April 30, 2018

What's on TV? Sunday, April 30, 1967

We're back in the Capital beltway this week, looking at the listings for the Washington-Baltimore area. Not surprisingly, the accent is on politics; in addition to the Sunday interview shows, there's a plethora of programs featuring politicos and pundits.

It's also a good day for programming in general; since we didn't have Sullivan vs. The Palace this week (thanks to ABC's coverage of the International Beauty Pageant on Saturday), we should point out that Ed has a particularly good lineup today, with Jack Benny as a headliner. Jack's also on the Crusade '67 kickoff for the Cancer Crusade at 2:00 p.m. on WBAL, although it's hard to say how long each of those stars  were on camera for a 30-minute show - probably walk-on appearances. And WETA, the NET affiliate, has a couple of interesting programs - the opening ceremonies of Expo 67, the World's Fair from Montreal, at 7:30 p.m.; after that, NET Playhouse presents Offenbach's "Orpheus in the Underworld." You may not think you know anything about it, but you'll surely recognize the operetta's most famous piece: "Le Galop Infernal," otherwise known as - the Can-Can.  

April 28, 2018

This week in TV Guide: April 29, 1967

Those of us who laud the virtues of classic television are occasionally asked to offer proof as to why the Good Old Days should be considered superior to what television offers us today. This week, I get to offer an example - all from one evening. It's Thursday, May 4, and this week we're coming to you from the Baltimore-Washington beltline. That doesn't matter though, because with one exception the programs I'm about to cite are all on the networks.

It begins on NET at 8:00 p.m. ET with the debut of an interview series with British historian Arnold Toynbee, who I've written about in the past. In the first of five episodes, Toynbee talks about America and Vietnam: why American policy in Asia is wrong, why U.S. forces should be withdrawn from Vietnam, and how the idea of world-wide Communist aggression is an "imaginary dragon." WTTG, the independent station in the Nation's Capital, counters at 8:00 with the gritty English "Angry Young Man" drama Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, the movie that catapulted the great Albert Finney to fame.

At 9:00 p.m., CBS has an adaptation of the Arthur Miller play "The Crucible," starring George C. Scott, Colleen Dewhurst, Fritz Weaver, Henry Jones, Will Geer, Tuesday Weld, Cathleen Nesbitt and Melvin Douglas. "The Crucible" is, of course, Miller's take on McCarthyism, told in the guise of the Salem witch trials. You hardly ever see the legitimate theater on TV anymore, but can you believe that on this night you've got dueling plays? The second comes at 10:00 p.m., courtesy of ABC Stage 67 - it's Jean Cocteau's one-character drama "The Human Voice," starring Ingrid Bergman in an extremely rare TV appearance.

The trouble with all this, of course, is that in these pre-VCR days one has to choose carefully what to watch, and hope to catch the other show(s) in reruns. And, truth be told, it's probably no accident that CBS and ABC scheduled these prestige plays opposite each other. Having just praised television for the quality of the programming, let's not forget that even in this era, tony shows like these weren't blockbusters in the ratings. Oftentimes, networks would schedule documentaries, news features, and the like in the same timeslot - no sense getting killed in the ratings by putting Stage 67 up against The Beverly Hillbillies, right? At the same time, the network gets kudos from the critics for scheduling these kinds of shows in the first place, which in turn helps raise the stature of the network in the eyes of the FCC, congressmen, and the like. The viewers might not be happy at having to make tough choices, but after all, nothing's perfect - right?

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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. 

This week Cleveland Amory's review proceeds from an assumption, and I'm not sure whether or not it's a good one. The assumption is that The Avengers should, on the whole, try to be more realistic.

It's not that he dislikes The Avengers, mind you. Last year when he reviewed the series, he was very positive, although "we kidded it for some of the plots - particularly the one where, in a simulated jungle in the wilds of England, a group of dispossessed rubber plantation owners decided to let loose, on the local population, 1000 tsetse flies." I remember that episode - "Small Game for Big Hunters" - and while I'll acknowledge it might not have been the best the series had to offer, it was still good fun. However, compared to this season - well, there's "the story of a pretty girl named Venus who believes there is life on Venus but, just to make sure, causes an awful lot of death on earth" ["From Venus with Love."] and the one about "a 'see-through man' who not only invented a formula for invisibility but goes around disputing, via murder, the fact that seeing is believing' ["The See-Through Man.'], and - but you get the picture.

Amory laments what he sees as the loss of "a genuinely engrossing adventure story," witty and sophisticated, as it would have to be with Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg ("easily not only the most beautiful but probably the best actress on the TV screen on either side of the Atlantic.") as your stars. And here's where I start to have mixed feelings. Having seen pretty much all the Avengers episodes that still exist, I remember when the series was far more serious, and deadly, than it is by this time. Many of those stories were when Honor Blackman was Macnee's partner, and while they're terrific stories, they lack the fun that the later adventures featured, no matter how ridiculous the premise.

And I guess that's the point - The Avengers is a show of its time, combining elements of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and Doctor Who and Batman and probably a few others we could toss in. Yes, the show did change over the years, and the plots got a little more outlandish (if you think those are far out, wait until Linda Thorson replaces Rigg) but it remained urbane and - yes - fun. If I wanted to see something that was all those things but a little more realistic, I'd watch The Saint. The important thing to note is that, while it may be campy, Steed and Mrs. Peel themselves never approximate, say, Batman and Robin; they always take the plot seriously, even when it doesn't deserve it. I can throw it over to John at Cult TV Blog and see what he thinks; as for me, The Avengers is like any other series, with its good points and bad - but still a winner.

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There's plenty of it to be had, and some is good and some is bad - that's the week in movies, with two in particular earning praise from Judith Crist, and one singled out for scorn.

The good: The Hustler, which ABC airs Wednesday night at 9:00 p.m. and is arguably Paul Newman's greatest role. Of course, there's also Jackie Gleason, George C. Scott, and Piper Laurie, Oscar nominees all. (Although Scott, not surprisingly, refused his nomination.)

Also the good: Donovan's Reef, the Saturday night movie on NBC (9:00 p.m.). It's true that you can't go wrong with John Wayne and Lee Marvin as stars, and John Ford as director - "the sheer physical finesse of the old pros manages to make this continuous barroom brawl set in a Pacific paradise not only a delight for the kiddies but also tolerable for grown-ups."

The bad: Fame is the Name of the Game, a TV-movie that serves as the pilot for the NBC series The Name of the Game. (Tuesday, 9:00 p.m., NBC) Crist describes it as a "sex-and-slaughter" story "starring Tony Franciosa's teeth, chin and chest." Now, I'll agree that of the three stars eventually comprising the rotating leads when Name of the Game goes to series - Franciosa, Gene Barry and Robert Stack - Franciosa is probably the weakest. Still, Tony has a lot of fans out there, and I'm sure this hurt them.

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Ah, it's a good time to flip through the listings. Take Saturday, for instance. At 2:00 p.m. on CBS, it's the fifth game (if necessary) in the Stanley Cup Final between the Montreal Canadiens and  Toronto Maple Leafs. This is a historic occasion, the last time the Cup will be contested among the "Original Six" NHL teams before the league expands to 12 for next season. Fitting that the two winningest teams in Stanley Cup history. The fifth game is, in fact, necessary - with the series tied at two games apiece, the Leafs beat Montreal 4-1; on Tuesday evening in Toronto, they'll win game six and the Stanley Cup by besting Les Habs 3-1. Fifty seasons later (don't forget the lockout in 2005) it remains the last time Toronto has won the Cup.

