April 29, 2017

This week in TV Guide: April 28, 1973

This week's issue is another from my own personal collection of issues that have always belonged to me. Most of the copies of TV Guide that I now own were purchased at flea markets, antique shows, nostalgia conventions, and from online dealers, and it's a good thing I haven't purchased multiple copies of it; until recently I was able to recognize the issues I had by sight, and this particular one is missing the cover. It could have been disastrous.

You know, this cover just doesn't look familiar at all. I still remember many of the covers I got when I subscribed to the magazine, but this one doesn't ring any bells at all. Perhaps something inside will trigger a reminder as to why I hung on to it.

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Rather than saving this for the end, let's shake things up by leading off with a spin through the week's programming. We'll start on Saturday, where CBS affiliate WCCO preempts a repeat of Bridget Loves Bernie (7:30 p.m. CT) to give us a half-hour WCCO Reports story on "The Monster of Loch Ness." Description: "For more than 1,400 years, there have been reports of the legendary Loch Ness monster of Scotland. WCCO's Alan Lotsberg* interviews residents of Scotland who have reported seeing the monster, and Terrance Mitchell, a toy designer and manufacturer from Arden Hills (Minn.) who believes the Loch Ness phenomenon also exists in Lake Okangan in British Columbia, Canada. Also on Saturday, The Julie Andrews Show takes its last bows (8:00 p.m., ABC) with guests Sandy Duncan, Sergio Franchi, and the Muppets.

*Who played "Willie Ketchum" in WCCO's beloved kids' show Clancy and Willie.

You'll read more about Sunday's sports extravaganza later on, so we'll focus on the non-athletic side of things. We can start with McCloud (7:30 p.m., NBC), as Dennis Weaver's fish-out-of-water cowboy cop goes to London, Paris, Rome, and Nassau in hot pursuit of a trio of thieving stewardesses. If that doesn't do it for you, William F. Buckley Jr.'s Firing Line (9:00 p.m., KTCA) features Georgia governor Jimmy Carter, a full three years before he's elected president, and a year before he even declares for the office - which, two years before the election, was considered preposterous at the time. Today, if you weren't already a candidate two years before election day, people would be wondering why you were taking so long. At 10:50 p.m., the nemesis of my teen-age years, KCMT, Channel 7, presents a live, hour-long public affairs program on tornado safety. Tornadoes are pretty scary and dangerous things, so of course you schedule a program on them to run until nearly midnight on a work/school night, in a time when there are no recording devices so you can watch it later. Of course.

Lucille Ball welcomes yet another big-name guest star to Here's Lucy (Monday, 8:00 p.m., CBS) - this time Eva Gabor, who has to deal with Lucy's star-struck friends. Opposite that, the ABC Monday Night Movie has a black-and-white movie, a rarity in 1973, almost unthinkable on network TV today (except for Miracle on 34th Street and It's a Wonderful Life). It's "Man Trap," John D. MacDonald's crime drama, starring Jeffrey Hunter, David Janssen, and Stella Stevens, and directed by Edmund O'Brien. I might recommend checking out the CBS Late Movie, "The Comedy of Terrors," starring Vincent Price and Boris Karloff, spoofing their reputations, with Peter Lore and Basil Rathbone.*

*And Orangey the cat, who starred in Rhubarb, one of the greatest cat baseball movies ever made.

Andy Griffith gets to stretch his acting muscles a bit in Tuesday's episode of Hawaii Five-O (7:30 p.m., CBS), in which he plays the patriarch of a family of con artists who wind up mistakenly conning a crime lord. Just wait until he has to deal with Steve McGarrett. And on Wednesday, it's another black-and-white movie, - apparently, it's black-and-white week on ABC - the 1948 Alfred Hitchcock classic "The Paradine Case" (7:00 p.m.) starring Gregory Peck, Ann Todd, Charles Laughton, Charles Coburn, Ethel Barrymore, Louis Jourdan, and Alida Valli. If I'm not mistaken, I believe this is Hitchcock's only courtroom drama. Also on Wednesday, music buffs will enjoy NBC's All-Star Swing Festival (9:00 p.m.), with a who's-who of music greats: Louis Armstrong, Ella Fitzgerald, Count Basie, Benny Goodman, Lionel Hampton, Dizzy Gillespie, and more.

