September 21, 2019

This week in TV Guide: September 21, 1968

In last week's review, we looked at the 1963 Fall Preview; we don't have the 1968 Fall Preview here, but with most of the new shows starting this week, we probably ought to look at ones you undoubtedly recognize.

NBC, "The Full Color Network," kicks off Saturday with the premiere of Adam-12, the new police series from Jack Webb, starring Martin Milner as a veteran cop breaking in new partner Kent McCord (6:30 p.m. CT). Later Saturday, it's The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, based on the movie classic with Gene Tierney and Rex Harrison; the TV version has Hope Lange and Edward Mulhare (and we can't forget Charles Nelson Reilly). Sunday, ABC presents the new Irwin Allen adventure series Land of the Giants (6:00 p.m.), which takes place in a 1983 that was not quite like real life—no suborbital flights to London on the schedule yet.

Monday belongs to CBS; first, it's Lucille Ball's new sitcom, Here's Lucy (7:30 p.m.), followed by Mayberry R.F.D. (8:00 p.m.), the reconstituted Andy Griffith Show, and while Ken Berry is the star going forward, the debut episode bids a last, long farewell to the past as Sheriff Andy finally ties the knot with Helen Crump, with Don Knotts returning as best man. I imagine a few tears were shed during that episode.

Tuesday's probably the most significant night of the week, staring with ABC's breakout hit of the season, The Mod Squad (6:30 p.m.), which opens with a 90-minute "world premiere" pilot about "a trio of youthful offenders who infiltrate the crime scene." NBC has the debut of Julia (7:30 p.m.), the first weekly series to star a black woman since Beulah in the 1950s, with Diahann Carroll interviewing for a job with the "cantankerous" Dr. Chesney, played by Lloyd Nolan. Over at CBS, Doris Day makes her long-anticipated TV series debut with The Doris Day Show, which has some trouble settling on a format but still runs for five seasons; at 9:00 p.m. it's the inaugural episode of a new magazine series: 60 Minutes, with Mike Wallace and Harry Reasoner, which starts out alternating with The CBS News Hour but eventually finds a home on Sunday nights, where it remains to this day.

Some of you may have fond memories of Wednesday's Here Come the Brides (ABC, 6:30 p.m.), with David Soul responsible for bringing the aforementioned brides to Seattle. ay, but on Thursday (CBS, 7:00 p.m.) one of the longest-running police dramas begins its 12-season run: Hawaii Five-O, with Jack Lord (whose hair didn't move in 12 seasons either), whose beat is "the whole state" of Hawaii. And Friday sees the 90-minute The Name of the Game (7:30 p.m.), a wheel show with rotating stars Tony Franciosa, Gene Barry, and Robert Stack.

Let's add to all of this some of the returning favorites. CBS brings back Lassie, The Ed Sullivan Show, Mission: Impossible, Gunsmoke, Carol Burnett, The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, The Wild Wild West, The Jackie Gleason Show, My Three Sons, Hogan's Heroes, and Mannix. NBC has Get Smart, Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom, Walt Disney, Bonanza, I Dream of Jeannie, Laugh-In, The Virginian, Daniel Boone, Ironside, Dragnet, and Star Trek. And ABC renews The FBI, Peyton Place, The Big Valley, The Flying Nun, Bewitched, That Girl, The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game, Lawrence Welk, and The Hollywood Palace. And that's leaving some shows out, both new and returning, for which some of you might have a great affection.

The point is that this is one of the most memorable televisions seasons of the era, with a number of shows that do more than just bridge the gap into transition of the 1970s; Hawaii Five-O airs its last episode in 1980, and 60 Minutes—well, just tune in tomorrow night and you'll see how that's going. I know there are some of you out there who think the word "iconic" is overused, but taken as it is, to mean something that is "widely recognized and well-established," there's no question that the fall of 1968 sees more than its share of iconic television shows. Look at how many of them have been released in DVDin large part due to public demand, rather that simply a rote release as we have today, whether people want them or not. Between broadcast, cable, and streaming, we've got probably ten times the number of television programs available for viewing today: are there that many iconic programs among them?

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During the 60s, the Ed Sullivan Show and The Hollywood Palace were the premiere variety shows on television. Whenever they appear in TV Guide together, we'll match them up and see who has the best lineup..

Sullivan: From Caesars Palace in Las Vegas, Ed's guests are actor-folk singer Theodore Bikel, who performs a scene from Fiddler on the Roof; Liza Minnelli; comedians Jack Carter, and Allen and Rossi; the 5th Dimension; the McGuire Sisters; and the Canestrellis, trampoline act.

Palace: Don "Get Smart" Adams hosts an hour of music and comedy, with singers Nancy Sinatra, Lee Hazelwood, Hal Frazier, and the King Family; comedians Kaye Ballard of The Mothers-in-Law and Joey Forman; and heavyweight boxer Jerry Quarry and his sister Diana in a vocal duet.

