October 21, 2017

This week in TV Guide: October 19, 1963

I wasn't planning on doing this issue when I opened the laptop today, to be honest. I have a list showing what issue is scheduled for each week, of course; it runs through the end of 2018 (with a few weeks in 2019 already spoken for as well), and because I've taken care of it well in advance, the revelation of each week's issue always comes as something of a surprise to me. This morning I consulted the list, ready to open the box and dig out the appropriate issue: October 25, 1986. And it's been a long week and I'm tired, and suddenly the thought of plowing through an issue from the late '80s had no appeal to me, no matter what might have been inside it. (And with Kim Novak on the cover, I'm sure it would have been quite satisfactory.) Quickly I scanned down to the lineup for 2018, wondering if that issue would be any easier to get into - this is the result. Did I choose wisely? I think so, but ultimately you're the judge. It'll make next year that much more interesting, anyway.

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I like that cover portrait of Judy Garland by René Bouché; it manages to cut through the wear and tear that has left her looking at least 20 years older than her actual age of 41, and offers a glimpse of the frightened little girl inside that woman, the one who thrilled us skipping down the Yellow Brick Road and putting on a show with Mickey and meeting us in St. Louis. The sketch doesn't pretend that those ensuing years haven't happened; it's like being caught just right by the rays of the the setting sun on an autumn afternoon that reveal the promise and the hope and the vulnerability of a woman who's lived a train wreck of a life. You've heard how artists can capture details that a photograph can't? This right here is an example.

There's no question about Garland's talent, never has been. The idea of a Judy Garland television series is an irrestible one, particularly for the admirers that refer to her as "a living legend." A special on G.E. Theater last year was a smash, leading to her new Sunday night series, one in which CBS is investing at leats $140,000 a week - for the priviledge of going up against television's number-one show, Bonanza. This for a woman who, as Dwight Whitney writes, is "in an almost constant state of emotional turmoil; that, as a result, her career as a movie superstar had been cut short because the studios deemed her undependable (which she denies); and that she had suffered several breakdowns." In typical Garland fashion, however, she wins over the skeptical affiliates at their annual meeting, poking fun at her own reputation by singing Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen's lyrics, "Call me unreliable,/Call me irresponsible,/Call me unpredictable, toooooo. . ."

We know how the Garland story ends, and it's not a happy one, and though that ending is still six years away at the time of this article, I don't know that anyone back then would have been surprised by it; the chaos surrounding the show mirrors, in a way, the turmoil of Garland's life. The idea of taking the chance on Garland originates with James Aubrey, the mercurial president of CBS. He chooses a production crew headed up by George Schlatter, who will wind up as executive producer of Laugh-In, and employs a talented group of writers. Together the team works effectively with Garland, producing "big, brassy, weekly specials" with big songs, big numbers - shows designed to take advantage of Superstar Judy. "Everyone, including the sponsors, was delighted. Most remarkable of all, Judy had put a saddle on her jumping nervs and seemed relaxed and happy."

And then Aubrey intervenes. After five successful shows, he dismisses Schlatter and the rest of the crew, hiring Norman Jewison as the new producer and telling him that he wanted a show similar to Garry Moore's, "as folksy and old-shoeish as the Cartwrights - or maybe Ed Sullivan - so much so that he was willing to rock the boat to achieve it." Says John Bradford, one of the writers who was dismissed, "Judy is not the girl next door. She is explosive, dynamic, electric, one of the few superstars left. To try to patter her appeal after a Western is absurd." One cynic looks at the confusion wrought by the network and comments, "They are just thankful to get her there to do a show every week. They don't care what else happens"

A look at a rehearsal underlines the change in atmosphere. Judy stands by the piano, on which sits "a brown bottle of Liebfraumilch, the light white wine which is a favorite of hers. Beside the bottle is a tumbler with three ice cubes." She stars singing a song, gets a fit of the giggles. Starts again, giggles. "Jewison looks anxious. Judy tells a funny story. More laughter - nervous laughter - from co-workers."

