August 31, 2018

Around the dial

Iremember watching "Alibi Me" as part of the second season DVD box set of Alfred Hitchcock Presents—it was a terrific story with a satisfying ending—and now you can read all about this Bernard C. Schoenfeld-scripted episode as Jack's Hitchcock Project feature at bare bones e-zine.

Ho-ward Co-sell. If you don't understand why I've hyphenated his name that way, then you may be too young to appreciate just what a phenomenon Howard Cosell was in America, and on American television, particularly in the 1960s and '70s. Ah, I feel sorry for you kids. Fortunately, David at Comfort TV can straighten you out, with his marvelous retrospective on the man and his moments—and they aren't all limited to sports.

Well, I'm glad to see the Twilight Zone Vortex back after a few weeks off; this week, Jordan gives us an art exhibition. It's a collection of various illustrations from book covers and magazines that accompany stories from both The Twilight Zone (original and reboots) and Night Gallery.  It's a real treat; I think you'll enjoy it.

Virgin of the Secret Service—now, if that doesn't get your attention, I'm going to give up. Actually, it's the name of a 1968 British series which, as John of Cult TV Blog says, is either an actual spy series set in the Edwardian era, or a light spoof of same. It was a blind buy for John, who delivers his verdict at the conclusion of his series review.

A Shroud of Thoughts presents an obituary of Fredd Wayne, who died earlier this week at the age of 93. He was best known for his definitive portrayal of Benjamin Franklin, which started out as a one-man show, before he took it on the road, in a sense, portraying Franklin as a character in several television series that were either period pieces or featured time travel of some sort, including Bewitched, Daniel Boone, and Voyagers. I don't usually embed videos in this feature, but you'll want to see this clip from his stage performance as Franklin.

And of course, where would we be if I didn't so some shameless self-promotion for my book The Electronic Mirror? I'll have a bigger spread up later, but I'll just let you know now that it's available for purchase from Amazon by clicking here, and I'm also working on a way of direct purchase that will allow you to get an inscribed copy directly from me. Either way it will, I promise you, be worth it. TV  

August 29, 2018

Thus Spake Bernstein

It's no exaggeration to say that Leonard Bernstein was, at least in part, responsible for my love of classical music. His Young People's Concerts, which aired on CBS from 1958 to 1972, were mostly before my conscious time, but I remember seeing enough of them in the last few years to be really interested. My first live trip to a classical music concert was a similar Young People's Concert done by what was then called the Minneapolis Symphony (which has since then taken on the far more pedestrian moniker Minnesota Orchestra). Anyway, when you're being taught something by someone with a real passion for it, at least some of that passion is bound to rub off.

I have mixed feelings for Bernstein; starting with Tom Wolfe's infamous Radical Chic, which described in brutal, relentless detail the utter pomposity of the wealthy Bernsteins, in their Park Avenue apartment, hosting an awareness fundraiser for the Black Panthers. It's almost impossible to understand how anyone could take Bernstein seriously after that excoriating portrait, and then you combine it with Bernstein's increasingly flamboyant, almost campy lifestyle in his later years (I particularly remember his capes and other outrageous clothes), emoting on the podium, drinking heavily and often behaving crassly in public—well, the man was at times virtually a parody of himself. And again, one wonders, how can anyone take Lenny seriously?

Then you watch one of those concerts—TCM had five of them on a few weeks ago, in honor of Bernstein's 100th birthday, and almost all of them are on YouTube—, you listen to how the man teaches, how he explains music to grade school children—not really children, but, as he called them, young people. I'm no musicologist, but I do know a fair bit about music, and yet watching some of these programs I find myself scrambling to keep up with this thought process. It's deep, profound, often engaging with ideas and topics such as philosophy in a quest to explain the relationship between music and life. Bernstein never talks down to his audience (either the young people in the concert hall, or those watching on television), he never condescends or patronizes, he always interjects enough topical language and music to let them know that he understands where it's at, and he presents all this as someone who finds the subject matter quite exciting, and wants his audience to share in that thrill. And, from the expressions on their faces, some of them do. Granted, they've been prepped for it by their music teacher in school (remember when they had music appreciation classes?), but there's really nothing that prepares anyone, young or old, from Lenny at full wattage.

Watch this program in which he explains Richard Strauss's famous piece, Thus Spake Zarathustra, better known as the theme to 2001. By the time it's over, you'll know more about Nietzsche's philosophy than you ever thought possible, as well as an absolutely stunning demonstration of how Strauss's music depicts the themes in Nietzsche's work. Bernstein expects his audience to be able to follow this, expects that grade school students can comprehend complex themes and ideas, and to relate them to the meaning of life. I found this as thrilling as Bernstein must have.

For all that Bernstein accomplished, the conducting and the compositions and the writing, I think his lasting influence will be as a teacher. Not a teacher of other musicians, although he mentored a good many of them. No, it's as a teacher who tried to enrich the lives of his students just a little bit, to make them look at life in a different way, perhaps introduce them to something they hadn't considered before. Remember how on Saturday Judith Crist wrote about how one of the functions of a critic was to teach readers to demand more, to put a value on the time that they spend watching a movie and then expect that movie to be worth that time? To stimulate a response? That's what Bernstein does in these programs, and in other cases, and there's nobody better at it them him. You know how I've written about how a program like Alistair Cooke's America taught me more than my high school civics class? Never mind music appreciation; I can guarantee this program should have been shown in my college philosophy class.

So can we reconcile the two Bernsteins, the teacher and the tramp, the passionate musician and the inviter of ridicule? Should we even try? This is, I think, one of those cases where I'm going to have to agree to disagree with myself, for as hard as it may be to take Lenny seriously, when Leonard Bernstein talks about music, people listen. Am I a nerd for calling this kind of show "thrilling"? Perhaps, but it's so worth the ride. TV  

August 27, 2018

What's on TV? Sunday, August 30, 1970

What can we say about today's listings? I think William F. Buckley Jr.'s interview with Allen Ginsberg (WOR, 11:00 p.m.) is certainly worth watching, and if you'd like to find out, you can see it right here. Senator Charles Goodell is the guest on WNBC's Searchlight, and although I think I've mentioned it before, it's worth pointing out once again that Goodell, who was appointed to the seat held by the late Robert F. Kennedy, was defeated by Conservative Party candidate James Buckley, brother of Bill. Goodell is also the father of NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell, and the NFL exhibition season comes to TV with a couple of primetime broadcasts tonight. Speaking of sports, I remember the tennis tournament on NET (WNDT here, KTCA in Minneapolis), as tennis was the first sport I ever saw on public television. Those were the days.

But enough of my memories—I'm sure you can look through this and find enough of your own.

August 25, 2018

This week in TV Guide: August 29, 1970

Do you think of Green Acres as being from the 1960s or the 1970s? An easy answer, I guess; it ran from 1965 to 1971, which puts it 75 percent in the '60s. I suppose that's why I'm always a little startled when I see a show like this in a TV Guide issue from the '70s, even though we're only eight months into the decade. I don't know about you, but for me it's always been as if a switch was thrown at 11:59:59 on December 31, 1969. Once the '70s started, everything was different. This can't be nostalgia speaking either, because I distinctly remember having this feeling on New Year's Eve 1969, watching a "Decade in Review" feature on the Channel 4 news, that everything was going to be different when 1970 started. Granted, it was the first decade change I'd lived through; I'd only ever known the '60s,and most of those years I didn't know very well. I wouldn't expect anyone else to have that feeling; it's so quirky that I'm sure it's just me.

