March 20, 2012

This week in TV Guide: March 20, 1971

By and large, I find the TV Guides of the 70s less interesting than those of the 50s and 60s. Part of that has to do with me having been around for all of the 70s, which might make the contents somewhat less exotic and more familiar. However, I think much of it has to do with the aesthetic value of the magazine itself. By 1970, TV Guide had adopted a new print format. They probably considered it cleaner, more streamlined, more modern looking, and I suppose that's true. But I never liked it, not even at the time. It looked dull, ordinary, vanilla. Looking back at it from the distance of over 40 years, I haven't found anything to change my mind. The days of the week—Monday, Tuesday, etc.—are small and insignificant. The little "C" logo next to a show broadcast in color seems puny compared to the "Color" label that used to adorn such a show. And so on. Oh well. It's the content that counts, right?

That glum man on the cover is Harry Reasoner, formerly of Minneapolis, and four months clear from having quit CBS to become co-anchor (with Howard K. Smith) of the ABC Evening News. Reasoner was always one of my favorite newsmen, and I probably watched the ABC news more than NBC or CBS. Don't know why; maybe the opening graphics, or maybe it was just that I liked the underdog. Reasoner always had a way with words, and I've written in the past on some of his wry commentaries. (One of my favorites: "Be highly suspicious of any political or social group which never under any circumstances thinks there is something funny about itself and its program."

Anyway, Reasoner has some interesting things to say in this interiew. For example, on the question of the influence of the news anchor: "I don't think he should be [as important as the news he transmits]. It's a tremendous responsibility if people feel more comfortable getting their news from Walter Cronkite than from David Brinkley or vice versa. But it's the same kind of responsbility that an editor has who has a paper that people like, and who can then manipulate the way he places his stories and how they are written. And it's a responsibility perfectly within the capability of journalists to fulfill without corruption—not that they won't make mistakes." And he likes that responsbility. "I enjoy doing it. I like having that influence. I have confidence in how I use the influence."

Asked about whether or not viewers have a right to know his political views: "I don't think they have any right to know what my personal politics are unless my personal politics are interfering with my commentaries. I am not doctrinaire. I think it's fairly well known that I have been a dove on Vietnam since 1954. But it might be quite conservative on something else. . .I suppose if you looked over everything I've said or done publicly in 25 years, I'd be called a liberal. But there are a lot of funny kinds of liberals."

And I found this perhaps the most interesting: "A surprising number of people who watch television news want to be told what to do, want to be led. I think this is terribly dangerous for journalism, just as it is for psychiatry. And I won't do it." The whole interview is well worth reading.

Let's see, what else. Well, as you can see on the cover, TV Guide has its All-America college basketball team. Are there any notables on that list? Austin Carr had a great career with the Cleveland Cavaliers, and Artis Gilmore was a monster in the ABA. But on the district All-America teams, there was a kid from UMass who had a pretty good career, name of Julius Erving.

The Doan Report muses that the huge success of the Frazier-Ali closed-circuit fight on March 8 "may doom big sports events on free TV. . .'within five years' pro football's Super Bowl may be for paying viewers only." That last bit hasn't come to pass yet, but as for the rest. . .

Other sports news—the NCAA tournament is in high gear. Saturday afternoon features a doubleheadertwo of the four regional finals that send the winners on to the Final Four in the Astrodome. But a warning, you won't be seeing the kind of coverage you're used to now. In addition to only seeing two of the four regional finals, you'll only see one of the two national semifinals, on Thursday night. The championship game (which pitted UCLA against Villanova) will air the following Saturday afternoon.

NET Playhouse (the forerunner to PBS), has what looks like an interesting presentation on Friday, March 26—Marya Mannes' "They." The premise: "The year is 1990, and America's youth-oriented government has proclaimed that middle-aged people are a drain on society. At age 55, citizens are carted off to detention camps—and given a maximum of 10 years to live." Does this remind you of Logan's Run—or Obamacare? Here's an interview with Marya Mannes from the 70s.

On Monday, Met Opera stars Eileen Farrell and Marilyn Horne guest on The Carol Burnett Show—hard to imagine that now. The Bell System Family Theatre has George C. Scott and Susanna York in "Jane Eyre," and the Hallmark Hall of Fame countered with Paddy Chayefsky's "Gideon" with Peter Ustinov and Jose Ferrer. CBS has the pilot for William Conrad's detective series Cannon on Friday night as well.

Finally, the TV Teletype: Hollywood carries a note that Oscar winner Jack Albertson will join Sam Groom in the syndicated series Simon Locke. This show, which became Police Surgeon, was one of the first and most infamous examples of the syndicated dreck that same to overwhelm the "public access" time slot that the networks were forced to cede to local stations a year or two later. That time, as foreseen by the FCC, would be devoted to local programming that would serve the public good. Instead, it ushered in game shows, Hollywood entertainment programs, and all other kinds of strip programming. Which goes to show, once again, that the best-laid plans of bureaucrats seldom come to fruition. TV  


  1. I think the one reason ABC got the ratings it did and many of us remember it was because in a lot of markets, including mine in Green Bay, they came on at 5:00 while NBC and CBS came on at 5:30.

  2. Ray, you're right - I remember that it was on at 5:00 in Minneapolis as well. It would have been on against talk shows such as Virginia Graham and Mike Douglas.

  3. TV Guide began using the font that you describe in its tv listings nationwide, including C instead of COLOR for color programs, with the issue of May 31, 1969, and it pretty much kept that same font until it stopped printing local listings in 2005.


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