December 31, 2018

What's on TV? Monday, December 30, 1974

Miami must be an interesting place to spend the New Year, if you're into that kind of thing. I can't remember if we've ever traveled there for one of these TV weeks, but here we are now. The next couple of days will be filled with New Year's Eve celebrations, parades and football, so let's take a look at a day uncluttered with such festivities.

December 29, 2018

This week in TV Guide: December 28, 1974

I've talked at length about the awful year 1968, and I suppose that in my lifetime, it ranks with 1963 and 2001 in terms of sheer awfulness, although one could argue that 1968 has the added agony of having been horrible for pretty much the whole year, instead of just a few months.

But 1974 was a pretty bad year too, and we're reminded of that this week, as various news sources take stock of the year in review. It was a year in which impeachment was in the air, when the relationship between president and press was at its most adversarial, there was war in the Middle East, and the inflation rate was more than 11%. By the time it was all over, President Nixon had resigned, President Ford had pardoned him, the Republicans were trounced in the midterm elections, and few were in the mood for the yearlong buildup to 1976's Bicentennial celebration. Oh, and fashions were terrible. As Judith Crist says of a certain movie, "Maybe we do need a Frankenstein to help us see the old year out."

This is no way to start an article, though—I might as well feed everyone Prozac. And that's not even considering how much 1974 resembles 2018. We'll come back to all this shortly; let's celebrate the new year first.

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In 1974, New Year's Eve still meant Guy Lombardo and his Royal Canadians. CBS broadcasts their traditional bash live from the ball room at the Waldorf-Astoria in New York, with singer Helen O'Connell as his special guest. In addition to "Auld Lang Syne," the orchestra plays "Boo-Hoo," "Maple Leaf Rag," "Say, Has Anybody Seen My Sweet Gypsy Rose?" and "I Want to Be Happy." Not exactly a playlist that reflects 1974, although Levine and Brown's "Gypsy Rose" fits in well with the rest of Guy's standards. Helen's offerings are a little more timely, I suppose: "Killing Me Softly with His Song" and "The Way We Were." It's not particularly my kind of must, but you know what? If it were on this year, I'd watch it. Guy can always convince you that the new year will be a better one. I didn't see this year's show on YouTube, but here's a clip from the 1976-77 program, Lombardo's last New Year's Eve before his death that November. Maybe we'll just watch this when midnight rolls around—if we're still awake.

Dick Clark wants to offer an alternative to Guy Lombardo—something more in tune for younger viewers. And so on ABC, beginning at 11:30 p.m. ET (same time as Guy), Wide World Special presents "Chicago's New Year's Rockin' Eve 1975," with guests the Beach Boys, the Doobie Brothers, Olivia Newton-John, and Herbie Hancock, and they're all performing their hits, from "Wishing You Were Here" to "Good Vibrations" to "I Honestly Love You." The show itself isn't live, but there are frequent cutaways to Times Square in New York, where Clark reports as everyone waits for the ball to drop. This is the third year for Clark's Rockin' Eve, and the first to air on ABC rather than NBC. I might be wrong about this, but I think it still took Lombardo's death before Dick & Company take over the ratings lead. Here's a clip from this show.

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If New Year's Eve belongs to the musicians, there's no doubt that the rest of the time is dominated by two things: parades and football.

When I was a kid, the Orange Bowl parade was a big deal. It was held at night, on New Year's Eve, with plenty of lights and color. Being that this week's issue is from Miami, it shouldn't be a surprise that the parade is a big deal, but it's on network TV anyway (NBC, 7:30 p.m.) with Joe Garagiola and Jo Ann Pflug. After 65 years, the parade ended in 2002 due to financial considerations after NBC dropped it in 1997. (The Junior Orange Bowl parade, taped the afternoon of December 28 and shown on New Year's morning on ABC, is still around, though it's held in early December nowadays.)

The Cotton Bowl parade doesn't exist anymore either, and for much the same reason: when the Cotton Bowl game shifted from CBS to NBC in 1992; NBC had no interest in it, and CBS didn't want to show the parade if they weren't showing the game. (A revival only lasted a few years.) But it's around in 1975 (10:30 a.m.), with William Conrad and Sandy Duncan hosting the coverage that serves as a warm-up for the network's coverage of the Tournament of Roses Parade. That's the granddaddy of them all, of course, beginning at 11:30 a.m. on both CBS (Bob Barker, Betty White and Ted Knight) and NBC (Kelly Lange and Michael Landon). This year's theme is "Heritage of America," and fittingly, the Grand Marshal is Henry Aaron, provider of one of 1974's few highlights.

In these pre-ESPN days, there still aren't that many bowl games—eleven, according to the Sports Reference database, of which three have already been played. And in these pre-ESPN days, the majority of non-major games are syndicated, such as Saturday's Peach Bowl between Texas Tech and Vanderbilt. (12:00 noon; Mizlou). Shockingly, I remember this game, which ends in a 6-6 slag. Better would have been CBS's coverage of the Sun Bowl between North Carolina and Mississippi State (1:00 p.m.), won by Mississippi State 26-24. That's part one of a CBS doubleheader that concludes at 4:00 p.m. with the Fiesta Bowls (Oklahoma State 16, BYU 6), while on NBC it's the East-West Shrine Game from Palo Alto; when you've only got eleven bowl games, there are a lot of good players out there from teams that didn't make a bowl—Michigan, for one, even though they finished the season 10-1. That crazy Rose Bowl-only rule that the Big Ten had back then. (By contrast, Oklahoma State finished 6-5.) In other action, ABC carries the Gator Bowl between Texas and Auburn on Monday night, and Nebraska vs. Florida in the Sugar Bowl on New Year's Eve.

Not an endorsement.
New Year's Day itself is a nicely symmetrical day: the Cotton Bowl at 2:00 p.m. on CBS (Penn State 41, Baylor 20), the Rose Bowl at 4:45 p.m. on NBC (a two-point conversion gives USC an 18-17 victory over Ohio State), and the nightcap at 7:45 p.m., also on NBC, pitting Notre Dame against Alabama in a rematch of their memorable 1973 Sugar Bowl (which was actually just 366 days ago), when the Fighting Irish won the national championship 24-23. Alabama enters the game ranked #1, but in Ara Parseghian's final game, Notre Dame is the spoiler, winning 13-11 and giving undefeated Oklahoma (on probation and ineligible for a bowl game) the unofficial national title. What a start to the year and end to the season!

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.Throughout the 60s and early 70s, TV Guide's weekly 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. 

"We had," Cleveland Amory begins, "a terrific idea for a new show. It would be called Edna and the Ethnic, and would star Billy Jack and a little old lady Episcopalian. We had a terrific idea for the setting, too. It would be set in a Rest Home for TV Program Creators—a secondhand home, of course. And where would we schedule our new show? Right after Sanford and Son and Chico and the Man."

He is, of course, reviewing the aforementioned Chico this week, and I think he's tipped his hand in that opening paragraph. But in case you're not quite sure, he goes on to explain how the "creators" have followed Sanford's blueprint, just changing a few things along the way: a broken-down garage instead of a junk shop, a mean and cantankerous white man instead of a mean and cantankerous black man (maybe, Cleve notes, the next show will feature a mean and cantankerous critic), and a long-suffering Mexican-Puerto Rican instead of a long-suffering black son.

