August 13, 2018

What's on TV? Thursday, August 15, 1963

I may have mentioned this before, but for several years I hosted a political talk show on public access television. I mention this not to brag, but to point out something that I've often said: being on TV is no big deal. That's not to disparage anyone who's ever been on television, but all the same it's true. At the time you think you're doing something significant, even important, but in the end very few of us leave behind any kind of mark.

The reason I'm bringing all this up is because the listings week's TV Guide, from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, include the names of most of the program hosts. Some of them we're sure to recognize: Hugh Downs on Today and Concentration; Huntley and Brinkley on the NBC news, Cronkite on the CBS news, Tom Kennedy on You Don't Say!, and so on. And every market has its local legends; Dave Moore and Bud Kraehling on WCCO, for example. But many more of them are little more than names on a printed page. Take the hosts of the shows on KTCA - Berkowitz, Brown, Wolf. We could look them up and might find something about them, but I doubt there's one person in 100,000 who remember them here. I'd never heard of Betty Wells, whose five-minute program airs at 4:00 p.m. on Channel 5, but if you go to the next-to-last page of this issue of Broadcasting magazine, you'll find an ad featuring her show.

All these people were, at one time or another, important enough to have their own television programs, and yet - well, we don't even do a good job of remembering those whom we should remember, let alone those who aren't nearly as well known. It all goes to show, I suppose, that the slave standing behind the triumphant general was correct, as he whispered in his ear, Sic transit gloria, all fame is fleeting. Let's see what the listings have to offer.

August 11, 2018

This week in TV Guide: August 10, 1963

There's no single dominant story this week, so we're just going to skip around a bit and see what we can come up with. OK with you all?

I've Got a Secret was on the cover of a lot of TV Guides. The game show was on the air for fifteen seasons, from 1952 to 1967, and with five strongly identifiable personalities on the show, there was plenty of material to fill the six issues that featured the show.

In this issue, the focus is on Henry Morgan, who ws with the show for virtually its entire run.  Not many people remember him anymore, but from the 40s through the 60s, Henry Morgan was the L'enfant terrible of radio and TV. He was a witty and intelligent satirist, a stylish presence on television, the host of several several programs of his own and guest on many more.  He was also a cantankerous presence, a misogynist ("Women should be very attractive and never taught to read.  The trouble with the average woman is that she's a little below average."), an egomaniac, a man with a cruel streak who found it impossible not to wind up in clashes with sponsors, costars, and anyone else who crossed his path.  There were those who praised him while others lined up to bury him. He was, I think, perpetually one step away from finding himself having to look for another job at another network; next year he'll be on NBC as one of the hosts of the American version of That Was The Week That Was.

In the "Things Aren't What They Used to Be" category, Shirl Conway, one of the stars of the CBS series The Nurses, must have said something in her profile a couple of weeks past, judging by the letter to the editor from Myrt Ober of Caldwell, NJ: "As a 'psychologically miserable' housewife, Miss Conway may I say I create more in one day of being a wife, mother and homemaker than you probably create in a whole month of acting. If loving and caring for one man and his children, decorating and running a home, not minding grime and dirt of hard work, yet keeping as attractive as possible, is losing her identity, there are many nameless women in this wonderful country of ours."  After a season, The Nurses became The Doctors and the Nurses, and storylines began to be carried by the male castmembers.  The Nurses wound up as a daytime soap opera, with the same characters but played by different actresses.

And Edith Efron, in the story headlined on top of the cover, asks the question "Why the Timid Giant [television, in this case] Treads Softly," and speculates that television shies away from controversial subject matter and investigative reporting because of "anxiety and fear of the Government's latent power over the industry [inhibiting[ broadcasters from digging more deeply into public-affairs subjects."  The FCC, the industry's federal investigative agency, is accused of "throwing its weight around inexcusably," and broadcasters are said to fear having their licenses yanked if they stir up too much trouble.  Since then, networks seem to have gotten a lot more comfortable tackling controversy and pointing investigative fingers - at least against one side of the political aisle.

◊ ◊ ◊

Let's see what's going on this week.

A few years ago, back when The AV Club was actually interesting instead of being a shill for left-wing causes, their TV critic Todd VanDerWerff did some very good writing on classic TV shows. One of those was The Defenders, which this week (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. CT, CBS) features part one of the two-part episode "Madman," starring Don Gordon as a death-row inmate who not only wants to die, he wants his mother there to witness it.

