First things first. The experts are eleven of the top advertising agency executives, men paid big bucks to predict where the bigger bucks ought to go. And among these eleven, there is a consensus, three series that show up on more of their lists than any others. Those three: Phyllis, on CBS; Joe Forrester, on NBC, and Switch, on CBS. Phyllis, the second spinoff from The Mary Tyler Moore Show, starring Cloris Leachman, is described as "the enviable filly," sandwiched between Rhoda and All in the Family, with Maude and Medical Center to follow. Joe Forrester, starring Lloyd Bridges in a spinoff from a Police Story episode, is up against the "big gamble of the year," CBS's Masterpiece Theatre-clone Beacon Hill, and ABC's fading Marcus Welby, M.D. Switch, which stars Robert Wagner and Eddie Albert in a "first cousin" to the Oscar-winning The Sting, is strengthened by the likeability of its stars, but handicapped by its tough position going up against Police Story and The Rookies.
How did they do? Let's go to the judges' cards for the decision. Phyllis lasted two seasons, fewer than Rhoda, although their ratings were comperable. Joe Forrister was clearly a disappointment, lasting only a single season. Switch, however, survived for three seasons before being replaced by The Incredible Hulk.. So as far as that goes, we'll give the experts one out of three, which would give them a pretty good batting average in the major leagues. They do much better when it comes to picking the bombs (it's always embarrassing when you look back and find out that one of their "sure fire flops" turns out to be something like Little House on the Prairie) - the three most likely to fail are On the Rocks ("mostly because nobody could find out why it was conceived at all, much less sent out to compete"). Mobile One (similar reasons, plus it's on up against Sanford and Son, Chico and the Man, and M*A*S*H), and Saturday Night Life with Howard Cosell, which is only remembered today because it's the show that forced SNL to use the title NBC's Saturday Night for the first few weeks.
Were there any shows they really missed? Well, the cop show Starsky and Hutch garnered a fair amount of support, and a sitcom called Welcome Back, Kotter got a vote. On the flip side, there were several votes for Doctors Hospital, starring George Peppard, one of the first "realistic" medical dramas, which probably got less than it deserved.
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|SOURCE: H ADLEY TV GUIDES|
But it's true that Durslag paints something of a grim picture for the NFL in 1975, and at first glance that would seem to be anything but true nowadays. And yet - ratings were down last year for the first time in a while, and we'll see if it was just the election, or if it did have something to do with players kneeling for the national anthem, for sexual assaults and violence and concussions and other off-field happenings, and there's still the threat of labor strife in the future. So when you think about it, for all that's changed, a lot is still the same.
Durslag's predictions for the AFC are straightforward: Miami in the East, Pittsburgh in the Central, Oakland in the West, while in the NFC the division winners are St. Louis in the East, Minnesota in the Central, and Los Angeles in the West. And how did this expert do? Well, in fact, Durslag aces the NFC, with one proviso. He mentions that we are warned that it is "dangerous to pick against Dallas in the division, but the judgment here is that the Cowboys have busted their last bronc for a spell. They must rebuild." He does not pick the Cowboys to win the East, and he is correct. However, they do win the Wild Card (he has them finishing fourth), and then go on to upset both Minnesota and Los Angeles to wind up in the Super Bowl, where they take on: Pittsburgh. While Durslag gets the Steelers and Raiders right, he really blows it in the East, where he picks Baltimore to finish fifth, and for awhile he looks smart; the Colts get out to a 1-4 start before running off seven straight wins, then defeat Miami 10-7 in an overtime thriller in Baltimore, before defeating New England in the final game of the season to finish atop the division. The Steelers win the AFC anyhow, then top Dallas in Super Bowl X.
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Kirshner: Yes, David Essex, Brian Cadd, Rush, and the Fania All-Stars are the performers. Also: clips of Jimi Hendrix.
Special: Helen Reddy (hostess), Paul Williams, Phoebe Snow, the Nitty Gritty Dirt Band, and comedian Alan Mandell are the guests. On film: David Bowie.
