May 17, 2017

I'll take "Potpourri" for $1,000, Alex

Not a lot to talk about today, which means it's time to empty out the drawer of half-thought out ideas, and see if we can come up with enough to fill up the page. Ready?

  • Once again, a big thank you to those who wished me a Happy Birthday last week. It was happy, and your many wishes were part of what made it so.
  • A thoughtful gift card also helped make the day happy, and because of that I've been able to make considerable inroads into the TV Guide stash. While I'm already filling in spots for 2018 (!), I still have three openings for this year, so if any of you have TV Guides from your area for the periods around July 29, August 12, or September 23 that have something interesting in them, or that you'd just like to share temporarily, just let me know via email, or by commenting here. As always, I promise to treat your issue like my own (you need only ask my wife to find out how fanatical I am about that); I'll write it up as soon as I get it (posting it at the appropriate time) and mail it right back. You can always check the complete list of dates on the "This Week in TV Guide" page to see if it's one that hasn't been done before.
  • Speaking of which, this Saturday's issue features an article by the famed psychiatrist Dr. Karl Menninger. Can you imagine today's TV Guide doing that? I mean, they couldn't tell you the difference between Menninger and meningitis, and if you told them the latter was a disease, they'd probably figure it was named after the former. So what is the good doctor writing about? You'll just have to come back on Saturday and find out. (But don't skip Friday!)
  • The increasingly indispensable YouTube channel Fred Flix has a collection of TV news clips from the '60s through the '80s, and in watching them I'm struck by how different news broadcasts are, and how similar the stories are that they're reporting. We still hear about conflicts in the Middle East, conflicts between Republicans and Democrats, crime, the economy; honestly, you'd think nothing had changed at all during that time.

  • What has changed, though, is the way it's reported. There's an emphasis on seriousness and hard news which just doesn't come across nowadays; for example, look at the NBC News Update with Tom Snyder that airs about 90 seconds into the montage. In less than a minute, Snyder is able to get off seven stories, giving you what you need to know in a sentence or two, without smirking, editorializing, or cracking jokes. (And if anyone could smirk, it was Tom Snyder.) Kids, the news used to be like this all the time.

    One thing I found particularly interesting was the way CBS advertised the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite, emphasizing the expertise of the CBS correspondents who back up Cronkite, and ending with the tagline "Cronkite & Co." Remember, at this point Uncle Walter was America's most trusted man, yet the network wants you to know that you can trust those reporters to give you the straight dope as well. Later on, ABC has a commercial which draws attention to their correspondents and bureau chiefs as well. Back before news divisions became profit centers for the networks, those news departments were huge. They were often very good, too.
  • The other night, we watched an episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents called "Cheap is Cheap," starring Dennis Day as a skinflint who decides to murder his wife when she starts spending "too much" money, but is stymied because so many of these murderous options cost money. The producers must have taken a great deal of pleasure in casing Day, who for so many years was one of the supporting players on Jack Benny's radio and television programs. The audience must have enjoyed the irony as well - this time the tables are turned, and it's Dennis who's the cheapskate! A wonderful touch
  • Reader Sheila Terrando has a question about the 1960s-'70s PBS program What's New, which pops up from time to time in the program listings. "It aired at 6:30 PM where I live in Edwardsville, Illinois. What was What's New about? As I remember on a What's New program, there was an episode from the TV program called: The Smithsonian, which I enjoyed very much. Do you have any details on this PBS program?"
  • And finally, a reminder for those of you with Showtime: the revival of Twin Peaks premieres this Sunday evening. I'll be catching it one of these days, but as much as I'd like to see it now, it isn't enough to get me to shell out my hard-earned dollars to subscribe to yet another cable channel I won't watch that much. But if you are watching it, IndieWire tells you why you need to rewatch the (brilliant) pilot beforehand.


  1. And Snyder could crack the jokes - as he demonstrated both on radio and then on TV in the late 80's when he became CBS's answer to Conan O'brian. He hated Dan Ackroyd, due to ''the joke that wouldn't die'', SNL's (mis)treatment of him.
    I wonder when anchors stopped shuffling papers on the desk, by the early 70's teleprompters were in common use first on networks, then by the late 70's, on local stations as well.
    Snyder demonstrated why, when the paperwork actually was something other than a prop, the eyes had to dart down to read.

  2. Noting that Fred Flix's clip collection only went back to the mid-'60s (specifically to the onset of color):

    Back in the very early '60s, I can recall a CBS promo campaign that spotlighted their various correspondents all over the world.
    This would have been 1961-62 or thereabouts.
    The CBS newsmen were mainly the Murrow Boys from the WWII years: Charles Collingwood was the "host" for the spots, which were mini-bios of guys like Alexander Kendrick, Winston Burdett, Richard C. Hottelet, David Schoenbrun, Robert Trout, and several others that I'm sure I'll remember once I hit Publish.
    Around this same time, NBC, which was genning up a fierce rivalry with CBS, started a similar campaign about its own correspondents, who were mainly younger than the Murrow Boys, but with no less shiny credits.
    ABC was very much #3 at this point: just about the only guy they had to promote was their late-night anchor, Bill Shadel, who had a sizable record as a war correspondent at CBS in the '40s (a fact that ABC soft-pedaled in their ads).It was at this point that ABC began raiding the other nets for news talent, starting with getting Howard K. Smith to jump in (I think) '62.
    These promos I've mentioned above are ones I'd really like to see again, Monochrome or not.

    - The casting for the Alfred Hitchcock shows was done mainly by the principal producers (what would today be called showrunners), Joan Harrison and Norman Lloyd.
    In recent times, Norman Lloyd has given many interviews in which he frankly revels in his casting of comedians in offbeat roles; one he singles out is "The Jar", starring Pat Buttram, which apparently was one of Alfred Hitchcock's favorites out of the whole series; I think MeTV has it on later this week.
    If they ever start running the half-hours again, be on the lookout for "The Horseplayer", one of the ones Hitch directed himself.
    It's about a priest in a poor parish who strikes up a "deal" with a railbird to use the church's money for a big bet on a long shot.
    Claude Rains is the priest, and the railbird is Ed Gardner, "Archie" from the old Duffy's Tavern radio show.
    Written by Henry Slesar, and as I said, directed by Alfred Hitchcock; a must-see.

    1. Back from checking:

      MeTV is showing The Alfred Hitchcock Hour: "The Jar" this Friday at midnight CDT (early Saturday if you prefer).
      In the same cast: Slim Pickens, James Best, Billy Barty, George Lindsey, and (in one of her last roles) Jane Darwell from The Grapes Of Wrath.
      Just so you know ...

  3. A friend and I became hooked on the original Twin Peaks back when it came out on ABC. We became faithful viewers of it through the first season-and then in the second season David Lynch had to have that violent murder scene that I still cannot get out of my head. The sheer horror and violence of it caused me and my friend to swear off watching the rest of the show ever. I used to like murder mysteries, watching that one scene on Twin Peaks made me vow never to watch another one, that's how much I disliked it.

    I don't say this to turn people off, just let them know Lynch did a good job of keeping my attention but all it takes is one bad scene to ruin something-at least from my point of view.

    George Everson

  4. I understand that you are going to have TV Guides for 29 July and 12 August. I would like to see those TV Guides from those dates in 1967, in those issues The Smithsonian aired on Sunday nights at 630 PM Eastern/530 PM Central. The broadcast dates are 30 July 1967 and 13 August 1967. Could you possibly tell me what the episodes were?


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!