April 13, 2019

This week in TV Guide: April 16, 1960

Wait, what's this? A new TV Guide—can it be? It can, and it is. Don't get too excited now; the employment circumstances still don't allow for new purchases (if you want to help, buy my books!), but this happens to be one I've had for awhile that I just haven't gotten around to—until now. Next week begins another brief cycle of encore presentations (most of them mixed with new content, to be sure), so enjoy this one while you can!

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Seeing as how I'm currently appearing on a podcast that's doing an episode-by-episode look at Bourbon Street Beat, it seems appropriate to kick off this week's issue with that story stripped across the top of the cover, and see just what kind of strange we're talking about.

Bourbon Street Beat is out of the Warner Bros. stable, to use a racing metaphor, a detective series in the mold of the studio's 77 Sunset Strip and Hawaiian Eye (with Surfside 6 still to follow) with a bunch of good looking guys living in exotic locations and solving crimes that invariably involve attractive girls. Some call these cookie-cutter shows, and there's more than a little validity to this, but originality has always taken second place to entertainment when it comes to television, and Warner has tended to produce some very entertaining series—among them, Bourbon Street Beat. It's set in New Orleans, stars Richard Long, Andrew Duggan, and Van Williams as the guys, and Arlene Howell as the girl, plus a fine cast of guest stars.

Actually, when it comes down to it, there's nothing particularly strange about Bourbon Street Beat at all. It's the way writer Bob Johnson frames the story, referring to a 1957 episode of the ABC anthology series Conflict called "The Money," noting that the entire cast of unknowns and semiknowns in the episode have since gone on to appear as regulars in various series. Included in that cast was the 6 foot 5 Duggan, who played a crooked private eye turned killer in "The Money," but has since gone straight as one of the good guys on Beat. It's the culmination of a career that has included radio, theater, movie and television work, including appearing as a killer on 77 Sunset Strip, and a three-episode gig as Gentleman Jack Darby on Maverick, both WB properties. He and Long work well on Bourbon Street Beat, and so far the show has raised ABC's Monday night ratings (although not enough to merit a second season).

So is there anything truly strange about all this? Well, not strange, perhaps—I'd probably say "ironic." A couple of weeks ago (1960 time), the show featured an episode called "Twice Betrayed." It's a remake of "The Money," except that this time Duggan's private eye solves the murder instead of committing it. Only in Hollywood, right?

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I've raised this point before, usually at Christmastime, but at the risk of beating a dead horse (and just why would someone do that, anyway?), this issue provides us with another example of the continuing disappearance of religion from popular American culture.

April 17, 1960 is Easter Sunday, but the seasonal selections actually begin on Saturday night with NBC's World Wide 60 color presentation of "The Way of the Cross" (8:30 p.m.),a documentary look at the world seen and heard by Jesus during His lifetime. (Capitalization in the original.) Come Sunday morning, it's time for church: CBS leads things off at 9:00 a.m. with a Solemn Pontifical Mass from the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C.; that's followed at 10:00 a.m. by an Episcopal service from the National Cathedral, also in D.C. On opposite that, KSTP has a color broadcast of the Easter High Pontifical Mass from St. Peter in Chains Cathedral in Cincinnati.* At 11:00 a.m., WTCN presents a local broadcast of services from the Simpson Methodist Church in Minneapolis.

*Both the 9:00 a.m. Mass in Washington and the 10:00 a.m. Mass in Cincinnati are scheduled for one hour. I've been to several Pontifical High Masses in my day, and I can assure you that they will not be done in one hour; 90 minutes is more likely. I wonder how the networks handled this?

At 11:00 a.m., the CBS Television Workshop presents "Tobias and the Angel," the Old Testament story from the book of Tobit. At 11:15 a.m., KSTP has a 15-minute program of Easter music by the St. Paul Central Senior High School chorus; that's followed at 11:30 p.m. by Richard Kiley as St. Peter in "The Power of the Resurrection." At 1:00 p.m., KROC in Rochester has "Kiss of Judas," the tragic story of Judas Iscariot, and at 5:30 p.m. Raymond Burr stars in a Resurrection story on KMMT in Austin. Finally, at 7:00 p.m. on NBC, Victor Jory introduces an hour of Easter music from Salt Lake City, including selections by the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the ballet corps from the University of Utah.

One other thought: The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King is Ned Brooks' guest on Meet the Press (5:00 p.m., NBC); I wonder if it's just a coincidence that Rev. King is appearing on Easter?

