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.

t  t  t

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.

t  t  t

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.

t  t  t

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.

t  t  t

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.

t  t  t

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  

August 16, 2019

Around the dial

That little girl has no idea of how historic the image on that TV is. The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show. What other kinds of historic notes do we have this week?

First, a reminder that yours truly is one of the guests on Dan Budnick's Eventually Supertrain podcast; we continue our review of the Warner Bros. detective series Bourbon Street Beat, starring Richard Long, Andrew Duggan, Van Williams, and Arlene Howell. You won't want to miss the other segments either; my friend Amanda looks at Masquerade, while Amy the Conqueror talks about Eerie, Indiana.

At The Twilight Zone Vortex, Jordan takes a fond look back at Gamma, the 1963-64 sci-fi magazine that, as Jordan says, was "a showcase for the writers of The Twilight Zone." Some good stuff there.

The tenth-season episode "Triumph" by Arthur A. Ross is the latest installment of The Hitchcock Project by Jack at bare-bones e-zine. Ed Begley and Jeannette Nolan star, and because I haven't seen this episode yet I'm not going to read any further.

At The Horn Section, Hal is back in the thick of Love That Bob! with "Bob Meets Miss Sweden." We all know that Bob has an eye for the trim ankle, and it's hard to beat the real-life Miss Sweden, Ingrid Goude. Bob has competition though, in the form of Gordon Scott, the real-life Tarzan.

Inner Toob has a delightful collection of colorized photos with Jack Kelly as Bart Maverick, cavorting with a bevy of beauties who appeared with him on Maverick. As Toby says, there may be any number of Maverick descendants roaming the world of TV land.

I vaguely remember The Interns, a 1970-71 series on CBS; we didn't move to the World's Worst Town™ until 1972, so it's possible I saw it. Just in case, Television Obscurities refreshes our memories with this retro review of the episode "Miss Knock-A-Bout."

At A Shroud of Thoughts, Terence has a very nice write-up on one of my favorite OTR programs, Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar. (Isn't that a great name?) We're probably most familiar with the Bob Bailey-led episodes, but the show has a rich history both before and after the Bailey era.

As I mentioned a while back, circumstances prevent us from going to the Mid-Atlantic Nostalgia Convention this year, but after reading this preview by the convention's major domo, Martin Grams, you'll see why it's such a great time. TV  

August 14, 2019

The world's most incompetent lawyer

In their book Harry and Wally's Favorite TV Shows, authors Harry Castleman and Walter J. Podrazik have this to say about Hamilton Burger, the hapless D.A. and nemesis of Perry Mason: "[W]hile Burger may be 'zero for whatever' against Mason, he's probably batting a thousand against the guilty parties that Perry uncovers.'"

Well, duh. Since most of these parties confess their guilt in open court, in front of dozens of witnesses and court officials, it's hard to believe that these cases even come to trial. Perhaps Burger accepts a plea of guilty in return for not seeking the death penalty, but it's not likely he even needs to go this far. Again: standing up and shouting "I did it and I'm glad I did it!" is not the best legal strategy if you intend to plead not guilty, unless you're going for an insanity defense.

Not long ago I commented on Twitter that Dr. Richard Kimble would never have been convicted had the prosecutor been Hamilton Burger. I suppose we should be grateful that Kimble was tried in Indiana rather than California; otherwise, we would have been deprived of one of television's greatest dramas. (I'm not sure the good doctor would agree with this, but then, it just goes to show that realtors are right: location does matter.) The fact remains, however, that Hamilton Burger has to have one of the most dismal records of any prosecutor in history. Only twice during the nine-year run of Perry Mason did Burger manage to defeat Perry, and even then the verdicts didn't stand: in one case the defendant turned out to be an imposter, and in the other Perry's able to free his client despite her attempts to take the rap for someone else. Not only that, but there were six occasions during the series, while Raymond Burr was unable to play Mason due to hospitalization, when guest stars were cast in the role of defense attorney.* Despite the fact that none of these substitutes were specialists in trial law, all six were able to defeat Burger by exposing the true criminal. So not only can he not beat Mason, we have no evidence that he can win against anyone else, either. Burger probably would have lost even if he'd been in charge of Stalin's show trials.

*Never let it be said that the show was afraid to aim high: the six replacements for Burr were Bette Davis, Michael Rennie, Hugh O'Brian, Walter Pidgeon, Mike Connors, and Barry Sullivan.

And so we come to the central question, the point of all these ruminations: could it be that Hamilton Burger is not just the worst lawyer ever seen on TV, but the most incompetent character, period? To test this hypothesis, I tried to come up with a short list of television characters who were not just dumb boobs, but true, Darwin Awards-level ineptitude, so bad at their jobs that they posed a threat to the very well-being of their profession, if not the community.

