February 17, 2018

This week in TV Guide: February 19, 1966

Sometimes life throws you a curve, and when that happens the best thing you can do is hang on for the ride. This is the story of one of those curves, and it's called "The Case of the TV Guide with the Missing Pages."

Our story opens as the issue opens. At first everything is normal - but then, after the New York Teletype on page 4, the next page in the issue is - page 11. So that's why the story on Fred Friendly starts in the middle. Page 12 is there, so we're back on firm ground, and then - the programming section. What happened to pages 13 through 18? A close inspection of the binding and the pages on the other side of the local section reveals some tears right along the fold, which leads me to believe that the original owner of this issue removed some of the contents. It's part of the risk you run when you purchase issues from antique stores; you never really know what you're getting. Perhaps there were some coupons or other ads that someone really wanted.

That's not the end of it, though. Every day, from Monday through Friday, the noontime programs have been cut out, leaving a empty spot where once there lived a television show. It has to be the same program being cut out each day; that's the only explanation, since it comes at the same time each day. The cumulative effect is somewhat like the letters soldiers sent home during the war, after they'd passed through the censor's office. When you combine that with the checkmarks placed next to each one of the movies in the issue, it's clear that what we have here is a TV Guide that's been lived in. In a way it's kind of charming - this is no museum exhibit, no reproduction of an old magazine. This is the real thing, used by a family for the purpose it was intended. It's a slice of real life, and compared to that, any minor annoyance by an amateur historian is small potatoes.

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There are some practical aspects to this, of course. If you want a thorough analysis of that Fred Friendly piece, talking about how he's fought for his baby, CBS Reports, you're probably not going to get it. We do know, though, that Friendly is very proud of his CBS news division, over which he presides as president. He's adamant on how the division should remain above the cheap and sensational; "CBS Reports cares little for the show-business world." He is also scornful of attempts to make the news department a profit center rather than a servant of the public. "There's a limit to just how much entertainment can be created. You can be overentertained, but never overinformed." Despite ratings that indicate popular series such as, well, Bonanza, outperform CBS Reports by five-to-one, Friendly is adamant. "The fact remains that shooting a man up in a rocket is more exciting than shooting a cowboy on Bonanza and  seeing catsup seep out of his shirt." Even so, it's more important for the news to be educational than entertaining. "We must have the right to be dull at times."

It is ironic, then, that the "For the Record" section, which for the record is intact, makes mention of CBS's new programming chief, John Schneider, vetoing Friendly's plans to televise the Senate Foreign Relations Committee's live hearings on Vietnam, preferring instead to show The Lucy Show. This incident will lead to Friendly's resignation from CBS (on February 15, before this issue had even hit the newsstands); it is, Friendly said, "the most important act of my life ... a matter of conscience." As networks begin to demand more from their news divisions, namely ratings to attract advertising dollars, Friendly condemns what he sees as the bleak future of television: being "twisted into an electronic carnival, in which showbiz wizardry and values obscure the line between entertainment and news."

After his resignation, Friendly is not lacking for offers, supposedly from NBC, ABC and the BBC. Instead, he decides to go to work for the Ford Foundation and later teaches at Columbia University. Eventually, he produces a series of provocative seminars on television ethics, in which he asks a panel of journalists how they'd react to various situations, and the ensuing discussion and debate made for fascinating television - to me, at least.

So in fact, I suspect this story from "For the Record," and its follow-up, is probably a lot more important than whatever it is we're missing from the rest of the issue. Maybe this won't be such a bad edition to look at after all.

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During the 60s, the Ed Sullivan Show and The Hollywood Palace were the premiere variety shows on television. Whenever they appear in TV Guide together, we'll match them up and see who has the best lineup..

Sullivan: Ed's scheduled guests are sitirist Allan Sherman; the rock 'n' rolling Dave Clark Five and the Supremes; Menasha Skulnik, currently starring in Broadway's "The Zulu and the Sayda"; comics Stiller and Meara; and Ugu Garrido, who juggles with his feet. Julie Andrews is seen in a clip from the film "The Sound of Music."