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It's also the start of baseball season, the last in the Twin Cities before the advent of the Minnesota Twins in 1961. There is no unified television contract between Major League Baseball and the networks; each team is free to make its own deals. All three networks offer weekend games; CBS carries a game each on Saturday and Sunday, with Dizzy Dean and Pee Wee Reese calling the action, while NBC matches the two-games-a-weekend schedule with Lindsey Nelson and former manager Fred Haney behind the mics. (In most cases, you'll see the same two teams on both days.) Over at ABC, it's only Saturday coverage, with Jack Buck and Carl Erskine covering a schedule made up predominantly of San Francisco Giants home games. For starters, this weekend CBS has two games with the Milwaukee Braves and Philadelphia Phillies, while NBC counters with a par featuring the Pittsburgh Pirates and Cincinnati Reds. ABC's game has the Giants hosting the Chicago Cubs from the brand-new Candlestick Park by the bay. And you won't want to miss the debut of Home Run Derby, which airs here at 10:30 p.m. Monday night on WCCO; they don't come much bigger than this battle between Mickey Mantle and Willie Mays.

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Starting in 1954, Steve Allen helmed his own NBC variety show which, at the beginning, aired opposite that of Ed Sullivan. It didn't run as long as Ed's, of course, but then Allen said his goal was never to conquer Ed, but to coexist with him, which he did for several seasons. Let's see who gets the best of the contest this week.

Sullivan: Ed's guests are gospel singer Mahalia Jackson; song stylist Roberta Sherwood and her three sons; Wayne and Shuster, who cavort as advertising men trying to popularize the income tax; singers Patricia Neway and Regina Sarfaty, who appear in a scene from Gian Carlo Menotti's opera The Consul, David Seville and the Chipmunks, novelty act.

Allen: Steve's guests are Charles Laughton, Martha Raye and singer Mark Murphy. Steve and Don Knotts, Louis Nye, Gabe Dell, Bill Dana and Pat Harrington Jr. join Martha in a sketch about the problems of a night club singer.

If you want to know how Ed Sullivan managed to stay on top for so long, tonight is a pretty good example: comedy, pop music, gospel, opera, and the Chipmunks—you're not going to find that combination very often. Menotti's opera The Consul, one of his best, won the Pulitzer Prize and opened on Broadway. I'll bet he never imagined it would share the same stage with Alvin.

But then Steverino's pretty good this week as well. I would imagine Laughton might be doing one of the readings that he became so famous for in the latter part of his career; maybe from the Bible, considering the time of the year. And his cast of regulars is almost without parallel. Still, although it's a close call, Sullivan gets the nod this week.

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What else have we got this week?

Tuesday's Startime (7:30 p.m., NBC) is an unusual episode. "Well, What About You?" produced by former movie honcho Dore Schary, is a star-studded, non-partisan get-out-the-vote variety special (and you thought "Rock the Vote" was original?) hosted by Eddie Albert and featuring Marian Anderson, Polly Bergen, Mike Wallace, Martin Gabel, Fred Clark, Joseph N. Welch (of Army-McCarthy fame) are among the stars, and they're surrounded by a host of politicians, including Nelson Rockefeller, Adlai Stevenson, and the spokesmen for both parties—who just happen to be Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy.

On Wednesday, Gene Fullmer defends his middleweight boxing championship against Joey Giardello from Bozeman, Montana. (9:00 p.m., ABC) Fullmer retains the title on a draw; he'll lose the title two years later to Dick Tiger.

DuPont Show of the Month (7:00 p.m., CBS), with Sandra Church (currently appearing on Broadway in the smash musical Gypsy) as the young Ruth Gordon Jones, along with Robert Preston, looking every bit as charming as Professor Harold Hill. In case you didn't know, Ruth Gordon had quite a writing career, including three Academy Award screenplay nominations, and a co-writing credit for the Spencer Tracy-Katharine Hepburn comedy Adam's Rib.

Ruth Gordon is known as one of America's finest stars of stage and screen, but Thursday night she makes a rare television appearance—or rather, it's her writing in the spotlight. Her autobiographical play, "Years Ago," is featured on the DuPont Show of the Month (7:00 p.m., CBS) with Sandra Church as the young Ruth Gordon Jones, starring opposite Robert Preston, looking every bit as charming as Professor Harold Hill.

Friday's Playhouse 90 special (8:00 p.m., CBS) has an intriguing story. "Journey to the Day" takes place in a state mental hospital, where six patients are involved in group therapy. John Frankenheimer directs, with a cast including Mary Astor, Mike Nichols, Janice Rule, Steven Hill, and James Dunn.

And finally, in New York, the TV Teletype reports that Jackie Gleason is flying Edward R. Murrow in from Asia and Mickey Rooney from Hollywood to appear as themselves in his new TV special "Million Dollar Incident," due to air next season on CBS. I've never seen this, and the reviews I've read have been mixed, but it sounds like a lot of fun. The premise: Gleason, playing himself, "is kidnapped and discovers nobody will pay the $1,000,000 ransom." How sweet it isn't? TV  


  1. Incredibly belatedly:
    Just looking around here when I noted the "Million Dollar Incident" item.
    So, I checked out IMDb to see about this show:
    Apparently, Gleason was unable to get either Ed Murrow or Mickey Rooney to appear in the show.
    If I read the cast list correctly, their functions were filled by Ed Sullivan and George Jessel, respectively.
    Hey, you can't always get what you want ...


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