April 15, 2017

This week in TV Guide: April 15, 1972

There's another moon landing scheduled for this week, and to say something this matter-of-factly a few weeks ago would have been unthinkable. And yet that's what success will do for you. By Apollo 13 the novelty of a manned moon flight was already wearing off, and it was only the life-and-death struggle to get the astronauts back that captured the public's attention. Apollo 14 would have brought people back somewhat, just to see if anything happened this time, but by the time of Apollo 16, it takes a moon buggy to capture people's imagination once again.

The launch of Apollo 16 comes off as scheduled on Sunday, with the first of three moon walks taking place on Thursday. And while that little car might not look like much, it revolutionizes exploration of the moon, dramatically increasing the amount of terrain that astronauts John Young and Charlie Duke will be able to cover. And there will be more television coverage of this trip than ever before, including three prime-time color broadcasts live from the moon - with, NASA says, an improved and "cleaned up" picture. They also promise a better view of the Lunar Module launch from the moon's surface to reunite with Ken Mattingly, orbiting the moon - the camera on Apollo 15 failed to follow the upward flight of the LM, but "a new-type clutch in the camera mounting should fix that." And while the shock absorbers on the buggy aren't good enough to permit live shots while it's moving, it will allow viewers at home to see some truly spectacular shots of the moon's terrain, including Stone and Smoky Mountains and Palmetto crater.

Hard to believe that after this, there's only one more moon flight - December's launch of Apollo 17, the first nighttime launch. And after that - well, there's the joint mission with the Soviets, and then the space shuttle and the international space station, and - that's it. Forty-five years later, and we haven't returned to the moon since.

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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'll be upfront (as I always am with you, dear readers) by admitting that I've never been a fan of David Frost, and so you'll forgive me if I seem to be focusing on only the negative parts of Cleve's review. But then, where is one to go when the very first paragraph notes that Our Favorite Reviewer takes "a rather dim vue of it." When he adds that "it's not all bad, by any means," you know that's damning with faint praise. Part of the problem stems from the talent that Frost has apparently displayed for the deft interview, and Amory feels that he deserves higher standards than what he's been given here. The jokes are old - for example, in discussing the Seven Deadly Sins, Frost refers to "autolatry," defined as "the intemperate worship of one's automobile - and they weren't all that funny to begin with.

Frost has a band of regulars, ala Steve Allen, who join him in each episode, and with the exception of Jack Gilford, who does "long vignettes," the cast "are subjected to one or two skits which are either underwritten or overdirected or both." Of course, that's nothing terribly unusual - Saturday Night Live has been doing the same thing for decades - but that doesn't mean it's very good, either. Even when a bit does succeed at hitting the mark, there seems to be just too much of it, and as we all know too much of anything isn't necessarily a good thing.

Amory also complains that guest stars aren't used to their particular advantage, and that can be fatal - when Sid Caesar is your guest and you're not getting laughs, there's something seriously wrong. This show, which happened to be about politics - every episode tends to have a theme - should have been a barrel of laughs; if you can't find something funny about politics, you might as well just give up. And yet, as Amory notes, he could only think of two funny scenes, and one of those was overcooked. It is too bad, as he notes in conclusion, that the show doesn't come off better. "Can't anybody on this show tell what's funny and what isn't?" he asks plaintively. "And, if he can, why doesn't he tell somebody else?"

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If David Frost had really wanted to do a funny show about politics, he should have turned to David Brinkley. He's no longer anchoring The Huntley-Brinkley Report since Chet Huntley's retirement, but his commentaries on NBC Nightly News allow him a platform from which he can launch his incisive opinions, most of which are quite funny without him even trying. (Frost, take note!)

For example, there's the story of the time he was in West Virginia covering the 1960 Democratic presidential primary, when the longest lines weren't to talk to the candidates, but to get Brinkley's autograph. "It was just . . .embarrassing," Brinkley recalls. "What I think is that you could put a baboon on television every night for 15 years and he'd become some sort of celebrity."

It's that refusal to take himself seriously that's endeared himself to so many. Brinkley considers himself not a celebrity, nor an anchorman, but a newsman - a reporter. And yet, even within that definition, there are limitations. He compares the lot of the journalist to that of a politician. "In the case of the politicians, it's a seeking of approval and a seeking for power. In journalism it may be more of the first and less of the latter, because there's no real power in journalism. People say you have it, but you don't. You may write about them, talk about them, watch them, follow them, chronicle their doings, but they have the power."

