October 16, 2019

Those were the days

Back when I was compiling my Perry Mason collection, long before the series came out on DVD, I couldn't get enough of these things. This ad appeared in the TV Guide we looked at on Saturday.

I didn't get mine at Fotomat (and I didn't pay that much for them, either), but I saved plenty of bucks anyway. They're all gone now, of course, but I had them when I needed them. TV  

October 14, 2019

What's on TV? Saturday, October 12, 1974

Vegas, baby! City of Lights! No, wait—that's Paris, isn't it? Well, we're not in Paris this week, so the Nevada Edition of TV Guide will have to do. (Besides, I don't want to offend Reno, or the other locations in the issue.) As I mentioned on Saturday, today is the first day of the World Series, but because we didn't know at press time what teams would be playing, it doesn't appear anywhere in the listings. Lots of "To Be Announced," though. For the record, the pre-game begins at 12:30 p.m. on NBC, with the actual game starting at 12:45. We also don't know what the college football game of the week is, but if you're in the mood for westerns, science fiction, or country music, you're in luck! And if you're not, there's still plenty to watch.

October 12, 2019

This week in TV Guide: October 12, 1974

You are Frank Sinatra, one of—if not the—biggest names in entertainment. You came out of a two-year retirement last year, you've just recently concluded a massive world tour, and on Sunday night ABC is broadcasting a concert you performed just a few nights ago at Madison Square Garden in New York. You are Frank Sinatra, and your opening act tonight is: Sonny Bono.

Well, maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration. Sonny isn't actually in New York City. But The Sonny Comedy Revue (8:00 p.m. PT), his effort to prove that there is indeed life after Cher, kicks off a big night of music for ABC, one that concludes at 10:00 p.m. with Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass. And between Sonny and Herb—sounds like a sandwich shop, doesn't it?—is The Main Event. Or rather, SinatraThe Main Event.

It's not just the title that plays off the Garden's storied boxing history; ads portray Sinatra posing like a victorious prize fighter, a towel around his shoulders, hands clasped triumphantly over his head. The stage looks like a boxing ring (minus the ropes), and Sinatra walks through the star-studded crowd to reach it, escorted by his entourage, all to the sounds of Howard Cosell's introduction. We get the message: Sinatra's not just The Chairman, he's the Heavyweight Champion; it's Frank's world, and we just live in it.

It's a great bit of theater, and no wonder—Roone Arledge, ABC's genius master of sports, is producing the special, using 11 cameras "including several hand-held ones" to capture the action. Sinatra sings all his favorites,* backed by Woody Herman and The Young Thundering Herd, and even though he might not be in the best voice on this night, who cares? "The Lady is a Tramp," "My Kind of Town," "I Get a Kick Out of You," "I've Got You Under My Skin," "My Way"—that's what people want to hear.

*Plus a couple of clunkers. "Bad, Bad Leroy Brown"? I mean, it's a great song for Jim Croce, but seriously? Not "New York, New York," thoughit hasn't been written yet.

Oh, and the rest of the night? Well, Sonny's guest stars are Glen Campbell, Twiggy, and The Staple Singers. Herb Alpert has a retooled Tijuana Brass, one that he says is more strongly influenced by jazz. The Muppets are around for some laughs, and Herb's vocalist (and future wife) Lani Hall puts some words to the music. All in all, that's a pretty good night of entertainment.

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On weeks when we can, we'll match up two of the biggest rock shows of the '70s, NBC's The Midnight Special and the syndicated Don Kirshner's Rock Concert, and see who's better, who's best.

Kirshner: Bad Company, Rare Earth and Renaissance are guests.

Special: Host Paul Anka welcomes James Brown, Guess Who, Brownesville Station, and the Tymes and Ohio Players soul groups.

This week's Kirshner comes to us Saturday night on KOVR in Sacramento. However, I don't think we have to think about this too much. It's an odd juxtaposition, the two shows this week, especially with Paul Anka, but he's having a career renaissance, so to speak, himself. Add James Brown, and you've got two legends on one stage—and the Guess Who aren't too bad, either. The clock strikes twelve for Kirshner this week; the glass slipper goes to The Midnight Special.

