March 3, 2018

This week in TV Guide: March 5, 1966

On this week's cover is Agent 99, Barbara Feldon, done in the iconic style of Andy Warhol - which is natural considering Andy Warhol himself is responsible for the artwork. Does TV Guide do anything other than pictures for the cover nowadays? Probably not, since it's really nothing but a fanzine anymore, but there was a time when the work of a fairly distinguished group of artists appeared on the cover.

Ronald Searle, the famed British satirical cartoonist, was responsible for multiple covers, including illustrations of David Janssen, the cast of The Beverly Hillbilliesand Lucille Ball. Lucy was also the subject of Richard Amsel, who did many covers over the years. Of course, last year we saw Salvador Dali's surrealistic cover and the accompanying story featuring Edith Efron's attempts to interview Dali. Al Hirschfeld's rendition of Carol Burnett in 1970 came just a few weeks before the great Norman Rockwell produced this photo-like portrait of Johnny Carson. LeRoy Neiman was the natural choice for football-themed covers, producing them in 1973 and 1991, and the hipster Peter Max produced this cover for the 1988 election.

There have been many striking photos on the cover of TV Guide as well; one of my favorites was this festive Patty Duke picture in 1963 that looks much more colorful in real life than the picture. But there are times, such as this reflective 1970 portrait of the retiring Chet Huntley, that a painting or drawing captures the mood in a way that a photograph can't quite match. Intentional or not, what this suggests to me is that the magazine felt real artwork lent a gravitas and seriousness, demonstrating that TV Guide deserved to be mentioned in the same conversation as other magazines with important artwork on the cover - The New Yorker, The Saturday Evening Post, the old covers of Fortune - and that mirrors the seriousness with which the editors felt the contents of TV Guide should be taken. And without question, the art itself tells us much about the times that produce it.

Today's modern covers feature pictures that are nice enough, I suppose, if you can see them through the screaming text that threatens to obscure everything, but there's nothing special anymore, just as there's nothing special about the contents inside. That's no surprise, though; if the articles themselves have been dumbed down, why should the covers be any different?

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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: Scheduled guests are singers Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello; the Ramsey Lewis Trio, jazz instrumentalists; comedians John Byner, and Tony Hendra and Nick Ullett; French songstress Mireille Mathieu; and Topo Gigio, the Italian mouse.

Palace: Host Milton Berle welcomes "Batman" Adam West, who makes his singing debut and does a "Batman" spoof with Milton, Martha Raye, and Henny Youngman. Other guests: singer-dancer Elaine Dunn; Sandler and Young, musical-comedy duo; and the Amin Brothers, acrobats.

Not a great lineup for either show this week in my opinion (although your mileage may vary), but there's a camp value alone to Adam West singing and spoofing Batman, and with the rest of the acts pretty much cancelling each other out, the Batsignal is showing me a narrow victory for The Palace.

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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. 

American actor Steve Forrest's British TV series The Baron is one of those short-run shows I've thought about picking up if the price ever comes down.* I've never seen an episode of it though, so when The Baron shows up in Cleveland Amory's review, it makes me sit up and take notice. Or take notes, as the case may be.

*It's over $65 right now, although if you shop around you can find it for about $35.

The long and short of it, according to Cleve: it's good. The source material, crime writer John Creasey, gives it an edge right off the bat. And, being a British series (although, strangely, it debuted here before it did across the pond, which means it isn't simply a "Second Season" rental), it has what Amory considers the cardinal virtues of Brit dramas: "understated humor, understated heroics and even understated, though well-developed, heroines." The star, Forrest, is a rarity in these shows: an American actor playing an American. As the titular hero, "The Baron" is the owner of three exclusive antique shops, but he's also an undercover agent whose job is to recover priceless stolen objects. He's aided in these exploits by the aforementioned well-developed heroine, Sue Lloyd.

Amory doesn't go into a lot of detail about the relative virtues of the series, instead relying on summaries of several recent shows, which display entertaining plots, tight, clever writing, dry humor, and very good acting. At one point Amory even uses the word "wonderful," and non-ironically at that, which counts as quite an endorsement in my book. At the end of a typically exciting adventure, The Baron asks Sue if she's all right, to which she replies, "Yes, thank you." It's the politeness, Amory says, that puts things over the top. As does this review, if the DVD set of The Baron goes on sale.

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The Fred Friendly saga continues for the third week running, as our Letters to the Editor section gives us a clue as to public opinion. It's usually the custom of the editors to run letters that typify how viewer sentiment runs; in this case, we have one pro-Friendly letter and one con. In support of Friendly's stand (which you can read about in the last two "This Week in TV Guide" features) is Robert Lighthouse of Rochester, New York, who says in part that "it is a sad day when a top executive of a network noted for excellence in news coverage can decide to show reruns in preference to Senate hearings on the most important issue facing the American people." It's not just the networks to blame, though; it "must be shared by an apathetic public which prefers its world of daydreams to facing reality." Among those members of the public, apparently, is Mrs. Donald Willis of Indianapolis, who writs that "we housewives have at least one friend in court. I was made, mad, mad about having a whole day's schedule of programs canceled to make way for Vietnam discussions." Which leads one to wonder if Mrs. Willis and her husband have any boys who will come of draft age in the next five or six years. It would be interesting to see if her opinion has changed by then.

