August 31, 2019

This week in TV Guide: September 4, 1965

It's almost the start of a new television season, and while the Fall Preview issue isn't out until next week, we get plenty of hints in this issue as to what's in store.

In the front of the programming section, where specials and sports are usually listed, there's another category appearing this week called "Going Off." While some of these were just summer replacements (Summer Playhouse, Mondays, CBS), we're also talking about some pretty established programs here: Wagon Train, The Rogues, Wendy and Me, The Danny Thomas Show, The Alfred Hitchcock Hour, The Joey Bishop Show, Tycoon, The Doctors and the Nurses, Jonny Quest, Password (the nighttime version), The Defenders, Kraft Suspense Theatre, International Showtime, The Jack Benny Program, Valentine's Day, The Jack Paar Program. 

Not to worry, though, for the networks aren't leaving us empty-handed. Alfred Hitchcock may be going, but in its place will be Run for Your Life. Tycoon is replaced by F Troop, Kraft Suspense Theatre makes room for The Dean Martin Show, and Valentine's Day leaves in favor of Honey West. Gidget and The Big Valley take over on Wednesdays for ABC, while Green Acres moves in next to The Dick Van Dyke Show. Lost in Space debuts, as does I Spy, Hogan's Heroes, and Get Smart, and we say hello to I Dream of Jeannie, The FBI, Branded, and My Mother the Car.  On Sunday afternoons the American Football League will debut on NBC after five years on ABC; the money that the network pours into the upstart league goes a long way towards forcing the NFL-AFL merger, after which, as they say, the rest is history. The 1965-66 season is, in fact, the first in television history in which more than half of the prime time lineup is being broadcast in color.

By the end of the following season there will be more departures: Rawhide, Mister Ed, The Donna Reed Show, Ben Casey, The Flintstones, The Addams Family, McHale's Navy, The Patty Duke Show, The Munsters, Perry Mason, The Dick Van Dyke Show, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet, My Favorite Martian, Dr. Kildare—all of them and more will be gone by the time the 1966-67 season debuts, though many of them will live in reruns to this day. Their replacements include Batman (in January), Star Trek, That Girl, The Time Tunnel, The Monkees, Family Affair, Mission: Impossible, Tarzan, The Green Hornet, and a couple of daytime stalwarts: The Hollywood Squares and Dark Shadows.

This really is quite a time in television history. There's no doubting that we're entered a transitory period, the changing of the guard, the start of what some call the Golden Age of the 1960s.  Over the course of the 1965-66 and 1966-67 seasons, many of the shows that carried television through the end of the 1950s and the first half of the 1960s will be gone; in their place we'll be watching some of the most best-known and best-loved shows ever, all of them in color. Not all of the shows are classics, naturally, nor did they have long runs; I haven't mentioned shows like Camp Runamuck, A Man Called Shenandoah, Mister Roberts, and The Trials of O'Brien. Some of these shows were forgettable, others were good but underappreciated.

What's exciting about it all is that we have no idea what's in store for us. Next week is Premiere Week, with—for the first time— all three networks introducing their new shows at the same time. It should be quite a week, especially in the pre-DVR era. At the very least, as the Editors say in "As We See It," it will be "informative and entertaining." And, maybe, just a little confusing.

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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: Ed's special guests are Rudolf Nureyev and Dame Margot Fonteyn of London's Royal Ballet Company. Also on the bill are Welsh recording star Petula Clark, comedian Alan King, the West Point Glee Club, comedienne Sue Carson, foot-juggler Yugo Garrido and the acrobatic Elwardos.

Hollywood Palace: Host Gene Barry introduces two actresses seldom seen on television: Bette Davis and Olivia de Haviland, who do "The Twilight Shore," a dramatic reading. Barry also greets comics Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks, who do a "2000-year-old man" sketch; U.s. Olympic Gold Medal winners; songstress Monique Van Vooren; comedian Ben Blue; musical clown Yonely; and the Backporch Majority, folk singers.

I'll say this: if Yugo Garrido is actually juggling feet, then there's no need to go any further; we already have a winner. What's that, you say? Oh, he juggles with his feet. Well, that means we'd better look at the rest of the lineup. Ed starts off with the great ballet team of Nureyev and Fonteyn, and when you throw in Petula Clark and Alan King it sounds like a sure thing, even without the juggling feet, er, foot juggler.

But then you look at Palace; Gene Barry, fresh from two seasons of Burke's Law, and two true legends of the screen in Bette Davis and Olivia de Haviland. Throw in the 2000-year-old-man sketch of Reiner and Brooks, and I think the polls are closed. It's close, but give the nod to Palace by the skin of Jimmy Durante's 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. 

Since we're a week away from the start of the new season, Cleveland Amory warms up with a look at one of the stalwarts of the current season: The Lawrence Welk Show. They might not have been thinking of you and me when this show was created, Cleve says, "but they sure did think of a number of other people." Welk has been on the air for ten years now, and his popularity continues unabated, as much a part of our entertainment culture as his mangled English, for as Amory points out, "we do think that after 10 years it would be possible for him to say 'Good even-ing' without the hyphen, or even 'boys' and 'girls' without a double 's.'"

It's all true, as well as this inescapable fact: Lawrence Welk reruns continue to thrive on PBS, nearly 40 years after the show ended first-run syndication, if it is true that shows like this are being kept alive by our grandparents, it must also be said that those very same grandparents were teens themselves back in 1965, when they remarked that Lawrence Welk was being kept alive by their grandparents. How does something like this happen?

According to Amory, Welk's popularity is due in large part to the fact that "nowadays such a very large number of people are fed up to here with bands that play songs which have no melodies—not to mention singers who can't even talk the lyrics,let alone sing them—that Welk, who does even his orchestral numbers in such a way that everyone can recognize the tunes, seems like the last reassuring note in a world of dissonance." I think the same holds true today—certainly, the description of pop music does—and it's rather nice to be brought back to an era in which entertainers didn't take to Facebook and Twitter to engage in feuds with other entertainers, conducted mostly with language that isn't suitable for a family site like this. No, if someone like Frank Sinatra had a bone to pick, he'd do it the old-fashioned way: he'd walk over and slug someone. There's something oddly refreshing about that.

That's not to say that all new music is bad, just as not all new television is bad. And while I've never been what you'd call a Welk aficionado (I couldn't see what my grandparents saw in him), if you go back and watch some of his shows for a reason—his Christmas programs, for example—it's a rather pleasant way to spend an hour.

I can't escape this review without commenting on Amory's conclusion, though. He mentions the Lennon Sisters singing "Kentucky Babe" with new lyrics, replacing the verse "Lay yo' kinky woolly head on yo' mammy's breast,"with "Lay your little curly head on your mommy's breast." I'm not sure why the change was necessary: those original lyrics would fit right in with today's music scene, don't you think?

