September 29, 2018

This week in TV Guide: September 30, 1961

From the beginning of time – or at least the introduction of television – there’s been much handwringing about the content of programming and its effect on viewers specifically, and culture in general. Over the last few weeks I’ve pointed out several discussions surrounding violence on television, and what can (and should) be done about it. In this week’s issue, mystery writer Mickey Spillane has a novel idea - improve it!

Spillane is author of the hard-boiled Mike Hammer detective series, perhaps one of the most violent of a violent breed of pulp thrillers, so it’s no surprise that he believes there’s a place for it on television. However, he points out, “Fiction writers don’t incite to riot; they simply dramatize what is already there, and long before TV and Mike Hammer there was a World War, the Roaring Twenties, the living Untouchables, and dead Dutch Schultz, Pretty Boy Floyd, Little Augie, Dillinger and Mad Dog Coll with their Bonnie Parker-type broads.” (Any doubts that Spillane wrote this article himself should have been dispelled by that sentence.” Yes, Spillane says, his books are filled with “highly explosive scenes, but in reality they were only fictionalized facts and any day you can see these things in existence in your local papers.”

The problem, according to Spillane, is what might be thought of as “lazy” violence, the kind that permeates today’s television. It’s cliché-driven, “fake judo chops or wild punches that can belt a villain 10 feet without knocking his hat off,” or “a hero with a chopper dropping a half dozen actors with blank bullets.” Such overt violence "is not necessary.  It uses up valuable storytelling time, brings on the screams of critics who threaten Governmental control and mighty often annoys the sophisticated audiences it is trying to entertain.” Such violence “goads toymakers into selling snub-nosed guns so authentic-looking that they were outlawed in New York City unless altered in color.”

Interestingly enough, Spillane offers a suggestion that would likely have won approval from the writers roundtable I discussed a few years back. Audiences “still want violence, but it needs to be based on the suspense of“impending action” rather than the gratuitous use of fists and guns of today’s shows. "A war of nerves can be so deadly between fictional characters as well as actual nations that when climactic action does finally come it is almost a relief."  This kind of violence, “portrayed at the proper time and portrayed believably is rarely castigated. You can expect a wild explosion from dynamite, but not from a firecracker, and it’s trying to build firecracker scenes into dynamite ones when they don’t belong that causes the explosion to fire in producers’ faces.” The result, says Spillane, is that “Rather than a frenzied, overt violence continually erupting in fist fights and shootouts, the violence is held in check, a grenade with the pin out but the handle still held down.”

Spillane points out that two of television’s greatest authority figures – Joe Friday and Matt Dillon – rarely resort to “the stilted, pseudo-bloody action seen in one of some current shows.” The violence was there; “It was about to happen every second and you knew it and wondered how it was going to come about. But in between a story got told and an audience got entertained believably, no critics screamed and if kids wanted to emulate a hero they got good ones in Friday and Dillon. And brother, you still don’t mess around with Old Matt.”

And it’s the need to tell a cohesive story that Spillane keeps coming back to. Audiences are more sophisticated now than they were years ago, a fact that movies have begun to understand, and they’re “far more selective in their choice of entertainment,” which requires television violence to be “refined to a higher degree to satisfy story-conscious audiences who have developed as objective viewers as the trade itself has developed technically.” Violence can’t and shouldn’t be eliminated from television, Spillane implores, but it needs to make sense in the context of a well-written and well-told story. “If I’m right,” he concludes, “I’ll be on the wave of a new trend. If I’m wrong the public will bury me as quickly as it did many others.”

◊ ◊ ◊

One of the things I particularly like about this era of TV Guide is how live events are frequently described with a mix of up-to-the-date and to-be-announced information. Case in point is the start of the World Series on Wednesday morning (10:45 a.m. CT). There are no divisions in 1961, no playoffs except in case of ties, so the American and National League champions go straight to the Series. There were more than a few years when this meant the two participants were known well before the end of the season, because they’d either already clinched the pennant or were far enough ahead that their victory was taken for granted.*

*For another example of TV Guide’s timeliness, see Sunday afternoon’s episode of G-E College Bowl, pitting TCU – winner of last week’s match – against Buffalo University. College Bowl was a live broadcast, which meant that this issue couldn’t have been published until Monday at the earliest.

At press time, “it looks like the Cincinnati Reds vs. the N.Y. Yankees this year,” and so it was, with the powerful Yanks topping the Detroit Tigers by eight games, while the Redlegs managed to hold off the Los Angeles Dodgers by four*. New York had appeared in nine of the previous 11 Series, including 1960, when they’d lost a breathtaking Game 7 to the Pittsburgh Pirates. Cincinnati, meanwhile, was making only their fourth appearance in the World Series, and their first since 1940, when they’d defeated Detroit (the only non-tainted Series they’d won to that point, the other being the year of the 1919 Black Sox Scandal). The undermanned Reds were led by future Hall-of-Famer Frank Robinson, while the Yankees countered with a Murderer’s Row that included Roger Maris (fresh off breaking Babe Ruth’s single-season home run record with 61), Mickey Mantle (who’d hit 54 of his own), and 25-game winner Whitey Ford. The Reds surprised New York by winning Game 2 and headed back to Cincinnati with the Series knotted at a game apiece, before the Yankees reasserted control and swept the next three, winning the Series 4-1.

*The Reds had unofficially changed their nickname to Redlegs in 1953, during the McCarthy era, to avoid any Communist connotations. Seriously. This is the first year that they've gone back to using the name "Reds," but I've taken poetic license. And how strange "Los Angeles Dodgers" still must have sounded in 1961, only four years after the Dodgers had moved from Brooklyn.

A note about that starting time – we often hear it said that the World Series can’t be played in the afternoon anymore because people wouldn’t be able to see or hear it, and yet a starting time of noon Eastern couldn’t have been an accident. It would have afforded anyone in the Eastern and Central time zones a chance to catch a sizable part of the game during what was undoubtedly an extended lunch hour (with a few liquid libations on hand, no doubt), and stories abound of schoolchildren smuggling transistor radios into classrooms under their shirts, listening to the games through earphones. As is the case with so many things in life, half the fun of a daytime World Series was the effort required to follow the game. An accompanying article mentions that 300 million people worldwide are expected to watch the Series. Nowadays, games are seldom done before midnight – and they wonder why the game’s having so much trouble attracting younger fans.*

*Another mark of changing times – a notation that if the game “is concluded before 2pm the regularly scheduled programs will be seen.” If today’s Yankees were in that Series, they’d probably be reaching the 7th inning just about then.

