August 15, 2020

This week in TV Guide: August 16, 1969

A new era in television begins this week, as Merv Griffin enters the late-night talk show fray with his debut on CBS. (Guests for that first show: Joe Namath, Woody Allen, Leslie Uggams.) Merv's hardly a stranger to the game, having helmed a daytime show on NBC as well as his syndicated chatfest for Group W, but as Neil Hickey writes, things are a little different now.

This is the first time ever that all three networks are programming simultaneous late-night talk shows, with Joey Bishop representing ABC's entry in the "Insomnialand Sweepstakes." And we're not talking about peanuts in this battle-to-the-death contest; Johnny Carson's Tonight Show earned about $15 million for NBC last year. For years, CBS's affiliates had survived on the network's inventory of old feature films, but with prices going up and inventory shrinking, change was in the air; when around 80% of CBS affiliates said they'd clear the show in the late-night timeslot, the game—or, in this case, the show—was on. As for the host, . . .

According to Hickey, it was a call from the William Morris Agency to CBS's new late-night boss Mike Dunn that set things in motion. Among the Agency's many clients was one Merv Griffin, currently negotiating a new contract with Westinghouse, and the renewal was far from a done deal. The Agency asked if CBS would be interested in Griffin should he become available. Dunn replied that, yes, he'd be interested. When the Group W negotiations reached an impasse, about three weeks later, Griffin's handlers called Dunn back. A couple of meetings later, the deal was set: two years, with an option for six more, and CBS had itself a ready-made show to take on Johnny and Joey.

Merv's not under any illusions about the magnitude of the challenge, but he's also excited. "The biggest drawback to the show which I've been doing for the last four years was its built-in lack of topicality, caused by the fact that it was aired, in some cases, as much as five weeks after we made it." When Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, he says, "we had to just sit there as though it happened." He wants his staff to "read the front page as well as the theater page," but doesn't want propagandizing. "The fewer personal causes I exploit on the air the better the show we'll have." It's the guests he's interested in, and their areas of expertise. "These shows should reflect the whole contemporary scene: comedy, ideas, music." He's not going to let himself worry about the competition, either. "If I let myself pay too much attention to the competition, I risk falling into a tererible trap. I can't let them affect how I do my own show."

There's a very interesting comment made near the end of the article by a CBS executive. "Nobody knows how long Carson is going to work," he says. "He shows signs of wanting to do something else. When he does quit, NBC—which has enjoyed this lush oasis for so long—will suddenly be in the same position we were. Griffin will get a large chunk of Carson's audience and some of Bishop's." The truth, as Hickey concludes, is that nobody knows. And ain't that the truth. Carson, of coursee, is not near quitting; he'll continue another 23 years, to 1992. By that time Bishop is long gone—he won't even make it out of 1969. Merv is absent the scene as well; as Griffin's comments suggest, he wanted a topical show with topical, and often controversial, guests, and soon chafes under the restrictions CBS attempts to put on his show. and he secretly negotiates a deal with Metromedia to return to syndication as soon as CBS cancels his show, which happens in 1972. That edition of The Merv Griffin Show continues until 1986 when Merv finally hangs it up. Maybe he doesn't beat Carson, but he certainly leaves the scene unbowed.

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Speaking of the late-night wars, 1960s style, if you're into this kind of thing then this is your week! Not only do we have Johnny, Joey and Merv slugging it out in the post-local news period, we also have Dick Cavett! Yes, in the timeframe between Cavett's morning show and his anointing as Joey Bishop's successor, during the summer of 1969, Cavett hosts a three-nights-a-week show for ABC. As such, on Monday, Tuesday and Friday of this week, you have all four of my generation's late-night titans appearing on the same evening, three of them at the same time. It's really quite extraordinary, when you think about it. And if you lived in the right market, you could also have seen Steve Allen's syndicated show. If only someone could have found a place for Jack Paar—wouldn't that have been a time!

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We spend a lot of time here looking at woman's fashions, so it's only fair that this week we get a glimpse at Hollywood's "wild" new look for men.

