June 16, 2018

This week in TV Guide: June 13, 1970

I feel as if I've given kind of short shrift to the programming part of this feature over the past couple of weeks, so this week we're just going to look inside the cover and see what's on. For all our forays into history and sociology and the like, this is still a TV website, after all.

Variety shows, for instance. After all, we have a variety show star - Johnny Cash - on the cover this week, and maybe later on we'll check out what William Price Fox has to say about him. For now, though, we'll be content looking at Wednesday night's show (ABC, 8:00 p.m.), which features guests Jimmie Rodgers, Jerry Lee Lewis (singing "Great Balls o' Fire," of course), and Vikki Carr. Cash's cast of regulars is almost as impressive as the guest list on any other show: June Carter, Carl Perkins, the Statler Brothers, and the Tennessee Three. I'm not a country music fan, and even I know that's a powerhouse lineup. Johnny is up against NBC's Kraft Music Hall, airing at the same time; it's "An Evening with Burt Bacharach," and the famed songwriter welcomes Dionne Warwick (who did mighty well by the Bacharach/David songbook), Joel Grey (a hit on Broadway for Cabaret), and French singer-guitarist Sacha Distel, and while that's good, I think Johnny's on the money this week.

This is a great TV night, depending on your tastes, and speaking of country music, CBS still has Hee Haw as part of their schedule, and at 6:30 p.m. Sonny James and Tammy Wynette join Buck Owens and Roy Clark and the regulars, including Grandpa Jones, Sheb Wolley, Jeannine Riley - practically the Grand Ole Opry right there in the studio. Country singers never did shy away from appearing on television when they had the chance; as rock music gets bigger and the stars appear on TV less often, shows like these will be where you can go to see the biggest names. Even NET gets into the act, with B.B. King on NET Jazz (7:00 p.m.). That's followed at 7:30 by Bob Cromie's long-running Book Beat, with philosopher Mortimer Adler discussing his new book, The Time of Our Lives, in which he argues for a moral and educational revolution in society if man is to truly achieve personal happiness. All I can say is that he picked a good time to discuss it.

Later in the evening - see, it really is packed, isn't it? - ABC follows Cash with Engelbert Humperdinck, their second British import, and while a lot of people see him as a Tom Jones-wannabee, he's got a credible lineup of his own, with Phil Silvers, Paul Anka, British music-hall star Millicent Martin, and singer Dana Vallery. That's not bad. I know what I would have been watching that night, though - WTCN, the independent station, has live boxing from Madison Square Garden in New York, a heavyweight bout between Jerry Quarry and Mac Foster. Foster comes into the fight as the #1 ranked contender, but Quarry knocks him out in the sixth round, earning him a shot at Muhammad Ali later in the year. (Quarry was the only boxer of the top ten heavyweights willing to give Ali a shot.) Boxing in prime time, which had been commonplace a dozen years ago, was a real rarity by 1970, generally only seen in syndicated broadcasts like this.

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And now, back to the beginning of the week. You'll recall that a couple of weeks ago I talked about the KQED Auction, the annual fundraising effort by the Bay Area's public television station. This Saturday, back home in the Twin Cities, it's the final night of KTCA's Action Auction, beginning at 6:00 and continuing "until all the merchandise is sold," including anything that hasn't already sold, plus items donated during the week. (If it's anything like the auctions I watched, it'll wrap up around 4:00 a.m. or so.) The proceeds from this year's auction will be used by Channel 2 to maintain a weekend broadcasting schedule. This is so clearly in the public interest that TV Guide even gives you the phone number to call if you want to place a bid.

Also this weekend: ABCs Wide World of Sports presents (live and tape) satellite coverage of the 24 Hours of LeMans, beginning at 4:00 p.m. Saturday and concluding at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Back in the late '60s, at the height of Ford's campaign to unseat Ferrari as the dominant force in the world's greatest race (via the famed Ford GT), ABC's live coverage included the race's start and finish, which would have been around 8:00 or so in the morning. (I know this because I got up to watch it.) This year, by contrast, the entire 24 hours will be shown on Velocity, in case you'd care to watch the whole thing.

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Sunday morning has been the traditional province of religious programming, but times have changed, as Edith Efron notes in her article on how "social concerns overwhelm spiritual ones in the networks' religious programming." This can be seen in, for instance, CBS's long-running Look Up and Live (9:00 a.m.), which this week features "The Secular Sisters," described as former nuns who recently started their own community, reflecting their "change from a religious order to a 'lay community of religious persons.'"

