October 25, 2021

What's on TV? Saturday, October 25, 1969




An uneventful day in an uneventful week, and I suppose we should be grateful for small favors like that. Over on NBC, one of the two schools on College Bowl is the University of Minnesota at Morris, located about ten miles from the World's Worst Town™. They lost badly to Bradley, though, so I don't feel too bad about it. On the syndicated music show Upbeat (1:00 p.m., WGR), whoever edited the listings managed to misspell Lesley Gore's name, but considering the number of typos I make, I shouldn't complain too much. And on tonight's Boston Symphony concert, the narrator of Copland's "Lincoln Portrait" is Senator Ted Kennedy. I wonder when this was recorded; Chappaquiddick, after all, was only three months before. What would Honest Abe have thought?

October 24, 2021

Doctor Who comes to the big screen






The following is part of the Third Great Hammer-Amicus Blogathon, running this weekend at many of your favorite blogs. Be sure to check our sponsors,Cinematic Catharsis and Realweegiemidget, throughout the weekend for the latest posts.

In a just world—that is to say, one that responded to our every whim and folly—the two Doctor Who movies made by Peter Cushing would have featured not only the Daleks, but The Master, who of course would have to have been played by Christopher Lee. The sky would have been the limit: Cushing as the brilliant, eccentric genius, against not only the most malevolent creatures science fiction has ever seen, but Lee as the most suave, charming, and sinister villain anyone could ask for. Think of it!

Alas, the world is not just, which is why we still have to put up with taxes and rainy days and Jimmy Kimmel on late night television (or any television, for that matter). Instead, our story opens with Terry Nation, the mastermind behind The Doctor's eternal adversaries, the murderous metallic marauders of the universe, the Daleks. In an era when monsters (including those seen on Who) were frequently little more than stunt men in rubber suits, the Daleks were a revelation: they bore no resemblance whatsoever to a human being, had no visible means of propulsion, and spoke in a harsh, grating voice, threatening anyone who attempted to get in their way with "extermination." They were also cruel, ruthless, and virtually indestructible, not to mention ideal for product tie-ins. Their appearance in the second serial of Doctor Who in 1963 made them instant stars, soon to appear in books and a comic strip. 

Nation, who conceived and wrote the early Dalek stories, was eager to capitalize on the popularity of his creation, and harbored hopes that he could spin them off as a separate entity, into the United States. As a possible first step, Nation sold the film rights to his first three Dalek serials—The Daleks, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, and The Chase—for £500 to a pair of Americans, Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg, who in 1964 had founded Amicus Productions, specializing in in low-budget sci-fi and horror films. 


The potential for a series of movies featuring the Doctor and his arch enemies must have been the cause of great excitement on the part of Whovians, which probably lasted until they heard of Subotsky's plans to turn the stories into thrillers—for kids. While it's true that the TV series was often seen as children's programming, there was a subliminal adult sensibility to many of the stories, and the Daleks themselves were an allegorical representation of the Nazis. As well, many of the Who stories during the first few seasons were historical dramas set against the background of real events such as the French Revolution. In other words, the show's appeal to children was based on excitement and adventure, with just enough education to satisfy the BBC.

Another important element, however, was the ability to provide children with a good fright. The show had become known for the image of kids hiding behind the sofa, peering around the corner to watch the Daleks that they couldn't quite stop watching. As anyone who's been a child—which basically means all of us—knows, kids find the prospect of being scared to be equal parts daunting and enthralling. This, however, was not what Subotsky had in mind, as he told Kinematograph Weekly in April 1965:

We’ve taken Terry Nation’s first seven episodes of the tv serial and re-written them into a screenplay, at the same time injecting a considerable amount of comedy. On tv, they take themselves so deadly seriously. This is all action, excitement and comedy. We intend to full use of the colour, spectacle, and action that make the difference between large and small screen entertainment. One of the things we have to make it different and better is splendour.

I find this kind of surprising, to be honest, considering the reputation that Amicus would have over the years for horror movies. Not only that, but they had Van Helsing himself, Peter Cushing, playing the Doctor. But then, I've never been in the movie business, so I don't pretend to understand how the moguls think. Or don't as the case may be. 

With that in mind, let's take a brief look at the two movies that resulted from the Amicus-Nation deal, and why true Doctor Who fans should give them a look despite their, ur, limitations.


Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965)
SCREENPLAY BY MILTON SUBOTSKY  |  DIRECTED BY GORDON FLEMYNG

The first, and perhaps most critical, decision was to strip the Doctor of his unearthliness. No longer was he a renegade Time Lord, on the run from his own people. In fact, he wasn't any kind of alien; instead, Dr. Who (a title and a name, not a question) was one of those eccentric inventors that we've all come to know and love over the years, experimenting (as all eccentric inventors must, it seems) with a machine capable of time travel. Why the change? Well, in addition to helping streamline the story without getting bogged down in details, there was a very real reason for the change: as writer Kyle Anderson points out, the deal Subotsky made with Terry Nation didn't include anything other than what was in Nation's Dalek scripts; since the premise of the series was laid out in the very first episode, the Time Lord concept (which was the IP of the BBC) couldn't legally be adapted into the movie. 

Dr. Who has not one, but two granddaughters: Susan (played by Roberta Tovey) and Barbara (Jennie Linden). Barbara's old enough to have a boyfriend, Ian (Roy Castle), so we still have the Barbara-Ian dynamic. Best of all, we have the Daleks—big, bold, and colorful. (The television version on steroids, so to speak.) The plot, adapted to accommodate the changes to the premise and not constrained by the need to segue into the subsequent story, roughly follows that of the TV version: our heroes are whisked off in the time machine that Dr. Who has been working on, a machine he calls Tardis, and wind up on a barren planet called Skaro (although it's not referred to as such until the sequel). The Doctor tricks the others into journeying to the large city they see in the distance, telling them that Tardis' fluid link is leaking and they must try to locate mercury to repair the leak; in reality, there is nothing wrong with the link; the Doctor just wants to investigate.

