January 29, 2018

What's on TV? Saturday, January 31, 1959

Since we visited the January 1959 listings just last week, not much has changed as far as the daily programs - so let's take a look at Saturday! As I mentioned when we looked at this issue, the big event is the St. Paul Winter Carnival Parade, but that's only on in the Twin Cities. That leaves plenty of other programs from plenty of other areas that we can peruse for our general amusement and edification.

January 27, 2018

This week in TV Guide: January 31, 1959

I don't often write about purely local events, let alone lead off with them, but this is an unusual week; we're interested in just a few specific shows, and most of our attention goes to things philosophic rather than the content on the tube, so there's no reason why we shouldn't start with a look at the big event in the Twin Cities: the St. Paul Winter Carnival.

1959 marks the 73rd edition of the great winter celebration, and even if you're not one for enjoying cold weather, you'll be able to stay in touch with the week-long excitement. It all starts at 2:00 p.m. on Saturday with the Winter Carnival Parade, covered on all four Twin Cities channels. (The listings even give the locations from which each station will be broadcasting.) The parade begins at the State Capitol and runs for two hours and 1.3 miles before ending at the St. Paul Auditorium, with 60 bands and 35 floats.* There are stars aplenty as well, including Jimmy Dean, Ronnie Burns (son of George), Arnold Stang, and George Montgomery.

*In the post-WWII period, over 250,000 lined the streets to watch the parade.

Jimmy's doing his CBS morning variety show from the Carnival all week; he'll be broadcasting from the Auditorium Tuesday and Friday, the skating plaza on Wednesday, and the toboggan slides on Thursday. The future sausage king isn't the only one who's brought his cameras to St. Paul, though: on Saturday following the parade, George Montgomery stops in to visit the teens on KSTP's Hi-Five Time (4:30 p.m.), and Wednesday, ABC's Wednesday Night Fights comes to you live from the Auditorium, as local favorite Del Flanagan takes on Ralph Dupas in a welterweight bout, with Carnival dignitaries taking part in the pre-fight ceremonies. One of the big events of the Carnival is the crowning of the Carnival Queen of the Snows, and KMSP's matinee movie hostess Mary Jo Tierney will be interviewing the candidates during the movie intermissions Monday and Tuesday. There won't be live coverage of the actual pageant and crowning, but the winner will be making the rounds of the local shows for the rest of the week.

As you can tell if you followed the link above, the St. Paul Winter Carnival continues to this day - this year the dates have been altered to coincide with the Super Bowl festival. Television stars aren't sent by sponsors to be part of the festivities, and in fact I'm not sure how much attention local TV even pays to it anymore. But there are concerts, ice sculpture contests, a triathlon and a parade; and even as we speak, the giant ice castle is under construction. In fact, it's kind of like television itself; it may have changed over the years, but it's still alive and kicking.

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What's Erle Stanley Gardner have to say about television? Since it's featured on the cover, we'd better take a look.

Not surprisingly considering the existence of a TV series based on Gardner's most famous literary character, the author of Perry Mason is positive about the medium. Right off the bat Gardner concedes television is a factor in juvenile delinquency - just one factor, though. "I think that where impressionable young people see violence on television, when they see wrongs being righted by means of the blazing six gun, they are tremendously impressed."

That's only 1% of America's young people, though; what about the other 99%? According to Gardner, these same forces "are at work today producing an overwhelming majority of outstanding young individuals who are the best weapons democracy has in its arsenal." For them, television serves as "a stimulant to constructive imagination," learning everything from analytical thinking to problem solving. As an example, he tells the story of a nine-year-old who recently submitted a script for a Perry Mason episode; while it reflected what Gardner calls "a juvenile turn of mind," it also indicated a remarkable understanding of plotting a complicated mystery show. "The swing and rhythm of plot development were there, the clue sequence, the motivation." It was so impressive that Gardner's publisher decided to put the script in print. "That couldn't have happened before the days of television," Gardner writes, and not just because television scripts didn't exist. "It couldn't have happened because a nine-year-old child wouldn't have developed that amount of constructive imagination."

Science, astronomy, even the field of law: all will be major beneficiaries of the constructive imagination developed as a result of television. "We learn as we are interested," Gardner writes. "The individual who watches a mystery story unfolding on television and is pitting his wits against those of the detective, is engaged in study." Great scientific discoveries, the understanding of the very solar system, come "because of detective ability, a shrewd reasoning from clues." Concludes Gardner, "[I]f anyone doesn't think this person is learning at a great pace, let him talk with some of the youthful fans who watch the mystery television shows today."

I have a great deal of respect for Gardner's analysis; television served much that function in my own youth. I think even today's television can provide the stimulation needed to develop the imagination, to teach the young to think outside the box, to give them knowledge about various aspects of history, science, and culture. It may not do it as well as it used to, but we should never underestimate the power of television to provide such stimulus - nor should we be afraid to use it more often.

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One of Ed Sullivan's first great on-air challenges came from Steve Allen, who left Tonight to take over an NBC variety show which, at the beginning, aired opposite Ed. It didn't run as long as Ed's, of course, but then Allen said his goal was never to conquer Ed, but to coexist with him, which he did for three seasons. Let's see who gets the best of the contest this week.

Sullivan: Ed presents a filmed repeat of his show of June 29, 1958 when the entire program was devoted to a performance by the Moiseyev Dance Company.

Allen: Steve's guests are comedienne Martha Raye, magician Mr. Ballantine, singer Danny Staton, and jazz musicians Eddie Condon, Woody Herman and Gerry Mulligan.

It's a special Sullivan show this week, an entire hour with the famed Russian dance troupe during last year's historic tour of the United States, the first cultural offering by the Soviet Union in an exchange program with the U.S. I like Russian dancing, and ordinarily I'd say that this would be good enough to carry the week. On the other hand, Steverino has a top-flight show of his own, and Condon, Herman and Mulligan - not just jazz musicians, but greats (with Allen probably joining in) - is very, very hard to beat. Too hard, I'm afraid; for the second week running, it's Heigh-Ho Steverino.

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It isn't often that we have one television show that was the subject of a book, but such is the case this week, with Sunday afternoon's Omnibus broadcast of "Abraham Lincoln: The Early Years." (4:00 p.m., NBC) The story of this program actually goes back to 1952, the inaugural season of Omnibus, and a series of five films entitled "Mr. Lincoln," written by the Pulitzer Prize-winning author James Agee and directed by the renowned Norman Lloyd. The series was a huge success; one critic called it "the most beautiful writing ever done for television," and another classifies it as "among the finest - perhaps the finest - film about Abraham Lincoln ever made."But as William Hughes' book James Agee, Omnibus, and Mr. Lincoln: The Culture of Liberalism and the Challenge of Television 1952-1953 details, Agee's presentation of Lincoln and the Civil War is not simply a presentation of history; rather, it is an interpretation that was heavily influenced by the times, in particular the Cold War, not to mention Agee's strong personal identification with Lincoln.

