November 30, 2019

This week in TV Guide: December 3, 1960

The holiday season from Thanksgiving to New Year has always been a big time for television, with all kinds of specials and events making the rounds.

This week the big production is the TV revival of Peter Pan, with Mary Martin and Cyril Ritchard reprising their famed roles from the last TV airing five years ago. (It was also done in 1955.) Those previous shows were live, but this one is not only on tape, but in color, and it’s this version that has been broadcast ever since. I recorded it off TV some time in 1989 or 1990, the last time it was on broadcast TV (in a somewhat edited version, to make more room for commercials, don’t you know) and it’s that version you see below.

A companion article discusses how for the last four weeks Mary Martin has been commuting between Broadway, where she does eight performances a week of The Sound of Music, the Helen Hayes Theater, which NBC has rented for Peter Pan rehearsals, and the NBC studios in Brooklyn, where most of the program is taped. The network is hoping to make an annual Christmas presentation of Peter Pan, which Martin enthusiastically endorses. She was reluctant at first to take on yet another televised staging—"Not while playing 'The Sound of Music,' which by itself is a full-time job.” But the public demand has been so great—“So many children have grown up since we did it last"—that Martin was unable to resist. "When NBC came along and said it had a sponsor and a time and everything else all set, I just couldn’t say no. Now I’m glad I didn’t," she says. "I seem to get more energy from it than I had when I was just doing eight 'Sound of Music' performances a week."

All three versions of Mary Martin as Peter Pan are available on DVD; the blu-ray of the 1960 telecast includes the 1955 and 1956 telecasts as extras.

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So that really is special; let's see what else this week has to offer.

Saturday belongs to sports, starting at 1:00 p.m. on NBC with the New York Knickerbockers and the Syracuse Nationals from Syracuse. The Knicks are in the second of a seven-season playoff drought, which isn’t easy when three of the four teams in each conference make the playoffs. The Nats, who make the playoffs despite finishing three games under .500 (but still 17 games ahead of the Knicks), are in their third-from-last season in Syracuse, after which they flee the small-market city for Philadelphia, where they become the 76ers. On ABC, it’s the final regular-season college football game, as Duke travels to Los Angeles to take on UCLA. Saturday night, The Fight of the Week (9:00 p.m,. ABC) has Gene Fullmer defending his world middleweight crown against the ageless Sugar Ray Robinson from Los Angeles. Fullmer, who is fighting Robinson for the third time (out of four), retains the title in a 15-round draw.

Ed Sullivan's guests on Sunday (7:00 p.m., CBS) are comedian Mort Sahl, singer Jane Morgan, the dance team of Rod Alexander and Carmen G. Rickle, the ventriloquist act of Layne and Velvel, and 11-year-old Spanish singer Joselito. Is this the Joselito they're talking about? If so, theI y fudged his age a little, didn't they? I think I'd opt for Dinah Shore's show, broadcast in color (8:00 p.m., NBC), with Charles Boyer, pianist Victor Feldman's jazz trio, and members of the French Opera Comique ballet troup. And if you're not in the mood for variety, go with G.E. Theater (8:00 p.m., CBS), with host Ronald Reagan starring with Coleen Gray in the story of a woman fighting for her husband's affections with the memory of his late first wife. There's also Something Special (9:00 p.m., NBC), a special looking at childhood, which is indeed special, hosted by Robert Young and Arlene Francis, and featuring guests Janet Blair, Nat King Cole, Ernie Ford, Dave Garroway, Sam Levenson, Art Linkletter, Garry Moore, Jane Wyatt, and the Little Angels vocal quartet of small children.

Did they really mean to spell "Santa Claus" that way?
There's nothing really special about Monday night's programming, but the Play of the Week (8:30 p.m., syndicated) has perhaps the strangest story of the week, starring Nancy Walker and Margarlo Gillmore. Let me read it to you: "Two eccentric ladies, staunch Republicans who cling to the glories of the past, have created a series of elaborate devices to shut the present out of their lives. They've retreated to a hotel apartment at the beginning of Franklin D. Roosevelt's administration. Now their armor is due for a dent when one of them gets a yen to have a man around the house." Kind of reminds you of those Japanese soldiers they used to find hiding in caves twenty years after the end of the war, thinking the war was still on. I wonder if this is supposed to take place in modern day, or if it's just some time during the FDR administration? I wonder if it's supposed to be funny?

Tuesday's Alfred Hitchcock Presents (7:30 p.m., NBC) has Barbara Bel Geddes and Alexander Scourby in the dark tale of a man who, after having finally married the "right girl," decides he's too set in his ways to get married after all. I don't know about you, but this doesn't sound good to me at all. I haven't seen this episode yet, so I'm not sure how good it is, but if Alexander Scourby sat down and simply read the script out loud, it would be worth watching. Something else worth watching is tonight's episode of The Tom Ewell Show (8:00 p.m., CBS), featuring special guest star Dick Powell playing himself. The premise of the series has Tom as a real estate agent, and tonight Tom is trying to talk Dick into using city-owned property as locations for his show. Something tells me this isn't going to work out, either. On a special Open End (9:00 p.m., NBC), David Susskind discusses comedy with Joey Bishop, George Burns, Jimmy Durante, Buddy Hackett, and Groucho Marx. The show only runs an hour, though, which kind of makes a hash of the title, doesn't it?

Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall is a nice way to spend Wednesday, with Perry's guests Steve Lawrence, Juliet Prowse, and the Kingston Trio. (8:00 p.m., NBC) Hawaiian Eye (8:00 p.m., ABC) features a guest appearance from John Van Dreelen, whom I'm confident you'd recognize if you saw him—he was always on TV in the 1950s and 60s. Even without reading the description or watching the episode, I can tell you he has to be the bad guy in this episode, because he always is. Hold on, let me look at the description—yep, he is.

Thursday belongs mostly to Peter Pan, but I wouldn't overlook what follows: on The Ford Show (8:30 p.m., NBC), Ernie welcomes singer Jimmie Rodgers, along with the candidates for 1961 Rose Bowl Queen. And at 9:00 p.m. on CBS, Charles Collingwood chats first with Polly Bergen and then Spike Jones on Person to Person.

On Friday, Dr. Frank Baxter is the host for another in the Bell Systems Science Series, "The Thread of Life (8:00 p.m., NBC), answering questions such as "Why do things taste different to different people? Why are there more color-blind men than women? What determines whether a baby will be a boy or a girl?" The answers to most of these questions can be found in the mysterious "Thread of Life": DNA. Details of the show can be found in the mysterious "Memories of Your Life:" YouTube:

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TV Teletype notes that Rod Serling is putting the finishing touches on a new Western called The Loner, starring Bob Cummings. The Loner does in fact make the schedule as a series, but it’s with Lloyd Bridges in the title role. It lasts only one season, and Serling himself had decidedly mixed feelings about it, but the critics are kinder to it today; it's even come out on DVD.

