June 25, 2018

What's on TV? Thursday, June 27, 1968

This is a pretty good week - starting to see some of the summer replacements pop up, while Friday night features the first football game of the season (the old Coaches' All-America Game, feature players who'd been drafted and would be rookies this year). Many programs, especially on Saturday, are shows that had been "postponed from a previous date," preempted by the RFK assassination coverage. Thursday's listings, on the other hand, are pretty straightforward (with a couple of pleasant surprises), which is why I chose to highlight them for this week. They come from the Twin Cities edition, with appropriate pithy comments.

June 23, 2018

This week in TV Guide: June 22, 1968

At an hour when I should be watching television, or reading a TV Guide, I'm instead working on the third, and (hopefully) penultimate, draft of The Electronic Mirror. It is for that reason and none other that I ask your indulgence in allowing me to dip into the archives once again for a look at this issue, which I first wrote about five years ago. I think it still holds up pretty well.

The nation's still reeling from the assassination of RFK a little over two weeks ago, and television is no exception.

Periodically throughout its history, the medium's majordomos have engaged in bouts of soul-searching, and as television increased in cultural importance, it displayed something of a schizophrenic attitude regarding its responsibility to society.  In the aftermath of RFK, all eyes turned toward the effect that TV might have had on creating a climate of violence.*

*We're not here to debate Sirhan Sirhan's guilt, but it does bear saying that if he was guilty, then his motivation was not violence on TV, but a hatred of RFK for his support of Israel.  The rest of this discussion would seem, to me at least, to be a moot point: Sirhan would have committed the deed even if the most violent thing on TV was a fluffy white kitten.


The Doan Report asks the question: "Had television's violence-prone "action-adventure" drama contributed substantially to today's climate of solution-by-murder?"  People from all walks debate the issue, from historian (and Kennedy camp follower) Arthur Schlessinger to playwrite Arthur Miller to the President of the United States himself, who asked "whether 'the seeds of violence' had been nurtured by TV, movies and news media."  The Louisville Times refers to "America the Brutal," and points the finger at TV as "a root" of the evil, using a picture of Richard Boone as Paladin in Have Gun - Will Travel as evidence.*

*I know it's hard to believe, considering what one sees on TV nowadays, but at one time HGWT was considered one of the most violent programs on television.

New York Representative John Murphy condemns the networks, saying that "[n]ight after night one program after the other shows violence in great detail and in living color."  Miller, the playwright, says that the country was now at the stage where "any half-educated man in a good suit can make his fortune by concocting a television show whose brutality is photographed in sufficiently monstrous detail."

It's not just politicians and pundits raising cain, though, as a perusal of the Letters to the Editor section will show.  Casey Willis of Tucson complains that although there have been hundreds of gun killings in the U.S., "many of the most popular shows on TV have been based on firearms and violence," and suggests that TV "should search its own soul."  Mary Hendrickson of Hudson, NY adds that "I can censor my own children's programs, but what of the children whose parents don't know or care what is pounded into their impressionable little heads?"  TV has done a good job covering the recent tragedies; now, "do something to prevent them."  And P. Corcoran of the Bronx says that "TV is one of the worst offenders in this crime" of violence flooding the country, citing Mission: Impossible as one of the shows "warping our youngsters."*

*See my comments on HGWT above.

One of the ways the networks have responded to this outcry of public opinion has been to pull its series' most violent episodes off the air - at least for the short term,as I mentioned a couple of weeks ago.  NBC released a statement assuring the public that they "have established policies and procedures to guard against the depiction of violence fore its own sake," and CBS president Frank Stanton promised that the network  "would seek to 'de-emphasize' violence" on their programs.

And so the landscape changes, for a time, and kinder, gentler programming is now the fashion.  But for how long?  I suppose there's any number of studies that could isolate when the trend toward more violent fare resumed.  No matter how noble the intent might be, ultimately ratings (and the concurrent advertising dollars) rule, and the viewers cast the deciding votes.  The level of violence on television today is astounding; I can't imagine what the people, who were so aghast at 60s violence, would think of it.  One could argue that, having grown up in a so-called culture of violence, people are more inured to it, and less likely to be influenced by it.  And yet, things seldom change much: every time there's a school shooting or bombing or other act of violence, the cry arises once again.  Lately, it's been over the violence in video games.

