Do they really know what awaits them, though? I wonder. You probably recognize the series they're talking about, even though the son and daughter-in-law were changed to a daughter and son-in-law, and the title changed to All in the Family. The show's every bit the controversy that the network had hoped fAllor and feared (including the unexpected by-product of many viewers cheering for the conservative father rather than the enlightened youngsters), and a bigger hit than anyone could have imagined. The show premieres, as predicted, in January 1971, and by the end of the season it's the number one show on television, a position it will continue to hold until it's displaced by Happy Days in the 1976-77 season. All in the Family changed the face of television, and I'm not sure it was for the better - a ruder, cruder, harsher type of comedy than we were used to. Yes, it's probably more realistic than Father Knows Best and Leave it to Beaver, and as the tumultuous '60s lead into the '70s, it's probably inevitable that this change would happen. But it's probably also no coincidence that the tone of the dominant sitcom of the '80s, The Cosby Show, is diametrically opposed to that of All in the Family. The pendulum continues to swing, this way and that.
One other note from CBS: the network plans to group its "bucolic humor" shows - The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, and Hee Haw, on Tuesday nights come the fall. Mayberry R.F.D. remains on Monday nights. Wood hopes to phase them all out in the next few years. Hillbillies and Green Acres continue to remain popular in reruns for decades, while Hee Haw continues in first-run syndication until 1992 - long after the shows that replaced it have faded away.
In the meantime, speaking of the generation gap, TV Teletype notes that a number of familiar TV faces appear in the new big-screen movie Joe, detailing "unrest in the Silent Majority." The faces include Peter Boyle, veteran of many a TV commercial, in the title role, Dennis Patrick from Dark Shadows, Audrey Caire from The Virginian, K. Callan of As the World Turns, and, in her film debut, Susan Sarandon (her name mispelled "Serandon" in the story), from A World Apart. The always-reliable Wikipedia says that the movie "inspired the creation of other tough, working class characters in 70s films and TV shows, including the character of Archie Bunker," but we know that's where Archie really came from.
CBS isn't the only network making changes; there's a major one at NBC as well, although this wasn't their choice. This Saturday, for the first time since October 29, 1956, the Peacock Network's evening news program will not be The Huntley-Brinkley Report: Chet Huntley has said good night for the last time.
For years the duo had dominated network news, so much so that Walter Cronkite was actually driven out of the main chair for CBS's coverage of the 1964 Democratic Convention. During the coverage of John F. Kennedy's death and funeral in 1963, NBC's news coverage outdrew that of CBS and ABC combined. There are theories as to why their ratings slipped late in the decade; some said it was because of the increasing relevance of the space program (Frank McGee was the network's go-to man), others that it was because of the 1967 AFTRA strike (Huntley, unlike Brinkley, crossed the picket lines and did the news, and the "split" may have puzzled viewers who'd grown so used to seeing them as a team). Whatever the reason, by 1970 Walter Cronkite is the man on top, and Chet Huntley is ready to ride into the sunset, heading for his ranch in Montana. Not, however, before sharing a few parting shots with readers.
*Gee, imagine that!
Huntley considers himself a conservative when it comes to the scope of government bureaucracy, and feels that labor unions are "one of the chief inflationary forces" in the nation. Economically he's a conservative, an unapologetic capitalist. The establishment, he says, does not need replacing - not when it's "so flexible and easy to enter." He is liberal when it comes to the military (he believes in strong civilian control), but equally firm in his believe that the Soviet Union, "with its incredible set of ambitions, has been and remains, a dangerous force." He's for freedom of all religions (liberal), for conservation ("The New Left will never succeed in making environmental control its exclusive property"), believes that Vietnam may be unwinnable (liberal) but that the United States was not necessarily wrong to aid the South Vietnamese (conservative). As far as the dominant political voice of the time, the so-called "Young Extremists," Huntley says - in words that could be applied to college campuses today - "I can find nothing of value in what they are saying. They are shockingly ill-equipped in history, philosophy, classic literature, political science, or economics. I find them to be arrogant, ill-mannered boors, each in such hot pursuit of his own inflated ego that there is no consensus. They have not affirmative program - only a tantrum." While there certainly are things that need fixing in this country, he's certain of on thing - "we don't turn society over to them."
Finally, and most important, freedom of the press. He does not agree with Vice President Agnew that the media is "inventing these signs of social, economic, political and racial unrest." "Journalists," he says, "were never intended to be the cheerleaders of a society, the conductrs of applause. Tragically, that is their function in authoritarian societies - but not in free countries," Freedom of speech is paramount - "I take comfort in the fact that the racists, the demagogues, the anarchists and the enemies of freedom, with whom I disagreed profoundly, were given their day and their time to promote their ideas in the market place." What he would have thought of the wave sweeping the country today, especially on college campuses, of quashing any speech with which the mob disagrees.
What comes through for me in this article is that Huntley is an impressive, dignified man, one whose opinions I can respect, whether or not I agree with them. I doubt he feared disagreement so much that he would have refused discussion. I always liked both Chet and David, but I think Brinkley has come to overshadow his partner, probably because of Huntley's early death in 1974. (I wonder if my friend Marc Ryan has some insight he can share from his father's time at NBC?) It's clear Huntley deserves his share of respect and appreciation.