There are also rumors that the Academy Awards are headed for a new home, leaving its longtime venue at Hollywood's Pantages Theater in favor of the larger Santa Monica Civic Auditorium. "[T]he industry's sentimentalists [are] up in arms" about the move, but the Oscars head to Santa Monica anyway. Within a decade, the show is on the move again, to the more glamorous Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in Los Angeles. I seem to recall the show's producer, Gower Champion, referring to the Civic Auditorium as a "dreary barn," which helps explain his desire for a move; today, they're held in the Academy's own Dolby Theater, and it's the show that's dreary.

And in New York, ABC announces plans for a January 29 debut of its new Sunday afternoon series, The American Professor, “designed to improve the public’s understanding of the teacher’s role in our society.” The series never did make it to air, at least not under this name; despite series like NBC's Watch Mr. Wizard and ABC's later Science All-Stars, you have to wonder how successful a show like this could be. Given that weekend television is now dominated by sports, the idea of a show like this, even on PBS, is probably nonexistent.

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This week, Cindy Adams takes a look at the life of the television gag writer. It’s centered in the office of Goodman Ace, one of the best of TV’s early humor writers, who’d made his name (and much of his success) in radio. He’s joined by his cohorts, Selma Diamond (the best-known female writer, who many of you might recognize from being in front of the camera on Night Court), Jay Burton, who’s written jokes for many of Hollywood’s best, and a couple of Canadian comics, Frank Peppiatt and John Aylesworth. Their output will be seen on camera in an upcoming Perry Como show.

The scene, as presented by Adams, doesn’t look all that different from what one sees later on the Dick Van Dyke show: Ace working from behind the desk, Diamond sprawled in a chair, and the other three in various stages of repose on the couch. They’re in the midst of trying to come up with something for Perry and his guest star, Jack Paar. The jokes are, put mildly, terrible. ("Tomorrow Shirley Temple’s doing 'Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs' but because she’s running a little late it’ll only be 'Snow White and the Five Dwarfs.'")

The group plows through scenario after scenario, none of them catching fire. Finally, there’s a gag about Paar interviewing a woman with a Southern accent who’s making her first trip to New York. She’s seen Grant’s Tomb, the Battery, the Statue of Liberty. Paar asks her where she’s from. “Brooklyn,” she says. I get the joke; we're all tourists in our own home cities, but it is kind of a weak one. Nevertheless, it sets them off, and they come up with a series of jokes featuring Brooklyn as the punch line.

It's an interesting enough article, I suppose, but what's more interesting is, as Paul Harvey would say, the rest of the story. John Aylesworth and Frank Peppiatt had many credits, including working with Andy Williams and Frank Sinatra, but it was as producers that they achieved their biggest fame. The show they created? Hee Haw.

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This week's starlet is June Blair, who gets a two-page spread;  TV Guide says she’s 24, although the always-reliable Wikipedia would put her age at 27. She’s got a number of TV credits under her slim-wasted belt so far, including Sea Hunt, Bat Masterson, M Squad, and Lock Up, as well as a credit the article doesn’t mention, Playboy’s Playmate of the Month for January 1957. (I'm sure she must have been quite fetching.) Her career seems to have tailed off after the '60s, with her biggest rolein real-life as well as show businessbeing David Nelson’s on- and off-screen wife in The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.

Someone who didn't fade away is America's Sweetheart, Shirley Temple, and she's on the cover this week, plugging Sunday's episode of The Shirley Temple Show, "The Indian Captive," with Steve Cochran and Cloris Leachman. She's Shirley Temple Black now, and thought she's retired from the business until coming back for Shirley Temple's Storybook, which ran for one season on NBC and then in reruns on ABC. After the reruns ran their course, the show reverted back to NBC with a new title, a new format, and more starring roles from Shirley.

Even without acting, she's maintaining a very busy life, serving on the boards of various charities and non-profits ("Last year I put in over 300 volunteer hours.") many of them children-oriented. She's also started to dabble in politics; "I've developed a major interest in world affairs," she says. "Conversationally, I'm not afraid of anything."

She certainly makes her mark there; after an unsuccessful run for Congress in 1967, she serves as a delegate to the United Nations, two-time U.S. Ambassador (first to Ghana, and later to Czechoslovakia), and Chief of Protocol of the United States. I don't doubt that she could be the most successful former child actor of all.

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Christmas always seems to bring out the best in food, and My-T-Fine pudding reminds us that it’s never too early to start preparing for those holiday parties with the little touch that makes things extra-special. Sadly, the term “go gay for the holiday” would have a completely different meaning nowadays.

Watches make excellent gifts - would you argue with Tab Hunter?

How about another recipe? With the holidays upon us, it’s never too early to start preparing the menu for those parties with your friends, and what could be better than some Festive Glazed Ham?

Heat a canned, cooked, boneless ham of appropriate size according to directions. When almost completely heated, pour over it one jar of melted cherry preserves – or cherry jelly – blended with ¼ cup of brandy. Baste several times. Serve hot or chilled with smooth curried mustard cream.

Curried Mustard Cream ½ tsp. curry powder 1 tsp. prepared mustard 1 cup whipped cream Salt and pepper.

Mix mustard, curry powder, salt and pepper. Add to whipped cream, stirring until well-blended. Hollowed-out lemons make attractive serving cups.

Don't ever let it be said that this isn't your one-stop Christmas entertainment address. TV  

November 29, 2019

Around the dial

If you think about that cartoon above, it comes awfully close to cannibalism, don't you think? I mean, look at the leg on the plate? I suppose it could be a chicken leg, although that seems to be bad enough. At least the turkey has both of his; if it looked like he only had one, I think that might have been too much.

So how was your Thanksgiving? Hopefully yours was as satisfying as ours. Despite yesterday's tryptophan mainline, we're back today with the highlights from the week, and we'll start at Comfort TV, where David looks at five classic shows that deserved one more season. Hard to argue with any of them; of the five that David discusses in detail, I'd probably opt for Ellery Queen, which deserved more episodes on general principle alone.

Have you ever wondered why some period movies--Holiday Inn is one that comes to mind--joke about what day Thanksgiving falls on? Martin Grams tells the story of how a squabble between Republicans and Democrats led to the country having to choose between two Thanksgivings. See, this bitter infighting is nothing new. . .

And now on to Christmas! At Silver Scenes, we have a review of the new bookMister Rogers' Neighborhood: A Visual History, a wonderful look at the much-loved show. Tom Hanks notwithstanding, you almost don't need a movie in order to provide the vivid images that make such a difference.

After a long absence, British TV Detectives returns with The Inspector Lynley Mysteries, a series that I confess to never having seen, though I've seen it on the programming guide many times; I suppose that doesn't count, though, does it?

At The Ringer, Alison Herman and Miles Surrey debate whether or not streaming series should be released weekly or all at once. My own opinion is that once a series is structured for binge viewing, it tends toward serialization; the self-contained episode is replaced by one long story, spread out over several episodes that can be watched one after another. That often leads to overtones of soap operas. But again, that's just my opinion; YMMV.