It grooves, doesn't it? Our models are, from left to right, Stan Freberg, Robert Wagner and Robert Culp, three men with reputations as being among the most stylish dresers in entertainment. Dick Hobson gathered the three of them, plus Sammy Davis Jr., to see how they feel about the new styles. Wagner admits to the truth of his publicist's statement that he has "the most impressive wardrobe on the tube"; Culp concurs, saying that Wagner "always looks elegant," but says Davis is "the only cat I'd call a style leader." Not surprisingly, Freberg bosts of the most flamboyant outfits, living up to his daughter's description of him as "a groovy daddy." The formula: "An Edwardian suit with a dragoon collar. Or my Cardin suit with a sculptured back—a real mindblower. I have a Bill Blass blazer with his initials monogramed all over the lining, which is a little ostentatious of him, don't you think, considering it's my coat." He does have his limits, though: "The bell-bottom is a little too faddish for me."

As for other favorite outfits: Davis is proud of "Two mink coats and a mink cape and three pairs of doeskin boot-pants." The boots and pants are all one piece? "Yeah, you put them on just like a regular pair of pants. The gas is to casually put your leg up and people say, 'You mean they're all one?" Wagner boasts of starting the Cassini Nehru look; when Culp suggested that Tony Randall actually ntroduced the Nehru to America on the Carson show, Davis interjects, "No, I brought it from Paris and it wasn't called the Nehru; it was called Mao jacket. Because of politics, you wouldn't use the word Mao so I said it was a Nehru." Davis adds that "I came back from London three years ago wearing beads, and people said, 'Beads?' Within six months everybody was wearing beads." Freberg says that at first he felt a little self-conscious; "A year and a half ago I went on the Tonight show wearing what I thought was a wild Eric Ross jacket until Tony Curtis came on with Edwardian lapels, a whole row of military medals and high knee boots. Everybody applauded."

Yes, boys and girls, this is what the state of men's fashion looked like at the end of the Sixties. But there are some more traditional styles that the men admire: Wagner likes Cary Grant ("He never had to bother with an expernsive wardrobe because he wers clothes so well that the suit that looked well on him in 1939 still looks well on him."), Culp admires Johnny Carson (he "has a fabulous influence, though nobody has ever accused John of being adventurous."), Davis loves Fred Astaire ("Tails on Astaire look as comfortable as tennis shoes, Levi's and a T-shirt."), and they all agree that while Sinatra has loosened up from his investment banker look, Davis tells of how he once kidded the Chairman that "You're dressing like you're known all over the world," to which Sinatra replied, "Well?"

I love clothes myself; I never went for ascots and Nehru jackets, although I'll admit to a couple of leisure jackets in the day, but I've always been most comfortable in a nice three-piece suit or double-breasted jacket with dress boots, and I only wear a white shirt to weddings and funerals. My one regret is that I've never had the opportunity to wear a tuxedo; they say a tux looks good on every man, and at this stage in my life I'll probably never get the chance to find out. But a classic wardrobe is still timeless—I'll let you decide if the outfits above fill the bill.

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As far as TV goes, summertime is reruntime, but that doesn't mean we can't still have a blockbuster. That's the case on Sunday, when NBC repeats Elvis Presley's historic comeback concert (8:00 p.m. CT), first shown the previous December. It was the King's first television appearance in eight years, and it's proven to not only be one of the definitive moments in Presley's career, but a riviting hour of television. In the rerun vein, Saturday night's Jackie Gleason show (6:30 p.m., CBS) shows how far the Honeymooners have come from their half-hour roots; in this hour-long musical-comedy episode, "The Honeymooners visit sunny Spain, where Ralph rushes to the rescue of a lovely senorita—and finds himself entangled in a blackmail plot." It's part of the story arc in which the Kramdens and Nortons have won a trip around the world; the elements are there, in that it would be typical for Ralph to get in over his head with some complicated scheme. But it seems a long way from that New York tenament, doesn't it?

On Saturday and Sunday (4:00 p.m.), ABC presents third- and final-round coverage of the golf season's final major, the PGA Championship, from National Cash Register Country Club in Dayton, Ohio. (Yep, you read that right.) The tournament "offers a mouth-watering $175,000" in total prize money (2019's total purse: $11 million). and Ray Floyd holds on, despite a final round 74, to defeat Gary Player. Proving that political controversy is no stranger to sports, civil rights and antiwar protestors disrupt the third round, throwing a cup of water in Player's face and trying to grab Jack Nicklaus's ball off the green. "The tournament continued in a sinister cloak-and-dagger atmosphere," according to Associated Press. "Small groups of long-haired characters in hippie attire were seen congregating at various places. Police milled through the crowd." Player double-bogied the hole where the water was thrown at him; he lost by one shot. Rounding out the weekend sports scene, WTCN is the flagship for Minnesota Twins baseball, as the Twinkies take on the Washington Senators (noon both days) from Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington, which just last year was known as D.C. Stadium.

