June 16, 2018

This week in TV Guide: June 13, 1970

I feel as if I've given kind of short shrift to the programming part of this feature over the past couple of weeks, so this week we're just going to look inside the cover and see what's on. For all our forays into history and sociology and the like, this is still a TV website, after all.

Variety shows, for instance. After all, we have a variety show star - Johnny Cash - on the cover this week, and maybe later on we'll check out what William Price Fox has to say about him. For now, though, we'll be content looking at Wednesday night's show (ABC, 8:00 p.m.), which features guests Jimmie Rodgers, Jerry Lee Lewis (singing "Great Balls o' Fire," of course), and Vikki Carr. Cash's cast of regulars is almost as impressive as the guest list on any other show: June Carter, Carl Perkins, the Statler Brothers, and the Tennessee Three. I'm not a country music fan, and even I know that's a powerhouse lineup. Johnny is up against NBC's Kraft Music Hall, airing at the same time; it's "An Evening with Burt Bacharach," and the famed songwriter welcomes Dionne Warwick (who did mighty well by the Bacharach/David songbook), Joel Grey (a hit on Broadway for Cabaret), and French singer-guitarist Sacha Distel, and while that's good, I think Johnny's on the money this week.

This is a great TV night, depending on your tastes, and speaking of country music, CBS still has Hee Haw as part of their schedule, and at 6:30 p.m. Sonny James and Tammy Wynette join Buck Owens and Roy Clark and the regulars, including Grandpa Jones, Sheb Wolley, Jeannine Riley - practically the Grand Ole Opry right there in the studio. Country singers never did shy away from appearing on television when they had the chance; as rock music gets bigger and the stars appear on TV less often, shows like these will be where you can go to see the biggest names. Even NET gets into the act, with B.B. King on NET Jazz (7:00 p.m.). That's followed at 7:30 by Bob Cromie's long-running Book Beat, with philosopher Mortimer Adler discussing his new book, The Time of Our Lives, in which he argues for a moral and educational revolution in society if man is to truly achieve personal happiness. All I can say is that he picked a good time to discuss it.

Later in the evening - see, it really is packed, isn't it? - ABC follows Cash with Engelbert Humperdinck, their second British import, and while a lot of people see him as a Tom Jones-wannabee, he's got a credible lineup of his own, with Phil Silvers, Paul Anka, British music-hall star Millicent Martin, and singer Dana Vallery. That's not bad. I know what I would have been watching that night, though - WTCN, the independent station, has live boxing from Madison Square Garden in New York, a heavyweight bout between Jerry Quarry and Mac Foster. Foster comes into the fight as the #1 ranked contender, but Quarry knocks him out in the sixth round, earning him a shot at Muhammad Ali later in the year. (Quarry was the only boxer of the top ten heavyweights willing to give Ali a shot.) Boxing in prime time, which had been commonplace a dozen years ago, was a real rarity by 1970, generally only seen in syndicated broadcasts like this.

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And now, back to the beginning of the week. You'll recall that a couple of weeks ago I talked about the KQED Auction, the annual fundraising effort by the Bay Area's public television station. This Saturday, back home in the Twin Cities, it's the final night of KTCA's Action Auction, beginning at 6:00 and continuing "until all the merchandise is sold," including anything that hasn't already sold, plus items donated during the week. (If it's anything like the auctions I watched, it'll wrap up around 4:00 a.m. or so.) The proceeds from this year's auction will be used by Channel 2 to maintain a weekend broadcasting schedule. This is so clearly in the public interest that TV Guide even gives you the phone number to call if you want to place a bid.

Also this weekend: ABCs Wide World of Sports presents (live and tape) satellite coverage of the 24 Hours of LeMans, beginning at 4:00 p.m. Saturday and concluding at 2:30 p.m. on Sunday. Back in the late '60s, at the height of Ford's campaign to unseat Ferrari as the dominant force in the world's greatest race (via the famed Ford GT), ABC's live coverage included the race's start and finish, which would have been around 8:00 or so in the morning. (I know this because I got up to watch it.) This year, by contrast, the entire 24 hours will be shown on Velocity, in case you'd care to watch the whole thing.

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Sunday morning has been the traditional province of religious programming, but times have changed, as Edith Efron notes in her article on how "social concerns overwhelm spiritual ones in the networks' religious programming." This can be seen in, for instance, CBS's long-running Look Up and Live (9:00 a.m.), which this week features "The Secular Sisters," described as former nuns who recently started their own community, reflecting their "change from a religious order to a 'lay community of religious persons.'"

Efron cites socially conscious programs like these, dealing with the generation gap (see Insight, 11:00 a.m., KCMT, in which "a rebellious teen-ager turns hippie"; Lloyd Bochner plays the teen's dad) the need to communicate (on This is the Life, 11:00 a.m., WDSM, another teen "finds adjustment difficult when his older brother returns home from prison"), the changing role of the church (for example, Town Hall Meeting, 10:00 a.m. KSTP - "Is Mass Evangelism the Answer to the World's Conversion?"), and Navaho poetry (no description needed). The problem with programs like this, points out Efron, is that "the theme of the individual and his relationship to God and the supernatural has been strangely missing."

