April 23, 2016

This week in TV Guide: April 27, 1968

No big features this week, so we'll just start in and see what comes up.

We begin with Melvin Durslag surveying a troubling trend in sports - the possibly of labor disputes. "Player unions are flexing their muscles, threatening management with just about everything, including strikes." There's no doubt that professional athletes are receiving more money than ever before (baseball's minimum wage has just been increased from $7000 to $10,000), but with this security, players "are coming to assert themselves in the establishment of ground rules in their crafts." A strike just before the start of last year's NBA playoffs was narrowly averted, golf pros threatened to pull away from the PGA and run their tour themselves, and unions are demanding a say in everything from the annual schedules to air travel (they want only first class) to the abolishing of the dreaded "reserve clause."

Jack Kent Cooke, owner of the NHL's Los Angeles Kings, explains that rising TV exposure plays a major role, making instant heroes out of athletes and increasing their perceived value. In addition, the stupidity of some owners, throwing ridiculous sums of money after stars, has poisoned the well, so to speak, for everyone. The creation of the American Basketball Association has introduced the specter of bidding wars for the best talent, and the problem is sure to crop up with other leagues as well.

Not surprisingly, the players counter that the owners can't exactly plead poverty. If payrolls have expanded, the value of teams has as well, increasing by three or four times over the last decade. Having been treated as indentured servants for so many years, the players are eager to get their slice of the pie, rubbing the owners' noses in it while they're at it.

Looking at this from nearly 50 years' distance, it's amusing how naive this sounds. It was amazing that the Cleveland Browns were worth $12 million in 1968; today's most valuable franchises, the Dallas Cowboys and New York Yankees, are now worth over $3 billion. Every professional sports league has undergone multiple work stoppages, with both the World Series and an entire NHL season cancelled in the process, and multiple seasons shortened due to games missed. The minimum salary in baseball, an astounding $10,000 in 1968, is now $500,000. TV contributes so much money to the process that it's incredible anyone can disagree over it.

One thing's for sure, though. Melvin Durslag predicted that over the next few years, "the liveliest shows in sports could be quite removed from the field," and he was right.

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As the regular television season winds down, Cleveland Amory presents his year-end awards, The Amorys. In a change from years past, and due to popular demand, this year's awards feature not only the "best" performances and shows of the year, but the "worst" as well. This is a recipe for fun if ever there was one. Herewith, some of the winners - and losers.

Best Dramatic Series: Ironside. Honorable Mention: Insight.
Best Comedy Series: The Flying Nun. Honorable Mention: Get Smart.
Best Variety Series: The Smothers Brothers Show. Honorable Mention: Laugh-In.
Best Drama Series: CBS Playhouse. Honorable Mention: NET Playhouse.*
Best Late-Night Show: The Joey Bishop Show. Honorable Mention: Les Crane (syndicated).
Best Educational Show: The French Chef. Honorable Mention: Book Beat.

*See, Amory gets it. He uses "Drama" vs. "Dramatic" to distinguish between the two different styles we discussed on Saturday and Wednesday of last week.

Best Dramatic Actor: Raymond Burr (Ironside). Honorable Mention: Ron Harper (Garrison's Gorillas).
Best Dramatic Actress: Barbara Bain (Mission: Impossible). Honorable Mention: Barbara Anderson (Ironside)
Best Comedian: Jonathan Winters. Honorable Mention: Tommy Smothers.
Award for All-Around Merit: Robert Culp and Bill Cosby (I Spy)

Worst Dramatic Series: The Guns of Will Sonnett. Honorable Mention: Cimarron Strip.
Worst Comedy Series: He & She. Honorable Mention: Good Morning World
Worst Variety Series: Operation: Entertainment. Honorable Mention: The Jerry Lewis Show.
Worst Late-Night Show: The Joe Pyne Show. Honorable Mention: The Weather
Worst Dramatic Actor: Gentle Ben (Gentle Ben). Honorable Mention: Maya (Maya).

And finally,
Worst Critic: Results suppressed in the interests of national unity.

These are always fun, and in a couple of weeks we'll be seeing the responses in the Letters to the Editor section. I do know that Amory took a lot of flack from readers for giving He & She a bad review earlier in the year, so I suspect we'll be hearing more of the same from the letter writers. But as Amory would always say, don't show me letters - show me viewers.

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No "Sullivan vs. The Palace" this week, even though we're in the right era, because The Hollywood Palace is preempted, whether locally or by the network I'm not sure, for a "Doc Evans" jazz session featuring Harry Blons, Geraldine Mullaney, Eddie Tolk, Don Thompson and Jim Morton. Given that virtually all the musicians were from Minnesota, I'm guessing it could have been a local production.

Ed quite likely would have won the week though, with guests like Ella Fitzgerald; actor Richard Harris; comedians George Carlin, Milt Kamen and Stiller and Meara; the Doodletown Pipers; Korean violinist Kyung Wha Chung; and illusionist Richiardi. A strong lineup, particularly at the top.