An interesting day for the Sunday interview programs; at 12:30 p.m., CBS's Face the Nation features Edward Bennett Williams, one of the most famous attorneys in the country (as well as the owner of the Washington Redskins and future owner of the Baltimore Orioles). Williams will be discussing some of his more famous clients, including Jimmy Hoffa, LBJ confidante Bobby Baker, and the late Senator Joe McCarthy. Later on, he'd represent John Hinkley and John Connolly. I think his ownership of the Redskins might be his lasting fame; too bad, because he was one of the best trial lawyers around. Later, at 1:30 p.m., ABC's Issues and Answers has Rhode Island Senator John Pastore, whose committee is in charge of funding for public broadcasting. In 1969, he and his committee will hear from none other than Fred Rogers, famously testifying on behalf of educational television.

Monday features some fine programming as well; at 10:00 p.m. on ABC, Zero Mostel presents a one-man hour of comedy - a pantomime segment in which he plays inanimate objects including a coffee percolator; a Mel Brooks-written sketch where he's an actor preparing to go on stage; bits from his nightclub act; and songs from his hit play "Fiddler on the Roof." Quite a show. Then, at midnight, Bill Dana debuts his new two-hour, five-nights-a-week variety show from Las Vegas. The Las Vegas Show is the first, and only, program of the new United Network, founded by Daniel Overmyer. Now that's a fascinating story in and of itself; it's really too bad it wasn't able to survive. I won't go through the details now beyond what you can read at the link; despite good programs and reviews and decent ratings, Dana's show folds at the beginning of June, when the one-show network runs out of money.

In addition to Fame is the Name of the Game, Tuesday has another of CBS's periodic audience-participation "national tests" - this one is the National Science Test (10:00 p.m.), hosted by Harry Reasoner and Joseph Benti, and featuring Mr. Wizard himself, Don Herbert. On Wednesday, Danny Thomas spoofs the Crosby-Hope "Road" movies with "The Road to Lebanon" (9:00 p.m., NBC); the premise is that Crosby doesn't want Hope in this one, preferring the "young, fresher and Lebanese" Thomas. Another Danny, Kaye, has a fine lineup on his show (10:00 p.m., CBS), with Ella Fitzgerald, Buddy Greco, and Sergio Mendes and Brasil '66.

I overlooked this tidbit on Thursday - the first appearance of the rascal Harry Mudd (Roger C. Carmel) on Star Trek (8:30 p.m., NBC), while a pre-All in the Family Carroll O'Connor is a playboy opera star on That Girl (9:00 p.m., ABC) On Friday, the week wraps up with an ABC special on The Legend of Mark Twain (8:00 p.m.) we're so used to associating Hal Holbrook with Twain that it's something of a surprise to find anyone else hosting such a show; yet David Wayne, as narrator and portrayer of various Twain characters, looks to do the job well.

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It goes without saying that Lawrence Welk, one of the most popular television stars of the day, remains remembered in his old hometown of Strasburg, North Dakota. There's the Welk Dam and the Welk Swimming Pool and Picnic Park; his picture adorns the bulletin board of the Post Office, right next to that of President Johnson. Maurice Condon's article presents a whimsical look at some of the small-town characters that remember Welk, such as Mrs. Anna Mary Mattern, whose father loaned Lawrence the money to buy his first accordion ("he paid it back in two years!"), and "Uncle Pius," the store owner who knows everything and everyone, and remembers that "Lawrence took a correspondence course with a music academy in Minneapolis." Welk has a diploma in piano tuning, "a good thing for a man to have a trade to fall back on, but I don't suppose he's ever had to tune pianos for a living." Oh, he liked penny candy too. Yes, in a small town, everybody knows everyone back when.

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Finally, we haven't done a fashion spread for awhile, and the timing is perfect when the model is Barbara Bain, the glamorous - and dangerous - Cinnamon Carter on Mission: Impossible. With her then-husband Martin Landeau, Bain helped create the glory days of M:I; the show was never the same after they left.

It begs the question: if the glamorous, beautiful Cinnamon is supposed to be one of the most famous models in the world, how is it that she's never recognized in any of the various missions in which she takes part, particularly since she often plays glamorous, beautiful characters in the IMF's plots. The only explanation I can come up with is the most obvious one, that people don't recognize her because they don't expect to see her in the various guises she takes on. After all, if you were in a store looking at clothes or groceries or even a new car, would you expect her to be waiting on you? At best, you might say to yourself, "That saleswoman looks like Cinnamon Carter!" You probably wouldn't say it out loud, though.

I have to admit, though, that I kind of like the idea of Cindy Crawford actually being a spy involved in secret missions around the world, dealing with dictators and munitions brokers and freedom fighters. It's a ridiculous idea, though. The next thing you'll be telling me, a game show host could travel around the world pretending to chaperone couples while actually acting as an international assassin for the CIA. And who'd believe that?  TV  

April 27, 2018

Around the dial

light week for linking, but some fun things out there nonetheless.

Can you find a way to link M*A*S*H and Columbo? Inner Toob can - read on and find out just how it's done!

Jack's Hitchcock Project at bare-bones e-zine takes us to Stanley Ellin's fifth-season play, "The Blessington Method," and how the original short story had to undergo some adaptations in order to make it, shall we say, palatable for television. Hopefully, nobody out there is taking notes on this one...

The Broadcast Archives at the University of Maryland reminds us that it's Preservation Week. "Save your stuff and pass it on." A-ha, my work has finally been justified! It's not collecting - it's preserving!

It's a bit difficult to wrap one's head around the idea that a television show could be 70 years old. At least it is for me, having grown up with it - maybe the kids nowadays don't think anything of it. Anyway, Television Obscurities has a bit on that 70-year-old show, For Your Pleasure, starring Kyle MacDonnell.

At Garroway at Large, Jodie links us to the Variety article that started Dave Garroway on his path to hosting Today. Who could have known what would follow?

See you tomorrow - enough said? TV  

April 25, 2018

The journalist who dallied with Castro

It was in the January 25, 1964 issue of TV Guide that I first became acquainted with Lisa Howard. That was the issue that looked back at TV's coverage of the JFK assassinations; I've written before about how I grew up with that issue, reading it over and over until I was familiar with the most obscure programs (several of which have since wound up in my video collection), knowing that this was a gateway to a time that I was a part of but only vaguely remembered. In that issue was an article by Alan Gill about the "ever-persistent" Lisa Howard, a reporter for ABC, accompanied by a picture of a redhead wearing a vivid shade of red on her lips. It was a very effective photograph, not the kind of thing you're likely to forget. The article discussed her transition from soap opera actress to political activist to reporter, particularly her headline-making interview with Fidel Castro. Since I'd committed the contents of that issue to memory, I filed the name Lisa Howard there as well.

There haven't been many opportunities over the years to use that information. Howard appears in ABC's JFK assassination coverage, but aside from her daily show she doesn't show up as much as you'd think she should, given her credentials. Indeed, her story takes a tragic turn; after being fired from ABC and suffering a miscarriage, she fell into a deep depression and committed suicide in 1965 at the age of 39 - less than 18 months after the TV Guide article appeared.

All this is background to a fascinating article by Peter Kornbluh in Politico, "'My Dearest Fidel': An ABC Journalist's Secret Liaison With Fidel Castro." Without even seeing the story, bells were going off in my head, and I had an idea who that journalist would be; clicking on it merely confirmed my suspicion.

