December 16, 2017

This week in TV Guide: December 18, 1965

Jim Nabors is on the cover this week, and it gives me the opportunity to say a word or two about the star, who died last month. The news of his death prompted an outpouring of affection, which shouldn't really surprise anyone since Jim Nabors was one of those stars whose stardom far exceeded the sell-by date of most celebrities. His two biggest hits, Gomer Pyle and The Jim Nabors Hour, were both from the 1960s, but he never really disappeared from the public eye: he made frequent guest appearances on TV (he was Carol Burnett's good-luck charm on every season opener). did a handful of movies, toured the country with his nightclub act, released records, and sang "Back Home Again in Indiana" every year at the Indianapolis 500. Gomer Pyle is always on television somewhere, entertaining a new generation with the stories of the dimwitted but kind-hearted and lovable Marine, and making more fans for Jim Nabors. He was, by all accounts, a good and decent man, as I think is indicated by the lack of any scandal after he married his longtime partner Stan Cadwallader. As I've said before, being good to your fans is one way to ensure you always remain in the spotlight (even if the brightness is slightly less at the edges), and you bank an entire reservoir of good will at the same time.

Anyway, this week's cover story revolves around Jim's trip to Waseca, Minnesota, this year's site of the National Plow Matches (an event that appears to continue to this day). Up to 100,000 people have been known to crowd into Plowville, U.S.A., as the host site is renamed for the week, to witness what is called the "World Series of Plowing," and during election years it's a prime attraction for politicians looking to court the important rural-farm vote. This year's an off-election year, so to pump up attendence organizers latched onto the idea of "a show-biz draw," which turned out to be Nabors.

However the event might have turned out is not how it did turn out.  First Jim makes a quick tour of Minneapolis, where he appears on the radio (and is misidentified as a tenor rather than a baritone), meets with Governor Karl Rolvaag, who is supposed to give him the key to the state (except nobody can find it), and eventually heads for Waseca, which is about an hour and a quarter from Minneapolis. Torrential rains have turned Plowville into a muddy quagmire, and now the fog is moving in. The expected huge crowds do not materialize, the governor never makes it down, and immediately a debate ensues as to what exactly Nabors is supposed to do. Says his manager, "Jim is not going to entertain. That's for his night-club act. He's just to appear." Replies Nabors, "Those people are waiting in the rain; I've got to do something for them." He winds up telling jokes, singing a few songs, dancing with Miss Minnesota, and signing countless autographs. He then appears at a reception at the Waseca Country Club, being staged by his sponsor, Birds Eye, which has a huge plant in Waseca. He glad-hands the crowd with a polish formed by years of experience, and by that night he's back in Minneapolis; the next day he's on a plane for California, and Monday he's back in front of the cameras as lovable Gomer. Such is the life of a television star.

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Christmas is one week away, so show 'em if you've got 'em.

There are two versions of Tschaikowski's Nutcracker for you to choose from: Sunday at 8:00 p.m. CT with the San Francisco Ballet on Channel 11, and Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. with stars from the New York City Ballet, and narrated by Eddie Albert, on CBS. Both are in color, both are good, both are abridged for time. There are also two versions of Handel's "Messiah": KTCA, the educational station in the Twin Cities, broadcasts a version by the Minnetonka Philharmonic Society on Thursday (repeated Friday), while KMSP's version is at 12:15 a.m. Christmas morning by the First Baptist Church of Dallas.

Variety shows are all-in for the occasion: the King Family show kicks off Saturday on ABC, followed by Lawrence Welk and his annual Christmas show - it includes "Holly Jolly Christmas," which had only been introduced the previous year on Rudolph. Martha Scott hosts the annual Christmas show on a live broadcast of The Bell Telephone Hour (Sunday, 5:30 p.m., NBC), Jerry Lewis and a host of children take over Hullabaloo on Monday (NBC, 6:30 p.m.), and Perry Como (NBC, Monday), Red Skelton (CBS, Tuesday), Danny Kaye (CBS, Wednesday) and Mitch Miller (NBC, Friday) round out the week.

