November 29, 2014

This week in TV Guide: November 29, 1975

The objective of the ‘scandalous revelations’ filling the airwaves and news columns ought to be reform, but ‘thus far have brought little but cynicism and disillusion.’ "

Talking about O’Reilly, perhaps, or maybe CNN or MSNBC? Think again. It’s Pat Buchanan, quoting U.S. Senator J. William Fulbright, in November 1975.  In this week's issue, we have two stories that tell us much about the evolution of the media’s role in news coverage – and that nothing really is new.

The first is Pat Buchanan’s News Watch column, the source of the initial quote. Buchanan is talking about the change in media coverage since Watergate, a change that has brought on an “excessively mistrustful and even hostile” atmosphere.

In pointing this out, we certainly don’t neglect the blame that belongs to Richard Nixon and his crew for creating the problem in the first place. But Buchanan looks at something more, at the natural evolution of such an atmosphere, asking “what will be the ultimate impact upon the democratic system, which itself guarantees freedom of the press?”

The problem, according to Buchanan, is that the media now has a vested interest in scandal – for ratings, for dollars, for prestige. (Little-remembered fact: NBC’s Huntley-Brinkley Report used to be presented without commercial interruption, in order to eliminate potential conflicts of interest and signify that the news division was not driven by profit margin.) What happens when that self-interest conflicts with a larger interest – the national interest, for example? Granting that the exact nature of the national interest is often a subject up for debate, Buchanan nevertheless points to the “declining confidence in leaders and institutions” and speculates on the ultimate consequence this will have for the nation.

Buchanan again quotes Fulbright (a Democrat, by the way, never a natural ally of Pat’s), who had recently authored the article "Fulbright on the Press" in the Columbia Journalism Review: “That Puritian self-righteousness which is never far below the surface of American life has broken through the frail barriers of civility and restraint, and the press has been in the vanguard of the new aggressiveness.”

What has changed is not the nature nor the inclination of those in the media to go after their subjects with every weapon at their disposal. What is new now is the very definition of media, which in this sense has come to include every blog, every web page, every podcast – in short, everyone with an opinion, which is just about everyone. As new types of media and new modes of communication have come about, this instinct of which Fulbright speaks has become more invasive, more insidious. Indeed, isn’t this what some here have spoken about, the increasing incivility of the blogosphere? Well, looking at this issue is like seeing the seeds of that harvest being planted.

A lot of people fall back on the “freedom of speech” argument, defending their right to say what they want whenever they want. And this is not an argument that should be taken lightly, because it’s a slippery slope at best. But Fulbright contends that the social contract requires “a measure of voluntary restraint, an implicit agreement among the major groups and interests in our society that none will apply their powers to the fullest.” A measure of responsibility, in other words, which is a commodity that can really be in short supply nowadays.

***

Now, I mention this not merely because of Pat Buchanan’s words, but because of the echo which the subject matter receives in another article from this issue, Edwin Newman’s “People are Generally Skeptical of Us…and Indeed They Should Be.”  Newman shares the concern with the increasing intrusiveness of the media. Asked what was wrong with endless investigation and revelation of public figures by the media, Newman replied, “It degrades public life. If purity tests are to become an accepted part of American life before anybody can go into politics, politics is going to be intolerable. It’s very nearly intolerable now.”

Remember, he said this almost 40 years ago.

As for “advocacy journalism,” which was very much in vogue following Watergate (and remains so today – how many young people go to journalism school to “make a difference”?), Newman remains wary: “Advocacy journalism, so-called, cheats the public, which is entitled to make up its own mind.” In other words, as Fox News says, “We report, you decide.” Whether you think they’ve been accurate or not with that promise, one has to appreciate the perceptiveness of the marketing gurus who developed that slogan.

Newman adds, “Anybody in our business should avoid taking on false importance. We should certainly not pretend to be infallible.” Now that’s a novel idea today.

Newman also sounds a cautionary note on something which Buchanan alludes to, the amount of faith (or lack thereof) that people put in their leaders. Buchanan quotes Fulbright: “Bitter disillusionment with our leaders is the other side of the coin of worshiping them.” Such idolatry, says Newman, “leads to all kinds of lunatic expectations about what can be accomplished by politicians and so leads to irrational and disproportionate disappointment…it misleads Presidents about Presidents, so that they are tempted to do foolish things. And I think the press contributes to this for reasons of its own.”

This is a warning we should carefully consider. There’s a pronounced tendency nowadays to put an inordinate amount of faith in human institutions, which always seems to wind up badly. We create institutions, we tear them down, we rebuild them again. It keeps everyone busy, I suppose.

In many ways, the sins of the 60s culture were starting to be felt in the 70s, and would continue to be felt in subsequent decades. So one can see, as far back as 1975, a growing concern with cynicism in society, a disregard for institutions, a press displaying an “anything for a story” attitude. Again, there’s nothing new here, as it was not new then. But as communication expanded beyond the newspaper to radio, beyond radio to television, and beyond broadcast television to cable and satellite; as letters gave way to email and the internet, and as information once taking hours or days to transmit is now given instant analysis and parsing through the blogosphere, so also the consequences of such concerns are magnified, enlarged, and become even more troublesome.

There really isn’t anything new out there, only new ways of expressing it. And, it seems, new ways of ignoring old truths and concerns.

***

And now for something more lighthearted, an article about our longtime favorite, game show standard Kitty Carlisle, written by Peter Funt, son of the legendary TV host Allen Funt. (If you're old enough to remember Candid Camera, you'll know who we mean.) "The only way to see Kitty Carlisle in the same dress twice," the article proclaims, "is to watch reruns of To Tell the Truth. " Funt's story is a charming portrait of an entertainer who takes her job seriously, as well as her responsibility to her fans, and radiates class all the way. "She is one actress who still refuses to appear in public without beautiful clothes, ornate jewelry and a carefully styled coiffure." Particularly humorous is her description of her "pit crew," the wardrobe people responsible for helping her change in the ten minutes between shows (the five-a-week show was taped in a single afternoon). "Every once in a while, I feel like I'm a car in the pits at Indianapolis. Somebody changes the oil, kicks the tires - you know, pats the hair and shoves me back out on the stage."

She was a fun, classy lady, and an intelligent game player.

***

Last month it was announced that after 63 years, the Hallmark Hall of Fame would be going off commercial television, headed instead for cable - the Hallmark Channel, to be precise.  Of course, as I've complained many times in the past, the Hall of Fame ceased to be many years ago - it hasn't even been the Hall of Very Good for a long time, so in the long run this isn't much of a loss.

It's sad, nonetheless.  You remember Hallmark's motto: "When you care enough to send the very best."  And for a long time, that's what it was.  It premiered in 1951 with the historic broadcast of Amahl and the Night Visitors, and for decades it broadcast literate, distinguished adaptations of both historic and contemporary plays, adaptations of movies and novels, and the occasional original story.  Its ratings were never huge, but it was prestige television, winning a ton of Emmys over the years, as well as selling millions of greeting cards.  Today, it's become little more than a lacrymose, diabetes-inducing disease-of-the-week picture, oozing sentimentality for it's Oprahfied audience.

I mention all this because this week, NBC's  Hall of Fame broadcast is an adaptation of Maxwell Anderson's play Valley Forge, starring Richard Basehart as George Washington, leading his troops through the incredibly harsh winter of 1777, trying to hold his struggling new country together.

Can't say the same nowadays, either in their cards or their TV programs.

***

And now, some sports.  Or not, as the case may be.