Palace: Host Bing Crosby introduces singers Rosemary Clooney and Bing's sone Gary; Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy; comedian Henny Youngman; dancer Hugh Lambert; comedy xylophonist Roger Ray; and the Fiji military band.

This is a pretty straightforward week. Palace starts out with an advantage due to Bing as host, but throw in Rosie, Bergen and McCarthy, and Henny Youngman, and that produces a winning formula every time. This week the Palace comes out on top.

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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. 

I love it when Cleveland Amory lets us know what he thinks right away, and that's the case this week with The Wackiest Ship in the Army. "It's a tough title to live down to, but this show does it," he writes in the opening paragraph, and it's all downhill from there.

Wackiest Ship is set it World War II, "[b]ased on the television thesis that wars are a scream - as long as they are least one war before the one we're in now," and takes place on the USS Kiwi, a two-masted schooner used in espionage missions. The series, as you might gather from the title, purports to be a comedy - at least from what Amory "learned from survivors of its first viewing," and then "developed" into "a strange mixture of low comedy, high adventure and low dresses." (So far I'm already holding my sides in anticipation.) As for the stars of this adventure, aside from Jack Warden and Rudi Solari, who have their moments, "the general cailber of the acting and directing is so near sea level that we can only aedvise you to keep your eyes on the Kiwi," which is not only the best-looking, but the best-acting, thing in this series.

Does this series drag? I can't say for myself; it's probably been over fifty years since I saw an episode (but then, there were only 29 of them to see), but Cleve says that he saw an episode in October "which we will swear to you is still going on." Sadly, that looks to be the only way Wackiest Ship will stay on the air.

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It must be a sign of the enlightened '60s. Rather than a rising starlet, we have a rising male star - what would you call him? In this case, you'd call him Lee Majors, who was once projedcted to be the new James Dean, but after a few months as one of the stars of ABC's The Big Valley, he hasn't quite lived up to the predections.

Majors is young, good looking, and ambitious. He also confident - very confident,saying that after a few years on TV, he'd like to get into movies. "Seven years from now, if everything works, I'll be getting an Academy Award nomination." He was not only compared to Dean, but some saw in him a stance reminiscent of Paul Newman. Barbara Stanwyck, star of The Big Valley, found his magnetism "irrestible." He's seen as the key component to attracting young viewers to the show, and the network isn't shy about promoting him that way. It rubs some of his co-stars the wrong way, actors like Richard Long and Peter Breck who've already starred in their own series.

It's not all his fault though, says one of the show's producers, Jules Levy. There are, after all, five other stars on the program, making it harder for any one of them other than Stanwyck to break out. He's also been upstaged by a hot young prospect from another ABC show, The Long Hot Summer's Roy Thinnes. Levy's still bullish on Majors though, despite associate producer Lou Morheim's statement that "He's not exactly the rage of the network." "This kid," says Levy, "jumps out of the screen at you. One day people will come to discover it."

It's one of those predictions, and we see them from time to time in these pages, that actually comes true. Lee Majors goes on to become a very big star for ABC, first on The Six Million Dollar Man and then on The Fall Guy. He marries a woman who goes on to become one of the most desirable in Hollywood, Farrah Fawcett. To this day he continues to guest star in various series and appear in television movies. And although he never quite reaches the heights of James Dean and never gets those Oscar nominatons, his career has by far outlasted Dean's entire life. All in all, I suspect Lee Majors would be pretty satisfied with that.

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Let's see if we can find anything interesting in the programming week - at least in the remaining pages.

On Monday, the Righteous Brothers host Hullabaloo (6:30 p.m., NBC) with guest star Nancy Sinatra. What's My Line? moderator John Daly is the special guest on CBS's I've Got a Secret at 7:00 p.m., and at 7:30 p.m. Bob Crane is the guest on The Lucy Show (CBS). Vic Damone, who died on the very day that these words are being typed, is one of the guests on The Andy Williams Show (8:00 p.m., NBC) along with Anthony Newley and Allan Sherman. But if you're looking for a galaxy of stars, check out CBS at 9:00 p.m., and The Strollin' 20's, a salute to the Harlem of that era, with Sidney Poitier, Sammy Davis Jr., Diahann Carroll, Duke Ellington, Joe Williams, Nipsey Russell and George Kirby, among others.

