September 30, 2017

This week in TV Guide: September 29, 1962

The World Series begins on NBC Wednesday in Los Angeles, with a resurrection of the old "Subway Series" between the Dodgers and their old sparring partners the New York Yankees, their first meeting since the Dodgers abandonded Brooklyn for Los Angeles.

Except it didn't start on Wednesday, and when it did, it wasn't the Dodgers who took on the Yankess, but another transplant: the San Francisco Giants. It's also a lesson in what can happen when you're a publication working under a deadline.

In defense of the magazine, the close-up notes that it "looks like" the Dodgers will be playing the Yankees, and at press time it must seem a pretty good bet; the Dodgers lead the Giants by four games with just over a week to go in the season. It's such a good bet, in fact, that TV Guide doesn't even include their routine disclaimer about schedule changes in the event of a playoff. But a playoff is indeed what we're in store for; in a finish eerily reminiscent of 1951, the Dodgers collapse down the stretch and are tied on the last day of the season by the surging Giants. The teams split the first two games in the best-of-three playoff and then, just like in 1951, the Dodgers lose a 9th inning lead as the Giants' four-run rally gives them the pennant with a 6-4 win.

It's only going to get worse for TV Guide in the days ahead; the playoff forces the Series to start on Thursday rather than Wednesday, making Saturday the travel day. The teams play Sunday and Monday in New York, but Tuesday's scheduled Game 5 is rained out, causing the game to be played on Wednesday. The teams return to San Francisco and the middle of a West Coast monsoon; Game 6, originally scheduled for October 11, isn't played until October 15. By Tuesday, October 16, the longest World Series to date is threatening to become an anti-climatic, but a Willie McCovey line drive caught by Bobby Richardson gives the Yankees a thrilling 1-0 victory and their 20th World Series championship.

Here's the famous pair of Peanuts comic strips by baseball fan Charles Schulz, describing the anguish that Giants fans everywhere felt in the months after the game.



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Even though we cross into October this week, the new series continue to roll out. Jackie Gleason begins his new variety show, The American Scene Magazine, Saturday at 6:30 p.m (CT) on CBS, a timeslot he'll occupy for several seasons. His new cast includes Sue Ann Langdon, Patricia Wilson, and Frank Fontaine, whose Crazy Guggenheim portrayal is one of the most memorable aspects of the new series. He also has an old friend as guest star for the premiere: Art Carney as Ed Norton. ABC has a pair of new series; Roy Rogers and Dale Evans go up against Gleason at 6:30 with their new variety show; that's followed by Fess Parker's return to television in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (7:30), which runs for 25 episodes and proves that audiences are more interested in Parker as frontiermen than an earnest United States Senator. His next series, Daniel Boone, will return him to a familiar format, and familiar success.

On Sunday Jack Webb hosts GE True, the replacement for General Electric's long-running General Electric Theater. The shows are taken from the pages of True magazine, presumably with just the facts, ma'am. The Lucy Show (Monday at 7:30 on CBS) is Lucille Ball's follow-up to I Love Lucy and her first series without Desi Arnez. This time she's playing a widow with two children; Vivian Vance is back as her sidekick, divorcee Vivian Bagley;* the next year Gale Gordon will sign on as her perpetual foil, Theodore J. Mooney. At 8:00 the same evening, ABC premieres Jack Lord's new series Stoney Burke, in which Lord appears as a modern-day rodeo star.

*According to the always-reliable Wikipedia, Vance's character is the first divorced woman on primetime television.

On Tuesday, it's the first episode of the venerable World War II drama Combat! (6:30, ABC) with Vic Morrow and Rick Jason alternating as leads. The series runs for five seasons and is probably the best-known and most critically acclaimed of the WWII dramas. Wednesday sees the debuts of several more series: Going My Way (7:30, ABC), based on the Oscar-winning movie, stars Gene Kelly in the Bing Crosby role of Fr. Chuck O'Malley. It's followed by Our Man Higgins, based on the radio comedy It's Higgins, Sir, with Stanley Holloway as the British buttler Higgins. Neither of these shows will see a second season, but the night's third premiere, NBC's psychiatrist drama The Eleventh Hour (10:00), will, although Wendell Corey will be replaced as the lead doctor by Ralph Bellamy. Friday's lone new series is The Gallant Men (ABC, 6:30), another World War II drama starring William Reynolds that is considerably less successful than Combat!, lasting a single season. Reynolds, however does pretty well for himself later on, moving to ABC's The FBI.