The Smothers Brothers are another example; despite the fact their career has covered probably six decades, they seem intractably connected to the '60s. They're back on TV in 1970, this time on ABC (Wednesday, 10:00 p.m. ET) in a milder version of their CBS series; their guests aren't Pete Seeger and The Doors, but Richard Pryor, Jennifer Warren, and Procol Harum. Petticoat Junction still runs Saturday nights, with reruns of its final season. It's a victim of CBS's Rural Purge, as will be Green Acres and others, but like them it seems to be a show from a different era, a different time. Mitch Miller is on WOR Saturday evening at 7:00 p.m., in what I suspect are reruns of the NBC series. There are other series scattered through the week, syndicated reruns; Peyton Place, Make Room for Daddy, Mr. Ed, Abbott & Costello. They wouldn't be out of place on MeTV or Antenna today, and yet they don't seem to belong in the 1970s; it's been too recent, not enough water under the bridge yet.

Maybe we can think of this as a transition year, a season that starts in the '60s and ends in the '70s, and while the first few years of the '70s are really just an extension of the '60s, it's still, as I said at the outset, strange to see shows like these in a TV Guide from 1970. More typical of the '70s are the variety shows of Tom Jones and Engelbert Humperdinck—those are the shows I expect to see in an issue like this. But then, as we all know, things are changing all the time.

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As proof, the world of sports offers us something that surely ranks as one of those "back in the day" times. On Saturday and Sunday afternoons, ABC presents third and final round coverage of the "richest event in PGA [golf] history," the first Dow Jones Open, from the Upper Montclair Country Club in Clifton, New Jersey. The purse for the Dow Jones is $300,000, with the winner receiving a staggering $60,000. To put that in a bit of perspective, according to the close-up, "the third prize—$21,300—tops first-place money in 21 of the 48 PGA tournaments."

To put that in a little more perspective, last week's PGA event, the Wyndham Championship, offered a total purse of $6 million, with the winner taking home a cool $1,080,000. (In fact, if you'd finished in 24th place at the Wyndham, you'd have made $57,600—almost as much as the winner of the Dow Jones.) And to put that in perspective, the total purse for all of the PGA events in 1970 was $5.5 million. The leading money winner, Lee Trevino, made a shade over $157,000; last year's leading money winner, Justin Thomas, took home $9.9 million, less taxes. I know, inflation and all that, but it's still extraordinary how prize money has risen in golf over the years. As recently as 1987, the golfer of the year, Curtis Strange, won about $925,000; in 20 years, it's risen tenfold.

In case you're wondering, Bobby Nichols (left) won the 1970 Dow Jones Open, finishing at -12 to edge out Labron Harris and Dan Sikes, and while he wasn't exactly a Palmer or Nicklaus (they'd already fallen out of contention by the final round), Nichols did win the PGA Championship in 1964 and was always a factor in big tournaments. Nichols was not only the first, but the only winner of the Dow Jones Open. I wonder why the tournament only lasted the one year? Could be because, according to Sports Illustrated, Dow Jones dropped a cool half million in the process.

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As you know if you've been reading this feature for any length of time, I have a particular affinity for Judith Crist, TV Guide's movie critic, who skewers movies with such panache and gusto that she feels it necessary this week to write that, yes, she does indeed love the movies. "Anyone who is a movie critic can't 'hate' movies," Crist points out. "He has, in fact, not merely to 'like' movies but to love them." Why bother to criticize them in the first place if you don't care? And considering that she sees "nearly all of the more than 400 new films that open annually" in New York, you'd better believe that she cares. 

But why, some people ask, does there need to be a television movie critic in the first place? As Crist says, "television in general has conditioned its audience to be grateful for small and even dubious favors" like seeing movies for free, featuring stars that don't generally appear on other programs, all in the comfort of one's own living room. Her answer to that is that the critic exists "to put forth an individual viewpoint for his readers to evaluate and react to. That, I think, is his function—to stimulate a response, hopefully favorable or very possibly negative—but a response." By responding, people are forced to "think for ourselves, probe, discover the whys of our agreement or disagreement and therefore formulate our own standards, test them and live by them."

For Crist, a "good" movie is one that will fulfill its aspiration and by doing so will "illuminate some facet of experience for me, provide some sort of emotional empathy or tell me something about somebody or something." It doesn't have to be complicated, as in the case of comedies that show us that people are funny, or it can be exceptionally complex, but if it's an honest film, it will have virtue even if it is not completely successful. Why shouldn't a critic be part of this process? When you go to a restaurant, don't you sometimes ask your waitress what the special is, or what she might recommend? And in the end, isn't this one of the ways you raise the level of things overall, whether it be food or movies or television shows? Nobody likes to be negative (unless you're simply a killjoy), but you want to share good things with others.

One problem with modern life, Crist says, is that we're too prone to settle, "accepting the banal, the cheap and the degrading because we are paying for it only with our attention." You don't learn much that way, about life or about your friends or about yourself. And you shouldn't be afraid to demand more and better. "Wouldn't we rather see six reruns of a classic than sit through the 90th brand-new tailored-for-television how-to-slaughter-your-wife or reluctant-spy or jet-set-slime nonsense? Or would you?Why not think about it, about what you've really liked, about what was worth those two hours out of your life—and what wasn't? Just because it's allegedly for free, are you going to settle for cheap?" Of course, it isn't even free anymore, most of it, and I wonder if Crist wouldn't be saying the same thing about the current fad of rebooting old shows—why not just show the originals, even if they are in un-hip black-and-white?

I think this is an important article, and Crist's philosophy about criticism is one that I've tried to follow over the years in my own writing. One of the problems with the internet is that too often, people use this public forum of communication in order to glorify their own opinions and to pronounce them the one and only truth. This is exactly the wrong way to do it, unless your purpose is simply to engage in self-aggrandizement, and to ridicule any contrary opinion. While I have a good deal of confidence in my own opinion, formed by what I hope is a distinct and at least somewhat cogent thought process, my overall purpose, as seen in The Electronic Mirror, is to stimulate thought, to encourage people to perhaps look at things in a way different from how they've done so in the past, and to create an atmosphere ripe for discussion. As Crist says, "You have to be your own critic, when all is said—but you have to be critical." I don't always succeed in this, but I at least strive for it, and while I'm far from alone in doing this, I wish more people did.

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So what does Judith Crist have to say about this week's movies?

The quality offering of the week is The Spy Who Came In from the Cold (Sunday, 9:00 p.m., ABC), "a grim and dour film version of John Le Carre's best-seller" with Richard Burton in an Oscar-nominated performance. Five Weeks in a Balloon (Friday, 9:00 p.m., CBS) is an example of a movie fulfilling its aspirations, "an absolutely simple-minded, good-to-look-at and pleasant-to-go-with Jules Verne near-travesty." It's food fun, she says, but sometimes it "doesn't hurt to nibble." On the other hand, The 2nd Best Secret Agent in the Whole Wide World (Monday, 8:30 p.m., ABC) is "unabashed and blatantly foolish," and Island in the Sun (Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., CBS) gives us "pretension (but no more ultimate significance)," and, she continues, "The characters are supercilious, the preachments superficial and the best thing about the movie is its lovely views of the British West Indies." Well, at least there's that.