I didn't even get to see it in B&W!
On Saturday, November 29, NBC preempts Saturday Night Live for a basketball game - but not just any game. It's one of the biggest regular-season college basketball games in many years, defending national champion UCLA playing undefeated, top-ranked Indiana at St. Louis (supposedly a neutral site, but in reality swarming with Hoosier fans cheering their team on). Note the starting time - way out of prime time. Television hadn't quite figured out prime time sports yet, and although everyone realized how big this game was, they still thought it might be a drag on ratings, which is why they stuck it on in such a strange time spot. (The game was telecast live, which means tip-off was at 10:30 p.m. local time in St. Louis.)

I have bitter personal memories of this game; not because of the result - I was an Indiana fan, and they crushed UCLA 84-64* - but because KCMT Channel 7, the NBC affiliate (and only commercial station) available in the World's Worst Town™, didn't show the game. They had a movie on instead, Bridge on the River Kwai or something like that, but this had nothing to do with substituting a quality movie for televised sports. It had everything to do with a parochial attitude toward their programming, and a desire to retain as much advertising revenue as possible. When we moved out of that area in 1978, they still had yet to show an episode of Saturday Night Live, never showed the second half of Sunday NFL doubleheaders, and preempted NBC programming with pernicious disdain. For a time, before we moved there, they didn't even show The Tonight Show. The FCC should have yanked their license. KCMT ceased to exist a few years ago, swallowed up by its owner, WCCO, and while in principle I regret the loss of local ownership, I can't say it's a big loss.

*That Indiana team was the last college basketball team to go through the regular and post-season undefeated, and last year was voted the greatest college basketball team ever.

***

And, by the way, the cover story of this issue features Tony Curtis, star of a new TV series. Does anyone out there still recall that series, McCoy?  It was part of NBC's Sunday Mystery Movie series, alternating with McCloud, McMillian and Columbo, and people had a lot of fun with three Macs in the series.  I thought it was kind of fun, myself, as Curtis plays a con man/Robin Hood-type, not dissimilar to the early '60s series The Rogues*, but it only lasted for a few episodes before falling away.  NBC never was able to fill that fourth spot; I suppose Richard Boone's Hec Ramsey was the most successful in that spot, as it actually ran two seasons - well, actually Quincy would have been the most successful, because it was spun off into its own weekly series.  But you knew what I meant.

*But with less charm and star power.

***

Of course this issue marks the start of the Christmas programming season (as it was still called back then), with CBS kicking things off Wednesday night with a double feature of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer and Bing Crosby's annual show, with special guest Fred Astaire*.  That's followed on Friday by an ABC animated doubleheader: Yes, Virginia, There is a Santa Claus, narrated by Jim Backus, and A Very Merry Cricket, written and directed by Chuck Jones.

*Reuniting the stars of Holiday Inn.

Frankly, I'm surprised that there aren't more - Rudolph usually premieres in November.  And with Friday being December 5 and all, time's slipping away!

You can bet they've running the commercials, though - those likely started way before Thanksgiving...TV  

November 27, 2014

Thanksgiving wishes

SOURCE: HADLEY TV GUIDE COLLECTION

Isn't this a great picture? A modern representation of the famous Rockwell painting I've posted on the blogs over the years.  Not an exact recreation, but it certainly reproduces the feelings and emotions that Rockwell taps.

This ad appeared in the Thanksgiving 1971 TV Guide I wrote about on Saturday.  The importance of long distance is hard to appreciate for those of us used to unlimited long distance on our cell plans, living in an internet age when we communicate with people around the world via email or Skype all the time.  In 1971, a long distance call was a rare thing, and it made a powerful impact on those making and receiving the calls.  It was something to be thankful for.

The blogosphere is like that, a family that's spread all over the place but always gathers for the holidays, or a group of college friends that get together only at reunions yet maintain a connection.  And today provides me with the occasion to recall how thankful I am for those of you who've become part of this community during the four years of It's About TV.

In no particular order, I'm thankful for people like Andrew Lee Fielding, who wrote a wonderful book that I'd bought even before I'd had the chance to correspond with him, and has been a gracious correspondent ever since.  There's Marc Ryan, who reached out to me because he noticed my interest in the JFK assassination, something his father had been involved in, and was not only generous with his time in two interviews, but has always been good for witty and informative emails.  And speaking of JFK, David Von Pein has provided me not only with a very good interview, but hours of fascination with his YouTube channels.

Rick29 is the man behind the Classic TV Blog Association, which has helped spread the word about the blog.  (He also writes a mean blog of his own.)  David Hofstede has been an insightful commentator here and gave his blog a title that describes how I feel about television myself.  Mike Doran has been a commentator par excellence; he sometimes seems to know more about these TV Guides than I do.  I don't think I've ever read one of his comments without learning something from it.  Joanna Wilson writes a great blog about two of my favorite things, and has been kind enough to give me space there to write about them.

John, the author of the blog Cult TV, is my go-to writer on British television, and is never anything less than interesting.  He's also provided me with a number of shows to check out.  Andrew Bayley, who writes about TV down under, has been a gracious commentator as well as an excellent writer.  Billy Ingram, the brains of TV Party!, has been good enough to publish several articles I wrote for his site, and has always been encouraging to me.

There are the commentators I've not mentioned by name - which is surely my fault, so please accept my apologies.  I love reading the comments, because so often they add to my knowledge, but also because I get a great deal of pleasure just knowing that I've been able to provide something that others have enjoyed.    I try to respond to most comments, but sometimes I fall behind.  My bad, gang!  There are those who've contacted me via email, either with some information they think I'd like (I do!), or have a question they hope I can answer.  Sometimes I'm very bad getting back to people in a timely manner, so thank you all not only for your interest and your kind words, but your patience!  And for those of you who've liked the site on Facebook, thanks for joining me there, and bear with me as I utilize the site more in the future.

All of these people feel like friends to me, because we share a love of television, and of talking (and talking, and talking!) about it.  I'm enormously grateful to each and every one of you, because you make this blog possible.  I love writing about television, but it would be a hard thing to do three times a week if there weren't people out there reading it and taking the time to express their thoughts about it.

To those of you I've mentioned, to those of you I've unintentionally overlooked, to those of you who haven't written but who read me every week, and to the person who might be looking at this blog for the first time - thank you so much for your friendship, your correspondence, your interest in television, and for taking the time to check this site out.  I am thankful for you all, and I wish you a happy Thanksgiving.  Now it's on to Christmas, which we'll start to see popping up in Saturday's TV Guide!

November 26, 2014

Bonus! Thanksgiving Day listings: November 25, 1971

I
thought it might be fun to offer a little bonus content for the holidays, so here's the broadcasting schedule for Thanksgiving Day, November 25, 1971.  The stations are some of those listed in the Minnesota State Edition of TV Guide - the Twin Cities stations, plus those in Duluth, Alexandria and Mankato.  I'll be back tomorrow with some special Thanksgiving content!

November 25, 2014

Canada's pro football championship on TV

AN IMAGE FROM THE CBC'S "GREY CUP CLASSICS" REBROADCAST OF THE 1958 GREY CUP BETWEEN HAMILTON AND WINNIPEG
The Super Bowl, one might say, is America's version of the Grey Cup, the championship game of Canadian professional football.  I can't remember if I've discussed Canadian football much here, though I have on the other blog.  It's a game I first remember having watched when I was little; it was on Saturday mornings on Channel 11.  It must have made an impression on me, because I've remained a fan ever since, even though I've gone for years at a time without being able to see a game.  For a while in the early '70s, I even resorted to short-wave radio to pick up the CBC radio broadcast, listening through the static and interference as the Edmonton Eskimos won yet another Cup during their reign of terror over the rest of the CFL.

