April 25, 2018

The journalist who dallied with Castro

I suppose it was because of the January 25, 1964 issue of TV Guide that I became acquainted with Lisa Howard. That was the issue that looked back at TV's coverage of the JFK assassinations; I've written before about how I grew up with that issue, reading it over and over until I was familiar with the most obscure programs (several of which have since wound up in my video collection), knowing that this was a gateway to a time that I was a part of but only vaguely remembered. In that issue was an article by Alan Gill about the "ever-persistent" Lisa Howard, a reporter for ABC, accompanied by a picture of a redhead wearing a vivid shade of red on her lips. It was a very effective photograph, not the kind of thing you're likely to forget. The article discussed her transition from soap opera actress to political activist to reporter, particularly her headline-making interview with Fidel Castro. Since I'd committed the contents of that issue to memory, I filed the name Lisa Howard there as well.

There haven't been many opportunities over the years to use that information. Howard appears in ABC's JFK assassination coverage, but aside from her daily show she doesn't show up as much as you'd think she should, given her credentials. Indeed, her story takes a tragic turn; after being fired from ABC and suffering a miscarriage, she fell into a deep depression and committed suicide in 1965 at the age of 39 - less than 18 months after the TV Guide article appeared.

All this is background to a fascinating article by Peter Kornbluh in Politico, "'My Dearest Fidel': An ABC Journalist's Secret Liaison With Fidel Castro." Without even seeing the story, bells were going off in my head, and I had an idea who that journalist would be; clicking on it merely confirmed my suspicion.

It's a brilliant piece of long journalism, the kind that we don't see often enough anymore, documenting the details of how Howard became an intermediary between Havana and the White House, a story of politics and intrigue worthy of any spy novelist. And, befitting a spy novel, there's a romance between Howard and Castro, which makes the story even more intriguing. In some ways Howard reminds me of Dorothy Kilgallen, another famous female reporter of the time, one who covered the big stories (and, in the case of Dr. Sam Sheppard, was part of it), saw herself as part of history, and died under tragic circumstances from an overdose of pills.

You'll want to set aside some time and read this; whether or not you've ever heard of Lisa Howard, and no matter what you think of Fidel Castro, you'll be pulled into the narrative, and hard-pressed to stop before you get to the end. And as an added bonus - think of it as the companion to the article - here are a pair of YouTube videos. The first is the Howard-Castro interview as presented on ABC, while the second offers over two hours of raw footage surrounding the interview and Howard's tour of Cuba with Castro. (You may prefer to skip around with that.)

Would I have even noticed this article had I not read that long-ago TV Guide profile? Kornbluh writes that while at one time she was one of the "most famous TV journalists in the United States," today "almost no one remembers Lisa Howard." I remember Lisa Howard, though, thanks to that issue from over 50 years ago. Like so many things I've run across over the years, it's part of the permanent record.  TV  

April 23, 2018

What's on TV? Friday, April 26, 1968

It's an interesting day of television today - a little something for everyone. The listings, if you remember from Saturday, are from the Minnesota State Edition. Let's get right to it.

April 21, 2018

This week in TV Guide: April 20, 1968

Of all the most obvious ways in which television shows the passage of time and the change of the culture, I think the variety show may be the most overt, although I'm willing to listen to opinions to the contrary. It's not just those psychedelic appearances by the Stones and the Doors and Jefferson Airplane with Ed Sullivan; I think that an entertainment format that dates back to the vaudeville era is not necessarily the best way to reflect the radical changes in progress. Case in point is Romp!!, a "psychedelic search for fun, filmed in Europe, Japan, California and board a Bahama-bound liner," which airs Sunday at 6:00 p.m. on ABC. Romp!! is hosted by Ryan O'Neal and Michele Lee, and stars Jimmy Durante, Barbara Eden, James Darren, Cream, Harper's Bizarre, and Liberace, with special appearances by Sammy Davis Jr., Casey Stengel, Sonny Tufts, The Celebration, Richard Dreyfuss, Joey Bishop, and Michael Blodgett. You know it's hip; Ryan O'Neal appears in a sportcoat and turtleneck rather than a tie, and the romping takes place "in a studio equipped with a squooshy floor, the better to romp on." The stars cavort with "all sorts of bikinied and mini-skirted lovelies." It does beg the question, though, as to how you can have both Cream and Durante in the same show - I mean, I love them both, but not together.