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Jack Paar's always been a favorite around here, so it's no surprise that we'd notice his documentary Jack Paar and His Lions (Sunday, 7:30 p.m., WNEW), home movies of his trip to Kenya to see the offspring of the Born Free lions, as well as Jack's own pet lion, "thoroughly at home in his master's house."

We're also starting to see the coming of the football season; a special guide at the beginning of the programming section gives us the schedule for all the pro and college football games on TV—and it's another of the signs of the times that this list only takes up two pages. The season runs all the way from this Sunday's exhibition game between Green Bay and Oakland (6:00 p.m., CBS) to the college football kickoff between Stanford and Arkansas on September 12, to the Super Bowl on NBC at 2:00 p.m. on January 17.

On Monday, Fred Astaire makes one of his occasional appearances as Robert Wagner's father on It Takes a Thief (7:30 p.m,, ABC), John Wayne is Lucille Ball's special guest (8:30 p.m., CBS), and WTIC in Hartford has the Miss Black America Pageant (9:30 p.m,), with an eclectic group of judges including baseball Hall of Famer Jackie Robinson, basketball star Willis Reed, and the Rev. Jesse Jackson.

Duke Ellington and Ella Fitzgerald team up for a terrific concert at the Antibes Jazz Festival on the French Rivera, on NET Festival Thursday night at 8:00 p.m., and at 8:00 p.m. CBS has what I like to think of as "Failed Pilot Playhouse," but it's listed in the TV Guide simply as Drama Special. It's "Crisis," a Quinn Martin production, with Carl Betz and Billy Dee Williams working in a "crisis clinic" trying to find out about a man who "keeps phoning with details of a murder he's going to commit." We'll be hearing more from Carl Betz in a moment.

On Friday, Judi Dench stars in part one of a four-part NET Playhouse presentation of "Talking to a Stranger," four different accounts of a tragic family reunion. The Brady Bunch deals with a tragedy of their own (8:00 p.m., ABC)—Marcia has lost her confidential diary. And on Hogan's Heroes (8:30 p.m., CBS), Hogan relies on Klink to spirit some confidential information out of Stalag 13, but it all backfires when the Gestapo charges Klink with treason.

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Finally, Medical Center dips its toe into the relevance pool on Wednesday, with the episode "The V.D. Story," described as "a plea to treat venereal disease as a medical problem divorced from social stigma." Dr. Gannon's patient is a young woman with gonorrhea, and he agrees to keep it secret from her father, played by none other than the aforementioned Carl Betz. Carl Betz! Mr. Donna Reed! You can't see the transition from the '50s to the '70s any more clearly than that, can you? TV  

August 24, 2018

Around the dial

Let's start this week with another edition of "The Hitchcock Project" at bare-bones e-zine. This week Jack's back with a follow-up on Emily Neff, the author of the short story "Partner in Crime," about which Jack wrote a couple of years ago. One of the many things I like about Jack's project is that he goes so far beyond what most episode guides provide - you not only find out about the episode, you learn about the original source material, differences in how the story is adapted, other versions that may exist, and - as in this case - background on the authors.

Of course we need to know seven things about Tina Louise - that should go without saying. And that's just what Rick gives us this week at Classic Film and TV Café. Did you know that prior to movies and television (and Gilligan's Island), Tina was a successful Broadway actress? Or that in 1957 she released an album called It's Time for Tina? Go to Rick's place (I've always wanted to say that) to find out the rest.

At Garroway at Large, Jodie looks back to the first time Dave appeared in a full-length article in TV Guide - it was the July 10, 1953 issue (the 15th issue in the magazine's national history!), and he appears on the cover with the ubiquitous J. Fred Muggs. As Jodie says, it's a nice reminder of just how big a star Dave Garroway was at the time, and for many years thereafter.

One of the things I always have to be careful about as a blogger is the constant temptation to give someone a piece of my mind. In the first place, I don't have that many pieces left, and second, the web is dominated with people who seem to dedicate their lives to shooting their mouths off, often in the most vulgar way. However, there are times when I'm tempted to make an exception - but at Comfort TV, David spares me the trouble by taking on "The Worst Entertainment Critic on the Planet," someone who understands nothing about classic TV. I have only one thing to add: what a bollock.

As if to belie what this twit wrote, at Criminal Element, Julia Keller writes about the detectives that were "Too Cool for TV" - five detectives from the classic era of television. Take that!

Here's a very cool story - DC Video's restoration of the oldest color videotape of Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. It's from August 24, 1964 - you can see a few minutes of the footage at the website. Those were the days - unless, of course, you're the worst entertainment critic on the planet, in which case television might as well not even have existed! TV  

August 22, 2018

It's Finally Here! The Electronic Mirror

Television is our history, no matter when we were born, for it tells us not only who we were then, but who we are today, and how we got there. 

Classic television: married couples in separate beds, families too perfect to be true, stories that avoid “mature” subjects, and bad hairstyles—all shown in living black-and-white. But can these programs actually teach us something about life today and how it got that way?

In this collection of essays, Mitchell Hadley looks at TV during its formative years and examines how this most personal form of mass communication reflects the culture of its time, how it has fulfilled (or failed to fulfill) its initial promise, and how TV has—intentionally as well as unintentionally—predicted the future, with sometimes disturbing results.

Through it all, Hadley combines a historian’s eye with a lifelong love of television to provide a sometimes humorous, occasionally ironic, but always interesting story of how classic television indeed is an “electronic mirror” that explains our past, our present, and everything in-between.

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I'll have more information next week on ordering your copy of The Electronic Mirror, and how you can even get it signed! TV  

August 20, 2018

What's on TV? Friday, August 26, 1966

his week we're in western New York, thanks to John Rowe, the source of this week's TV Guide, who replied earlier in the year to an appeal for issues to fill some gaps. John's not only a loyal and faithful reader, he's also contributed his knowledge and insights, as well as his share of TV Guides.

We haven't been outside Minnesota much lately, which goes for the Hadleys personally as well as our TV Guide; just as this changes with this week's issue, it also changes for us next month, as we'll be in Maryland for the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, where I'll not only be lecturing on TV Guide and promoting my new book, I may even be picking up a few more issues for next year. In the meantime though, enjoy this one and see if you recognize any of your favorites.

August 18, 2018

This week in TV Guide: August 20, 1966

This week's cover boy is the seemingly-ageless Red Skelton, who - like all of us, I suppose - eternally fights against the fear that "this time he will not be funny."

Dwight Whitney visits him in Vegas, where he's doing his stand-up routine in the Copa Room of the Sands Hotel. He's eating raw tomatoes and Red Hots, the only two things his stomach can keep down. And despite all his fame, his 43 years in the business, his long-running radio and TV shows and movies and all the rest, he still worries. When his old friend Ed Wynn had died, he'd described what it was like when the jokes bombed, when the act met the deafening silence: it is "the loneliness of a lover saying goodby, a prelude to death. The tears in the eyes dry to a dull glisten. Every nerve reaches out. There is no medication to relieve the pain, no understanding to wrap the wound in. He stands there and bleeds..." It is from this meditation that Whitney derives the title of the article, "A clown is a warrior who fights gloom."

