June 24, 2017

This week in TV Guide: June 24, 1961

It's time once again for a look at pay-TV. It seems as if every few months we read another article about how pay-TV - or, as we'd call it today, pay-per-view - is an inevitability, and for years we'll be hearing about how it's "just around the corner." I'll admit, though, this is one of the earliest articles we've run across, and it sets the tone for much of the discussion to come.

For example: Former Florida Governor LeRoy Collins, president of the National Association of Broadcasters, says that "if pay-TV seriously takes hold in this country, it can mean the elimination of free TV as we know it," with the American people as the "real losers." Theater owners, alarmed by the prospect of box office revenue shifting from the theater to the living room, vows to fight pay-TV, in court if necessary. Ad agencies are against it because they have nothing to gain from commercial-free programming. On the other hand, sports promoters see the prospect of pay-per-view as a potential monetary windfall, and people hoping to see drama, opera, ballet, and symphony concerts look forward to the possibility of more cultural programming being provided through pay-TV.

Some pay programming has already been tested out - viewers living in the Toronto suburb of Etobicoke have had a chance to purchase hockey games, Gian Carlo Menotti's opera The Consul (a broadcast which was released on DVD a few years ago), a Bob Newhart performance, and Carol Channing's musical "Show Girl," the first Broadway play ever broadcast live directly from a theater - all for $1.50 each. Experiments in three U.S. cities - Little Rock, somewhere near New York City, and a site in the far West - will be rolled out sometime during the year. Another system will be tried out in Hartford, broadcast over a UHF station via a scrambled signal.

There's speculation over which system will prove the most effective, which broadcaster will be the big winner, how quickly this might spread to other areas. As we know, pay-per-view never really does take off for the long term, except for special sporting events (mostly boxing and MMA) - it's another kind of pay-TV, cable/satellite, which emerges as the big winner. However, there's a point made which I think bears repeating, because it's a pretty fair description of just how things have panned out. "Although broadcasters fear that pay-TV might kill free TV, there are those who believe successful pay-TV will merely change free TV into a source of standard entertainment and information programs. Pay-TV then would take over top sports events and other outstanding programs of general appeal and might also offer cultural programs that would have minority appeal, such as opera, symphony and ballet."

In fact, I think there is a widespread perception that "quality" TV has migrated to cable, with network programming appealing to more of a mass audience (or, as some critics might put it, pandering to the lowest common denominator). Many, though not all, of the major sporting events referenced in the quote (the college football and basketball championships, and selected playoff games in all of the major sports) have settled on cable, with the major one-off events winding up on PPV. Though cultural programming has mostly disappeared from home television (both broadcast and cable), the Metropolitan Opera has succeeded in putting live broadcasts into movie theaters, and other events - from ballet and symphony to art exhibits - have followed suit. So while the prognosticators get some of the details wrong, I'd say their predictions are more hit than miss.

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If you've been reading this site for any length of time, you'll remember the TV Guide Awards, which we've mentioned from time to time. This year's edition, the second annual, was held on June 13, and this week we have the write-up on the winners. NBC and CBS each win four; the Peacock Network wins for Sing Along with Mitch (Best Musical or Variety Show), Election Night Coverage (Best News or Information Program), The Huntley-Brinkley Report (Best News or Information Series), and Hallmark Hall of Fame's "Macbeth" (Best Dramatic Program). CBS counters with The Andy Griffith Show (Best New Series), Perry Mason (Favorite Series), Raymond Burr (Favorite Male), and Carol Burnett (Favorite Female). The winners rejoiced, like Burnett, who "sobbed joyfully for at least five minutes," while the losers all said the right things. (The Untouchables' Robert Stack: "[I]t's still a great honor to be voted among the five most popular performers on the air.")

Here's the program as broadcast; even though I just told you the winners, it's well worth taking a few minutes out to view this rare footage - proof that this awards show really existed!


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SOURCE: HADLEY TV GUIDE COLLECTION
This week's starlet is Natalie Trundy, who may only be 19 but "speaks four languages and has played in 125 television shows." She's also appeared in three Broadway plays, done two movies, and been married and divorced. (No wonder; when would she have had time for her husband?) Great story about how young Natalie got the acting bug: when she was 11 and going to school in Rome (!), she met a Mrs. Rossellini, who made an impression on her. Several months later while at the movies, she gaped: there was Mrs. Rossellini right there on the big screen! The movie was Casablanca, and of course Mrs. Rossellini was Ingrid Bergman. "It was at that instant," she says, "that I knew I was going to be an actress."

