January 12, 2019

This week in TV Guide: January 11, 1969

There is no mention of it on the cover, no story on the inside, no viewer's guide with recipes for the parties held on the big day. Instead, at 3:00 p.m. ET on Sunday, January 13, there is just a simple listing: "Super Bowl." It's accompanied by a full-page closeup containing the lineups of the two teams: the AFL champion New York Jets, and the NFL champion Baltimore Colts.

It is, of course, one of the most celebrated football games ever played, and one of the most consequential. When the Jets defeated the Colts 16-7, the result catapulted Jets quarterback Joe Namath from simple stardom to a cultural fame so pervasive that the remnants of it continue to this day. It gave a final, unmistakable credibility to the American Football League, and an abject humiliation to the National Football League, ensuring that the AFL would never again be thought of as a junior partner in the professional football business (an equality sealed the following season with Kansas City's victory over Minnesota). If Baltimore's victory over the New York Giants in the 1958 sudden death championship game had established pro football as a major league sport, the third Super Bowl game guaranteed its place in the pantheon of American pop culture.

Did you ever notice the NFL logo on
this program is wrong?
It was a very painful experience for my eight-year-old self; as observant readers may recall, the Colts were my second-favorite team, next to the invincible Green Bay Packers. Oh, I enjoyed the AFL a great deal; it's just that when push came to shove, my allegiance was squarely with the Colts, as it had been with the Packers, and as it would be the following year with the hometown Vikings. The defeat was a bitter pill to swallow, and as the outcome became evident in the waning minutes, my frustration overcame me and I bit the coffee table in exasperation, leaving an impression of eight or ten teeth in what must have been rather soft wood. (It was still there nearly 30 years later, when the table was sold, although Old English Leather does wonders with hiding the defects.) I don't need to go into the sordid details, nor the ramifications of said action, but it gave me a lifetime animus toward Namath, who must surely be the most overrated player in the Hall of Fame—statistically he was a lousy quarterback, his lasting contribution being due more to what he did for the AFL (as well as his off-field activities). It left me unimpressed with Colts coach Don Shula, who clearly didn't have his team prepared. It even made me resent the Miami Dolphins in a sort of guilt-by-association, simply because they played in the Orange Bowl, site of the debacle. Well, there's no accounting for pre-teenage reasoning.

And yet there's nothing particularly remarkable about it in this issue. The full-page closeup is no more than that given to the first two Super Bowls. The Seagram's ad urging viewers to "Watch the Game with a Friend" is the same one that appears for every big sporting event. That ad for Chap Stick is there because it's the official lip balm of the National Football League, not the American. There's no indication that this game is more important than any other championship game. It doesn't dominate the pages; there are no variety shows built around it, no Super Bowl-themed episodes of any regular series, and if, for some absurd reason, you were to skip the Sunday listings, you wouldn't  know anything was going on. It's not even in prime time, for heaven's sake. Actually, it's all kind of nice, don't you think?

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From 1964 to 1970 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: Tonight's broadcast originates from Circus Circus in Las Vegas, where Ed's scheduled guests are Gina Lollobrigida, who sings and dances; Don Rickles; singer Jerry Vale; the Chambers Brothers, singer-instrumentalists; the Nitwits, comedy-instrumental group; juggler Rudy Cardenas; and various circus acts.

Palace: Host Jimmy Durante is joined by Ella Fitzgerald, tenor Sergio Franchi, pop singer Marvin Gaye, comedian Pat Cooper, the Tahiti Nue Revue and the rocking Society of Seven.

One would think you'd have to come up with a fairly good lineup on Palace to top Gina Lollobrigida, especially with Don Rickles and Jerry Vale. As it happens, Palace does have a pretty good lineup. Ella Fitzgerald, for one thing—I suspect she's a better singer than Lollobrigidia, you know? Sergio Franchi and Marvin Gaye make for a nice supporting group. And then there's the Society of Seven, which I'd never heard of, but sure enough; here they are, along with Franchi.

It's a close call, but ultimately I have to give the nod to the Palace by a Durante nose.

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.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. 

When I was young, Gilligan's Island was a staple of my after-school viewing on Channel 11. It would be no surprise, therefore, that when The Good Guys premiered on CBS, I recognized Bob Denver as "that guy from Gilligan." (I don't think my memory went as far back as Dobie Gillis back then, or at least not enough to associate Denver with Maynard G. Krebs.) But as far as Cleveland Amory is concerned, Bob Denver is just fine as Rufus Butterworth, the taxi driver and best friend to Herb Edelman's hamburger-stand-owner Bert Gramus.

It's not true, says Cleve, that nice guys finish last, nor that a happy company makes a bad picture. "These nice, happy guys may not finish first, in the ratings or their jobs, but they make a fine picture—if not every week, at least most weeks." The premise of the series is an old one: "the little man up against the big bad world and trying to keep the big bad wolf from the door." But, as Amory points out, the story is so old that it seems new again, and that's an advantage in a season where so many shows seem to be slick and with-it.

