January 5, 2019

This week in TV Guide: January 3, 1970

It's not only the start of a new year, it's a whole new decade, and something about the 1970s seems to contain the promise of exciting, dynamic change. After all, we've already landed on the moon; can the world of The Jetsons be far behind? TV Guide takes advantage of the occasion to devote this entire issue to a look at what the future has in store; namely, "a startling communications revolution that will change the way you live." Three of TV Guide's best—Neil Hickey, Richard K. Doan and David Lachenbruch—have talked with experts to find out more about this Communications Revolution: what it entails, and how it will "alter life in America." For the most part, their predictions have come true—not all of them in the decade of the '70s, and not all of them in the way that was forecast, but I think you'll agree that their view of the future is at least as good as that of, say, Gene Roddenberry.

Your Home Wired for Sight, Sound. This will come primarily from cable TV, which will still be in its infancy during the '70s, but will eventually provide most American homes with 50 or 75 channels, providing not only minority-interest programming, but "handing the family's varied needs via special hook-ups with stores, ban, airlines and post offices; plugging into college-credit courses for home study; reading the day's newspapers off the face of the tube and receiving automatic print-out copies of pages one wishes to preserve; tapping the almost infinite resources of computer-fed storage banks for data on every imaginable subject." In other words, the internet.

The World Will Become a Village. Satellites will unite the world's communications systems, and I don't think anyone would disagree that this has come true; predictably, however, TV Guide's experts saw this as providing more than entertainment, thinking of the potential for world leaders to hold joint summits on vital issues with the world's viewers tuning in. However, notes Comsat's Dan Karasik, "By the end of the 1970s, I can't think of an event of any importance that won't be on television world-wide." True dat.

Add ERV, SV to Your Stock of Initials. What does this mean? For ERV and SV, substitute DVR. Check another one off the list of correct predictions. One expert predicted that eventually, "TV cartridges may be sold as paperback books or phonograph records are sold today." They also think the TV will be used to transmit things called "facsimiles," which are already widespread in business. I think this might be one area in which technology moved even faster; I had a fax machine at home, but by the time it became practical for everyone, email attachments might already have taken their place.

Programming? A Mystery. Prime time movies might be cutback due to a shortage of Hollywood features that can be shown on TV (because of their sex and language content). Because of the cyclical nature of programming trends, formats that are currently on the outs, such as crime shows, Westerns, and action-adventure dramas, will likely come back. Well, got 'em al; except the horse operas. Here's one that's flat-out wrong, although we couldn't have known it at the time: NBC's program head Mort Werner says TV will never reach the levels of violence it had before, say, RFK's assassination; and that the networks will never adopt the BBC formula of series running for limited lengths of, say, 12 weeks. And here's one that's right, but for the wrong reason: TV viewing will decline sharply—they say it will be due to bland programming, but they couldn't possibly have known about social media.

The News: Space May Be The Story. Not outer space, but the amount of space devoted to news on the networks. Most experts see news expanding, but nobody predicts all-news cable stations. And actually there is a lot of talk about the space program and how it will be covered; live pictures of Mars and Venus will come from unmanned vehicles, and activities on space stations will be covered heavily. It's true that we'll be fascinated by the pictures coming from Mars and beyond, but they're wrong that manned space exploration "seems secure, at least through Apollo 20, by which time the astronauts will be staying on the moon for days at a stretch, and chugging over the lunar surface in vehicles." Yes, but if you can't remember Apollo 20, you're not alone...

Public TV 's Future Hinges on Funds. Duh. Although John Macy, head of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, thinks it would be swell to have Senate and House sessions opened to TV cameras. They have been, but again, nobody had expected C-SPAN.

We Must Move Information, Not People, Things. Very true. You don't need a library when you can call up books online, for example. This idea of bringing information to the people, rather than the other way around, will help alleviate traffic, overcrowding, and pollution. Even more important is the ability of individuals "to choose for themselves what they will know and with whom they will communicate." That's perhaps the truest statement of them all.

All in all, I'd say the future envisioned in this article has more or less come to pass. Now, as to whether or not it's a good thing, I'll leave that up to you.