"One comes away," writes Whitney, "with a deep feeling of sadness. Which si strange bedcause chances are Judy Garland will run true to her old form, score a dramatic last-ditch triumph over adversity - doesn't she always? - and once again be inundated in superlatives and love." How many people loved Judy Garland - or did they just use her? Her series ends after a single season, a failure that's said to be crushing to her. Six years later, not yet 50 years old, she's dead. Just like that, and yet it is a long time coming.

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Throughout the 60s and early 70s, TV Guide's reviews were written by the witty and acerbic Cleveland Amory. Whenever we get the chance, we'll look at Cleve's latest take on the series of the era. 

Arrest and Trial has been considered in many respects the precusor to Law & Order, but with a crucial difference. The first half of the 90 minute series deals with the investigation and arrest, led by detective Ben Gazarra. However, we see the trial from the point of view not of the prosecutor, but of defense attorney Chuck Connors, who's determined to win an acquittal, or at least a fair shake, for his client. "Unfortunately," as Cleveland Amory writes this week, "the series has been more trying than arresting."

One of the challenges in a series set up in the manner of Arrest and Trial is that every week, one of our heroes is bound to be wrong; either the police have arrested the wrong person, or the attorney is defending a guilty person. The way in which the program tries to deal with this inherent contradition, says Amory, is the problem: the bad guys are "by no means all bad." In one typical instance, man charged with vehicular homicide in the death of a motorcycle policeman undergoes heavy psychiatric treatment, after which he is sentenced to 18 months in what we'd refer to today as a tennis prison. Says his girlfriend, in a demonstration of how there are no "bad" people, just people who need help, "he always boasted to me that he never said 'thanks' to any man. Not once in all his life. . . Today he actually said it. That's a good sign, isn't it?" Replies Amory, "Actually, it was an excellent sign, becaue, among other things, it was the last line of the show."

You get the picture. Amory singles out Connors in particular for praise, but his final verdict? "As in so many series this season, the acting is so far above the scripts that it hardly seemed worth it."

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In his book Bowling Alone, Robert Putnam uses the sport (and it is a sport) as a symbol of the significant social changes America has undergone over the past six or so decades; whereas we once bowled together in leagues, we now bowl alone.* I think it says a lot about these times that the most prevalent sport on television this week is bowling; there are three bowling programs just on Sunday. WCCO's venerable Bowlerama airs at 12:15; the program, featuring local bowlers, visits a different location each week, with today's broadcast coming from Maplewood Bowl in St. Paul (which, sadly, closed in 2013). At 4:30 p.m. it's the long-running Championship Bowling on WTCN (don't know what episode it is, but you can see an example of a show from 1963 here), and at 10:30 p.m, following the late local news, WCCO is back with All Star Bowling, live from Minnehaha Lanes in St. Paul.

*I suppose nowadays there's an app you can use to bowl in a league without ever having to, you know, come in actual contact with anyone.

Minnehana Lanes closes in 2008, which is a shame. I know that neighborhood well; used to drive by all the time on the way to church. More of that shopping area is scheduled to be torn down to make way for a redevelopment that includes the new soccer stadium for Minnesota United FC. If you'd told someone back in 1963 that bowling would be a niche sport but that soccer would be big time, that person would probably have looked at you as if you were crazy. Next thing you know, they'll be talking about phones with pictures in them so you can see who you're talking to.

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Robert Drew is considered one of the pioneers - perhaps the father - of the American cinéma vérité (or Direct Cinema) movement. He famously said that his type of documentary would be "a theater without actors; it would be plays without playwrights; it would be reporting without summary and opinion; it would be the ability to look in on people’s lives at crucial times from which you could deduce certain things and see a kind of truth that can only be gotten from personal experience."