At Garroway at Large, Jodie uses a small clipping from the Pittsburgh Press of 1939 to serve as a reminder that nobody's perfect, no matter how big a star they are, or are going to be. It should also remind us not to be intimidated by the famous; after all, they are just like us.

Bob Sassone uses a recent encounter at a store to point out how much millennials miss with "their complete lack of interest in anything that happened before Saved by the Bell premiered." He's not talking about television here; he just uses the show as a reference point. But as someone who sees great cultural value in classic television, I share his frustration, and wonder just what it means for the future.

And as you get ready for your post-Black Friday shopping, let Television Obscurities offer you a gift guide to items for that lover of short-lived television shows. (If you need any other suggestions, just click here.) TV  

November 27, 2019

Thanksgiving memories

It's been said that in New York, people refer to it as the "Macy's Day Parade," such is the identification the parade has with Thanksgiving. There are other, and older, Thanksgiving parades; Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Houston come to mind. And, if you ask me, the telecast of the Macy's parade has suffered over the years; the floats and bands and balloons almost seem to take second place to the pop stars and dancers lip-synching their way through Herald Square. If I wanted to torture myself that way, I'd watch the Grammys. (I don't know if MTV has music anymore, but if it does. . .) And with the current crew from Today doing the announcing, the parade sometimes becomes unwatchable.

But I come here not to bury the Macy's parade, but to praise it. No matter how bad the coverage may be (and whether you watch it on NBC or CBS, it's equally bad), I still have to catch a few minutes of it while flipping back and forth between the other parades. And when you strip away all that's annoying, it's still magically colorful. (Probably the best way to see it is to go to New York and view it from a point where the pop stars aren't warbling.) Take a trip through the years with the ads below, most of which have a prominent mention of the television coverage.

There was no TV for the first parade, though. I wonder if anyone thought it would last.

No parade was held between 1942 and 1944 due to the war. I'm guessing this might have been from the first year without the parade; having the balloons enlist is a clever way to make the point that everyone needs to sacrifice for the war effort.

This ad for the 1954 parade is just fun, don't you think? It sums up the magic of Thanksgiving and Christmas all in one. Believe it or not, the parade was first televised in 1946; you can see that by 1954, it's become an integral part of a company's advertising strategy.

The 1963 parade went on as scheduled, even thought it was six days after the assassination of President Kennedy, and the day after Lyndon Johnson's speech to a somber joint session of Congress. The rationale was to try and keep the day as normal as possible for children. All of the floats were adorned with black mourning streamers.

McDonald's was a sponsor of the telecast in 1965; it looks kind of like kids were supposed to color this in, doesn't it? And take a look at the vintage version of the Golden Arches at the bottom. Remember when all McDonald's looked that way?

An ad for the 1968 parade, from WRGB-TV in Albany, New York.

The 1982 parade; Bullwinkle is in the parade for the 22nd time, despite the fact that Rocky and Bullwinkle haven't been on network TV since 1964. The years may change, but the characters stay the same.

Garfield the cat appeared for the first time in the 1984 parade, as did Raggedy Ann, at least this incarnation. As the small print says, be sure to "See it live or on NBC-TV.!

Here's the poster for tomorrow's parade. It's filled with the iconic images from history; the Tom Turkey float (which from that angle inspires thoughts of the NBC Peacock—coincidence?), the elves, and, of course, Santa. And speaking of iconic, there's Snoopy in his space suit, throwing back to the famous image of him that became so popular around the 1969 moon landing. And notice the things you didn't see on the other posters: the web address and hashtag. 

Even though I complain about them, the parades are one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving. Thanks to those miracles of technology, you can see the Macy's parade, as well as those in other cities, via streaming video (in the case of Macy's, the cameras from other locations probably make for a better viewing experience). Whatever, wherever, and however you watch, I hope it lends to the pleasure of your day, and that you all have a peaceful and most thankful Thanksgiving Day! TV  

November 25, 2019

What's on TV? Tuesday, November 26, 1974

In the middle of a week of specials, today represents a relative oasis of calm and predictability. For example, on tonight's episode of Hawaii Five-O, "Murdering Steve McGarrett is the goal of a suave European gangster." Will he succeed? What do you think? On A.M. New York Thomas Eagleton continues his reputation rehabilitation tour. (I'm kidding—I don't know why he's on, although I wonder if they've stopped talking about him being dumped from the McGovern ticket yet.) Wide World Special kicks off the week-long concert jam that I referred to on Saturday; the movie "Death Stalk" continues the great tradition of TV movies with former series stars, B-listers, and great character actors. And John Steed himself makes Merv Griffin well worth watching. The listings come from the New York City edition, with a few other cities thrown in for good measure.

November 23, 2019

This week in TV Guide: November 23, 1974

In retrospect, perhaps it would have been a better idea to choose a different issue for last week. Oh, it was a great issue, filled with all kinds of specials, and Thanksgiving Day to boot. But here we are, one week later, and we're about to do it all over again. Clearly, I'll have to find something to differentiate this Thanksgiving issue from last week's.

I mean, look at the cover. Last week I wrote about how TV Guide used to say "What a Week!" about weeks like that, and look at the headline: "What a Week!" I promise, I didn't look at this issue beforehand; if I had, I probably would have written something more clever. But, when life gives you lemons, you make lemon meringue pie, or something like that. And after all, don't Thanksgiving leftovers taste even better the next day? Therefore, there's no sense wringing my hands about doing two Thanksgiving issues back-to-back; I can't really imagine any of you out there are going to complain.

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We're still a year away from the premiere of Saturday Night Live (or NBC's Saturday Night, as it was when it first started), and NBC's Saturday late-night programming generally consists of Johnny Carson reruns, along with the occasional special. Tonight is one of those specials, "Cotton Club '75" (11:30 p.m. ET), an all-star revue set in a re-creation of the Cotton Club in Harlem, featuring Ray Charles, Billy Daniels, Redd Foxx, Buddy Rich, Clifton Davis, Rosey Grier, Jonelle Allen, Jimmie walker, Cleo Laine, and the Nicholas Brothers. Oh, and there's also a tribute to Duke Ellington. This show is probably too good to be on so late at night.

Sunday, NBC News presents a White Paper on world hunger. (10:00 p.m.) "And Who Shall Feed This World," reported by John Chancellor, looks at the global food crisis, centering on two families: one in India, another in South Dakota, microcosms of the haves and have-nots. One guess as to which is which. Interestingly, there's no mention of Africa, which over the years has come to dominate the conversation when this topic comes up.

Do you believe in the Loch Ness Monster? The Abonimable Snowman? Bigfoot? You might, after Monday's Smithsonian Institution Special "Monsters! Mysteries or Myths?" (8:00 p.m., CBS), narrated by Rod Serling. Also at 8, WPIX reruns last year's Thanksgiving cartoon, B.C.—The First Thanksgiving. And on Firing Line (10:00 p.m., PBS), William F. Buckley Jr.'s guests include two representatives from the "New South": the newly-elected Rep. John Jenrette (D-S.C.), and recently reelected Rep. Trent Lott (R-Miss.). Lott had quite a career in Congress as one of the best-known and most controversial members of the Senate; Jenrette is probably better-remembered forwell, this.

