November 4, 2017

This week in TV Guide: November 1, 1969

If I've said it once, I've said it a hundred times, and I'll say it here again: "Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose" - the more things change, the more they stay the same. Case in point: this week's cover star, Lloyd Haynes. star of ABC's successful new series Room 222.

Since Haynes plays a history teacher on television, it's natural that he has some ideas of his own about history, and some of it doesn't sound all that different from what one might read today. For example, he calls George Washington a bigot (where have I heard that before?), and is frustrated by the lack of visibility when it comes to the role of blacks in American history. South Bend, Indiana, his home town, was run by the Ku Klux Klan and the Mafia when he was growing up.

He hit his stride during a stint in the Marines, which funded his education at City College and San Jose State, and then it was on to Heater-Quigley, where we worked his way up from office boy to production assistant, with the goal of eventually breaking into acting. After a series of successful guest spots in various series, he now has one of his own, and he's making the most of it.

And now, for some of you youngsters out there, if you ever want to understand what the 1960s were really like, I'm about to tell you. You see, Lloyd Haynes is "an enthusiastic aficionado of marathon encounter groups where people try to allieviate their Uptightness [sic] by spending several sleepless days and nights together screaming, touching, huging, nestling in 'human sandwiches,' and pouring out their most intimate feelings in continuous emotional and physical involvement." Not surprisingly, Haynes thinks "they're a gas," although they would be more likely to give me gas.

Haynes goes on to recount the time he was the only black in an encounter group. "A lady looked over at me and said, 'I hate you.' I asked why and she said, 'Because you're black.' She lived at Newport Beach or somewhere like that, you know, lily white. She figured if she could attack me, it would keep the others from finding out what was really wrong with her."

I mean, I don't want to insult any of you out there who may have taken part in groups like this (they're still out there, you know), but I don't see how anyone can read what I've just written without breaking out into hysterical laughter. It's just so, so.  (If you ever want to see a great parody of these new age group therapy sessions, check out Semi-Tough, the movie based on Dan Jenkins' wonderful novel.  I'd like to think we've come a long way from that white woman from Newport Beach, though I know we haven't come far enough. I'd also like to think we've come a long way from those ridiculous encounter sessions; I know that isn't true, either.

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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: Ed's guests: Pearl Bailey, Petula Clark, comic impressionist David Frye, country singer Buck Owens, the country-rock sound of The Band, comic Rodney Dangerfield and the Feux Follets, French-Canadian follk dancers.

Palace: Host Sammy Davis Jr. headlines a lively hour with Mama Cass Elliot, jazz great Lionel Hampton, pal Peter Lawford, singer Dana Valary, actor-singer Rosey Grier and the Dells, classical-soul quintet.

It's a big week on TV for Sammy Davis Jr., as we'll see later on, and he's one of the main reasons I'm giving this week to the Palace. Ed may have more stars - Pearl Bailey, Petula Clark, David Frye, Rodney Dangerfield - but the stars on Palace are more to my liking. Sammy and Lionel Hampton are a great combo, Sammy and Peter Lawford make up almost half of the Rat Pack, and Cass Elliot away from The Mamas and the Papas (so I don't like them; sue me) is better. I'm not a fan of The Band, which takes points away from Ed. It's close enough to call it a split decision, but Palace takes it.

Here's Lionel Hampton and Sammy - five minutes that clinch Palace's victory.

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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. 

Cleveland Amory likes Marcus Welby, M.D. I say that because he spends the entire first paragraph explaining to us what a General Practitioner is, as well as something called a "house call." Certainly it helps, for you whipperstappers out there who don't remember these things, but it also takes up a full 25% of the column, leaving that much less room for him to launch one of his attacks

Which is a good thing, because Cleveland doesn't really have anything bad to say about this show. Both Robert Young, as the good Dr. Welby, and James Brolin, as his young assistant Dr. Kiley, are "very good," and the guest on the initial episode, Susan Clark, playing a young schoolteacher who's going to die, was "magnificent." It was, Amory writes, "the finest first episode of a show we have ever seen." Various scenes are played out with a delicate mixture of humor and drama, particularly in a scene where she tries to explain her impending death to her schoolchildren, and in another when Welby gives Kiley a lesson in bedside manner: "For most of us, death comes alone, in a hospital, in the middle of the night. There may be a nurse but it very much depends on whether she has compassion or whether even she is there. Miss Adams is alone - in the middle of the night."

The second episode, in which Welby is persistent in his attempts to breakthrough to an autistic boy, was, says Amory, "almost equally good." And at the end of this review, Amory engages in what I think is a rare moment of self-reflection, a nod to the style for which he is so well-known. He refers to an exchange between Kiley and Welby, when the young doctor, in exasperation, says to Welby, "Who are you? Sigmund Freud or Annie Sullivan?" Replies Welby, "You're too old for whimsey and too young for sarcasm." And, concluding this unusually straightforward review, Amory notes, "For a show as good as this one, aren't we all?"

