January 28, 2019

What's on TV? Wednesday, January 29, 1964

As I mentioned on Saturday, this is probably my favorite TV Guide, and I feel as if I know most of the programs in this issue intimately, so many times have I read it over the years. Long before I got into the collecting and writing business, I found in this issue a fascination with the television of my time and yet before my time, and I really think that it's been the most influential factor in developing my habits of viewership and study. Whether or not that's a good thing is for you to decide, I suppose. Although the Saturday review was a repeat from a few years ago, today's listings, which come from the Minneapolis-St. Paul edition, are brand new. Let's get to it!

January 26, 2019

This week in TV Guide: January 25, 1964

It's time once again for a dip into the archives of past TV Guide articles. I mentioned my current (un)employment situation a couple of weeks ago, which means that the Hadley TV Guide collection is undergoing its own type of shutdown. Hopefully this series of reruns will only last a couple of months (if you'd like to loan an issue for the cause, please email me), but in the meantime please enjoy a look back at issues we've enjoyed in the past. As always, the Monday TV listings feature will be new!

If I numbered the TV Guides in my collection, this would be Volume 1, Issue 1. Not only was it the first TV Guide in my collection, it was the one that introduced me to a brand new world, a whole 'nother way of thinking. It was The Land That Time Forgot, even though I didn't.

I’ve mentioned in past discussions of the JFK assassination that my mother used to save things for me, things that she thought I’d want to look at when I got older. The afternoon Minneapolis Star was one of them, with the headline “President Slain”; this TV Guide was another. It contained a special section, “America’s Long Vigil,” an in-depth look at television’s coverage of the assassination and its aftermath, with a special forward by President Johnson.

I was three years old at the time of this issue, January 25, 1964. The section begins in the front section of the TV Guide, just before the local programming section. As a matter of fact, readers are told that they “will have an uninterrupted section to keep if they remove the programming pages after those pages have served their purpose.” I don’t know why that wasn’t done in this case; probably it was just easier to save the whole thing.

I always knew where my mother kept the TV Guide, and eventually I tucked it inside the front cover of another book she’d bought, William Manchester’s The Death of a President, one of the best books on the JFK assassination. As I grew older and more interested in history – this was, after all, the seminal news story of my young life—I’d pull the book down from the shelves from time to time and read bits and pieces of it. Never from cover to cover, oddly enough; although I’ve read the book several times since then, I don’t think I’ve ever read it straight through.

Anyway, my interest soon focused on the television coverage, and I probably read that special section dozens of times, trying to imagine what it must have been like to see it as it happened.* And in the course of reading that section, I’d also read through the programming listings. Eventually, once I knew the JFK section forward and backward, my prime focus became the programs. It was like opening a door to a new world, the world of the past—not the distant past, but my past.

*Little knowing that one day I’d be able to see it all for myself, thanks to TV retrospectives, YouTube clips and various collectors. It was particularly exciting when I’d recognize a portion of the coverage from having read about it, to the point that I knew what they’d be saying next. Some of it was anticlimactic, some quite different from what I’d imagined, but most was even more dramatic than I’d hoped for. It was also interesting to find out that TV Guide’s writers got some of it wrong, but that’s another story.

Some of the listings rekindled memories. Hey—I remember when Combat! was on! And Whirlybirds! And Sea Hunt, and The Twilight Zone! I remember those sinister, silhouetted figures on Kraft Suspense Theater! And the Saturday morning shows, like Alvin and Fireball XL-5, and that episode of The Jetsons when George and Mr. Spacely go to the robot football championships (in a domed stadium, no less! I used to watch Mr. Wizard and G-E College Bowl! And Ted Mack and his Original Amateur Hour – round and round she goes, and where she stops, nobody knows!

In other cases there were shows I’d never seen or heard of, but they captured my attention. The Eleventh Hour. Route 66. The Bell Telephone Hour. The Greatest Show on Earth. They looked interesting, they sounded interesting. There was no way of telling from the listings whether they were any good or not, so I just assumed they were all classics. How could I ever have imagined that one day I’d be able to see so many of them and find out for myself?

Would I have developed the consuming my consuming interest in classic television if I hadn't had this TV Guide? Possibly; there were many issues I saved over the years, even before I started my collection. I used to cut out Close-Ups that caught my eye (mostly football games), and I always loved watching TV. So perhaps it was bound to happen whether or not my mother had saved this issue.

But the fact is that she did, and here we are. Myself, I think this TV Guide instilled the curiosity in me, the wonder at what was, the desire to recreate the past and recapture its memories. Even today, when I flip through the pages, I'm assaulted with those memories. Memories of the shows, memories of the early 60s—and memories of reading about them in this TV Guide. Sometimes it's that memory that's best of all.

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Back in the day, the St. Paul Winter Carnival Grande Day Parade was televised on three of the four local stations, along with a pre-parade show. It seems ridiculous now to think they'd devote that kind of time to it (I don't even know if there is a Grande Day Parade anymore), but there it is in black-and-white*, just as I remembered.  And the cool button in the Close-Up—the only thing cooler than that was the day, many years later in an antique store, when I found an actual button with that very image. (No, I didn't buy it - I have enough junk now; what would I do with that?)

*Except for Channel 5, which colorcast it.

The button in color
There was a thread at the Radio Discussions message board asking for reader input on "Once great stations that have fallen from grace." The examples were too numerous to mention here, but they all seemed to have a common denominator: the disappearance of local programming. Think about it: many TV stars got their start on local variety programs. There was coverage of local events, local sports shows (which I discuss below), and those marvelous kids' shows that so many of a certain age can remember. There were local movie hosts, afternoon talk shows, and news commentary. To a great extent, those are all gone.  The reasons are complicated and would fill several books, but the end result has been a loss of connection between local stations and their communities. The early pioneers of television saw the medium as one way to connect people, to bring together shared interests; too often, it has had the opposite effect. We may all live in one big world, connected in so many ways, but we're still in our own separate cubes, and the medium that has brought us closer together has left us further apart than ever.