As just one example. Hughes examines Agee's treatment of the alleged romance between Lincoln and Ann Rutledge, one of the pivotal stories in the series.. As Agee's Lincoln embarks on his political career, serving in the Illinois legislature, he grows ambivalent about his relationship with Rutledge; in one of their final meetings he "asserts his need for independence," According to Agee, Lincoln has begun to "realize the size of his vocation and the size of his responsibility toward it." In other words, as Hughes puts it, "The gifted must give priority to their gifts," and Lincoln realizes he must "redirect his misplaced love for Ann back onto the people he would serve."*

*As Hughes points out, "Given the writer's powerful identification with his hero, and the conflict between love and vocation in his own life, Agee's reworking of the Ann Rutledge story was a projection that owed as much to his personal story as to Lincoln's."

On the other hand, writes Hughes, the culture of Cold War liberals, prevalent particularly in the TV-Radio Workshop of the Ford Foundation, the underwriter of Omnibus, "were wary of the masses, with their immaturity, their volatility, and their potential susceptibility to totalitarianism," and Agee himself was scornful of what he called "common-man sentimentalists." How to reconcile this attitude with Lincoln's seeming self-sacrifice in order to serve those very people, whom Lincoln calls his "one great concern" and "his surest support"? It can be done only by looking at the environment in existence during the Cold War, and the vision of the heroic leader, the single-combat warrior. It is, after all, a distinctly American tendency, to elevate a single individual to the heights of national savior, the "Leader of the Free World," whether it be Franklin D. Roosevelt, Dwight D. Eisenhower, or John F. Kennedy.

Lincoln, therefore, serves as a surrogate for this necessary Cold War leader, and in seeing his growth from small town lawyer in New Salem to something more, Lincoln's words - or, rather, Agee's, since we don't really know how accurate they are - suggest the need for the public to understand the role they must play, that "the common people are capable of collective wisdom, but only when they recognize, nurture, and stand by those uncommonly gifted individuals who emerge in their midst." Perhaps we aren't meant to be moved by Lincoln's words about those who supported him during his formative years, but instead we congratulate those people for realizing Lincoln's nascent greatness and doing what is necessary to nurture it for future greatness. Whew.

What we see this Sunday is a segment of "Mr. Lincoln" entitled "The Early Years," with Royal Dano (St. Peter in King of Kings) as Lincoln and the young Joanne Woodward as Ann Rutledge, narrated by Martin Gabel, which presumably deals heavily with this relationship. Agee's portrayal was controversial even at the time, (host Alistair Cooke read one letter from a viewer that chastised Agee for treating the relationship "as gospel rather than gossip."* In a 1953 episode of Omnibus, Cooke broaches the subject in a debate between Agee (who died in 1955) and Civil War historian Allen Nevins, who said of Agee's characterization of the Lincoln-Rutledge relationship, "Our count against him is simply this: That he has tampered with the truth."

*Of course, we can guess that Agee's real purpose was to use the relationship as a metaphor for his view on Cold War leadership.

In addition to the book, the movie-length, condensed edit of Agee's film is now available on DVD, with one of the extras being the Omnibus debate between Agee and Nevins. As an example of how television's storytelling fits into the large picture of the political, economic, and cultural forces of the time*, this is incomparable.

*On Sunday alone, the topic on Religious Town Hall is "Democracy," and that afternoon Channel 5 has a special called For God and Country, produced by the American Legion.

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You might remember that in last week's TV Guide we read about "The Lost Class of '59," which detailed the controversy around school desegregation in Norfolk, Virginia. This week the focus is on the Second Agony of Atlanta (Sunday, 5:00 p.m., NBC), and a strange law that mandates that if one school desegregates, all public schools in the city must be closed. Now, I've never heard of a law like that, but again, consider the times. Now, however, the people of Atlanta are faced with the choice between integrating and closing the schools. It's appropriate in some ways that this is following Omnibus, because this is the Civil War in practical terms. On the one hand you've got people looking at the Federal government coming in and overturning the laws they've made, the way of life they've lived; on the other, you've got people being discriminated against, feeling as if their own government sees them as the enemy, wondering if anyone will come and rescue them. Setting aside the human element of it for a moment, it strikes at the fundamental question regarding the founding of the United States: who has the power? Under whose rules do the citizens live? Who has the last word? Of course, it's the very human element that makes it all tragic.

This is one reason why by 1959 the relevance of "Mr. Lincoln" is not limited simply to the Cold War. As the debate around civil rights grows, as the Federal government takes a more active role in school desegregation (remember, Brown v. Board occurs only two years after the initial airing of "Mr. Lincoln), the idea of a prophet-leader such as found in Agee's vision of Lincoln takes on even greater social significance. Critics blame Richard Nixon for the creation of the "Imperial Presidency," but I wonder if the hagiography surrounding the life of Lincoln, playing off the larger-than-life presidency of FDR, doesn't have something to do with it as well.

Edward R. Murrow was the host of that Norfolk special; this week, back on Person to Person (Friday, 9:30 p.m, CBS), Murrow has one of the oddest combinations one could ever ask for: "Cuban revolutionary leader Fidel Castro and artist-illustrator Norman Rockwell." The anti-American and the all-American. Not at the same time, of course; that's not the way Person to Person worked, although it's interesting to think of Rockwell sketching an illustration of Castro during the show. Who could have imagined that in the next decade, Castro's Cuba would be the cause of a near-war and implicated in a presidential assassination, while Rockwell would be seen as the chronicler of an America that was old-fashioned and out of touch, one that had ceased to exist.

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"Television Diary," something of a predecessor to The Doan Report, tells us of a spat between, of all people, John Frankenheimer and Art Linkletter. Seems that one of the kids from the Linkletter show wandered on the set of a Playhouse 90 that Frankenheimer was working on, and the director chased him off. Linkletter responded, on-air, that Frankenheimer was "a young genius who takes himself too seriously," who which Frankenheimer replied that Linkletter is "one of the outstanding examples of TV's rush toward mediocrity." The "brickbats," apparently, are still flying. I've always enjoyed Frankenheimer's work, but judging from the defensiveness of his overheated retort, it sounds as if he does indeed take himself a bit too seriously.

And speaking of Playhouse 90, one of the last of the great dramatic anthology series, faces the ax at the end of the season. Finally Hubbell Robinson, speaking for CBS, says that the series will return for the 1959-60 season, but perhaps on a reduced schedule. In fact, the coming season will be the fourth and final for the series, and when it comes to an end so will an era. For now, though, this week's Playhouse 90 ("Child of Our Time") is up against NBC's Hallmark Hall of Fame (Thursday, 8:30 p.m.) presentation of "Berkeley Square," based on the Broadway play and movie of the same name, starring John Kerr and Jeannie Carson; and "introducing" Janet Munro - who appeared in the MST3K fave "The Crawling Eye" and was once married to Ian Hendry, an early partner of Patrick Macnee's John Steed in The Avengers.

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Finally, in the "Late and Exclusive" section, a report that George Burns is doing his show live for the next four weeks, apparently to get over with his contractual commitment to doing six live shows for the season. The report adds that Burns "was 63 years old last Jan. 17." Could they have known then that Burns' career hasn't even reached its high point yet, and that he'll go on performing for another 37 years?  TV  

January 26, 2018

Around the dial

One of our favorites, the Oscar-winning actress and star of Peyton Place Dorothy Malone, died over the weekend at the ripe old age of 92. (I wrote about her here.) The British always have a wonderful way with obituaries, so here's hers, from The Guardian.