Perhaps a better example is Where the Girls Are, a "mod hour" on NBC Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m., hosted by Noel Harrison with appearances by Don Adams, Prof. Irwin Corey, Barbara McNair, the Association, the Byrds, and Cher. The network had high hopes for this; according to the TV Teletype, it "could become a regular on NBC's schedule if it clicks with the audience." Apparently it didn't, at least not enough to earn a spot on the schedule.

Clockwise from left: Sammy and Joey, Liberace,
Ryan O' Neal, Jimmy Durante, Michele Lee
The larger problem with all this is that intergenerational variety shows don't always work. Take that Romp!! show, for example; the only thing hip about Casey Stengel is the broken one that forced his retirement as manager of the New York Mets in 1965. The spectacle of an older generation trying to act hip is, as I've said before, a disturbing image, and it often fails miserably. It's particularly painful listening to someone like Frank Sinatra singing songs written in the 70s and 80s; as great a singer as Frank is, most of them just don't fit his style.

But for all that, the music often isn't the main problem with the variety show in this transitory period - it's the comedy. Bob Hope's skits from decades before feel increasingly tired in this new era. It doesn't matter whether they're funny or not (and some of them are, very) - they're just a bad fit with the "relevance" performances of the rock groups. Plus, try using them in the skits; can you see Grace Slick playing the Anita Ekberg role in one of his sketches? To a certain extent Carol Burnett was able to avoid this; one of her skits this week has guest Don Adams and Carol playing a marriage counselor and psychiatrist worried about their kids, and I'm sure it's filled with a lot of new age jive from the era.

This week Red Skelton's guests are Mickey Rooney and Lana Cantrell; Mickey and Red play Julius Caesar and Forsooth in a bit that I'm sure dates back decades. Again, I'm not saying it isn't funny - I  enjoy watching a lot of these old shows. I'm just pointing to the disconnect that's part of the television generation gap, and how it must have appeared back then. The kids probably weren't satisfied by it at all - not authentic enough. Whatever the case, it must have been a hard gig back then, running a variety show.

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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: Scheduled guests are Patty Duke; Diahann Carroll; singers Tom Jones and You're Father's Mustache; comics Totie Fields and Richard Hearne; magician Pavel; and the Muppets.

Palace: Host Bing Crosby welcomes Sid Caesar, the King Sisters, singer Florence Henderson, jazz pianist Joe Bushkin, comic Gene Baylos, the rocking Every Mothers' Son, Bunraku (Japanese puppets) and 16 children of the Palace production crew.

For the second issue in a row, we've got two very good lineups. Der Bingle is always worth a couple of points for Palace, and you've got Caesar and the future Mrs. Brady. On the other hand, the Muppets are better puppets than Bunraku, and it's hard to vote against Tom Jones. It's a tough call, but I'll give the week to the Palace by a nose.

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Throughout the 60s and early 70s, TV Guide's 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. 

There are times when Cleveland Amory leaves you in no doubt from the beginning as to where he stands. This is one of those times, starting with one of Amory's laws of television: "If at first you don't succeed, fail, fail again." The failure this week is NBC's The Jerry Lewis Show, which is better than his ABC show from a few years ago; then again, that was one of the great failures in television history, so the bar was pretty low.

It's not that Amory is reflexively not a fan of Lewis, which is often the case with Lewis critics. "He can be a clown, as the saying goes, with the best of them; and time and again, in a whole comedy role, he has proved how funny he can be. As a host of a children's show he would be ideal. As host of an adult show, however, he is five fathoms over what might be described as his depth." It's a pity, in many ways, for it's a well-made show in many respects - the graphics are solid and it's imaginatively shot. What it is not, however, is well-written, and such sketches "are so embarrassingly overplayed by Mr. Lewis that they seem even worse than they are."

