August 29, 2015

This week in TV Guide: August 26, 1972

Well, what do you know - a brand-new, never-before seen TV Guide!  Yes, our brief summer rerun series is finished, and we're back to first-run issues.  And at the center of the return, we'll take a look at preparations for the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich, West Germany - one of the most highly anticipated, and most tragic, sporting events of the century.


Final bidding for the 1972 Summer Games was held in Rome in 1966, after years of preparation by the cities competing to host.  The finalists were Madrid, Montreal, Munich and, if you can believe it, Detroit.

The selection of Munich was a significant decision for several reasons; it was the first major international sporting event held in Germany since the end of World War II just 21 years before, and gave the West Germans an opportunity to present the "New Germany" to the world.  It was a chance for Munich to overcome its reputation as one of the centers of Nazi Germany, and to instead focus on the beauty of the Bavarian countryside.  It was also, at least in the eyes of the East Germans, an act of supreme provocation.  The two Germanys didn't require prodding from the United States and the Soviet Union; there was real antagonism between them, and one of the concessions made by the West Germans in order to ensure participation by the Eastern bloc was to allow the East Germans to march in the Opening Ceremonies under their own name, national flag and national anthem, rather than a generic Olympic flag.

The shadow of the 1936 Berlin Olympics hung heavily over preparations for the Games, and organizers took pains to avoid any hint of the nationalism that had dominated Berlin.  As Bill Marsano's preview article puts it,

The atmosphere surrounding the Games should be thick with Bavarian Gemutlichkeit. A German Olympic official has promised, "We know only too well that crimes have been committed in the German name, and how many people have suffered . . . These Olympics will be what they are supposed to be: the great meeting of the youth of the world; of the new, hopefully enlightened generation; and thus a small contribution to world peace."  Amen!

To that end, the color scheme for the Games was dominated by pastels, and the logo for what were billed as "The Happy Games" was an abstract with no hint of German culture.  The centerpiece of the Olympic Village was a stunning stadium built partially into a hill, covered by a futuristic glass, tent-like canopy that extended into the Village itself.  Most significantly, it was decided that security for the Village should be as unobtrusive as possible, and the officers, dressed in leisure suit-like uniforms, would not be armed.  (For more on the history of the Munich Olympics, dating back before the city's choice as host, David Clay Large's Munich 1972 is an excellent place to start.)

I imagine in the chaos that followed - the hostage taking and standoff in the Village, the shootout at the airport that resulted in the massacre of the Israeli athletes, Jim McKay's memorable marathon coverage of the tragedy - not very many people recalled that paragraph from TV Guide, and thus its impact is greater to us today, knowing as we do what will be happening in the days to come. Its words, as an original cultural document, have a timelessness, a sense of context, that is often missing in the dry words of a history book written long after the fact.


ABC's coverage of the Olympics begins with the opening ceremonies, telecast live at 9:00 a.m. Central time on Saturday morning (imagine TV doing that nowadays). The network is promising an unprecedented 61.5 hours of coverage, including three prime-time hours each night.

That doesn't leave us a whole lot of room for other sports - the NFL regular season is still a couple of weeks away, so there's a scattering of practice games - but for those of you interested in obscure sports that aren't shown on TV every four years, there's the weekly series covering the Bobby Fischer-Boris Spassky world chess championship (on PBS, of course). Hard to remember now just what a sensation this was at the time - the Cold War transported to a chess board. It offers us a glimpse of the eccentric Fischer, perhaps the Howard Hughes of the sports world, a brilliant champion whose life since seeded to have devolved into one erratic, oddball encounter after another until his death in 2008 - a most unlikely American surrogate for the Cold War.


And then there's Dick Adler's article called "Hitchhiking on the Road to Success," about a "young would-be director" named "Steve Spielberg." That's right, the Steven Spielberg, with long hair and minus the beard. He's an experience TV director, coming off the fame from his TV movie Duel, but at this point hasn't even made a big-screen movie. The question raised in the article: "Why does every television director, with access to 50 or 60 million people, still yearn for a movie feature that might reach five million if it's a smash hit?" I guess "Steve" answered that question, didn't he?  Many years later, Steven Spielberg would direct Munich, a somewhat unsuccessful attempt to tell the aftermath of the Munich massacre.


Speaking of old favorites (as we were, in a sense), a note on Friday morning's listings that the 9am Lucy Show reruns will be going off, replaced by a new game show called The Joker's Wild with Jack Barry.  That would stay on the air in network and syndicated runs until 1991 - not too bad at that.