Liberace is back on network TV with his own summer replacement show (Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., CBS) and his guests are Eve Arden, Mary Hopkin, Matt Monro, and ventriquilist Ray Alan with his dummy Lord Charles. That's on opposite It Takes a Thief (7:30 p.m., ABC), in which we get to see Robert Wagner and his fabulous wardrobe accompanied by a cast of unlikely guest stars: Joey Heatherton, Paul Lukas and Barry Williams. And at 8:00 p.m., "A black district attorney and a white cop are men at odds" in the TV-movie Deadlock, which winds up as "The Protectors" segment of The Bold Ones. We also get part two of a CBS News Special on the generation gap (9:00 p.m.); last week's first segment was called "Fathers and Sons," this week's follow-up is "Mothers and Daughters." The producers express the hope that viewers will watch the troubled families and take consolation in knowing they're not alone; executive producer Ernest Leiser says, "The only way to bridge the gap is with mutual compassion."  Thursday's episode of Ironside (7:30 p.m., NBC) strikes me as a prescient one. "Ironside is caught in a racist crossfire when he's ordered to prove the innocence of a Negro millitant accused of a riot murder. White extremists whant to set an example; black extremists claim it's a frame." I wouldn't want to be the Chief in this one.

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This week's starlet is 22-year old French pop singer Mireille Mathieu, the girl who none other than Maurice Chevalier calls "A little queen [who] has come out of the peoplpe, to be workshiped by those who like French songs." Having made it big first in France and then the rest of Europe, she's now in the process of making it in the United States, doing the circuit with Ed Sullivan, Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin and Danny Kaye. Her agent, Johnny Stark, places her in high company, along with such French icons as Chevalier and Edith Pief, but to do so she will need to become both a singer (which she is) and an artist (an area in which she continues to evolve). And she has to be accepted in the U.S. as she is elsewhere.

Back in the day, it was possible to charm an audience by singing in a foreign language; after all, Piaf herself did it with "La Vie en Rose." But, Mathieu tells Robert Musel, she is determined to master the English language. "I cannot sing in English with the emotion I feel in French because the words do not mean as much to me. This makes me dissatisfied because I want the Americans to hear me at my best." She plans to remain in England after the end of her television series with John Davidson (Fridays, 7:00 p.m., ABC) "until I learn English really well." "When I talk with John on the show, I have to read the English from cards phonetically."

Music styles change; in the years since, the type of song Mireille Mathieu sings has waned in popularity. She never really became big with English language songs, and never reached the heights of Chevalier or Piaf, but she's remained popular in France, Germany and Russia, among other countries. And the 75 albums she's recorded, most recently in 2015, are 75 more than I've managed.

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The original PBS logo, using the colors of  the old NET
What's in a name? We're not sure, but The Doan Report tells us that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, about to begin it's first full season of broadcasting, is haggling over just what the new network is going to be called. The preferred name—Public Broadcasting System—is thought by some to sound too corporate, too "centralized," which is just what they don't want to employ, since much of the network's content will be provided by local stations for local stations. ("Besides," says one official, "it may sound too much like CBS." Would that they could get CBS's ratings, though.) Then there's the Public Broadcasting Network, but "the word 'network' is thought be be anathema these days to many congressmen." As we all know, they never did come up with a good alternative, and PBS it is, to this day. And still without CBS's ratings.

NBC, meanwhile, has announced plans for 100, count 'em, 100 specials for the 1969-70 season. There are so many, in fact, that Doan acknowledges the risk that the frequent preemptions may run the risk of antagonizing fans of NBC's hits, such as Laugh-In and Bonanza. I'm not getting too worked up about the specials, though; we're talking about things such as Christmas specials from Bob Hope, Dean Martin and Bing Crosby (plus a repeat of The Little Drummer Boy), standards like the Miss America Pageant, and an all-star circus with Tony Curtis, who can do a few acrobatic stunts himself. In other words, fun, maybe, but not too many "special" specials. Your mileage may vary, though, depending on how much you like the stars.

