July 28, 2018

This week in TV Guide: July 27, 1968

Dick Hobson leads off this week with an article that's very interesting, although I'm not sure exactly what it all means. It is a demographic study, done by A.C. Nielsen, on what Americans watched on TV during a six-week period from October 23 to December 3, 1967. The  study covers geographic region, income, age, education, and occupation, and the overall results allow us to draw some conclusions about our tastes in television.

We'll start first by looking at the top 10 shows in the United States as a whole; we'll then measure this against some more specific findings. (And by the way, do you see any surprises here, or are the results about what you would have expected?)

  1. The Lucy Show
  2. The Andy Griffith Show
  3. Bonanza
  4. The Red Skelton Hour
  5. Gunsmoke
  6. Family Affair
  7. The Jackie Gleason Show
  8. Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.
  9. NBC Saturday Night at the Movies
  10. (tie) The Beverly Hillbillies; CBS Friday Night Movie

Now, let's dig into this a little further. In the South, for example, the favorites are quite similar to the nation, sharing eight of the ten shows. (Gunsmoke is number one on this list.) The major difference: the absence of the movies, "originally made for a more sophisticated theater audience." Gleason, an urban taste, is also missing. In their place: The Virginian and Daniel Boone. By contrast, Gleason is number one in the Northeast; there are none of the "rural" shows, but Dean Martin, The Smothers Brothers, and more movie programs make the list.

Deano and the Smothers also make the list of favorites for those with incomes in excess of $10,000; again, there are four movie programs plus The FBI. For those with incomes under $5,000, Lawrence Welk and Ed Sullivan feature on the list, but no movies. As with the viewers in the South, notes Hobson, this list is closer to the nation as a whole with the exception of the movie programs.

If you've completed at least a year in college, Mission: Impossible is #2 on the list, and you also like NFL Football and Get Smart. A grade school education once again aligns you with the rest of the nation, with Lucy and Andy at #1 and #2, and the movies nowhere to be seen. Blue-collar workers are more fond of westerns than white-collars, children under 12 approve of The Flying Nun and The Second Hundred Years while teens go for The Guns of Will Sonnett, The Monkees, and Star Trek. If you're under 35, six of your top ten are movies; the top non-movie show is Mission: Impossible. On the other hand, if you're over 50, you like Lawrence Welk, Walt Disney, and - Walter Cronkite.

What do we learn from this? As Hobson says,* "there is a great deal of overlap in the Top 10's of the South, the Under-$5000 income group, the Grade School educated, and the Blue Collar workers." He considers them collectively as "Just Plain Folks." Concurrently, there's a group which could be considered "The Sophisticates" - the Northeast, Over $10,000 incomes, One-Plus Years of College, and White Collar workers, which have a great deal of overlap with each other, but less with the national ranks. Family Affair was popular with every group but young adults, Westerns are the favorites of men but not women and children, movies rank highly with young adults and housewives but not seniors and children, and Gomer Pyle was listed by both seniors and children.

*Would his recommendations be known as "Hobson's Choices?"

For as much as the United States has changed over the years, there are still some things that seem to ring true decades later, and there's a temptation to view these results through the lens of today's cultural divide. For example, one could equate "Just Plain Folks" with Red America, "The Sophisticates" with Blue America. I'd like to see a similar study today; unfortunately, things have become so fragmented that it's hard to draw a parallel since access itself is more by choice than design. Still, I wouldn't be a bit surprised to find my suspicions validated.

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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..

Ed Sullivan: On this rerun, Ed's guests are Charlton Heston, who gives a dramatic reading of Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, and presents a scene from his movie Planet of the Apes; singers Smokey Robinson and the Miracles, Frankie Laine, and the Young Americans; comedians Myron Cohen and Wayne and Shuster; dancer Peter Gennaro; and the Baraton Sisters, balancing act.

Hollywood Palace: Host George Burns presents the King Family, operatic tenor Enzo Stuarti, singer Lainie Kazan, English music-hall comics Desmond and Marks, and Baby Sabu, performing elephant.

I enjoy easy weeks like this when the call can be made early, and it doesn't get much earlier than Ed's first guest. Chuck Heston shows us why we love him; the sublime - his dignified reading of Lincoln's stirring call for the nation to move on, "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right" - and, well, the less-sublime, his wonderfully over-the-top performance in the great Planet of the Apes. Apes deals in a very overt way with civil rights, and it would be interesting to see what scene was used in the show; I suspect it's something complimentary to the tenor of Lincoln's speech. With that, it would be less than patriotic to make any choice other than Sullivan all the way

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In case you hadn't notice, 1968 is an election year, and if you didn't already know that, the Sunday morning interview shows are here to remind you. On CBS's Face the Nation, the guest is New York Governor (and Republican presidential candidate) Nelson Rockefeller; Rocky never quite makes it to the White House, but he is appointed vice president in the administration of Gerald Ford, who just happens to be the guest on NBC's Meet the Press. Meanwhile, the nemesis of both men, future president Ronald Reagan, "dark-horse candidate for the Republican Presidential nomination," appears on ABC's Issues and Answers.