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

That's My Mama,
 one of ABC's new sitcoms, has gotten more than its share of attention since its debut. Part of that is because the network put it on a week ahead of its other shows, hoping it would stand out. Well, it worked, but perhaps not the way the network had hoped. It's gotten some pretty negative reviews, and Cleveland Amory says that's too bad, because it's a pretty good show.

It gives us a new comedy setting, Washington, D.C. (this is, remember, in the pre-C-SPAN days, before we knew just how funny a city Washington, D.C. could be), and producers (Allan Blye and Chris Bearde) who have chosen to handle the typical sitcom situations with "taste and even tact," rather than phony farce. And it has a terrific cast, starting with the titular Mama, Theresa Merritt, who defends her turf admirably. It's just as important, however, for her to have a worthy adversary—the success of shows like these invariably depends on the conflict between parent and child, who bicker all the way through but still love each other—and Clifton Davis, as her son, "not only gives his mother as good as he gets, which is plenty, but, miracle of miracles, she doesn't always kick the extra point. Sometimes he does." Throw in a daughter, played by Lynne Moody, who can hold her own against her mother, her brother, and her husband as well; add in a good supporting cast, and you're ahead of the game.

True, the plots often are nothing to write home about; this is a television series, after all, not a house of miracles. Still, there are enough things that stand out to make That's My Mama worth a second look—even a third.

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The World Series begins this weekend, though we don't know who's playing in it since the playoffs ended after press time. (I just looked it up: it's the Oakland A's and Los Angeles Dodgers. Actually, I knew that, but I did look it up just so I could type that last bit honestly.) It's also, if I'm not mistaken, the first all-West Coast series, so the weekend games will all have later start times, since those games are still played in the daytime. Saturday's coverage on NBC starts with a 15-minute pre-game show at 12:30 p.m., while Sunday's game starts at 1:00 pm. In any event, it's all done by the end of the week, with the A's winning their third straight series.

Melvin Durslag, TV Guide's resident sports expert, recently had a conversation with Oakland's owner, the irrepressible (and, some would say, irresponsible) Charles O. Finley. Finley has some, shall we say, interesting ideas about how to make baseball more popular. He suggests making the field more colorful, for example. "We should have the base lines and the bases in bright hues. Who the hell says that white is sacred?" Along those same lines, he'd like to get rid of the white baseball and replace it with an orange one. "Alert Orange," to be precise. He's in favor of a Designated Runner as well as the Designated Hitter. He'd like to see the umpires lose weight and have their own uniforms, instead of the suits that, he says, make them look like "undertakers." And so on.

What would Finley think of baseball today? The game is at a crossroads, with sabermetrics and the increasingly popular theory of "three true outcomes" reducing baseball to a frequently tedious, three-plus hour contest of home runs, walks, and strikeouts. The three-ball walk, which Finley talks about in this article, would certainly be up for discussion. (The automatic intentional walk, which Finley also advocated, has already come to pass.) One of Finley's passions was a pitch clock, forcing the pitcher to throw within 20 seconds; there's been serious talk about this, but it appears that it will be at least 2022 before it's implemented.

And then there's the prime-time World Series game. Finley advocated this long before the the first nighttime Series game was played in 1971, in part because, as Finley said, "Why play some of the games when the kids are in school and the workers are in the factories?" And yet games now run so late into the night (or early morning) that, as one sportswriter put it, an entire generation of school-age kids has grown up never having seen the end of a weeknight Series game. I think Charlie Finley, who for all his eccentricities was essentially a populist, would be horrified at what today's game has done to one of his prize ideas.

What would he do today? I think he might be tempted to sell the team, shake his head, and walk away.

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The first ratings results are in, reports Richard K. Doan, and already it's becoming clear which of this year's shows are hits—and which are bombs. In the latter category, ABC's The New Land, Kodiak, The Texas Wheelers, The Night Stalker, and the aforementioned Sonny Comedy Hour are sure losers, as is CBS's Sons and Daughters. Existing series in trouble include The Six Million Dollar Man, Kung Fu, The Odd Couple, and Adam-12. All is not lost, however, for veterans such as All in the Family, Sanford and Son, and M*A*S*H, which have returned to their winning ways, and newcomers Chico and the Man, Little House on the Prairie, Rhoda, That's My Mama, Paul Sand in Friends and Lovers, and The Rockford Files.

