May 26, 2018

This week in TV Guide: May 27, 1967

I'm baaack!

Now this may be good news or bad news, depending on how you look at things - but admit it, you're glad to see new material, aren't you?

This week we're looking at the many faces of America, starting with Edith Efron's provocative profile of Diahann Carroll, "who has been torn since childhood by the magnetic pull of two worlds - the world of Black and of White." It's a somewhat predictable struggle in 1960s America - you might remember reading about Lloyd Haines, among other black celebrities, offering his feelings on the subject - but Carroll's approach is a different one. "The conflict first took the form of music," she tells Efron. "The music we all listened and danced to, rhythm and blues. . . . I never sang that kind of music. I never had a jazz feeling, a blues feeling, and I still don't. I had a very strong resistance to that kind of music because it was racial. I saw the other kind, my kind, as a move to assimilate. I sang popular music, songs like 'Over the Rainbow.' But I kept it secret. It didn't belong."

The struggle became one in which she tried to hold on to her racial and cultural roots while looking to succeed in the world in which she was more comfortable, that of "the white world of show business." It's not that she hasn't experienced discrimination, which she calls a "horror" that's "enough to drive you up the wall." However, she believes racism is a street that runs two ways. "Someone said, at a party recently, that Leontyne Price was hampered by her racial background, that she had no racial contact with European music. A Negro said that - can you imagine! I felt the whole idea was wrong. I went home and played a group of records, women whose voices were unfamiliar to me, to see if I could tell that Leontyne Price was Negro. Of course I couldn't tell the difference!"

Her interests now have turned to the heritage of Western Civilization, to understand classical music. She puts her work first, where she can be "Diahann first and Negro second." It's a difficult battle, she says. "It's so terrible to have fears you don't dare to examine, it's a source of real peace for me to say the unsaid.

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And then there's the face of America being presented to the British, as discussed by Robert Musel, an American corresponded for UPI based in Europe,* who says it's "more a caricature than a portrait." Thinking of the anti-American sentiment in Britain and other European countries, Musel observes that "As an American based in Britain, I find it just as hard to identify with the America and the Americans I see endlessly examined on British television."

*Musel was a lyricist as well as reporter, and is also credited with coining the Elvis Presley nickname "Elvis the Pelvis."

The America seen by Britons, thanks to the documentaries they're fed by the BBC's two stations, portray us as "brash, vulgar, aggressive, crude, warlike, nonintellectual, money-mad, sex-crazy, rat-racing, ulcerous," which, when you think of it, sounds a lot like the way we're portrayed today. The programs aired in Britain have an almost obsessive focus on race relations, for example (and, according to Musel, their coverage of the problems is very good) - but they ignore the fact that more blacks get higher education in America than whites do in England. They report on the high cost of living here, while skipping over how in relation to salaries earned the U.S. is generally cheaper than England. And of course, the BBC is extremely hard on America over the Vietnam War, consistently taking the side of the Vietcong and taking for granted the truth of any anti-American comment than any expert has to offer. Says one American official, "We don't want the British to like us necessarily. But we'd like them to understand us."

Paul Fox, head of public affairs for the BBC, replies, again, with a comment that wouldn't be out of place in today's discussions. "Balanced television is nontelevision. We've really gone out of that age. That's Stone-Age television." In response to American criticism of the accuracy of such shows, he notes that this is what one would expect an American to do." I find these comments quite interesting considering the reputation the Beeb has gotten over the past few years, the accusations of an extreme left-wing bias in their news-reporting departments. To be fair, Fox is one of the most respected figures in television, even by Americans. He grants that the country is far more open in allowing criticism of it than most countries. And he's one of a number of British television figures offering that fictional American series often do more harm than good; Peyton Place, says one commentator, is probably regarded as normal American life by many people, and the more violent crime dramas do their part in giving a distorted picture of most American cities.

What to do? Peregrine Worsthorne - what a great name! - from the Telegraph newspapers says that television is still a young medium, one that has yet to develop elder statesmen to curb its "impetuous youth." He views British reporting on Vietnam as "straight anti-American propaganda. To some extent this is attributable to fellow-traveling bias; but much more, in my view, to sheer ignorance on the part of the juvenile producers whose attitude to war is untempered by experience or knowledge."

Musel himself thinks a main ingredient may well be envy; this kind of coverage is "the natural penalty we pay for being the richest and most powerful nation on earth," and the British once received this same coverage themselves. He doesn't ask for puff-pieces; just credit for good intentions.

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While The Hollywood Palace is on summer break, ABC filled the Saturday night time slog with Piccadilly Palace, a London-based variety show starring the iconic British comedy duo of Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise, We'll stop in from time to time during the summer months to see who has the best lineup..