Edelman and Denver are on their game, especially in an episode which features Rufus talks Bert into doing a television commercial for his stand, only to see Bert flub line after line in rehearsal, and finally freeze up altogether when the commercial runs live, forcing Rufus to step in and do all the talking himself. Amory calls it "one of the funniest half-hours we've seen all year." Coming from Cleve, that's high praise indeed. The Good Guys is never a hit, but it does last two seasons, which is one season more than many of the series we see in this space.

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What do we have to look forward to watching this week?

Saturday sees the return of the Pro Bowlers Tour on ABC (3:30 p.m.), another of the artifacts from a bygone era. Yes, I know bowling is still on TV, but without Chris Schenkel it's just not the same. Elsewhere, The Mod Squad's Michael Cole is the guest on The Dating Game (ABC, 7:30 p.m.), while Hogan's Heroes's Larry Hovis guests on The Ghost and Mrs Muir (NBC, 8:30 pm.) as well as appearing on his regular show (CBS, 9:00 p.m.), which features as its guest the always-delightful Ruta Lee. Later, Edward G. Robinson is part of the cast in the late movie The Outrage (12:20 a.m., KYW) and also Hell on Frisco Bay (12:30 a.m., WGAL); the former stars Paul Newman in the lead, and features William Shatner in a smaller role.

On Sunday, Wonderful World of Color has the first of a three-part presentation of the 1964 movie Those Calloways (7:30 p.m., NBC), and what's significant about this is not the story in particular, but a remarkably recognizable cast, a veritable Who's Who of past, present and future performers from both TV and movies: Brian Keith (Family Affair), Vera Miles (Psycho), Brandon de Wilde (Shane), Walter Brennan (The Real McCoys), Ed Wynn (The Ed Wynn Show), Linda Evans (Dynasty), Philip Abbott (The FBI), John Larkin (The Edge of Night), Parley Baer (Chester on the radio version of Gunsmoke), Frank de Kova (F Troop), and Tom Skerritt (Picket Fences). Not bad, hmm? If, that is, you have anything left after the Super Bowl.

On Monday, ABC boasts a lineup consisting entirely of specials, including "the heartwarming, but sometimes frustrating, experience of adopting a child," narrated by Maureen Stapleton; a documentary profile of Olympic champion skier Jean Claude Killy; and an "in-depth probe" of the problems facing American cities—congestion, poverty, traffic, pollution—narrated by George C. Scott. But let's talk about the night's opening special, The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau. (7:30 p.m.) Robert Higgins' profile of Cousteau gives us a slightly different view of the explorer than what we're used to hearing; Higgins refers to the famed explorer as "tense, bone-thin," with "a queer, acid-idealistic anger at a great many things." He refers to money as "a necessary evil" and speaks of the rich as "the dirtiest of pigs. Totally dishonest. They were human beings when they were poor, but they have forgotten." He prefers poets and philosophers to scientists, who have lost the humanity to understand what their own discoveries mean. Civilization, he says, is "degenerating." "I am bored with the Negro problem as I was with the Jewish problem after the war. They are of vital interest to those concerned, of course, but they are merely ripples in the global sense." Indeed, concludes Higgins, "one is almost inclined to suspect that he prefers animals and fish to human beings."

Tuesdsay night is the NBA All-Star Game (8:30 p.m., ABC), live from Baltimore—back when Baltimore had a team, that is, before they moved to Washington. I was going to list some of the more recognizable names in the game, until I realized that they're almost all recognizable: Bill Russell, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry West, John Havlicek, Oscar Robertson, Elgin Baylor, Elvin Hayes. Many of the players wound up in the Hall of Fame and several of them became coaches; Jerry Sloan and Lenny Wilkins are in the top five in all-time coaching wins. Dave Bing was elected mayor of Detroit (and the city declared bankruptcy during his term—ah, we can't be winners all the time.

Wednesday night we have another of those things you'd never see today: a prime time network presentation of a black-and-white movie that isn't named It's a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street. It's the television premiere of the 1959 thriller Compulsion (9:00 p.m., ABC), based on the 1924 Leopold-Loeb murder case, known as the "Crime of the Century." Judith Crist calls it a "taut and tense movie," with "remarkable" performances from Bradford Dillman and Dean Stockwell as the two thrill killers, and Orson Welles "simply unforgettable" as the Darrowesque defense attorney. There's also a very strong supporting cast. I don't know that I've ever seen this movie; perhaps I should check it out here. Doubtless some will say it compares unfavorably with Rope.

