December 30, 2017

This week in TV Guide: December 31, 1960

There's something bracing about the start of a new year. Why else do we say, "Out with the old year, in with the new"? It's the promise of something fresh, exciting, hopeful. So it is with television. Welcome to 1961!

Welcome to New Year's Day, 1961.

The first thing you'll notice is that it seems as if we're celebrating New Year's Day on January 2. That's because the first day of this new year falls on a Sunday, and whenever that happens the parades and football are moved to Monday.* There are no local or network programs to ring in 1961, at least not in Minneapolis-St. Paul, unless one counts the live Soul's Harbor broadcast that begins at 11:00 p.m. on KMSP and continues well past midnight.

*It has nothing to do with the NFL, as some might think; the "Never on Sunday" policy began with the parade and dates all the way back to 1893. It has only happened 19 times, the most recent of which was this year.

Nor are there many seasonal programs on Sunday. The Apollo Club presents an hour of music at 5:00 p.m. on KSTP, and that's billed as a New Year's Day concert. Later, at 9:30 p.m. on WTCN, Kitty Carlisle hosts a New Year's Night half-hour of music featuring "seven young performers from the 'Class of '61'." They are folk singer Casey Anderson, pop-singer Marilyn Cooper, actress Sandy Dennis, dancer-singer Pat Finley, operatic baritone Roald Reitan, soprano Benita Valente, and ballet dander Edward Villella. I suppose the names that most jump out from that list, at least for me, are those of Sandy Dennis and Edward Villella, but all of them had what I'd consider to be successful careers.

Ah, but come Monday, the festivities start, beginning at 10:30 a.m. with coverage of the Rose Parade on both NBC and ABC. NBC, the pioneer in color broadcasting, makes much of the fact that they're the only network to colorcast the parade*; imagine what it must have been like to watch all those beautiful floats pass by in black-and-white. Yet that's the way it was throughout the '50s and much of the '60s, of course; we didn't get our first color set until 1971. (And don't forget to send in your order for those lifelike plastic roses.)

*Although a note in the TV Guide says that the first 15 minutes of the program are in black-and-white only. A studio show, perhaps?

Meanwhile, over on ABC, the parade announcers are Bob Cummings and Bess Myerson. The former Miss America was a sophisticated beauty, and a staple on game shows such as I've Got a Secret.  Bess Myerson alone might have been enough to make up for ABC's black-and-white coverage.

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Stanley and Albert were the cartoon spokesmen for Grain Belt beer.
The day's football action is is fascinating for a number of reasons. There's a big build-up to them, as you can see by the teaser on the front cover, and yet they're literally exhibition games, the national title having already been determined. In 1961 both the Assocated Press and United Press International, the two main wire service polls, as well as most other organizations, continued the long-standing (if somewhat controversial) policy of naming the national champion after the regular season but before the bowl games, which were seen primarily as rewards for having had a successful year.* The busines of the season, therefore, has been concluded for over a month; your 1960 National Champions, with a record of 8-1, are the Minnesota Gophers. The Gophers would go on to lose the Rose Bowl to Washington, 17-7; having the champs lose in their bowl game was not all that uncommon either (it happened again to Michigan State in 1966), by the end of the decade the rule had been changed. After an unprecedented return trip to the Rose Bowl the following year (see here for the details), the Gophers haven't been back since.

*As a matter of fact, it was not uncommon for schools to choose which game to play in based not on the opponent, but on the location; many young men from the Midwest and East had never been to such exotic places as New Orleans and Miami. In addition, several conferences had "no-repeat" clauses that prevented teams from making consecutive trips to a bowl; hardly helpful if you're trying to win the championship. Melvin Durslag mentions in a separate article that half of the schools in the Big 10 are against postseason competition.

And that leads to perhaps the most noticable thing about this year's games, especially if you've followed college football for a number of years. The Orange Bowl (11:45 a.m., CBS) pits Navy against undefeated Missouri; the Midshipmen boast Heisman Trophy winner Joe Bellino in their backfield, and another Heisman winner, Roger Staubach, would take them to the Cotton Bowl in 1964, after which they ceased to be part of the New Year's bowl scene. The Sugar Bowl (12:45 p.m., NBC) features Rice and Mississippi; for Rice it was their sixth and final major bowl appearnce to date; they've only played in six bowl games of any kind since then. The Cotton Bowl (2:30 p.m., CBS) has Duke and Arkansas; Duke was once a football powerhouse, and in the last few seasons has become more than respectable; nonetheless, it would be until 2013 that they would be a ranked team at the end of the season again.

There were only nine bowl games in total played in 1960-61, and the college all-star games are held before New Year's Day, to showcase all the talent from teams that didn't make it to bowl games. The Blue-Gray and East-West Shrine games both take place on Saturday, as well as the Gator Bowl (1:00 p.m, CBS), with Baylor and Florida.

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Before we continue, another football note, non-college related but historic. On New Year's Day at 2:30 p.m., ABC broadcasts the inaugural American Football League championship game, It features two teams who were dominant in the early years of the old AFL, but are barely on the fringes of today's playoff relevance: the Los Angeles Chargers and Houston Oilers (now the Tennessee Titans). Between them, the two teams would win three of the ten championship games the league would stage, and seven of the ten title games would include at least one of the two teams. The Oilers came out on top in this game, 23-16; they would win the rematch the following season as well, before the Chargers came out on top in 1963, beating Boston in the title game. Neither team has won a title game since.