Sullivan: Scheduled guests are singers Robert Goulet and Jane Morgan, the rock 'n' rolling Temptations, English musical-comedy star Tessie O'Shea, the singing Doodletown Pipers, comedians Jack De Leon, Lee Tully and The Pickle Brothers, and puppet Topo Gigio.

Palace: Morecambe and Wise welcome England's rock 'n' rolling Hollies and singer Tom Jones, plus regular Millicent Martin.

I don't know how many times we'll run across this during the summer, with Piccadilly substituting for the regular Palace, but we might as well go with it whenever we have the chance. And this week it's short and sweet; despite the presence of Robert Goulet (remember those great "Mr. G" commercials he did for ESPN late in his life?), it's going to be tough to beat Tom Jones and the Hollies. As a matter of fact, this week it's impossible, even with Jack De Leon and Lee Tully. The trophy goes across the pond: it's the Palace, and that's not unusual.

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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. 

The Hollywood Palace isn't the only thing taking the summer off. Cleveland Amory, about to wrap up another television season, entertains us this week with some choice Letters to the Editor written about him intended to point out his various shortcomings as a critic and, in some cases, a human being. Our Critic is nothing if not serene in the confidence of his own correctness, however, so he never fears contrary opinions.

Take this missive from Dennis Colella of Little Falls, N.J.: "Dear Sir: Why don't you get rid of Cleveland Amory? He had better go back to college and learn to write an expository theme. I have never seen anyone twist facts and use minor ideas to criticize a TV show like Mr. Amory . . . I was always in the opinion that a review was supposed to be very general with no side comments unless backed by facts, or with no definite opinions formulated by the critics." [Welcome to the real world, Dennis.] A similar sentiment is expressed by Lydia Harvey of North Edwards, California, who asks "Dear Sir: What is it? That is the question I put before you. What is a Cleveland Amory? He never has anything good to say to anyone at any time, and that includes the article on Felony Squad. So, Mr. Amory, I say to you it will be your tough luck that Felony Squad will return next season." [Yes, but how many seasons did it run, and how many seasons did Cleve write about?]

Mrs. Mark A. Williams of Medford, Oregon is a little less personal in her comments: "TV Guide's review of Family Affair makes my blood boil. In my book this review is on a par with an attack on motherhood." Perhaps the most incomprehensible letter is addressed to Amory himself: "You must think you are some article writer. What you are is a 5 year old Baby! Just becuase a GOOD show comes on TV, you have to knock it. You think you are a expert of judging shows. You are T.H.E. WORST!!! Rango is one of the BEST shows on TV. The trouble is that you are JEALOUS of Rango!" It's signed "YEA! RANGO! YEA! RANGO!" Rango, I should note, was a western comedy starring Tim Conway, and ran on ABC from January 13 to September 1, 1967. I do hope this letter writer wasn't too destroyed when it was cancelled.

Not all is lost, though. Karen Tucker of Fulton, N.Y., tells Cleve "I have just finished reading the review of The Time Tunnel. Anyone who can be very enjoyable, even while degrading one's favorite program, should continue to have the column as long as TV Guide exists. Mr. Amory, you're the greatest." Says Amory, "keep that letter coming."

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This is history?
We're also looking at the latest depiction of the wild west, in a humorous essay by Ronald Searle, the great satirical cartoonist whose illustrations appear on the cover and accompanying his story. (British TV fans might recognize him as the author of those brilliant cartoons during the opening and closing credits of Yes Minister and Yes, Prime Minister.)

His topic: how "the excessively romanticized misrepresentation of historical events" found in popular culture - until, that is, the debut of F Troop. "For with the generous cooperation of both the Hekawi and the Shug tribes, we can see, week by week, a virtual on-the-spot portrait of frontier life as it was lived in everyday terms."

"Honesty is the byword," writes Searle with a fine excess of drama - "if one can honestly get away with inefficiency, blackmail, embezzlement, bare-faced robbery, lying, cheating, seduction, procrastination and ducking out of a fight, one has got through the day graciously. In other words, this series has heart." In other words, I'd add, absolutely nothing has changed since then.

In calling F Troop "the funniest ideas to have hit television in years," Searle is, I think, lampooning not only the excess of John Ford-type westerns of the past, he's poking fun at the way in which we present history in popular entertainment. In its own way, F Troop is about as realistic as other historical dramas - just in the opposite direction. If you're going to do it, you might has well have fun!