Even though it's January, we're not quite through with Christmas yet, as Bob Hope proves on Thursday (8:30 p.m., NBC) with highlights of his annual Christmas visit to the troops serving overseas, including his fifth straight trip to Vietnam. Whenever you talk about Bob visiting the troops, you're bound to notice the women: this year he's joined by Ann-Margret, Linda Bennett, the Golddiggers, singing group Honey Ltd., and Miss World Penelope Plummer. Oh, football star and singer Roosevelt Grier and comedy trampolinist Dick Albers are along as well. (More on Hope in a minute.)

On Friday, Dick Cavett is the guest host on The Tonight Show (11:30 p.m., NBC). Ironic, isn't it, since by the end of the year he'll be competing against Johnny on ABC. However, as Richard K. Doan reports, ABC's plan right now is still for Cavett to move from his five-a-week morning show to a three-a-week prime time series. That does happen in the summer, with Cavett appearing at 10:00 p.m. on Monday, Tuesday and Friday nights. It's not until the network's negotiations over a new contract for Joey Bishop break down and Bishop walks off that Cavett winds up with the late-night spot.

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Richard Doan also reminds us that Cable TV is still coming, as it has been for years now—he's betting the gold strike will finally occur in the '70s, and he'll be right. Hollywood columnist James Bacon authors that story on Bob Hope's fortune, in which he pegs Hope's worth at anywhere between $150,000,000 and $500,000,000. (That's right: a half-billion dollars.) Hope is irritated that none of these magazine pundits have asked him how much he's worth; he tells Bacon that "If I sold my land today, I'd be worth $100,000,000—a dollar more, a dollar less." Of course, adds Bacon, if Hope were to wait until next year to sell that land, at the rapidly expanding real estate boom in California, it might be worth twice that. And then there's his stock, the oil wells in Texas, radio stations in Puerto Rico, plus his shares of the Los Angeles Rams and Cleveland Indians, not to mention his movie and TV enterprises. He's an incredibly shrewd businessman who makes his own decisions on investments, and has been buying land since the '30s, most of which has increased in value a thousandfold. Which suggests to me that the answer to ending the Vietnam War (and Hope's annual trips overseas) might be staring us right in the eyes: he should just buy Vietnam. With any luck, he might be able to interest the Disney people in building a theme park there. TV  


  1. Great memories with this Guide, Mitchell. Thanks to NFL Films, they were able to piece SB III together. While the results of the game were earth shattering, the game itself was not exactly well executed...

    1. Thanks as always! You're right about the game - I had the chance to see a copy of the TV broadcast a few years ago, when I could watch it without fuming too much, and were it not for its historical significance, it wasn't really so hot. One has to wonder what Lombardi's Packers might have done with either team...

  2. Mitchell, I hope your baby teeth survived biting that coffee table. Coincidentally enough (but not so much), SB III was played 50 years ago today. Since then the networks have discovered the benefits of pushing the Super Bowl into the Sweeps month of February. I got a copy of NBC's broadcast of SB III from a tape trader, but the copy isn't all that good. The SB didn't have all the glitz & nonsense of today either, more of a simple game.

    Here's a link to Cleveland Amory's full review of THE GOOD GUYS if anyone wants to read it from the horse's mouth, so to say:

    I remember Jacques Cousteau most for his ABC Friday night specials that often preempted BRADY BUNCH & PARTRIDGE FAMILY in the early 70s. I don't remember paying much attention to them, but I'm sure someone in my family did. I'm guessing from the channel numbers on the ad that you're looking at a Philadelphia TV Guide this week, with channel 6 ABC in Philly & channel 27 ABC in Harrisburg.

    1. Ah, I only wish they'd been baby teeth back then! :) Is your copy pretty much the same one that's out on YouTube?

      You're right about the location! Stay tuned for tomorrow!

  3. I wonder if Cavett's 3-nights-a-week prime time talk show did ABC any better than NBC's JAY LENO SHOW did some 40 years later. NBC thought it could save lots of $ by filling 5 hours of primetime a week with this show and avoiding the cost of dramatic series, but instead from what I've read it alienated producers of these series, and it also hacked off its affiliates, who were getting bad ratings lead-ins from Leno's show.

    1. Dick Cavett's 3-a-week was a summer placeholder, nothing more; ABC was basically using him as a "threat" to keep Joey Bishop in line (he'd been threatening to quit - which he finally did at year's end).
      Exactly what ABC would have done with Cavett had Bishop not quit is open to speculation.

  4. Agreed. Here's a good read from ESPN. http://www.espn.com/blog/new-york/jets/post/_/id/78767/50-years-later-joe-namath-co-still-relish-win-that-changed-everything

  5. I was a Colts fan as well but I also loved the AFL as I had grown up with it, being 15 in 1969. My dad, who had actually sat through some NY Titans games, pulled for the Jets...

  6. I'd have given the nod to Sullivan this week because I love glimpses of Vegas in the 1960s. It was a classier town back then, even at the low-rent Circus Circus.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!