Amory cites one episode in particular that is supposed to serve as an example for the rest of the series. Lewis plays "Sidney," a regular on the show, who this week is "the yelled-at helper of a senior citizens' home - one who finally turns on his tormentors. Dreary to begin with, the tale grew so increasingly unfunny as to be actually fascinating in its tastelessness. And by the seemingly never-arriving end, the whole business was positively frightening." The premise of the skit itself is something I feel reasonably certain we'd not see on TV today; as for the slapstick that seems typical of many other sketches, though, I have to admit it doesn't sound much different from what you see on MeTV commercials for Carol Burnett. Of course, Cleve wasn't a fan of hers either, at least at first, so maybe there's something to that.

I'm not exactly unbiased here, since I was always a fan of Jerry Lewis. It could be something that Amory suggests early on, how Lewis is "extremely popular in movies." Perhaps he was just too big a personality to fit on the small screen. If so, he wouldn't be the first case, nor would he be the last.

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Here's some sports to kick off the week: on Saturday, NBC's Game of the Week features the Cleveland Indians in Boston to take on the defending American League champion Red Sox (1:00 p.m.), while it's the finale of this year's CBS Golf Classic; the 36-hole championship airs today and tomorrow with Art Wall and Charles Coody on one side, Al Geiberger and Dave Stockton on the other. You may not recognize their names, but you've got four very good golfers there.

Good night of TV on Sunday: Frank Sinatra's NBC special is rerun at 8:00 p.m., with Ella Fitzgerald and the great guitarist Antonio Carlos Jobim. NBC follows that at 9:00 with the Tony Awards, hosted by Angela Lansbury and Peter Ustinov. I'll tell you this much: the big winners include Robert Goulet, Martin Balsam, and Tom Stoppard. If you're the least-bit curious, you can see the whole show on YouTube.

The Singer Company, which sponsored many a fine special in its day (did they sponsor Elvis' comeback special? Why, yes they did!), and on Monday they cue up Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass (8:00 p.m., CBS), singing a boatload of their hits, some of them performed on a Mississippi riverboat.

A couple of interesting programs on Tuesday; first, it's Harry Reasoner's profile of esteemed photographer, poet, composer, painter and filmmaker Gordon Parks (9:30 p.m., CBS) His many talents, says Reasoner, are his "weapons against bigotry and indifference." At 10:30 p.m., WKBT in Duluth presents an Ernie Kovacs special compiled from eight of the hour-long programs he did for ABC in 1961-62 (that ended with his untimely death). Channel 8 is ordinarily a CBS affiliate, but crosses over frequently with ABC programs - I suspect this was an ABC program from the previous week.

The Clampetts are in London Wednesday for the first of three episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies filmed across the pond (7:30 p.m., CBS). Eddy Arnold, one of the great country crossovers, hosts the first of six "County Fair" episodes of The Kraft Music Hall (8:00 p.m., NBC) with Al Hirt, Joanie Sommers, John Byner and Mark Wilson. And on Run for Your Life (9:00 p.m., NBC) James Daly plays a slimy talk-show host, Franchot Tone is the judge he attacks on the air, and our hero, Ben Gazzara, is the prime suspect when Daly gets plugged.

In Minneapolis-St. Paul, Channel 9 broadcasts The Hollywood Palace on Thursdays at 9:00 p.m., where it's up against Dean Martin on NBC. This week Dean's special guest is none other than Bing Crosby, which means you've got Bing vs. Bing. However, you've also got Lena Horne and Dom DeLuise on Dean's show, which perhaps makes it the best variety show of the week. If you do decide to watch Bing and Dean rather than Bing and the Palace, you'll get to see Crosby and Martin as a couple of golfers being driven crazy by their caddy (Dom), with the great golfing champion Byron Nelson in a cameo as himself. I have horrible news for you about Peyton Place (8:30 p.m., ABC), Betty and Steve's divorce is final. I don't think I can go on with the rest of the evening.

CBS's Friday Night Movie is a blockbuster: Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier in "The Defiant Ones." (8:00 p.m.) It's one of director Stanley Kramer's infamous "message" movies, and a couple of weeks after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. it's sure to pack a punch. For my money though, I'd prefer "Jazz: The Intimate Art" on The Bell Telephone Hour (9:00 p.m., NBC, except for KSTP, which routinely seems to preempt this program - cretins), with Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charles Lloyd. And WTCN's 9:00 movie is a pretty good one, especially for television buffs: 1959's "The Last Angry Man," with David Wayne as a television executive who must convince a Brooklyn doctor to appear on his show in order to save his job. As the crusty doctor, veteran Paul Muni receives his fifth Best Actor Oscar nomination.