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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..

Sullivan: Ed's scheduled guests are the Temptations, Oliver, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, New York City Ballet dancer Jacques d'Amboise, and comedians Scoey Mitchell and Rodney Dangerfield.

Palace: Host Bing Crosby presents Met soprano Mary Costa, Sergio Franchi, the Establishment, singer-dander Leland Palmer, comics Patchett and Tarses, pantomimist MacRonay, and the Kuban Cossicks, folk dancers.

We're in the waning days of this type of big-name variety show; The Hollywood Palace will air its final episode next month (its upcoming cancellation is noted in this week's Teletype), and Ed Sullivan will be off the air by the summer of 1971. From now on, the type of variety show we see will fall back on the comfortable template popularized by stars from Garry Moore to Carol Burnett, Dean Martin, and Glen Campbell: a recurring cast, one or two guest stars, and a mix of musical acts and comedy sketches. Programs like Sullivan and The Palace, with their roots in vaudeville and musical comedy revue, will be a thing of the past, And there's nothing wrong with that; it's getting harder and harder to find a lineup of guests that can appeal to the increasingly diverse viewing audience, to both the rock 'n' roll generation and their parents.

Palace gets off to a strong start, with strong-voiced singers Costa and Franchi, but even with Der Bingle as host, the lineup tails off. Ed doesn't have the strongest lineup himself, but it's consistent, and it runs the gamut from Roy and Dale to Dangerfield to Oliver.  The verdict: comfortably Sullivan.

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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. 

I've always thought that My World—And Welcome to It, the William Windom sitcom based on the writings of humorist James Thurber, was a show ahead of its time; people didn't really know what to make of its combination of live action and animation. Now we come to Cleveland Amory, a man who complains often in his reviews about the lack of creativity and imagination on the nation's television screens. Perhaps now we'll be able to determine the truth about My World: misunderstood genius, or pretentious gobbledygook?

The problem, according to Amory—and here, in my use of the word problem, we should have a tipoff to Amory's verdict—is that the witty, light satire of Thurber is a poor match for the heavy-handed unsubtlety of television, with its temptation to take any good idea and do it to death. And indeed, the slapstick humor prevalent in My World not only kills Thurber, "it also kills the whole point of the show." Cleve cites an episode in which John Monroe (Windom), the show's Thurberesque hero, is stuck helping his daughter with her homework. We wind up, says Amory, with "one of themost sophomoric, overdone, tasteless sketches we have ever seen—of a drunken Grant and an idiotic Lee at Appomattox*—and went on from there with an almost equally overdone and unfunny scene when the artist Walter-Mittys up a sexy school teacher."

*Makes you wonder what Amory would have made of The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer, doesn't it? Actually, I think I already know the answer to that.

This is the kind of thing that plagues every episode of My World that Amory has seen, and that's a shame, for this show has such promise. Did things improve, later on? Did the show begin to find its rhythm, to figure out how to handle Thurber? Hard to say; I don't know that Amory ever voiced any other opinions on it, and My World disappeared after the one season. But for Cleve, it's a downer, because television needs a program whose hero is a grumpy misfit, and unless the show improves, "a fine cast will have labored in vain."

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This issue seems to be about endings and beginnings, and nowhere is this more apparent than on Sunday, when we see the last NFL Championship game of its kind, and the last AFL Championship game ever.

At 11:00 a.m. MT on CBS, the Cleveland Browns take on the Minnesota Vikings in Bloomington, Minnesota for the NFL championship. That's not quite the prize it used to be though, not since the advent of the Super Bowl; as the Baltimore Colts found out last year, the NFL title doesn't mean a thing if you lose the Big One. Next season the two leagues will be the first under the NFL-AFL merger, and this game will become the National Football Conference championship. By any name, the Vikings dominate, earning their first Super Bowl birth with a 27-7 victory.