Even before I got to Jerry Quarry's name, the Palace had the feel of a boxing night: Frazier (as in Joe), King (as in Don), and Forman (as in George, with an e in his last name). I was hoping there might somewhere be a clip of Quarry and his sister, but my (admittedly brief) search didn't turn anything up.

Never mind, though; we have fun with the Palace, but it's really a fine lineup. Not as good as Sullivan's, though; Bikel is a very good actor who's also a singer; Liza Minnelli is a very good singer who's also an actor, the 5th Dimension is hot, and the McGuire Sisters make sure your parents don't feel left out. It's a good contest, but Sullivan wins by a knockout.

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One of the things that used to be fun about the opening of the fall season, in addition to checking out all the new shows and getting to see new episodes of the old ones, is how the networks used to roll out big-ticket movies and specials, as a sampling of what's in store for the rest of the year. This week, as you may have figured out with that prologue (although it could just be another case of me blithering), is no exception.

Our first example comes right away, as NBC's Saturday Night at the Movies debuts Becket (8:00 p.m.), the Oscar-nominated film based on the Jean Anouilh play, starring Richard Burton and Peter O'Toole star in the towering story of the conflict between church and state, Beckett. Judith Crist calls it "that rare thing, a spectacular of content and character, faithful to its source and a powerful and fascinating film in its own right." It's even better than that: magnificent in scope, an example of how victory can be found even in death. as good as (but not better than) T.S. Eliot's Murder in the Cathedral. Shows what you can do when your story is timeless, as the truth always is.

Sunday presents dueling features: Anthony Quinn stars in the sprawling Zorba the Greek on ABC's Sunday Night Movie (8:00 p.m.) Crist appreciates the "brilliant" performance of Quinn, as well as Lila Kedrova's Supporting Actress Oscar-winning turn as the aging cocotte reliving the glories of her past. You might not be in the mood for Zorba though, in which case you'll probably welcome Vladimir Horowitz, arguably the world's greatest pianist, in a recital from Carnegie Hall in New York taped last February and shown here without commercial interruption. (8:00 p.m., CBS)

Returning shows like to make a splash as well, with special guests and storylines. Monday night (CBS, 9:00 p.m.), Carol Burnett begins her second season, with Jim Nabors, Carol's traditional opening night good luck charm for the entire run of the series. Tuesday, Red Skelton kicks off his 18th season (CBS, 7:30 p.m.), with Boris Karloff and Vincent Price on hand for the fun. Wednesday brings us Bob Hope's first comedy special of the season (NBC, 8:00 p.m.), an hour-long spoof of politics with Hope as presidential candidate Gaylord Goodfellow, who like most politicians is fond of making promises: in this case, marriage proposals to Carroll Baker, Vikki Carr, Cyd Charisse, Angie Dickinson, Zsa Zsa Gabor, and Jill St. John. Thursday, Ironside's season premiere (NBC, 6:30 p.m.) is a two-hour special that presents the Chief with an opportunity: due to a spinal injury during a robbery, he has the possibility of an operation that may enable him to walk againor it could kill him. Friday, Harvey Korman makes a rare dramatic—of sorts—appearance as a scheming diplomat (is there any other kind?) on the season opener of The Wild Wild West (CBS, 6:30 p.m.), and Robert Stack makes his debut on The Name of the Game (NBC, 7:30 p.m.), with a guest cast including Joan Hackett, Victor Jory, Ruth Roman, Joseph Campanella, and Jack Carter.

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When last we visited Chicago, in the summer of 1968, the Democratic National Convention was in town and the city was aflame with protesters, rioters, tear gas, and actual flames. (Giving new meaning to Chicago as "That Toddlin' Town," one supposes.) This week's Doan Report focuses on the fallout from network coverage of the "Battle of Chicago," in which viewers were treated to scenes of police and protesters clashing in Grant Park, while inside the International Amphitheatre, reporters were being roughed up by Chicago's Finest. After CBS's Dan Rather was popped in the stomach during a scuffle in the aisles, Walter Cronkite angrily replied, "I think we've got a bunch of thugs here, Dan."

The focus, however, is not on the claims of a "police riot," or the treatment of reporters; in fact, the media is quickly becoming the big loser in the whole affair. A federal judge in Chicago has ordered a grand jury to investigate rumors that some of the networks "engaged in an interstate conspiracy to unduly influence the convention by television," while in Washington, Utah Senator Frank Moss wants the "entire question of television influence on Presidential election procedures" investigated; other Congressional inquiries into the fairness of the media's coverage are being proposed. And while the networks have been reluctant to engage in conversations with Chicago's Mayor Richard Daley, many individual stations are volunteering to show what is called "the police version" of the events.