Also passing on this week was Bradford Dillman, who always seemed to be guesting on a classic television program (usually as the bad guy) whenever you turned around. I always enjoyed his work.

Not to make this morbid, but I ran across this last week quite by accident, and found it rather charming. It's the 2010 obituary for Dorothy M. Provine Day, who as Dorothy Provine was in many a show of the '50s and '60s, most notably The Roaring Twenties.. There's no question she was a star, and you can find the star obituaries out there, but reading this she could havAe been your next-door neighbor, or the woman you saw in the grocery store; yes, she was a singer, dancer and actress, but she also was a wife, mother, grandmother, and aunt, and moved back to the Pacific Northwest to be near family. As I said, charming.

At Cult TV Blog it's a look at The Avengers episode "Take-Over," with an interesting tie-in to a couple of movies at the end. It's another strong episode of a series that is almost always great fun to watch.

David at Comfort TV remembers some top moments from the career of the very funny Paul Lynde. I was watching some clips of him on The Hollywood Squares the other day, and he always made me laugh out loud. It's one thing to have funny lines, it's another to deliver them for maximum impact.

July 19 was the birthday of Edgar Allen Poe, and Jordan at The Twilight Zone Vortex examines Poe's influence on The Twilight Zone. As he writes, "one could safely say that without Edgar Allan Poe there would be no Twilight Zone."

You'll recall that back in 2015 Television Obscurities did an entire year of TV Guide, from the beginning of the 1964 season to just before the start of the 1965 season. Now he's given us an index to each installment in the series - if you haven't read it before, or if it's been a while, I think you'll really enjoy it.

At The Lucky Strike Papers, Andrew views Dion's 1968 Smothers Brothers appearance, in which he performs "Abraham, Martin and John," in the year that both Martin and John's brother Bobby were assassinated. It's a very intense moment.

We're always sharing fashion layouts from the pages of TV Guide, so it seems appropriate to look at Garroway at Large, where Jodie shares the proof that Dave was something of a fashion plate himself!

Classic Film and TV Café presents seven things to know about Chuck Connors. I particularly like number four, his friendship with Soviet premier Leonid Brezhnev, which I first learned about in this TV Guide.

And finally, Hal at The Horn Section takes us on a tour of the latest episode of Love That Bob!, in which Mr. Cummings is surrounded by contestants from the Miss Perfect Body pageant. In other words, he's right where he wants to be!

And you'll want to be here tomorrow, when we browse through the pages of another TV Guide. See you then.  TV  

January 24, 2018

Naked City and the existence of a man

It is our wont, in the Hadley household, to watch Naked City on DVD Friday nights. (Perhaps it also says something about our social lives that we spend Friday nights watching TV, but I'll let that pass for now.) And a couple of weeks ago, we saw an extraordinary episode; I know that I use this phrase from time to time, and perhaps overuse it, but in this case I thought it really was extraordinary, even as the episode was unfolding. It was called "Which Is Joseph Creeley?" and while sometimes the titles of '60s dramas get a bit pretentious, I thought this one meant exactly what it said, though we'll get to that in a moment.

It's an unusual episode in many respects, not the least of which being that of the Naked City regulars, only Detective Adam Flint (Paul Burke) and his girlfriend Libby Kingston (Nancy Malone) appear in the episode; none of the other detectives are shown, or even mentioned in the opening credits - but then, this is not their story. The cold open gives us Adam and Libby headed up the steps to where some type of legal proceeding is being held. Adam is clearly tense, with Libby providing moral support. She heads into the courtroom, while Adam first detours to another room, where he meets with Joseph Creeley and Creeley's defense attorney. At this point we still have no real idea what the episode is about, except for this intriguing tidbit: Creeley tells Adam that if he, Creeley, is guilty, then he wants to be punished for it.

The story is dominated by Martin Balsam's performance as Creeley, a man who finds himself at a crossroads few of us should ever hope to face. He's on death row, awaiting execution for a murder committed during a botched robbery, when he collapses from what turns out to be a brain tumor. The doctor gives him two choices: undergo an operation to remove the tumor, which may or may not succeed, or do nothing and see whether it kills him before the electric chair does. Adam, who was the original arresting officer and has been guarding Creeley in the hospital, is thrown into the maelstrom when Creeley asks him what he should do. For Adam, life is precious because it allows for hope, and he urges Creeley to undergo the surgery even if it changes nothing in the long run. Creeley signs over a Power of Attorney, and Adam authorizes the surgery.

And now it gets interesting.

As it turns out the surgery is a success, with one caveat: in removing the tumor, the operation also wipes clean about ten years of Joseph Creeley's memory. He has no recollection of the crime, of his wife having divorced him, (or even having been married), of the circumstances that led him in desperation to the robbery that killed a man and left him on death row. It's as if his entire life ended ten years ago and has now started up again, with a giant hole in the middle. Furthermore, his doctor believes the tumor was probably responsible for his behavior up to and including the time of the robbery, which means he may not have been legally responsible for his actions.

All of this we learn from flashbacks generated by Adam's testimony on the stand, and now we understand just how we've gotten to this courtroom, on this date. Creeley's attorney has successfully won a new trial based on the doctor's opinion, and he's now going about demonstrating that there were two Joseph Creeley's: the one before the tumor, and the one after. He uses the testimony of people who have known Creeley throughout his life to demonstrate how his behavior had changed; a priest remembers him as a studious, polite boy; his ex-wife says that she divorced him because he was no longer the man he had been when she married him (a phrase which we often hear but in this case is meant to be taken literally), even Adam says that Creeley had the look of a wild man (i.e. crazy) when Adam arrested him.*

*Key point in understanding Adam: despite this wild look, Adam did not shoot (and risk killing) Creeley; he wouldn't take such action if he didn't have to, and in this case he didn't think he had to. 

The defense's insanity plea is an unusual one, in that the attorney suggests not only that Creeley was not legally responsible for his actions at the time due to the tumor, but that his memory loss (likely permanent) means he can never be that man, and that punishing him would be an injustice. The prosecution does not contest the notion that Creeley is a different man today, but their contention is that this is all immaterial: the Creeley who committed the crime did understand, for the purposes of the legal definition, the difference between right and wrong, and whether or not he remembers it today is beside the point as far as the administration of justice is concerned.* He calls as a witness the widow of the man Creeley killed, who herself was seriously injured in the attack, to share how her life has forever changed as a result of Creeley's actions.

*It's a line of thinking that invokes Dismas, the Good Thief who confessed the divinity of Christ on the Cross. Christ promises salvation for Dismas - but does not pardon him the from earthly punishment for the crimes he had committed.

Quite a conundrum, isn't it? As the defense attorney says in his closing summation, the jury has now heard two versions of who Joseph Creeley is. According to one, he's a man who poses absolutely no threat to society, who has no memories of the man he was, and who should be allowed to live to be the man he is today. According to the other, he's a man who robbed and murdered, who knew that it was wrong regardless of why he did it, and who now must pay the penalty. The question for the jury to decide: which of these is Joseph Creeley.

We never find the answer to that question; the episode ends with the verdict yet to be given. It's an appropriate way to end the story, I think, because the answer to this question really lies within ourselves, how we see and define the humanity of an individual.

