July 8, 2017

This week in TV Guide: July 11, 1959

No messing around this week - let's go right to the programming, and we'll catch up on the features afterward. It's the way I used to read TV Guide.

From today's headlines: Saturday's episode of Brenner, a fine police drama starring Edward Binns and James Broderick (9:00 p.m., CBS), features a story about a patrolman whose gun kills a young lawbreaker. "After it is discovered that the youth was unarmed, the newspapers launch a tirade against police brutality." Hmm. At least the police don't have CNN to contend with. An hour later on Gunsmoke, Matt hunts down a man who tried to kill him; among the guest stars are character actor Harry Townes, who may well have appeared on every TV series ever shown, and Paul Newlan, who was Lee Marvin's boss on M Squad and always seemed to be waiting for him at the crime scene.

Carol Channing, the Dukes of Dixieland, and Wayne and Shuster headline Ed Sullivan's show Sunday night (8:00 p.m.), while Janet Blair and John Raitt host the summer replacement for Steve Allen on NBC at 9:00 p.m.; among their guests is the young Joel Grey. If variety's not your cup of tea, Ronald Reagan and Carol Lynley star in an intriguing G.E. Theater on CBS; Reagan plays a newspaper reporter who runs across the site of a car crash involving a famed Hungarian scientist, while Lynley is a hitchhiker who blames the scientist for the accident.

Monday night features the two stars on this week's cover, Craig Stevens and Lola Albright, in Peter Gunn (9:00 p.m., NBC). Tonight, Edie asks Pete to help a close friend of hers, singer Lynn Martel, who fears someone is trying to kill her. At 10:00 p.m. on CBS, Desilu Playhouse presents "The Killer Instinct," with Rory Calhoun as a former boxer who becomes manager of a promising young fighter. And The Arthur Murray Party (NBC, 10:00 p.m.) features a dance contest, natch; the guests are George Raft, Gene Autry, Joanne Dru, and Sheilah Graham.

On Tuesday, The Naked City (ABC, 9:00 p.m.) has one of those little quirks that I always enjoy. The story involves the lead detectives, Muldoon and Halloran (John McIntire, James Franciscus, right) visiting tugboat captain Adam Flint (Cameron Prud'homme). Writer Stirling Silliphant must have really liked the name he came up with for the captain; when the show returned in 1960 for its second season, new star Paul Burke played a detective named - Adam Flint.

Did you ever wonder how you'd react if someone gave you a million dollars? That's the premise of The Millionaire, CBS's long-running drama series, and on Wednesday at 9:00 p.m. we find out how policeman Dan Howell reacts: he's convinced it has to be a bribe, and refuses the money.

Edward G. Robinson makes a rare television appearance in "Shadows Tremble," Thursday's episode of Playhouse 90 (9:30, CBS), which also stars Ray Walston, Beatrice Straight, and Robert Webber. It's up against NBC's Masquerade Party, and would this description cause you to tune in? "Tonight's mystery guests come disguised as an Eskimo who beats another Eskimo in a fight, a gingerbread man standing next to a gingerbread house, and a barber who attempts to fit the panelists with wigs."

Friday ends the week with William Reynolds, future partner of Efrem Zimbalist Jr. on The FBI, as the title character in NBC's drama Pete Kelly's Blues (7:30 p.m.); Bob Hope, guest starring as himself on I Love Lucy (8:30 p.m., CBS), Jimmy Stewart introducing and narrating the docudrama "Cowboy Five Seven" on CBS's Playhouse (9:30 p.m.), and a middleweight bout between Rory Calhoun (not the actor) and Dick Tiger (not yet the world middleweight and light-heavyweight champion) on NBC's Gillette Cavalcade of Sports (10:00 p.m.).

◊ ◊ ◊

There are different ways to describe women. Beautiful, attractive, alluring, cute. There is no wrong answer; all of them are good. The way to describe that picture of Lola Albright (left) is cute. As I said, no wrong answer.

Lola Albright is the costar of Peter Gunn, playing Edie Hart to Craig Stevens' Pete, and she says she appreciates the chance to play "a real woman." I've written before about Peter Gunn, one of television's "jazz detectives" of the late '50s and early '60s, and one of the points I try to emphasize is that the relationship between Pete and Edie is one between two adults, something you don't see too often anymore in a world populated by thirtysomething adolescent snowflakes. But what does that actually mean? I don't think I could describe it any better than she does:

Well, without taking away from her humanness, her first consideration is her man. Edie is not a paragon - far from it. I don't suppose you'd find her teaching Sunday school.