Efron cites socially conscious programs like these, dealing with the generation gap (see Insight, 11:00 a.m., KCMT, in which "a rebellious teen-ager turns hippie"; Lloyd Bochner plays the teen's dad) the need to communicate (on This is the Life, 11:00 a.m., WDSM, another teen "finds adjustment difficult when his older brother returns home from prison"), the changing role of the church (for example, Town Hall Meeting, 10:00 a.m. KSTP - "Is Mass Evangelism the Answer to the World's Conversion?"), and Navaho poetry (no description needed). The problem with programs like this, points out Efron, is that "the theme of the individual and his relationship to God and the supernatural has been strangely missing."

Networks are enthusiastic about this "living church" programming; CBS's Pamela Ilott says that "the times call" for this "revolutionary social action." ABC's Wiley Hance, producer of Directions, notes that religious programming has been moving to the left for some time. "Those in control have been liberals. And some of the youth groups we've had on these shows are real incendiary revolutionaires. We did one four-parter on the black church, in which one black minister just about advocated black revolution. He came out for hiding arms in churches."

Not everyone is impressed by this argument. Episcopal bishop Charles J. Kinsolving was outraged by a church grant to an organization whose director was jailed for violent assault. "I wonder how many people have to be shot, how many have to be tried, how many have to be pistol-whipped, how many have to be tried, how many sentences have to be given before a group is considered violent by the church."

Many times I write here about the ways in which television reflects the dramatic changes in society over the last half-century. Just as often, though, I note how the more things change, the more they stay the same, and this is one of those situations. Anyone who's read my series of pieces over at the other blog on the Church's dramatic lurch to the left under the reign of the current pope knows that what I've just described is almost exactly what we're seeing in religious programming today. Since we're all about TV here, I'm not going to take off on a sociopolitical/religious rant; I just want to note that if you want to know what's going on in mainstream religion today, just read this article. Even if it is almost 50 years old.

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Still on Sunday, at 9:00 p.m. NBC's episode of The Bold Ones features "The Lawyers" (Burl Ives, James Farentino, Joseph Campanella); this week, their client is Craig Stevens (whom I've liked ever since Peter Gunn), playing a gubernatorial candidate whose campaign hits the skids when he's charged with murder. Fernando Lamas directed the episode, which I assume is marvelous.

Monday it's time for another look at the burning issues of the day; NET Journal (8:00 p.m., NET) takes an absorbing but critical look at the United Nations and asks the question, "Who Speaks for Man?" (Of course, today that would have to be "Who Speaks for Humankind? but that's another story.) The world seems to be filled with warfare today - Vietnam, Biafra, Czechoslovakia, the Middle East - where's the UN in all this, and why is it impotent - if it is impotent?

On TuesdayMarcus Welby, M.D. (9:00 p.m., ABC) gets drawn into the world of LSD, with a young dropout who returns home struggling with the effects of his drug use, but with his antagonism toward his father intact. Longtime TV viewers will not be surprised to find that the father in question is played by Nehemiah Persoff. The other great social issue of the time is Vietnam, and that's the subject of 60 Minutes, which has yet to become a Sunday evening staple - it's a special, and it's on CBS opposite Welby. Mike Wallace talks to both draftees and career soldiers to get their impressions of Vietnam both before and after their tour. 60 Minutes isn't ignoring drugs, though; Wallace's co-host Harry Reasoner looks at the growing number of young Americans in European jails on drug charges.*

*Not-so-fun fact: Four months after this airs, a young American named Billy Hayes is arrested in Turkey on a drug charge. His experiences in a Turkish prison are the basis for his book Midnight Express, which is made into an Oscar-nominated movie.

I mentioned Tom Jones above; on Thursday night (8:00 p.m., ABC) Tom welcomes Victor Borge, British comic actor Harry Secombe, and singer-dancer Paula Kelly. At 9:00 p.m. Dean Martin, in one of his last shows before the summer break, has his daughter Deana, Elke Sommer, Frank Sinatra Jr., Charles Nelson Reilly, and Don Rice.

And on Friday there's this terrific double-feature on WDIO in Duluth at 10:35 p.m. The first movie is a real classic: The Magnificent Seven, with an all-star cast including Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen. What do you follow that up with? Curse of the Faceless Man, starring Richard Anderson. "In the ruins of the city of Pompeii, the body of a faceless stone man is discovered." Somehow I suspect there's more to it than that, but I suppose I'll just have to check it out sometime to find out. It is on YouTube, after all.