For a long time, television has attempted to have it both ways, downplaying the influence its programs have on viewers' behavior while at the same time accepting ads designed to - influence viewers' behavior.  That's always seemed a bit disingenuous to me.  Of course the content of television programming affects viewers. Likewise, though, there can't be much doubt that the audience is receptive and willing.  It's a chicken-and-egg situation - does the problem lie with the programming, or the people watching it?

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One testimony to the effect of the assassination on television is the slew of shows bearing the legend "Postponed from an earlier date,"  the heaviest concentration of which appear on Saturday.  Although network coverage of the assassination and aftermath were nowhere near the 1963 levels, all three networks preempted virtually all of their Saturday programming for Kennedy's funeral and burial.  The intent was to return to regular programming at the start of prime time, but the funeral train was four-and-a-half hours late, and the entire slate wound up being wiped out.  The Prisoner, Hogan's Heroes, The Dating Game, Petticoat Junction, an ABC profile of land speed-record holder Craig Breedlove - all are victims of the accordion effect of postponements and rescheduling.

The Sunday chat shows reflect the political dynamic as well: Face the Nation features a showdown between Connecticut Senator Thomas Dodd (father of Chris) and NRA president Harold Glassen over the burning issue of gun control.  Presidential candidates Eugene McCarthy (Issues and Answers) and Nelson Rockefeller (Meet the Press) round out the day's guests, and I'm sure each of them touched on guns as well.

***

During the 60s, the Ed Sullivan Show and The Hollywood Palace were the premiere variety shows on television. Whenever they appear in TV Guide together, we'll match them up and see who has the best lineup..

Ed Sullivan: On this first in a series of reruns, CBS renames its Broadway theater in honor of Ed.  Guests: New York City mayor John Lindsay, Pearl Bailey, Alan King, Met baritone Robert Merrill, actress-dancer Gwen Verdon, comedians Wayne and Schuster, the Argentine singing group Los Nimos Cantores de Murialdo, and the Emerald Society pipe bands of New York's police and fire departments.

Hollywood Palace:  Guest host Sid Caesar dominates this hour of comedy and music.  Guests: Marlo Thomas, singers Sergio Franchi and Fran Jeffries, and the rocking Checkmates, Ltd.

It's rerun season, and interestingly enough, this particular show of Ed's has already appeared on our TV Guide review, back in December of 1967.  That time, I went with the Palace, partly because of John Lindsay's grandstanding appearance.  As I mentioned, CBS could just as well have had William Paley make the presentation instead of a hack politician.  This time, however, the decision goes the other way - no matter how good Sid Caesar might be, Marlo Thomas and the Checkmates are not going to edge out Pearl Bailey, Alan Kind and Robert Merrill.  Verdict:  Sullivan, the second time around.


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The summer months mean not only reruns, but summer replacement series.  For those of you not familiar with that concept, back in the day many programs, particularly variety shows, took the summer off and were replaced with short-run series, also often variety shows.  So for example, on CBS the Smothers Brothers' summer replacement is the Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, which does well enough in the ratings to merit a return engagement the following January, where it would remain until January 1972.  Red Skelton's off as well, replaced by Showtime, a variety show with a different host each week; this week, it's country singer Eddy Arnold, who also hosts NBC's Kraft Music Hall on NBC the next night.

Speaking of NBC, Dean Martin never worked summers, and the fill-in was invariably called Dean Martin Presents... For the summer of '68 he presents the Golddiggers, with Frank Sinatra, Jr. and Joey Heatherton.  Jerry Lewis' replacement is Showcase '68, with Lloyd Thaxton.