However: Jack Albertson is very good as Ed Brown, the mean and cantankerous white man. Freddie Prinze, as Chico, is very likable, "the most infectious newcomer on your screen this year." And Prinze doesn't just say his lines, Amory says, "he plays them." "One minute he's Marlon Brando, the next he's James Cagney. Our favorite routine was when he played a linebacker of the Chicago Meatpackers selling after-shave lotion." Everyone has their routines in this show, such as Scatman Crothers as Louie the Garbageman trying to sell his old car. "The lines were awful. But it didn't matter, because Crothers went into his own routine. The show's plots are just "excuses for vaudeville routines," and the undeniable charm and humor of the show is completely attributable to the cast, which sells it as if there's no tomorrow. Prinze's charisma became even more evident after his tragic suicide, which would pretty much end the show, but all that is in the future. For now, just sit back and enjoy what our critic calls TVaudeville.

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Two of TV's definitive 70s-era rock music shows, NBC's The Midnight Special and ABC's In Concert, faced off on Friday nights.  Midnight Special was a weekly show, airing after Johnny Carson, while In Concert was an every-other week part of Wide World of Entertainment.  Whenever the two slug it out, we'll be there to give you the winner.

In Concert: Soul music is performed by the Isley Brothers, jazz by the Climax Blues Band and pop tunes by Gentle Giant, and the Souther-Hillman-Furray Band. Don E. Branker is host.

Midnight Special: The Guess Who hosts, with Spencer Davis Group, soul-rock from the Average White Band and country-rock by the Charlie Daniels Band.

At least for me, this seems to be a fairly straightforward week. I have a fondness for Charlie Daniels even though it isn't really my kind of music, and although Steve Winwood has long since left Spencer Davis—this is actually a reconstituted group of sorts—they still have a lot of hits. And who can resist the Guess Who singing "Clap for the Wolfman" with Wolfman Jack? We start the new year right with a victory for The Midnight Special.

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Well, we should all be in a good mood now, so we can take that look back at 1974. As Edith Efron reminds us in "News Watch," the battle between president and press did not start with Donald Trump; in fact, the Watergate scandal inaugurated an era of journalistic activism and advocacy that continues unabated to this day.

Efron does not dispute the guilt of former President Nixon, but counters that the press is hardly a knight in shining armor. The first, and most obvious, fault is that of a press double-standard; the most important example is Max Frankel, Sunday editor of the New York Times, who "conceded that the press had not pursued the LBJ-Bobby Baker scandal or the Kennedy-Chappaquiddick scandal with anything like the zeal reserved for the Nixon scandal." Efron notes that efforts by the Times and the Boston Globe to "correct the error" by increasing their scrutiny of Chappaquiddick may well have been the reason why Edward Kennedy withdrew from the 1976 presidential race. Was the press's "double-standard" sheltering Kennedy all this time?

She also points to the obvious hatred which many in the press have for Nixon, looking at Los Angeles Times writer David Shaw's analysis of Watergate coverage. Says Shaw, "It is almost impossible to convey to anyone outside Washington just how deep and intense the press's bitterness toward Mr. Nixon runs—and how pervasively, albeit subconsciously, that bitterness colors some of their perceptions." Shaw adds that "much of the American press—blinded largely by its hostility to Mr. Nixon—did a generally inadequate and sometimes irresponsible job of covering the Ford Administration." Again, did this attempt to "make right" a perceived bias result in more favorable coverage for Ford? It ended, of course, with the pardon; Shaw describes the press reaction as "harsh, subjective and speculative, at times giving the impression that the act was, above all, a personal affront to, and a betrayal of, the press itself."

As I've mentioned in the past, I try to keep politics off the blog, and nobody should intuit that I'm trying to draw a parallel between the press's clash with Nixon and their current battle with Trump. But as Efron says at the beginning of her essay, everybody's sick to death of Watergate. "I don't want to write another word about it." The point is that by the end of 1974, the nation was suffering from Watergate fatigue. It hung over everything, even after Nixon's resignation, and the perception that the country was falling apart—the discovery that the emperor has no clothes—coming as it did on top of Vietnam, left Americans profoundly disillusioned and uncertain about their country, a malaise (to coin a term) that remained until the election of Ronald Reagan in 1980.

And that is the parallel I want to draw, how tired people are about so many things nowadays. Left and right may not agree on much of anything anymore (and that's another change), but one thing I think they do agree on is that we've reached a point of outrage fatigue. (We just disagree over what outrageous us, but that's a point for another day.) This issue should be proof enough that we can't escape real life simply by going back to the past. It does, however, point out one of the most important services television has to offer: that of being, as my friend David Hofstede points out, "comfort food" for the viewer. Certainly Edward R. Murrow was right a couple of weeks ago when he wrote of TV's responsibility to the public; after all, where is The Seven Lively Arts or Omnibus or NBC Opera Theatre of today? But sometimes you just want to get away from it all, for 30 minutes or an hour or two. Let's hope that as 2018 turns over to 2019, we might be able to experience that, even if it's just once in a while. TV  

December 28, 2018

Around the dial

Well, it's the final spin around the dial for 2018, and this seems to be an appropriate time to look at David's latest at Comfort TV, in which he reflects on "things you can only see on classic TV." For example, pay phones and phone boots. It's certainly evocative for me, since I fit into that demographic that remembers when things like this were real. Another example of how the cultural archaeologist has to consider classic TV when trying to understand the past.

Speaking of evocative, at Garroway at Large Jodie shares with us something that Dave Garroway's daughter Paris shared with her: a card that her father liked to send out. So simple and yet, as Jodie says, so appropriate to this time of the year.

The Broadcast Archives at the University of Maryland shows us a title slide that used to be a staple of local stations everywhere: the late show. I suppose in most ways watching movies on television is better now than it was then, with the movies now generally shown uncut and without commercial interruption. And yet there was just something charming about those times, back when late night TV meant more than infomercials and talk show hosts who barely know how to keep up a conversation.

"Maverick Mondays" have returned to The Horn Section, and this week Hal looks at "The Maverick Line," a tale that stars both James Garner and Jack Kelly, and features a typically fanciful story that includes characters such as Atherton Flaygur, Rumsey Plumb and Shotgun Sparks. Ah, as Mason Adams would saywith names like that it has to be good.

I suspect that at least one of you caught part of the A Christmas Story marathons running on TBS and TNT on Christmas, but how many of you are familiar with director Bob Clark's other Christmas movie? At The Last Drive In, read about Black Christmas, a very different Yuletide story.

Winter is the perfect time for the Rock Hudson-helmed flick Avalanche, described by The Official Razzie Movie Guide as one of the "100 Most Enjoyably Bad Movies Ever Made." Find out what makes it bad—and what makes it enjoyable—by reading Rick's review at Classic Film and TV Cafรฉ.