Anyway, the Grey Cup is coming up on Sunday, the Eastern champion Hamilton Tiger-Cats vs. the Western champion Calgary Stampeders, in the 102nd edition of the game.  Put another way, the Grey Cup had been big in Canada for over 50 years before the Super Bowl even started.  And here's the thing, the reason I'm bringing this up today: we all know that the complete broadcast of the first Super Bowl is one of the holy grails of lost television shows, despite the fact it was broadcast live on not one but two television networks.  Yes, it's true that a tape of the game did surface in the last few years, but a dispute between the owner of the tape and the owner of the broadcast rights (the NFL) has prevented it from being released to the public.  Other historic games have been lost forever, their video tapes being wiped so they could be reused.

The CBC, on the other hand, seems to have a tape or kinescope of just about every broadcast of the Grey Cup since it was first televised nationally in the mid-1950s  That means we're able to go back in time, to such games as the Fog Bowl of 1962, the Wind Bowl of 1965, the Snow Bowl of 1996, and other memorable games that had nothing to do with the weather.  Watching select games from that time period, one can see how radically the Canadian game has changed over the years; in the first broadcast I have, from 1955, touchdowns still counted for 5 points, rather than 6.  (It would change the next year.)  We see the size of the end zones decrease from 25 yards to 20, the hashmarks move a bit closer to the center (or is it centre?) of the field, and the replacement of the worn grass of early winter with artificial turf.  We see the passing game become the dominant form of offense, along with wide-open spread formations.  And even when Canadian football moves closer to the American game, it retains its distinctive touches, such as 12 men playing on a 110-yard long field.  For several years in the early '60s, ABC's Wide World of Sports expanded to three hours to present live coverage of the Grey Cup (back when it was played on Saturday), but it is the tapes from the CBC that survive.

As I mentioned, I have a copy of the 1955 game on DVD; here is the earliest broadcast I could find on YouTube, from the Grey Cup of 1958.  It comes in twelve parts, and you can click to each one in turn after this opening part.


Many of the older sports broadcasts that have survived, such as the 1961 NFL Championship game and the 1965 World Series, have come from Canadian broadcasts.  We should all be grateful that the CBC apparently took greater care of some of their sports footage than the American networks did!

November 22, 2014

This week in TV Guide: November 20, 1971

It was called the "Game of the Century," the showdown on Thanksgiving Day 1971 between undefeated, #1 ranked Nebraska and undefeated, #2 ranked Oklahoma.  There had been similar amounts of hype for other games in days past, most recently the 1969 end-of-the-season clash between #1 Texas and #2 Arkansas that President Nixon himself flew down to attend, and the 1966 Notre Dame-Michigan State game that changed college football forever.  But as sporting spectacles go, few college football games have ever lived up to their billing the way this game does, served up to an ultimately exhausted national television audience somewhere between the mashed potatoes and gravy and the pumpkin pie.

Nebraska and Oklahoma were not only undefeated coming into the game, but totally undefeated.  The Sooners led the nation in scoring, averaging 45 points a game, while the Cornhuskers had won their ten games by an average of 27 points, allowing only 50 points in the process.  With the nation's leading offense facing the nation's leading defense, something had to give.  ABC's cameras were there to cover it as part of their Thanksgiving doubleheader with their number one announce crew of Chris Schenkel and Bud Wilkinson, and there's no question, even before the kickoff, that the game overshadows anything the NFL has to offer that day.

And what a game it is, everything it was expected to be and more, see-sawing back and forth and leaving everyone involved emotionally drained.  Nebraska, behind a spectacular punt return from future Heisman Trophy winner Johnny Rodgers, leads 28-17 going into the fourth quarter before the magnificent wishbone quarterback Jack Mildren rallies Oklahoma to take a 31-28 lead with barely seven minutes to play.  Alas for Oklahoma fans (including me), it won't be enough, as Nebraska grinds out a late drive and scores with 98 seconds to play, outlasting the Sooners 35-31.  Nebraska will go on to demolish the new #2 team, Alabama, 38-6 in the Orange Bowl, winning their second consecutive national championship.  Oklahoma, defeating Auburn in the Sugar Bowl 40-22, finishes second.  Colorado, losers only to Nebraska and Oklahoma, finishes third - the only time three teams from the same conference (the Big 8) finish 1-2-3 in the final polls.

To this day, Nebraska-Oklahoma 1971 is considered one of the greatest games ever, and maintains a special place in the memories of fans.  Certainly the high quality and nonstop thrills of the game itself has something to do with, but perhaps in addition it's the Thanksgiving day scheduling, with many families watching the game together.  Whatever the case, it's drama that's seldom been equaled, and rarely surpassed.


***

One of the swell things about Thanksgiving, from my TV Guide-reviewing perspective, is that because it falls at different times of the month I can write about it more than once a year.  And this is a great Thanksgiving to write about.  It starts, as always, with parades.  CBS, as is its wont back in the day, presents a kaleidoscope of festivities from Detroit, Philadelphia, Toronto and New York, with Bill Baird and his marionettes hosting the overall broadcast, and CBS stars (Bob Crane, Greg Morris, Beverly Garland, June Lockhart and Herschel Bernardi among them) covering the parades themselves.  Meanwhile, NBC has its traditional broadcast of the Macy's parade, with Joe Garagiola and Jack Paar's daughter Randy hosting the pre-parade show, and Lorne Greene and Betty White assuming their traditional roles identifying the balloons, floats and bands.

There's more football as well.  In addition to the Game of the Century, ABC has a prime-time nightcap between Georgia and Georgia Tech at 7 p.m. CT.  Meanwhile, the NFL's covered by NBC, presenting Kansas City and Detroit at 11 a.m., and CBS following with Los Angeles and Dallas at 2:30.

And what would the day be without cartoons?  At 11 a.m., CBS has A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, sponsored by General Mills*, with Orson Bean as the voice of the Yankee in Mark Twain's beloved classic.  Following the football, NBC's back with a double-header of its own: The Cricket on the Hearth, an adaptation of the Dickens story, starts it off at 2 p.m., with an all-star voice lineup including Danny and Marlo Thomas, Roddy McDowell, Hans Conried, Ed Ames and Paul Frees.  That's followed at 3 p.m. by The Mouse on the Mayflower, presented by McDonalds, with Tennessee Ernie Ford, Eddie Albert, Joanie Sommers and John Gary as the celebrity voices.

*It would be nice to report that General Mills owns King Arthur Flour, as it would make such a perfect tie-in.  Alas, such is not the case.

Aside from ABC's football, there's nothing extraordinary about Thursday night, sadly.  CBS has a double feature of news programs, beginning with 60 Minutes and followed by a special on the American Dream.  NBC has Ironside, now occupying a new date and time, followed by Dean Martin, with guest stars Carol Channing and Dan Blocker.  Interestingly enough, none of these programs are reruns; the networks must have figured there'd be an audience out there for their regular programs.

One more note about holiday programming - it doesn't quite end on Thursday.  ABC has a great Friday planned for those kids out there on break, presenting their regular Saturday morning lineup in a cartoon festival from 9:30 a.m. to 1 p.m.  (Included: The Reluctant Dragon and Mr. Toad, Jerry Lewis, The Road Runner, The Funky Phantom, Lidsville, The Jackson 5ive and Bullwinkle.)  That's followed by a special presentation of ABC's NBA game of the week, with the Baltimore Bullets playing Pete Maravich and the Atlanta Hawks.

***

I was hoping that the cover blurb, "TV Newsmen's Favorite Patsies Fight Back," named some names, but the "favorite patsies" are businessmen undergoing training and coaching from public relations agencies used to preparing people to meet the media.  Oh well.