VanDerWerff cited this episode as an example of the series' defiance of the "wrap-it-up-neatly-in-50-minutes" method of so many programs, then and now, calling it "the kind of episode that would have a hard time making it through network notes sessions in the present, but the combination of CBS head William Paley’s largess, [producer Herbert] Brodkin’s clout, and [writer Reginald] Rose’s creative genius resulted in the heart-rending episode making it on the air in 1962, right in the middle of the period when television grew most ashamed of itself." This episode won two Emmys when the awards were presented at the end of the season; for those who missed it, they can check out part one on Saturday.  (Note the drawing of Gordon in the Close Up, rather than a picture.  TV Guide did arty things like this from time to time.)

Sunday night features a couple of interesting prospects; at 6:30 p.m. The Jetsons presents one of those most meta of storylines: the person who mistakes the filming of a TV show for the real thing. In this case, George witnesses an armored space-car robbery and overhears the hoods talking about rubbing out the witnesses. Little does he know it's all a scene from a TV police show. Confusion and hilarity ensue. (I seem to recall a similar storyline on Top Cat.) I don't remember this episode; maybe someone who's seen it can tell us if the cartoon was lampooning any police series in particular. At 7:00 p.m., CBS has a rerun of the Sullivan show, which was taped at the U.S. base at Guantanamo in Cuba. (Considering what's been going on there over the last year or so, it must have been a fairly tense atmosphere.) A good lineup: Connie Francis, Louis Armstrong, Carol Lawrence, Jack Carter, Frank Fontaine, and comedy pantomimist George Carl. Too bad The Hollywood Palace isn't on yet; I'll bet Ed would have whipped them this week.

On Monday, CBS has Comedy Hour Specials at 8:00 p.m., which sounds suspiciously like one of those summer anthology shows comprised of reruns and failed pilots. In this case, it's a rerun from 1960, "Just Polly and Me," which presents an interesting premise that also touches on the meta: Polly Bergen and Phil Silvers have just completed a TV show, and they're reviewing how some of the bits could have been better - whereupon they act out those bits in new and improved fashion. Nat Hiken, who wrote Silvers' great Bilko series, is the writer for this show as well. Here's a clip from it:

NBC repeats last year's Milton Berle special (8:30 p.m., NBC), with Berle hosting a throwback-style show with Jack Benny, Lena Horne, Janis Paige, and Laurence Harvey.

Tuesday it's Keefe Brasselle's variety show (9:00 p.m., CBS), with guests Felicia Sanders and Jules Munshin. Ann B. Davis and former boxer Rocky Graziano are among the regulars. There's nothing particularly interesting about this show in itself, just a chance to be reminded of one of the odder, more colorful characters in the entertainment business. Back a couple of years ago, Kliph Nesteroff wrote a very good bit on the remarkable story of Brasselle and his relationship with CBS and network honcho Jim Aubrey.

Bing Crosby appeared in one of his non-holiday specials on Wednesday night on NBC, with guests Bob Hope, Edie Adams, the Smothers Brothers, Pete Fountain, and Bing's son Gary.  "Leisure Time" is the theme, and I can't think of anyone who'd epitomize it better than Bing. (Keeping in tune with so many of this week's programming, it's a rerun from last year.) Pete Fountain (who died last year, I think; truly one of the greatest jazz clarinetists ever) is also the guest on Steve Allen's late-night show (10:30 p.m., WCCO), along with Bobby Vinton, and two of baseball's greats: Maury Wills of the Dodgers, and Orlando Cepada of the Giants.

On Thursday, Mel TormĂ© is one of the guests on The Lively Ones (8:30 p.m., NBC), the summer replacement for the sitcom Hazel, hosted by Vic Damone. That's followed at 9:00 p.m. by "The World of Maurice Chevalier," a look at the French star's career on his 74th birthday. Alexander Scourby is the narrator, which makes me wonder if this might be part of NBC's "Project XX" (variously seen as "Project 20") series of documentariesb, several of which were narrated by Scourby, who had the proverbial voice that could read the phone book* and still be interesting. And at 9:00 p.m. on CBS, it's the aforementioned The Nurses, with Keenan Wynn as a star comedian who's not laughing - because Shirl Conway's character, Liz, refuses to wait on his every beck and call.