So how did it all turn out? The "experts" were wrong about The Six Million Dollar Man, which kept going successfully until 1978; they also missed the boat on Friends and Lovers, which was cancelled after 15 episodes; I think that was a case where the critics were so in thrall to that show that they didn't want to see the evidence that the rest of the country wasn't that crazy about it.

If, as it seems, Sonny can't cut it without Cher, what about the other way around? CBS has already given Cher a guarantee for a series of her own next year, and she'll have a special in February that might give us an idea of just that series might look like. That lasted two seasons, before a reconciliation with Sonny that lasted a further season. And after that? Well, Cher goes on to the movies, and Sonny to a political career that eventually takes him to Congress. Who'd have thunk it?

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On Monday, ABC News Closeup takes a look at the dangers of playing high-school football in "Danger in Sports: Paying the Price." (10:00 p.m.) It's a particularly prescient topic in 2019, with the heightened awareness we have of head injuries and their long-term effects on the brain, but even in 1974 there were concerns about tactics such as leading with the head when tackling. In 1974 there were an estimated 800,000 injuries playing football each year; today that figure is 1.2 million. The more things change. . .

The World Series resumes on Tuesday, with weekday games beginning at 5:15 on the West Coast, pretty much taking care of NBC's prime-time lineup for the week. Which is just fine, since the night's highlight is the all-time great crime drama Point Blank (8:00 p.m., KTXL), with Lee Marvin outdoing himself as novelist Richard Stark's antihero Parker (renamed Walker in the movie), and a brilliant supporting cast including Angie Dickinson, Keenan Wynn, Carroll O'Connor, and a host of recognizable character actors. It's one of Marvin's greatest roles; although it's the only time he plays the character, you can't go wrong reading any of Stark's* 24 Parker novels.

*Pen name of the celebrated crime novelist Donald E. Westlake.

Occasionally I'll catch an episode of the long-running (1943-55) OTR drama Nick Carter, Master Detective on the SiriusXM Radio Classics channel, but I wasn't aware until now that a 1972 TV-movie version of Nick existed, with Robert Conrad in the role. Wednesday's CBS Late Movie (11:30 p.m.) presents The Adventures of Nick Carter, with Shelley Winters, Broderick Crawford, and Dean Stockwell as the supporting cast.

A couple of interesting programs on Thursday; first, it's an episode of PBS's outstanding sports documentary The Way it Was, hosted by Curt Gowdy (8:00 p.m.). Each week, The Way it Was focused on a great sports event of the past, combining highlights with a panel discussion featuring some of the surviving participants. Tonight it's the 1952 world middleweight championship bout between Rocky Graziano and Sugar Ray Robinson, and it's a tremendously entertaining half-hour. Later, on ABC's Wide World Special (11:30 p.m.), Dick Cavett does a 90-minute interview with Walter Cronkite from Cronkite's home at Martha's Vineyard. Cavett quotes a critic who once said, "Viewers rarely recall and relish a Cronkite statement. They believe it instead."

On Friday, the NBA kicks off a new season as the Golden State Warriors take on the Los Angeles Lakers (8:00 p.m., (KTVU, KTXL). I know it's hard to believe that the start of the season could be this low-key, but back in the pre-cable days, that's the way it is. (To coin a phrase.) Aside from a couple of special occasions, the NBA won't even have a game of the week on network television until January.

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Finally, this week's issue of TV Guide is the first of twelve that will be coming to you over the next year or so courtesy of Alvaro Leos, who graciously loaned these issues to me to use plugging holes in our weekly feature. I'm extremely grateful to him, as well as to all the benefactors who've dipped into their collections over the years to share their knowledge of TV Guide not only with me, but with you, the readers. As always, if you have any issues that you'd like to see on the site, and if you're willing to part company with them for a short time, please drop me an email. Thanks again!

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R.I.P., Valerie Harper. TV  

October 11, 2019

Around the dial

The picture up top comes from a Radio Times article from a couple of years back. The Radio Times is the British publication that is, I suppose, most comparable to what the old TV Guide was like, although perhaps one of our British readers can enlighten me further; I've only read it for Doctor Who. The article is by Alison Graham, who appears to be a woman after my own heart; it's titled "What Do People Talk About If They Don't Watch Telly?", and I swear that this quote could have come, unedited, from my own lips:

There are some phrases that place a cold, dead hand of fear around my heart. Top of the list is “Have you read my blog?”, closely followed by “And now it’s time for Thought of the day”, with “Will you sign my petition” coming a very close third.