Who in the television universe might his competition be? You don't have to look around very far to find some prime contenders: Gilligan, for example. He doesn't seem to be able to do anything right, and yet he's goodhearted at heart. (If that isn't redundant.) If he were in charge of something more important, he might be the winner—or loser, I suppose we'd have to say—but as it is, there's no evidence that he's responsible for the shipwreck in the first place, and in fact he sometimes winds up inadvertently saving the others from greater harm. So Gilligan is out.

Ted Baxter is pretty bad as a newscaster, but unlike Gilligan he's not aware of his own incompetence, and he's such a buffoon you can't really dislike him, either. Frank Burns is just as bad a doctor, and he's unlikable as well, which counts double points against him—or in his favor, if you will. He's usually prevented from killing innocent patients by the other doctors in the unit, though, which means he doesn't do as much damage as he could. Colonel Klink and Sergeant Schultz are right up there as well; more than one time, Major Hochstetter (no slouch in the incompetence department himself) suggests that every time Klink screws up, he's responsible for taking a hundred years off the thousand-year Reich. We know he can't be that bad, though, or else the Nazis would have been in negative territory by the end of the first season.

The same goes for many of the other characters we might think of: neither Gomer Pyle nor Barney Fife cause the kind of collateral damage that makes them a real contender, and at least in the case of Pyle, one could argue that the real screw-up is the Marine recruiter who thought Pyle would be an addition to the Corps. (You notice he never made it to Vietnam, either.) More recent contenders could include Carrie Mathison of Homeland, who might well be the most inept agent in the history of the CIA (and that's saying something), but she could probably get off on an insanity defense. A compelling case can be made for the double-team effort of Michael Scott and David Brent from, respectively, the American and British versions of The Office, but one could say they're as tragic as they are hopeless, and calling either of the characters the most incompetent ever would just be pouring it on.

But a Perry Mason episode wouldn't be complete without a last-minute surprise, and just when it seems that Hamilton Burger has finally made a case that the jury will buy, Paul Drake comes rushing in and hands a slip of paper to Perry, who opens it up and reveals the name of:

Homer Simpson.

It would be impossible to suggest that anyone is more inept at their job than Homer, and as for causing widespread damage, how does a nuclear core meltdown strike you? Homer also gets bonus points for being a bumbler not only in his job, but at home as well. He's a bad son, father, and husband, and doesn't take such good care of himself. And whereas Burger is sure he's right, right up until the time he's proven wrong, Homer doesn't even have the courage of his faults, His redeeming qualities, and he does have some, merely elevate him from, say, the ninth circle of incompetence to the seventh.

So even when it comes to losing, Burger can't win,* which might well be the ultimate example of his incompetence. Which leads one to wonder when Burger might think to himself, "Maybe it's not you; maybe it's me."  When you consider how the judge almost always rules against his objections, or the number of times he's hoist on his own petard by smugly stipulating to something that Perry later uses to outwit him at a crucial moment in the trial, you begin to wonder how this guy even passed the bar.

*As Yukon Cornelius might say to Rudolph and Hermey, even on the Island of Misfit Toys, he's a misfit.

Given all this, how does Hamilton Burger keep getting elected District Attorney of Los Angeles County? (It is an elective office, after all, with the elected official serving a four-year term.) He has a large department to oversee; according to their website, "the Los Angeles County District Attorney's Office is the largest local prosecutorial office in the United States." He also has a myriad number of deputy district attorneys at his disposal (there are 1,000 today; there must have been several hundred in Burger's time). Yet he insists on trying high-profile cases, and even assuming a few gimmies here and there, his overall record must be miserable. How must Joe Friday feel, knowing that virtually his only chance at putting away the bad guy is to get a confession, because if it goes to trial Burger's sure to screw it up? No, Burger's continuing presence in office can only be regarded as one of those mysteries of life. Either that, or crooked politics. (Jake Gittes, call your office!)

William Talman, the actor who so wonderfully portrayed Burger, was philosophical about losing to Mason week after week. "Burger doesn't lose. How can a district attorney lose when he fails to convict an innocent person? Unlike a fist or gun fight, in court you can have a winner without having a loser." That's a noble sentiment to be sure, but perhaps Burger wouldn't "fail to convict" so often if his department did a more thorough investigation before attempting to indict someone with evidence that doesn't even make it through the pretrial hearing. And then there's Burger always kvetching about Mason and his "courtroom tricks" that threaten to turn everything into a circus. Yes, Perry's methodology can be unorthodox at times, but you'd think that Burger would remember that those tricks usually wind up uncovering the real killer. He might at least be thankful that Mason's making his job easier for him. As Gerry Spence, perhaps America's greatest trial lawyer, once said, "I would rather have a mind opened by wonder than one closed by belief." Burger's problem is that he believes in himself too much, when a wondering mind would be a little more open to Mason's tactics—especially when they're always successful.

