June 22, 2024

This week in TV Guide: June 22, 1968

The nation still reels from the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy a little over two weeks ago, and television is no exception.

Periodically throughout its history, the medium's majordomos have engaged in bouts of soul-searching, and as television increases in cultural importance, it displays something of a schizophrenic attitude regarding its responsibility to society. In the aftermath of the assassinations of Kennedy and Martin Luther King, as well as increasing urban turmoil, all eyes turn toward the effect that TV might have had on creating a "climate of violence."

This week, Richard K. Doan asks the question: "Had television's violence-prone "action-adventure" drama contributed substantially to today's climate of solution-by-murder?" People from all walks debate the issue, from historian (and Kennedy camp follower) Arthur Schlessinger to playwright Arthur Miller to the president of the United States himself, who asks "whether 'the seeds of violence' have been nurtured by TV, movies and news media." The Louisville Times refers to "America the Brutal," and points the finger at TV as "a root" of the evil, using a picture of Richard Boone as Paladin in Have GunWill Travel as evidence. (I know it's hard to believe, considering what one sees on TV nowadays, but at one time Have GunWill Travel was considered one of the most violent programs on television.

New York Representative John Murphy condemns the networks, saying that "[n]ight after night one program after the other shows violence in great detail and in living color." Miller, the playwright, says that the country was now at the stage where "any half-educated man in a good suit can make his fortune by concocting a television show whose brutality is photographed in sufficiently monstrous detail."

It's not just politicians and pundits raising Cain, though, as a perusal of the Letters to the Editor section shows. Casey Willis of Tucson complains that although there have been hundreds of gun killings in the U.S., "many of the most popular shows on TV have been based on firearms and violence," and suggests that TV "should search its own soul." Mary Hendrickson of Hudson, NY adds that "I can censor my own children's programs, but what of the children whose parents don't know or care what is pounded into their impressionable little heads?" TV has done a good job covering the recent tragedies; now, "do something to prevent them." And P. Corcoran of the Bronx says that "TV is one of the worst offenders in this crime" of violence flooding the country, citing Mission: Impossible as one of the shows "warping our youngsters."

Of course, there's one problem with these theories: the possibility, if not probability, that Kennedy's assassination was a political act. We're not here to debate the identities of the individuals or organizations behind the assassination, but we are talking about the television's culpability in the murder, and so it bears pointing out that if Sirhan Sirhan, who was convicted of Kennedy's murder, was indeed guilty, then one also has to accept that his motive was not the violent content on TV, but a hatred of Kennedy for his support of Israel, and that the act itself was planned in a cold, calculating manner. If, on the other hand, the assassination was part of a conspiracy (whether or not it included Sirhan), then you have to conclude that the killing was a geopolitical act, involving the FBI, the CIA, the military, the LAPD, or any one of countless organizations, and requiring a fairly high level of coordination. In either case, this leaves no room for televised violence as a cause. Political zealots probably don't have time to watch television let alone be influenced by it, and it's highly unlikely that the conspirators at the FBI got the idea from watching Seven Days in May on Saturday Night at the Movies. It probably would have happened even if the most violent thing on television was a fluffy white kitten attacking a ball of yarn.

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Be that as it may—and, as we all know, there's no room for logic when emotion is involved—the ensuing hue and cry virtually demands a response from network executives, and one shape this takes is by pulling its most violent episodes off the air, at least for the short term. NBC also released a statement assuring the public that they "have established policies and procedures to guard against the depiction of violence fore its own sake," while CBS president Frank Stanton promised that the network  "would seek to 'de-emphasize' violence" on their programs.

One testimony to the effect of the assassination on television is the slew of shows bearing the legend "Postponed from an earlier date," the heaviest concentration of which appear on Saturday. Although network coverage of the assassination and aftermath were nowhere near the 1963 levels, all three networks preempted virtually all of their Saturday programming for Kennedy's funeral and burial. The intent had been to return to regular programming at the start of prime time, but the funeral train was four-and-a-half hours late, and the entire slate wound up being wiped out. The Prisoner, Hogan's Heroes, The Dating Game, Petticoat Junction, an ABC profile of land speed-record holder Craig Breedlove—all were victims of the accordion effect of postponements and rescheduling. (The Breedlove documentary finally airs this Saturday at 4:00 p.m. PT on ABC.)

And so the landscape changes, for a time, and kinder, gentler programming will now be the fashion, with programs such as The Wild Wild West no longer on network schedules. But for how long? (As Doan points out, four days later NBC's action series The Champions featured a scene in which one of the show's heroes "was tortured by being stretched on an automobile version of the medieval rack.) I suppose there's any number of studies that could isolate when the trend toward more violent fare resumed, and let's face it: no matter how noble the intent might be, ultimately ratings (and the concurrent advertising dollars) rule, and the viewers cast the deciding votes. The level of violence on television today is astonishing; I can't imagine what the people, who were so aghast at '60s violence, would think of it. One could argue that, having grown up in a so-called culture of violence, people are more inured to it, making them less likely to be influenced by it. And yet, things seldom change much: every time there's a school shooting or bombing or other act of violence, the cry arises once again. If it's not television, it's video games; if not that, then something else.