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During the 60s, the Ed Sullivan Show and The Hollywood Palace were the premiere variety shows on television. Whenever they appear in TV Guide together, we'll match them up and see who has the best lineup..

Ed Sullivan: Scheduled guests include actors Van Heflin and Sidney Blackmer, Carol Lawrence, Country and Western singer Eddy Arnold, comedienne Totie Fields, and soprano Shirley Verrett.  Heflin and Blackmer appear in a scene from their current Broadway success "A Case of Libel," by Henry Denker.

Hollywood Palace: Host Ernest Borgnine is joined by two of his "McHale's Navy" cohorts, comedians Carl Ballantine and Joe Flynn.  Other scheduled performers: Tony Bennett, dancer Eleanor Powell, South African singer Miriam Makeba, the Levee singers, songstress Vicki Carr, comics Pepper Davis and Tony Reese, and the Norbu novelty gorilla act.

Hollywood Palace had just started on January 4, replacing the disastrous Jerry Lewis Show*, so this was only the show's fourth episode.  It's probably not surprising that the producers depend on the trio from one of ABC's hit comedies.  There's real star power in the rest of the cast, making for a very attractive show.  Although I can't speak from personal appearance regarding the Norbu group.  I tried to find a clip of them, but I guess my luck in that arena ran out with Victor the Bear last week.

*As we're reminded by Mrs. William Mega of Grand Forks, N.D., who in a letter to the editor writes that the first Hollywood Palace episode, with host Bing Crosby, illustrated "the difference between a show-off and a showman."

Ed is, as usual, solid. Appearances by Broadway and opera stars in recreations of their current hits was a common occurrence on Broadway columnist Sullivan's show. The tuxedo-clad Arnold was one of the classiest singers around, one of the first "Country and Western" crossover stars, and a frequent host on Kraft Music Hall later in the 60s. Totie Fields was very funny, and Shirley Verrett was one of the first great black opera stars. This show has no weak links.

Nevertheless, I was leaning toward the Palace this week until my wife informed me that she couldn't stand Vicki Carr, whom she places between the over-emoting Connie Francis and the screaming Barbra Streisand. On that basis, knowing what's good for me, the decision is easy. Verdict: Sullivan.

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The entertainment show of the week might have been NBC's Bell Telephone Hour's tribute to Cole Porter, hosted by Ethel Merman. I was always fascinated by the Close-Up for this broadcast. I'm not entirely sure why; it wasn't as if I was a big fan of either Cole Porter or Ethel Merman back in those days. Part of it might have been producer Charles Andrews' promise that there'd be so many songs they'd be posting the numbers "like a ballgame score." Always thought that would be fun to see.

Looking back on it now, the show is just as fascinating, albeit for different reasons. We get so used to tributes to long-ago entertainers, but in fact the legendary Porter was still alive at the time of this live color broadcast, although he hadn't written a new song in some time and would die nine months later.

This was another show that, for most of this issue's life, would have been a long-gone memory - but now you, can check it out for yourself..

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Sports story of the week is the opening of the Winter Olympics Wednesday night on ABC. The network paid just under $600,000 to broadcast 17.5 hours of coverage over 12 days from Innsbruck, Austria, with nightly one-hour highlight shows and extended coverage on the weekends. Tapes of the day's events are flown to New York, where they're rebroadcast that same night.

The 1964 Winter Olympics were the first broadcast by ABC; over the next 24 years the network became synonymous with the Olympics, showing either the Summer or Winter Games (and many times both) every four years, with their last hurrah being the 1988 Winter games in Calgary. Over that time, the Winter Olympics would expand to 16 bloated days*, and ABC's coverage increased to 94.5 hours—for which they paid $309,000,000.

*17 days now, with Friday being devoted to the prime-time Opening Ceremony.

For the United States, the 1964 Winter Olympics would be less than memorable, coming away with only one gold (speed skater Terry McDermott), and six medals overall. The most famous member of that team was probably one who didn't medal: the 15 year-old figure skater Peggy Fleming, who finished sixth in 1964, would go on to one of the greatest careers in women's skating, retiring in 1968 with three world championships and gold in the 1968 Olympics.

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Nowadays ESPN brings us something like 6,000 college basketball games a week, and other networks offer us the NFL, the NBA and the NHL on a saturation basis. However, the most popular sporting event on TV in January 1964 was: bowling. There was, of course, the Pro Bowlers Tour on ABC Saturday afternoon (this week: the Hialeah Open, with a first prize of $4,000). On Sunday afternoon, CBS counters with the National All-Star Bowling Tournament, live from Dallas, featuring both men and women bowlers. Later on Sunday afternoon, indy station WTCN has the syndicated Championship Bowling, with John Guenther taking on Bob Kwolek.

But there was a lot of local bowling as well; WCCO, Channel 4, had a show called Bowlerama that aired at 12:15 Sunday afternoon, and another called All Star Bowling, which was at 10:30 Sunday night, following the late local news. These live shows pitted various local bowlers against each other, originating from bowling lanes throughout the metro area, most of which don't exist anymore. There's no description for Bowlerama this week, but All Star Bowling was broadcast from my home lane, Diamond Lake Lanes in South Minneapolis. I wasn't a big bowler, although I enjoyed watching on TV, but I did roll a few frames at Diamond Lake—I think the last time was around 1988 or so. Alas, it too has gone, replaced by a grocery store and a generic strip mall.

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In last week's issue we looked at a preview of possible new shows for the upcoming fall season, and there's a similar article this week. There seem to be a few more hits than misses in this issue—perhaps the networks were farther along the line in choosing their fall shows. CBS, for example, touts a new sitcom starring Bob Denver and taking place in Hawaii - Gilligan, which would acquire an Island somewhere down the line and become an enduring cult favorite. CBS also introduced The House, a political drama with Richard Crenna, which would wind up as Slattery's People and go on to critical acclaim and mediocre ratings. The Jones Boys, starring Mickey Shaughnessy, which was called one of CBS's "top projects," never even made it to the IMDB.