Now, I don't suppose I'd be doing you much good here if I didn't point out that television often occupies a world other than the one in which we live, and we ought to be grateful for that. No attorney tries 39 cases a year; and no district attorney personally handles every case that comes his way. And if Perry Mason was the world's greatest defense attorney, surely he'd be flying all over the country, in his private jet, taking on some of the nation's most notorious cases; at least that way he'd be beating up on a different D.A. each week. Sure, Perry Mason is formulaic, but so is a vaccine, and nobody ever told Jonas Salk they'd like to see him work for once without the formula, and then we'd find out how great he was. Perhaps we're all just better off if we accept the fact that Burger's true purpose in life is to serve as the Washington Generals of the legal profession.

I suppose we've been beating up a little too much here on poor Ham Burger. And maybe we can't convict him of being television's most incompetent character. But at least we can make the case that as far as district attorneys go, he is in a class of his own. Nobody, but nobody, comes close to his perfect record. And if you don't like it, well, sue me. Just make sure you get a better lawyer. TV  

August 12, 2019

What's on TV? Tuesday, August 12, 1958

We're back in Ohio this week, but another part of the state. Instead of Cincinnati, the focus in this issue is Cleveland, with its own set of quirks and local personalities. I quite enjoyed going through this issue; hopefully you'll find some of your favorites here.

August 10, 2019

This week in TV Guide: August 9, 1958

During this week's cover story interview, the unnamed TV Guide writer asks Steve Lawrence about the plans he and his wife, Eydie Gormé, have for the future. "We want to be sort of timeless," Steve replies, "like Sinatra or Doris Day or Dinah Shore—the standouts, not the flashes-in-the-pan. We're building slowly and we may not make the big money all at once. But we think we have a solid foundation and that'st he way we're going to play it." As the subhead puts it, they're "building careers slowly because they want applause to last."

After having looked through a few hundred issues of TV Guide, covering four decades, you get used to reading stories about starlets who never become the next big thing, big stars who are forgotten today, stars whose whitewashed profiles hid dark secrets, solid marriages that break up a year or two later. What you don't often get are stories that pretty much tell you exactly who people are and what the future has in store for them—but that's exactly what we have here.

Now, I didn't know either of them personally; they could have been horrible people. But they never came off that way on TV, and they don't come off like that here. Steve and Eydie started as singers on The Steve Allen Show in 1954. They married in 1957, and this summer they're subbing for Allen with their own show. They had other opportunities, Lawrence says, but "we picked this one because it offered us more of a good showcase." As for future TV efforts, he says that "A weekly series, unless it's right, can do more harm than good professionally. We've had offers. Plenty of them. But we haven't found the right format." When they're out on the road, it's generally with one of them as a single, rather than the two of them together. It's true, Lawrence points out, that they make more money as soloists than as an act—but they prefer "to take different jobs at different times. Then we can always be together." Indeed, when asked if she would take a job in Hollywood while Lawrence was performing in New York, Gormé says she wouldn't. "Maybe it wouldn't hurt our marriage, but it would hurt me. I can't stand to be that far away from Stevie."

That was Steve and Eydie in 1958, and, it seems to me, that was them all throughout their career. When Lawrence talks about wanting to be timeless, when he throws out names like Sinatra and Day, you're tempted to thing this might be a bit presumptuous for someone who's all of 23 (unless his name is, say, Paul Anka), but by the time Eydie retires in 2010, the couple have been stars, separately and together, for 53 years. They're regulars in nightclubs and on television; they appear on almost every variety show; they're frequently guests on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson (on consecutive nights, so that one of them will always be with their children while the other is performing); they do specials of their own, for which they win Emmys; they release successful albums, both separately and together. Steve's big hit is, "Go Away, Little Girl," and turns out to be not just a very good singer, but a fine actor in both comedies and drama, nominated for a Tony for What Makes Sammy Run? Eydie has a big hit of her own with "Blame it on the Bossa Nova," and has another success with "Amor." Their marriage, which seems so ideal in TV Guide, is the first for each of them, and lasts until Gormé's death in 2013. Lawrence continues to perform, despite an Alzheimer's diagnosis earlier this year. Yes, I'd say the applause lasted a good long time for them.

t  t  t

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, just to coexist with him, which he did for several seasons. Let's see who gets the best of the contest this week. (With the aforementioned Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gormé filling in for Steverino.)

Sullivan: Ed's guests tonight are winners of the Fifth Annual U.S. Navy World Wide Talent Contest.

Lawrence and Gormé: Steve and Eydie's guests are musical-comedy star Janis Page, singer Julius La Rosa, Jazzman Lionel Hampton and the Compass Players, comedy acting group.

If we lived inside the world of television, rather than on the outside looking in, the Navy Talent Contest participants would include someone we recognize from one of our sitcoms. Change "Navy" to "Army," for example, and it would be a perfect scenario for The Phil Silvers Show, with Bilko conniving to get someone, probably Doberman, on the show by passing him of as a singer of Italian opera (with Bilko as his manager, of course), all as an excuse to get to New York where Bilko can introduce himself to some beautiful French actress. For all I know, they did do a story like this.