It's a brilliant piece of long journalism, the kind that we don't see often enough anymore, documenting the details of how Howard became an intermediary between Havana and the White House, a story of politics and intrigue worthy of any spy novelist. And, befitting a spy novel, there's a romance between Howard and Castro, which makes the story even more intriguing. In some ways Howard reminds me of Dorothy Kilgallen, another famous female reporter of the time, one who covered the big stories (and, in the case of Dr. Sam Sheppard, was part of it), saw herself as part of history, and died under tragic circumstances from an overdose of pills.

You'll want to set aside some time and read this; whether or not you've ever heard of Lisa Howard, and no matter what you think of Fidel Castro, you'll be pulled into the narrative, and hard-pressed to stop before you get to the end. And as an added bonus - think of it as the companion to the article - here are a pair of YouTube videos. The first is the Howard-Castro interview as presented on ABC, while the second offers an interview with Peter Kornbluh, author of that Politico story.

Would I have even noticed this article had I not read that long-ago TV Guide profile? Kornbluh writes that while at one time she was one of the "most famous TV journalists in the United States," today "almost no one remembers Lisa Howard." I remember Lisa Howard, though, thanks to that issue from over 50 years ago. Like so many things I've run across over the years, it's part of the permanent record.  TV  

April 23, 2018

What's on TV? Friday, April 26, 1968

It's an interesting day of television today - a little something for everyone. The listings, if you remember from Saturday, are from the Minnesota State Edition. Let's get right to it.

April 21, 2018

This week in TV Guide: April 20, 1968

Of all the most obvious ways in which television shows the passage of time and the change of the culture, I think the variety show may be the most overt, although I'm willing to listen to opinions to the contrary. It's not just those psychedelic appearances by the Stones and the Doors and Jefferson Airplane with Ed Sullivan; I think that an entertainment format that dates back to the vaudeville era is not necessarily the best way to reflect the radical changes in progress. Case in point is Romp!!, a "psychedelic search for fun, filmed in Europe, Japan, California and board a Bahama-bound liner," which airs Sunday at 6:00 p.m. on ABC. Romp!! is hosted by Ryan O'Neal and Michele Lee, and stars Jimmy Durante, Barbara Eden, James Darren, Cream, Harper's Bizarre, and Liberace, with special appearances by Sammy Davis Jr., Casey Stengel, Sonny Tufts, The Celebration, Richard Dreyfuss, Joey Bishop, and Michael Blodgett. You know it's hip; Ryan O'Neal appears in a sportcoat and turtleneck rather than a tie, and the romping takes place "in a studio equipped with a squooshy floor, the better to romp on." The stars cavort with "all sorts of bikinied and mini-skirted lovelies." It does beg the question, though, as to how you can have both Cream and Durante in the same show - I mean, I love them both, but not together.

Perhaps a better example is Where the Girls Are, a "mod hour" on NBC Tuesday night at 7:00 p.m., hosted by Noel Harrison with appearances by Don Adams, Prof. Irwin Corey, Barbara McNair, the Association, the Byrds, and Cher. The network had high hopes for this; according to the TV Teletype, it "could become a regular on NBC's schedule if it clicks with the audience." Apparently it didn't, at least not enough to earn a spot on the schedule.

Clockwise from left: Sammy and Joey, Liberace,
Ryan O' Neal, Jimmy Durante, Michele Lee
The larger problem with all this is that intergenerational variety shows don't always work. Take that Romp!! show, for example; the only thing hip about Casey Stengel is the broken one that forced his retirement as manager of the New York Mets in 1965. The spectacle of an older generation trying to act hip is, as I've said before, a disturbing image, and it often fails miserably. It's particularly painful listening to someone like Frank Sinatra singing songs written in the 70s and 80s; as great a singer as Frank is, most of them just don't fit his style.

But for all that, the music often isn't the main problem with the variety show in this transitory period - it's the comedy. Bob Hope's skits from decades before feel increasingly tired in this new era. It doesn't matter whether they're funny or not (and some of them are, very) - they're just a bad fit with the "relevance" performances of the rock groups. Plus, try using them in the skits; can you see Grace Slick playing the Anita Ekberg role in one of his sketches? To a certain extent Carol Burnett was able to avoid this; one of her skits this week has guest Don Adams and Carol playing a marriage counselor and psychiatrist worried about their kids, and I'm sure it's filled with a lot of new age jive from the era.

This week Red Skelton's guests are Mickey Rooney and Lana Cantrell; Mickey and Red play Julius Caesar and Forsooth in a bit that I'm sure dates back decades. Again, I'm not saying it isn't funny - I  enjoy watching a lot of these old shows. I'm just pointing to the disconnect that's part of the television generation gap, and how it must have appeared back then. The kids probably weren't satisfied by it at all - not authentic enough. Whatever the case, it must have been a hard gig back then, running a variety show.

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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 Patty Duke; Diahann Carroll; singers Tom Jones and You're Father's Mustache; comics Totie Fields and Richard Hearne; magician Pavel; and the Muppets.

Palace: Host Bing Crosby welcomes Sid Caesar, the King Sisters, singer Florence Henderson, jazz pianist Joe Bushkin, comic Gene Baylos, the rocking Every Mothers' Son, Bunraku (Japanese puppets) and 16 children of the Palace production crew.

For the second issue in a row, we've got two very good lineups. Der Bingle is always worth a couple of points for Palace, and you've got Caesar and the future Mrs. Brady. On the other hand, the Muppets are better puppets than Bunraku, and it's hard to vote against Tom Jones. It's a tough call, but I'll give the week to the Palace by a nose.

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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. 

There are times when Cleveland Amory leaves you in no doubt from the beginning as to where he stands. This is one of those times, starting with one of Amory's laws of television: "If at first you don't succeed, fail, fail again." The failure this week is NBC's The Jerry Lewis Show, which is better than his ABC show from a few years ago; then again, that was one of the great failures in television history, so the bar was pretty low.

It's not that Amory is reflexively not a fan of Lewis, which is often the case with Lewis critics. "He can be a clown, as the saying goes, with the best of them; and time and again, in a whole comedy role, he has proved how funny he can be. As a host of a children's show he would be ideal. As host of an adult show, however, he is five fathoms over what might be described as his depth." It's a pity, in many ways, for it's a well-made show in many respects - the graphics are solid and it's imaginatively shot. What it is not, however, is well-written, and such sketches "are so embarrassingly overplayed by Mr. Lewis that they seem even worse than they are."

Amory cites one episode in particular that is supposed to serve as an example for the rest of the series. Lewis plays "Sidney," a regular on the show, who this week is "the yelled-at helper of a senior citizens' home - one who finally turns on his tormentors. Dreary to begin with, the tale grew so increasingly unfunny as to be actually fascinating in its tastelessness. And by the seemingly never-arriving end, the whole business was positively frightening." The premise of the skit itself is something I feel reasonably certain we'd not see on TV today; as for the slapstick that seems typical of many other sketches, though, I have to admit it doesn't sound much different from what you see on MeTV commercials for Carol Burnett. Of course, Cleve wasn't a fan of hers either, at least at first, so maybe there's something to that.

I'm not exactly unbiased here, since I was always a fan of Jerry Lewis. It could be something that Amory suggests early on, how Lewis is "extremely popular in movies." Perhaps he was just too big a personality to fit on the small screen. If so, he wouldn't be the first case, nor would he be the last.

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Here's some sports to kick off the week: on Saturday, NBC's Game of the Week features the Cleveland Indians in Boston to take on the defending American League champion Red Sox (1:00 p.m.), while it's the finale of this year's CBS Golf Classic; the 36-hole championship airs today and tomorrow with Art Wall and Charles Coody on one side, Al Geiberger and Dave Stockton on the other. You may not recognize their names, but you've got four very good golfers there.