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One of the more interesting episodes of the week comes not from a new series, but the second season opener of the ABC anthology series Alcoa Premiere, hosted by Fred Astaire (9:00 p.m.). In "Flashing Spikes," James Stewart (!) plays a former major leaguer thrown out of baseball for taking a bribe to throw a game. Now, he's suspected of bribing his friend, young Bill Riley, whose error cost his team the World Series.*

*No doubt the episode was scheduled to coincide with the start of this year's World Series, as opposed to commemorating the 43rd anniversary of the Black Sox Scandal.

What makes this interesting is not just the presence of Stewart as a morally compromised man, but the rest of the cast. His young friend Riley is played by Patrick Wayne, whose father John makes a cameo appearance. Dodgers pitcher Don Drysdale plays one of Riley's teammates, Vin Scully is the announcer, Jack Warden plays the commissioner of baseball, and Tige Andrews and Edgar Buchanan appear in supporting roles. And did I mention the whole thing is directed by the legendary Oscar winner John Ford? It isn't the only time Ford, Stewart, and The Duke have worked together this year; they also made a movie called The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance. Here's a clip from the program:


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Something that our friend Mike Doran does so well is spot the special guest stars populating various series each week, and since I find this week's feature articles something less than captivating, let's go back to the program listings and see what else we can find.

Well, here's one right off the bat: Saturday night's episode of The Defenders features Dennis Hopper as a young man accused of murdering a synoguge caretaker and then painting a swastika on the building. It reminds me of the Twilight Zone episode "He's Alive," in which Hopper plays a neo-Nazi - that's coming up in January of next year. Later on Saturday Burt Reynolds makes his first appearance as Quint Asper on Gunsmoke (9:00); he'll remain in Dodge as a blacksmith until 1965.

On Sunday night William Conrad, the original Matt Dillon on the radio version of Gunsmoke, plays a doctor who has to remove an unexploded shell embedded in the stomach of a Marine, in that debut episode of GE True. Robert Culp wrote the script for the season premiere of The Rifleman on Monday night (7:30 p.m., ABC), and Patty Duke suffers from a brain tumor in the season opener of Ben Casey (9:00, ABC)

Troy Donahue (left) joins the cast of Hawaiian Eye on Tuesday (7:30 p.m., ABC); he'll later move on (as a different character) to another of the WB detective shows, Surfside 6. Frank Sinatra, Jr. makes his network television debut at 8:30 on The Jack Benny Program (CBS). Arnold Palmer, Jack Nicklaus, and Gary Player appear in a sketch with Perry Como to open the eighth season of his Kraft Music Hall (Wednesday, 8:00 p.m. on NBC), and Vera Miles is a possible murderess in The Eleventh Hour (9:00, NBC).

In addition to that Alcoa Premiere episode we just talked about, Thursday night features Bruce Dern on The Law and Mr. Jones (8:30 p.m, ABC), Brian Keith on The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (9:00, CBS), and Rita Moreno and Paul Lynde on The Andy Williams Show (9:00, NBC). And don't overlook late night; one of Johnny's guests on The Tonight Show is "musical-comedy star Barbra Streisand" (never thought of her that way), and the pre-Voyage David Hedison stars in the syndicated rerun of Five Fingers (10:30, KMSP). Friday ends the week with John Ireland as guest star on Rawhide (6:30 p.m., CBS), and Mort Sahl takes a dramatic turn on the rerun of Thriller (10:30, KMSP).

See, that was fun, wasn't it?

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There's one appearance this week that I haven't mentioned - not because it isn't listed in the issue, but because there's so little made of it. It happens Monday night, October 1, and if you didn't already know about it, you wouldn't have realized its significance at all. Under the listing for The Tonight Show, we read that Johnny Carson's guests tonight include Joan Crawford, Rudy Valley, Tony Bennett and Mel Brooks.

All well and good. A couple of things are missing, though. One is that Groucho Marx is also a guest - the first guest, as a matter of fact. And Groucho's there to introduce the new host of Tonight - yes, this is Johnny's first Tonight Show. I'm a bit surprised that TV Guide doesn't make more of it, even just a mention in the listing that "Tonight, Johnny Carson takes over as permanent host." You know, something like that. Now, it could be that there was something in the previous week's edition; I don't have it to compare. Still, one knows how different things would be today: a full-page ad, a clever blurb in the listing itself. You wouldn't be able to help but know it. Even though Carson was, by this time, well-known (if not famous) to the average television viewer, they still might have at least acknowledged the moment.

Oh well. Sometimes the retrospective impact can be made by what isn't said, as well as what is.

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There were reviewers in TV Guide prior to Cleveland Amory, and this week's review is provided by Gilbert Seldes, perhaps the most erudite writer the magazine has ever employed. Would there be room for Seldes in today's TV Guide? Are you kidding?