The rest of the sporting landscape pales in comparison. For NFL football, the Vikings take on the Baltimore Colts at 1:00 p.m. on CBS, while ABC’s AFL Game of the Week features the Houston Oilers and the Dallas Texans at 2:00 p.m.. Saturday’s college football spotlights one of the game’s great matchups, between Oklahoma and Notre Dame. It was Notre Dame that ended Oklahoma’s staggering 47-game winning streak four years previously, and while this season finds both teams far from their glory days, it’s still worth a 15-minute pregame show spotlighting the tradition of the rivalry (despite the fact the two have only played four times). But those were indeed the days.

◊ ◊ ◊

The new season is here, and this issue is full of new and returning series making their debuts this week. There’s the aforementioned Gunsmoke, for example, making its inaugural appearance as an hour-long drama after six seasons at 30 minutes.* According to the always-reliable Wikipedia, thirty television Westerns came and went during Gunsmoke’s run.

*The half-hour dramas would appear in syndication as Marshal Dillon; in the UK, the series would be known as Gun Law. I kind of like that one.

On Monday a new medical drama premieres on ABC - Ben Casey, starring Vince Edwards and Sam Jaffe.  It runs for five seasons, and you might remember it from the famous opening titles:

Another successful series makes its debut Tuesday night, on CBS.  You might have heard of it - The Dick Van Dyke Show, "starring comedian and musical-comedy performer Dick Van Dyke as comedy writer Rob Petrie."  That had some pretty famous opening titles as well:

Other successful shows have already had their coming-out party: NBC had Ben Casey's archrival Dr. Kildare, along with Car 54, Where Are You, International Showtime (hosted by Don Ameche, presenting a different international circus each week), and Hazel, with Oscar winner Shirley Booth, as well as the debut of the popular Saturday Night at the Movies; CBS added The Defenders to its stable of hit series such as The Andy Griffith Show (starting its second season), Perry Mason (season number five) and The Danny Thomas Show (also fifth season), and welcomed Mr. Ed, which had previously run in syndication.  A pair of new and much-loved cartoons appeared on Tuesday nights - Top Cat on ABC, and The Alvin Show on CBS; both would go on to greater fame and glory on Saturday mornings, while The Bullwinkle Show made the move from ABC to NBC, where it would air early on Sunday evenings.

And then there are those shows that are probably best forgotten, since viewers didn't really remember them to begin with.  It seems as if you were particularly in for it if you'd experienced previous success.  Robert Young had had a big hit with Father Knows Best (still in reruns on Wednesday nights), not so much with Window on Main Street, which remained open for only 13 weeks. Similarly, Gertrude Berg had been a TV pioneer with the early hit The Goldbergs (not to be confused with this year's new sitcom), but couldn't duplicate the success with Mrs. G. Goes to College, later retitled The Gertrude Berg Show.  It didn't help; no matter which title you preferred, you only had 26 shows to watch it.  Bob Cummings, whom audiences had loved for five seasons on Love That Bob, fared less well with The New Bob Cummings Show, which audiences only loved 22 times. Calvin and the Colonel, an animated gloss on Amos 'n' Andy, was  26 and out.  Leslie Nielsen starred in The New Breed, playing a member of the Metropolitan Squad, an elite corps of the Los Angeles Police Department.  He'd have better luck 20 years later playing a member of Police Squad, a special branch of the Police Department.

◊ ◊ ◊

That goofy face on the cover belongs to Carol Burnett, years before she has her own variety show. Right now she’s entering her third season as part of the cast of The Garry Moore Show on CBS, but there’s already reason to suspect stardom is not that far away. Earlier in the year she was voted Favorite Female Performer at the TV Guide Awards, defeating Loretta Young, Barbara Stanwyck, Dinah Shore and Donna Reed, and Moore says her talent “is so powerful you almost have to protect her from it.” She’s had a hit novelty song, “I Made a Fool of Myself Over John Foster Dulles,” and received a Tony nomination for the Broadway musical Once Upon a Mattress.

(L-R) Garry Moore, Carol Burnett, Durward Kirby
She tells a story of the time she went to a fashionable restaurant in slacks, because she had once seen a slacks-wearing Marlene Dietrich dining there. Told by the captain that this wasn’t permitted, she apologized, saying “I’ve just been fitted for a new wooden leg and I'm still not used to being out in dresses." It’s that ability to spin any situation into one that will draw laughs, combined with her modesty and all-around likeability, that bodes well for the future.

As a matter of fact, the person most skeptical of Burnett’s future success is Carol herself. Moore says she won’t believe in her own feminine charms, and others point out that when she’s complimented for a particular piece of work, she almost always insists it could have been done better. When she won the TV Guide award she was so unprepared, so sure that one of the others would win, she burst into tears and for a moment forgot everything as she tried to accept the award.

But Garry Moore is indeed right when he says that Carol “has got to be a star.” She’ll remain with the Moore show for one more season, but as Moore says, she’d “be foolish to continue with our show after next season.” Series offers are already coming in, and sooner or later the right one will appear. It’s not The Entertainers, a failed variety show that ran for one season in 1964. But Moore says it’s only a matter of time – “She’s got a glimmering, but no real idea how important she’s become.”

◊ ◊ ◊

Channel 11 wraps up its coverage of Billy Graham's Philadelphia crusade with a Friday night broadcast.  The night's topic: "Will God Spare America?"  The crusade is broadcast from Municipal Stadium, which in three years will be renamed John F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium.  Over the next few years, there would be many things from which God would not spare America.

Finally, the Editors despair at the low ratings for last season's more educational television fare.  People are always complaining that there's nothing "for the mind" on television,  but when they're given the chance they still tune out.  Last season's highbrow shows, such as Winston Churchill: The Valiant Years and Eyewitness to History were routed by such series as The Untouchables and Gunsmoke.  The Editors weren't surprised by this, but "we had hoped that the informational shows would gain more attention, more audience, than they did.  It seemed most of those who campaigned for serious programming instead of violence kept watching violent shows instead of the serious ones."