NBC was taking a look at Please Don't Eat the Daisies, based on the book and subsequent movie starring Doris Day. The series made it, but with a different star: Pat Crowley instead of Eleanor Parker.  Robert Vaughan's new spy series, Solo, made its way to the screen as The Man From U.N.C.L.E.. Kentucky's Kid, Dennis Weaver's first post-Gunsmoke series, same to the screen as Kentucky Jones, and left the screen 26 weeks later. Two shows that survived the whole season with both stars and title intact were The Rogues, with rotating stars David Niven, Charles Boyer and Gig Young; and Flipper, with a big fish.*

*I know—mammal.

ABC's big money project was Alexander the Great, starring William Shatner. The series didn't make the cut; whether because of quality or cost remains a question. Another failed idea was Royal Bay, starring Charles Bickford, Joan Crawford and Paul Burke. Burke made it, though, in another ABC newcomer, Twelve O'Clock High. Also surviving was Richard Basehart's underwater vehicle Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, and the cartoon adventure series Jonny Quest, while a Bing Crosby medical drama, The Healers, was apparently DOA. Wendy and Me, starring George Burns and Connie Stevens, found a place on the fall schedule, but perhaps shouldn't have.

Looking back at articles like this is always something of a crapshoot—for all the stories about how CBS chose Lost in Space instead of Star Trek, it's almost impossible to say whether or not any of the shows that didn't make it in 1964 would have been better than those that did.  I guess that's the fun of it. TV  

January 25, 2019

Around the dial

Well, we haven't had quite enough of lists yet, so I'll start this week off at Comfort TV, where David comes up with one I really enjoy: the 10 most iconic costumes in classic TV. 

As you know, I appreciate a good TV Jibe here from time to time, so naturally I enjoy Jodie's linkage of Bill Keane and Dave Garroway at this week's Garroway at Large.

What was I watching Joan Collins in the other night? Ah yes, The Persuaders! (You really should try that series out sometime.) Anyway, follow the Joan Collins line long enough and you're come to The Colbys, the Dynasty spinoff that's the subject at Realweegiemidget. 

The Late, Great Kaye Ballard, indeed: a wonderful remembrance of the star of television, movies, and Broadway, who died this week, over at A Shroud of Thought.

Would you pay $89.95 for a VHS copy of Hot to Trot? That's what it would have cost in 1989; find out about that and more in the latest installment of A Year in TV Guide: January 21, 1989 at Television Obscurities.

At Bob Crane: Life & Legacy, Carol continues the campaign to elect Bob to the National Radio Hall of Fame. If you only know him from Hogan's Heroes, go over there to find out there's a lot more to learn.

More to learn tomorrow about TV Guide, so be sure to come on over. TV  

January 23, 2019

My turn: my little list of classic TV programs

Groucho Marx as Ko-Ko in "The Mikado," Bell Telephone Hour, 1960
The task of filling up the blanks I'd rather leave to you. 
But it really doesn't matter whom you put upon the list, 
For they'd none of 'em be missed — they'd none of 'em be missed! 
(CHORUS)
You may put 'em on the list — you may put 'em on the list; 
And they'll none of 'em be missed — they'll none of 'em be missed!

- Groucho Marx (and others), The Mikado

You may recall that last Friday, I shared with you the results of the Classic TV Blog Association's list of the Top 25 Classic TV Programs of all time. (Classic being defined as anything which appeared in prime time and started before 1990.) It's generated comments, not only at our respective blogs, but in Twitter discussions as well. In passing along the list, I refrained from sharing my own thoughts, other than to say that some of my shows had made the final count, some had not. However, a number of you were quick to jump on this; you weren't going to let me get away so easy without putting my own choices on the line.

Fair enough, I thought; and then, like any writer, I figured I might as well get my money's worth, or at least get another post out of it. I really didn't plan this though, and I don't mean to make anything sound like second-guessing or criticizing. As I generally say, the fault in cases such as this is probably mine.

As many of you probably know, a list of my own Top 10 programs appears on the menu; but I could use this as a consideration only to a point. For one thing, some of the shows are post-1990 (so there! to any of you who think I only live in the past); for another, it's highly personal on my part—to the point, some of you might say, of eccentricity. I mean, no matter how much I might love The Alvin Show, I'm not going to put it on anyone else's list. Because of that, I threw out the rankings of the remaining shows altogether and decided to start from scratch.

A word on the methodology: each of us was first asked to submit a list of ten nominations, from which a list would be compiled. That would then be winnowed down in a final, ranked vote, to produce the final list of the top 25. As I mentioned, one proviso was that we could take the historical or artistic significance of programs into consideration; in other words, this wasn't necessarily a list of our favorite programs, but the programs we thought were the best. To this I'll add that I permitted a small conceit of my own, which was that I would not list a program that I didn't like. I was OK with voting for a show that wasn't a particular favorite, but I wouldn't compromise myself more than that. Well, I'm a TV historian, but I've never pretended to be completely objective.

Enough blabbering, I hear you saying—let's get on with this! And so we shall. I'll give you my lists first, followed by explanations where necessary. We'll start with my ten nominations; keep in mind that this is in no particular order:
  1. Naked City
  2. The Twilight Zone
  3. Perry Mason
  4. The Prisoner
  5. What’s My Line?
  6. The Fugitive
  7. SCTV
  8. Rocky & Bullwinkle
  9. Police Squad
  10. The Ed Sullivan Show
When the nominations had been whittled down, I submitted this as my final list, in order of preference:
  1. Perry Mason
  2. The Prisoner
  3. Doctor Who
  4. SCTV
  5. The Fugitive
  6. Dragnet
  7. The Twilight Zone
  8. The Ed Sullivan Show
  9. Alfred Hitchcock Presents
  10. The Defenders
For comparison, here are the top 10 of the list of 25 that the CTVA produced:
  1. The Twilight Zone
  2. I Love Lucy 
  3. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  4. Columbo
  5. All in the Family
  6. Dragnet
  7. Monty Python’s Flying Circus
  8. Star Trek
  9. The Prisoner
  10. M*A*S*H
Having seen all these lists, I'm sure you have some questions:

I sure do. First of all, where's Lucy?

