December 15, 2018

This week in TV Guide: December 16, 1961

This week's cover story is on Richard Chamberlain, star of NBC's new hit medical drama Dr. Kildare, based on the long-running movie and radio series. The emphasis of the unbylined article is that Chamberlain is not only down-to-earth, he's more interested in becoming a true actor than cashing in on a pretty face. In fact, watching co-star Massey recently, he was heard to comment, "How I wish I had his face!" (As you can tell from Massey's photo on the cover, a face like that—full of integrity and gravitas—will keep an actor in business for a long time, as indeed it does for Massey.)

His co-stars love working with him; Suzanne Pleshette says he's not impressed with himself, that he "listens instead of just worrying about which is his good side." Anne Francis adds that "He has dignity and a sense of integrity, both as an actor and as a person." And producer Herbert Hirschman says that his secret is a simple one: "He has not only the talent but the willingness to learn how to develop it."

Chamberlain doesn't feel like a star; part of it, he thinks, is because he plays a doctor. "I mean, I'm not a rock 'n' roll singer or a private eye or anything like that." He appreciates his success, but doesn't want to be stereotyped by Kildare; two or three years, fine, but "they pick up a new face in this business, use it, wear it out in a hurry and discard it." Besides acting, he's also studying music, and his teacher says he is "completely dedicated to making himself as good as he can be, considering the equipment he has been given." It's those qualities that have kept Richard Chamberlain in the business for a long time as well.

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Christmas is next week, and the festive programming is starting to ramp up. There's nothing on Saturday, but it gets a second chance next week; I suspect they're saving up the special shows for then. However, on Sunday, WTCN presents Great Music, with Morton Gould and the Chicago Symphony performing a special Christmas program that includes some of Gould's own compositions. (6:30 p.m.) Later (10:00 p.m.), on WTCN's Select Theater, it's the Bing Crosby classic Going My Way, which we always watch at Christmastime; on KMSP at 10:30 p.m. it's Come to the Stable, with Loretta Young and Celeste Holm.

KTCA, the educational station, features the Patrick Henry High School string orchestra in a program of orchestral carols on Monday at 7:00 p.m. Meanwhile, at 7:30 p.m. on CBS's Window on Main Street, Robert Young's character Cam Brooks reflects on the last Christmas he shared with his wife before her death, and is cheered up by the Ludwig, the hotel janitor.

On Tuesday, Red Skelton presents his now-famous "Freddie and the Yuletide Doll" (8:00 p.m., CBS), an all-pantomime show in which Freddie the Freeloader dances with a rag doll that turns into comedienne Cara Williams. If I'm not mistaken (and if I am, I know someone will point it out for me), this episode was reshot in color when the Skelton show went that route. Garry Moore (9:00 p.m., CBS) has his Christmas show tonight as well, with Julie Andrews and Gwen Verdon joining Garry, Durward Kirby, and Carol Burnett for the fun. KTCA has more Christmas music at 5:30 p.m., with the Roosevelt High School choir presenting a concert, and both Bachelor Father (7:00 p.m., ABC) and Dobie Gillis (7:30 p.m., CBS) have Yuletide-themed stories.

Wednesday Steve Allen throws a holiday bash at his home along with his wife Jayne Meadows, Steve's four sons, and guests including Louis Nye, the Smothers Brothers, Buck Henry, Tim Conway (going by Tom back then), and more. It's a quirky show, with a very funny scene in which Steve plays Santa Claus for the cast's children, and you can see it all here.*

*Did you know that "We Wish You the Merriest," the Christmas song that runs over the closing credits, was written in 1961 by Les Brown, the show's bandleader? I wonder how many people would have heard it prior to this show? (And since the show only ran one season, I wonder how many heard it on the show?)

