October 28, 2017

This week in TV Guide: October 31, 1970

This is an election year, and Tuesday of this week is Election Day.* The off-year elections lack the drama and glamour of a presidential year, but besides containing some key races at the state and national level, it's the first test of the political parties since Richard Nixon was elected in 1968.

*If I were a lazy man, I'd use Tuesday for this week's listings, considering the election returns would wipe out most of the primetime lineup. I am lazy, but not that lazy. You'll have to wait until Monday to see what day I do use.

It may be hard to appreciate now, but back in the day the networks provided comprehensive coverage of the returns throughout the evening, from the conclusion of their evening news until midnight (and, in some cases, afterwards). For NBC, it's the first election since 1952 in which Chet Huntley will not be a part of the coverage. David Brinkley remains on the lead team however, along with Fran McGee, John Chancellor, Sander Vanocur and Edwin Newman. Local covearge begins at 6:00 p.m. ET, with network coverage kicking in at 7:00. Walter Cronkite is the man on CBS, joined by Mike Wallace, Roger Mudd, Dan Rather and Bill Stout, with author Theodore H. White (The Making of the President series) providing commentary. Like NBC, the Tiffany Network's coverage begins with the local news at 6:00 p.m. and continues following Cronkite's evening news at 7:00. Lone among the networks, ABC chooses to air an hour of regular primetime programming - The Mod Squad, for those of you scoring at home - before their "informal" coverage, led by Frank Reynolds and Howard K. Smith, begins at 8:30 p.m. Even the independents get into the act: WNEW, will interrupt their 11:30 movie with results, while WPIX and WNET start their coverage at 10:00 p.m,, continuing until the returns are conclusive.

And how did things go in 1970? Well, the Republicans may have the White House, but the Democrats control Congress, and after tonight, the results will be much the same. In the House, the Dems pick up 12 seats to stretch their majority to 255-180. In the Senate, the GOP has a net gain of two, but the Democrats retain a majority, 54-44, with one independent, and one member of the Conservative Party. That Conservative senator? It's James Buckley, brother of William F., who defeats both Democrat Richard Ottinger and Republican incumbent Charles Goodell.* Goodell isn't remembered much today for having been a United States Senator, but he might be better known as the father of the commissioner of the NFL, Roger Goodell.

*Appointed by Nelson Rockefeller to fill the unexpired term of the late Senator Robert F. Kennedy.

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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. 

People remember Don Knotts as Deputy Barney Fife in The Andy Griffith Show. They may remember him as Ralph Furley in Three's Company. They possibly remember him from movies like The Ghost and Mr. Chicken and The Reluctant Astronaut (seen in last week's TV Guide), movies that capitalized on his high-strung Fife persona. But they probably do not remember him as the star of his own variety show, The Don Knotts Show. That's not surprising, given that the show only lasted for 24 episodes; that the show only lasted one season is not surprising, given Cleveland Amory's assesment that "a lot of fans, watching Don go from second banana to top banana, are going to split - and not, unfortunately, their sides."

Make no mistake, Cleveland Amory is a fan of Don Knotts - he's funny and likable. That doesn't mean he should have his own show, though. In fact, the idea that he wasn't up to the job was, reports Amory, the running gag for the entire first episode. "All too soon, though, the gag was walking. For one thing, it was all too painfully true." In particular, a sketch in which Anthony Newley plays the floor manager brings the show to life for the first time, precisely because someone other than Knotts is in charge. The idea of Don trying to be a host was very funny; unfortunately, it wasn't supposed to be the joke.

Occasionally the odd bit works, but even then the show plays it to death by doing it over and over. Even worse, some of the least funny sketches are also the ones that tend to run the longest. It's too bad, Cleveland says, because there are a few recurring features that work - Bob Williams and his performing dog, for example - and when Knotts is called upon to do the comedy that falls into his wheelhouse, "Few comedians could have done [it] better or fuinnier." It's just a case of too litte, too infrequent. Don Knotts won five Emmys for his work on Andy Griffith; for his work here, he should give one back.

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On Saturday afternoon, ABC's Wide World of Sports brings us a landmark event, one with cultural as well as sporting implications: the return of Muhammad Ali.