Is it true that a man is the sum total of his memories? The philosopher John Locke used, as the criterion for personal identity (the self), not the substance of either the soul or the body, but the psychological continuity of consciousness - the memory. In other words, you are what your memory shows you to be.* Locke contends that you "are in truth only responsible for the acts for which you are conscious," which lies at the heart of the insanity defense, that if you are not aware (or conscious) of an act, you cannot be held accountable for it. Without that memory of who he was, he is not the same man. The court would, in effect, be punishing the wrong man for having committed the crime.

*Displayed in his analogy of "The Prince and the Cobbler," where a prince, whose soul (and memories) were transferred to the body of a cobbler (whose soul had departed), would continue to think of himself as a prince, even though he finds himself in appearance to be a cobbler. Think Here Comes Mr. Jordan, or its remake, Heaven Can Wait, as examples. This is, of course, the same premise upon which Doctor Who is based.

Against this, the argument can be made that Locke has no lock on the truth. In discussing the concept of "identity over time," the Catholic philosopher Peter Geach denies the idea "that there is a single absolute relation of identity rather than a host of relative identity relations." In other words, it is impossible to say that the prince is identical to the cobbler. "Instead there must be a concept of a kind of thing, a so called sortal concept, that serves to answer the question." We would have to ask: is the prince the same what as the cobbler? The same man? The same thinker? The same craftsman? The same husband? The same leader? Likewise with Creeley: Is he the same man? The same murderer? The prosecution might well contend that while he is not the same man, he is the same murderer, and must be punished accordingly.

It's no surprise that Naked City could generate this type of discussion. In the book The Philosophy of TV Noir, Robert E. Fitzgibbons labels Naked City as an example of a "relativist" television series, one that insists that there is no clear definition of the truth at any given time. Dr. Wirtz, Creeley's doctor in the episode, says as much: "Sanity is a relative term." Even when someone in the program does something we might define as "wrong," Fitzgibbons insists, the viewer "was left - indeed almost forced - by the end of many episodes to wonder whether perhaps these choices might not have been right in some way." The concept of moral relativism, expressed in this manner, dovetails with Locke's would-be insistence that Creeley today cannot be judged as if he were Creeley yesterday - because that man no longer exists at this moment in time.

So what does this all mean? There is no closure to this question, since we never see the verdict come in. Gilbert Ralston, the writer of this episode, almost certainly intended for the viewer to be the jury, and to let each one of us make the decision for ourselves. Although I am not a moral relativist, I find myself for the most part agreeing with Creeley's attorney that it would not be in the interests of justice to hold Creeley accountable for a crime which he has no memory of, which in fact he may not have been legally responsible for having committed in the first place. And yet justice does demand an answer; it's similar to a terrorist who commits suicide after having perpetrated his mass murder. We're left with an empty feeling, a sense that the circle has not been squared.

Ultimately, what I love about this episode is not just the lack of a neat conclusion, but that it dares to raise this kind of a question in the first place. Had the story ended with a jury verdict, we need not have agreed with that verdict to have been stimulated by the questions presented in the episode. Perhaps only The Defenders would have dared to go into this type of territory at the time; most of the discussions offered in contemporary television usually consist of straw man arguments that are eventually knocked down by the cast member acting as surrogate for the writer. I never got that feeling from "Which is Joseph Creeley?" Regardless of how Ralston wanted us to think about Creeley, and whether or not he should be punished, he gave us more than enough to chew on, more than enough for us to come to our own conclusion about just how it is that we define the existence of a man.  TV  

January 22, 2018

What's on TV? Monday, January 19, 1959

Even NBC, the color network, had very few color shows in 1959, though two of the three color broadcasts today are for daytime quiz shows. Says something about priorities, or the power of advertising, or the studios the shows happened to be shot in, or all three. On the other hand, CBS has but one colorcast, Lowell Thomas' special High Adventure, seen at 9:00 p.m. on three of the four CBS affiliates in this issue.

By the way, I don't usually do this, because the Minnesota State Edition has a lot of stations, but some of those stations don't yet exist in 1959. Therefore, you're seeing all the stations in this week's issue. 

January 20, 2018

This week in TV Guide: January 17, 1959

We start off the week with Bob Johnson's very amusing article on James Garner and Jack Kelley, the "Maverick Brothers" of ABC's Sunday night series.

The two stars maintain separate lives; Johnson suggests that "the boys don't like to discuss each other," although I'm not sure that there's any particular animosity between them. Certainly Garner, who was the first Maverick, is also first among equals; his episodes have higher ratings, and his appearances outnumber Kelly's through the course of the season (of the 20 episodes so far this season, nine have starred Garner, six for Kelly, and five have featured both of them.

It's not hard to dissect Garner's popularity; his easy-going manner, the implicit humor he brings to the role, are all products of his acting talent - or, as he puts it, his lack of same. He's no actor, he insists, but a personality; in fact, he can't act. "I'll learn if I have to, but I haven't had to yet. I'm playing me. Bret Maveri k is lazy. I'm lazy. I like to get the bit over with at the studio and get out of there. I like being lazy." He adds that he's never taken a script home to study, "and I don't plan to."

You might be familiar with the story behind Maverick, of how the first few episodes were played straight - stock Westerns - until bored scriptwriter Marion Hargroves inserted a stage direction that changed the series forever. "Maverick," he wrote, "looks at him with his beady little eyes." Garner loved it. "You can't say that about a star," Garner says the research department told Hargroves. Nonsense, replied Hargroves; he'd met Garner, and he does have beady little eyes.

Soon the series had made the transformation to a comedy, and the Maverick boys "have been subjected to more house gags, in stage directions by Hargrove and other writers, than any two other actors living." For example, when Kelly leaves the saloon, he doesn't just leave. "He sees his horse. He smiles. His horse sees him and just nods." Garner is described  as "ahr hero" or "an itinerant clergyman," and when he considers a problem, "we can see his flabby little mind make a small connection." There's even a situation where "His face shows resentment, frustration, anxiety an danything else the director thinks he can get out of him." These directions don't explicitly show up on screen, of course, but it influences the way Garner and Kelly play their roles, and more important it indicates the spirit that has infected the entire show.

Interestingly, Kelly thinks the show can go three more seasons after this one, but "Garner has other ideas." As to what those ideas are, Johnson doesn't really say; instead, he captures Garner talking about the recent satire the show did on Gunsmoke. ("It's a classic.") Garner's other ideas, however, don't include three more seasons of Maverick; he quits the series in 1960 in a dispute with Warner Brothers, a case he wins in court. He's replaced by, at various times, Roger Moore and Robert Colbert; ultimately, in the fifth and final season (as Jack Kelly predicted), reruns of old Garner stories alternate with Kelly's new shows. Maverick ends its run with a secure place in TV history, and a warm spot in viewers' hearts.

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Before we get to this week's programs, I'd like to take a minute to mention the article on Bob Keeshen, aka Captain Kangaroo, talking about the philosophy behind his series. "One important lesson I try to teach my own kids is that gentleness in a person doesn't necessarily indicate weakness; and that good manners and thoughtfullness are necessary to a happy life."

