October 5, 2019

This week in TV Guide: October 5, 1963

It seems as if the subject of television's responsibility to the public is one that comes up here frequently. It's a quaint notion, I suppose; I don't know if anyone today seriously thinks that television has any responsibility to the public, or to anyone, in fact, besides the sponsors who cough up the money to make the programming possible. (And the ratings, of course, but they function as a measure of the value provided to the sponsors.)

This week's "As We See It" editorial takes on that very issue, in a look at growing public dissatisfaction with annoying commercials. The Television Code, that equally quaint document represented by the noble logo you see in the end credits of many programs from the era, has standards regarding things like commercials, but fewer than three-fourths of broadcasters have agreed to it.

Because of that, the FCC has suggested that perhaps those provisions in the Code perhaps ought to be made into FCC rules. The broadcasters don't like that, of course, because they think the commercials they run are nobody's business. Oddly enough, though, advertisers are largely for the Code. "They feel that the more commercials there are, the less effective each commercial is. And they're right." The viewers, whose dissatisfaction started all this, don't like commercials at all, but agree that they'd go along with longer breaks in order to have fewer of them.

What to do? Well, the president of the National Association of Broadcasters, the organization responsible for the development of the Television Code, thought it would be a good idea to get together a group of all the constituents: networks, ad agencies, advertisers, and broadcasters. He started with the three networks; all turned him down. "They saw no real need for such a thing." Merrill Panitt, the probable author of this editorial, thinks there is such a need, and makes no bones about it. "There must be steps taken to reduce the frequency of commercials and to control more carefully the content of commercials. If the broadcasters can't—or won't—do these things, the FCC can—in the public interest."

This represents a perfect example of the independence that TV Guide has over the years taken when it comes to the television industry. No longer are they beholden for interviews and subjects; the magazine's growing circulation, and its growing influence through its investigative reporting and hard-hitting interviews from writers such as Richard Gehman and Edith Efron, means that TV Guide now has the upper hand, The industry needs it more than it needs them. Need I mention again how different this is from the publication of today, one that acts more like a collection of press releases? But then, if the industry doesn't behave in a responsible manner, then why should the magazine that covers it?

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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 shows of the era. 

It always happens, when Cleveland Amory reviews a show that's one of my favorites, that I begin things with a mixture of anticipation and dread. The man, as I say, is superbly witty and acerbic—unless he's skewering a show I happen to like. It just goes to show that life poses its share of risks, even if you're just getting out of bed.

"If we have a millionaire President and a millionaire governor, why not a millionaire cop?" For you youths out there, the millionaires are, in order, John F. Kennedy, California governor Pat Brown, and Amos Burke, played delightfully and with delight by Gene Barry in ABC's comedy-mystery Burke's Law. The first good sign comes when Amory refers to the show as "ABC's new corpus delectable," and it's true: every show is packed to the gills with big-name stars in cameo roles, and occasionally lead roles as well. The premiere episode, "Who Killed Holly Howard?", features Suzy Parker, William Bendix, Sir Cedric Hardwicke, Rod Cameron, Bruce Cabot, Will Rogers Jr., and ZaSu Pitts. The victims are, invariably, over-the-top versions of vaguely familiar personages; Howard Hughes here, Ernest Hemingway there. The emphasis is frequently on female beauty, with the beauties all having an eye for the suave, tuxedoed Burke, even when he's investigating them for murder. By the end of the episode, they'll wind up either with a date for dinner, or court.

Amory has praise for Burke's supporting cast: Gary Conway as the young detective thrown off balance by Burke's unorthodox style, and Regis Toomey as the veteran, who's worked with Burke for years and is one of the few who will chance to call him "Amos." And though Amory doesn't mention it (it probably hasn't become apparent yet), one of the best aspects of this very good show is that while there's charm and humor aplenty, Burke and his men are all business when it comes to the business of murder; they know that death is no laughing matter, and there's an honest seriousness behind the investigation and apprehending of the killer.

If there's one nit to pick, Cleve will find it; in this case, he does find it a bit tiring that Burke has to spend so much of each episode fighting off the glamour girls. Nevertheless, he concludes, "we do get a lot for our money in this show, and millions of millionaire viewers should enjoy it." Or non-millionaires, as the case may be.