Tuesday features an absolutely lovable cartoon, the delightful Winnie the Pooh and the Blustery Day (8:00 p.m., NBC), with Sebastian Cabot narrating, and featuring Sterling Holloway as the instantly recognizable voice of Pooh. There's also the made-for-TV movie The Godchild (8:30 p.m., ABC), a remake of the Western classic Three Godfathers (an allegory of the Three Wise Men), only instead of John Wayne, Harry Carey Jr., and Pedro Armendáriz, we get Jack Palance, Jack Warden, and Keith Carradine.

Wednesday is dominated by specials, all of which appear on this week's cover, beginning with a rerun of last year's The Thanksgiving Treasure (8:00 p.m., CBS), with Jason Robards, Mildred Natwick, and Lisa Lucas. (You might remember reading about that last week.) Over on ABC at the same time, it's the network premiere of the movie Godspell, which Judith Crist calls a "first-rate" adaptation of Stephen Schwartz's "charming stage musical." If you watch it, don't miss "Day by Day," perhaps the best-known of the show's songs.* And NBC counters both of these with a new version of Defoe's timeless Robinson Crusoe, with Stanley Baker essaying the shipwrecked hero, who uses his time to enter into a powerful spiritual relationship with God. The specials continue at 9:30 p.m. on CBS, with the GE Theater presentation of "Things in Their Season," with Patricia Neal and Ed Flanders, and concludes at 10:00 p.m. on ABC with Annie and the Hoods, a musical-variety special with Oscar- and Emmy-winner Anne Bancroft hosting adventures with Robert Merrill, Gene Wilder, Tony Curtis, Mel Brooks, Alan Alda, Jack Benny, David Merrick, and Carl Reiner. Whew! Only Petrocelli (10:00 p.m., NBC) survives from the night's usual schedule.

*This doesn't include Godspell Goes to Plimoth Plantation, a rerun from last year, that appears on various PBS stations throughout the week.

The Real Willy Wonka
Thanksgiving features the requisite parade coverage (9:00 a.m., CBS and NBC), including CBS's introduction of the Aloha Floral Parade from Honolulu, hosted by Mr. Five-O himself, Jack Lord. At 12:30 p.m. the action moves to the gridiron, as the Detroit Lions play their final Thanksgiving Day game in Tiger Stadium, hosting Denver on NBC; at 3:45 on CBS, the Cowboys and Redskins square off in Dallas. Plenty of specials as well, including a repeat of last year's Magic Man magic special, hosted by Bill Bixby (3:30 p.m., NBC) and a two-hour Waltons' Thanksgiving (8:00 p.m., CBS). That's followed at 10:00 p.m. by Shirley MacLaine's musical-variety special "If They Could See Me Now," with special guest star Carol Burnett. If neither of those appeal to you, and you have no interest in ABC's college football special, I'd vote for the television premiere of 1971's Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory (8:00 p.m., NBC); Judith Crist loves the "delightful performances" by Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, and Peter Ostrum.

Friday gets off to a strong start with NBC's Hallmark Hall of Fame (8:30 p.m.) a stellar presentation with Richard Burton as Winston Churchill, rallying his countrymen against Nazi Germany in "The Gathering Storm." I could take this opportunity to launch into yet another tirade against what has happened to Hall of Fame in the intervening years, but we're having a good time with this issue, and I don't want to disrupt the mood; I'll just wait until I have time for an essay-length rant. In the meantime, make due with Churchill's speech about blood, toil, tears, and sweat. Those of you who find it hard to believe that Hall of Fame ever consisted of anything other than movies about workaholic women meeting sensitive men and falling in love at small-town Christmas festivals can watch it here. Later in the evening, it's the second running of the made-for-TV Miracle on 34th Street (9:00 p.m., CBS), with Sebastian Cabot, Jane Alexander, David Hartman, and Suzanne Davidson assuming the roles of Edmund Gwenn, Maureen O'Hara, John Payne, and Natalie Wood. I know that there are quite a few people who enjoy this version, but give me the original any time.

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Not only do we have NBC's The Midnight Special and ABC's In Concert this week, there's also the syndicated Don Kirshner's Rock Concert. Not only that, they're all on at the same time! Let's see who's better, who's best.

Kirshner: Ashford and Simpson sing a medley of songs they wrote. Jim Stafford and Dave Mason also perform.

Concert: Seals and Crofts, the Eagles, and Earth, Wind and Fire are the performers on the last of four shows taped at the outdoor "California Jam" concert held April 6.

Special: Bobby Vinton is the host of the second show spotlighting current hits. His guests include Neil Sedaka, Al Green, Rufus, pop singer Billy Swan and soul artist Carl Carlton.

So maybe I fudged this one a bit. In reality, tonight's In Concert is actually part of a four-night Wide World Event that ran from Tuesday through Friday (Monday night's for football, you know). Other acts for the week included Emerson, Lake and Palmer, Deep Purple, and Black Sabbath. This lineup rocks, though, unlike Midnight Special, although it is nice to see the late-career comebacks by Bobby Vinton ("Melody of Love") and Neil Sedaka ("Laughter in the Rain"). And both of them have the edge on Kirshner, although Dave Mason shines through. Not enough, though: In Concert flies on the wings of Eagles.

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.Throughout the 60s and early 70s, TV Guide's weekly reviews were written by the witty and acerbic Cleveland Amory. Whenever we get the chance, we'll look at Cleve's latest take on the series of the era. 

Early in the beginning of Cleveland Amory's review of the ABC sitcom Paper Moon, based on the movie of the same name, Cleve makes a comment that turns out to be quite prescient. Tatum O'Neal, who won an Oscar as Addie in the film, "was something," he says. but "Jodie Foster is something else. She is perfect." I think the career arcs of the two will bear this out.

Amory has a lot to say about Foster, and it's all good, but that's not all there is to Paper Moon. Chris Connelly, in the Ryan O'Neal role of Moze, is "nearly perfect." And the show itself, while it can't be as "adult" as the movie, compensates by being more sophisticated, dealing with things implicitly rather than explicitly. The stories are well-plotted and well-written, and well-executed, funny without being overdone. Really, who could ask for anything more?

ABC, for one, and they'd be asking for more viewers. The show runs but 13 episodes, done in by CBS's The Waltons (really, it should have had a different timeslot, don't you think?), but then, you can't have everything. I'm sure that when the end-of-season column comes up, Cleve will voice his displeasure with the cancellation. Sometimes the good die young, though, and Amory did say that there was "a special place in television heaven" for a director who can deliver quality without hokum.