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 This week's starlet is Dorothy Provine, and she's already proved herself in the business, having graduated from local appearances to numerous guest shots on television to leading roles in The Alaskans and Warner Brothers' The Roaring 20's, which is the theme of this week's cover story.

Almost everyone who works with her adores her, says writer Dan Jenkins. Howie Horwitz, producer of the Warner hit 77 Sunset Strip, says that "That girl has everything it takes to be a star. She has a quality about her. She is unique. And she works. I'm very, very proud of her." Her first agent says that "Dorothy really isn't a beauty by the usual Hollywood standards. What she has is beneath the surface - drive, entergy, a compelling personality," Besides acting, she also sings and dances, befitting her 20's role as Pinky Pinkham.

Part of the humor from the article comes from the "embellishment" of Provine's CV - everything from having replaced Gretchen Wyler and Martha Wright in road show productions to taking classes in nuclear physics at the University of Washington. Provine herself readily admits to the confusion when presented with it - "I've ben through all this before," she says carefully and a little tensely. "Lots of things are printed about me that just aren't true, some by people I've never even met." She says she doesn't particularly care about the lies, "but I do care aobut what it does to my parents," especially when articles refer to her as a "sex-pot," which she firmly denies.

Dorothy Provine's career runs through 1968, when she marries film and television director Robert Day, a marriage that lasts until Provine's death in 2010. After her marriage, she retires from acting except for occational guest appearances. However, anyone who's seen her on television is likely not to forget her.

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Here's a curiosity: Saturday's episode of The Honeymooners on KMSP (6:30 p.m.) is entitled "'Twas the Night Before Christmas." Only problem: it's airing on New Year's Eve. I'm sure there's an explanation for that, but I'd like to hear it. Elsewhere, on Checkmate (CBS, 7:30 p.m., theme by John Williams), Terry Moore guests as an heiress who's the target of a murder plot. Do you remember Moore's claim that she was married to Howard Hughes in 1949 and never divorced, despite five subsequent marriages? "I didn't care whether I was a bigamist or not, frankly. I mean, my desire to have children was that strong."

On Sunday, NBC Opera Theater presents "Deseret" by Leonard Kastle, the story a love triangle involving , an Army captain, and a young woman who isn't at all sure she wants to be the Mormon leader's 25th wife. The producer of that telecast, Warren Steibel, was better known as the producer of William F. Buckley's Firing Line. When in the late '60s Steibel was given $150,000 by a friend in order to make a movie, he turned to his friend Kastle for ideas.  Together, they came up with The Honeymoon Killers, based on the story of Raymond Fernandez and Martha Beck, known as the Lonely Hearts Killers.  So far, so good.  Kastle wrote the scrpit.  The director that Steibel hired, a a newcomer named Martin Scorsese, didn't work out so well - Steibel accused him of taking an entire afternoon to film a beer can, and fired him. Eventually, unlikely as it may seem, Kastle ended up directing the picture, his only work as a movie director.  Even more unlikely, the movie wound up a cult classic, and far better known than "Deseret."

If you're not in the mood for the football festival on Monday, check out the game show About Faces 1:00 p.m., ABC), hosted by Ben Alexander - you'd more likely remember him as Frank Smith, the partner to Jack Webb's Joe Friday on the classic Dragnet. Never pictured him as a game show emcee, but I've since seen him as a panelist on Ernie Kovacs' Take a Good Look, and it makes more sense. Monday night at 9:30 p.m., CBS has June Allyson's anthology drama; on Thursday night at 7:30 p.m., the same network has her husband's series, Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre.

On Tuesday, The Fulton Sheen Program (KMSP, 7:30 p.m.) discusses "The Divine Sense of Humor," something we could stand to be reminded of more often. Wednesday features a local item of interest at 12:30 p.m.; it's the inauguration of Minnesota Governor-Elect Elmer L. Andersen, shown on WCCO, KMSP, and WTCN. At 9:00 p.m. on CBS, it's Armstrong Circle Theater, the every-other-week series that presents what we'd think of today as docudramas focusing on contemporary events. Tonight, it's "Black-Market Babies," starring Barbara Barrie.

Friday's highlight is probably Route 66 (7:30 p.m., CBS), with Lee Marvin and Whitney Blake as guest stars. Opposite that is the debut of Westinghouse Playhouse (also known as Yes, Yes Nanette*), starring Nanette Fabray and Wendell Corey. Corey's a widowed screenwriter (no divorcees allowed yet!) who marries Fabray, a Broadway star, to take care of his two children. Of course.

*A pun on the Broadway musical No, No Nanette, the play that producer and Boston Red Sox owner Harry Frazee allegedly financed by selling Babe Ruth to the New York Yankees.

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Interesting article looking at the failure of two series, Dan Raven and The Westerner, and the circumstances leading to the cancellation of each. For Dan Raven, an NBC police series starring Skip Homeier, Dan Barton and Quinn Redeker and set on the Sunset Strip, it was a matter of circumstances: the series was preempted twice in six weeks, once by the second Kennedy-Nixon debate and once for a documentary on Our American Heritage, the show was axed. Says Homeier, "We never had a chance!" It also didn't help that the show was scheduled in the so-called "kiddie hour" (6:30 p.m. CT).