NBC has a new strategy, though.  They've taken Sing Along With Mitch and moved it to Thursday nights, directly opposite The Untouchables.  Stanley Frank wonders if NBC's "measuring Miller for the Distinguished Service Medal or a truckload of Purple Hearts."  Somewhat surprisingly - or maybe not - Sing Along bloodies the veteran cop show, which moves to Tuesday nights the next season before moving off the schedule completely.  Now, I'm not ashamed to admit that I love watching The Untouchables - but you ought to know by now never to bet against anyone named Mitch. TV  

September 28, 2018

Around the dial

Well, I'm confused, and that's probably as good a way as any to kick things off this week. Lately I've found it necessary to implement comment moderation in order to intercept the odd spam comment that makes it past the spam filterthe price of success, one supposes. I didn't expect to run across anything unusual in the process, butof course there has to be a but, or else there wouldn't be a story hereI did. Specifically, a batch of comments from January of this year that, for no good reason, were quarantined as spam.  A couple of them were, but the restmaybe a dozen or sowere not. So first of all, if your comment didn't appear when you wrote it, nothing personal! I will admit, however, that I was sorry to delete all those comments that started off, "You are an excellent writer and I learn much from your blog." Oh well.

Amidst all this, there was a question from one of our readers that was included in this unjust spam crackdown, and I want to rectify that immediately, so here goes. The question originally came from January 3 of this year, and the anonymous writer says: "Hey MY mom was on the Price Is Right in July of 1965, does anyone know where I might find some copies of it?" Readers, what do you think? Any suggestions: (And again, apologies for the delay!)

Now on to the blogs of the week.

At Classic TV and Film Café, Rick has "seven things to know about Robert Goulet," to which yours truly contributed a couple more in the comments section. I always liked Mr. G's voice, enjoyed his appearances on variety shows, and from what I've seen his short-lived espionage series Blue Light was better than TV Guide would have you believe. Speaking of espionage, remember this commercial from Super Bowl XLI?

Garroway at Large and Bob Crane: Life & Legacy both have reports on the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, about which you read my report last week. One of my regrets in life (regrets? I've had a few...) is that we're not able to get together often enough with these friends of ours; on the other hand, it's what makes an event like MANC that much sweeter. (And thanks to both of you for the shout-outs!)

At Comfort TV, David has a thought-provoking (as usual) piece on the recent crowdsourcing campaign for Dawn Wells. One of the many things I like about David's writing is that he forces us to think about things, to consider why we do what we do, even when it's the right thing to do.

I've been wondering when The Horn Section was going to return to Crazy Like a Fox, the mid-80s series starring Jack Warden and John Rubenstein as a father-son duo fighting crime, and it happens this week with a review of the 1985 episode "Fox in Wonderland," a perfect showcase for Warden's comedic talents.

Television Obscurities digs deep into the obscure file once again to look at The Ugliest Girl in Town, a very much of-the-times sitcom from 1968. Anyone out there remember this one? I don't know that I watched it when I was of the age, but I do remember it.

Finally, part four of Jack's Hitchcock Project entry on Bernard C. Schoenfeld is up at bare-bones e-zine. It's the second season episode "The Better Bargain," starring Robert Middleton and Henry Silva in Schoenfeld's elegant and concise adaptation of Richard Deming's story. TV  

September 26, 2018

The art of writing

Someone once asked me, having found out that I'd written a couple of novels in addition to what you read here on the website and in The Electronic Mirror, whether I preferred  fiction or non-fiction. The typical way I answer that kind of question, and the way I probably answered it this time, is "Yes." Writing, at heart, is all about storytelling, and though that might seem to be more obvious when writing a novel or short story, it's also true about non-fiction. The true historian, the investigative journalist into the past, has to know how to frame these discoveries, opinions, presentations or what have you, into some type of narrative that tells the reader a story, that keeps him turning the page time after time.

It's true that there are different methods of storytelling. When it comes to fiction, as those of you who've bought The Collaborator or The Car can probably tell, my style there tens to be somewhat postmodern (though I haven't gone completely off the bend; there is still a story at the heart of it). I was greatly influenced by non-linear, visually arresting, prose when I was learning how to be a reader (as opposed to learning how to read). Second Skin, by John Hawkes, was one such example, as was the story "By the Waters of Babylon" by Steven Vincent Benét, which, years after the fact, remains one of the most striking things I've ever read in my life. As I moved from being a reader to a writer, and learned how to "write by ear" (i.e. making sure what you've written sounds right to you), I latched on to more classically postmodern writers like Don DeLillo and I suppose you'd have to say that this is the kind of prose I've settled on as a fiction writer.

Now, that's not necessarily the kind of writing one wants to do when writing non-fiction, such as this website. I don't know that reviewing an issue of TV Guide using the voice of Thomas Pynchon is the most effective way to communicate to readers (although I should try it sometime). That "diary" entry on MANC that I did last week is probably the closest I'll ever get to doing creative writing here. 

That doesn't mean that writing here isn't creative, of course. One has to find a way to tell the story - a story that, on first glance, can seem to be the same week after week - in an engaging way, a way that captures and keeps the attention of the classic TV fan. It may not be the same as the prose in my novels, but it's something I work at crafting every bit as diligently. I don't know about other writers, but I often consider the art of writing to be one in which sentences and paragraphs are constructed, and the writer himself is more like an architect than anything else. Pride goeth before a fall, but I daresay I'm proud of some of the pieces I crafted for The Electronic Mirror. I've invested almost my whole life in television one way or another, and I consider the opportunity to write about it to be a privilege that ought to be safeguarded.

If this sounds like a brief meditation on the writer's craft, you're right. If it sounds like a commercial for my books, you're also right. You really need to go to my author page and invest in The Electronic Mirror; since you're reading this website, you really have no excuse! And while you're there, you might as well check out The Car and The Collaborator, two very different novels, and see if you prefer my fiction or non-fiction.

If this also sounds like the kind of piece one writes when facing a short deadline and without anything else in the hopper - well, you're right there as well. I can't promise I'll be deep in the cellar of classic television history next week - the completion of The Electronic Mirror and the presentation at MANC really were exhausting - but you know it's coming sooner or later. TV  

September 24, 2018

What's on TV? Wednesday, September 25, 1974

Usually I try to vary the days of the week that I use for these features; if I did a Tuesday in 1965 three weeks ago, it wouldn't make much sense to do a Tuesday again this week; not much would have changed. I figured it wouldn't matter this week though, seeing as how we're just at the start of a new season. No matter what day of the week I chose, you'd be likely looking at programs that you wouldn't see for very long. Do you remember any of them? This week's edition is from the Twin Cities.

