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  

5 comments:

  1. It was Sterling Holloway, not Stanley Holloway (from "My Fair Lady", I think), who voiced Winnie the Pooh for Disney.

    I remember watching "Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory" for the first time that Thankgiving evening. Some of my cousins & I watched it on a tv upstairs at my grandparents' house, since most of the adults, including my grandmother I'm sure, were watching THE WALTONS movie downstairs. My grandmother mentioned she was watching THE WALTONS when my grandfather died a bit more than 3 years later.

    Christopher Connelly, who took over Ryan O'Neal's movie role for the series PAPER MOON, had played O'Neal's brother on PEYTON PLACE for years. The 2 men were close in age and looked a lot alike. Unfortunately Mr. Connelly died of cancer more than 30 years ago now. Mr. O'Neal is still hanging on, going on 80 next year, though I've read he's had to fight leukemia for awhile now.

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  2. - The voice of Winnie-the-Pooh was Sterling Holloway.
    You remember him, don't you?
    Curly blond hair, funny voice, rented the hotel room to the golfer who wanted to shoot Mayor Cermak that time on The Untouchables?

    - Here's a funny story about that Miracle On 34th Street remake:
    In order to do it, Sebastian Cabot had to shave off his beard.
    He'd had a bad experience with bleaching it on that Twilight Zone all those years back.
    The makeup guys on the Miracle remake devised a way of removing Cabot's beard and supplying a backing to preserve it intact, so he could use it in appearances while waiting for the real thing to grow back.
    One of the tabloids (I forget which one) actually got a photo of a beardless Cabot and ran it just before the movie aired; I've been searching for it ever since.
    Looking back, I think it might have been interesting if Sebastian Cabot had made at least one clean-shaven guest shot during this time, but alas, 'twas not to be …

    - Bobby Vinton's hit record was "Melody Of Love"; that was the one where Vinton interpolated Polish-language lyrics and boosted his career (here in Chicago, "Melody" was damn nearly inescapable that year).

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    1. Sebastian Cabot without his beard - you're right, I'd love to see that!

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  3. The Thanksgiving night Anne Bancroft special aired about a month before Jack Benny's death, and since the telecast of his last-ever TV appearance(on a Dean Martin Roast for Lucille Ball) was delayed til early 1975, this looks to be the last TV appearance to air during his lifetime. I've seen sources claiming that his September visits to the Jerry Lewis telethon,and the first episode of Dinah Shore's syndicated talk show, had been his final TV appearances.

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Thanks for writing! Drive safely!