November 19, 2016

This week in TV Guide: November 19, 1966

This week's issue is dedicated to my friend Carol Ford, who wrote that fine biography of Bob Crane that I talk about periodically. I'm sure Carol must have seen this copy of TV Guide, with Bob and Robert Clary of Hogan's Heroes on the cover, even though the feature story inside isn't on Crane.

Instead, it tells the amazing story of "Robert Clary, A-5714." That was his number in Buchenwald, one of the four concentration camps where he spent a good chunk of World War II, subsisting on "one cup of watery soup each midday and one chunk of bread each night," along with any food he might be able to scavenge from the trash. Each day, Clary recalls, he and his fellow prisoners would return from hard labor at the war factories, after which they would stand "at attention for three hours to witness the hanging of some poor wretch who maybe stole a piece of garbage."

With memories like these, one wonders why Clary would sign up for Hogan's Heroes, even if it is just a job. To the critics who ream the show for being in bad taste, Clary reminds them that Hogan takes place not in a concentration camp, but in a POW camp, "and that's a world of difference. You never heard of a prisoner of war being gassed or hanged. Whereas we were not even human beings." In fact, of the 12 people in Clary's family who'd been sent to camps, including his parents, "I was the only one to come back alive." And yet, he says, "I don't live in the past. I didn't suffer as much as a lot of people."

After the war, his remarkable journey took him back to France as an entertainer, and then to America following his hit single, "Put Your Shoes On, Lucy." He became a favorite in supper clubs, added acting to his resume, and now, at 40, lives in Los Angeles where he is happily married to Natalie, the daughter of the entertainer Eddie Cantor. Yes, life has been very bad to Robert Clary. Life has also been very good to Robert Clary. And though he will never forget the bad times, he chooses always to remember the good times.

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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..

Sullivan: The rock 'n' rolling Dave Clark Five; singers Barbara McNair and Bobby Vinton; Metropolitan Opera tenor Franco Corelli; comics Henny Youngman, Nancy Walker and Charles Nelson Reilly; dancer-chorergrapher Peter Gennaro; and Burger's animal act.

Palace: Host Vincent Edwards introduces dancer-singer Juliet Prowse, pianist Peter Nero, the comedy duo of Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, comic Norm Crosby, the rock 'n' rolling Standells, the acrobatic Ghezzi brothers, and Otto and Anna, balancing act.

It's not that the Palace lineup is bad this week; it's just kind of thin. As a singer, Vince Edwards makes a good doctor; if he's your headliner, you're in a spot of trouble - particularly if you're going up against Sullivan's trio of Barbara McNair, Bobby Vinton, and Franco Corelli. Rowan and Martin are good, as is Norm Crosby (if you're in the right mood), but again I don't think they're any better than Henny Youngman (at his best), Nancy Walker and Charles Nelson Reilly. Overall, this week has to go to Sullivan in a clear decision.

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Throughout the 60s and early 70s, TV Guide's reviews were written by the witty and acerbic Cleveland Amory. Whenever we get the chance, we'll look at Cleve's latest take on the series of the era. 

I've read this week's review of The Monkees twice now, and I'm still not quite sure what Cleveland Amory thinks of them. My wife thinks he doesn't think much of them. And indeed, he spends almost half of his column talking not about The Monkees, but their predecessors, The Beatles. His story about how The Beatles begat The Monkees is very funny - funnier, one thinks, than he thinks The Monkees is. I think, that is.

If pressed, though, I'd say that Amory views The Monkees as harmless, if a bit stupid. "The episodes are so fast-paced that even when they're over-milking the kind of comedy you outgrew in kindergarten, by the time you get mad with them they're on to something else." As for their music, which makes up a good portion of each episode, "once you've heard them sing 'Last Train to Clarksville,' with those beautiful lyrics - both of them - if you're a girl you'll just have to mother them, and if you're a boy. . .well, lots of luck."

Looking at it from today's perspective, I think he undersells the pre-Fab Four a bit; when Davy Jones died a few years ago, there was an outpouring of sadness and affection that very few celebrities from that era get if they haven't made some kind of impact on their audience. Their comedy was silly, in a subversive kind of way, and their songs hold up about as well today as they did then. No, although I was never a big fan of The Monkees, I think Cleve's being a little harsh. If we were to bring this show back today (updated, of course), on, say, Fox or the CW, viewers would probably see it as something new and fresh. Or maybe not. The point is, 50 years to the day from when this review was written, we're still talking about The Monkees, and that ain't bad; not bad at all.