However, as I said, we don't live inside that world, and so we make do with what we have. Undoubtedly, the hit of the Sullivan show this week has to be the U.S. Navy Steel Band, which was able to get into the show due to a last-minute cancellation; this excerpt from a book about the history of the band captures their appearance on the show. The band, formed in 1957, has quite a history; as the Wikipedia entry notes, "Between 1973 and 1979 alone the band traveled over a million and a half miles, and performed as many as 500 concerts a year." They also released several albums before they were finally disbanded in 1999. You can listen to one of these albums here, and believe me, you've never heard "The Stars and Stripes Forever" until you've heard it performed by a steel drum band.

Have I overlooked anything? Right, the matchup. Well, as unpatriotic as it may seem, I'm afraid even the U.S. Navy Steel Band can't compete with Lionel Hampton, not to mention Janis Page and Julius La Rosa. As the stars of this week's cover, it's appropriate that Steve and Eydie take the prize.

t  t  t

We've had a lot of fun with letters to the editor over the years, but this is one of the rare cases where the letters are regional, rather than national. (Address: Regional Editor, TV Guide, Cleveland 14, Ohio.) I could be reading too much into these, but I'm struck again by how, well, regional this country used to be, before we were linked by social media and our obsessive national culture.

Take a letter about a "new" star that isn't so "new," John Raitt of The Chevy Show. What else, the writer asks (apparently in all innocence), has he done? Well, John Raitt's appeared in a few musicals you might have heard of, including The Pajama Game (reprising his role in the movie version, opposite Doris Day), Annie Get Your Gun, and most recently, Carousel. (He's also partly responsible for a daughter named Bonnie, but I don't blame anyone for not caring about that yet.) John Raitt's a big star on Broadway. But, in Cleveland in 1958, it's possible you might not have heard of him. I'm not talking down to Clevelanders here, only pointing out that this is before the Tony Awards became a television special, before it became more common to travel to a place like New York and catch a Broadway show or two. (This is also the year the Dodgers and Giants moved to California.) See what I mean?

One of the marvels of television in this era is how it brought the world to people who heretofore had only seen their little corner of it. The Pew Research Center reported in 2008 that in the Midwest, "nearly half of adult residents say they have spent their entire lives in their hometown." I don't know what the figures looked like back in 1958, but overall Pew reports that "the number of people who moved between 2007 and 2008 . . .was the lowest since 1959-60," so it's not improbable to think that Midwesterners were just as homebound back then. I always think back to the first episode of Edward R. Murrow's See It Now, in which he marveled at television's ability to show, on two separate screens, live pictures of the Atlantic and Pacific Oceans.

Ed Sullivan, in particular, was responsible for bringing a great deal of New York's entertainment scene to the rest of the country, of helping to create the "middlebrow" culture that enabled musical theater and opera stars to become household names. This clip of Raitt performing one of the signature songs from Carousel doesn't identify what TV show it was from, but it easily could have been Sullivan's.

That middlebrow culture has largely disappeared today, which is ironic considering that we're now, supposedly, more connected than ever. It's a different kind of connection though, one that's perhaps more superficial, more focused on the celebrity culture (often self-made), and it's more confrontational than educational. And if you were to have a similar letters to the editor section today, you'd likely have people asking who Ariana Grande is, or Cardi B., or Drake. In that sense, we're just as splintered, just as alone, as we were back in 1958.

Is this progress? Damned if I know.

t  t  t

Another letter, which bears all the marks of having been written by a young fan, lauds Clint Walker of ABC's Cheyenne, who is "really good." Writes the fan, "he is my favorite actor and Western star [and] I thought I would write and tell you that I sincerely hope that this particular show will stay on TV for a long time." I hope, then, that this fan doesn't get too depressed over the note in TV Teletype that Ty Hardin will be taking over Cheyenne in the fall, playing the new role of Bronco Layne, due to the continuing contract dispute between Warner Bros. and Walker. It's no idle threat; Walker doesn't return to Cheyenne until next year, when it enters into a rotating format with Hardin's Bronco and Will Hutchins in Sugarfoot.

Walker is far from the only WB star to run into contract problems with the studio. Probably the most famous of their disputes is with James Garner, who leaves Maverick after its third season because of the studio's refusal to pay him during a writers' strike; Edd Byrnes, during the second season of 77 Sunset Strip, takes a hike as well, dissatisfied with both his salary and the size of his role. Both Walker and Byrnes eventually settle their disagreements and return to their respective shows, but not Garner: he files suit against Warners for breach of contract and wins, then wins on appeal as well, making him essentially a free agent. It's a landmark case in the annals of Hollywood, and Garner goes on to even greater fame and fortune in a marvelous career.

(Wonderful thing about TV Guide; there's a rabbit hole around practically every corner.)

t  t  t

So what else have we got this week?