As they are exploring, the Doctor and his companions are taken prisoner by the Daleks, who confiscate the fluid link from the Doctor, trapping the four on the planet. While in captivity, the Doctor overhears the Daleks talking, and finds out that  find themselves in the middle of a civil war between the human-looking, pacifist Thals and the murderous, Nazi-like Daleks. They also find out that the planet is contaminated by radiation: it keeps the Daleks prisoners inside their casing and the city, and it means death to the travelers unless they can get the anti-radiation drug that conveniently happens to be inside the Tardis. The Doctor makes a deal with the Daleks: if they allow Susan to return to the Tardis and bring back the drug, they will share the drug with the Daleks. 

Stick 'em up!

On her way back from the Tardis, Susan meets Alydon (Barrie Ingham), leader of the Thals, the other race on the planet. The Thals and Daleks are old enemies, having fought the nuclear war that contaminated Skaro. The Thals also have an antidote to the radiation poisoning, but they have problems of their own: their crops have failed, and they're hoping to trade it with the Daleks in return for food. The homicidal Daleks, though, don't need it anymore (thanks to the Doctor), so they lay a trap for the Thals, hoping to wipe them out and take over the planet. 

In a wonderful scene, the Doctor and his companions are able to overwhelm a Dalek, and escape from captivity. They haven't really escaped, though; as long as the Daleks have the fuel link (remember that?), they remain stranded on Skaro. They try to convince the Thals to help them recover the link, but not so fast: remember, the Thals are now pacifists, horrified by the war and vowing never to fight again. But the Doctor, devious as ever (and when it comes to that, Cushing need not take a back seat to William Hartnell), makes as if he's willing to trade the Thal woman Dyoni (Yvonne Antrobus) for the link. In fighting to prevent Dyoni from being used as a hostage, the Thals find out they aren't such pacifists after all, and they launch an attack on the city

The Daleks, for all their fearsomeness, have always had an Achilles wheel, I suppose you would call it; I think it was Tom Baker's Doctor who speculated that it was their inability to think the way humans do, but I've forgotten the details. Anyway, in the movie version they retain that knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory; the link is recovered, Ian is able to trick them into accidentally blowing up their own control counsel, and everyone lives happily ever after, or at least until the next movie.*

*James Bond isn't the only one with no time to die, after all. The Daleks never really do disappear, do they?


The movie was, I suppose, successful enough; the always-reliable Wikipedia reports that it was the twentieth biggest British box office moneymaker in 1965. (The #1 movie at the box office that year? The Sound of Music, which could have used a Dalek or two.) The critics hated it, as they often do with movies of the genre; my favorite review is Stuart Heritage's 2013 retrospective look, in which he said, of Roy Castle's Ian, "to call him hammy would be to provide the greatest disservice to pigs." It is perhaps the single biggest mistake that the movies would make; making the Doctor an eccentric scientist is questionable enough, but defensible when considering the terms of the contract. The television version of Ian Chesterton, though, was cut from the bolt of heroic cloth, an intelligent and compassionate teacher who nonetheless maintained his cool when thrust into what would have been an incomprehensible situation for anyone. He was not, under any circumstances, a buffoon, and Castle's portrayal, whether or not dictated by the director and the script, brings credit to no one.

The movie won plaudits for the sets and use of color, but everyone agreed that Cushing, in attempting to take on a role that had already been made iconic by William Hartnell, was in a no-win situation; as a human Doctor, he couldn't possibly satisfy fans of the series, but Subotsky's script* didn't give him enough to do.

*Even though Subotsky was assisted in both movies by David Whitaker, the TV series' first script editor, as well as the ghost writer of the Dalek comic strip. 

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Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966)
SCREENPLAY BY MILTON SUBOTSKY  |  DIRECTED BY GORDON FLEMYNG

By the time we get to Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 AD, we are now in, well, the year 2150, and rather than taking place on Skaro, the action has moved to earth itself, which the Daleks are now attempting to conquer. It was inevitable that there would be a sequel, given the relative success of the first movie and the continuing popularity of the Daleks. Once again, Peter Cushing is on hand as The Doc—I mean, Dr. Who, with Roberta Tovey as Susan. Thankfully, we're spared the Ian/Barbara duo; instead of Roy Castle's bumbling Ian, we have Bernard Cribbins* as bumbling policeman Tom, who accidentally stumbles into the adventure when he mistakes Tardis for a Police Box. (Imagine that.) And Dr. Who's granddaughter Barbara has been replaced by his niece Louise (Jill Curzon), meaning that the Doctor not only has a child out there somewhere, he also has a sibling. How big is this guy's family, anyway?

*Cribbins will return to the Whoniverse in 2007 as Donna Noble's grandfather Wilfred Mott, making him the only actor to play two different companions in any iteration of the story.

At any rate, the Doctor, Susan, Louise and Tom have traveled to London of the year 2150, and discover that the city in a state of near destruction at the hands of the Daleks. (They probably also discovered that even in 2150, England hasn't won the World Cup, but that's a different story.) A resistance has formed (more shades of the World War II allegory), including David (Ray Brooks) and Wyler (Andrew Keir); meanwhile, the Daleks have turned some captured prisoners into brainwashed Robomen (not to be confused with Cybermen or Cybernauts, of course), while other prisoners are forced to work in the mines in Bedfordshire.