At Television Obscurities, it's your turn to share your memories of color TV. I still remember my first encounter with color television, other than that in the homes of friends. It was in my grandparents' apartment, which was fortunately just downstairs from ours, and I thought it was the coolest thing I'd ever seen, even though it gave me a headache the first time I watched a football game on it. (Vikings vs. Bears at Wrigley Field.) Back then it was great that technology could still surprise and please.

Television's New Frontier: the 1960s turns the spotlight on Leave it to Beaver, the series that—contrary to those who scoff at the world of classic TV—"demonstrated a remarkable true-to-life depiction of children's perspective on growing up," It's never been a favorite of mine, but I've never ridiculed anyone who loves it, nor would I.

Finally, because it's Christmas, I thought I'd include this link from Silver Screen to a 1963 film from British Pathรฉ entitled "Christmas is for All." a look at London's Christmas light displays. Did they do this in the big city when you were growing up? They sure did in Minneapolis, back when I was growing up. They still do it in some of the smaller cities and towns around the country. It still pains me that cities like Minneapolis don't do it anymore. Are they afraid of offending people, or is the budget just not there anymore? Either way, I hate things that change when they don't have to, don't you? TV  

December 26, 2018

Season's Greetings!

From 1966, CBS's famous Christmas interstitials, pen-and-ink drawings designed by R.O. Blechman and animated by Willis Pyle, with musical accompaniment arranged by Arnie Black. I can't think of anything better to share on the day after Christmas.

This is the best-remembered and most-loved:

However, this one is no slouch:

This copy is kind of fuzzy, but you get the idea:

There were four altogether; I haven't been able to locate the fourth, which features reindeer and poinsettias. Fortunately, CBS has updated their iconic bumpers:

No matter how you say it, the important thing is that you say it. After all, this is only the second day of Christmas! TV  

December 24, 2018

What's on TV? Wednesday, December 25, 1957

It's Christmas Day, 1957, and there's plenty of festive programming to help make for a relaxing day. Many of the regularly scheduled serials are being shown; I'd suspect they might be filler episodes in which not much happens (other than cast members celebrating the holiday themselves), so that anyone missing their story today wouldn't find themselves behind on the storyline. Anyway, enjoy; this week's listings are from Cleveland, with Akron, Youngstown, and Erie thrown in as part of the deal.

December 22, 2018

This week in TV Guide: December 21, 1957

Isn't this a great cover? Colorful and joyful and just a bit goofy. That's how Christmas seems when you're a kid, and even though I won't be born for another 2½ years, things won't be a whole lot different then, or for a few years afterward.

As Merrill Panitt notes in this week's editorial, it is a paradox of the human species that peace on earth, good will to men—a sentiment as joyous as any that humans can desire—is, by those same humans, relegated to "one small fraction of the year." And though Christmastime is always welcome, it seems even more welcome in 1957, in a world that is "tense, suspicious, strife-torn"—in other words, a time not unlike our own today.

The way in which man has symbolized this message through the ages, Panitt points out, is through the giving of gifts. And in that spirit he offers the following gifts which TV Guide wishes for all. For the sponsors of today's hits, that gift would be responsibility in the way they recognize their "tremendous influence over the American mind," and patience "to give the aspiring new show an honest chance to find its audience." For producers and writers, it's the courage to put on new, imaginative programming. For inventors and technicians, a thanks for having made the last ten years of entertainment and information possible. And for viewers—the indispensable factor—a lifetime of "peaceful viewing in a peaceful world."

The question is whether or not today's television is capable of fulfilling Panitt's wish. The history of violence on television is no secret, and the programming of 1957 is unremarkable in that respect. But there seems, at least to me, a different kind of violence today; call it psychic, emotional, spiritual, even though there there is seldom anything actually spiritual on television today. The so-called new Golden Age is praised as edgy, gritty, realistic, and to the extent that it reflects today's world, it probably is.* Is it peaceful, though? I know I'm not saying anything I haven't said countless times in the past, but it is the kind of thing one tends to dwell on at this time of the year. It's hard to even imagine someone seeing television as an instrument of peace today, although the programs are there if you look hard enough for them. Indeed, the programs most likely to bring about such peace are the ones that have been most certainly banished from the airwaves. We can't bring them back by living in the past, but by taking an occasional vacation there, we can rediscover the color and joy of this joyful season. Well, what does the song say, just like the ones we used to know? At least when we were kids, right?

*It is, after all, an electronic mirror.

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One of the things I've noticed particularly in this issue, and I don't know if I've mentioned this before, is that the holidays were not always a time for television reruns. It makes some sense; people are travelling and families and friends are getting together, and nowadays television doesn't fit into those plans. And while many series do have holiday episodes, they're usually aired a week or so before the big day, for just that reason.

That's not the case here, however, and TV Guide has three pages documenting the special fare for Christmas. There's a Scrooge-like cattle baron on Have Gun—Will Travel, a boy being reunited with his family at Christmas on Tales of Wells Fargo, a man led away from a life of crime at Christmas on The Lone Ranger, and a rerun of "Angel's Sweater" on Father Knows Best. Perry Como reads the Christmas story to his children on his show, and Christmas carols and songs are on The Gisele MacKenzie Show, Your Hit Parade, Voice of Firestone, Lawrence Welk, and The Pat Boone Show. The Seven Lively Arts presents a performance of "The Nutcracker" with Maria Tallchief, one of the most famous ballet dancers of the time, as the Sugar Plum Fairy;  Dinah Shore's Christmas show (with John Raitt and Esther Williams) is in color; and Bing Crosby is Frank Sinatra's guest on a show that was aired in black-and-white but filmed in color. Virtually every show on Christmas Eve has a Christmas theme; Charles Laughton and the Lennon Sisters are guests on The Eddie Fisher Show, Bob hosts the office party on The Bob Cummings Show, Freddie the Freeloader wants to throw a party for the poor kids on The Red Skelton Show, Eve invites a neighbor to her family's Christmas Eve celebration on The Eve Arden Show, and Telephone Times tells of "how a child's belief in Christmas helps a family escape from Hungary," while Mr. and Mrs. Dave Garroway and their children welcome the television audience to Christmas Eve with the Dave Garroways. On Christmas night itself, "The Other Wise Man" plays on Kraft Television Theatre, the great Marion Anderson sings Christmas music on The Big Record, and Santa is the centerpiece of the party on American Bandstand. Additionally, church services, both local and national, abound on both Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. (More on the Christmas Day programming on Monday.)

Fittingly for the Most Wonderful Time of the Year, it's a wonderful week of programming, and as I say, it evokes a time that simply doesn't exist anymore. It makes it that much harder to believe that you're engaged in a common experience—but then, we've discussed that before, and often.

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As is the wont at this point in TV Guide's history, we have an unbylined article, this one about two young starsone a singer, the other a comedianwho are "betting their futures" on dramatic roles. The show in question is NBC's mystery-drama series A Turn of Fate, in which these two will rotate with the show's other three stars: David Niven, Charles Boyer and Robert Ryan. Pretty heady company, don't you think? Someone must see promise in these youngsters.