As far as other variety shows, the lineup begins Saturday night on CBS with The Jackie Gleason Show, with guests Milton "I used to be Mr. Television!" Berle, Frank Gorshin, Vikki Carr, and Sammy Kaye and his orchestra. Andy Williams is on Sunday night on NBC with the horrific-sounding "The H. Andrew Williams Kaleidoscope Co." featuring pop stars Simon and Garfunkel, Cass Elliott, Ray Charles and Burt Bacharach. The picture of Andy shows him wearing a neckerchief with a wild pattern. Fans of the guests (and I know you're out there) will forgive me if I'm underwhelmed. Earlier in the night, over on CBS, the Smothers Brothers have Carl Reiner, Hamilton Camp, Jennie Smith and the Happenings.

Leslie Uggams, who's featured on this week's cover, welcomes Robert Morse, Noel Harrison and the Young Rascals as guests on her ABC special Wednesday night. And Dean Martin's Thursday NBC show has comedians Buddy Hackett, Minnie Pearl and David Steinberg, and singer Rosemary Clooney.

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Some notable programs this week, headed by a rare Hallmark Hall of Fame comedy, "The Admirable Crichton," on NBC Thursday night, written by J.M. Barrie (author of Peter Pan) and starring the husband-and-wife team of Bill Travers and Virginia McKenna, best known for their roles in the movie Born Free.

I'll be covering this in more detail in Monday's piece, but Wednesday night's highlight, in addition to the Leslie Uggams special, ABC presents a commercial-free showing of the 1957 movie Paths of Glory, starring Kirk Douglas, written and directed by Stanley Kubrick.

A CBS news special on Tuesday raises, I think, a question for our times. It's called "The Trial Lawyers," hosted by Harry Reasoner. The topic is "the fiction of presumed innocence," featuring five of the most prominent trial lawyers in the world: F. Lee Bailey, Melvin Belli, Percy Foreman, Louis Nizer and Edward Bennett Williams.*

*But where's the world's greatest trial lawyer - Perry Mason?

I think there's also an interesting program on Danny Thomas' Monday night anthology series on NBC, "The Measure of a Man," starring Richard Kiley as a West Virginia coal miner, illiterate, unskilled, middle aged, who's lost his job due to technology and now has to find work in a hostile employment environment.

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This week's sports lineup is quiet, and expected. NBC's Saturday Game of the Week is Baltimore at Boston, ABC's Wide World of Sports features Indy car racing from Trenton, the North American Gymnastics Championship, and a preview of tonight's WBA heavyweight title fight between Jerry Quarry and Jimmy Ellis. CBS' Saturday afternoon entry is the season opener of the old North American Soccer League, a contest pitting the St. Louis Stars and the Kansas City Spurs.

A programming note on Sunday alerts us of the possibility of an NBA finals game on ABC, and indeed there is one. It's Game 4, and the Los Angeles Lakers' 119-105 victory over the Boston Celtics ties their series at 2-2. Alas for the Lakers, it's their last gasp - the Celts win the next two games, the last by 15 points, to take yet another NBA championship.

The Stanley Cup playoffs are in full swing, and CBS covers Game 5 of the Eastern Division Finals, with the Montreal Canadians defeating the Chicago Black Hawks 4-3 in overtime to win the Eastern title, en route to defeating the St. Louis Blues to take yet another Stanley Cup. (Note a trend here?)

ABC Sunday entry is the final round of the inaugural Byron Nelson Classic from Preston Trails Golf Club right here in Dallas, named after the legendary golfer and won by Miller Barber.

And a sports-related note: Rafer Johnson, former gold medalist in the Decathlon and current sportscaster on KNBC in Los Angeles, will not be violating equal-time standards by continuing to appear on TV while being part of Robert Kennedy's presidential campaign. Sadly, this is only an issue for six more weeks; he and football star Roosevelt Grier are the two men who tackle Sirhan Sirhan after Sirhan fatally shoots RFK.

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Finally, the Letters section provides us with the line of the week, perhaps the line of the year. It refers to the recent departure of Diana Rigg, the delectable crime fighter Mrs. Emma Peel, from The Avengers, Speaking of Patrick Macnee's character John Steed, M. Goetz of Jersey City, New Jersey simply writes, "I bet John Steed Mrs. Emma Peel." I couldn't have put it any better. TV  


  1. And regarding Jack Kent Cooke's comments on the issue of labor disputes in sports; it seems almost amusing considering that after Cooke became the owner of the Washington Redskins, two of their three Super Bowl championships came in seasons where there was an NFL strike.

  2. I'm not sure which is more surprising: that Cleveland Amory (known for writing books like "Who Killed Society?" liked "The Flying Nun" or preferred Joey Bishop to Carson. (Bishop's show did much better in the Midwest than on the Coasts.)

  3. There was indeed no Hollywood Palace, it was pre-empted by that Quarry fight; earlier in the day, Hubert Humphrey announced that he was running for President in a special live telecast at 1:00 Eastern/Noon Central

  4. Leslie Uggams first gained stardom as a teenager when she became a regular on "Suing Along With Mitch".


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!