◊ ◊ ◊
It may seem odd that one of the big attractions of the new TV season is the theatrical movie, but this is the way it is before cable, before streaming, when Hollywood's biggest hits used to take years to make it to your living room set. The action starts right away, with NBC rolling out In the Heat of the Night, winner of five Academy Awards including Best Picture, on Saturday night (9:00 p.m. ET) Sterling Silliphant won an Oscar for his screenplay adaptation, and in doing so demonstrates something he must have learned from Naked City: if you're going to do a genre story, no matter what kind of message you want to send, you're still going to have to respect the demands of the genre at the same time. Indeed, although In the Heat of the Night is about race relations, ignorance and prejudice, and the old south coming to terms with a new world, Judith Crist reminds us that it still succeeds as a top-notch whodunit. Of course, having Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger in the cast doesn't hurt.
Neither does it hurt Richard Brooks to have a superior cast for his 1966 The Professionals, led by Burt Lancaster, Lee Marvin, Robert Ryan, Jack Palance, and Claudia Cardinale. CBS brings it to the small screen on Thursday night at 9:00 p.m., so that everyone can appreciate what Crist calls a "supurbly entertaining adventure-suspence Western" that garnered two Oscar nominations for Brooks, for Best Director and Best Adapted Screenplay. It runs twenty minutes over the normal two hour timeslot, but that includes a Republican political announcement that we're told follows the movie.
Crist's also going to give a good reivew to Tuesday's late movie, Roger Corman's House of Usher (11:30 p.m., CBS), in which Vincent Price "established himself as the nonpareil in the portrayl of intellectual and sophisticated madmen." She isn't as big a fan of Sunday night's big premiere, ABC's Goldfinger, which she writes "isn't up to the standards set by 'Dr. No' and 'From Russia with Love'," as the franchise begins to change focus "from emphatic action and vicarious heroism to sex and sadism, which outweigh the good dirty fun that initially gave Bond his adult comicstrip status with grown-ups." I understand what she means by that, though I'm not quite sure I agree; nevertheless, as she points out, "compared with all the imitations that have come along in the past eight years - good old 007 still holds his own."*
*Oh, the things I could say but won't.
However mild that criticism may be, it's nothing compared to what she thinks of CBS's offering on Friday night, Valley of the Dolls (9:00 p.m., followed by a Democratic political announcement). Quoting in full, "It's a bowdlerized version of the Jacqueline Susann book which provided a mawkish, trite, cheap story and smut; the movie lacks the smut but compensates by being badly acted, badly photographed and sleazily made, with a cheapjack production underlining the near-idiot literacy level of the script. Patty Duke, who scores high in the repulsive bracket, and Susan Hayward, who can count this as her horror movie (all middle-aged stars have to do one, it seems) fortunately survive their appearances herein." Well, I didn't want to watch that one anyway.
◊ ◊ ◊September's the time when football returns as well, and in these days of the 14-game schedule, the NFL kicks off its new season on September 17, when for at least three hours every fan in America can dream of their team reaching the Super Bowl - and then the whistle blows, and for most of those fans the dream will be shattered beyond repair. For our gameday experience, CBS has the half-hour NFL Today, followed at 2:00 p.m. by the New York Giants and Detroit Lions, from Tiger Stadium in Detroit. The season is pretty good for both the Giants and Lions, as each will win eight games, though neither makes the playoffs. Over at NBC, there is no pregame show (unless you consider Meet the Press a proper warmup for gladiatorial combat), so we'll go right to the action, starting at 1:00 p.m., as the New York Jets travel to Buffalo to take on the Bills. The main men in the game: Joe Namath for the Jets, O.J. Simpson for the Bills. Neither makes it to the playoffs. That's followed by the Miami Dolphins and the Kansas City Chiefs, from K.C. The last time these two teams met, it was Christmas Day 1971, with the Dolphins defeating the Chiefs in a double-overtime thriller. The Dolphins will defeat the Chiefs on this day as well, along with every other team they face, on their way to becoming the NFL's only undefeated, untied Super Bowl champion. And lest we forget, the Monday night game on ABC (9:00 p.m.) pits the Washington Redskins - the team that the Dolphins will defeat in Super Bowl VII - against the Minnesota Vikings.
Baseball's still going on, in case anyone's interested. Since this is a New York area TV Guide, there's plenty of local coverage, with WOR following the Mets to Chicago to play the Cubs over the weekend, before catching them at home against the Pittsburgh Pirates on Tuesday night. The Yankees, on WPIX, have a weekend series at home against the Baltimore Orioles. NBC's Saturday Game of the Week has the Detroit Tigers, who at this point are battling the Boston Red Sox for first place in the East, playing the division's last-place team, the Milwaukee Brewers. As you recall, 1972 was a strike season, and I don't recall how much of a lasting impact that had on fans' interest, but when football kicks off, baseball usually knows enough to take a back seat.
◊ ◊ ◊
◊ ◊ ◊
Let's see what else we can find this week.
A couple of notable series make their debuts on Saturday night; at 9:00 p.m., ABC introduces The Streets of San Francisco, with Karl Malden and Michael Douglas co-starring with The City itself. It's up against CBS's Mary Tyler Moore, which begins its third season as Ted Baxter is chosen to front WJM's new "Happy Talk" news format. If you're watching Minneapolis' favorite girl, chances are you might stick around for the night's second notable debut, The Bob Newhart Show (9:30 p.m.), the story of "A psychologist who can't handle his own hangups." Throw in In the Heat of the Night, and this really is the kind of night for which the VCR was invented.