Good night of TV on Sunday: Frank Sinatra's NBC special is rerun at 8:00 p.m., with Ella Fitzgerald and the great guitarist Antonio Carlos Jobim. NBC follows that at 9:00 with the Tony Awards, hosted by Angela Lansbury and Peter Ustinov. I'll tell you this much: the big winners include Robert Goulet, Martin Balsam, and Tom Stoppard. If you're the least-bit curious, you can see the whole show on YouTube.

The Singer Company, which sponsored many a fine special in its day (did they sponsor Elvis' comeback special? Why, yes they did!), and on Monday they cue up Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass (8:00 p.m., CBS), singing a boatload of their hits, some of them performed on a Mississippi riverboat.

A couple of interesting programs on Tuesday; first, it's Harry Reasoner's profile of esteemed photographer, poet, composer, painter and filmmaker Gordon Parks (9:30 p.m., CBS) His many talents, says Reasoner, are his "weapons against bigotry and indifference." At 10:30 p.m., WKBT in Duluth presents an Ernie Kovacs special compiled from eight of the hour-long programs he did for ABC in 1961-62 (that ended with his untimely death). Channel 8 is ordinarily a CBS affiliate, but crosses over frequently with ABC programs - I suspect this was an ABC program from the previous week.

The Clampetts are in London Wednesday for the first of three episodes of The Beverly Hillbillies filmed across the pond (7:30 p.m., CBS). Eddy Arnold, one of the great country crossovers, hosts the first of six "County Fair" episodes of The Kraft Music Hall (8:00 p.m., NBC) with Al Hirt, Joanie Sommers, John Byner and Mark Wilson. And on Run for Your Life (9:00 p.m., NBC) James Daly plays a slimy talk-show host, Franchot Tone is the judge he attacks on the air, and our hero, Ben Gazzara, is the prime suspect when Daly gets plugged.

In Minneapolis-St. Paul, Channel 9 broadcasts The Hollywood Palace on Thursdays at 9:00 p.m., where it's up against Dean Martin on NBC. This week Dean's special guest is none other than Bing Crosby, which means you've got Bing vs. Bing. However, you've also got Lena Horne and Dom DeLuise on Dean's show, which perhaps makes it the best variety show of the week. If you do decide to watch Bing and Dean rather than Bing and the Palace, you'll get to see Crosby and Martin as a couple of golfers being driven crazy by their caddy (Dom), with the great golfing champion Byron Nelson in a cameo as himself. I have horrible news for you about Peyton Place (8:30 p.m., ABC), Betty and Steve's divorce is final. I don't think I can go on with the rest of the evening.

CBS's Friday Night Movie is a blockbuster: Tony Curtis and Sidney Poitier in "The Defiant Ones." (8:00 p.m.) It's one of director Stanley Kramer's infamous "message" movies, and a couple of weeks after the assassination of Martin Luther King Jr. it's sure to pack a punch. For my money though, I'd prefer "Jazz: The Intimate Art" on The Bell Telephone Hour (9:00 p.m., NBC, except for KSTP, which routinely seems to preempt this program - cretins), with Louis Armstrong, Dave Brubeck, Dizzy Gillespie, and Charles Lloyd. And WTCN's 9:00 movie is a pretty good one, especially for television buffs: 1959's "The Last Angry Man," with David Wayne as a television executive who must convince a Brooklyn doctor to appear on his show in order to save his job. As the crusty doctor, veteran Paul Muni receives his fifth Best Actor Oscar nomination.

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We'll end the week with another of those great "little did they know" stories, this time courtesy of the New York TV Teletype: "A two-hour version of the old stand-by "Heidi" will be visible on NBC next November, starring Maximilian Schell, Michael Redgrave, Walter Slezak and Peter Van Eyck, among others." It's hard to imagine from that innocent little remark what huge consequences were in store. Ask the fans of the Raiders and Jets how it turned out. TV 

April 20, 2018

Around the dial

Before we get to the links this week, a couple of things I want to remind you of.

First, as I think I mentioned earlier, I'll be presenting one of the seminars at this September's Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention in Hunt Valley, Maryland. Martin Grams has put together a terrific lineup of celebrities this year, including Barbara Eden, Stefanie Powers and Robert Wagner, Loni Anderson and Howard Hesseman, Ed Begley Jr., Peter Marshall, Morgan Fairchild, and more. The seminars are always fascinating as well; in fact, I feel quite inferior being a part of it. The schedule is still a work in progress, but I strongly urge you to go to the website and buy tickets now if you can make it there. I can promise you'll have a great time, and of course I'd love to have you in the audience for my presentation!

Something else to look forward to later this year is my upcoming book, The Electronic Mirror: How Classic Television Shows Us Who We Were and Who We Are (and everything in-between!). It will be out in plenty of time for the Convention, and I can guarantee you'll hear more about it before then.

And now on to the week's best.

Really good piece by David at Comfort TV this week. Were classic TV's sitcom families really that unrealistic? He says they were more real than revisionist historians want to say, and I say he's right. This is the kind of thing that's a major part of my upcoming book.

At Classic Film and TV Café, Rick asks if you "Remember When" these Classic TV features were just the way things were. For example, do you remember when "The broadcast networks rolled out their new shows all at the same time as part of 'Premiere Week,'" or when "The World Series was broadcast only during the day." Sadly, I remember all of them.

Inner Toob has a fun piece on real-life movies that find their way into fictional television shows. I think Columbo's use of the Janet Leigh movie "Walking My Baby Back Home" in the episode where she played the killer (a former movie star) is my favorite example, but they're all good examples.

This isn't a recent story, but an interesting one, I think - Television Obscurities takes a look at a 1961 series called The Americans that's very different from the one we have today. It starred Darryl Hickman and Dick Davalos as two brothers fighting on opposite sides during the Civil War; as I think about it, perhaps it's not all that different from today's version.

A Shroud of Thoughts and David Hill's article at The Ringer both offer affectionate remembrances at Harry Anderson, who died this week at a much-too-young 65.

That should be enough to take us to tomorrow, when you'll be sure to return for a TV Guide from the late 60s. TV  

April 18, 2018

American Newsstand - 1961

Today we'll take another look at one of those programs you see in the Monday listings but probably don't pay much attention to: it's American Newsstand, ABC's afternoon effort to produce "news with an accent on youth." It was a ten-minute broadcast that ran five days a week, after the conclusion of American Bandstand (at 4:50 p.m., according to this week's listings) and attempted to capitalize on that show's audience to build a news market that the perennial third-place network felt was underdeveloped. The newscast began in 1961 and ran through the 1962-63 season; when Bandstand became a Saturday program, Newsstand went off the air.

The primary anchors for American Newsstand were Roger Sharp, Bill Lord and Dave Jayne, and if you watch the broadcast below, you'll see that for a newscast tailored to a youth audience, it's surprisingly strong on hard news. In fact, there's probably more "news" content in this broadcast than you'd see on the evening news today.

As the caption states, this broadcast is from November 29, 1961. And now you know the rest of the story.  TV  

April 16, 2018

What's on TV? Thursday, April 19, 1962

As often as I do issues of the Minnesota State Edition, there's something about the Minneapolis-St. Paul TV Guides that makes them more special. Yes, it's nice from time to time to find out what we missed when WCCO and KMSP were engaged in their frequent network pre-emptions, but the issues with the basic five stations, even when they're from before I was watching TV, paint the portrait of the city in which I grew up. Sometimes it's because so little had changed (for example, Sea Hunt was on Channel 11 for as long as I could remember), other times it shows how the stations evolved over the years. Whatever the reason, it's always nice to go back home, even when it's only a trip down memory lane.