The Doctor and his three companions take turns being captured and recaptured during the struggle between the Daleks and the Resistance. Eventually, it transpires that the Daleks' ultimate plan (as opposed to their Master Plan) is to use the mine to blow out the Earth’s core and turn the earth into an interplanetary spaceship from which they can maraud about the universe, and the various elements of the plot contrive to bring everyone to Bedfordshire for the climactic struggle. Looking at diagrams of the mineshafts, the Doctor realizes that an old shaft leads to a convergence between earth's magnetic poles, and that if the Dalek bomb can be redirected to blow up here, it would result in a force that would suck the Dalek saucer into the core, destroying it.


During the ensuing battle, Tom is able to create a ramp that will serve to redirect the bomb; meanwhile, Dr. Who uses the radio to order the Robomen to attack the Daleks, allowing all four of the earthlings to escape. While the Daleks are able to put down the rebellion and release the bomb, their plans are foiled when the bomb explodes and, as the Doctor anticipated, sucks the Daleks into the core, and brings their saucer crashing down on the mine, delivering a blow to the British mining industry perhaps, but saving the rest of the world. Dr. Who and his companions return to the present day, and everyone lives happily ever after—until the next time. . .

Reviews for Invasion Earth: 2150, as was the case with Dr. Who & the Daleks, were mostly negative, with the Times calling it "little advance on the first." The technical depiction of the Daleks once again was the most praiseworthy element of the movie, and critics had kind things to say about the climactic destruction of the Daleks' saucer. Compared to the first movie, Invasion was a financial disappointment, and plans for the third movie, The Chase, were abandoned.  

A criticism often made of Invasion is that Peter Cushing isn't given enough to do, and winds up being more of a device to advance the plot; in fact, Cushing became ill during production of the movie, with the result that his participation was cut back, with some of his scenes rewritten for other characters.


Even while acknowledging the changes that were made to the stories, whether required by the legal terms of the contract or by the running times of the movies (neither of which exceeded 90 minutes), the movies fall short of expectations. The Doctor's male companion, whether Ian or Bernard, is generally unherioc. The plots can be difficult to follow, and a warning should have been included that these movies could induce considerable eye-rolling in anyone over the age of six. There's also a decided superficiality to the movies; while the television series (at least originally) sought to be educational as well as exciting, and with a basis in history as well as rousing adventure, Invasion plays more like a Saturday-afternoon serial—all sugar and no nutrition. 

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And so you're forced to ask the question: why? Why make the movie, when the series is already there? Why use some aspects of the Whovian canon, and not other? In other words, why change it and yet leave it the same? And what does watching the movies today offer to the modern viewer, one who has had far more access to the Doctor Who universe than could have been imagined when the movies came out?

To answer the first question first, the movies offered the obvious appeal of seeing the Daleks in glorious color, and almost larger than life, compared to the television series. For modern eyes, especially those who tend to avoid anything in black-and-white, you can't underestimate the power that comes from seeing in crisp, vivid color for the first time something that's only been viewed previously in various shades of gray. It's almost like viewing a two-dimensional image in three-dimensions--perhaps not as stark, but not far off. 


In addition, there's the status of the movies as a historical document. As one critic perceptively noted, the great value of the movies is that they serve as a visual record of the Hartnell era at a time when those episodes weren't readily available. You might balk at that description, given how much canonical ahistoricality there is, but remember that back then, the original Hartnell episodes were rarely replayed--and, in the United States, they weren't seen at all, except perhaps in brief clips, until the late 1980s. It wasn't as simple as just popping a disc in the DVD player, or streaming it on the Doctor Who Roku channel; if you wanted to see, and not just read about, the genesis of the Daleks (no pun intended), this was about as close as you were going to get. Even with all the changes that the movies, the storylines would have been obviously recognizable to anybody seeing them at the time. And so while we might complain about them, we should also view them with a certain gratitude for the context they can offer.

If the movies do have something of the intellectual content of the Saturday-afternoon serials, it should also be remembered that those serials could be fun. Reviewing Invasion, the film critic for the Times wrote that "Grown-ups may enjoy it, but most children have more sense." Sometimes, though, grown-ups are right about these things; children may have sense, but they're also prone to being very literal, and maybe you need to be a grown-up to appreciate that kind of movie that we have to admit is just a bit silly.

Finally, of course, there's the performance of Peter Cushing himself as The Doctor. After all, he's Peter Cushing, and there's something charismatic just about that.  One of the concessions that the television series had made to William Hartnell's age was to cast William Russell, who had played Sir Lancelot in the ITV series of the same name, as schoolteacher Ian Chesterton; his Ian would be capable of providing the traditionally heroic, action-oriented stunts that an adventure series required. Cushing, however, was more than capable of convincing viewers that he could take care of himself; having played everything from Baron Frankenstein to Profession Van Helsing in the Hammer oeuvre, he didn't need a stand-in, as it were, to assume those duties for him. Perhaps the script does fall short, but Cushing has enough residual hero cred from over the years that he doesn't need the script in order to play the part. 

Unlike Hartnell, Cushing's Doctor is instantly likeable, and doesn't rely on Ian for masculine heroism (a good thing, too). As is so often the case, the best way to approach Dr. Who and the Daleks is to forget about the TV series altogether and just appreciate it for what it is. I didn't have the insight to do that the first time I watched it, back when I was in the throws of discovering the Whoniverse; as a matter of fact, I don't know that I'd even seen Hartnell's Doctor that first time. To watch it that way was a mistake, one I didn't repeat.

And so we're left to wonder what Cushing, an actor of great dignity, would have been like in the TV series.  "With those piercing eyes and his dramatic gravitas," as one critic put it, "he would have been marvelous" as the TV doctor. By the time William Hartnell had handed off the keys to the Tardis, he had morphed into the heroic Doctor that we've all come to know and love; Cushing would have fit that mold magnificently. 