The singer is Jane Powell, and while she's no stranger to movies, having danced with Fred Astaire and stared in Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, television is "practically a brand-new venture." She wants to grow and stretch her acting chops, she explains; "In films, you spend so much of your time just sitting around, waiting." Television, on the other hand, forces you to "keep on your toes. The budget won't permit constant retakes," so you'd better not wait for the 50th take to deliver.

The comedian is Jack Lemmon, who's done plenty of TV—Suspense, Studio One, Zane Grey—but to him, all that is "inconsequential." By appearing on a regular series, even if he's not seen every week, "I still can keep myself before the public." In a moment that sounds as if it could have come straight from a Jack Lemmon film, he expresses confidence—"the sponsors are very happy with us"—and then adds, his face showing concern, "I only hope they feel the same way at the end of the year."

In case you're not familiar with A Turn of Fate, it's better-known as Alcoa Theatre, and it appears that the rotating-star format existed only for the 1957-58 season (the series itself aired through the end of 1959). Worry not about the fate of our two young stars, though; Jane Powell remains known mostly for musical comedy, although she's had her share of straight dramatic roles on television. As for Jack Lemmon, he would return to television later in his career, mostly in quality made-for-TV movies. In the meantime, he built up a pretty fair resume in movies, and while he never lost that touch for light comedy, he also proved himself a great dramatic actor, receiving eight Academy Award nominations and winning two. Fittingly, his Oscars were for Mister Roberts, a comedy, and Save the Tiger, a drama. I'd say their gambles paid off.

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Let's face it—when Christmas falls in the middle of the middle of the broadcasting week, that pretty much dictates what kind of content you're going to get. And that's just fine with me; in fact, I could have written a lot more about this week's Christmas programming, but after a while it starts to read more like a catalog or a spreadsheet than an article. It gets a little monotonous to write, and I imagine to read as well. We do have other things to look at, though.

There's a saying in college football that the closer a bowl game is to Christmas, the less prestigious it is. That's certainly the case in 1957, when you've only got seven big-time games, and the earliest (the Gator Bowl) is December 28. Amidst Saturday's college and pro basketball and NHL hockey, though, we do have a game, the Holiday Bowl, to look forward to. It's not the same Holiday Bowl that fans know today; this one is played in St. Petersburg, Florida, rather than San Diego, and instead of college football powerhouses, we have a game between Hillsdale College and Pittsburg State*. Not to ridicule either of them; they're both undefeated, and the winner will be the NAIA (small school) national champion. Pittsburg State wins a thriller, 27-26, and CBS thought the game was important enough to televise, with football icon and longtime announcer Red Grange behind the mic.

*TV Guide spells it "Pittsburgh State," but I've taken the liberty of correcting the spelling.

I'm a bit confused by Sunday's note regarding the NFL, although longtime readers will suggest that my being confused is not unusual. At any rate, if the Western Conference ends in a tie and requires a playoff, CBS will carry this game at 4:00 p.m. ET. If there is no tiebreaker, CBS will instead show a game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Cardinals at 2:00 p.m.. In fact, there is a tiebreaker game, which the Detroit Lions win by beating the San Francisco 49ers 31-27 (imagine the Lions winning a playoff game!), but why would Pittsburgh and Chicago be playing if the season is ostensibly over, since everyone else wrapped up their season last week? In fact, this game appears to have been rescheduled from November 17, when neither team played, but with my limited resources (i.e., someone please gift me a subscription to, I'm not able to confirm why this was the case. Perhaps it was the weather—who knows? What I do know is that I've probably exhausted your interest in this subject.

Intriguing program on Goodyear Theater Monday night (9:30 p.m., NBC). David Niven stars in "The Tinhorn," the story of a man whose wife and children are dead, and now "lives recklessly in the hope that he will be killed." I don't usually think of Niven in a heavy role like this, although I know he's played them. I think of him more as, say, Jack Lemmon—and not coincidentally, Goodyear Theater is the title of A Turn of Fate on the weeks when Goodyear, and not Alcoa, is the sponsor. How about that! At 10:00 p.m. on CBS, Lowell Thomas goes exploring in the "Arctic" on High Adventure. One of his compatriots, 82-year-old Rear Admiral Donald MacMillan, was a member of Admiral Peary's expedition to the North Pole in 1909. He also fought in World War II and died in 1970 at the age of 95, which must say something about this kind of lifestyle.

Science fiction fans will recognize William Russell as Ian Chesterton, the schoolteacher who was part of the first group of companions to travel through time and space in Doctor Who, but before that he was the legendary Sir Lancelot, and on Tuesday (5:00 p.m., ABC) he gets enmeshed in a royal family dispute, proving that there's nothing new in Game of Thrones. Wednesday, Mike Connors stars in an episode of The Walter Winchell File (9:30 p.m., ABC), as a businessman who meets his old high school flame, thinking that she's "still the same sweet girl he once knew." I don't need to tell you how that's going to turn out. Nor do I need to go into detail about Jackie Cooper's mistake on The People's Choice (Thursday 9:00 p.m., NBC): "Sock receives a phone call from an old girl friend of his who wants to buy a house from him. He decides not to tell Mandy about the call, much less the proposed meeting." Gentlemen, take it from someone who's been married for 26 happy years: this is something that you never, ever do. It will not end well. Especially if you're a character in a TV series, when you're apt to either witness a murder or wind up meeting your wife's best friend. Finally, on Friday, Jerry Lewis is "between the holidays" on his color special (8:00 p.m., NBC), with a stellar guest cast including Sammy Davis Jr., Count Basie, Ronnie Deauville, and Hope Emerson.

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There's also an article this week about John Crosby, one of the foremost television critics of the time, who's now practicing what he preaches as host of CBS's Sunday show The Seven Lively Arts. Crosby once wrote of television sitcoms that "There has been a whole raft of situation comedies on TV and it is one of the unpleasant duties of this line of work that you have to look at them," an opinion that I think holds true for the most part to this day. It's a fascinating show'; one episode entitled "The Sound of Jazz" features Billie Holliday, Count Basie, Pee Wee Russell and Coleman Hawkins, and on Sunday of this week it had that adaptation of "The Nutcracker." Which leads me to ask: why is it that with all the stations to choose from, there's apparently no room for a show like this, not even on PBS? I wish this wasn't a rhetorical question, but by this time I know better.

If you're performing your internet due diligence, you should be back here on Monday to take a look at the week's "What's on TV?" but in the event you're too caught up in the Yule, let me take the chance to wish each and every one of you a very Merry Christmas, and we'll catch up before the end of the year! TV  

December 21, 2018

Around the dial

Well, we're just four days from Christmas, so here's an early Christmas present: this week's look around the dial.

I've always appreciated the concept of Robert Lansing's spy series The Man Who Never Was; because it's premise is bound in the question of identity, it makes a small appearance in my novel The Car. As Rick points out in his article at Classic Film and TV Cafรฉ, precious little of the one-season series is out there, and that's too bad, because Lansing is very good in almost everything he's in, and Dana Wynter isn't bad either. But unless it makes a miraculous appearance on DVD, we'll have to be content with the bit of it on YouTube.