And the Teletype reports that "A specially set up network will carry Jerry Lewis's annual Muscular Dystrophy Labor Day telethon for 22 hours on Aug. 31. Last year, Lewis, who has been national chairman of the charitable organization for 18 years, raised $1,400,000 on the telethon." The all-time record, set in 2008, is $65,031,393.

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Last but not least, for all you youngsters out there, one of the catchphrases of the post-Apollo 11 era was, "We can put a man on the moon, but we can't" followed by your favorite description of some worthy but insurmountable task, e.g. "We can put a man on the moon, but we can't figure out how to feed the hungry." Subconsciously, it was not so much a complaint about things that needed to be done (although it was certainly that), as it was a reminder of how monumental the moon landing was, and how unthinkable it had been for so long. I don't know what its equivalent would be today, since continuous technological achievement is more or less taken for granted, but you get the point. So did Susan Biles of Waterbury, Connecticut, who, in this week's Letters section, reminds us of something else we take for granted nowadays. "I can watch the fantastic live transmission of the moon walk," she writes, "but I cannot receive a local channel 24 miles away. Ah, the inconsistencies of life!" Indeed, Ms. Biles, and were it so that this could be our biggest complaint today. TV 

August 14, 2020

Around the dial

As Shakespeare once said, "We have seen better days," but before we get too lost in the moment, let's start the week at Comfort TV, where David looks at eight times when Shakespeare came to classic television. Number five is a particular favorite; I wrote about it here.

It is true, however, that things have been better, and right now we all seem to be looking for someone to come to the rescue. Well, how about Bob Cummings? Hal has the inside story with a look at "Bob to the Rescue," a 1955 episode of Love That Bob!, at The Horn Section.

At Shadow & Substance, Paul takes a side-by-side look at two of the great anthology series of the classic era: The Twilight Zone and Alfred Hitchcock Presents. They've both been rebooted, but I don't think the new versions have ever come close to the originals. Perhaps it has to do with the hosts.

Let's look at one host in particular: Hitch. Jack's latest piece at bare•bones e-zine continues the Harold Swanton project with "Summer Shade," the sixth-season episode starring James Franciscus and Julie Adams, and shows again how a talented writer can improve a story by adapting it.

It's a couple of days old now, but I think you'll still have time to play the 1950s sci-fi version of Rick's "The Alternate Movie Title Game" over at Classic Film & TV Café, as long as you don't check out the answers in the comments section first. We're on the honors system here, people.

That's it for another week; hang in there everyone, because we will see better days. Be back here tomorrow, aloha. TV  

August 12, 2020

College football, we hardly knew ye

Yesterday, the Big Ten and Pac 12 conferences announced they were putting their football seasons on hiatus until spring, keeping their fingers crossed all the while as they were saying it. Technically, of course, the decision applies to all fall sports, not just football, but you and I both know they were just the fine print. The other three major conferences may or may not follow suit, and we may or may not find out their decisions this week, or next week, or next month.

There are a lot of angles to this story, but the one we're interested in today has to do, not surprisingly, with television. In case you haven't noticed, there's a lot of college football on television; thanks to the miracles of streaming, the lucky viewer can feast of football Thursday nights, Friday nights, all day and most of the night Saturdays, and occasionally Tuesdays and Wednesdays. You don't need to be an expert in broadcast journalism to know that no football (or less football, depending on what those other conferences decide) is going to create a scheduling gap big enough to drive a Mack truck through. The NFL, if they're able to play, can be expected to fill some of the empty space, but, based on past experience, the rest of the time will likely be taken up with replays of "classic" football games—and, seeing as how this is a classic television website, one ought to have something to say about it.

As I wrote here a few weeks ago, it's nonsense to suggest there's not enough TV to go around, and that goes for sports as well as any other kind of programming. Unfortunately, the problem with classic sports, as is often the case when we talk about classic television, is that the definition of classic doesn't mean what it used to. Unless I miss my guess, the classic games we'll be seeing on ESPN, Fox, ABC, CBS, and various college conference networks will probably be, oh, three or four years old. Very few of them will be classic in the historical sense, and even fewer in the vintage sense. In fact, if they weren't originally aired in HD, they probably don't have much of a chance at all.