I would quite like to have seen Peter Cushing play the Doctor, with all of his indefinably alien characteristics, on television. And of course, I'm still waiting to see Christopher Lee as The Master. TV  

October 23, 2021

This week in TV Guide: October 25, 1969




This week's cover features William Windom, star of the NBC series My World and Welcome to It. My World is, for the time, a high-concept show combining live action and animation, as Windom plays cartoonist John Monroe, a thinly-disguised version of James Thurber (whose drawings are included in the series). It's a concept that's really ahead of its time, and if you count yourself a fan of Windom and/or Thurber, then you'll probably love it. Not enough did, however, as it ran for only the 1969-1970 season.

I remember watching it at the time and not really getting it, and it would appear this was a concern to others as well. Carolyn See suggests it "sounds a little like a wonderful cake with a few too many ingredients, or maybe an Indian recipe where you're expected to throw in the onion along with the coconut along with the pickled ginger and 23 other items besides." Windom, however, feels that for viewers willing to give it a chance, to "think outside the box" as we might say today, it's worth forgetting any preconceived notions you might have, particularly if you're a Thurber "purist" who might have trouble with his famous cartoons walking and talking. For those who do so, he says, "Then you can make the decision to take it or leave it alone." You might even wind up learning something about Thurber.

Windom's reputation with his colleages is that of a man who is "charming and disarming," (former co-star Inger Stevens), is "not crazy about himself" (a worker on the My World set), may or may not still be a ladies' man (he's currently on his fourth marriage, and there will be one more before his was done), and "enjoys every role that life deals out to him." On that subject, he is adamant. "[T]he main thing in life is to participate," he says. "I read the other day that the average college graduate spends over two hours a day watching television. That's disgraceful. You shouldn't watch life, you should be out in it."  

William Windom seemed to defy typecast. He firmly established himself as a good guy with his role as the Senator in The Farmer's Daughter, and yet he was often cast in guest roles as the villain: the smarmy, slightly greasy con man or killer, or the arrogant but weak authority figure. Later, of course, he'd go on to have a long, long run as Seth in Murder, She Wrote. It appears as if people accepted him as a bad guy as long as he was a guest star, but that he was destined to play the wise, humorous, good-natured type in a series. Whatever; I always enjoyed him, regardless of what he played, up until his death in 2012.

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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: Guests are Liza Minnelli, actor David Hemmings, Henry Mancini, composer-guitarist Mason Williams, Laugh-In's Judy Carne, the rocking Santana and the Trio Hoganas, aerialists.

Palace: Host Engelbert Humperdinck presents Sid Caesar (with Maureen Arthur and Mickey Deems), Nancy Ames, Gladys Knight and the Pips, comedian Jack E. Leonard and English musical-comedy performer Lonnnie Donegan.

Well, this is an interesting pair of lineups.  As we move ever closer to 1970, we see a very different set of guests from what we're used to.  Sullivan's lineup, for example, features Judy Carne, one of the stars of the hippest show of the time; David Hemmings, who starred in Antonioni's iconic Blow-Up; Mason Williams, who composed "Classical Gas" and hung out with the Smothers Brothers; Liza Minnelli, now on the verge of moving beyond being Judy Garland's daughter and Santana, who apparently is ageless.

Englebert, who would get his own variety series in a few month, was ABC's attempt to clone the success they had with Tom Jones, but it didn't pan out. I don't think Nancy Ames ever evolved beyond the B list of the era's singers, and I've never been much of a fan of Gladys Knight, et al. Of all the guests on both shows, it's only Sid Caesar who really hearkens back to an older time. And I'm afraid this isn't going to be enough to save Palace; this week, Sullivan takes the title.

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Throughout the 60s and early 70s, TV Guide's weekly reviews were written by the witty and acerbic Cleveland Amory. Whenever we get the chance, we'll look at Cleve's latest take on the shows of the era. 

This week Cleveland Amory goes back to school, or perhaps it's he who gives us a schooling in what makes for good television. It's ABC's school comedy-drama Room 222, which Cleve quite likes. It's a prime example of the move by sitcoms of the era to become more relevant, dealing with issues, such as race, which previously had not gotten a lot of attention. 

This is apparent in the very first episode, where he relates an uncomfortable conversation between history teacher Pete Dixon (Lloyd Haynes) and student teacher Alice Johnson (Karen Valentine). In her attempt to balance what we'd today call her "white privilege" with her lack of experience being around minorities ("I went to a segregated school," she explains), she tells Dixon, "I think it's so significant that you're colored." (As if he had anything to say in the matter.) Be honest: doesn't it make you wince to read something like that? Then she goes on to ask him, "do you prefer 'colored' or 'Negro' or 'black'?" to which Dixon replies, "I've always preferred Pete." 

Don't worry, though, that this is all the series is about. One of the things Amory really appreciates is how the characters—black as well as white—stay away from stereotypical characterization, showing various shades of grey instead of (pardon the expression) simple black and white portrayals. The writing and acting are both thoughtful, Amory says; "with a little extra work on the writing, a little extra care on the characterizations and, above all, fine acting . . . a half-hour show can give you more for your money than all the old hour-long bang-bangs and beat-beats put together" and in particular he singles out Haynes and the late Michael Constantine for praise. Based on the first two episodes he's seen, Amory finds Room 222 an engrossing new series, concluding, "more power—black and white— to it."

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This week's issue is from upstate New York, which gives us an interesting look at the sports programs of the week. The World Series is over, with the New York Mets having put the finishing touches on their remarkable championship run almost ten days before this issue came out,* and so for the most part the stage belongs to football.

*Remember when the World Series ended before Halloween?