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The real Ranger Smith and the impostor. Which is which?
You're hopefully familiar with Ranger Smith, the eternal nemesis/foil of Yogi Bear, the most famous resident of Jellystone National Park. But, as it happens, there really is a Ranger Smith, who just happens to work at Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, and he's the subject of a charming article this week by Jim Elder. As it happens, the real Smith—D.P. "Denny" Smith, by name—was blissfully unaware of the existence of his alter ego until, as Elder puts it, "an increasing number of young park visitors kept asking for Ranger Smith and in the same breath mentioning 'Yogi.'"

Updated on the situation, Smith jumped right into the role, answering questions about the fictional bear and signing his name to everything from stuffed bears to road maps to plaster casts. He takes it all in stride, and with good humor; "Yogi's fans are all pleasant people," he says. He also takes a ribbing from his fellow rangers (one assistant loved to add growling bear sounds to Smith's Ranger Smith portrayal), and when the park closes for the season in October, the ribbing continues to the sixth graders that Smith teaches back home in Kent, Washington. He adds that his own children (Kurt, 5, and Kathy, 2) are Yogi fans.

One thing that he particularly appreciates is that the Yogi phenomenon has given him the opportunity to remind campers that real bears are not as friendly as Yogi and Boo-Boo. "Yogi just plays funny tricks, but these bears don't know the difference between funny and ferocious!"

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The World Series started last week—October 2, to be exact—but you're not going to see much of it this week. The Series pits those old and bitter rivals, the Yankees and Dodgers, for the eighth time, and the first since the Dodgers' traumatic move from Brooklyn to Los Angeles. Ah, yes, how times change: in the first game, at Yankee Stadium, Sandy Koufax (right) broke the single-game World Series strikeout record, with 15,* and the Yankees crowd was cheering him! Now, you can argue that the game was already a lost cause so why not, but still, I can't believe they would have cheered for a Brooklyn pitcher.

*Later broken by Bob Gibson in 1968; you know, that Series where Feliciano sang the National Anthem.

Anyway, by the time we pick up the Series on Saturday afternoon (1:45 p.m. CT, NBC), the Dodgers already have a 2-0 lead, and Los Angeles goes up by three after a 1-0 victory, in which Don Drystale bests Jim Bouton. Koufax brings it all to an end on Sunday afternoon (same Bat time and channel) with a 2-1 triumph, giving the Dodgers only their second-ever Series victory over the Yanks, and the first time a Yankees team had ever been swept in four games. In the closing innings of the final game, Yankees announcer Mel Allen, an institution on NBC's World Series coverage loses his voice, and has to turn the mic over to Dodgers play-by-play man Vin Scully. The ugly rumor, with no basis in truth, is that Allen had become so broken up about the Yankees being swept by the Dodgers that he couldn't bring himself to announce those final innings. It would be his last appearance announcing the Series.

Oh, and by the way, that fourth game came in in a tidy one hour and fifty minutes. That wouldn't even get you through the third inning today.

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Some interesting things on this week; I'm glad we've got time for them. (Although it is my blog; I suppose I can make as much time as I want.)

Henry Harding reports that Jerry Lewis spent $40,000 of his own money on a party at the Beverly Hilton Hotel to celebrate the premiere of his new ABC series. More than 800 showed up in evening dress to watch the broadcast on the big screen, followed by a lavish dinner and flaming cherries jubilee desert, brought in by 40 waiters marching in single file. Lewis arrived late to the party and stayed for about 20 minutes, perhaps already anticipating the roasting the show will get from the critics. This is all a lead-in to Saturday's third episode (ABC, 8:30 p.m.), with David Susskind, Count Basie and his orchestra, Mort Sahl, Kay Stevens and Jack Jones.

Two of the biggest stars in their respective industries headline Sunday's specials. At 9:00 p.m., CBS takes the headlines with Elizabeth Taylor in London, taking viewers on a tour of London "as Liz remembers it," even though she was only seven when her family moved to the United States. Taylor views all the must-see signts, from Parliament to Big Ben, Scotland Yard, the Tower, and the Globe Theater, where Liz does a reading from Hamlet. The script is co-written by humorist S.J. Perelman, which should make for very interesting viewing. But to see it, you'll have to pass up NBC's World Series tie-in, the documentary, "A Man Named Mays," a profile of the remarkable career of the San Francisco Giants' great, produced and directed by Lee Mendelson, who goes on to great fame with the Peanuts animated specials. Unfortunately for Mays, the Giants didn't make the Series this year; unfortunately for NBC and the ratings, the Series ended this afternoon.