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I mentioned earlier that this is a big week for Sammy Davis Jr. While he's hosting The Hollywood Palace with his old friend Peter Lawford on ABC, he's appearing with Lawford and their old friend Frank Sinatra in Sergeants 3, NBC's Saturday night movie. Then, on Tuesday, Davis stars in the made-for-TV suspense thriller The Pigeon (7:30 p.m, ABC), in which he plays a private detective trying to protect a young woman who doesn't want protecting. He's joined by a very good cast - Ricardo Montalban, Dorothy Malone, and Pat Boone in his TV dramatic debut.

Speaking of Sammy's Rat Pack friends, Sinatra is on CBS Wednesday night (8:00 p.m.) in his fifth television special, a one-man show in which Frank belts out some of his biggest hits, including "All the Way," "The Tender Trap," "My Way," "Fly Me to the Moon," "Please Be Kind," and "My Kind of Town." Responding to the changing times, he also takes a crack at more contemporary tunes such as "Little Green Apples," "A Man Alone," and "Goin' Out of My Head." With, I might add, slightly less success.

Frank's back on Thursday night, starring with Dean Martin in the western 4 For Texas (8:00 p.m.) with Anita Ekberg and Ursula Andress making up the four.* Charles Bronson is there as well, and Arthur Godfrey and the Three Stooges appear in cameos. The last half of 4 For Texas overlaps with Dean's own show on NBC, with another terrific lineup of stars: Bing Crosby, Eva Gabor, Jack Gilford and Dom DeLuise. ABC, not to be left out, has This is Tom Jones at 8:00 p.m., with Connie Stevens, Matt Munro, the Moody Blues, and Shecky Greene, followed at 9:00 by It Takes a Thief, with Fred Astaire guesting as Robert Wagner's father.

*Along with Frank and Dean, of course. What did you think I meant?

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Not so fast, my friend! The Doan Report takes a look at the early ratings race, now that we've had a couple of months to digest the new shows. The most successful among the rookies are Marcus Welby, M.D., The Jim Nabors Hour, Room 222, and The Bill Cosby Show, and old favorites like Bonanza, Gunsmoke, The Jackie Glason Show, Mayberry, R.F.D., The Glen Campbell Goodtime Show, and Family Affair are, in the report's words, "looking strong."

On the other hand, there are those that aren't looking so hot, and most of them won't surprise you, primarily because unless you frequent Television Obscurities you might not have heard of them. ABC's experiment with 45-minute programming, The Music Scene and The New People, are said to be in "deep trouble," along with Mr. Deeds and Jimmy Durante Presents the Lennon Sisters. You might be surprised to see The Brady Bunch on the list of endangered shows, though; after a slow start, the sitcom manages to "hang on" for five seasons, plus countless spin-offs and an enduring place in the hearts of many television fans to this day. Mission: Impossible, too, is said to be in trouble, and while there's little doubt that the series isn't the same without Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, it will continue until 1973. Not every series is so lucky, though; I Dream of Jeannie, one of NBC's "worries," will go off at the end of this season, as will newcomer Bracken's World and The Leslie Uggams Show, and The Ed Sullivan Show will continue for just one more season.

Of course, as one series leaves the air, another is set to take its place. With an eye toward some of its weak links, ABC is said to be lining up variety shows for Johnny Cash, Engelbert Humperdinck, and Pat Paulson. (Dick Cavett is also said to be on this list, but he unexpectedly winds up in Joey Bishop's timeslot after the latter quits his show.) They're also rumored to be preparing a version of The Odd Couple, with Tony Randall and Jack Klugman. CBS's summer hit Hee Haw is being primed for a return, and NBC's working on a hour-long show for Flip Wilson. Surprisingly, all of these make it on the air (with varying degrees of success, it should be added); however, there's no record of an Arte Johnson show ever hiting the small screen, and a pop show version of Harper Valley, PTA does make it - in 1980.

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On Monday night at 8:30 p.m, President Nixon is scheduled to address the nation on Vietnam, and this presents an unusual challenge to the networks, since the speech comes smack-dab in the middle of the evening's entertainment. CBS lucks out; they have a block of half-hour sitcoms from 7:30 to 9:00, and so The Doris Day Show gets an unexpected night off. It's not so easy for NBC and ABC, however: NBC's movie Frankie and Johnny (starring President Nixon's friend Elvis) starts at 8:00 and gets a half-hour before being interrupted for the speech, before resuming at 9:00 (time approximate). ABC's solution is even more interesting: the hour-long Love, American Style, which also begins at 8:00, is interrupted not only for the president's speech, but for ABC News analysis at 9:00, with Love, American Style returning at 9:30. Kind of ingenious, actually - it's made up of three separate stories, so they might be able to split the show in two without cutting into any of the stories.

