July 6, 2013

This week in TV Guide: July 8, 1967

J. Edgar Hoover likes The F.B.I.  I mean, he really likes The F.B.I.  The longtime FBI director has been a staunch supporter of the ABC series since its debut in 1965.  Testifying before a House subcommittee, Hoover says that "I have received hundreds of letters from people saying that the inspector on the FBI series portrayed what they thought an FBI agent should portray."  He added, "I want our agents to live up to that image."

The inspector in question is Lewis Erskine, portrayed by Efrem Zimbalist Jr., formerly of 77 Sunset Strip.  Hoover is also a big fan of Zimbalist; he says that the actor "has captured the esprit de corps of the FBI and what it is like to be an FBI agent. . . He has helped to deptict the dedication of law enforcement officers to duty, integrity, and law and order."

Zimbalist is in Washington. D.C. to film some background shots for the upcoming season of The F.B.I., and he receives a hero's welcome from the Bureau's agents, three of whom provide Zimbalist with an escort as he and a camera crew drive past the city's landmarks, establishing the proper atmosphere for the series.  Following filming, Zimbalist will be ushered in to a brief private meeting with Hoover, as he has several times during the run of the series.  Hoover calls Zimbalist "one of the team."

I've often spoken of my fondness for The F.B.I., particularly the opening credits from the series' first few seasons.  Besides the memorable theme music, the opening provides a montage of Washington's most revered symbols: the Capitol building, the Washington Monument, the Supreme Court, and the Department of Justice building, the original home of the FBI.  I swear, it makes you want to run out there and sign up. 

The F.B.I. was more than a propaganda piece, though it portrayed the Bureau in an exceptional light.  At the time the FBI was indeed a highly respected department, with agents that were thought by the public to be incorruptible.  (That may not have reflected the reality then, and almost certainly doesn't now, but that was in fact the image, and we all know what wins out when perception clashes with reality.)  But the series succeeded on its own merits, portraying hard-working law enforcement agents who rarely had the improbable flashes of brilliance and technological miracles of today's police procedural.  Instead, they depended on the science of the day, combined with good, exhaustive investigative work.  In place of quirky, stereotypical characters, the emphasis was on plot and detection, and the unquenchable thirst for justice.

My favorite story about The F.B.I., which I don't think I've mentioned before, concerns a couple of columns written by the political satirist Art Buchwald, who I wrote about here.  One mentions an FBI agent named Efrem Zumgard; the other tells the story of the first wiretap, when Hoover bugged the first phone call made by Alexander Graham Bell, ("When he said, 'Mr. Watson, come here - I want to see you,' the Bureau had the tape in 30 minutes.") registering in the hotel under the name of Zimbalist.  Still makes me smile.


For the first time, baseball's All-Star Game is being shown in prime-time.  It's being played at the four-year-old Anaheim Stadium, home of the California Angels, and NBC is taking advantage of the time difference to start the game at 7pm Eastern time, 4pm on the West Coast.

Unfortunately, starting the game at that hour produces some unintended side-effects, chief among which is that the late-afternoon sun is right in the batter's eye for much of the game.  The National League scores in the top of the second, the American League ties it up in the bottom of the sixth, and there it remains for awhile.  Quite awhile, in fact.  It isn't until Tony Perez' home run in the top of the fifteenth inning, almost four hours later, that the National League emerges triumphant, 2-1.  The game sets records for most strikeouts (30, as every one of the game's twelve pitchers records at least one strikeout) and innings played, and is the first All-Star game in which every run is scored via home run.  Had the game simply started at the usual time (1pm locally, 4pm EDT), it would have made it into prime time anyway.

Next year's game will be played in Houston, at the Astrodome (a 1-0 National League win).  In the domed stadium, the angle of the sun won't make a difference.  The game starts at 7pm local time, the first true night game in All-Star history.  Except for 1969, when the game is played on Wednesday afternoon due to rain, the game will remain in prime-time for the rest of its history.


Radziwill with Farley Granger in Laura
There's a note in the Doan Report that David Susskind has lined up a blockbuster for one of his two-hour ABC dramas next month: Princess Lee Radziwill, sister of Jacqueline Kennedy, will star in "The Voice of the Turtle," John Van Druten's Broadway hit, with an adaptation by Truman Capote.  Now, as far as I know, "The Voice of the Turtle" never made it to television, and the story behind that might be interesting.  What did make it to TV the next season was a disastrous adaptation of the mystery classic Laura, starring Radziwill (billed as Lee Bouvier, her maiden name), and adapted by Capote.  To say that it was panned doesn't quite do it justice; it was absolutely trashed.  "Slow moving," "Awkward material," "The wardrobe alone emerges unscathed," were some of the kinder comments.

