June 9, 2018

This week in TV Guide: June 6, 1959

Ah yes, the story of the show that laid an egg. It was a live series called Music Theater, hosted by Bill Hayes and Florence Henderson, and when it was on the air, it aired on NBC. The producer of Music Theater was David Susskind, coming off a banner television year with DuPont Show of the Month. Music Theater, alas, would not continue Susskind's winning streak.

The show utilized a unique format, an attempt to bring Oklahoma-style musical theater to television. "Everything you see today on TV is a Western or a private-eye series," Susskind says. "But our sponsor [Oldsmobile] wanted something new, and I convinced them that this idea was fresh."

According to Susskind, it didn't take long for doubts to creep in. "[A]fter our first show we were angry with ourselves," and the production crew shouted at each other for two hours afterward. He concedes that the critics "had a right to kill us," but bristles at the idea the show was "old hat." "They completely refused to recognize the simple fact that we were attempting a worthwhile crack at something different." If there's something that bothers Susskind, it's that this could signal a tough time ahead for "shows with imagination."

I have to admit that I'd never heard of Music Theater, or more properly (according to the internet) Oldsmobile Music Theater, until I read about it here. Florence Henderson and Bill Hayes were naturals for the show, having worked as a team on Oldsmobile commercials in the past, and it's not as if either of them suffered from the cancellation of Music Theater. Bill Hayes and his wife, Susan Seaforth Hayes, had a pretty fair amount of success on Days of Our Lives, while Florence Henderson even though she had a lengthy musical career, became one of America's most-loved television moms on The Brady Bunch. As for Music Theater's replacement, it is a sitcom called Too Young to Go Steady, starring Donald Cook and Joan Bennett. It, too, was produced by David Susskind. It ran for a grand total of seven episodes.

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We may not have Cleveland Amory yet, but that doesn't keep our intrepid reviewer F.DeB. (and for the life of me, I can't remember who that's an abbreviation for. I'm sure one of our readers will, though!) from looking at the state of Daytime TV. Hint: "The Torture Starts Early."

He leads off with a joke from Sam Levenson, host of one of CBS's morning efforts. "I got a letter here," says Levenson, "from a fellow in jail. 'I been watching TV all day now for a week,' he writes. 'And until someone put me wise I thought it was part of my sentence." And that's the good news, as our critic works his way through a surfeit of quiz shows, a handful of treacly soap operas, and unctuous hosts. Bill Wendell, who you may remember as David Letterman's announcer during his NBC days (and, many years before that, Ernie Kovacs), is having a great time as quizmaster of Tic Tac Dough (left). The question: "Name the city in Ohio known as the rubber capital of the United States?" The contestant's hopeful answer: "Baton Rouge?" [For the record, the answer is Akron.]

After lunch (three Tums with a bolt of Serutan), Art Linkletter is back with his "Kids Say the Darnedest Things" segment, and asks a small child what he would do if Art had a broken neck? (I'm not quite sure how that subject came up.) Replies the child, "I'd put it back on and make sure your eyes and nose and mouth were on up front." Later, it's the "lachrymose river" soap From These Roots, which causes our review to go and open a window. When he returned it was time for Mr. America himself, Bert Parks, hosting County Fair and explaining to a man how he was going to be sticking his head through a hole so that a woman can throw pies at him. In two dozen efforts, she never hit him once - which, from the sounds of it, must be the ratio of hits to shows on daytime TV.

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The summer issues of TV Guide can be kind of a challenge, to be honest; as we get into July and August we'll see more and more reruns along with failed summer replacements, and in the late 50s, it can be even more difficult to find something captivating. This week, I thought I'd share some of the ads from back in the day; it gives you a real flavor of what things are like.

John Daly, "The man who knows his news" - that's his line.

Can you imagine how exciting it would have been for an eight-year-old to get a call from
Roy Rogers?

Rendezvous was a British espionage show that aired in syndication in the United States in 1958-59. The ad makes it look very exciting, doesn't it? Doesn't it?

These two ads don't really have anything to do with each other, but I like the way they fit together on the page. That gun makes Highway Patrol look a little more violent than I recall it as having been - although Broderick Crawford could really bark out "10-4" and "Roadblocks," couldn't he? And Roller Derby, live from the Minneapolis Auditorium! Now that's entertainment!

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Daylight Savings Time can be a pain in the best of times (no pun intended) - it sets up an interesting situation in the Saturday listings, where Mason City's KGLO (more on them in a minute) airs the Yankees-Indians Game of the Week at 11:45 a.m., while WCCO, Duluth's KDAL, and WKBT in La Crosse all have the same game on at 12:45 p.m. - and all of them are showing it live! The same doesn't hold for prime-time programming, where things seem to be a little more orderly.