He's an ambassador for UNICEF, and creator of the "Trick or Treat" campaign that encouraged kids to collect coins, rather than Halloween candy, for the UN organization. Its success had led him to travel to other countries, including a stop at the Brussels World's Fair, encouraging similar ideas. He has a long-term goal of creating a news show for children, explaining the issues of the day in a way that they can understand. (A forerunner of In the News, perhaps?) Says the good Captain, "Children are ain important part of the world - today's world. We owe them an honest explanation of what's happening to it."

It's also worth a moment to mention this week's starlet, Nancy Malone, the 23-year old who started out on Broadway ("Time Out for Ginger"), has guested in numerous television drama anthologies, and is currently appearing in the CBS sudser The Brighter Day, along with her dog, Miss Madrigal. Next year she'll take on her best-known role, that of Detective Adam Flint's girlfriend Libby, in Naked City, and later she'll appear in The Long Hot Summer.

After that she'll work her way up the entertainment ladder, moving into producing and directing (where she wins an Emmy and is nominated for two others), and does a stint as vice-president of television at 20th Century Fox. An example of a starlet who makes good.

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One of Ed Sullivan's first great on-air challenges came from Steve Allen, who left Tonight to take over an NBC variety show which, at the beginning, aired opposite Ed. It didn't run as long as Ed's, of course, but then Allen said his goal was never to conquer Ed, but to coexist with him, which he did for three seasons. Let's see who gets the best of the contest this week.

Sullivan: Ed's guests are actress Celeste Holm; French singer Edith Piaf; musical-comedy star Pat Suzuki; operatic soprano Antonietta Stella; musical-comedy writers Betty Comden and Adolph Green, currently appearing on Broadway in a two-man show; comedian Alan Drake; and juggler Francis Brunn.

Allen: Steve's guests are actress Esther Williams and singers Vic Damone and Jennie Smith. A large part of tonight's show takes place in and around a swimming pool located in the studio. Steve dons a bathing suit to join Miss Williams in an aquatic comedy routine.

As far as stars go, it's hard to top Celeste Holm, Edith Piaf, and Comden and Green. As far as entertainment, Steve Allen in a bathing suit with Esther Williams, cavorting in a studio swimming pool - that says it all. It depends on what turns you on, which is why this week is a push.

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On a very quiet Saturday, I'll give the nod to Perry Como's show (7:00 p.m., NBC). Perry's guest stars are Nat King Cole, the McGuire Sisters, and Dick Van Dyke. At 11:30 p.m., KDAL in Duluth has the movie Michael Shayne, Private Detective, starring Lloyd Nolan. It's actually a pretty good movie if you forget both the novels by Brett Halliday and the series starring Richard Denning. Opposite that, on WTCN, is I Led Three Lives, and this week "Herb Philbrick becomes embroiled in a Communist plot to infiltrate a labor union." What a shock.

Sunday is a day of substance; Meet the Press expands to an hour on Sunday afternoon (5:00 p.m., NBC) for an appearance by Soviet First Deputy Premier Anastas Mikoyan, next to Khruschev the most powerful man in the Soviet Union. Mikoyan was a survivor if nothing else, serving Lenin, Stalin, Khrushchev and Brezhnev, and was one of the rare top Soviet officals to retire rather than meet a violent death at the hands of a rival; although he was forced out by Brezhnev, he died of natural causes in 1978. In the great panoply of Communist figures, Mikoyan was thought to be friendlier to the United States than most. He's being interviewed here on the occasion of his second trip to America.

Following Meet the Press, Nina Foch stars in a special presentation of Agatha Christie's famed mystery Ten Little Indians. (6:00 p.m., NBC) In today's politically correct times, it would probably be known by its alternate title, "And Then There Were None." Fine with me; the original title of the story is even more problematic.

At 8:00 p.m., it's G.E. Theater on CBS, starring Tony Curtis. In 1960, after doing "The Young Juggler" for Startime, Curtis will swear off television for the world of movies. That's a year away, though, and so we can apreciate him this Sunday on G.E. Theater's story of David and Goliath, "The Stone." (8:00 p.m., CBS)*

*It probably only amuses me that when Tony Curtis appeared on The Flintstones, his character was named "Stoney" Curtis. 

Is this the funniest hour on television? Is it even the funniest hour on Monday? I wouldn't know about that, not being a particular fan of Danny Thomas, but he does have Tennessee Ernie Ford, which counts for something. Meanwhile, Ann Sothern resurrects the old question facing women of the time: do you choose a career, or marriage? To find out, though, you'll have to pass up Peter Gunn on NBC and The Voice of Firestone on ABC. Meanwhile, Patti Page's guests on her 9:00 p.m. ABC show are singer Julius LaRosa and ventriloquist Shari Lewis. It's not known whether or not Lamb Chop is included.

If one night of Steve Allen is good, two nights must be better, right? Tuesday is the second night, and Love That Bob* is the show (8:30 p.m., NBC). Tonight, Bob tries to get rid of his girlfriend Betty (Joyce Jameson) by telling her that he can get her a job on Steve's show. Even more significant than a second night of Steve, though, is the first night of Alcoa Presents (9:00 p.m., ABC), which you'll probably recognize by its subtitle: One Step Beyond. The much-loved cult series will stick around for three seasons.

*Fun fact: According to the always-reliable Wikipedia, Love That Bob was the first series to debut as a midseason replacement. There's no citation to prove it, though. 

Wednesday night presents a stark reminder of what 1959 is like. Edward R. Murrow narrates "The Lost Class of '59" (7:00 p.m., CBS), a report on six high schools in Norfolk, Virginia, that have closed rather that submit to a federal court order to integrate. Murrow interviews local and state officials, as well as four local students discussing the situation. On a less dramatic note, The Lawrence Welk Show airs on ABC at 6:30 p.m. There's a note in the listings that viewers watching the show on WTCN, the ABC affiliate in Minneapolis-St. Paul, "can hear this program in stereophonic sound by also tuning to radio station WTCN*, operating on 1280 kilocycles." Watching TV with stereo sound must have been something in 1959!

*Fun fact: WTCN-TV is now KARE, while WTCN-AM is now WWTC 1280, The Patriot. It's all-talk radio, in case you hadn't figured that out.

On Thursday, Cesar Romero guest stars as "The Gay Caballero" (not to be confused with Guy Caballero) on Zorro (7:00 p.m., ABC). I'll bet he steals the show. At 8:30 p.m., CBS's Playhouse 90 presents "The Velvet Alley," a Rod Serling play about a struggling writer who may have finally gotten his big break when he sells a script to - Playhouse 90. Art Carney makes a rare dramatic appearance as the playwright who has to ask himself whether success is worth selling your soul.

Speaking of show-stealing, Phil Silvers is well-positioned to steal Friday in an expanded one-hour version of his series (8:00 p.m., CBS) which is wonderfully, bizarrely meta. In it, Sydney Chaplin (actor and son of Charlie), playing himself, plans to use Bilko's life story for an Army musical. Bilko travels to Hollywood to meet the actor chosen to play him: Phil Silvers! Diana Dors, also playing herself, guests; later this year, she'll marry an actor who'll do pretty well in an Army sitcom himself - Richard Dawson.