Whitney shares the nuances of Skelton's act, how his job is to break down the resistance of the man in the audience who thinks he isn't funny anymore, the farmer from Des Moines who doesn't like comedians but comes because his wife drags him along, the person who sits there with folded arms and dares Red to make him laugh. By the end, of course, he is laughing; they're all laughing, and after it's all over, Skelton sits in his dressing room, his tuxedo drenched by perspiration. For this, Red Skelton is paid $35,000 per week; he owns two Rolls and has a couple of mansions, one of them in Palm Springs with 27 rooms. He has, says Whitney, "lost more millions than most millionaires ever see." He's in his 16th season on television. And yet, after the high of the performance has worn off, the worries will return.

He is a complex man, Red Skelton is. A learned man who reads books on philosophy and religion and has a massive collection of antique Bibles; a composer, painter, writer, and photographer; a comedian, an actor, a mime; a clown who is a warrior when the laughs won't come. He drops the gentle religion jokes he told the night before, although they got big laughs. Too big, Red says: "I have to solve the idea behind the laughter. What's behind it I don't like. I am not the type to tell religious jokes."

Despite all his worries, though, the laughs still come every night. That doesn't mean he won't keep worrying, though; that's the lot of a warrior, a samurai - one of the Japanese symbols that frequent hs paintings. If it seems as if all the worry is ridiculous, maybe he things so as well. "I'm nuts and I know it," he laughs, genuinely. "But as long as I make them laugh, they ain't going to lock me up."

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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..

Sullivan: Ed's guests are singers Gordon and Sheila MacRae, the McGuire Sisters and the Serendipity Singers; bandleader Harry James; comics Henny Youngman, John Byner, and Jean Caroll; the rock 'n' rolling Black Sheep; and puppet Topo Gigio.

Palace: Singer Tony Martin and his wife, dancer Cyd Charisse, introduce actor Cesar Romero; singer Vikki Carr; the comedy team of Rowan and Martin; comedian Norm Crosby; juggler Bobby Winters; and the acrobatic Suns Family.

Both of this week's shows are reruns, and good ones. The McGuire Sisters sing with Harry James and his band, and the rest of the cast are strong as well. On the other hand, Tony Martin and Cyd Charisse ain't bad either, and Cesar Romero probably comes close to stealing the show as always. They say that a tie is like kissing your sister, but I don't think there's any shame for either show this week. The verdict: Push.

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There's an interesting mix of sports in store for the week, and not just because of the time of the year. On NBC, the baseball Game of the Week pits two of the teams that dominate the National League in the 1960s, the St. Louis Cardinals and Los Angeles Dodgers, from Dodger Stadium (4:00 p.m. ET), a game that the Cards will win 3-2 in 13 innings. The Dodgers won last season's World Series, while the Cardinals will be next season's champions. As for this year, the Dodgers take the pennant before being swept in the Series by the Baltimore Orioles.

Meanwhile, over on WNBF in Binghamton, (4:30 p.m.) it's the Traverse Stakes, one of the bigger post-Triple Crown horse races, contested at Saratoga in New York. And at 9:30 p.m. on WKBW, it's AFL preseason football, with the defending champion Buffalo Bills taking on the Oilers in Houston. People getting that game are deprived of Saturday's Hollywood Palace - maybe they'll get to see it later in the week. The NFL follows suit with its own preseason - excuse me, that's exhibition game - on Friday night (9:30 p.m, CBS) as the Baltimore Colts and Cleveland Browns, two of the teams challenging the Green Bay Packers for the title (and ultimately losing), face each other in Cleveland.

Never mind the preseason, though - who cares about that when you can watch games that count? Thanks to CFTO, the CTV affiliate in Toronto, that's what we get on Wednesday night at 8:00 p.m., when the Hamilton Tiger-Cats visit the Montreal Alouettes in week 4 of the Canadian Football League season. Montreal wins the game 16-8, and both the Ticats and Als will make the playoffs, but they'll both finish behind the Ottawa Rough Riders, who will go to the Grey Cup championship, where they lose to the Saskatchewan Roughriders 29-14. (And yes, there are two teams in a nine-team league with more or less the same nicknames. It's Canada - what else can I say?)

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Henry Harding's "For the Record" at the front of the programming section - it's the precursor to "The Doan Report" has some television news for us, and in this case we literally mean television. NBC reports that as of July 1, one out of every eight households now has color television. That adds up to 6,780,000 households, out of a total TV-owning number of 53,800,000 - or double the number of color TVs from a year ago.

Batman is in its ascendancy right now; in fact, it might well be at the zenith of its popularity, and the Rev. Robert E. Terwilliger, an Episcopal minister in New York, says that it's a "much-needed and almost religious outlet." He doesn't want to make too fine a point of what's still a "passing fad," but he explains that "Batman is the savior who comes in from above to rescue the victims of malignant power with absolute goodness. He is called into situations the police can't handle with a special cultic or prayer device called the Batphone. His miracles are the kind modern man likes most - not supernatural but scientific." I guess I'd never thought of the TV series that way, though you could make a case for the Dark Knight version of Christopher Nolan's movies. In that case, there are several areas in which we could use a Batman right now...

The TV Teletype reports that Frank Sinatra's second "Man and His Music" special will be seen December 7 on CBS. Close - they got the date right, but the network is NBC, as was the case with the first special last year. Also, a couple of newcomers are headed for Petticoat Junction this fall: we read about Gordon and Sheila MacRae earlier, and their daughter, Meredith, will be taking over as the new Billie Jo, while Mike Minor, son of My Three Sons executive producer Don Fedderson, will be Betty Jo's future love interest (although it doesn't say that here; we just know better).

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A couple of highlights from this week's programming.

Johnny Carson's on vacation this week, so Hugh Downs, the announcer on Jack Paar's Tonight, is guest host for the week. This, in addition to hosting The Today Show and Concentration. Let's hear it for Hugh Downs, the hardest-working man in show business!

On Thursday, NBC preempts its entire prime-time lineup for a 3½ White Paper examination of "Organized Crime in America," hosted by Frank McGee. The program looks at everything from the colorful history of the mob to the different ways in which organized crime has infiltrated cities and towns across America, in everything from gambling to drugs to the rackets. No Eliot Ness, but it sounds interesting nonetheless. It will be awarded one of the 1966 Peabodys.

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Finally, the blurb on the cover about testing TV shows on human guinea pigs. It's not quwite as sensationalist as it sounds; what the writers, Joseph Finnigan and Ron Smith, are really talking about are what we'd know today as focus groups. People are invited to take part in an evening of screening prospective television programs, during which they're instructed to use electronic dials to indicate their reactions, and then fill out a questionnaire - or two, or three.

ASI, the company in charge of conducting the research, claims such pretesting, as they call it, has really paid off - the company predicted failure for two series that were nevertheless aired, The Richard Boone Show and The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo - and the shows indeed bombed. They also take credit for what they term "improvements" in various shows, from recasting in Hazel to redoing the intro for I Dream of Jeannie.

Their record isn't spotless, however, not by a long shot. They also predicted failure for I Spy and Batman, and said that The Man from U.N.C.L.E.'s David McCallum would have no appeal for viewers. William Dozier, executive producer of Batman, says he didn't buy the research when it gave Batman low returns, just as he didn't buy it when it gave another of his series, Bewitched, the highest rating ever. "The trouble," he says, "is that too many people substitute pretesting for their own judgment."