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I might as well tell you now that Monday's TV listings are going to be from Thanksgiving Day, so we won't be discussing the holiday as much as we might, but there are still some things we won't want to miss. For instance, on ABC Saturday night Lawrence Welk and his Champagne Music Makers gear us up for Thanksgiving, with songs such as "Thank the Lord for This Thanksgiving Day," "Faith of Our Fathers," and "Bless This House." Monday night Perry Como hosts a pre-Thanksgiving edition of the Kraft Music Hall on NBC, with special guests Angela Lansbury and Bob Newhart. The Young Americans are also guests, but I think we'll just pass by them. It's worth noting, though, that it's not often that you find a show 50 years old where all the guest stars are still alive!

On Wednesday it's the return of CBS's Young People's Concert with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic. It's a good time to have this, on the night before a holiday. I watched these faithfully when I was young; part of Bernstein's genius is that they remain interesting today, no matter what your age. There's a lot to be said about Bernstein, from his flamboyance to his unorthodox lifestyle, and you can argue over whether or not he was overrated as a composer or a conductor, but he was a brilliant teacher, and I think that is the area in which history will adjudge him to have been at his best. For those who argue about the lack of music teaching in schools today, and if that's the reason classical music seems to be dying out, I have one suggestion: buy the boxed set of these shows on DVD, and show them to your classrooms. I can promise kids will learn a lot more than they're learning now, and at a fraction of the cost. Here's part one of the program; you can follow the links to parts two, three and four.

Thanksgiving also marks the beginning of the end of the college football season, and Saturday's doubleheader is a doozy, beginning with the Game of the Century: Notre Dame vs. Michigan State, to decide the #1 team in the country. I wrote about that game here, so I won't repeat myself other than to note that it begins at noon CT on ABC; nowadays a game like this would almost certainly be played in prime time. Of course, it was a little hard to do that in East Lansing in 1966, seeing as how the stadium didn't have lights. For viewers who had anything left after that draining epic, the second game, at 3:00 p.m., isn't bad either: USC vs. UCLA, with the Rose Bowl birth possibly at stake. I say possibly because even though UCLA wins, USC still goes to Pasadena. Explaining the politics of that decision would require a whole other story, probably at a whole other blog. Let's put it this way, though - neither game's a turkey.

And on the day after Thanksgiving, ABC continues its tradition of entertaining the kiddies with a day of Saturday cartoons - or maybe it's just starting it; I don't know, it always seemed to be on when I was growing up, and it was one of the highlights of the day after, along with looking through the Sears and Penney's toy catalogs. The Cartoon Festival runs from 10:00 a.m. to 3:30 p.m., and includes the animated Beatles, Bugs Bunny, Milton the Monster, Beany and Cecil, Magilla Gorilla, and Hoppity Hooper. Yes, those were the days.

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How about some industry speculation, via The Doan Report? NBC is apparently talking with Jerry Lewis about a variety show similar to that of his old partner, Dean Martin. This despite Jerry's spectacular flame-out with his big-bucks, two-hour series that flopped in 1963, making way for The Hollywood Palace. The show does indeed come off in 1967, but it only runs for two seasons. Still, better than the before.

That made-for-TV movie with Raymond Burr - you know, the one about the police detective who gets shot and goes sleuthing in a wheelchair - could well develop into a regular series; it's one of three pilots that Universal is making for NBC, and the speculation is right on - Ironside, like Jerry Lewis, will premiere in 1967, but it has a very successful eight season run, making Burr one of the few stars to have two long-running hits.

Two shows that won't be doing so well are the subject of speculation as to who stole from who. On January 9, CBS will premiere Mr. Terrific, a comedy about an ordinary man who becomes a superhero when he swallows a special pill. That will be immediately followed on NBC by Captain Nice, a comedy about an ordinary man who becomes a superhero when he swallows a special potion. One has a pill, the other a potion - obviously, not the same plots at all.

And then there's Charlie Chaplin, the silent film legend who's making noises about wanting to give television a shot - not in the form of a series, but some kind of special. The networks are a little uneasy, though; although Chaplin is a controversial figure for his liberal politics, which have resulted in his self-imposed exile from America, the nets are more concerned that any appearance might be construed as a plug for the upcoming A Countess From Hong Kong, which Chaplin directed and which stars Sophia Loren and Marlon Brando. It was a bomb in this country, but did moderately well in Europe. I don't think Chaplin ever did do that special, although I could be wrong; he finally returns to America in 1972 to accept an honorary Oscar. The protests that some expected never materialized.