While taking dancing lessons, she was discovered by a man whose name she can't remember, but the next thing she knew she was doing Fred Waring's television show, then found herself on the Hallmark Hall of Fame, and since then she's done just about every live television show in New York. She's also become one of the top teenage models in the business. She's acted with Shelley Winters, Dean Stockwell, and Marlene Dietrich. And, taking the advice of a family friend, she's stayed away from drama classes - the best experience is working with all kinds of actors, good and bad. The name of that friend? Helen Hayes.

Natalie Trundy's acting career takes a slight detour in 1963 as the result of an auto accident, but once recovered she continues to act in a wide variety of roles in both television and movies. She never becomes a big star, but works steadily through the '70s. Her second husband is movie producer Arthur Jacobs, responsible for Doctor Doolittle and Planet of the Apes, among others; after his death she takes over his production company. Later on she works for several years in Calcutta with Mother Teresa. There's even an official website about her.

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We have yet another reminder, as if we needed one, of the star appear of Lawrence Welk, in Robert de Roos' profile of the business side of the Champagne Music Maker. He has a weekly television audience of 30,000,000, a world-wide radio audience of 90,000,000. He's a shrewd judge of music, moreso than most people think; last year he produced a record with a new, different beat from what most people expect from him - that record, "Calcutta," has sold over a million copies. He's also been a long-time champion of a form of Dixieland, something that critics rarely stop to remember. The bread-and-butter remains Champagne music, though, and that brought in a gross of $3.5 million last year (although the frugal Welk points out that "there were lots of expenses").

This isn't any particular surprise to anyone who's read these Welk pieces over the years, and I might have skipped over the story completely were it not for this (perhaps) unintentionally amusing description of Welk's fans. He has many, as you might imagine, who write to Welk and tell him they won't come to his shows unless they can dance with him. "A third of the dancers at the Aragon [ballroom] did not dance at all. They stood in front of the bandstand, breathing deeply and gazing at their idol. 'Oh I wonder if we can get close enough to touch him,' and elderly lady murmured, her eyes fixed on Welk's smiling face. 'Oh, if he would just dance with me.'"

We laugh, but how many celebrities would give anything to provoke that kind of reaction from their fans.

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Let's get to this week's programs and see what - make that who - looks interesting.

Saturday has a little something for everyone. Nina Foch is the client on Checkmate (7:30 p.m. CT, CBS), a detective series that suffers from too much Anthony George and Doug McClure, and way too little Sebastian Cabot. Claude Akins is among the guest stars on the Henry Fonda Western The Deputy (8:00 p.m., NBC), which really doesn't stand much of a chance up against that Champagne Music Man on ABC. And on Critic's Award Theater (10:30 p.m., WCCO), Peter Finch and Kay Kendall are "Simon and Laura," a popular TV couple who "are all sweetness and light while on the air, but never stop bickering in private."

On Sunday, Ronald Reagan makes one of his occasional starring appearances on G.E. Theater (8:00 p.m., CBS) as a man whose marriage is in jeopardy due to his inability to forget his late first wife. Meanwhile, it's the final episode of The Dinah Shore Chevy Show (8:00 p.m., NBC), and her guest on this last show is Nanette Fabray. Dinah presents clips of her ten-year run, and sings "It's De-Lovely," her first song on television. The two also do a series of skits about "Telephone TV" of the future. Now that I'd like to see. If you don't touch that dial, you'll also be able to catch Darryl Hickman and the delightful character actor Vito Scotti, who pops up in so many episodes of Columbo as everything from a tailor to a maitre d', on The Loretta Young Show at 9:00 p.m. After that, it's a rerun of This Is Your Life, with Jayne Mansfield among those honoring radio personality Johnny Grant.

A couple of programs on latenight, if you're a night owl. At 11:45 p.m., WTCN presents the syndicated Oscar Levant Show, with the irascible hypochondriac welcoming Sammy Davis Jr. and Hans Conreid as his guests. And at midnight on KMSP, the program whose innocuous title hides the monstrous story behind it: Eichmann on Trial. You can see what I mean here.

Monday's programs are filled with both stars and character actors. The star is Jack Lord, who guests in NBC's The Americans at 6:30 p.m. That's up against Cheyenne on ABC, and one of the members of the cast is the aforementioned Vito Scotti. A few years later Scotti would play the Italian Major Bonacelli on Hogan's Heroes, but he wasn't the first actor to play the role. That honor would go to - you guessed it - Hans Conreid, who coincidentally plays Uncle Tonoose on The Danny Thomas Show (8:00 p.m., CBS).  And if you can stay up long enough, Orson Bean begins a week as guest host on The Jack Paar Program. (10:30 p.m., NBC).