In other news, NBC is worried about its ratings.  The Doan Report covers how the Peacock Network has just cancelled Sarge, The D.A., The Funny Side, The Partners and The Good Life.  I have a vague recollection of some of these; if you don't remember them any better than I do, that's a good explanation for why they're no longer on the air.  Doan notes that the most unusual aspect to the announcement is that it's made so early; the shows won't be going off the air until the end of the year.  As for replacements, there's a Jack Webb number that's slated to premiere in January; it doesn't even have a cast yet, but it does have a title - Emergency!  And then there's the British import that NBC is hoping will be its answer to All in the Family.  It's an adaptation of Steptoe and Son called Sanford and Son.  I'd say those two turned out pretty well.

***

As far as movies this week, there are only two that Judith Crist has any time for - South Pacific on Born Free, Sunday on CBS, with a lot of lions.
ABC Wednesday night, with Mitzi Gaynor and Rossano Brazzi, making its network TV debut, and

And seeing how dominant football is over Thanksgiving week, it's perhaps only appropriate that George Plimpton's series of ABC specials debuts on Friday night.  Plimpton, who's best known for his seminal book Paper Lion, in which he details his adventures as a journalist going through training camp with the Detroit Lions, is at it again, this time with the Baltimore Colts.  It's a fun special on its own, but at the same time kind of proof that you can't go back home again.  When it comes to football and Plimpton, Paper Lion will be what everyone remembers.

***

I've had many things to say about living in the World's Worst Town™, but it does provide one with a different perspective when it comes to television, particularly shows that weren't available in our market, and we'll see an example of that this week.

All in the Family is on the cover, supporting a feature piece on star Carroll O'Connor.  It debuted in January of 1971, and already it has become a national sensation, dealing with sensitive topics in a most unsensitive way, using frank language, and giving America a portrait of the family that is decidedly not that of Donna Reed and Father Knows Best.  I was not yet 11 when the show premiered, but I remember liking it for the 18 or so months that it was on before we moved out of the Twin Cities in August of 1972 - as was the case with many viewers at that point in time, I failed to see that Archie Bunker was a character being satirized, and actually agreed with most of what he said.  Because there was no CBS affiliate in that God-forsaken town, I would not see an actual episode again until returning to the Cities in 1978.

During that time, the Norman Lear-helmed sitcom solidifies its place as the nation's top-rated, and most talked-about, television show.  But even though the show wasn't available to us, I was able to keep track of what was going on (thanks to TV Guide and the newspapers), so I had a very good idea of what was what.  I learned more about the world, about politics, about how television shows had their own agenda.  By the time we returned to civilization, I wouldn't have had anything to do with the show, and haven't to this day.  I think it's a show that doesn't age well - it's not only dated, but polemic in a most unsubtle way, and it did the family unit no favors with its crassness.  But, you see, I picked up most of that by reading about the show, rather than watching it.  My opinion of the show, and my fervent hopes that another series would knock it off its #1 perch, were formed from a distance, yet it's as vivid to me as if I'd had the opportunity to watch every episode.

Those six years I spent in exile shaped my outlook on many shows of that era.  Sometimes I mention it specifically in these articles, and other times it simply informs my writing.  My image of ABC in the mid-70s, the years the network truly came to prominence, have been affected by not being able to watch them, sometimes creating a mystique about a certain series, other times causing me to somewhat underestimate a show's cultural impact.  I missed many of the years in which CBS had its Saturday-night Murderers Row of sitcoms (including All in the Family, but also Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart, and M*A*S*H, followed by Carol Burnett, but reading about them in the TV Guide each week lent Saturday nights an air of urbane, adult sophistication.  Who wouldn't have wanted to live in the Newharts' apartment in Chicago, or next door to Mary's home near the lakes?  Some of the shows had already premiered by the time we moved to the boondocks, but they reached their pinnacle while I was gone, and except for the times when we might be back in Minneapolis on vacation, they were lost memories.

I bring this up because I think the same thing can happen reading through the TV Guides from my youth, before I could appreciate what was actually on.  I particularly like that word mystique, because it's easy to feel that way about shows one never saw.  I've been able to track down a fair number of them through the years, the ones that particularly attracted my attention when I read about them, or that I had had a vague memory of having seen, and while many of them are quite good, a good number of them are less than that.  Which proves that the Golden Age wasn't all golden, that the memory can play tricks on you, and that older isn't necessarily better.  But you know what?  I don't think I would have had it any other way. TV  

November 20, 2014

Maverick, Serling, and Doctor Who in Legos! Must be Around the Dial!

Aquiet week on the classic TV blog front; perhaps everyone's busy getting ready for Thanksgiving.  I know that's what I'm doing, which is why I'm actually typing this a couple of days in advance.  Who knows; maybe if I'd waited until Thursday, there would have been even more out there.  At any rate, we've always been about quality here, so let's get started.

Maverick is one of those shows that I knew I would like, based on the description, years before I ever got to actually see an episode.  The Horn Section continues Maverick Mondays with this review of the third season episode "The People's Friend," in which Bart (Jack Kelly) runs for public office.  I'm not sure he still wouldn't be a better choice!

At Grantland, James Hughes has a fascinating story on Rod Serling's fascination with boxing, among other things, and how Serling used the sport not only in episodes of The Twilight Zone, but as the basis of his classic Playhouse 90 episode "Requiem for a Heavyweight."  It neatly segues into other areas which Serling continued to explore; as David (The Sopranos) Chase says of TZ, “It wasn’t a comforting show.  It upset your usual mode of thinking. It was the only show at the time that was literate, the only show that had any relation to literature or poetry.”

Being a sucker for Doctor Who (both classic and reboot), I naturally have to link to The A/V Club's link to Eleventh Doctor Matt Smith's regeneration - in Legos.  A remarkable toy, the Lego - as Homer Simpson says of television, "Is there anything it can't do?"

I really do need to do the program listings more often; not only do people seem to like it, but I find them interesting myself - not only the ones I do, which I think give me a much better feel for the time even than just reviewing a TV Guide, but ones from other cities.  The TV Guide Historian proves the point this week with a look at WGN's schedule for Pearl Harbor Day, December 7, 1954.  Just think; that was only 13 years after Pearl Harbor itself.  That's as recent as 9/11 is to us.

Television Obscurities looked at TV Guide for the week of November 14, 1964, and among the programming highlights for that week was the event that never was: the heavyweight championship rematch between new champ Cassius Clay and former champ Sonny Liston.  It was scheduled for November 16th in Boston, but due to an injury to Clay in training camp, it wound up being held in Lewiston, Maine the next year.  I lived in Maine for four years; I've been to Lewiston, driven past the arena in which the fight was held, in fact, and I can tell you that there may never have been a stranger location for a heavyweight title fight than that.

I'm going to call it a wrap for today; come on back on Saturday and we'll celebrate Thanksgiving all over again, this time in 1971! TV  

November 18, 2014

Be my guest (host)

SAMMY DAVIS JR. GUEST HOSTS THE TONIGHT SHOW (WITH GUEST RICHARD DAWSON, 1979)
One of the many downsides to the modern late-night talk show is that we've seen the virtual disappearance of the guest host. Younger viewers may not believe this, but there was a time when, while the host was on vacation, a guest host came in and took over the show. The substitute might only be on for a night or two while the regular host was enjoying a long weekend, or it could be an entire week - or even two, in some cases.

Johnny Carson was famous for having guest hosts, particularly since he took so much time off, Joey Bishop parlayed his guesting gig into a show of his own (after its cancellation, he returned to the Carson stable; his 177 guest host appearances is the all-time high); Joan Rivers, who became Carson's permanent guest host, bolted to Fox for her own star turn (unlike Bishop, she and Carson never reconciled), with the result that the role was taken over by Jay Leno, who succeeded to the top spot when Carson retired.  Carson would have guest hosts for a week or two at a time; some, like Jerry Lewis, John Davidson and Don Rickles were regulars, but he also had more unlikely stars such as Woody Allen sit in for him for a week, and Beverly Sills became the first female to command the host's seat.  Johnny ran his share of reruns, but he knew it was important to keep the show fresh, and he wasn't threatened by having someone else sit in the big chair.