As for The Westerner, starring Brian Keith, which followed Dan Raven on Friday nights, it was only scheduled as a stopgap in that time slot until Westinghouse Playhouse was ready to run on January 6, and after that it would have to find another timeslot - if the ratings warranted it. They didn't. The series was critically acclaimed (no wonder since the producer was Sam Peckinpah), and it was scheduled against the new season's only certifiable hit, ABC's The Flintstones. Peckinpah's assessment is depressingly bleak: "The show is evidentelly too adult. Advertisers are afraid of it. Those are the determining factors."

You can say it again, Sam. TV  

December 29, 2017

Around the dial

For the last time in 2017, let's see what's what in the world of TV, classic or otherwise interesting.

Jodie at Garroway at Large has a copy of NBC's two-page ad for their upcoming morning experiment, Today. In next week's TV Guide listings, Today (or, as it was listed, Dave Garroway) was called a variety show. Only Dave Garroway could pull it off as he did.

The Last Drive-In has a belated birthday wish to Ruth Roman, who would have been 94 on December 22. Any fan of classic television and movies will recognize that face.

The Eventually Supertrain podcast has left the station with its final cast of 2017, with looks at Ellery Queen Mysteries, The Green Hornet and The Immortal. It's a great podcast - you really should make it part of your regular listening. I know for a fact that next year will be quite interesting!

You've got to love this delightful story from The Broadcasting Archives at the University of Maryland, in which we find out about the typo in NORAD's first advertisement for its Santa Tracker in 1955.

Want to find out what was on TV on Christmas Day, 1947? Then check out Television Obscurities, which has the week's schedule for WNBT, the flagship NBC affiliate in New York City.

At Cult TV, John looks at the 1980 series Noah's Castle, and in doing so points out the need to view shows from the past through the eyes of the time. It's a series I wasn't familar with before - very interesting writeup, as usual.

We have one more post to go in 2017, the TV Guide review tomorrow. If you don't get to that until later in the week, then let me take this opportunity to wish you all the very best for 2018. I've got high hopes for this blog, as well as some additional projects I'll be working on, and I'd love having you all along for the ride!  TV  

December 27, 2017

A "Christmas Carol" the likes of which you haven't seen before!



SCROOGE lies slumped on the floor, his hands locked around the bedpost. For a moment the reality of the situation escapes him; then, looking around, he realizes that he is in his own bedroom. There are the bedcurtains; they haven't been torn down after all! The walls, the pictures - they're all his!

I'm alive! I'm alive! The Spirits have done it all in one night!
(Beginning to dance around the room)
I will live in the Past, the Present, and the Future! The Spirits of all three will live within me. I'm as light as a feather, I'm as happy as an angel, I'm as merry as a schoolboy.
(He staggers slightly, as if lightheaded)
I'm as giddy as a drunken man. A Merry Christmas to everybody! But what day is it? I don't know how long I've been among the Spirits. I don't know anything!

Hearing the chimes of the church bells outside, SCROOGE stops. 

Is it? Could it still be Christmas Day?

He runs to the window and throws it open, and he is stopped in his tracks. His mouth falls open. If he was confused a moment ago, now he is utterly shocked.


Everything that is familiar to SCROOGE is gone. Across from his home rises a large glass skyscraper. Below him are people walking on sidewalks lining the sides of paved streets, wearing close in a style he has never before seen. Moving across his view from right to left is a red double-decker bus. As his eyes dart back and forth he sees a jet aircraft streaking across the clear blue sky, the sunlight glinting off its silver skin.


His lips are moving, but nothing comes out. He shakes his head, his hands pressed against either side. Finally he speaks.

SCROOGE must be the aftereffects of being with the Spirits. Well, yes, a shock to the system such as this is bound to cause confusion. Yes, that must be it.



Here, let me ask that young woman out there.
(Raising his voice)
Excue me, miss. Can you tell me what is today?


We can see that despite the long hair, the young woman is, in fact, a YOUNG MAN.


What? You talkin' to me?

Excuse me, my good man, I meant no offense. It's just - it's just...
(Motions to head, tugs on own hair)
Your hair, I'm afraid, well I mistook you for a young lady.

(Under his breath)
Sod off, old man.

He begins to walk away.



Can you tell me what day today is?

What day it is? Are you barmy?

Today! What day is today?

Why, It's Christmas Day. Whatdy'a think?

(As if to himself)
Then it is still Christmas Day. I haven't missed it. But - (looking around at the inexplicable sights) what is all this?
What kind of place is this?


What kind of nutter are you? This is London!


The YOUNG MAN again begins to walk away.

Young man!


Now what?

The year. What year is it?

What year is it? First he wants to know the day, now the year. You really musta got rat-arsed last night!


Never mind all that. What year is it.


(Deciding he may as well humor SCROOGE)
Why, it's 1993!
(Sotto voce)


Yes, Ebenezer, you asked to be returned to Christmas Day, and I have done that. But you didn't say which Christmas!
(Laughs malevolently)

(Voice over)
Presenting Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge, the world's most famous miser.