Another trend in summer replacements for all three networks is the British import, though few of them are as radical a change as Jackie Gleason's fill-in - the mind-bending British series The Prisoner.  ABC pops in another British adventure series, Man in a Suitcase, in place of its Disney-wannabee Off to See the Wizard.  And Laugh-In's spot is taken by yet another spy/adventure series, The Champions.  All three of them are products of Lew Grade's ITC Entertainment, a mainstay of 60s TV.

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Here's a personal conundrum - Friday night features the first football game of the season, the late and unlamented Coaches' All-America Game, played in Atlanta.  It's actually the last game of the 1967 college season, since both teams are staffed by seniors about to join NFL training camps.*  Recognizable names?  Larry Csonka, who knocked 'em dead at Miami, and Ron Yary, an all-timer for Minnesota.

*This game, like the much-loved College All-Star Game that pitted college stars against the defending NFL champions, was a victim of increased concerns over injuries, and pro teams' desires to get their players in camp earlier.  It lasted, believe it or not, until 1976.

Ordinarily I would have been glued to the tube for this game (at that age, 8, I would watch anything that featured a scoreboard), but this year was different, for opposite ABC's coverage of the game was CBS' Friday night movie, A Night to Remember.  Longtime readers will recall that the story of the Titanic has been one of my lifelong passions, and so there's no question that this movie, a brilliant adaptation of Walter Lord's bestseller and the definitive Titanic movie, captured the evening in my book.  But then again, this kind of scheduling is why the DVR was invented.

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On the cover this week is Toni Helfer, who along with her husband Ralph train animals for Ivar Tors' series Daktari.  But we're going to wrap up this week's review with a look at another feature from the shiny section of the magazine.  It's a profile of William Shatner, who's hit it big with Star Trek, but he's still not happy.  He's a classically trained actor, a veteran of Shakespearean productions and high-class TV dramas, but as he said, "A plaque on the wall doesn't by baby food."  The man who wowed audiences as Henry V when he was 22 has found that success doesn't necessarily translate to happiness, nor does flying around the universe lead to professional satisfaction.  He's struggling in other ways as well.  His father died a year ago, he's now separated from his wife of 10 years, and he sees his life as "an empty pit."  He hungers for friends, but finds only fans.

He leaves us with a classic Shatner moment though, one that you can almost hear as you read it on the page. Addressing the National Conference of Christians and Jews, he tells the audience that "I'm a Jew, but I do not believe in your God...I do know we are all afraid of dying...we are all afraid of loneliness.  Those are universal truths.  Are you scared?  I'm scared...I love you...I need you."

The words of a transformed man, don't you think? TV  

June 22, 2018

Come see me at Mid-Atlantic

The lineup for this year's Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention is just about complete, and if you're in the Baltimore-Washington area or have the opportunity to come out for a long weekend, I invite you all to stop by for my talk on "TV Guide: America's Time Capsule" on the Convention's opening morning - Thursday, September 13, at 11:00 a.m. I'll also be available throughout the weekend to sign my upcoming book, The Electronic Mirror: An Opinionated Look at How Classic TV Helps Us Understand Who We Were and Who We Are (and Everything In-Between!). 

From the program:

Throughout the latter half of the 20th Century, there was no better barometer as to the cultural climate in America than the pages of TV Guide. During those days, the little, odd-shaped magazine was arguably the most influential publication in television, and those who think of it merely as something that told us what was on TV, something that could be read and then thrown away as soon as the week was finished, risk overlooking a treasure trove of information, a time capsule that helps us understand who we were then, who we are now, and how we got that way. Presented by TV historian Mitchell Hadley.

That's me! What a blast!

I'm also thrilled to see some other great presentations on tap for the weekend: my good friend (and occasional guest blogger here) Jodie Peeler, along with Kevin Doherty, will be on tap earlier that morning, kicking of the Convention at 9:00 a.m. with "Your Friends From Breakfast to Bedtime: NBC's Today, Home, and Tonight," and I'm going to make sure to step away from my table for an hour and catch what sounds like a fascinating talk. Meanwhile, Rick Goldschmidt, the official Rankin-Bass historian, is giving two presentations this year: at 10:00 a.m. on Friday he'll be talking about "The Making of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer," and at 1:30 p.m. Saturday afternoon he'll be back with "The History of Rankin and Bass." Those should be two terrific presentations. Before I get too wrapped up in this, go to the link for the complete list of celebrities and presentations to get more details.