That's kind of the problem in a nutshell with real life today, or at least one of them, isn't it? We're constantly told not to rely on our own intuition, our gut sense of things, but instead to depend on the findings of "experts" and "consultants" who have far more knowledge of the situation. This kind of thing happens from grade school all the way until you retire, and you get it from teachers, doctors, lawyers, government officials, business executives, political pollsters and pundits - just about anyone that matters, or at least anyone who has some say over how you do things. It begs the question - how's that been working out for them, lately? TV  

August 17, 2018

Around the dial

I did not know this previously - which is one reason why I read all these blogs, and why you should, too - that there are now novelizations of The Avengers. They're non-canonical; in other words, not taken directly from an episode of the TV series, but with the same characters and types of plots and so forth. At Cult TV Blog, John talks about one such book, "Too Many Targets," which has now been made into an audio adventure by Big Finish, the people who've done so many entertaining Doctor Who stories.

At Garroway at Large, Jodie reminds us that she, too, will be at the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention next month (is it that close?) along with yours truly and a host of others. Her presentation (along with Kevin Doherty) will be the first on the docket Thursday, September 13, while mine will be the third - if you're going to be there, catch us both!

Classic Film & TV Cafe takes us back to the days when Richard Chamberlain was "King of the Miniseries" with a look at The Count of Monte-Cristo. Ah, for the days of the miniseries - some of them were awful, but quite a few of them were quite good.

Bernard C. Schoenfeld wrote the teleplays for 16 episodes of Alfred Hitchcock Presents, and at bare-bones e-zine, Jack begins his look at Schoenfeld's output with number one on the list, "Decoy," from 1956. This episode was based on a Suspense drama by Richard George Pedicini, and it unfolds rather differently from the radio play; interesting to read along and see the changes.

I love this old Sears ad from The Broadcasting Archives at the University of Maryland. There's just something really exciting about it, isn't there? Chromix Colorguard - they're just making these words up now, aren't they?

And speaking of TV, any thoughts on the image we see on that TV in the picture above? TV  

August 13, 2018

What's on TV? Thursday, August 15, 1963

I may have mentioned this before, but for several years I hosted a political talk show on public access television. I mention this not to brag, but to point out something that I've often said: being on TV is no big deal. That's not to disparage anyone who's ever been on television, but all the same it's true. At the time you think you're doing something significant, even important, but in the end very few of us leave behind any kind of mark.

The reason I'm bringing all this up is because the listings week's TV Guide, from the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, include the names of most of the program hosts. Some of them we're sure to recognize: Hugh Downs on Today and Concentration; Huntley and Brinkley on the NBC news, Cronkite on the CBS news, Tom Kennedy on You Don't Say!, and so on. And every market has its local legends; Dave Moore and Bud Kraehling on WCCO, for example. But many more of them are little more than names on a printed page. Take the hosts of the shows on KTCA - Berkowitz, Brown, Wolf. We could look them up and might find something about them, but I doubt there's one person in 100,000 who remember them here. I'd never heard of Betty Wells, whose five-minute program airs at 4:00 p.m. on Channel 5, but if you go to the next-to-last page of this issue of Broadcasting magazine, you'll find an ad featuring her show.

All these people were, at one time or another, important enough to have their own television programs, and yet - well, we don't even do a good job of remembering those whom we should remember, let alone those who aren't nearly as well known. It all goes to show, I suppose, that the slave standing behind the triumphant general was correct, as he whispered in his ear, Sic transit gloria, all fame is fleeting. Let's see what the listings have to offer.

August 11, 2018

This week in TV Guide: August 10, 1963

There's no single dominant story this week, so we're just going to skip around a bit and see what we can come up with. OK with you all?

I've Got a Secret was on the cover of a lot of TV Guides. The game show was on the air for fifteen seasons, from 1952 to 1967, and with five strongly identifiable personalities on the show, there was plenty of material to fill the six issues that featured the show.

In this issue, the focus is on Henry Morgan, who ws with the show for virtually its entire run.  Not many people remember him anymore, but from the 40s through the 60s, Henry Morgan was the L'enfant terrible of radio and TV. He was a witty and intelligent satirist, a stylish presence on television, the host of several several programs of his own and guest on many more.  He was also a cantankerous presence, a misogynist ("Women should be very attractive and never taught to read.  The trouble with the average woman is that she's a little below average."), an egomaniac, a man with a cruel streak who found it impossible not to wind up in clashes with sponsors, costars, and anyone else who crossed his path.  There were those who praised him while others lined up to bury him. He was, I think, perpetually one step away from finding himself having to look for another job at another network; next year he'll be on NBC as one of the hosts of the American version of That Was The Week That Was.

In the "Things Aren't What They Used to Be" category, Shirl Conway, one of the stars of the CBS series The Nurses, must have said something in her profile a couple of weeks past, judging by the letter to the editor from Myrt Ober of Caldwell, NJ: "As a 'psychologically miserable' housewife, Miss Conway may I say I create more in one day of being a wife, mother and homemaker than you probably create in a whole month of acting. If loving and caring for one man and his children, decorating and running a home, not minding grime and dirt of hard work, yet keeping as attractive as possible, is losing her identity, there are many nameless women in this wonderful country of ours."  After a season, The Nurses became The Doctors and the Nurses, and storylines began to be carried by the male castmembers.  The Nurses wound up as a daytime soap opera, with the same characters but played by different actresses.

And Edith Efron, in the story headlined on top of the cover, asks the question "Why the Timid Giant [television, in this case] Treads Softly," and speculates that television shies away from controversial subject matter and investigative reporting because of "anxiety and fear of the Government's latent power over the industry [inhibiting[ broadcasters from digging more deeply into public-affairs subjects."  The FCC, the industry's federal investigative agency, is accused of "throwing its weight around inexcusably," and broadcasters are said to fear having their licenses yanked if they stir up too much trouble.  Since then, networks seem to have gotten a lot more comfortable tackling controversy and pointing investigative fingers - at least against one side of the political aisle.

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Let's see what's going on this week.

A few years ago, back when The AV Club was actually interesting instead of being a shill for left-wing causes, their TV critic Todd VanDerWerff did some very good writing on classic TV shows. One of those was The Defenders, which this week (Saturday, 7:30 p.m. CT, CBS) features part one of the two-part episode "Madman," starring Don Gordon as a death-row inmate who not only wants to die, he wants his mother there to witness it.

VanDerWerff cited this episode as an example of the series' defiance of the "wrap-it-up-neatly-in-50-minutes" method of so many programs, then and now, calling it "the kind of episode that would have a hard time making it through network notes sessions in the present, but the combination of CBS head William Paley’s largess, [producer Herbert] Brodkin’s clout, and [writer Reginald] Rose’s creative genius resulted in the heart-rending episode making it on the air in 1962, right in the middle of the period when television grew most ashamed of itself." This episode won two Emmys when the awards were presented at the end of the season; for those who missed it, they can check out part one on Saturday.  (Note the drawing of Gordon in the Close Up, rather than a picture.  TV Guide did arty things like this from time to time.)