For over a century, every Christmas, his journey through his own personal reclamation has played out, in book, on stage, and in film, for millions of people around the world. But whenever you enter the ghostly fog of time travel, you're apt to discover that the rules can change without warning. Tonight Mr. Ebenezer Scrooge is about to find out that, this time, the road from ruin to redemption will take him through the Twilight Zone.

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Every year, whenever we're watching A Christmas Carol, I expect something like this to happen. It doesn't, of course, and it didn't happen this year either. That doesn't stop me from hoping, though, and now it's your turn - anyout out there care to take a shot at telling the story from here? Maybe Jordan at The Twilight Zone Vortex or Joanna at Christmas TV History have some ideas?  TV  

December 25, 2017

What's on TV? Saturday, December 23, 1967

As is the case this year, December 23, 1967 was the final Saturday before Christmas. Unlike this year, the NFL playoffs were underway on December 23, and the networks had Christmas specials. We'll see a little of each in today's listings. This is the Minnesota State Edition, but I thought I'd do something a little different from my usual take on these issues. In addition to the four main Twin Cities stations, I'm offering KGLO in Mason City, Iowa; WKBT in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, and WEAU and WKBT in Eau Claire, Wisconsin. We also have stations in Rochester and Austin, Minnesota - ones that we don't generally get a look at. But before that, on this fine Christmas Day, my wishes to each and every one of you for a safe and healthy, blessed and Merry Christmas! This site is for you!

December 23, 2017

This week in TV Guide: December 23, 1967

All the anticipation of the past month is close to evaporating; it's Christmas week, the greatest week of the year for a kid, and while many of the seasonal shows aired last week, there're still some treats out there for TV viewers. For example, the greatest Christmas movie of all, Miracle on 34th Street, shines forth on Saturday afternoon on KGLO. Let's see what else we've got.

If you want musical variety, there's plenty of it: Jackie Gleason and his Honeymooners cast act out nursery fables (Saturday, 6:30 p.m., CBS), while Lawrence Welk and his Champagne Music Makers celebrate Christmas with their families. (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ABC) On Sunday morning, Christmas Eve (9:00 a.m.), CBS preempts Lamp Unto My Feet and Look Up and Live for an hour of Christmas music, hosted by Margaret Truman Daniels. Later on (11:30 a.m., CBS), Gospel singer Marian Williams has more tunes for the season. Local choirs appear on KSTP and KMSP, and on WTCN Carmon Dragon conducts the Glendale Symphony in a Christmas concert that looks suspiciously like the one that was broadcast on the same station in last week's issue.

You say you'd like sacred programming for Christmas? The French Nativity story "Christmas in the Marketplace" airs at noon Christmas Eve on some of the area's ABC affiliates (not KMSP, however), and at 6:00 p.m. the network reruns the acclaimed documentary "Christ is Born," narrated by John Huston and John Secondari and presented without commercial interruption. At 10:30 pm. on CBS, "Experiencing Great Joy" features Robert Ryan reading the Nativity, and opera star Roberta Peters singing a motet by Vivaldi. At the same time on ABC, it's the Christmas festival opera "The Shephardes Playe" by Pulitzer winner John LaMontaine. At 11:00 p.m. NBC covers Midnight Mass from St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City, while on CBS it's the poignant "Christmas in Vietnam," with films taken earlier today, including a Christmas Eve service, a trip to a Vietnamese orphanage, and interviews with soldiers and chaplains.

Christmas Day begins with the New York Pro Musica performing on Today (7:00 a.m.), singing traditional songs against a backdrop of works from the Cloisters, the medieval art museum. At 9:00 a.m., the network presents an ecumenical worship service from the National Cathedral in Washington D.C., a program I watched for years because of the lovely music. Fr. Patrick Peyton, the famed founder of the "Family Rosary Crusade," presents a series of three episodes dramatizing the life of Christ, beginning at 10:00 a.m. on WTCN. Jeanne Crain, Dolores Hope, and Jane Wyatt are the guests. Ray Coniff hosts an hour of music at 3:00 p.m. on WCCO, and the annual Christmas skating ice show from the Metropolitan Sports Center in Bloomington, Minnesota is shown on WTCN at 5:30 p.m.

And we couldn't very well have Christmas without Bing singing "White Christmas," could we? He does it several times tonight in the perennial favorite Holiday Inn (8:00 p.m., WTCN), as he and Fred Astaire battle over Marjorie Reynolds. Finally, the day comes to an end - in Duluth, at least - with the Christmas episode of The Rogues (10:30 p.m.), the charming caper series about a family of charming criminals (David Niven, Charles Boyer, Gig Young, and - in this episode - Larry Hagman). A pity this series only lasted for one season.

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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's scheduled guests are Arthur Godfrey, who reads a Christmas story illustrated by the Muppets puppets; Bobbie Gentry; Gilbert Price; the Cowsills; dancer-choreographer Peter Gennaro; and organist Virgil Fox.

Palace: Jimmy Durante is the ringmaster for the "Palace" circus show, with Anissa Jones of Family Affair, the Roselle Troupe acrobats, Kay's Pets animal act, high-wire artist Sensational Parker, Great Rudos and his performing elephans, trapeze performer Canday Cavaretta, and the Hannerford Family, clowns on horseback.