At 7:30 p.m. on NBC, it's the much-loved Project 20 special "The Coming of Christ," in which Alexander Scourby reads passages from the Bible (with that wonderful voice of his) while photographs show Christ's coming as depicted by the great painters of the 15th to 17th Centuries. This special was first seen last year, and was run by NBC for several years thereafter. I have never found a video copy of the show (if indeed one still exists), but you can listen to the soundtrack here. And then Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall follows at 8:00 p.m. on NBC, with a Christmas show that features Tom Tichenor and his Puppets, along with "14 teen-age pianists and seven pianos," plus Perry reading the story of the Nativity to the children of the production staff. And we wouldn't want to overlook the Father Knows Best Christmas show (7:00 p.m., CBS).

Thursday's regular programs air their last episodes before Christmas: for example, on Ozzie and Harriet (6:30 p.m., ABC) Rick and his friend Wally both have Christmas jobs on their minds as they contemplate the same beautiful girl, while Richard Chamberlain and Raymond Massey, our cover stars this week, deal with a Santa who's overindulged (Dan O'Herlihy) on Dr Kildare (7:30 p.m., NBC) and Hazel goes Christmas shopping and runs into a shoplifter (8:30 p.m., NBC). At 9:00 p.m., it's the Christmas episode of Sing Along with Mitch (NBC), as Diana Trask, Leslie Uggams, and the Singalongers give us a Christmas show.

Friday leads off with an intriguing Rawhide (6:30 p.m., CBS), in which Mushy (James Murdock) fears he's suffering from a mirage in the August sun when he sees Santa (Ed Wynn, right) coming toward him with his bag of toys. If you want something more musical, KTCA's Songs of Christmas has the Southwest High School choir. (7:00 p.m.) If you want something with a little bit of an edge, try 77 Sunset Strip (8:00 p.m., ABC), as Jeff (Roger Smith) investigates "Bullets for Santa." At 8:30 p.m. on NBC, it's one of those wonderful live Christmas specials on The Bell Telephone Hour, hosted by Jane Wyatt, with John Raitt, Jane Morgan, the Lennon Sisters, Lisa Della Casa, Violette Verdy, and Edward Villella. Jane, like Perry Como earlier, reads the story of the Nativity (you won't see that on network TV anymore), and also reads the famous "Letter to Virginia" that answers the question of whether there's really a Santa Claus. NBC follows that at 9:30 p.m. with Frank McGee's news program Here and Now, featuring renderings of the first Christmas by Sunday School students at St. George's Episcopal Church in New York City, plus Frank reading from the Gospels of St. Luke and St. Matthew.

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The Christmas season also brings us the college football bowl season. For most of the 2018 college football season, two of the teams in perennial contention for ESPN's "Bottom 10" have been Rice and Kansas. Such was not always the case, however, as we see on Saturday as the two face-off in the Bluebonnet Bowl (12:45 p.m., CBS), conveniently played at Rice Stadium in Houston. It's the second bowl game of the day; the Liberty Bowl, matching Syracuse and Miami, kicks off in Philadelphia at noon (NBC). Over the course of 57 years, things change; the Bluebonnet Bowl no longer exists (although there is a bowl game in Houston, imaginatively called the Texas Bowl); the Liberty Bowl would only be played for one more year in Philly, before moving to Atlantic City for a season and then settling down permanently in Memphis; and of course we have Rice and Kansas. With one week to go in the 2018 regular season, the two schools have combined for a total of four victories and 18 defeats, and Kansas has three of those wins. Ah well, things can't stay the same forever.

It's also the last week of the regular season for pro football, and while ABC carries the American Football League, there's no uniform contract for the NFL; instead, CBS and NBC have contracts with individual teams to broadcast their games. Therefore, on Saturday at 3:30 p.m., CBS has the Baltimore Colts taking on the 49ers in San Francisco, and follows it on Sunday at 1:00 p.m. as the Minnesota Vikings travel to Chicago to play the Bears, while NBC counters that at the same time with the game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and St. Louis football Cardinals. In the meantime, ABC's AFL game is between the New York Titans and the Dallas Texans—or, as we'd say today, the New York Jets and the Kansas City Chiefs. It's on Sunday at 2:30 p.m.