On Thursday, another movie steals the show - literally. It's the delightful caper flick "Hot Millions" (8:00 p.m., CBS), co-written by and starring Peter Ustinov, with Maggie Smith, Karl Malden, Bob Newhart, Robert Morley, and Cesar Romero. I wouldn't recommend it, but if you feel like skipping the last hour, you can catch Zero Mostel in the musical comedy Saga of Sonora (9:00 p.m., NBC), with Vince Edwards, Jill St. John, and Don Adams heading up the supporting cast. Finally, on Friday there's an interesting coupling; first, on Room 222 (8:00 p.m., ABC), a young student who's gotten his girlfriend pregnant has to decide whether or not to marry the girl, and thereby give up an appointment to West Point. Then, at 9:00 p.m. on NBC, "The New Doctors" segment of The Bold Ones has David Hartman struggling with one of his patients, a pregnant teenager who hopes her new baby will fill a void in her life. That's up against Love, American Style on ABC - and we wonder how we get where we are.

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The Midnight Special held court over the late night rock music scene Friday nights from 1973 to 1981 on NBC. Its challenger: ABC's In Concert, which appeared every other Friday as part of the network's Wide World of Entertainment. When we're lucky, we get to match them up and see who has the best lineup.

Midnight Special: Johnny Nash hosts, with Gladys Knight and the Pips, folk-rock artist Kenny Rankin, Pop group Raspberries, singer/composer Chi Coltrane, and comic Jack Andrews.

In Concert: This three-hour concert (originally broadcast in two parts) features Alice Cooper; the Allman Brothers Band; Blood, Sweat and Tears; Curtis Mayfield; Seals and Crofts; Chuck Berry; Poco; and Bo Diddley.

Well, well. Last week it was Midnight Special vs. Don Kirshner; this week, it's In Concert. From famine to feast, apparently. Actually, we're cheating just a little here; the In Concert program we're watching was actually taped last Friday, and is being shown on KMSP Sunday night at 11:00 p.m. (Just as they did all those years with Joey Bishop and Dick Cavett, Channel 9 still shows local movies Friday nights in place of network fare.)

No matter; it's a heavyweight shootout, but I'm afraid the knockout punch comes early. Yes, Special has Gladys Knight and Kenny Rankin, but that duo is completely overwhelmed by the powerhouse In Concert lineup, even if it did take three hours to do it. Chuck Berry on his own was probably enough to do it, but when you throw in the rest of the cast, it's no contest. In Concert takes this week's crown.

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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. 

A television series about doctors isn't supposed to make you sick, but then not all television series are Police Surgeon.

Police Surgeon is a syndicated drama, made to cash in on the new opportunities created by the Prime Time Access Rule, which as we know was supposed to make local stations more responsive to serving the public interest. Cleveland Amory isn't sure, however, whether any public interest is being served by Police Surgeon. It's an import, filmed in Toronto, "where it's evidently cheaper to make it." Not that cheaper programming is in the public interest either, though. "The only way [the viewer] could break even with this show would be if they gave something away with it. One episode was so sloppily shot we even saw one of the microphones. And when the villain said to one of his henchmen, "If she's up to something, kill her," he looked right into the camera. He didn't wave, though."

Police Surgeon stars Sam Groom as Dr. Simon Locke, the eponymous police surgeon of the title. He's earnest, Amory will grant him that, but "earnestness is not enough. You also need something else. And whatever it is, Groom, or his part, doesn't have it." Locke's boss is Lieutenant Palmer (Len Birman), who isn't any better. When he tells Locke during one crisis that "you're only second line. Don't become a hero," Amory remarks that "The first part of this was way too true for comfort. As for the second part, the danger was remote."

If it weren't for the fact that I actually remember this series from my time in The World's Worst Town™, I'd be inclined to doubt that such a show could possibly exist. Honestly, I laughed all the way through Amory's review; clearly, this is one of the funniest programs on television. And then I remembered it wasn't supposed to be funny. In that sense, it was a perfect fit for The World's Worst Town™.

Amory points out that the show airs in most markets in the 7:30-to-8:00 p.m. timeslot, the one recently vacated by the networks. (Where I lived, it was seen Sunday nights at 10:30 p.m.) Considering that its plots involve sons trying to commit patricide, psycho telephone callers, and drug addicts chained to bedposts, one has to wonder what the stations airing Police Surgeon could possibly have been thinking. Says Amory in conclusion, "The station in New York that puts it on calls itself 'Your Community-Minded Station.' One thing seems certain. Your community should mind this one."

