September 12, 2015

This week in TV Guide: September 14, 1974

If you've been with us for awhile, you might recognize the cover of this week's issue, or at least the information contained on the very clever pastiche of the Daily Racing Form, listing the odds on the new seasons's shows.  Three years ago, when I covered the previous week's Fall Preview edition, I included a bit on this issue, correlating the odds with some of the new shows that had been profiled.  No real reason to go over that again; if you want to see how well some of the shows did, feel free to check that issue out.  Go ahead; I'll wait.


In the meantime, there's plenty of other stuff to keep us amused.  For example, Melvin Durslag has a story on how NFL players look at Monday Night Football as an opportunity to show off their skills to players in the rest of the league, who are presumably at home watching the game on TV.  Jane Hall writes about CBS' Bicentennial Minutes series, a two-year long lead-up to the Bicentennial, in which a star presents a one-minute factoid on some aspect of American history.

And then there's Richard Warren Lewis' preview of The Sex Symbol, an ABC Movie of the Week starring Connie Francis as a Marilyn Monroe-like movie star, suffering all the triumphs and tragedies therein.  It's taken the movie six months to reach the small screen, thanks to the "controversy and scissoring" needed to make it presentable for television.  The Kennedy family didn't like Don Murray's portrayal of a politician-lover who seemed to cut a little too close to the bone; the Monroe estate didn't like some of Stevens' lines that seemed to suggest a life a little too much like the real Monroe; the censors didn't like the movie's depiction of drug and alcohol abuse, not to mention the nude scenes that Stevens filmed for the movie's foreign release to theaters.  (Said co-star Shelly Winters of those scenes, "In the last act, they forgot to put clothes on Connie.  Or they didn't put enough.")  Stevens says that "the guy who did the editing must have been a genius," but insists that the uncut, foreign version "was a hundred and ten times better."  As for the finished product, Made for TV Mayhem's Amanda can tell you more about that.


If you're a sports fan, this is a terrific time of the year, with baseball's pennant races rounding into form and college and pro football kicking off.

On the baseball front, not much to report.  NBC's Saturday Game of the Week will be covering the game most important to the standings.  Their choices are the Yankees vs. Detroit, Pittsburgh vs. Montreal or Boston vs. Milwaukee.  A quick glance at how the 1974 season ended suggests the Pirates-Expos game would have been the best bet.  Airing opposite baseball is ABC's college football, in this case a matchup between Stanford and Penn State.  Of the two, Penn State will have the more successful season; they begin ranked #8 in the country, defeat Stanford in this game 24-20, and finish with a record of 10-2, good enough for a #7 final ranking.  Stanford is ranked #20 to start the season, but their narrow loss to Penn State is followed by a walloping against Illinois, and they wind up 5-4-2, out of the running for a post-season spot.  On Sunday, the NFL season begins with regional grudge matches; Cleveland vs. Cincinnati at noon (CT) on NBC, and Minnesota vs. Green Bay at 1pm on CBS.

The Oakland Raiders were always famed for their unparalleled record on Monday Night Football; for many years that record included but one loss, and the loss comes this week as they take on O.J. Simpson and the Bills in Buffalo.  I remember this game well, but not because I'd seen it; living in the World's Worst Town™, we didn't get the Monday night game, so I had to listen to it on CBS radio.*  In a terrific matchup, the Bills emerge with a 21-20 victory, headed for one of their most successful seasons in years.

*Which was actually a pretty pleasant experience; for years, dedicated fans would turn down the sound on television, thus avoiding the ABC crew of Frank Gifford, Don Meredith and Howard Cosell while enjoying the CBS radio crew's call.

And yes, even though it's 1974 and not 2015, we have Thursday night football - only it's not the NFL.  It's the World Football League, working its way through it's inaugural season (and only one to be completed).  The WFL had debuted to great fanfare earlier in the summer, with several big name NFL players jumping to the new league and early games in Jacksonville and Philadelphia drawing huge crowds.  But then the house of cards fell apart; teams were forced to admit most of the tickets had been given away, while other teams were forced to move to new locations during the season because of money problems.  Within a month of the game being played this week, teams in Philadelphia and Detroit would fold, and the league champion Birmingham Americans would have their uniforms and equipment impounded after the game due to nonpayment of bills.  But that's in the future, and this Thursday the league continues to limp along, with the Americans playing the Houston Texans in Birmingham.  That's not today's Houston Texans, by the way.


It's Disaster Week on the movie schedule, both in terms of subject matter and quality.

On Tuesday, up against The Sex Symbol, NBC has Terror on the 40th Floor, which sounds like a ripoff of The Towering Inferno (secret party on top floor of office building, fire breaks out) except Inferno hasn't been released yet; it's still in production and Terror is an obvious attempt to get a jump on it with a quickie ripoff.  One thing they get right is the casting; with John Forsythe, Joseph Campanella and Don Meredith heading the lineup, it's the same collection of just-below-the-top-level names that big screen disaster flicks depend on.

