November 18, 2017

This week in TV Guide: November 20, 1965

What a week, indeed! I don't know if you can read everything listed on the cover, but this is the kind of week that restores your faith in television and its ability to make things feel special. For me, growing up, Thanksgiving was always a big week; it's still, next to Christmas, my favorite time of the year. And when television crams as many specials and big events into a week that's already exciting - well, you can probably spend the whole time doing nothing other than watching TV and eating turkey. Yeah, my kind of week.

It's made doubly special in that 1965 is the first Thanksgiving I can actually be sure of remembering. By that I mean that while I may have memories from even earlier years (say, visiting the relatives for dinner), this is the first year I can specifically trace back to a year. Not surprisingly, I remember it because of the football games played that day. They both ended in ties.

I figure the best way to do this is to start with what's on the cover, with some extras thrown in as we go along.

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Saturday: Back in the day, before college football was irrevocably changed by conference realignment and billion-dollar television contracts, when there were no conference championship games and only a dozen bowl games, the Saturdays on either side of Thanksgiving were the days when the sport's storied rivalries took center stage. The highlight of the Saturday after Thanksgiving was the Army-Navy game, played before 100,000 fans in Philadelphia, and this Saturday gives us some of the great conference showdowns. Since NBC's contract with the NCAA limits us to one game per Saturday, the games are parceled out on a regional basis. Fans in the middle of the country get highly-ranked Missouri taking on Kansas, out East it's the Harvard-Yale game, down South Texas Tech plays Arkansas, and in the upper Midwest (and perhaps most of the country) it's The Game: Ohio State and Michigan. Usually, this game decides the Big 10 championship, but not in 1965: top-ranked Michigan State, the eventual national champion, is heading for the Rose Bowl, so the Buckeyes and Wolverines are playing for pride. Ohio State wins a tough defensive struggle, 9-7.

Sunday: Richard Nixon's appearance on Face the Nation (11:30 a.m. CT, CBS) is notable in that, after having been defeated by John Kennedy for the Presidency in 1960 and by Pat Brown for Governor of California in 1962, his political career was thought to be dead. However, by 1964 he's started to emerge as something of an elder statesman for the GOP; as one of the few "establishment" Republicans to not spurn Barry Goldwater (he even introducted Goldwater at the convention), Nixon is able to placate the party's conservative activists even as he remains part of the party's Eastern base. He spends most of 1965 and 1966 criss-crossing the country in support of Republican candidates in the mid-term elections; by 1967, he's become a serious possibility for the presidential nomination in 1968. It's a comeback quite unlike anything we've seen in American politics.

As for pro football, in Minnesota the AFL game on NBC pits the Kansas City Chiefs against the Boston Patriots (1:00 p.m.), while over on CBS (except for the blacked-out Twin Cities) the Green Bay Packers play the Vikings at 1:00, followed by the Cleveland Browns and Dallas Cowboys at 3:00 (although I suspect it'll actually be joined in progress.

Also of note: Robert Young hosts the Bell Telephone Hour's Thanksgiving program on NBC at 5:30 p.m., with Carol Lawrence, John Gary, Jean Fenn, William Walker, Matt Mattox, and the Choristers of teh LIttle Church Around the Corner.

Monday: I'm a little surprised that TV Guide didn't mention this, but on Monday Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall returns for a Thanksgiving special (8:00 p.m., NBC), with Gertrude Berg, Bobby Vinton, and the Lennon Sisters. It just wouldn't be a major holiday without Perry on television.

Tuesday: CBS's Salute to Stan Laurel (7:30 p.m.), who had died earlier in 1965, is hosted by Dick Van Dyke, the comedian most often compared to Laurel. The show, liberally spiced with clips from famous Laurel and Hardy movies, includes appearances by Buster Keaton and Lucille Ball, Harvey Korman, Phil Silvers, Bob Newhart, Audrey Meadows, Danny Kaye (who accepted an honorary Oscar for Laurel in 1961), Gregory Peck (as head of the Motion Picture Academy), and Audrey Meadows, Louis Nye, Tina Louise, Cesar Romero, and Leonid Kinskey. When they call this an all-star show, they aren't kidding.