Sunday night features a couple of interesting prospects; at 6:30 p.m. The Jetsons presents one of those most meta of storylines: the person who mistakes the filming of a TV show for the real thing. In this case, George witnesses an armored space-car robbery and overhears the hoods talking about rubbing out the witnesses. Little does he know it's all a scene from a TV police show. Confusion and hilarity ensue. (I seem to recall a similar storyline on Top Cat.) I don't remember this episode; maybe someone who's seen it can tell us if the cartoon was lampooning any police series in particular. At 7:00 p.m., CBS has a rerun of the Sullivan show, which was taped at the U.S. base at Guantanamo in Cuba. (Considering what's been going on there over the last year or so, it must have been a fairly tense atmosphere.) A good lineup: Connie Francis, Louis Armstrong, Carol Lawrence, Jack Carter, Frank Fontaine, and comedy pantomimist George Carl. Too bad The Hollywood Palace isn't on yet; I'll bet Ed would have whipped them this week.

On Monday, CBS has Comedy Hour Specials at 8:00 p.m., which sounds suspiciously like one of those summer anthology shows comprised of reruns and failed pilots. In this case, it's a rerun from 1960, "Just Polly and Me," which presents an interesting premise that also touches on the meta: Polly Bergen and Phil Silvers have just completed a TV show, and they're reviewing how some of the bits could have been better - whereupon they act out those bits in new and improved fashion. Nat Hiken, who wrote Silvers' great Bilko series, is the writer for this show as well. Here's a clip from it:

NBC repeats last year's Milton Berle special (8:30 p.m., NBC), with Berle hosting a throwback-style show with Jack Benny, Lena Horne, Janis Paige, and Laurence Harvey.

Tuesday it's Keefe Brasselle's variety show (9:00 p.m., CBS), with guests Felicia Sanders and Jules Munshin. Ann B. Davis and former boxer Rocky Graziano are among the regulars. There's nothing particularly interesting about this show in itself, just a chance to be reminded of one of the odder, more colorful characters in the entertainment business. Back a couple of years ago, Kliph Nesteroff wrote a very good bit on the remarkable story of Brasselle and his relationship with CBS and network honcho Jim Aubrey.

Bing Crosby appeared in one of his non-holiday specials on Wednesday night on NBC, with guests Bob Hope, Edie Adams, the Smothers Brothers, Pete Fountain, and Bing's son Gary.  "Leisure Time" is the theme, and I can't think of anyone who'd epitomize it better than Bing. (Keeping in tune with so many of this week's programming, it's a rerun from last year.) Pete Fountain (who died last year, I think; truly one of the greatest jazz clarinetists ever) is also the guest on Steve Allen's late-night show (10:30 p.m., WCCO), along with Bobby Vinton, and two of baseball's greats: Maury Wills of the Dodgers, and Orlando Cepada of the Giants.

On Thursday, Mel Tormé is one of the guests on The Lively Ones (8:30 p.m., NBC), the summer replacement for the sitcom Hazel, hosted by Vic Damone. That's followed at 9:00 p.m. by "The World of Maurice Chevalier," a look at the French star's career on his 74th birthday. Alexander Scourby is the narrator, which makes me wonder if this might be part of NBC's "Project XX" (variously seen as "Project 20") series of documentariesb, several of which were narrated by Scourby, who had the proverbial voice that could read the phone book* and still be interesting. And at 9:00 p.m. on CBS, it's the aforementioned The Nurses, with Keenan Wynn as a star comedian who's not laughing - because Shirl Conway's character, Liz, refuses to wait on his every beck and call.

*It occurs to me to ask: you do remember phone books, don't you?

For the best in female forms, there's the "International Beauty Spectacular," Friday from Long Beach (9:00 p.m., NBC), hosted by Lorne Greene. (Of course, we all know there's no way the star of NBC's Bonanza is about to appear on any other network.) I'd never heard of this pageant which "departs from the usual pose-and-interview contest by showcasing the contestants from 46 countries in the trappings of a theatrical production," including two brand-new songs by Meredith Willson, composer of The Music Man. Couldn't find out much about this pageant - not even who won it - or if it's still around in some form, but this was the 12th spectacular, and I found a listing for it as late as 1966, so make of that what you will. I wonder, the way things are going at the Miss America pageant, if we won't be saying the same thing about that in a few years?

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The networks are looking at ramping up their coverage of the civil rights struggle. You'll recall that two or three weeks ago I wrote about the 1968 issue of TV Guide where it seemed as if almost every night featured another special on civil rights and race relations, which tells you a little bit about just how big this issue is and how long it's been dominating the conversation in this country.

ABC has already announced a series of five half-hour specials on Sunday nights under the umbrella title "The Crucial Summer," the first episode of which airs this Sunday (although I don't see any indication that KMSP is showing it this week - maybe later, when it doesn't interfere with shows that could bring in more local commercial revenue). NBC's plans are the most spectacular; a three-hour prime-time documentary on Labor Day evening, talking about the struggle. According to TV Guide's Henry Harding, this will be the first time a network has ever preempted its entire evening schedule for a news documentary. CBS's one-hour special on how the media covers the race issue will be aired on August 21.

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The "Letter to the Editor of the Week" award has to go to Mrs. Condon S. Bush, of Augusta, Wisconsin, who writes, "I suggest that the game-show producers do a better job of picking the celebrity guests. Sometimes I wonder how the emcee is able to control the show when it is being usurped by some supposed celebrity. Perhaps it is the celebrities who should be screened." Ouch!

Finally, I got a kick out of this ad for an appearance by "The Stars of TV's Rawhide!" Clint Eastwood and Paul Brinegar, at a rodeo at St. Paul's Midway Stadium.

As the character "Wishbone," Brinegar was with Rawhide for the show's entire seven-season run, as part of a long and successful Hollywood career as a character actor.  I'm not sure what happened to the other guy, though. TV  

August 10, 2018

Around the dial

At Comfort TV, David says something I've believed for a long time: the end of the classic era of television starts with the end of television as a communal experience. (No wonder we get along so well.) For David, that era ended in the '80s, and this week he cites the signposts that mark the end of an era.

A frightening sight indeed: the original Ronald McDonald, courtesy of the Broadcast Archives at the University of Maryland. It's a good thing they went back to the drawing board.

When do seven lady truckers become "Seven Lady Captives"? When it's an episode of BJ and the Bear, in the latest review by Daniel at Some Polish American Guy.

Jack is back at bare-bones e-zine, but this time it's not the Hitchcock Project; instead, this week it's an appreciation of the author Frederic Brown and TV adaptations of his works. Case in point: "The Thin Line," an adaptation that appeared on Four Star's The Star and the Story.

Is Gary Seven a hero or a villain? That's the question at Classic Film and TV Cafe, where Rick considers the character played by Robert Lansing in the Star Trek episode "Assignment: Earth." Rick comments that Kirk is rarely as indecisive as he is here; it's also rare that a guest proves to be the equal of Kirk and Spock, as Seven is. It goes without saying that Lansing is terrific.

I like Jodie's piece on "The questionable narrator" over at Garroway at Large, proof that nothing takes the place of research. Did J. Fred Muggs really bite someone on Today? You'll just have to follow the link and find out!

Television's New Frontier: The 1960s takes a look at a show that's fairly unremarkable, but one that I find quite likable: Lock Up, a legal drama starring Macdonald Carey as real-life attorney Herb Maris. No courtroom scenes, but enjoyable nonetheless, and certainly available on YouTube.