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And now, in the "Shape of Things to Come" segment of our program, a specifically local version of "For the Record" looks at what's in store for Twin Cities television, including the latest: color programming. As I mentioned earlier, this will be the first year in which a majority of network prime time programs are in color, and it's not just the networks that benefit from it; WTCN, Channel 11, the independent station in town, is the last to jump on the bandwagon, beginning its first season of colorcasting with "more than 20 hours per week of color programming." One of those color programs is a daytime variety series called The Magic of You, hosted by Regina Gleason and Byron Palmer, about which I can find nothing, based on an extensive internet search lasting at least (stops, checks watch) five minutes. The show was supposed to air weekday afternoons from 3:30 to 4:00, but when I check Channel 11's programming just a month later, on October 27, the station is showing Bachelor Father. Oh well; it could have changed its name, of course, but on the other hand, the show was supposed to include "topics presented by such guests as. . . topless swimsuit designer Rudi Gernreich." If he insisted on hosting a fashion show, that might have killed the whole thing right there.

KMSP, Channel 9, the ABC affiliate, offers 11 hours of local color programs each week, and color makes up over one-third of ABC's network shows. WCCO joins the "color bandwagon," with more than half of CBS's prime-time shows in color; KSTP, one of NBC's oldest affiliates, continues to be the "full color network," at least in prime-time. We take things like color TV for granted today; now it's 4K Ultra HD, a concept which probably would have gotten you locked up in 1965 for taking some kind of hallucinogenic. But I remember well what it was like during the color invasion, with new shows premiering in color, and old ones seeming to change overnight. In hindsight, I can see how much more effective shows like The Fugitive and Combat! were when broadcast in B&W, but back then there was no doubt that this was the way to go. It's kind of cool to go back and live those times again, even if it's just in a one-page article.

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A few years ago, I did an article for TVParty! about a series of drama specials being produced by the United Nations, and ever since I published that article I've continued to accumulate more and more information. I've learned so much, in fact, that I'm thinking about going back and revising the original, to add in the details that were missing in the first place, and if I ever do, it will be because I've finally been able to stop spending so much time looking for a job. That could, of course, mean that I'm now the world's most famous homeless television historian, in which case I might be in line for some aid from the UN myself. 

In any event, this week's addition to the canon is Once Upon a Tractor (Thursday, 7:00 p.m., ABC), the third of the four UN specials, and the only comedy. I don't generally associate the United Nations with comedy, unless I'm reading about some of the decisions they've made, but this is an exception. The story's set in a fictional European country, where a fictional farmer name Joe Turrel (Alan Bates) has his tractor conk out on him. He requests a new one from the government of this fictional country, but they're pouring more money into the defense budget, so it's no new tractor for you. Things get out of hand, as they do in wacky comedies, Turrel is accused of treason, and in desperation he appeals directly to the court of last resort, that bastion of justice, the United Nations. Presumably everyone lives happily ever after. As is the case with the other UN specials, this boasts an international all-star cast; in addition to Bates, Diane Cilento, Barbara Steele, Albert Dekker, Buddy Hackett, and Melvyn Douglas star.

I particularly like this idea of the UN as some kind of international Last Call for Help. Kids, the next time you get in trouble with mom or dad, try telling them that you're going to take your case to the United Nations, and see what kind of response you get. On the other hand, I probably shouldn't say that—the way things are going now, they might well side with the kids.

It's a good week for heavier fare; on Tuesday at 6:30 p.m., NBC preempts its entire prime-time lineup for a 3½ hour American White Paper on "United States Foreign Policy," looking at our policy regarding confrontations with the Soviet Union, the emerging world, and China. In other words, pretty much the same thing as we'd see nowadays, only changing "Soviet Union" to "Russia." Chet Huntley and David Brinkley host the program, along with all of NBC's foreign correspondents. It's an important program, and probably quite informative, but you notice that NBC doesn't schedule it after Premiere Week.

Speaking as we are of Premiere Week, Don Adams hosts a special Monday night (6:30 p.m., NBC) offering a preview of NBC's new fall shows. If you've seen some of FredFlix's videos on the 1965-66 season, you'll see excerpts of this special, with Adams more or less in character as Maxwell Smart. And as long as we're discussing coming attractions, Today has one on Monday morning (7:00 a.m., NBC): New York Jets rookie quarterback Joe Namath, who'll be making his pro debut this coming weekend. Helps promote not only the league's new player, but the league's new TV network. Later, Monday night's Ben Casey (9:00 p.m., ABC) presents a story about a young stroke survivor struggling with her inability to communicate. The young woman is played by Pippa Scott; the character she is playing is based on her own mother, a stroke survivor; and the teleplay was written by Allan Scott, her father. That must have been a powerful experience for everyone involved.

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Finally, there's a humorous and very biting article by John Gregory Dunne (before he became "John Gregory Dunne," noted author and husband of Joan Didion) on Bonanza's Lorne Greene. Greene, it seems, is presently in East Reno, Nevada. Specifically, he's in the Circus Room at the Nugget, preparing his first nightclub appearance.

Dunne's article is cynical, as is typical for the time when TV Guide's writers have sharpened their celebrity profiles considerably, often presenting psychological studies of their subjects (see particularly Richard Gehman). The magazine had reached a point of circulation and influence where they no longer needed to be beholden to the industry through cushy puff pieces, and were therefore free to take more critical approaches to celebrity pieces.

Not part of his nightclub act
It's hard to take some of this seriously, not when Greene appears on stage and sings, "I'm an old cowhand / from TV Land / and my dapple gray / is a Chevrolet." Greene tells Dunne that his strategy is to transform himself subtly from the Ben Cartwright they see on TV to the Lorne Greene before them, but Dunne says that this reminds him more of Alexander Woollcott's description of an elaborately mannered actor: "Under his thin veneer, there's another thin veneer." Under the Ben Cartwright exterior, writes Dunne, "lies still another Ben Cartwright. Every gesture, every response seems to have been programmed on a computer under CARTWRIGHT, Old Ben." He quotes lines that Greene has used before the press repeatedly, on stage and in newspapers in many cities; he mentions the replica of the Ponderosa ranch house that he has had built as a home in Mesa, Arizona ("an exact duplicate of the one on the Paramount soundstages even in that it has a staircase leading nowhere"), and he takes a moment away from Greene to take an offhand swipe at Pernell Roberts, "who has finally wined his way off the show." Says Greene of Roberts, "He knew what he was getting into when he signed. Why not stay, make his million, then build a theater where he can play Tennessee Williams every night?"