He was a friend of F. Scott Fitzgerald, even though The Great Gatsby was the only one of Fitzgerald's books that he liked, and knew Ernest Hemingway, though the two were not friends. He was editor of the hugely influential literary magazine The Dial, where he championed the works of James Joyce and T.S. Eliot, wrote regularly for magazines such as The New Yorker and The Saturday Evening Post (he started as movie critic for The New Republic in 1927), and in 1924 authored the landmark book The Seven Lively Arts. He was also the first Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at Penn, served as Director of Television for CBS News (where he butted heads with Murrow over the latter's criticism of Joseph McCarthy; Seldes thought Murrow had crossed the line and become partisan, rather than impartial, in his attacks on McCarthy), and hosted the series The Subject is Jazz for NBC.


By the way, see if you can recognize the trumpet player in Billy Taylor's combo.

According to his biographer, Michael Kammen, The Seven Lively Arts "was the very first to insist that popular culture deserved serious attention from cultural critics." He felt that that "vaudeville, musical revues, movies, jazz, and comics should be taken as seriously as the ballet or the opera."

Seldes' thoughts on television were complex; yes, it was capable of greatness, and it had the ability to bring entertainment to a mass audience. On the other hand, he believed that television dramas and soap operas were "corrupting influences," and that networks pandered to the "lowest common denominator" in their efforts to maximize profits. Instead of broadcasting a wide range of cultural activities, TV tended, in Seldes' opinion, to narrow the interests of viewers by controlling the types of programs to which they had access. Seldes' ultimate worry was, as Arthur Schlesinger pointed out in his review of Kammen's biography, a mass culture of mediocrity and tastlessnes. "Do the mass media tend to reduce all people to the same level of intelligence and to the same zone of emotional maturity?"

I think you see a lot of these concerns reflected in Seldes' articles for TV Guide, whether reviewing a program or writing about other topics. Nonetheless, he remained able to assess a program on its own merits, even though it may also be a participant in a far broader malaise of creativity. In this week's issue, he reviews The Untouchables, then in its first season, and it's a favorable review. There are plots that he finds unbelieveable, though he frankly adds that he also expects to be told that "these things really happened." Besides, "the usual TV crime show doesn't particularly care whether you believe it in detail." What it requires is credibility, something altogether different.

The Untouchables, he writes, "has three items working for credibility: the voice of [narrator] Walter Winchell, which is absolutely right - it comes at you in bursts like a machine gun; the manner of Robert Stack as Ness - the organization man as a crime-fighter, efficient and without heroics; and the underlying fact tha twhile the show deals with a crime or a series of crimes in each episode, it is really about the organization of crime - the corporate structure that plans and executes crime, the wholesaler for whom the gunman does the dirty work." The details of this fascinate him.

Ultimately, Seldes concludes that The Untouchables belongs in the same league as gangster movies such as Scarface and Public Enemy (again, an example of Seldes taking television seriously as a form of cultural communication). These classic movies were "probably no more true to life than The Untouchables and no more exciting." The only problem, he says, is that he keeps looking for Edward G. Robinson and James Cagney to turn up - "and, except for Robert Stack, all I get is George Raft by the dozen."

In 1966 Seldes wrote that  "In my own lifetime I have witnessed more changes in the modes of communication than occurred in all recorded history before." And that was before cable and satellite television, the internet, and cell phones. What would he have thought about today?

7 comments:

  1. From the top:

    - Charles Schulz had moved to the San Francisco area several years before, but his fanship for the Giants dated back even farther.
    Schulz was originally from Minnesota, where he'd followed the Minneapolis Millers of the American Association, the New York Giants's top farm club at the time; his allegiance to the Giants began then.
    As a Millers fan, he got to see Willie Mays before anybody else, which helped a lot.
    Thus, the '62 World Series hit him pretty hard.

    In Search Of Guest Stars:

    - Well, start off with Shari Lewis on Saturday morning.
    Shari did her show from New York, where she had her choice of anybody and everybody on Broadway.
    One of her favorites, whom she had on often, was starring in Carnival, the musical version of the Leslie Caron movie Lili.
    Playing the shy puppeteer was a popular young singer-actor who was also good at working the puppets - Jerry Orbach.

    - Strange but True:
    When William Conrad did this guest shot for his old pal Jack Webb, he'd all but given up acting altogether, in favor of producing and directing - not to mention his many voiceovers and commercials, which were making him a baby fortune.
    Besides, who'd want to watch a fat man with a mustache on TV anyway?
    (What a difference a decade makes ...)

    - History Time:
    Troy Donahue came to Hawaiian Eye after the cancellation of Surfside 6 the previous season.

    - On Sunday, The Real McCoys moved to CBS after five years on ABC.
    Kathy Nolan had just left her role as Kate, for the usual reasons (wanting to do something different, etc.).
    So Luke was a "widder-man", the kids were gone, and before long so was the audience ...