Drew's mainstream breakthrough came in 1960 with the documentary Primary, an in-depth look at the Wisconsin primary contest between John F. Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey, in which he was allowed extraordinary access to the candidates and their campaigns. The success of Primary led to a close working relationship between Drew and Kennedy, as evidenced in Drew's follow-up, the 1961 ABC Close-Up! episode "Adventures on the New Frontier," taking his cameras and microphones into the Oval Office to show us the day-by-day life of Kennedy's White House. Kennedy had been concerned about his ability to conduct business while cameras and microphones hovered over his shoulder, but, as with Primary, he became inured to their presence, to the point that his advisors frequently had to remind him to be careful what he said while they were around.

Drew considered this a warm-up for an even more extensive documentary, one that depicted the the presidential decision-making process as a crisis unfolds. The result, Crisis - Behind a Presidential Commitment. airs on Monday at 6:30 p.m. It's the story of the showdown between Kennedy and George Wallace over the integration of the University of Alabama. Drew's cameras are not only in the White House, where Kennedy discusses the situation with his brother Robert and other advisors, but in Tuscaloosa, where the Alabama governor vows to fulfill his pledge to block any attempt to integrate the university.

Crisis is a masterpiece of the Direct Cinema movement, a dramatic demonstration for anyone who thinks The War Room invented the genre. There is one final collaboration to come between Drew and Kennedy, though the latter's participation is hauntingly tangental. It is the 1964 film Faces of November; its 11 minutes, without dialogue or narrative, cover the three days of JFK's funeral.

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Not exactly a starlet this week, but a fashion layout with actress Susan Strasberg, daughter of the legendary Method teacher Lee Strasberg. (I wonder what her motivation was?) It's a very sleek, elegant look by Anne Klein, with the casual outfit by Jax - both names that you've probably seen in the closing credits, as in "Miss Albright's wardrobe by Jax." A timeless style, don't you think?


SOURCE: HADLEY TV GUIDES

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What else is on this week? Well, Hallmark Hall of Fame has a Sunday afternoon spot (5:00 p.m. CT, NBC), airing a repeat of 1960's "The Tempest" with what's literally an all-star cast: Maurice Evans, Richard Burton, Lee Remick, Roddy McDowall and Tom Poston. Brilliant. Also on Sunday, the debut on WTCN of a program called Tele-Bingo. Here's the write-up: "To become eligible to play, viewers must get a free Tele-Bingo card from a local supermarket. If a viewer scores a bingo, he must take his card to the store, which will then give him a prize and add his card to those of other home winners. From this group, 300 cards are drawn and those persons are invited to join the studio audience to compete for bigger prizes." I remember those shows - not that one specificaly, but shows like it. Interactive TV at its best!

On Monday at 9:00 p.m., ABC's psychiatrist drama Breaking Point airs the episode "The Bull Roarer," directed by Ralph Senensky. The story concerns a construction worker (Lou Antonio) who watches his brother (Ralph Meeker) savagely beat up a man who'd been hassling them. He's so shocked by the violence - the outpouring of testosterone, so to speak - that, as the listing puts it, "he begins to have doubts about his own virility." In fact, as Dr. Thompson (Paul Richards) intuits, the young man worries that his lack of machismo might mean he's gay. Writes Senensky, "I am 99 and 44/100 percent sure that was the first time the word 'homosexual' was uttered in a drama in an American television show."

Johnny Carson is the special guest on Tuesday's episode of The Jack Benny Program (CBS, 8:30 p.m.) - "Jack says that Johnny should become more versatile, so Johnny struts his stuff, performing cards tricks, ventriloquism, a drum solo and a song-and-dance." I'll bet acting with Benny was a thrill for Johnny. On Wednesday's episode of NBC's psychiatric drama, The Eleventh Hour (9:00 p.m.), Robert Wagner plays man who "always got by handsomely on his exceptional looks" - until half of his face is destroyed by a fire. Diahann Carroll, Shirley Knight and Michael Constantine co-star.