If you've read my pieces the last two years about MANC, you'll know what a great weekend it is (even without me!), and this could be the best lineup yet. I'd love to see you out there and autograph a copy of my book for you, or just have you in the audience on Thursday morning. Go ahead and treat yourself - you're worth it! TV  

June 20, 2018

When good comes from evil

L
ife, as I have remarked more than once, is at heart a human drama. And not just any drama, but one shrouded in mystery. Oftentimes, it seems as if the act of living provides us with more questions than answers, which is rarely satisfying to anyone; it is frequently that lack of answers that causes some people to conclude that there is no meaning to life at all, that it’s simply a matter of random chance that determines what happens to us. Why, we ask, do bad things happen to good people while good things happen to bad people? Why does God allow evil to exist in the world? It's a question that's shattered the faith of more than one person over the millennia, and continues to do so to this day - perhaps especially in this day.

Sometimes we find explanations to these kinds of questions difficult to come by, and often it's easier (and more effective) to illustrate a point than it is to explain it. Likewise, those illustrations will often come from unusual places; in this case, the classic Doctor Who episode "Genesis of the Daleks," which first aired in March, 1975. It is a brilliant science fiction story that deals, as sci-fi often does, with big issues thinly disguised in different wrappers. With "Genesis of the Daleks," we find as near as possible a perfect demonstration of the Christian explanation regarding the existence of evil, and what, in fact, it's good for.

"Genesis of the Daleks" begins with the Doctor (Tom Baker) being intercepted by a fellow Time Lord, who intends for the Doctor and his companions to take on a secret mission. As usual, the Doctor resents this interference by the Time Lords in his life, but his interest is piqued when he's told the subject of the mission: Daleks.

In short, the Time Lords plan to transport the Doctor, Sara Jane (Elisabeth Sladen) and Harry (Ian Marter) back to the planet Skaro at a time just before the creation of the Daleks. Once there, the Doctor's assignment is to prevent the Daleks from achieving their eventual domination and enslavement of the universe. To do this, he has three options: stop the creation of the Daleks before it can be completed; slow down their development if it cannot be stopped; or at the very least, determine what their weaknesses are, so that they can be better defended against.

As the story proceeds, the Doctor is left with a single choice: he can destroy the Dalek incubation room where the mutated creatures are being prepared for installation in their pepper-pot containers. Working quickly, he wires the room with explosives. And then arrives the moment we’ve waited for from the beginning of the story. The Doctor holds in his hands two wires: touch them together and the explosion will destroy the incubation room, destroying forever the Daleks and their reign of terror and death. And yet the Doctor hesitates.

“What are you waiting for?” Sarah Jane asks him. “You can’t doubt it.”

“Well, I do,” the Doctor replies. “You see, some things could be better with the Daleks. Many future worlds will become allies just because of their fear of the Daleks.” To Sarah Jane’s objection that this isn't how things work, the Doctor points out that the responsibility for this act rests on his shoulders – his soul, really, although he doesn't use that word – and no one else’s; he then poses a question of his own. “Listen, if someone who knew the future pointed out a child to you and told you that that child would grow up totally evil, to be a ruthless dictator who would destroy millions of lives, could you then kill that child?”* It’s true that, as the Doctor says, “Hundreds of millions of people, thousands of generations can live without fear, in peace, and never even know the word Dalek” if he simply touches the two wires together, and yet – does he have the right? It’s not like killing a bacteria, wiping out a disease; this is an intelligent life form. If the Doctor does it, he becomes a perpetrator of genocide, no different from the Daleks themselves.