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We'll end the week with another of those great "little did they know" stories, this time courtesy of the New York TV Teletype: "A two-hour version of the old stand-by "Heidi" will be visible on NBC next November, starring Maximilian Schell, Michael Redgrave, Walter Slezak and Peter Van Eyck, among others." It's hard to imagine from that innocent little remark what huge consequences were in store. Ask the fans of the Raiders and Jets how it turned out. TV 

April 20, 2018

Around the dial

Before we get to the links this week, a couple of things I want to remind you of.

First, as I think I mentioned earlier, I'll be presenting one of the seminars at this September's Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention in Hunt Valley, Maryland. Martin Grams has put together a terrific lineup of celebrities this year, including Barbara Eden, Stefanie Powers and Robert Wagner, Loni Anderson and Howard Hesseman, Ed Begley Jr., Peter Marshall, Morgan Fairchild, and more. The seminars are always fascinating as well; in fact, I feel quite inferior being a part of it. The schedule is still a work in progress, but I strongly urge you to go to the website and buy tickets now if you can make it there. I can promise you'll have a great time, and of course I'd love to have you in the audience for my presentation!

Something else to look forward to later this year is my upcoming book, The Electronic Mirror: How Classic Television Shows Us Who We Were and Who We Are (and everything in-between!). It will be out in plenty of time for the Convention, and I can guarantee you'll hear more about it before then.

And now on to the week's best.

Really good piece by David at Comfort TV this week. Were classic TV's sitcom families really that unrealistic? He says they were more real than revisionist historians want to say, and I say he's right. This is the kind of thing that's a major part of my upcoming book.

At Classic Film and TV CafĂ©, Rick asks if you "Remember When" these Classic TV features were just the way things were. For example, do you remember when "The broadcast networks rolled out their new shows all at the same time as part of 'Premiere Week,'" or when "The World Series was broadcast only during the day." Sadly, I remember all of them.

Inner Toob has a fun piece on real-life movies that find their way into fictional television shows. I think Columbo's use of the Janet Leigh movie "Walking My Baby Back Home" in the episode where she played the killer (a former movie star) is my favorite example, but they're all good examples.

This isn't a recent story, but an interesting one, I think - Television Obscurities takes a look at a 1961 series called The Americans that's very different from the one we have today. It starred Darryl Hickman and Dick Davalos as two brothers fighting on opposite sides during the Civil War; as I think about it, perhaps it's not all that different from today's version.

A Shroud of Thoughts and David Hill's article at The Ringer both offer affectionate remembrances at Harry Anderson, who died this week at a much-too-young 65.

That should be enough to take us to tomorrow, when you'll be sure to return for a TV Guide from the late 60s. TV  

April 18, 2018

American Newsstand - 1961

Today we'll take another look at one of those programs you see in the Monday listings but probably don't pay much attention to: it's American Newsstand, ABC's afternoon effort to produce "news with an accent on youth." It was a ten-minute broadcast that ran five days a week, after the conclusion of American Bandstand (at 4:50 p.m., according to this week's listings) and attempted to capitalize on that show's audience to build a news market that the perennial third-place network felt was underdeveloped. The newscast began in 1961 and ran through the 1962-63 season; when Bandstand became a Saturday program, Newsstand went off the air.

The primary anchors for American Newsstand were Roger Sharp, Bill Lord and Dave Jayne, and if you watch the broadcast below, you'll see that for a newscast tailored to a youth audience, it's surprisingly strong on hard news. In fact, there's probably more "news" content in this broadcast than you'd see on the evening news today.

As the caption states, this broadcast is from November 29, 1961. And now you know the rest of the story.  TV  

April 16, 2018

What's on TV? Thursday, April 19, 1962

As often as I do issues of the Minnesota State Edition, there's something about the Minneapolis-St. Paul TV Guides that makes them more special. Yes, it's nice from time to time to find out what we missed when WCCO and KMSP were engaged in their frequent network pre-emptions, but the issues with the basic five stations, even when they're from before I was watching TV, paint the portrait of the city in which I grew up. Sometimes it's because so little had changed (for example, Sea Hunt was on Channel 11 for as long as I could remember), other times it shows how the stations evolved over the years. Whatever the reason, it's always nice to go back home, even when it's only a trip down memory lane.

