July 18, 2018

The Bedtime Nooz

It's time again to take a closer look at one of the local programs spotlighted in this week's Twin Cities edition of TV Guide. It's The Bedtime Nooz (or Newz, as it sometimes appeared), WCCO's Saturday late-night program. I think I've mentioned it before, but probably not in a lot of detail.

The star of The Bedtime Nooz - it wouldn't be quite accurate to call him the anchor - was Dave Moore, who was in fact the anchor of WCCO's 6:00 and 10:00 weekday news. Moore was an institution in the Twin Cities, by far the region's best-known and most respected newscaster. Moore anchored the news on WCCO from 1957 until 1991; he also hosted a public affairs program, Moore on Sunday (or The Moore Report), winning a Peabody award for reporting from Vietnam during the war.

So Dave Moore definitely had the street cred when it came to reporting and news. He was, however, also an actor, something for which he never lost his taste. He made occasional appearances in community theater, his name always a guaranteed attraction, but his performances were more than credible enough to merit return engagements. And it was that acting ability that led to perhaps his most popular and most loved program, The Bedtime Nooz.

It's classified as a satirical program; there are those who consider it a forerunner to SNL's "Weekend Update" feature. I don't know that I'd entirely agree with that, though. Sure, it made fun of local news figures, but Dave also found time to poke his fellow journalists at the station. The stories Moore read were actual news stories, and if there was a serious one (such as a brief headline on the investigation into the causes of the city's 1968 riots), Dave would give it a straight read. Others had the Moore touch - an arched eyebrow, a throwaway comment, a ridiculous voiceover that had absolutely nothing to do with the film being shown.  Some bits were downright silly, others shredded the image of a television newsroom as a well-oiled hive of journalistic activity. The commercials for the show's longtime sponsor, the Sealy Mattress Company, were simply ridiculous.

Moore's presence on the show was the crowning touch. His sense of humor was always present on the evening news, whether in the way he interacted with his colleagues on the set or in his ability to see the occasional absurdity present in a news story. His motto could have been, "I take what I do seriously, but not always how I do it." Make no mistake; if there was breaking news happening - tornadoes, fires, the riots of the late '60s - there wasn't a more authoritative person to be found. His newscasts were always straightforward, without the fluff that came to characterize the "Happy News" of the '70s. There was always that twinkle, though, waiting to come out.

The Bedtime Nooz ran on Saturdays after the 10:30 p.m. movie, which meant it never aired before midnight, and that was the perfect hour for the show's wacky, bizarre humor. It was oneHere' of my fondest television memories growing up, being able to stay up late on Saturdays to watch it. It was probably more responsible than anything for honing my appreciation for comedy, news, and being a night owl.

Here's a clip from a Bedtime Nooz retrospective that perfectly captures the atmosphere of this show, from the voiceover introduction (done by weathercaster Bud Kraehling) to the cooperation of Sealy, highlighting Moore's penchant for playing multiple characters. (You can see a rare complete episode here.)

No wonder so many people remember it so fondly. Local television used to be able to create such memories - can you say that about your local station today?  TV  

July 16, 2018

What's on TV? Monday, July 13, 1970

This week's listings come from the Twin Cities, and while there isn't anything earth-shattering on tap, it's one of those days when you get a pretty good idea of what television was like in the day. It's a night with a mix of reruns and syndicated summer shows, and somewhere in there you'll hopefully find some of your favorites.

July 14, 2018

This week in TV Guide: July 11, 1970

This is one of those issues that is a pleasure to go through - not a lot of research required, just a chance to do some serious typing on some really cool things.

We'll start with a brief mention of Ray Ameijide cover depicting The Beverly Hillbillies. You might notice an addition to the familiar cast in the Clampetts' car - it's none other than their banker, Mr. Drysdale! That's because the cover story is on Raymond Bailey, who started out in hobo camps as a young man before becoming an actor and appearing in a lot of shows besides Hillbillies. He was a perfect foil, wasn't hie?