◊ ◊ ◊

The Indianapolis 500 is this week, although you won't see it live on TV Memorial Day. No, the 500 mile race hasn't even made it to same-day broadcasting on ABC, let alone a live telecast. There are only two ways to keep track of this year's race: buy a ticket and watch the live closed-circuit broadcast in a local movie theater, or listen to Sid Collins call the race on the Indianapolis Motor Speedway radio network. That's what I, along with millions worldwide, used to do back in the day; I still watch the broadcast with the sound turned down to listen to the superior radio coverage.

No, the only way you'd know about the race is because of the 500 Festival Parade, telecast live from Indianapolis on Sunday afternoon at 4:00 p.m.CT and hosted by James Garner, a actor with impeccable racing credentials going back to the movie Grand Prix. Minneapolis didn't get to see the live syndicated coverage; WCCO, Channel 4, shows it at 9:00 a.m. on Memorial Day - which, you'll remember, was May 30 until 1971 - and I think showing it on Tuesday is just fine by me.

Let's see, some other things on this week: At 5:00 p.m. Sunday, CBS's The 21st Century presents "The Communications Explosion," showing the changes in store due to satellites, laser beams, and computers - including one that sings "On a Bicycle Built for Two." And no, it's not a coincidence. Another milestone on CBS Monday: the debut of Coronet Blue - as the listing says, "This series was originally intended for the 1965-66 season, but CBS shelved it, and the 11 episodes are being telecast for the first time this summer." I wonder if they had any idea it would become a cult hit.

A while back I mentioned the premiere of The Las Vegas Show, Bill Dana's two-hour late night variety show. It shows up here on a couple of CBS affiliates; KDAL in Duluth carries it at 10:30 p.m., head-on against Carson and Bishop, while WCCO shows it at 12:40 a.m., after a rerun of Marshal Dillon and a movie.

Tuesday is Memorial Day, but WTCN, Channel 11, seems to have their wires crossed - at 10:30 a.m. they're showing Tchaikovsky's "Nutcracker," the same version they usually show at Christmastime. They have a nice recovery, though, showing the Twins-Yankees game from Yankee Stadium along with the rest of the Twins television network, starting at noon, while at 4:30 p.m., KSTP has live coverage of the Jersey Derby horse race from Garden State Park in New Jersey. Tuesday evening, CBS carries a 90-minute drama special, Sir John Gielgud starring as Ivanov in Chekhov's famed play of the same name.

Finally, Friday night  at 7:30 p.m. NBC airs what amounts to an hour-long infomercial for the latest James Bond movie, You Only Live Twice. This isn't the first time NBC's done this - they had a similar special, The Incredible World of James Bond, back in November 1965, promoting Thunderball. That special was the highest rated show of the week, and I wouldn't be surprised if this one does the same thing. Would you bet against Sean Connery? TV  


  1. "Picadilly Palace" was actually just rebadged episodes of Morecambe and Wise's British series "Two of a Kind". It was one of many British variety shows made with an eye to American sales.

    1. If memory serves, in the early 1980's when the "Wave of British Comedies" hit the cable and independent stations in the US, Morecambe and Wise were two of the entertainers that made their way on to American TV. Along with Bernard Cribbins, Dave Allen at Large, Paul Hogan (from Australia of course) and the one and only Benny Hill.

    2. A bit of earlier history:

      Ed Sullivan was booking Morecambe and Wise as far back as the mid-'60s. Ed was a big fan of British comics, and Eric & Ernie were in their first big wave of GBTV popularity.
      Later on, M&W's writers/performing partners, Sid Green and Dick Hills, moved to the USA. Eric & Ernie drifted for a bit, until they got a new writer, Eddie Braben, who went with them to the BBC - and their greatest popularity.
      1979 was the year that Benny Hill's shows (some of them dating back a decade) were brought to the USA, as a throw-in to a larger deal that didn't quite come off.
      That Benny Hill became a Stateside hit took the whole US TV industry by surprise; soon everybody wanted their own Brit comics for latenight slots - which was that "Wave" that RLM is referring to.
      Oddly enough, Morecambe & Wise's BBC shows (generally considered the cream of their TV work) flopped badly in the US; our dumb "critics" (one here in Chicago, anyway) wrote that they were "ripping off" Benny Hill - and that's another story ...

  2. Two things,
    • I got the TV Guide delivered to my home until late 2000. There were a couple reasons why I didn't resubscribe, I moved and the TV Grid was having less and less relevance with my cable programming. But another reason might be for the covers. By the end of the century the Guide was using less and less original artwork for the covers and were just slapping on photos. I missed the illustrations. They were yet another thing that made the magazine unique.
    • I find it interesting that NBC was the network airing the James Bond promo. For as far back as I can remember, ABC had the plumb ownership of the James Bond films (usually on their Sunday Night At The Movies) and you'd think they'd be the one's with these promo shows.