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It's an interesting week in sports - significant, if not downright historic. The centerpiece event of the weekend comes on Sunday, with CBS's live broadcast of the U.S. - U.S.S.R. basketball game (2:30 p.m.) from the Los Angeles Forum. It's the first time the two countries have played since the controversial gold medal game in the 1972 Olympics, when the Soviets - let's be honest here - stole the gold from the Americans. It's also the first of an eight-game U.S. tour for the Soviet Olympians, six of the games to be played against the U.S. national team. I can't tell you how much the country seethed as a result of that 1972 game; it tends to get overshadowed because of the Olympic Massacre, but the Soviet victory has to be one of the biggest robberies since Jesse and Frank James roamed the American Midwest. These U.S. vs. Soviet showdowns always seemed to be an event, no matter what sport they took place in, and in this case we have the added ingredient of an American side thirsting for revenge.*

*It was, in fact, marketed as the "Revenge Tour."

The tour was a brutal, punishing series, marked by physical play on both sides, and numerous players fouling out in each game. Amidst name-calling by both sides and charges of aggressive play (at one point Bob Cousy, the U.S. coach, said of his center, Sven Nater, "I wish he could play 40 per cent more aggressively, and if that means 40 per cent dirtier, that's all right with me."), the United States won that first game decisively, 83-65, and took four of the six games between the two sides.

In other, less violent sports, CBS begins its Sunday sports with the opening game of the World Hockey Association finals between the Winnipeg Jets and New England Whalers, with the Whale coasting to a 7-2 victory. Over on NBC, it's Game 1 of the Stanley Cup finals, and the Montreal Canadians skate to an 8-3 victory over the Chicago Black Hawks. Not to be left out of the act, the NBA playoffs continue on ABC, with the New York Knicks defeating the Boston Celtics 94-78 in the seventh and final game of the Eastern Conference Finals. The Knicks now head to Los Angeles, where they'll defeat the Lakers to win the NBA title. Whew!

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I've neglected to mention some other things, such as the fact that Jack Paar's back on latenights, as the once-a-month host of Jack Paar Tonite, his effort to give a boost to the struggling ratings for his friend Dick Cavett. Jack's sidekick is Peggy Cass, to my knowledge the only time a woman has served that function. And, again if I remember correctly, the couch and chair were to the right of Jack's desk, rather than the traditional left side that all other shows used.

And then there's an interesting episode of Ironside in which Don Galloway's character Ed Brown finds himself on the wrong side of a jail cell, arrested for a misdemeanor while he's out of town, and he finds himself faced with an existential crisis: "the rougher he's handled, the guiltier he feels: he has treated suspects the same way." I wonder if there's anything to the fact that Raymond Burr himself directed the episode?

We have another week of deadly accuracy from the TV Teletype, which as we know is not always the case. The Hollywood edition reports that Burt Lancaster will be starring in a CBS miniseries entitled "Moses the Lawgiver" (true), and that Bill Bixby will be returning to weekly series television next season with an NBC effort called The Magician (also true). Richard Roundtree plans to reunite with his Shaft character for a CBS series in the fall (yes, every third week, but it only survived for seven episodes), and Jack Palance plans to assay the title role of CBS's movie Dracula, which does indeed come off as planned.*

*Or almost as planned, that is. According to the always-reliable Wikipedia, the movie was originally scheduled to air in October, but was preempted due to a speech by President Nixon on the resignation of Vice President Agnew. Not exactly an auspicious sign, is it? It eventually aired in February 1974, which seems like a very long delay.

The summer schedules are coming out, and NBC plans to copy ABC's success with Monday Night Football by introducing 15 weeks of Monday Night Baseball, while also bringing on Helen Reddy  to replace Flip Wilson. CBS is mostly shuffling things around, and bringing in repeats of the Burt Reynolds' old ABC series, Dan August. Ozzie and Harriet are coming back after six years, in the syndicated Ozzie's Girls. And the favorites for the lead in CBS's revival of Perry Mason are said to be Robert Stack and Leslie Nielsen.

Finally, we'd be remiss if we didn't look at this week's editorial, and if you think this year's Academy Awards show was a fiasco, take a look at the 1973 show which aired just a couple of weeks previously. "It was," says the editor (Merrill Panitt?), "television's most magnificent spoof, a rib-tickling, guffaw-producing parody of all the Oscar shows that have ever been televised."