What saves the article, in my opinion, is 1) I was never a big fan of Bonanza (although my grandparents were); and 2) I am a big fan of good writing. Dunne make be catty, but he's also showing the sharpness that will mark his writing career (as well as that of his brother, Dominick, but that's another story). And I think Lorne Greene was tough enough to survive; Bonanza continued until 1973, and then there was Battlestar Galactica, and hosting the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade with Betty White, and. . . well, somehow I don't think that nightclub act matters much. TV  

August 30, 2019

Around the dial

We'll get the week started with a look at bare-bones e-zine and Jack's Hitchcock Project review of Arthur A. Ross's tenth-season story "Thanatos Palace Hotel." Again, I haven't seen many of the Hitchcock Hour episodes so I'm not going to read ahead, but nobody does an episode recap better than Jack.

Night Gallery, Rod Serling's follow-up to The Twilight Zone, has its share of fans, but Serling himself was frustrated by his lack of control over the show, and only a handful of them can be considered anywhere near classics. One that is unquestionably a classic by any standards is Serling's bittersweet "They’re Tearing Down Tim Riley’s Bar," which David looks at over at Comfort TV.

Apparently 'tis the week for episode recaps, and good ones at that—Cult TV Blog flashes back to a wonderful Steed-King episode of The Avengers, "Take Me to Your Leader." John coins a great word in his review: "Avengersification," the act of taking a relatively normal situation and transferring it into the world of The Avengers. Works for me!

At The Twilight Zone Vortex, Jordan gives a very candid review of the underwhelming fourth-season episode, "I Dream of Genie," which to its credit features a funny performance from the always-reliable Howard Morris. 

Our friend Carol Ford, author of Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography, is quoted in this week's Entertainment Weekly article on Crane's unsolved murder. "Tragic" can be an overused word, but I've always thought it appropriate for this sad story.

Do you remember the controversial Oprah cover of TV Guide back in 1989? That's the issue up for review this week at Television Obscurities, along with the programming highlights of the week, and a lot more.

I saw a half-hour or so of Twelve Angry Men on TCM the other night; it's a terrific movie, based on an original play by Reginald Rose for Studio One. At The Lucky Strike Papers, Andrew kindly refers back to a piece I'd written about that TV version (which featured what I thought was a compelling performance by Bob Cummings in the Henry Fonda role), and shares some thoughts of his own.

You should be back here tomorrow for the TV Guide review, but if not, enjoy the long Labor Day weekend, and let's be careful out there! TV  

August 28, 2019

Two by Trotta

Hopefully, most of you remember Liz Trotta, the former correspondent for NBC and CBS from the mid-'60s through the '80s. Throughout her career she’s had to battle on two fronts: as a woman—the first to report from Vietnam for television—and as a conservative. She’s also had a perspective on the world that many of her colleagues lack, one that’s shown in the two engrossing books she’s written about wildly different topics.

Fighting for Air: In the Trenches with Television News, written in 1991, is her memoir on her television days, beginning with her time at NBC. It was there that she found herself, as they say, in “the jungles of Vietnam”, and while that sounds like a trite cliché, it’s difficult to find a better way to describe that claustrophobic war, one in which nature itself seemed to suffocate those who went there. Heart of darkness, indeed—Trotta writes that she’s still haunted by the experience, and it’s easy to see why. On one hand, the country tries to swallow you up, while at the same time you have to worry about someone shooting at you, and all the while questions continue to be asked about the meaning of it all. (Sometimes I think the wonder of Vietnam is that anyone returned without being insane, addicted, depressed, or dead—in fact, Trotta’s six-month assignment comes about after two reporters are wounded and another suffers a breakdown; as she puts it, NBC’s “cannon fodder was getting scarce.”)

Fighting for Air: In the Trenches with Television News (395 pp., available used)

Jude: A Pilgrimage to the Saint of Last Resort
(270 pp., available used)

by Liz Trotta

Trotta’s view of the war is that the only thing wrong is "the U.S. government's half-hearted commitment to it,'' and that pro-war sentiment gets her in trouble with the more liberal members of the network, including soon-to-be evening news anchor John Chancellor, and it’s a foreshadowing of the trouble she’ll have throughout her journalistic career – well, that and her own outspoken nature. (I knew there was a reason I liked her!) Throughout her career, she covers some of the big stories that the job has to offer, from presidential campaigns to civil war in the Philippines, from war between India and Pakistan to the hostage crisis in Iran, from unrest in Northern Ireland to the murder trial of Claus von Bulow.

Trotta suggests her conservative politics, along with that outspokenness (she’s wonderfully candid about many of her colleagues, as well as the issues of the day) is what leads to her “demotion” by NBC (just after winning an Overseas Press Club award) and her sacking at CBS (supposedly for being “too old” at age 41), and the quality of her work certainly lends credence to those who suggest that the media is more interested in their own narrative than in the actual story.

It’s a great read, but her second book proves to be a real change of pace, one that’s not only intriguing but quite affecting. Jude: A Pilgrimage to the Saint of Last Resort, written in 1998, serves partly as a biography of the famous “patron saint of desperate causes,” about whom we actually know very little. His actual name may have been Judas Thaddaeus, and during his lifetime he may have been a victim of mistaken identity from those who confused him with the betrayer of Jesus.* The Latin translation of the Roman Canon contains no mention of Jude; instead, he is referred to as Thaddeaus. Aside from the Epistle of Jude, which the saint may or may not have written, there is but one line in the Bible credited to him: “Lord, why is it that you will reveal yourself to us and not to the world?” (John 14:22).

*Which may help explain how Jude became the patron of lost causes. Since so many wrongly associated him with Judas and for that reason gave him less attention and reverence than the other disciples, "St. Jude is ready and waiting to hear the prayers of those who call upon him."

Trotta shares with us the fantastic story of the Image of Edessa, or Mandylion, a piece of cloth upon which the image of Jesus had been imprinted and which Jude is often portrayed as wearing around his neck. According to tradition, King Abgar of Edessa had written to Jesus, asking him to come and cure him of an illness; Jesus had replied that he would not be able to come, but the king would later be visited by one of his disciples—which turned out to be Jude, bringing the Mandylion as a sign. Abgar was cured of his illness, and the rest, as they say, is history.

While all this is educational, it is the personal testimonials which Trotta relates that makes the greatest impact. In story after story, ordinary people relate how and what circumstances they've turned to Jude. Probably the most famous is that of entertainer Danny Thomas, who prayed to Jude for success in show business and vowed that if his prayer were to be answered, he would build a shrine to the saint in gratitude. This, of course, is how St. Jude Children's Hospital came to be. And indeed there are many stories of people cured of illnesses, freed from unemployment, reunited with lost family members, and so on. Just as impressive, however, are those who come to Jude not in desperation, but for everyday requests—a good day at work, success on a test. To them Jude is not the saint of last resort, but a friend with whom they talk every day. As for her own relationship with Jude, Trotta confides that she has yet to approach him with that desperate petition for help. She doesn't want to take the saint lightly, wasting his time with something inconsequential to her life. When the time is right to go to him, she will know.