And speaking of KGLO, they've got an interesting program on at 10:30 on Monday night. It's called Channel 3 Extra, and it features Bill and Cora Baird and their puppets. When I first saw this, I wondered if this might be a syndicated program of some kind, even though it looks like it's local - but, sure enough, according to the always-reliable Wikipedia, Bill Baird grew up in Mason City - who knew? They were already famous by 1959, but here they were, doing a show back in Mason City. That's kind of cool. (There he is on the right, with one of his most famous puppets, Charlemagne the Lion.)

Wait, I forgot - there is one more very important program on KGLO this week. It's an interview with the new Miss North Iowa of 1959! Maybe that's why the Bairds were in Mason City. TV  

5 comments:

  1. F.deB. was TV Guide staffer Frank deBlois. You can read a TV Guide article about Robert Montgomery here:
    http://www.earlofhollywood.com/PRINTTVsNotWhatItUsedToBE.html

    That Tic Tac Dough answer proved that at least that particular contestant wasn't given THAT answer before the show.

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    1. I knew somebody would come through with it! :)

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  2. Highway Patrol is the only American TV series that should be mandated to provide subtitles due to Broderick Crawford's rapid-fire delivery. Was he afraid of slurring his words?

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  3. Well, I've got this one (Chicago edition, of course), and it's pretty much loaded.

    - Oldsmobile Music Theater was the official title of that program.
    This was during a brief period when TV Guide was enforcing a policy of not mentioning sponsor's names as part of show titles.
    When this program first appeared in TVG's listings, I recall that it was IDed as HAYES & HENDERSON, in service to that "rule".
    On Sunday night, NBC had The Chevy Show, Dinah Shore's summer replacement, headlining John Raitt and Janet Blair.
    The listing IDs this program as VARIETY SHOW (at least, my Chicago edition does).
    This practice ended when Tennessee Ernie Ford acquired a like-named auto manufacturer as a sponsor - but that's another story …

    - Among the (many) features in the color section that you seem not to have noticed is a picture spread of seven women who write scripts for the multiple Westerns that are a major part of prime time this season.
    All talented and versatile writers, dressed up as for a cocktail party (this is 1959, remember) on a barnyard set, surrounded by Western actors from many shows.
    One of the writers is Fanya Lawrence, and standing nearby is her husband, veteran villain Marc Lawrence (who, curiously, is not identified as such in the story).

    - Also in color, there's a picture feature about a young actor who's making some money on the side designing women's hats.
    I'll leave it to you to check this one out (and no extra points for recalling how this particular actor became famous a decade later).

    - Frank DeBlois's "review" of daytime TV was typical of the standard snaky attitude about soaps, games, and varieties of that time.
    My feeling is that his calling Day In Court "foolishness" is a clear indication that he never actually saw that show - but hey, that's me …

    - Dwight Whitney, whom we've mentioned here in the past, has apparently just arrived at TVG; he's doing a notes column in the program pages, "Television Diary".
    Whitney was just as snarky here as he ever would be, with snipes at Jack Paar (for making a big deal about revealing that "Guido Panzini" was really Pat Harrington Jr, something everybody in the business had long known) and the CBS brass in transition.

    - There was lotsa stuff in the listings this week, but I'll wait and see which day you're doing on Monday.

    Oh, and for "Anonymous":
    Given Broderick Crawford's legendary capacity for adult beverage intake, I'd say that slurring his words was probably the last thing that he was afraid of.
    Anyway, check Mr. Crawford's whole career, covering five decades: that's the way the man talked.


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  4. RE: DST and the 11:45/12:45 baseball start times

    Where the MN stations noted were on CDT, IA (or at least that part of IA) was on CST. Which explains that part of the equation.

    Things being "more orderly" during prime time was due to: starting in spring '58, all three networks (with the assistance of video tape coming into use) began doing a "standard time feed" one hour later for EST/CST affiliates so they could still air most shows at the same "clock time" as during winter. GUNSMOKE aired Sat at 10:00/9:00 year-round, no matter whether your area was on EDT or EST, or CDT or CST. There was no split feed for the Mountain Time Zone as none of that zone was on DST, nor on the west coast--meaning WA/OR (on PST) aired prime time an hour earlier.

    Exceptions were generally for things like sporting events, including your 11:45 or 12:45 start times for NYY/CLE MLB.

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Thanks for writing! Drive safely!