It's not quite the same thing in Oakland at 2:00 p.m. on NBC, where the Raiders will be hosting their archrivals, the Kansas City Chiefs, in the tenth and final AFL championship game. There's always been a keen sense of identity in the underdog AFL, and the Raiders and Chiefs are two of the original eight teams that started out challenging the establishment ten years ago. Even though the Super Bowl is the big game, there's a great deal of pride and honor in being the last AFL champion, and it seems right that it should come down to these two bitter rivals. In a hard-fought battle, the Chiefs—after having lost to the Raiders twice in the regular season—come out on top, 17-7. 

This special commemorative electric football game
honors the final NFL-AFL Super Bowl
Kansas City will beat Minnesota in that Super Bowl, 23-7. For the Vikings, it is the first of four Super Bowl appearances in a span of eight years, all of them losses; it's symmetry that the Chiefs, having lost to Green Bay in the first Super Bowl, now bookend it with a win in the last NFL-AFL showdown. For the Super Bowl, the merger is the beginning of an evolution into not just the biggest sporting event of the year, but a cultural institution—one to which neither the Chiefs nor the Vikings, after that dominant stretch, have returned since.

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Endings and beginnings. Rosemary Prinz, who for twelve years starred as Penny Hughes in the CBS soap As the World Turns, makes her return to daytime television as the star of Agnes Nixon's new serial, All My Children, which makes its debut Monday on ABC. The event is heavily hyped in this issue, with ads appearing daily in the listings. Although Prinz only remains with the show for six months (by design), All My Children remains a staple of ABC's daytime schedule until 2011.

Let's see, what else is there? Well, Bob Newhart hosts A Last Laugh at the 60's at 8:00 p.m. Thursday on ABC. It's a look back at the decade in comedy, including a roundtable discussion with Newhart welcomeing Don Adams, Richard Benjamin, Godfrey Cambridge, Buck Henry, and George Schlatter. There are also performances by some of the decade's biggest names, including Carol Burnett, John Byner, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, and Tiny Tim, as well as an appearance by the late Lenny Bruce's daughter, Kitty.

On Friday, CBS enters the made-for-TV movie arena with a story that requires going back to the beginning in order to find out the ending. It's Sole Survivor (7:00 p.m.), based on the 1958 discovery in the Libyan desert of the U.S. bomber "Lady Be Good," which had disappeared in 1943. Vince Edwards and William Shatner are the present-day investigators looking into what caused the crash, and Richard Basehart is the sole survivor, a general with secrets of his own. The Twilight Zone presented its own version of the "Lady Be Good" story in 1960, in "King Nine Will Not Return." You can find out how it all ends by checking Sole Survivor out on YouTube.

Wednesday NBC goes into the past and stays there, as Milburn Stone (Doc in Gunsmoke) hosts the latest Project 20, "The West of Charles Russell." (9:00 p.m.) Russell was one of the greatest Western artists, a friend not only of Will Rogers, but Fred Stone, Milburn Stone's uncle. At left is one of Russell's most famous paintings, "Lewis and Clark Meeting the Flathead Indians," which hangs in the Montana state capitol in Billings. Seeing as how this week's issue is from Montana, I thought including this would be appropriate. Before that, at 8:00 p.m., Alan King hosts the year's first Kraft Music Hall, with guests Michele Lee, Paul Lynde, and David Frye.

Judith Crist gives a rare rave to ABC's Sunday movie presentation of The Naked Prey (7:00 p.m.), produced, directed, and starring Cornell Wilde as a white hunter himself being hunted by African tribesmen. Crist calls it "an extraordinarily exciting chase movie" and "a stunning survival story" that's not for the squeamish.