At Cult TV Blog, John writes about The Avengers and the episode "November Five," which I remember having written about for TV Party! a few years ago. What struck me at the time was that it was an episode involving politics, a man with a rifle, and a date in November - all three of those being things with great significance in this country. TV  

August 8, 2018

Clancy and Willie and Carmen

This week, I thought we’d take a brief look at another of the kids’ shows that you see in this week’s TV Guide. Two shows, actually, involving three of the Twin Cities' great TV personalities: John Gallos as Clancy the Cop, Allan Lotsberg as his sidekick, Willie Ketchum (get it?), and Carmen the Nurse (Mary Davies). Carmen started out on Axel and His Dog, eventually replacing Axel after Clellan Card's death. (I wrote about that here.)

Carmen's show was usually the early one, followed by Clancy and Willie (which was then followed by Captain Kangaroo). Sometimes it would be billed as Clancy and Carmen, followed by Clancy and Willie, other times it was just Carmen and just Clancy and Willie. Confusing enough in the TV Guide, although I don't recall having been that confused when I was a kid.

Here's a nice summary on Mary Davies Orfield from the Minnesota Broadcasting Hall of Fame. John Gallos is there as well, Allan Lotsberg isn't (yet), but here's a sound clip from a radio interview with him. There's a really good article on the whole Minneapolis kids' show scene, with plenty of information on Clancy, Willie, and Carmen at the great TV Party!

The Clancy show is notable as the only kids’ show I ever appeared on, back in my misbegotten time as a Cub Scout. I didn’t last long as a Scout; our troop folded, and I wasn’t exactly psyched enough to join another one, but it remains to this day the only chance I’ve ever had to wear a uniform. Anyway, the big treat for our troop was the day we got to go down to the old Channel 4 studio at the site of the former Radio City Theater, to appear on the show. Since it was a morning show, the taping was done in the afternoon, after school, and then shown the next day. I remember that we sat in a bleacher kind of set-up, and that I was in the last row, since I was the tallest of the group. Other than that I don’t recall much; I know that I wasn’t on camera other than the group shot of all of us, which would have been a relief since I was far too self-conscious to want attention drawn to me. I don’t have any bad memories of it, at least; John Gallos and Allan Lotsberg always had the reputation for being very warm personalities, and I’m pretty confident they would have been good to us. I’m sure we got some kind of goody bag as well.

I remember that set!

Anyway, Clancy, Willie, and Carmen were part of the last local kids’ show on the air in the Twin Cities. They managed to stick around until 1977, when they went off the air along with Captain Kangaroo, to be replaced by many incarnations of the CBS Morning News. (How’s that working for you, CBS?) Oh, and WCCO stuck Donohue on in the morning as well—perfect programming for kids, don’t you think?

Pay no attention to that Severe Thunderstorm Warning

John Gallos died a few years ago. His long career at WCCO was anything but stagnant following the demise of Clancy; he hosted a program featuring Laurel and Hardy shorts until 1985, and his Sunday morning religion program ran from 1963 to 1994. He was also one of the station’s announcers, and in all the years I’ve watched TV here in the Twin Cities, I’ve never once heard anyone say anything bad about him. Nor have I Allan Lotsberg, who I got to see again a few years ago at a local retrospective on Twin Cities kids’ shows. Needless to say, he got quite a reception; don’t hold me to this, but he may be the last Twin Cities kids’ show personality still living. Mary Davies died a few years ago as well, but not before doing book signings with Julian West and Don Stolz for the book What a Card! (Yup, I've got a signed copy of that!)

Those were wonderful, wonderful memories, and I think everyone from my age group feels the same way. I wonder—what will today’s kids think about when they look back in 50 years? Can you have fond memories of a cellphone? TV  

August 6, 2018

What's on TV? Tuesday, August 8, 1967

We've got a lot to look at this week, an almost full slate of channels from the Minnesota State Edition. What's missing? KTCA, the St. Paul-Minneapolis public television station, is off for the week. Did it take the month off, or the summer? Not sure; I'd have to go back and dig into other issues to be sure, but the only other time I've seen this is during the Christmas school break.

Anyway, have a go with this, enough here that we've even got some tidbits for each station.

August 4, 2018

This week in TV Guide: August 5, 1967

Far be it from me to suggest for even a moment that a country like Russia might attempt to exert influence over United States media. I mean, who ever heard such a foolish thing as that?

Believe it or not, in this week's TV Guide Neil Hickey and Susan Ludel voice their suspicions that the Soviet Union is trying to influence how TV documentaries portray the country. Why, for heaven's sake, they might even be censoring coverage! There have been a raft of news programs in the early 60s about this mysterious and foreboding land; the question, as Hickey and Ludel put it, is just how accurate these programs are. “Can a documentarian- given the rather severe restrictions placed on his actions by the soviet government – convey a valid picture of what really is going on in the Soviet Union?” The networks deny any interference, probably to protect their news bureaus inside Russia, but privately many in the business agree that because of Soviet interference, “American TV documentaries are not presenting a true picture of the Soviet Union.”

Few newsmen are as outspoken as CBS’ Marvin Kalb, who in 1960 presented “The Volga,” a program detailing life along the famed 2300-mile river. The documentary portrayed Russia as a country locked into “a vast and impersonal bureaucracy,” spending heavily on its space program at the expense of its “backward” countryside, its young people resigned to “dull and faceless elements” in the machine. It was not the picture of Russia that the Soviets wanted people to see, and they demanded that CBS delay the program until they could issue a response. CBS refused, and in the wake of the broadcast CBS’ Moscow bureau was closed for eight months, while the Soviets withdrew permission for other network programs, including NBC’s coverage of the Tchaikovsky International music competition..

That backlash worries some American journalists, who think Kalb’s criticism may be ruining it for everyone. Says an unnamed NBC newsman, “I completely agree with the Russians about ‘The Volga.’ Kalb was spiteful, nasty and biased; the Russians were very upset about it. I talked to some CBS people about this, and they agree with me.” One who did go on the record, ABC VP Thomas Wolf, defends his network’s documentary, “Ivan Ivanovitch,” said to portray a typical Soviet family. “Isn’t it a fact that many Russians are living closer to American standards of physical comfort?” he asks. “I think that what we photographed is an accurate picture.”

An anonymous documentary producer isn’t having any of that, though. “[I]t’s preposterous that the family in ‘Ivan’ is average,” he says in reply. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the Soviet Union put the family in that apartment, painted it before the TV crew arrived, then sent the family back where they came from when the filming was over.” The producer can’t talk about this publicly; if he did, “my network could be closed off forever from doing documentaries in Russia.” For those who want to play the Soviet game, though, “Spoonfeeding is the order of the day.”

That the Soviet Union may be attempting to control media portrayals of its country is, in Captain Renault’s words, shocking.* (Insert sarcasm icon here.) That there are American journalists agreeing with the Soviets is no less so.

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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: Ed’s guests are comedian Corbett Monica; singers Lou Rawls, Nancy Ames, and the Kim Sisters; the U.S. Air Force Academy Chorale; puppet Topo Gigio; the Rudas Dancers; acrobat Arthur Haynes; and the Pollack Brothers’ Circus Elephants.

Palace: In addition to regular Millicent Martin, this week Morecambe and Wise welcome Eric Burdon and the Animals, and singer Gene Pitney.

Your fun fact for the week: Millicent Martin, the house singer on Piccadilly, was best-known for her turn singing the topical songs on the BBC’s That Was The Week That Was – a role filled on the American version by none other than Nancy Ames. Small world, isn't it?*

*As Stephen Wright says though, I wouldn't want to paint it.