September 22, 2018

This week in TV Guide: September 21, 1974

Another year, another new fall season.   You can either "Look at ABC Now!", enjoy the "Network of the New! NBC", or stick with old, reliable CBS, which undoubtedly felt that actions - or at least good TV shows - spoke louder than words.

The start of a new television season is a bit like the start of the NFL season, which coincidentally appears on the cover of this week's issue. It's a time for unlimited optimism, when fans everywhere harbor the dream (or illusion) that this could be the year their teams go all the way. Before that opening kickoff, every team is tied for first. For a lot of teams, it won't get any better than that.

And so it is with the 1974 fall season. The excitement from some of these ads jumps right off the page. Unfortunately, in so many cases the optimism is not only unfounded, it's sadly pathetic. And instead of a tingling leg, the reader is left wondering just who in the hell thought this show was a good idea. More on that in a minute.

But speaking of football, as we were a moment ago, the NFL's policy in the early 1970s was to start games at 1:00 p.m. local time (unless they were the second half of doubleheaders). Perhaps this was a nod to churches, I don't know. If you lived in Minneapolis-St. Paul, as I did, you had a fair share of 1:00 kickoffs, what with the Vikings playing other Midwest rivals like Chicago and Green Bay. And what that meant was that the second game of a doubleheader would be joined in progress. We can see that this week on NBC, with the Jets-Bears game starting at 1:00 CT, and the far-more-interesting Oakland Raiders-Kansas City Chiefs* game being JIPed at, maybe, 3:50. (Mind you, in the early '70s it is at least possible (if not likely) that a pro football game runs less than three hours, which means that if you're lucky, you might only miss the first quarter of the late game.) I can't remember exactly when the league changed to the hard-and-fast noon starting time (except for Baltimore, where the blue laws mandated a 2pm start), but it's hard to believe that "Joined in Progress" used to be a regular part of NFL TV listings.

*The fact that the Jets edged the Bears 23-21 while the Raiders routed the Chiefs 27-7 isn't the point; most fans will tell you they plan their football days around what they anticipate, and the fact that NBC sent Curt Gowdy and Al DeRogatis Don Meredith, their big-game announcers, to Oakland, suggests they expected the same thing.

◊ ◊ ◊

There's no question that by 1974, the NFL is a big deal. You know what else is a big deal? Movies on TV, or to be more precise, theatrical movies. The start of a new season has always been a great time for networks to showcase the latest additions to their movie inventory, and we can see it this week with three blockbusters right out of the gate: the network premieres of Rachel, Rachel (8:00 p.m. Monday, NBC) and Thunderball (8:00 p.m. Sunday, ABC), and the first rerun of Bonnie and Clyde* (8:00 p.m. Friday, CBS). What does our resident film critic, Judith Crist, think of these hits? Of Rachel, Rachel, directed by Paul Newman and starring his wife Joanne Woodward, Crist writes that It is "beautiful, sensitive and perceptive," with Woodward "perfection" as a spinster facing the "last ascending summer" of her life. Thunderball, starring Sean Connery, is "lighter in heart, spoofier and campier than, say, Goldfinger," but while there may be more corn than wit, "it's all fun." As for the "milestone" Bonnie and Clyde, in its second go-round Crist suggests concentrating on the supporting performances of Estelle Parsons, "brilliant in her screen debut," and "flawless" Gene Hackman, along with Michael J. Pollard as Warren Beatty's brother.

*I wonder how much they had to cut out to make it suitable for network television?

Incidentally, for movies with long running timesBen-Hur or Lawrence of Arabia, for examplethere were generally two ways for the network to deal with them. They could be split into two parts, often running on consecutive nights; or they could be shown on a Saturday or Sunday night and be allowed to run over the normal time slot. This is what we see with ABC's broadcast of Thunderball, which has a running time of 2:45. It begins at the normal ABC time of 8:00 p.m., and pushes the late local news back by 45 minutes, to 10:45 p.m. Of course, back then the weekend news wasn't as big a deal, and the movie would probably guarantee a larger audience for the local newscast anyway. Nowadays, pretty much the only time you see a program extend beyond its time slot by a substantial amount is when everything has been pushed back—by the NFL, for instance, where games seldom ever run less than three hours, and more often push closer to three and-a-half. In this case, times have changed.

◊ ◊ ◊

TV's two definitive 70s-era rock music shows, NBC's The Midnight Special and ABC's In Concert, faced off on Friday nights.  Midnight Special was a weekly show, airing after Johnny Carson, while In Concert was an every-other week part of Wide World of Entertainment.  Whenever the two slug it out, we'll be there to give you the winner.

In Concert: It's a tribute to Cat Stevens, with Linda Ronstadt, Donny Hathaway, Dr. John, and Stevens himself performing 90 minutes of the singer-songwriter's greatest hits.

Midnight Special: Singer-composer Randy Newman is the host, with Maria Muldaur, Dr. John, the Turtles and guitarist Ry Cooder.

Both of this week's installments are reruns, so it's merely a coincidence that Dr. John appears on both of them. We'll cancel him out, which leaves us with Stevens, Ronstadt, and Hathaway vs. Newman, Muldaur, the Turtles, and Ry Cooder. And you know what? I can't work up any enthusiasm for either of them. Sometimes these things happen. The verdict: Push.

◊ ◊ ◊

As you can see above, the cover of the September 14 TV Guide was mocked up to look like a horse racing tip sheet with odds on the new shows. Many of those shows are starting this week, and while some of them will run for many seasons, you'd better be quick to catch others, because you're not going to have many opportunities to see them. And as for the predictions: well, some of them were right on, while otherswell, let's just say that if you'd actually gone to Vegas and plunked down some dough based on these odds, you might not be reading this now, because you're homeless and the Starbucks won't let you use the wi-fi without making a purchase.

We're going to spend the rest of our time this week taking a look at what all the shouting was about, with a little quiz to see just how well you can place yourself back in that time period and imagine what the critics thought of the new season. Here are the odds on a dozen of those new shows as they appeared on the cover of that issue, along with a catchy tip for each one. 
  1. 1-2.  Could take it all.
  2. Even.  Won't monkey around.
  3. 2-1.  Real contender.
  4. Even.  May prove troublesome.
  5. Even.  Entry is well placed.
  6. 3-1.  Should get the nod.
  7. 8-1.  May freeze up.
  8. 4-5.  From good barn.
  9. Even.  Only filly in race.
  10. 7-2.  Might garner support.
  11. 6-1. May cop it all.
  12. 10-1.  Lost stablemate.
Now we'll take a look at the ads for these shows as they appeared in these very pages. See if you can recognize them from the handicapper's comments.  After the jump, we'll match the quotes and the shows, and separate the winners from the losers. Remember, no using subsequent knowledge when choosing your answers—you have to put yourself in the place of the critics of the day, considering things like the cast, the network, and the timeslot!

