September 19, 2018

Mid-Atlantic, 2018

Dear Diary,

Last week we were at MANC, and boy, did we have a swell time! MANC stands for Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, in case you didn’t know, and it’s held every year at a place called Hunt Valley in Maryland, not far from Baltimore and Washington, D.C. We flew in to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and I thought maybe we’d be able to see the lights from the monuments while we were in the plane, since it was at night, and we were up high in the sky, but I guess we were still too far away. Either that, or we were looking out the wrong side of the plane. Oh well, maybe next year!

This year wasn’t like the other two years we’ve been here. Those times, we walked around the hotel, looking at all the vendors and the things they were selling—really cool things like old TV Guides and DVDs of old shows and old toys and other old things. Hey, that’s OK—we’re old too! Ha! We did some of that this year, and I bought six old TV Guides—wait, I already said they were old, didn’t I? Anyway, six TV Guides, and a DVD set of The Green Hornet! I don’t remember watching it when I was a kid, but it sure did look like fun!

But the real reason we were at MANC this year is that I was giving a talk and selling copies of my new book, The Electronic Mirror. Isn’t that a cool title for a book? I thought it all up by myself! People seemed to like it—but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start back at the beginning.

Jodie and Kevin! I'm in the middle!
Thursday was the first day of the convention, and the first talk was by two of my friends, Jodie Peeler and Kevin Doherty. They were talking about the Today Show,which is that show that’s on early in the morning, and the Tonight Show, which is on real late at night, and the Home Show, which isn’t on at all anymore, but when it was on it was in the middle of the day. Boy, was their talk good! I learned all about Dave Garroway—he was the first host of Today—and Jack Paar, who was the second host of Tonight; and Arlene Francis, who hosted Home and was a nice lady. They were all really interesting people. So are Jodie and Kevin, and real nice too. I’m lucky to have them as friends.

Me getting ready to talk!
There was another talk after that, and then it was my turn. I was talking about “TV Guide: America’s Time Capsule,” and I had some pictures of old TV Guides—I already said they were old, didn’t I? I was showing people how reading TV Guides could tell you what the cultural world was like back then, and I think it went pretty well. People seemed to like it, and they asked questions that I could answer, and they all clapped when I was done! It made me feel good all over! Later on, people came up to the table where we were selling books, and told me they enjoyed listening to me talk. I didn’t even have to pay them to say that.

In fact, a lot of them bought my book! And they paid me! How cool is that? There were a lot of nice people who stopped by, even the ones who didn’t buy my book. There was a guy who used to work for Marvel Comics, and another guy who acted in Star Trek movies, and a retired doctor, and a retired lawyer, and a nice married couple—well, they were all nice!

Me and my friend Carol!
And then there was our friend Carol Ford. She’s nice, too. She wrote a book about Bob Crane, who played Colonel Hogan on Hogan’s Heroes. He was a nice guy too, although some bad things happened to him. But he was still nice, and I’m glad Carol wrote about him, so everyone else could see that he was nice too. We only get to see each other once a year, which isn’t often enough. We need to see Jodie and Kevin more often too. That means we have to travel more, and that costs money. My wife said something about winning the lottery; maybe that would help us to travel more.

There were other neat people there too, and they all looked like they were having a swell time. Except for one lady who seemed really mad while we were checking in. She said the hotel people couldn’t show her to her room. She said some bad things, she was so mad. My mom used to tell me that sometimes people would act this way when they’d had something to drink. Boy, that must have been something really bad, to make them act that way. I wonder why anyone would do that? I guess I just don’t understand adults, even though I am one! Ha!

Stefi and Bob!
There was this other neat guy named Martin. He’s the guy who puts this all together. He isn’t very big, but all weekend he wore a shirt that said “Security.” I wouldn’t want to tangle with him! Anyway, he did a great job. There were some famous celebrities there too—Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers and three people from a show called WKRP in Cincinnati. They weren’t in Cincinnati this weekend,though. Maybe they flew in. Boy, I’ll bet their arms are tired! That was a joke—did you get it? Ha! Kristy McNicol was there too, and so was Morgan Fairchild, and theMe getting ready to talk! guy who played the Creature in the Black Lagoon, and Diahann Carroll, and Geri Reischl, who was "Fake Jan" and seemed as excited to be there as the rest of us. She was always taking pictures on her phone—isn't that funny, taking pictures on a phone? Anyway, they would walk past us each day while we were sitting at our table, so we got to see them all.