ABC has some pretty adult movies on this week, beginning on Sunday night with The Carpetbaggers (8:00 p.m.), based on the Harold Robbins novel of the same name, starring George Peppard and Carroll Baker. Judith Crist says that, by "today's smut standards," it's pretty tame stuff, and adds that "Carroll Baker, as always exuding about as much sex appeal as a whole-wheat uffin, doesn't even get to strip!" Then on Wednesday, it's A Man and a Woman, Claude Lelouch's French art-house movie from 1966. It's a "mature" love story, one that Crist says is so lovely to look at that it "almost manages to obscure the vapidity of performance and superficiality of the content."

Also on Wednesday (10:00 p.m.), NET presents "The Heartmakers," a Science Special that looks at the development of the artificial heart, including interviews with two of the most important heart surgeons of the day, Drs. Denton Cooley and Michael DeBakey. And on Thursday, for us early risers, Today has an interview with the three Apollo 11 astronauts, returning from their world tour; that evening, Bob Hope is back in a 90 minute special that's a change of pace - it's "Roberta," the 1933 musical comedy that made Hope a Broadway star. John Davidson, Janis Page, and Michele Lee costar with Hope. The moon must have been the only place that Hope didn't travel to entertain Americans in uniform.

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Edith Efron is back this week with the fourth in a series of articles on the relationship between television and children, this one asking the simple question: "What is TV doing to them?" Unfortunately, for such a simple question, there's no simple answer; instead, what Efron mostly gets is a series of contradictions.

For example, everyone agrees that parents could use some guidance in helping them determine what their children watch. The PTA has such an advisory group; so does the National Association for Better Broadcasting, a television watchdog. The two groups agree on virtually nothing; while the NABB says that Heckle and Jeckle is "a cartoon series of excellent quality," the PTA calls it "just a heap of rubbish." Likewise, NAAB says that American Bandstand "lacks grace and gaiety," while according to the PTA, it has "gentle manners, good taste and friendly gaiety."

Likewise the American Council for Better Broadcasts has formed its own advisory group of critics to provide aid and comfort for parents; their recomendations are similarly contradictory. Their opinions on Gunsmoke run from "Too gory and violent" to "Suitable for family viewing," and when it comes to Lost in Space, it's either "Marked by violence, greed, selfishness, trickery and disregard for accepted values" or "imaginative, with good moral concepts." Thanks a whole hell of a lot, right?

Efron asks several pointed questions about the relationship between children and TV: What picture of Man is TV teaching our children? What picture of personal relationships is TV teaching our children? Moral conflicts? Sociopolitical problems? In almost every case, these and other questions can be answered "Take your choice." Writes Efron, "[C]ritics dedicated to child welfare are in belligerant disaccord about whether or not any given show is Ethical, True or Beautiful." Furthermore, "The quarrels range through every kind of programming that children see - everything except late-night fare." They can't even agree on the problems, so is it any surprise that they can't agree on the solutions?" Should television be realistic or soothing? Is a specific drama educational or pathological? It all depends on who you ask.

At the risk of engaging in amateur psychology, I think the rise of this question - which, in one form or another, has been around since the beginning of television - can be related directly to the state of the family in the changing times of the '60s. Increasingly, television is looked upon as a babysitter, and teens are becoming more autonomous in their viewing selections. Parents are less available to directly oversee the programs that their young children watch, and the generation gap makes it less likely that teens and their parents are even in the same room, let alone watching the same programs. (Ed Sullivan discovered this to his dismay; by introducing rock acts to the show, he actually highlighted the gap and wound up undermining the homogeneity of his audience.) Experts debated the effect of shows like Howdy Doody on children, but it's likely the discusion took place in an environment much changed by 1969.

And so, in the end, it's appropriate that we end this week the way we started. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose. Or, if you prefer, sic semper erat, et sic semper erit: "Thus has it always been, thus it shall ever be." If we've anything at all from the last six years of TV Guide, it's been that. TV  

1 comment:

  1. HARPER VALLEY (P.T.A.) came to TV in the wake of the success NBC had with the broadcast debut of the film adaptation in February 1980--it was the #1 watched program of the week, handily beating its competition...the U.S./U.S.S.R. "Miracle on Ice" Olympic hockey game (to be fair, it was a tape delay, and the results were already known). And another connection to this week's issue...Sherwood Schwarz was in charge of the series.


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