September 21, 2018

Odds and ends for a Friday morning

One of the drawbacks to returning from vacation, especially a working vacation as was just the case, is that things are kind of a mess when you get back.

As you know if you read Wednesday's "diary," we're back from Hunt Valley, Maryland, where we were attending the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention. Welcome, by the way, to the many nice people who stopped by our table during the three days of MANC and either bought a copy of The Electronic Mirror or took one of my cards. It was a pleasure meeting and talking with all of you, and I hope you enjoy both the book and It's About TV. Remember, it all exists for your pleasure as well as mine.

As I said on Wednesday, it was, as usual, a great time, and it was also interesting viewing the convention from the other side of the table, so to speak. There remains, however, the return home—and while I'll never again complain about coming back to Minnesota, it was, as usual, a rude awakening seeing everything waiting for your attention. That would be the case even if I didn't have a "real" job during the daytime, which just adds to the stockpile. There are emails waiting to be acknowledged, comments requiring a response, questions asking to be answered, new material demanding to be written. Trust me, if you fall into one of these categories, be patient—I'm working on it.

In the meantime, while you're waiting, might I suggest a trip to or to buy a copy of The Electronic Mirror? Carol Ford, who was gracious enough to write a blurb for the cover, says that after reading The Electronic Mirror, "You won't watch TV the same way again!" With no false modesty on my part, it really is a good read—a serious look at the relationship between television and American culture, that manages to be both fun and informative as well. And while you're at it, feel free to check out my other books: The Car, my newest novel, and The Collaborator, which seems more prophetic now than ever. These were a popular item at MANC, going for a special price if bought with The Electronic Mirror, and while that deal has expired, you can't go wrong picking these up! And for any of my books, if you'd like a personal inscription, drop me an email with your name and address, as well as how you'd like me to sign it, and I'll send you a sticker to go in the front of your book.

And now, a solicitation for help from one of our readers, who stopped by after my talk with a couple of questions that I'm confident you can assist with. If I remember correctly (and if I don't, I hope she'll chime in with a correction in the comments), her two questions are as follows:
  1. Is there a site out there that provides historical data on weekly series ratings? We all know that several sources provide year-end ratings for each TV season, and I've seen occasional top-10 weekly ratings, but does anyone know where one could find weekly data for every regularly-scheduled program, going back indefinitely? Television Obscurities doesn't have the info, and if that site doesn't, I can't think of another site that does, but if anyone can answer this question, I know one of you out there can.
  2. There used to be a blog out there called, I believe, the TV Guide Historian. The blog's no longer being kept current; does anyone out there know what happened?
Again, my apologies if I don't have the questions quite right, but I trust you all to provide the information that I'm lacking.

Then there are the emails. I mentioned earlier, there are emails that you good readers have sent me over the past two or three months, when I was tied up with edits and rewrites to The Electronic Mirror, and I'm shamefully behind in answering these emails. Please understand that it's nothing personal; I read and appreciate every bit of correspondence I get, and it was only my workload, combined with a tight publishing deadline, that has kept me from being responsive. That will change over the next couple of weeks; I will dedicate myself to cleaning out the inbox and getting back you you posthaste, before I've alienated you forever.

Finally: there is an audio version of my presentation, although I'm not yet sure about the quality. If it's sufficiently listenable and I can figure out how to do it, I'll put it up on the website for your enjoyment. And if I really luck out and can synchronize the audio with the actual PowerPoint, I'll do that as well. Keep your fingers crossed.

Anyway, it's good to be back, and hopefully by next week we'll be back to a normal schedule as well. One think you can depend on, though, and that's a TV Guide review tomorrow! TV  

September 19, 2018

Mid-Atlantic, 2018

Dear Diary,

Last week we were at MANC, and boy, did we have a swell time! MANC stands for Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, in case you didn’t know, and it’s held every year at a place called Hunt Valley in Maryland, not far from Baltimore and Washington, D.C. We flew in to Baltimore-Washington International Airport, and I thought maybe we’d be able to see the lights from the monuments while we were in the plane, since it was at night, and we were up high in the sky, but I guess we were still too far away. Either that, or we were looking out the wrong side of the plane. Oh well, maybe next year!

This year wasn’t like the other two years we’ve been here. Those times, we walked around the hotel, looking at all the vendors and the things they were selling—really cool things like old TV Guides and DVDs of old shows and old toys and other old things. Hey, that’s OK—we’re old too! Ha! We did some of that this year, and I bought six old TV Guides—wait, I already said they were old, didn’t I? Anyway, six TV Guides, and a DVD set of The Green Hornet! I don’t remember watching it when I was a kid, but it sure did look like fun!

But the real reason we were at MANC this year is that I was giving a talk and selling copies of my new book, The Electronic Mirror. Isn’t that a cool title for a book? I thought it all up by myself! People seemed to like it—but I’m getting ahead of myself. Let me start back at the beginning.

Thursday was the first day of the convention, and the first talk was by two of my friends, Jodie Peeler and Kevin Doherty. They were talking about the Today Show, which is that show that’s on early in the morning, and the Tonight Show, which is on real late at night, and the Home Show, which isn’t on at all anymore, but when it was on it was in the middle of the day. Boy, was their talk good! I learned all about Dave Garroway—he was the first host of Today—and Jack Paar, who was the second host of Tonight; and Arlene Francis, who hosted Home and was a nice lady. They were all really interesting people. So are Jodie and Kevin, and real nice too. I’m lucky to have them as friends.

There was another talk after that, and then it was my turn. I was talking about “TV Guide: America’s Time Capsule,” and I had some pictures of old TV Guides—I already said they were old, didn’t I? I was showing people how reading TV Guides could tell you what the cultural world was like back then, and I think it went pretty well. People seemed to like it, and they asked questions that I could answer, and they all clapped when I was done! It made me feel good all over! Later on, people came up to the table where we were selling books, and told me they enjoyed listening to me talk. I didn’t even have to pay them to say that.