For a long time, television has attempted to have it both ways, downplaying the influence its programs have on viewers' behavior while at the same time accepting ads designed to influence viewers' behavior. That's always seemed a bit disingenuous to me. Of course the content of television programming affects viewers. Likewise, though, there can't be much doubt that the audience is receptive and willing. It's a chicken-and-egg situation: does the problem lie with the programming, or the people watching it?

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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: On this first in a series of reruns, CBS renames its Broadway theater in honor of Ed. Guests: New York City mayor John Lindsay, Pearl Bailey, Alan King, Met baritone Robert Merrill, actress-dancer Gwen Verdon, comedians Wayne and Schuster, the Argentine singing group Los Nimos Cantores de Murialdo, and the Emerald Society pipe bands of New York's police and fire departments.

Palace: Host Sid Caesar dominates this hour of comedy and music. Guests: Marlo Thomas (who narrates a showing of 1968 resort fashions), singers Sergio Franchi and Fran Jeffries, and the rocking Checkmates, Ltd. In a mime spot, Sid conducts Tchaikovsky’s "1812 overture."  Sketch: The hiring of a too-attractive maid brews trouble for three neighboring couples. 

I suppose that we should be impressed by New York Mayor John Lindsay's appearance at the dedication of the Ed Sullivan Theater; CBS could just as well have had William Paley make the presentation instead. (Of course, Lindsay was the flavor of the month back then.) It's a bug, not a feature; even so, no matter how good Sid Caesar might be, Marlo Thomas and the Checkmates are not going to edge out Pearl Bailey, Alan King and Robert Merrill. Never mind the politicians: this week, my vote goes to Sullivan.

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The summer months mean not only reruns, but summer replacement series. We'll start, however, with Kup's Show (Saturday, 9:00 p.m., KEMO in San Francisco), hosted by the legendary Chicago Sun-Times columnist Irv Kupcinet. At three hours, it's the longest talk show on television (not including David Susskind's Open End, which could last who-knows-how-long), but it's often worth it. Tonight's guests are indeed an eclectic collection: Alf Landon, former governor of Kansas and the unsuccessful 1936 Republican presidential candidate (they wouldn't win until 1952); Charlie Grimm, former manager of the Chicago Cubs, who managed them to the World Series in 1945 (they wouldn't be back for another 71 years); and Arlene Francis, who doesn't seem to fit any of these categories but is a delightful presence nonetheless.

CBS must be breathing a sigh of relief; the Smothers Brothers are on vacation for the summer, and in their place is  The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour (Sunday, 9:00 p.m.). Glen's special guest tonight is Nancy Sinatra, and they'll be joined by Smothers regulars Pat Paulsen and Leigh French. Campbell, riding a string of hits (with more on the way), is everything that a network could hope for from a variety show host, and he'll do well enough in the ratings to merit a return engagement the following January, where he remains until January 1972.  

Monday night sees the debut of Comedy Playhouse (9:00 p.m., NBC), a collection of comedy episodes that originally appeared on Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theater back in 1966. Monty Hall is the host this time around, and we start things off with "And Baby Makes Five," a frothy story about the differences between city and country life, with a cast that makes up for the plot: Cliff Robertson, Angie Dickinson, Nina Foch, and Walter Abel.

Tuesday's a night for summer variety shows, beginning with Showcase '68 (8:00 p.m., NBC), hosted by Lloyd Thaxton, which serves as the replacement for The Jerry Lewis Show. The show highlights young entertainers performing for a group of guest judges; tonight's show comes from the World's Fair in San Antonio, Texas, with Bobby Vinton as the special guest. A more conventional variety show is the similarly-named Showtime (8:30 p.m., CBS), the summer stand-in for The Red Skelton Hour, this week with Eddy Arnold as host. Showtime is one of a number of British imports produced by Lew Grade's ITC Entertainment, a mainstay of 60s TV; other shows of theirs finding spots in the American summer schedule include the terrific Man in a Suitcase (Friday, 8:30 p.m., ABC), in place of its Disney-wannabee Off to See the Wizard; the aforementioned The Champions (Monday, 8:00 p.m., NBC), subbing for Laugh-In; and The Prisoner (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., CBS), filling in for The Jackie Gleason Show

Wednesday's highlight comes in the late-night hours, with the 1950 noir classic D.O.A. (12:15 a.m., KBHK in San Francisco), starring Edmund O'Brien as a poisoned man trying to solve his own murder before he dies. If that's too late for you, you might be interested in Kraft Music Hall (9:00 p.m., NBC), with John Davidson finishing up his stint as host, and guests including Kaye Ballard, Soupy Sales, and the Irish Rovers. I wouldn't be interested, but you might. You might also choose the ABC Evening News (5:30 p.m.), which has an extended report on cryonics—the practice of freezing the dead bodies of disease victims until a cure can be found. It's a wonder Walt Disney didn't do a science feature on this.