Also of note: At 9:00 p.m, CBS presents "The National Citizenship Test," hosted by Harry Reasoner and Mike Wallace. Viewers who are scoring at home* can keep track of their answers on a scoresheet found in their daily newspaper, and find out if they know enough about Constitutional and state rights, and how state and Federal governments work in order to be thankful for being a citizen.

*Or just watching the show.

Wednesday: Thanksgiving Eve features one of the biggest star in entertainment, Frank Sinatra, in "A Man and His Music" (8:00 p.m, NBC), featuring the Chairman's greatest hits from his 25 years in show business. Sinatra had tried and failed with two previous series, in part because he put little effort into selling them; after all, when you're Frank Sinatra, you don't feel as if you have to prove anything. These annual specials (this being the first), which start out on NBC and later move to CBS, are a perfect formula for success: highly-anticipated specials in every sense of the word, with few guest stars or comedy bits, concentrating on what Sinatra does best - singing his hits.

At 9:00 p.m., just in time for Thanksgiving Day, ABC presents "Mayhem on a Sunday Afternoon," a history of professional football from 13th century England to today's modern game. The documentary, a David L. Wolper production produced and directed by William Friedkin (The Exorcist, The French Connection) and narrated by Van Heflin, features clips from the game's greates, including Jim Thorpe, Red Grange, and Sammy Baugh. If that's a bit rough for you, NBC's "Congress Needs Help," hosted by David Brinkley, shows what happens when an efficiency expert looks at how the Congress is run and how it could be made to function more effectively. I was not able to find a recording of this show, more's the pity.

Thanksgiving: Lady Bird Johnson's lasting contribution as First Lady was her campaign to beautify America, and at 9:00 p.m. ABC takes a look at the success of that effort in the area including and surrounding Washington, D.C. Earlier in the day, the same network offers the incomperable Sammy Davis Jr. in "The Wonderful World of Children" (4:00 p.m.), in which Sammy joins with a group of "talented youngsters" to return to their "happy-go-lucky" world - which includes an appearance by Dino (Martin Jr.), Desi (Arnaz Jr), and Billy (Hinshe). At the risk of dipping into Twilight Zone-esque territory*, it doesn't seem as if the world of children is such a happy-go-lucky one today, what with the pressures and temptations they face well before they even become teens. That makes a special like this almost a museum piece - or does it? I like one of the kids' mottos, which I think kids have held to since the beginning of time: "Whatever it is I didn't do it unless it's good in which case I did it even if I didn't."

*Specifically, "A Stop at Willoughby."

"Music by Cole Porter" (7:30 p.m., NBC) continues the week's musicial specials, with with Robert Goulet, Maurice Chevalier, Nancy Ames, and Peter Gennaro offering a tribute to the late Cole Porter, who died just over a year ago. Of course, one of the greatest interpreters of Porter's sophisticated lyrics is none other than Frank Sinatra, who sang some of Porter's best, including "I've Got You Under My Skin" and "I Get a Kick Out of You."

But the best part of the day - parades and football! CBS carries its traditional assortment of parades (9:00 a.m.) from New York (hosted by Arthur Godfrey and Bess Myerson), Philadelphia (Bud Collyer), Detroit (Frank Gifford and Marilyn Van Derbur) and Toronto (Jack Linkletter), all hosted by Captain Kangaroo and Shari Lewis. Meanwhile, NBC's telecast of the Macy's parade (9:00) is hosted, as usual, by Lorne Greene and Betty White.