In fact, a lot of them bought my book! And they paid me! How cool is that? There were a lot of nice people who stopped by, even the ones who didn’t buy my book. There was a guy who used to work for Marvel Comics, and another guy who acted in Star Trek movies, and a retired doctor, and a retired lawyer, and a nice married couple—well, they were all nice!

And then there was our friend Carol Ford. She’s nice, too. She wrote a book about Bob Crane, who played Colonel Hogan on Hogan’s Heroes. He was a nice guy too, although some bad things happened to him. But he was still nice, and I’m glad Carol wrote about him, so everyone else could see that he was nice too. We only get to see each other once a year, which isn’t often enough. We need to see Jodie and Kevin more often too. That means we have to travel more, and that costs money. My wife said something about winning the lottery; maybe that would help us to travel more.

There were other neat people there too, and they all looked like they were having a swell time. Except for one lady who seemed really mad while we were checking in. She said the hotel people couldn’t show her to her room. She said some bad things, she was so mad. My mom used to tell me that sometimes people would act this way when they’d had something to drink. Boy, that must have been something really bad, to make them act that way. I wonder why anyone would do that? I guess I just don’t understand adults, even though I am one! Ha!

There was this other neat guy named Martin. He’s the guy who puts this all together. He isn’t very big, but all weekend he wore a shirt that said “Security.” I wouldn’t want to tangle with him! Anyway, he did a great job. There were some famous celebrities there too—Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers and three people from a show called WKRP in Cincinnati. They weren’t in Cincinnati this weekend,though. Maybe they flew in. Boy, I’ll bet their arms are tired! That was a joke—did you get it? Ha! Kristy McNicol was there too, and so was Morgan Fairchild, and the guy who played the Creature in the Black Lagoon and Diahann Carroll, and Geri Reischl, who was "Fake Jan" and seemed as excited to be there as the rest of us. She was always taking pictures on her phonealk past us each day while we were sitting at our table, so we got to see them all.

It's all over until next year, but we had a really great time. It was one of our best weekends ever! I’m glad I know such nice people—it was a fun time! I could go on and on! But I’ll have to wrap it up now, Diary—it’s time for me to go to bed, because I have to get up early to go to work tomorrow. My wife says If we don’t win the lottery this is the only way we’ll be able to go places and buy old things, and I guess she must be right—she’s really smart. She married me, didn’t she? Ha!

Talk to you tomorrow, Diary!

Mitchell TV  

September 17, 2018

What's on TV? Monday, September 15, 1958

As such things go, this is a pretty quiet day in the new season; Channel 2, the Twin Cities educational channel, actually has more series debuts today than any of the other stations. Jimmy Dean starts his weekday variety series, which is perhaps more memorable for this candid bit of commentary after the show's cancellation. Don't you wish more people spoke their minds today? (Pause, thinking about Internet...) Wait a minute; forget I said that.

September 15, 2018

This week in TV Guide: September 13, 1958

How times change.  Look at the TV Guide logo on the cover of this week's edition: not the famillar red, but blue.  TV Guide did this this from time to time, back in the day, when the cover's color scheme demanded it.  Blue, white, other colors.  I don't know offhand when they did this for the last time; I've got a Christmas issue from 1962 where the logo is gold. And then it became so, I don't, know, corporate.

And with that, we're off on another week of TV Guide, and in case you hadn't noticed, the theme is change.  Sometimes the change is evolutionary, based on changing times.  Other times, the changes we've seen make the past seem like it came from another planet.  Either way, things just aren't what they used to be.

The relationship between TV and football, for example.  Here we are at Saturday, September 13, and the big sports story on television is not college football, but the national pasttime - baseball. It's a preview of the upcoming World Series, sort of: CBS' team of Dizzy Dean and Buddy Blattner covers the eventual American League champion Yankees vs. the White Sox in Chicago, while NBC counters with the Cardinals visiting the soon-to-be National League champion Milwaukee Braves, broadcast by Leo Durocher and Lindsay Nelson. Dueling national broadcasts - but as we saw last week, this was before leagues negotiated national broadcasting contracts, so the networks were free to deal with teams (and their sponsors) on an individual basis. ABC would get into the act as well in the early 60s, before Major League Baseball awarded the exclusive national contract to NBC.

There's also no pro football on Sunday - at least none that counts. The NFL's season, which today runs 16 games (with a bye week) and one year started before Labor Day, was only 12 games in 1958, which meant that the regular season didn't kick off until September 28. So if you wanted some football, you got the preseason kind - in this case, an innocuous matchup between the New York Giants and the Baltimore Colts. Ah, but little did we know that these two teams would meet again for the NFL Championship on December 28 - aka The Greatest Game Ever Played.

◊ ◊ ◊

The great thing about a statewide TV Guide
Edition - if you don't like one station's ad,
there's always another one
And then there's the network news. In the days before CNN introduced us to 24/7 TV news, the holy grail for news junkies was a prime-time spot, preferably an hour, with plenty of time for an in-depth look at serious issues, a chance to educate viewers, and a look at foreign news, which typically didn't get much attention in this country except in times of war. Well, in 1958 you had it, or at least part of it: a regularly scheduled 15 minute broadcast* airing at 9:30 p.m. CT, featuring ABC's news chief, John Daly. Yes, the same John Charles Daly that we're also watching host What's My Line? on CBS.  

What I find remarkable about that is not that a newscaster was also doing a game show; Daly was always a newsman first, and besides, What's My Line? wasn't really a game show, but something far more sophisticated. No, imagine the idea of a prominent television figure with prime-time shows on more than one network. This at a time when networks were very protective of their turf: if you were the star of a series on CBS, for example, but you were a guest on NBC's Tonight show, you could only say that you appeared on "another network." After awhile it became a joke; Daly himself would often flaunt it, mentioning that the week's Mystery Guest would be appearing on "another network, which might have the initials N-B-C," or something similar. This wasn't the first time ABC had experimented with a prime-time newscast; they'd tried it in 1952, but it failed then, and failed now; Daly, who had been replaced by Don Goddard in the traditional pre-dinner timeslot when he made the move to prime-time, would return to the old timeslot by 1959.

*Four days a week; ABC had boxing on Wednesdays.