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There's a lot more to this issue of TV Guide, too. For example, Robert Higgins does a profile of CBS's morning news anchor, Joseph Benti. However, since I talked with Joseph Benti myself last week (he's 86 and sounds great), I think I'll save this until I write about our conversation, which should be in a couple of weeks.

Something else I write about from time to time is my upcoming book The Electronic Mirror, which develops the ideas I talk about here, about how television reflects (get it?) the cultural changes we've undergone. The book will be out shortly before I appear at the Mid Atlantic Nostalgia Convention in September, but it has to be done before that. Right now I'm in the process of reviewing the second draft, and in order to get this wrapped up, I'll be taking the next couple of Saturdays off, dipping back into the well to look at classic TV guide pieces from the past. As was the case last month, I'll have new listings on Monday (one reason why I reprint the old reviews, back from before I did the Monday feature), and I might throw in an encore piece somewhere along the line. One thing I won't do, however, is let the blog go dark - it, and you the readers, mean too much to me for that.

Speaking of those listings, we'll end this week with a few examples of something people have noticed on occasion - the habit that TV Guide has of abbreviating series titles, especially when they run a bit long. For instance; The Name of the Game becomes, according to TV Guide, Name/Game, similarly, Land of the Giants winds up as Land/Giants. (Oddly enough, Here Come the Brides gets printed in full.) Eddie's Father eliminates the Courtship, there's no Love in To Rome, Jeannie doesn't Dream, Voyage doesn't go to the Bottom of the Sea or anywhere else, and Disney's World isn't so Wonderful after all, apparently.

And that, my friends, is the kind of hard-hitting and insightful analysis you expect from this site. TV  

June 15, 2018

Around the dial


ey, Hondo's back! Actually, it's Hal at The Horn Section who's back, and this week he's telling us about the November, 1967 episode "Hondo and the Judas," and some very sloppy work on the show's storyline continuity. Man, I just hate it when things like that happen - I pick, pick, pick on it. Just ask my wife.

At Comfort TV, David has a really, really good piece on how television is no longer "something to talk about." I recommend you read the whole thing, because this is an article that speaks to me in so many ways, particularly the idea of television as a shared experience. As David says, "Such connections, such common threads, are beneficial for a culture." The fact that we no longer have them does say something, doesn't it?

I mentioned last week that we're at the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. In a week or two I'll have more to write on that, but in the meantime, Andrew of The Lucky Strike Papers writes about the busboy who comforted RFK in some of his last moments of consciousness.

I kid you not - just before typing this, I was reading an article discussing how Formula 1 is considering reducing the length of its races to attract more viewers. What does this have to do with television? Well, at Garroway at Large Jodie writes about an early review of Today by H. L. Phillips that includes the thought that no television show should run as long as two hours. Have we always had short attention spans?

Did you know that Rocky & Bullwinkle had been revived? If I did know that, I'd forgotten all about it - good thing Martin Grams is around to remind us. Here's his review of the Amazon-based series, which I think I may have to check out after I'm done here.

Finally, a shout-out to Television Obscurities, which celebrated its 15th anniversary over last weekend. That's more than twice as long as this blog has been around, all the while putting out informative articles on obscure programs, as well as a titanic year-long look at a single season of TV Guide. Let's hope there are many more years to come! TV  

June 13, 2018

In honor of the World Cup

The World Cup, the biggest sporting event in the world, kicks off tomorrow in Russia, and so I thought it only right to take this very, very funny look at soccer as seen through the eyes of Monty Python's Flying Circus. If you're a fan of either soccer or philosophy, then I think you'll appreciate the utter absurdity of this situation.

"Beckenbauer" is one of the great German soccer players of the era; I think you'll recognize the rest of the "players." TV  

June 11, 2018

What's on TV? Friday, June 12, 1959

After a couple of weeks in the 70s, we're back to 1959 this week. You won't see all the stations you may be used to looking at in the Minnesota State Edition - KCMT, the infamous Channel 7 from my days in the World's Worst Town™, hasn't been born yet. What it does do is give me a rare chance to show every station that's in the issue, which is kind of cool. A couple of things you might notice: check out Anita Bryant on American Bandstand - that's not the Bandstand I remember. And the week's guest singer on Jack Paar's Tonight is Betty Johnson; one of her big hits was "The Little Blue Man," who was played by none other than Jack's sidekick, Hugh Downs. Anyway, have a good time!