Where to start? The "high-camp: movie-set opening? The late arrival of co-host Charlton Heston, which forced Clint Eastwood to read jokes about Moses and chariot races?  The off-key singing of "You Oughta Be in Pictures?" Maybe it was how "Hosts introduced co-hosts, who introduced award presenters, who introduced their co-presenters."? Presenters "who delivered the stilted dialogue while convincingly feigning fright, [and] were the essence of genial informality as they misread the cue cards."?

The most entertaining performances of the night had to be those of the Best Song nominees, "each of which carefully received the treatment it deserved." Not to be forgotten was the spectacle of Sacheen Littlefeather [real name Marie Louise Cruz], "an Indian maiden in high-fashion regalia" refusing Marlon Brando's Oscar. "And then there was the cleverness of having members of the audience boo her. A real Hollywood twist."

It was, the author concludes, "the funniest, most entertaining Oscar show in years. To those who say it was not intentional parody, we say 'Ridiculous!' It woild not be possible to put on such a flawless fiasco unless it was carefully planned." And just think, they didn't even have to use the old joke about the presenters who opened the wrong envelope.

5 comments:

  1. Here & There:

    - Movies:
    The Comedy Of Terrors was one of Peter Lorre's last movies (if memory serves, it was released posthumously); it was also near the end of the line for Basil Rathbone and Boris Karloff, both of whom were scaling back on their appearances due to ill health.
    Oddly enough, this was also the last screen appearance for Joe E. Brown, who did a cameo as a gravedigger, possibly as a favor for someone; again, if memory serves, Brown outlived all the above-mentioned performers by several years.

    - The Paradine Case was part of a deal ABC made with the David O. Selznick Estate for the first-ever network showings of that producer's classic films, including the several he made with Hitchcock, plus Portrait Of Jennie and a few others.
    Notably, Gone With The Wind was not included in this deal (GWTW was still getting theatrical re-releases at this point).

    - Jack Paar's comeback was one of the notable backfires of TV history; Paar was frequently compared to "another New Yorker of Dutch descent: Rip Van Winkle."
    Peggy Cass was indeed the first female talk sidekick; Hugh Downs was still doing Today at NBC, and was thus unavailable (I think - correction welcomed).
    I do recall one classic Cass line, on how she stayed Catholic even as she was divorced: she hadn't married in a nuptial Mass, and sometimes ended arguments with "You may be married to me, but I'm not married to you!"
    It was, as they say, a Different Time ...

    - Off-topic:
    Yesterday I took delivery of a brand-new book: The Adventures of The REAL Tom Sawyer, from BearManor Media.
    The REAL Tom Sawyer is a long-time TV writer-producer, whose best-known credit would be over a decade on Murder, She Wrote (and its spin-off, The Law And Harry McGraw).
    Before that, Mr.Sawyer had had a long career as a commercial illustrator, as well as experience writing and drawing comic books.
    And here's something you'll be interested in, Mitch: while still doing MSW, Tom Sawyer collaborated with folksinger Will Holt on an opera about John F. Kennedy, titled JACK.
    Sawyer is retired from TV now (I should say he was retired; he made the major mistake of growing old), but his book is worth getting - you will learn much that you didn't know about our favorite topic.
    One criticism: this book has the drabbest, most boring cover I've ever seen on a professional publication - no artwork at all, just block letters on yellow, like an instruction book. I've seen self-published "vanity" books that were more impressive.
    No matter - Tom Sawyer's is a story that you ought to know.

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    Replies
    1. Is that the same Tom Sawyer who was key grip on FAMILY AFFAIR?

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    2. No.

      Trust me when I tell you that this Tom Sawyer is way more interesting than that one.

      Just get the book ...

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  2. Hugh Downs left TODAY in October 1971, but I'm sure he still had plenty to keep himself busy afterward. While I haven't seen her as Jack Paar's sidekick, I've seen enough of Peggy Cass to figure she was pretty interesting there.

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  3. "The Monster of Loch Ness" makes reference to a similar legend in Lake Okanagan (there's another "a" in there, Mitchell). This creature is called Ogopogo which although 'cartoonish' sounding, is a rough translation of the name the original First Nations settlers gave to these sitings. Nobody yet has proven any actual existence of Ogopogo, but we do like to keep the myth alive for the tourists...Mike in British Columbia

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Thanks for writing! Drive safely!