"Out There—Darkness" is a fourth-season episode of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and the subject of Jack's latest at bare-bones e-zine. I'm in this season of Hitchcock right now myself (although we're off for the all-Christmas TV show break), so because I didn't recognize the title right away I wondered if I'd seen it yet. As it turns out, I have seen it, and Jack's writeup certainly does it justice. But then, that's always the case with his pieces.

At Garroway at Large, Jodie tells of the time Dave Garroway played Santa, in NBC's adaptation of the Victor Herbert operetta "Babes in Toyland," also starring Wally Cox, Jack E. Leonard, Dennis Day, and the Baird Marionettes. So successful was it that it was shown, live, twice—in 1954 and 1955. Thankfully, both versions are available on DVD.

Television Obscurities looks back at "Man on a Mountaintop," a 1961 episode of The United States Steel Hour, one of the great (and last) anthologies of the Golden Age. "Man on a Mountaintop" stars future Oscar winner Cliff Robertson and Salome Jens, and can be seen on UCLA's Film and TV Archive at YouTube.

I've come to appreciate A Shroud of Thoughts as a go-to site for thoughtful obituaries; thus, I wasn't at all surprised to find one this week on the late, great Penny Marshall. Ah, the end of another era, isn't it?

And that's all I have time for today, but I do promise there will be more tomorrow. TV  

December 17, 2018

What's on TV: Sunday, December 17, 1961

Well, it occurs to me that we haven't looked at a Sunday listing lately, and I couldn't find the last time we'd done one from the 1961-62 season, so here we are. This is a genuine Twin Cities issue, without the outstate stations; you also won't see anything from KTCA, the educational channel, since back then Channel 2 didn't broadcast over the weekend. We certainly aren't lacking in programs of interest, though.

December 15, 2018

This week in TV Guide: December 16, 1961

This week's cover story is on Richard Chamberlain, star of NBC's new hit medical drama Dr. Kildare, based on the long-running movie and radio series. The emphasis of the unbylined article is that Chamberlain is not only down-to-earth, he's more interested in becoming a true actor than cashing in on a pretty face. In fact, watching co-star Massey recently, he was heard to comment, "How I wish I had his face!" (As you can tell from Massey's photo on the cover, a face like that—full of integrity and gravitas—will keep an actor in business for a long time, as indeed it does for Massey.)

His co-stars love working with him; Suzanne Pleshette says he's not impressed with himself, that he "listens instead of just worrying about which is his good side." Anne Francis adds that "He has dignity and a sense of integrity, both as an actor and as a person." And producer Herbert Hirschman says that his secret is a simple one: "He has not only the talent but the willingness to learn how to develop it."

Chamberlain doesn't feel like a star; part of it, he thinks, is because he plays a doctor. "I mean, I'm not a rock 'n' roll singer or a private eye or anything like that." He appreciates his success, but doesn't want to be stereotyped by Kildare; two or three years, fine, but "they pick up a new face in this business, use it, wear it out in a hurry and discard it." Besides acting, he's also studying music, and his teacher says he is "completely dedicated to making himself as good as he can be, considering the equipment he has been given." It's those qualities that have kept Richard Chamberlain in the business for a long time as well.

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Christmas is next week, and the festive programming is starting to ramp up. There's nothing on Saturday, but it gets a second chance next week; I suspect they're saving up the special shows for then. However, on Sunday, WTCN presents Great Music, with Morton Gould and the Chicago Symphony performing a special Christmas program that includes some of Gould's own compositions. (6:30 p.m.) Later (10:00 p.m.), on WTCN's Select Theater, it's the Bing Crosby classic Going My Way, which we always watch at Christmastime; on KMSP at 10:30 p.m. it's Come to the Stable, with Loretta Young and Celeste Holm.

KTCA, the educational station, features the Patrick Henry High School string orchestra in a program of orchestral carols on Monday at 7:00 p.m. Meanwhile, at 7:30 p.m. on CBS's Window on Main Street, Robert Young's character Cam Brooks reflects on the last Christmas he shared with his wife before her death, and is cheered up by the Ludwig, the hotel janitor.

On Tuesday, Red Skelton presents his now-famous "Freddie and the Yuletide Doll" (8:00 p.m., CBS), an all-pantomime show in which Freddie the Freeloader dances with a rag doll that turns into comedienne Cara Williams. If I'm not mistaken (and if I am, I know someone will point it out for me), this episode was reshot in color when the Skelton show went that route. Garry Moore (9:00 p.m., CBS) has his Christmas show tonight as well, with Julie Andrews and Gwen Verdon joining Garry, Durward Kirby, and Carol Burnett for the fun. KTCA has more Christmas music at 5:30 p.m., with the Roosevelt High School choir presenting a concert, and both Bachelor Father (7:00 p.m., ABC) and Dobie Gillis (7:30 p.m., CBS) have Yuletide-themed stories.

Wednesday Steve Allen throws a holiday bash at his home along with his wife Jayne Meadows, Steve's four sons, and guests including Louis Nye, the Smothers Brothers, Buck Henry, Tim Conway (going by Tom back then), and more. It's a quirky show, with a very funny scene in which Steve plays Santa Claus for the cast's children, and you can see it all here.*

*Did you know that "We Wish You the Merriest," the Christmas song that runs over the closing credits, was written in 1961 by Les Brown, the show's bandleader? I wonder how many people would have heard it prior to this show? (And since the show only ran one season, I wonder how many heard it on the show?)

At 7:30 p.m. on NBC, it's the much-loved Project 20 special "The Coming of Christ," in which Alexander Scourby reads passages from the Bible (with that wonderful voice of his) while photographs show Christ's coming as depicted by the great painters of the 15th to 17th Centuries. This special was first seen last year, and was run by NBC for several years thereafter. I have never found a video copy of the show (if indeed one still exists), but you can listen to the soundtrack here. And then Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall follows at 8:00 p.m. on NBC, with a Christmas show that features Tom Tichenor and his Puppets, along with "14 teen-age pianists and seven pianos," plus Perry reading the story of the Nativity to the children of the production staff. And we wouldn't want to overlook the Father Knows Best Christmas show (7:00 p.m., CBS).

Thursday's regular programs air their last episodes before Christmas: for example, on Ozzie and Harriet (6:30 p.m., ABC) Rick and his friend Wally both have Christmas jobs on their minds as they contemplate the same beautiful girl, while Richard Chamberlain and Raymond Massey, our cover stars this week, deal with a Santa who's overindulged (Dan O'Herlihy) on Dr Kildare (7:30 p.m., NBC) and Hazel goes Christmas shopping and runs into a shoplifter (8:30 p.m., NBC). At 9:00 p.m., it's the Christmas episode of Sing Along with Mitch (NBC), as Diana Trask, Leslie Uggams, and the Singalongers give us a Christmas show.