June 9, 2018

This week in TV Guide: June 6, 1959

Ah yes, the story of the show that laid an egg. It was a live series called Music Theater, hosted by Bill Hayes and Florence Henderson, and when it was on the air, it aired on NBC. The producer of Music Theater was David Susskind, coming off a banner television year with DuPont Show of the Month. Music Theater, alas, would not continue Susskind's winning streak.

The show utilized a unique format, an attempt to bring Oklahoma-style musical theater to television. "Everything you see today on TV is a Western or a private-eye series," Susskind says. "But our sponsor [Oldsmobile] wanted something new, and I convinced them that this idea was fresh."

According to Susskind, it didn't take long for doubts to creep in. "[A]fter our first show we were angry with ourselves," and the production crew shouted at each other for two hours afterward. He concedes that the critics "had a right to kill us," but bristles at the idea the show was "old hat." "They completely refused to recognize the simple fact that we were attempting a worthwhile crack at something different." If there's something that bothers Susskind, it's that this could signal a tough time ahead for "shows with imagination."

I have to admit that I'd never heard of Music Theater, or more properly (according to the internet) Oldsmobile Music Theater, until I read about it here. Florence Henderson and Bill Hayes were naturals for the show, having worked as a team on Oldsmobile commercials in the past, and it's not as if either of them suffered from the cancellation of Music Theater. Bill Hayes and his wife, Susan Seaforth Hayes, had a pretty fair amount of success on Days of Our Lives, while Florence Henderson even though she had a lengthy musical career, became one of America's most-loved television moms on The Brady Bunch. As for Music Theater's replacement, it is a sitcom called Too Young to Go Steady, starring Donald Cook and Joan Bennett. It, too, was produced by David Susskind. It ran for a grand total of seven episodes.

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We may not have Cleveland Amory yet, but that doesn't keep our intrepid reviewer F.DeB. (and for the life of me, I can't remember who that's an abbreviation for. I'm sure one of our readers will, though!) from looking at the state of Daytime TV. Hint: "The Torture Starts Early."

He leads off with a joke from Sam Levenson, host of one of CBS's morning efforts. "I got a letter here," says Levenson, "from a fellow in jail. 'I been watching TV all day now for a week,' he writes. 'And until someone put me wise I thought it was part of my sentence." And that's the good news, as our critic works his way through a surfeit of quiz shows, a handful of treacly soap operas, and unctuous hosts. Bill Wendell, who you may remember as David Letterman's announcer during his NBC days (and, many years before that, Ernie Kovacs), is having a great time as quizmaster of Tic Tac Dough (left). The question: "Name the city in Ohio known as the rubber capital of the United States?" The contestant's hopeful answer: "Baton Rouge?" [For the record, the answer is Akron.]

After lunch (three Tums with a bolt of Serutan), Art Linkletter is back with his "Kids Say the Darnedest Things" segment, and asks a small child what he would do if Art had a broken neck? (I'm not quite sure how that subject came up.) Replies the child, "I'd put it back on and make sure your eyes and nose and mouth were on up front." Later, it's the "lachrymose river" soap From These Roots, which causes our review to go and open a window. When he returned it was time for Mr. America himself, Bert Parks, hosting County Fair and explaining to a man how he was going to be sticking his head through a hole so that a woman can throw pies at him. In two dozen efforts, she never hit him once - which, from the sounds of it, must be the ratio of hits to shows on daytime TV.

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The summer issues of TV Guide can be kind of a challenge, to be honest; as we get into July and August we'll see more and more reruns along with failed summer replacements, and in the late 50s, it can be even more difficult to find something captivating. This week, I thought I'd share some of the ads from back in the day; it gives you a real flavor of what things are like.

John Daly, "The man who knows his news" - that's his line.

Can you imagine how exciting it would have been for an eight-year-old to get a call from
Roy Rogers?

Rendezvous was a British espionage show that aired in syndication in the United States in 1958-59. The ad makes it look very exciting, doesn't it? Doesn't it?

These two ads don't really have anything to do with each other, but I like the way they fit together on the page. That gun makes Highway Patrol look a little more violent than I recall it as having been - although Broderick Crawford could really bark out "10-4" and "Roadblocks," couldn't he? And Roller Derby, live from the Minneapolis Auditorium! Now that's entertainment!

