June 9, 2018

This week in TV Guide: June 6, 1959

So what does happen when a show lays an egg, besides some clucking from network executives? (A little TV humor there.*) The show in question is Music Theater, the stars are Bill Hayes and Florence Henderson, the network is NBC, and the producer is David Susskind.

*Very little.

The series, which was broadcast live from New York, ran for just six weeks, and brings to an end what had been a very good season for Susskind, whose DuPont Show of the Month had run off a string of hits. David, what happened?

"We made an attempt to integrate song and dance with dramatic structure," explains the producer. "This is an integration that has been successful in the theater ever since Oklahoma! But we couldn't get television audiences to look at it in sufficient numbers to make it worthwhile for our sponsor. [Oldsmobile] So I myself made the suggestion that we kill the show."

It's not surprising that Music Theater would fail to draw an audience; many innovative concepts do, at least at first. (Remember Cop Rock?) One gets the sense of Susskind's frustration talking about the show, how he had wanted something "fresh." He stops just short of blaming the audience for the show's failure, but adds that "the defeat of this program was a blow to all future efforts to get out of the rut contemporary television is in."

There's not much about the show online, other than this nice article that suggests Henderson and Hayes made a very inviting couple on the small screen. They both went on to great success, of course; Hayes as one half of the soap opera power-couple with his wife Susan Seaforth Hayes, Henderson as the iconic Carol Brady on The Brady Bunch. And I wouldn't feel too sorry for David Susskind, either. As this week's article points out, Music Theater was succeeded on NBC by a sitcom called Too Young to Go Steady, starring Donald Cook and Joan Bennett. It's sponsored by Oldsmobile, telecast live from New York, and produced by—David Susskind.

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Speaking of quality television, the intrepid critic F.DeB (and I know one of you out there will know who that actually is) looks at what daytime television has to offer. A hint as to his thoughts? The article's title: "The Torture Starts Early."

There's no better way to begin than with this anecdote from Sam Levenson's morning show: "I got a letter here 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." Thus begins DeB's odyssey through the morass that is daytime TV—"treacly soap operas" with worried-looking chaps exchanging worried words with equally worried-looking ladies, and "foolishness" like Beat the Clock, Pantomime Quiz, and Day in Court.

And then there's Bill Wendell, onetime announcer for Ernie Kovacs, future announcer for David Letterman, and currently host of Tic Tac Dough on NBC. The question: "Name the city in Ohio known as the rubber capital of the United States." The contestant's hopeful answer: "Baton Rouge?"*

*It's Akron, by the way.

Perhaps the one story that sums up DeB's feelings the most is this exchange on County Fair, hosted by Bert Parks, who was "grinning away like a gargoyle." To a contestant who allows as to how he likes to sing, Parks tells him "Well, that's fine, because this lady likes to throw pies. Stick your head through this hole. Every time you sing the lady will throw a pie at you." She never hit him once, of course. I don't think DeB saw any hits the entire day.

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If I'm being perfectly honest with you (which is something I try always to accomplish, or at least to strive for), I have to admit there's not a lot to cover this week, which makes it a perfect time to look at some of the ads for the week's shows.

This one for Highway Patrol, starring Oscar winner Broderick Crawford, means business, don't you think? Not just the two cars ("Roadblocks!"), but the gun. Seriously, chief, I was planning on watching it anyway! I'm not sure which show had more violence though, that or Roller Derby. (now on Channel 9!) No matter what iteration of Roller Derby seemed to be on over the years, it was always the same teams, like the San Francisco Bay Area Bombers.

And then there's Rendezvous, a British-American anthology production that ran for a couple of seasons in syndication. According to the always-reliable Wikipedia, the show had a pretty good list of guest stars— Patricia Neal, Peter O'Toole, Bert Lahr, Gary Merrill, Mel Ferrer, Donald Pleasence, Leslie Dwyer, Lois Maxwell, and Kim Hunter. Unfortunately, none of them are pictured in the ad, but then you can't have everything, can you?

This ad is for a local program, Town and Country, which aired for several seasons on KDAL, Channel 3 in Duluth. I've typed this listing so many times over the years, I don't think my muscle memory will ever fail: TOWN AND COUNTRY—Becker

Imagine the kind of excitement that the winner of this will get. Not only autographed photos of Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, but a phone call from the King of the Cowboys himself! That had to be a thrill.

John Daly: the man who knows his news, and that's his line. ABC's evening news lacked the affiliate coverage of the other networks; WTCN, the ABC affiliate in Minneapolis-St. Paul, didn't carry it, for example. Too bad; I'd like to see what a Daly newscast looks like.

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In this era before universal Daylight Saving Time, it's interesting to see the various differences in programming, especially when it comes to live events like baseball. For example, CBS's Saturday Game of the Week between the Yankees and Indians begins at 12:45 p.m. Central time in Minneapolis, Duluth, and LaCrosse, Wisconsin. But if you're living in Mason City, Iowa, you see the game on KGLO at 11:45 a.m. It's got to be the difference between who's on Daylight Saving Time and who isn't; Mason City didn't spring ahead, and therefore they're still on Central Standard Time. That kind of thing had to be hard to keep track of, not only in television, but in life as well.

Speaking of KGLO, at 10:30 p.m. on Tuesday, Ken New interviews the newly crowned Miss North Iowa of 1959! A quick look at the Mason City Globe-Gazette tells us that 85 young women are seeking the title, so the winner has managed to survive some stiff competition. (As to whether or not it was worth preempting Badge 714 though, I 'm not sure.) I'm always hopeful that though a quick Google search, it will emerge that Miss North Iowa wound up being Miss America, or went on to a great career, or fame, or something of the sort. No such luck here, though, or if it did happen, there's no record of it online.

And on the late night beat, Betty Johnson is the guest singer for the entire week on NBC's Jack Paar Show. I would assume she must have sung "Little Blue Man," the blue man in question being played by none other than Jack's sidekick, Hugh Downs.

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Finally, the story of Bill Baird and his puppets. On Monday at 10:30 p.m., Channel 3 Extra presents a 15-minute puppet show by Bill and Cora Baird.

At first I wondered what the famed Baird Marionettes would be doing on a local TV program. By 1959 the Baird Marionettes had appeared all over the county from television to nightclubs, and Baird had been nominated for an Emmy for the television special “Art Carney Meets Peter and the Wolf.” There would later be a tour of the Soviet Union, performances at the New York World's Fair, and an appearance in The Sound of Music (the goatherd scene).

And yet here they are, on a 15-minute local program. Had it originally been a network filler? Could it have had anything to do with the Miss North Iowa pageant? And then: do the Bairds have some connection to Mason City? Stranger things have happened, and sure enough, according to the always-reliable Wikipedia, Bill Baird grew up in Mason City - who knew? Not only that, he maintained his roots there, and there's an exhibit of his puppets in one of the city's museums. He's pictured here with one of his more famous creations, Charlemane the Lion. Was Charlemane part of the show that Monday night? Were they at the Miss North Iowa pageant? I don't know the answers, but then I didn't know the Bairds were from Iowa either, which just goes to show that you learn something new every day if you're not careful. TV  


  1. F.deB. was TV Guide staffer Frank deBlois. You can read a TV Guide article about Robert Montgomery here:

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

  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?

  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.

  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.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!