Richard K. Doan has the other half of the cover, with his story on the phenomenal success of Sesame Street, now a year old. What does he think? It's all summed up in the headline, "Kindergarten may never be the same again." While acknowledging the criticism the show has received in some quarters ("rote education," "spoiling them for actual schooling," and the one critique that has probably stuck with the show the longest, that it is "assaulting" the senses of its little viewers with its "frenetic pace" and "psyched-up music." All in all, though, Doan praises Joan Ganz Cooney's vision for a show that's going to force kindergarten and first grade teachers into offering a more challenging curriculum for students - her hope is that they will "start teaching reading right away." He also approves of the show's integrated cast, which helps foster an atmosphere of racial understanding. TV Guide's opinion of Sesame Street won't always be so positive (I don't think Edith Efron was a fan), but for now, all systems are go.

We even have some notables in the Teletype - a small bit on David Janssen's upcoming series Treasury Agent, which eventually comes to the screen as O'Hara, U.S. Treasury. David Wolper is working on a documentary about the Lincoln assassination called The 20 Days of Lincoln, which winds up being called They've Killed President Lincoln. I remember that show; around that time there was something of a mystique about the Lincoln assassination, which may have coincided with the reopening (after more than 100 years) of Ford's Theatre. And Leonard Bernstein will be leading the Vienna Philharmonic in a 90-minute CBS special marking the Beethoven Bicentennial. They're doing Beethoven's only opera, Fidelio, in what must be an abridged version - trust me, even without commercials, you're not going to get that opera done in 90 minutes.

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Sports plays a bigger role than usual in this week's programming. On Saturday it's the final round of the Open Championship, or the British Open as we called it back then, from the birthplace of golf, St. Andrews in Scotland. This year's total purse is $96,000, so we know players aren't there for the money; in fact, many of the Americans will lose money on the proposition, between the costs of travel and lodging.* In those days, the Open concluded on Saturday, unless a tie forced an 18-hole playoff, which would come on Sunday. ABC's Wide World of Sports is there to cover the excitement at 4:30 p.m. CT, and what excitement there is!

*By contrast, the purse for this year's Open is $10.5 million, with the winner's share coming in at $1,890,000.

Doug Sanders, one of the most stylish, swingingist golfers on tour (alas, his talent never did quite come up to the level of his sartorial splendor) comes to the 18th hole on Saturday with a one-shot lead over Jack Nicklaus. Nicklaus won the Open in 1966, but he's never come out on top at St. Andrews, and he knows a player has to win here in order to solidify his legacy in the sport. (Adopts golf voice) And now Sanders stands over the ball on the 18th green, needing only to make this short putt to win the world's most prestigious title.

Of course, the caption on the BBC video gives it away. It's one of the more heartbreaking misses in major golf history, and it's all to Sanders' credit that he hangs in there against Nicklaus in the Sunday playoff, cutting the Bear's lead down to one sinister stroke on 18 before Jack sinks the putt that gives him his second Open championship.

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Then, on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m., NBC presents the 41st Major League Baseball All-Star Game, telecast from brand-spanking-new Riverfront Stadium in Cincinnati - in fact, the stadium is so new (the Reds just moved into it on June 30) that workers are still putting some of the finishing touches on it prior to game time.

I think we've gotten very jaundiced, not to say bored, with all-star games in general, and few of them have suffered as much as baseball's game. True, it's the only one of the four major sports where the game bears any resemblance to an actual baseball game (unlike the scoring feasts of basketball, the 3-on-3 of hockey, and the "don't touch me" of football), but back in 1970 this was a real game. There was no interleague play other than here and at the World Series; there was only one national telecast each week and most local teams only broadcast about 50 games; and both leagues looked at this as a test of superiority. The National League is in the midst of a long winning streak in the game, and nothing epitomizes the desire to win this game than Pete Rose's famous run for the plate in the 12th inning. Jim Simpson has the radio call for NBC.

This kind of play wouldn't be allowed today, and certainly one can argue as to whether or not it was necessary for Rose to plough into Cleveland catcher Ray Fosse. (Fosse himself was never quite the same after the play.) The point, though, is that Rose knew only one way to play - to win, whether in the World Series or an exhibition like the All-Star Game. Even if home plate collisions were allowed today, though, I doubt you'd ever see something like this again. Why endanger your earnings potential in a game that doesn't count?

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Isn't there anything on besides sports this week? Of course!