April 14, 2018

This week in TV Guide: April 14, 1962

This week's issue presents us with a glimpse at two of the "young breed" actors making waves and setting hearts aflutter on the small screen.

The cover story is on George Maharis, one-half of the duo roaming the highways on CBS's Route 66, one of the more existential programs on TV. The profile, by TV Guide's favorite journalist-psychoanalyst Richard Gehman, is pretty much what you'd expect; he starts out by gently mocking Maharis as one of what he calls "The Method Creatures," along with Marlon Brandow, Paul Newman, Ben Gazzara "and several other mumbling types." Maharis is a man with a voracious appetite for life - his friend Inger Stevens compares him to a coiled spring - and relies on instinct for most of his acting chops. "I never learn lines," he tells Gehman, "somewhere along the line I make a connection, I come to something I feel, and then I put my finger on it, and that's it."

Maharis says he lacks discipline as an actor; Gehman says that isn't all he lacks, and goes on to ridicule some of his other abilities ("When Maharis gets angry before the TV cameras, he resembles a young monkey eating a lobster."), but this makes no difference to his many female fans, women being what they are, you know. He is now one of America's "foremost symbols of sex in the raw," but as for that rebellious streak promised in the title? Maharis, as he himself admits, "is fundamentally insecure. He is a nonconformist not simply because he hates organized society; he is one because he feels he has to protect himself."

What the article doesn't address, and can't because Maharis has yet to leave the show, is how underrated he and his character, Buz Murdock, were to the success of Route 66. The show's premise, for any of you unfamiliar with it, is a deceptively simple one: Buz and his friend, Tod Stiles (Martin Milner), travel the roads of America in a Chevy Corvette willed to Tod by his father after his death. The contrast between the two couldn't be more clear: Tod, college-educated and born to money; Buz, an orphan from the wrong side of the streets. Through the run of the series these two go from odd job to odd job, looking for adventure and romance along the way while they wait to run into the one true thing that will cause either of them to settle down and leave the road. At first, I found Tod the more persuasive of the two: quieter, more reasonable, less of - well, a rebel. But as time went on, Buz began to assert his own appeal. Without question, Maharis was a dynamic, charismatic actor, and while his temper often caused him to jump in where angels fear to tread, over the course of the series he also begins to display a healthy cynicism that provided a welcome contrast to Tod's youthful idealism and desire to change the world. They both had their flaws, but the street smarts of Buz began to outweigh the book smarts of Tod - and those smarts also begin to rub off on Tod as well, (judging by the number of fights he gets into after Buz leaves), unless that's just a case of lazy writing.

Milner (L) and Maharis
When Maharis leaves Route 66 during the show's third season, supposedly because of poor health (including a bout of hepatitis that's mentioned elsewhere in this issue) but possibly because of a dispute with the producers, his role in the co-pilot's seat is taken by Glenn Corbett, a fine actor himself but with a character that plays much too much like Tod's. Lacking the dynamic Buz/Tod contrast, the series flounders on for another season-and-a-half before calling it a day, in the process becoming one of the first television series to produce a final episode bringing everything to a close.

The fact is, Route 66 badly needed Maharis, no matter how much trouble he might have been, and it badly needed Buz Murdock. Had Linc Case (Corbett's character) displayed similar traits to Buz, Maharis' absence might not have been so pronounced; as it is, the viewer is often left wishing there was someone around - anyone - to knock some sense into Tod's head, to tell him that it is time for them to cut their losses and get out of town fast.

Because of this, anyone who watches Route 66 is, by the end of the series, almost compelled to become a fan of Maharis'; it truly is a case of absence making the heart grow fonder. Maharis was never able to replicate the fame that he achieved through Route 66, but his performance in an iconic series is still more than most working actors will ever accomplish. Had he continued on through the remainder of the show's run, however long that might have been, Route 66 would have been a far superior show than it is. In contrasting his character to that of Martin Milner, one finds out just how essential he was to the show. Remove Tod, and you remove the premise. Remove Buz, on the other hand, and you remove the heart, the passion of the show. Of the two, I think that is the quality most difficult to replicate.

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The other dynamic, difficult star in question is Vincent Edwards, the dark, brooding anti-hero of ABC's medical drama Ben Casey. While Edwards is a prime attraction for many of the same reasons as Maharis, his penchant for disrupting the set is fast becoming a legend, according to Henry Harding's "For the Record" feature. He's demanding a substantial raise (from $1,750 to $7,500 per episode, which would amount to nearly $60,000 a shot today), plus 25% ownership in the show, and a $300,000 loan from Bing Crosby Productions to finance his own production company. The series creator, James Moser, doesn't think this is out of line; "After all, an actor is like a ballplayer, and only has so many years." When you depend on your virile good looks, that is.

He's also making a reputation as one of the most difficult stars now working on TV. According to one cast member, "he shows up late, explodes on the set and has created dissension among the crew." The producers defer to him because of "the unusual pressures under which Edwards must live," starring in a show in which he's in 80% of the scenes. Producer Matthew Rapf says he's "no worse" than any other actor he's worked with, although "I wish he'd come to me with his problems instead of going to the crew and other members of the company." And while Edwards is a bona fide star, Rapf is not afraid to discuss recasting the role if necessary. "It will hurt us. But we believe the show is strong enough to carry on without him."

Edwards predicts a new deal will work out, and that he'll soon be back "listening impatiently while kindly old Dr. Zorba reads lines," and part of that is true. Edwards does come back, but Sam Jaffe, the veteran actor and consummate pro who played Zorba, would eventually leave, unable to put up any longer with Edwards' lack of professionalism and gambling addiction. Mark Rydell, one of the show's directors, would later talk about Edwards' gambling problem: "He used to come to the set with 20 or 30 thousand dollars in packets and he would say, ‘You gotta get me out by 11, I’m going to the track. So I might have 10 scenes with him in various places with other people, and suddenly I would have to go and do all of his coverage in those scenes so that he could leave.” His addiction was so obvious, though, that Edwards remained popular with most of the cast and crew, who felt pity for him more than anger. He died in 1996, his life, says Stephen Bowie, "a shambles."

The series ends in 1966, and although he'll make another try at a medical series with Matt Lincoln (as well as a failed pilot to reboot Casey), Vince Edwards will never again approach the heights he reached as Ben Casey.

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Ah, I love running across items like this: a look at 10-year-old Richard Thomas, future star of The Waltons, but right now appearing in the children's adventure show 1, 2, 3, Go! in which he travels on a flying carpet with Today veteran Jack Lescoulie on adventures "from Alaska to Cape Canaveral; from California to the Virgin Islands; from New London, Conn., to London, England."

Thomas is described as "A quiet, well-mannered lad with blond hair and brown eyes," along with a self-assurance unusual to the normal 10-year-old but the kind of thing you'd expect from someone who's been acting on television and Broadway since he was seven. He's paid between $20,000 and $25,000 a year for 1, 2, 3, Go!, which is a lot more than my allowance was when I was 10. So far he's played basketball with the Boston Celtics ("I learned to dribble behind my back"), visited the atomic sub Nautilus, and did a stint as a New York City fireman. Lescoulie admires him as a professional; producer Jack Kuney, when asked if they ever call him Dick instead of Richard, replies, "No, not very often. To me, this is not a boy named Dick. It's always Richard. But he's all boy. [John-Boy?] He's always willing to go firs,t he's never afraid to attempt anything."

It won't be the last time Richard Thomas appears in the pages of TV Guide.