It's been three-and-a-half years since Ali set foot in a boxing ring. At the time, he was the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, one of the most revered and reviled athletes in the world, the most colorful sports figure this side of Joe Namath. On March 15, 1967, he received his draft notice; seven days later, on March 22, he knocked out Zora Folley to retain his title. His conscientious objector status having already been rejected, on April 28 he refused induction, with the immortal line, “I ain’t got no quarrel with them Vietcong.” He was convicted of draft evasion on June 20 and sentenced to five years in prison, fined $10,000, and banned from boxing for three years. He was also stripped of the heavyweight title.

As his appeal worked its way through the courts (his conviction will ultimately be overturned by the Supreme Court in 1971), Ali remained out on bail and in the headlines, becoming an outspoken opponent of the war and speaking on college campuses throughout the country, and seeing his popularity rise as opposition to the war grew. Finally, in 1970, he won reinstatement of his license in Georgia. His return to the ring in Atlanta on October 26, against heavyweight contender Jerry Quarry, is the first step in his return to boxing prominence. He'll win that fight against Quarry as well as a fight in December against Oscar Bonavena, setting up on of the great title fights in history and one of the most heralded sporting events ever, against Joe Frazier in March 1971. But that, as we say, is another story.

Here's the broadcast of that historic Ali-Quarry fight, tape-delayed from October 26.


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"The whole concept is hogwash," television writer Harold Medford says of Mannix, the show for which he produces scripts on a regular basis. "A real private eye is a sleazy character who works divorce cases. Mythic or not, I rather like Joe Mannix, who is non-Mike Hammer. Physical, sure, but also a kind of gentleman, and not in the bogus sense of a Philo Vance or an Ellery Queen."

The appeal of Mannix has always been twofold: the concept, an anachronism straight out of the days of Marlowe, Spade and Hammer but updated to modern times; and the star, Mike Connors, a man who invests Mannix not only with his own likability but with a deep-seated humanity uncommon to the genre. “He really is everybody’s ombudsman; he’ll make it right,” writer Aben Kandel tells Dwight Whitney. “He deals with people problems. He says I’m going to do something worse than kill you; I’m going to understand you.” Kandel defends the contrived situations, the “dark alleys” that Mannix often finds himself going down,* as a necessary servant of the plot, saying, “[t]he dramatist picks out the moment.”

*And usually getting clunked over the head. If Joe Mannix actually sustained as many concussions as he seems to acquire every week, he'd make the plight of today's former football players look tame in comparison.

View-Master: When you know you've made it.
Whitney’s article looks at the six men who, by and large, are responsible for seeing to it that Joe Mannix has a new case to investigate each week. It’s an interesting look at the psychology of the scriptwriter, the money they make for each episode, and the process they go through in producing their scripts, but to me it’s far more interesting to look at how each of them view their central character. Cliff Gould, considered the Mannix specialist in "interpersonal relationships," prefers to "write people, not devices" but at the same time understands how television works: "[T]here's got to be a bomb someplace, and one way or another it's got to go off." He works around it by using a visual teaser to suggest the character-driven conflict that is his forte - for example, a rich kid's birthday party, one of those affairs that has everything one could ask for. "Camera draws back and we see the kid is alone except for a chauffer and two bodygards. Then I do a Poor Little Rich Kid in Jeopardy story."

And in this vein the conversations continue. You can see the point here - the realism in Mannix, such as it is, arises not from a gritty, torn-from-the-headlines approach, but through an understanding that the classic private eye drama, anachronistic though it may be, is something that the audience knows and likes, and that in Joe Mannix they have an archetypal hero who represents the victory of good over evil (Kandel, Whitney says, "is quite capable of seeing Joe Mannix as 'a Christ figure' "), regardless of whether or not what we see on the screen is, strictly speaking, plausible.

As Alison Herman points out in her astute analysis of why the CW series Riverdale attracts a loyal teen audience, "The show is so stylized, so clearly not aiming for verisimilitude that there’s no way it can be mistaken for pandering" - it "can’t ring as inauthentic because authenticity was never the goal." That, my friends, is the formula for a successful television show.