Some fun casting on Monday night begins with It Takes a Thief (6:30 p.m., ABC), as Robert Wagner is joined by his future Hart to Hart co-star Stefanie Powers and Broderick Crawford in a mystery involving Al Mundy (Wagner) trying to recover his memory. Both Wagner and Powers will be at this year's Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, as will be yours truly. At 7:30 p.m. on CBS, it's Here's Lucy - or should it be Here's Lucy and Viv? as Lucy's old sidekick Vivian Vance returns for some fun in a show with a healthy component of flashbacks to the antics of the two in I Love Lucy. And at 9:00 p.m., in the time slot usually occupied by Carol Burnett, Harvey Korman appears in a (more-or-less straight role as a "scheming foreign diplomat" on The Wild Wild West.

If you aren't in the mood for baseball on Tuesday, there's a reminder of what 1970 is like with CBS's soon-to-be acclaimed, Peabody-winning, documentary The World of Charlie Company. (9:00 p.m.) This show created such a sensation that it was run twice during the month (presumably for those who were watching the game the first time around.

On Wednesday, ABC has its pair of summer variety shows: The Everly Brothers star in the appropriately named Johnny Cash Presents The Everly Brothers at 8:00 p.m., keeping the country theme of their benefactor with a guest lineup including Arlo Guthrie, Marty Robbins, and Jackie DeShannon. That's followed at 9:00 p.m. by the resurrection of The Smothers Brothers Show, a somewhat toned-down version of their CBS series, as a summer replacement for Engelbert Humperdinck. Pat Paulsen is back with the Brothers, along with this week's guests Peter Lawford, Mac Davis, and Sunday's Child. Meanwhile, on KSTP (the NBC affiliate), Then Came Bronson is preempted for The Trini Lopez Hour (9:00 p.m.), with Georgia Brown and Frank Gorshin. And in the something-for-everyone category, David Frost's late-night show continues to have some of the most interesting lineups; tonight (midnight, KSTP) his guests are Noel Coward, Joseph E. Levine (producer of, among other movies, The Graduate), Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, and singer Ronnie Dyson.

Thursday's episode of Ironside (7:30 p.m., NBC) caught my eye if for no other reason than a great cast of guest stars better known for other roles: DeForest Kelley, Dabbs Greer, and Michael Conrad. At 9:00 p.m., "Those Girls Are Back" - those girls being the Golddiggers, in their third season as Dean Martin's summer replacement. It's almost a theater of the absurd cast of regulars: besides the Girls, we have Charles Nelson Reilly, Marty Feldman, and Tommy Tune. In the late-night wars, Enzo Stuarti manages to appear with both Frost and Merv Griffin. Nice job!

Bill Dana is not José Jiménez - instead, he's a scientiest trying to freeze the world in Friday's Get Smart (6:30 p.m., CBS). At 9:00 p.m. on ABC, Love, American Style has a segment that wouldn't be funny today, just ironic: it's about a computer dating error that pairs up Marion Feinstein (Herb Edeman) and Francis Adams (Broderick Crawford). I guess it's the names. And as for the late-night wars...

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Well, just one more sports note. Guess who's guest-hosting The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson on Friday night? None other than golfing great Arnold Palmer! What a curious choice to host the show. I mean, Arnold's pretty smooth, but somehow I just don't see him sitting in that chair behind the desk, with Ed McMahon there off to the side. Joe Dey, the commissioner of the PGA Tour, is one of Arnie's guests, and I'm sure that's to help make things a little easier, but then there's also singer Vic Damone. Who knows, maybe he and Arnie were pretty tight; it wouldn't surprise me a bit. Although I had to go to IMDb to find out, his other guests included actress Suzanne Charny and tennis great Rod Laver, and this picture includes Vice President Spiro Agnew!

(That's a great look Ed has, by the way, with that red cardigan golf sweater!)

Very interesting, don't you think?  TV  

July 13, 2018

Around the dial

Politics is such a contentious thing today, and television has done more than its share to promote that; the Broadcasting Archives at the University of Maryland takes us back to a day when broadcasters offered a helpful pamphlet, rather than unhelpful arguments.