Well, I don’t think this requires much thought. Gene Pitney’s no slouch, singing “Town Without Pity,” the theme from Kirk Douglas' gritty courtroom drama, and while The Animals – or, as they were also known during this time, Eric Burdon and the New Animals – might not be the group that rocked the scene with "House of the Rising Sun," they can still bring it with hits like "When I Was Young."  I don’t know if this clip is from that broadcast, but it’s from American TV, and it’s 1967, so that’s good enough for me.

Compared to that, even an puppet like Topo Gigio can’t compete. The verdict: no matter the country, it’s the Palace this week.

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We haven’t had much to talk about in the sporting world lately, so it’s good that we’ve got a few big events this week.

On Saturday afternoon, ABC’s Wide World of Sports expands to two hours to present a heavyweight boxing doubleheader from the Astrodome in Houston, part of the elimination tournament to select a new champ after Muhammad Ali was stripped of the title earlier in the year for refusing military induction. On the card, the 8th ranked Jimmy Ellis defeats #9 Leotis Martin in a 9th round TKO, while Thad Spencer, #5 in the world, wins an easy 12-round decision over #4 Ernie Terrell (who’d lost to Ali in a previous title bout). Eventually, Ellis will go on to win the vacant title, defeating Jerry Quarry in a 15-round decision in April 1968, but he’s a lightly-regarded champion who defends his title only once in twenty months before being knocked out in February 1970 by a fighter who’d declined to take part in the tournament – Joe Frazier, who becomes undisputed heavyweight champion.

Meanwhile, Sunday features one of those things that goes a long way toward explaining why it took soccer so long to become a big sport in this country. American fans with long memories will recall how, until relatively recent history, they had to suffer through broadcasts that included commercial interruptions during the match - but don’t worry; if we miss a goal they’ll bring it to us on instant replay after the break. In fact, referees were even known to call fake “injury” delays and questionable fouls in order to work those commercials in without missing any of the action. Bad as that was, this story might go one better.

CBS’ Game of the Week features the Toronto Falcons taking on the Oakland Clippers. The match starts at 2:30 p.m. Sunday afternoon, and is scheduled for a two-hour timeslot. A soccer match lasts 90 minutes, plus a 15-minute halftime. Now, supposing CBS had a five-minute pregame, and allowing for any additional stoppage time, that’s going take us pretty much up to the two-hour limit. And yet, at the end of the listing for Sunday’s game, we get the following: “Channel 3D [KDAL, Duluth] will leave the game at 4 P.M. in order to join the Western Open.”

By my measure, this would mean that anyone watching on KDAL would probably have missed the last 20 minutes of the match. Given that Oakland won 2-0, it’s quite possible that the outcome would still have been in doubt when the station made the switch. It’s soccer’s own version of the Heidi Game, one year before the Raiders and Jets.* Adding to the confusion, three of the four stations carrying the syndicated coverage of the Western Open golf tournament were, like KDAL, CBS affiliates also showing the soccer – but the other two channels, KGLO in Mason City, Iowa and KEYC in Mankato, Minnesota, chose to stay with the soccer and join the golf in progress. Given that the golf coverage was for only 90 minutes, that means those viewers probably got to see only the last two or three holes of Jack Nicklaus’ victory. If you were a fan of soccer and golf, it was a tough day no matter how you look at it.

*Appropriately, the match was even played in the same stadium – the Oakland Coliseum. Coincidence? I think not.

Finally, there’s a very interesting article on NBC sportscaster Curt Gowdy, the cowboy from Wyoming turned sportscaster. Longtime readers will recognize Gowdy as one of my “big-game” announcers, and in 1967 he’s also one of the busiest. He’s just left his 15-year gig as play-by-play man for the Boston Red Sox to take over the Game of the Week for NBC. He’s also NBC’s main broadcaster for the American Football League, and hosts NBC’s Sportsman’s Holiday and ABC’s American Sportsman outdoor shows.

Something I didn’t know about Gowdy is that for years he’d suffered from back troubles that caused stabbing pain so severe he once missed an entire season for the Red Sox, and often had required him to remain standing throughout his broadcasts. Today, the pain has subsided somewhat; Gowdy can at least sit through a game without awful pain, but “I still can’t do anything so strenuous as play golf. Fishing and walking are about my limit.”

Gowdy has some interesting thoughts on the games he announces; he thinks football should move kickoffs from the 40 to 30 yard line to encourage more returns (as indeed they would, before eventually moving the kickoff back to the 35), and that baseball needs to do something about that “slow-motion pace” I discussed earlier. “The fans deserve a little more action,” he says. Quite an announcer, and quite a guy.

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We're reaching the part of the summer where there isn't a lot to write about in the program details, so we'll wrap it up with a look at this week's cover, featuring the long-running duo of  NBC’s Today Show (and later ABC’s 20/20), Hugh Downs and Barbara Walters. Now, I'll admit that I’ve never been a fan of Walters, either professionally or personally, and as the years go by she seems more like the wacky aunt of the family. Still, there’s much of interest in Edith Efron’s feature story on Walters, bearing the provocative title, “How to Manufacture a Celebrity.”

In truth, Today’s always had something of a split identity. Is it a news show or a variety program? Entertainment or information? Hugh Downs, the show’s third host (following Dave Garroway, an all-around personality, and John Chancellor, a hard newsman) came to the program after years as Jack Paar’s Tonight sidekick, and after Today concludes he’s off to another studio to host the game show Concentration. When Downs is on vacation, his replacements are most often entertainment types such as James Daly (later of Medical Center) and Burgess Meredith (soon to be Batman’s Penguin). And one of the show’s arguably most famous personality was a chimp.

The show’s female component – the “Today Girl” – has likewise sent mixed messages, featuring the likes of Lee Meriwether (former Miss America, future Catwoman), Helen O’Connell (former bandsinger), Florence Henderson (future Mrs. Brady), Betsy Palmer (later of I’ve Got a Secret), Pat Fontaine (former weather girl), and Maureen O’Sullivan (Tarzan’s Jane, and mother of Mia Farrow). It was into this role that Barbara Walters stepped, and by 1967 she’s become the show’s longest-running female member.

As a television “personality,” Walters wasn’t exactly created out of thin air –she did have some journalistic chops, certainly more than her predecessors, and viewers like that she acts like a reporter instead of “a feather-headed hostess.” And yet there’s also no question that NBC’s publicists are out to build Barbara Walters into a star. There’s a profile in TV Guide, a photoshoot for Life, and Vogue asks for her beauty secrets. She writes regular articles for the Ladies’ Home Journal and appears daily on NBC’s popular radio program “Monitor.” She’s more visible doing live commercials on Today and appears in ads for the program. She’s out on the lecture circuit, receiving awards from various groups, appearing on talk shows, and getting invitations to fashionable parties, including one at the White House. Her hair and makeup have changed, her wardrobe is more glamorous.

But for all that, says Efron, Walters is still “only about a third of the way through the assembly line,” nowhere near “the big leagues, inhabited by women like Zsa Zsa or even by Arlene Francis.” Walters herself remarks that “if somebody recognizes me in New York I’m thrilled to death.” And her colleagues say she remains unpretentious and easy to work with. Barbara Walters hasn’t yet become the icon she is today, but life as a star isn’t bad. “It’s chic to say these things don’t matter,” she says, “but it’s terribly nice to have the recognition.” TV