Actually, may I just revise that. Really, really at the super-top of the list is “I don’t have a television.” By choice! Can you imagine? There are people who don’t have tellies? What’s wrong with them? How can anyone not watch telly? It’s like saying “I choose not to breathe because I take all of my essential nutrients via osmosis from fairy dust.” Or, “I’ve decided not to eat because it messes up my mouth.”

It gets better from there; just read it.

At Garroway at Large, Jodie completes the story of The CBS Newcomers, part one of which began last week. It's the tale of Dave Garroway's attempted comeback as host of a televised talent show. Of Garroway, one critic says, “This man has too much talent to languish on the sidelines.” Would that we were able to see more of that talent today.

You've probably seen, read, or at least heard about, the hit that HGTV had with A Very Brady Renovation, and at Comfort TV, David points out how the show's success demonstrates the great affection that people have for the Bradys, and wonders what show could get the treatment next?

Seeing as how I'm a sucker for Perry Mason, it should be no surprise to any of you that I've chosen Thursday, October 8, 1964 as the daily entry to visit in this week's trip to the TV Guide 365 project at Television Obscurities.

The second Bill Ballinger script for Alfred Hitchcock Presents is the fifth-season episode "Road Hog," with Raymond Massey and Robert Emhardt, and you can read all about this terrific episode in Jack's Hitchcock Project at barebones e-zine.

Fire-Breathing Dimetrodon Time takes a look at what is perhaps the most unique Doctor Who story ever. It's the one-episode "Mission to the Unknown" from 1965, and what's unique about it is that neither the Doctor nor any of his companions appear in it. It's the prologue to the epic Daleks' Master Plan that would air later in the year. It is, alas, one of those missing episodes, but thanks to the University of Central Lancashire, you can now see the animated reconstruction (featuring the original soundtrack). Always good to end on a high note!


October 9, 2019

Back issues

s a teenager, there were two magazines that I subscribed to, without fail, every year: TV Guide and Sports Illustrated.* They’re both still around, technically, but I’m not even sure you can call them mere shells of their former selves. Each, in its time, was the preeminent “serious” publication in their respective genres; in today’s clickbait culture, they’re now some of the clickbatiest.

*I know I don't usually italicize TV Guide, but here it's being used in conjunction with other magazines whose titles I do italicize; it would look funny otherwise.

I had cause in the last week to think about each of them in terms of what has been lost, through various ownership changes, evolutions in taste, and a general dumbing-down of society. (Current readers excluded, of course; if you happen to be reading these words, I have nothing but the highest admiration for your intellect, though I do wonder if you might not have something better to do.) You may have read about the latest to befall SI; the new owners took over last week and promptly cut half of the workforce, introducing a business plan that sounds suspiciously like some kind of a pyramid scheme involving LLCs, freelancers, and unpaid college students. (And no kidding about the pyramid part; the diagram accompanying their business plan is an actual, freaking pyramid. Of all the qualities that the new ruling class possess, irony is apparently not one of them.) One of the first stories to come from the “new” SI, a report on Saturday night’s Notre Dame-Bowling Green game, sounded as if it had been written as a first draft by a stringer for a high school newspaper. It causes even a semi-professional writer such as yours truly to look around, imagine inhabiting this world, and think of Charlton Heston’s words in Planet of the Apes: “If this is the best they’ve got around here, in six months we’ll be running this publication.” Or something like that.

It’s been decades since I’ve subscribed to SI; I dropped it sometime in the ‘80s, I think. After that, I only read it when I was stuck in a doctor’s office with nothing else to do but thumb around a months’-old magazine and find out who won last year’s Super Bowl. SI’s specialty had never been bring you the scores; you could get those in your newspaper. No, what its talented staff did was to give you the story behind the story, the in-depth profile that went beyond the fan-friendly propaganda you read elsewhere. And, of course, there was the stunning photography, from a time when not every sporting event was on TV, and the ones that were were often in black-and-white. It allowed you to actually see what was going on, not just read about it. Its writers included some of the greatest: Dan Jenkins, Frank Deford, Herbert Warren Wind, Paul Zimmerman, George Plimpton, Tex Maule, Robert Creamer, and others. It was kind of like the New Yorker of sports, and though I also read Dick Schaap’s Sport magazine, SI was the one to which I subscribed.