Dean Martin never worked summers, and this year his replacement is none other than the Golddiggers, the singing and dancing group of luscious lovelies that first appeared with Deano in the spring. Appearing in Dean's regular timeslot (Thursday, 10:00 p.m., NBC), the Golddiggers will go on to be the top-rated series of the summer; they'll also be the summer replacement for Martin in 1969 and 1970, and that fall they become regulars on his show. Tonight's show is headed up by Joey Heatherton and Frank Sinatra Jr., with guests Paul Lynde, Barbara Heller, the Times Square Two, Stanley Myron Handelman, Stu Gilliam, and Skiles and Henderson. 

Friday night features the first college football game of the season, the late and unlamented Coaches' All-America Game, played in Atlanta. (5:30 p.m., ABC) It's actually the last game of the 1967 college season, since both teams are staffed by seniors about to join NFL training camps.* Recognizable names: UCLA quarterback Gary Beban, winner of the Heisman Trophy, Syracuse fullback Larry Csonka, one of the stalwarts of Miami's Super Bowl teams; and USC's Ron Yary, the first pick in the 1968 NFL Draft and an all-pro for Minnesota; both Csonka and Yary are now in the Pro Football Hall of Fame.

*This game, like the much-loved College All-Star Game that pitted college stars against the defending NFL champions, was a victim of increased concerns over injuries, and pro teams' desires to get their players in camp earlier. It lasted, believe it or not, until 1976.

The CBS Friday night movie is A Night to Remember (9:00 p.m.), the 1958 story of the sinking of the Titanic, starring Kenneth More, David McCallum, and Honor Blackman. Judith Crist rightly calls Eric Ambler's screenplay an "outstanding" adaptation of Walter Lord's best-seller, and describes it as a movie "that you should not miss." Longtime readers will recall that the story of the Titanic has been one of my lifetime passions, and this movie (I'd already read the book) solidified that passion 

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Documentaries and news specials are always popular in the summer; they're not reruns, and they aren't preempting first-run episodes of popular series. That might be a cynical take, but this week's programming backs it up. CBS weighs in the crisis in America's cities with The Cities, a three-part look at the staggering problems facing America's urban areas, which airs at 10:00 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday. The question confronting the country is "whether black and white can share a Nation's cities in peace and dignity." A heavy question then, and one that's still being asked today.

On Thursday at 10:00 p.m., ABC ups the ante with the first in a six-part examination of racism in America (not on consecutive nights, thankfully); "Bias and the Media," hosted by Frank Reynolds, looks at "the mass media’s portrayal of and discrimination against the Negro, and their effect on the black community," concentrating on job discrimination within the industry and the stereotypes being perpetuated by it. Reynolds is joined by Harry Belafonte, Lena Horne, psychiatrist Alvin Poussaint, and black nationalist poet-critic Lawrence Neal.

The talk isn't limited to network programming; San Francisco station KRON's Assignment Four (Thursday, 7:00 p.m.) examines "Our Delinquent Society" through a week in the life of Berkeley policemen Roy Nedro, from the daily meeting in the squad room to calls dealing with robbery, domestic quarrels, fires, and other emergencies.

Not everything's so heavy, though; ABC presents a repeat of the Jacques Cousteau special "The Savage World of the Coral Jungle," narrated by Rod Serling and Captain Cousteau. (Tuesday, 8:30 p.m.) The "graceful movements of ocean life" must be soothing indeed to viewers frazzled by the rest of the news.

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We'll wrap up this week's review with Robert Higgins's profile of  "intergalactic golden boy" William Shatner, who's hit it big with Star Trek, but he's not a happy man. He's a classically trained actor, a veteran of Shakespearean productions and high-class TV dramas, but as he said, "A plaque on the wall doesn't by baby food." The man who wowed audiences as Henry V when he was 22 and has a lengthy list of credits in television has found that success doesn't necessarily translate to happiness, nor does flying around the universe lead to professional satisfaction. When a dream dies, he says, "there’s such a terrible void, such a loss. I find myself clinging to times when life was a joy, a thing to cherish. Today, I’d characterize success as security and love."

He's struggling in other ways as well.  His father died a year ago, he's now separated from his wife of 10 years, and he sees his life as "an empty pit." He hungers for friends, but finds only fans; "people who’ve known me since I was born want my autograph. I want to yell out, 'Hey, I’m not different. Give me your arms, not your pens.'" 

Higgins leaves us with a classic Shatner moment though, one that you can almost hear as you read it on the page. Addressing the National Conference of Christians and Jews, the Shat tells the audience that "I'm a Jew, but I do not believe in your God...I do know we are all afraid of dying...we are all afraid of loneliness. Those are universal truths. Are you scared? I'm scared...I love you...I need you."

The words of a transformed man, don't you think?

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MST3K alert: The Undead 
(1957) A reincarnation researcher follows a harlot’s soul back 1000 years—and finds that in her first life she was condemned to die for witchcraft. Pamela Duncan, Richard Garland, Allison Hayes. (Saturday, 1:35 p.m., KGO in San Francisco) "I've never known more about what isn't going on in a movie," Mike says about this melodrama featuring shape-shifters, imps (played by Billy Barty!), witches, and the Devil, all directed by Roger Corman. If that isn't nightmare fuel, I don't know what is. TV  

June 21, 2024

Around the dial

It's remarkable how close to the screen people used to sit to watch TV, isn't it? As someone with more than a passing interest in interior design and layout, I'd be interested to know what the rest of the living room looked like. Based on the position of the ottoman, you'd have to think that dad's chair has been turned around to face the set, and everyone's gathered around. Nowadays, we make the television the focal point of our living room. I'm not saying it's better or worse, just different.