On Wednesday, David Frost hosts an hour-long syndicated special on "The Next President" (7:30 p.m., Channel 4), including an interview - recorded prior to his assassination - with Robert F. Kennedy. Other guests include Hubert Humphrey, Richard Nixon, Ronald Reagan, Nelson Rockefeller, Harold Stassen, and independent candidate George Wallace. The issues examined are a grim litany of today's headlines: violence in the streets, dissident youth, the plight of the cities, racial problems. The Republican National Convention, by the way, begins on August 5.

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The summer of 1968 is also, according to the industry magazine Variety, "Video's Rush to Black," and this week alone we can see an extraordinary concentration of programs confronting the crisis; almost every day features a show dealing with one aspect of it or another, starting on Sunday morning with CBS's venerable religion program Lamp Unto My Feet (9:00 a.m.) concentrates on Negro-Jewish community relations and the tension between black anti-Semitism and the backlash from Jewish businessmen.

In June, ABC introduced a series of six documentaries dealing with the racial crisis, under the umbrella title Time for Americans. This week we see two of them; on Sunday afternoon, at 3:00 p.m., it's "White Racism and Black Education," a look at the rise of school segregation in the North, with a focus on Boston, one of the most racially charged cities outside of the South. That's followed on Monday night (6:30 p.m.) by "Can White Suburbia Think Black?" which suggests that suburban whites will never understand what it means to be white unless they can comprehend what it means to be black. There's this wincing quote that's pulled from the program, spoken by a white suburbanite to a black friend: "I don't consider you a Negro." I suspect that if this reminds you of the infamous "Some of my best friends are [black, Jewish, etc.]" quotes, it's purely intentional.

Tuesday morning, Merv Griffin's syndicated show (9:05 a.m., Channel 4) is dedicated to New York City's "Give Money...Give Jobs...Give a Damn" program to help ghetto youth. The show takes place in the streets of Harlem, with New York mayor John Lindsay, singer James Brown, former heavyweight champion Muhammad Ali, Gladys Knight and the Pips, and a fashion show of African-style clothing. ABC pre-empts It Takes a Thief for a documentary at 7:30 p.m. on the "all-Negro" Grambling College and its outstanding reputation for producing pro football talent. That theme continues at 9:00 p.m. on episode four of CBS's own series on the civil rights movement, Of Black America, entitled "Body and Soul," which examines the role of blacks in sports and music, including threats of an Olympic boycott and the struggle of black musicians to express what they've experienced.

It really is something to see this kind of concentrated programming on one topic, and by all three networks: although it doesn't show in this week's issue, NBC has a multi-part series of its own, What's Happening to America?, with its own viewpoints. Indeed, this seems to be the overarching theme of all these programs, that there is something happening that we don't quite understand, something that we must get a handle on if we're to continue as a nation. And where are we, fifty years later? Still with this sense that something is happening that we don't understand, still struggling with the consequences. Some of the issues are the same, some are dramatically different, but still the feeling that things are out of control and we don't know how to stop the spiral.

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Richard K. Doan notes that ABC's looking at an American version of the British comedy series Till Death Us Do Part, with "a profanely offensive, ultra-right bigot, his 'silly moo' of a spouse, and their politically liberal daughter and son-in-law." ABC expects to tape each episode just a week before airtime in order to allow for more topical references. The network winds up passing on the show that eventually becomes All in the Family.

TV writer Pat McCormick will be head writer for Don Rickles' new sitcom, notes the TV Teletype, in addition to working on sketches for the upcoming (and soon-to-be notorious) Broadway revue, "Oh, Calcutta!" Also noted: Glen Campbell, finishing up as the summer replacement for the Smothers Brothers, is on his way to make a movie with John Wayne: True Grit.

Finally, Cher does a fashion spread this week, which would be pretty hard to miss.

This really brings the '60s home, doesn't it? TV  


  1. Another article included in THE FIRST 25 YEARS volume...

  2. "although I'm not sure exactly what it all means."

    Interestingly, this was just before the Networks revamp their ratings system to include this sort of demographic information. At this time the "ratings" were just number of people watching. Shortly after this the ratings would be broken down by age, income, family and other factors. Shows with "low ratings" over all would be discovered to have high ratings in the 14-21 age group. THis would lead to more targeted shows and more targeted commercials, the REAL reason these shows were even on.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!