August 26, 2017

This week in TV Guide: August 29, 1964

Open a page at random, come up with an idea. In this case, the issue opens to Friday night, where WLYH, Channel 15 (Lancaster, PA) has a double feature that only Mystery Science Theater 3000 could love - "Attack of the 50-Foot Woman" at 11:30 p.m., in which "a former mental patient witnesses the landing of a spaceship," followed by "The Devil Commands," a Boris Karloff flick in which he plays a scientist "who tries to communicate with the dead through a brainwave machine."

Say what you like, but the continuing existence of shows like MST3K and Svengoolie points out that horror movies, especially with local hosts, have been a part of television since virtually the very beginning. One of the reasons why SCTV's Count Floyd was so funny was that almost everyone of a certain age knew of a local host with whom they could identify. It was unusual to find a horror flick on during a weekday afternoon; their largest audience was in school, for one thing, which meant that if you did find one, it was probably something like "Abbott & Costello Meet Frankenstein." But while the late show was the province of serious movies during the week (Thursday's feature, for instance, is Preston Sturges's "Sullivan's Travels"), the weekend is where the horror movie truly shone. And while none of them measure up to that Friday double-feature, there's still a lot to enjoy on Saturday and Sunday. (WFBG, Channel 10 in Altoona, has "Dead Man's Eyes" early Saturday morning, in which Lon Chaney Jr. plays a blind artist "accused of murdering his benefactor for the man's eyes.")

On Saturday, always a good night for these kinds of things, WFIL, Channel 6 in Philadelphia, kicks of their 11:00 p.m. double-feature with "Creature from the Haunted Sea" (directed by Roger Corman, no less!), in which "A 'mythical' monster turns up to cause some problems for a band of loyalists during  a Central American revolution." (Disappointingly, the second movie is far more conventional - "Blackwell's Island," with John Garfield and Victor Jory.) A quarter of an hour later, Channel 10 offers up "Terror in the Haunted House*," in which "Philip Tierney takes his new bride Sheila to an old mansion, and the place terrifies her." On Sunday night, Channel 12, WNBF in Binghamton, NY, comes up with "The Beast with Five Fingers," where "A semi-invalid concert pianist is murdered by his severed hand seems to live on - seeking revenge." (Of course it does.) This stars Robert "My son was on M*A*S*H" Alda and Peter Lorre.

*I like its original title even better: "My World Dies Screaming." 

What about you? Do you have any local horror movie memories you'd like to share?

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I was actually a little disappointed there weren't more of these movies on this week, especially on Saturday afternoon (although Channel 15's 12:45 p.m. movie is "To Be Announced," so there's always hope). One reason for the paucity of chills may be the abundance of sports .

For the first time since 1950, the Philadelphia Phillies are in the thick of the pennant race, and for these Philadelphia-area stations, that's the main story. At 1:30 p.m., the local channels cover the Phillies game against Pittsburgh. The Phils will win that game, 10-8 and go up by six games in the National League, a lead they will more-or-less maintain until September 21, when they begin their monumental 10-game losing streak that knocks them into a season-ending second-place tie. The Phils' history in microcosm. Later in the afternoon, CBS's Game of the Week has the Dodgers and Cardinals - the Cards wind up winning that wild National League race - and NBC's version has the Giants and Braves.

There's more Philly sports at 2:00 p.m., when the Eagles play the New York Giants in an exhibition game from New Jersey, long before the Giants make that state their home. On ABC's Wide World of Sports, it's same-day coverage of the Little League World Series, from nearby Williamsport, PA, won by a team from Staten Island, NY. There's also horse racing from Saratoga; the third round of the Carling World Golf Championship from Oakland Hills, just outside Detroit; and, in prime time on ABC, the U.S. Olympic Trials in swimming, yachting and fencing.

Speaking of the Olympics, it's only three years (give or take a month) until the next Summer Games in Tokyo. The Games were also held there in 1964, one of the landmark Olympics; taking place less than 20 years after the end of World War II, it was also the first to be televised internationally via satellite rather than by having tapes flown around the world as had been the case been in 1960. You may recall that last year, NBC took more than a little flack for the amount of tape-delay programming they provided from Rio; apparently, back in '64, the trend was the opposite, as NBC's VP of Sports, Carl Lindermann, has announced the network will televise the opening ceremonies live on October 10, from 1:00 to 3:00 a.m. ET. Not only that, they'll "make the telecast available to other networks and stations." It's ironic that in the year when the Syncon III satellite makes such live broadcasting possible, this will be about the only opportunity NBC has to take advantage of it, due to the time difference.