There is something about St. Jude, as Trotta notes, that compels people not just to seek him out, but to share him with others. Almost everyone who has been the beneficiary of his intercession has at one time or another "gone public" with their thanks, hoping to serve as an example for others in similar situations. In my own case, I consider my recent success in finally finding a permanent job, after ten months and numerous temporary assignments, to be in due in part to his intervention. It isn't the first time it's happened; our move from Texas back to Minnesota was inexplicable any other way. There was absolutely no reason to think that everything would fall into place the way it did; it's not an exaggeration to say that it happened against all odds. Some might ask for more proof—I rather think that asking for help and receiving it is proof enough. Gratitude does not begin to explain it.

The story of Jude is filled with such examples, and as a result some critics have dismissed Trotta's book as mere hagiography. I'm not sure about that; in the first place, as a journalist she's too good for that. She doesn't attempt to hide her Catholicism, however, nor her belief in the intercessory powers of the saints. If that strikes some as cheerleading, so be it.

With Fighting for Air and Jude, Liz Trotta addresses the two dominant themes of our time, Caesar and Christ, and renders to each their due. We stand to profit from those endeavors. TV  

August 26, 2019

What's on TV: Thursday, August 29, 1974

Remember how last year, during one of these TV listings, I was waxing philosophic about the fleeting fame of television? We saw how the shows in the listings often included the names of the hosts, and while we might not have recognized those names, at least we knew who it was responsible for the shows. This week, 11 years later, we see how much those listings have changed; we don't see any names except for the people hosting the news broadcasts, so we're depending on our own knowledge of television history to know that Jack Barry is host of The Joker's Wild. Many of these shows don't even include category descriptions; how else would we know that The Brady Bunch is a comedy while The Flintstones is a cartoon? I guess by now the editors of TV Guide are giving us credit for having a clue.

By the way, someone can correct me on this (Mike Doran would probably know), but to the best of my knowledge, The Waltons is one of the very few program titles in the listings to include the article "The" - ordinarily, it would only read "Waltons." The only other show I can think of is the 1972 series The Men. Another piece of useless trivia.

No surprise that this week's listings are once again from the Twin Cities.

August 24, 2019

This week in TV Guide: August 24, 1974

The late summer isn't usually a time when one thinks of pro football - at least not in 1974, unless you're talking about NFL exhibition games. But amidst the preseason hoopla, on Thursday night we have a game that actually counts: the Birmingham Americans vs. the Chicago Fire. And if those team names don’t sound familiar to you, there’s probably a good reason why. They’re franchises playing in week 8 of the inaugural season of the World Football League, with games broadcast via syndication on TVS, the network primarily known to that point for college basketball (including the epic Houston-UCLA game of 1968). (Birmingham wins this game, 22-8.)

The World Football League was the brainchild of Gary Davidson, who had played a part in the formations of the American Basketball Association and the World Hockey Association. The idea behind the WFL was to liven up the pro game which, in the wake of the NFL-AFL merger (remember, that happened only five years before), had grown a bit stale. The league placed teams in cities such as Birmingham, Memphis, Jacksonville, and Anaheim – thought to be strong football areas – and places like New York, Chicago, Philadelphia and Detroit, NFL cities that had suffered from bad football teams for too long. The WFL introduced new rules that they hoped would make for a more open, high-scoring game: kickoffs from the 35 to encourage more returns (the NFL at the time kicked off from the 40), goalposts at the back of the end zone a la college football to discourage field goals (the NFL would follow suit there as well), an instrument called the "Dickerod" to measure for first downs (I'm not even going to touch that one), and an “action point” to replace the perfunctory extra point (which the NFL never did adopt). Overtime would be adopted for tie games (which the NFL also incorporated). They planned a 20-game season (it would be a few more years before the NFL expanded to 16 games), and launched successful raids on NFL rosters, luring players who, since the merger, lacked the leverage to get higher salaries.

With a players strike delaying the start of NFL training camps (and cancelling the annual College All-Star Game), the new league hoped to attract fans who were increasingly disgusted with labor unrest in the pros. And, in fact, the WFL had a marvelous rollout. Through two games the Jacksonville Sharks had averaged over 50,000 fans, while the Philadelphia Bell, playing in venerable JFK Stadium, averaged over 60,000. And then—Ticketgate. Turns out most of the attendance counts were padded by freebees—the Bell had given away 100,000 of the 120,000 tickets for those two games, and only about half of the Sharks fans had paid. The Detroit Wheels, playing in a decrepit high school stadium in Ypsilanti, had hoped to hang on until the Lions moved into their new domed stadium in Pontiac, at which time the Wheels could take over Tiger Stadium. They couldn’t hang on, and folded in September. The New York Stars became the Charlotte Hornets, and the Houston Texans moved to Shreveport, LA. Birmingham players went without pay for the last five games of the season. Most of the NFL stars who’d signed contracts would have to wait until the 1975 season before they could play for their new teams.

Somewhat surprisingly, the league actually made it through that first season, with Birmingham defeating the Orlando-based Florida Blazers in the World Bowl (Birmingham’s uniforms were confiscated after the game to take care of unpaid bills). The league did attempt a second season in 1975, but folded halfway through.

And yet this wasn’t really such a foolish idea. Had the WFL come along a few years later, it could have taken advantage of cable TV to get more exposure. The idea of summer football would be copied by the USFL, with some slight degree of success. The rules changes, most of which were copied by the NFL, did in fact open up the game. Had the league survived, it would have had a very good roster of players for upcoming seasons (including Memphis’ trio of Miami Dolphins stars: Larry Csonka, Jim Kiick and Paul Warfield), and new NFL stadiums in Detroit and New York would have opened up better home fields for those teams.

As they say, if ifs and buts were candy and nuts,…

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Speaking of cable TV, it’s been predicted as the wave of the future in many of the TV Guides of the era, but this week we see that the future of television has hit a stumbling block.

Cable had started out as a way to provide clear pictures to rural areas that suffered from poor reception (or no reception at all in certain places), but everyone knew the real money lie in cable’s spread to large urban markets, which comprised 70 percent of the nation’s viewers. However, as New York City is demonstrating, there doesn’t seem to be all that big a demand for more stations, clearer reception, or some of the extra services that went along with cable: access to banking and other financial services, being able to get advice from their doctors, casting votes in elections, and fire and burglar alarms. Dayton, Newark and San Antonio have given up on cable, while Chicago and Detroit debate the issue, and Boston recommends against it.