Seriously, though, there is a point to this. For many years viewers have complained about bulletins or special reports preempting regular programming on all three networks. Couldn't we have this on just one channel, the theory goes, leaving the other two for people who just aren't interested in the big story? And I'm not unsympathetic to such a viewpoint. It's something that we see increasingly as the subject of cable television becomes more and more prominent over the years, the idea of one station that would be exclusively devoted to news, allowing for the kind of in-depth coverage that commercial broadcasters increasingly shy away from. It's from this thinking that CNN arose. However, as the creation of MSNBC and the success of Fox News shows, even all-news networks eventually encounter competition. (Who knew that you could get different interpretations of the same event depending on which network you watched?)  (</sarcasm>)

Of course, one can argue, Mrs. Willis and those who share her opinion eventually win the day, but to what end? Except for the biggest stories, broadcast networks have virtually ceded coverage news coverage to cable networks, with the result that every story becomes a big story in order to fill the insatiable demand created by 24-hour networks. In the meantime, the remaining "news" programs on the networks drift more and more into sensationalist reporting, the glorification of celebritydom, and "fake" news from both sides; many of these shows are barely discernible from the reality programming that fills other parts of the schedule. Who could have seen this coming? Of course, even if they had, would it have made any difference?

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How about something a little lighter? Let's find some celebrities! (And no, they're not on the news.)

Game shows are still a good place for celebrity guests. This week Lloyd Bridges and Florence Henderson appear on CBS's Password (1:00 p.m. CT), while the parents of the Space Family Robinson, Guy Williams and June Lockhart are on NBC's You Don't Say! (2:30 p.m,), followed by Jayne Mansfield and Bennett Cerf* on Match Game (3:00 p.m.) Both What's My Line? (Sunday, 9:30 p.m., CBS) and the nighttime version of I've Got a Secret (Monday, 7:30 p.m., CBS) have two guest celebrities: on WML?, Mrs. John V. Lindsay (aka Mary Anne Harrison) and Tony Randall join the panel; meanwhile, on IGAS Edgar Buchanan has the secret, and Lee Remick sits in for vacationing Bess Myerson.

*Now there's an interesting pairing. No doubt Bennett would be delighted at the appearance of the "curvaceous cutie" Mrs. Mansfield.

On the week's variety shows (besides Sullivan and The Palace), Pat Boone hosts Hullabaloo (Monday, 6:30 p.m., NBC), with Donovan, Nancy Ames, and the Womenfolk; then (8:00 p.m., NBC) Andy Williams's guests are Tony Bennett, Peggy Lee, and Frank Gorshin. Tuesday's Red Skelton Hour (7:30 p.m., CBS) has Fernando Lamas, looking marvelous, and Ike Cole, brother of the late Nat and a fine musician in his own right. Wednesday it's Danny Kaye's turn (9:00 p.m, CBS), and he's joined by Nancy Wilson and John Gary. Thursday belongs to Dean Martin (9:00 p.m., NBC), with Ella Fitzgerald, Johnny Mathis, Shelly Berman, the Young Americans, and Gene Sheldon. Friday rounds out the week with a twin bill; first, Sammy Davis Jr. (7:30 p.m., NBC), with Gordon and Sheila MacRae, Peter Lawford, Mel Tormé, and Timmie Rogers; followed later by Jimmy Dean (9:00 p.m., ABC), with Roberta Sherwood, Boots Randolph, Norm Crosby, and Marvin Laird.

There's one more celebrity appearance that's worth noting: on NBC Children's Theatre (Sunday, 5:30 p.m.), Johnny Carson narrates an adaptation of E.B. White's children's classic, "Stuart Little," with a cast composed entirely of nonprofessionals. The charming adaptation goes on to win a Peabody; the citation states that it "was so technically adroit and so uncondescending in approach as to win the hearts of all—young and old." Here - judge for yourself.


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A couple of news specials give us a little more context to these soon-to-be turbulent times. On Tuesday at 9:00 p.m., a CBS News Special entitled "Our Friends, the French" explores the recent rift between the longtime allies, with France recently pulling out of the NATO military structure and deciding to go it alone with development of its own atomic program. Led by the headstrong DeGaulle, this was a source of major contention back in the day, with the French ability to make mischief on an international stage causing more than one country to have more than one outbreak of heartburn. Tune back in after Vietnam heats up to see what effect this has.