CBLT, Channel 6, coming from Toronto, has Canadian Football Saturday at 2:00 p.m., with the Toronto Argonauts taking on the Ottawa Rough Riders in Ottawa. South of the border, ABC has a Big 10 showdown (2:45 p.m.) between Iowa and Michigan State—showdown being a relative word in this case, since these two former powerhouses have fallen on hard times; Iowa will finish this season 5-5, while Michigan State winds up 4-6. Saturday night belongs to hockey, as Hockey Night in Canada gives us the St. Louis Blues and the Maple Leafs in Toronto. (8:00 p.m, CBC)

On Sunday it's more conventional action, although CFTO in Toronto has another CFL contest, this one between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Montreal Alouettes (2:00 p.m., CTV). NBC has the AFL doubleheader this week, with the early game giving us the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins starting at 1:30, followed at 4:00 by the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers. Meanwhile, on CBS' NFL coverage, most of the stations in the area get the St. Louis football Cardinals and the Cleveland Browns (1:30 p.m.), with CBLT picking up coverage of the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Colts. (2:00 p.m.)

And while Monday Night Football won't become a TV staple until next year, CBS makes a tentative foray into the prime-time market with a exhibition game pitting the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys. CBS supposedly turned down the chance for a weekly Monday night game, leading NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle to offer the package to ABC; the rest, as they say, is history. Perhaps as an indication of CBS' apprehension about football's drawing power, the game starts at 9:30, a half-hour later than next year's start time. That way, it's not so disruptive on the schedule—or the ratings.

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It's a big week on television as we approach November.  Let's check out some of the highlights.

The famous dining scene.
On NBC's Saturday Night at the Movies at 7:30 p.m., it's the network broadcast premiere of the Oscar-winning Best Picture of 1963, Tom Jones. (The movie, not the singer.) It's an utterly charming, totally bawdy sex farce, with Finney* never better as the reprobate Tom, accompanied by a zany cast of bizarre characters. Judith Crist, in her stellar revue, wrote that "Movies haven't been the same since," and it's hart to argue with that. You might not think you could produce such a farce out of a novel written in 1749, but Crist praises how the movie "captures [author Henry] Fielding's classic in all the glowing coarseness, robust wit, unadorned venality, forthright hypocrisy, social cruelty and elegant crudity." No wonder it's one of my favorite movies.

*Surely it was an injustice that Finney lost the Best Actor Oscar that year to Sidney Poitier, whom I've always liked. But his performance in Lillies of the Field can't hold a candle to Finney's.

Sunday it's the fourth showing of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (7:30 p.m., CBS), the third Peanuts cartoon to make the transition to television. Like A Charlie Brown Christmas but unlike the second cartoon, Charlie Brown's All Stars, it's become an annual tradition; I wonder how much of a role it played in making Halloween the big deal it is today?  One thing I do recall is from grade school, a year or two after this airing, when I was introduced to one of the "Halloween Carols" to which Linus alludes during the cartoon. To the tune of "Jingle Bells", the refrain went, "Pumpkin Bells, Pumpkin Bells/ringing loud and clear,/Oh what fun Great Pumpkin brings/when Halloween is here." Remember when those Peanuts cartoons were shown on network television?

On Monday, we see what ABC hoped would be a revolutionary scheduling concept: the 45-minute program. Not an hour, not a half-hour, just 45 minutes. And there are, of course, two of them, making up a 90-minute block. It all starts at 7:30 p.m. with the rock/pop variety show The Music Scene, and continues at 8:15 p.m. wth The New People, a kind of Lost prototype. ABC obviously hoped their target audience (e.g. young people) would tune in for the music, and just keep it on at 8:15 rather than flipping over to the already-started Laugh-In. They didn't. and by January both shows were off. Surprisingly, in 1976 ABC was to try this strategy again, this time in daytime, with General Hospital and One Life to Live expanding from 30 to 45 minutes. This was more successful, but by 1978 both shows had adopted the more conventional one-hour format.

Tuesday starts off with "The Desert Whales," the latest episode of The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, narrated by Rod Serling (7:30 p.m., ABC). That's followed by The Red Skelton Show (8:30 p.m, CBS), with special guest star John Wayne, who's celebrating his 40th year in films. Opposite that, ABC's back with one of their made-for-TV movies, The Young Lawyers, which will return next season, with a slightly different cast, as a regular series. Whatever the viewers saw in the movie apparently doesn't translate to the series, which runs for a mere 24 episodes.

Wednesday has one of the hottest musical acts of the day, along with another big network movie premiere. The musical special stars Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, with special guest star Petula Clark. Herb Alpert (the "A" in A&M Records) and his trumpet are big stuff throughout the '60s, starting with "The Lonely Bull" and featuring five #1 hits; he and his band win six Grammys.

The movie premiere, on ABC's Wednesday Night Movie, is Georgy Girl, a bittersweet comedy-drama which earned star Lynn Redgrave an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.* Judith Crist calls it "offbeat and kooky and sentimental." You may not have seen the movie, but I'm willing to bet you might remember the theme song, which also was Oscar-nominated. The Seekers perform it here, in a clip from an American Bandstand episode of a couple years before:


*That year Redgrave went head-to-head against her sister Vanessa, who was nominated for Isadora.  Neither Redgrave sister won.

Thursday's variety night if it pleases you. At 8:00 CBS has The Jim Nabors Hour, with Juliet Prowse as guest star. An hour later flip over to ABC, where This Is Tom Jones (the singer, not the movie) boasts Barbara Eden, Wilson Pickett and comics Hendra and Ullett. To round out the evening, turn to The Dean Martin Show (10:00 p.m., NBC), with Tony Bennett, Sid Casesar, Charles Nelson Reilly and Pat Henry.

Friday morning opens with Today (7:00 a.m., NBC), as Judith Crist makes one of her occasional appearances to preview this weekend's new movies. On The Mike Douglas Show, author Irving Wallace promotes his new novel, The Seven Minutes, which is about a book called The Seven Minutes. It's not as strange as it seems, although the story itself is much stranger. At 4:00 p.m. on NBC is a game show I freely admit I'd never heard of, Letters to Laugh-In, hosted by Laugh-In announcer Gary Owens, and featuring two of the show's regulars each week, along with two guest stars. The premise is that viewers send in their favorite jokes, which are then judged by a panel of four. This week, the two Laugh-In stars are Henry Gibson and Teresa Graves, who are joined by Jack Carter and Louis Nye. The show runs for four months. I wonder if it was even shown in the Twin Cities?