Dramas and sitcoms don't want to be left out, either - on Branded (NBC, Sunday), an orphans home is threatened - but not of Chuck Connors has anything to say about it. The Dick Van Dyke Show presents a rerun of its Alan Brady Christmas Show episode (CBS, Wednesday), Stingray has time for an orphan (Thursday), and Daniel Boone presents a story of an Indian brave and his pregnant wife looking for a place to stay (Thursday). And of course the week wouldn't be complete without Holiday Inn, with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. It's on Monday night at 10:00 p.m. on WTCN.

What would Christmas be without choirs? KTCA, the educational station in the Twin Cities, has choral concerts on Holiday Festival Monday through Friday, presenting music from local churches and schools, and the local stations have plenty of local choral groups throughout the week, including the University of Minnesota Glee Club, the Minneapolis Apollo Club, the boychoir from the Church of the Holy Childhood, and choirs from Bloomington Kennedy and Southwest high schools.

On Christmas Eve, Carmen Dragon (father of Daryl, the Captain half of Captain & Tennille), conducts the Glendale Symphony in a half-hour of Christmas music on WTCN, while KSTP has a concert by the Naval Academy Choir. Later, at 10:30 p.m. Skitch Henderson hosts The Heart of Christmas, the traditional half-hour that fills the first third of The Tonight Show timeslot before the Midnight Mass, broadcast life from St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. Channel 4 has a concert by the Bloomington Kennedy High School choir before CBS's midnight (ET) Baptist church service. After that, it's a program that has "The Sixties" written all over it: "Tell It on the Mountain," with Judy Collins, Ossie Davis and Chad Mitchell doing folk music, poems and prose readings to celebrate Christmas.

That should keep you in the spirit.

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No Sullivan vs. The Palace this week due to a preemption - ABC presents a look at Montana's Big Sky Country, hosted by Robert Preston. My wife asked why it wasn't Chet Huntley hosting, since he actually owned a ranch in Montana. "Huntley's on NBC," I said. "This program's on ABC." "Oh," she replied. Politics.

No review by Cleveland Amory this week either, but that's because Cleve's writing about his disasterous experience with the series O.K. Crackerby!, which will run for a scant 17 episodes before leaving the air in January (an editor's note at the end of his article says the final episode is scheduled for January 6).

Two years ago, Amory came up with the concept for a series called My Man St. John, the story of  "a lovable old millionaire from Oklahoma named O.K. Crackerby, a man with a fortune in, in more ways than one, natural gas. He is a widower, one with three children, an older girl and two younger boys, a man who has come East to ply the Eastern resort circuit, since he promised his 'missus,' before she passed on, that someday he would stop just making money and do right by the kids. To do this, he has acquired the services of something he has learned the Eastern resort families have - a 'tutor companion.'" St. John (pronounced Sinjin) Quincy, the tutor, would be the star of the show, which would satirize mores and manners of East Coast society. ABC loved it, and the show went into development - although Amory was given pause when ABC executive Leonard Goldberg asked him "what the heck is a two-door companion?" which, in hindsight should have given him an idea of what was to follow.

The article is lengthy even for TV Guide, so we'll just give you the basics: the idea of St. John being the focus of the show evaporated about the time Burl Ives was cast as Crackerby; suddenly, the show was being called O.K. Crackerby!, and Ives, as the focal point, would attempt to simply buy his way into high society. Abe Burrows was employed as what we would today call the showrunner, and the next thing Cleve knew, the series was being billed as "Created by Abe Burrows and Cleveland Amory." Burrows was also listed as writer, story consultant, co-director, and co-writer of the show's theme.