Fair enough. You remember how I said at the outset that I couldn't vote for a show that I didn't like? Well, at the risk of sacrificing any credibility as a TV historian, not only don't I love Lucy, I don't really like her. Not her, not the show. Something about her just grates on me, and it always has. But I don't begrudge people who do; this isn't a case of someone voting for, say, My Mother the Car as the greatest show ever. That one you'd have to defend, but not Lucy. Besides, I knew she'd be on the list anyway whether I voted for her or not.

Well, that's not a good reason, but at least it's a reason. But why don't you like The Twilight Zone? Have you got something against science fiction?

No! I've got it right there, at #7. As a matter of fact, I've also got Doctor Who on my list, as well as The Prisioner (but we'll talk about that later). At it's best, TZ is unquestionably one of the greatest. If we were to limit it to the show's first three seasons, I might have put it at #1 myself. But see, that's the thing. Rod Serling could be poetic, incisive, literate—even at his worst, he's most of those things. But he can also be didactic, strident, and lazy. Some of his scripts beat you over the head, again and again, to make a point. As I mentioned in my Top 10 review of TZ, "Those stories are painful enough when first viewed; they become almost impossible to watch again, and when you run into enough episodes like that, it can make it very difficult to enjoy and appreciate a series." The first couple of times through the series, I wasn't familiar enough with each episode to recognize the ones I liked as opposed to the ones I didn't like, so it was a voyage of discovery. Now, though, when I can pick and choose which ones to watch, I find that I'm skipping too many of them to make it #1 on a list of mine. Put another way: this is a series I liked a lot more when I was younger than I do today.

How do you justify Perry Mason as #1 on your list?

Well, that's a case where I've indulged my prerogative to combine "excellence" with "entertainment." Was Perry Mason great art? I don't know that I'd go that far, although I think it does say quite a bit about the American jurisprudence system, not to mention the integrity required from an officer of the law (I go into this more in The Electronic Mirror). As I've mentioned in the past, it's a series that takes quite seriously the concept of the single-combat warrior. But besides that, it's fun—even though I own the DVD set, I still watch the MeTV runs of the show whenever I don't have to get up early the next day. Unlike Twilight Zone, I don't get tired of them after repeated viewings.

Any shows you think were overlooked?

I think The Fugitive ought to have been in the top 10. It's perhaps the best-written drama series that's ever been on television, and David Janssen delivers one of the most compelling performances TV has ever seen. Not to mention the idea of the nation's most-famous convicted murderer becoming the nation's #1 most-wanted criminal. The Fugitive invented a whole genre of television.

I can't believe that Naked City didn't even make the final list, let alone the top 10. It's also one of the best-written programs ever, and it gives us a noble presentation of what a policeman's job really is, a reminder that they truly are public servants. (I suspect that were they real, they'd be appalled by how today's detectives look at the public with contempt.) At its best, which is often, it touches on existential questions that TV has rarely done, then or now.

And Rocky & Bullwinkle (or whichever title you prefer)—well, it's perhaps the most brilliant satire we've ever seen on TV (and that includes SCTV). The way cartoon characters are used to say things that humans could never get away with is pure genius.

Speaking of SCTV, that should have been in the top 10 as well. I can't tell you how many times I look at shows from the 1980s on, on those YouTube channels that show you the opening credits from programs of the past, and find myself wondering if this is real, or SCTV.

I nominated The Ed Sullivan Show not because Ed was a great talent, because he wasn't. He did have an eye for talent, though, or at least was willing to take a chance on something that he believed his audience might like. If you want a cross-section of America at any given time, just look at the guest lists on Sullivan.

What programs made the list that you really want to rip?

Steady, now. As I said, I'm not questioning anything here. None of the shows were, I thought, indefensible, but under the category of programs that I don't like, in addition to Lucy I'd have to add M*A*S*H, Mary Tyler Moore, and All in the Family. If I'm being honest, they ought to be on a list, although maybe not as high as they are here. But M*A*S*H is too dated and way too sanctimonious for me, and as far as All in the Family is concerned, if I want to see people screaming at each other, I'll watch Fox News. I should add that I have nothing against MTM; after all, she did bring Minneapolis into the big time. I'm just not that high on sitcoms per se, and of those that do work for me, I'm a much bigger fan of Hogan's Heroes or Police Squad!

Any do-overs that you'd like?

Well, I do like Columbo; I just didn't have the room. Same thing with Python, which is almost as absurd as SCTV. And as several people mentioned on Twitter, there should have been at least one Western on the list somewhere. Maverick came up several times, as did Gunsmoke, and I think either one of them would have been at home on the list—probably Gunsmoke, if I were to choose again. There probably ought to be a private detective series on there as well, at least if we're talking about television history. The Rockford Files, for example, can look dated because of the clothes and hair, but Jim Garner's performance is never dated.

I think lists like this are fun, and as I mentioned last week, I'd still take this list over those that are produced by "experts" that think any show that was on more than 10 minutes ago is passé. So now it's your turn to go after me—but please be gentle. TV  

January 21, 2019

What's on TV? Sunday, January 19, 1969

Well, here we are back in Philly again, back-to-back weeks. (I'll bet these two issues came from the same lot.) The professional football season finally comes to an end, with both leagues playing their all-star games, one week after the Jets' titanic Super Bowl upset of the Colts. If you're not in the mood for pigskin, there's also hockey, and if you want something a little brainerer, you can check out G-E College Bowl. Let's see what else there is.

January 19, 2019

This week in TV Guide: January 18, 1969

It's the dawn of a new era in American politics, with the Inauguration of Richard Nixon and Spiro Agnew as President and Vice President of the United States. Out with the old, corrupt LBJ administration, and in with...wait, how did that all work out again?

