Pity the poor television executive, he says: at the moment of truth, "He must emerge from his mink-lined foxhole and make a public statement, usually a pretty innocuous one, to the effect that there are worse things in this world than television, such as cancer and the napalm bomb. Then, according to time-honored ritual, he is clobbered with a barrage of charges and specifications so horrifying, all-encompassing and unprovable that the late Judge Jeffreys, the Hanging Judge, would have blushed to introduce them during the Bloody Assizes."
No matter what the executive does, he can't escape. No matter what he says, it's the wrong thing. If you think "fake news" is a recent invention, Jeffreys quotes historian Daniel Boorstein, who "claimed that the mass media were engaged mainly in the business of supplying people with pseudo-news about nonhappenings, and thus getting them out of touch with reality." Some things never change; we just call them different things. Then there's Dr. Frederic Wertham, who in a previous issue of TV Guide wrote that television, through their presentation of violent shows and "murder news" conditions audiences to the point that they find the horrors of Vietnam "tame stuff."
It goes on and on, and while I wouldn't say that Maloney dismisses it out of hand, his personal opinion is "nobody knows for sure." He looks back at the history of, for example, "War of the Worlds." Orson Welles accused of creating panic? Well, yes, but - it turns out that most of the people who were the most scared hadn't even heard the broadcast, but were deeply religious people fearing that the end of the world had come. "So if we don't want panic," Maloney says, "maybe we should eliminate religion - or at least, the hard-core gospel, the sort of thing that makes people nervous?"
What's the conclusion that Maloney reaches? "[I]f you really wonder why people beat children, or take heroin, or bomb civilians, or pollute the air they themselves must breathe...well, may heaven bless you." And find success looking for a good scapegoat.
The highlight of the sports week is Saturday night's NCAA basketball championship final, telecast live from Louisville on the syndicated Sports Network Incorporated, with Bill Flemming and Frank Sims calling the action. The tournament's much different than it is today, with 23 teams instead of, what, 68 this year? Or is it 168? I can't keep track. Anyway, it's a historic tournament, the start of UCLA's reign of terror (seven consecutive championships), defeating Dayton in the final 79-64.
This is the fifth year for the tournament final to be televised, although only once in the past has it been seen on network TV (1962, when Wide World of Sports showed it on a one-day delay). Although the rival NIT has had a contract for several years with CBS, it won't be until 1969 that the NCAA returns to the big time, on NBC. The rest, of course, is history.
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.
This week Cleveland Amory boldly goes where no man has gone before - to review the adventures of the Starship Enterprise on Star Trek. And it takes viewers on quite a trip as well.
He likes the ensemble cast - William Shatner ("last of the clean-cutters") is just right for Captain Kirk; "When he says sternly, 'Affirmative' or 'Negative' to some scheming girl yeoman, you just know - well, he yeomeans it." He picks up on Spock's ears, of course, but also his "precise, logical turn of mind." Dr. McCoy, Mr. Sulu, Lieutenant Uhura - the whole crew is "so darn well-integrated internationally that it seems a pity to waste them on outer space. We need them right here on Earth."
Cleve also picks up on the "Wagon Train in space" aspect of the show, calling the adventures "shoot-'em-ups of one sort or another." In the episode "Shore Leave," the crew runs into "a large White Rabbit, a small Alice, a don Juan, a tiger, a Japanese samurai, a German strafing plane, a Black Knight (apparently a loser in the Ajax contest), as well as a rather hazy girl friend of Captain Kirk's." It's pretty exciting stuff. For kids, that is - for adults, the best way to watch it is, as Amory quotes Kirk one last time, "Face front. Don't talk. Don't think. Don't breathe!"
Hot off the press - or at least the Teletype:
- Vic Damone will be the summer replacement for Dean Martin, while Deano goes off to Mexico to make The Ambushers, the second of his great Matt Helm movies.
- Celebrity barber Jay Sebring, who charges stars up to $50 for a haircut (today's value: $374.66), is playing - what else? - a barber in an April episode of The Virginian. Sadly, Sebring's most famous role will be as one of the victims of the Manson Family at Sharon Tate's home in 1969.
- Speaking of Sharon Tate, Judy Garland has been announced as one of the stars of Tate's best-known movie, Valley of the Dolls. Unfortunately for Judy, she'll be sacked from the production, supposedly after showing up drunk, and is replaced by Susan Hayward. Meanwhile, Tate will go on to co-star in the fourth Matt Helm movie, The Wrecking Crew. It's her last movie to be released before her murder.
- Peter Graves, already a veteran of three series, chooses to accept the role of Jim Phelps in Mission: Impossible next fall, replacing Steven Hill.