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If it's an Olympic year, that means it's also an election year, and the presidential campaigns are starting to ramp up. According to "For the Record," Republican National Chairman (and future FCC Chairman) Dean Burch says the party's planning to spend somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million on behalf of the Goldwater-Miller ticket during the campaign. (By contrast, it's estimated that in 2012, the GOP candidate, Mitt Romney, spent over $87 million on TV ads, although most of that came from outside groups; the party itself only spent about $2.3 million.)

They'll need that advertising in order to make a dent in the huge lead held by President Johnson; by a vote of 44 to 41, the Democratic-controlled Senate tables a bill to suspend the equal-time provisions of the Federal Communications Act as was done in 1960. Without that suspension, networks will be forced to offer equal time to "all other White House aspirants" as well as LBJ and AuH2O. It's not a surprise that the Democrats are sidetracking any possible debates; it's common action for front-runners, and would be until the presidential debate format was revived and formalized in 1976. What, after all, does the candidate in the lead have to gain? Nixon will do the same thing in 1968 and 1972.

Burch is a busy man this week. He's also filed a protest with the Fair Campaign Practices Committee about the infamous “Daisy” political commercial on behalf of President Johnson. Says Burch, “This horror-type commercial is designed to arouse basic emotions and has no place in this campaign.” he said. The Democratic National Committee says it's not sure if the ait wasn’t sure whether the ad would be aired again - and why should they? With just that one showing, it's already become the most famous political commercial in history, and the free publicity it garners just from people talking about it is, as they say, something that money can't buy. In the end, the commercial never is run again. I wrote about it here, and you can see it there if you want; compared to what goes on the political airwaves nowadays, it's actually pretty tame.

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From the men who brought you Rocky and Bullwinkle - Jay Ward and Bill Scott - it's The Nuthouse, presented at 10:00 p.m. Tuesday night on CBS. I thought the title of this show rang a bell, and a quick check with my copy of Keith Scott's The Moose That Roared, the terrific book about Jay Ward, confirms my suspicion.

Not to be confused with their 1963 TV comedy pilot of the same name, this featured older clips like a "Fractured Fairy Tale,' a piece from Watts Gnu, some "Flicker Songs," and some hilarious animated blackouts directed by Bill Hurtz and Jim Hiltz. (Originally made by Ward as a demo reel, the blackouts were picked up for CBS's The Garry Moore Show.) Scott used The Nuthouse excerpt reel at the various nationwide and Canadian college lectures at which he spoke.

Sounds delightful. Here's a clip from one of the show's bits.

I wonder if the audience knew what to make of this? It strikes me that had this been offered a few years later, after shows like Laugh-In had changed the television landscape, it might have had a better chance of sticking.

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Our fashion-show this week comes to us from Carol Lynley, about whom we read earlier this month. In addition to her burgeoning movie work, she's a regular fixture on television nowadays. None of this is mentioned in the following article, of course, but we do get plenty of information on what she's wearing.

Next year, she'd do another photo shoot for a different magazine, for which the emphasis is not on what she's wearing, but what she's not wearing. But, as I always say, that's another story for another day.

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Finally, you can learn a lot about what's going on by reading Letters to the Editor. The headline for the letter by Bonnie Karg, of Oakland, NJ, reads "A Girl Who Likes Dylan." In another year, you'd assume she was writing about this Dylan, but in 1964 she was referring to the other one - Dylan Thomas, the poet.* She's writing about yet another snarky Richard Gehman profile, this one on comedienne Peggy Cass. Says Bonnie, "A girl who likes Dylan Thomas poetry can't be all bad."

*One could call the first Dylan a poet as well. I might not, but others could.

Elinor Gatz of Shreve, Ohio, has the New Christy Minstrals on her mind. They're a popular group of the time, frequent guests on television shows throughout the '60s, but Elinor wants to talk about the original Christy Minstrals, founded in the 1840s. Specifically, Elinor takes exception to the description of the Christy Minstrals as "singers of 'Darkie songs'," and points out the group was instrumental in introducing the songs of Stephen Foster, including "Old Folks at Home." Those songs are a part of our American heritage, even if today's generations have no idea.