I suppose your preference this week is going to depend on how much you like circuses. For me they're OK but nothing special. I'd hoped for a little more Yule cheer from Ed, but aside from Godfrey and the Muppets, his show is average at best. Under other circumstances I'd rate the weeka  push, but since Godfrey is reading a Christmas story with the Muppets, I'll spread a little Christmas cheer around and give the nod to Sullivan.

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This week the American Football League (NBC) wraps up its regular season on Christmas Eve with a TBA depending on which game is most important to the title race. The AFL has yet to expand its playoffs, which means the two division winners meet next week to determine the league's representative for the second Super Bowl. Based on my look at the league standings, I'm betting it's the New York Jets - San Diego Chargers game, as the Jets still have a chance to catch the Houston Oilers for the Eastern Division crown.

Over in the National Football League (CBS), the playoffs are already underway, and the expanded four-division lineup means it's a double-header weekend. On Saturday the Central Division champion Green Bay Packers play the Coastal Division champions, the Los Angeles Rams. Meanwhile, on Sunday the Century Division-winning Cleveland Browns meet the Capitol Division champion Dallas Cowboys. (Don't you dig those division names?) The Packers might be slight underdogs to the Rams, who lost but one game during the regular season, but the defending Super Bowl champs flex their muscles with a 28-7 win, which means next week they'll take on the Cowboys in a rematch of last year's NFL Championship, after the Pokes route the Brownies 52-14. That game next week will be known as the Ice Bowl - but that's another story.

There's more sports on tap: Saturday afternoon, ABC gets into the act with the Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston (3:00 p.m.), pitting Colorado and Miami, while on Sunday it's the season premiere of the NBA, featuring the defending Western Division champion San Francisco Warriors and the expansion Seattle SuperSonics. (4:00 p.m.) And on Christmas Day, it's the annual North-South all-star game (1:00 p.m.), telecast from the Orange Bowl in Miami. Being the sports junkie I was back then, I'm sure the week worked quite nicely for me.

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This week the TV Teletype reports on a slew of TV pilots in the works. Robert Stack, formerly of The Untouchables, is working with Universal on "Companions for the Night," a movie that could become a series. Craig Stevens, once Peter Gunn, may be an ad man in Walt's Girls, Sidney Sheldon's trial balloon for NBC. Tige Andrews, who used to be one of The Detectives with Robert Taylor, is an inspector in The Mod Squad, an Aaron Spelling pilot for ABC. Pioneer Spirit, the story of "three families who bumble their way to Alaska, looking for life on a frontier," is a project by Green Acres proucer Jay Sommers for NBC. Ryan O'Neal guests on the European Eye adventure pilot for CBS. And Ernest Borgnine and Frankie Michaels ("Mame") are the leads in the proposed Billy and the Kid  for CBS. Keeping in mind that titles often change and plots morph, how many of these pilots do you recognize as becoming full-fledged series?

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While Christmas may overshadow the rest of the week, there's plenty of interesting non-holiday programming for us to look at as well.

Saturday: Jeremy Clyde, one half of Chad and Jeremy, plays - what else? - a musician who helps out Chip on My Three Sons. (7:30 p.m., CBS) Later on CBS (9:00 p.m.), it's a rerun of the pilot episode of Mannix, with Joe Campanella as Mannix's boss, and a guest cast including Lloyd Nolan, Kim Hunter, and Ironside co-star Barbara Anderson.

Sunday: It's hard to find any non-Christmas programming on Christmas Eve, but a show that caught my eye was Face the Nation (5:00 p.m., CBS), with Dr. Christiaan Barnard, the pioneering heart transplant surgeon from South Africa. Famed heart surgeon Dr. Michael DeBakey and CBS news scorrespondent Martin Agronsky are among the panelists. Hard to imagine any of the Sunday chat shows doing anything but politics nowadays; I don't know what to make of that, but it's not progress.

Christmas: At 4:00 p.m., Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic begin the 11th season of Young People's Concerts with baritone Walter Berry and his wife, soprano Christa Ludwig. Carol Burnett's show (9:00 p.m., CBS) isn't particularly a Christmas episode, although Carol and guest star Sid Caesar do portray a married couple reminiscing about Christmases past. Ella Fitzgerald also guests. Victor Borge begins a week as guest host on The Tonight Show. (NBC, 10:30 p.m.) I've always thought Borge one of the funniest men to appear on TV, but somehow I don't imagine him as host of a talk show. Highlight of the week must have been Thursday's show with guest Morey Amsterdam.

Tuesday: A fascinating episode of The Red Skelton Hour (CBS, 7:30 p.m.), with the great Maurice Evans narrating as Red illustrates Shakespeare's "Seven Ages of Man," using pantomime, songs and sketches. At 8:00 p.m., NBC's Thursday Night at the Movies presents the 1964 movie Wild and Wonderful, starring Tony Curtis and Christine Kaufmann, who's identified in the ad under the subtitle "Mrs. Tony Curtis." Even in 1967 you see that a lot; earlier in the day (4:00 p.m.) on WCCO's airing of The Mike Douglas Show, one of the guests is "Mrs. Richard J. Hughes, wife of the governor of New Jersey." Her name was actually Elizabeth, but I had to look that up.