CBS's Saturday afternoon baseball game of the week between the Boston Red Sox and New York Yankees (1:40 p.m. ET) is preceded by the annual Old-Timers Day game, this year featuring members of the 1947 Yankees and 1946 Red Sox. One of the challenges here is that so many of the Yankees stars are still playing, including Yogi Berra, Mickey Mantle, Whitey Ford and Elston Howard. Joe DiMaggio's retired, though, and he'll be just one of the greats taking part.

Do I need to explain who Hume Cronyn was? Although he's most famous for his work on stage (and for being married to Jessica Tandy), he did plenty of television (including a couple of wonderful performances on Hawaii Five-O), and we have proof of this on Sunday. First, he co-stars with Eva Gabor in the G.E. Theater comedy "Ah, There, Beau Brimmel" (9:00 p.m., CBS), then he turns around and appears as a murderous barrister in "Impromptu Murder" on Alfred Hitchcock Presents (9:30 p.m., NBC). Not a bad night's work.

When you watch a lot of classic TV, you get to see people like Bobby Troup, musicians who were also very good character actors (usually, but not always, playing musicians). So if you only know Troup as Dr. Joe Early on Emergency!, you're missing one of the great jazz artists of all time. On Monday, his show, Stars of Jazz (ABC, 9:00 p.m.) features another all-time great: the Dave Brubeck Quartet (left), featuring Paul Desmond on the alto-sax.

Tuesday, the aforementioned Cheyenne (7:30 p.m., ABC) includes a guest star appearance by future soap icon (and mother of Corbin Bernsen) Jeanne Cooper, as Cheyenne struggles to recover from a desert ambush that leaves him with no horse, no food, and no water.
On Wednesday, the husband-and-wife team of Robert Sterling and Anne Jeffreys star in "The Julia Gage Story" on Wagon Train (7:30 p.m., ABC). And Thursday's Playhouse 90 presentation, "No Time at All," is a psychological story about a possibly-doomed airliner, with a cast including Bill Lundigan (whom we read about a couple of weeks ago), Jane Greer, Betsy Palmer, Keenan Wynn, Reginald Gardiner, James Gleason, Jack Haley and Buster Keaton. They probably need all 90 minutes.

On Friday, ABC once again covers the College All-Star Game from Soldier Field in Chicago (9:30 p.m.), pitting the NFL champion Detroit Lions against a college all-star team boasting future Hall of Famers Bobby Mitchell, Jerry Kramer and Ray Nitschke, plus Alex Karras. Despite the Lions boasting six Hall of Famers of their own, including Bobby Layne and Joe Schmidt, the All-Stars explode for 20 points in the second quarter en route to a 35-19 humiliation of the Leos.

t  t  t

I could conclude with this week's starlet, none other than Shirley MacLaine, but instead I'd just like to say that this here issue has been brought to you by Bruce Speicher, who ran across it in his mother's possessions, and thoughtfully asked if I might like it. He's not sure why she saved it, although he notes that "she was a big fan of cartoonist Arnold Roth who is featured prominently in this issue." Ah, yes, Arnold Roth, who did so many hilarious cartoons for TV Guide over the years. Here are a couple of illustrations from this week's article on "famous lines" from The Late Show:

As you know, finances are not exactly plentiful at the moment, so if you'd like to donate an old issue for use in this weekly feature, or just loan it out for a couple of weeks (I'll return it in good shape!) shoot me an email. Thank you again, Bruce, and thanks to you all for your continued readership. TV  

August 9, 2019

Around the dial

At Comfort TV, David looks at the eternally popular Scooby-Doo, and asks the eternal question: purchase or pass on The New Scooby-Doo Movies?

It sometimes seems as if there's been an endless supply of British mysteries dramas on American television, and it can be difficult to keep track of them. Classic Film and TV Café brings to my attention a previously-unknown one: Mr. Palfrey of Westminster, a taut espionage drama with Alec McCowen.

The Horn Section returns to the world of Love That Bob! with the 1958 episode "Grandpa Moves West," another chance for Bob Cummings to double-up as Bob Collins and Grandpa Joshua Collins.

Carol Ford and Linda Groundwater, co-authors of Bob Crane: The Definitive Biography, appeared recently on Magic 95.9 to discuss Bob; you can listen to the interview at Bob Crane: Life & Legacy.

Longtime NBC crewmember Phil Hynes died last week at age 96. A veteran of shows from Your Hit Parade to The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon, he also worked on lighting for Dave Garroway's Today Show, and Jodie remembers him at this week's Garroway at Large.

At Cult TV Blog, John looks at the influence that the James Bond movies might have had on one of the hit British TV shows of the time, The Avengers. Cut from the same bolt of cloth, eh?

I've been reading a lot about TV movies lately, so naturally I noticed this piece at Realweegiemidget Reviews about the 1981 TV-flick This House Possessed, with Parker Stevenson and Lisa Eilbacher. Horror camp lives!