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If you've been reading these features for awhile, then you know one of the frequent subjects discussed in TV Guide is the effect on television on children. This week's article, as is often the case, is written by Edith Efron, and asks the question: what can children learn from television?

The process by which children develop their viewing habits is a fascinating one. At age two, the toddler, driven by an overwhelming curiosity, is captivated by "the light and bright and motion." By three, they understand what they're watching and have "distinct preferences." But by the time they reach elementary school, they're being bombarded by so many information and sensory experiences that "no one can untangle, with any precision," what the child picks up from TV as opposed to other sources.

In fact, the data on television's effect on children is often contradictory, as befits a discussion that has only been around for perhaps twenty years. While some experts suggest that "the brightest children are early starters" who would have watched TV from an early age, other studies claim that bright children who watch TV tend to fall behind children who don't. One thing that many experts on both sides agree on, however, is that by age 10 children start to get bored by television, and their viewing tends to decrease. Why? Because by that time children crave mental stimulation, and they don't find it on TV, which for them is a passive experience.

I can understand this. Though I'm often a harsh critic of the quality of TV, particularly in today's programming, I've always defended television in general, particularly the idea that someone who watches a great deal of it tends to be less creative , less communicative, not as smart. For example, I learned much of history not from my time in the high school of The World's Worst Town™, but by watching Alistair Cooke's America. My love of classical music started with Bugs Bunny cartoons, and my fondness for reading was cultivated by Captain Kangaroo. My desire to write, particularly fiction, came from watching movies and critiquing their storytelling as much as by reading, which I often did while watching television. (A habit I maintain to this day, to my wife's exasperation.)

I don't argue that everyone is like me; there are a lot of TV kids who became couch potatoes, and kids who never watched it who are far better at almost everything than I am. But I'll leave it to you, readers, to decide whether or not television is Savior, or Satan.

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Finally, a word about Joe Foss, host of Saturday afternoon's outdoors show The Outdoorsman (4:30 p.m., syndicated). Well, it takes more than a few words, actually, to do him justice. At this point in his life, he's just a TV host, but his accomplishments includes World War II hero (the leading ace in the Marine Corps), Congressional Medal of Honor winner, general in the Air Defense Command, governor of South Dakota, first commissioner of the American Football League, two-term president of the NRA, Director of the United States Air Force Academy. original host of The American Sportsman, and philanthropist. And what have you done today? TV  

October 22, 2021

Around the dial




So what's on tap this week? Plenty, that's what!

At bare•bones e-zine, Jack's Hitchcock Project features the fifth of Joel Murcott's offerings, the fourth-season thriller "Man with a Problem," starring Gary Merrill, Mark Richman, Elizabeth Montgomery, and a satisfying twist ending that I'm positive you'll fall for.

Dave Garroway was an endlessly interesting man, and at Garroway at Large, Jodie lets us in on one of his pre-Today adventures, the Chicago late-night radio show The 11:60 Club, 11:60 being otherwise known as 12:00 midnight. It ends with a great example of how it pays to be the right man in the right place at the right tine. 

"The Evil of the Daleks" is something of a redundancy, I suppose—when, after all, are they not evil? But it also makes for a sinister Doctor Who story from the Patrick Troughton era, as Fire-Breathing Dimetroden Time relates. And speaking of the Daleks, there's more in store at this site this weekend—stay tuned.

At Comfort TV, David takes a look at I Love Lucy at 70. It's hard to imagine Lucy being 70 freaking years old, isn't it? Especially when you watch it in crisp prints, or even ones that have been colorized. The main reason we don't want to think it's that old, I suspect, is because it speaks to our own one-way journey down the finite highway.

Cult TV Blog turns back to the late-60s series The Champions, and the episode "The Final Countdown." What's not to like about an episode that, as John points out, features "Nazi war criminals intent on world domination, unexploded bombs and only The Champions standing between them and their ambition"? I'm there!

Betty Lynn, whom we all know and love as Thelma Lou from The Andy Griffith Show, died this week, aged 95, and at A Shroud of Thoughts, Terence has a look back at the long and successful career of a woman whom Terence says was "known for her sweetness and kindness." 

Finally, a little self-promotion once again, as I'm talking Search with Dan on Episode 114 of Eventually Supertrain. How can you possibly resist spies, apes and doppelgangers? The answer is, you can't. TV  

October 18, 2021

What's on TV? Tuesday, October 16, 1962




Something in this week's listings that I've never seen before: a double-check mark (√√) next to shows that TV Guide says are "Of unusual interest." Anyone else ever seen anything like that? Or was it unique to this North Texas edition? I guess after all these years, we should be happy to have something different to look at.

October 16, 2021

This week in TV Guide: October 13, 1962




It's a striking cover this week, don't you think? Totally black-and-white except for the flesh tones on Hirschfeld's caricature of Jackie Gleason.* Even the famed TV Guide logo has been stripped of its color.

*By the way, have you spotted "Nina" yet?

It's no surprise that Richard Gehman would take a snarky approach to this article on Gleason, the first of a three-part profile of the star. "One can gauge the depth of his lonliness by how high Gleason flies," is the psychoanalytic subheading to the article. The premise continues as Gehman accompanies Gleason on a cross-country train junket to promote his new variety show.

So what evidence does Gehman use to back up his diagnoses? Well, first of all Gleason likes people - he'll spend five or ten minutes with anyone who asks for an autograph, and during the whistle-stop tour, he personally greets everyone who shows up to see him. He drinks heavily, when he drinks at all - he sometimes stops for weeks or months at a time. He's been known to overindulge in the same way with food. His explanation: "I'm thirsty and I'm hungry."