CBS follows its parade coverage with the traditional NFL game from Detroit (11:00 a.m.) as the Lions play the Baltimore Colts (final score: 24-24); NBC counters with a college-AFL doubleheader, starting at 12;30 p.m. with the then-traditional Turkey Day matchup between Oklahoma and Nebraska (the #3 ranked Cornhuskers win 21-9). The Thanksgiving games between these two resulted in some classics, including their 1971 game thought by many to be the greatest college game ever played; alas, thanks to conference realignment, this, too, is a rivalry that has fallen by the wayside. The day closes with the defending AFL champion Buffalo Bills playing the team they defeated for the title, the San Diego Chargers, from San Diego. Like the NFL game, this also ends in a tie - 20-20. Doesn't stop the Bills, though, as they wind up the season successfully defending their title, again against San Diego.

Friday: Can there possibly be room for anything else? There can, if your name is Sean Conery and you play James Bond for a living. Friday night's special "The Incredible World of James Bond" airs at 9:00 p.m. on NBC, and takes a look behind the scenes at the forthcoming Bond flick Thunderball. Fittingly, the show it preempts for the evening is The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

What a week - did I already say this once?

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During the 60s, the Ed Sullivan Show and The Hollywood Palace were the premiere variety shows on television. Whenever they appear in TV Guide together, we'll match them up and see who has the best lineup..

Sullivan: Ed's scheduled guests: political satirist Mort Sahl; pianist Peter Nero; singer Johnny Mathis;  Killer Joe Piro and his Discotheque Dancers; comedienne Jean Carroll; German musical-comedy star Heidi Bruhl; puppet Topo GIgio; singer-pianist Ginny Tiu and her family; and the Monterey singing boys choir.

Palace: Host Bing Crosby introduces songstress Diahann Carroll; song-and-dance man John Bubbles; comic Charlie Manna; the singing Kessler Twins (Ellen and Alice); Michael the Waiter, German juggler; Desmond and Marks, English comics; and the Black Theater of Prague, pantomomists.

Well, this isn't the best lineup we've seen, but we've got enough information to make a call. Mort Sahl and Peter Nero edge Bing Crosby's lineup, and with Johnny Mathis in tow, chances are that Ed takes the week.

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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. 

To say that you can do far worse than F Troop may sound like faint praise, but when Cleveland Amory says it, then you're doing pretty good. In fact, he says at the end of the first paragraph, "the first and third episodes were two of the funniest shows we've seen all season."

Amory is a big fan of Ken Berrty, as the inept Captain Parmenter, who "mumbles, bumbles, stumbles and even fumbles his way from reveille to retreat." He's also a fan of Melody Patterson, who plays Parmenter's inamorata Wrangler Jane, Frank de Kova as Chief Wild Eagle, and Edward Everett Horton as Roaring Chicken. He really enjoyed Bernard Fox, who in the third episode played Major Bentley-Royce, the "Phantom Maja from Inja," a master of disguise who tries to make everyone in F Troop invisible, disguising them as tree stumps, horses and even buffalo; the result, says Amory, is "hilarious." Strangely enough, though, he has very little to say about Forrest Tucker and Larry Storch, who play Sergeant O'Rourke and Corporal Agarn. Most people who've seen F Troop would likely remember them more than anyone else, but then again, it may be a case of the devil being in the details, or something like that.

Now, you'll recall in the first paragraph that Amory thought the first and third episodes were very funny, but that leaves the second episode. It's a story in which Parmenter's Philadelphia finacee arrives to try and get Parmenter away from both Fort Courage and Wrangler Jane, not necessarily in that order. It's a mix of "Annie Get Your Gun" and "Pygmalion," but even though fiancee Lucy faints twice and O'Rourke and Agarn faint once each, the show just doesn't add up. By way of explanation, Amory quotes Wild Eagle, who first offers the aphorism "Bark of tree never bitter to a hungry squirrel," and then, when asked what it means, shrugs and replies, "Well, it loses a little something in translation." So does this episode, which - as Amory concludes, "shows how quickly F Troop can go from F sharp to F flat.