And it's a shame, if not a surprise. The history of college football is replete with games that thrilled viewers watching them on the collective edges of their living room seats—rivalry games, games that decided national championships, games that ended in last-second hystronics, games that caused heart palpitations, even games that resulted in baby-booms nine months later. What's more, a surprising number of these games still exist, at least on YouTube: the various Games of the Century (Notre Dame-Michigan State in 1966, USC-UCLA in 1967, Nebraska-Oklahoma in 1971, Notre Dame-Alabama in 1973, Miami-Nebraska in 1984, Texas-USC in 2006), last-minute heroics (Doug Flutie's Hail Mary pass), and what have you. Fans whose sense of history barely reaches farther back than last week might enjoy seeing O.J. Simpson when all he did was play football, or Miami before they were a national powerhouse, or when a single college football game attracted more attention than the Super Bowl.

Now, nobody's pretending that there are enough of these games to replace an entire college football season, and certainly there are games from the past twenty or so years that merit another look or three; the Kick Six between Auburn and Alabama in 2013 is a prime example. And then there's the sticky matter of rebroadcast rights. But you can't tell me that Disney can't make some of these things happen; they practically own the entertainment industry as it is. Sad to say, too often, the games we'll be shown will be little more than run-of-the-mill games between familiar teams, games that we've already seen, oh, last year. I know there are probably logical reasons why this can't be done, but I wonder if the thought process has even gotten that far?

When a writers' strike once threatened to delay television's Fall Season, TV Guide suggested that the networks dip into their reservoir of series that hadn't been given a chance to succeed or might have simply been ahead of their day. Sadly, with the exception of one or two shows (He & She being most prominent), the idea went unfulfilled; I suspect it will be the case with college football this year. We shouldn't be surprised, after all, since the average television viewer might as well have season tickets to Short Attention-Span Theater. Still, you'd think by now we'd tired of being sold chopped beef and told it's prime rib, wouldn't you? TV  

August 10, 2020

What's on TV: Monday, August 10, 1953

Here we are again in Chicagoland, with the added bonus of listings for WTMJ in Milwaukee. I often comment that this is your chance to find your favorites from a particular day, but today is thoroughly ordinary, with a handful of programs that you're so used to seeing in the public domain that it's a surprise to find them in first-run appearances. Captain Video, for instance, still going on DuMont since 1949. or Abbott & Costello, in first-run syndication on WBKB. You'll also see some names that seem out of place, such as Ogden Nash; best known for his witty poems, but there he is on CBS as a panelist on Masquerade Party, hosted by newsman Douglas Edwards. And the guest host for Garry Moore is Meredith Willson, composer of The Music Man, who did quite a bit of TV. And Bud Collyer hosts game shows on two different networks in back-to-back timeslots—how unusual is that?

August 8, 2020

This week in TV Guide: August 7, 1953

I've remarked in the past that live television is a breed apart from recorded programming, enough so that it's a genre of its own, just like Westerns and crime dramas. Part of this is because of the limitations imposed on live television; it's obviously difficult to capture the grandeur of a John Ford Western in a TV studio. But not only does live TV tell particular types of stories, it does so in a particular way; it requires a different type of storytelling, a different type of acting, and it forms a different relationship with the viewer, one with more immediacy, more intimacy. We see the difference between live and recorded television this week in this week's "Great Debate," with Fred Coe, Executive Producer of TV Playhouse, affirming that live broadcasts are best for "timely programs and creative drama," while John L. Sinn, President of Ziv Television Programs, favors filmed shows for "greater scope, better acting, fewer mistakes."

Now, it shouldn't be a surprise that the executive producer of a live anthology and the president of one of the most prominent producers of syndicated programs should take their respective positions. Both men agree on the need for both methods, and assume a continuing need for both. As Coe points out, "it would be absurd to choose a film pickup (even for a few hours) of the World Series," and includes elections and conventions, along with regularly scheduled news broadcasts (excluding unscheduled news events, where film is required "to record events for delayed broadcasts"). Coe concedes that it would be pointless for a show such as Dragnet to be broadcast live, when the writers, actors, and directors work with the same premise each week. It is in the area of "an honest theatrical production" of thirty minutes or an hour, where live television shines. "Except for a few isolated cases, there are no drama series on film that as yet compare week in and week out to. . .live programmng." Think of it as an event, a Broadway opening, a play that focuses the audience on the actors and the script, rather than its surroundings. There is an energy in the live performance that film cannot capture.