He loves to hold court for hours wherever he is. most frequently at Toots Shor's in New York. Writes Gehman, "his bombast conceals sensitivity and tenderness, and his leafily prodigal behavior is is rooted in a mulch of loneliness and awareness of the essential tragedy of the human condition." While visiting him at his hope in Peekskill, New York, Gehman observes the other Gleason: more contemplative, moodily musing on his broken marriage, his less-than-ideal childhood (deserted by his father, orphaned by his mother), his hard road to stardom.

I still think that Gehman, in an effort to avoid the fan-mag tenor that the magazine now proudly displays, errs on the side of psychobabble, but there's no denying the power of this paragraph that concludes part one of his profile: "It sometimes occurs to me, as I think of Jackie Gleason sitting there in that voiceless, empty house, that all his activities, his businesses and his productions, his performances and his plans, are no more than ways to erase the dark brown loneliness from which he knows he never will escape. And the same can be said for all that abandoned gregariousness."

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Edith Efron profiles Merv Griffin, and unlike Richard Gehman's article on Gleason, Efron is, shall we say, much kinder. Griffin, at the time 37, is a man of many talents—classical pianist, jazz musician, pop singer, movie actor, composer, game show emcee—and now, waiting for the next phase of his life, he admits "I don't have a fixed image."

His self-image, as it is, is much more positive than it used to be, when he weighed 80 pounds more than he does today. As the weight dropped, his career took off; the novelty song "I've Got a Lovely Bunch of Coconuts" was a million-seller, after which he met Doris Day and wound up in movies, then met Tallulah Bankhead and wound up as part of her Vegas show, then would up on radio and television, and most recently a four-week gig as one of NBC's substitute hosts on The Tonight Show during the interregnum between Paar and Carson. So impressed with Griffin was NBC that they signed him to a contract for his own talk show, scheduled to begin October 1. That show will last, with a brief break in 1963-64, all the way to 1986.

Colleagues call Merv "warm," "talented," "clever" and "ingenious," and those last two perhaps help to describe Merv's future successes in the business world. There was the real estate deal in Atlantic City where he got the better of Donald Trump, just one of the shrewd deals that made him a major success in real estate. And we can't forget the two game shows that he developed and produced before selling them off for a good chunk of dough: Wheel of Fortune and Jeopardy! If memory serves, he even wrote the theme to Jeopardy! It was said that when he died, his net worth was $1 billion. In any event, next to Gene Autry, Merv Griffin was perhaps the most successful mogul in show business. And reading this article, we can say we knew him when.

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A couple of big specials provide the highlights for the week. First off, it's Dinah Shore with her inaugural show of the year, Sunday night at 9:00 p.m. (CT) on NBC. Dinah's been associated with NBC for a dozen years, and this will be the first of nine specials she'll do for them this season. This really is a special though, a one-woman show of just Dinah singing with Frank DeVol's orchestra.

Sid Caesar's signed up for nine specials this season as well, and his opener is on ABC Tuesday night at 9:30 p.m. It's another attempt on Caesar's part to reclaim the magic of Your Show of Shows; as is the case with his previous and future attempts, he's never quite able to do it.

Taking a quick look at some of this week's regular variety shows, we find plenty more entertainment. Tony Bennett is the headline guest for the aforementioned Gleason on his Saturday night show (6:30 p.m., CBS); later that night Lawrence Welk and his Champagne Music Makers take over on ABC (8:30 p.m.). On Sunday, Ed Sullivan's guests include Connie Francis, Louis Prima and Sergio Franchi. (7:00 p.m., CBS) Tuesday, Red Skelton welcomes Kay Starr and Jackie Coogan (7:30 p.m., CBS), while later that night (9:00) on the same network, Garry Moore has familiar faces Alan King, Nancy Walker and Dorothy Collins. It's an all-star lineup on Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall Wednesday (8:00 p.m., NBC): Lena Horne, with jazzmen Charlie Byrd and Stan Getz, as they try out the new Brazilian dance the Bossa Novawith choreographer Carol Haney. On Thursday, again on NBC (9:00 p.m.), Andy Williams has special guest Martha Raye. Finally, Jack Paar's Friday night show (9:00 p.m., NBC) has husband-and-wife Gordon and Sheila MacRae, Woody Allen, and the Harlem Magicians, a rival of the Harlem Globetrotters. I remember that team; they used to appear on television occasionally, and they were to the Globetrotters what homemade hamburgers are to the ones you get at a restaurant: good, but not as good. When I saw them, they were called the Fabulous Magicians, and their headliner was the great dribbler (and former Trotter) Marques Haynes.

*Don't like dancing?  Don't blame it on me.

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If you'd rather have sports, we've got it. The big game on Saturday's college football Game of the Week (CBS) is a classic: Oklahoma vs. Texas at the Cotton Bowl in Dallas. This annual battle is the centerpiece of the State Fair of Texas, where the Cotton Bowl is located. Coming into the game, the Longhorns are flying high, ranked #2 in the country, and they go on to take Oklahoma in a tight defensive game, winning 9-6. Texas will finish the regular season undefeated before losing in the Cotton Bowl Classic, played in this very stadium on New Year's Day; it's the second and final regular season loss for Oklahoma, which finishes ranked #8 before they, too, lose on New Year's, in the Orange Bowl

More football Sunday, although the pro games vary depending on where you live, due to the NFL's blackout rule. If you're in the Dennison area, CBS gives you the Redskins-Cardinals game at noon; if you're in Wichita Falls, you get the Cowboys, playing at the same Cotton Bowl against the Eagles. If you live in DFW, your only choice is the AFL game on ABC, pitting the New York Titans (before they became the Jets) and the Houston Oilers. Otherwise, the week's highlights are ABC's Wide World Of Sports on Saturday afternoon, with auto racing from Trenton and horse racing from Paris, and a middleweight bout between a couple of unranked fighters that night, also on ABC.