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We were promised 10 football games on the cover, and five of them are five of the biggest college games of the year! Saturday's early game pits Ohio State and Michigan (12:45 p.m., ABC) with the Rose Bowl bid on the line. Ohio State's four field goals, and a missed Michigan kick in the final seconds, gives the Buckeyes a 12-10 victory and sends them to Pasadena against USC, a 34-9 winner over UCLA in the late game (4:00 p.m., ABC). On Thanksgiving night, Penn State squares off against interstate rival Pitt (9:00 p.m., ABC), with the Nittany Lions coming out on top, 31-10. And rivalry week continues on Friday with another doubleheader, beginning in Austin with Texas's 32-3 upset over Texas A&M (12:45 p.m., ABC), followed at 4:00 p.m. (on ABC, natch) with Alabama beating Auburn 17-13 in Birmingham. In the days when college football broadcasts were limited to two games (at most) every Saturday, broadcast on one network, that is about as good a lineup as you can get.

We'd be remiss, though, if we didn't note a one-of-a-kind broadcast at 10:15 p.m. Friday night on WOR. It's the Florida Blazers taking on the Memphis Southmen in the semifinals of the first and last World Football League playoffs, on tape-delay from Memphis. The Southmen were the best team in that WFL season (granted, making it to the end of the season was an accomplishment in that league), and were heavily favored against Florida, but the Blazers pulled off the upset, winning 18-15. The win put them into the following week's inaugural (and only) World Bowl against the Birmingham Americans. Birmingham wins the game, and the championship, 22-21, after which they have their uniforms confiscated by sheriffs for non-payment of debts.

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Joseph Finnigan tells us a story this week about the world's most famous recluse: Howard Hughes. At the time, Hughes, who will die in less than a year-and-a-half, hasn't been seen in years, since he set up shop in the penthouse of the Desert Inn in Las Vegas, surrounded by trusted aides and guards. (If you're wondering how he managed that, it's simple: he bought the hotel.) You'd think that might be enough to satisfy most billionaires, but not Howard Hughes.

Not long after setting up shop in Vegas, he became dissatisfied with the programming on Las Vegas station KLAS. He—that is to say, one of his aides—informed station owner Hang Greenspun that he wanted movies. Lots of movies. And not just any movies, but "airplane pictures, Westerns," and because Hughes was a nocturnal animal, he wanted them run all night, every night. "We explored many ways of doing it," Greenspun recalls, "But it was uneconomic for me to run it past 1 A.M." That wasn't a good enough answer for Hughes's aides, who pointed out that "[t] boss was sitting up there in that penthouse all night and he wanted to watch movies." Greenspun replied that if Hughes wanted to run the station all night, he was welcome to buy it and do whatever he wanted." Well, you know what happens next.

With Hughes as owner, KLAS became the world's greatest on-demand station. Every night, the routine would be the same. As one engineer recalled, "As the first movie was ending about 1 A.M., we'd get a call from one of Hughes' aides. The man would say, 'Your next movie will be. . .' And then, you'd run back into the library and put on the movie he asked for. Later, about 15 minutes before that one ended, I'd get another phone call. The same guy would say 'Your next film will be. . .'"

Many of the movies dated back to the days when Hughes owned RKO; Robert Mitchum was a favorite. Besides the aforementioned Westerns and airplane movies, Hughes also liked gangster flicks and Tarzan movies. He was also big on vintage TV shows from the Warner Bros. and other studios: Surfside 6 (or anything about the beach), The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and 77 Sunset Strip, ("he loved spy stuff, cloak and dagger"), Have GunWill Travel, Cheyenne, Sugarfoot, and others.

Now, if this story was about anyone other than Howard Hughes it would be bizarre in the extreme, but I get the impression it was just business as usual in the Hughes empire. After having bought KLAS, he made a move to buy ABC but was rebuffed. (Greenspun thinks Hughes' purchase of KLAS was a test to see how far he could go without having to appear in person before the FCC.) After Hughes' death, KLAS wound up being owned by Landmark Media. But I can't get over the idea of Hughes owning ABC. Would he have made Wide World of Entertainment all about movies? Have the network broadcast 24/7? One can only wonder.

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So, what's what in the TV Teletype? Well, Linda Blair, fresh off The Exorcist, will be playing the title role in another heartwarming, uplifting movie, the upcoming telefilm Sarah T. — Portrait of a Teen-age Alcoholic. Bill Hayes and Susan Seaforth, who've been working together for all those years on Days of Our Lives, have finally tied the knot in real life. Jimmy Dean announced that he'll be retiring from the personal-appearance circuit, although he'll continue to make records and appear on TV, as well as running his sausage business.

And Jimmy Hoffa, who's still alive, will be the subject of an investigation on ABC News Closeup November 30.  Hoffa's back in the news lately thanks to the Scorsese-DeNiro movie The Irishman, and it occurs to me that if you were to have written a story about a prominent, well-known American getting whacked and nobody ever finding the body, you would have been laughed out of the office. "I mean, somebody has to find it, right? You can't get rid of someone that famous that easily, can you?"

Apparently, you can. TV  

November 22, 2019

Around the dial

I never could stand watching myself on television, which I suppose is one reason why I never succeeded in politics. Back then it bothered me because I'd critique everything from the sound of my voice (which I never liked hearing) to the way I pronounced certain words, the way I kept looking down at my notes, how I said one thing when I should have said something else, and so on. You get the point. Nowadays, I just don't like to see how young and in-shape I looked back then. A psychiatrist would probably tell me that this is why I retreat to hide behind words, but unless it's Dr. Thompson or Dr. Corder, I'm not listening.

Anyway, a video note for you: the YouTube site JFK1963NewsVideos has recently come up with some fascinating footage, including rarely seen excerpts from ABC's coverage of JFK's funeral, hosted by Howard K. Smith and Edward P. Morgan. It's worth a look, especially today.

In other news, John at Cult TV Blog discusses the British drama anthology series Armchair Cinema, which sounds like an odd title but in reality provides some excellent dramatic productions. Think of it as what might have happened had Studio One or Playhouse 90 had continued.

At bare•bones e-zine, Jack completes his Hitchcock Project review of the works of Bill S. Ballinger with the sixth season episode "Deathmate," a dark but ultimately kind of disappointing tale of murder and deceit. Doesn't take away from Ballinger's overall fine work for the show, though.

It's been awhile since we've been treated to a "Maverick Monday" at The Horn Section, but Hal's back this week with 1960's "The Bold Fenian Men," an episode featuring Roger Moore. As with "Deathmate" above, the episode isn't as good as you might have hoped, but Roger Moore, right?

Classic Film & TV Cafe presents "The Three-Word TV Series Game," and no matter when you read this, it's worth heading over to see how well you do. No cheating by reading the comments section in advance; Rick's puzzles deserve to be figured out on their own.

If you want to know more about upcoming Christmas specials, I can't think of a better place to go than Christmas TV History, and this week Joanna has the rundown on what, where, and when. Don't miss it.

Before he became host of Good Morning America, David Hartman was earnest schoolteacher Lucas Tanner, in the TV series of the same name. I'm familiar with the show only because it was on NBC during my term in The World's Worst Town™; otherwise, I'd likely never have watched it. Television Obscurities reminds us with a review of the Lucas Tanner pilot.