Anyway, the Broadcast Archives shares a story about a game that this family might have played, once upon a time. It's called the Radio Game, made by Milton Bradley, and was one of the things people might have used to become more comfortable with new technology. Ever seen this in an antique store?

The View from the Junkyard continues its journey through the oeuvre of The Avengers; this week, we pick up where we left off last week, with Linda Thorson (Tara King) still on vacation, and appropriately the episode is titled "The Morning After." Even though she's not in it much, she's still a help to Steed.

Brian Clemens, producer of The Avengers, had high praise for the nineties series Bugs, comparing it favorably to that iconic show. Of course, he had something to do with Bugs as well, but, as John points out at Cult TV Blog, it's a series that lives up to the billing, and more.

Another week, another blog anniversary; this time, it's one of my favorite sites, Television Obscurities, which is celebrating its 21st, and that's enough to make this humble site of mine feel like a piker. It sounds as if Robert has some interesting projects in the hopper; looking forward to seeing them.

The Oscar-nominated actress Anouk Aimée died this week, age 92, and at A Shroud of Thoughts, Terence has a look back at her remarkable career, which includes an impressive television resume in addition to her many movies. She was a genuine movie star.

Martin Grams takes a look at the latest season of Doctor Who, airing on Disney+ here in the good old U.S.of A. I've mentioned that I gave up on the series a few years ago, and even if I hadn't, I wouldn't give Disney a penny of my money, but of course I'm happy for the fans who've stuck with it. 

The Twilight Zone Vortex is back, and this week Jordon reviews the final-season dystopian episode "The Old Man in the Cave," starring James Coburn, John Anderson and John Marley. Not vintage TZ perhaps, but this excellent writeup shows how it still touches on serious issues worth discussing. TV  

June 19, 2024

F is for Fake

I'll admit, on a good day, that I can be a little bit neurotic. Not crazy; I mean, it's a given that anyone who spends the amount of time watching and writing about old television shows has to be at least a little cracked, right? No, what I'm talking about is this deep-seated fear that, even though I've written about classic television for fifteen years and authored a book abut it, sooner or later I'm going to be unmasked as a poseur, a fraud, someone who isn't really the expert he pretends to be. 

Having talked with several of my fellow TV historians over the years, I've found that my insecurity isn't unusual; in fact, it seems to be something we all have in common, along with the love of shows that nobody else has ever heard of. This provides absolutely no consolation to me; after all, there's nothing that prevents multiple people from sharing the same neuroses, nor would it be out of the ordinary for us to congregate in the same places. It's something I've learned to live with, though. I suppose we all have our little hang-ups.

When I'm asked what I do, I generally reply that I'm a writer, as well as a TV historian. As the late novelist Paul Auster once said, "Writing is no longer an act of free will for me; it's a matter of survival." And when it comes to writing, let me tell you, I can massage the hell out of a sentence, revising it three or four (or a dozen or two) times, moving paragraphs here and there and working things to death until I'm satisfied. (The computer has been a great blessing in that sense.) Some pieces never completely satisfy me, but then, you can't always let the perfect become the enemy of the good, and sometimes you have to just let it go or give up on it altogether. 

I mention this because, as you probably know, I've been a guest on Dan Schneider's Video Interview regularly during the past couple of years. I have a great time with Dan; he's an excellent host, and our conversations are always enjoyable. But, at least for me, it's much easier to communicate knowledge and information through the written word rather than verbally. 

For example, looking back on the recent program we did about Mary Tyler Moore, at one point I'm talking as if, in addition to providing the shapely silhouette for Sam, the shadowy figure of Richard Diamond's answering service, she also supplied Sam's voice. Now, that's not the case, and I knew that; later on, I pointed that out more clearly. Now, if I had been writing the same thing, I would have reworked the paragraph over and over (as I have in writing this paragraph) until it said exactly what I meant. You don't get the chance to do that when you're working in a "live" medium, unless you're able to edit and reedit the tape, which we don't.

I don't know how many people are truly comfortable in the video and audio worlds, but to be even passably competent, you have to have a fleetness of mind, a nimble way an easy way of thinking that enables you to self-edit as you go along, and the ability to segue from one topic to another without falling flat on your face. And there's no question, as far as I'm concerned, that I'm not nearly as nimble in that respect as I used to be. Words and thoughts don't come as quickly or easily as they used to, and they don't flow as smoothly as they once did. It doesn't concern me in the bigger picture; it's called getting old (deal with it!) and it happens to everyone. 

But it frustrates me that I can't transition as quickly as I could fifteen years ago, that it's harder for me to articulate what I mean to say as precisely as I once did. I never did enjoy watching myself on television, and now I don't even try; I find it too cringeworthy. And it bothers me that it might, in the eyes of viewers, make me sound less credible as a historian. It's one thing to be wrong; it's another to sound wrong, 

And then there's the tendency that I have to take off on some tangent, a rabbit hole that barely touches on the topic in question and that only I have any interest in. I suppose this comes in part from any historian's desire to demonstrate everything he's learned about a topic, but I prefer to blame it on my political background, where they taught us that, when doing interviews, to redefine the question to what it is that you want to talk about, and answer that instead. (Another gift we're taught is how to deflect blame to someone or something else, which I've just tried to demonstrate.)