Finally, the end is coming for The Huntley-Brinkley Report later this year, with the rumored retirement of Chet Huntley. What does NBC have in mind for the beginning of the new era? Well, if Richard K. Doan is to be believed, the favorite to join up with David Brinkley just might be Joe McGinniss, author of The Selling of the President 1968. Frank McGee and John Chancellor are among those on the short list, according to an NBC insider, but "the fact that McGinniss's name is the only new one on the list of replacement candidates seemed to suggest McGinniss might have an inside track." He doesn't have any newscasting experience, but he's become "quite experienced before talk-show cameras, where he has been plugging his book." Now, I've read McGinniss's book, I've read about the reaction to McGinniss's book, I've read about Chet Huntley. I've never, however, read anything to suggest that McGinniss was ever a contender to take over from Huntley, so a note like this is of real interest to me, if only for the curiosity value. As it happens, there was no direct successor to Huntley, per se; NBC first tried a rotating anchor chair with Brinkley, McGee and Chancellor, but after a few months settled on Chancellor as the sole anchor, with McGee taking over The Today Show, and Brinkley offering commentary. Brinkley would return to the anchor chair with Chancellor for three years in the late '70s, and in 1982 Tom Brokaw would take over. I guess this proves that network news can't be anchored by just any old Joe... TV  


  1. The episode that Mr. Amory describes from MY WORLD was the pilot episode, which I've seen myself, and the main character, John Monroe, was a bit prickly at the beginning to take, but he softened a bit as the show went on. Here's a great look back at the sitcom and the network battle going on between NBC & CBS at the time:

    "King Nine Will Not Return" was the TZ 2nd season premiere in 1960 (not 1959), and it's probably the best acting I've ever seen from Bob Cummings, but he was working from a very good script.

    1. Fixed, thanks. Agree on both points about Bob Cummings (you've watched "Love That Bob!" Hal Horn; if you're reading this, do you agree?), although I also thought he was very good in the Studio One version of "12 Angry Men."

    2. Cummings is great in Saboteur.

  2. The Montana Edition of TV Guide is unique as it was the only edition to have stations from three different time zones(Mountain [The Entire State Montana], Western [Spokane/Coeur D'Alene Idaho], and Central [Williston, North Dakota]). However, at the time of printing, 1970, Williston would not have been in this issue, and won't be for at least a few more years.

    The channel bullets for the most part follow a logical pattern. Black bullets with white digits are used for most of the Montana stations except for Ch. 8 KPAX-TV Missoula (CBS-ABC) Channel 5 KGAN-TV (CBS,NBC,ABC), the US smallest market in population, and Channel 3 KYUS-TV (NBC,ABC). White bullets with black digits are for the Spokane TV stations as well as those from Montana I previously mentioned (KPAX,KGAN,KYUS). The reason for those three stations in white bullets is that they repeat channel numbers with black bullets, hence the change. Finally, the white bullets with three black background stripes and white digits with a black outline (striped) are used for the Salt Lake City channels.

    I actually have a couple of TV Guides from Montana. Looking at the channel directory, all of the Montana stations had to cherry pick from all three networks, since all of the TV markets in Montana only had two available stations. That is why Spokane and Salt Lake City stations were included. So, if you wanted to watch the entire line-up from ABC in Montana, for example you need either a deep fringe antenna angled towards Spokane or Salt Lake , or a CATV service which picked up those stations.

    Given that you (Mitchell) probably already have tomorrow's lineup page already set for publication,it begs the question, "Are you going to attempt to do those striped bullets?" ;)

    1. Sean - no, I am not! ;) I did think about it, though. Some of those stations had pretty interesting programs...

  3. So ... am I back?

    After almost three weeks?

    We shall see ...

    Regarding Cleveland Amory's review of My World And Welcome To It:

    Sitting here at my newly repaired laptop (I hope), with my copy of the Library of America's collection of James Thurber's stories and drawings.
    Turning now to page 253, in the section containing stories from Thurber's 1935 book, The Middle-Aged Man On The Flying Trapeze - where we find the story "If Grant Had Been Drinking At Appomattox".
    Of course, I'll have to check out my bootleg DVD of My World to see how closely the TV show stuck to Thurber's text (the story's only four pages long, but if my memory serves, they usually stuck pretty close to Thurber when they could).
    Here's what surprises me: apparently, Cleveland Amory, one of the biggest snobs to ever do a critical stint anywhere, didn't know that the Grant piece was real Thurber - of more than thirty years vintage.
    Now that's strange ...
    ... or don't you think so?

    As I mentioned, I've been offline for almost three weeks now, so I'll be a while catching up; bear with me - and Happy New Year.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!