At the beginning of today's roundup, we were reminded of the grim anniversary that is November 22, but now here's something you'll really like: the 60th anniversary of Rocky and Bullwinkle, as brought to you by Terence at A Shroud of Thoughts. That's the way to head into the weekend! TV  

November 20, 2019

Additions to the Top Ten: Man in a Suitcase

I'm not what you'd call an Anglophile; I don't scour newsstands looking for magazines with one of the Royals on the cover, I don't give a rat's you-know-what about what Meghan and Harry or William and Kate are up to (I'm not even on a first-name basis with them), and I root for the home team on the Fourth of July.

When it comes to television, however, I'm more than willing to look across the pond, especially the shows from the 1960s that migrated to American TV: Doctor Who, The Prisoner, The Avengers, The Saint, The Persuaders, and—Man in a Suitcase.   

Man in a Suitcase ran for only one season (1967-68 on ITV; 1968 on ABC), but it's more than worthy of being mentioned with those other series. It stars American actor Richard Bradford in a galvanizing performance as McGill ("Just McGill," he brusquely tells people), a former American spy who's been dismissed from the service, and prevented from returning to the United States, for having allowed a scientist (accidentally, or on purpose) to defect to the Soviets. As befits his role as series protagonist, all is not what it seems: McGill's the victim of a frame-up, and he's determined to clear his name, even though it's unlikely he'd ever want to return to the service after the way he's been treated. In the meantime, he's holed up in London, taking various assignments as an unlicensed private detective, accompanied always by the battered suitcase that holds the remnants of his life. He's hard and cynical, and in the first episode*, "Man from the Dead," we see why: the service knows he's innocent. It turns out the scientist is acting as a double agent, passing information back to the Americans, and McGill was targeted to take the rap in order to make the whole thing convincing to the Reds (as well as keeping him from figuring out the truth). In other words, while everyone else thinks he's a disgrace (and possibly a traitor!), the people who know better, who could with one word restore his reputation, are perfectly content to let him twist in the wind to provide cover for their larger deception. No wonder he's bitter.

*As you watch the series, don't follow the broadcast order of episodes, which lists "Man from the Dead" as Episode #6; it is, in fact, meant to be seen first. One could make an argument, however, that it could equally function as the final episode.

There's a lot to like about this series. It has that stylish Sixties feel, from the pitch-perfect theme by Ron Grainer (who also did The Prisoner and Doctor Who, among others) to the fashions, the style of cinematography, and the Cold War tension. The series has a dark, cynical feeling, right out of shows like Secret Agent and The Prisoner, and McGill is the perfect protagonist: a loner, sardonic, brittle, and suspicious; a mercenary who doesn't let his fee stop him from biting the hand that feeds him, whether it be a client, the authorities, or someone who might be an ally. And yet he also has the proverbial Heart of Gold, a strong sense of justice that causes him to put his own life on the line in order to help those he sees as true victims—people like him, although he never drifts into self-pity. (It also shows the value of casting an American actor as an American character, rather than a British actor with a bad accent.)

Certainly these are the elements that one sees in traditional noir stories, and in lesser hands it could fall into cliché. Bradford's performance ensures that it never happens, though. A classic method actor, he's thoroughly invested in his character, determined to play him as realistically as possible. When McGill's slugged, he bleeds; getting sapped in the head leaves him woosey and uncertain; and he makes it clear he doesn't always have all the answers. This kind of dedication made Bradford difficult to work with (and perhaps explains why Man in a Suitcase was his only starring role), but it results in a charismatic, convincing portrayal of a man who's honest, dedicated (often in spite of himself), as must have been one hell of an agent.

Even when the stories are relatively straightforward, there's a perpetually unsettling feeling about Man in a Suitcase: no guarantees that the good guys will win, that everyone will survive, that McGill won't be (once again) betrayed by someone he's reluctantly decided to trust. There's also a sense that not everything is as it seems, and indeed the story rarely unfolds all at once. McGill's background is only occasionally mentioned (usually by prospective clients who take the opportunity to remind him that beggars can't be choosers), but it's never far from the surface, and never far from McGill's thoughts. It's a subtle, unspoken element that hangs in the air throughout the series.

It's too bad that Man in a Suitcase only ran for one season, but perhaps that's really a good thing; like The Prisoner, it may have been impossible to sustain the premise and the quality of the series for more than the 30 episodes that were made. I watched Man in a Suitcase right after having finished Coronet Blue, a series from roughly the same era with a similar look; but Man in a Suitcase quickly underlines the missed potential of Coronet Blue: the atmosphere, the subtleties, the distrust, the sense that the ground could shift under your feet at any moment. A little mystery, done well, can go a long way, and while we never find out who Michael Alden was, just as we never know if McGill clears his name, it's clear which series offers the more satisfying journey. TV  

November 18, 2019

What's on TV: Thursday, November 22, 1973

I know Thanksgiving isn't until next week, but Turkey Day 1973 fell on the earliest date possible, and you didn't really think that I'd pass up a chance to look at the day's listings, did you? I love Thanksgiving; it marks the start of the holiday season, and compared to Christmas, it's much less stressful and more low-key. (A pity some people have to ruin it by opening the stores instead of waiting until Friday, isn't it?) And then, of course, the smells: turkey, pumpkin pie, apple cinnamon. Ah, it's going to be hard to wait until next Thursday.

One non-related item to draw your attention to: Bob Cromie's guest on Book Beat (WDSE, 10:30 p.m.) is none other that Rex Stout, creator of two of my favorite detectives: the corpulent detective Nero Wolfe, and his assistant Archie Goodwin.

The listings come to you from the Minnesota State Edition.

November 16, 2019

This week in TV Guide: November 17, 1973

What we have this week is a really fine issue, full of specials and big-name movies, and for this we should be thankful. And no wonder—Thursday is Thanksgiving Day! No time to waste: let's get started.

Sinatra: Ol' Blue Eyes is back; Frank Sinatra returns in one of his specials that so often seem to air around Thanksgiving. This time, he really is back, coming out of retirement to appear with special guest star Gene Kelly. (Sunday, 7:30 p.m., NBC) Frank tells Dwight Whitney that he enjoyed retirement; "I just loved doing nothing. . . I got to see friends I hadn't seen in a long time. I got to travel without work—which is so hectic. I got time to delve into art. I did what came to me when I woke up." And yet he can't resist the pull of those who want to see him one more time, or who never had the chance. In addition to his old hits, Frank sings some new songs, including "Send in the Clowns," "Let Me Try Again," and "You Will Be My Music." But it's hard to see Sinatra at home with the new music, as he himself admits. "Rock? It's influenced music but not me. Some of it I absolutely loathe. Now I see a shining light at the end of the tunnel. A lot of young composers like Neil Diamond, Joe Raposo, Jimmy Webb and Kris Kristofferson are writing a lot of wonderful things a la Larry Hart."

