M. Cohan in "Give My Regards to Broadway," co-starring Liza Minnelli, Kaye Stevens, ragtime pianist extraordinaire Max Morath, Dennis Day, and a cameo by Jack Benny as Day's "violin-playing manager." Very nice.

*Duh, of course it's not on Sunday. It's on Saturday, get it?

On Friday, an NBC News Special tells the story as "Raymond Burr Visits Vietnam." It's Burr's tenth visit to South Vietnam - not as a performer, TV Guide notes, but instead as a personal visitor to the troops, "because I thought they would appreciate seeing someone from home," and his stops include Saigon, the Mekong Delta, and the Gulf of Tonkin - not exactly the most peaceful parts of the country. Burr's travels to Vietnam are legendary; he often returns to the United States carrying messages from the troops, which he will then hand-deliver to relatives and loved ones. I've said this about him before, and I'll say it again: a mensch, through and through.

And then there's the late-night movie on Mankato's Channel 12, KEYC. It's The Blob, staring some young actor named McQueen. I don't think he was too proud of having that on his resume.

10 comments:

  1. MAYA is actually not bad. The series (18 episodes, this one season) is streaming at Warner Archive Instant and has also been released on DVD by Warner Archive. It almost certainly got its spot due to DAKTARI's wild popularity at the time (7th in the Nielsens the previous season). That violence that Amory dislikes actually gives it a little bite IMO. It's a pretty good show.

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    1. Amory was a noted animal rights activist. His infamously angry review of "American Sportsman" was about this time, and I wouldn't be shocked if the real reason he hated "Maya" was due its cavalier treatment of animals.
      Back to the top, the role in "Valley of the Dolls" Sally couldn't get was the camptastic Neely O'Hara role that went to Patty Duke. Oddly enough, Duke had been the first choice by the "Flying Nun" producers to play Sister Bertrille.

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    2. I believe you're both right. Amory would, of course, have been rooting for the tiger to win the confrontation!

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  2. This may surprise you but it true; Liquor has never been banned from advertising on TV (or radio). They're under the same restrictions as beer or wine, as in the actor(s) can't be shown actually drinking the product (that was due to the fact that in the early 50's college football telecasts where the ads were done live too, the promoters would quaff the suds and typically by the end of the 3rd quarter, they'd be tanked). When that restriction was put in, liquor companies responded by discontinuing TV/radio ads. About 20 years ago some liquor companies decided to give TV/radio another shot (so to speak). After a few years they realized it just wasn't doing anything for sales.

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    1. Yes, very interesting. I had not known whether it was an official or unofficial ban.

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    2. I understood there was an unofficial ban on hard liquor ads until the 90's...

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  3. A great tribute to the 1967 pennant race, Mitchell (which likely provided the impetus for why we have two wild cards now). As a third generation, 14 year old Red Sox fan growing up in upstate NY, this was a magical season and ending to a wild baseball season. The baseball schedule was a bit different then...there were two game weekend series and it happened to work out that the Twins has a two game end of the season set in Fenway...

    NBC did bump the early AFL game (frustrating for the local Bills fans but Nirvana for all of us Sox fans). Curt Gowdy, recently promoted to NBC's main announcer for MLB Game of the Week (1965) had been the Red Sox announcer for several years before.

    I don't believe there is a complete game tape of the Sunday, October 1 clincher(Boston had to wait a few hours for the Tigers to lose the 2nd game of a doubleheader in rainy Tiger Stadium-several rain delays) BUT there is one for the game played Saturday, September 30th on the ever omnipresent YouTube....https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Cze3fMSa84w

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    1. Hi John,

      My wife was living in Maine during that pennant race, and she was living through it just like you; even had the little red socks painted on her cheek. I was in Minnesota, but oddly enough was not a Twins fan, so I was glad to see the Sox win. That tape on YouTube is terrific; I agree that it would be nice if there was a complete tape of the game the next day, although I do understand there are bits and pieces of it around. I know that in the past networks carried Sunday games as well as Saturday, but I would think this quite extraordinary to do preempt regular programming for a special Sunday broadcast. Those were the days!

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  4. There's another article about Connors in TV GUIDE, written in 1973 by Bagdasarian's cousin...Pulitzer Prize winning playwright/author William Saroyan (the two, incidentally, wrote the hit song "Come On To My House")
    He shares Connors' birth name--Krekor Ohanian.
    (this is also in the FIRST 25 YEARS compilation)

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    1. You know, I think I might have that one as well - I know I recently bought one with him on the cover. Ah, to cover Alvin, Mannix and The Human Comedy all in one fell swoop is just too good, isn't it?

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