At Once Upon a Screen, Aurora takes us back for a look at The Golden Girls, from conception to execution. I'll admit I was never a fan of this series, but that doesn't prevent me from steering a story -your way, especially when it's as well-written and informative as this!

Over at Bob Crane: Life & Legacy, Carol has some great pictures from behind the scenes at a Hogan's Heroes photo shoot for the November 19, 1966, cover of TV Guide, in support of an inside story on Robert Clary. I happen to have that issue; a very good profile of Clary, who was a concentration camp survivor himself and understood well the difference between that and a POW camp.

Gotta hand it to Dan at Some Polish American Guy - he always knows how to highlight the best parts of BJ and the Bear, if you know what I mean. This week it's the season three episode "Beauties and the Beast." Oh, and by the way, I hope you're enjoying our review of Bourbon Street Beat over at the Eventually Supertrain podcast; Dan is such a gracious host!

Always glad to see The Classic TV History Blog come back to life, even if it's only occasionally; here, Stephen has a nice remembrance of Harlan Ellison, including an interview he did with him early in Stephen's career.

At Classic Television Showbiz, Kliph gives us some terrific video of the great Gene Krupa, performing on The Tonight Show in 1962 with guest host Donald O'Connor.

I'd be remiss if I didn't stop over at Television Obscurities, where Robert takes a moment out to remember Tab Hunter, who died this week aged 86, and who starred in the very obscure Tab Hunter Show back in 1961-62.

And you didn't think I'd leave out part three of Jodie's look at the life and times of Jack Lescoulie over at Garroway at Large, did you? TV  

July 9, 2018

What's on TV? Monday, July 11, 1960

This week's listings are dominated by the Democratic Convention, so I tried to find a day where the impact on programming was as minimal as possible. I think Monday is pretty good, but on the other hand you've got the first of the week's two All-Star baseball games; what can I say? You might be wondering why convention coverage on KGLO, Channel 3, starts an hour earlier than everyone else's. Simple: chalk it up to Daylight Saving Time. Here's a sample of the confusion surrounding the state's adoption of the time change:

By 1962, Iowa communities had 23 distinct combinations of dates for starting and ending DST, leading a September 6, 1964 Des Moines Register headline to state, “Daylight time spreads nightmare of chaos across Iowa.” In Springville (Linn County), for example, city government made the switch to Central Standard Time, while the schools and local merchants stayed with DST. 

And you think you've got it bad. Not as bad as Burgess Meredith's bookkeeper, though, at 11:30 p.m. on KDAL, Channel 3 in Duluth. It's the famous Twilight Zone episode "Time Enough at Last." That's the way it is with everything, isn't it?

July 7, 2018

This week in TV Guide: July 9, 1960

Believe it or not, part one: there once was a time when it was your duty to watch the quadrennial political conventions on TV. At least that’s according to this week’s As We See It, in which Merrill Panitt reiterates the message that Americans owe it to both themselves and the nation to become well-informed in advance of the 1960 presidential campaign. "At the most important level, watching the conventions bears ultimately on our survival as a Nation. To turn the conventions off, or to spin the dial seeking to avoid them, is to play electronic Russian roulette." And brother, he means Russian.

We’re at an interesting point in both American history and the history of television. The medium has already made a significant impact in the way Americans respond to politics—witness the outpouring of support for then-vice presidential candidate Richard Nixon following the Checkers Speech in 1952. And it was their coverage of the conventions in 1956 that helped make Chet Huntley and David Brinkley household names. As John Kennedy points out in his 1959 TV Guide article that TV enables candidates to speak to, what? Twenty million people on TV in the same amount of time and effort it takes to give a speech to 2,000 people in person?

By 1960 television is fully maturing as a participant in the political process. Panitt says, "Watching the conventions and thus participating in our democratic process is one step along the road to a surer, stronger, more purposeful America." The changeover won’t be complete; Robert Drew’s fascinating documentary Primary gives us a look at the grass-roots politicking that Kennedy and Hubert Humphrey engaged in during the campaign for the Wisconsin primary that year, and glad-handing would remain an essential part of presidential campaigns for decades.