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The most interesting thing about Saturday isn't what's on TV, but this ad for what's in the theater. It's an original ad for the brand-new movie, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, playing at the Lyric and Riviera theaters in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, respectively. Neither one is around anymore; the Lyric was torn down in the early 70s, replaced by a twin screen theater that now serves as a dance club, while the Riviera bit the dust in the late 70s. Interesting how Lee Marvin gets so much attention in this ad - you can tell it was made for TV Guide, can't you? (In case you can't read what's written in the box next to Marvin's picture, and I had to get out a magnifying glass, it reads, "Lee Marvin as Liberty Valance, the coldest killer of them all!" Ah, the movie before it became a legend.

The National Association of Broadcasters met in Chicago for their annual convention last week, at which there was yet more sparring between Leroy Collins, head of the NAB, and Newton Minow, chairman of the FCC. I'm sure this will be the subject of intense discussion Saturday night on Irv Kupcinet's At Random (11:30 p.m., WTCN), which includes not Collins and Minow, but Desi Arnaz, Rhonda Fleming, NAB board chair Clair McCollough, and Leonard Reinsch, Radio-TV adviser to the Democratic National Committee. A wonder that 90 minutes would be big enough to hold it all.

Sunday is Passover, and Metropolitan Opera tenor Jan Peerce is one of the guests on CBS's Passover special Open Door (9:00 a.m.), while at noon Eternal Light (KSTP) presents Morton Wishengrad's fantasy "The Tender Grass," with Broadway star Marian Seldes and veteran actor Sam Wanamaker. In the role of Elijah is Martin Brooks, who played Dr. Rudy Wells in the Six Million Dollar Man/Bionic Woman series. It's also Palm Sunday, and Hallmark Hall of Fame (5:00 p.m., NBC) repeats last year's color special "Give Us Barabbas!", starring James Daly as the infamous criminal, Kim Hunter as Mara, and Dennis King as Pilate. Later in the evening (7:30 p.m., to be precise), NBC presents a Project 20 special "He Is Risen," a sequel to the network's acclaimed Christmas special "The Coming of Christ," with Alexander Scourby narrating while the "stills-in-action" technique shows great works of art by El Greco, Velazquez, Rembrandt, and others.

On Monday, Malachy McCourt, the younger brother of author Frank McCourt and an author in his own right as well as actor, plays a reprobate cousin of Cha Cha on Surfside 6 (8:00 p.m., ABC), but I think I'd favor Jonathan Winters' appearance on I've Got a Secret (9:30 p.m, CBS), with Merv Griffin sitting in for vacationing Bill Cullen as one of the panelists.

Tuesday night starts off with The New Breed (7:30 p.m., ABC), this week dealing with teen marriage, featuring Peter Fonda, described as "following in the acting tradition of his father Henry Fonda." At 8:00 p.m., NBC's Rainbow of Stars makes use of the skating rink at Rockefeller Center, with Dick Button and the U.S. Olympic skating stars joining Robert Goulet, Nancy Walker, Al Hirt, Carol Lawrence, and of course The Rockettes. Then, Pulitzer-winner Tad Mosel's play "That's Where the Town's Going!" rounds out the evening on Westinghouse Presents (9:00 p.m., CBS), with Kim Stanley, Jason Robards, Patricia Neal and Buddy Ebsen.

Dr. Reuben K. Youngdahl, who appears weekday mornings on WCCO, hosts a primetime special Wednesday, The World and Its People, (6:30 p.m.) talking about Israel's fight for independence. He includes slides and films which, I suspect, he may have taken himself. At 7:30 p.m. on NBC, Perry Como welcomes Jane Morgan, Kukla and Ollie (with Burr Tillstrom), and the St. Monica Children's Choir to his Kraft Music Hall Easter show. Then, the infamous Keefe Brasselle is one of the stars of "The Go-Between" on The U.S. Steel Hour. (9:00 p.m., CBS)

Thursday is devoted to guest stars: Cliff Robertson on The Outlaws (6:30 p.m., NBC), Jayne Mansfield on Tell it to Groucho (8:00 p.m., CBS), and David Niven and DeForest Kelley on Dick Powell's Zane Grey Theatre (8:30 p.m., CBS), while Joey Bishop is the guest host this week on The Tonight Show (10:30 p.m., NBC) while the network waits for the arrival of Johnny Carson; the show comes from Hollywood this week, with Woody Herman's orchestra as the house band.

On Good Friday, WCCO carries The Stations of the Cross from St. Olaf (8:30 p.m.), taped earlier today. You'll remember me mentioning this last week when WCCO carried it for Good Friday 1960. Also at 8:30 (NBC), Dinah Shore presents highlights taken from two shows filmed in Europe last year; her guests include Charles Boyer, Ingemar Johansson (probably while he was heavyweight champion), and members of the Royal Danish Ballet.

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Ah, there's a lot more we could look at this week, including an article on how librarians report that television has helped encourage Americans to read. Of course they do - they read TV Guide! TV  

April 13, 2018

Around the dial

For some reason I'm feeling particularly talkative about many of this week's links, and we'll get to them after one of our occasional digressions.

First, a note to any of you who are concerned about secure Internet connections: we now have one, which means you can access the same great content you've come to know and love by going to https://www.itsabouttv.com. No need to change your links, though: the regular http address still works as well, so either way you've got a path to the blog.

Second, we've received a request for information from a reader: Charles Rister writes of his

extreme frustration in trying to locate a particular TV Guide of several years ago.  I have spent hours (retired) searching E-Bay and Google trying to find the TV Guide which listed one of the first commercial television showings of the western Mackenna's Gold, with Gregory Peck. I know the exact time period because I was watching it at an emotional time in my young life.  I believe the time was spring/summer of 1970 (like one of those Saturday Night at the Movies) during the 1970 year.  The movie was released theatrically May 10, 1969 USA. It is possible it was on TV late 1969 but I'm pretty certain it was on TV in the year 1970.  Would you know of or have access to a data base to locate this TV Guide issue in 1970?  

Charles, you're not the only one who wishes TV Guide would do something about a database of their past issues (Jodie Peeler mentions it in her piece, which you'll read about next). I've done a bit of a search and have come up as empty as Charles. Are there any readers out there who can help out? I'm thinking of you, Mike Doran - and how was the weekend, by the way? I meant to answer your comment from last week, and ask you to pass along my best to Max Allen Collins - love his work, and the things he's doing to keep Mickey Spillane's work alive.

At Garroway at Large, Jodie has a really, really good article on Richard Gehman's fascinating two-part TV Guide profile of Dave Garroway. I was able to identify with this in a number of ways; I have the issue that contains the first of the two-parts to the story (and thank you, Jodie, for the gracious shout-out!); I also have the book Changing Channels: America in TV Guide by Glenn Altschuler and David Grossvogel (which, as she points out, is also good; I'll be bringing that with me to Baltimore for my talk at MANC); and I've written before about Gehman's writing style. And don't think I'm saying these things about Jodie's article because she's written for this blog; if she wasn't already a guest contributor before now, I would have asked her after reading this. If you're interested in Garroway, you'll enjoy this; if you're not, I think it will change your mind.

Likewise, there's a good feature over at Comfort TV on the pieces you'll likely never see posted there. I know just what David is talking about; I have my own collection of ideas that seemed pretty good at the time, but wound up never seeing the light of day. I still have high hopes for some of them, though, and I'll join in with the commenter who hoped that David would develop some of these some day in the future.

The Twilight Zone Vortex has a piece on Buck Houghton, the initial producer of the program, and how he was the "unsung hero" of Twilight Zone. I'm familiar with Houghton from having read Marc Scott Zicree's TZ book, and I've become sensitive to seeing his name in other classic shows of the era. It's a good piece that demonstrates how TZ was far from being a one-man (Serling) operation. I think you'll be impressed by him as well.