Now that I think of it, I'm sure the story of how "The Voice of the Turtle" became Laura would be more interesting.  I do know that Capote, a longtime friend of Radziwill, was the one who encouraged her to get into acting, talked Susskind into casting her, and wrote the script for her.  Ironically, a repeat of Laura in June 1968 is postponed due to the assassination of Lee Radziwill's brother-in-law, Robert Kennedy.


Doan also reports on high hopes that the bill authorizing creation of the Public Broadcasting Corporation, currently in Congress, will pass.  It does, although not without some fireworks, and by 1969 we'll see the debut of PBS' most lasting legacy, Sesame Street.

Not everyone is a fan of government funding for education, however.  California Governor Ronald Reagan, himself a former actor, comes out against the government entering into "direct competition with private television," and says that educational TV should be developed through closed-circuit systems, aka cable-TV.  To this day, there's more than one TV critic - me among them - wondering what PBS offers that can't be found somewhere else on the cable-TV spectrum.


Alan Kogosowski today
No "Sullivan vs. The Palace" this week - Piccadilly Palace, Hollywood's summer replacement, is itself pre-empted by the Coaches' All-America college football game, which we mentioned a couple of weeks ago.  Ed's around, though, with a rerun featuring Tony Bennett, Nancy Sinatra, Count Basie and his orchestra, dancer-choreographer Peter Gennaro, comedienne Totie Fields and the comedy team of Hendra and Ullet, 13-year-old classical pianist Alan Kogosowski, and the acrobatic Mecners.

I'd never heard of Alan Kogosowski before and wondered if he ever amounted to anything, so naturally I looked him up on the always-reliable Wikipedia.  His story turns out to be quite interesting: he did indeed achieve some fame as a concert pianist, particularly in performing the works of Chopin, but perhaps more significant has been his work researching and treating carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive strain injury.  Who knew?

We've got more variety shows making appearances as summer replacements, as we discussed a couple of weeks ago. In addition to the aforementioned Piccadilly Palace, Saturday night also features Away We Go, the replacement for The Jackie Gleason Show, starring George Carlin (!), singer Buddy Greco, and the great drummer Buddy Rich.  On Sunday night there's Our Place, the replacement for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, starring Rowlf the Muppett, the comedy team of Burns and Schreiber, and the Doodletown Pipers.  Here's a clip from that show if you're interested (although it's in black-and-white, the original was broadcast in color):

On Tuesday it's Spotlight, the replacement for The Red Skelton Hour, a British import hosted by comedian Shelly Berman and singer Shani Wallis - and, for a couple of weeks, Benny Hill.  Tom Jones also had a turn as host, which led in turn to This Is Tom Jones a couple of years later.  Wednesday night Steve Allen returns to TV as the replacement for The Danny Kaye Show, and on Thursday singer Vic Damone takes over for The Dean Martin Show.  Interesting thing about these shows - with the exception of Damone's, which was on NBC, the rest are all on CBS.

There's also a program on CBS Monday night called Vacation Playhouse, a charming title which hides what used to be a staple of the summer season: a collection of unsold pilots, packaged into a series that would run for 13 or so weeks.  This week's edition stars Ethel Merman as the owner of a restaurant near a U.S. Navy base.  My recollection of these playhouse-type episodes is that it was easy to see why none of the pilots ever made it as regular series.


Joseph Finnigan has a wry article on the Golden Globes, which he calls "the tongue-in-cheek awards," based on their longtime reputation for awarding performances based on suspicious criteria.  For example, at this point very few nominees appeared for the show, and those who did were invariably the winners, which led more than one person to suspect that the only way to induce stars to show up was to promise they would win.  The show has had a successful run for several years as part of The Andy Williams Show, but its reputation would catch up with it in 1968, when the FCC ruled that this practice constituted "mis[leading] the public as to how the winners were determined," which in turn led NBC to drop coverage of the show until 1975.

The strange thing about this article, though, is that the Golden Globes were held on February 15, nearly five months before the article ran, and the 1968 show wouldn't be broadcast at all due to the FCC ruling.  Usually you want some kind of a hook when your piece is going to run - and I can't imagine why anyone would have been interested in reading about the Golden Globes in July.  Anyone? TV  

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