August 11, 2012

This week in TV Guide: August 12, 1967

There are times when a cultural archaeologist can only shake his head, wondering just where to begin.  Such is the case with the opening article from this week's TV Guide: the inside story of a weekend with a Dating Game* couple.

*If you're too young to remember The Dating Game, stop right here and read about it, or the rest of this story will make no sense.

Do you start with the celebrity batchelor of the week?  He was a guy named Mike Reagan.  You know, as in Michael Reagan, columnist, talk show host and son of the former president, who was governor of California at the time of Mike's appearance on the show.  He was the choice* of that week's batchelorette, "starlet" Sheryl Ullman, who starred in a bunch of Elvis Presley movies and wound up as one of Dean Martin's Golddiggers. Or maybe we just go straight to the creator of The Dating Game, Chuck Barris, who claimed that the whole thing was just a ruse, and that he used the occasion of chaperoning the lucky couple to exotic international locations as a cover for his other job, as a CIA assassin. Unfortunately, Barris didn't chaperone Mike and Sheryl's date, in Victoria, B.C., unless he somehow convinced Michael Fessier Jr., the writer, to change the facts to protect the innocent.  There was to be no storybook ending, though. Of Sheryl, Mike would say, "I dig her and I don't dig her," while Sheryl vowed the first thing she would do when she returned home was "call my agent."

*Instead of Mike Reagan, Sheryl could have chosen Sal Mineo instead.  It just keeps getting better, doesn't it?

There's a feature on George Carlin, who's hosting the summer replacement show for Jackie Gleason.  Carlin as the host of a mainstream variety show - who'd figure?  Burt Prelutsky, who went on to write for Breitbart, reviews the cult favorite Coronet Blue (his verdict: it "may not be the deadliest hour on TV," but it's "definitely in the running." 

The cover story is on the daytime talk show host Mike Douglas, of whom TV Guide says, "Talk is [his] stock in trade - and millions of housewives are eager to buy."  Nowadays we think of daytime talk as consisting of self-help, celebrity puff pieces, armchair psychoanalysis, or cooking tips, but Mike Douglas was a real talk show host whose show ran in syndication from 1961 to 1982.  Unlike other daytime hosts (Merv Griffin, Dick Cavett), Mike never made the move to prime time, being content to provide easy-going, middle of the road entertainment to an older, mostly female audience.  And that's what's most interesting about this article, the emphasis on "housewives" and "grannies" who can't get enough of Douglas' "wholesome as whole-wheat soda bread" show.  How the culture has changed since then.

The best-known feature of the Douglas show was the celebrity co-host who would appear with Mike for the entire week, not quite Ed McMahon but not quite an ordinary guest either.  I'd guess these two were probably Mike's most famous co-hosts.

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There are some other programs on during the week, shows you wouldn't likely see on network TV anymore: NBC has a live classical music concert from Tangelwood, outside of Boston, featuring the young violinist Itzhak Perlman; ABC has Jimmy Stewart hosting the Boy Scout Jamboree, and The Fugitive runs its last rerun before the two-part series finale* that results in the exoneration of Dr. Richard Kimball and the apprehension of the One-Armed Man.

*What made The Fugitive different from later series that would present "final episodes" is that this literally came at the end of the series' run, after the entire summer rerun season, on the final two Tuesdays the series would air. As far as I know, except for shows that went off the air immediately after their finale, no other series has done this, and I don't know why.

Finally, it's still a year until the national conventions, but on Thursday night ABC's "Summer Focus" took a look at the presidential contenders for 1968. It's easy to look at these shows in retrospect and make fun of them, but if the show was anything like the write-up for it, it proved to be remarkably prescient. For the Democrats, "the man is President Johnson. If he bows out, look for a bitter fight on the convention floor." As I say, you couldn't get more right than that, although I'm not sure they wanted the Democrats to take the word "fight" literally. As for the Republicans, the close-up quite accurately identifies Nixon as the front-runner and Mike Reagan's father as a "fast-rising GOP star." They speculate on Nelson Rockefeller as a candidate who could win a deadlocked convention. (He would, in fact, finish second to Nixon, and just ahead of Reagan.) Oh yeah, speaking of sons of famous fathers, there's some mention of the governor of Michigan - wonder if his kid ever made anything of himself? TV

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