Tuesday's headliner is the season finale to Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concerts (6:30 p.m,, CBS) in which he presents an internationl group of teenage pianists and young conductors. None of the names on the show look the least bit familiar, with the exception of the 25-year-old conductor Edo de Waart, who 20 years later will become the music director of none other that our very own Minnesota Orchestra. I've seen him in person several times; he's very, very good.

Part two of "Michaelangelo: The Last Giant" returns on NBC Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m.; part one was, as I recall, back in November, but hey - he's not going anywhere, and neither are his magnificent works. Tonight's show looks at the last 50 years of Michaelangelo's life, including his glorious fresco in the Sistine Chapel. José Ferrer is the narrator, and Peter Ustinov reads excerpts from the artist's letters. On The Dick Van Dyke Show (8:30, CBS), Sally (Rose Marie) takes a page from The Dating Game, deciding she's going on a TV show to advertise for a husband. Maybe she was really thinking about The Bachelorette. And movie star Dolores Del Rio makes a rare television appearance on I Spy (9:00, NBC); her fellow guest star is the classic movie villain Victor Jory.*

*Fun fact: according to the always-reliable Wikipedia, Victor Jory was the narrator of the classic children's film "Tubby the Tuba."

On Thursday, David Wayne takes his place in the Batman guest villian hall of fame, playing the Mad Hatter (6:30 p.m., ABC). He's assisted by Diane McBain. On CBS's Thursday Night Movie, it's the movie that Jimmy Stewart always said was his favorite: "Harvey," the story of Elwood P. Dowd and his invisible rabbit friend.

Friday gives us one of those Sammy Davis Jr. episodes in which Sammy actually appears (7:30 p.m., NBC); his guests are Juliet Prowse, George Maharis, Barbara McNair, Gene Krupa and Buddy Rich, and Bob Melvin. Pretty good lineup, if you ask me. At 9:00 p.m., CBS presents one of those news specials of which Fred Friendly is so proud, "16 in Webster Govers." Says host Charles Kuralt in "For the Record," "I thought we would be doing a film about dissatisfaction and rebellion among teen-agers. Instead we found. . . a drive for financial success, an obsession about going along with the 'in' crowd, a lack of awareness of the world about them." Interesting how quickly things change.

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Finally, we've seen how The Beverly Hillbillies can explain your salvation; now we're going to see how it can also explain your appetite - satisfying it, that is. From the upcoming Granny's Hillbilly Cookbook by series co-star Irene Ryan and Cathey Pinckney, we present a sample recipe:

As Julia Child would say, "Bon Appétit!" 

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Before we wrap up, a reminder that the Classic TV Blog Association blogathon on Classic TV Villains begins tomorrow. My entry is on Monday, which means the TV listings from this issue will be postponed to Wednesday. Be here - Aloha. TV  


  1. I had completely forgotten about those journalism discussions Friendly monitored, which aired on PBS. Someone should hook a couple of wires up to his corpse - given the current state of broadcast news he's probably spinning so fast in his grave he could power a major city.

  2. The sad thing about the Friendly resignation is that his bosses were probably in the right. The hearing CBS wouldn't show was of George Kennan, a former diplomat and war critic--who had no experience with Vietnam at all. Generals, diplomats, and cabinet secretaries who testified were shown in full by CBS. Would Mr. Friendly been so eager to fall on his sword if a prominent hawk was pre-empted?

    1. ABC and NBC carried Keenan's testimony live (and the latter showed it in color). It was supposedly Fred Friendly's watching Keenan on the monitors tuned into ABC and NBC, while his own network was showing an "I Love Lucy" rerun, that prompted him to go to race to the office of Jack Schneider and abruptly submit his resignation.

    2. Alvaro Leos: I think Friendly would have quit even if a prominent "hawk"'s testimony had been ignored by CBS but shown live on ABC and NBC.


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