OK, let's think about this for a minute. On film, you've got David Bowie. On stage, you have Yes and Rush, plus film clips of Hendrix. This week it's a big Yes for Don Kirschner.
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They're not starlets anymore, they're just the "Stars of the Future," and they come in both sexes. Let's see who some of Hollywood's most successful talent scouts have labeled for upcoming stardom.
|(L-R) Grant, Conaway, Pringle, Potts, Sublette|
Gail Melnick, of ABC, rather likes Barra Grant, "the most versatile actress I've ever seen." Adds Melnick, "She's right for almost every female part I have." Grant, in addition to doing series guest parts and TV movies, is the daughter of Bess Myerson. Meanwhile, Monique James of Universal City Studios casts her vote for Joan Pringle. "What an actress!" she says of Pringle, who was in the last season of Ironside, had roles in Emergency!, Toma, and Banacek, and is headed for That's My Mama. Eddie Foy III, part of the famous Foy family, is reminded of a young Dick Van Dyke when he thinks of Jeff Conaway. "He's got that marvelous looseness that you don't see in a lot of people today." He played in Grease on stage for a couple of years, and also did an episode of Movin' On.
So how did these predictions go? Well, Jeff Conaway, who died in 2011, had successes in both Taxi and Babylon 5, as well as the movie version of Grease. Joan Pringle did a lot of TV; her best-known role was probably in The White Shadow. Barra Grant appeared in the second series of the BBCseries Take Three Girls, as well as numerous TV shows and movies, but has gone on to do more work as a TV writer and director. Cliff Potts has done a number of movies and TV series, including Silent Running, and acted with Steve McQueen, though he never approached his talent or his magnetism. And Linda Sublette has a few credits to her name, but probably made far more money off of commercials than I'll ever see in my lifetime.
Which just goes to show that predicting success isn't easy, but even a little success is as accomplishment. It's a tough business, as Eddie Foy III says: "Television makes it come too fast, too soon. And it ends quicker than it starts."
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Muhammad Ali, the Heavyweight Champion of the World, hosts his own variety special at 7:00 p.m. CT on ABC Saturday night; his guests are Howard Cosell (natch), Flip Wilson, Aretha Franklin, Gabe Kaplan, The Captain and Tennille, and Barry White. (I swear, this sounds like some kind of SCTV parody, doesn't it?) I remember the host of Welcome Inn, the local "variety" show on Channel 7, talking about the Ali special later in the week and marvelling and how smooth and funny Ali was as a host; even at 15, I was thinking to myself, "Hey lady, have you ever heard of, you know, writers?" The unnamed critic of The Screening Room begs to differ with our Channel 7 hostess, saying that Ali is "out of his element when he's out of the ring. His opening monologue falls flat, his guests praise him fawningly, and his verbal sparring with Howard Cosell is predictable." On the other hand, Aretha Franklin's pretty good.
ABC kicks off the college football season Monday night at 8:00 p.m. with an all-Catholic showdown, as Notre Dame, under new head coach Dan Devine, travels to Boston to take on Boston College.* More accurately, they're in Foxboro, home of the New England Patriots, where a crowd of over 61,000 sees the Irish emerge triumphant, 17-3. Remember, we're still in the days when the number of games is limited, so this is it for the weekend, even though the season actually started on Saturday with a big matchup between Michigan State and Ohio State, which ABC shares with highlights during Wide World of Sports. Yup, times have changed.*
*In case you're wondering where Monday Night Football is, remember that in the days of the 14-game NFL season, opening day isn't until next week.
Tuesday morning starts on Today (NBC, 7:00 a.m.) with an interview of Margaret Thatcher, leader of Britain's Conservative Party. I remember when she was elected, the first woman in a Western nation to lead a major political party. People wondered if conservatives would have a problem with that. They didn't. That evening, on what has to be a wonderful rerun of Jean Shepherd's America, "Jean recalls the time his father's huge homemade kite blew away. Jean also tells about his father's first plane ride. . . before the invention of airsickness bags." You know, I can hear Jean Shepherd narrating that, and I can hear Darren McGavin shouting, can't you?