JFK: Thanksgiving Day, November 22, is the tenth anniversary of the assassination of John Kennedy, and on Wednesday, ABC's late night Wide World of Entertainment presents "J.F.K.—A Time to Remember" (10:30 p.m.), a 90-minute recollection of the late president's life, with brother Ted and mother Rose, former Kennedy men Dave Powers and Pierre Salinger, and authors Theodore H. White and Jim Bishop. The anniversary's also the occasion for Rose Kennedy's Thanksgiving Special (syndicated; various dates and times). Am I the only one who thinks this sounds like an SCTV bit? "Join us for a very special Thanksgiving, with Rose Kennedy's Thanksgiving Special, hosted by Walter Cronkite and Rose Kennedy, with Peter Lawford, Vaughn Meader, Orson Welles, the Chappaquiddick Singers, the Juul Haalmeyer Dancers, and a special appearance by Robert Goulet singing the theme from Camelot! Ask what SCTV can do for you, this Thanksgiving Night!" It writes itself, doesn't it? Unfortunately, it's merely an "intimate conversation with Rose Kennedy, who talks about the joys and tragedies of her life and the careers of the Kennedy clan."*

*Did you ever notice that it's always the "Kennedy Clan," never the "Kennedy Family." At what point does a family become a clan, anyway? Perhaps, like the number of licks to get to the center of a Tootsie Roll Pop, we'll never know.

Parades: What would Thanksgiving be without parades? The Macy's Parade is the highlight of NBC's Thanksgiving morning (8:00 a.m.), with Adam-12 stars Martin Milner and Kent McCord as the hosts. Lorne Greene and Betty White did this for a long time, and the last few decades it's been the hosts of The Today Show; teaming two of NBC's series stars is more like you'd expect on CBS. Speaking of which, the Tiffany Network's All-American Parade (8:00 a.m.) coverage features the warm presence of William Conrad as host, with highlights from New York, Detroit, Philadelphia and Toronto. I have very fond memories of those CBS broadcasts, unlike the sad spectacle that passes nowadays.

Specials: The week's specials begin on Sunday with dueling one-offs. On CBS, Carol Burnett recreates her celebrated 1959 off-Broadway performance in "Once Upon a Mattress" (8:00 p.m.) based on "The Princess and the Pea," with Ken Berry, Jack Gilford, Bernadette Peters, Wally Cox, and more. A half-hour later, NBC pairs Dinah Shore and Burt Reynolds in Dinah Shore in Search of the Ideal Man (8:30 p.m.), with samples from Telly Savalas and Peter Graves to Danny Thomas and Don Knotts.

Fast-forward (a phrase that hasn't been invented yet) to Thanksgiving, and following the Macy's parade, NBC presents a family-friendly lineup of specials starting with The Magic Man (11:00 a.m.), hosted by The Magician's Bill Bixby, and featuring magic acts from Mark Wilson, Jerry Bergman, the Amazing Randi, and more. That's followed by Alice Through the Looking Glass (12:30 p.m.), a musical adaption of the sequel to Alice in Wonderland, starring Agnes Moorhead, Jack Palance, Jimmy Durante, Nanette Fabray, Ricardo Montalban, Tom and Dick Smothers, and Judi Rolin as Alice. And Thursday late night, ABC has "A Salute to Humble Howard"—Cosell, that is. (10:30 It's a roast held on behalf of the National Multiple Sclerosis Society, featuring Don Adams, Steve Allen, Don Rickles, Muhammad Ali, Merlin Olson, Don Meredith, and others.

Friday afternoon CBS takes advantage of the school holiday with Richard Thomas taking a break from The Waltons to act as host and narrator of Gilbert and Sullivan's operetta H.M.S. Pinafore (2:00 p.m.), performed by England's famed D'Oyle Carte Opera Company. And Julie on Sesame Street (Friday, 8:00 p.m., ABC) is pretty much what it sounds like, a musical tour of Sesame Street with Julie Andrews, the Muppets, and special guest star Perry Como. Julie and Perry do have a few minutes to themselves to sing a medley including "The Song is You," ""With a Song in My Heart," and "Killing Me Softly with His Song." I sense a theme somewhere.

Sports: In addition to the usual suspects over the weekend (college football with teams TBD on ABC, the Packers vs. Patriots and 49ers vs. Rams on Sunday) Thursday and Friday present a plethora of pigskin performances. The NFL kicks things off with the Detroit Lions in their traditional Thanksgiving game, this year against Washington (CBS, 11:15 a.m.), followed by the Dallas Cowboys and their traditional Thanksgiving game, hosting Miami. On ABC it's a college football doubleheader, starting with Air Force at Notre Dame (12:15 p.m.), and after a pause for local programming a nightcap with Alabama taking on LSU (5:30 p.m.) If you want to ease into those nighttime turkey sandwiches, you might watch a little hockey with Minnesota playing their hated rival St. Louis (8:00 p.m., WTCN). And on Friday, some bonus football, with the classic rivalry between Nebraska and Oklahoma. (1:15 p.m., ABC) It's a great lineup.

Cartoons: At 7:00 p.m. on Monday, NBC welcomes the first TV appearance by the characters from the comic strip "B.C." in B.C.The First Thanksgiving, which, sadly, does not become a classic. Tuesday, CBS presents the premiere of A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, which does become a tradition, even though it's the weakest of the Peanuts holiday specials, IMHO. On Thanksgiving, WTCN airs the animated A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court (1:00 p.m.), followed by Hanna-Barbara's The Thanksgiving That Almost Wasn't (2:30 p.m.); meanwhile, CBS has a double serving of Famous Classic Tales: on Thursday it's "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea" (2:30 p.m.), and Friday it's "The Three Musketeers" (3:30 p.m.), both by Hanna-Barbara.

Movies: Sunday night, Jason Robards, Mildred Natwick, and Lisa Lucas reprise their roles from last year's The House Without a Christmas Tree in The Thanksgiving Treasure (6:30 p.m., NBC)Thanksgiving night presents the television premiere of the magnificent My Fair Lady (7:00 p.m., NBC), winner of eight Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Actor for Rex Harrison. The non-nominated Audrey Hepburn co-stars in what Judith Crist calls "the loveliest of stage musicals," transferred to film as "an outstanding example of moving a classic from stage to screen with integrity." That's hard to top, but CBS and ABC do augment the week; NBC offers a rerun of the literate sci-fi classic The Andromeda Strain (Saturday, 8:00 p.m.) with Arthur Hill, James Olson and David Wayne; Crist praises how the film builds "an intellectual rather than ugh-the-blob! horror." On Sunday it's ABC's turn, with The Hospital (7:30 p.m.), Paddy Chayefsky's savage satire of the medical profession, with George C. Scott (fresh off his declined Oscar for Patton) giving "perhaps the finest performance" of his career. It's a great, great movie. Even Doctor Doolittle (Wednesday, 7:00 p.m., ABC) provides "a viable evening's entertainment for the unsophisticated young." And why not wind down the week on Friday with To Sir, With Love (Friday, 8:00 p.m., CBS) with Sidney Poitier's terrific performance as the dedicated teacher, and Lulu singing the hit theme.