Johnny didn't create the guest host, though; after all, when Steve Allen hosted Tonight he had Ernie Kovacs as the permanent Monday-Tuesday guest host, primarily to help out Allen's work load while he got his Sunday night prime-time variety show going; Ernie even had his own cast and format.  Jack Paar, when he went on vacation, would have guest hosts take over - including several appearances by none other than Johnny Carson himself.  Of course, there were quite a few guest hosts to hold down the fort when Paar walked off the show in 1960 during his "water closet" feud with NBC.  For that matter, the Today show was famous for guest hosts, particularly during the days of Dave Garroway and Hugh Downs*; Garroway in particular used to take weeks off, during which he'd be replaced by hosts ranging from John Daly to Charles Van Doren.

*Who was previously Paar's sidekick.

So why don't we have guest hosts on the late-night shows today?  Is it because today's hosts feel threatened by the presence of a substitute who might wind up being funnier than they are? (Remember how "Larry Sanders" was constantly looking over his shoulder at Jon Stewart?)  Or perhaps it's just a matter of pure economics, being easier and cheaper to show reruns than it is to hire a guest host, even though the show loses some of its topical humor. For whatever reason, the guest host - once a staple of talk shows - has almost completely vanished. In recent years only Letterman has had them, and then it's mostly been due to illnesses that made showing an extended series of reruns impractical.

I think we've lost something by not having guest hosts anymore; there was a variety and a different perspective that viewers got by having someone else in the host's chair. Some were better than others, but all of them were different, and that kept things interesting. Take, for example, Tonight's schedule for the week of February 5-9, 1968. The singer/actor/activist Harry Belafonte was the guest host for that week, and just take a look at this lineup:

Monday: Senator and Mrs. Robert F. Kennedy, Bill Cosby, Lena Horne, and actress Melina Mercouri and her husband, movie producer Jules Dasin.

Tuesday: Zero Mostel, Diahann Carool, Petula Clark, folk singers Sonny Terry and Brownie McGhee, and ski expert Ken White.

Wednesday: Sidney Poitier, Dionne Warwick, George London and Marianne Moore.

Thursday: Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Paul Newman, and Nipsey Russell.

Friday: Robert Goulet, Aretha Franklin, and Thomas Hoving (director of the Metropolitan Museum of Art).

You might not recognize all of those names, but trust me - these were very big names of the time, and to have even a few of them on during the course of one week would be something. Having all of them on the week's lineup would have been fantastic. And to think that this was for a guest host! I'm sure Belafonte must have had something to do with choosing the lineup - there was at least one big-name African-American guest each night, he probably knew or had worked with many of them personally, and guests such as King and Kennedy certainly would have reflected his own political philosophy. There's no doubt, though, that Tonight's booking crew really gave Harry a tremendous week's worth.

It's a reminder that talk shows weren't always about mindless entertainment - many of these guests had no songs to sing, nor jokes to tell. They were there to converse and to share their ideas, and I can imagine they did it with more dignity than today's newsmakers do when they appear with Letterman or Fallon or O'Brien, or Leno before that.

I'm not trying to suggest that shows were better then, or that guests were more interesting, or that television was simply better. (Well, in fact, that is what I'm suggesting - but that's another story, as I like to say, for another day.) My point here is just that times change, and we get used to it - but what a time that week must have been!

November 15, 2014

This week in TV Guide: November 18, 1961

It’s Thanksgiving week in this issue, and though I might have covered some of this terrain in past posts, it’s worth looking again at some of the week’s themed programming.

It all starts on ABC Saturday night with Lawrence Welk’s holiday extravaganza, and continues on the same network Tuesday night when Westinghouse Presents “An Old-Fashioned Thanksgiving” with Gene Barry and Eddie Foy Jr. as Currier and Ives, and various guest stars (Richard Kiley, Olympic figure-skating champion Dick Button and singer Betty Johnson) popping out of reproductions of the duo’s famed prints.

CBS’ Red Skelton offers up his Thanksgiving show that night, with Red and guest Ed Wynn portraying Freddie the Freeloader and his pal Muggsy, planning to carve the turkey at a skid-row mission only to find that the turkey’s already gone by the time they get there. He’s followed by Garry Moore’s variety show, featuring the entire cast decked out as Pilgrims, singing “Happy Thanksgiving Day.” The following night on NBC, Perry Como’s Kraft Music Hall celebrates the holiday with Gwen Verdon, Dorothy Collins, Paul Lynde and the Kane Triplets singing group.

The real fun is on Thursday, when both CBS and NBC head around the country to cover the parades. NBC’s annual broadcast of the Macy’s parade is hosted by sportscaster Lindsey Nelson, Ed Herlihy and Buster Crabbe. The first half-hour of the broadcast is a circus held in front of the grandstands in Herald Square. The parade follows, with celebrities, balloons, floats, bands, the Rockettes and more!

CBS’ parade triple-header is unique for the use of CBS newsmen to provide coverage. Robert Trout anchors the Macy’s parade, while evening news anchor Douglas Edwards and Gene Crane report on the Gimbel’s parade in Philadelphia, and Harry Reasoner and Bob Murphy do the honors in Detroit. Captain Kangaroo is back in the studio in New York overseeing the whole thing.

And if there are parades, can football be far behind? ABC’s cameras are at the Polo Grounds in New York for morning (10am CT!) coverage of the AFL battle between the Buffalo Bills and the New York Titans, followed by the college showdown between bitter rivals Texas and Texas A&M. Meanwhile, CBS follows its parade coverage with the traditional Turkey Day game between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions.

The day’s special coverage comes to an end in late afternoon; KSTP has a live local presentation of a holiday concert by the Minneapolis Choralaires at 4:00, followed at 4:30 by NBC’s Home for the Holidays, starring singers Patrice Munsel and Gordon MacRae, trumpeter Al Hirt, dancer Carol Haney, and the Brothers Four. It sounds like a very pleasant way to spend the time between courses.

***

Aumont and Thulin in a scene from
the broadcast - in color!
Sunday night’s Theatre 62 on NBC is “Intermezzo,” a live adaptation of the 1939 movie starring Ingrid Bergman and Leslie Howard. The small screen version features Ingrid Thulin and Jean Pierre Aumont, and as AP writer Cynthia Lowry will note, its “thin plot” shows on TV. “Without the stars of the original movie, the bare bones of this thin little plot were painfully visible.” TV remakes of well-known theatrical movies, usually done as live teleplays or given the “live” look by using video tape, were a staple of 50s and 60s television. They were inexpensive, particularly if they had fallen into the public domain, they didn’t require a completely new script, and they came with built-in name recognition. In fact, ABC was to try an entire series of these remakes in the late 60s. Some were better than others, but few seldom made much of an impression. (See Lee Radziwell in Laura, for example.)

There was another angle to these adaptations, however, one illustrated in a terrific story told by Stephen Battaglio in David Susskind: A Televised Life. Seems Susskind and his partner, Al Levy, took out an ad in the trade journal Variety announcing, with a straight face, that they were about to produce a live television version of Ben-Hur. Well, anyone who’s seen the movie can attest to how ridiculous an idea this was – try to imagine chariot races, sea battles, earthquakes, and the Crucifixion – all done live, in a small television studio, in two hours (minus commercials). But nobody’d seen the movie yet – MGM had just announced plans to go into pre-production, and knew well that any talk about a TV version of Ben-Hur could do serious damage to the studio and its plans. It was, of course, a ploy by Susskind and Levy – in return for “abandoning” the TV idea, their company received the rights to TV remakes of a dozen well-known MGM properties – Mrs. Miniver, The Philadelphia Story, Ninotchka, and others. I still smile at the absurdity of staging Ben-Hur on television – but then, who would have thought they could recreate the sinking of the Titanic?