It's not all fun and games, being a respected television reporter; as a matter of fact, it isn't much fun at all. "I like what I do, but I don't much like the way I have to do it," he says, lamenting that with the tight, rigid schedule under which they all have to work, TV newsmen often wind up slapping something together, rather than crafting a story that really interests him. He does find, however, encouragement in his frequent trips to speak on college campuses. Whether or not young people are as smart as they think they are, or have all the answers, ("everybody who's 19 years old is wrong about a lot of things, because in most cases he doesn't know what he's talking about"), "they do talk and they do care about it and they think about it and they ask about it and they read about it." Had previous generations done this, he thinks, "this country would be in much better shape now than it is."

Interspersed with glimpses of Brinkley's grueling workday ("At the end of the day I'm like a squeezed lemon."), are more of his pithy comments on the issues of the day. "The Federal Government is marvelously equipped to start things and totally ill-equipped to stop them. It never stops anything. Everything that was started in the '30s to deal with the Depression and unemployment is still thriving and booming. Government as an instrument of social reform is an idea I used to hold but don't much any longer." He's a fervent believer in freedom of the press, reminding one and all that "if people are concerned about dangers to their liberties, they ought to know where these dangers come from, and they do not come from the press." And he is convinced that "power is very much apart from the people. The people in this country have no power."

Lest you get too caught up in this seriousness, though, one more Brinkley anecdote to lighten the mood" "When I was [in the Washington airport] waiting for an airplane, a lady came up to me and said, 'Aren't you Chet Huntley?' And I said, 'Yes.' Actually, that is the polite answer, because first of all, it doesn't make any difference. People confuse us all the time; nothing could be less important, so if I had said, 'No, I'm Brinkley,' then she would have been embarrassed and would have felt it necessary to apologize, which was not necessary, and this would have taken some time and I would have missed my airplane. So I said, 'Yes,' and she said, 'Well, I want to say I think you're pretty good, but I don't know how you put up with that idiot in Washington'."

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Of all the items of interest this week, one stands out from the rest, a momentous change in television. On Wednesday, April 19, Johnny Carson hosts the last regular episode of The Tonight Show from New York; after a few days off, the show will start up again on May 1 from its new home in Hollywood. This is a landmark in more ways than one. It demonstrates, once and for all, that the celebrity balance of power has moved away from New York and the legitimate theater, and to California, the land of movies and television. That might not mean much to those of you who grew up watching Johnny from Hollywood (or Burbank, if you will), but there was something about New York that gave those shows a different feel.

New York was the home of the first late-night show, Broadway Open House, with Jerry Lester. It was the home to Lester's successors in the time slot, Steve Allen and Jack Paar. When Tonight was done live, it could count on stars appearing after they'd finished a Broadway performance. There were comedians who were playing in the Village, or at clubs in other parts of the city. Most celebrities promoting their latest book or movie or television show had to pass through New York at some point in time, and a trip to Tonight was natural. There was a sense of - I don't know, maybe grown-up sophistication - that wasn't particularly apparent in Hollywood. But one has to go where the stars are - Joey Bishop had done his show from there, and Merv Griffin would soon move his as well - and Johnny wanted to make the move, so there.

Of course, with Jimmy Fallon as host The Tonight Show has returned to the city of its birth, and Letterman was always based there. It's a different New York, naturally, a different world in fact. I'm not sure there is any one center of the entertainment world anymore, not when you can make a successful web series or cut an album from your own home, not when travel between the two coasts is much more commonplace. There was a time, though - and that time runs out this week.

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The Doan Report has the scoop on the new television season, as CBS and ABC announce their new fall lineups, to go along with NBC, which made their announcement last month. Anything here we should be concerned with? Well, yes.

On CBS, debuting series include M*A*S*H, "an army hospital comedy with Alan Alda and Wayne Rogers," Cousin Maude, with Bea Arthur in a spin-off from All in the Family, Spencer's Mountain, starring Richard Thomas, and The Bob Newhart Show, with Bob "as a condominium manager, with Suzanne Pleshette as his wife." Obviously, some of these series underwent a bit of fine-tuning between now and the time in September when they go on the air - Spencer's Mountain becomes The Waltons, Maude drops the "Cousin," and Newhart goes from managing a condo to being a psychologist. Still, that's not bad for one season. To make way, the losers include My Three Sons, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, and Arnie.

