April 30, 2016

This week in TV Guide: May 4, 1957

If you've been a longtime reader of the blog, you might remember that in the very early days, I did a piece that looked at two of the whiz kids of 1950s quiz shows, wondering what had happened to them.

One of them, science expert Robert Strom, is on the cover this week, along with The $64,000 Question host Hal March, and in the accompanying article we learn more about this "fantabulous 10-year-old" who at press time had already won $192,000. He comes across as a pretty normal boy, albeit one with an incredible gift. And it's not just rote memory we're talking about; as his father, a science expert himself, says, "Robert is the first contestant to really think on that show." Lest you chalk this down to parental pride, it is true that Robert has to calculate and think through many of his answers - one time, it took him a grand total of 15 seconds to come up with the right one.*

*"They showed me an equatorially mounted telescope with its hour angle set at two hours east and its declination set at zero degrees. I had to tell what point in the sky I'd be looking at on March 19 at a local time of 10:08 p.m., and a sidereal time of 10 hours." Piece of cake, right?

To show you how little things really change, there's another article by an educator on how to tell if your child is gifted. I don't know whether or not this is designed to help figure out if you have another Robert Strom on your hands, or at least someone capable of bringing home a hundred thousand or so, but to that extent it really is similar to reality television, isn't it? Figuring out how to make money off your child by entering her in a beauty pageant, or coming up with some odd characteristic that a show can be built around?

Note that I'm not suggesting this is what Robert Strom's parents did; by the tone of the article, they seem like dedicated parents who aren't looking to exploit their son's intelligence. His mother even says that they would have turned down the chance to be on TV except that gifted children so often feel ignored by others. It's more the headline on the cover that leads me to that observation. It's like, "A Guide on How to Find a Quiz Kid and Be Profitable (all in one easy step)."

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Here are the rest of the headlines:

Speaking of quiz shows, on Sunday afternoon Charles Van Doren hosts a Project 20 documentary on the history of Austria, paralleling the nation's recent past with scenes from Beethoven's only opera, Fidelio. That opera, with its theme of heroism in the struggle for freedom and justice, was very popular particularly during World War II, when it was seen to mirror the struggle for freedom against Nazi Germany. An epic story by an epic composer.

There's also an interesting article this week about Pauline Frederick, NBC's United Nations correspondent, one of the pioneers of women in broadcast journalism. I've mentioned her before as the host of NBC's daytime series of specials for women, talking about vital social issues of the day. In case you're wondering how she felt about that kind of show, she'll set you straight: "Even when I had to talk about fashion, I always kidded it along. I think news is universal and should be given the emphasis it deserves as news."

As for the future of women in news, Frederick is confident, but doesn't kid herself that things will be easy. She also has an interesting viewpoint on it all: "Some of the blame may lie with us women. If we are to end the segregation of the sexes we must, as women, stop thinking of ourselves as something special. We must ask no quarter. When that happens, man may regard us as equals. You see, the problem is not one of competition. As women, we have always worked with men."  

It's long before the days of The Hollywood Palace, but we'll put Ed Sullivan's show up this week against that of his direct rival, Steve Allen. You can see what Ed has to offer by scrolling further down, but Steve has a top lineup of his own, with actor Orson Welles, singer Jill Corey, and the sensational Will Mastin Trio starring Sammy Davis Jr. I don't have a clip from that show, but here are Sammy and the Will Mastin Trio from a couple of years before, in 1954.

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This Saturday being the first Saturday in May, that can mean only one thing: the Kentucky Derby.

It's on CBS, as will be the case for quite a few more years, and - unlike today's marathon coverage - starts at 5:00 ET with a Derby Preview, followed at 5:15 with the race itself, running for thirty minutes before returning programming to local stations. In the 1950s, horse racing is still a big sport, and the 1957 Derby is one of the most famous of all time, as the great jockey Bill Shoemaker makes a rare mistake, briefly standing at the sixteenth pole on his mount, Gallant Man, after taking a narrow lead over Iron Liege. The error, brief though it may have been, proves costly, as Iron Liege, ridden by Bill Hartack, regains the lead and narrowly wins the race. You can see it here if you're interested.

As far as the rest of Saturday goes, you have your pick of baseball games: the Milwaukee Braves and Pittsburgh Pirates on NBC, the Cincinnati Redlegs and New York Giants on CBS, and the Boston Red Sox vs. the Cleveland Indians on the Bosox network of stations.

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You might recall that a while back we took a look at what was on the top rated shows in the Fort Worth area as of March, 1959. Well, we're at it again this week, only the city in question is Boston, and the ratings are as of March, 1957. The ratings service in this case is American Research Bureau.