Friday leads off with an intriguing Rawhide (6:30 p.m., CBS), in which Mushy (James Murdock) fears he's suffering from a mirage in the August sun when he sees Santa (Ed Wynn, right) coming toward him with his bag of toys. If you want something more musical, KTCA's Songs of Christmas has the Southwest High School choir. (7:00 p.m.) If you want something with a little bit of an edge, try 77 Sunset Strip (8:00 p.m., ABC), as Jeff (Roger Smith) investigates "Bullets for Santa." At 8:30 p.m. on NBC, it's one of those wonderful live Christmas specials on The Bell Telephone Hour, hosted by Jane Wyatt, with John Raitt, Jane Morgan, the Lennon Sisters, Lisa Della Casa, Violette Verdy, and Edward Villella. Jane, like Perry Como earlier, reads the story of the Nativity (you won't see that on network TV anymore), and also reads the famous "Letter to Virginia" that answers the question of whether there's really a Santa Claus. NBC follows that at 9:30 p.m. with Frank McGee's news program Here and Now, featuring renderings of the first Christmas by Sunday School students at St. George's Episcopal Church in New York City, plus Frank reading from the Gospels of St. Luke and St. Matthew.

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The Christmas season also brings us the college football bowl season. For most of the 2018 college football season, two of the teams in perennial contention for ESPN's "Bottom 10" have been Rice and Kansas. Such was not always the case, however, as we see on Saturday as the two face-off in the Bluebonnet Bowl (12:45 p.m., CBS), conveniently played at Rice Stadium in Houston. It's the second bowl game of the day; the Liberty Bowl, matching Syracuse and Miami, kicks off in Philadelphia at noon (NBC). Over the course of 57 years, things change; the Bluebonnet Bowl no longer exists (although there is a bowl game in Houston, imaginatively called the Texas Bowl); the Liberty Bowl would only be played for one more year in Philly, before moving to Atlantic City for a season and then settling down permanently in Memphis; and of course we have Rice and Kansas. With one week to go in the 2018 regular season, the two schools have combined for a total of four victories and 18 defeats, and Kansas has three of those wins. Ah well, things can't stay the same forever.

It's also the last week of the regular season for pro football, and while ABC carries the American Football League, there's no uniform contract for the NFL; instead, CBS and NBC have contracts with individual teams to broadcast their games. Therefore, on Saturday at 3:30 p.m., CBS has the Baltimore Colts taking on the 49ers in San Francisco, and follows it on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. as the Minnesota Vikings travel to Chicago to play the Bears, while NBC counters that at the same time with the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and St. Louis football Cardinals. In the meantime, ABC's AFL game is between the New York Titans and the Dallas Texans—or, as we'd say today, the New York Jets and the Kansas City Chiefs. It's on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

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I mentioned The Bell Telephone Hour in the Christmas section, and that just happens to be the subject of Gilbert Seldes' review this week. This is the second time this year he's written about the program; back in the spring it was a "rave notice," but this week he takes a look specifically at a mid-November episode entitled "The Music of Richard Rodgers," which he says reaches "an absolute peak of excellence." And in referring to the overall history of the show, he echos what I've always felt about Telephone Hour's Christmas show when he writes that "Everything contributes to your pleasure int he music, nothing draws attention to itself. Not only the singers and dancers and musicians, but the sets and the lights and the superb color are dedicated to the same purpose." I think that's what I like most about the Christmas show—that everything fits together and provides a perfect viewing experience. See for yourself with this compilation show.

I also mentioned 77 Sunset Strip earlier, and there's a charming article about the charming Jacqueline Beer, who plays the charming Suzanne, phone operator and occasional operative for the firm of Bailey and Spencer, private detectives. (They're charming too, by the way.) The article calls her the "silent partner"of the show, and there's a good reason why. Zee woman, she ees French, and hair aczent ees, how you sayh, diffecult for zee audience to undahrstand, s'il vous plaรฎt? She's a former Miss France in the Miss Universe pageant, a natural blonde despite her black hair on the show; one of the non-Strip highlights (or lowlights) of her life occurred just as she and her husband, Jean Garcia-Roady, were about to appear on the program Do You Trust Your Wife, when Jean was arrested by the FBI for embezzling $8,200 while a teller at Bank of America. (Two years of the three-year sentence were suspended if he repaid the money.) I guess there was a trust question there. Later, she'll marry adventurer Thor Heyerdahl. She's still alive today at 86, and is Chair of the Thor Heyerdahl Institute. Presumably she has someone else to answer the phone.

There's also an article about Robert Taylor, the movie star turned television star, currently in charge on NBC's series Robert Taylor's Detectives. Moving from the life of "one of the great matinee idols of all time" to a routine, gritty police series, will probably make him a millionaire (he has half ownership of the show), but it wasn't just the money that caused him to turn to the small screen. It had been a while since he'd had a hit movie and, he comments, "nobody wants me." He viewed a move to TV as "the next logical step." It's refreshing, considering the many profiles we see in TV Guide over the years, to run across someone as normal as Taylor; says a friend, "all these years, under all that Hollywood glamor, he's been been nursing a chronic inferiority complex." Gary Cooper and Clark Gable were big stars, but he was just Robert Taylor "He could always see why Mickey Rooney was so popular, but his own popularity was a mystery to him." Concludes his friend, "He's always acted like the only man in the world who never heard of Robert Taylor."

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In news and rumors, For the Record reports that network bosses, not surprisingly, were unimpressed with Newton Minow's recent "Vast Wasteland" speech; Frank Stanton at CBS says it's "sensationalized and oversimplified" and a "gross distortion," while NBC's Robert Sarnoff worries about government control and describes Minow's criticism as "a dangerous, mistaken and illiberal doctrine."

And finally, there are some tidbits in the TV Teletype that I thought were worth looking at. ABC's Target: The Corruptors! looks at one of the biggest corruptors of them all, Communist China. "Jack Klugman stars in a story about how the Red Chinese smuggle narcotics into this country to undermine our society." Notice that us of "our" society again. The nighttime version of Password moves to Tuesday nights, with Garry Moore and Carol Burnett as the first contestants; that means Dick Van Dyke moves to Wednesdays, and Mrs. G. Goes to College to Thursdays, where it takes over for Investigators, along with a new Groucho Marx show. Last but not least, the aforementioned Steve Allen, whose ABC series is in ratings trouble, is being mentioned as a possible replacement for Jack Paar when the latter signs off from Tonight. "Also mentioned for the job are Johnny Carson and Bob Newhart." Hmm, Newhart would have been interesting, don't you think? Would have been a shame to lose Bob and Emily, though. TV  

December 14, 2018

Around the dial

It's the last edition of "Around the Dial" before Christmas, so let's see what kind of shiny things might be under our classic TV Christmas tree!

It's Volume 1, Number 11 of The Twilight Zone Magazine on tap this week at Twilight Zone Vortex, and among the features, Gahan Wilson reviews John Waters' Polyester, Tom Seligson interviews Wes Craven, and it's Part Eleven of Marc Scott Zicree's essential TZ episode guide.

In a related development, David has another installment of "The Unshakeables" at Comfort TV: this one is Rod Serling's seminal 1955 teleplay Patterns, as presented on Kraft Television Theatre. So large was the impact of this live broadcast that it was restaged again a month later—remember, this was the era of live TV.

Speaking of sci-fi: proof that truth can be, if not stranger, at least more fantastic than fiction, is shown at The Federalist, where Howard Chang and Jordan Lorence look back at the Christmas Eve, 1968, broadcast of Apollo 8, and how it was a "Christmas miracle for a weary world."