Networks are enthusiastic about this "living church" programming; CBS's Pamela Ilott says that "the times call" for this "revolutionary social action." ABC's Wiley Hance, producer of Directions, notes that religious programming has been moving to the left for some time. "Those in control have been liberals. And some of the youth groups we've had on these shows are real incendiary revolutionaires. We did one four-parter on the black church, in which one black minister just about advocated black revolution. He came out for hiding arms in churches."

Not everyone is impressed by this argument. Episcopal bishop Charles J. Kinsolving was outraged by a church grant to an organization whose director was jailed for violent assault. "I wonder how many people have to be shot, how many have to be tried, how many have to be pistol-whipped, how many have to be tried, how many sentences have to be given before a group is considered violent by the church."

Many times I write here about the ways in which television reflects the dramatic changes in society over the last half-century. Just as often, though, I note how the more things change, the more they stay the same, and this is one of those situations. Anyone who's read my series of pieces over at the other blog on the Church's dramatic lurch to the left under the reign of the current pope knows that what I've just described is almost exactly what we're seeing in religious programming today. Since we're all about TV here, I'm not going to take off on a sociopolitical/religious rant; I just want to note that if you want to know what's going on in mainstream religion today, just read this article. Even if it is almost 50 years old.

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Still on Sunday, at 9:00 p.m. NBC's episode of The Bold Ones features "The Lawyers" (Burl Ives, James Farentino, Joseph Campanella); this week, their client is Craig Stevens (whom I've liked ever since Peter Gunn), playing a gubernatorial candidate whose campaign hits the skids when he's charged with murder. Fernando Lamas directed the episode, which I assume is marvelous.

Monday it's time for another look at the burning issues of the day; NET Journal (8:00 p.m., NET) takes an absorbing but critical look at the United Nations and asks the question, "Who Speaks for Man?" (Of course, today that would have to be "Who Speaks for Humankind? but that's another story.) The world seems to be filled with warfare today - Vietnam, Biafra, Czechoslovakia, the Middle East - where's the UN in all this, and why is it impotent - if it is impotent?

On TuesdayMarcus Welby, M.D. (9:00 p.m., ABC) gets drawn into the world of LSD, with a young dropout who returns home struggling with the effects of his drug use, but with his antagonism toward his father intact. Longtime TV viewers will not be surprised to find that the father in question is played by Nehemiah Persoff. The other great social issue of the time is Vietnam, and that's the subject of 60 Minutes, which has yet to become a Sunday evening staple - it's a special, and it's on CBS opposite Welby. Mike Wallace talks to both draftees and career soldiers to get their impressions of Vietnam both before and after their tour. 60 Minutes isn't ignoring drugs, though; Wallace's co-host Harry Reasoner looks at the growing number of young Americans in European jails on drug charges.*

*Not-so-fun fact: Four months after this airs, a young American named Billy Hayes is arrested in Turkey on a drug charge. His experiences in a Turkish prison are the basis for his book Midnight Express, which is made into an Oscar-nominated movie.

I mentioned Tom Jones above; on Thursday night (8:00 p.m., ABC) Tom welcomes Victor Borge, British comic actor Harry Secombe, and singer-dancer Paula Kelly. At 9:00 p.m. Dean Martin, in one of his last shows before the summer break, has his daughter Deana, Elke Sommer, Frank Sinatra Jr., Charles Nelson Reilly, and Don Rice.

And on Friday there's this terrific double-feature on WDIO in Duluth at 10:35 p.m. The first movie is a real classic: The Magnificent Seven, with an all-star cast including Yul Brynner and Steve McQueen. What do you follow that up with? Curse of the Faceless Man, starring Richard Anderson. "In the ruins of the city of Pompeii, the body of a faceless stone man is discovered." Somehow I suspect there's more to it than that, but I suppose I'll just have to check it out sometime to find out. It is on YouTube, after all.

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There's a lot more to this issue of TV Guide, too. For example, Robert Higgins does a profile of CBS's morning news anchor, Joseph Benti. However, since I talked with Joseph Benti myself last week (he's 86 and sounds great), I think I'll save this until I write about our conversation, which should be in a couple of weeks.

Something else I write about from time to time is my upcoming book The Electronic Mirror, which develops the ideas I talk about here, about how television reflects (get it?) the cultural changes we've undergone. The book will be out shortly before I appear at the Mid Atlantic Nostalgia Convention in September, but it has to be done before that. Right now I'm in the process of reviewing the second draft, and in order to get this wrapped up, I'll be taking the next couple of Saturdays off, dipping back into the well to look at classic TV guide pieces from the past. As was the case last month, I'll have new listings on Monday (one reason why I reprint the old reviews, back from before I did the Monday feature), and I might throw in an encore piece somewhere along the line. One thing I won't do, however, is let the blog go dark - it, and you the readers, mean too much to me for that.

Speaking of those listings, we'll end this week with a few examples of something people have noticed on occasion - the habit that TV Guide has of abbreviating series titles, especially when they run a bit long. For instance; The Name of the Game becomes, according to TV Guide, Name/Game, similarly, Land of the Giants winds up as Land/Giants. (Oddly enough, Here Come the Brides gets printed in full.) Eddie's Father eliminates the Courtship, there's no Love in To Rome, Jeannie doesn't Dream, Voyage doesn't go to the Bottom of the Sea or anywhere else, and Disney's World isn't so Wonderful after all, apparently.

And that, my friends, is the kind of hard-hitting and insightful analysis you expect from this site. TV  

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