April 14, 2018

This week in TV Guide: April 14, 1962

This week's issue presents us with a glimpse at two of the "young breed" actors making waves and setting hearts aflutter on the small screen.

The cover story is on George Maharis, one-half of the duo roaming the highways on CBS's Route 66, one of the more existential programs on TV. The profile, by TV Guide's favorite journalist-psychoanalyst Richard Gehman, is pretty much what you'd expect; he starts out by gently mocking Maharis as one of what he calls "The Method Creatures," along with Marlon Brandow, Paul Newman, Ben Gazzara "and several other mumbling types." Maharis is a man with a voracious appetite for life - his friend Inger Stevens compares him to a coiled spring - and relies on instinct for most of his acting chops. "I never learn lines," he tells Gehman, "somewhere along the line I make a connection, I come to something I feel, and then I put my finger on it, and that's it."

Maharis says he lacks discipline as an actor; Gehman says that isn't all he lacks, and goes on to ridicule some of his other abilities ("When Maharis gets angry before the TV cameras, he resembles a young monkey eating a lobster."), but this makes no difference to his many female fans, women being what they are, you know. He is now one of America's "foremost symbols of sex in the raw," but as for that rebellious streak promised in the title? Maharis, as he himself admits, "is fundamentally insecure. He is a nonconformist not simply because he hates organized society; he is one because he feels he has to protect himself."

What the article doesn't address, and can't because Maharis has yet to leave the show, is how underrated he and his character, Buz Murdock, were to the success of Route 66. The show's premise, for any of you unfamiliar with it, is a deceptively simple one: Buz and his friend, Tod Stiles (Martin Milner), travel the roads of America in a Chevy Corvette willed to Tod by his father after his death. The contrast between the two couldn't be more clear: Tod, college-educated and born to money; Buz, an orphan from the wrong side of the streets. Through the run of the series these two go from odd job to odd job, looking for adventure and romance along the way while they wait to run into the one true thing that will cause either of them to settle down and leave the road. At first, I found Tod the more persuasive of the two: quieter, more reasonable, less of - well, a rebel. But as time went on, Buz began to assert his own appeal. Without question, Maharis was a dynamic, charismatic actor, and while his temper often caused him to jump in where angels fear to tread, over the course of the series he also begins to display a healthy cynicism that provided a welcome contrast to Tod's youthful idealism and desire to change the world. They both had their flaws, but the street smarts of Buz began to outweigh the book smarts of Tod - and those smarts also begin to rub off on Tod as well, (judging by the number of fights he gets into after Buz leaves), unless that's just a case of lazy writing.

Milner (L) and Maharis
When Maharis leaves Route 66 during the show's third season, supposedly because of poor health (including a bout of hepatitis that's mentioned elsewhere in this issue) but possibly because of a dispute with the producers, his role in the co-pilot's seat is taken by Glenn Corbett, a fine actor himself but with a character that plays much too much like Tod's. Lacking the dynamic Buz/Tod contrast, the series flounders on for another season-and-a-half before calling it a day, in the process becoming one of the first television series to produce a final episode bringing everything to a close.

The fact is, Route 66 badly needed Maharis, no matter how much trouble he might have been, and it badly needed Buz Murdock. Had Linc Case (Corbett's character) displayed similar traits to Buz, Maharis' absence might not have been so pronounced; as it is, the viewer is often left wishing there was someone around - anyone - to knock some sense into Tod's head, to tell him that it is time for them to cut their losses and get out of town fast.

Because of this, anyone who watches Route 66 is, by the end of the series, almost compelled to become a fan of Maharis'; it truly is a case of absence making the heart grow fonder. Maharis was never able to replicate the fame that he achieved through Route 66, but his performance in an iconic series is still more than most working actors will ever accomplish. Had he continued on through the remainder of the show's run, however long that might have been, Route 66 would have been a far superior show than it is. In contrasting his character to that of Martin Milner, one finds out just how essential he was to the show. Remove Tod, and you remove the premise. Remove Buz, on the other hand, and you remove the heart, the passion of the show. Of the two, I think that is the quality most difficult to replicate.