Ah, John, you're fortunate to have seen "Tunnel of Fear"  (isn't that a great title?), one of the rediscovered early episodes of The Avengers. It teams Patrick Macnee's Steed with Ian Hendry's Dr. Keel. You may be disappointed to see that there's no Mrs. Gale, Mrs. Peel, or Miss King, but to me it proves that without John Steed, there's no Avengers.

It's time for a new cycle in "The Hitchcock Project," Jack's review of Alfred Hitchcock episodes at bare-bones e-zine that tracks the works of a specific author. That's hardly an adequate definition, though, because Jack does more that simply look at the episode; he goes all the way back to the original story's publication (if it's an adaptation) and then examines the differences between the original and the adaptation. And even that description doesn't do it justice, because Jack just captivates you into reading about episodes that you haven't even seen yet, and doing it in such a way that it doesn't ruin the eventual viewing of the episode. The new cycle traces the work of Stanley Ellin, and begins with the season three episode "The Festive Season."

Don't forget: it's Friday the 13th, so let's be careful out there, and I'll be back tomorrow. TV  

April 11, 2018

Axel and His Dog

It's no secret that, being from Minnesota, I favor the TV Guides that come from the Twin Cities, and that favoritism becomes most evident when I post the TV listings each Monday. I thank you all for your patience in putting up with my parochialism, my interest in things that I may find meaningful but about which you probably couldn't care less, so I thought it might be interesting to fill you in from time to time on those local acts that keep popping up in these listings.

For example, have you ever wondered about Axel and Dog, which in this Monday's listings was on at 5:00 p.m. on Channel 4? Who, you may be asking yourself, or what, is an Axel?

The answer to that is that Axel, played by Clellan Card, was one of the most beloved children's television hosts ever seen in the Twin Cities. His show ran from August of 1954 until his death from pancreatic cancer in April, 1966. Axel was "the bespectacled children's show host with the comical moustache and corny Scandinavian accent," who lived in a tree house with his dog Towser and cat Tallulah, neither of which were seen on air except for a paw that would extend into the frame, and both of which were voiced by Don Stolz, the founder and impresario of the Old Log Theater.*

*Which, rumor has it, is the oldest continuously operating professional theater in the United States, including among its alumns both Nick Nolte and Loni Anderson.

I came along at the tail end of Axel's run; while I was certainly aware of him, I was much more familiar with Casey and Roundhouse, the legendary kids' show hosts at Channel 11, and Clancy and Willie, who had the morning show on Channel 4. And then there was Carmen the Nurse, played by Mary Davies, who came on with Axel after Stolz left to do the Old Log full-time. (By then, the show was called Axel's Treehouse.) It fell to Carmen to announce Clellan Card's death to viewers on April 14, 1966; she would then move into Axel's time slot, which by then was in the morning (you couldn't say that she took Axel's place; nobody could do that). Mary Davies was a fairly attractive woman in a nurse's outfit; I really remembered her.

The points are this: 1) As a kid I remembered Axel in somewhat the same way that I remembered Dorothy Kilgallen, as someone famous who had died, and thus was more famous to me for being dead, and 2) Axel is still a much-loved character in the Twin Cities today, and it says something about the memories that he left with so many children that, as they approach Social Security age, they still have such a fondness for him.

A few years ago Julian West wrote What a Card!, which has to be pretty much the definitive Axel book. I have an autographed copy of that book on my shelf, signed not only by Julian but by Don Stolz and Mary Davies, both of whom have since died. Needless to say, that book isn't going anywhere.

Here is Clellan Card's entry in the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame; here is the Pavik Museum of Broadcasting's entry on Axel and His Dog; here is the entry on Mary Davies, also a Hall of Famer; and below are two videos: a documentary clip on the show, and some Axel highlights that gives you some idea of the inspired goofiness that was Axel and His Dog. And now you know the rest of the story. TV  

April 9, 2018

What's on TV? Monday, April 11, 1960

I think I've mentioned this before, but I'm frequently amused by the abbreviations TV Guide sometimes uses in the program listings. Take 7:30 p.m. on CBS as an example. Father Knows. Well, we all know what Father knows - Father Knows Best! Nowadays we'd probably jump to some kind of conclusion that in order to remove the patriarchal society suggested by the title, an adjustment was made to simply state an obvious truth: father knows. He knows something, he knows nothing, he knows not as much. But we can't be so sexist as to say that he knows best.

Of course, a look at the page itself - as you see above - shows us that they simply ran out of room on the line, and knew people would understand what they meant. Had one of the four stations not been showing it, "Best" probably would have been included. TV Guide often did this with shows with long titles - I Dream of Jeannie, That Was the Week That Was, Please Don't Eat the Daisies. Weren't times easier back then, when we didn't need to jump to conclusions? These listings, by the way, are from the Minnesota State Edition.

April 7, 2018

This week in TV Guide: April 9, 1960

Let's start with the most provocative of the questions posed on the cover this week. Just what show is it that drives lawyers wild?

Believe it or not, it's CBS's daytime The Verdict Is Yours, which uses actual lawyers to contest its cases, actual judges to hear them, actors as the defendants and the witnesses, and members of the studio audience as the jury. And everyone gets so wrapped up in the cases, according to producer Eugene Burr (no relation to Raymond, unfortunately - wouldn't that make a great story?), they often forget it's just a show. One actor "on trial" waited for hours for his "jury" to come in before finally going home. At 3:00 a.m., Burr received a phone call from him. "I haven't been able to sleep a wink all night," he said to Burr. "What was the verdict?"

The show has no script; the actors improvise from an outline, and they're expected to stick to whatever story they come up with when it's time to set the lawyers loose on them. The actors resent the lawyers trying to make them look bad. The lawyers themselves have to occasionally be separated by the "bailiff," actor Mandel Kramer. "It's rough enough to lose a case in a real court," one says, "but I'll be doggoned if I'll do it in front of 4,000,000 people."* Actresses have broken down hysterically while on the stand, but so far nobody's taken a swing at anyone.

*And I'll be doggoned if the lawyer in question actually used the word "doggoned." 

Jim McKay, who we'll see anchoring CBS's coverage of the Masters later in this write up, plays The Verdict Is Yours's court reporter, wrote in his autobiography about how he'd been so dissatisfied with The Verdict is Yours, feeling that his career was at a dead end, that he suffered a nervous breakdown. It's a poignant story, told in absolute honesty and candor, and considering the fame which McKay reached while on Wide World of Sports, and the Peabody he won for covering the Munich Olympic Massacre, one can understand how he must have felt working as a "court reporter."

Be that as it may, The Verdict Is Yours was on CBS from 1957 to 1962, thrilling people every step of the way. We've fallen a long way from that to Judge Judy, haven't we?

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Starting in 1954, Steve Allen helmed his own NBC variety show which, at the beginning, aired opposite that of Ed Sullivan. 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 four seasons. Let's see who gets the best of the contest this week.

Sullivan: Ed's guests for his fourth salute to the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers (ASCAP), are the McGuire Sisters; musical comedy star Alfred Drake; singers Chris Connor, Jill Corey and Rose Hardaway; old-time vaudevillian Blossom Seeley; operatic soprano Roberta Peters; the Ames Brothers; and dancer Carol Haney.

Allen: Steve's guests are actor Charlton Heston, opera star Risë Stevens and singer Jerry Vale, with regulars Don Knotts, Louis Nye, Pat Harrington Jr., Gabe Dell and Bill Dana.