Thursday features the aforementioned Susan Strasberg as Dr. Kildare's patient (NBC, 7:30 p.m.), and Andrew Prine as her husband, an ambitious and irresponsible intern. Kraft Suspense Theatre (NBC, 9:00 p.m.) has a terrific cast - Gig Young, Nina Foch, Katherine Crawford and Peter Lorre - in "The End of the World, Baby," which doesn't deal with nuclear war at all but a shady sculptor (Young) who may be trying to bilk an older woman (Foch). And if you're not inclined to change channels, The Tonight Show has a pretty fair show, with Robert Preston, Benny Goodman and Abbe Lane.

Friday, the best night of the week, starts with Bob Hope's latest special (NBC, 7:30 p.m.) - his guests are Andy Griffith, Martha Raye, Jane Russell, Connie Haines, Beryl Davis, and L.A. Dodgers Sandy Koufax, Don Drysdale and Tommy Davis. The night ends with an interesting movie on KMSP's 10:30 p.m. "Masterpiece Theatre" (not to be confused with the future PBS series): Mr. Roberts, with Henry Fonda, James Cagney, Jack Lemmon and William Powell. It's one of the few times I've seen a locally broadcast movie get the full close-up treatment - almost makes me wonder if it had originally been shown on ABC but pre-empted by KMSP for something else.

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On Friday night ABC airs a documentary with the deceptive title The World's Girls. While it might sound like one of Frankie and Annette's beach party movies, it is in fact a penetrating glimpse into the future: the women behind the new feminist movement.

The question on the table is simple: what is the role of the modern woman in today's fast-changing world? Answers come from all over - from actresses and housewives, intellectuals in the colleges and beauties in their salons. The names that jump out, though, are ones that point in one direction. There's Betty Friedan, for example, who earlier in the year published The Feminine Mystique, and Simone de Beauvoir, author of The Second Sex, considered the foundation of feminist theory. French actress Simone Signoret, who rejected the feminist label but fought alongside radical feminist groups for the rights to abortion and birth control.

I don't know how seriously these women and their theories are taken at the time of the broadcast, nor what its overall tone is; after all, Playboy bunnies and expectant brides are among those being interviewed, so viewers are likely to get all kinds of viewpoints. Nonetheless, this strikes me as a chance for a profound look into the future - a brave new world, perhaps? In one month John F. Kennedy will be asassinated, and, so we are told, everything will change going forward. All the accepted truths, the universal values, the traditional definitions upon which the structures of society have been built, will be up for grabs. I cannot imagine a more perfect time for this show (produced and directed by Arthur Holch and narrated by John Secondari) to have aired; I doubt it could have been done in the late '50s, and by the late '60s it would have been old hat. But those who watch it in 1963 are looking through a glass darkly, and then they will see the future face to face. TV  

8 comments:

  1. Wow, what a great week of television!

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  2. I can see why you didn't choose to write up the October 25,1986 TV Guide, but it may be for different reasons. That edition falls squarely during Games 6 & 7 of the 1986 World Series, which gave NBC programmers headaches.

    Game 6 with Boston leading 3 games to 2 over the Mets, was a see-saw battle which saw the game tied at 3 after nine innings. In the Top of 10th, Dave Henderson hits a homer to left to break the tie. Boston scores once more to make it 5-3. In the Bottom of the 10th, New York quickly gets gets two outs, before Gary Carter, Kevin Mitchell, and Ray Knight all single to make it 5-4. Boston brings in Bob Stanley to relieve Calvin Shiraldi. Stanley throws a wild pitch to Mookie Wilson, which allows Mitchell to score making it tied at 5. After a few more foul balls, Mookie hits a weak grounder to first that goes through Bill Buckner's legs allowing Knight to score giving the Mets a 6-5 victory and ties the Series at 3. The game ends so late that Saturday Night Live has to air a rerun instead of new episode with Rosanna Arquette, which would air two weeks later with a special opening by Mets pitcher Ron Darling apologizing for interrupting SNL.

