Anyway, this week's cover story revolves around Jim's trip to Waseca, Minnesota, this year's site of the National Plow Matches (an event that appears to continue to this day). Up to 100,000 people have been known to crowd into Plowville, U.S.A., as the host site is renamed for the week, to witness what is called the "World Series of Plowing," and during election years it's a prime attraction for politicians looking to court the important rural-farm vote. This year's an off-election year, so to pump up attendence organizers latched onto the idea of "a show-biz draw," which turned out to be Nabors.
There are two versions of Tschaikowski's Nutcracker for you to choose from: Sunday at 8:00 p.m. CT with the San Francisco Ballet on Channel 11, and Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. with stars from the New York City Ballet, and narrated by Eddie Albert, on CBS. Both are in color, both are good, both are abridged for time. There are also two versions of Handel's "Messiah": KTCA, the educational station in the Twin Cities, broadcasts a version by the Minnetonka Philharmonic Society on Thursday (repeated Friday), while KMSP's version is at 12:15 a.m. Christmas morning by the First Baptist Church of Dallas.
Variety shows are all-in for the occasion: the King Family show kicks off Saturday on ABC, followed by Lawrence Welk and his annual Christmas show - it includes "Holly Jolly Christmas," which had only been introduced the previous year on Rudolph. Martha Scott hosts the annual Christmas show on a live broadcast of The Bell Telephone Hour (Sunday, 5:30 p.m., NBC), Jerry Lewis and a host of children take over Hullabaloo on Monday (NBC, 6:30 p.m.), and Perry Como (NBC, Monday), Red Skelton (CBS, Tuesday), Danny Kaye (CBS, Wednesday) and Mitch Miller (NBC, Friday) round out the week.
What would Christmas be without choirs? KTCA, the educational station in the Twin Cities, has choral concerts on Holiday Festival Monday through Friday, presenting music from local churches and schools, and the local stations have plenty of local choral groups throughout the week, including the University of Minnesota Glee Club, the Minneapolis Apollo Club, the boychoir from the Church of the Holy Childhood, and choirs from Bloomington Kennedy and Southwest high schools.
That should keep you in the spirit.
No Sullivan vs. The Palace this week due to a preemption - ABC presents a look at Montana's Big Sky Country, hosted by Robert Preston. My wife asked why it wasn't Chet Huntley hosting, since he actually owned a ranch in Montana. "Huntley's on NBC," I said. "This program's on ABC." "Oh," she replied. Politics.
No review by Cleveland Amory this week either, but that's because Cleve's writing about his disasterous experience with the series O.K. Crackerby!, which will run for a scant 17 episodes before leaving the air in January (an editor's note at the end of his article says the final episode is scheduled for January 6).
Two years ago, Amory came up with the concept for a series called My Man St. John, the story of "a lovable old millionaire from Oklahoma named O.K. Crackerby, a man with a fortune in, in more ways than one, natural gas. He is a widower, one with three children, an older girl and two younger boys, a man who has come East to ply the Eastern resort circuit, since he promised his 'missus,' before she passed on, that someday he would stop just making money and do right by the kids. To do this, he has acquired the services of something he has learned the Eastern resort families have - a 'tutor companion.'" St. John (pronounced Sinjin) Quincy, the tutor, would be the star of the show, which would satirize mores and manners of East Coast society. ABC loved it, and the show went into development - although Amory was given pause when ABC executive Leonard Goldberg asked him "what the heck is a two-door companion?" which, in hindsight should have given him an idea of what was to follow.
The article is lengthy even for TV Guide, so we'll just give you the basics: the idea of St. John being the focus of the show evaporated about the time Burl Ives was cast as Crackerby; suddenly, the show was being called O.K. Crackerby!, and Ives, as the focal point, would attempt to simply buy his way into high society. Abe Burrows was employed as what we would today call the showrunner, and the next thing Cleve knew, the series was being billed as "Created by Abe Burrows and Cleveland Amory." Burrows was also listed as writer, story consultant, co-director, and co-writer of the show's theme.
Burrows also changed the tone of the show - rather than being a live-in tutor, St. John was now Crackerby's "agent," to help him " bust" into society. The show went through at least two producers; Amory thought there might have been a third somewhere there, but he wasn't sure. By the time the show was on the air, any resemblance between the original idea and the series was virtually invisible. Amory complained to the production company, United Artists; he complained to the network, all to no avail. When a screening of the show for network and studio honchos and sponsors goes poorly - Amory said the script was literally about nothing - the show is described as "awful, a crime against not only the industry but humanity." And eyes turn to Amory - what do you have to say about it? And he pitches them an idea for a new show - it's about "a lovable old millionaire from Oklahoma named O.K. Crackerby, a man with a fortune in, in more ways than one, natural gas. He is a widower, one with three children, an older girl and two younger boys, a man who has come East to ply the Eastern resort circuit, since he promised his 'missus,' before she passed on, that someday he would stop just making money and do right by the kids. To do this, he has acquired the services of something he has learned the Eastern resort families have - a 'tutor companion.'"
"And you know what?" Amory concludes. "They loved it."
This week's starlet is Laraine Stephens, who for a few more weeks will be part of the cast of the aforementioned O.K. Crackerby!, and she's here to model some fashions for the holidays.
Don't worry - the red mohair tweed with the pink chifon overblouse only runs you $150.
Finally, the end of the Gemini VII mission. Astronauts Frank Borman and Jim Lovell splash down early Saturday morning after a successful two-week flight, and television cameras are located on the aircraft carrier Wasp to provide live coverage via Early Bird satellite.
The mission started on Saturday, December 4, and as For the Record reports, it was quite the adventure for NBC. The network had to go to split coverage to cover the launch alongsite coverage of the Penn State-Maryland football game, and on occasion play-by-play man Lindsey Nelson and spacecaster Merrill Mueller were "fighting for attention." David Brinkley, of course, is the man to put this all in perspective. Said Brinkley, "This will be the first time a rocket takes off on the 50-yard line or that football is played on pad 19."