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There was a lot of excitement among classic TV fans when the Rod Serling-developed Western The Loner, starring Lloyd Bridges hit the DVD market last year. It was a fairly unexpected development, as the series only ran for 26 episodes, but as I say, people were stoked about it. Part of the anticipation, I think, was due to the Cult of Serling, which in general holds that "It's Serling, it has to be good." Now, before you jump all over me, I've seen a couple of episodes - it is pretty good. Not great, but certainly watchable. Serling may have had his flaws as a writer, but he had more than a few gems as well.

This week, Fritz Goodwin's article goes behind the scenes on The Loner. It's really about Lloyd Bridges and how he came to the lead role - the attraction of working on a Serling project, of course - but by November, the series is in trouble, production has been suspended, and Serling is at war with the suits at CBS. What he'd sold the network, he insists, was "a series of 24-minute weekly shows - all legitimate, human, dramatic vignettes - set against a Western background." Now, he complains, the network looks at the ratings and demands "a show with violence and killing attendant on a routine Western." Michael Dann, the VP in charge of programming, denies that he told Serling this; instead, he had merely asked for more "action" and "movement" - "chases, running gun battles, runaway stagecoaches, etc." Of course, that sounds a lot like violence to me, but what do I know?

At this point, the show's ratings are still disappointing, but the network has put the show back into production with an assurance that it will stay on the air, at least through the winter. It's still struggling to find its place; even Bridges was bothered that his character's background wasn't more fleshed out, though he trusts Serling on this point. Finally, in March, the plug is pulled. It's easy to appreciate Serling's frustration - he was once heard to say that he wished the week would go straight from Friday to Sunday and skip Saturday so there wouldn't be any Loner. He couldn't have been surprised; after all, it was network interference that resulted in him going the sci-fi route in the first place.

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What else? Well, we've got a starlet - it's Marta Kristen, born Birgit Annalisa Rusanen, who's currently starring as Judy Robinson on Lost in Space. Melvin Durslag writes about the current controversy in pro football as to whether or not new, unproven rookies should be paid big bucks. "For the Record" examines how television covered the Big Blackout in New York the previous Tuesday; most networks shifted their live operations to Washington and used the West Coast feed to get their programs to the affiliates. The most memorable moment came when NBC switched to Frank McGee, reporting live from New York - by candlelight.

I don't know how to top that, so I think it's time to blow out the candle and say good night.  TV  


  1. Starters:

    - For many years, I've been hearing about that Stan Laurel "tribute" special - and most of what I've heard is about how much Laurel & Hardy devotees detest the whole show.
    ... and what they hate the most about it is the "all-star" angle: those excruciatingly unfunny sketches, and seemingly endless musical numbers, interrupted occasionally by a (very) brief clip of Stan & Ollie.
    ... and yes, I have actually seen it in its entirety (some tasks simply must be done ...).
    Truthfully, the least said about this (Leonard Maltin called it "a travesty", which was about as kind as anyone got about it), the better.

    - The Loner:
    Interesting how you managed not to mention the show's main producer, who is credited by all concerned as having shepherded the show onto the air, and protected its content as much as possible throughout.
    Were you perhaps wondering why William Dozier's Batman credit wasn't mentioned?
    ... unless of course you realized that The Loner predated Batman by a whole year ...

    - May I voice my hope that you don't use Thursday as the What's On day.
    I can't think of two things that bore me more than parades and football.
    Growing up, I used to search desperately for anything other than those two things to watch on Thanksgiving Thursday - day or night.
    I have my Chicago edition for this issue in hand; trust me when I say that as far as Chicago is concerned, there's nothing there ...

    1. Ah, but Michael, I adore the parades to this day - we'll be shuttling between Chicago and New York, with Detroit on the laptop, and Philly if we can get it. And since I don't watch the NFL anymore, in those years when we don't have company, I've been known to watch old recorded games that were played on Thanksgiving, like the 1971 Oklahoma-Nebraska classic. To do anything else would be, well, un-American!