***

Up until the last few years, the Jerry Lewis Telethon for Muscular Dystrophy was a Labor Day weekend staple, but it wasn’t always such. On Saturday afternoon, Channel 11 presents “High Hopes,” a one-hour variety show hosted by Lewis, on behalf of the Muscular Dystrophy Association. Jerry’s guests include singers Jaye P. Morgan*, Gogi Grant, Connie Stevens and Vivienne Della Chiesa, singer-dancer Donald O’Connor, and actors Richard Boone, Robert Fuller and Barry Sullivan, while Art Linkletter interviews the MDA poster girl.

*Probably better known now as the foul-mouthed panelist who once flashed her breasts on The Gong Show.

That’s the centerpiece of a very quiet Saturday afternoon. The college football game of the week is a Big Ten matchup between Wisconsin and Illinois on ABC. Channel 4 has bowling from the short-lived National Bowling League (Twin Cities Skippers vs. San Antonio Cavaliers), Frank Stranahan takes on Peter Thomson in All-Star Golf, and NBC’s NBA Game of the Week features the Chicago Packers and Detroit Pistons.

The Packers played in the International Amphitheater,
better known as the site of the 1968 Democratic
National Convention 
You might not recognize the Packers other than as a football team in Green Bay, and there’s a good reason for it. They’d entered the NBA in just a month before, as the first modern-day expansion team. They only lasted a year as the Packers before changing their name to the Chicago Zephyrs for the 1962-63 season. They then changed again, but this time it was more than just their nickname – picking up and moving lock, stock and barrel to Baltimore to begin anew as the Baltimore Bullets. In 1973 they would change again, moving from Baltimore to suburban Washington, D.C. and taking on the moniker “Capital Bullets,” which lasted for a single season before they morphed into the Washington Bullets. They’re now known as the Washington Wizards, and through all that time they’ve won a grand total of one NBA championship.

As for the city of Chicago, they weren’t without NBA basketball for too long. In 1966 there would be another expansion team, this one named the Bulls. In the 80s they would draft Michael Jordan. They would win six NBA titles (third most of any team) in a span of eight years. They have once again emerged as a title contender. All this without changing their nickname, their city, or even their logo.

***

SOURCE: HADLEY TV GUIDES
Dot Smith has dozens of TV credits to her name, but she’s still about a year from true stardom. Who is Dot Smith, you may ask? Well, she’s a willowy blonde from Baton Rouge, LA. She’s tall (5’6”, which is still above the average height, although I’m not sure she’d be considered that tall today), and since her move to Hollywood in 1959, she’s been in everything from Checkmate to Route 66 to Dr. Kildare. She’s compared in appearance to Loretta Young, Marilyn Monroe and Rosemary Clooney. She’s called “a beauty with her own ideas,” with the provocative statement that “Men put women up there, on a pedestal. But women insist on coming down here, to a man’s level. They defeat themselves.”

That’s who Dot Smith is. Her married name is Doris Bourgeois. That doesn’t help much, though, does it? Let’s just go with her stage name. You’d know her as one of the stars of The Beverly Hillbillies – Donna Douglas.

***

Fashion tips from Michi Weglyn, costume designer on Perry Como's show:
  • Solid, unpatterned colors for short women. Avoid contrasts between tops and bottoms. 
  • Beige or tan-colored shoes give the illusion of longer leg lines. 
  • The long-necked look flatters all women, particularly shorter girls. “No frills and fancy collars. A simple scoop neckline and an up-sweep or close-cropped hairdo give an illusion of neck length. All these rules also apply to women who have trouble keeping slim.” 
  • V-necks and three-quarter sleeves make women look matronly. Better to go with the sleeveless look. If you have trouble keeping slim, avoid chiffon and jersey – they have no body. Satin fabrics reflect light and emphasize heaviness.
  • Despite the style of Jacqueline Kennedy, avoid long opera gloves unless you have thin arms. Otherwise, they call attention to fleshy areas. 
  • Avoid the sack or blousy dress. “It’s an unflattering style, distorting rather than enhancing.” 
  • Don’t follow Paris fashions – they’re for the few. 
  • Men should avoid long coats, which make them look shorter and older. Shorter coats make legs appear longer. [I disagree with this, by the way. Unless the coat comes over the buttocks, you wind up looking like a waiter.] 
  • Stick to pleatless trousers with neat, tapered lines – it makes men look “chunky.” [I don’t particularly agree with this either, but I have both pleated and flat fronts in my wardrobe.] 
  • On the other hand, stay away from the too-tight trousers of teen idols. 
  • Tone down the jewelry. Some singers wear “enough jewelry to anchor the Queen Mary.” 

What difference does a good wardrobe make to the TV star? Her boss, Perry Como, looks “at least 15 pounds lighter and 15 years younger on TV – and without any makeup.” Who else can make that claim?

***

Cindy Adams, the famed New York Post gossip columnist, was a regular contributor to TV Guide in the 50s and 60s. This week, she gives us an update on TV stars of the 50s. Nowadays people draw a blank at most of these names, but even in 1961 these stars, who were such big names, are threatening to fade into the background.

Red Buttons once had one of the most successful variety shows on television. It – and he – left TV because, he said, “I was lousy!” In the meantime he went to movies, won an Oscar for Sayonara, and is currently making Hatari with John Wayne.

Jerry Lester, along with his co-star Dagmar, was the star of TV’s first late-night success, Broadway Open House. When the two reunited for a club gig earlier in 1961, the magic of their past success was gone. “Only fire it’d catch is if the [club owners] put a match to the club.” He’s out of show business right now, but don’t feel too sorry for him – he’s part owner of a Florida land company and an Oklahoma oil company. “I make money just sitting here.” Dagmar keeps herself busy with night clubs and personal appearances.

Pinky Lee
Pinky Lee had the highest rated show on television in the 50s, but left the air (according to Pinky) when the show became too expensive to continue. He’s trying for a comeback, with a pilot for a show called Ararat where he plays “a leprechaun who disappears magically through keyholes.” Says Pinky, “I’ll be the talk of the country. Hotter than ever.” History says otherwise – Lee never again reached the heights of his fame in the 50s, and he wound up in regional theater.

George Burns has been keeping himself busy since the retirement of his wife and partner, Gracie Allen.  He's been doing some writing, supervising series, directing.  But who could have imagined that his greatest fame was yet to come?  By the 70s and 80s he'd introduced himself to an entirely new generation of viewers, as a solo act, and won an Academy Award for The Sunshine Boys.

Robert Q. Lewis was a staple on variety and game shows, hosting The Name’s the Same and several variety shows, as well as appearing on radio. He says that his easygoing style went out of vogue, “but by 1962 there’ll be a renaissance and I just happen to have an idea in my pocket.” I don’t know what the idea was, because Lewis never did make it big in another series. He was, however, quite well known for his 40 appearances as a panelist on What’s My Line?

Adams concludes her article with an interesting observation – she wondered if, by 1968, anyone could possibly wonder whatever happened to “Jack Paar? Danny Thomas? Or that fella Brinkley and what was his partner’s name, Chick Huntley? Or James Arness? Or that real old-time favorite – Bob Newhart?” And I’m afraid that, though it might have been unthinkable back then for most people, those names do draw a blank today. Except Bob Newhart, of course – he’ll last forever. TV  

November 13, 2014

Hitchcock, Hutton, Mrs. Peel and more on Around the Dial!