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As for sports this week, the PGA tour heads to Pebble Beach for the Bing Crosby Pro-Am, the final round of which is carried on ABC. (Sunday, 4:30 p.m.) Then, as now, the stars are part of the attraction, and this year's batch is expected to include Bob Hope, Phil Harris, Desi Arnaz, James Garner, Bob Crosby, Fred MacMurray, Randolph Scott and Dennis O'Keefe. And then there's Der Bingle, of course.

If golf's not for you, you can tune in the NBA Game of the Week on NBC (1:30 p.m.), although it's not shown locally in Minneapolis-St. Paul. It's a key matchup between two of the best teams of the era, the defending champion St. Louis Hawks meet the team they vanquished in the finals last year, the Boston Celtics. As for why this game wasn't on TV in the Twin Cities? Could be that the local team, the Minneapolis Lakers, were playing at the same time and the game was blacked out. (They were playing the Philadelphia Warriors in Minneapolis that day.) You'll here more from the Lakers in the playoffs, as they upset the Hawks in the Western finals before losing to the Celts for the championship.

There's also basketball on Saturday afternoon (3:30 p.m.), although it's on so many different stations I can't tell if it was a network broadcast or a syndicated hookup (I suspect the latter). It's the Big 10 Game of the Week, with the hometown Minnesota Gophers playing the Purdue Boilermakers. However, I vote for hockey, with the NHL Game of the Week on CBS (1:30 p.m.) featuring the New York Rangers and Chicago Black Hawks from Chicago Stadium.

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Some notes from the TV Teletype:

Bill Lundigan's new series Moon Flight, which is billed as a "new semidocumentary series abou tman's exploration of space," has gone into production. It will emerge with a new name, Men Into Space, when it airs this September on CBS. You can catch reruns of it on Comet if you're so inclined. And speaking of new series, Tennessee Ernie Ford recently guested on Danny Thomas' series. The producer liked the character Ernie played on the show, and thought it was a great idea for a new sitcom - not for Ernie, but for Andy Griffith. They're working on it now, and when it premieres as The Andy Griffith Show in October 1960, it will find a place in television history.

Dwayne Hickman is leaving The Bob Cummings Show at the end of this season for his own series, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, good for four seasons on CBS starting this fall. The detective series Peter Gunn, which debuted last September on NBC, has been picked up for the rest of the year - a ful 39 episodes. And Dave Garroway has postponed his trip to Paris from April until early May - there's a funny ancedote about that trip in my interview with Jodie Peeler.

Finally, a note from the local section that Miss America 1959, Carol Ann Mobley, "is in town to crown the North St. Paul Jaycee Queen," and will be appearing with Arle Haeberle on her WCCO afternoon show Around the Town. I don't see any "Carol Ann Mobley" as Miss America, in 1959 or any other year. There is, however, a Mary Ann Mobley, who happens to be Miss America 1959. I hope the Jaycees that were expecting Carol weren't too disappointed.  TV  

January 19, 2018

Around the dial

F Troop Fridays are always a great way to wind down the week, and last Friday Hal at The Horn Section offers up "She's Only a Build in a Girdled Cage," a wonderful title (which not so many people would get today), starring Patrice Wymore as said build in said girdle. Alas, the story appears not to be quite as good as the title...

At The Twilight Zone Vortex, Jordan reviews "Cavender is Coming," the 1962 episode featuring Carol Burnett that demonstrates once again that Rod Serling, for all his talents, was not good a comedic writing; this episode, like his other comic efforts, falls flat. Jesse White co-stars as her guardian angel; perhaps it would have been better if she'd needed her Maytag repaired.

Ooh, "Incense for the Damned" - isn't that a great title for a movie? Add in Patrick Macnee, Edward Woodward, Peter Cushing, and Patrick Mower, and that makes it even better, don't you think? Read about this movie at Cult TV Blog, where John says that "if you're not a horror fan, but instead a lover of the TV of the sixties and seventies, this show may be right up your street."

The Hitchcock Project continues at bare-bones e-zine, with Jack's focus this week being the second season episode "The West Warlock Time Capsule," Marion Cockrell's droll story of what happens when an unwanted relative stays too long. . .

January 14 was the 66th anniversary of the first Today show, and at Garroway at Large, Jodie presents the product of years of research: a reconstruction of exactly what happened on that first show. Fascinating details!

Television's New Frontier: the 1960's turns its focus on the 1960 season of Dale Robertson's Western series Tales of Wells Fargo. Meanwhile, Television Obscurities reminds us of why some shows become obscure, with this rundown of the Nielsen Bottom Ten for January 15-21, 1973.

And coming up next month, The Classic TV Blog Association presents The Classic TV Villain Blogathon. Here's a preview of what to expect:

That's all next month, but in the meantime we've still got tomorrow, and you're welcome back then for a look at another TV Guide.  TV  

January 17, 2018

Keith Jackson, R.I.P.

H e was one of the very last of the Big Game Announcers, that genre I occasionally talk about (usually in obituaries, unfortunately). I know, many people might include Al Michaels, but to tell the truth I've never warmed to him; he's competent enough, probably more than competent, but the key word is "warmth," and I never felt it coming from him. Others might call Joe Buck a Big Game Announcer, but while I think he's better than his critics say, I don't include him in the list, either. Certainly Mike Emrick and Martin Tyler, probably Brent Musburger, perhaps Marv Albert, but after that the pickings are, as they say, slim.

Besides, this isn't about them. It's about Keith Jackson, who died last Friday after 89 (hopefully) good years, many of them spent creating memories for the millions of people who listened to him on baseball games, football games, basketball games, auto racing, golf, even boxing matches. It seemed as if he worked with everyone during his time on television; he called the first season of Monday Night Football and if anyone could have controlled Dandy Don and Cosell, it would have been him. ABC didn't want that, though - they were looking for a show. He also worked with Cosell on Monday Night Baseball, and though I really liked him on that, there's no doubt his home was with college football.

It was college football in which his greatness was made manifest. He sounded as if he was made for college football, with that down-home delivery and enthusiasm that nonetheless never went over the top. It's also true, though, that college football sounds as if were made for him; fumble, touchdown, Rodney Allison of Texas Tech - for other announcers those might simply have been functional words, but for Keith Jackson they became the paint and the brushes that artists use to craft their work on the electronic canvas.

For all of the palpable excitement in Jackson's voice, the love of the game, the Whoa Nellies and Fum-BLEs and Hold the Phonnnnnes for which he became so famous, he always remembered the golden rule of the golden age of sportscasters - you are never bigger than the event you cover. That shone most clearly in his decision to retire in 2006, despite ABC wanting him to continue, because he was disturbed over the increasing number of mistakes he was making during broadcasts. It's easy to see why he'd do that, even though Jackson at 85% was probably better than most other announcers at 110%.

He wasn't out to score points with a crack at the expense of someone down there on the field, just as he wasn't acting as if he were trying to win an audition during open mic night at the Improv. He called a game for the benefit of the viewers, and it was to them that he spoke, enveloping them all in his color and humor. He was authoritative and insightful, with a grace and elegance that merged smoothly with his passion to produce a perfect background to the unforgettable events he covered.

Yep, there weren't many like Keith Jackson, but then that's how it is with all the greats. He was a one-of-a-kind, and we were the beneficiaries.  TV  

January 15, 2018

What's on TV? Wednesday, January 14, 1970

Back in the day, when schedules had room for the odd 10- or 15-minute program (usually around lunchtime or in the afternoon), you might well have run across Lucille Rivers. She wrote for Better Homes and Gardens and McCall, lectured around the country, appeared regularly on Arlene Francis' show Home, and eventually got her own program, Fashions in Sewing.