Are Edie and Pete in love. Well, sure. Presumably they'll marry one day - but not on the program, obviously. Meantime their relationship is - well, adult. Edie is too smart not to know better than to try to tie Pete down. It would be the surest way for her to lose him.

Then, too, his work brings him in contact with other women, many of them extremely attractive. Her sense of humor carries her through this situation, and she is able to deal with it. That's a good womanly trait. Edie also is on hand to show another facet of Pete - his sentimental side. And his steadfast side, because no matter what might happen, he always returns to her.

That's Edie for you. I wish I knew myself as well as I know her. I might add that I think the realism of this relationship is one of the things that keeps the show on top.

From your lips to today's network executives' ears, Lola. If only they knew what that kind of a mature relationship adds to a story - but then, are the viewers mature enough to appreciate it?

◊ ◊ ◊

Some odds and ends from the news wires: former president Harry Truman is reported to be one of the possible choices as the new host of CBS's Person to Person, succeeding Edward R. Murrow. Walter Cronkite, Ed Sullivan, and Jackie Gleason are others rumored to be in contention, but the final choice will be far less sensational and far more practical: former foreign correspondent Charles Collingwood, one of the "Murrow Boys" from CBS's World War II reporting.

There was also a possibility of change at Ziv studios, but that seems to have been avoided, at least for the time being. Gene Barry, star of the studio's (and NBC's) successful Western Bat Masterson, has been holding out for more money and a better tax situation, and now he's apparently got it, but not before the studio offered the role to Gordon MacRae, who reportedly declined, saying "I'm pretty good with a gun, but with a cane I'm nothing."

Walt Disney has sued ABC for antitrust violations, claiming the network is preventing him from shopping programs to other networks. Of course, ABC and Disney have had a long and successful relationship; the network even helped finance construction of Disneyland. But TV Guide has reported in the past of Disney's growing frustration with the network over, among other things, limiting the variety of programs aired on Disneyland  - too many Westerns, if I recall correctly. Eventually, Walt will take his show and move to NBC. The irony, of course, is that now Disney owns ABC, although I don't think Walt would be pleased with either the studio or the network nowadays.

Jim Aubrey has taken over for Hubbell Robinson as programming chief for CBS, and in many ways the medium will never be the same. Robinson left CBS for a chance to run a proposed big-name series sponsored by Ford. (Ford Startime). During his tumultuous tenure at CBS, Aubrey will be responsible - according to his many critics - for pandering to the lowest common denominator* with nonetheless successful shows like The Beverly Hillbillies, Gilligan's Island, Petticoat Junction, and The Munsters. 

*His formula for success was said to be "broads, bosoms, and fun,"

◊ ◊ ◊

YouTube provides a wealth of obscure television that has fallen into the public domain or otherwise avoided legitimate DVD release, and one of those series is Markham, a private detective series starring Oscar-winner Ray Milland that ran from 1958 through 1960. I like Ray Milland, and I like private detective stories, which made the series worth checking out. The results of my experiment in a moment.

First, there's TV Guide's review of the series, and it's not a positive one. Whereas Milland had built up Markham as "a combination Sherlock Holmes and Lord Peter Wimsey," but any resemblance to either of the great literary detectives is purely coincidental. "To be honest about it, Markham is nothing more than run-of-the-eyeball private-eye stuff." And even though some of the location shots are terrific, from cities such as Paris, Cairo, and Old Quebec, "Unfortunately, no matter where they film it, Markham never gets off the launching pad." The plots are "out of the meat-grinder," and the dialog - well, the word used to describe it is "painful."

As for my own experience? Well, some of these words seem a bit harsh, but I can't really argue with the conclusion. To me, the show was run-of-the-eyeball, or at least run-of-the-mill. There was nothing terribly different or exciting about it; one episode featured Markham being locked out on an apartment balcony building during a freezing storm which will surely mean the end of him if he doesn't figure out some way of reentry into the building. All the way in the leadup to this situation, I'd hoped that Markham was just playing it cool, letting the killer fall into his trap - but no, Markham actually fell for the rather lame maneuver that allowed his adversary to trap him outside. It was, to be honest, a bit disappointing.