But I think that the people at TV Guide understand what the stakes are like, for both nation and citizens. We can look back at Erwin Canham's article urging television executives to use their incredible platform to educate Americans, to make them both better citizens and better-informed citizens for the cold war struggle that would continue throughout the decade. Television is doing its part, presenting vast amounts of coverage not only of the party conventions themselves, but also the platform debates and other behind-the-scenes maneuvering (guaranteed, no doubt, to obscure from site the even-more-behind-the-scenes maneuvering.

This week it’s the Democrats, meeting at the Sports Arena in Los Angeles, and it’s anything but cut-and-dried. The usual suspects are there to provide coverage: Huntley and Brinkley for NBC, Walter Cronkite for CBS, and John Daly for ABC. The highlight is a debate between JFK, the frontrunner, and late challenger Lyndon Johnson, held on July 12 before the Massachusetts and Texas delegations, in which Kennedy easily disarms Johnson’s candidacy with a display of the witty and media-savvy style that will serve him so well in his more formal debates with Richard Nixon. On Wednesday, the nominating speech for 1952 and 1956 nominee Adlai Stevenson (who never explicitly announced his candidacy but was essentially running a no-campaign campaign) touches off a 20-minute demonstration (followed by an additional 15 minutes after Eleanor Roosevelt’s seconding speech), but in the end, it makes no difference. It isn’t until Wyoming that Kennedy is put over the top, but on Friday night at the Los Angeles Coliseum, he’s the one delivering the acceptance speech as the Democratic nominee, along with his surprise running mate, LBJ: a moment which, in the pantheon of history, will take years to play out, in ways that couldn’t have been foreseen at the time.

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Believe it or not, part two: there used to be two baseball All-Star Games, and this year NBC is carrying them both—Monday afternoon at 1:45 p.m. CT from Kansas City’s Municipal Stadium, and Wednesday afternoon at 11:45 a.m. from Yankee Stadium in New York.

The two-game format started in 1959, in order to increase the money going to the players’ pension fund, and that year—as would be the case in 1961 and 62, the games were played about three weeks apart. Ah, but in 1960, those games took place in the same week. There were no red carpet shows, no home run hitting contests, none of the hype that surrounds today’s game: the sole attraction was the only instance of interleague play prior to the World Series. Because of the short timeframe involved, the rosters were expanded from 25 to 30 players (to allow for additional pitchers), but otherwise the squads and managers were the same. It was, many said, a dilution of the product—and the crowd of just over 38,000 that saw Wednesday’s game in 67,000-seat Yankee Stadium would seem to bear that out. After 1962, with an agreement in place to increase contributions to the pension fund, the Midsummer Classic returns to being a single-game affair. And the result of our two 1960 games? A sweep for the National League, winning the first game 5-3, the second 6-2.

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Let's see what else we've got this week; you're not going to find much other than politics during the week, but there's still the weekend. On Saturday at 10:30, WCCO has the Miss Universe 1960 pageant, live from Miami Beach.* George deWitt, host of Name that Tune, is the emcee on stage, while Arthur Godfrey is the television host, aided by Charles Collingwood (!) and Jayne Meadows. The more I read about this, the more interesting it gets; says here that the Miss U.S.A. selection was only two days before, with the winner (Miss Utah, Linda Bement) proceeding directly to compete the next night in the first of two nights at Miss Universe. Not quite like today, where Miss Universe would be an event in and of itself, but then, six states didn't even send representatives. Anyway, by the time midnight rolls around, we're ready to crown the new Miss Universe, and she's: Miss U.S.A., Linda Bement! She just died earlier this year, aged 76.

*Ordinarily I'd say that this would be 11:30 p.m. Eastern Time, but with Daylight Savings Time screwing everyone up, who knows what time it was? Nevertheless, even midnight seems to be a very late time for a beauty pageant to end. By the way, this is the first time the Miss Universe pageant is telecast nationally.

If you want to stay up late on Saturday, you could instead choose David Susskind's infamous Open End, which starts at 10:30 p.m. on KMSP and runs - well, runs until it's over. David's panel tonight is a roundtable of international newspapermen, with UPI correspondent Merriman Smith (later to win fame for his coverage of JFK in Dallas), Bob Considine from the Hearst newspapers, Max Freedman from The Guardian in Manchester, England, Indian reporter Krishna Balarman, and Count Adalbert de Segozac from France.