Rarely do we get a powerhouse week like this. Sullivan and Allen are both loaded: each has a star from the Metropolitan Opera, each with star singers. Ed has the McGuire Sisters and the Ames Brothers; Steve counters with Charlton Heston, fresh off his Academy Award for Ben-Hur last week. Usually we get this result with subpar weeks, but this week it's because there are too many stars to choose from. The verdict: Push.

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Saturday and Sunday afternoons CBS presents live coverage of the concluding holes at the Masters golf tournament in Augusta. It's not what we've come to expect nowadays, with 18-hole coverage; back in 1960, only the last four holes have cameras on them, so there's a good chance the tournament might already be wrapped up by the time TV joins in the fun. (It's a wonder that tournament golf ever took off on television with that kind of coverage.) Ah, but what a tournament CBS gets this year! Despite that limited coverage, viewers don't miss a thing as they see Arnold Palmer birdie the last two holes to defeat Ken Venturi by a stroke, with Jim McKay calling the action. It's Arnie's second Masters victory, and his second major championship; he'll go on to win the U.S. Open in June, and then finish in second at the British Open in July. As for Ken Venturi, he'll win the 1964 U.S. Open for his only major, and then go on to a long and successful career as an analyst for CBS, including the Masters. I still miss hearing him at Augusta.

The other big story in sports this week is the culmination of the NBA Finals on Saturday, with the Boston Celtics taking on the St. Louis Hawks in Game 7, Lindsay Nelson and Curt Gowdy calling the action for NBC. Now, according to TV Guide, this is supposed to have been Game 6 (if necessary), with no mention of what time it's on, or anything important like that. (Although I'd be very surprised if NBC had plans to televise it in prime time.) So of course I checked my handy online basketball reference guide to make sure that there even was a Game 6, and - surprise! There was, but it was on April 7. Don't know quite how things like this happen, but I always enjoy it when they do. And if you're curious, Boston wins Game 7, 122-103. That's three in four years for the Celts.

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Now here's an interesting program, on Friday night's Desilu Playhouse (8:00 p.m., CBS). "The Man in the Funny Suit" tells of the backstage drama that surrounded the live broadcast of "Requiem for a Heavyweight" on Playhouse 90 back in 1956. "Requiem" was the first straight dramatic role for comedian Ed Wynn; his son Keenan, who was also in the cast that night, was by no means certain that his father would be able to pull it off, and understudy Ned Glass was ready to go on in Ed's place should it be necessary. It wasn't, of course - Ed Wynn was brilliant in the role; the production itself is one of the most memorable from the Golden Age.

Ralph Nelson, who directed "Requiem," is the producer, director and writer of "The Man in the Funny Suit," which recreates what happened. Ed and Keenan Wynn play themselves, as do Nelson, Red Skelton, Rod Serling (who wrote "Requiem"), Maxie Rosenbloom, announcer Dick Joy, and others. The listing refers to it as a "documentary drama," eventually shortened to "docudramas." Studio One had done something like this back in 1957 when "The Night America Trembled" told the story of Orson Welles' radio broadcast of The War of the Worlds, but I like the idea of creating a "Making Of" television drama about a television show that the network itself had broadcast.

Here's the restored live broadcast of "Requiem for a Heavyweight," followed by the broadcast of "The Man in the Funny Suit."

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It's another week of big programs, and we're here to run through them from beginning to end.

While Saturday's highlights are devoted to sports, Sunday has a little something for everyone, beginning with a number of Palm Sunday services and specials in the morning and early afternoon. At 1:00 p.m., NBC Opera Company presents Mozart's "Don Giovanni," in a live color broadcast starring two of the greats of the opera stage, Cesare Siepi and Leontyne Price. At 5:30 p.m., NBC returns with Hallmark Hall of Fame's production of "The Cradle Song," which the last time it was produced on Hallmark was called "One of the most beautiful and deeply stirring programs television has ever offered" by The New York Times. The all-star cast includes Helen Hayes, Judith Anderson, Siobhan McKenna, Charles Bickford, and Zohra Lampert. The evening winds up with Loretta Young's Easter show (9:00 p.m., NBC), a full-hour drama (her show usually ran 30 minutes) filmed entirely on location at Lourdes, France.

Plenty of stars on hand Monday, starting with Jim Backus as Danny Thomas's old college chum (8:00 p.m., CBS), followed by Ernie Kovacs in "Author at Work" on Goodyear Theater (8:30 p.m., NBC), while at the same time on ABC the luminous Diane Baker is up for adventures with Gardner McKay in Adventures in Paradise. Ivan Dixon stars in The Twilight Zone, which KDAL shows at 10:15 p.m., and WTCN's late-night movie at 10:20 p.m., "The Clock," stars Judy Garland, Robert Walker and James Gleason. Not a bad night, I have to say.

More stars on Tuesday, James Stewart, George Gobel and Lois Smith star in "Cindy's Fella," a western version of Cinderella, on Ford Startime. (NBC, 7:30 p.m.) Then, Audrey Meadows guests with Red Skelton at 8:30 p.m. on CBS, while at the same time on NBC, The Arthur Murray Party welcomes Eva Gabor, June Havoc, David Wayne, and Bert Lahr. Finally, opera star Patrice Munsel and Alan King are the guests on The Garry Moore Show. (9:00 p.m., CBS)

Wednesday gives us another edition of Leonard Bernstein's Young People's Concert from Carnegie Hall. The topic: "unusual instruments of the past, present and future." Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall (8:00 p.m., NBC) has Perry's traditional Easter show, with the Lennon Sisters, Dorothy Collins, Johnny Puleo, and Bill Baird and his marionettes.

Bette Davis makes an infrequent television appearance on Thursday on NBC's Producer's Choice. (7:30 p.m.) She plays a woman on vacation in Hong Kong with her husband Frank (Forrest Tucker). He takes a phone call and disappears; one night she returns to her room and confronts a stranger - who "looks like Frank, is wearing his clothes and carrying his identification." Meanwhile, on Revlon Revue (9:00 p.m., CBS), Peggy Lee is the star of a show featuring an otherwise all-male cast, including Mel Tormé, the Chad Mitchell Trio, the Newport Youth Band, and a college glee club.

Friday is Good Friday, and WCCO, Channel 4, commemorates the day with a presentation of the Stations of the Cross at 7:30 p.m., recorded at St. Olaf Catholic Church in downtown Minneapolis, St. Olaf is still there today; in fact, it's the church I attend at noontime during the week. If you're looking for something a little more humorous, Jerry Lewis may have it for you, with a live color special at the same time on NBC. Tony Bennett and Rose Hardaway are on hand for the music, while The Nitwits and Allen Funt (with his Candid Camera) help Jerry with the comedy.

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Finally, some viewer feedback regarding the TV Guide Awards, as read in Letters to the Editor. Mrs. W. Arthur Ford of Hollidayburg, Pennsylvania, says that TV Guide "deserves a round of applause for the suburb handling of the Guide awards," and an anonymous writer from Hollywood adds that "The Emmy and Oscar programs may well take a leaf out of your book for a perfect production." On the other hand, Jacqueline T. Mangan of Huntington Park, California called the show "a cliché-ridden fiasco," and another anonymous correspondent, from Abington, Pennsylvania, bluntly says "I think most of these awards were fixed." Most, not all? C'mon, don't pull any punches. And on another topic, P.K. Radcliff, after watching the G.E. Theater production "Do Not Disturb," asks the question, "Don't we have enough rude, mouthy children running around without devoting an entire half hour to making our youngsters into professional sassboxes?" Mr. (or Mrs.) Radcliff may not be among the living 58 years later; if they are, however, I wonder what they think of today?  TV