Following Lucy, CBS has been running reruns of The Beverly Hillbillies - this had been a morning combo since the mid '60s - but the Hillbillies, too, will be leaving the daytime schedule, their place to be taken by a game show that's had an even longer run than The Joker's Wild.  It starts out with the designation "new" in order to differentiate it from the late '50s-early 60s' version hosted by Bill Cullen, but soon drops that designation and will be known simply as The Price is Right, which continues to this day, hosted by only two men: Bob Barker and Drew Carey.*

*Not counting Dennis James, who did the nighttime syndicated version.

The third new game show to debut on Monday, taking the place of Family Affair reruns (as Family Affair moves to the afternoon) is Gambit, hosted by Wink Martindale.  Gambit runs for four seasons, defeating - among others - NBC's Wizard of Odds, hosted by Alex Trebek, and has an additional run as Las Vegas Gambit for a season on NBC.

Sticking with morning television for a bit, The Hollywood Squares remains a stalwart of NBC's lineup, with its colorful cast of characters turning the morning schedule upside down.  Filling one of the squares this week is Sandra Dee, the ex-wife of singer Bobby Darin, profiled by Leslie Raddatz, whose Bobby Darin Amusement Company subbed for Dean Martin during the summer.  I don't know how many of you saw Beyond the Sea a few years back, the Darin biopic starring Kevin Spacey.  It was a pretty good movie as these things go, but if you'd seen it, you would have been under the impression that Darin and Dee had stayed together until Darin's death in December 1973, whereas they'd actually divorced in 1967, and Darin had married his longtime girlfriend Andrea Yaeger earlier in 1973.

Raddatz gets this part of it right, and does a pretty good job of describing the arc of Darin's career, from the fame of his early years to his personal collapse following the assassination of Robert F. Kennedy, his unsuccessful turn as a protest folk singer, his return to his singing roots, and the success of his current replacement show ("Jack Benny always let the people around him get the laughs.")  There's talk as well of Darin's heart condition; he was born with rheumatic fever, and always assumed a short life, which lead to his reputation as a young man in a hurry.  Indeed, for Bobby Darin the clock is about to run out; his series will return as The Bobby Darin Show in January of 1973, running for 13 weeks, but those heart problems will finally catch up with him and cause his death in December of that year, at the age of only 37.


In other highlights of the week, Saturday features one other sporting event, the final game of the Little League World Series on ABC's Wide World of Sports, with Mickey Mantle joining Bud Palmer for the broadcast.  And while the sitcom Maude won't start for a couple of weeks yet, we see the roots of the series tonight as Bea Arthur's character appears in a rerun of CBS' All in the Family.

On Sunday it's a blast from the past, as Dave Garroway returns to television to host the National Automotive Trouble Quiz, an afternoon broadcast on Channel 5 that might have been syndicated.  Garroway is joined by professional racer Peter Revson, along with Peggy Cass and Louis Nye, which suggests it might be played for laughs more than seriousness.

One of my favorite composers, Gian Carlo Menotti, is back on PBS Monday night, with his 1939 opera The Old Maid and the Thief, the first opera ever written for radio - in this case, NBC, which also commissioned the first opera ever written for television, Menotti's Amahl and the Night Visitors in 1951.

On Tuesday, Ted Knight does his Ted Baxter routine from the Mary Tyler Moore show, spoofing a Lowell Thomas travelogue on the final episode of the CBS summer replacement series The John Byner Comedy Hour.  Also going off on Tuesday is Ponderosa, a summer replacement for Bonanza, consisting of old reruns of - Bonanza.  

Wednesday's episode of Night Gallery on NBC features Laurence Harvey starring "in a gruesome assassination plot aimed at his rival in love"; you'll recall a movie in which Harvey was also involved in an assassination plot - The Manchurian Candidate.  Not a great type of role to get typecast in, huh?

Thursday features a repeat showing of Horton Hears a Who, the delightful Dr. Seuss story involving the elephant Horton trying to protect the residents of Whoville, the home of Seuss' other CBS television cartoon, How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Finally, on Friday, a number of interconnected shows, including Channel 11's late night movie Tammy and the Bachelor, with Debbie Reynolds playing the role originated by none other than - Sandra Dee.  It's on against NBC's Tonight Show, with Joey Bishop guest hosting for Johnny Carson.  Bishop is up against himself, appearing as well on Channel 9's late night move, Ocean's 11, starring Frank Sinatra and set in Las Vegas, home of Bobby Darin's most successful years as an entertainer.  And then there's CBS' Friday Night Movie, Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, which isn't up against anything similar and doesn't star anyone appearing on anything else that night.  It's just proof that sometimes, the TV spinoff is actually better than the movie. TV  


  1. Wasn't Jack Barry in someway involved in the Game Show scandals of the 50's and if so, was hosting "The Jokers Wild" his first game show hosting job since the scandals?