At Bob Crane: Life & Legacy, Carol recalls the wonderfully surrealistic Hollywood Palace Christmas show of 1965 in which the entire cast of Hogan's Heroes, in character, appear as guests with their "boss," host Bing Crosby, whose production company was responsible for Hogan. Yours truly is quoted in a very nice article.

Martin Grams reviews Side by Side: Dean Martin & Jerry Lewis on TV and Radio, a new book by Michael Hayde, that takes a look at a part of the duo's legacy that isn't often discussed: their work on radio. I have Hayde's very good book on Dragnet; this one should be equally interesting.

At Television Obscurities, Robert answers a reader's question about the 1973-74 program The Burt Reynolds Late Show, which aired in place of the Saturday Tonight Show reruns in the days before Saturday Night Live took over the timeslot. Talk about obscure; I have no memory of this, although seeing as how this was during my exile in The World's Worst Town™, we would have gotten a local movie in that timeslot instead. But I'm in a good mood now, so don't get me started with those memories!

Finally, a blog note: we're now on Twitter, so be sure and follow us here; as I continue to build up the feed, look for exclusives you won't see here, as well as links to more classic TV goodies.  TV  

December 12, 2018

The untold stories of history, as seen on TV

There's a scene in the classic Yuletide movie The Bishop's Wife—the original version, with Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven—in which Grant's character, an angel, explains to a history professor (Monty Wolley) the significance of a seemingly unimportant old coin. It's a coin that Julius Caesar minted to honor Cleopatra, Grant says, and Caesar's jealous wife ordered all copies of the coin destroyed; this particular coin is the only one that survived. Grant point to the professor (and I'm paraphrasing here) is that these untold stories are what make up history, and he's right. The headlines may tell us what happened, but oftentimes it's these little moments that make history real, that bring it to life.

Case in point is this video from the Archive of American Television, a product of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, and let me take a moment here to put in a plug for the Archive's YouTube channel, which is a veritable oral history of television. Click on one of these videos, and I can almost guarantee that two hours later you'll still be pursuing a thread of interviews, each one more interesting than you could possibly have imagined, valuable not only to a humble television historian such as yours truly, but to anyone interested in television of any era.

What we have here is a segment from a longer interview with Max Schindler, veteran news director at NBC. He's talking about his role in the coverage of John F. Kennedy's assassination and funeral, and in just a little over eight minutes he provides several such moments of untold history, none more fascinating than his final anecdote, one dealing with the arrival of Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base, carrying the late President Kennedy and the very-much alive President Lyndon Johnson. Listen to the story of Johnson's departure from the plane to face the cameras for the first time as president.*

*Here is a link to the scene that Schindler describes. 

It's that untold story, told to Schindler by LBJ, that you won't read in most history books. And yet, as Jim Lehrer says in another of the Academy's interviews, everyone has stories like this; and it is these stories, taken together, that form the mosaic that is history. It lives, it breathes, it jumps off the page and the screen. It becomes the story of us, the story of humanity—and that is how history lives forever. TV  

December 10, 2018

What's on TV? Tuesday, December 16, 1958

We're 10 days out from Christmas, and we do have a couple of seasonal shows on tap tonight; Songs of Christmas on KTCA at 6:00 p.m. (I wonder if high school choirs are even allowed to sing sacred carols anymore?), and The Christmas Gift at 9:00 p.m. on WCCO. Never fear, though; there's plenty more to watch. In case you hadn't guessed, we're in Minnesota this week.

December 8, 2018

This week in TV Guide: December 13, 1958

The greatest newsman of the time, Edward R. Murrow, has an article this week about "How TV Can Help Us Survive." If you've read The Electronic Mirror, you know that I have a section in which various public figures discuss television's role in shaping American culture and strengthening the public good, and Murrow's article, adapted from a speech he gave to the Radio-Television News Directors Association, belongs squarely in that category. Murrow starts out with a  provocative comment regarding radio and television: "I am seized with an abiding fear regarding what these two instruments are doing to our society, our culture and our heritage." His comments strike precisely at what I've been saying and writing all these years, about television's role as a time capsule preserving a historical record.

Our history will be what we make it. And if there are any historians about 50 or 100 years from now, and there should be preserved the kinescopes for one week of all three networks, they will there find recorded in black and white, or color, evidence of decadence, escapism and insulation from the realities of the world in which we live.

Here Murrow, as have many before and after him, is attacking the relentless drone of entertainment at the expense of education and information. "If this state of affairs continues, we may alter an advertising slogan to read: 'Look Now, Pay Later.' For surely we shall pay for using this most powerful instrument of communication to insulate the citizenry from the hard and demanding realities which must be faced if we are to survive." And he means that literally.

Murrow gives the public credit for being "more reasonable, restrained and more mature" than programmers think. Those programmers are fearful men; they fear controversy, they fear pressure, they fear giving offense, they fear the loss of profit. They are not content, Murrow says, to be "half safe." And in doing so, they create their own precedent and tradition, and it is not a positive one.

What should they do? They should editorialize, confident that the public will recognize it as "an effort to illuminate, [not] agitate." They should present the news, in a format and with enough time for important stories to be told in-depth, and for some stories to be told at all. And they should put their duty to the public ahead of financial consideration; here Murrow cites a recent speech by President Eisenhower on the possibility of war between the Soviet Union and Communist China. NBC and CBS both delayed the broadcast for 75 minutes, presumably in order not to preempt profitable programs. "That hour-and-15 minute delay, by the way, is about twice the time required for an ICBM to travel from the Soviet Union to major targets in the United States." Concludes Murrow, "It is difficult to believe that this decision was made by men who love, respect, and understand news."

Murrow goes on to criticize television's desire to find the lowest common denominator—in other words, the largest possible audience. "This instrument can teach, it can illuminate; yes, and it can even inspire," but doing that requires effort. He suggests that advertisers, who at this point control most of the television schedule, to give one or two of their programs back to the networks—they'll still put up the money for sponsoring it, but will exercise no editorial control over the contents. He thinks of it as a tithe, a way of giving back, of being responsible.

In conclusion, Murrow emphasizes the threat facing the United States; we are now "in competition with malignant forces of evil who are using every instrument at their command to empty the minds of their subjects, and fill those minds with slogans, determination, and faith in the future." If we continue as we are, we are protecting the public from realizing the threat that we face. "We are currently wealthy, fat, comfortable and complacent. We have currently a built-in allergy to unpleasant or disturbing information." We must be determined to use television as a weapon in this fight against complacency, against ignorance, against dullness, against the enemy abroad. Quoting Stonewall Jackson (which he certainly wouldn't be allowed to do today, Jackson being a Confederate general), Murrow says, "When war comes, you must draw the sword and throw away the scabbard." The trouble with television, he says, is that "it is rusting in the scabbard—during a battle for survival."