United States on SoftBank   United States on SoftBank   United States on SoftBank

Inauguration coverage starts at 10:00 a.m. ET on all three networks, and continues throughout the day, featuring the swearing-in at noon, the parade throughout the afternoon, and the inaugural balls following the late local news. For the first time, networks discuss the idea of providing political analysis of the president's inaugural address; as NBC producer Robert Shafer says, "I've felt the Inaugural has been covered in the past too much like a sporting event. I'd like to give this one more historical perspective."

Network anchors admit a decided lack of enthusiasm for the parade, which, Chet Huntley says, is "kind of a bore." His colleague David Brinkley is more delightfully pungent: "Every state demands to be seen in it, so it always drags on three hours or more, going into absolute darkness, and nobody can see the end of it." Concedes Walter Cronkite, "how can they [cut it out]? It's one of our ceremonials."

Security is expected to be tight for the parade; President Nixon will be riding in a new limo with bulletproof windows and, like LBJ in 1965, will be seated behind bulletproof glass in the review stand. The glass will make it impossible for famed cowboy actor Monty Montana to duplicate his 1953 trick of lassoing President Eisenhower. And once again there's the ghost that's present by its absence, something that happened between Eisenhower and Johnson that caused the increase in security, the bulletproof glass and limo. Five years later, it still hangs overhead.

United States on SoftBank   United States on SoftBank   United States on SoftBank

And now, as Paul Harvey would put it, the rest of the story: the man to the right of Nixon in the Close-Up is Earl Warren, Chief Justice of the United States, whose duty it is to administer the presidential oath. Warren, wanting to ensure that his successor shared his liberal judicial views, had announced his retirement in June 1968 in order to allow President Johnson to nominate the new Chief. That man, Associate Justice (and LBJ confidant) Abe Fortas, would come under intense fire for alleged ethical violations and, after a contentious Senate filibuster, his nomination would be withdrawn.

Warren, stymied in his efforts to, frankly, manipulate the situation, agreed to remain on the bench until the next term (which wouldn't begin until after the election), in a deal in which his son-in-law acted as intermediary. His son-in-law was none other than John Charles Daly - the same John Daly who'd been host of What's My Line? for so many years and then moved on to head Voice of America, and had married Warren's daughter Virginia in 1960. Small world, isn't it?

United States on SoftBank   United States on SoftBank   United States on SoftBank

During the 60s, the Ed Sullivan Show and The Hollywood Palace were the premiere variety shows on television. Whenever they appear in TV Guide together, we'll match them up and see who has the best lineup..

Ed Sullivan: Tentatively scheduled guests: Liza Minnelli; singer John Davidson; Gary Puckett and the Union Gap; the Lennon Sisters; comedians Wayne and Shuster, and Scoey Mitchell; and Victor the Bear.

Hollywood Palace: Roy Rogers and Dale Evans present a country show.  Guests: Burl Ives; George Gobel; "Beverly Hillbilly" Irene Ryan; singers Sonny James and Jeannie C. Riley; and the Stoney Mountain Cloggers.

Hmm. Both shows have strong lineups. Liza Minnelli was well on her way to a great career, and the Canadian comedians Johnny Wayne and Frank Shuster* appeared on the Sullivan show 67 times, more than any other guests. As for Victor the Bear - well, you be the judge.


*Frank Shuster's uncle was Joe Shuster - co-creator of Superman; Frank's daughter Rosie was for a time married to Lorne Michaels and served as one of Saturday Night Live's chief writers at the beginning (thanks, Kliph!) We're just full of tidbits like that this week.

The Palace has a big-name lineup, but this week's show is mostly country, and I'm not a big fan of country. Still, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans! Legends! My verdict is The Palace, bearly.*

*Oh, brother.

And now, a bonus track: Chuck Braverman's short film "The World of '68," first seen on 60 Minutes. but airing this week on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, broadcast right after Ed this Sunday. (The Brothers' other guests include Ray Charles and Jackie Mason.)


United States on SoftBank   United States on SoftBank   United States on SoftBank

.Throughout the 60s and early 70s, TV Guide's weekly reviews were written by the witty and acerbic Cleveland Amory. Whenever we get the chance, we'll look at Cleve's latest take on the series of the era. 

Any time you have to spend more than half of a television review going over the premise of the show you're reviewing, I think you've got a problem. Or, according to Cleveland Amory, the network has a problem. And while you wouldn't think that explaining the setup for ABC's Land of the Giants would be that big a deal, it is. That's because every one of the "little people" that find themselves stuck in the land of the giants has a story: the financier (Don Matheson) trying to complete a multi-million dollar deal; the criminal (Kurt Kasznar) with a million dollars in stolen loot; the angry jet-setter (Deanna Lund) who complains about the lousy service.

And about the service: one of the things I find most hilarious about sci-fi stories taking place in the future is how much they get wrong. In this case, our heroes find themselves in the aforementioned giantsville because it's 1983, and their London-bound suborbital flight runs into trouble. Granted, these alternative universes only happen in sci-fi stories, but here we are in 2019, 36 years after Land of the Giants is supposed to have occurred, and we still haven't cracked suborbital passenger service, although Richard Branson is hard at work on it. Maybe he was the financier stuck in the land of the giants.

There are good guys and bad guys in Land of the Giants, and that doesn't make it much different from other programs on TV. Among the best of the good guys are the pilots, Gary Conway (who had much more to work with in Burke's Law) and Don Marshall, whose problems, in addition to having landed their passengers on the wrong planet, seem to revolve around basic survival. Then there's the stewardess (Heather Young) who has her own problem, as Amory points out: "In addition to sharing all the troubles the others have, she also is almost constantly strangled by her size-1 sweater." The characterizations are, for the most part, somewhat cartoonish, which goes for the series as a whole. Says Cleve, "if you're under 11, you're bound to enjoy this show. If you're over 11, lots of luck." Or, perhaps, lots of Heather Young.