That ad is from Los Angeles, but it didn't matter where you lived - you probably had the chance to see Fashions in Sewing. You've seen the show in the TV listings throughout the '60s and into the  70s; in the listings below, you'll find her show in both the Duluth and Minneapolis-St. Paul markets.

January 13, 2018

This week in TV Guide: January 10, 1970

This week Super Bowl IV takes top honors on television. Nowhere in this issue is it called that, by the way; it's only referred to as the "Super Bowl" even though the Roman numerals had already been implemented by then. Of course, we all know how much the Super Bowl has changed since its earliest days --

-- But wait. Maybe we don't all know that. After all, if you're under, say, 40, you've probably never known any other Super Bowl than what we have today. And if that's the case, then this one TV Guide is going to tell you everything about what the Super Bowl is by showing you what it was, and what it wasn't.

What it wasn't, first of all, was a ratings monster. How do we know that? Easy: the game started at 2:30 p.m. CT on CBS, with only a half-hour pregame show. It's true that nothing was scheduled against it*; local movies and syndicated series (The Rifleman, 77 Sunset Strip, The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), but in the days before saturation sports on TV, that wasn't all that unusual in the first place.

*In 1970 CBS broacast the NHL as well as the NFL, and the Rangers-Canadiens game began at 11:30 a.m. - it was about the only time CBS could televise it. In 1971, when NBC carries the Super Bowl, CBS schedules its NHL game directly opposite it.

It was about the game, not the commercials. It was the final matchup between the American and National Football Leagues, a rivalry as bitter as anything in sports. With the victory by the Kansas City Chiefs over the Minnesota Vikings, the final Super Bowl tally between the two leagues was 2-2. People watched it for what happened on the field, not during the commercial breaks. Besides, the game's only allocated three-and-a-half hours of airtime, and you have to figure that last half hour is reserved for the trophy presentation. When the commercials* are the most important thing about the broadcast, I can promise the game and the trophy presentation aren't going to get done in that amount of time.

*And the halftime "concert." In perhaps the first example of a Super Bowl halftime extravaganza, Al Hirt was the headliner of a Marti Gras celebration.

And about the two teams - there was no week off after the league championship games to allow the Super Hype to build up; therefore, at press time TV Guide didn't even know who the teams were. The best they could do was to give the rosters for the four teams playing to get into the game: the Kansas City Chiefs and Oakland Raiders in the AFL, and the Minnesota Vikings and Cleveland Browns in the NFL. Two of these teams will compete for the trophy; tune in Sunday to see who they are.

There's no special section in TV Guide, by the way, dealing with the game. No sidebar on "memorable moments" (such as last year's shocking upset win by the New York Jets over the Baltimore Colts), no "gameday recipes" for your Super Bowl party. Just a two-page article by TV Guide's resident sports expert Melvin Durslag, writing about the general surprise that this year's game was being played in New Orleans instead of making Miami the permanent home (as many had expected), and wondering about how long football would continue to remain America's top sport (looks like he was ahead of his time, doesn't it?).

There's no question that in January 1970 the Super Bowl is a big game. It's one of the biggest sporting events of the year. But that's all it was, and sometimes it helps to have a reminder of when, unlike today, that was the case.

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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: Tiny Tim and his bride Miss Vicki are the headliners, offering a medly of love songs through the ages. Scheduled guests: Flip Wilson, Peter Gennaro, Stiller and Meara, country singer Sonny James and songstress Karen Wyman

Palace: Bacharach tunes predominate as hosts Burt Bacharach and his wife Angie Dickinson present jockey Bill Shoemaker (singing and dancing in his show business debut), comie Scoey Mitchell, and singers Dusty Springfield and Sam and Dave.

This is a strange week, isn't it? I know that Tiny Tim was big stuff back then; I even remember watching his marriage to Miss Vicki on Carson's show. But if they're headlining Sullivan, it doesn't speak well for the rest of the show, does it? I'd love to know what Ed thought of Tim personally - he was a shrewd judge of talent, but I can't help thinking that he looked at this as being something he had to do to keep the show on the air. Burt Bacharach is scheduled to do several of his own songs tonight, with the Ray Charles singers (not that Ray Charles), and while he's not a very good singer, he's written some wonderful songs that should make for a very good show, especially when someone else like Dusty Springfield is singing those songs. Angie could probably just stand there and look good, and it wouldn't hurt the show one bit. Tonight, Palace sits at the top of the heap.

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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. 

Jim Nabors is one of those rarities in show business. He left a hit series, Gomer Pyle, USMC, at the height of its popularity, in order to star in his own variety show. According to Cleveland Amory, Nabors prefers his new series because (1) he likes to sing, and (2) the hours on this show are better. There's only one problem with this, says Amory: "a lot of us are learning, the hard way, the rigors of listening to Mr. Nabors sing. It's not that he's a bad singer - he's not. But he's just not a singer. He's a comedian." And what that means, for viewers of The Jim Nabors Hour, is that "every time he sings a serious song we (1) can't get out of our head that album of the New York Mets singing and (2) have an almost uncontrollable urge to grab Mr. Nabors, say 'Terrific game, Jim,' pour champagne on his head and push him into the showers."

Singing is one component of the three-legged variety show formula. The second leg is dancing, and Nabors is no dancer either. That leaves only the third leg, comedy. "And here let us say it does pass muster. Not only is Mr. Nabors a fairly funny fellow to begin with, he has a very funny way of making even unfunny stories come off funny." It helps that his former Pyle sidekick Frank Sutton is a regular on the show, and also that his guest stars, such as Carol Burnett, have been given very funny sketches to work in.

But then it comes back to singing, such as the duet he did with Kate Smith in which "Mr. Nabors deferred to Miss Smith so much that it was hardly a duet at all." Fortunately, this too was saved by what Amory refers to as "one of their typical unfunny funnies," to which Amory confesses, "well - OK. We laughed." A lot of people did when they were watching Jim Nabors, and plenty of people did like his singing, even if Cleve wasn't one of them. The Jim Nabors Hour survived on CBS for two seasons, and with its good ratings would probably have lasted longer were it not for the network's rural purge. Jim Nabors popularity, however, never waned.

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The Jim Nabors Hour airs Thursday night at 7:00 on CBS, and this week's guest is singer Barbara McNair, which I guess means that the travel medley that Jim and Barbara are doing is going to be only so-so, while the comedy bits will be pretty good. Guess we don't need to watch now, do we?

In fact, there are quite a few variety shows on this week. On Saturday (6:30 p.m., NBC), Andy Williams welcomes Cass Elliott, Arte Johnson, and Ray Stevens, with cameos by Lorne Greene and Sam Jaffe (who's playing his Ben Casey character of Dr. Zorba in a sketch).  At the same time on CBS, Jackie Gleason's guests are Milton Berle, Jackie Gayle, Irwin C. Watson, and Allan Drake. Meanwhile, Sunday at 8:00 p.m. on CBS, Glen Campbell has Roger Miller, Caterina Valente, and Henry Gibson.