Don't get me wrong - I'm glad Markham is out there, just in case I get the urge to sample it again. I could be wrong about it, and it wouldn't be the first time I've felt that way about a series I wound up loving. But as long as TV Guide felt the same way I did, I don't feel so bad.

◊ ◊ ◊

Finally, a story that only someone of my age, or a little older, can really appreciate.

It turns out that around this time there was an organization known as the American Ionospheric Propagation Association, or AIPA for short. The club has members from teens to sexagenarians, publishes regular newsletters, and has regular conventions at which officers are elected, business is conducted, and members share their latest discoveries. Now, you're thinking, this is all well and good, and we know what AIPA stands for, but just what does AIPA actually do? I'm afraid the answer to that will result in another question, because the members of AIPA keep each other informed on the latest developments in "TV-DX." To which your reaction, quite rightly, should be to ask what that means.

What it means is that the members of AIPA spend their hobby time comparing notes on who's been able to pull in a television signal from the farthest distance away ("DX" being the standard abbreviation for "distance," don't you know). For example, one member, living in Dunkirk, New Jersey, was once able to pull in a signal from Havana, Cuba - and has a picture of the station's test pattern to prove it. Several factors conspire to make these atmospheric events possible: between May and July, for instance, the ionosphere becomes heavily charged, making the atmosphere denser, which causes TV signals that would otherwise head out to space to bend back toward the earth, often resulting in a distortion of several hundred (or even thousand) miles out from the intended viewing area.

Many of you may have experienced something similar when listening to the radio, when at the right time of the year and right time of the night you might be able to pull in radio broadcasts from St. Louis or Chicago or somewhere on one of the coasts; that's how I got to hear Jack Buck and Vin Scully and Lloyd Pettit when I was growing up. Television could work the same way, at least before cable and satellite, when you depended on a pair of rabbit ears and an outdoor antenna to get your television. Even in the '70s, living in the World's Worst Town™ with little more than a single aerial sticking out of the back of a black-and-white portable in my second-floor bedroom, I was able to get faint signals from the Twin Cities, 150 miles away. I got to see the odd half of football in the old World Football League (Channel 11), or the beginning of A.M. America (Channel 9), and on occasion part of a late movie or local show. It was quite the thing for me, and I was only looking for the Twin Cities; imagine what it would have been like had I gotten a signal from Montana or Michigan or - gasp - Iowa!

Really, moving that aerial around, twisting the dial this way and that, trying to see what came out of a field of static, was all rather exciting. And while I have nothing but love for cable and satellite and the wonderfully crisp, shadow-free pictures that we get, I admit that it makes the pursuit of television just that bit less romantic, even as television did the same to radio. It's all just a bit too easy nowadays, though I don't know what you can do about it. After all, if there's no room for romance in the shows we watch, what hope do we have for the rest of the television hobby?

3 comments:

  1. Why you shouldn't answer one of these first thing Saturday morning:
    (Or at least why I shouldn't.)

    - That Sunday night Variety Show(sic) with John Raitt and Janet Blair was Dinah Shore's summer replacement, not Steve Allen's - and its proper title was The Chevy Show.
    TV Guide had an editorial policy at that time where they wouldn't mention a sponsor's name in the listing; if the star's name was part of the title (as with Dinah Shore), that was how the listing read.
    This was a short-lived policy; the deciding factor was when Tennessee Ernie Ford acquired the Ford Motor Company as a sponsor, resulting in The Ford Show, thereby rendering the whole thing futile.

    - In that same vein, that CBS Playhouse with James Stewart was in fact either the Schlitz or the Lux Playhouse, depending on whose turn it was that week.

    - Noting that in the color section, there's an introductory profile of Dave King, the British singer/comic who's doing the Kraft Music Hall on NBC this summer, leading up to Perry Como in the fall.
    Check the listing: Dave King (no Kraft).