    Game 7 was supposed to be played the next day (Sunday), but the game was rained out. I suppose that what TV Guide listed for programming had the Series end early was shown. NBC then would air Game 7 Monday Night, preempting all of their regular programming including ALF. After being no hit in first five innings, the Mets tie it up in the 6th. In the 7th Ray Knight homers to give the Mets a lead, the Mets score twice more to make it 6-3. Boston then scores two runs in the 8th to narrow the lead to 6-5, but Darryl Strawberry homers and the Mets score once more to make 8-5.Jesse Orosco retires the side in order giving the New York Mets the World Series. To date, this is the last time the Mets won a World Championship. Per Wikipedia,Game 7's ratings, which against a Monday Night Football game between the Washington Redskins and NY Giants, scored 38.9 rating and a 55 share, making it the highest rated World Series game in recent years.

    I must apologize it this is not remotely based on today's issue of October 19, 1963. The reason why I make mention of other (unused) issue date is that first off I am a HUGE Mets fan. Secondly, I am much younger than most of you, and I have some fond memories of that event. I must say that I enjoy all the info from Mitchell and all of the commentary from Mike Doran and the others. As a TV Guide collector, this site give me a perspective on classic TV that many sites don't come close to. Thanks for letting me indulge.

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    1. Thanks, Sean! I remember that game vividly; I wasn't so much a fan of the Mets as I was not a fan of the Sox; as soon as Henderson hit that home run in the top of the 10th, I turned over to the news - just couldn't take it anymore. Curiosity got the best of me, though; I turned back to see how bad it wound up, JUST in time for that wild pitch, and I could tell from the way the crowd was reacting it must have been significant. Got up to speed; the game was tied, saw the Buckner play and got great satisfaction out of it. No matter when the seventh game was going to be played, I think everyone could sense there was no way the Sox were going to win.

      I very much appreciate the kind words, Sean. What I can promise is that we'll be revisiting this next year when I do write up that TV Guide!

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  3. The truth is that had CBS scheduled "The Judy Garland Show" for almost any other timeslot besides Sundays from 9 to 10 P.M. (Eastern and Pacific), it likely would have been a smash hit, and might even have kept Judy alive (and performing) for several more years than she was around. Don't forget that she was only 46 or 47 when she died.

    The show simply went into a timeslot where it couldn't attract much of a viewing audience.

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    1. As much as I am getting to love THE DANNY KAYE SHOW (airing on JLTV) it would have been better if she had gotten his Wednesday night time slot.

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    2. I agree, especially since it followed The Ed Sullivan Show. Two hours of back-to-back variety is not like two hours of half-hour sitcoms. And being the second variety show of the night and against a Top 5 show, it already had three strikes against it. What I can't figure is how no one at CBS seemed to come to this conclusion.

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    3. CBS's "logic" in putting Judy Garland against Bonanza went like so: if you're going against a Big Gun, send a Bigger Gun.
      Judy Garland had major problems of her own, physical and emotional, as has been documented elsewhere; even if her show had been a Nielsen success, she likely wouldn't have made it through more than one season, if that much.
      Her marriage to Sid Luft, never a model of stability, was coming apart; CBS could never really decide on a steady format, leading to the constant changes at the executive level (Mel Torme documents this in great detail in his book); James Aubrey, a man not known for his compassion, was no help at all in dealing with Garland (his handling of Garland in the wake of the Kennedy assassination is also recounted by Torme); and so forth.
      As to the Sunday scheduling ... if a variety hour was the wrong choice, than why was the first CBS show to beat Bonanza the Smothers Brothers?
      There's no textbook that accurately predicts behavior, especially in mercurial types like entertainers.
      What happens, happens ...

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    4. Regardless of what night Judy was on, I think the best single format for the show would have been to just let her sing, turn all the focus on her. I enjoyed her repartee with Mickey Rooney when he guested; notwithstanding that, I think Schlatter had it right.

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Thanks for writing! Drive safely!