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The other dynamic, difficult star in question is Vincent Edwards, the dark, brooding anti-hero of ABC's medical drama Ben Casey. While Edwards is a prime attraction for many of the same reasons as Maharis, his penchant for disrupting the set is fast becoming a legend, according to Henry Harding's "For the Record" feature. He's demanding a substantial raise (from $1,750 to $7,500 per episode, which would amount to nearly $60,000 a shot today), plus 25% ownership in the show, and a $300,000 loan from Bing Crosby Productions to finance his own production company. The series creator, James Moser, doesn't think this is out of line; "After all, an actor is like a ballplayer, and only has so many years." When you depend on your virile good looks, that is.

He's also making a reputation as one of the most difficult stars now working on TV. According to one cast member, "he shows up late, explodes on the set and has created dissension among the crew." The producers defer to him because of "the unusual pressures under which Edwards must live," starring in a show in which he's in 80% of the scenes. Producer Matthew Rapf says he's "no worse" than any other actor he's worked with, although "I wish he'd come to me with his problems instead of going to the crew and other members of the company." And while Edwards is a bona fide star, Rapf is not afraid to discuss recasting the role if necessary. "It will hurt us. But we believe the show is strong enough to carry on without him."

Edwards predicts a new deal will work out, and that he'll soon be back "listening impatiently while kindly old Dr. Zorba reads lines," and part of that is true. Edwards does come back, but Sam Jaffe, the veteran actor and consummate pro who played Zorba, would eventually leave, unable to put up any longer with Edwards' lack of professionalism and gambling addiction. Mark Rydell, one of the show's directors, would later talk about Edwards' gambling problem: "He used to come to the set with 20 or 30 thousand dollars in packets and he would say, ‘You gotta get me out by 11, I’m going to the track. So I might have 10 scenes with him in various places with other people, and suddenly I would have to go and do all of his coverage in those scenes so that he could leave.” His addiction was so obvious, though, that Edwards remained popular with most of the cast and crew, who felt pity for him more than anger. He died in 1996, his life, says Stephen Bowie, "a shambles."

The series ends in 1966, and although he'll make another try at a medical series with Matt Lincoln (as well as a failed pilot to reboot Casey), Vince Edwards will never again approach the heights he reached as Ben Casey.

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Ah, I love running across items like this: a look at 10-year-old Richard Thomas, future star of The Waltons, but right now appearing in the children's adventure show 1, 2, 3, Go! in which he travels on a flying carpet with Today veteran Jack Lescoulie on adventures "from Alaska to Cape Canaveral; from California to the Virgin Islands; from New London, Conn., to London, England."

Thomas is described as "A quiet, well-mannered lad with blond hair and brown eyes," along with a self-assurance unusual to the normal 10-year-old but the kind of thing you'd expect from someone who's been acting on television and Broadway since he was seven. He's paid between $20,000 and $25,000 a year for 1, 2, 3, Go!, which is a lot more than my allowance was when I was 10. So far he's played basketball with the Boston Celtics ("I learned to dribble behind my back"), visited the atomic sub Nautilus, and did a stint as a New York City fireman. Lescoulie admires him as a professional; producer Jack Kuney, when asked if they ever call him Dick instead of Richard, replies, "No, not very often. To me, this is not a boy named Dick. It's always Richard. But he's all boy. [John-Boy?] He's always willing to go firs,t he's never afraid to attempt anything."

It won't be the last time Richard Thomas appears in the pages of TV Guide.

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The most interesting thing about Saturday isn't what's on TV, but this ad for what's in the theater. It's an original ad for the brand-new movie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, playing at the Lyric and Riviera theaters in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, respectively. Neither one is around anymore; the Lyric was torn down in the early 70s, replaced by a twin screen theater that now serves as a dance club, while the Riviera bit the dust in the late 70s. Interesting how Lee Marvin gets so much attention in this ad - you can tell it was made for TV Guide, can't you? (In case you can't read what's written in the box next to Marvin's picture, and I had to get out a magnifying glass, it reads, "Lee Marvin as Liberty Valance, the coldest killer of them all!" Ah, the movie before it became a legend.