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Finally, Thanksgiving has always been the start of the holiday season - or at least it was back then; today, it's probably Labor Day - and in case we need any reminders, we have two. The first is this ad for M&M's party cookies, because we know the party season is just around the corner!

That looks awfully good to me. And this does, as well - an ad for an Aurora slot-car racing set. I had one of these when I was a kid - a couple to be precise, one in this HO scale, and an earlier one in 1/32. Come to think of it, I might have gotten that 1/32 set for Christmas in 1966.

You'll only see an ad like that in TV Guide around this time of year. I still look on eBay for sets like this though, even though we have no place in the apartment to put it and I have no youngster to race against. Perhaps it means I'm still just a kid at heart - and maybe that's why this is such a special time of the year. It's all fun from here on it! TV  


  1. You gotta give ''the pre-fab five'' credit, while AFAIK, they never wrote any of their songs (and it was famously noted that in the first season couldn't play any instrument) they could at least sing them - without studio trickery (which really didn't exist then) or, ugh, Autotune.
    Today's pop idols (which Disney seems to churn out regularly) are often caught not even lip-syncing their tunes when *ahem* ''performing'' them ''live'' as the main attraction.
    You think for example, Miley Cyrus will be remembered for any of ''her'' songs? I doubt it, her antics maybe, but not (allegedly her) singing.

  2. BTW, as far as slot car sets such as shown above?
    Good luck with that, and prepare to pay dearly to find one like that in intact and operable (or even restorable) condition. They were often poorly made and at the hands of (often frustrated) kids they typically didn't last very long.

    1. Yeah, I imagine I created the flying car long before James Bond did. My old Eldon set still worked pretty well the last time I had it out, but nowadays (even if I could afford it), it's pretty hard to find room in an apartment to set the big ones up.

    2. My family's first race set was a 1/32 Strombecker track. I think one of the cars was the storied #66 Chapparal racer. Slot racing was big in the 60s, there was one race on I've Got A Secret and another one on The Ed Sullivan Show. Me and my brother eventually got an Aurora A/FX HO set in the early 70s.

  3. And Robert Clary is also still with us 50 years later, at age 90. He remained married to Natalie until she passed away in 1997.

  4. I may have mentioned this before ...

    Cleveland Amory hated it when strangers would call him 'Cleve'.
    His preferred nickname was 'Clip'; it dated back to his schooldays.

    - On Sunday night, right after Ed Sullivan, CBS's short-lived Garry Moore comeback dropped its usual format to present an abridged version of the Broadway musical "High Button Shoes", also featuring Maureen O'Hara, Carol Lawrence, and Jack Cassidy.
    And after that, Andy Williams on NBC had Lena Horne, Jonathan Winters, Joey Heatherton, and the Osmonds.
    To my mind, either or both of these easily lapped Sullivan and the Palace.

    - As I recall, Charlie Chaplin was the kind of left-winger who would have taken offense at being called a "liberal".
    In his view, the "liberals" of that time didn't go far enough in the cause of social justice than he thought they could.
    That situation pretty much holds today - on both ends of the political spectrum.
    FarLeftists are contemptuous of more centrist "liberals".
    FarRightists are equally disdainful of more moderate "conservatives".
    Each extreme feels that the regulars don't go far enough for The Cause, no matter which Cause it may be.
    And that's the main reason that politics has become so toxic ... never more than in the past year.
    ... but that's another story ...

  5. Just to respond to the first comment regarding The Monkees and songwriting - while they were supplied with outstanding pop tunes from the likes of Neil Diamond and Goffin/King early on, they did write several terrific songs as well. Mike Nesmith was the most prolific - you may remember "Mary, Mary" and "The Girl That I Knew Somewhere," and he also penned several terrific early country/rock tracks for the band. Micky wrote "Randy Scouse Git" which went to #1 in England, and Peter wrote "For Pete's Sake," which played over the closing credits of the series.

  6. As the 60s progressed most of the three networks (were there any others?) recognized that kids were home that Friday after Thanksgiving and ran abbreviated runs of their current Saturday morning fair.

    To show you childhood memory ( and how it stays with you for life) I remember the commercials for NBC, featuring a singing turkey (of course) singing;

    "Oh the day after turkey day on NBC there's gonna be a cartoon jubilee.
    Three full hours of fun, you see, the day after Turkey Day on NBC. "

    This from a gal who can never remember her email password.


  7. You ought to make that M&M Party Cookie ad a bit larger!!! It's still well worth making!!!

  8. Captain Nice was a funny sitcom. Mr.Terrific,not so much.

  9. I notice cartoon Paul McCartney has a hand over his head like on the Sgt. pepper cover


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!