Selling my books!
It's all over until next year, but we had a really great time. It was one of our best weekends ever! I’m glad I know such nice people—it was a fun time! I could go on and on! But I’ll have to wrap it up now, Diary—it’s time for me to go to bed, because I have to get up early to go to work tomorrow. My wife says If we don’t win the lottery this is the only way we’ll be able to go places and buy old things, and I guess she must be right—she’s really smart. She married me, didn’t she? Ha!

Until tomorrow, Diary,

Love, Mitchell TV  

September 17, 2018

What's on TV? Monday, September 15, 1958

As such things go, this is a pretty quiet day in the new season; Channel 2, the Twin Cities educational channel, actually has more series debuts today than any of the other stations. Jimmy Dean starts his weekday variety series, which is perhaps more memorable for this candid bit of commentary after the show's cancellation. Don't you wish more people spoke their minds today? (Pause, thinking about Internet...) Wait a minute; forget I said that.

September 15, 2018

This week in TV Guide: September 13, 1958

How times change.  Look at the TV Guide logo on the cover of this week's edition: not the famillar red, but blue.  TV Guide did this this from time to time, back in the day, when the cover's color scheme demanded it.  Blue, white, other colors.  I don't know offhand when they did this for the last time; I've got a Christmas issue from 1962 where the logo is gold. And then it became so, I don't, know, corporate.

And with that, we're off on another week of TV Guide, and in case you hadn't noticed, the theme is change.  Sometimes the change is evolutionary, based on changing times.  Other times, the changes we've seen make the past seem like it came from another planet.  Either way, things just aren't what they used to be.

The relationship between TV and football, for example.  Here we are at Saturday, September 13, and the big sports story on television is not college football, but the national pasttime - baseball. It's a preview of the upcoming World Series, sort of: CBS' team of Dizzy Dean and Buddy Blattner covers the eventual American League champion Yankees vs. the White Sox in Chicago, while NBC counters with the Cardinals visiting the soon-to-be National League champion Milwaukee Braves, broadcast by Leo Durocher and Lindsay Nelson. Dueling national broadcasts - but as we saw last week, this was before leagues negotiated national broadcasting contracts, so the networks were free to deal with teams (and their sponsors) on an individual basis. ABC would get into the act as well in the early 60s, before Major League Baseball awarded the exclusive national contract to NBC.

There's also no pro football on Sunday - at least none that counts. The NFL's season, which today runs 16 games (with a bye week) and one year started before Labor Day, was only 12 games in 1958, which meant that the regular season didn't kick off until September 28. So if you wanted some football, you got the preseason kind - in this case, an innocuous matchup between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts. Ah, but little did we know that these two teams would meet again for the NFL Championship on December 28 - aka The Greatest Game Ever Played.

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The great thing about a statewide TV Guide
Edition - if you don't like one station's ad,
there's always another one
And then there's the network news. In the days before CNN introduced us to 24/7 TV news, the holy grail for news junkies was a prime-time spot, preferably an hour, with plenty of time for an in-depth look at serious issues, a chance to educate viewers, and a look at foreign news, which typically didn't get much attention in this country except in times of war. Well, in 1958 you had it, or at least part of it: a regularly scheduled 15 minute broadcast* airing at 9:30 p.m. CT, featuring ABC's news chief, John Daly. Yes, the same John Charles Daly that we're also watching host What's My Line? on CBS.  

What I find remarkable about that is not that a newscaster was also doing a game show; Daly was always a newsman first, and besides, What's My Line? wasn't really a game show, but something far more sophisticated. No, imagine the idea of a prominent television figure with prime-time shows on more than one network. This at a time when networks were very protective of their turf: if you were the star of a series on CBS, for example, but you were a guest on NBC's Tonight show, you could only say that you appeared on "another network." After awhile it became a joke; Daly himself would often flaunt it, mentioning that the week's Mystery Guest would be appearing on "another network, which might have the initials N-B-C," or something similar. This wasn't the first time ABC had experimented with a prime-time newscast; they'd tried it in 1952, but it failed then, and failed now; Daly, who had been replaced by Don Goddard in the traditional pre-dinner timeslot when he made the move to prime-time, would return to the old timeslot by 1959.

*Four days a week; ABC had boxing on Wednesdays.

