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 TormĂ© 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  

4 comments:

  1. Henry Morgan came across as so obnoxious on his appearance in the 1st 2 weeks of LATE NIGHT WITH DAVID LETTERMAN that it appeared his appearance was cut short after a commercial break. Of course he didn't get along as badly w/ Letterman as did Madonna & Cher in later years.

    I agree w/ what you said about AV Club shilling for left-wing causes. For the most part I enjoyed its reviews of TWILIGHT ZONE (2 per week alternating between Van der Wurff and Zack Handlen until Van der Wurff left AVC somewhere during the later season reviews) that I signed up for its daily newsletter, but I got sick of its shilling after awhile and finally had to unsubscribe when some writer for the page trashed JAY LENO'S GARAGE for reasons that I certainly thought were more or less Marxist.

    Phil Silvers & Polly Bergen were seen talking to their real-life spouses Evelyn & agent Freddie Fields. I remember seeing a TVG article previewing this special at the time when it was first made.

    Keefe Brasselle's show must've been the summer replacement for THE RED SKELTON SHOW, judging by its Tuesday night airing. Red seemed to become the new Mr. Tuesday Night after Milton Berle's show faded.

    I wonder what happened to that Mr. Eastwood guy too. ;)

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    1. Keefe Brasselle was the summer replacement for Garry Moore's show, placed there by Brasselle's patron, Jim Aubrey.
      Aubrey and Moore didn't care for each other at all; the following season, Aubrey personally told Moore that his show was cancelled, while making the infamous sweetheart deal with Brasselle for a bunch of series that were sold without pilots. This in its turn led to the breach between Garry Moore and CBS that went untended until Aubrey lost his CBS berth.
      Jeff Kisseloff's book tells Greg Garrison's tale of how Brasselle tried to set up a hit of Garrison - and how Rocky Graziano stepped in to save Garrison's life (the exact quotes about Brasselle by Graziano cannot be reproduced here).

      More later …

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    2. Thanks for the info on the correct show replacement and on
      Brasselle. Henry Bushkin's book "Johnny Carson" had a story about how Brasselle had thugs beat up Carson when he thought Carson had told too many (One may have been too many for him.) Brasselle jokes.

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  2. Henry Morgan provokes complicated feelings. There are several stories of how he could be difficult to work with and outright stubborn, and in later years he really seemed to turn inside himself (look up his 1982 appearance on David Letterman's program, which is just plain difficult to watch; there's a reason they never asked him back). But when he was in his element, he was something else entirely. The Monitor Beacon website has three hours of him hosting "Monitor" in late February 1967, and all three hours (with the exception of Morgan eagerly seconding an incredibly nasty, misogynistic Al Capp commentary) are just plain great listening, with Morgan's great voice and smooth, confident delivery.

    Regarding the AV Club, many of us who were long-timers there attribute its present sad state to its acquisition by Kinja (an event often called the Kinjaocalypse). Once that happened, it went from the quirky but often insightful and incisive popular-media site we read and enjoyed, into something that's often indistinguishable from other (and more overtly political) Kinja sites. Granted, there could sometimes be a political subthread to content on the older AV Club, but it seemed more in scale, not overwhelming the way it is now. I don't remember the last time I visited the AV Club, and I can't bear to because it breaks my heart, especially after all the years I hung out there and all the great discussions I read and took part in. They paved Paradise, etc., etc.

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Thanks for writing! Drive safely!