Monday ABC's failed 45-minute experiment Music Scene (6:30 p.m.), with host David Steinberg, departs the scene with appearances from Bo Diddley, John Sebastian, Buffy Sainte-Marie and Randy Marr.* Carol Burnett is nowhere near failing, though, and her guests tonight are Nancy Wilson and Nanette Fabray. (CBS, 9:00 p.m.) Tuesday evening belongs to Red Skelton (7:30, CBS) with an excellent lineup featuring Duke Ellington and his orchestera, and comedianne Pat Carroll.

*ABC's other 45-minute series, The New People, also says farewell on Monday. The shows are replaced by It Takes a Thief and the Monday Night Movie.

I'm no country fan, but even I know that Hee Haw is famous for its big-name guest stars, and this Wednesday (6:30 p.m., CBS) is no exception, with Lynn Anderson, Hank Thompson, and Buck Owens' son Buddy Allen. NBC counters with a variety special at 7:00 p.m., "The Wonderful World of Girls," hosted by Gene Kelly, with Barbara Feldon, Ruth Buzzi, Kay Medford, Barbara Heller, Chanin Hale and Diane Davis, along with members of the Las Vegas Folles Bergere (right). At 9:00, Rowan and Martin are back - not as part of Laugh-In, but as hosts of a "satirical swipe at TV" with Carol Burnett, the Smothers Brothers, Sammy Davis Jr., and cameos by suprise stars.

Thursday also sees the final Christmas special of the year, 90 minutes of highlights from Bob Hope's 15-day tour of Vietnam, Germany, Italy, Turkey, Thailand, Taiwan and Guam. (NBC, 7:30 p.m.) He's brought along Connie Stevens, Suzanne Charney, Miss World Eva Reubar-Staier, the Golddiggers, Romy Schneider (in Germany only), comic jugglers the Pieros, and Teresa Graves. Following Bob, Dean Martin takes his turn (9:00 p.m., NBC), with Sammy Davis Jr., Andy Griffith, Paul Lynde, and comic-singer Glenn Ash. Meantime, over at ABC, Tom Jones is the man at 8:00 p.m., with George Gobel, Shani Wallis, Spanish singer Rafael, and the Rascals.

Finally, Friday rounds out the week with the final episode of Jimmy Durante Presents the Lennon Sisters, and their guests Ed Ames, David Frye, and Ferrante and Teicher. Jimmy and the Lennons sing "Try to Remember," and I wonder if that's the epitaph on their show?

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Buried in The Doan Report this week is a very interesting quote, another of those that convinces us there's nothing new under the sun. The debate is whether or not network commentary should be labeled as "editorial opinion." It's an issue that's been raised by Vice President Agnew, who cites unlabeled commentaries as evidence of a liberal network bias. One major station-ownership group, Storer Broadcasting, is threating to put their own superimpositions on screen, even if NBC and CBS refuse to do so. (ABC is currently the only network to clearly label commentary as such.)

Richard S. Salant, president of CBS News, is uncomfortable with the whole thing. "What a can of worms that opens up!" he says of the Storer threat. "The trouble these days is, everything somebody agrees with is fact, and anything they don't agree with is opinion. I wish I knew how they're going to define what is 'editorial'." Now, substitute "news" and "fake news" for "fact" and "opinion", and try that one on for size. With the proliferation of the internet and social media, I'd argue that things are worse today than they were in Salant's time - but it hardly began with Trump and Clinton.

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Finally, names.

There are plenty of them this week. On Sunday, ABC's movie is The House on Green Apple Road, which was the pilot for the Dan August series. Burt Reynolds plays police lieutenant Dan August when the series debuts in September 1970, but in this movie the role is played by Christopher George. The guest cast is Janet Leigh, Julie Harris, Tim O'Connor, Walter Pidgeon, Barry Sullivan, Keenan Wynn, Mark Richman, William Windom, Joanne Linville, Burr DeBenning, and Lynda Day. (She and Christopher George would be married in May 1970.)

The Friday night movie on CBS is Robin and the 7 Hoods, which has if anything an even better cast: Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Sammy Davis Jr., Bing Crosby, Edward G. Robinson, Peter Falk, Barbara Rush, VIctor Buono, Hank Henry, and Allan Jenkins. It makes the rest of the night - Lee Meriwether, Yvonne DeCarlo, and cameos by Rudy Vallee, Edward Everett Horton, and Estelle Winwood on The Name of the Game (NBC, 7:30 p.m.), Bill Mumy, Harold Gould, and Larry Linville on Here Come the Brides (ABC, 8:00 p.m.) and Don Rickles on a rerun of Run For Your Life (WTCN, 8:30 p.m.) look shallow by comparison.

And then there's this ad touting Rosemary Prinz's debut on ABC's All My Children. The ad runs every day this week, giving you an idea of what a big deal this is. Prinz was famous for playing Penny Hughes on As the World Turns from 1956-68. She and her on-screen husband Jeff Baker were, according to the always-reliable Wikipedia, daytime television's first supercouple, although I might have suggested Mike and Sara Karr from The Edge of Night, but I digress.

Prinz was part of All My Children for six months, during which her name ran above the title, and she was the only cast member to have her picture in the opening credits. It was the first month for All My Children - not a bad way to make a splash, hmm? TV  

January 12, 2018

Around the dial

Television Obscurities offers a remembrance of the "other" Van Dyke, Jerry, who died last week at age 86. Perhaps he was overshadowed by his brother Dick, but if any of us had had the career Jerry did, I suspect we would all be well-pleased with it.

And while we're on the subject of Van Dykes, we shouldn't overlook the death of Rose Marie just prior to the end of the year. She was 94, and had a fabulous career that ran the gamut from child star to a member of one of the great ensemble casts in the history of television. They're all gone now, save Carl Reiner.

Catching up on a loose end, Bob Sassone at Vulture writes about 10 great Christmas movies that aren't really about Christmas. I understand exactly what he means by that; We're No Angels, although it takes place on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day and involves a little Christmas party, isn't really about Christmas (unless you count the deaths of two people who could make your life miserable as being Santa's gift to you). I do like the idea of someone naming Three Days of the Condor as their favorite Christmas movie!

Thrilling Days of Yesteryear looks back on a series getTV is currently showing (although you can get it on DVD as well), The Restless Gun, with John Payne. I mentioned an episode from this series here; it's a good series, not a great or even very good one, but it isn't bad either. Payne is, as always, engaging, though  I never saw in him (or in Jimmy Stewart, who originally played a similar role in the radio series The Six Shooter) the kind of world-weariness that ought to be present in a former gunfighter.

British TV Detectives gets around to one of my favorite of the genre, Inspector Morse, which ran for 12 seasons between 1987 and 2000. I always admired the dark, moody atmosphere found in many of the episodes, which often touched on more existential matters than found in today's proceedurals.

At Comfort TV, David takes a charming look at some of the things that populate television shows from 50 or so years ago, things we might not be familiar with today - like charm schools. David offers an elegant line, one I feel more and more: "every New Year takes us further away from the time when shows from the Comfort TV era were made – shows that reflected what life in America was like at that time." As I wrote once in another context, it's another country, not my own.

Come back to that country tomorrow; you'll find a new TV Guide waiting for you. TV