On Wednesday it's Mel Brooks' Robin Hood parody, When Things Were Rotten (7:00 p.m., ABC, with guest star Phil Silvers). I think I've mentioned before that there was a great mystique about programs like this that aired on CBS and, especiallyt, ABC while I lived in The World's Worst Town™. We could get CBS programming on the KELOland station when the weather was good, and on occasion (such as with the Muhammad Ali special above) Channel 7 would telecast ABC programming, since it was a dual affiliation. Rarely the good stuff, though. From what I'd read, I though When Things Were Rotten had to be a hilarious show; I knew Brooks from The Producers, and I thought spoofing Robin Hood was a slam dunk. It wasn't, but such is the aura of a show like that. The man who wrote that "'tis better to have loved and lost than never to have loved at all" never got to watch a TV show he'd always wanted to see only to find out it wasn't any good.
survived an incredible murder attempt), and a supporting cast including Larry Hagman and Robert Loggia).
It's a rite of passage on M*A*S*H Friday (7:30 p.m., CBS), as "Change of Command" provides an apt title for the episode that introduces the 4077th's new CO: Colonel Sherman Potter, played by the redoubtable Harry Morgan. Elsewhere, Jim Backus, Sherry Jackson, Julie Adams, and Patty McCormack are among the guests on ABC's soon-to-be short-lived series Mobile One (7:00 p.m.), Sgt. Becker - a veteran of the bunco squad - has to ask Rockford to bail him out after he's the victim of a fraud (and don't think Rockford will ever let him hear the end of it) on The Rockford Files (8:00 p.m., NBC), and Paul Picerni, a veteran of Quinn Martin's The Untouchables, returns to the QM stables as he guests on Barnaby Jones (9:00 p.m., CBS) along with Barry Sullivan, Sharon Acker, Charles Durning, and Hayden Rorke.
As I said, Septembers are great if you're looking for big-name guest stars!
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Tidbits collected from the rest of the issue:
George Carlin is set to host the inaugural episode of NBC's live Saturday Night sketch comedy show (it does sound better after Cosell is cancelled, doesn't it?), and more cast signings have been announced: Albert Brooks "will contribute a short film - featuring himself as writer and star - to each of the first seven programs," and Jim Henson has some new Muppet creations set to appear. Producer Lorne Michaels confesses that the hardest part of live television "is making it come out to the right lenght," but that anxiety is what drives good comedy.
This season features the introduction of the "Family Prime Time Period," a nightly two-hour commitment to family-friendly programming agreed to by stations that subscribe to the Television Code fo the National Association of Broadcasters. Note that this is voluntary; there's no government intervention or censorship involved in this, although one could certainly intuit that the threat of government involvement often drives this kind of intervention. Stockton Helfrich, the Director of Code Authority for NAB, takes a moment to explain to TV Guide just what the phrase "family programming" means, and what he'll be looking for. The short answer: bear with us. It's going to take time to implement this, and it's going to be done on a case-by-case basis, rather than one-size-fits-all. Helfrich believes there's already a consensus between networks and broadcasters that "extraneous violence and explicit sexual subject material" is "out of bounds" in the Family Prime Time Period. He has confidence, though, that programmers can exercise their "usual business finesse in selecting broadcast entities that draw and hold audiences." However, he acknowledges that there will be times, such as when a viewer says, "it's all right to show that people fight, but it shouldn't get out of hand" - well, how do you define that? Or when someone speaks of sex and says, "no indecent stuff" - it's not going to be easy.
And it's funny you should mention that, because Monday night's episode of Medical Center (9:00 p.m., CBS) features a storyline in which Robert Reed plays a surgeon seeking a sex change, and his hostile wife and son refuse to intervene on his behalf. "CBS plans an announcement warning that the episode may not be suitable for all family members." Indeed.