April 27, 2019

This week in TV Guide: April 27, 1957

There’s discontent rising in the land, my friends, and it’s about to boil over. It pits neighbor against neighbor, city against city, network against network; and there’s no telling how far it may go before it’s done. I speak, of course, of: Daylight Savings Time.

Daylight Time was scheduled to go into effect for the year at 2:00 a.m. on Sunday, April 28. That is, in places where it was observed. And what a mess that was, as TV Guide points out. "Duluth, Minn., and Superior, Wis., lie right next to each other in the Central Time Zone.* Both receive programs from the same TV stations. During the winter, everything is fine. Come summer, Superior goes to daylight time; Duluth, however, stays on standard (unless the state legislature passes a new law). To which of the two times should programs be geared?"

*I can vouch for this, having been in Duluth before. The area is often referred to as "Duluth-Superior."

See, at this point both the federal and some state governments have left it up to local communities to decide whether or not to go on Daylight Savings Time. Minnesota, as a state, did not observe it; the legislature, however, was in the process of debating a law that would put Minneapolis-St. Paul and Duluth on it, leaving the rest of the state on Standard Time. This becomes a major issue for the networks, who are at this point still dealing with a substantial number of live programs. The advent of tape has helped things to an extent, but it's still confusing, as this example of the Ed Sullivan and Steve Allen shows illustrates. The shows are initially broadcast live at 8:00 p.m. in New York. New York follows Daylight Time.

Instead of being televised [live to other parts of the country], they are recorded on tape. The tape is held for three hours, then transmitted at 8 o'clock Los Angeles PDT. The tape is simultaneously fed back to stations in the Central Standard Zone for broadcast at the usual air time there of 9 o'clock and in the Mountain Standard Zone at 8 o'clock.

Do you have a headache yet? If not, consider that Seattle remains on Standard time, which puts it an hour behind Los Angeles. Seattle is frequent host to televised boxing. With an air time of 10:00 p.m. EDT, this means the main event must begin at 6:00 p.m. PST, with the undercard starting even earlier. As an NBC exec says, "What fight fan wants to watch a fight at 6 o'clock? He hasn't even had is dinner yet."

The effect of this national confusion isn't limited to TV, of course—airlines and railroads have to deal with the shifting sands of time as well. Whatever you have to say about Daylight Savings Time (I'm against it, personally), I think everyone can agree that things were much worse back then.

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As you can see from the cover, the feature story this week is on Groucho Marx, whose show You Bet Your Life is one of the top-rated programs on TV. Groucho was seldom at a loss for words, and this week's interview, conducted at Romanoff's restaurant by staff writer Dan Jenkins (not this one) is no exception.

Groucho on criticism of TV: "I don't see why everybody, including myself, should spend so much time criticizing television. I think television has done a remarkably good job considering the circumstances. If you were the advertising man entrusted with the spending of two or three million dollars, would you try to elevate the public or would you try to find yourself a good commercial show? When the public wants to be elevated, it will do its own elevating."

On Hollywood creativity: "People look upon Hollywood as a great outdoor lunatic asylum. This is not true. There are some very intelligent people in Hollywood—intelligent enough to know what all the rest of the lunatics want in the way of entertainment."

On appearing as a guest on other programs: "I've regretted most of the guest spots I've done. But for one of them, a four-minute spot, I got $25,000. How can I regret that? If somebody wants to spend his money that foolishly, I am quite happy to help him out."

On the unfairness of the TV ratings system: "The only way to judge a show's value is to examine the sales record of the show's product. I think I am safe in saying that De Soto [the car company that sponsored his show] barely existed in the public's mind before You Bet Your Life, and then only as a character who preceded Mark Twain on the Mississippi. I think they know now that De Soto is an automobile. I drive two of them myself, though not at the same time."

On the photographer suggesting Groucho might want to hide his drink before being photographed: "Why? And if it looks like tomato juice, tell 'em there's vodka in it. I don't see why I should hide the fact that I have a drink with my lunch. Let's order a drink for the photographer. He probably needs one more than I do."

On the future: "The future will have a TV screen covering your living-room wall. All in color." Lest this sound too scholarly, considering this has pretty much come to pass, he adds, "The set itself will erupt popcorn at regular intervals. They'll even send a man to your house to put his feet on your shoulders and provide background talking and paper rustling."