How does ABC counter this? Start with The Rookies, about "four young, antiviolence policement," Temperature's Rising, which the network tried so hard to make work, The Julie Andrews Show, which should have worked, and Kung Fu and The Streets of San Francisco, which did work. Among the casualties: The Courtship of Eddie's Father, Longstreet, and Bewitched (sorry, Adam-Michael!).

By the way, speaking of Eddie's Father, Brandon Cruz - Eddie - is among the acquaintances waiting to surprise Bill Bixby on This Is Your Life (WJZ, 10:30 p.m. Wednesday). He's joined by Ray Walston (My Favorite Martian), William Windom, and Dinah Shore. I wonder if you could do a show like that nowadays? "Kim Kardashian, this is your life!" I mean, what more is there to show?

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It was called "Ping Pong Diplomacy," the exchange of table tennis players between the United States and Communist China; it helped make possible Nixon's trip to China, and on Saturday it's the feature presentation on ABC's Wide World of Sports (5:00 p.m. ET), as the Chinese team kicks off its 13-city tour of the U.S. It is not, however, the only pivotal moment in sports history that day, as a syndicated lineup of stations presents third-round coverage of the richest tournament in women's professional golf history, the inaugural Dinah Shore Women's Circle Championship, from Palm Springs, California (5:30 p.m.). The winner's share of the purse is $20,000, nothing to sneeze at, but it's Dinah's long-term support of women's golf, starting here, that makes this tournament one of the oldest and most prestigious on the women's tour to this day, even though the late star's name is no longer appended to the tournament.

On Sunday, we get a glimpse at one of the most infamous stars from the Jerry Springer era of television: Maury Povich. Only he's not involved in sleazy, sensationalist chat yet; he's best-known as the son of famed Washington baseball writer Shirley Povich, and at 10:30 p.m. on WTTG, his Sports, People and Povich show takes a look "A Town Without a Team: - the first year without baseball in the nation's capital, now that the Senators have moved to Texas.

One of the biggest music stars of the early '70s, Chuck Mangione, headlines with the Rochester (N.Y.) Philharmonic in a 90 minute special on PBS Monday night (8:00 p.m. ET). He had some really big hits in the day - do that many people remember him today? Meanwhile, Dinah Shore guest stars as herself in Here's Lucy (9:00 p.m., CBS). The redhead, typically, is star-struck to meet her.

On Tuesday, Today (7:00 a.m., NBC) presents a terrific show, with the legendary conductor Leopold Stokowski* interviewed on the occasion of his 90th birthday, after which John Houseman discusses his memoir Run-Through.

*"Leopold!" in the Bugs Bunny cartoon "Long-Haired Hare," and the maestro in the Disney movie Fantasia.

We've already touched on Wednesday a couple of times, so we'll skip to Thursday, where I love this description of tonight's Ironside: " 'Murder Impromptu,' a whodunit about an on-stage stabbing during an improvisational comedy show." I don't ever remember that happening on Who's Line is it, Anyway? - not even the British version. CBS counters this with a CBS Reports look at Chicago Mayor Richard Daley - timely, with a presidential election coming up.

And there's supposed to be some baseball on Friday, but at press time, we're not quite sure. Under the description for the Cleveland - Baltimore game, the notation informs us that "a players' strike threatened cancellation of the game." For those of you who've never known a time when labor unrest was not part of professional sports, you can't appreciate how disturbing this possibility was. The players walked on April 1, and didn't return until April 13, when the union reached agreement with the owners about salary arbitration and increases in the players pension fund. Nearly 90 games were cancelled during the strike, and were never made up - cold comfort to the Boston Red Sox, who will lose the American League East title to the Detroit Tigers by one-half game because the Sox will have one more game cancelled than the Tigers. It's just the way the ball bounces, I guess. TV  


  1. I remember the baseball strike. There was great concern after it that the "great American pastime," might die-out. Americans were already getting tired of the millionaire players getting whatever they wanted. I recall that MLB had to scramble in the 1973-74 season to try to mend fences with the fans who were starting to desert to other sports.

    George Everson

    1. It's remarkable, isn't it? Every time there's a strike in any professional sport, we wonder if the sport can bounce back, and every time, it does (although some take longer than others). But with the NFL's ratings drop this year, and the sense that there's an underlying discontent out there, I wonder - if the NFL, say, went had a work stoppage in the next couple of years, would it bounce back?