◊ ◊ ◊

Speaking of game shows as we were a moment ago, change is in the air there as well, with the advent of the Quiz Show Scandals signaling the beginning of the end of the big-money, big-ratings shows.  Burt Boyar's "Facts Behind Quiz Scandal" details the genesis of the scandal, which hasn't ripened into the full-blown Robert Redford era quite yet; the focus of the story is on the dispute between Herb Stempel and the producers of the show Twenty One, Dan Enright and Jack Barry.  Stempel claims he was forced off the program, while Enright and Barry counter that Stempel needs psychiatric care.  Dotto, the show that instigated the scandal, has been taken off the air, but Twenty One is still on NBC, and its most famous hero, Charles Van Doren, is still on the Today show.  Van Doren, in fact, isn't mentioned in the article at all, but there is what must have been a tantalizing line for those millions who idolized the brilliant, handsome Van Doren; Jack Narz, the host of the disgraced Dotto, says "there isn't a quiz show on the air which doesn't have some control over its contestants."  Boyar writes that "[w]here or when this drama will end is anyone's business," and, as is so often the case with these old TV Guide articles, it is the story yet to come that intrigues.

I know someone with one of these!
Another type of change - "out with the old, in with the new" - can be seen as the curtain falls on what was then television's longest-running and most storied drama series, the anthology Kraft Theatre, which had been a staple of NBC's schedule since 1947.  Its pedigree was indeed impressive; "the first commercial network show and the first sponsored show to go over the coaxial cable to the Midwest.  It was the first hour-long drama show in color, and the first to be televised in color on a weekly basis."  Its 650 presentations included a remarkable live version of the sinking-of-the-Titanic drama A Night to Remember.

◊ ◊ ◊

Do you remember when local ads ran in TV Guide?  Not ads for shows, but for products like Listerine and cheese-flavored Kor-Chees.  It seems an odd thing to see in these pages - more appropriate, perhaps, to appear in the local newspaper.  But then, as suggested by this ad encouraging parents to sign their kids up as TV Guide delivery boys, maybe people used the magazine in the same manner as they did a paper.  (Speaking of change, it took a lot less change to subscribe to TV Guide back then - $5.00 for 52 weeks.)  They consulted it for television listings, feature articles, the latest entertainment news from New York and Hollywood.  They even had a "Mr. Fixit"-type column on "How to Cure 4 Common TV Headaches."

The questions remind one of how far technology has come, and how much we take our crystal-clear HD pictures for granted:
  • At night a black jagged bar about a half-inch wide rips horizontally through my picture on Channels 2 through 6.
  • During the day, the picture on my set is beautiful.  At night it shrinks and gets dark.
  • When I was told my picture tube was weak I bought a new set.  I put the old TV in the den for the kids.  However, my new set acts erratic.  It only happens when I'm watching Channel 6 and the kids watch Channel 3.  My 6 whitewashes out. 
  • For the last few months we've had a ham-radio operator living across the street.  It seems to me that since then, Channel 6, which was my best station, has developed a continual herringbone-pattern overlay.*
* Seems to me being Channel 6 was not a good thing in those days.

◊ ◊ ◊

Advertising has changed as well - while future back cover ads declare, "You've come a long way, baby," in 1958 there was still room for the ad on your right, featuring singing star Jimmie Rodgers, for Halo shampoo, reminding all you ladies out there that "You can always tell a HALO girl."  Ah, doesn't it make you all want to be Halo girls?"

This whole piece has been about change, but perhaps the biggest change of all was the change that doesn't appear in this issue, but was hinted at on practically every-other page: the 1958 Fall Preview issue, coming the following week.  In those pages we'd learn of the new season ahead, featuring "Eleven new Westerns, many music and variety shows, more gumshoes," sports and "spectaculars."  They always did know how to make you want to stay tuned, didn't they? TV  

September 11, 2018

September 10, 2018

What's on TV? Monday, September 9, 1968

It's a grand start to the week, with all of the anticipation that comes with the beginning of the new TV season. Not all the new shows are on tonight, let alone this week, but there's definitely that change in the air that I talked about on Saturday. I particularly like the AFL game on Monday night on NBC. I might have gotten to see a little bit of it, even though I would have had to go to bed early for school the next day. I hated it then, and I hate going to bed early to get ready for work now. But that, of course, is another story. These listings, of course, are from the Twin Cities.

September 8, 2018

This week in TV Guide: September 7, 1968

Once upon a time, the Miss America Pageant was a big, big deal. It was often the most-watched television special of the year,the winner became an American icon (and often a career in show business) and it made a star out of the marginally-talented Bert Parks. Actually, there were two hosts of the show; while Parks was the host on the stage, there was also a television hostess (former Miss America Bess Myerson filled the bill in 1968), unseen and unheard by the crowd in the hall, who would talk to the viewers at home and introduce commercials.

There she is - Miss Illinois, Judith Ford,
just named Miss America 1969
I always remember the pageant as having been a sign that the new TV season was upon us.  It was held on a Saturday night, extraordinarily late in the evening: 9:00 p.m. CT in Minneapolis (which meant I'd usually finished my Saturday night bath by then), 10:00 p.m. to midnight at the cavernous Convention Hall in Atlantic City, New Jersey. I've noted before that things often started later in the evening back then; the Academy Awards started at 10:30 ET, the usual first pitch of a major league baseball game was 8:00 p.m. local time, and the NFL preseason game that CBS broadcast opposite Miss America (Baltimore vs. Dallas) didn't start until 8:30 p.m. It could be that the networks didn't want to preempt their regular prime-time schedules, but these specials were inevitably highly-rated. I think there was a certain sophistication to late-night TV back then; The Tonight Show ended at 1:00 a.m. on the East Coast, and when I was a kid we didn't stay up until all hours; I only got to see Carson on Friday nights or during the summer.*

*Speaking of Carson, he was NBC's lead-in to Miss America that year, with a one-hour special from Cypress Gardens in Florida, featuring Vicki Carr and a bunch of water skiers. 

Even in 1968 the Miss America pageant is in a state of flux*, attacked by feminists as being sexist and hopelessly out-of-date.  According to the always-reliable Wikipedia, "In 1968, about 400 women from the New York Radical Women protested the event on the Atlantic City boardwalk by crowning a live sheep Miss America. They also symbolically trashed a number of feminine products. These included false eyelashes, high-heeled shoes, curlers, hairspray, makeup, girdles, corsets, and bras."  There was no indication of this in TV Guide, of course, but there were other signs of the tumult racking the nation, including a CBS documentary on Friday night entitled "Ordeal of the City."  "[I]ncreasingly, the city has become the home of the poor as the middle class flees to the suburbs.  The city is a place to visit - on the job from 9 to 5 - but no one wants to live there."