"The Movie Fractured You. The Series Will Have You in Stitches." That's the way CBS advertised the debut of M*A*S*H on Sunday night (8:00 p.m.). If I didn't know any better, I'd think it was going to be something like Hogan's Heroes. Of course, the tenor of the program evolved somewhat over the years. If family fare is more your thing, Walt Disney begins its 19th season with "The Computer Wore Tennis Shoes," staring Kurt Russell. Turning to crime, it's the second-season premiere of Columbo (NBC, 9:00 p.m.), and it's "Etude in Black," the episode Once Upon a Screen wrote about a couple of weeks ago, with John Cassavetes as the killer conductor. Elsewhere in the crime racket, Eddie Egan, the real-life former NYC detective who was the basis for Gene Hackman's character in The French Connection, is "a cop out to nab a killer" in the sixth-season opener of Mannix at 9:30 p.m. on CBS. The bad guy, I think, is played by Rip Torn; I haven't gotten to the sixth season in my DVD set yet.
We've already talked about Monday Night Football, the night's biggest program, but right before that ABC features one of its new series, The Rookies, starring Georg Stanford Brown, Michael Ontkean, and Sam Melville. And do you remember Bill Cosby's variety show? I didn't either, until I was reminded of it here; his big-name guest lineup includes Peter Sellers and Lily Tomlin. (10:00 p.m., CBS)
On Tuesday, WCBS presents the season premieres of two old favorites in new skins (syndicated, that is). First, at 1:00 p.m., it's Larry Blyden as the host of the all-new What's My Line? Then, at 7:30 p.m., it's Steve Allen hosting I've Got a Secret. Both harmless entertainment; neither come close to the sophistication and star power of the originals. Later in the evening (9:00 p.m.) NBC's The Bold Ones has one of those crossover episodes that used to be so popular back when diferent series shared the same television universe. This time, it's part two of an episode that began last week on Ironside; seems a surgeon's daughter has been kidnapped, and only Raymond Burr and his gang can get to the bottom of it.
Bobby Sherman is the guest star on Thursday's episode of The Mod Squad (8:00 p.m., ABC), while at the same time on NBC, Tim Conway is Flip Wilson's foil (or is it the other way around?) The Dean Martin Show (10:00 p.m., NBC) has opera soprano Anna Moffo, Lloyd Bridges, and Barbara Feldon as guests, along with Nipsey Russell, Rodney Dangerfield, and Dom DeLuise. ABC's legal drama Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law* has Julie Sommars as the guest star; she plays a professor who has an affair with one of her students, and winds up being accused of his murder.
*Which, by the way, shares the same television universe with Marcus Welby, M.D.
Friday gives us a prime example of another staple of the new television season: a multi-episode spectacular. Tonight: The Brady Bunch goes to Hawaii on vacation. (Part one of three.) Frankly, I recommend Howard Cosell's guest spot on The Odd Couple (9:30 p.m., ABC). If you're staying up late, I also suggest going over to WNEW at 1:30 a.m. to catch a terrific suspense movie: The Stranger, with Orson Welles directing and starring in the story of a United Nations agent (Edward G. Robinson) hunting a Nazi war criminal (Welles). Oh, by the way, Loretta Young is also in it, as Welles' fiancee.
◊ ◊ ◊
There's so much else to look at in this issue - the former cast of Laugh-In, a fashion layout with Susan Clark, and all kinds of syndicated reruns that today we look at as classic television. But one has to draw the line somewhere, so let's close out with some cultural touchstones.
The Doan Report has a few items that caught my eye; first, a recap of the Munich Olympic Massacre, which had only happened the past week. ABC's coverage of the Games, which started out in color and pagentry, ended in a "spectacle of horror," but the network acquitted itself magnificently, with Jim McKay and Howard Cosell "suddenly cast in the role of headline-news reporters." NBC and CBS scrambled as best they could to provide coverage, but were limited in the amount of satellite time they were able to access, although CBS was able to get an hour, using coverage from the German police TV camera that ABC also had. Hard to imagine now, that one network could have virtually exclusive live coverage of a breaking news story like that, but in 1972 it wasn't all that easy to get satellite time under the best of circumstances; as I recall, ABC faced the same challenges in staying on the air.
As for the new season, experts don't see any new trends coming from the new series; All in the Family, Marcus Welby, M.D., and Flip (Wilson) are expected to once again lead the pack. The heavy favorite among the new series is CBS's Bridget Loves Bernie, which lasts only a single season. The real interest lies with public reaction to the so-called "New Permissiveness." "Titillations with the gay life, abortion, unmarried sex and such will abound on TV in the weeks ahead. It's going to induce either drooling or damnation, or both."
◊ ◊ ◊
|Two months later. . .|
Also: Neil Diamond's received offers from all three networks to do music specials for them. He's mulling them over, but as I recall, he winds up going with NBC, doing a special called "Neil Diamond at the Greek Theatre." Jerry Lewis plans an appearance on Sonny & Cher on CBS, including a skit in which he and Sonny play chess. (It happens to be the episode that airs this Friday.) And finally, Robert Young plans to star in a TV movie for ABC, entitled "All My Darling Daughters." Now TV Guide doesn't mention this, but I've heard they were going to call it "All My Darjeeling Daughters," but Young said it wasn't his cup of tea. . .