This isn't to suggest that I hate doing podcasts; in fact, I like doing them, and I wish I could do more of them. (Hint, hint!) And I've never had a problem with public speaking; I gave a lot of speeches when I was running for the state legislature all those years ago, and let me tell you this: giving a good speech is an exhilarating experience; it provides a mental and physical high that's far better than anything any drug can give. When I did my presentation at the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention a few years ago, I thought I was as good as I've ever been. (No brag, just fact.) Of course, in these situations I was in control, either working from a prepared text or being in command of the material.

It's another thing when you're being interviewed. No matter how well one prepares, the difficulty comes from trying to make sense without running off at the mouth or digressing into a thousand and one black holes. The first or second time I appeared on television, in a panel discussion show, I was immensely pleased afterward; I thought I'd been assertive in stating my positions, aggressive in pursuing the fallacies being offered by my fellow panelists, and appropriately witty when appropriate. Many years later, when I rewatched the broadcast, I was—well, not mortified, but sorely disappointed. Again, it happens; things are seldom the way we prefer to remember them. 

It all comes back, I think, to that fear of being unmasked, of being found out as a fake and a fraud. And again, the fact that many people, including my peers, have the same fear—well, as I said at the start, we're all kind of neurotic that way. But, in all fairness, I don't pretend to know everything. No historian worth his or her weight does, or should. In fact, I've been quite candid at times in mentioning how some of our viewers probably know more about a particular topic than I do. But what fun would life be if you weren't always learning something new? Very, very dull, I should think. I know that every time I research a show for the podcast, or look up something for one of these articles, I come away knowing more than I did at the outset. (Of course, you might suggest that this can be a pretty low bar to overcome.)

And anyway, isn't television, like movies, supposed to represent the magic of make-believe? So next time you're watching me on Dan Schneider, or any other podcast (Hint, hint!), remember that the people you see are often smarter than they appear on TV. And if I really drop the ball, be kind: don't rewind. TV  

June 17, 2024

What's on TV? Tuesday, June 19, 1962

The Andy Griffith Show isn't on Tuesday nights, but that doesn't stop this from being a good day for the show's co-star, Don Knotts. He does double duty on CBS, appearing first on The Red Skelton Show, and then, after a half-hour break, on The Garry Moore Show. An aside after the description for the Skelton show mentions that he plays Barney on the Griffith show; that's not repeated after the description for Garry Moore. I guess they figure we must have gotten the message by then. Be that as it may, this week's listings come from the Minneapolis-St. Pal Edition. 

June 15, 2024

This week in TV Guide: June 16, 1962

It's been quite a few years now since the concept of "six degrees of separation"* was coined, the idea being that everyone in the world could be connected to everyone else by no more than six degrees. The same could be said, I suppose, for articles in TV Guide. To test this theory, let's take a look at this week's issue and see if we can bring it all the way from 1962 to today in six steps or less.

*Or "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon," if you prefer.

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1.  Right doctor, wrong role: Westinghouse Presents was an occasional series of dramas sponsored by the electronics giant, previous sponsor of Studio One. On Wednesday evening Westinghouse Presents features Margaret Leighton in "The First Day" (9:00 p.m. CT, CBS), the story of a woman returning to her former life after having been hospitalized for a nervous breakdown. Leighton's husband in the play is played by Ralph Bellamy, who the next year would star as Dr. Richard Starke in NBC's psychiatric drama The Eleventh Hour. I would presume that everything turns out all right for Leighton but, if not, perhaps she could make an appointment with Dr. Starke.

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2. Speaking of which: The Eleventh Hour was a spin-off from NBC's enormously successful doctor show Dr. Kildare, starring Richard Chamberlain as the young intern James Kildare, with Raymond Massey as his mentor, the veteran Dr. Leonard Gillespie. The two men share the cover of this week's issue, with the feature article focusing on Massey, whose signature role prior to Kildare was Abraham Lincoln, whom he portrayed several times on stage, screen and television. (There's a wonderful story at the always-reliable Wikipedia of how a fellow actor joked that Massey wouldn't be satisfied with his Lincoln impersonation until someone assassinated him.)

Massey won plaudits for his portrayal of Gillespie, a much more nuanced and less caricaturish performance than those rendered in the movies by Lionel Barrymore. He was a distinguished actor, with two stars on Hollywood's Walk of Fame (one for movies, one for television), and Dwight Whitney's article highlights some colorful aspects of his life: an uncle was a bishop, his older brother was Governor General of Canada, and the Massey family owned the Massey-Harris Harvester Company, which we would recognize today as the manufacturing giant Massey Ferguson. His first Broadway role came courtesy of Noel Coward and Norman Bel Geddes (mid-century design icon and father of Dallas' Barbara Bel Geddes), and his movie career started with an offer from Sir Gerald du Maurier, father of the famed novelist Daphne.*

*Who, as far as I could tell, never wrote a work adapted into a movie in which Massey appeared.