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Speaking of game shows as we were a moment ago, change is in the air there as well, with the advent of the Quiz Show Scandals signaling the beginning of the end of the big-money, big-ratings shows.  Burt Boyar's "Facts Behind Quiz Scandal" details the genesis of the scandal, which hasn't ripened into the full-blown Robert Redford era quite yet; the focus of the story is on the dispute between Herb Stempel and the producers of the show Twenty One, Dan Enright and Jack Barry.  Stempel claims he was forced off the program, while Enright and Barry counter that Stempel needs psychiatric care.  Dotto, the show that instigated the scandal, has been taken off the air, but Twenty One is still on NBC, and its most famous hero, Charles Van Doren, is still on the Today show.  Van Doren, in fact, isn't mentioned in the article at all, but there is what must have been a tantalizing line for those millions who idolized the brilliant, handsome Van Doren; Jack Narz, the host of the disgraced Dotto, says "there isn't a quiz show on the air which doesn't have some control over its contestants."  Boyar writes that "[w]here or when this drama will end is anyone's business," and, as is so often the case with these old TV Guide articles, it is the story yet to come that intrigues.

I know someone with one of these!
Another type of change - "out with the old, in with the new" - can be seen as the curtain falls on what was then television's longest-running and most storied drama series, the anthology Kraft Theatre, which had been a staple of NBC's schedule since 1947.  Its pedigree was indeed impressive; "the first commercial network show and the first sponsored show to go over the coaxial cable to the Midwest.  It was the first hour-long drama show in color, and the first to be televised in color on a weekly basis."  Its 650 presentations included a remarkable live version of the sinking-of-the-Titanic drama A Night to Remember.

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Do you remember when local ads ran in TV Guide?  Not ads for shows, but for products like Listerine and cheese-flavored Kor-Chees.  It seems an odd thing to see in these pages - more appropriate, perhaps, to appear in the local newspaper.  But then, as suggested by this ad encouraging parents to sign their kids up as TV Guide delivery boys, maybe people used the magazine in the same manner as they did a paper.  (Speaking of change, it took a lot less change to subscribe to TV Guide back then - $5.00 for 52 weeks.)  They consulted it for television listings, feature articles, the latest entertainment news from New York and Hollywood.  They even had a "Mr. Fixit"-type column on "How to Cure 4 Common TV Headaches."

The questions remind one of how far technology has come, and how much we take our crystal-clear HD pictures for granted:
  • At night a black jagged bar about a half-inch wide rips horizontally through my picture on Channels 2 through 6.
  • During the day, the picture on my set is beautiful.  At night it shrinks and gets dark.
  • When I was told my picture tube was weak I bought a new set.  I put the old TV in the den for the kids.  However, my new set acts erratic.  It only happens when I'm watching Channel 6 and the kids watch Channel 3.  My 6 whitewashes out. 
  • For the last few months we've had a ham-radio operator living across the street.  It seems to me that since then, Channel 6, which was my best station, has developed a continual herringbone-pattern overlay.*
* Seems to me being Channel 6 was not a good thing in those days.

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Advertising has changed as well - while future back cover ads declare, "You've come a long way, baby," in 1958 there was still room for the ad on your right, featuring singing star Jimmie Rodgers, for Halo shampoo, reminding all you ladies out there that "You can always tell a HALO girl."  Ah, doesn't it make you all want to be Halo girls?"

This whole piece has been about change, but perhaps the biggest change of all was the change that doesn't appear in this issue, but was hinted at on practically every-other page: the 1958 Fall Preview issue, coming the following week.  In those pages we'd learn of the new season ahead, featuring "Eleven new Westerns, many music and variety shows, more gumshoes," sports and "spectaculars."  They always did know how to make you want to stay tuned, didn't they? TV  

September 11, 2018

September 10, 2018

What's on TV? Monday, September 9, 1968

It's a grand start to the week, with all of the anticipation that comes with the beginning of the new TV season. Not all the new shows are on tonight, let alone this week, but there's definitely that change in the air that I talked about on Saturday. I particularly like the AFL game on Monday night on NBC. I might have gotten to see a little bit of it, even though I would have had to go to bed early for school the next day. I hated it then, and I hate going to bed early to get ready for work now. But that, of course, is another story. These listings, of course, are from the Twin Cities.

September 8, 2018

This week in TV Guide: September 7, 1968

Once upon a time, the Miss America Pageant was a big, big deal. It was often the most-watched television special of the year,the winner became an American icon (and often a career in show business) and it made a star out of the marginally-talented Bert Parks. Actually, there were two hosts of the show; while Parks was the host on the stage, there was also a television hostess (former Miss America Bess Myerson filled the bill in 1968), unseen and unheard by the crowd in the hall, who would talk to the viewers at home and introduce commercials.