*It occurs to me to ask: you do remember phone books, don't you?

For the best in female forms, there's the "International Beauty Spectacular," Friday from Long Beach (9:00 p.m., NBC), hosted by Lorne Greene. (Of course, we all know there's no way the star of NBC's Bonanza is about to appear on any other network.) I'd never heard of this pageant which "departs from the usual pose-and-interview contest by showcasing the contestants from 46 countries in the trappings of a theatrical production," including two brand-new songs by Meredith Willson, composer of The Music Man. Couldn't find out much about this pageant - not even who won it - or if it's still around in some form, but this was the 12th spectacular, and I found a listing for it as late as 1966, so make of that what you will. I wonder, the way things are going at the Miss America pageant, if we won't be saying the same thing about that in a few years?

◊ ◊ ◊

The networks are looking at ramping up their coverage of the civil rights struggle. You'll recall that two or three weeks ago I wrote about the 1968 issue of TV Guide where it seemed as if almost every night featured another special on civil rights and race relations, which tells you a little bit about just how big this issue is and how long it's been dominating the conversation in this country.

ABC has already announced a series of five half-hour specials on Sunday nights under the umbrella title "The Crucial Summer," the first episode of which airs this Sunday (although I don't see any indication that KMSP is showing it this week - maybe later, when it doesn't interfere with shows that could bring in more local commercial revenue). NBC's plans are the most spectacular; a three-hour prime-time documentary on Labor Day evening, talking about the struggle. According to TV Guide's Henry Harding, this will be the first time a network has ever preempted its entire evening schedule for a news documentary. CBS's one-hour special on how the media covers the race issue will be aired on August 21.

◊ ◊ ◊

The "Letter to the Editor of the Week" award has to go to Mrs. Condon S. Bush, of Augusta, Wisconsin, who writes, "I suggest that the game-show producers do a better job of picking the celebrity guests. Sometimes I wonder how the emcee is able to control the show when it is being usurped by some supposed celebrity. Perhaps it is the celebrities who should be screened." Ouch!

Finally, I got a kick out of this ad for an appearance by "The Stars of TV's Rawhide!" Clint Eastwood and Paul Brinegar, at a rodeo at St. Paul's Midway Stadium.

As the character "Wishbone," Brinegar was with Rawhide for the show's entire seven-season run, as part of a long and successful Hollywood career as a character actor.  I'm not sure what happened to the other guy, though. TV  

August 10, 2018

Around the dial

At Comfort TV, David says something I've believed for a long time: the end of the classic era of television starts with the end of television as a communal experience. (No wonder we get along so well.) For David, that era ended in the '80s, and this week he cites the signposts that mark the end of an era.

A frightening sight indeed: the original Ronald McDonald, courtesy of the Broadcast Archives at the University of Maryland. It's a good thing they went back to the drawing board.

When do seven lady truckers become "Seven Lady Captives"? When it's an episode of BJ and the Bear, in the latest review by Daniel at Some Polish American Guy.

Jack is back at bare-bones e-zine, but this time it's not the Hitchcock Project; instead, this week it's an appreciation of the author Frederic Brown and TV adaptations of his works. Case in point: "The Thin Line," an adaptation that appeared on Four Star's The Star and the Story.

Is Gary Seven a hero or a villain? That's the question at Classic Film and TV Cafe, where Rick considers the character played by Robert Lansing in the Star Trek episode "Assignment: Earth." Rick comments that Kirk is rarely as indecisive as he is here; it's also rare that a guest proves to be the equal of Kirk and Spock, as Seven is. It goes without saying that Lansing is terrific.

I like Jodie's piece on "The questionable narrator" over at Garroway at Large, proof that nothing takes the place of research. Did J. Fred Muggs really bite someone on Today? You'll just have to follow the link and find out!

Television's New Frontier: The 1960s takes a look at a show that's fairly unremarkable, but one that I find quite likable: Lock Up, a legal drama starring Macdonald Carey as real-life attorney Herb Maris. No courtroom scenes, but enjoyable nonetheless, and certainly available on YouTube.