I gave up on the magazine when it started to become too political, when there were too many sports, like white-water rafting, that I just didn’t care about, and when the swimsuit issue turned into barely-concealed soft-core porn. (Pun intended.) I might have had withdrawal for a couple of weeks, but by then there were other serious magazines to pursue, such as Inside Sports and Deford’s failed daily sports newspaper The National. Eventually, I pretty much lost interest in most sports, which is where we are today.

The reason I bring this up—a topic that seems to have little to do with television—is the second occasion, which I alluded to up there at the beginning of the second paragraph. It was the day before yesterday, and I’d stopped at the post office to mail some TV Guides back to the generous benefactor who had loaned them to me (you’ll be reading one of them this Saturday). The woman at the window asked me what kind of magazines I was mailing back, and I told her they were TV Guides from the 1960s and 1970s. I write about them, I said modestly.

TV Guide!’ she said, as if I’d brought up a long-lost old friend. “I remember that! We used to wait for that every week, and then look through it”—and here she made a motion with her hands, as if she were paging through the magazine—“to see what all was on! That was good reading!”

She turned to her co-worker at the next window. “You remember TV Guide?”

“Sure,” she said. “We used to read that every week! Is that even still around?”

“Yeah,” the first woman said, “but now it’s jes' like some gossip sheet. That’s all they do. It used to be good reading!”

I left with a smile, not just because it had been a pleasant conversation, but because it proved that I wasn’t the only person who felt that way about the old magazine. Like SI, TV Guide had once been a respected, weekly publication that dealt with serious issues. Like SI, it had a stable of great writers—Edith Efron, Richard K. Doan, Cleveland Amory, Neil Hickey, John Gregory Dunne and more—and like SI, it was now published every-other-week, with a tabloid-like mentality, and a website that reads as if it was written by publicists to the stars and has little to say about anything. When you jettison your heritage like this, you lose your institutional memory; in TV Guide's case, the memory is not of the latest stars, or the current gossip—it is the history of television, of the industries, of the shows that came to fame and helped make the medium what it is. Losing that memory is like losing your family album; you're left wondering who you are and where you came from.

Looking back on these memories is guaranteed to make you feel old beyond your years, which is one of the reasons why I do this blog—to make something productive from a memory that might otherwise break your heart, or at least drive you to drink. But what can you do? Times change, people change, tastes change. That this change is not always for the best is beyond the point; it simply is. It does no good to encase yourself in a sentimental nostalgia that acts as a cocoon protecting you from the present time. The past is to be enjoyed, savored, learned from—and to act as an escape only occasionally. As I’m fond of saying, I don’t live in the past, I just vacation there a lot. I’ve met so many terrific people since I started writing seriously about classic television—not just the ladies at the post office, but my friends at MANC, my correspondents, the people who’ve bought my books, and you readers out there, who make yourselves felt even though I might never meet you, or even hear from you.

No, there are good things about the present—not the least of which is all the all the great people you meet when you’re talking about the past. TV  

October 7, 2019

What's on TV? Friday, October 11, 1963

Have we ever looked at an issue from Nashville? I don't remember, but in any event it's a lot like Minneapolis-St. Paul at this point; three affiliate stations, an educational station, and an independent (this one in Bowling Green). Of course, we didn't have Ralph Emery hosting Opry Almanac, but then they probably didn't have Mel Jass and his matinee movie, either.

October 5, 2019

This week in TV Guide: October 5, 1963

It seems as if the subject of television's responsibility to the public is one that comes up here frequently. It's a quaint notion, I suppose; I don't know if anyone today seriously thinks that television has any responsibility to the public, or to anyone, in fact, besides the sponsors who cough up the money to make the programming possible. (And the ratings, of course, but they function as a measure of the value provided to the sponsors.)