The costs of installation, as it turns out, are enormous, and construction has been delayed time after time. Illegal taps into the system are decreasing subscriber numbers, and the service itself continues to get more expensive. Manhattan Cable reported a net loss of $1.3 million in 1973, even though they raised monthly rates from $6 to $9.

What can be done? Well, some think that sports might eventually migrate to cable, even though surveys show only about 20% would subscribe to cable for sports alone. FCC action to allow cable systems to carry local stations and syndicated programming will be required to broaden cable’s appeal. A pay channel showing first-run movies would help a system that’s already profitable, but probably can’t save one that wasn’t. As for home shopping services? It will be tough to make them work when only 12.5% of homes are wired for cable.

TV Guide’s conclusion is not an optimistic one. The rush to cable is, for now, stalled. “No one talks of ‘the wired nation.’ Potentially, it still exists. But today it is still short-circuited.”

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TV's two definitive 70s-era rock music shows, NBC's The Midnight Special and ABC's In Concert, faced off on Friday nights.  Midnight Special was a weekly show, airing after Johnny Carson, while In Concert was an every-other week part of Wide World of Entertainment.  Whenever the two slug it out, we'll be there to give you the winner.

Well, we have a match this week! In Concert was not a weekly series, so it’s always nice when we get the chance to compare lineups. And what do we have this week? Hmm.

In Concert: Rock musician Don E. Branker welcomes guests including ‘50s style group Flash Cadillac and the Continental Kids, the Hues Corporation and O’Jays soul groups, and the Chris Jagger (Mick’s brother) Band rock artists.

Midnight Special: An all-blues show with B.B. King (host), and guests Jimmy Witherspoon, Papa John Creach, Paul Butterfield’s Better Days, Big Mama Thornton, John Lee Hooker, Joe Williams and Bobby “Blue” Brand.

Okay. I think I’ve heard of the O’Jays, and I do recognize the song “Rock the Boat,” though I wouldn’t in a million years have known that it was sung by the Hues Corporation. Other than that, the only thing I can say about In Concert’s lineup is that Chris Jagger’s name reminds me of a story that Arrowsmith’s Steven Tyler told about having once passed himself off as Mick Jagger’s brother, and how the adulation he received from the girls made him want to be a rock star. I’ve never been a big blues fan, but I know who B.B. King, John Lee Hooker and Joe Williams are, and I know just how big they were. Ultimately, that’s what makes this week’s decision so easy. The verdict: Midnight Special.

As a note, Channel 4 presents Don Kirshner’s Rock Concert at 2:30 a.m. CT Saturday, but with no description of who was on, it’s pretty hard to say how it compared to the others. It would have been a rerun from the show’s first season; the new series wouldn’t begin until September. Maybe we’ll have better luck next time.

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I’ve talked before about the Saturday morning cartoon graveyard so I won’t belabor the point here except to illustrate just how vapid and derivative kids programming was in the mid-70s. For one thing, a startling number were merely animated versions of past live-action shows: Emergency Plus 4, The Addams Family, My Favorite Martians, Lassie’s Rescue Rangers, Jeannie, Star Trek, The Brady Kids. On top of that, CBS also has an “animated” movie entitled “Guess Who’s Knott Coming to Dinner,” which features a cartoon version of Don Knotts.*

*Is that redundant?

I’ll grant that not all of these ideas are ridiculous. The Addams Family started out as a cartoon, of course, and the animated Star Trek did offer producers a greater leeway in some of the special effects and creatures that the crew of the Enterprise encountered. But by and large, these cartoons could be taken as dumbed-down versions of adult programs that weren’t all that smart to begin with. It could have been worse, I suppose. Goober, which was a Scooby-Doo clone about a crime-fighting bunch of kids and their dog, could have been referring to him.

Other cartoons were merely spin-offs of previous cartoons, such as Sabrina (Archie) and Pebbles and Bamm Bamm (The Flintstones, which started out as an adult show), and then there’s another movie-length animated special, “The Red Baron,” in which all the characters are dogs, and the Red Baron himself is a heroic character trying to rescue the Princess of Pretzelshtein. Correct me if I’m wrong, but as far as World War I goes, wasn’t the Red Baron one of the bad guys?

There’s just a stunning lack of imagination to these programs, and it’s kind of sad considering the time period. In the last ten years, the nation had come through riots and assassinations, the Vietnam War and Watergate. It was a dark and cynical time. The least we could have done was to give kids something that would stimulate their minds, instead of the escapist junk food they got.

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Back in the day, PBS would make the occasional foray into sports programming, and this Monday night sees the network bring us the finals of the U.S. Pro Tennis Championships from Boston. This was the cusp of the American tennis boom, when it seems that everyone was running around in shorts and carrying a racket, so I suppose PBS figured this was a good program for their demographic.

Actually, this Monday night tennis series ran for several summers on PBS, and it was an excellent production, with legendary tennis writer Bud Collins teaming up with Donald Dell to bring us the action. It was a serious, no-frills broadcast that concentrated on the tennis itself instead of the glitz. These late-summer tournaments served as the warm-up to the U.S. Open, so they tended to attract some pretty big names. I was a tennis fan myself at this time, and I always chose this over NBC’s Monday Night Baseball series. If PBS had stuck to sports, who knows where it would have wound up?

Golf is another sport that’s changed radically when it comes to television. In 1974 a considerable number of tournaments were still shown through syndicated broadcasts (mostly from Hughes Sports Network), and this week’s Westchester Classic, from Harrison, NY, is no exception. The announcers are a mixture of network figures (Ray Scott), syndicated staples (Jim Thacker, John Derr) and golf experts (Bob Toski). The Westchester was actually one of golf’s biggest money tournaments of the time, with a first prize of $50,000. Johnny Miller, in the midst of his incredible 1974 season, takes the title this year, with a record winning score of -19. Today, the Westchester goes by the name of “The Barclays,” and isn’t even played at its namesake Westchester Country Club anymore.

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Ah, nostalgia. We don't often get to take a nostalgic look back at a nostalgic look back, but NBC’s Wonderful World of Disney embarks on such a tour this week with a rare rebroadcast of its 1954 Davy Crockett series. It’s a great throwback to the origins of the Disney program, and one of the classic adventures that helped establish Disney’s greatness in the non-animated arena. The Crockett adventures will run for the next three weeks, starting this week with “Davy Crockett—Indian Fighter.” I wonder why NBC was rerunning the series at this particular time? Could it be because Crockett’s sidekick, George Russel, is being played by Buddy Ebsen, star of CBS’ Barnaby Jones? I wouldn’t think so. Maybe they’re just celebrating the 20th anniversary of the original run.

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Ah, Susie Blakely. Her smile, Neil Hickey tells us, is worth $100,000 a year. She’s typical of today’s big money, big star models, and she has what it takes: an inventory of great smiles. “I can do fake smiles for you all day, and every one of them will look real,” she says, matching the smile to whatever she happens to be hawking.