Another twofer at Television Obscurities: while you're harking back 30 years to the TV Guide of August 5, 1989, be sure to check out the streaming guide to short-lived and forgotten TV shows.

Be sure you don't forget to stop by tomorrow! TV  

August 7, 2019

The thousand words

The pictures you see each Friday in the "Around the Dial" feature capture people in the act of watching, and reacting to, television. The pictures usually illustrate enjoyment, amusement, occasionally rapt concentration. I was in the process of coming up with the picture I used last Friday when I came across a photo that was so striking, not just in its composition but in its ability to tell multiple stories at once, that I thought it deserved a mention of its own.

I don't think I need to identify the occasion, do I? The photograph, taken by Philadelphia Bulletin photographer Jack Rosen, is entitled "Announcement of Death of John F. Kennedy, Sears Roebuck Store, Levittown PA," Look at the amount of detail in this single picture. We know it's in a department store, based on the variety of merchandise: organs in front of a bank of television sets. On those television sets: the picture on the left is of Walter Cronkite at CBS, having just read the flash that President Kennedy is dead. In the middle, ABC is showing a slide with Kennedy's picture and the caption "1917-1963". And on the right, NBC's Frank McGee is talking via telephone with Robert MacNeil in Dallas, who has just relayed the news from press secretary Malcolm Kilduff. The other sets are all tuned to Cronkite; perhaps these three, the easiest to reach, reflect people seeking the most up-to-date information, or maybe it was someone hoping desperately to hear that it was all just a bad dream.

It's an extraordinary moment, don't you think? For all the times we've been able to watch this footage, over and over again, have we ever seen it synchronized like this, capturing the fateful announcement as it is being made?

Just as extraordinary, though, is the reaction of the woman sitting on the organ bench. I don't know how old she is, if she's a young mother, if it's just her hair that is fashionably short, giving her a youthful appearance. I prefer to think of her as a young woman, out running errands on a Friday afternoon when her attention is captured by the bulletins. She's turned away from the TV, a instinctive, convulsive gesture, burying her face in her left hand while her right arm is held tightly against her purse. Surely there must be others standing around, watching the news, and yet the picture frames her perfectly in that second, absolutely and utterly alone and grief-stricken, reeling from a hammer blow. The photo captures that moment and freezes it forever.

There are so many pictures of the remarkable things that happened that weekend, and it would have been difficult to deny the Pulitzer to Bob Jackson for his picture capturing Ruby shooting Oswald. For my money, though, the picture of this lone woman encapsulates everything: the event, the scope, the nation's reaction. Will there ever be such a universal feeling again?

A thousand words? More like a million, or 200 million, if you ask me. TV  

August 5, 2019

What's on TV? Monday, August 5, 1968

Well, here we are in Big Sky Country, and if last week was challenging, what with part of Indiana in one time zone and part in another, take a look at this: three states, two time zones, and eight stations with multiple affiliations. And, back in these days, conventions meet in both the afternoon and the evening.

There's something else interesting about how network convention coverage fits into the broadcasting schedule. Because the conventions are carried live, they come not at the end of the broadcast day—when prime time is running into late night—but in late afternoon, into the heart of prime time, leaving at least an hour or so for normal programming. So after convention coverage ends for the time, then it's time for Felony Squad, or That Girl, or Star Trek.

Oh, and one more thing: what with all the multiple affiliations, you're apt to see shows on channels you'd least expect. How else to explain KFBB, which has Captain Kangaroo and As the World Turns in the morning, Star Trek in the evening, and an NBC News Special followed by Joey Bishop in late night? You've got to love it.

August 3, 2019

This week in TV Guide: August 3, 1968

True story: it was Wednesday, August 7, 1968, and my mother and I were sitting on the couch in our apartment, watching the Republican Convention on television. She was a very savvy political junkie dating back to before I was born, working for the company that did the printing for Minnesota's Democratic party (even though she was a Republican), and she knew several of the state's most important politicians: Humphrey, Mondale, Frasier; and so that night, as we sat on the couch, my mother explained the art of politics to her precocious eight-year-old son.

The candidates were in Miami Beach (Jackie Gleason's favorite city), and as they arrived to rally their supporters, she gave me the 411. That's Ronald Reagan, she said as he appeared on the screen. (I don't remember for sure, but I imagine he was smiling and waving to the cameras.) He's the governor of California now, but he used to be in the movies. I always did like him; he's very handsome.

He was followed on-screen by Nelson Rockefeller, governor of New York. My mother did not like him; she thought he was arrogant, and besides, he was much too liberal for her. Finally, there was Richard Nixon. He used to be Vice President, my mother explained. He's the candidate I'm supporting. We watched late into the night, past midnight, as Richard Nixon won the nomination on the first ballot, on the way to the presidency.

Thus was my introduction to politics.