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Darren McGavin, star of NBC's Wednesday night private detective series The Outsider, is an outsider in more ways than one. Digby Diehl tells us that McGavin has a reputation for being egocentric and difficult to work with; says former costar Burt Reynolds (Riverboat), "Darren McGavin is going to be a very disappointed man on the first Easter after his death."  That's a very good line, very funny—I didn't know Burt had it in him.

Anyway, McGavin did several interviews for TV Guide in the 60s, and comes across as blunt, gruff, a straight-shooter who's free with his opinions and doesn't care whether you like them or not. A sampling: Mike Hammer, Mickey Spillane's famous detective, whom McGavin played for two years, was "a one dimensional person. Mike Hammer is of another era, another time. He's not a valid man in this world." Violence on television? "How can anybody seriously be surprised about violence on TV and movies or in ghettos and campuses when the United States Government is resolving a conflict today in Vietnam not only with violence, but more or less illegally." Gun control?  "Firearms, all firearms, should be abolished.  That includes sidearms and shotguns for the police. And then we would get rid of guns." He doesn't see it happening, though, as "the gun lobbies are too strong."

David Ross, the character McGavin plays in The Outsider, is one of the actor's favorite roles; the fictional man and the real one share a common background and characteristics. They're both outsiders, McGavin explains, having come up from broken families, spending time in jail, learning life on the streets. "[A]mongst herd animals in Africa a strange thing happens to an animal that has not had the normal herd experience, one whose mother is killed. That animal is always an outsider to the herd. They reject him inasmuch as he does not want to relate to the herd.  He develops his own path and ethic." No surprise that McGavin has a copy of Colin Wilson's existential study, The Outsider.

As for acting, McGavin acknowledges that the legitimate theater is his true love, but that "you can't go back and do play after play." For all of television's faults, "even in that context you can do something." And that is what he would do, for years to come.

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Leslie Raddatz gives us a sneak peak at what the networks might have in store for the 1969-70 season. According to his sources, five factors above all are at work influencing the programmers: 1) the national revulsion against violence in the wake of the assassinations of MLK and RFK; 2) the decline in audience interest in movies making the transition from theaters to TV; 3) the emergence of "Negroes" as a force in the entertainment industry; 4) the rising cost of filmed (as opposed to taped) programs; and 5) the popularity of half-hour sitcoms over hour-long dramas.

Crime, war and spy shows are out, and there are only two Westerns on the docket. A quick scan through the potential series yields a few tidbits: CBS has UMC, which with a different lead (Chad Everett instead of Richard Bradford) winds up being Medical Center; To Rome With Love with John Forsythe; and The Jim Nabors Show, starring (surprise, surprise!) Jim Nabors; NBC weighs in with a post-I Spy vehicle for Bill Cosby, which winds up being The Bill Cosby Show; The Whole World Is Watching, a drama about three lawyers that evolves into "The Lawyers" segment of The Bold Ones; and Flip Out, which becomes The Flip Wilson Show.  ABC doesn't have much, but the ones that stand out are The Courtship of Eddie's Father (with Bill Bixby); Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (with Monte Markham); and The Brady Bunch (enough said). Perhaps the most interesting story is Barefoot in the Park, based on the Neil Simon play, which was pitched to star Philip Clark and Skye Aubrey. Instead, the producers decided on an interesting tack: changing the leads and the majority of the cast from white to black. It winds up with Scoey Mitchell and Tracy Reed, and lasts for twelve episodes.*

*Barefoot in the Park was teamed up with another Neil Simon adaptation, which proved to be far more successful. Its name? The Odd Couple.

What doesn't wind up on our home screens doesn't bear much scrutiny; I never did see anything of Stefanie Powers (our loss) in Holly Golightly. We'll also never know what our lives might have been like had The Punxatilly Pioneer made it to the small screen.

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Now here's an interesting program, on KYW at 7:30 p.m. ET. David Frost hosts How to Irritate People, with a cast that will soon be far better known in the United States, including John Cleese as the Chief Irratator, with Ruffling Assistants Connie Booth, Graham Chapman, Michael Palin, Tim Brooke-Taylor, Gillian Lind, and Dick Vosburgh. I think tht's worth preempting The Jerry Lewis Show, don't you?

Game shows featuring celebrity participants, while not what they once were, are still to be found in the late 60s. Longtime warhorses such as What's My Line?, I've Got a Secret, Password and To Tell the Truth have all disappeared in the last year or two, destined to return in diminished form via syndication strip programming, but you can still find your favorite B-list stars throughout the daytime network lineup.

NBC has a morning trio, starting at 10:00 Eastern with Snap Judgement, featuring Tony Randall and actress Ina Balin*, followed at 11:00 by Personality, this week with Godfrey Cambridge, Joan Fontaine and Peggy Cass. At 11:30 it's the king of celebrity shows, Hollywood Squares, with Wally Cox, Henry Gibson, Arte Johnson, Paul Lynde, Rose Marie, Jan Murray, Tony Randall (again!), Kaye Stevens and Charley Weaver. The afternoon continues at 3:30 with an additional pair: You Don't Say!, with Pat Buttram and Alice Ghostley, followed by the original Match Game, with Ethel Merman and Nipsey Russell. And here's one I've never heard of before, ABC's Funny You Should Ask, this week with Stu Gilliam, Shecky Greene, Rose Marie, Tony Randall (does that man have time to do anything else?) and Kaye Stevens.

*Ina Balin also starred in the Jerry Lewis movie The Patsy, which ABC happens to be showing that Wednesday. 

If celeb shows aren't your thing, you could still appreciate NBC's Concentration, Jeopardy and Eye Guess, while ABC offers Let's Make a Deal, Dream House, The Newlywed Game and The Dating Game. You notice CBS missing from this list; the network, which today airs the only network daytime game shows, had axed all of their games by 1969, concentrating instead on sitcom reruns and soaps.