At Cult TV Blog, John writes about The Avengers and the episode "November Five," which I remember having written about for TV Party! a few years ago. What struck me at the time was that it was an episode involving politics, a man with a rifle, and a date in November - all three of those being things with great significance in this country. TV  

August 8, 2018

Clancy and Willie and Carmen

This week, I thought we’d take a brief look at another of the kids’ shows that you see in this week’s TV Guide. Two shows, actually, involving three of the Twin Cities' great TV personalities: John Gallos as Clancy the Cop, Allan Lotsberg as his sidekick, Willie Ketchum (get it?), and Carmen the Nurse (Mary Davies). Carmen started out on Axel and His Dog, eventually replacing Axel after Clellan Card's death. (I wrote about that here.)

Carmen's show was usually the early one, followed by Clancy and Willie (which was then followed by Captain Kangaroo). Sometimes it would be billed as Clancy and Carmen, followed by Clancy and Willie, other times it was just Carmen and just Clancy and Willie. Confusing enough in the TV Guide, although I don't recall having been that confused when I was a kid.

Here's a nice summary on Mary Davies Orfield from the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame. John Gallos is there as well, Allan Lotsberg isn't (yet), but here's a sound clip from a radio interview with him. There's a really good article on the whole Minneapolis kids' show scene, with plenty of information on Clancy, Willie, and Carmen at the great TV Party!

The Clancy show is notable as the only kids’ show I ever appeared on, back in my misbegotten time as a Cub Scout. I didn’t last long as a Scout; our troop folded, and I wasn’t exactly psyched enough to join another one, but it remains to this day the only chance I’ve ever had to wear a uniform. Anyway, the big treat for our troop was the day we got to go down to the old Channel 4 studio at the site of the former Radio City Theater, to appear on the show. Since it was a morning show, the taping was done in the afternoon, after school, and then shown the next day. I remember that we sat in a bleacher kind of set-up, and that I was in the last row, since I was the tallest of the group. Other than that I don’t recall much; I know that I wasn’t on camera other than the group shot of all of us, which would have been a relief since I was far too self-conscious to want attention drawn to me. I don’t have any bad memories of it, at least; John Gallos and Allan Lotsberg always had the reputation for being very warm personalities, and I’m pretty confident they would have been good to us. I’m sure we got some kind of goody bag as well.

I remember that set!

Anyway, Clancy, Willie, and Carmen were part of the last local kids’ show on the air in the Twin Cities. They managed to stick around until 1977, when they went off the air along with Captain Kangaroo, to be replaced by many incarnations of the CBS Morning News. (How’s that working for you, CBS?) Oh, and WCCO stuck Donohue on in the morning as well—perfect programming for kids, don’t you think?

Pay no attention to that Severe Thunderstorm Warning

John Gallos died a few years ago. His long career at WCCO was anything but stagnant following the demise of Clancy; he hosted a program featuring Laurel and Hardy shorts until 1985, and his Sunday morning religion program ran from 1963 to 1994. He was also one of the station’s announcers, and in all the years I’ve watched TV here in the Twin Cities, I’ve never once heard anyone say anything bad about him. Nor have I Allan Lotsberg, who I got to see again a few years ago at a local retrospective on Twin Cities kids’ shows. Needless to say, he got quite a reception; don’t hold me to this, but he may be the last Twin Cities kids’ show personality still living. Mary Davies died a few years ago as well, but not before doing book signings with Julian West and Don Stolz for the book What a Card! (Yup, I've got a signed copy of that!)

Those were wonderful, wonderful memories, and I think everyone from my age group feels the same way. I wonder—what will today’s kids think about when they look back in 50 years? Can you have fond memories of a cellphone? TV  

August 6, 2018

What's on TV? Tuesday, August 8, 1967

We've got a lot to look at this week, an almost full slate of channels from the Minnesota State Edition. What's missing? KTCA, the St. Paul-Minneapolis public television station, is off for the week. Did it take the month off, or the summer? Not sure; I'd have to go back and dig into other issues to be sure, but the only other time I've seen this is during the Christmas school break.

Anyway, have a go with this, enough here that we've even got some tidbits for each station.

August 4, 2018

This week in TV Guide: August 5, 1967

Far be it from me to suggest for even a moment that a country like Russia might attempt to exert influence over United States media. I mean, who ever heard such a foolish thing as that?