I wish I had one of these in our house.
But Sinn foresees a day when as much as 80% of programming will be on film. As he points out, all of Ziv's programs (Boston Blackie and I Led Three Lives are two of Ziv's better-known programs, and the future will bring popular shows such as Sea Hunt, Highway Patrol, Bat Masterson and Science Fiction Theatre), but that's not why he speaks in defense of filmed shows. He feels that the "first night" feeling of spontaneity that occurs with live programming is "vastly overrated," and even if it weren't, that wouldn't be a good reason for trapping television shows within the narrow confines of a studio. Film also allows for a more finished product, giving the viewer the best possible entertainment experience. Most important, though, film is also important to preserve such programs for future posterity, although, as Coe mentions, videotape and kinescopes will make such preservation possible. Whereas live programs leave nothing behind "but the script and the memories of those who saw them," film is forever; it "can go into the files as a living history book."

In the end, it's hard to say. I know; a classic copout, right? But Coe is right in that most of what television carries can be accomplished on film (or, later, tape). It is the anthology, the theatrical presentation, the concert, that thrives from an audience witnessing it simultaneously with the performance. And, of course, that's precisely the type of program that's no longer seen with any regularity on television. Coe may win the battle with his argument that live TV is necessary, but he loses the war when the survey of contemporary fare is conducted. More's the pity.

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As I've mentioned, there's not a lot of differentation in the week-to-week offerings of these early TV Guides, which encourages us to look at some of the things that add a local flavor to the proceedings, if you will. Advertising, for instance: when I last read TV Guide, while it was still in the distinctive smaller size, the non-television advertising in the programming section was pretty much non-existant. (Now, of course, it's the programming section itself that has almost disappeared.) But look at some of these ads from Chicagoland, 1953-style:

And while there's plenty of advertising teasing upcoming shows, most of it is either for local programming or supplied by local stations:

Is this just a way for me to take up more space? Sure it is, but it's more than that. It's a testimonial to how TV Guide in the 1950s and much of the 1960s was a local publication more than a national one., one that had formed something of a community bond, if you will, with the readers. The ads themselves are not as slick, more innocent, less assaulting than those that would follow. You'll even see small reminders for readers to remember their civic duties. It doesn't mean that the 1950s themselves were more innocent; after all, the threat of the bomb was hovering overhead wherever you looked. It's just different, and it gives you as much of a flavor of the times as the shows and the stars that each week's issue is promoting.

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So what is on TV this week? One way to tell is with these handy highlights, found for each day's listings:

One of the interesting things about these pictorial guides is how the captions alternate between actor and character. For instance, Gertrude Berg is the star of The Goldbergs (7:00 p.m. CT, NBC), and Jay Jackson is the host of Twenty Questions (Friday, 9:00 p.m. CT, WGN), but Pam and Jerry are Mr. and Mrs. North (9:00 p.m., CBS), played by Barbara Britton and Richard Denning, respectively. It's your snapshot of what's on.

There's a movie on Friday night at 11:45 p.m. on WGN called Dragnet, not to be confused with the series of the same name. Rather than Jack Webb, it stars Rod LaRouque, and here's the description: "Conflict arises between the district attorney's office and a circle of crooks." I thought that pretty much describes the normal roles that the two parties play in everyday life, but I suspect there's more of a story to it than that.

Did you know that Larry Storch had a regular television series prior to F Troop? I'll bet you did, since it seems as if almost everyone hosted a variety show in the early days of the tube, and the title of his show is, appropriately, The Larry Storch Show (Saturday, 7:00 p.m., CBS). This week, Larry's guest is singer Monica Lewis, and among the sketches, Larry impersonates a Frenchman giving a New York travelogue. That I'd like to see. Not from the show, but here's how Larry plays a Frenchman:

Hoagy Carmichael is the host of Saturday Nite Revue, the 90-minute program filling in for Your Show of Shows (8:00 p.m., NBC), but will it get knocked out by Phillies Saturday Night Fights from Chicago (8:00 p.m., ABC), featuring unranked welterweights Alan Moody and Irvin Steen, or Wrestling from Marigold (8:30 p.m, DuMont)? Who knows?