This week's "As We See It" editorial takes on that very issue, in a look at growing public dissatisfaction with annoying commercials. The Television Code, that equally quaint document represented by the noble logo you see in the end credits of many programs from the era, has standards regarding things like commercials, but fewer than three-fourths of broadcasters have agreed to it.

Because of that, the FCC has suggested that perhaps those provisions in the Code perhaps ought to be made into FCC rules. The broadcasters don't like that, of course, because they think the commercials they run are nobody's business. Oddly enough, though, advertisers are largely for the Code. "They feel that the more commercials there are, the less effective each commercial is. And they're right." The viewers, whose dissatisfaction started all this, don't like commercials at all, but agree that they'd go along with longer breaks in order to have fewer of them.

What to do? Well, the president of the National Association of Broadcasters, the organization responsible for the development of the Television Code, thought it would be a good idea to get together a group of all the constituents: networks, ad agencies, advertisers, and broadcasters. He started with the three networks; all turned him down. "They saw no real need for such a thing." Merrill Panitt, the probable author of this editorial, thinks there is such a need, and makes no bones about it. "There must be steps taken to reduce the frequency of commercials and to control more carefully the content of commercials. If the broadcasters can't—or won't—do these things, the FCC can—in the public interest."

This represents a perfect example of the independence that TV Guide has over the years taken when it comes to the television industry. No longer are they beholden for interviews and subjects; the magazine's growing circulation, and its growing influence through its investigative reporting and hard-hitting interviews from writers such as Richard Gehman and Edith Efron, means that TV Guide now has the upper hand, The industry needs it more than it needs them. Need I mention again how different this is from the publication of today, one that acts more like a collection of press releases? But then, if the industry doesn't behave in a responsible manner, then why should the magazine that covers it?

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

It always happens, when Cleveland Amory reviews a show that's one of my favorites, that I begin things with a mixture of anticipation and dread. The man, as I say, is superbly witty and acerbic—unless he's skewering a show I happen to like. It just goes to show that life poses its share of risks, even if you're just getting out of bed.

"If we have a millionaire President and a millionaire governor, why not a millionaire cop?" For you youths out there, the millionaires are, in order, John F. Kennedy, California governor Pat Brown, and Amos Burke, played delightfully and with delight by Gene Barry in ABC's comedy-mystery Burke's Law. The first good sign comes when Amory refers to the show as "ABC's new corpus delectable," and it's true: every show is packed to the gills with big-name stars in cameo roles, and occasionally lead roles as well. The premiere episode, "Who Killed Holly Howard?", features Suzy Parker, William Bendix, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Rod Cameron, Bruce Cabot, Will Rogers Jr., and ZaSu Pitts. The victims are, invariably, over-the-top versions of vaguely familiar personages; Howard Hughes here, Ernest Hemingway there. The emphasis is frequently on female beauty, with the beauties all having an eye for the suave, tuxedoed Burke, even when he's investigating them for murder. By the end of the episode, they'll wind up either with a date for dinner, or court.

Amory has praise for Burke's supporting cast: Gary Conway as the young detective thrown off balance by Burke's unorthodox style, and Regis Toomey as the veteran, who's worked with Burke for years and is one of the few who will chance to call him "Amos." And though Amory doesn't mention it (it probably hasn't become apparent yet), one of the best aspects of this very good show is that while there's charm and humor aplenty, Burke and his men are all business when it comes to the business of murder; they know that death is no laughing matter, and there's an honest seriousness behind the investigation and apprehending of the killer.

If there's one nit to pick, Cleve will find it; in this case, he does find it a bit tiring that Burke has to spend so much of each episode fighting off the glamour girls. Nevertheless, he concludes, "we do get a lot for our money in this show, and millions of millionaire viewers should enjoy it." Or non-millionaires, as the case may be.

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The real Ranger Smith and the impostor. Which is which?
You're hopefully familiar with Ranger Smith, the eternal nemesis/foil of Yogi Bear, the most famous resident of Jellystone National Park. But, as it happens, there really is a Ranger Smith, who just happens to work at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, and he's the subject of a charming article this week by Jim Elder. As it happens, the real Smith—D.P. "Denny" Smith, by name—was blissfully unaware of the existence of his alter ego until, as Elder puts it, "an increasing number of young park visitors kept asking for Ranger Smith and in the same breath mentioning 'Yogi.'"