    - Markham:
    In some interviews years after the fact, Ray Milland was dismissive of the earliest episodes (which this one would have been among).
    Milland tells of how, midway through the show's run, he strongarmed the producers into hiring his old friend Mitchell Leisen into taking over as "showrunner" (the term didn't exist then, but you know what I mean).
    Some years before, Leisen had been very big at Paramount pictures, where he and Milland had become close; by the '50s, he'd hit hard times, and was doing TV. For him Markham was a career lifeline (one of many that kept him going in his later years, thanks to old friends like Ray Milland).

    - Side note:
    In recent times, Lawrence Block has been seeing to the reissue of many paperback novels he wrote in his "writer-for-hire" days.
    The Markham book that you depict here may be one of them (I'll have to check).

    - In the Teletype pages< there's a note that Adele Mara will be making a guest appearance in a fall segment of 77 Sunset Strip.
    But check out the listing for this Friday's 77SS rerun: Adele Mara's in that show too.
    Adele Mara was, of course, the long-time wife of Roy Huggins, who created the "Stuart Bailey" character, but had almost nothing to do with 77 Sunset Strip as a series.
    She was also the sister of Luis Delgado, James Garner's crony of long standing; given Garner's distaste for Huggins, that must have made for some interesting family gatherings ...

    ReplyDelete
  2. One-day-later followup (in no fixed order):


    - Masquerade Party:
    This was from the period when Allan Sherman was the producer; he'd gotten the job not long after Mark Goodson booted him from I've Got A Secret (details can be found in Sherman's autobiography, A Gift Of Laughter).
    Sherman's contribution to Masquerade Party was to turn the disguise spots into "production numbers" of a sort. The idea was that the disguises were hints to who was wearing them, and Sherman's crew went all out.
    Here are some that I remember; would you have watched these?
    - A prim librarian who demanded that the panelists be Silent as they asked their questions.
    - An ivy-covered trellis, that responded to questions by shaking 'yes' or 'no'.
    - A mustachioed baker who passed out cookies to the panelists while being questioned.
    - Queen Anne Boleyn, "with 'er 'ead tucked underneath 'er arm".
    - Dr. Jekyll, who would drink a potion, duck behind the set, and turn into Mr. Hyde (as you might guess, this was two people).
    - A jailbird, stuck in a cell through ice and snow were blowing (this was part of a contest for home viewers).

    These are some that I happen to remember.
    As to the ones in the listing, I'd guess that the fighting Eskimos might be professional boxers with an upcoming title fight; the others - who knows?
    The answers to my 'quiz' - maybe next time, if I feel like it ...

    - Also on Thursday night:
    21 Beacon Street on NBC is about investigators who basically scam criminals into doing themselves in.
    This week, one of the group poses as a prizefighter in order to bring down a crooked fight promoter.
    Sound familiar?
    (Like a Mission: Impossible from years later?)

    21 Beacon Street head writer was a man named Leonard Heideman, whose career was derailed when he killed his wife. He pleaded insanity, was institutionalized for two years, and was released.
    Heideman changed his name to Laurence Heath, and went back to writing television - ultimately becoming a major writer-producer of Mission:Impossible.
    Coincidence?
    You be the judge.


    - TV DXing:
    Until the digital switchover, I was able to do this, an a limited basis, almost to the end of the '90s.
    I've lived nearly all my life on the southwest side of the Chicagoland area.
    Most summers, if the atmospheric conditions were right, I could pull in recognizable (if not exactly pristine) signals from Milwaukee and (sometimes) Madison WI, Rockford IL, South Bend IN, and on really clear days, Grand Rapids/Kalamazoo MI (they were the same market, sort of like Dallas-Fort Worth). Michigan didn't observe Daylight Saving Time, so their network shows ran an hour later, which made the whole thing more fun.

    - In the color section, I note that there's a feature about Keep Talking, a panel game that I believe I've mentioned here in the past.
    Interestingly, it was produced by the Wolf family, who also produced Masquerade Party, op cit.
    You could, of course, look back in the archives for the previous postings, but it would definitely be easier to just read the story here, and decide if Keep Talking would work better nowadays than it did back then.

    - Just looked back at the Saturday listings.
    Reflecting back on yesterday's comment, I note that the listings for The Dick Clark Saturday Night Beech-Nut Show and Lawrence Welk's Dodge Dancing Party are both missing the sponsor's names.
    Just thought I'd mention that ...



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Good info! In fact, very good info - as always!

      Delete

Thanks for writing! Drive safely!