Burrows also changed the tone of the show - rather than being a live-in tutor, St. John was now Crackerby's "agent," to help him " bust" into society. The show went through at least two producers; Amory thought there might have been a third somewhere there, but he wasn't sure. By the time the show was on the air, any resemblance between the original idea and the series was virtually invisible. Amory complained to the production company, United Artists; he complained to the network, all to no avail. When a screening of the show for network and studio honchos and sponsors goes poorly - Amory said the script was literally about nothing - the show is described as "awful, a crime against not only the industry but humanity." And eyes turn to Amory - what do you have to say about it? And he pitches them an idea for a new show - it's about "a lovable old millionaire from Oklahoma named O.K. Crackerby, a man with a fortune in, in more ways than one, natural gas. He is a widower, one with three children, an older girl and two younger boys, a man who has come East to ply the Eastern resort circuit, since he promised his 'missus,' before she passed on, that someday he would stop just making money and do right by the kids. To do this, he has acquired the services of something he has learned the Eastern resort families have - a 'tutor companion.'"

"And you know what?" Amory concludes. "They loved it."

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This week's starlet is Laraine Stephens, who for a few more weeks will be part of the cast of the aforementioned O.K. Crackerby!, and she's here to model some fashions for the holidays.

Don't worry - the red mohair tweed with the pink chifon overblouse only runs you $150.

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Finally, the end of the Gemini VII mission. Astronauts Frank Borman and Jim Lovell splash down early Saturday morning after a successful two-week flight, and television cameras are located on the aircraft carrier Wasp to provide live coverage via Early Bird satellite.

The mission started on Saturday, December 4, and as For the Record reports, it was quite the adventure for NBC. The network had to go to split coverage to cover the launch alongsite coverage of the Penn State-Maryland football game, and on occasion play-by-play man Lindsey Nelson and spacecaster Merrill Mueller were "fighting for attention." David Brinkley, of course, is the man to put this all in perspective. Said Brinkley, "This will be the first time a rocket takes off on the 50-yard line or that football is played on pad 19."  TV  


  1. TV Obscurities has a nice article about OK CRACKERBY, written in 2009:

  2. Spaceflight geek me perked up with the mention of the Gemini 7 splashdown (which was two days after the Gemini 6 splashdown, as that's when 7 and 6 did their famous rendezvous, and both were picked up by USS Wasp). For those who are really interested in such things (or for those not interested but looking for a quick and reliable way to get to sleep), this piece I wrote for another site goes into the nuts and bolts of getting live pictures from the recovery ship to the viewing audience, and includes some pictures from the Gemini 7/6 recovery deployment:

    As for the Jim Nabors article and the "I've got to do something for them" story, it makes me think of the saying "he was exactly the person you hoped he would be." We sure could use a few more like him.

    1. And speaking about the Gemini 7 and 6 splashdowns, you can find CBS's coverage of the Gemini 6 splashdown and the first part of their coverage of Gemini 7's re-entry on You Tube, as well as part of an NBC special re-capping the Gemini 7 splashdown.

  3. Since The Hollywood Palace is preempted this week, I'm wondering what Sullivan got that week by default!!!

  4. From the standpoint we're at now, it all seems strange looking back. Andy Griffith, Gomer Pyle (its' spinoff), Red Skelton, Danny Kaye, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Big Valley, I Spy, Green Acres and Petticoat Junction were enjoying their first seasons as color shows. Programs like The Fugitive, The Wild Wild West, Bewitched, Lost In Space and Gunsmoke would not be in color until the following year. As the years pass, we tend to reflect on all that happened during the year about to go out.
    Rudolph, in "Rudolph's Shiny New Year", proclamed that "1965 was too noisy", and there were quite a few joyful ones, but definitely during this particular week. It truly would be a wonderful world if the good feelings we felt back then could carry on thru the rest of the year. We tend to forget those feelings too soon, but if we recall them, especially these days, it might help in the long run.

    On that reflective note, I wish a Merry Christmas to all in the Twin Cities. And the same to those in Duluth, Mankato, Mason City, Rochester, Austin, La Crosse, Eau Claire-and even Alexandria, (The "Worst Town in the World" TM).

    The best of everything to all, and to you too, Mr. Hadley. Continue to make HadleyVision (tm) GLORIOUS.

  5. Burl Ives recorded "Holly Jolly Christmas" in 1962 and it went part of his RUDOLPH deal, he insisted the tune be put on the soundtrack (not to mention residuals in perpetuity)

  6. I think the 'Big Sky Country' special was one of a series of specials hosted by Robert Preston that featured different areas of the United States.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!