And then there's Dan Brockma of Maitland, FL, who provides the answer to the question everyone asks regarding NBC's Bonanza: "I don't see Bonanza's Adam, Hoss and Little Joe are ever going to find three nice girls if they don't change clothes sometime." I don't know how we could find a better exit line than that. TV  


  1. Had to chuckle at the leather helmet in the football ad. Those disappeared right after WWII. I can understand why the ad was rather generic however, the NFL had not quite come into it's own at that point, which really didn't happen until the merger was finalized* in 1970. Plus there were six preseason games at the time, and many were even less interesting than preseason games now.
    *The AFL-NFL merger actually occurred in 1966 with the advent of Super Bowl I and (more importantly) the unified college draft which ended bidding wars over players.

  2. Great article Mitchell. I just wish you'd mention the cover story, with an at times feisty exchange between William Schallert and Jean Byron of "Patty Duke" fame. Schallert was an idealist who believed theater was the only true acting, while Byron saw acting as just another job. (BTW, how did someone as stunning as Byron just have one very brief marriage?)

    1. Yeah, you're right. I've usually got a good reason for what I use and don't, but I don't have a good reason for missing that one. My only defense, which is no defense at all, is that this issue was a loaner which I did about ten months ago, and I probably didn't spend as much time on it as I would have liked. Now that you mention it, I'm not sure I even read that article, which is really my loss!

    2. Oh I totally understand. I take 1-1/2 hour trips to check out old TV Guides at a local library--and the second I leave, I'm thinking of issues I should have looked at or copied. I can't imagine how many regrets I'd have if I relied on loaner copies.

  3. You always seem to miss the good stuff ...

    I'd have thought that the picture feature about John McGiver and his family would have been right up your alley.

    In re The Nuthouse:

    You really ought to go back and reread your older posts every so often.
    This at least the second time (possibly the third, not counting a comment from me) that The Nuthouse has come up on this blog.
    I also have Keith Scott's book, which I went back and checked - and not "a quick check" either.
    The Nuthouse that aired on September 1, 1964, was in fact the pilot that had sat on CBS's shelf for nearly a year before this throwaway airing just before the start of the new season.
    The pullquote paragraph that you used refers to a clip reel that SKip Craig (of Jay Ward's staff) took on a college tour ten years afterward.
    It's on page 301 of Keith Scott's book; the detailed coverage of the Nuthouse pilot is on pages 214 to 218 (in case you want to do another "quick check").
    By the bye, The Nuthouse can be found on a DVD from Alpha Video, as part of a collection called Rare TV Pilots - worth the effort to get (and the other three items are interesting in their own right).

    1. True - as above, I did miss the ball on the Shallert-Byron article. Ah, when you're living on borrowed TV Guides, what can you do. And I like John McGiver; I thought he was terrific in The Manchurian Candidate; one of the really difficult scenes to watch in that movie is when Raymond shoots him through the milk carton. However, as I've said in the past, this is done from my POV, and you'll find out what that is next year when The Electronic Mirror comes out. In fact, I amrereading all the essays too, or at least a couple hundred of them, as the backbone for the fifteen or so essays that make up the book. You'll just have to wait until then to find out what it's all about.

  4. Glad to see that WNBF Channel 12 in Binghamton, NY also gets picked up in the PA edition. In Central NY, we could get Ch. 12 by me, at age 11, flexing my muscles and using the 16" pipe wrench to turn the antenna to the southeast. WNBF, however, did not have a "Count Floyd" personality like Channel 9 (ABC, WNYS) in Syracuse. Baron Damone was definitely a "Count Floyd" prototype and he always hyped the "scariness" of horrible B- movies during commercial breaks when he would ask his "bloody buddies" if they had had their recommended servings of dairy that day....the Baron was, of course, the "human interest" reporter for the station and hawked for a local dairy during the week....Alas, no Dr Tongue and Bruno feature films back then...This was 5 years before "Midnight Cowboy."

  5. Some of us refer to Robert "I created the role of Sky Masterson in GUYS & DOLLS" Alda.
    Ward's blackouts and proto-music videos were part of Moore's short lived series return in 1966. And Muriel Landers made several appearance in the first half-season of LAUGH-IN.
    I thought the "Daisy" ad ran on October 7th, so why is it being mentioned here?

    I think I can top your exit line...a young boy living in Tokyo (with his family) had to be relocated, as their residence was torn down to build facilities for the 1964 Olympics Games. A half century later, that now middle aged man is going through the same thing--his place is being replaced by infrastructure needed for the 2020 Games.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!