  3. Oh wow! I did this issue back in 2016 as part of the F Troop Fridays series. One of my favorite vintage issues. They had me at F Troop, of course, but my lifelong crush on Diahann Carroll doesn't hurt my enjoyment of it. :)

  4. While I'm here ...

    Mitchell, I think you ought to take a closer look at the Letters column this week.

    In particular, you ought to check out two letters:
    - One that concerns a profile of Hogan's Heroes's John Banner, from a few weeks before; it's the one in which Banner is quoted as saying " ... Schultz is not a Nazi ..."
    The letter writer doesn't care for that sentiment, to say the least ...

    - The other letter is a response to a passing remark in a McLuhan article that dismisses "the scientific validity of Star Trek."
    This letter writer disputes in toto the article writer's assertion, with a ringing defense of Star Trek and its merits...

    I would call your attention to the identities of the two letter writers, and their respective crotchets.
    No spoilers here - you have to do your own research.
    Have fun!

    1. This comment has been removed by the author.

  5. I'm just inexplicably delighted about the fact that there was once someone in the television viewing audience who was that passionate about "Rango."

  6. From my Chicago edition, here's a once-around-the-week:

    - Get Smart has the Casablanca takeoff that John at Cult TV wrote up a few weeks back.
    - Meanwhile, a few channels over, Mission: Impossible goes into the catering business, in order to set up a Mob Boss (Simon Oakland, natch).
    Fun to see Steven Hill in chef's whites, and everybody else waiting and bussing and suchlike.
    Stories like this - stings and scams, really - are what enabled M:I to catch on in the first place ... and why old-line fans of the show hate those Tom Cruise vanity movies.
    - Later that same evening, Gunsmoke has the tale of a poor sodbuster accused of killing a cardsharp who'd cheated him out of all the money he had.
    The sodbuster is Carroll O'Connor, a reminder of the wide range of parts he played before Archie Bunker became an almost unbreakable typecast.

    - It's also Mob Night on The FBI; this time Robert Duvall is a wannabe hit man who's after a big witness, and the Bureau has to keep him safe.
    - Bonanza has a horse race that an "old friend" of Ben's is trying to fix.
    The O.F. is played by Charlie Ruggles, which means this is probably a comedy.
    - Candid Camera is wrapping up its final prime time season - its only one in color, in which one of its writers became a showcased performer: Fannie Flagg, whose career as a best-selling novelist was far in the future.

    - Hollywood Squares is still comparatively new to NBC's daytime schedule: one of the celebrities is Joanne Dru, who hasn't done very much recently - but she is Peter Marshall's sister ...
    - Just about everything in network prime time is reruns this week.
    Tonight, practically the only new show is Coronet Blue, which CBS is burning off after two years on the shelf.
    The industry is watching this one closely, because in the fall Frank Converse has one of the leads in ABC's new show, NYPD.
    In 1967, nobody knew that Old TV would have such an extended afterlife.
    Have an irony: the entire (short) run of Coronet Blue is now available on DVD - but the two full seasons of NYPD are not ...

    - On Girl From UNCLE, Stefanie Powers goes undercover as an aerialist in a circus run by Bad Guy Lloyd Bochner. I'll shortly go to the Old DVD Wall to look at that one ...
    - And next on NBC, Occasional Wife has the two leads going to a restaurant (separately), and having to steer clear of another diner - Lloyd Bochner (!).
    This sort of thing used to happen all the time on prime time TV - and you know what? Nobody was ever confused by it!
    Actually, it was part of the fun ...
    - Also, CBS had that Chekov play with Sir John Gielgud ... but offhand, I can't remember very many Chekov fans in my neighborhood back then (or ever, comes to that ...).

    - Bob Hope's Chrysler Theater is rerunning "Massacre at Fort Phil Kearney", a dramatization of an actual clash between the US Cavalry and the Sioux in 1866.
    One of the stalwart Cavalrymen is Capt. Ten Eyck, played by Carroll O'Connor, op cit. (boy, I love to do that ...).
    - Right after that, I Spy has "Will The Real Good Guys Please Stand Up?", in which the Bad Guy Spies kidnap Culp & Cosby and send in lookalikes to mess up a defection by a Top Scientist.
    One of the BGSs mentioned above is Leon Askin, on leave from Hogan's Heroes; he's way more serious here.

    The other two nights are mainly reruns; not much there that I was interested in.

  7. Apologies for the abruptness of the last comment.
    If you're going to put a character limit on these things, the least you can do is put a little clock in the corner, so we can keep track.
    I mean, who on earth can count to 4,096?


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!