The National Association of Broadcasters met in Chicago for their annual convention last week, at which there was yet more sparring between Leroy Collins, head of the NAB, and Newton Minow, chairman of the FCC. I'm sure this will be the subject of intense discussion Saturday night on Irv Kupcinet's At Random (11:30 p.m., WTCN), which includes not Collins and Minow, but Desi Arnaz, Rhonda Fleming, NAB board chair Clair McCollough, and Leonard Reinsch, Radio-TV adviser to the Democratic National Committee. A wonder that 90 minutes would be big enough to hold it all.

Sunday is Passover, and Metropolitan Opera tenor Jan Peerce is one of the guests on CBS's Passover special Open Door (9:00 a.m.), while at noon Eternal Light (KSTP) presents Morton Wishengrad's fantasy "The Tender Grass," with Broadway star Marian Seldes and veteran actor Sam Wanamaker. In the role of Elijah is Martin Brooks, who played Dr. Rudy Wells in the Six Million Dollar Man/Bionic Woman series. It's also Palm Sunday, and Hallmark Hall of Fame (5:00 p.m., NBC) repeats last year's color special "Give Us Barabbas!", starring James Daly as the infamous criminal, Kim Hunter as Mara, and Dennis King as Pilate. Later in the evening (7:30 p.m., to be precise), NBC presents a Project 20 special "He Is Risen," a sequel to the network's acclaimed Christmas special "The Coming of Christ," with Alexander Scourby narrating while the "stills-in-action" technique shows great works of art by El Greco, Velazquez, Rembrandt, and others.

On Monday, Malachy McCourt, the younger brother of author Frank McCourt and an author in his own right as well as actor, plays a reprobate cousin of Cha Cha on Surfside 6 (8:00 p.m., ABC), but I think I'd favor Jonathan Winters' appearance on I've Got a Secret (9:30 p.m, CBS), with Merv Griffin sitting in for vacationing Bill Cullen as one of the panelists.

Tuesday night starts off with The New Breed (7:30 p.m., ABC), this week dealing with teen marriage, featuring Peter Fonda, described as "following in the acting tradition of his father Henry Fonda." At 8:00 p.m., NBC's Rainbow of Stars makes use of the skating rink at Rockefeller Center, with Dick Button and the U.S. Olympic skating stars joining Robert Goulet, Nancy Walker, Al Hirt, Carol Lawrence, and of course The Rockettes. Then, Pulitzer-winner Tad Mosel's play "That's Where the Town's Going!" rounds out the evening on Westinghouse Presents (9:00 p.m., CBS), with Kim Stanley, Jason Robards, Patricia Neal and Buddy Ebsen.

Dr. Reuben K. Youngdahl, who appears weekday mornings on WCCO, hosts a primetime special Wednesday, The World and Its People, (6:30 p.m.) talking about Israel's fight for independence. He includes slides and films which, I suspect, he may have taken himself. At 7:30 p.m. on NBC, Perry Como welcomes Jane Morgan, Kukla and Ollie (with Burr Tillstrom), and the St. Monica Children's Choir to his Kraft Music Hall Easter show. Then, the infamous Keefe Brasselle is one of the stars of "The Go-Between" on The U.S. Steel Hour. (9:00 p.m., CBS)

Thursday is devoted to guest stars: Cliff Robertson on The Outlaws (6:30 p.m., NBC), Jayne Mansfield on Tell it to Groucho (8:00 p.m., CBS), and David Niven and DeForest Kelley on Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre (8:30 p.m., CBS), while Joey Bishop is the guest host this week on The Tonight Show (10:30 p.m., NBC) while the network waits for the arrival of Johnny Carson; the show comes from Hollywood this week, with Woody Herman's orchestra as the house band.

On Good Friday, WCCO carries The Stations of the Cross from St. Olaf (8:30 p.m.), taped earlier today. You'll remember me mentioning this last week when WCCO carried it for Good Friday 1960. Also at 8:30 (NBC), Dinah Shore presents highlights taken from two shows filmed in Europe last year; her guests include Charles Boyer, Ingemar Johansson (probably while he was heavyweight champion), and members of the Royal Danish Ballet.

