August 11, 2017

Around the Dial

If you thought that, after last week's massive offering, we weren't going to be able to compete this week, guess again.

I've often thought that in order to have been a successful variety show host, back in the days when the variety show was television royalty, you had to be able to do three things: (1) possess a talent that came across on television, (2) use that talent to attract similar types of talent, and (3) play the foil in comedy skits. This explains, for example, why you never saw The Spalding Gray Comedy Hour on television. Gray was perhaps the most brilliant monologist of his time, and proved himself more than adequate at humor during his turn as the Stage Manager in Our Town, but can you imagine an entire hour of Spuddy Grays talking to each other?* That's one reason why Glen Campbell was so successful. His personality was warm and winning; he was a natural on television, both as a singer and actor; and he had no trouble attracting talent to his Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour. Oh, and by the way he also recorded a ton of hit records. In short, he had all the qualities one needed, and that's why his program was a success from 1968 through 1972. He died this week after fighting a courageous and very public battle against Alzheimers, and the fact everyone knew it was coming didn't diminish the waves of affection that arose in wake of the news. R.I.P.

Jack Seabrook is on to another phase of his Hitchcock project at bare-bones e-zine, this time looking at the writing contributions of the great Charles Beaumont, beginning with the 1960 episode "Backward, Turn Backward" starring Tom Tully, Alan Baxter, and Phyllis Love. Having seen this episode, I agree with Jack's misgivings; nonetheless, even subpar Hitchcock is often far better than nothing.

Speaking of which, Ben Lindbergh's article from The Ringer (more about this next Wednesday) brings up the pluses and minuses of the truncated television season. In a comment last week, RJM linked to this piece that mentions how The Lone Ranger's inaugural season featured a staggering 52 original episodes over the course of 52 weeks! That may have been extraordinary, but it wasn't unusual to have seasons of over 30 episodes per season, and for many years the yearly norm was well over 20 episodes, but that number is now down to, in many cases, about a dozen. It keeps quality high, but do we lose something in the process? Put another way, would we have been satisfied with 12 Hitchcock episodes a year?

I think I've said this before, but if not I'll say it again: Dave Garroway was truly one of the pioneers of television, and he deserves to be much better known than he is. Thankfully, the staff of Garroway at Large are out to rectify that, and this website is not only a primer to the career of one of television's great communicators, it's also the starting point for what hopefully will become a book-length Garroway biography, which is sorely needed and which I will gladly help promote.

Fire-Breathing Dimetrodon Time (that name just slays me) looks at the thirteenth episode of Logan's Run and mentions an interesting sidelight to the heavy played by Gerald McRaney. Tidbits like that pop up all the time.

If I needed information on TV movies, I can't think of anyone I'd turn to first other than Amanda By Night, and her Made For TV Mayhem. This week it's "An Element of Truth," the devious 1995 con-man meets fem fatale movie starring Donna Mills (who else?). I could easily see a shorter, darker version of this on the Hitchcock Hour, in fact, probably with John Williams showing up as the detective at the end.

At TV Party!, where I've been privileged to publish some of my articles in the past, Billy Ingram reminds us that this is the 30th anniversary of that infamous moment in 1987 when a group of television terrorists took over the Chicago airwaves. It's kinda funny, both then and now (it was, as Billy says, "surely the tackiest terror attack of all time"), but he also points out that the culprits were never apprehended...

Finally, I'll mention this again before the event, but the Mid Atlantic Nostalgia Convention is coming up September 14-16 in Hunt Valley, Maryland, outside of Baltimore. I know some of you are likely planning on being there, either as fans or vendors or, perhaps, presenters. I had high hopes of being a presenter this year, but real life intervened once again, and so my plan now is to be presenting on my TV book next year. I will, however, be there as a fan, and if any of you are going to be there as well, I'd love to meet up for an in-person visit! Please let me know either through the comments section or, if you'd prefer, through the email address that you can access on the sidebar. I really do hope to see you there! TV  


  1. I'm sure I'm not alone in doing this, but after hearing of Glen's passing I spent some time on Youtube listening to many of his songs. It brought back memories, during my childhood, of hearing those songs on the radio (the stations my mom listened to) and watching the summer replacement episodes of The Goodtime Hour (which, if memory serves, was the replacement for the Smothers Brothers Show?) R.I.P Mr. Campbell

    Oh, and thanks for the link Mitchell! As an avid TV viewer, past & present, TV shows often pop up i my comics.

  2. Thank you very much for the kind write-up! We sure do appreciate it.

    As an aside, I'll be at the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention for the first couple days (and I'm looking forward to talking with you, Mitchell!), so anyone who would like to meet up with me and talk about Dave Garroway is welcome to drop me a note through the website.

    The photo at the top of this post is evocative for so many reasons, and there's so much to love about it. Especially the man with the guitar. Having lost a family member to Alzheimer's Disease, the day we finally vanquish that cruel thief cannot come soon enough.

    1. And to clarify, by "drop me a note through the website" I mean "drop me a note through the Garroway at Large website." (Oh, the errors you catch right after you publish something!)

  3. RIP to Glen Campbell. I saw a couple episodes of The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour on YouTube the other day. I also read that article about the shortened TV season. I got into an IFC show, Brockmire, about a sportscaster who loses his major-league broadcasting job and was down to a minor-league job with a team that didn't even have its own radio station. The first season of Brockmire (it has been renewed) only lasted 8 episodes. I remember those long seasons from September to May, and then you had summer replacement series like the aforementioned Goodtime Hour.

  4. " ... taking over the Chicago airwaves ... "?
    Maybe two minutes total, on two local stations, in late fringe time?

    Truth is, I never saw this "terrorist attack"; I've never been a fan of Doctor Who, so I wouldn't have seen it anyway.
    I can't even recall that it got that much space in the papers, comes to that.
    If it did, it was probably treated as more of an annoyance than anything else ...

    Are you up for a friendly challenge?
    I'd just like for you to give a half-hour of your time to watch a YouTube video from thirty-five years ago.
    It's an episode from The Edge Of Night; I'm not going to give you the details - it's best if you see it cold. Don't worry if you have a bit of a time sorting out all the characters and incidents (if context is your thing, the episodes from just before and just after are easily accessible at the same site).
    But all that's for later; for now, if you would indulge me ...
    Just go to YouTube and type in 'edge of night october 21 1983'.
    Just watch the episode (Mitchell, this means you too - it's only 22 minutes long), and tell me how you react to what you've seen.
    I'll be waiting ...
    Have fun!


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!