Massey was a dignified actor who always invested his roles with a sense of gravitas. Sadly, there aren't too many of those around anymore.

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3. Since you mentioned it:  In addition to his several portrayals of Lincoln, Raymond Massey also played the abolitionist John Brown in a pair of movies—Santa Fe Trail and Seven Angry Men—and onstage in a dramatic reading of Stephen Vincent Benét's Pulitizer Prize-winning poem John Brown's Body. And it's that very story, John Brown's Body, that CBS has on Thursday night at 7:30, preempting the police drama Brenner. This one doesn't star Massey, but it does feature Richard Boone as the Narrator, with Douglas Campbell as John Brown. In a couple of seasons, Boone will star on NBC in The Richard Boone Show, an anthology series with a rotating repertory cast. Despite critical praise, it only runs one season before being canceled, replaced by The Man From U.N.C.L.E. Boone finds out about it not from the network, but from the trade papers.

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4. Her stock is rising: Actress Diana Millay, as it happens, appeared in both The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and The Eleventh Hour. But that is all in the future; today, in addition to being one of the hardest-working actresses in New York (with nearly 100 live shows to her credit), the 23-year-old is also making her mark as a day trader in the stock market. While most actresses are concerned with their reviews, Millay can be seen pouring over Forbes and The Wall Street Journal between takes. Later she'll find more success in commercial real estate and fine art.

This article is typical of so many that have run in TV Guide over the years, and you might wonder if anything ever happened with Millay or if she faded to obscurity like many a starlet from previous profiles. But in this case, Diana Millay did all right for herself, assuring lasting fame as Laura Collins in Dark Shadows. No word on how much of a killing she made in the market.

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     Paul Anka and friend.
5. Did someone say "young star"?
Any discussion of talented young performers has to include Paul Anka. At the time of this writing Anka is still 20—three years younger than Diana Millay—but in that time he's accomplished, well, let the statistics speak for themselves. At 15 he signed a contract with Don Costa at ABC/Paramount, and had his first hit: "Diana," which sold 8,500,000 copies. He followed that up with "Lonely Boy" and "Puppy Love," each of which were million-sellers. He's appeared as an actor in movies, most recently in the war drama The Longest Day, for which he also wrote the theme. According to the famed musical writing team of Comden and Green, "it is not too early to mention Paul Anka in the same breath with musical immortals." He's accessible, appearing constantly on variety shows: Sullivan, Como, Shore. He's a mean Password player. He makes well over a million dollars a year.

And he isn't even old enough to vote or drink.

The unbylined article portrays Anka as a driven businessman. He has little time for personal relationships, other than those that are part of the business. He has little time for girls, even though the broken romance is a staple of his songs. He's insecure; "I care about being liked. I want everybody to like me," he tells his interviewer. He's angered by those who resent his early success, and those who ridicule rock music in general.

What's particularly interesting about this article is that although Anka is already established as a major star in records, television and movies, his biggest hits are still ahead of him: "My Way," the Sinatra hit for which he wrote the English lyrics; "She's a Lady," the Tom Jones hit, and "Johnny's Theme," the Johnny in question being Johnny Carson. Among others. Not a bad career, hmm?

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6. What's old is new again: Paul Anka was payed a royalty every time the theme for The Tonight Show was played—over 1,400,000 times by one estimate. Every night Johnny's monologue began with that theme, and ended with Johnny's golf swing. And that brings us to the present day, and the highlight of the sporting week.

Palmer and Nicklaus: the changing of the guard
The U.S. Open golf championship, or the National Open as it was frequently called back in the day, is, then as now, this weekend's Big Sporting Event. Then, as now, it's being shown on NBC. But whereas this weekend's tournament runs for four days, concluding on Sunday, in 1962 the tournament is scheduled for three days, concluding on "Open Saturday" with a 36-hole marathon. And while a tie in this year's tournament will be decided by a two-hole playoff after the final round concludes, the national championship of 1962 ended in a tie that was decided by an 18-hole playoff the following day. 

Golf's reigning superstar, Arnold Palmer, is the hometown hero (from nearby Latrobe), and having shared the lead after the second and third rounds, everything seems to point to his second Open championship. However, at the end of 72 holes Palmer finds himself tied with a rising star: the 22-year-old Jack Nicklaus, who had been the low amateur at the last two Opens. The two meet in a playoff on Sunday, in front of a raucously pro-Palmer crowd. Jack leads Arnold by four shots after six holes and goes on to a three-shot victory. It's the start of the Nicklaus dynasty: his first professional win, and the first of his 18 major professional championships. Palmer, who had won the Masters earlier in the year and will add the British Open in July, takes his third Masters in 1964, but after that never wins another major title.

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And there you have it: from Margaret Leighton in "The First Day" to the U.S. Open in the present day, all in six steps. Not bad, hmm?

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If you wanted to, you could probably go from the female news reporters of 1962 to the news stars of today in six degrees or less. But it was tough being a pioneer in television news back then, and if you don't believe me, ask the women who are out there breaking the barrier, women like Lisa Howard. She's scored major interviews with the likes of Nikita Khruschev and Fidel Castro, she's covered political conventions and news stories, and yet, Time describes her as "blonde, curvy . . . a package guaranteed to lure males," who used her "looks" to "further her career." 