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The starlet of the week is actually a bona fide star, Sally Ann Howes, From the British music halls to Broadway to television variety shows and frequent appearances on such game shows as Password, she's become a familiar face to television viewers. This week, the elegant and stylish Miss Howes demonstrates "the beautiful trends for fall."



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Best ad of the week has to be this odd comic strip-style feature for The Lloyd Bridges Show, an unusual anthology series in which Bridges played a newspaper reporter who, each week, would imagine himself in the role of the person about whom he was reporting. Later on it switches to a more conventional anthology, but I find this technique quite interesting. It's not as Walter Mitty as it sounds; more like the reporter trying to picture what must have happened in a given situation. Was he subconsciously testing himself, trying to figure out how he would have handled that situation? Given that the show only ran for one season on CBS, we'll never know. I'm only surprised the cartoon doesn't have a thought bubble connecting him to the scene he's imagining.


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One of the enduring mysteries of life is why we so often behave in a manner that runs contrary to what we say we want. That's no different with television, of course, where people claim to want quality programming while routinely ignoring it when it's offered. Dr. Herbert Kay, Director of the Center for the Study of Audience Reactions, thinks he knows why such things happen.

According to Dr. Kay, viewers drawn to family sitcoms are well-aware of their flaws and shortcomings, but their main reason for watching them is to "escape from crime, violence, brutality, uninhibited sex,* and other unwholesome or unhappy situations." Thus, while fans of such shows may describe them as "down-to-earth" and "true-to-life," what they really want is to escape that very quality, in favor of shows that offer happy endings and morals to the story.

*1962 style, anyway.

On the other hand, and this I find quite interesting given my own predilection for realism on TV, those who denigrate such shows as "trite" and "unpredictable" are drawn to shows that are not necessarily realistic, but "asks him to believe that it's realistic and could happen." Therefore, such a viewer might find himself (or herself) watching a show such as Car 54, Where Are You?a show that you might consider sillybecause it doesn't make any pretensions or try to insult the viewer's intelligence. "Look," it says to the viewer, "we're going to try to make you laugh through slapstick and farce. Take us or leave us on those grounds."

It's always been typical of television executives that as soon as a style or format becomes a hit, imitation will follow. Look at how many different versions of Friends swamped the airwaves, To a point, this is good thinking, because viewers do show a preference for new shows. However, they also put a premium on entertainment and production values, which means that a shoddy or cheap copy will be seen as just that, and sent fairly quickly to the garbage bin.

In short, the message is that while networks are often criticized for offering their viewers the television equivalent of junk food, they're simply acknowledging what they've known for some time now, something that researchers are only beginning to figure out: there's a difference between what viewers say and what they do, and programmers understand this. They've seen the trends, they've looked at the ratings, and they're doing nothing more than giving the viewers what they want.

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Finally this week, a few quick notes from the Teletype section, since we haven't been there lately.

In New York, there's the report that NBC will soon be launching a new Goodson-Todman game show, the five-days-a-week Match Game. Good moveit runs for seven seasons on NBC, then after a hiatus of four years is revived by CBS, where it runs for another six seasons, plus two or three more in syndication.

CBS Reports plans to focus on the current campaign for governor of California, pitting incumbent Edmund "Pat" Brown against former Vice President Richard Nixon. We all know how that turned out; Brown, the father of former Governor Jerry, narrowly edged out Nixon, putting him into political retirement (or not, as the case may be), while Brown, four years later, would confidently predict another victory, this time against former actor Ronald Reagan. With Reagan winning by a margin of nearly one million votes, the laugh was on Brown.

NBC Opera is presenting a new Gian Carlo Menotti composition on March 3. Unfortunately, the Teletype doesn't bother to mention what it is, but thanks to the miracle of the Internet, we're able to tell that it's Labyrinth, not one of Menotti's bigger productions. Unlike his previous works, Labyrinth was never intended to be anything other than a television production, one specifically designed to take advantage of the techniques and opportunities offered by TV. It has never been performed again, but thanks to the miracle of modern technology, that single performance survives, and I wrote about it here. TV  

October 15, 2021

Around the dial




I wouldn't have first-hand knowledge of this, but I'd imagine that when you've been lampooned in the pages of Mad magazine, you know you've made it. Dave Garroway certainly did, and at Garroway at Large Jodie has the story of The Dave Garrowunway Show.

I think we're all familiar with certain shots or sound effects that keep popping up in movies and TV shows over and over again, and at Cult TV Blog John follows the "famous ITC white Jaguar" as it plummets over the cliff. This week: "Something for a Rainy Day" on The Baron.

I've never been a huge Halloween buff, but I do have fond memories of dressing up and going door-to-door when I was of an age ("Don't eat any candy that hasn't been wrapped!"); today, it's more of an occasion for looking at the treasure trove of Halloween TV movies, as seen by David at Comfort TV.

The premiere of the 25th James Bond movie (and the last of the Daniel Craig era) prompts reflections by Rick at Classic Film & TV Cafe, who ranks all 25 of them from worst to best, and the Secret Sanctum of Captain Video, where the retrospective is on how it all began.

David DePatie, who produced television's Bugs Bunny Show and then, with his partner Friz Freleng, went on to bring the animated character from the Pink Panther opening credits to life as a long-running Saturday morning cartoon, died last month at 91; Terence looks at his career at A Shroud of Thoughts.

This weekend marks the return of SerlingFest in Binghamton, New York, and one of the speakers is none other than Shadow & Substance's Paul Gallagher, talking about Serling's skill at adapting short stories for Night Gallery. His work on TZ wasn't bad, either. TV