This week the blog theme seems to be episode-by-episode recapping, as no fewer than four of our regulars have new entries in their respective continuing series.  We won't drag it out any longer.

Wenever I watch Alfred Hitchcock, my mind goes back to late summer nights when school was out and I could stay up late to watch the reruns Channel 11 would show, pairing them with Perry Mason.  Hitchcock is that kind of show; it works well around midnight or so.  This week bare bones e-zine continues its "Hitchcock Project" with a look at a classic '60s episode, "What Really Happened."

Cult TV Blog has moved on to another of my favorite shows, The Avengers, with the episode "The Thirteenth Hole."  He notes that in this story, Diana Rigg, as Mrs. Peel, is the only woman in the cast, to which I would add, who else would you need?

At Embarrassing Treasures, it's "Family Affair Friday" once again, with the 1969 episode "A Matter of Privacy," dealing with - what else? - privacy.  I watched that show when I was of a suitable age, and while I don't count it one of my favorites, I always did like Brian Keith and Sebastian Cabot.

Finally, Made for TV Mayhem's continuing series on USA network's World Premiere movies gives us 1996's "Death Benefit," with Peter Horton and Carrie Snodgress.  I remember Snodgress' Oscar-nominated turn in Diary of a Mad Housewife, and while I'm no housewife, I've felt as if I were going mad from time to time.

I'll tell you, I really envy the collection of material at Television Obscurities, and this week is no exception with a look at a 1948 issue of Television and Radio Mirror.  And don't forget to come back on Friday for the latest installment of his TV Guide review!

I've never been a fan of Betty Hutton, but I tend to be critical of a lot of people, so I wondered if it was just me.  Apparently not, for Television's New Frontier: the 1960s gives us a candid analysis of The Betty Hutton Show, the last-gasp (and unsuccessful) attempt by Hutton to revive her career. TV  

November 11, 2014

What's on TV! Tuesday, November 14, 1967

I've been doing these daily listings from the past Saturday's TV Guide on an irregular basis since the blog started (usually when I can't come up with anything else on short notice), but I think I'm going to make an effort to do it more often in the future.  People seem to like it, and I enjoy looking at the types of programming that aren't around any more.  If the Saturday features give you a macro look at the times, these listings are more of a micro examination, with a side of commentary thrown it.  This week's listing is from Tuesday, November 14, and covers the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area.

November 8, 2014

This week in TV Guide: November 11, 1967

This is one of my favorite TV Guides, and not just because Yvette Mimieux is on the cover (although that doesn't hurt).  "A Week of Big Specials" indeed!  I suppose this is pre-holiday special programming, with Thanksgiving coming up the following week; there will be more specials between then and Christmas.  Where to start?  Let's go in order!

"A Bell for Adano," starring John Forsythe and based on the Pulitzer Prize-winning novel by John Hersey, opens the 17th season of NBC's Hallmark Hall of Fame on Saturday.*  "Adano" had previously been made into a 1944 Broadway play starring Fredric March, a 1945 movie with John Hodiak, and a TV play in 1956 with Barry Sullivan.  Forsythe plays Major Victor Joppolo, the American military governor of the Sicilian town of Adano in the wake of D-Day, whose job is to win over the suspicious townspeople.

*I've groused often enough about the decline in HOF, so I won't bring that up again.  

Monday night Frank Sinatra stars in his third special for NBC, this one featuring guest stars Ella Fitzgerald and composer-guitarist Antonio Carlos Jobim, whom you might know from his classic "The Girl from Ipanema."  Like all of Sinatra's specials from this era, it's a terrific one - no stupid comedy bits, no hokey chatter between guests, just 60 minutes of music.  Plenty of clips from this one online, and here's one, Frank with Jobim.


The warm-up to Frank's special, also on NBC Monday, features Ed Ames hosting the 31st edition of the Ice Follies, an annual television presentation.  Ames, who is currently co-starring on the network's Daniel Boone, started out as part of the Ames Brothers and has a wonderful voice, which he proves as he sings two of his biggest hits, "Try to Remember" and "My Cup Runneth Over."

In case you're noticing a trend here, you're right.  NBC also strikes on Wednesday night with a musical adaptation of Shaw's "Androcles and the Lion," with music and lyrics by Richard Rodgers from a book by Peter Hart, and featuring an all-star cast including Noel Coward as Casear, the aforementioned Ed Ames, Inga Swenson, and the recently deceased Geoffrey Holder as the Lion.

I'm stepping out of order for just a moment, because later on Wednesday, ABC enters the fray with a Stage '67 remake of the classic Dial M for Murder, starring Lawrence Harvey as the murderous husband (played in the movie by Ray Milland), Diane Cilento as the adulterous wife (Grace Kelly), Hugh O'Brian as the boyfriend (Robert Cummings), Cyril Cusack as the dogged inspector (John Williams), and Nigel Davenport as the hitman (Anthony Dawson).  It's part of David Susskind's series of movies made into teleplays, but given that the original was directed by Alfred Hitchcock, I don't think we can expect the remake to surpass it.

Next on the list is Carol Channing's variety special on Thursday, also on ABC.  It's called "Carol Channing and 101 Men," and although they don't list all 101 in the Close-Up, they do include Walter Matthau, Eddy Arnold, the singing group The Association, and the Air Force Academy Chorale.  Carol, who in an article by Dwight Whitney talks about her devastation at being passed over in favor of Barbra Streisand* for the screen version of Hello Dolly, sings her standard, "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend."

*Word is Streisand beat her out by a nose.

On Friday, NBC wraps up a staggering week of specials with a tour of the National Gallery of Art in Washington, hosted by Robert Culp (star, of course, of NBC's I Spy).  The fabulous artwork in the tour includes works by Picasso, Rembrandt, da Vinci and Homer.  It's a unique opportunity for millions of Americans who don't have the chance to travel to the Nation's Capital to see the exhibits in person.

***

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..

Palace: Co-hosts Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme introduce comics Tim Conway and Corbett Monica, dances Szony and Claire, and the Mascotts, German head-balancing act.

Sullivan: Ed's scheduled guests include singers Johnny Mathis, Lana Cantrell, and the Turtles; and comedians Shelly Berman, Joan Rivers, Stu Gilliam and Richard Hearne.

Well, we haven't been able to do one of these for quite awhile.  Unfortunately, given the spectacular nature of the rest of the week, neither of these are knockout shows - steady and decent entertainment but nothing special, as it were.  Always liked Steve and Eydie, and Tim Conway is generally very funny (although he's funnier when he's with Harvey Korman).  On the other hand, Johnny Mathis is smooth, Shelly Berman can be quite funny, and Joan Rivers is, well, Joan Rivers.  But the Turtles aren't the Animals, are they?  Tough call here, but I'll go with Palace, just barely.

***

Believe it or not, even with all those specials, there's more to this week!

On Saturday, CBS presents the 6th Annual Miss Teenage America pageant, hosted by Jimmy Durante and telecast live from the Music Hall at Fair Park right here in Dallas.  The pageant ran annually from 1960 through 1978, and irregularly after that until the late 1990s.  None of the winners of the pageant ever went on to great fame and fortune, but some of the runners-up did - Cybill Shepherd, Karen Valentine and Paula Zahn were among those who had fairly successful careers afterward.

Sunday's NFL on CBS action sees two teams headed for the playoffs, as the Cleveland Browns take on the Green Bay Packers in Milwaukee.  Not much of a game, though - the Pack routs Cleveland 55-7 en route to yet another Super Bowl championship.  Over at the AFL on NBC, it's doubleheader week, with the defending champion Kansas City Chiefs visiting the Boston Patriots in game one, followed by the Miami Dolphins versus the Chargers in San Diego, joined in progress.