And then there's Nancy Hanschman Dickerson of CBS, whose two-year career in Washington has been marked by "scoop interviews with tough politicians." According to one male journalist, though, "She uses her very feminine appeal to get politicians to open up and talk." (Oddly enough, TV Guide itself describes Dickerson as "a sleek, equally curvy brunette.") Now, it's true that unless your name happens to be Mike Wallace, being charming and delightful certainly helps when it comes to getting newsmakers to open up; equally, Fox News is living proof that journalistic ability is not a be-all and end-all when it comes to making a splash on television. Nevertheless, Howard and Dickerson, along with NBC's UN correspondent Pauline Frederick, have demonstrated that while being attractive and personable might help one get a break, you're not going to be able to stay there unless you've got the ability to handle hard news. 

L-R: Lisa Howard, Nancy Dickerson, Pauline Frederick
Howard, who prior to working in news spent time as a soap opera actress on The Edge of Night and As the World Turns, has been involved in politics for five years, as well as writing articles for The Economist. and says that her scoops have come "not because I'm pretty—it's because I'm determined, aggressive." She points to a recent interview with New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller: "I found out where he was going to be—at a luncheon at the Commodore Hotel. I showed up with the camera in front of the hotel. He fled. I took the camera up to the luncheon and plugged it in front of the elevators to catch him on the way out. He went down the back stairs. I rushed to the next elevator stop, set up my cameras in his path. I threw him an important question. He couldn't refuse to answer so I got an interview. I heard someone behind me say, 'Dammit, she's done it again.' Now, that's not because I'm a woman. It's because I was unrelenting." 

Dickerson (whose son John is today a correspondent for CBS) relates the prejudice female journalists have to live with on a daily basis. "Do you realize that the National Press Club doesn't discriminate against public relations people, against lobbyists, against Negroes, but does discriminate against women? When guests like Nehru, Churchill, Khrushchev speak at the National Press Club, we women reporters can go sit in the balcony—but we cannot be luncheon guests." She chuckles that, because men make it so hard for women to get in the business, those women who do succeed are "really very good at their work. I suspect they are far better than most of the men. That's how it always is with persecuted minorities."

Frederick, who's been in the business longer and is, of the three, the least glamorous (she's praised as one who "covers the news like a man") recalls that in her early days, she was constantly sent to cover "women's stories." "I finally asked my boss why. He said, 'We're afraid that if people hear a woman discussing anything as serious as the UN, they won't listen. A woman's voice doesn't carry authority." She snorts at the memory: "I'm pretty sure his wife's voice carried authority!" She complains that the network is trying to turn her into a glamor girl as well; "At NBC they said I should change my hair style, take off my glasses, change the type of clothes I wear. . . I don't want to be appreciated for glamor. I want to be appreciated for my work." She sighs. "Apparently people look at a woman first and listen second. When a man is on the air, they listen first. I suppose I react that way myself."

And yet women continue to make inroads; Anne Morrissy, a "girl reporter" for ABC's American Newsstand, will cover the Vietnam War for ABC, while Phyllis Hepp is currently filing reports from Africa as a stringer for NBC. One can only conclude that, whether male reports like it or not, whether networks like it or not, "glamor in TV news is here to stay." 

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Notes from the Teletype and more:  In the works for the coming season: The Patty Duke Show, Lee Marvin's Lawbreakers, and Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. All of them made it to the small screen, and all of them make it to DVD. . . Future Oscar winner Marvin stars this week in "The Richest Man in Bogota," based on the sci-fi story by H.G. Wells, on the DuPont Show of the Week (Sunday, 9:00 p.m., NBC) . . . NBC announces that 68% of its prime-time programs for the 1962-63 season will be in color, compared with 57% this season and 41% a year ago. NBC remains the dominant player in the color television market, which proves that being owned by RCA pays dividends . . .The 1962 TV Guide Awards will air next week on NBC, headlined by Judy Holliday, Art Carney and Dave Garroway. . .Premiering this week on CBS daytime: To Tell The Truth, which adds the daytime component to its long-running nighttime run, now in its sixth season (Monday through Friday, 2:30 p.m.). The prime-time version will run until 1967, daytime ends a year later. Additionally, longtime soaps The Brighter Day (10:30 a.m.) and The Secret Storm (3:00 p.m.) expand from 15 minutes to a half-hour, leaving only The Guiding Light and Search For Tomorrow in the old radio-era length. Both will finally go to 30 minutes in 1968, bumping—To Tell The Truth.

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By the way, if you really do want to play this game with Kevin Bacon, then step 6 is as follows: Paul Anka was in Mad Dog Time with Diane Lane, who was in My Dog Skip with Kevin Bacon. See how easy it is? TV  

June 14, 2024

Around the dial

That looks like the coolest TV setup, doesn't it? It reminds me of fall Sundays back when I was a kid, when I'd bring a portable set out from the bedroom and put on top of the console in the living room, so I could watch two football games at once. Whenever one of them looked like it was getting interesting, I'd turn up the sound on that one and turn it down on the other. I don't watch football anymore, and I don't miss it—but I do miss memories like that.