Believe it or not, in this week's TV Guide Neil Hickey and Susan Ludel voice their suspicions that the Soviet Union is trying to influence how TV documentaries portray the country. Why, for heaven's sake, they might even be censoring coverage! There have been a raft of news programs in the early 60s about this mysterious and foreboding land; the question, as Hickey and Ludel put it, is just how accurate these programs are. “Can a documentarian- given the rather severe restrictions placed on his actions by the soviet government – convey a valid picture of what really is going on in the Soviet Union?” The networks deny any interference, probably to protect their news bureaus inside Russia, but privately many in the business agree that because of Soviet interference, “American TV documentaries are not presenting a true picture of the Soviet Union.”

Few newsmen are as outspoken as CBS’ Marvin Kalb, who in 1960 presented “The Volga,” a program detailing life along the famed 2300-mile river. The documentary portrayed Russia as a country locked into “a vast and impersonal bureaucracy,” spending heavily on its space program at the expense of its “backward” countryside, its young people resigned to “dull and faceless elements” in the machine. It was not the picture of Russia that the Soviets wanted people to see, and they demanded that CBS delay the program until they could issue a response. CBS refused, and in the wake of the broadcast CBS’ Moscow bureau was closed for eight months, while the Soviets withdrew permission for other network programs, including NBC’s coverage of the Tchaikovsky International music competition..

That backlash worries some American journalists, who think Kalb’s criticism may be ruining it for everyone. Says an unnamed NBC newsman, “I completely agree with the Russians about ‘The Volga.’ Kalb was spiteful, nasty and biased; the Russians were very upset about it. I talked to some CBS people about this, and they agree with me.” One who did go on the record, ABC VP Thomas Wolf, defends his network’s documentary, “Ivan Ivanovitch,” said to portray a typical Soviet family. “Isn’t it a fact that many Russians are living closer to American standards of physical comfort?” he asks. “I think that what we photographed is an accurate picture.”

An anonymous documentary producer isn’t having any of that, though. “[I]t’s preposterous that the family in ‘Ivan’ is average,” he says in reply. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the Soviet Union put the family in that apartment, painted it before the TV crew arrived, then sent the family back where they came from when the filming was over.” The producer can’t talk about this publicly; if he did, “my network could be closed off forever from doing documentaries in Russia.” For those who want to play the Soviet game, though, “Spoonfeeding is the order of the day.”

That the Soviet Union may be attempting to control media portrayals of its country is, in Captain Renault’s words, shocking.* (Insert sarcasm icon here.) That there are American journalists agreeing with the Soviets is no less so.

◊ ◊ ◊

While The Hollywood Palace is on summer break, ABC filled the Saturday night time slog with Piccadilly Palace, a London-based variety show starring the iconic British comedy duo of Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise, We'll stop in from time to time during the summer months to see who has the best lineup..

Sullivan: Ed’s guests are comedian Corbett Monica; singers Lou Rawls, Nancy Ames, and the Kim Sisters; the U.S. Air Force Academy Chorale; puppet Topo Gigio; the Rudas Dancers; acrobat Arthur Haynes; and the Pollack Brothers’ Circus Elephants.

Palace: In addition to regular Millicent Martin, this week Morecambe and Wise welcome Eric Burdon and the Animals, and singer Gene Pitney.

Your fun fact for the week: Millicent Martin, the house singer on Piccadilly, was best-known for her turn singing the topical songs on the BBC’s That Was The Week That Was – a role filled on the American version by none other than Nancy Ames. Small world, isn't it?*

*As Stephen Wright says though, I wouldn't want to paint it.

Well, I don’t think this requires much thought. Gene Pitney’s no slouch, singing “Town Without Pity,” the theme from Kirk Douglas' gritty courtroom drama, and while The Animals – or, as they were also known during this time, Eric Burdon and the New Animals – might not be the group that rocked the scene with "House of the Rising Sun," they can still bring it with hits like "When I Was Young."  I don’t know if this clip is from that broadcast, but it’s from American TV, and it’s 1967, so that’s good enough for me.

Compared to that, even an puppet like Topo Gigio can’t compete. The verdict: no matter the country, it’s the Palace this week.