    - By the by, the next night Kathy Nolan started her "regeneration" on the new NBC show Saints And Sinners, Nick Adams's newspaper drama.
    Part of her new look involved a considerable weight loss; she was going for glamor, and most of her new roles were in that direction.

    - One of those "less-than-captivating" stories in the feature section is about "A Pair Of Boots", Tuesday's episode of The Lloyd Bridges Show, and how its writer had a wild old time selling it to any show that would listen to his pitch.
    If you'd really like to know how and why TV came to be the way it was (and still is, comes to that), this article is required reading.

    - History Time #2:

    In 1962, Johnny Carson's taking over Tonight simply wasn't that big a deal. The conventional wisdom was that Jack Paar had left too big a footprint.
    What Carson had going for him was that he had no competition to speak of.
    Earlier in the day, Merv Griffin began his daytime hour on NBC (about half of NBC's brass thought that Merv should have gotten the night spot).
    Steve Allen's new syndicated hour-and-a-half wouldn't start up until mid-season.
    The press simply didn't consider the whole thing that important.
    That Was Then ...

    - When Gilbert Seldes wrote his review, The Untouchables was just starting its fourth and final season on ABC.
    No one remembers, but in its own time The Untouchables was considered a prestige series (of a sort). In the Teletype, you'll find an announcement that Barbara Stanwyck would be doing two episodes this season, as a "backdoor pilot" for her own weekly cop show (which didn't sell, but that's another story ...).
    Had the cop show sold, Stanwyck's sidekick would have been a young(ish) Edward Asner.
    You can find the Stanwyck shows on the fourth season DVD set.

    As it happens, today, September 30, is my 67th birthday.
    For whatever that's worth ...

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    Replies
    1. Steve Allen's syndicated talk/variety show began in June, three-and-a-half months before Johnny Carson took over "Tonight".

      And outside of the Group W/Westinghouse stations and a handful of other stations carrying the show in late-night, most of the stations running the show did so in late-afternoon, often as a lead-in to local early-evening news.

      I do know that David Letterman was a fan of the 1962-64 Steve Allen show; he once claimed in an interview he saw it on a local Indiana TV station "after school and before the evening news".

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    2. Correction acknowledged. (Thanx to Anonymous, whoever you are.)

      Steve's show wasn't picked up in Chicago until after Carson started on Tonight.

      Channel 7, the ABC o&o, carried it at 10:30, after Alex Dreier's news, Warren Culbertson's Weather By Radar, and Bob Rhodes's sports; three separate shows, as Mitchell's next entry indicates was the norm of that time.

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  2. On Wednesday, October 3rd, astronaut Wally Schirra became the third American to orbit the earth.

    I suspect that if the October 3rd launch date was scheduled at press time, that TV Guide would have had a blurb at the start of the October 3rd program listing noting potential live coverage of a launch at 8 A.M. Eastern Daylight Time with network coverage starting at 7 A.M. EDT.

    That day also turned out to be the day of the pennant-deciding game in the National League. From what I hard, NBC covered the launch of Schirra and stayed with the flight until about 3 P.M. EDT when the game began, went to the game (including commentary) with a split-screen of a map showing where the capsule was, and a ticker-tape crawl on the bottom of the screen updating viewers on the mission.

    Supposedly, when Schirra's capsule was about to begin re-entry, NBC resumed live coverage, continuing through splashdown and recovery, while having a split-screen with baseball with no audio.

    I think ABC and CBS went continuous from 7 A.M. EDT until about 6 P.M. EDT (after Schirra and his capsule had been picked-up by the recovery ship).

    Three years later, NBC again used split-screen to accommodate both live coverage of a space launch (Gemini 7) and a sports event (their final regular-season college football telecast of that year).

    Wally Schirra would later gain even more fame for co-anchoring CBS's coverage of the Apollo lunar landings with Walter Cronkite (Schirra had left NASA by that time).

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  3. That comment about Kathy Nolan on SAINTS & SINNERS reminds me...years later she appeared on an episode of QUINCY, M.E. as the author of a diet book that the good doctor considered dangerous (it put a fatal stress on the heart of a young woman)--only to find himself facing her on a TV talk show. She spoke about developing the diet for herself..."a real ugly duckling"

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  4. My dad subscribed to True magazine for years. Conrad was actually up for the role in Gunsmoke but was rejected for obvious reasons. Another radio voice in another well-known role also was up for the TV role. Bud Collyer was the voice of Superman and he was also up for the role that went to George Reeves. Collyer was deemed too old and was too busy with his game shows anyway.

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  5. And the trumpet player? Doc Severinsen. Still with us at age 90 (as of this writing).

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