*That is, of course, the same argument made by Ezra Lieberman, Ira Levin’s Nazi hunter in his novel The Boys from Brazil. Kill all the Hitler clones Mengele has created – all of whom happen to be young boys, by the way – and you’ll prevent one of them from growing up to become another Hitler. Lieberman, like the Doctor, is unable to do it, and for the same reasons.

Ultimately, the decision is taken out of the Doctor's hands, through yet another plot twist. As the story ends, one of the Daleks inadvertently sets off the explosion. Although the room has been destroyed, Daleks outside the room continue to live, and the best the Doctor can hope is that they've bought some additional time to prepare for them - perhaps a thousand years or so. The Doctor and his companions manage to escape Skaro with their lives, which under the circumstances may be the best they could hope for. And yet there’s no doubt they’ve failed in the mission on which the Time Lords sent them, to prevent the genesis of the Daleks.

Or have they? “Failed?” the Doctor asks. “No, not really. You see, I know that although the Daleks will create havoc and destruction for millions of years, I know also that out of their evil must come something good.”

This is one of the pivotal moments in the history of Doctor Who. We already knew how it would turn out; the BBC isn’t about to kill off the cash cow that is the Daleks. But in resolving the situation, the Doctor, who in all of his incarnations has witnessed first-hand more Dalek-caused death and destruction than it would ever be possible for anyone else to experience, who knows the millions of years of “havoc and destruction” that awaits because of the Daleks, still remains confident that good will ultimately emerge from even the worst of circumstances. It is a profound statement; in effect, an explanation for the existence of evil.*

*Two profound statements, in fact, the other being the sanctity of life – even Dalek life.

Granted, there’s an entire theology dealing with good and evil – Original Sin, free will and the like. But in some ways the simplest answer remains the best, and this is what the Doctor presents. Note the force of his statement - some good must come from the evil of the Daleks. Planets and nations will come together as a result of them, and perhaps it will foster understanding between different races and species. People who would otherwise remain apart will meet because of them, and some of them will marry and have children, and some of those children might, propelled by the threat from the Daleks, come up with inventions that will greatly benefit the brotherhood of man. One need only look in our own time at the many scientific achievements that resulted from the space program, which itself was a part of a Cold War being fought against dictators responsible for the deaths of many millions of people. You can create your own scenarios, but the point remains the same.

Ultimately, all that's required to understand the nature of good and evil is faith - faith that evil is not the end-all and the be-all. Indeed, the Doctor's refusal to commit genocide, even in what would appear to be a good cause, speaks to the importance of one remaining true to himself, regardless of the costs. Christians might think of this as the sanctification of the individual, the ability to reach into inner depths that might not otherwise be exposed save the existence of such a threat. For a program such as Doctor Who, one that frequently looks at religion with a cynical eye, the message that comes from "Genesis of the Daleks" is a surprisingly affirming one.

But then we really shouldn't be surprised. It's a point I've made more than once here, that inadvertent prophets can be found in the unlikeliest of places, It also reinforces another point: the truth is always the truth, no matter how you package or present it. Bishop Sheen probably couldn't have said it any better. TV  

June 18, 2018

What's on TV? Saturday, June 13, 1970

The listings this week give us a blend of old and new, which you can see right off the bat with the Saturday morning offerings. The familiar favorites, The Jetsons, Bugs Bunny, Underdog, and The Flintstones,* mingle with newer shows like Cattanooga Cats, The Banana Splits, and Here Comes the Grump. The Flintstones joins The Monkees and Jonny Quest as former prime-time programs moved to Saturday morning. And then there's Wacky Races and its two spinoffs, Dastardly and Muttley and Penelope Pitstop.

*Interesting, isn't it, how The Flintstones started off as an animated version of The Honeymooners, kind of a sophisticated adult cartoon, and winds up listed as a kids' show?

The prime-time lineups are all in color now (except for an occasional movie), and you'll notice that ABC's completely lost its affiliates following Lawrence Welk; of the three we have here, only one carries the Durante and the Lennons show. I wonder how many affiliates nationally took that show?

Enjoy. The listings are from the Minnesota State Edition.

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

H




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