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You'll notice how Murrow, regardless of what his political preference might have been, consistently uses the language of an American, i.e. "we" and "us." There is no sense of neutrality, no attempt to remain somehow above any kind of partiality. We see another example of this on Tuesday at 6:30, when CBS presents Where We Stand, an examination of how the United States measures up to the Soviet Union in terms of armaments, economics, and education. The guests include a glittering array of experts, including retired General Matthew Ridgway, Air Force General Bernard Schriever, Rear Admiral John Hayward, NASA boss T. Keith Glennan, and Harvard economists Sumner Slichter and Abram Bergson. It's an impressive array of CBS correspondents as well, including Walter Cronkite as host, plus familiar names like George Herman, Howard K. Smith, and Richard C. Hottelet.

There's a question asked in the first line of the Close-Up, "How does our strength compare with the U.S.S.R.'s." I'm always struck, in watching the television coverage of JFK's assassination, how often various reporters refer to "our" president, "our" nation, "our" ambassador to Vietnam. How the times have, in fact, changed. Not to say that today's media is neutral, you understand...

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Sunday afternoon at 4:00 p.m., NBC Opera Theatre presents the eighth annual broadcast of "America's Favorite Christmas Opera,"* Amahl and the Night Visitors, with Kirk Jordan now assuming the role of Amahl. Following a break for Meet the Press and Chet Huntley Reporting, NBC's back with more Yuletide cheer in the form of Hallmark Hall of Fame's production of "Christmas Tree," a series of vignettes using song, dance, and skating, with an all-star cast including Ralph Bellamy, Carol Channing, Maurice Evans, Tom Poston, Cyril Ritchard, William Shatner, and Jessica Tandy. Later Sunday night, at 8:30 p.m., WTCN presents a half hour of Christmas music by a nurses' choir. There are similar local music programs scattered throughout the week; WTCN, in fact, has another on Monday.

*Also, at the time, America's only Christmas opera.

Tuesday, WCCO carries "A Christmas Gift" (9:00 p.m.), a local production hosted by Cedric Adams, featuring the songs and melodies of the Christmas season. On Wednesday, Lawrence Welk's Plymouth Show (his Saturday show was sponsored by Dodge) includes seasonal songs like "Christmas in Killarney," "Rudolph, the Red-nosed Reindeer," and "Silver Bells," with Alice Lon, the Lennon Sisters, and others (6:30 p.m., ABC). It's also simulcast on 1280 AM for those who'd like to enjoy the experience in stereo. And at 9:00 p.m., CBS's U.S. Steel Hour presents "One Red Rose for Christmas," starring Helen Hayes and Patty Duke.

The way the issues fell in this year's review (November 27 straight to December 13), if feels as if we're missing a whole week of Yuletide treats. But don't worry—I have a feeling we'll be making up for lost time next week.

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There's plenty of sports on tap this week, including the first and only staging of the Blue Grass Bowl in Louisville (Saturday, 1:00 p.m., ABC), featuring Oklahoma State and Florida State, two college football teams with not nearly the high profile that they have today. (Oklahoma State won 15-6, by the way.) The most notable thing about that game, according to the always-reliable Wikipedia, is that it marks the national debut of Howard Cosell.  Saturday's also the return of college basketball; unlike today's saturation coverage, college hoops didn't tip off on TV until near the end of the year, when conference play took center stage. Among the games on tap Saturday is one that wouldn't cut the mustard today, I suspect—a local matchup between Hamline, my alma mater, and Augsburg, from the Minneapolis Auditorium. (8:00 p.m., KMSP)

On Sunday, an interesting football choice. CBS is scheduled to carry the Lions-Bears game from Chicago at 1:00 p.m., but at the same time there's a note that if the Eastern Conference championship hasn't been decided, the network might instead carry the game between the Cleveland Browns and New York Giants at Yankee Stadium. As it happens, the conference crown hasn't been decided, and the Browns-Giants game (yes, those two teams were good back then) becomes an instant classic, with Giants kicker (and future announcer) Pat Summerall booting the winning field goal that enables the Giants to tie the Browns for the conference title, meaning the two will meet again the following week in a playoff game to determine the winner. The Giants win that game as well, which sets up the Greatest Game Ever Played, the sudden-death championship game against the Baltimore Colts, a story for another day.

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What else? Monday night gives us a couple of shows we wouldn't see today; Voice of Firestone (8:00 p.m., ABC) has "A Salute to Tchaikovsky" with the Ballet Russe De Monte Carlo, while KTCA's Modern Philosophy presents "Existentialism, II." At 8:30 p.m., CBS's Desilu Playhouse has "The Day the Phone Rang," starring Eddie Albert as an Italian immigrant trying to win a plumbing bid but instead finding himself mixed up with the Mafia. And on Small World (10:30 p.m., WCCO), the aforementioned Edward R. Murrow interviews pianist Arthur Rubinstein, poet Archibald MacLeish, and Policy literary official Antoni Sล‚onimski. Come to think of it, you wouldn't see that on TV anymore, either.

Peter Lind Hayes has always been one of my favorites, with his friendly personality and exceedingly dry sense of humor. He, along with his wife, Mary Healy, have a M-F variety show on ABC at 11:30 a.m.; Tuesday, his guests include the trio The Playmates. (By the way, if you're not familiar with the brand of humor that Peter Lind Hayes and Mary Healy bring, here's a commercial for the show.) Remaining in the variety vein, one of the most popular comedians of the time is George Gobel, and his show alternates every other week with Eddie Fisher's; this week, Lonesome George's guests are Tennessee Ernie Ford, Jo Stafford, and Pamela Prather, the Rose Bowl queen, and her court. (7:00 p.m., NBC)

Wednesday is Kraft Music Hall night, and this season's host is Milton Berle, his first major television series since Texaco Star Theater. Mr. Television is already becoming history; next season, Perry Como will take over Music Hall and lead it to its greatest success. Tonight, however, Uncle Miltie welcomes Eydie Gorme and Ken Carpenter. (8:00 p.m., NBC) Later on, it's This Is Your Life (9:00 p.m., NBC), with this week's honoree listed only as "a man who was active in all phases of the movie industry during its early days." That man, according to the episode guide, is Coy Watson Jr., silent movie pioneer, who is honored along with his wife, Goldie.

The spotlight for Thursday is "The Hasty Heart," on the DuPont Show of the Month. (8:30 p.m., CBS), starring Don Murray, Jackie Cooper, and Barbara Bel Geddes. The story takes place at a World War II convalescent ward, and it's a reminder of how "present" the war still was in popular culture; it's not at all uncommon to see stories, particularly in dramatic anthology series, that take place either in World War II or Korea. For viewers (as well as many actors), these weren't period pieces—WWII had ended but thirteen years before.

Finally, Friday brings us Jackie Gleason's half-hour program (7:30 p.,m., CBS), a musical tribute to the Dorsey brothers, referred to here as "the late Tommy and Jimmy Dorsey"—well, Jimmy had died last year, and Tommy only the year before. By the way, this was perhaps the least successful of Gleason's several series, save perhaps You're in the Picture; it's lacking most all of Gleason's most famous creations, including The Honeymooners, and it fails to last the full season. And Edward R. Murrow is back again, this time with his famous Person to Person (9:30 p.m., CBS). Murrow's guests are Gene Kelly and Ivy Baker Priest, the Treasurer of the United States—and mother of Pat Priest of The Munsters. But I bet you all knew that. TV