Wednesday: Is it only me who finds it interesting that one of the co-stars of Lost in Space (CBS, 6:30 p.m.) is Mark Goddard, and one of the pioneers of rocketry - the very technology that got the Robinsons lost in space - was Robert Goddard? Maybe it was done intentionally. Anyway, Leslie Nielsen guest-stars as the heavy in tonight's episode of The Virginian (NBC, 6:30 p.m.) - easy to forget in the wake of Police Squad! and the subsequent movies that Nielsen was a fine dramatic actor, and quite often an effective bad guy. And the variety shows tonight have a wide range of guests: first, Woody Allen hosts the Kraft Music Hall (NBC, 8:00 p.m.), with a supporting cast of Aretha Franklin, Liza Minnelli, William F. Buckley Jr. and John Byner. And Jonathan Winters kicks off his new weekly show (CBS, 9:00 p.m.) with Red Skelton, Barbara Eden, Ivan Dixon, and The Doors (singing "Light My Fire").

Thursday: Broderick Crawford, former star of Highway Patrol, is on the other side of the law on CBS's 90-minute Cimarron Strip (6:30 p.m.), while Catwoman and the Joker (Eartha Kitt, Cesar Romero) team up against Gotham City on Batman (6:30, ABC). As TV Guide says, "Holy criminalities!" And Dean Martin's guests (NBC, 9:00 p.m.) are Polly Bergan, Jackie Vernon, Pat Cooper, and the Mills Brothers, who heavily influenced Deano's own style.

Friday: First, it's one of the most famous and best-loved Star Trek episodes of all time. Tonight (NBC, 7:30 p.m.), "Captain Kirk, assigned to protect a vital grain shipment at a space station, finds that he has troubles with tribbles."* Meanwhile, farewell to Hondo, (ABC, 7:30 p.m.), which leaves the air after tonight, to be replaced by Operation: Entertainment. Meanwhile, Gomer Pyle (CBS, 7:30 p.m.) finds an excuse to stage a base variety show, which gives Jim Nabors a chance to sing "The Desert Song" and "Song of the Vagabond." It would be nice to report that these two songs are, coincidentally, on Nabors' latest album - but, alas, such is not the case. Elsewhere, Judd for the Defense (9:00 p.m., ABC) features a very strong guest cast: Vera Miles, Claude Akins and Charles Grey.

*Best exchange: 
  Nilz Baris (William Schallert): You heard me.
  Capt. Kirk: I heard you.
  Spock: (Helpfully) He simply could not believe his ears.

Late night, the 1965 movie The Outlaws Is Coming! (10:40 p.m., KGLO) stars the Three Stooges as wacky newspaper printers-tured lawmen dealing with every tough gunslinger in the Old West. It co-stars a Batman-era Adam West, which I think tells you the kind of pandemonium this movie must have produced. According to the always-reliable Wikipedia, "In a nod to television's key role in the resurgence of the Stooges' popularity, the outlaws were played by local TV hosts from across the U.S. whose shows featured the trio's old Columbia shorts." Nice touch.

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Our starlet of the week is former Miss America Mary Ann Mobley, and the very first set of creditentials that Dwight Whitney presents us are 35-22-34. The more things change, I guess, the more they stay the same. A profile of Richard "Dick" Dawson of Hogan's Heroes presents him as smart and sensitive, and a warm personality, although as I recall, by the time of Family Feud many people described him as distant and aloof. Did he change, or was this profile a bit flattering? Richard Warren Lewis writes about the night of the all-British lineup on The Hollywood Palace, also known as "the night the British stormed the Palace."

All in all, quite a week, with a wonderful collection of Christmas programs. They just don't make them quite like that, do they?  TV  

December 22, 2017

Around the dial

(That's not me there, by the way. Just wanted to make that clear up front.)

It's Christmas week, perhaps the best week of the year (along with Thanksgiving week), and Christmas plays a role in our look at the classic TV blogosphere. I think you'll have a better time than our friend up there is having.

First, the sad news that the legendary broadcaster Dick Enberg died yesterday at the age of 82. My first exposure to Enberg came in the game that he called the most historically significant he ever covered: the Houston -UCLA "Game of the Century" in 1968 that changed the face of college basketball forever. I wrote about that game here; suffice it to say that while we've become accustomed to this kind of hype today, college basketball had never seen a game like this before. Enberg did the play-by-play on that game, and many other college basketball games through the years, first for TVS and then for NBC. He was the announcer for the California Angels and San Diego Padres, he did football, tennis and the Olympics, hosted game shows, and was one of those Big Game voices that I'm often writing about. His work over the years will remain a shining memory for sports fans everywhere.

I usually get my Twilight Zone information from The Twilight Zone Vortex, but this week Fire-Breathing Dimetrodon Time has a great recap on showing their six-year-old son the classic shocker "The Invaders." This episode has a great payoff; I wish I could remember the first time I saw it, to see if it packed that kind of punch for me.

Ah, Hal's back at The Horn Section with another installment of "F Troop Friday." This week: "Johnny Eagle Eye," a very funny episode that we saw at the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention in September. It has the usual combination of silliness, satire, and Bilko-like deviousness that we've come to know and love from Fort Courage.