It's convention week again, and as was the case when we looked at the 1964 convention last month, the stars of this week's issue are the men bringing us the coverage (minus Edward P. Morgan). They talk about the challenges of covering a national convention; Walter Cronkite, back on top of CBS's coverage, prepares a pair of loose-leaf binders, though he won't refer to them during the convention because "I plan all these facts in my mind by the act of writing them out." He adds that it's important to make the correct identification of people on the floor; it's bad when something important happens and he doesn't recognize who's doing it. Howard K. Smith, anchoring ABC's new-look coverage (more on that in a minute), prepares "two or three hundred pages of notes" into 75 post-card-size cards, one on each state and special ones for the candidates. He doesn't rely on them on air, though; like Cronkite, he has it all memorized by convention time. Chet Huntley, part of NBC's anchor duo,  warns against planning too far in advance—"If you read for six months to prepare for a convention, you'd do all the wrong reading." David Brinkley, Huntley's partner, doesn't want to get trapped by rumors unless they sound reasonable; "I'd rather get beating on a story than be wrong." Being based in Washington, he knows most of the big players, but it's "very awkward" when a face appears at the podium and he doesn't know who it is.

You'll recall seeing John Chancellor hauled off the floor during the 1964 GOP convention, so naturally the question of floor coverage comes up. Brinkley thinks keeping reports off the floor is silly, and wouldn't help clear up the congestion; "The fat cats would still stand in the aisles, smoke their cigars and scratch their bellies." The important point, though, is why the media is at the convention in the first place. "Are we a conduit, or are we there to cover the story?. . .Our job is to dig and to analyze, not make free time available for the delegates to use as they see fit." Smith doesn't think it would hurt to get rid of them, though; "We could have camera setups just off the floor and invite any delegates we wanted to interview to come over there." Cronkite thinks the presence of television has changed conventions: "I regret that they've swept some procedures under the rug for television's benefit. They now make many more decisions in the back rooms to prevent acrimony in public." Huntley agrees: "The committees are always talking about streamlining the convention process itself, but it might be damned dangerous to do that," since it would just wind up concentrating more power in the hands of fewer people.

They all enjoy the convention process—Huntley calls it "fun," and Smith says it's untidy but that "it sure does work." Part of the excitement is that the convention is where news is made; Cronkite calls it "a news medium to inform the Nation about what's going on." Would that this were the case today, but you can see from the comments of Cronkite and Huntley that they're already concerned about political parties turning their conventions into staged events for television, which is exactly what they've become. (Had the term "infomercial" existed, they probably would have used it.) And nobody watches them now anyway, which means anchors might have to resort to what Huntley said when asked how anchors could improve ratings: "There's not much an anchor man can do to change them, unless maybe he stands up and takes off his pants."

The Republican Convention of 1968 is a typical convention of the time, with a dozen candidates having their names placed into nomination, with the concurrent demonstrations, balloon drops, marching bands, and dancing girls in the aisles. The roll call vote that nominated Richard Nixon ran fairly tame exercise in comparison to what happens in Chicago two weeks later at the Democratic Convention. My mother wouldn't let me watch that one, but it wasn't because she was a Republican—she just thought it was too violent for an eight-year-old.

t  t  t

One of the new wrinkles in this year's political coverage is ABC's decision to abandon the traditional gavel-to-gavel coverage in favor of a 90-minute wrap-up at the end of each evening's session. Howard K. Smith hosts the report from just off the convention floor, where he can snag interviews. Bill Lawrence will then chair a roundtable discussion featuring the network's political correspondents sharing the latest information, and Frank Reynolds will follow with sidebar stories.

And then there's the most novel part of ABC's coverage, as Neil Hickey reports:

Conservative journalist William F. Buckley and liberal novelist/playwright Gore Vidal, who—the network hopes—will add a dash of spice to its coverage. "We want these guys to be irreverent," says ABC's convention boss, Wally Pfister. "They don't have to be objective. We're expecting humor, too."
Did ABC get what they wanted? I guess you'd have to say they did, since people still talk about it over 50 years later. This isn't where the infamous "crpyto-Nazi vs. queer" exchange that most of you probably know about happens; that's in Chicago at the Democratic convention. Buckley and Vidal face-off eight times; four at each convention, and this segment from the final night of the Republican Convention is pretty typical of the other episodes.*

*The documentary The Best of Enemies, which came out in 2015, purports to tell the story of these encounters, but Politico's Michael Lind says it doesn't even come close.

Now, was this all for real, or was it just a publicity stunt? Buckley, years later, would say that when he signed the contract with ABC, it was with the understanding that Vidal was the one person with whom he would not appear; when ABC proceeded to sign Vidal anyway, Buckley chose to appear rather than break the contract. After that Nazi-queer bit, when the two men had left the set, Vidal supposedly said something to Buckley along the lines of, "Well, we really gave them their money's worth tonight, didn't we?" Buckley, disgusted, turned away.

t  t  t

And now a word from the editor in "As We See It," which all the news organizations could stand to follow:

In this political year it is especially important that broadcasters avoid any indication of bias in news reports. And in the case of newscasters whose political leanings are well known, it is especially important that they clearly label editorial opinion as such.