  2. Just by sheer luck, I happened to have that Ironside episode on my video wall, in a 5th season DVD set that I had to get from Amazon - it was the Australian set (Region 4). One season later and I'd have been out of luck.
    Anyway, since I don't have this particular Guide, I decided to check this one out.
    Wondering ... does the listing mention the guest stars?
    Two of them in particular?
    One of them in his frequent '70s typecast as a character at least ten years younger than his actual age?
    And the other one - I'll let you spot this out for yourself (I always want to see if you're really reading these ...).

    The Daley interview on CBS is obviously a runup to the Democratic Convention, when the farLeft was laying for the establishment Democrats.
    Wondering here how they're handling this angle, as the farLeft was working to drive everyone who wasn't as Left as they were out of that convention.
    As George McGovern sagely observed after the election: "We threw open the doors of the Democratic Party, and 10,000,000 voters walked out."
    Personally, I marked the start of my general political disillusiomnment from this point - but that's another story ...

    The David Frost Revue - the title you forgot to mention in your review of Amory's Review - was another attempt to duplicate British TV success on this side of the Atlantic.
    The GB original, The Frost Report, was basically an update of the original That Was The Week That Was, with Frost anchoring a group of regulars that included John Cleese, Ronnie Barker, and Ronnie Corbett, all of whom went on to their own shows.
    The NY followup got its cast from Broadway, including Jack Gilford, Marcia Rodd, and George S. Irving (the announcer/narrator of Underdog).
    The "old jokes" that you tag Frost with are really old, in some cases dating back to '60s-vintage TW3 - this was along-standing habit of Frost's, which served him in mild stead on both sides of the ocean.
    The David Frost Revue was one of Group W's offerings for the launch of the Prime-Time Access Rule, which was determined to be a scam to put themselves into the syndication business. As with all the others(I think - correction welcomed), it was gone in a season.

    Finally -

    I seem to recall an occasion when Cleveland Amory was a guest on a talk show - probably Dick Cavett's - when one younger guest kept addressing him as "Cleve".
    Amory, who was a tall, burly, imposing man with a loud honking voice, informed the younger man that he disliked that particular name.
    Younger Guy asked Amory "So what should I call you?"
    And Cleveland Amory answered "Sir."
    So there too.

    1. Just to prove that I do read this: I'm guessing the actor who plays young is Roddy McDowell, and that the other guest is none other than Barbara Hale, aka Della Street. You know, I should have pointed that out, so I'm glad you did. And of course Anne Archer, who's also in that episode, is the daughter of Marjorie Lord, who was Danny Thomas's second wife in Make Room for Daddy, which by that time I think was simply called The Danny Thomas Show. It's a small world, isn't it?

      I didn't know Cleveland Amory was British; from now on I'll remember to refer to him as Sir Cleve... ;)

    2. Nitpick #1:
      It's Roddy McDowall.

      Nitpick #2:
      Cleveland "Clip" Amory was worse than British.
      He was a Bostonian.
      And if you had ever addressed him as 'Cleve', he might have sicced his wolf on you.

  3. Apollo 16 commander John Young was one of the few astronauts who stayed in the space program after walking on the moon.

    He commanded the first space shuttle flight in 1981, and commanded one later shuttle mission.

  4. Despite it's ambitious schedule, Apollo 16 received far less live TV coverage than any earlier Apollo lunar landing mission.

    From Apollo 11 through Apollo 15, the networks all carried each moonwalk from start-to-finish (meaning seven-plus hours of continuous coverage of each moonwalk on each network during Apollo 15).

    But for Apollo 16, each network carried the start and finish of each moonwalk, as well as an hour or two during the middle of each moonwalk when spectacular TV pictures were likely to be transmitted.

    The three Apollo 16 moonwalks were to have been in prime-time on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday nights (after a Thursday-afternoon lunar landing). But problems with the lunar module resulted in the landing being delayed for several hours. The moonwalks were rescheduled to Friday, Saturday, and Sunday mornings.

    NASA finally got a prime-time moonwalk with Apollo 17; however, there was even less live TV coverage (the networks airing coverage at the start and the end of each moonwalk with a few updates between regular programs).

    1. Thank you for posting the actual broadcast details for Apollo 16. Is that documented somewhere? I have been looking for it. Thanks again.

  5. Did Maury Povich end his special on the move of the Washington Senators by telling Senators/Texas Rangers owner Bob Short "You ARE The Father"???

    LOL! :)


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