Tuesday's Thriller (8:00 p.m., NBC), "The Ordeal of Dr. Cordell," is one of those episodes that highlights the challenge this series faced. The story, of a young doctor trying to find a cure for nerve gas only to become a victim of his own experiment - sounds as if it could be The Outer Limits, or Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and I don't think Thriller ever did figure out whether it wanted to be a horror show, a mystery, science fiction, or something in-between. This episode stars Robert Vaughn as the doctor, Kathleen Crowley as his fiancée, and in a small role, Marlo Thomas. The cast is more interesting than the episode, according to the Thriller a Day website. You're probably better off catching the always-catchable Ruta Lee in Stagecoach West (8:00 p.m., ABC), or Dick Haymes, his wife Fran Jeffries, and Alan King on The Garry Moore Show (9:00 p.m., CBS).

If you're intellectually minded, however (or just curious), you might want to tune to NBC at 9:00, for the documentary Doctor B., which presents a day in the life of a family doctor, described as "more than a medical man - he's a community adviser, confidante and friend." And he makes house calls! Burgess Meredith is the narrator.

Wednesday gives us some interesting programs indeed, starting at 6:30 p.m. on NBC's Wagon Train, "The Jeremy Dow Story," starring Leslie Nielsen. Today we're so accustomed to seeing Nielsen as a comedian that we forget for most of his career he was a straight dramatic actor, and a pretty good one at that.* At 8:00 p.m., NBC's Kraft Mystery Theater presents "Account Rendered," with a cast that includes Honor Blackman, who next year will become far-better known (at least in England) as Mrs. Cathy Gale in The Avengers. At 8:30 p.m., it's I've Got a Secret on CBS, and one of the people with a secret tonight is none other than Jerry Lewis. And at 9:00 p.m. it's CBS's prestige drama The U.S. Steel Hour, tonight with Oscar-winner Shirley Booth in a rare TV appearance (i.e. pre-Hazel), starring in Pulitzer-winner Tad Mosel's play "The Haven."

*Although it turns out his heart was always with comedy.

CBS Sports Spectacular is normally a weekend show, but during the summer it moves into primetime as Summer Sports Spectacular, and Thursday presents an intriguing sports matchup. Dow Finsterwald, one of the top golfers of the time, teams up with Arnold Palmer to take on two of the best women golfers, Mickey Wright and Barbara Romack, in "a no-handicap match" on a special par-3 course at the Desert Inn Country Club in Las Vegas. It took a little while to track down the results of this "Golfing Battle of the Sexes," but it does say here that Wright and Romack came out the winners, and that Palmer "threatened not to go to the following week’s Tour event, the Colonial, for fear of being laughed out of Fort Worth."

On Friday, Anne Francis guests on Route 66 (7:30 p.m., CBS) , and David Wayne stars as a thoroughly unlikable character on The Twilight Zone (9:00 p.m., CBS). Charles Collingwood interviews two "rising young stars" on Person to Person (9:30 p.m., CBS). Horst Buchholz, "the German James Dean," is coming off his performance in The Magnificent Seven and will feature in many other movies over a long career, but you probably recognize the other have of the duo a little better - it's Carol Burnett, whom as we know, won a TV Guide Award earlier this month. At this point, she's already succeeded on Broadway in "Once Upon a Mattress" and currently appears on The Garry Moore Show, but for her the best is yet to come. Yes, I'd say their careers panned out pretty well.

Later that night, on KSTP, Channel 9, Hugh Hefner's guests on  Playboy's Penthouse are singers Mae Barnes and Della Reese, guitarist Will Holt, comedian Dick Gautier (later Hymie the Robot in Get Smart), jazz critic and lecturer Dr. Marshall Stearns, who discusses the history of jazz, the dance team of Al Minns and Leon James, and former royal chef Art Carter. It's easy to have contempt for Hefner, as I do, but the man does know his jazz, and offers a more serious program than you're apt to see on most TV shows.

9 comments:

  1. "People hoping to see drama, opera, ballet, and symphony concerts look forward to the possibility of more cultural programming being provided through pay-TV."

    I laughed out loud when I read this. It's not just network programming that is now pandering to the lowest common denominator...

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  2. My own night-to-night from Chicago (I noticed different things than you did, obviously):

    -Saturday:
    I found that Checkmate episode in my DVD Wall.
    Actually, the most interesting aspect was its director: the Oscar-winning cameraman James Wong Howe, who was using MCA-TV shows to try to break into directing. He didn't quite break through: a couple of Checkmates, a couple of 87th Precincts, and Howe was back to shooting major movies.

    - Gunsmoke, then still a half-hour, has Jack Lord in a dual role.
    Odd how you noted his appearance on the far more obscure Americans, but didn't notice this ...

    Sunday:
    - The Shirley Temple Show is doing a musical version of "King Midas", with Paul Ford in the title role, plus Julius LaRosa, Wally Cox, Arthur Treacher, and Anne Helm.
    I mentioned a while back that several of these Temple shows are (or were) available on DVD; regrettably, "King Midas" is not one of them (my long-standing crush on Anne Helm remains in limbo).