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Saturday morning's presentation of Winky Dink and You on CBS is the last show of the series, to be replaced the next week by Susan's Show, hosted by Susan Heinkel. Susan's Show debuted in 1956 on Chicago CBS affiliate WBBM before moving to the network a year later.* The premise of Susan's Show was pretty simple: using a magic flying stool, Susie would travel to mystical lands, where she would engage in adventures with her dog Rusty. In other words, pretty standard kids' TV fare.

*Chicago was a hotbed of television in the early days, and many series made the transition from local to national broadcasts.

By the way, did I mention that Susan Heinkel is 12 years old? Not only that, she's a show biz veteran, having started her career in St. Louis at the age of three, and she's a hit in Chicago, trailing only the Mickey Mouse Club in the daytime ratings. Notes the article, "Susan ad-libs commercials with astonishing poise." 


Think about that next time you get a bumper-sticker talking about how your kid's an honor student. Impressive, but does she have her own TV show yet?

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Starting in 1956, Steve Allen hosted 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 welcomes Lena Horne, singer; young actor Anthony Perkins, in his TV singing debut; Bill Haley's Comets; comedians George de Witt and Jack Paar; Apaka, Honolulu's top recording star; the Happy Jesters, instrumental group; Heidi, Toronto's adding dog; and Jim Piersall, Boston Red Sox outfielder.

Allen: Steve greets comedians Jack Carson and Don Adams' songstresses Brenda Lee and Abbe Lane, who is joined by Xavier Cugat and his band; and dancers Peter Gennarro and Ellen Ray from the Braodway musical "Bells Are Ringing."

Not bad. You can clearly see Ed's vaudeville roots showing, far more than Allen, who concentrates on more established stars. Abbe Lane, profiled in the front of the magazine, is not only a talented singer and dancer, she's a knockout (with "one of the world's most remarkable torsos"), who's married to the bandleader Cugat (his fourth wife; he later divorces her and marries Charo). Don Adams will eventually become Maxwell Smart, and Jack Carson is a TV mainstay.

On the other hand, it's hard to top the great Lena Horne, and although Perkins is supposed to sing, he's also there to plug the movie Fear Strikes Out, the true story of Jim Piersall's struggle with mental illness.* But the reason I'm giving this one to Sullivan is a more whimsical one: Jack Paar, who's appearing on Ed's show, will - three months later - take over the Tonight Show; the very program that Steve Allen had given up. I love that kind of irony.

*Perkins' widow, Berry Berenson, was killed on American Airlines flight 11 during the 9/11 terrorist attacks.

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Wouldn't be able to get away with this today.
Baseball season! But it's pre-major league baseball in the Twin Cities, so there's no Minnesota Twins. Instead, there's the Minneapolis Millers, the Triple-A affiliate of the New York Giants, who the year before moved from Minneapolis to the brand-new Metropolitan Stadium in Bloomington (even though TV Guide, which lacks the subtleties, says the Met is in Minneapolis). The new digs have been built in hopes of luring a major league team, and in time they will—the Washington Senators, who make Minnesota their home in 1961. On Thursday night the Millers take on the Louisville Colonels. A quick glance at the lineups gives me the name of at least one future star, Orlando Cepada, who plays for the Millers before being called up to the Giants, now in San Francisco, in 1958. Cepada is elected to the Hall of Fame in 1999.

There is major league baseball on TV Saturday afternoon, though it isn't seen in the Twin Cities. (Perhaps the Millers were playing at home and the games were blacked out?) Lindsay Nelson and Leo Durocher are behind the mic for NBC as the Brooklyn Dodgers and Pittsburgh Pirates face off from Forbes Field in Pittsburgh, while the irrepressible Dizzy Dean and Buddy Blattner call CBS's telecast of the Detroit Tigers and the Cleveland Indians in Cleveland's Municipal Stadium.

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"To a national audience, Mike Wallace is known as the sympathetic quizmaster on "The Big Surprise," which recently left the air. New Yorkers, however, know him as the incisive interviewer on a late evening local program which made its debut last fall and created widespread interest."

And with that, ABC launched the debut episode of The Mike Wallace Interviews (Sunday, 10:00 p.m., ABC), which introduced us to the Mike Wallace we all came to know and love (or hate). I've seen clips of Wallace as game show host, actor and commercial pitchman, and I'm sure that acting experience helped hone his skills when it came to interviewing. Still, it's hard to imagine Mike Wallace as anything other than the newsman and 60 Minutes star, isn't it? Kind of like finding out your parents were once young—it just doesn't compute.