Speaking of the sudsers, there are plenty of those as well: General Hospital, One Life to Live and Dark Shadows on ABC; Love of Life, Search for Tomorrow, As the World Turns, Love is a Many Splendored Thing, The Guiding Light, The Secret Storm, and Edge of Night on CBS (they also had the only talk show, Art Linkletter's); and Hidden Faces, Days of Our Lives, The Doctors and Another World on NBC.

So for your daytime television viewing, you had 14 soap operas, 13 game shows, five sitcom reruns, one morning show (Today), one morning news show (CBS), a children's show (Captain Kangaroo), an interview show, and a partridge in a pear tree.* Six hours were given back to local stations (half of that from ABC, which didn't begin its morning feed until noon), although preemptions were common throughout the daytime lineup.

*Actually, I made that last one up.

By contrast, today's daytime lineup is thus: four soap operas, three talk shows, three morning shows (with Today now running an extra two hours), two game shows,  and 10 hours of local programming, most of which is filled with more talk shows, fake judge shows and the like.

I grew up with these shows, in the summer months when school was out, during Christmas break in the winter, and on those days when I was home sick.  I loved watching them - well, maybe not each individual one, but the concept of them.  Sure, some of them might have been cheesy, but I miss them.  If I had children, I'm not sure I'd let them watch daytime TV today.

I didn't like the soaps, but my mother did and so they were on.  She was partial to the NBC lineup, especially Another World.  I actually - and quite unintentionally - share my first and middle name with a character from that show (albeit with a slightly different spelling), but that's another story for another day. Say, that would be a great name for a daytime drama, wouldn't it? TV  

January 18, 2019

Around the dial

I'm not really sure just how much stock to put in lists, and that includes—perhaps especially—my own. They're always fun to read, though, which is why the Classic TV Blog Association, to which I proudly belong, recently polled its members on the 25 Greatest Classic TV Series of all time.

Part of the challenge with contributing to a list like this lies in the guidelines. In this case, programs were limited to those that aired in prime time, and debuted prior to 1990. We were also asked to consider criteria such as enduring popularity, social impact, and influence on other TV series. In other words, this isn't simply a list of favorite television shows.

  1. The Twilight Zone
  2. I Love Lucy 
  3. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
  4. Columbo
  5. All in the Family
  6. Dragnet
  7. Monty Python’s Flying Circus
  8. Star Trek
  9. The Prisoner
  10. M*A*S*H
  11. The Dick Van Dyke Show
  12. The Fugitive
  13. Dallas
  14. Doctor Who
  15. The Andy Griffith Show
  16. The Defenders
  17. The Golden Girls
  18. Perry Mason
  19. SCTV
  20. The Honeymooners
  21. Alfred Hitchcock Presents
  22. Hill Street Blues
  23. The Odd Couple
  24. The Outer Limits
  25. The Avengers

For the record, I believe two of my choices made the top 10, and there are perhaps a half-dozen in the top 25 that I definitely wouldn't have put on any list. A couple of them are shows that I didn't have, but heartily approve of; likewise, I grudgingly included two that I don't particularly like, but had to acknowledge their cultural and/or historical significance. Some of you might be taken aback by shows that I omitted, or equally surprised by those I included. (Being a coward at heart, I'm refraining from being any more specific than that.)

The Last Drive In, Comfort TV, and Classic Film and TV Café have particularly good takes on the results. Ultimately, though, television is, or at least was, something very personal to people—as I've written before, the most personal of all communications media. A particular program may bring back memories of where you were, what you were doing, or what was happening when you watched it, and something like that is impossible to quantify. If there's any program here that you've never seen before but are encouraged to check out because it's on the list, then we've done our job as curators of the past. What are your thoughts—where do you agree or disagree?

In other news...

It was 67 years ago this week that The Today Show premiered on NBC, and at Garroway at Large, Jodie gives us a look at what the critics had to say on the morning after. Hint: I doubt many of them thought we'd be having this conversation 67 years later.

The Hitchcock Project moves on to writer James P. Cavanagh, as Jack at bare-bones e-zine looks at the first season episode "The Hidden Thing." I'm afraid  I'll have to agree with Jack that what was most hidden in this episode was a satisfying resolution.

It's Bart Maverick's turn to lead on Maverick Mondays at The Horn Section, as Hal reviews the fifth-season episode "The Golden Fleecing." James Garner's long-since left Maverick, but Jack Kelly does his best in a good, but not quite great, evocation of the show's past.

At Cult TV, the emphasis is on the late '70s and the British police drama Target. As John points out, Target was a series known for its violence, and the episode "Blow Out" is perhaps one of the most violent, along with some suspect police methods.

The Broadcasting Archives at the University of Maryland links to this provocative article at Dazed on how Soul Train was "the most radical show on American television." Never watched it myself, so I appreciate this kind of serious analysis as to its cultural weight.

At Television Obscurities, Robert is once again taking on the task of documenting a year in TV Guide, from beginning to end. This time it's 1989, and since that's not a time period that I generally write about myself, I'm very much looking forward to these weekly recaps.  TV  

January 16, 2019

The Cincinnati legend and the legendary day

It's not my place to go telling you all out there about my problems (unless they have to do with TV), but I do have a point to this. Currently, I'm going through what people euphemistically refer to as a period between careers, when what they really mean is that someone is unemployed.

Anyway my current temporary assignment allows me to wear headphones while I work, which has enabled me to listen to David Von Pein's remarkable long-form audio from Cincinnati's WLW radio: 33 hours, documenting the broadcast days of November 22 and 23, 1963. The significance, of course, is obvious: the JFK assassination. But while that continuous coverage is interesting, what most intrigues me is what comes before the first bulletins are broadcast, a little after 1:30 p.m. ET.

To all appearances, November 22, 1963 was an absolutely ordinary day—it's only in retrospect that the sheer ordinariness of it all is apparent; at the time, nobody would have given it a thought, which is what makes it so engaging. And the most outstanding example of that is a live, 90-minute program which airs five days a week and is simulcast on WLW radio and WLW-T television, called The 50-50 Club, hosted by Ruth Lyons; you might recognize it from some of the Cincinnati-area TV Guides we've looked at. It has been said that history swallows up the ordinary folks, but the preservation of this particular program—the television version of ordinary folks, as it were—simply by circumstance, gives us a wonderful snapshot of its time, from popular music to an economy built around, and advertised to, the vast majority of women who stayed at home raising their children. It is an example of ordinary folks telling the history.