Yeah, I know. Fat chance.

t  t  t

Is there anything non-political on TV this week? On Saturday, The Prisoner (5:30 p.m. MT, CBS) offers one of the most existential episodes of a decidedly existential series, "Do Not Forsake Me Oh My Darling." The premise: "Put yourself in the Prisoner's shoes: You wake up, look in the mirror, and discover that the face and body you see are not your own. You learn that you have bee missing for a year—and have no idea where you've been. Which identity would you believe in? The person your mind remembers—or the stranger you see in the mirror? Even if you could be sure of who you were, how would you convince anybody else?" Simply brilliant.

No Hollywood Palace this week due to ABC's pre-convention report on Saturday, but Ed's around on Sunday (6:00 p.m., CBS), with a pretty good lineup: Gordon MacRae and Carol Lawrence, performing scenes from their current musical, I Do! I Do!; Ray Charles, with Billy Preston and his orchestra; Bill Dana, as "track star" Jose Jiminez; the Grand Music Hall of Israel; comic Jackie Kahane; singer Frankie Fanelli; the Blue Comets, a Japanese rock group; and the Mecners, a pole-balancing act.

Also on Sunday, ABC's Sunday Night Movie presents the TV premiere of Tokyo Olympiad (7:00 p.m.), the acclaimed story of the 1964 Tokyo Summer Olympics, and one of the great sports documentaries ever made. It's directed by the young Japanese moviemaker Kon Ichikawa, and was perhaps a bit too artistic for the International Olympic Committee, as no Olympic film since has so stylishly portrayed what Ichikawa calls "the glory of man as a living creature." It's been edited from it's runtime of over two hours to fit the 90-minute timeslot; even so, Judith Crist says that "what remains is filled with moments of great excitement and sequences of beauty." Were it not for the fact that the Mexico City Olympics are scheduled for ABC later in the summer, I can't imagine an art-house film like this playing in a network primetime slot.

Speaking of Judith Crist, one movie she can't recommend is Around the World Under the Sea (7:00 p.m., CBS), with TV stars Brian Kelly (Flipper), Lloyd Bridges (Sea Hunt), David McCallum (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.), and Marshall Thompson (Daktari). They appear with Shirley Eaton, who, according to Crist, "had it much better in Goldfinger when she was covered with gold rather than television personalities."

t  t  t

And amid all the political articles, a couple of profiles that stand out. First is Robert Musel's interview with Diana Rigg, who talks about why she left The Avengers. It was fun, "but I had no idea when I followed Honor [Blackman] that it would make me a name like this. I began to feel claustrophobic. I began to feel The Avengers was taking over. The degree of success it was getting made it more and more difficult to leave as the weeks went by." Better to leave on a high note, she says, than to become "stale."

She is a night person, touring dinner parties, the theater, and discos; her only hobby is reading; she takes an avid interest in the current political climate in the United States, sharing the general European skepticism about Vietnam. She thinks that the American racial situation is a harbinger of the growing color conflict in Britain. As far as her career goes, she hasn't ruled out a return to television if a play attracts her, but hopes for something more emotionally demanding; for now she's concentrating on her new movie career—and On Her Majesty's Secret Service hasn't even come along yet.

Meanwhile, Edith Efron visits Bob Crane, in the midst of his stardom in Hogan's Heroes. Efron recognizes the difficulties in using the Nazis as a source of comedy, even though the concerns of those who thought it would trivialize their atrocities has been shown to be unfounded. The fact that it works at all is because of "lively scripts, brilliant comedic acting—and Crane." Bob credits producer Eddie Feldman, who "made it clear to me that I absolutely must not play Hogan as a buffoon. I play him seriously, as a hero, as a leader who can inspire other men to keep fighting, even when behind bars."

Efron talks about his very successful radio career (film director George Cukor says, "You honestly became addicted to him"), his struggle to be taken seriously as an actor ("They had me typed. I'd beg for jobs, and they'd give me bits, a few lines"), and his success on The Donna Reed Show. He's well aware of his faults: thin-skinned, an inferiority complex around those he sees as intellectuals, a tendency to come on strong. He also has guts; he's determined to succeed in movies, and he knows his character. "You have to be a hero," Feldman told him. Think John Wayne; as Crane says, "He'll rescue you every time!"

t  t  t

By the way—it occurs to me that many of you may never have seen a political convention with a role call vote for president, or at least one where there was some suspense involved. Thankfully, we have a radio recording of that 1968 Republican role call vote, thanks to our home radio station, WCCO. Take a listen to it when you've got a chance; it'll give you an idea of the excitement that the conventions used to be. TV