Updated on the situation, Smith jumped right into the role, answering questions about the fictional bear and signing his name to everything from stuffed bears to road maps to plaster casts. He takes it all in stride, and with good humor; "Yogi's fans are all pleasant people," he says. He also takes a ribbing from his fellow rangers (one assistant loved to add growling bear sounds to Smith's Ranger Smith portrayal), and when the park closes for the season in October, the ribbing continues to the sixth graders that Smith teaches back home in Kent, Washington. He adds that his own children (Kurt, 5, and Kathy, 2) are Yogi fans.

One thing that he particularly appreciates is that the Yogi phenomenon has given him the opportunity to remind campers that real bears are not as friendly as Yogi and Boo-Boo. "Yogi just plays funny tricks, but these bears don't know the difference between funny and ferocious!"

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The World Series started last week—October 2, to be exact—but you're not going to see much of it this week. The Series pits those old and bitter rivals, the Yankees and Dodgers, for the eighth time, and the first since the Dodgers' traumatic move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. Ah, yes, how times change: in the first game, at Yankee Stadium, Sandy Koufax (right) broke the single-game World Series strikeout record, with 15,* and the Yankees crowd was cheering him! Now, you can argue that the game was already a lost cause so why not, but still, I can't believe they would have cheered for a Brooklyn pitcher.

*Later broken by Bob Gibson in 1968; you know, that Series where Feliciano sang the National Anthem.

Anyway, by the time we pick up the Series on Saturday afternoon (1:45 p.m. CT, NBC), the Dodgers already have a 2-0 lead, and Los Angeles goes up by three after a 1-0 victory, in which Don Drystale bests Jim Bouton. Koufax brings it all to an end on Sunday afternoon (same Bat time and channel) with a 2-1 triumph, giving the Dodgers only their second-ever Series victory over the Yanks, and the first time a Yankees team had ever been swept in four games. In the closing innings of the final game, Yankees announcer Mel Allen, an institution on NBC's World Series coverage loses his voice, and has to turn the mic over to Dodgers play-by-play man Vin Scully. The ugly rumor, with no basis in truth, is that Allen had become so broken up about the Yankees being swept by the Dodgers that he couldn't bring himself to announce those final innings. It would be his last appearance announcing the Series.

Oh, and by the way, that fourth game came in in a tidy one hour and fifty minutes. That wouldn't even get you through the third inning today.

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Some interesting things on this week; I'm glad we've got time for them. (Although it is my blog; I suppose I can make as much time as I want.)

Henry Harding reports that Jerry Lewis spent $40,000 of his own money on a party at the Beverly Hilton Hotel to celebrate the premiere of his new ABC series. More than 800 showed up in evening dress to watch the broadcast on the big screen, followed by a lavish dinner and flaming cherries jubilee desert, brought in by 40 waiters marching in single file. Lewis arrived late to the party and stayed for about 20 minutes, perhaps already anticipating the roasting the show will get from the critics. This is all a lead-in to Saturday's third episode (ABC, 8:30 p.m.), with David Susskind, Count Basie and his orchestra, Mort Sahl, Kay Stevens and Jack Jones.

Two of the biggest stars in their respective industries headline Sunday's specials. At 9:00 p.m., CBS takes the headlines with Elizabeth Taylor in London, taking viewers on a tour of London "as Liz remembers it," even though she was only seven when her family moved to the United States. Taylor views all the must-see signts, from Parliament to Big Ben, Scotland Yard, the Tower, and the Globe Theater, where Liz does a reading from Hamlet. The script is co-written by humorist S.J. Perelman, which should make for very interesting viewing. But to see it, you'll have to pass up NBC's World Series tie-in, the documentary, "A Man Named Mays," a profile of the remarkable career of the San Francisco Giants' great, produced and directed by Lee Mendelson, who goes on to great fame with the Peanuts animated specials. Unfortunately for Mays, the Giants didn't make the Series this year; unfortunately for NBC and the ratings, the Series ended this afternoon.