Also, there's a note in the Teletype that confirms "CBS's new Perry Mason show, starring Raymond Burr, will replace Jackie Gleason next fall." Who could have imagined how that would turn out.

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Speaking of which, we'll end today with the kind of footnote to which I'm so often drawn. Again from the Teletype:

"Charles Van Doren, Twenty-One winner, has signed an exclusive contract with NBC. Tentatively, they'll build a quiz show around him, use him as consultant on educational shows. He'll continue as college prof."

This was, of course, before the Quiz Show Scandals, before he was exposed as being part of the rigged show, before he was fired from NBC and Columbia University. In other words, before everything fell apart.

But as far as this issue of TV Guide is concerned, all of that is in the future. And what impresses me the most is looking at this note, so innocent and without guile. It's not a reprint, it's not a message that blinks on a computer archive. (As you'll be reading it.) No, what I hold in my hands is the actual TV Guide, a historical document, if you will, which came out before anything had hit the fan. It was not only written in the context of the time, it was printed and sold in that context as well. It's kind of like the difference between a lithograph of the Declaration of Independence and the real thing, though not nearly as important, of course. It is, nonetheless, living history. Our history. And that never fails to impress me. TV  

5 comments:

  1. I have that same issue w/ your local edition, so there are at least 2 copies in existence now.

    As strange as this may seem, I like DST as practiced now. Being a night person, I always liked having the sun up later, but I still have to work in the morning, and I know kids go to school then, so I understand why people don't want darkness for winter mornings. I still remember year-round DST in the 70s, and I was disappointed when the sun was already up when I went to the bus stop around 8:15 AM. I was hoping it would still be dark!

    Since I have this issue & edition, I've also seen that WTCN baseball ad, and I just thought of it as another bad umpire joke. I never thought of it in any PC context, as I'm sure it would be now.

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  2. Time for a Flashback - or two …:

    - It was six years ago - April 27, 2013 - that you ran this particular post originally.
    At that time, I put up one of my earlier comments here, wherein I filled you in on the history of Susan Heinkel, one my earliest TV crushes.
    To write this, I looked up the earlier post in your archives (as all who read this can by hitting the This Week In TV Guide label; my old comment is still there - and maybe you might include a link to it, for old time's sake.

    - I said there'd be a second Flashback, and here it is:
    I also dug up my copy of that 1957 TV Guide issue, which in its turn led me to another of your old posts, this one from 2016.
    In that one, one of your Chicago readers told the story of Angel Casey, another early star of Chicago TV (Kid Show Dept.).
    As it happens, the '57 Guide carries a full page ad for Morning Spectacular, which Channel 7, the ABC station here, carried weekday mornings at 8:00 am for much of that year.
    Ch7 had merged some of its older kid shows, combining Angel Casey's Play House with Win Stracke's Animal Playtime into a single hour, adding utility man Art Hern as overall host.
    I suppose that this was mainly a budgetary thing - ABC was always behind a financial 8-ball in those days - but when I reread the Angel Casey story, another factor occurred to me.
    Miss Casey's problems with certain parts of the "public', as documented in the post, coincided with similar difficulties experienced by Win Stracke, a folk singer-actor who had some left-of-center associations that were giving him and his friend Studs Terkel some grief as well.
    Here, I should mention that ch7's general manager Red Quinlan, who could have dropped both of them, kept them on in the merged show for as long as he was able to; ultimately, commerce prevailed, but Quinlan at least made the effort.
    *Side Note: Quinlan was called 'Red' because of his hair color (in case anyone out there wants to make a lame joke about it).*
    * Side Note #2: If you're reading this aloud, Win Stracke's name rhymes with hockey (it's German).*

    Waiting to see which day you're going to do on Monday.
    Having done a quick check on the week's listings, I have some uneasy feelings over which day's going to get the nod …

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  3. One of your best reviews yet, Mitchell. You drew a wealth of amazing things out of this Guide. How can you go wrong with Groucho on the cover....

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  4. The story I heard is that Jack Barry was the original host of "Big Surprise", but left in early 1956 because he and Dan Enright had their own production company and they thought "Why should Jack host a quiz show produced by someone else when we could create and own our own big-money prime-time game show?".

    The result was the controversial "Twenty-One".

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  5. Jack Barry was actually fired from The Big Surprise. A critic reviewing the show said (paraphrasing) that Barry shows all the warmth of a head waiter who didn't get a tip.

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Thanks for writing! Drive safely!