    1. Indeed Barry was connected to the quiz show scandals (Barry had attempted to cover up evidence that several of the ones he and Dan Enright produced; specifically "Twenty-One", had been rigged). This was actually his 2nd post-scandal regular job (Barry had slowly begun taking fill-in jobs during the mid-1960s); with his first coming as a replacement for Dennis Wholey 10 shows into the short-lived 1969 ABC game show "The Generation Gap".

  2. Let's not forget Doug Davidson ("The Young and The Restless") who hosted a night time version of Price in 1995

  3. And of course, Tom Kennedy also hosted a revival of the original Dennis James night time version of Price ten years before that in 1985.

  4. This issue (08/26/1972) also marked another cultural watermark in the history of TV Guide: it was the first issue to designate programs in black & white (BW) instead of those in color (C), showing that color tv programs were finally outnumbering those in B&W. I think that TV Guide's weekly editorial column, "As We See It", commented on this change and how it related to the proliferation of color programs on tv by this time. It took 7 more years after this for my family to get its first color tv, and that was a hand-me-down from my grandmother.

    1. Indeed - thanks for pointing that out, Jon. I'd noted that as well (one of those rites of passage that TV fans remember), but neglected to mention it. Thank God for my readers!

  5. Ironically, the day of the terrorist attack and massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics, Tuesday September 5th, was the first day of school in most of the country and millions of students and their teachers may have wound-up watching TV coverage in their classrooms.

    I was in high school, but in my town, classes didn't begin until Wednesday the 6th so I watched the day-long TV coverage at home.

    1. Interesting you mention that - it was one of the first days of school for me, in The World's Worst Town, but since our sole TV station wasn't carrying the Olympics, I was stuck with garbled, second-hand reports. I can't for the life of me remember how I eventually heard the real story.

  6. Barker fell ill in December 1974 and was replaced by James (whom CBS did not want hosting the show; Mark Goodson's plans were taking advantage of the new Prime Time Access Rule for non-network shows in the 7 PM ET hour were for James to do the show, but CBS wanted Barker -- who wanted The Joker's Wild instead -- to host Price) for a taping day -- which was four shows; the next season, the show experimented with one hour (two shows a day), and by November 1975, the format was changed to its present 60-minute format.

    According to archives, James hosted the CBS Daytime version for a few days around Christmas 1974 (source - Craig Ferguson also made an appearance as part of a Carey/Ferguson seat swap for April Fool's Day 2014 (which led eventually to CBS Studios giving Ferguson his own syndicated game show), and Barker returned to host the first segment as part of another April Fool's Day ruse a few months ago that involved Carey and the Plinko board being kidnapped by Let's Make a Deal; in the April Fool's Day storyline, which worked only if the CBS affiliate aired Deal before Price (which is how most affiliates do it now, affiliates can air Deal after The Talk or before Price; most now prefer doing it before Price), Carey and the Plinko board were kidnapped and taken for "ransom" by Deal; Barker, in storyline, was called to help when Carey was kidnapped and unable to make the show before it started.

  7. I remember the DRIVER'S TROUBLE QUIZ, but not Garroway...only Peggy Cass--and it was syndicated.

    When Fred Silverman moved up to VP of programming for CBS, his replacement as daytime VP, Bud Grant (no relation to the Vikings coach) brought game shows back to the schedule. The NEW PRICE IS RIGHT was originally only going to be for syndication, with Dennis James hosting, Grant wanted it for the network, and he wanted Bob Barker. Barker, however, was more interested in hosting GAMBIT, and Grant had to talk him into it.

    Bobby Darin died never learning the most dramatic component of his life...the woman he knew as his mother was in fact his grandmother, and his "older sister" was actually his mother, who had him as a teenager.

    1. In 1968, while working on RFK's Presidential campaign, Bobby Darin was giving serious thought to entering the field of elective politics himself.
      It was at this point that he was told the facts of his birth and upbringing - the mother/sister business - by some other relative. The story was completely unknown to the general public (pre-internet), and in those days would have proved disastrous not only to political ambition but to a thriving showbiz career as well.
      RFK's assassination came in close proximity, and the combination sent Darin into an emotional spiral that derailed his career for several years.
      This is when he discarded his toupee, traded his tux for denim, started calling himself Bob Darin, and switched to serious "folk songs".
      This phase lasted a couple of years, until friends like Dick Clark and George Burns intervened, telling Darin to take back the toup and tux and start entertaining again.
      It would have been about this time that Darin's lifelong heart problems started reasserting themselves.
      Circa 1970, full page ads began appearing in the trades:
      "BOBBY'S BACK!"
      And so he was, to the end of his days.

      The point of this is to make clear that Bobby Darin did learn the facts about his parentage, and it was a defining event of his latter years.

      I guess I'm not the only one who looks at older postings around here ...


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!