The World Series is over by Monday, but of course that doesn't affect the primetime schedule at all, since the games were played in the afternoon. NBC's Monday Night at the Movies (6:30 p.m., and isn't it odd to see a network movie on that early in the evening, with another show to follow) has The Wreck of the Mary Deare, with a cast headed by Gary Cooper, Charlton Heston, and Michael Redgrave. Opposite that, ABC has an episode of The Outer Limits featuring the fine British actor Donald Pleasence as a meek and mild-mannered college professor who has the power to destroy the world. I'll have to go back and watch this; I've seen it, but I don't remember how it ends. And at 7:30 p.m., ABC follows with Wagon Train, with Carol Lawrence playing Princess Mei Ling. There's a photoshoot story inside, showing Lawrence in Asian makeup (right), and that's something we likely wouldn't see nowadays.

PTSD—before we understood what it was—is the topic of Tuesday's Richard Boone Show (8:00 p.m., NBC), the bold (and ultimately unsuccessful) attempt by the former Palladin to form a television repertory company. Tonight, Warren Stevens plays a Korean War vet "planning a 'Wall to Wall War'—in the insurance office where he works. He's holding his frightened co-workers at bay with a machine gun." An eerie precursor to modern times, don't you think? That's followed by a much more pleasant hour, as The Bell Telephone Hour kicks off its new season; Mr. Music Man Robert Preston hosts, with opera stars Richard Tucker and Anna Moffo, dancers Rudolf Nureyev and Svetlana Beriosova, pianist Grant Johannesen, and the folksinging Chad Mitchell Trio. (9:00 p.m., NBC)

Broderick Crawford, who's made a successful career out of both good guys and bad guys, is on the wrong side of the law Wednesday in The Virginian (6:30 p.m., NBC), playing a bounty hunter convinced that Trampas (Doug McClure) has a price on his head. And here's one to give you pause; one of Johnny Carson's guests on The Tonight Show (10:30 p.m., NBC) is attorney Melvin "King of Torts" Belli, who in just over a month will acquire his most famous client: Jack Ruby.

On Thursday, it's the debut of one of the better anthology series of the '60s, Kraft Suspense Theatre (9:00 p.m., NBC), with a two-part thriller, "The Case Against Paul Ryker." The all-star cast features Lee Marvin as Ryker, a GI on trial for his life after being accused of treason in Korea, Bradford Dillman and Peter Graves as officers in the JAG office, Vera Miles as Ryker's wife, and Lloyd Nolan, Murray Hamilton, and Walter Brooke. The episode also serves as the pilot for the 1966 series Court Martial, with Dillman and Graves reprising their roles as Captain David Young and Major Frank Whitaker, respectively.

But we've saved the best for last. On Friday. it's the Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" (8:30 p.m., CBS) with Shatner, the gremlin, and the plane's wing. You know it, you love it, you can't live without it—but for those reading this issue, it's just another episode of another series. Who would have imagined it?

Now that's the way to end a week. TV  

October 4, 2019

Around the dial

At Cult TV Blog, John reviews an episode of Nigel Keene's mid-'70s horror series Beasts, and by looking at the ways in which an episode can be interpreted, correctly mentions that "one of the hallmarks of quality TV is that it can be read in several different ways." Amen to that!

Garroway at Large focuses on another of what Jodie refers to as "Lost Garroway," in this case the 1971 summer replacement series The CBS Newcomers, featuring Dave as MC of a talent show searching for "new and younger talent." How did it go? We'll have to wait for part two to find out.

The Twilight Zone turns 60, and The Twilight Zone Vortex celebrates the occasion with a look at the series' mileposts, as covered in some of Jordan's past articles. It brings back a lot of fine memories to read about the birth of one of television's greatest.

I often mutter about the quality of today's television, but there can be no doubting that we've been fortunate to see the definitive portrayals of two of literature's great characters: Sherlock Holmes and Hercule Poirot. At Classic Film & TV Café, Rick looks back at the great David Suchet in the 1992 Poirot classic Death in the Clouds.

The 1961 season of The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis is the focus of the latest in-depth review at Television's New Frontier: the 1960s. The year covers the end of season two and the start of season three, a time when the boys join (and are discharged from) the Army, and Dobie continues to wonder about what to do with his life.

I've been thoroughly enjoying the day-by-day look at TV Guide's prime-time program listings for the 1964-65 season, as seen in Television Obscurities. Here's a link to Saturday, October 3, but you can't go wrong by making this a daily part of your internet surfing. TV