There are other memories worth pursuing, though. A couple of weeks ago, we looked at an article about ways people could secure tickets to be in the studio audience for their favorite television shows, and I asked if anyone had been in the audience for a show. Our loyal reader Bill chimes in with his own memories: "I was fortunate to attend tapings of Wheel of Fortune on two occasions when they did special themed weeks in Orlando, Florida.  The first was at Universal Studios Florida in 1999 and the second at SeaWorld Orlando in 2008 (actually won an audience prize for correctly guessing the name of the 1973 pilot which was called Shopper’s Bazaar). I also remember Pat Sajak after one episode thanking everyone for attending the late evening recordings, that he and Vanna were taking a quick break to change clothes, and when coming back 'we’ll all pretend it’s tomorrow!'  It was a fun experience, although ironically I don’t really watch the show itself." Sounds like a lot of fun, Bill!

And now, on with the show. At bare•bones e-zine, Jack's Hitchcock Project turns to Francis Irby Gwaltney's tenth-season story, "Lonely Place," a dark, nasty piece of work with Teresa Wright, Pat Buttram, and Bruce Dern doing their best to chill us all.

At Cult TV Blog, John detours, as he sometimes does, to look at the Big Finish series of audio adventures based on popular British shows of the past. This week, it's "Remember Me," from the supernatural mystery series Sapphire and Steel, but that's not all; there's also a bonus review of the slasher film The Flesh and Blood Show. Two for the price of one!

David returns to his journey through 1970s TV this week at Comfort TV, and he's up to Monday nights in 1974. For me, Mondays always meant Monday Night Football back then (there's that game again!), but there was much more than that; how about CBS's lineup of Gunsmoke, Maude, Rhoda, and Medical Center? Not bad.

I've mentioned this before, I think, but there's always something haunting about Judy Garland, especially when you contrast pictures of her from her Wizard of Oz days with those taken in the 1960s, when she looked at least fifteen years older. At Realweegiemidget, Gill reviews one of the many movies about Garland's youth, the teleflick Rainbow: The Judy Garland Story, with Andrea McArdle.

Let's stay on the Garland express for a moment and look, not at a portrayal of Judy, but the real thing: The Clock, a 1945 movie co-starring Robert Walker, which gives her a chance to demonstrate her dramatic acting chops after a string of musicals. You can read Maddie's take on it at Classic Film and TV Corner.

A couple of weeks ago I talked about Lucille Ball on the Dan Schneider Video Interview, so it's a good tie-in to look at Paul's review of Lucy & Desi: A Home Movie over at Drunk TV. It's not a biopic, but a documentary, and it's indeed based on home movies of the couple during the first years of their marriage. If you're a Lucy fan, you might want to make sure you see this if you haven't already.

I've said this before, but the only thing as much fun as watching a classic movie or TV show is reading about it, and Martin Grams is on the job this week with reviews of four new books from Bear Manor Media, covering a quartet of classics: Lawman, Sheena, Queen of the Jungle; Shane; and North by Northwest. All signs point to some good additions to your library.

Last week I wrote a brief tribute to Doctor Who's William Russell, who died at the age of 99; this week Terence adds some well-selected words of his own at A Shroud of Thoughts; he also has an appreciation for film and television star Janis Paige, who died June 2, aged 101. Both of them are well worth remembering.

At A View from the Junkyard, Mike and Roger compare notes on "Killer," an episode of The Avengers that doesn't feature Linda Thorson. After the Diana Rigg years, it was bound to be difficult getting used to a new companion for Steed, but I thought Thorson grew into the role quite well, and her Tara is endearing on her own merits. See what they think, and what you think.]q

One of my favorite guest panelists in the last years of What's My Line? was the columnist Suzy Knickerbocker; endearingly, her last name was so long that, after her first couple of appearances, her nameplate simply said "Suzy." There's much to know about her, and you can read some of it at TravalancheTV  

June 12, 2024

Comfortably numb

TV Guide: What is TV's greatest need? 

Gore Vidal: A sense that getting people to buy things they do not need is morally indefensible. One does not ask for Utopia, only a slightly less frantic exploitation of the innocent. 

From the May 9, 1964 issue. It's not often that I find myself agreeing with Gore Vidal, at least not politically, but in this case I can't possibly find myself disagreeing.  TV  

June 10, 2024

What's on TV? Sunday, June 12, 1960

You'll often notice, especially on Sundays, a program simply called Christophers. This program, which ran on ABC and in syndication from 1952 to 2012, was a production of The Christophers, a Catholic religious group dedicated to the doctrine of religious tolerance. It's all in a very noble cause, but with that said, I can't resist commenting on today's program (11:30 a.m., WPIX), "Develop a Love of People," featuring John Daly, Jack Hailey, and Jack Bailey. Great gentlemen all, but my first thought was that this sounded like the cast of a movie being promoted by Johnny Carson's character Art Fern on his Tea Time Movie. (If you've seen the bit, you'll get the joke.) Ah well, I guess once you're a smart ass, you stay that way the rest of your life. Today's listings come from the New York Metropolitan Edition.