Contrast that with the 15 hours that CBS is scheduled to bring viewers when the 1960 Winter Olympics kick off from Squaw Valley, California on Thursday, February 18. Walter Cronkite anchors the coverage, which begins with a half-hour of highlights from the Opening Ceremonies, staged by Walt Disney and Art Linkletter. Vice President Richard Nixon will officially open the Games, partly because he's from California and partly because by tradition, no American president has ever opened the Olympics. (A situation that continues until Ronald Reagan in 1984.)
This marks the first time America has hosted the Winter Olympics since 1932, when they were held at Lake Placid, New York. Just how Squaw Valley came to be the host city is quite a story; you might say that the organizers sold the International Olympic Committee a bill of goods, convincing them that a puny, virtually undeveloped ski resort - it had only one ski lift - was capable of handling an international sporting event the magnitude of the Olympics. Virtually everything was built from scratch, in less than four years, at a cost of $80,000,000. It paid off, though; the intimate setting (you could walk to almost everything) and the snow-covered mountains (it helped that the Opening Ceremonies were delayed for an hour by a blizzard), plus the Disney touch, made the Games a success.
This is also the first time that the Olympics have been televised in the United States, although they've been shown previously in Europe (where every Winter Games save the Lake Placid edition had been held). In fact, according to the always-reliable Wikipedia, the television coverage actually played a role in one of the events; "During the games, officials asked Tony Verna, one of the members of the production staff, if it could use its videotape equipment to determine whether or not a slalom skier missed a gate. Verna then returned to CBS headquarters in New York City and developed the first instant replay system, which debuted at the Army–Navy football game in 1963." For its 15 hours of coverage, CBS paid a half-million dollars. By contrast, NBC is paying about $12 billion for the rights to the Summer and Winter games through 2032.
On the cover this week we have the stars of Blake Edwards' Peter Gunn and Mr. Lucky. You could say that Edwards is the one who's lucky, with two hit series already under his belt, and a potential third on the way - but you can read more about that one farther down the line. Gunn and Lucky have many similarities: they both feature smooth, dark-haired leading men compared to Cary Grant (Craig Stevens and John Vivyan), with attractive girlfriends (Lola Albright and Pippa Scott), and a jazzy texture supported by the music of Henry Mancini. At the moment Lucky is the luckier of the two series, with a rating of 25.7 compared with 20.3 for Gunn.
|John Vivyan (left) and Ross Martin|
It's true - having seen Mr. Lucky, there's a noticeable drop in quality once the change in premise takes place. The show's easy charm disappears, the plots become routine, and Ross Martin, Lucky's show-stealing partner/sidekick, is totally wasted as a maître d'. I quit watching it after the changeover, but the show's ratings remained high enough that it should have been renewed. (It finished in the top 25 for the season.) It wasn't, though - Lever Bros. dropped its sponsorship completely (so why bother with the change in format?), and the network was unable to find a replacement. Lacking a sponsor, the network dropped the series. It cost John Vivyan a movie role opposite Ingrid Bergman; he'd turned down the role thinking (reasonably so) that Lucky would be renewed.*
*Vivyan always felt the show had been cancelled as a favor to Jack Benny; its replacement on Saturday nights, Checkmate, was produced by Benny's JaMco Productions.
*The Boston Terrier never did make it as a weekly series, but appeared twice on Dick Powell Theater, with Vaughn in the lead role.
Of course, for Robert Vaughn the best is yet to come. He'll get an Oscar nomination for The Philadelphians (left), a movie he did in 1959, and in the mid-60s he'll co-star in the series that brought him lasting fame, The Man from U.N.C.L.E. I remember him from 1972 or so, hosting a local telethon in the Twin Cities to support clean water. (Buster Crabbe, and Don Herbert, Mr. Wizard, were two of the other national stars appearing.) As I've written before, I was never a big fan of Vaughn's, although I liked him a lot in U.N.C.L.E., and as a proud Minnesotan I've always been proud to claim him as one of us.