Speaking of Vietnam, ABC preempts Cleveland Amory's favorite, The Baron, on Friday night at 9:00 p.m. to present "Operation Sea War," a look at the Navy's role in the conflict, narrated by Glenn Ford, who is also a commander in the Navy Reserve. This is just a guess on my part, but I don't think the program probably mentions the Gulf of Tonkin; it did, however, come up* in those Senate hearings I mentioned earlier - you know, the ones that CBS and Fred Friendly butted heads over. I wonder if Mrs. Donald Willis watched this? Nah, she was probably watching the movie on CBS. ("The Interns," starring Cliff Robertson, Michael Callan, James MacArthur, and Suzy Parker.) That seems about right.

*To be precise, Committee Chairman J. William Fulbright referred to it as "the fraudulent Gulf of Tonkin episode."

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Finally, a last visit with Andy Warhol. Besides this week's cover, he did the inside fashion shoot with Barbara Feldon. Here are a couple of shots that leave no doubt as to the Warhol touch.



Think we'd see anything like that from someone of Warhol's stature in today's TV Guide? Somehow, I doubt it. TV  

10 comments:

  1. TV Guide covers used to be such a treat. When I was a kid with my own copy of "TV Guide: The First 25 Years," the middle section with 400 selected covers fascinated me so much. A couple of favorites included this one of Sid Caesar:
    http://www.tvguidemagazine.com/archive/suboffer/1950s/1955/19550219_c1.jpg.html

    And Hirschfeld's take on Uncle Miltie, which was a hoot:
    http://www.tvguidemagazine.com/archive/suboffer/1950s/1959/19590110_c1.jpg.html

    TV Guide used to have a certain distinctive look and style, something that more often than not had a hint of sophistication. Now TV Guide's a fanzine and you can't tell it from any other fanzine on the racks....

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    1. Impossible to say it any better than that, Jodie - thanks!

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  2. I have a different opinion then Mr Amory. The Baron is on the streaming service BritBox. I have watched several episodes and I haven't been able to watch more. The stories are terrible. A few written by the creator Terry Nation and they were worse. The stories were dull, cliche and derivative. One episode even did a bad version of Tokapi. In my opinion don't waste your money.

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    1. Thanks for the feedback, Joseph. Having seen his non-Doctor Who scripts, I'm sometimes tempted to think that Terry Nation should have stuck to Daleks.

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  3. BTW, the election cover is from 1988, not 1998.

    I remember seeing that version of "Stuart Little", not on tv but years later in school. I think it was offered as a film to watch during our Saturday morning school program, where kids could do anything from arts & crafts in certain classrooms to low-level acrobatics in the cafeteria to basketball in the gym. Films like this were also offered in another classroom. I'm impressed that NBC got Johnny Carson to narrate this, but his youngest son was about 11 years old at this time and may have enjoyed watching it.

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    1. Ach - thumb got in the way. Fixed; thanks, Jon. Your hypothesis on Carson is a good one.

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  4. Semi-irrelevant:

    The other day, in Barnes & Noble, I took a look through a newly published biography of the Duchess of Windsor, aka "That Simpson Woman".

    The late Duchess doesn't come off particularly well in this new book (she never does, comes to that - and neither does her hubby, the former Edward VII), but she managed to remain a public figure for a long time, so there's that.

    What she has to do with here:
    It seems that sometime during the '50s, the Duchess decided on putting out an autobiography, that she might finally tell Her Side Of It.
    The DoW needed a ghostwriter, and a young journalist was hired for the job, who'd been enjoying success writing about the higher circles of society - Cleveland Amory.
    Amory, who was still sort of young at the time, knew many of the same people as the DoW, and eagerly accepted the assignment - at first.
    But once he got to know her - well, if you've ever read anything about the Windsors and their social attitudes, you could guess how this turns out.
    Admission: I didn't buy the book - which is why I don't recall the title or the author - but it's a new book, so you should be able to find it at any B&N in Minnesota.
    And when you do, be sure to look up Cleveland Amory in the index ...

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  5. Those caricatures were always great. The May 27-June 2, 1967 issue of TV Guide has a great Searle drawing of the F Troop cast, too. I reviewed that one awhile back as part of my F Troop series.

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  6. Just to piggy-back on the comment that Mike Doran made above, I went to a reading/talk given by Andrew Morton who just published his latest novel on Wallis Simpson. And he mentioned the same information re: Cleveland Amory, and that Mr. Morton had been given access to all the information that Mr. Amory had collected re: Wallis Simpson. Apparently, Mr. Amory's secretary/assistant kept everything to do with Mr. Amory and/or his work in boxes. She then proceeded to donate all the boxes to a library, whose name I can't remember at the moment. Mr. Morton stated that he had to dig through a lot boxes full of items that had nothing to do with the story that Amory had signed on to write.

    At the mention of Cleveland Amory's name, my thoughts went right to how much I enjoyed my weekly TV Guide reading and his reviews of tv series/shows.

    Betty

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  7. P.S. I should have added that Andrew Morton indicated that a lot of the boxes given to the library had nothing in them but what he said was "junk." For example, old hats, awards to do with his work regarding welfare of animals (Humane Society?), etc.

    The reading was interesting, but I didn't buy the book either. I may borrow it from the library.

    Betty

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Thanks for writing! Drive safely!