Right now, Susie has been taking acting lessons, hoping to duplicate the success of other models-turned-actresses such as Cybill Shepherd and Ali MacGraw. And it will be acting that will bring Susan Blakely her greatest fame, forever known for her role as Julie Prescott in the landmark miniseries Rich Man, Poor Man, winning a Golden Globe and getting an Emmy nomination in the process.

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Finally, one more rare glimpse into the world that was. A brief TV Guide editorial morns the loss of programs such as Where’s the Fire?, Everything Money Can’t Buy, We’ll Get By, The Love Nest, Sunshine and Second Start. What’s that, you say? Haven’t heard of them? There’s a good reason why—they never aired, at least not as part of the 1974 fall season. Just two months ago, a U.S. Court of Appeals ruling overturned changes to the FCC Prime-Time Access rule, which meant networks would have to cede 90 minutes per week of prime-time to local stations—90 minutes they’d already plotted out.

The shows listed above, manned by stars such as Paul Sorvino, Bob Crane, Cliff DeYoung, Billy Mumy and Meg Foster, would have aired in those lost time slots (mostly the 6:30 – 7:00 p.m. CT period, right after the local news). And as for what happened to them? Well, Television Obscurities has a very good write-up here.  By and large, I’d have to pronounce the local access rules a failure—the thought had been that local stations would provide news and public affairs shows in those timeslots, but the stations quickly figured out it would be cheaper and more profitable to run syndicated game shows and reruns of network series. We all know how well that’s worked out, don't we?  TV  

August 23, 2019

Around the dial

At Comfort TV, David leads off the week with a very interesting piece that shows the environmental movement isn't new to television; in fact, plotlines about the dangers of pollution have been around since the very first Earth Day in 1970.

Bob Crane: Life & Legacy shares the preview episode of its new podcast series Flipside: The True Story of Bob Crane. You'll be able to keep track of future episodes, along with other podcasts we follow, by checking the new "Podcast" category on the sidebar.

At Garroway at Large, Jodie recounts the time early in his career when Dave Garroway conducted an interview in a canoe. Fortunately, even then it was clear that Garroway wasn't all wet.

A couple of weeks ago, Cult TV Blog looked at how The Avengers might have been influenced by the James Bond movies. This week, John asks whether or not The Avengers might in turn have influenced the big-screen movie The Ipcress File.

It's F Troop Friday at The Horn Section, and Hal's focus is on "Old Ironpants," an episode from season one that shows just what happens when Captain Parmenter (Ken Berry) takes leadership lessons from George Armstrong Custer (the great John Stephenson).

Television Obscurities continues the review of TV Guide from 30 years ago with the issue of August 19, 1989, which highlighted Hollywood's drug scene, as well as the country music sisters Loretta Lynn and Crystal Gayle.

Television's New Frontier: the 1960s travels to the year 1961 and One Step Beyond. It's the final season for the storied series: find out how John Newland worked to keep the series as fresh as possible, including episodes made in England. TV  

August 21, 2019

Isn't it Devine, or, I've got a Froggy in my throat

One of the pleasures that comes about from getting together with old friends after a long absence (aside from them picking up the check if they're not only old friends but also generous ones) is that you're apt to learn something new—not just what's new in their lives, but things that are new to you in general. And so, when we recently had breakfast with a friend whom we hadn't seen in six or seven years, and he found out about my interest in the minutiae of classic television, he shared his memories of a program I'd seen mentioned in TV Guides but knew nothing about: the children's show Andy's Gang.

(By the way, I know that headline above sounds like the title of a Rocky & Bullwinkle episode, and I don't even have anyone to blame for it, since, unlike writers for major publications, I have to write my own headlines. I'm not going to apologize for it, though, because to do so would undermine my confidence—and perhaps yours, too—in my ability to write headlines.)

The first year of my existence was the last year of Andy's Gang, which had begun on NBC in 1955, but actually traced its roots back much further, to 1944 and a radio program called Smilin’ Ed McConnell and his Buster Brown Gang that transitioned to television in 1951. Smilin' Ed was a genial, homespun man who'd been on radio since 1932 in a variety of roles before starting the Buster Brown Gang. As Ronald L. Smith's page on McConnell describes it, the show's format was simple: an adventure story for openers, commercials for Buster Brown shoes, a novelty song or two, and a recurring gang of human and puppet characters, including McConnell's most famous creation, Froggy the Gremlin.

Ed McConnell died of a heart attack in 1954, and in 1955 the show was reborn as Andy's Gang. The new host was Andy Devine*, the lovable, raspy-voiced character actor who served as a sidekick to Roy Rogers in the movies, Wild Bill Hickok on the radio, and Jack Benny's "Buck Benny Rides Again" Western skits. The format remained basically the same as under McConnell, with Andy seated in a large easy chair, telling a story from his giant "Andy's Stories" book. There was no live studio audience; there had been one during McConnell's first few years, but as his health failed, producers used previously filmed reaction shots from kids, which were then intercut into the studio scenes to give viewers the sensation of a live audience, and this continued throughout Devine's years.

*Interesting fact: Ken Curtis, who played Festus on Gunsmoke, sang at Andy Devine's funeral in 1977. Curtis actually had a very nice voice, nothing at all like Festus's hillbilly twang.

The show retained the large cast of characters, now known as "Andy's Gang": Shortfellow the Poet, Alkali Pete the Cowboy, Midnight the Cat, Squeeky the Mouse, Grandie the Talking Piano, Gunga Ram, and Pasta Fazooli. The star of the show remained the irrepressible Froggie, who was summoned by Andy with the magic words, "Plunk your magic twanger, Froggy!" There would be a puff of smoke, and then Froggy would appear, saying, "Hiya, kids! Hiya hiya hiya hiya!" In the great tradition of children's show puppets, Froggy was the nemesis of the show's adult characters: an irreverent troublemaker, disdainful of authority, prone to practical jokes, interrupting other guests, and in general acting as a conduit of mayhem. Naturally, kids loved him, and he soon became the subject of all kinds of toys and other marketing tie-ins.

Here's what an episode of Andy's Gang looked like, complete with the Buster Brown intro.

And this is a typical scene of Froggy torturing one of his human foils, in this case Pasta Fazooli, played by the great Vito Scoti:

Andy's Gang was in the great tradition of such live-action kids' programs as Howdy Doody, Soupy Sales and Shari Lewis, certainly more anarchic than Captain Kangaroo or Watch Mr. Wizard, but no less warmly remembered by those who grew up with it. At breakfast that day, when our friend asked if I remembered it, he pulled out his cell phone and started showing YouTube clips like the one above, laughing and smiling all the time. There was, I think, a human connection between the kids' shows of then and their audiences, a connection made possible by the human host of the show, willing to lower himself to the level of a child, to allow himself to be one-upped by a child, in order to make that child feel a little taller. Not Fred Rogers, perhaps, but then it goes to show that there's more than one way to form that connection.