No "Sullivan vs. Allen" this week; Steverino is preempted on Sunday by what is, for my money, the TV highlight of the week: NBC's live color presentation of Steven Vincent Benet's classic "The Devil and Daniel Webster." (7:00 p.m.) Edward G. Robinson, in a rare television appearance, stars as Webster, while David Wayne is Old Scratch, and Tim O'Connor the poor soul who sold his in return for "seven years of glittering fortune." It's replayed in 1962; too bad it's not out on DVD today.
Were it not for the above, the show of the week might have been Frank Sinatra's special on Monday (8:30 p.m., ABC). The theme is "Here's to the Ladies," as the Chairman "offers a valentine to the female sex in general and introduces some women he particularly admires." Among the stars are Lena Horne, Mary Costa, Juliet Prowse, Barbara Heller - and Eleanor Roosevelt. Quite an interesting mix, don't you think? Mrs. Roosevelt "talks with Frank about the hopes of the world and recites the lyrics of the song 'High Hopes.;"
Another of the week's rare color presentations is on Tuesday, when Joan Fontaine, John Ireland and Agnes Moorehead star in "Closed Set" on Startime. (7:30 p.m., NBC) Meantime, at 8:00 on CBS, it's Tightrope!, starring the pre-Mannix "Michael" Connors as an undercover police officer whose real identity is never divulged during the run of the show; he's referred to occasionally as "Nick" but otherwise simply assumes whichever undercover role he has for that case. I've seen a few episodes; it's a pretty good show. Of course, Connors was good in almost everything he was in.
Robert Vaughn (there's that name again!) pops up in CBS's Men Into Space at 7:30 p.m. Wednesday. He plays one of two geochemists conducting a search for radioactivity on the moon. "McCauley [star William Lundigan] finds that one of his men is more interested in outdoing his colelague than in making the mission a success." The listing doesn't say which of the two men it is - really, it doesn't have to, does it? After that it's The Millionaire at 8:00, with a pre-Bewitched Dick York using his new fortune to try and find out why his fiancée broke off their engagement. And if you'd rather have some tunes, you might want to check out Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall with José Ferrer, Patrice Munsel, Señor Wences and Frank D. Rone. (8:00, NBC)
Once a month, DuPont (""Better Things for Better Living...Through Chemistry") sponsors The Show of the Month on CBS, preempting regularly scheduled programming. This Thursday, Show of the Month (8:30 p.m.) presents Edith Wharton's grim story "Ethan Frome," with an outstanding cast including Julie Harris as Mattie Silver and Sterling Hayden in the title role. I think I'd rather have watched The Ford Show (NBC, same time), with Ernie's guest Peter Palmer (try saying that five times fast), currently starring as Li'l Abner.
This week's starlet is Susan Cummings, currently appearing in the sydicated Western Union Pacific with Jeff Morrow and Judson Pratt. We don't learn a whole lot about Susan in this brief article: we know she can handle dialects, since she was born in Germany; she wears her hair long because producers seldom have wigs made well enough to fit or be the right color; and although she's only 29, she's already been married and divorced twice. (Her third husband will die in 1975; her fourth will outlive her.) Her resume following Union Pacific is thin; a few guest shots in TV, and some movie roles. Her most famous role - well, it's more like a line, delivered in a famous episode of an equally famous television series, when she yells to Lloyd Bochner, "It's a cookbook!" Can you name it?
I confess that our loyal reader Mike Doran has me stumped, as in truth he often does. Writing about yesterday's "Around the Dial," he mentions something to look for in the New York edition of TV Teletype. I've looked and I've looked, and I've surfed through mysteryfile.com in search of clues (or, as Ellery Queen might put it, "clews"), and I've come up with nothing. I have confidence, though, that in today's comments section he'll clear it up for me.
And finally, John Barba of Hamden, Connecticut, has this TV business down pat. In his letter to the editor, he relates to us a "hot tip" on this week's Perry Mason episode.
I couldn't have described it better myself.