Convention previews and candidate profiles dominate Sunday's programming, but there is a program on at 3:30 p.m. on WCCO Reports regarding the controversy surrounding the Twin Cities' exchange of their two AAA minor league teams, the St. Paul Saints and Minneapolis Millers, in return for a major league team. The Twin Cities already failed in an effort to lure the New York Giants before they moved to San Francisco, but they're going to succeed at the end of the 1960 season in convincing the Washington Senators to become the Minnesota Twins. There were several franchise moves in baseball during the decade of the 1950s, and it's interesting to think that many people preferred their two long-time minor league teams (and the chance to see rising stars; Willie Mays and Ted Williams both played here before moving up) to a mediocre major league team. Which is what we have here today, two World Series championships notwithstanding.

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A couple of items from the TV Teletype: Danny Kaye's going to do his first TV special, preempting Ed Sullivan on CBS October 30. In three years, he'll make the move permanent, lasting four seasons on CBS. But not on Sunday; he wasn't foolish enough to go up against Bonanza. Let Judy Garland have that timeslot.

There's a report that Jack Webb is putting together a golf series of 39 half-hour episodes. I wonder what kind of program that would have been? Friday on the golf course, telling his caddy, "just the four-iron"?

Anthony George and Doug McClure will be co-stars of the new CBS detective series Checkmate, to be produced by Jack Benny's production company. Before the series starts, they'll be joined by Sebastian Cabot. I've seen a few episodes; harmless enough, but not enough Cabot.

Ernie Kovacs' game/comedy show, Take a Good Look, has been renewed by ABC. It's a funny show, but not really what you'd call a game show; Edie Adams, Kovacs' wife, says that he used the skits that comprised the "quiz" part of the show as a way to get ideas for his famous specials.

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Finally—and there's probably no better way to end this week's segment—a fashion show, which we haven't had for awhile. This week, actresses Lola Albright, Leslie Parrish, Peggy Connolly, and Joanne Dru model that split skirt known as the culotte.

Almost makes it worth coming back this week, doesn't it?  TV  

July 6, 2018

Around the dial

We begin the week at bare-bones e-zine, where Jack continues his Hitchcock Project look at John Cheever's stories with "O Youth and Beauty!", a sixth-season episode adapted by Halsted Welles and starring Gary Merrill. Successful? You decide...

At Comfort TV, David returns to his occasional feature, "Purchase or Pass." This week's entrant: the single-season detective series Honey West, with Anne Francis. So should we purchase, or pass? Considering David's comment that Honey West was the role Francis was born to play, I think you know the answer.

Ed Nelson and David Opatoshu, two actors I've always liked, star in the Twilight Zone episode "Valley of the Shadow," written by Charles Beaumont and the subject of The Twilight Zone Vortex. It doesn't really work, says Jordan, but it's worth a look anyway.

The Bob Crane: Life & Legacy website is active again, and Carol celebrates with some rare photos of Bob behind the mic at KNX radio in Los Angeles. Great as he was in Hogan's Heroes, he had a rare talent on radio; if you're not familiar with it, now's the chance to find out more.

It's Hondo time again at The Horn Section and I love the title of the episode in question: "Hondo and the Sudden Town," featuring Noah Beery Jr.; if you only know him as Rocky from The Rockford Files, you owe it to yourself to check out his many classic TV performances. Oh, and it also has Rod Cameron - what else do you need?

It's "Christmas in July" time at Christmas TV History, and you'll want to peruse the entries throughout the month, starting here. Joanna's come up with some very interesting questions on tap this year, and the answers should be fascinating to read. Hopefully I'll get my own responses over to her soon.

Good news from Television Obscurities, where the UCLA Film & Television archives have uploaded some of their vintage episodes of The United States Steel Hour to YouTube. Any time we get a chance to see some more examples of Golden Age anthologies, it's a treat - and if they're not all masterpieces, neither is everything on TV today.

Finally, if you enjoyed part one of Jodie's look at Today's Number Two man, Jack Lescoulie, you'll want to be sure and read part two at Garroway at Large, with more to come. TV