1. You Bet Your Life (NBC)
Thursday, 8:00pm ET
54.0 percent of all televisions tuned in

There's no listing for the show this week, no surprise since it's ostensibly a quiz show, but we can probably assume this means there were no big-name guest stars appearing.

2. (Tie) The Ed Sullivan Show (CBS)
Sunday, 8:00pm
Ed's guests tonight are singer Johnnie Ray; Walter Pidgeon, star of the current Broadway comedy "The Happiest Millionaire"; James Melton, singer; Judge Dewey "Pigmeat" Markham and Company, comedians; the Vagabonds, instrumental and comedy group; Allen and De Wood, comedy team; Martha Ann Bentley, toe-dancer; singer James Melton and his violinettes; Judy Scott, pop singer; Robert Strom, young quiz winner and science expert; and the Corps De Ballet of the Ballet Russe De Monte Carlo.

2. (Tie) I've Got a Secret (CBS)
Wednesday, 9:30pm
Movie actor Adolphe Menjou brings a secret to the panelists.

4. I Love Lucy (CBS)
Monday, 9:00pm
Lucy plunges into civic affairs in a big way when the community of Westport, Conn., plans to establish a monument to its Revolutionary War heroes.

5. The Jane Wyman Show (NBC)
Tuesday, 9:00pm
Jane Wyman stars in "Night of Terror." A woman driving alone through a lonely stretch of desert stops at a small cafe. There she learns of a maniac at large in the area who preys on people who travel alone.

6. Alfred Hitchcock Presents (CBS)
Sunday, 9:30pm
"The Hands of Mr. Ottermole." Fog, a mysterious strangler and an inquisitive reporter confound an English policy sergeant. Working under cover of impenetrable fog, the murderer claims one of the sergeant's policemen as another of his many victims.

7. Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts (CBS)
Monday, 8:30pm
No listing for the week. Again, there probably isn't anyone notable on the show, and it's pretty much what you'd expect each week.

8. The West Point Story (CBS)
Friday, 8:00pm
"Dragoon Patrol." Tonight's story is set at West Point in 1871. First Classman William Purdom disagrees with Maj. Watts' statement that no man is expendable in battle.

9. (Tie) G.E. Theater (CBS) 
Sunday, 9:00pm
Ray Milland stars in and directs "Angel of Wrath." After he has invested in a publishing firm, a Broadway star is shocked to learn that it prints unsavory literature. He becomes involved in an argument with the publisher, and strikes the man. Convinced he is guilty of murder, the star does not know what to do. Should he confess and bring scandal upon himself and his family, or should he run away?

10. The Millionaire (CBS)
Wednesday, 9:00pm
"The Chris Daniels Story." A horse trainer falls in love with the boss's daughter. After he's fired he receives Michael Anthony's check and decides to start his own stable in an effort to win his girl.

And there you have it. Even though this is two years prior to the Fort Worth listing we saw, I think we can still draw a number of conclusions about the differences between the two markets. First of all, you'll notice that there are no Westerns in the top ten in Boston, despite Gunsmoke being the #7 show nationally (the only Western in the top ten; it will be the next couple of seasons that will see Westerns dominate the ratings).

As far as comparisons to the nation's TV viewing, while Fort Worth viewers had seven of the top ten national shows on their viewing list, Boston can only boast of five in the top ten: Lucy, Sullivan, G.E. Theater, Hitchcock and Secret. I don't think that means Bostonians aren't in step with the rest of the country (Talent Scouts, for example, was just outside the top ten at #12, and The Millionaire checked in at #13), but it does that tastes change from place to place.

Sometime we'll do this with the national ratings and see what the U.S.A. is watching.

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Finally, here's a recipe for you - it's a "late, late snack for the late, late show."



  1. Love seeing Alfred Hitchcock Presents in the top 10! A 42.7 share is the kind of rating not seen in my lifetime, except for special events.

    1. Those numbers are from Arbitron, not Nielsen...and A.C. changed its calculations in 1961, so ratings before and after than that time aren't necessarily comparable.

  2. I believe that Lucy episode was the last of the 'I Love Lucy' series, not counting the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hours.

    1. You're correct. I was going to make this point if you hadn't. Me-TV reran this recently and then went back to the beginning of the series with "The Girls Want to Go to a Nightclub".

    2. Desi Arnaz, Jr. made his tv debut in this episode, playing a little boy of whom Ethel asked "Are you having a good time, Honey?" (or something close to that).

    3. That's a great addition! See how much I depend on you guys? I really do! :)


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