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?

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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.

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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?

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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: 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.)


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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. 

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  

4 comments:

  1. "The Outsider" was given a father by creator Roy Huggins four years later and McGavin was replaced by James Garner.

    The first cross-over character in daytime, Mitchell Dru, appeared on three different soaps on two different networks over a nine year period. They were still talking about him four years after he had left town on AW in 1975.

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    1. I considered THE OUTSIDE what Universal gave NBC in place of what they really wanted...a COLUMBO series, in the wake of the success of PRESCRIPTION:MURDER--but Peter Falk had no interest in the traditional series workload

      Paul

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  2. I remember watching Nixon's inauguration, sitting on the floor in the grade-school library, craning my neck at the TV that was rolled in on a giant cart for us to watch. I don't believe they explained to us what we were looking at, and like Huntley and Brinkley, we got bored with it, although probably faster than they did. Bearly.

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  3. Just discovered this blog; very nice, especially the TV Guide posts.

    The first Barefoot in the Park pilot with Philip Clark and Skye Aubrey was broadcast as a segment in a first-season episode of Love American Style, which is available on DVD. (It's on the Season One, Volume One set.)

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Thanks for writing! Drive safely!