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  


  1. I have wanted to see full episodes of "Make A Wish" for DECADES; I'm a film editor and remembered the unusual editing style that must have influenced me somehow. But about twenty years ago I actually met Tom Chapin and asked if we'd ever see a DVD release of the show, and he sadly told me that it was not to be. Alas!

  2. The reference to the Notre Dame-Air Force game on Thanksgiving is interesting because today's Notre Dame-Navy game at South Bend is the first non-sellout at Notre Dame since that Thanksgiving game in 1973. Today will end a streak of 273 straight sellouts at Notre Dame. There is much made of that this week in the media. Just an interesting little tidbit.

    1. I thought of that as I was writing it! Quite a coincidence, isn't it? Similar rout, too. Good spot, Mark!

  3. I remember Make a Wish with Hatty Chapin very fondly and it may have had an effect on me in my formative years. I too am a student of words like Mr. Amory and these are the ones you spelled incorrectly... "adaption" should be adaptation, Agnes Moorhead should be Moorehead, D'Oyle Cart should be D'Oyly Carte, and a California women should be woman.

    I also think the Bill Conrad by the fireside hosting of the CBS Thanksgiving festivities was the best job anyone ever did of that.

  4. Tom Chapin was the brother of singer songwriter Harry Chapin of "Taxi" & "Cat's In the Cradle" fame. I remember watching Make a Wish in the tail end of my Saturday AM cartoon watching days. I noticed the name of Al Brodax in the closing credits. He was the producer of the Beatles cartoon series & the movie Yellow Submarine, the animation style of which the closing credits semm to be aping.

  5. If you're wondering what that truck was ahead of the turkey float: Yes, the tractor company. They were built and sold from '61 to '80. They were comparable to the Chevy Blazer or Ford Bronco (and looked like them).


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!