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Daylight Savings Time can be a pain in the best of times (no pun intended) - it sets up an interesting situation in the Saturday listings, where Mason City's KGLO (more on them in a minute) airs the Yankees-Indians Game of the Week at 11:45 a.m., while WCCO, Duluth's KDAL, and WKBT in La Crosse all have the same game on at 12:45 p.m. - and all of them are showing it live! The same doesn't hold for prime-time programming, where things seem to be a little more orderly.

And speaking of KGLO, they've got an interesting program on at 10:30 on Monday night. It's called Channel 3 Extra, and it features Bill and Cora Baird and their puppets. When I first saw this, I wondered if this might be a syndicated program of some kind, even though it looks like it's local - but, sure enough, according to the always-reliable Wikipedia, Bill Baird grew up in Mason City - who knew? They were already famous by 1959, but here they were, doing a show back in Mason City. That's kind of cool. (There he is on the right, with one of his most famous puppets, Charlemagne the Lion.)

Wait, I forgot - there is one more very important program on KGLO this week. It's an interview with the new Miss North Iowa of 1959! Maybe that's why the Bairds were in Mason City. TV  

June 8, 2018

Around the dial

Afine roundup of classic TV bits and pieces awaits us, so let's get right to it.

We'll start at The Twilight Zone Vortex, where Jordan reviews the submarine drama "The Thirty Fathom Grave," one of the weaker of the frequently-weak hour-long TZ episodes. Ironic, since I just finished reading Erik Larson's book about the Lusitania, Dead Wake, which - of course - has a lot to do with submarines. It's a better story.

David at Comfort TV remembers the shapely, talented Arlene Martel, a familiar face from many a television show in the 60s, 70s and even 80s. Of course I remember her best from her several appearances as Tiger in Hogan's Heroes; my friend Carol Ford, who interviewed her for her bio of Bob Crane, remembers her as a lovely, very nice woman.

Another visit to the Hitchcock Project at bare-bones e-zine: this week, Jack reviews season seven's "You Can't Be a Little Girl All Your Life," written by Stanley Ellin. This is an episode I haven't yet seen, and against all odds I've managed to refrain from reading Jack's review. That may just be temporary, though - check back next week...

Ooh, combining Doctor Who and The Prisoner! That's the story at Inner Toob, and it's a very funny pictorial view of some of the Doctors inhabiting the world of Number Six. Go take a look - remember, a picture says a thousand words!

Cult TV Blog takes a second - and even third - look at the Roger Moore years of The Saint, and comes away with a new appreciation for his performance. John also notices some differences between Moore's B&W Saint and the color years.

Television's New Frontier: the 1960s looks at the 1961 season one of my favorite Westerns of the 1960s, Wanted: Dead or Alive. There are, as always, some fascinating tidbits about this show, and the actors in it - including the charismatic star, Steve McQueen.

This week was the 50th anniversary of the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy. Five years ago, I took a look at the coverage on television and especially radio, and how it evokes an earlier time. Yesterday I had a very pleasant conversation with Joseph Benti, the CBS anchorman who led that early-morning coverage on the network; I'll have that up in a couple of weeks.

Plus, a reminder that if you enjoy reading my essays on classic television, I'll be appearing at this year's Mid Atlantic Nostalgia Convention in Hunt Valley, Maryland on Thursday, September 13, at 11:00 a.m. discussing TV Guide as "America's Time Capsule." More on that later!

And more on TV Guide tomorrow! TV  

June 4, 2018

What's on TV? Wednesday, June 5, 1974

We're in the Bay Area this week, looking at the listings from San Francisco and Sacramento, with San Jose thrown in for good measure. What struck me as I was going through this was the list of celebrities appearing on this week's game shows. Hollywood Squares really has the B list this week, plus Dr. David Reuben (Everything You Wanted to Know About Sex*) - I can imagine what kind of questions Peter Marshall asked him. Nipsey Russell, the king of game shows, is on two this week, one on ABC and one on CBS. Celebrity Sweepstakes, a show I remember only by name, has a really varied cast - regular types like Joey Bishop and Buddy Hackett, plus Lois Nettleton and Luciana Paluzzi. Oh, and how about KPIX's Mike Douglas Show, with Don Meredith, NFL Films head Ed Sabol, Tiny Tim, Miss Universe Maria Margarita Moran, and a woman's football team. Why do I get the feeling SCTV booked these shows?