    - The Asphalt Jungle has an episode about a neo-Nazi, played here by Robert Vaughn; he did get around back then ...

    Tuesday:
    - On that Stagecoach West episode, I note that the bad guy this week is Mort Mills, who was a favorite stone-faced villain in those days. Who else could claim to have worked in the same time frame with Orson Welles, Alfred Hitchcock, and the Three Stooges?

    Wednesday:
    This year, Kraft Mystery Theater consisted of "Quota Quickies" from Britain.
    These were brief (about 60 minutes long) theatrical features made in response to an Act of Parliament that required British cinemas to book at least locally-made film for each American feature booked. Parliament defined a "feature" by the amount of film, by feet; their limit came to an hour's running time, more or less - hence "Quota Quickies".
    Frank Gallop, Perry Como's cadaverous announcer, acted as host, in the Hitchcock style (Gallop wasn't British, but he had that mien).

    - Friday:
    - Route 66 did indeed feature Anne Francis, but did you notice who was playing her husband?
    Jack Lord again. (He sure got around, didn't he?)

    - In that same area:

    Look at the listings for Twilight Zone on CBS, and just below that, Michael Shayne, its NBC competition.
    On Zone, playing the Devil - Thomas Gomez.
    On Shayne, playing a mob boss - Thomas Gomez.
    A more commonplace occurrence in those days than you might think.
    To remind you, Thomas Gomez was the fat heavy back then (Victor Buono was still in college).

    In one of his interview books, Tom Weaver chatted with Natalie Trundy, circa 2001.
    Ms. Trundy mentioned that she was a daily communicant at her local Catholic Church - and that she was accompanied each day by her two dogs.
    She told how the dogs would come to the Communion rail with her, and put out their tongues as he did.
    One of the priests told her that they considered bringing out cookies for the dogs, but Ms. Trundy discouraged that, not wanting her fellow parishioners to get the wrong idea.

    Between now and tomorrow, I'd suggest that you give the TV Teletype pages a closer look; you might get a surprise or two ...

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  3. Pay-per-view is also theatrical movies, too. DirecTV Cinema has even some movies that debut on PPV the same day it comes to theaters. The movies on DirecTV Cinema are also on a format that broadcast and pay channels don't offer-1080p (There's a 4K channel on DirecTV,but it's standard programming).

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  4. KSTP of course was on Channel 9.

    Or did "Playboy's Penthouse" air on KMSP, which was on Channel 9??

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    Replies
    1. Typo!

      KSTP is Channel 5.

      Oops!!

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  5. Yesterday (Monday), I spent some time at my DVD wall, looking for other stuff that was on this weeK.

    - Sunday:
    Lawman has "The Return Of Owny O'Reilly", about a hot-headed teenager who gets deputized, and tries to bring in a bad man singlehandedly.
    The Bad Man is Lee Van Cleef, all over TV at that time.
    Teenage Owny is Joel Grey (not far removed from being Joel Katz).

    Tuesday:

    Alfred Hitchcock Presents has "Final Arrangements", about a henpecked husband (Martin Balsam) who goes to a mortician and buys the most expensive casket, without saying whom it's for.
    Meanwhile, Wyatt Earp is wrapping up its five-part OK Corral arc - and as it happened, the whole series (almost unheard of at the time).

    Friday:
    'Way Out, the spook show hosted by Roald Dahl, has "Side Show" with Murray Hamilton as a henpecked husband who goes to the carnival and sees Something He Shouldn't. The bossy wife is played by a young(?) Doris Roberts.
    I saw this first-run at age 10; my little brain was suitably fried
    Yesterday, I watched my C2C DVD, 56 years after the fact; my 66-year-old brain - same result.

    Later that same night, The Law And Mr. Jones, closing out its season, has a guest shot by Four Star's boss, Dick Powell, in a "Hail Mary" to get a renewal by ABC.
    It didn't work - but then it did: ABC brought back Mr. Jones midway through the next season (only for half a year, but it counts).

    And how was your day?

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  6. What's a C2C DVD? I've been looking for "Way Out" on DVD but haven't been able to find it.

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    Replies
    1. "C2C" is an abbreviation of "collector-to-collector (with no rights given or implied)", which is a polite way of saying "bootleg".

      My 'Way Out DVDs come from Finders Keepers, which is a polite way of saying Martin Grams, whom you'll find on the sidebar.
      His "store" is loaded with rare and interesting stuff, so when you go to look, set aside some time.
      You might want to hold off on your visit until July 4; Mr. Grams says that the next update of his inventory will happen on that date.
      PRESENTED AS A PUBLIC SERVICE

      Delete

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