There aren't shows like this on Saturday morning TV anymore, because kids aren't watching Saturday morning TV anymore. If they're not spending time on the road in travel soccer leagues, they're playing video games on their phone. And what was that we were saying about human connections? TV  

August 19, 2019

What's on TV? Tuesday, August 22, 1967

There was really only one choice to look at this week; tonight is part one of the two-part Fugitive finale. I mentioned this on Saturday, but it bears repeating: holding back the final episode until the very end of the show's run, after the summer reruns, is brilliant. Yes, I know that it may have been an accident, that once the decision to end the series had been made, there wasn't time to write a final episode before the summer; still, felix culpa, happy fault. It's clearly the highlight of this week, probably one of the greatest highlights of any summer season. Not, however, that there's nothing else to watch—just see for yourself. The listings, as you might have known, are from the Twin Cities.

August 17, 2019

This week in TV Guide: August 19, 1967

David Janssen knows exactly how The Fugitive will end. “It goes like this," he tells an observer. "Kimble, cleared of the murder, retires to a desert island to recuperate from his ordeal. At sunset he takes a swim. Just before plunging into the surf, he pauses, unscrews his wooden arm, and tosses it on the sand. Fade-out.”

Janssen was joking, of course. He liked to do than when it came to his most famous character portrayal. In an interview on Joey Bishop's show following the airing of the final episode on August 29, 1967, he admits, "I killed her, Joey. She talked too much." But there was nothing funny about the impact The Fugitive had on the culture, as Dwight Whitney relates on the eve of the show’s two-part series finale. French intellectuals, of course, wanted to look at the show’s existential connotations. The Germans, foreshadowing reality shows like The Great Race, wanted Janssen to travel through Berlin in disguise, with people competing to track him down. In Spain, viewers haven’t quite caught on to the fact it’s a recurring series, and great each episode with great anticipation, wondering whether or not this will be the week his luck runs out.

Janssen could have gotten a half-million for agreeing to a fifth season of The Fugitive, but he thinks in retrospect that “I would have fallen apart” if he’d signed on. The rigors of doing four years of a series in which he appears in almost every scene, with no regular supporting cast to help ease the burden, have taken a physical and mental toll. His smoking is up to three packs a day, and his drinking is up as well, which often leaves him depressed. His ulcer has returned, his trick knee often forces writers to incorporate the resulting limp into the script, and when he is exhausted—as he frequently is—his performance begins to develop tics and other mannerisms. His character is forever reactive, always running, and there are only so many ways in which an actor can portray a man who is not weak but cannot afford to appear too strong.

The show’s fans, and after four seasons there are still many of them, are glad Kimble’s situation will be resolved, but sad to see the series come to an end. “Of course, I knew he had to be exonerated some day,” says one viewer, but “I just wasn’t expecting it to happen—well, quite so soon, you might say.” Those fans will turn out in force to view the final two-part episode of The Fugitive, entitled “The Judgment,” and that last episode is the most-watched television show in history to that time, racking up a record 72% share of households with television sets. The other networks must have known what they’d be up against; opposite part one of “The Judgment,” CBS aired a Harry Reasoner documentary on “The Hippie Temptation,” while NBC showed a rerun of the movie The War of the Worlds.

I’ve mentioned this before, but it bears repeating that unlike other series finales, the conclusion to The Fugitive was aired in August, after the rerun season. As it was known that the fourth season of The Fugitive was to be the last, this allowed the suspense to build up throughout the summer; had that final episode aired in May or June, the reruns might have seemed ridiculous, but this way they were still relevant, still part of the chase, since Kimble was theoretically still running. Therefore, when the series ended, it really ended. It’s a brilliant idea, and I still wonder why more series don’t do it that way.

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While The Hollywood Palace is on summer break, ABC fills the Saturday night time slog with Piccadilly Palace, a London-based variety show starring the iconic British comedy duo of Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise. We'll stop in from time to time during the summer months to see who has the best lineup..

Sullivan: In this rerun, Ed's guests are Jimmy Durante; singers Connie Francis and the Four Seasons; musical-comedy star Gwen Verdon, who does a song-and-dance routine from “Sweet Charity”; and the Festa Italiana dance group.

Piccadilly: The accent is on music as singer Millicent Martin hosts this session at the Palace. Joining her for an evening of swingin' sounds are singers Matt Monro and Bruce Forsyth.

Millicent Martin, who was a regular on Piccadilly and hosted the last few episodes instead of Ferrante and Teicher—I mean, Morecambe and Wise— was best-known as the singer on That Was the Week That Was, and hosted her own show for several seasons; our younger readers might recognize her as Gertrude Moon in Frasier. Matt Monro was a smooth-voiced singer, whom you’d probably recognize from two of his biggest hits, Born Free and From Russia With Love. Sir Bruce Forsyth (who died two years ago tomorrow) started his TV career on the BBC in 1939, and was a TV regular since the 1950s; up until 2015 hosted the successful show Strictly Come Dancing, which we here in the States might recognize by its American name: Dancing with the Stars. To this day, he holds the world's record for longest career of a TV entertainer: 76 years.

But is this going to be enough? Jimmy Durante was one of the great characters of movies and television, a man who could steal any scene, and even though by 1967 he’s already had a long and successful career, he’s still two years away from one of his most recognizable roles, that of the animated storyteller in the Rankin-Bass cartoon Frosty the Snowman. Connie Francis was lovely to look at, and not a bad singer; and Gwen Verdon was—well, just a terrific singer and dancer. Damn Yankees, Sweet Charity, and Chicago were just some of her stage credits, and if you ever saw her with that flaming red hair and those legs, you wouldn’t forget. Hands down, this week goes to Sullivan.

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These summer issues of TV Guide, as I've noted before, are always something of a mixed bag; with most of the networks in rerun mode, there isn’t always a lot to choose from, and summer replacements are often the best bet. I’ve previously mentioned Jackie Gleason’s fill-in, Away We Go (Saturday, 6:30 p.m. CT, CBS), hosted by the unlikely combination of George Carlin and Buddy Greco,* and the Smothers Brothers’ replacement, Our Place (Sunday, 8:00 p.m., CBS), hosted by Burns and Schreiber, as well as Vic Damone, Dean Martin’s summer host (Thursday, 9:00 p.m., NBC), and the appropriately named Spotlight (Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., CBS), Red Skelton’s replacement—this week featuring British comedian Benny Hill.

*Fun fact: Buddy Greco’s second wife (of five) was Dani Crayne, who later divorced him and married—David Janssen!