There she is - Miss Illinois, Judith Ford,
just named Miss America 1969
I always remember the pageant as having been a sign that the new TV season was upon us.  It was held on a Saturday night, extraordinarily late in the evening: 9:00 p.m. CT in Minneapolis (which meant I'd usually finished my Saturday night bath by then), 10:00 p.m. to midnight at the cavernous Convention Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. I've noted before that things often started later in the evening back then; the Academy Awards started at 10:30 ET, the usual first pitch of a major league baseball game was 8:00 p.m. local time, and the NFL preseason game that CBS broadcast opposite Miss America (Baltimore vs. Dallas) didn't start until 8:30 p.m. It could be that the networks didn't want to preempt their regular prime-time schedules, but these specials were inevitably highly-rated. I think there was a certain sophistication to late-night TV back then; The Tonight Show ended at 1:00 a.m. on the East Coast, and when I was a kid we didn't stay up until all hours; I only got to see Carson on Friday nights or during the summer.*

*Speaking of Carson, he was NBC's lead-in to Miss America that year, with a one-hour special from Cypress Gardens in Florida, featuring Vicki Carr and a bunch of water skiers. 

Even in 1968 the Miss America pageant is in a state of flux*, attacked by feminists as being sexist and hopelessly out-of-date.  According to the always-reliable Wikipedia, "In 1968, about 400 women from the New York Radical Women protested the event on the Atlantic City boardwalk by crowning a live sheep Miss America. They also symbolically trashed a number of feminine products. These included false eyelashes, high-heeled shoes, curlers, hairspray, makeup, girdles, corsets, and bras."  There was no indication of this in TV Guide, of course, but there were other signs of the tumult racking the nation, including a CBS documentary on Friday night entitled "Ordeal of the City."  "[I]ncreasingly, the city has become the home of the poor as the middle class flees to the suburbs.  The city is a place to visit - on the job from 9 to 5 - but no one wants to live there."

*Although I don't think even the 1968 pageant had the kind of internal tumult and controversy that this year's has had.

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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..

Sullivan: This week Ed gives us a rerun of a 90-minute all-singing tribute to Irving Berlin, featuring Bing Crosby (singing "White Christmas," of course), Ethel Merman, Robert Goulet, Diana Ross and the Supremes (a Sullivan favorite), Fred Waring and his Glee Club, the Harry James Orchestra, Morecambe and Wise (another Sullivan fave), and Berlin himself.

The Palace: In another rerun, Phyllis Diller is the hostess, with singer Johnnie Ray, actor Robert Vaughan, singer-ventriloquist Shari Lewis (and her puppet, Lampchop), comic Charley Manna, and the Sandpipers.

This is one of those weeks where it wouldn't make much difference what Palace has to offer; with the star power on Ed's show, I don't think Palace could ever have hoped for more than a push, even if they had all the star power in Hollywoodwhich, in this case, they ain't got. This week's prize goes to Sullivan.

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There's a special section in the programming guide devoted to what the local stations are doing for the new season, and in this era before strip syndicated programming became so prevalent, it's interesting to see what showed up outside of network hours. Channel 4, the CBS affiliate, features a series of variety specials called, appropriately, Something Special, plus local coverage of the University of Minnesota football season, and a series of holiday-themed King Family specials. Channel 5, affiliated at the time with NBC, introduced the five-a-week syndicated version of What's My Line? and the first 5:00 p.m. local newscast, preceding Huntley-Brinkley. Channel 9, then the ABC station, offered Steve Allen's new variety show as a noontime program (I wonder how many markets around the country showed it as a daytime rather than nighttime show?), and Dennis James' All American College Show - check out this clip of the Richard Carpenter Trio., with Richard and Karen Carpenter (!)

Channel 11 was the independent station in the Twin Cities, so of course the majority of their programming consists of reruns of mostly recently cancelled series, including 12 O'Clock High, The Munsters, The Addams Family, Wagon Train, The Invaders and Run For Your Life. To promote their new lineup, they used one of the great taglines of all time.

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Are you ready for some Monday Night Football? While ABC’s series didn’t begin until 1970, that doesn’t mean we didn't have football on Monday night. As we’ve seen in the past, the AFL and NBC were willing to play on unorthodox nights as one way to increase exposure over the rival NFL*, and this opening week of the penultimate AFL season, which had started with a Friday night game between the new Cincinnati Bengals and the San Diego Chargers, ended with an 8:00 p.m. telecast of the Kansas City Chiefs vs. the Oilers in the Houston Astrodome. And boy, the Astrodome was so cool back then.

*Due in part to the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961, which in essence prohibited the NFL from telecasting games on Friday or Saturday nights by blacking out any NFL game played within 75 miles of a high school football game during the prime high school football months of September and October. The Act was passed in response to a court –ordered injunction regarding the NFL’s ability to “pool” its television rights with one network. Since the AFL was not a party to the original injunction, it was not covered by the Act. A sidelight of this is that out of the 15 weeks of the AFL season, only six did not include at least one game played on a day other than Sunday. Since NBC had introduced Monday Night Baseball recently, it's no surprise they'd be interested in football on Monday night as well.