◊ ◊ ◊

We haven’t had much to talk about in the sporting world lately, so it’s good that we’ve got a few big events this week.

On Saturday afternoon, ABC’s Wide World of Sports expands to two hours to present a heavyweight boxing doubleheader from the Astrodome in Houston, part of the elimination tournament to select a new champ after Muhammad Ali was stripped of the title earlier in the year for refusing military induction. On the card, the 8th ranked Jimmy Ellis defeats #9 Leotis Martin in a 9th round TKO, while Thad Spencer, #5 in the world, wins an easy 12-round decision over #4 Ernie Terrell (who’d lost to Ali in a previous title bout). Eventually, Ellis will go on to win the vacant title, defeating Jerry Quarry in a 15-round decision in April 1968, but he’s a lightly-regarded champion who defends his title only once in twenty months before being knocked out in February 1970 by a fighter who’d declined to take part in the tournament – Joe Frazier, who becomes undisputed heavyweight champion.

Meanwhile, Sunday features one of those things that goes a long way toward explaining why it took soccer so long to become a big sport in this country. American fans with long memories will recall how, until relatively recent history, they had to suffer through broadcasts that included commercial interruptions during the match - but don’t worry; if we miss a goal they’ll bring it to us on instant replay after the break. In fact, referees were even known to call fake “injury” delays and questionable fouls in order to work those commercials in without missing any of the action. Bad as that was, this story might go one better.

CBS’ Game of the Week features the Toronto Falcons taking on the Oakland Clippers. The match starts at 2:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon, and is scheduled for a two-hour timeslot. A soccer match lasts 90 minutes, plus a 15-minute halftime. Now, supposing CBS had a five-minute pregame, and allowing for any additional stoppage time, that’s going take us pretty much up to the two-hour limit. And yet, at the end of the listing for Sunday’s game, we get the following: “Channel 3D [KDAL, Duluth] will leave the game at 4 P.M. in order to join the Western Open.”

By my measure, this would mean that anyone watching on KDAL would probably have missed the last 20 minutes of the match. Given that Oakland won 2-0, it’s quite possible that the outcome would still have been in doubt when the station made the switch. It’s soccer’s own version of the Heidi Game, one year before the Raiders and Jets.* Adding to the confusion, three of the four stations carrying the syndicated coverage of the Western Open golf tournament were, like KDAL, CBS affiliates also showing the soccer – but the other two channels, KGLO in Mason City, Iowa and KEYC in Mankato, Minnesota, chose to stay with the soccer and join the golf in progress. Given that the golf coverage was for only 90 minutes, that means those viewers probably got to see only the last two or three holes of Jack Nicklaus’ victory. If you were a fan of soccer and golf, it was a tough day no matter how you look at it.

*Appropriately, the match was even played in the same stadium – the Oakland Coliseum. Coincidence? I think not.

Finally, there’s a very interesting article on NBC sportscaster Curt Gowdy, the cowboy from Wyoming turned sportscaster. Longtime readers will recognize Gowdy as one of my “big-game” announcers, and in 1967 he’s also one of the busiest. He’s just left his 15-year gig as play-by-play man for the Boston Red Sox to take over the Game of the Week for NBC. He’s also NBC’s main broadcaster for the American Football League, and hosts NBC’s Sportsman’s Holiday and ABC’s American Sportsman outdoor shows.

Something I didn’t know about Gowdy is that for years he’d suffered from back troubles that caused stabbing pain so severe he once missed an entire season for the Red Sox, and often had required him to remain standing throughout his broadcasts. Today, the pain has subsided somewhat; Gowdy can at least sit through a game without awful pain, but “I still can’t do anything so strenuous as play golf. Fishing and walking are about my limit.”

Gowdy has some interesting thoughts on the games he announces; he thinks football should move kickoffs from the 40 to 30 yard line to encourage more returns (as indeed they would, before eventually moving the kickoff back to the 35), and that baseball needs to do something about that “slow-motion pace” I discussed earlier. “The fans deserve a little more action,” he says. Quite an announcer, and quite a guy.