Tony Bennett’s terrific NBC special on Monday night (7:00 p.m.) is a rerun, notable because it’s another in the occasional series of “Singer Presents” specials, sponsored by the sewing machine company. Herb Alpert and Burt Bacharach are other performers featured in Singer showcases, but the most famous of the specials will be in December of 1968, when Singer Presents—Elvis Presley. That ’68 comeback special, as it came to be known, remains one of television’s iconic programs.

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There’s sports to be had, though, and one event is notable not only for what it is, but what it isn't. What it is, is an excursion into prime-time by the NFL, with the Baltimore Colts and St. Louis Cardinals* set to kickoff at 8:30 p.m. (late start!) on Monday night. Yes, it's the germination of Monday Night Football, something that commissioner Pete Rozelle was big on; he'd started toying with the idea as early as 1964, when a non-televised game between the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions drew a sellout crowd in Detroit; and this week's Monday night's game will be accompanied by a regular-season game in October between the Packers and Cardinals. By 1969, the last season before the NFL-AFL merger, both CBS and NBC will have broadcast regular-season games on Mondays.

*Or as we’d know them today, the Indianapolis Colts and Arizona Cardinals.

Coming soon to a network near you!
However, when push comes to shove and Rozelle begins negotiating with the networks for the new, post-merger television contract, both CBS and NBC show reluctance to disturb their regular Monday night lineups. (Lucille Ball was a fixture on CBS, while NBC had its popular Monday Night at the Movies.) ABC isn't crazy about it the idea either, to be perfectly honest; earlier in the 1960s, they'd snatched the Saturday college football package away from NBC after the Peacock Network had signed to broadcast the AFL, and getting back into the pro game could jeopardize their ability to hang on to college ball.* Only after Rozelle threatens to syndicate the games through the Hughes (as in Howard) Sports Network, a move which would likely cause ABC affiliates to desert the network's Monday night schedule in favor of football, does ABC come around. The rest, of course, is history. (And you thought discussing politics was complicated.)

*The paranoid NCAA still thought pro football diluted, or perhaps contaminated, the purity of the college game, and let it be known that they wanted to be top dog on any network broadcasting their games. With the value of Monday night football uncertain, signing with the NFL and possibly riling the NCAA was a real gamble for ABC.

What our Monday night game isn't is baseball, which in 1967 can still make a claim to being the national pastime, and this week the drama of the red-hot American League pennant race continues to play out on our television sets—remember, the divisional setup hasn't come to baseball yet, so whoever finishes first in the 10-team league goes straight to the World Series. The Minnesota Twins, beginning the week with a slim 1½ game lead over the Chicago White Sox, are featured on local broadcasts against the New York Yankees (Saturday and Sunday); the Detroit Tigers, who trail the Twins by only 2½ games (Tuesday and Wednesday); and the Cleveland Indians (Friday; all on WTCN). Meanwhile, on NBC's Saturday Game of the Week (1:00 p.m.), the Boston Red Sox, a mere three games behind Minnesota, face off against the California Angels, only five games back. By the end of this week’s TV Guide, the Red Sox and White Sox will have closed to within a half-game of the Twins, with the Tigers only 1½ games back. No wonder they called it The Great Race.

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Israel watches Egypt—on television. That’s the news from Robert Musel, who reports that Egyptian television—widely considered not only the best in the Middle East, but the equal of many networks in Europe—attracts a significant number of Israeli viewers every day, since Israel doesn’t yet have its own television network. It’s a message the Israelis themselves could benefit from, according to a number of experts who say the nation has been slow to realize the propaganda value of TV. Its first prime minister, David Ben-Gurion, had felt that television had little to offer his people (they’d be “better off reading books”), until he saw a nature documentary while making a state visit to France. Ben-Gurion was fascinated by the show, which included film shot from inside a beehive, and said that “Israel had to have television like this.” He feared that, due to the country’s high taxes, only the rich would be able to afford sets, but as many a nation has discovered, the truth is that low-income groups love their television as much as anyone.

But though Israel may have discovered that television isn’t all bad, it still has yet to use it to their advantage. Israel won’t begin its own broadcasts until 1968—far too late, according to Musel, who says they should have been exploiting it for years, giving its neighbors a look at what the country and its people are really like. Foreign correspondent Shelby Scates of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer tells Musel that most Arabs “had no idea what the average Israeli was like” other than the “highly-colored” accounts from Arab newspapers. The Israelis are missing the boat, says Scates—“If the Arabs could see this land of milk and honey and the people in it, they wouldn’t be so afraid.” An Israeli journalist agrees, saying that “It’s time the Arabs stopped thinking we’ve got two tails.” Television as a bringer of world peace? I think it’s naïve, but maybe, back in 1967, not so much.

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Finally, a look at this week's Letters section, which features a missive from Caro S., in Rowayton, Connecticut, and this should be read in conjunction with that Hippie documentary that CBS is running opposite The Fugitive. In that show, Harry Reasoner travels to San Francisco to find out why so many teens are dropping out of the "straight" world, and what they are turning on to, namely the "bizarre life" of  Haight-Ashbury, "hippie hill" in Golden Gate Park, "universal love, 'flower power'—and drugs." The drug most often under discussion is LSD, and doctors discuss the dangers that can come from it, while hippies talk about their experiences with overdoses.

OK, now that we've established the context, let's get back to Caro's letter. I have no idea whether Caro is male or female, but I'm going to assume Caro is a she, because it seems to be written from a feminine perspective. Caro is a teen, with perhaps a different perspective from those on the Reasoner show. And her target, oddly enough, is none other than Steve Allen. "No teen-ager among my friends has ever escended to the level of taste shown by The Steve Allen Show," she writes. (And remember, as I've pointed out before, back in these days you had to feel strongly enough about something to actually write a letter and mail it, rather than just sitting at a keyboard and pressing "send".)

"A few weeks ago," she continues, "there was a parody of 'The Taming of the Shrew' in which Jayne Meadows [Mrs. Allen, for those of you keeping score at home] licked custard pie off her husband's face, with many leering gestures. This week the show had Mr. Allen blowing into his wife's ear as she shivered merrily and leered some more. (This was in a sketch about their idea of hippies, most of whom are much more polite and less vulgar than the so-called comedians.) How about recognizing the fact that we teen-agers have standards, too, and the thing that rubs us the wrong way most of all is the adult way of smirking in reference to sex."

It's hard to know whether Caro is criticizing Allen for being lewd, or being hypocritical about sex (hypocrisy being one of the main complaints young people had toward their elders in the Generation Gap era). Whatever the case, whether she's a little prudish or simply more sophisticated, it sounds like there's at least one teen out there who has standards. And in an era which is bringing us very little in the way of good news, that fact alone is almost enough to make one want to stand up and cheer. TV