  2. Excellent job with a classic Guide, Mitchell. I remember it well as a TV-obsessed 12 year old who was still getting used our first color TV (Motorola console)---1965 being the year when almost every network started broadcasting prime time in color with the exception of the diminished 12 O'Clock High on ABC.

    The normally understated TV Guide cover now was filled with words! And, "What A Week" was a serious deviation from the norm.

    PS-I emailed you re: my unearthing of the Guide for August 20-26, 1966 while cleaning out old things. Please email me your current address and it will be finding its way to MN next week...does anyone have the Fall Premiere Guide for September 1965? A true classic.

    1. I wasn't born until 1974, but as a self-proclaimed "TV Historian" 1965 is a watershed year in TV, and one of the most interesting to me based on the fact that several shows that year (Dick Van Dyke, Donna Reed, Patty Duke) ended their runs in 1966 but were a mere season away from going color. DvD has gotten colorized, but I've always wondered what the others would have looked like.

  3. The Stan Laurel special had several negative letters to the editor in the December 11-17 TV Guide issue a few weeks later, citing the issues that Mike brought up.

    Amory's review has me wanting to dig up "The Girl from Philadelphia" and highlight it on F Troop Fridays now. Actually, I remember it being a funny Pygmalion spoof, but not quite as good an episode as The Phantom Major, no.

    I have this issue somewhere. Thanks for reminding me I need to find it.

  4. Recalling the classic TV Guide as I too once knew it, I go back to my own days in KC MO, digging on reruns of Gilligan, Hogan, Petticoat Junction, The Mickey Mouse Club, Best of Groucho and assorted other classics. These may sound like the ramblings of a mad man, but I still have a TV-drenched mind-or at least, as I've been downing turkey and stuffing during the 1 AM hour, as much of a mind as I can have.

    Really Mike, avoiding parades AND football-on Thanksgiving? You might as well try avoiding the plague. Those are the two things NOBODY can get away from, no matter how hard they try (even if they did, what's the point?). Watching those have come to me as naturally as watching the Plaza Lighting ceremony-and I have to do that online now! Just saying, you got your traditions, I got mine-and I ain't gonna trade it.

    Looking at the 1965 East Coast power failure from this standpoint. I now have a new affinity for the motto of The Christophers: "It IS better to light one candle than to curse the darkness". And from what I've seen, I can only believe what viewers must have been thinking, to the context of "Thank God Frank McGee had that one candle". I got no reason to curse the darkness myself, I know the light of the morning sun will drive it away like it always does. And before that happens, I'd better quit-it's waaay past my bed time! :)

    1. To Ken Douglas:

      Because I don't gamble, I consequently have no interest in football in any of its manifestations.
      As to parades, my interest in them was killed off forever by the experience of having to march in one when I was a kid (I wasn't the only one who felt this way - and this was a small-scale suburban parade). In the present day, parades are (to me, anyway) the cause of incessant traffic delays and inconvenient reroutings of public transportation, at those times when I don't need my travel time quadrupled or worse. (I don't care to watch live news coverage of high-speed police chases for the same reason.)

      But my beloved DVD Wall comes to the rescue, as it did today.
      My favorite rerun today was a Wild Wild West from 1967 (indeed, almost fifty years to the day from its original broadcast).
      "The Night Of The Legion Of Death", from Season Four, first aired on November 24th, 1967, and I suggest that everybody who reads this look it up; it has a peculiar resonance for the present day.

      While I'm at it, your mention of the "Light one candle" qoute cues me to once again mention The Edge Of Night episode from October 21, 1983. In particular, the last scene of this episode ties in in a very special way to the subject.

      (... and yes, Mitchell, I intend to keep needling you about this until you actually do something about it ...)


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!