- Joan Blondell's been signed for a new ABC series, Mrs. Thursday. If you've never heard of it, you're not alone - it never made it past the pilot stage. Instead, Blondell winds up on a different ABC series, Here Come the Brides. Fair trades for all concerned, I'd say.
Now, we know that Batman survives, at least for a little while longer, but who is this Yvonne Adair? She's mentioned a couple of times in TV Guide in conjunction with Batman, but I haven't been able to find out anything about her. There was a Yvonne Adair, born around 1922, who did some work on Broadway, but that hardly sounds like Batgirl material, does it? We all know that the real Batgirl was Yvonne Craig, but there's no record of "Adair" as one of her names. So who knows? If anyone does, I'm sure it's one of you all out there.
March 26, 1967 is Easter Sunday, so let's see what television is doing to commemorate Christianity's holiest day.
Some big names appear on The Triumphant Hour, a syndicated program (Saturday, 4:30 p.m., KGLO). The Triumphant Hour dates back to 1951, when it was the first TV program from Family Theater Productions, a product of Fr. Patrick Peyton, the famous "Rosary Priest" who's slogan was, "The family that prays together stays together." When it came to television, Fr. Peyton was pretty serious; The Triumphant Hour stars Bob Hope and his family, Don Amache, Jerry Colonna, Ruth Hussey, Roddy McDowall, Pat O'Brien, and Jane Wyman. Here's the teaser:
Easter morning brings several programs; CBS reruns a special Easter Concert (9:00 a.m.), featuring Metropolitan Opera soprano Laurel Hurley with the CBS Orchestra and the Camerata Singers. That's followed at 10:00 a.m. by an Easter service live from the United Church on the Green in New Haven, Connecticut. Incidentally, WCCO, the CBS affiliate in Minneapolis-St. Paul, carries neither of these programs; instead, we were treated to a Bowery Boys movie. NBC is also on at 10:00 a.m., with Easter Mass from the Grail, in Loveland, Ohio. Interestingly enough, our NBC affiliate, KSTP, doesn't carry this either, although at least its replacement is another religious program, Frontiers of Faith.
At noon, ABC (and KMSP, the Minneapolis-St. Paul affiliate; yippie!) broadcasts a taped replay of the Good Friday service at Holy Name Church in San Francisco. Later in the afternoon - 4:30 p.m., to be exact, WCCO somewhat redeems itself with a half-hour of Easter music from the Gustavus Adolphus College choir. However, before we get too excited, we're once again left out in the cold when KSTP neglects to carry the Bell Telephone Hour's broadcast of the Easter music from Handel's "Messiah" (5:30 p.m.), with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, from Red Rocks Amphitheater in Denver. Again, I'll give them this; it's pre-empted by Of Lands and Seas, with a tour of the Holy Land.
For most of my adult life, ABC has traditionally broadcast The Ten Commandments on Easter evening, but I'm guessing the custom hasn't yet started; instead, at 6:00 p.m. it's the Biblical spectacular The Robe, the first movie to be made in CinemaScope, with Richard Burton in one of his seven Oscar-nominated roles (no wins, alas); the movie, which was nominated for Best Picture, also stars Jean Simmons, Michael Rennie, Dean Jagger, and Richard Boone as a particularly nasty Pilate.
There's a line in the movie Holiday Inn when Bing Crosby, explaining to Fred Astaire why he's leaving their act, says that in show business a holiday means you do two shows. With that as the backdrop, it doesn't surprise me at all that the Tony Awards are telecast for the first time on network television Sunday night (8:30 p.m., ABC), hosted by Mary Martin and Robert Preston. The Tonys were much bigger in this era than they are today, or maybe I should say much more familiar, since so many movie and television stars had their roots in the legitimate theater. In fact, Preston is one of the winners this year, taking home Best Actor in a Musical for I Do, I Do. You'll probably recognize some of the other winners; Barbara Harris is Best Actress in a Musical for The Apple Tree, Ian Holm wins Supporting Actor in a Play for The Homecoming (Harold Pinter's play, which also won Best Play), and Joel Grey wins Supporting Actor in a Musical for Cabaret, which also wins Best Musical.
You can watch the whole thing on YouTube - minus commercials, it's only a little more than an hour. Can you believe that for an awards show?
Finally, some good news from the mailbag. Everyone loved "Mark Twain Tonight," Hal Holbrook's famous one-man show, when it was broadcast on CBS three weeks ago. Sheila Walker of Beloit, Wisconsin hopes it wins an Emmy (it will), Judith O'Rourke of Walpole, Massachusetts, offers a BRAVO for Holbrook and DOUBLE BRAVO to Mark Twain himself, and Mrs. M.D. Collins of Delmar, Delaware, says that "with shows like this on the tube, there's got to be hope for the future of television." That should indeed be something we can all agree on.