As part of the "What a Character!" blogathon, The Last Drive-In has a piece on one of my favorite character actors, Martin Balsam. He was one of those actors who was terrific in both movies and television, and early next month I'll be writing about an episode of Naked City in which he was utterly compelling.

At Comfort TV, David uses classic TV appearances by a couple of characters named "Charlie" to illustrate how television can capture the deeper meaning of Christmas. I haven't seen either of these episodes, but their message is something we could use a little more of in real life nowadays. Likewise, Classic Television Showbiz pulls out a Christmas episode from the short-lived World War II sitcom Roll Out.

If, like me, you bemoan the deterioration of Hallmark movies from the superior quality of the '50s-'60s Hall of Fame to the sentimental treacle that the company pumps out on an assembly line basis, you'll enjoy this piece by Hans Fiene at The Federalist on how the latest Hallmark Christmas movie dares to be different!

The latest episode in Jack's Hitchcock Project at bare-bones e-zine is "Conversation Over a Corpse," written by Marian Cockrell and Norman Daniels, featuring Ray Collins in a very good turn. For those who only recognize Collins as Lt. Tragg in Perry Mason, I can guarantee you'll enjoy seeing him in a new light.

Finally, if you haven't done so yet, there's still time to watch a version of A Christmas Carol this weekend, but which one?  At Vox, former AV Club writer Todd VanDerWerff, whose writing I've always admired even when I haven't agreed with it, might be able to help you out with that - he takes a serious look at the 15 best portrayals of Ebenezer Scrooge.

You should make it back here tomorrow, but with everything that's going on this weekend, I'll understand if I don't see you here until early next week. In that case, my best wishes to you for a Merry Christmas!  TV 

December 20, 2017

Yuletide Greeting, Part 2

Last week we looked at some Christmastime episodes of daytime dramas (aka soap operas) of the 1960s. This week, we're going back a bit further, to the 1950s.

First is a very rare color video of CBS's Playhouse 90 broadcast of "The Nutcracker," shown on December 25, 1958. It's the famed version choreographed by the legendary George Balanchine, one made famous by the New York City Ballet. Balanchine himself appears as Herr Drosselmeyer, with the great Edward Villella, Bonnie Bedelia, and (an unnecessary) narration by June Lockhart. This is one of the first-ever television broadcasts of "The Nutcracker," and the first in color.

The second is also from CBS. Broadcast on December 23, 1956 it's the repeat of the 1955 telecast of G.E. Theater's "A Child is Born." You might recognize the longtime host of G.E. Theater: Ronald Reagan, here appearing with Nancy and Maureen.

Make sure you watch a Christmas program of your own tonight!  TV  

December 18, 2017

What's on TV? Tuesday, December 21, 1965

A fair amount of Christmas programming today. KTCA has Christmas music and CBS has The Nutcracker and Red Skelton's annual Christmas show (with guest star Greer Garson). There's also a big movie premiere and other goodies, so let's get to it.

December 16, 2017

This week in TV Guide: December 18, 1965

Jim Nabors is on the cover this week, and it gives me the opportunity to say a word or two about the star, who died last month. The news of his death prompted an outpouring of affection, which shouldn't really surprise anyone since Jim Nabors was one of those stars whose stardom far exceeded the sell-by date of most celebrities. His two biggest hits, Gomer Pyle and The Jim Nabors Hour, were both from the 1960s, but he never really disappeared from the public eye: he made frequent guest appearances on TV (he was Carol Burnett's good-luck charm on every season opener). did a handful of movies, toured the country with his nightclub act, released records, and sang "Back Home Again in Indiana" every year at the Indianapolis 500. Gomer Pyle is always on television somewhere, entertaining a new generation with the stories of the dimwitted but kind-hearted and lovable Marine, and making more fans for Jim Nabors. He was, by all accounts, a good and decent man, as I think is indicated by the lack of any scandal after he married his longtime partner Stan Cadwallader. As I've said before, being good to your fans is one way to ensure you always remain in the spotlight (even if the brightness is slightly less at the edges), and you bank an entire reservoir of good will at the same time.

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.

However the event might have turned out is not how it did turn out.  First Jim makes a quick tour of Minneapolis, where he appears on the radio (and is misidentified as a tenor rather than a baritone), meets with Governor Karl Rolvaag, who is supposed to give him the key to the state (except nobody can find it), and eventually heads for Waseca, which is about an hour and a quarter from Minneapolis. Torrential rains have turned Plowville into a muddy quagmire, and now the fog is moving in. The expected huge crowds do not materialize, the governor never makes it down, and immediately a debate ensues as to what exactly Nabors is supposed to do. Says his manager, "Jim is not going to entertain. That's for his night-club act. He's just to appear." Replies Nabors, "Those people are waiting in the rain; I've got to do something for them." He winds up telling jokes, singing a few songs, dancing with Miss Minnesota, and signing countless autographs. He then appears at a reception at the Waseca Country Club, being staged by his sponsor, Birds Eye, which has a huge plant in Waseca. He glad-hands the crowd with a polish formed by years of experience, and by that night he's back in Minneapolis; the next day he's on a plane for California, and Monday he's back in front of the cameras as lovable Gomer. Such is the life of a television star.