On Sunday, Ed Sullivan's Toast of the Town (7:00 p.m., CBS) welcomes guests Jay Lawrence and Burt Lancaster. and the 1953 version of the What's My Line? panel—Arlene Francis, Bennett Cerf, Dorothy Kilgallen and Steve Allen—join John Daly live (9:30 p.m., CBS). Monday means Burns & Allen on CBS (7:00 p.m.), and if you're familiar with the show from either radio or television, you'll easily understand this week's episode, in which "George and Gracie get locked out of their house [and] the locksmith called in the emergency almost loses his wife because of complications brought on by Gracie." If you're not sure how this could happen, don't ask. John Newland, Vaughn Taylor and Elizabeth Montgomery are among the stars on Robert Montgomery Presents (8:30 p.m., NBC), and on Abbott & Costello (9:30 p.m., ABC), "Lou rescues a gorilla from a trap and they become inseparable friends." Tuesday is filled with music on Summertime U.S.A. (6:45 p.m., CBS) with Teresa Brewer, Mel Tormé, and the Honeydreamers; that's followed by adventure on The Gene Autry Show (7:00 p.m, CBS) when "gene rescues a little boy from his outlaw captors." Those who forget that Mike Douglas was a bandsinger before becoming a talk show host could be reminded on Music Show (7:30 p.m., DuMont), and Bob and Ray are among the guests on Eddie Albert's variety show Nothing But the Best (8:00 p.m., ABC).

There's more music Wednesday on TV's Top Tunes (6:45 p.m., CBS) with Bob Eberly and Helen O'Connell, and more wrestling on Wrestling From Rainbo Arena on Chicago's North Side (8:30 p.m., ABC). On a summer repeat of This Is Your Life (9:00 p.m,. NBC), the honoree is Rock Hudson. And how about a pleasant way to end the evening, with The Liberace Show (9:30 p.m., WGN) as "Liberace plays your favorite piano melodies." Thursday brings us one of the most reliable anthologies of the era, Four Star Playhouse (7:30 p.m., CBS). The four stars, who generally rotated in appearances, are Charles Boyer, Ida Lupino, David Niven and Dick Powell (they also comprised Four Star Television), although tonight's star is Merle Oberon, a woman who "Swallows her pride, obtains the hearing aid she needs, and thus learns of her husband's infidelity." Barbara Billingsley is one of the guest stars; let's hope Mrs. Cleaver isn't up to something funny.

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Apparently, more and more movie stars are looking to television for their next dollar. Why? Well, for one thing, the studio system is in its long descent to obsolecense. Studios are cutting back on their contract lists, and those actors and actresses still under contract find they're not necessarily being paid regardless of whether or not they work, as was once the case. For the entertainer looking for a steady income, what could be better than a sitcom? A successful series can earn the star as much as $5,000 per week, not including profits, and they'll still have a chance to do a movie during the off-season. Is it any wonder, then, that stars from Loretta Young and Adolph Menjou to Ray Milland and Joan Caulfield are headed for the small screen? Not everyone succeeds, but ask Eve Arden (Our Miss Brooks), Gale Storm (My Little Margie), and Lucy and Desi how well it's worked. Ca-ching!

Speaking of Gale Storm, she started out life in Houston as Josephine Owaisca. Then, in short order, she won a Gateway to Hollywood talent contest, married, got a new name, and launched "a dazzling career" that has brought her to My Little Margie, and stardom. It's not surprising that this self-styled "realist" would be among the stars trading movies for television and security. She's always tried to keep her values in order. "Many people in show business focus their attentions entirely on themselves—how they look, how their clothes are arranged, and so on. I consider that unhealthy because it's too self-centered. The basic happiness for any woman is a happy home life, with the career secondary." With her success in TV have come—once again—movie offers, but for now, it's the demanding television life, a succesful nightclub stint in Vegas, and her husband and four kids. She'll go on to be widowed twice and will fight a successful battle with alcoholism; as she wrote in her autobiography prior to her death in 2009, "Life has been good and I thank God for His many blessings and the happy life He has given to me."

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That's it for this week—and don't forget what TV Guide says:


August 7, 2020

Around the dial

It's a light week, but only in terms of quantity—certainty not quality.

If you've followed this weekly feature for any length of time, you know that one of my favorites is the Hitchcock Project summaries that Jack does over at bare•bones e-zine. This week, Jack provides an index to his past reviews; he's got a way to go yet, but I keep telling him he needs to put these in a book.