I've always thought that Chet Huntley's final sign-off on Friday, July 31 was quite poignant, specifically for what lay between the lines of what he said. Near the end of his brief comments, he said, "At the risk of sounding presumptuous, I would say to all of you: be patient and have courage, for there will be better and happier news one day, if we work at it." I listen to that, and I think of what he and David Brinkley had seen over the course of the last seven years: three major assassinations, riots throughout the country, a war that seemed endless, a society on the verge of collapse. And in that farewell a somewhat plaintive plea, that there will be "better and happier" news - someday. Yes, someday. He must have been thinking of those things, perhaps especially the war; and it must have seemed to those weary viewers that "one day" was so far out in the future it might never come, and wondered what else, in the meantime, might happen.
I suppose we could say the same now; perhaps that day will come, one day.
Here's that final sign-off (the original was in color) from July 31, 1969.
Meanwhile, ABC is hoping to exploit the vacuum with "a new approach to nighttime news." It's the ABC Evening News with Frank Reynolds and Howard K. Smith, and the new approach is to present the news in "segments consisting of related news events," one flowing into another without using the anchor desk as an intermediary. It's combined with outspoken (and "clearly marked") commentary from Reynolds and Smith, and a staff of experienced correspondents. It's the latest attempt by ABC to remain relevant in the ratings race, coming after turns by Peter Jennings, Bob Young, and Reynolds. The team of Reynolds and Smith has been at it since May of 1969, but in another four months Reynolds will be replaced by Harry Reasoner in yet another reorganization.
John Chancellor has a good run at NBC, but he never does reach the heights of Huntley-Brinkley, and NBC doesn't return to the top until Tom Brokaw takes over. ABC, meanwhile, finally asserts itself when sports honcho Roone Arledge takes over the news division and introduces World News Tonight, featuring Reynolds, Jennings, Max Robinson, and Barbara Walters. It's the evening news I always watched.
The very pleasant visage to your right is this week's starlet, 6-foot-tall Inga Neilsen, a frequent figure (pun intended) on TV next to Dean Martin on his show, or yukking it up with Red Skelton and Henry Gibson, or being chased around by Dick Martin while "Hold That Tiger" plays in the background. She can sing and dance - "Music was like therapy to me," she says - but nowadays, even though her acting coach Jeff Corey says she has "unusual sensitivity," she's known mostly as "that big, funny sexy broad." If this frustrates her, though, she doesn't show it. She lives happily with her husband and son, and though a pilot of Holly Golightly* never panned out, she's constantly busy with commercials and guest shots, and she's even come to terms with the way men look at her.
Inga goes on to nurture that love of music by singing professionally, she appears in movies and television through 1985, and as far as I can see there are no tragic headlines out there online. For someone of whom Parade once asked "Is She Too Big For Hollywood?", perhaps she showed that you don't have to be a big star to have a big life.
Quite frankly, we're in the dog days of summer, and there's not a lot on the tube to attract attention. The sporting event of the week is the PGA Westchester Classic from Rye, New York, featuring the second-largest purse of the year: $250,000, with $50,000 to the winner. (Bruce Crampton, in case you're interested.) On Saturday, New York's WOR presents, without commercial interruption, the Oscar-winning classic The Red Shoes, staring Moira Shearer and Anton Walbrook.
Sunday the 5th Dimension headlines a repeat showing of The Ed Sullivan Show, with Richard Tucker, Imogene Coca, Sandler and Young, and Ferrante and Teicher. All that's missing are Siegfried and Roy. There's also a very interesting movie on ABC's Sunday Night Movie: Seconds, the 1966 thriller directed by John Frankenheimer, with John Randolph as a man who wants a second chance at life, and enters into a Faustian bargain to get a new mind and a new body - and he walks out as Rock Hudson. That description doesn't really do the movie justice; it makes it sound like a campy horror movie, The Man With Two Heads or something like, that, when in reality it's a deadly serious nightmare.
Monday NET Journal comemmorates the upcoming 25th anniversary of Hiroshima and Nagasaki with a documentary that, says producer William Weston, is neither a justification nor an apology. On Tuesday WNEW presents highlights of the Miss Wool of America Pageant, an event we've run across before, with Glenn Ford as one of the judges. Meanwhile, CBS presents an encore showing of its acclaimed Vietnam documentary "The World of Charlie Company."
On Wednesday noon, WNEW presents a rerun of Route 66 that finds Tod and Linc in Minneapolis (!), whith Tod working at a hotel which no longer stands. In fact, if you have the chance to watch this fourth-season episode, you'll find that very little of what you see is still around. That's urban renewal for you. The late Thursday movie on WTIC is the Hitchcock thriller I Confess, in which Montgomery Clift portrays a priest facing his worst nightmare - accused of murder, he knows who the real killer is, but can't reveal his identity because of the Seal of Confession. Finally, Friday brings the week to an end with an episode of He & She, the sophisticated CBS sitcom starring real-life husband and wife Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss, in which Benjamin's character finds he has to have his tonsils removed - by a doctor who's just had a fight with his wife.
There's undoubtedly more to the week, but if you'll permit me a personal indgulgence, I'm now into day fourteen of an off-and-on migrane, and as much as I love you all, I think it's now time to stop.