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Christmas is one week away, so show 'em if you've got 'em.

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.

Dramas and sitcoms don't want to be left out, either - on Branded (NBC, Sunday), an orphans home is threatened - but not of Chuck Connors has anything to say about it. The Dick Van Dyke Show presents a rerun of its Alan Brady Christmas Show episode (CBS, Wednesday), Stingray has time for an orphan (Thursday), and Daniel Boone presents a story of an Indian brave and his pregnant wife looking for a place to stay (Thursday). And of course the week wouldn't be complete without Holiday Inn, with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. It's on Monday night at 10:00 p.m. on WTCN.

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.

On Christmas Eve, Carmen Dragon (father of Daryl, the Captain half of Captain & Tennille), conducts the Glendale Symphony in a half-hour of Christmas music on WTCN, while KSTP has a concert by the Naval Academy Choir. Later, at 10:30 p.m. Skitch Henderson hosts The Heart of Christmas, the traditional half-hour that fills the first third of The Tonight Show timeslot before the Midnight Mass, broadcast life from St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. Channel 4 has a concert by the Bloomington Kennedy High School choir before CBS's midnight (ET) Baptist church service. After that, it's a program that has "The Sixties" written all over it: "Tell It on the Mountain," with Judy Collins, Ossie Davis and Chad Mitchell doing folk music, poems and prose readings to celebrate Christmas.

That should keep you in the spirit.

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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."

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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.

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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."  TV  

December 15, 2017

Around the dial

First, this seasonal note: at the other blog, In Other Words, we're doing the "25 Days of Ad-Vent" again this year - a look at some fun (and occasionally strange) Christmas ads from the past. If you're in the mood for some seasonal cheer, take a moment and take a look. And now to the TV stuff.

We'll begin with a question from reader Brian Stevens who asks if we recall the kids' game "Booby Trap"?

Basically a spring loaded rectangle wooden box with round pieces of varying size. You pulled out a piece -- piece by piece -- until the spring triggered and the rest of the pieces came flying out of the box. Simple game. Cheap to make. Parker Brothers, I believe.'s how it pertains to you. The game came with its very own kids TV game show of the same name. Life-sized version of the game board, host and kids who played the game for prizes. Thinking about it, it had to be locally hosted. I know it aired in Indianapolis sometime in the mid 1960s I'd guess. But I can't imagine Indpls being its only market.

Went looking for it online and can't seem to find a thing about it. Came across your website and thought perhaps you'll know a little more about it. One of those things you forget until something brings it to mind 50 years later.

Hoping you can help.

Can anyone out there shed any light on this?

Meanwhile, it's a hail and farewell at Vote 4 Bob Crane. The bad news: they're calling it a day at the blog. The good news: the website continues on as a repository for information on Bob's life and legacy, and the continued campaign to elect him to the Radio Hall of Fame. As a personal friend of Carol Ford, I can testify as to how much and how hard everyone worked on that blog, not to mention telling the truth on Bob Crane's story, and I think we owe everyone there a great thanks for all the time and effort that went into it.

At The Twilight Zone Vortex, a look at a disturbing (and not wholly satisfying) episode from the show's third season, "Young Man's Fancy," written by Richard Matheson. I know someone in a situation similar to that of the young female protagonist in the story - it has all the makings of a great creep-fest, but unfortunately this version falls somewhat short.

The Broadcasting Archives at the University of Maryland links to this story that shows, if we needed further proof, that Mel Blanc was a genius.

Cult TV is spending a little time surveying this side of the pond, as indicated by this review of the Get Smart episode "Casablanca," which not only points out the series' strengths, but delights in its penchant for parody.

At Comfort TV, David has another of those posts that make TV fans think, as he discusses ten forgotten TV shows he'd like to watch. In this he's basically talking about my entire life; looking over and over at the TV Guides from my early years of life created something of an aura about the era; every one of those shows became one that I wanted to watch, at least until I found out more about them. That hobby, though, did lead to the creation of this website!

A wonderful tale at Garroway at Large, as Jodie tells the story of the life and times of a particular television camera. Think of all the history it must have seen through that lens. Bonus points if you can link this story to a particular Christmas cartoon.

Television's New Frontier: the 1960s returns with a look at one of the more enduring sitcoms of the late '50s and early '60s: The Real McCoys, starring three-time Oscar winner Walter Brennan. Did you know, by the way, that Walter Brennan is the only three-time Oscar winner to star in a television series? And he did it multiple times!

Something you should do multiple times - return here for more TV fun. Why not do it tomorrow?  TV  

December 13, 2017

Yuletide Greetings, Part 1

For the next couple of Wednesdays, I thought I'd focus on some Christmas-type programming that doesn't often get seen anywhere. I think it's important for television to recognize that this time of the year is an important cultural milestone, and not just in a commercial sense.

This first one is one that ought to please our own Mike Doran, because it's about as long-form as you can get: an entire Christmas week's worth of episodes from NBC's daytime drama The Doctors. This was broadcast December 25-29, 1969.

This second clip is from CBS's Search for Tomorrow. It aired on December 26, 1966. The quality may be a bit rocky, but you'll still get the point.

I'll be back next week with a couple more rare shows!  TV