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Ah, there's a lot more we could look at this week, including an article on how librarians report that television has helped encourage Americans to read. Of course they do - they read TV Guide! TV  

April 13, 2018

Around the dial

For some reason I'm feeling particularly talkative about many of this week's links, and we'll get to them after one of our occasional digressions.

First, a note to any of you who are concerned about secure Internet connections: we now have one, which means you can access the same great content you've come to know and love by going to https://www.itsabouttv.com. No need to change your links, though: the regular http address still works as well, so either way you've got a path to the blog.

Second, we've received a request for information from a reader: Charles Rister writes of his

extreme frustration in trying to locate a particular TV Guide of several years ago.  I have spent hours (retired) searching E-Bay and Google trying to find the TV Guide which listed one of the first commercial television showings of the western Mackenna's Gold, with Gregory Peck. I know the exact time period because I was watching it at an emotional time in my young life.  I believe the time was spring/summer of 1970 (like one of those Saturday Night at the Movies) during the 1970 year.  The movie was released theatrically May 10, 1969 USA. It is possible it was on TV late 1969 but I'm pretty certain it was on TV in the year 1970.  Would you know of or have access to a data base to locate this TV Guide issue in 1970?  

Charles, you're not the only one who wishes TV Guide would do something about a database of their past issues (Jodie Peeler mentions it in her piece, which you'll read about next). I've done a bit of a search and have come up as empty as Charles. Are there any readers out there who can help out? I'm thinking of you, Mike Doran - and how was the weekend, by the way? I meant to answer your comment from last week, and ask you to pass along my best to Max Allen Collins - love his work, and the things he's doing to keep Mickey Spillane's work alive.

At Garroway at Large, Jodie has a really, really good article on Richard Gehman's fascinating two-part TV Guide profile of Dave Garroway. I was able to identify with this in a number of ways; I have the issue that contains the first of the two-parts to the story (and thank you, Jodie, for the gracious shout-out!); I also have the book Changing Channels: America in TV Guide by Glenn Altschuler and David Grossvogel (which, as she points out, is also good; I'll be bringing that with me to Baltimore for my talk at MANC); and I've written before about Gehman's writing style. And don't think I'm saying these things about Jodie's article because she's written for this blog; if she wasn't already a guest contributor before now, I would have asked her after reading this. If you're interested in Garroway, you'll enjoy this; if you're not, I think it will change your mind.

Likewise, there's a good feature over at Comfort TV on the pieces you'll likely never see posted there. I know just what David is talking about; I have my own collection of ideas that seemed pretty good at the time, but wound up never seeing the light of day. I still have high hopes for some of them, though, and I'll join in with the commenter who hoped that David would develop some of these some day in the future.

The Twilight Zone Vortex has a piece on Buck Houghton, the initial producer of the program, and how he was the "unsung hero" of Twilight Zone. I'm familiar with Houghton from having read Marc Scott Zicree's TZ book, and I've become sensitive to seeing his name in other classic shows of the era. It's a good piece that demonstrates how TZ was far from being a one-man (Serling) operation. I think you'll be impressed by him as well.

Ah, John, you're fortunate to have seen "Tunnel of Fear"  (isn't that a great title?), one of the rediscovered early episodes of The Avengers. It teams Patrick Macnee's Steed with Ian Hendry's Dr. Keel. You may be disappointed to see that there's no Mrs. Gale, Mrs. Peel, or Miss King, but to me it proves that without John Steed, there's no Avengers.

It's time for a new cycle in "The Hitchcock Project," Jack's review of Alfred Hitchcock episodes at bare-bones e-zine that tracks the works of a specific author. That's hardly an adequate definition, though, because Jack does more that simply look at the episode; he goes all the way back to the original story's publication (if it's an adaptation) and then examines the differences between the original and the adaptation. And even that description doesn't do it justice, because Jack just captivates you into reading about episodes that you haven't even seen yet, and doing it in such a way that it doesn't ruin the eventual viewing of the episode. The new cycle traces the work of Stanley Ellin, and begins with the season three episode "The Festive Season."

Don't forget: it's Friday the 13th, so let's be careful out there, and I'll be back tomorrow. TV