On Wednesday night, NBC follows up its Androcles and the Lion special with "Stage Door Johnny," a musical revue on the Kraft Music Hall.  It's what press releases might refer to as "an affectionate tribute to the Roaring Twenties," with Tony Randall, Cab Calloway, Michele Lee and others.  It sounds like a pleasant, but otherwise undistinguished, program.  No special recipes tonight, as is so often the case when Kraft sponsors a program, but as we get closer to Christmas you can bet that there will be all kinds of ideas for your holiday entertaining.

***

On Monday night there's this ad for the 10:30 movie on KMSP, Channel 9.*  It's Trapeze, starring Burt Lancaster and Tony Curtis, with Gina Lollobrigida as the woman who comes between them.  Now, I've never seen this movie, so I can't say whether or not it's any good.  I feel as if I've seen it though, because I've got at least two, maybe three, issues of TV Guide that have ads for it.  It must have been a very popular movie on the station's rotation.   Once, just after I'd run across another ad for it (and none of these ads were identical, mind you), I was surfing around seeing what was on TV, and I stopped on TCM.  What was it showing?  Of course—Trapeze.  To this day I don't know why I didn't stop and watch it.

*Which Channel 9 used in order to push the Joey Bishop Show to 12:30 a.m. on Monday through Thursday.  They didn't broadcast his Friday show until Sunday at 11:00 p.m.  No wonder his ratings weren't very good.

By the way, on the right is a Trapeze caricature by Hirschfeld.  It doesn't come from this issue, but since we've been talking about Hirschfeld lately, I thought it was worth including.

***

You young people out there may have a hard time believing this, but there was a time when, if your television set stopped working, you called a repairman who would come out and try to fix it.  Now, from reading various issues of TV Guide through the years, it's clear that TV repairmen have a reputation something akin to that of used car salesmen.  According to the Attorney General's Bureau of Consumer Frauds and Protection, 65 percent of servicemen were cheats, and the average overcharge was somewhere in the neighborhood of 150 percent.  Neil Hickey's article this week's on "Set repair frauds" offers some tips on how to foil those crooked repairmen, who are charged with everything from making needless repairs to overcharging for parts and labor.

  • Ask neighbors for recommendations, and check those recommendations out with the Better Business Bureau.
  • Inquire ahead of time about rates and guarantees.
  • Get an estimate before your set is taken to the shop - or at least before they start working on it.
  • Make sure your bill is itemized, with a complete list of the parts that were replaced.
  • Ask the repairman to give you the bad parts.

They're not foolproof, but they might help you keep from getting bilked by that crooked repair guy.

***

On Sunday, NET's PBL series gathers Congressional hawks and doves to debate the Gulf of Tonkin Resolution.  The Gulf of Tonkin was a pivotal moment in the prosecution of the Vietnam War, representing the moment in 1964 when the United States made a complete and total commitment to the conflict, and giving President Johnson a broad range of military authority without the requirement of a formal declaration of war.  Presidential actions in the past and current conflicts in the Middle East owe much to this particular event.  Without getting into a broad political discussion, there seems to be something of a consensus today that the actual conflict in the Gulf of Tonkin was a result of confusion rather than an attack by the North Vietnamese.  Did Johnson know this at the time?  Did he use the alleged attack as a pretext for greater involvement in the war?  Not for me to say, but think of how history might have been different otherwise.

***

We shouldn't end on a down note like that, so let's take a look at a rather remarkable letter to the editor.  It's from Mrs. Elizabeth Beasley of Tampa, Florida, who writes criticizing those Western shows which portray women "with long hair hanging down their backs."  The pioneer woman was a hard worker, Mrs. Beasley points out, and asks "Can you picture her cooking, baking bread, washing clothes, scrubbing floors, milking, churning butter, and yes, making soap, not to mention sewing . . . all this with hair hanging over her shoulders?"

Mrs. Beasley should know about all this because, as she points out, she was born in 1889.  Her mother was that pioneer woman, and Mrs. Beasley herself lived through the times portrayed in the Westerns of the late '60s.  Mrs. Elizabeth Beasley is probably 78 as of this writing, and if she lives for a couple more years she'll be part of that generation that lived to hear about the Wright Brothers' first flight, and to see Neil Armstrong become the first man to walk on the moon.  When Elizabeth Beasley was born, Grover Cleveland was President of the United States.  The Wall Street Journal was published for the first time.  It was the year Confederate President Jefferson Davis died, and the Civil War itself had ended just 24 years before (to put that in perspective, that would be 1990 to those of us today).

Elizabeth Beasley's mother may well have been born while Abraham Lincoln was president.  Her grandmother lived at the same time as veterans of the Revolution.  And yet she's writing in to a magazine about television, telling them about how Westerns - period pieces - get things wrong, and she knows because she was there.  Perhaps I'm making too much of it all, but as I say - remarkable. TV  

November 6, 2014

Classic sports, classic theme songs, classic shows, classic actors, all on Around the Dial!

I'm always a fan of old sports broadcasts, so naturally it was great to see Classic TV Sports post the first game of the 1973 National League Championship Series between the Mets and the Reds.  I'm fairly sure I saw this game when it was on, even though I was living in the world's worst town; I know I was rooting for the Mets.  As much fun as it is to watch, it's also painful in a way, as it reminds me of how slow and plodding the game has become.  Nowadays, you'd be lucky to get through six innings in two hours.

Classic Film and TV Cafe gives us seven things to know about Ross Martin.  I've always enjoyed watching Martin; he's best known for The Wild Wild West but he did some terrific work in a couple of episodes of The Twilight Zone, and was fun to watch in the old series Mr. Lucky.  I was sorry when he died; a literate, likable actor.

When I was of the right age, I watched F Troop, and must have liked it well enough that I had one of those TV tie-in books about it.  I've seen a few episodes now and again, and parts of it wear better than others, but Larry Storch always seems to come up with a way to steal the scene.  This week The Horn Section continues looking at F Troop with the abusrdist, appropriate seasonal episode "V is For Vampire."

At The A/V Club, Stephen Bowie (who usually writes for his great blog Classic TV History) has a very good article on the '60s countercultural series Then Came Bronson.  Based on my own cultural philosophy I suspect this show would have driven me nuts (as does its progenitor, Route 66), and in fact I don't remember whether or not I ever watched it, though I was certainly aware of it.  Bravos for its serious, existential side, though; that's the kind of TV I'd like to see more of.

Also at The A/V Club, John Teti has a piece dissecting the themes to six TV game shows.  This is precisely the kind of timewaster that I'll get sucked into watching and reading, and I'll be enjoying every minute of it.  Got to agree with the '70s version of the TTTT theme.

At Classic Television Showbiz, Kliph has another of his terrific interviews - this time part three of his chat with Orson Bean.  I like Bean a lot, and have defended him in the past from people (who obviously don't know much about the entertainment biz) who classified him as being known for being known.  He's still the best Bilbo Baggins as far as I'm concerned.

I've never wanted to live in either Los Angeles or New York, but that doesn't prevent me from being envious of their television museums.  Television Obscurities makes mention of UCLA's Film and Television Archive and their upcoming free screening of "Light's Diamond Jubilee."  An interesting concept, to be sure, though I'm not sure it wasn't more infomercial than variety special.  But, 1) why aren't there shows like that today?, and 2) why don't we have a museum like that here in Dallas?

I can't answer either of those questions, but I can urge you to be back here on Saturday for yet another great issue of TV Guide! TV