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SOURCE: HADLEY TV GUIDE COLLECTION
Remember now, we're back in the days when people stayed home on Saturdays to watch TV, and when big-screen movies could still make an impression by being on TV. We're also in the pre-VCR days when you had to choose what you wanted to watch, and it's this triumverate that makes for interesting viewing on Saturday night. It starts at 9:00 p.m. ET with NBC's Saturday Night at the Movies presentation of The War Wagon, a revenge tale starring John Wayne as a wronged man looking to get even, with the help of gunman Kirk Douglas and Howard Keel, whom Judith Crist describes as "a snobbish Indian who thinks all other Indians are dumb Indians." It runs two hours, which means you run the risk of missing the first fifteen crucial minutes of Ingemar Bergman's "bleak allegory" The Seventh Seal (10:45, WOR), with Max von Sydow and Bengt Ekerot staging one of the most memorable chess matches ever. If that's a big too heavy for you, or if you want to keep with The Duke, you can watch him as he "helps Jimmy Stewart to Capitol Hill and Lee Marvin to Boot Hill" in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance at 11:30 on WABC. Hartford's WTIC ought to be mentioned as well; it's showing the Oscar winner On the Waterfront at 11:25, with Marlon Brando, and WNHC in New Haven has Bogart's breathrough hit The Desperate Hours, costarring Fredric March, at 11:30.

Sunday's news shows are all pointed toward Tuesday's election, so we can skip over that in favor of CBS's Camera Three with the intriguing title "The Metaphysics of Buster Keaton," (11:00 a.m.) discussed by film critic Andrew Sarris and curator Raymond Rohauer. It's rivalry week in the newly-merged NFL, at least judging by the televised games, beginning at 1:00 p.m. on CBS with the first-ever regular season meeting between the Giants and Jets. That's followed at 4:00 p.m. on NBC with two old AFL rivals, the Oakland Raiders and Kansas City Chiefs, meeting in K.C. And if you're interested in variety shows, I think you could do a lot worse than Glen Campbell, who welcomes Bob Newhart, singer Jackie DeShannnon, and special guests Johnny and June Carter Cash. (9:00 p.m, CBS) I rather like the electic Fanfare at 10:00 p.m. on WNET, which features British musical singer Georgia Brown singing the songs of Kurt Weill.

The inaugural season of Monday Night Football continues, with the Cincinnati Bengals taking on the Pittsburgh Steelers at the new Three Rivers Stadium in Pittsburgh. (9:00 p.m., ABC) Carol Channing guests on Laugh-In (NBC, 8:00 p.m.), while Ricardo Montalban and Cass Elliott do Carol Burnett's show (10:00 p.m., CBS). We know that Tuesday night is dominated by election coverage, which means turining elsewhere for light entertainment. How about the brooding drama The Pawnbroker, starring Rod Steiger and Geralding Fitzgerald, at 8:00 p.m. on WOR?

Greer Garson makes her first television appearance on Wednesday, in an episode of The Men from Shiloh (nee The Virginian) at 7:30 p.m. on NBC. (No offense, but I suspect more people will remember her narration of The Little Drummer Boy two years earlier, in 1968.) By the way, that episode also features E.G. Marshall and James Whitmore - not a bad lineup. At 8:00 p.m., WOR's Million Dollar Movie features Mr. Roberts, which we talked about last week. And at 9:00 p.m., NBC presents an hour of highlights of the 1971 Ice Capades - you remember their ice show broadcasts in the past - hosted by David Janssen, with guest star Florence Henderson. Of course, whenever I think of ice-themed variety shows, I always think of David Janssen.*

*Yes, I know he hosted The Hollywood Palace once. Versatile guy.

Future husband-and-wife Robert Wagner and Jill St. John star in How I Spent My Summer Vacation, the Thursday afternoon matinee on WNBC (4:30 p.m.). Bewitched has part seven of a story taking place in Salem, Mass., which one would think is not a good place for Samantha to be. H.P. Lovecraft's story "The Shuttered Room" translates into CBS's Thursday movie (9:00 p.m.), starring Carol Lynley, Gig Young and Oliver Reed. Judith Crist calls this one "foolishness," a story messed up by sex and sadism.

Friday ends the week with a plethora of familiar shows: The Brady Bunch, Nanny and the Professor, The Partridge Family, That Girl, Love American Style and This is Tom Jones. They're all on ABC, and in a sense they represent a prototype of the shows that, later in the '70s, will lead the network to #1 in the ratings. Frankly, I think they'd all be at home in a lineup that includes Happy Days (which was, after all, spun off from Love American Style), Laverne & Shirley (spun off from Happy Days), Three's Company, The Love Boat and The Six Million Dollar Man, don't you think? As far as late-night goes, at midnight Merv Griffin (WCBS) welcomes Dr. David Reuben, author of (as TV Guide puts it) "Everything You've Always Wanted to Know . . .", Barbara Feldon and Comic Jerry Shane.