One essayist called Ruth Lyons the inventor of the daytime talk show, and that's a pretty fair description, I think. Doubtless she would be appalled by what has happened to her creation in the nearly 73 years since her program debuted in Cincinnati on February 5, 1946. It was called The 50 Club at first, because the studio audience was comprised of 50 women; the audience was expanded to 100 in 1953, when the show became known as The 50-50 Club. In addition to WLW-T, the show was also carried on the other three stations owned by Crosley Broadcasting, in Dayton, Columbus, and Indianapolis. In his 1988 obituary for Lyons, columnist Bob Greene gives you a pretty good idea of the impact The 50-50 Club had:

Sponsors had to wait a full year for a chance to advertise on her show; when they did, and when Ruth mentioned the product, stores could not keep the items in stock. There was a three-year wait for tickets to ''The 50-50 Club.'' And when Ruth Lyons noticed, during a visit to Cincinnati`s Children`s Hospital, that there was a lack of toys for the young patients, she said so. Over the years the fund she started brought in more than $12 million. John Kiesewetter, TV columnist for the Cincinnati Enquirer, remembers that when he was hospitalized as a 7th grader in Middletown, Ohio, the plastic model ships he received from Ruth Lyons` toy fund were the bright spot of his convalescence. And five years ago, when Kiesewetter`s own infant son was placed in an oxygen tent in a Cincinnati hospital, a toy from the same fund ''brought the sparkle back to his eyes.''

In 1957, Cincinnati mayor Charles Taft, proclaimed "Ruth Lyons Day"; WLW-T received 100,000 requests for tickets. The 50-50 Club was the top rated daytime television program in America from 1952 to 1964. I'd call that a pretty fair legacy, wouldn't you?

An add for the Ruth Lyons show in Broadcasting Magazine, March 18, 1963
Back in the day when nightclubs were still a vital part of American entertainment, Cincinnati had one of the most famous, the Lookout House. This meant that every entertainer doing the circuit had to pass through Cincinnati, and if you were passing through Cincinnati you had to appear with Ruth Lyons on The 50-50 Show. Arthur Godfrey, whom you can see cavorting with Lyons at the top of this piece, was there, as were Bob Hope, Andy Williams, Hugh O'Brien, George Gobel, Jack Webb, Helen Hayes, Milton Berle, Bob Newhart, Vic Damone, Van Cliburn, Pearl Bailey—in fact, just about anyone with a nightclub act.*

*And even those who didn't, such as Henry Cabot Lodge, Oscar Robertson, Adela Rogers St. Johns and Hedda Hopper. If you were in Cincinnati for any reason, you were on with Ruth.


On the show of November 22, Lyons talks about Troy Donahue, who had just recently appeared on the show and had dined with the family. She and her daughter Candy were very impressed with him; he was a nice young man, and he seemed genuine. This day's audience contains members of a "Twins Club"—women who'd given birth to twins; another group present is called the "Secret Sisters Club." One woman in the audience has 12 children, ages two to 20, and hardly looks old enough for that to be possible.

The show is in the midst of its Christmas Fund drive, Ruth Lyons' lasting legacy, raising money for those toys that Bob Greene wrote about, distributed to hospitalized children during Christmas. (At this point, the contributions were in excess of $160,000.) Everyone in the audience donates, and then they sing "Do It Now" (to the tune of "Frère Jacques"), urging viewers to make their contributions "for the little children."  Sponsors donate prizes—pretty nice ones, in fact—for a drawing that will be held the following Thursday, Thanksgiving Day, from all those people who'd contributed to the Fund.

We find out that Lyons is a big fan of Cole Porter, whom she calls one of America's greatest songwriters (Porter is still living at this point; he doesn't die until August, 1964), and Porter's songs factor significantly in an interactive segment she conducts with the audience. There are other songs and games, and everyone has a good time; your ticket to the show specifies the date, and so it's completely by chance that audience members are part of the November 22 program.

The 50-50 Club was the last regularly scheduled program that aired on WLW radio that Friday, in its customary noon-1:30 p.m. timeslot. Shortly thereafter, just as the afternoon program "Tune Time" was to begin (on tap: the original cast recording of "Lil' Abner"), a bulletin came into the WLW newsroom with the first details of an unknown sniper firing three shots at the presidential motorcade in Dallas, Texas. A subsequent bulletin from WLW features a couple of technicians speaking in the background; it would have been hilarious had it not been so traumatic. Kennedy's been shot, one man says, to which the other replies, the President ? (It could have been his brother, the Attorney General, targeted by an angry henchman of Jimmy Hoffa; but his time had not yet come.) After that, Ruth Lyons and her Christmas Fund and the upcoming drawing on Thanksgiving day are about as far away from your mind as you can get.

Cincinnati mourned Lyons' death in 1988; here's the story as it was broadcast on Cincinnati's WLWT.


It's ironic, don't you think, that one of the anchors on WLWT's news is Jerry Springer?

There are tributes to Ruth Lyons, features on Ruth Lyons, highlights of The 50-50 Club. But nowhere online do I see a copy, audio or video, of a complete show, except for this one. I'm sure that neither Lyons nor anyone else appearing on that show thought anything of it, imagined anything significant about it, had no reason to think that this particular show would live forever as a testimonial to a 21-year run. But when you think about it, this wasn't just any show—because of the timing of the news bulletins, we hear the entire program; because Kennedy's assassination occurs in November and not, say, April, we hear the campaign for the Christmas Fund.

We benefit from the circumstances, which tell the story of an extraordinary woman and her show, as broadcast on November 22, 1963. It was an absolutely ordinary day—until it wasn't. TV