Wednesday, ABC has The Day the Earth Moved, with Jackie Cooper and Cleavon Little (again, following the rules of casting for disaster movies) as a couple of aerial photographers able to read the signs of an upcoming earthquake, but - wait for it - unable to convince the authorities of the impending disaster.  Stella Stevens, William Windom and Beverly Garland round out the cast.

CBS counters with a pair of disaster movies that deal with eco-disasters.  First, from the "nature run wild!" school, the Tuesday late movie has Frogs, with Ray Milland, Sam Elliot and Joan Van Ark trying to survive an invasion of killer frogs.  Then, on Friday, it's Bruce Davison starring in Willard, the story of a young man with a trained pack of attack rats.  Grim movies all around, don't you think?

There are a couple of movies that redeem the week, though - the network premieres of Klute (NBC, Saturday) and Fiddler on the Roof (ABC, Sunday).  Klute features Jane Fonda in her first Oscar-winning role, co-starring with Donald Sutherland in a movie that Judith Crist says "doesn't dodge issues or the intelligence of its audience."  As for Fiddler, starring Topol, Crist calls it a "universal story of tradition of man and God" that, by its commitment to film, is "ours to enjoy again and again."


I've remarked before about the stupidity of the Prime Time Access Rule, which was supposed to result in more local public affairs programming, but instead gave us strip series mostly consisting of syndicated game shows and Hollywood gossip programs.  There was a time, though, when this wasn't always the case.

For example, on Wednesday nights WCCO, Channel 4 in the Twin Cities, interrupted their week of game shows (Let's Make a Deal), variety shows (Bobby Goldsboro), and nature documentaries (Wild, Wild World of Animals) for a half-hour of Laurel and Hardy movies.  John Gallos, whose '60s altar ego was Clancy the Cop on weekday mornings, was part of the nationwide revival of interest in the two comedians, and on Sunday morning he included an hour of old-time movies from the Bowery Boys, the Little Rascals, and more Stan and Ollie.

On KSTP, Channel 5, the syndicated block was broken up on Monday night by The Bud Grant Show, a half-hour with Vikings head coach Bud Grant and the station's sports director, Tom Ryther reviewing Sunday's action.  On Thursday and Friday nights it was Bowling For Dollars, again hosted by Ryther.  It was, perhaps, something best described as a franchise program, but at least it was locally produced.  Even KMSP, Channel 9, the king of strip game shows, had a Vikings football preview show on Friday nights.

The other point about all this is that the five-night-a-week strip programming had yet to take over the 6:30pm time slot.  Even on the nights when local shows weren't on, the rest of the nights of the week generally featured different shows.  Nice to have a little variety, anyway.


Finally, NBC's advertising campaign for the fall season is "Turn On the Network of the New!"  One reason a network might have an abundance of new programming, of course, is because they've cancelled so many of their old shows.  And this season will be no exception:  Born Free, The Smothers Brothers Show, Amy Prentiss, The Bob Crane Show, Sierra, Lucas Tanner, Sunshine.  But then, there were a couple of shows here and there that managed to make something of themselves.  Little House on the Prairie, which experts had ranked as a 5 (out of 25) in terms of likelihood of success, survived for nine seasons and made Michael Landon a star in his own right.  Chico and the Man rated a 4, but parlayed that into four seasons and catapulted Freddie Prinze into ill-fated stardom of his own.  Police Woman provided arresting drama for Angie Dickinson fans, and The Rockford Files, which nobody wrote about, lasted for six seasons and became one of James Garner's most loved series.  So although there were more misses than hits, the New! NBC didn't do too badly after all, did it? TV  


  1. It was easy for TV Guide to spoof the Daily Racing Form - they were both owned by Annenberg.

  2. One correction regarding the World Football League--Detroit and Jacksonville, not Philadelphia, folded during the season. On Wednesday, September 11, Channel 9 in New York was scheduled to show the New York Stars at Portland Storm game following their telecast of the Cardinals-Mets baseball game. The Cardinals tied the game in the ninth inning and the game ended up going 25 innings, which I stayed up past 3 am to watch. They showed the football game on tape the following evening.

  3. I was a kid in grade school who remembers watching John Gallos and his L&H show after The Scene at Six with Dave Moore and then watching his expanded show on Sunday mornings with The Bowery Boys, L&H and The Little Rascals....both shows were great fun to watch. KSTP had John Hines hosting a 30 minute show during one of the weeknights at 6:30, but I can't remember which old time comic/comedy team he featured? I wanna say it was Abbott & Costello.

    1. John Hines hosted a Laurel and Hardy show on KSTP. If I remember correctly they aired the Lafftoons segments first and then went into the sound shorts.

    2. And John Hines has JUST retired from his radio gig at WCCO radio.

  4. Weren't TV Guide and the Daily Racing Form under the same ownership in the 1970's?

  5. Had Freddie Prinze, Sr. not committed suicide, "Chico and the Man" may well have lasted through the rest of the decade.

  6. I got a chance to meet the KMSP sports director at that time years later while I was in college. His name was Tony Parker and he was an adjunct instructor in the St Cloud St mass communications department. He was one of the best instructors I had and the stories he could tell were something else and he could tie them back into what he was teaching. The only night class you didn't want to end as he was that good.


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