The provocative Advanced TV Herstory podcast celebrates five years this week with a look back and a look ahead. You might want to dig into the deep archive of past shows to get up-to-speed.

At Garroway at Large, Jodie gives us a fascinating look at what it's been like working on her Dave Garroway biography, and why she—and those like her—do what they do. It's about keeping a memory alive, about keeping history honest, and telling stories that need to be told. In my own modest way, it's what I keep doing as well.

David offers a capital idea over at Comfort TV: if the coronavirus prevents us from having a Fall Season, why not go back to 1970? After all, you can do a whole lot worse than a season that includes Gunsmoke, The Beverly Hillbillies, Marcus Welby M.D., The Dean Martin Show, The Brady Bunch, My Three Sons, The Mary Tyler Moore Show and The F.B.I.

We all know what comes to mind when we think of Lynda Carter—Wonder Woman, right? (I know that's what you were going to say.) Silver Scenes reminds us that there's more to her than that, though, as she looks back and forward to her singing career.

Shadow & Substance looks at Rod Serling's Twilight Zone episode "What You Need," and we get a chance to find out what Serling retained from Lewis Padgett's original short story and what he discarded—and why—in order to make it what TZ needed. TV  

August 5, 2020

Read the fine print

A while back, I was watching one of my favorite police shows of the 60s, The F.B.I. (Call me nostalgic; I enjoy remembering the days when federal officers were the good guys.) Now, when I'm watching a DVD, I generally don't like to use the rewind button if I can help it; even though most of the shows don't include the original commercials, I still like to see them in some approximation of how they were originally broadcast.* But in this particular episode of The F.B.I, I saw something so intriguing that I had to pause and rewind, just to make sure I'd seen what I thought I saw.

*That, and if I pause it for too long, I have trouble remembering what was happening when I start it up again.

The episode in question, "Hostage," was originally broadcast on February 19, 1967. As we join the story, the FBI has just put out a wanted poster on Dr. Marie-Luise Karn (Diana Hyland), part of a Communist team sent to kidnap an opposition leader in an attempt to force a prisoner exchange for a leading Red general. Fortunately for the FBI, a man working in the harbor (where the Reds plan to use a boat to facilitate their escape) sees the poster:

A few things become immediately apparent. First of all, the Eastern-bloc doctor is not six feet tall (earlier in the episode, we see a photo supposedly from the magazine Der Spiegel suggesting she's probably about 5'8", and Diana Hyland herself was 5'6"), is not an American (she's probably supposed to be East German), and therefore was not born in Stafford, Indiana. But you know who was born in Stafford?

That's right—Dr. Richard Kimble! Interestingly enough, he and Dr. Karn not only share the same birthplace, they were also born on the same date*, and are the same height and weight! And they both became doctors!

*David Janssen was also born on March 27, albeit in 1931. Coincidence?

Obviously what happened is that someone in the prop department pulled out one of the old Kimble posters, pasted Karn's picture over it, and used it in the episode. Both The Fugitive and The F.B.I. were Quinn Martin productions, so it makes sense. And in the days before high-def, big screen televisions with pause buttons on the DVD player, it's unlikely that anyone anticipated viewers would be able to even see the fine print, let alone notice the discrepancy.

It's all good fun, of course. One of the treats of watching old television shows on large-screen HD televisions is seeing things that were invisible when the show was originally aired; a Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea fan noted that the remastered discs now allowed him to see the wires that pulled models along the floor. As the Wizard said, pay no attention to the man behind the curtain. Little details like this just add to my enjoyment of the shows, and affection for the simplicity of the era. TV  

August 3, 2020

What's on TV? Tuesday, August 4, 1964

President Johnson's speech on the Gulf of Tonkin crisis interrupted regular programming at 10:36 p.m. CT. The Tonight Show episode guide notes the event with a nonchalance that belies its importance: "This episode was interrupted for an address by President Lyndon Johnson over the Gulf of Tonkin incident." On to more pleasant memories; the "Theater Opening" on WTCN is that of the new Southtown Theater at the Southtown shopping center in Bloomington. I saw many movies at that theater over the years; I think the last one might have been Quiz Show. It was torn down 25 years ago now, a foolish move by a shopping center that isn't what it used to be. But then, we've made more than a few foolish decisions around here over the years.