And all this doesn't even include the premiere on PBS of the eight-part War and Peace (Wednesday, 9:00 p.m.), an epic 14½ hour production that stars Anthony Hopkins and is scripted by Jack Pulman, who previously did the teleplay for I, Claudius. Back in the day, TV Guide used the headline "What a Week!" to describe the shows on Thanksgiving week; even without the headline, I'm sure you'll agree that it is, indeed, quite a week.

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Not only do we have NBC's The Midnight Special and ABC's In Concert this week, there's also the syndicated Don Kirshner's Rock Concert. Not only that, they're all on at the same time! Let's see who's better, who's best.

Kirshner: The Mark-Almond band, Dave Mason and Jesse Colin Young are the guests. Also: a taped segment featuring the late Jim Croce.

Special: Host Peter Noone, Gilbert O'Sullivan, the Bee Gees, the Electric Light Orchestra, and Manfred Mann.

Concert: Sly and the Family Stone, B.B. King, Johnny Winter, the Locker Dancers, the late Jim Croce, the Eagles, Seals and Crofts, the J. Geils Band, T. Rex, Dr. John, Black Oak Arkansas, John Sebastian, Billy Preston, Mott the Hoople, Sha Na Na, and Dan Hicks and His Hot Licks.

In a week of very special programs, this is a special Friday indeed. In Concert (10:30 p.m., ABC) celebrates its first anniversary with a three-hour special mixing new acts and segments from previous shows, which accounts for the massive (and impressive) lineup. Kirshner's 90 minute concert (2:15 a.m., WCCO) isn't nearly as large, but makes up for it with quality. My own personal choice is Special (12:35 a.m., NBC) with ELO and the Bee Gees supporting Noone, the former lead singer of Herman's Hermits and someone who, it seems to me, maintained a detached, bemused perspective throughout the Sixties, an observer watching everything unfold around him.

However, one of the treats of the Minnesota State Edition of TV Guide is that you get to see listings from a vast array of stations, not all of which show network programming at the scheduled time. Thus, we have Duluth's WDSM, which on Saturday at 10:40 p.m. presents the previous week's Midnight Special, with undoubtedly the best lineup of the week: David Bowie, making his American television debut, along with Marianne Faithful, Carmen, and the Troggs. Bowie's first appearance on American TV! And here it is:

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.Throughout the 60s and early 70s, TV Guide's weekly reviews were written by the witty and acerbic Cleveland Amory. Whenever we get the chance, we'll look at Cleve's latest take on the series of the era. 

This week our intrepid critic once again makes an excursion into the world of children's television, and comes away suitably impressed. The program is ABC's Sunday morning show Make a Wish, hosted by singer/guitarist Tom Chapin. "He isn't the world's best singer or guitarist," Amory writes, "but he's very infectious, and he's very entertaining." The idea is to "expand the young person's frame of reference," by taking two words, one for each half of the show, and demonstrating the different ways in which the words can be used—"in song, in poetry, in extraordinarily effective film and in humorous stream-of-consciousness non sequiturs."  Each word is looked at from several angles, using history, myth, geography, even astronomy.

What Amory likes the most about Make a Wish is that it's all done with fun and word play, and it's no surprise that the show would appeal to Amory, given his own fondness for words. In one episode, Chapin mentions that "While it is true that the English have been known to eat soup, under no circumstances should a pea-soup fog in London be served for dinner"; it's the kind of joke that one might expect to show up in one of Amory's reviews. Another episode features a film of wild mustangs, with a note that it was letters from children all over the country that resulted in legislation to save these horses. Given Cleve's involvement in animal rights, it's no surprise that he'd be taken by this imagery.

Amory gives ample credit to executive producer Lester Cooper and producer Tom Bywathers for their roles in bringing Make a Wish a Peabody Award, and he concludes with a letter from a California women who wrote, "I have a 3-year-old son and a 40-year-old husband, and I'm not sure who enjoys it more."

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Not everything is so exciting; The Doan Report reports (well, I guess it would, wouldn't it?) that NBC has cancelled four of their new shows: NBC Follies, with Sammy Davis, Jr.; the anthology series Love Story, which didn't quite have the success that Police Story did; Diana, as big a waste of Diana Rigg as one could imagine; and the sitcom Needles and Pins. Not to be outdone, CBS has axed the "disappointing" sitcoms Calucci's Dept., Roll Out!, and The New Perry Mason. All is not lost, though; the network also has one of the few successful new series, Telly Savalas's Kojak.

Finally, in the words of this week's cover, "Will you pay for TV?" Today, the question is more like "how much will you pay for TV?" and with the rise of cord cutting, the answer seems to be, "not as much as I used to." People who only subscribe to services like Netflix and Prime probably don't even think of it as paying for TV. But back in 1973, the question was whether or not viewers would pay for it at all.

If you're a regular reader of this website, you'll know that the idea of pay-cable TV has seemingly been around forever, but as Richard K. Doan reports, it now seems closer than ever, with more areas testing it out for viewer reaction. Communities in Long Island were offered two cable channels showing nothing but movies from morning until late night; "households were free to look at any (or all) of eight showings of one picture in a day, all for $3 (plus a monthly service charge of $1.50). All the homes already were receiving, via cable, 10 over-the-air channels, including New York City's seven major VHFs." The test was a hit, and one of the big reasons is that the movies were shown uncut and without commercial interruption. "We've kind of given up on movies outside the house," one resident says. "We enjoy pay-TV. We can see a movie straight through without looking at 19 commercials." The seven movies the family watched cost them $21, and they were fine with that.

Pay-TV is receiving pushback from traditional broadcasters, who are taking out ads warning consumers that "free TV" is being threatened by this move. They're also limited to offering their service in areas that already have a cable system, and in 1973 the vast majority of major cities have yet to be wired. (Presumably, city leaders hadn't yet figured out how lucrative those contracts could be—to them.) There's also not much variety to these tests; movies are everyone's first choice, with live sports second, but "[v]irtually nothing has been seen yet of the cultural and educational programming—the opera, ballet, home study and other goodies—that was going to set wired TV apart (the 'communications explosion,' prophets said) from the standard broadcast offerings of TV." In other words, that part of the revolution that cable TV was always supposed to represent was never really in the picture. Oddly, those kinds of special presentations do exist—in movie theaters, via Fathom Events and other providers.

There are other concerns, worries that we're familiar with even today. What if children walk in on racy or violent scenes? (Today, they can bring them up themselves.) What about bootlegging? And will it be possible to come up with "a sophisticated two-way home terminal on which the family orders up each movie, football game or other program it wishes to see," or will providers have to resort to a blanket feel for their pay programming?

All of these things have come to pass in one form or another. The idea of pay-per-view, which is really what they're talking about here, is not driven by the movie industry, but has thrived for specific events, mostly boxing and MMA. People can "rent" a movie via streaming services, as well as paying a flat monthly amount for access to "free" movies. And then there's one of the most "grandiose" ideas of all, currently being studied for feasibility: "how satellites could be employed to link up cable systems for network programming." That one really is pie-in-the-sky, isn't it? Pumpkin pie, of course. TV