This is, I think, a watershed moment for the media, which may in part explain their doggedness in reporting on Watergate, and their activity to this day. As Godfrey Hodgson writes in his provocative history of the times, America in Our Time: From World War II to Nixon—What Happened and Why, the backlash against media coverage of the Chicago riots was a profound shock to the guardians of the Fifth Estate: "Almost to a man, the journalists had been shocked by what the police did. To their astonishment, the polls showed that a large majority in the country were shocked by the demonstrators, and sympathetic to the police," Hodgson wrote. "Here they were, supposedly experts on the state of public opinion. They had been united, as rarely before, by their anger at Mayor Daley. Now they learned that the great majority of Americans sided with Daley, and against them. It was not only the humiliation of discovering that they had been wrong; there was also alarm at the discovery of their new unpopularity. Bosses and cops, everyone knew, were hated: it seemed that newspapers and television were hated even more." The media caved in to the criticism; their self-confidence rocked, they immediately backpedaled. I think that they were determined to never let that happen again.

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How about a new television set for watching all those new shows? TV Guide's resident technical expert, David Lachenbruch, is back with a look at the 1969 models, and the big news is portability and longer warranties—with prices remaining about the same. The new portables are 14 to 15 inches in diagonal measurement, as opposed to the "big-screen" 23-inch TVs, and they average about $300.00. Don't think that you can't go smaller, though: Sears and Toshiba have models running 11-inches, and Sony's promising one at about 7-inches, for $300 or more. (How big is the picture on our phones?) As far as the warranty, most have doubled to two years in length, important when a new 23-inch replacement tube can cost as much as $200.

A solid-state color console chassis, available from Quasar or RCA, will run you close to $900. Not all sets have incorporated this technology, but it's on the way, as it promises increased reliability. Also here is AFC, or Automatic Frequency Control (also known as Automatic Fine-Tuning Control). Lachenbruch calls this "the most important development in tuning since the introduction of color television." It not only "virtually eliminate[s] the fine-tuning operation, it does a better job by electronics than you could do by eye," also helping to eliminate drift. There's improved technology when it comes to UHF channel selection, as these stations are becoming more and more popular throughout the country; Zenith allows you to pre-tune up to six UHF channels, "making them as easy to tune as VHF."

And Sylvania has come up with the "Scanner Color Slide Theater," which combines your 23-inch color set with a Kodak Carousel automatic slide changer and a cassette tape recorder. Now you can "load your regular 35-millimeter home color slides into the changer and record a taped commentary"; your slides will play on your TV screen, automatically advanced in synch with your commentary." It's a great way to show those vacation slides; your neighbors will be thrilled.

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Finally, in a week that's been top-heavy with programming (sorry, Rowan & Martin! Sorry, Art Carney! Sorry, Anthony Quinn and Fred Rogers!), I'd be remiss if I didn't mention that Saturday night features the enigmatic final episode of one of the most enigmatic television series of all time, The Prisoner. (6:30 p.m., CBS) It promises to be, according to the listing, "a razzle-dazzle display of metaphysical observations and quick-silver imagery," and that's an understatement.

Television has never seen anything like it, before or since. Christine Neibert, of Englewood, Ohio, has the last word in this week's Letters section, "And so, as The Prisoner sinks slowly into the murky depths of Situation Sea, we leave the bright land of Imaginative TV, and with a heartfelt farewell to that rare and wonderful No. 6, we can only say, "We knew he was too good to last." We couldn't have said it better. TV  


  1. You are more that correct. This is the season of TV that I remember the most and the one that most connected with my family. There were a half dozen shows we all watched together and Friday night was family dinner night with Wild Wild west, Name of the Game, and (later) Bracken's World.

  2. Have you ever gone into any detail about the history of David Lachenbruch's 'TV Q & A' column? Its unpredictable scheduling made me look forward to it!

    1. I collect old TV Guides, and that's one of the first things I look for in an issue. Was always one of my favorite columns!

  3. One great and classic show not mentioned that was brought back for another season is "Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour". An early season episode featured George Harrison in a quickie cameo opening the show encouraging the brothers to "keep on doing what you do", and to introduce the promo video of The Beatles' new hit "Hey Jude".

    I was 4 years old in fall '68. I do remember watching a number of the new shows with my parents. So I, too, agree on the family participation factor! A lot of these shows have truly transcended the time they were produced in either by content or affection.

    There might be a small (if at all visible) percent of current network shows that will be fondly remembered as the shows in this era, but there are MANY shows and short series on other platforms that will be considered modern touchstones and are certainly groundbreaking. Sometimes I do wish that some of them weren't so packed with expletives and violence, but are great, involving shows nonetheless. But we are talking about 1968, so......!

    Great blog, Mitchell. I always get something out of each entry.

  4. I've kept my 1966 to end of 1969 TV guides.

  5. It was an annual practice during the 1960's and 1970's or TV Guide to publish an annual rundown on new TV sets, with that section usually published the week after the Fall Preview issue.

  6. The premiere of "60 Minutes" was advertised as a "Special"!?!?!??


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!