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I'm amused by TV Guide's reluctance to spell out the full title of Dr. Reuben's book, "Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex*unless it was abbreviated to save space. If the former, it's kind of  a wasted gesture, since the book appears in the add for Book-of-the-Month Club.* What else is a bestseller? Inside the Third Reich, Albert Speer's blockbuster memoir of life as Hitler's architect, William Shirer's The Rise and Fall of the Third Reich, John Updike's Couples, the groundbreaking Ball Four by Jim Bouton, Down all the Days by Christy Brown (written with his left foot) and The Joy of Cooking by Irma Rombauer and Marion Becker.

*but were afraid to ask. Hey, the asterisk is right there in the title, folks. I didn't think I'd ever get a chance on this blog to actually use an asterisk for the right reason, and that's as good a note as any on which to end the week. TV  

5 comments:

  1. A good a place as any to ask:
    Howard K. Smith anchored ABC's election night coverage in the 60s. Yet it wasn't until 1970 that he anchored the evening news. Why? (For that matter, why did CBS do the same thing with Cronkite in the 50s?)
    And if were talking "Mannix", let's not forget the lovely Gail Fisher. If Perry/Della was the perfect legal teaming, Joe/Peggy isn't that far off.

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    Replies
    1. History Time:

      - After John Daly left ABC News, that network had very little "bench strength" - mainly commentators on the radio side.
      When Howard K. Smith joined ABC in '61, it was as a commentator; he'd never been an anchorman at CBS, and the feeling was he'd consider this a demotion of sorts.
      Elections and Conventions were considered "special events", so Smith was paired with Edward P. Morgan, who had filled that post at ABC after Daly's departure.
      In 1970, the Nixon White House took exception to Frank Reynolds's anchor comments, and demanded "balance"; Howard K. Smith got the post because of his unstinting support of the Vietnam War (which was really Smith's only "conservative" stance, but the ABC brass didn't know or care about that).

      As to "...why did CBS do the same thing with Cronkite in the '50s?"
      They didn't.
      There was a hierarchy at CBS News, with the Murrow Boys from early days in the top tier; they were considered "too important" for mere anchor duty, that being fit for Douglas Edwards, who also hosted game shows.
      Walter Cronkite was a regular field reporter, a level or so lower than the MBs - and his main exposure came from being "anchoring" You Are There ("That's acting, fer gosh sakes!").
      When CBS expanded its nightly news to a half-hour in '62, someone in the front office decided that their anchorman had to seem more serious than the handsome Doug Edwards. Frankly, Walter Cronkite got the nod because, with his graying hair and mustache, he simply looked older than Edwards. (I'll have to look this up to be sure, but I think Edwards and Cronkite were about the same age.)

      All this was 50 years ago or more.
      The Times, they have been A-Changin' ...

      Delete
  2. I was going to hold off on this matter for a day or so, but experience has taught me not to let things go for long, lest they eat at me.

    When you decide to write up the profile of "The Mannix Writers" ...
    ... did you completely forget that I was the one who told you about it in the first place?
    And that I wrote about it here at least twice?

    Tonight I've been driving myself nuts trying to find the first comment I did, which must have been three of four years ago.
    I was able to find the second one, from 2015, when you did the full-scale Mannix post, so there's that.

    All that said, maybe you can finally settle something for me.
    The article focuses on six writers who were doing much of the Mannix scripting that season - one of whose names I couldn't remember.
    The five that I did remember:

    Ed Adamson

    John Meredyth Lucas

    Cliff Gould

    Harold Medford

    and Stephen Kandel
    (Aben Kandel was his father, an old Warners hand.)

    I don't have the issue, but I do remember the group photo of The Six, surrounding Mike Connors on a gurney.

    When I wrote the second comment, I thought that Number Six was possibly Chester Krumholtz, but lately I'm not so sure ...

    So, to set my aging mind at ease, who was Number Six?
    And don't try to be "cute" (no Prisoner jokes, please); just the name will do.


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    Replies
    1. You're right - Krumholtz is the sixth writer!

      Delete
    2. Thank you for that information.
      I'm still trying to find the Chicago edition of this one;
      reading about the names I saw in credit crawls was a major factor in my becoming the dweeb of today.

      Delete

Thanks for writing! Drive safely!