There was other sports this week as well. On Saturday, CBS telecast the finals of the very first U.S. Open tennis championship, from Forest Hills. If you've paid any attention at all to this year's Open, you may have noticed references to the Open's "50th Anniversary," and you might have thought this tournament had to go back farther than 1968. Well, you'd be right. This wasn't the first time the U.S. championships had been played, just the first time they'd been open to professionals, who up until then had been prohibited from playing in the major tennis tournaments.  Once a player turned pro, he was barred from competing with amateurs, and was relegated to barnstorming tours and second-rate (and poorly-paying) tournaments.  It was only with the rise of pros such as Rod Laver that organizers realized the increasing difficulty in convincing fans to support a tournament like Wimbledon when the best players were not being allowed to play.  Hence, the U.S. National Championships became the U.S. Open Championships.  And the first winner of the first Open Championship was: an amateur. (Not just any amateur, though, but the elegant and soon-to-be great Arthur Ashe, whom I had the great honor of meeting once.)

Saturday also saw the first of two days of coverage on NBC of the World Series of Golf from the Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.  This tournament existed as recently as a few years ago, when it was subsumed by the World Golf Classic, but the World Series of the '60s was a much different tournament: a 36-hole exhibition, featuring the winners of golf's four major tournaments.  This year's tournament had Bob Goalby (Masters), Lee Trevino (U.S. Open), Julius Boros (PGA) and the winner, Gary Player (British Open).  The World Series was the unofficial end of the golf season.

On Friday night the Twins took on the Red Sox in Boston. Last year at this time the two teams were battling for first place, along with the Tigers and White Sox, in one of the great pennant races of all-time, settled only on the last day of the season. This year things are different; the Twins, who finished a game back of Boston in ’67, will end the season in 7th place, while the Red Sox, who lost a heartbreaking seven-game series to St. Louis, will finish a disappointing fourth.

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Some other highlights of the week:

On Monday night at 8:00 p.m., ABC features a half-hour paid political talkyes, there did used to be such thingsby George Wallace, the independent candidate for President, as he tries to introduce his philosophy to a wider audience.  ABC follows it with a comedy featuring Wally Cox asking the question, "Is there really a Generation Gap?"  The country tries to deal with its turmoil by alternately mocking it and offering radical solutions, all on one network in the course of one hour. Tuesday, CBS offers a prescient CBS News Special called "The Football Scholars" (9:00 p.m.), with Roger Mudd reporting on what the college football recruiting process really looks like. (It's probably quaint compared to what goes on today, much of which you probably couldn't show on network television today.) Wednesday, The Avengers presents an episode I wouldn't miss, whether it was any good or not (and it was OK, as I recall). The title: Have GunsWill Haggle." I ask you, could you resist that? On Thursday NBC's On Stage presents the drama "Certain Honorable Men" (8:30 p.m.), a political drama written by Rod Serling, starring Van Heflinb in a rare television appearance, and also featuring Peter Fonda, Pat Hingle, and Will Geer. And Friday brings us another of President Johnson's five-minute appeals for the United Community Fund, seen at 7:25 p.m. on CBS, NBC, and ABC. TV  

September 7, 2018

Around the dial

Let's star the week with a couple of lists. At Comfort TV, David lists the five worst Comfort TV opening credits sequences. His choices get no argument from me. Meanwhile, The Flaming Nose gives us the 40 best TV themes of all time. I would have liked to have seen some of my favorites higher up on the list, but all in all another good list.

Inner Toob recalls the first TV soap opera crossover, the character of Mitchell Dru, who traveled from The Brighter Day to As the World Turns to Another World. You might recall that I wrote about this character a few years ago; I have something of a fondness for him, seeing as how my middle namecoincidentally, I assure youis Drew...

If it's Friday, it must be time for Alfred Hitchcock Presents, but surprisingly, it's not from bare-bones e-zine. Instead, it's Realweegiemidget, reviewing the excellent 1959 episode "Dead Weight," starring Joseph Cotten.

At Garroway at Large, Jodie introduces an article on Dave Garroway as "television's most curious man," which is just a wonderful title. I wish I had enough time to explore everything I'm curious about, and Garroway's curiosity just makes him all the more interesting.

Television's New Frontier: the 1960s looks at The Tall Man, the Western from 1960-62, featuring Barry Sullivan and Clu Gulager as, respectively, Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid. This season explored the interesting tension between loyalty and the law, one of the eternal conflicts in man.

Short but sweet this week; I'll be at the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention next Friday, so we'll be back around the dial in two weeks! TV