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I mentioned The Bell Telephone Hour in the Christmas section, and that just happens to be the subject of Gilbert Seldes' review this week. This is the second time this year he's written about the program; back in the spring it was a "rave notice," but this week he takes a look specifically at a mid-November episode entitled "The Music of Richard Rodgers," which he says reaches "an absolute peak of excellence." And in referring to the overall history of the show, he echos what I've always felt about Telephone Hour's Christmas show when he writes that "Everything contributes to your pleasure int he music, nothing draws attention to itself. Not only the singers and dancers and musicians, but the sets and the lights and the superb color are dedicated to the same purpose." I think that's what I like most about the Christmas show—that everything fits together and provides a perfect viewing experience. See for yourself with this compilation show.

I also mentioned 77 Sunset Strip earlier, and there's a charming article about the charming Jacqueline Beer, who plays the charming Suzanne, phone operator and occasional operative for the firm of Bailey and Spencer, private detectives. (They're charming too, by the way.) The article calls her the "silent partner"of the show, and there's a good reason why. Zee woman, she ees French, and hair aczent ees, how you sayh, diffecult for zee audience to undahrstand, s'il vous plaît? She's a former Miss France in the Miss Universe pageant, a natural blonde despite her black hair on the show; one of the non-Strip highlights (or lowlights) of her life occurred just as she and her husband, Jean Garcia-Roady, were about to appear on the program Do You Trust Your Wife, when Jean was arrested by the FBI for embezzling $8,200 while a teller at Bank of America. (Two years of the three-year sentence were suspended if he repaid the money.) I guess there was a trust question there. Later, she'll marry adventurer Thor Heyerdahl. She's still alive today at 86, and is Chair of the Thor Heyerdahl Institute. Presumably she has someone else to answer the phone.

There's also an article about Robert Taylor, the movie star turned television star, currently in charge on NBC's series Robert Taylor's Detectives. Moving from the life of "one of the great matinee idols of all time" to a routine, gritty police series, will probably make him a millionaire (he has half ownership of the show), but it wasn't just the money that caused him to turn to the small screen. It had been a while since he'd had a hit movie and, he comments, "nobody wants me." He viewed a move to TV as "the next logical step." It's refreshing, considering the many profiles we see in TV Guide over the years, to run across someone as normal as Taylor; says a friend, "all these years, under all that Hollywood glamor, he's been been nursing a chronic inferiority complex." Gary Cooper and Clark Gable were big stars, but he was just Robert Taylor "He could always see why Mickey Rooney was so popular, but his own popularity was a mystery to him." Concludes his friend, "He's always acted like the only man in the world who never heard of Robert Taylor."

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In news and rumors, For the Record reports that network bosses, not surprisingly, were unimpressed with Newton Minow's recent "Vast Wasteland" speech; Frank Stanton at CBS says it's "sensationalized and oversimplified" and a "gross distortion," while NBC's Robert Sarnoff worries about government control and describes Minow's criticism as "a dangerous, mistaken and illiberal doctrine."

And finally, there are some tidbits in the TV Teletype that I thought were worth looking at. ABC's Target: The Corruptors! looks at one of the biggest corruptors of them all, Communist China. "Jack Klugman stars in a story about how the Red Chinese smuggle narcotics into this country to undermine our society." Notice that us of "our" society again. The nighttime version of Password moves to Tuesday nights, with Garry Moore and Carol Burnett as the first contestants; that means Dick Van Dyke moves to Wednesdays, and Mrs. G. Goes to College to Thursdays, where it takes over for Investigators, along with a new Groucho Marx show. Last but not least, the aforementioned Steve Allen, whose ABC series is in ratings trouble, is being mentioned as a possible replacement for Jack Paar when the latter signs off from Tonight. "Also mentioned for the job are Johnny Carson and Bob Newhart." Hmm, Newhart would have been interesting, don't you think? Would have been a shame to lose Bob and Emily, though. TV  


  1. It's amazing how many of those Christmas episodes on are YouTube. From what I can see, everything but the project 20 and the 77 Sunset Strip.

    1. I know. And the audio of the Project 20 is available - I realize that considering it's mostly about paintings, that's missing something, but I think there's some merit to using it as background if you can identify and locate the paintings online.


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