◊ ◊ ◊

We're reaching the part of the summer where there isn't a lot to write about in the program details, so we'll wrap it up with a look at this week's cover, featuring the long-running duo of  NBC’s Today Show (and later ABC’s 20/20), Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters. Now, I'll admit that I’ve never been a fan of Walters, either professionally or personally, and as the years go by she seems more like the wacky aunt of the family. Still, there’s much of interest in Edith Efron’s feature story on Walters, bearing the provocative title, “How to Manufacture a Celebrity.”

In truth, Today’s always had something of a split identity. Is it a news show or a variety program? Entertainment or information? Hugh Downs, the show’s third host (following Dave Garroway, an all-around personality, and John Chancellor, a hard newsman) came to the program after years as Jack Paar’s Tonight sidekick, and after Today concludes he’s off to another studio to host the game show Concentration. When Downs is on vacation, his replacements are most often entertainment types such as James Daly (later of Medical Center) and Burgess Meredith (soon to be Batman’s Penguin). And one of the show’s arguably most famous personality was a chimp.

The show’s female component – the “Today Girl” – has likewise sent mixed messages, featuring the likes of Lee Meriwether (former Miss America, future Catwoman), Helen O’Connell (former bandsinger), Florence Henderson (future Mrs. Brady), Betsy Palmer (later of I’ve Got a Secret), Pat Fontaine (former weather girl), and Maureen O’Sullivan (Tarzan’s Jane, and mother of Mia Farrow). It was into this role that Barbara Walters stepped, and by 1967 she’s become the show’s longest-running female member.

As a television “personality,” Walters wasn’t exactly created out of thin air –she did have some journalistic chops, certainly more than her predecessors, and viewers like that she acts like a reporter instead of “a feather-headed hostess.” And yet there’s also no question that NBC’s publicists are out to build Barbara Walters into a star. There’s a profile in TV Guide, a photoshoot for Life, and Vogue asks for her beauty secrets. She writes regular articles for the Ladies’ Home Journal and appears daily on NBC’s popular radio program “Monitor.” She’s more visible doing live commercials on Today and appears in ads for the program. She’s out on the lecture circuit, receiving awards from various groups, appearing on talk shows, and getting invitations to fashionable parties, including one at the White House. Her hair and makeup have changed, her wardrobe is more glamorous.

But for all that, says Efron, Walters is still “only about a third of the way through the assembly line,” nowhere near “the big leagues, inhabited by women like Zsa Zsa or even by Arlene Francis.” Walters herself remarks that “if somebody recognizes me in New York I’m thrilled to death.” And her colleagues say she remains unpretentious and easy to work with. Barbara Walters hasn’t yet become the icon she is today, but life as a star isn’t bad. “It’s chic to say these things don’t matter,” she says, “but it’s terribly nice to have the recognition.” TV  

August 3, 2018

Around the dial

At bare-bones e-zine, Jack continues the Hitchcock Project look at the work of writer Clark Howard; this time the tenth-season episode "Night Fever" with Colleen Dewhurst, and Tom Simcox, as well as a very young Peggy Lipton.

For the kid in all of us, the Broadcasting Archives at the University of Maryland shares pictures of a delightful collection of classic TV coloring books, just in time for National Coloring Book Day! Did you have any of these when you were growing up?

Even though it's now August, it's still Christmas in July at Christmas TV History, and here's a link to the entry from yours truly. They're all worth checking out, and I hope you will.

At Comfort TV, David returns to the idea of "series that should have had a final episode," touching on one of my favorite examples - Hogan's Heroes. I think you'll enjoy his take on it, and I don't say that just because he has some kind words for me!

And this would seem a good time to mention my friend Carol, the brains behind Bob Crane - Life and Legacy, who just completed a successful appearance at Liberty Aviation Museum discussing her Bob Crane bio. I'm sorry I couldn't make it, but it sounds like a terrific museum to visit. Ah, someday.

Cult TV Blog is back on the case with The Avengers, reviewing "The Man With Two Shadows," a terrific story that also features a shot of Mrs. Gale in her underwear. The Horn Section is on the review trail as well, with Love That Bob! and "Bob Retrenches."  If you're fans of these shows, I assume you'll be reading these, but even if you're not, I hope you check them out - they make make you fans!

And at Garroway at Large, Jodie is back with a great story on how the memory can play tricks on you, and what that means for historians and biographers trying to tell the full story.

That's it for today - see you back here tomorrow, in the pages of TV Guide! TV