*Although I don't think even the 1968 pageant had the kind of internal tumult and controversy that this year's has had.

◊ ◊ ◊

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: This week Ed gives us a rerun of a 90-minute all-singing tribute to Irving Berlin, featuring Bing Crosby (singing "White Christmas," of course), Ethel Merman, Robert Goulet, Diana Ross and the Supremes (a Sullivan favorite), Fred Waring and his Glee Club, the Harry James Orchestra, Morecambe and Wise (another Sullivan fave), and Berlin himself.

The Palace: In another rerun, Phyllis Diller is the hostess, with singer Johnnie Ray, actor Robert Vaughan, singer-ventriloquist Shari Lewis (and her puppet, Lampchop), comic Charley Manna, and the Sandpipers.

This is one of those weeks where it wouldn't make much difference what Palace has to offer; with the star power on Ed's show, I don't think Palace could ever have hoped for more than a push, even if they had all the star power in Hollywoodwhich, in this case, they ain't got. This week's prize goes to Sullivan.

◊ ◊ ◊

There's a special section in the programming guide devoted to what the local stations are doing for the new season, and in this era before strip syndicated programming became so prevalent, it's interesting to see what showed up outside of network hours. Channel 4, the CBS affiliate, features a series of variety specials called, appropriately, Something Special, plus local coverage of the University of Minnesota football season, and a series of holiday-themed King Family specials. Channel 5, affiliated at the time with NBC, introduced the five-a-week syndicated version of What's My Line? and the first 5:00 p.m. local newscast, preceding Huntley-Brinkley. Channel 9, then the ABC station, offered Steve Allen's new variety show as a noontime program (I wonder how many markets around the country showed it as a daytime rather than nighttime show?), and Dennis James' All American College Show - check out this clip of the Richard Carpenter Trio., with Richard and Karen Carpenter (!)

Channel 11 was the independent station in the Twin Cities, so of course the majority of their programming consists of reruns of mostly recently cancelled series, including 12 O'Clock High, The Munsters, The Addams Family, Wagon Train, The Invaders and Run For Your Life. To promote their new lineup, they used one of the great taglines of all time.

◊ ◊ ◊

Are you ready for some Monday Night Football? While ABC’s series didn’t begin until 1970, that doesn’t mean we didn't have football on Monday night. As we’ve seen in the past, the AFL and NBC were willing to play on unorthodox nights as one way to increase exposure over the rival NFL*, and this opening week of the penultimate AFL season, which had started with a Friday night game between the new Cincinnati Bengals and the San Diego Chargers, ended with an 8:00 p.m. telecast of the Kansas City Chiefs vs. the Oilers in the Houston Astrodome. And boy, the Astrodome was so cool back then.

*Due in part to the Sports Broadcasting Act of 1961, which in essence prohibited the NFL from telecasting games on Friday or Saturday nights by blacking out any NFL game played within 75 miles of a high school football game during the prime high school football months of September and October. The Act was passed in response to a court –ordered injunction regarding the NFL’s ability to “pool” its television rights with one network. Since the AFL was not a party to the original injunction, it was not covered by the Act. A sidelight of this is that out of the 15 weeks of the AFL season, only six did not include at least one game played on a day other than Sunday. Since NBC had introduced Monday Night Baseball recently, it's no surprise they'd be interested in football on Monday night as well.

There was other sports this week as well. On Saturday, CBS telecast the finals of the very first U.S. Open tennis championship, from Forest Hills. If you've paid any attention at all to this year's Open, you may have noticed references to the Open's "50th Anniversary," and you might have thought this tournament had to go back farther than 1968. Well, you'd be right. This wasn't the first time the U.S. championships had been played, just the first time they'd been open to professionals, who up until then had been prohibited from playing in the major tennis tournaments.  Once a player turned pro, he was barred from competing with amateurs, and was relegated to barnstorming tours and second-rate (and poorly-paying) tournaments.  It was only with the rise of pros such as Rod Laver that organizers realized the increasing difficulty in convincing fans to support a tournament like Wimbledon when the best players were not being allowed to play.  Hence, the U.S. National Championships became the U.S. Open Championships.  And the first winner of the first Open Championship was: an amateur. (Not just any amateur, though, but the elegant and soon-to-be great Arthur Ashe, whom I had the great honor of meeting once.)

Saturday also saw the first of two days of coverage on NBC of the World Series of Golf from the Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio.  This tournament existed as recently as a few years ago, when it was subsumed by the World Golf Classic, but the World Series of the '60s was a much different tournament: a 36-hole exhibition, featuring the winners of golf's four major tournaments.  This year's tournament had Bob Goalby (Masters), Lee Trevino (U.S. Open), Julius Boros (PGA) and the winner, Gary Player (British Open).  The World Series was the unofficial end of the golf season.

On Friday night the Twins took on the Red Sox in Boston. Last year at this time the two teams were battling for first place, along with the Tigers and White Sox, in one of the great pennant races of all-time, settled only on the last day of the season. This year things are different; the Twins, who finished a game back of Boston in ’67, will end the season in 7th place, while the Red Sox, who lost a heartbreaking seven-game series to St. Louis, will finish a disappointing fourth.

◊ ◊ ◊

Some other highlights of the week:

On Monday night at 8:00 p.m., ABC features a half-hour paid political talkyes, there did used to be such thingsby George Wallace, the independent candidate for President, as he tries to introduce his philosophy to a wider audience.  ABC follows it with a comedy featuring Wally Cox asking the question, "Is there really a Generation Gap?"  The country tries to deal with its turmoil by alternately mocking it and offering radical solutions, all on one network in the course of one hour. Tuesday, CBS offers a prescient CBS News Special called "The Football Scholars" (9:00 p.m.), with Roger Mudd reporting on what the college football recruiting process really looks like. (It's probably quaint compared to what goes on today, much of which you probably couldn't show on network television today.) Wednesday, The Avengers presents an episode I wouldn't miss, whether it was any good or not (and it was OK, as I recall). The title: Have GunsWill Haggle." I ask you, could you resist that? On Thursday NBC's On Stage presents the drama "Certain Honorable Men" (8:30 p.m.), a political drama written by Rod Serling, starring Van Heflinb in a rare television appearance, and also featuring Peter Fonda, Pat Hingle, and Will Geer. And Friday brings us another of President Johnson's five-minute appeals for the United Community Fund, seen at 7:25 p.m. on CBS, NBC, and ABC. TV