The World Series is over by Monday, but of course that doesn't affect the primetime schedule at all, since the games were played in the afternoon. NBC's Monday Night at the Movies (6:30 p.m., and isn't it odd to see a network movie on that early in the evening, with another show to follow) has The Wreck of the Mary Deare, with a cast headed by Gary Cooper, Charlton Heston, and Michael Redgrave. Opposite that, ABC has an episode of The Outer Limits featuring the fine British actor Donald Pleasence as a meek and mild-mannered college professor who has the power to destroy the world. I'll have to go back and watch this; I've seen it, but I don't remember how it ends. And at 7:30 p.m., ABC follows with Wagon Train, with Carol Lawrence playing Princess Mei Ling. There's a photoshoot story inside, showing Lawrence in Asian makeup (right), and that's something we likely wouldn't see nowadays.

PTSD—before we understood what it was—is the topic of Tuesday's Richard Boone Show (8:00 p.m., NBC), the bold (and ultimately unsuccessful) attempt by the former Palladin to form a television repertory company. Tonight, Warren Stevens plays a Korean War vet "planning a 'Wall to Wall War'—in the insurance office where he works. He's holding his frightened co-workers at bay with a machine gun." An eerie precursor to modern times, don't you think? That's followed by a much more pleasant hour, as The Bell Telephone Hour kicks off its new season; Mr. Music Man Robert Preston hosts, with opera stars Richard Tucker and Anna Moffo, dancers Rudolf Nureyev and Svetlana Beriosova, pianist Grant Johannesen, and the folksinging Chad Mitchell Trio. (9:00 p.m., NBC)

Broderick Crawford, who's made a successful career out of both good guys and bad guys, is on the wrong side of the law Wednesday in The Virginian (6:30 p.m., NBC), playing a bounty hunter convinced that Trampas (Doug McClure) has a price on his head. And here's one to give you pause; one of Johnny Carson's guests on The Tonight Show (10:30 p.m., NBC) is attorney Melvin "King of Torts" Belli, who in just over a month will acquire his most famous client: Jack Ruby.

On Thursday, it's the debut of one of the better anthology series of the '60s, Kraft Suspense Theatre (9:00 p.m., NBC), with a two-part thriller, "The Case Against Paul Ryker." The all-star cast features Lee Marvin as Ryker, a GI on trial for his life after being accused of treason in Korea, Bradford Dillman and Peter Graves as officers in the JAG office, Vera Miles as Ryker's wife, and Lloyd Nolan, Murray Hamilton, and Walter Brooke. The episode also serves as the pilot for the 1966 series Court Martial, with Dillman and Graves reprising their roles as Captain David Young and Major Frank Whitaker, respectively.

But we've saved the best for last. On Friday. it's the Twilight Zone episode "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" (8:30 p.m., CBS) with Shatner, the gremlin, and the plane's wing. You know it, you love it, you can't live without it—but for those reading this issue, it's just another episode of another series. Who would have imagined it?

Now that's the way to end a week. TV  


  1. Kind of an amusing coincidence that the "Yogi" piece follows the Burke's Law review - That program was parodied for an entire episode of the The Flintstones two years later ("The Rolls Rock Caper").

    1. Aaron Boulder, given to amorphisms like "If you lie on your back and cry on your pillow, tears get in your ears...Boulder's Rule"


  2. I think that Cleveland Amory lived in NYC, so the millionaire governor to which he referred was more likely NY Gov. Nelson Rockefeller, or as my mom called him back then, "Taxafeller".

    The BURKE'S LAW cast also included Leon Lontoc as Burke's Chauffeur, who provided some good comic relief for the show.

    1. That could be. My impression was that he was quoting a character in the show, and that because the show was set in L.A., he would have been referring to the governor of that state, but I could be too literal. In any event, I like what your mom had to say about him!

    2. In the mid-'60s, Nelson Rockefeller was the prototypical rich politician.
      As best as I can determine, Pat Brown of California was not a millionaire; indeed, most of his Republican opponents were far wealthier than he was, a fact that he often used in his campaigns. ( The California GOP back the was an enclave for millionaire entrepeneurs, who did much of the lucrative infrastructure work in the state.)

      Hope you're enjoying those gifts I sent you …

  3. I'm curious how Liz showed the Globe Theatre in London. If I'm not mistaken there was no actual location in 1963. Only 34 years later did the resurrected and recreated Globe open up. Maybe just showed pictures.

  4. It could only have been pictures at that point. The actual location of the original theater was discovered by accident in 1989(foundations located beneath the parking lot of an apartment building which has been on the site since 1834).
    The reconstructed theater is roughly 750 feet away.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!