December 30, 2019

What's on TV? Friday, January 3, 1969

For the last look at TV listings this year, I could have taken the easy way out and done New Year's Day; between the parades and the football, it probably would have been half the length of this one. It's a good look, though, at some shows we don't see very often. This comes from the Minneapolis-St. Paul edition.

December 28, 2019

This week in TV Guide: December 28, 1968

I can't think that there were many people sorry to see 1968 come to an end. It was, by any measure, a miserable year, and that's when it wasn't tragic as well. But before we can get to 1969, we have to wrap up 1968.

On New Year's Eve, NBC helps ring out the old year with live coverage of the King Orange Jamboree Parade from Miami (6:30 p.m. CT), with Lorne Greene and Anita Bryant behind the mics. I always enjoyed this parade; it was bright and colorful just like the game the following night—ah, but more about that later.

Meanwhile, at 9:00 p.m., CBS presents the first of a two-part look back at 1968. "America and the World," moderated by Eric Sevareid, brings together the network's European correspondents to discuss the international scene, including Vietnam. Part two, which airs tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 p.m. (after the Cotton Bowl), concentrates on the turbulent national scene: the White House, the Great Society, and student-racial unrest.

And now for some entertainment: That's Life (9:00 p.m., ABC), the comedy-variety show that Cleveland Amory reviewed here, is built around a New Year's Eve theme, as an all-star lineup of guests, including Mel Tormé, Mort Sahl, Spanky and Our Gang, and Flip Wilson, help Robert Morse and E.J. Peaker ring in the New Year at the country club party. At 10:00 p.m., NET Festival presents an hour of singing, dancing, and comedy from Yves Montand; one skit includes a voiceover by Montand's wife, Oscar-winner Simone Signoret. At 10:30 p.m., WCCO carries tape-delay coverage of the Bluebonnet Bowl in Houston. At the same time, Johnny Carson hosts a live edition of The Tonight Show, with Tony Randall, Joan Rivers, Joel Grey, Jimmy Breslin, and Jan Peerce. I suspect there might have been a live cut-in to Times Square for the ball-drop, which may well have been hosted by network veteran Ben Grauer.

And where, you may ask, is Mr. New Year's Eve himself, Guy Lombardo? I wondered this myself, which caused me to do a little extra-curricular research that leads me to believe that we're in a period when Lombardo's famous show was syndicated to stations around the country, rather than being broadcast on CBS, as was usually the case. WCCO, the CBS affiliate, would have been the natural station to carry him, but as we saw, they're otherwise occupied; KSTP has Johnny, KMSP has a three-hour concert at midnight from Soul's Harbor Ministries in Minneapolis, and WTCN has late news following a North Stars hockey game. So I guess Guy was just out of luck this year.

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CBS kicks off 1969 with coverage of the 12th annual Cotton Bowl Parade from Dallas (9:30 a.m. CT), with Jack Linkletter and former Miss America Marilyn Van Derbur hosting. That's followed at 10:30 a.m. by the glorious Rose Parade from Pasadena, with the theme "A Time to Remember"; fittingly, the Grand Marshal is Bob Hope. CBS's coverage is anchored by Mike Douglas and Bess Myerson, while NBC has Betty White, Raymond Burr and Tom Kennedy reporting.

The parades serve as lead-in to the focal point of the day: football. We're in the pre-playoff era of the college game, which means everything important gets decided today, and the most important game of them all is the Rose Bowl (3:45 p.m., NBC), featuring undefeated and top-ranked Ohio State taking on second-ranked USC, the only blemish on their record being a season-ending tie against Notre Dame. In the game, O.J. Simpson—back when you could appreciate him as a football player and nothing more—is everything that anyone could hope for, rushing for 171 yards, including a scintillating 80-yard touchdown in the second quarter. It isn't enough, though, to overcome the super sophomores of Ohio State, led by quarterback Rex Kern, and the Buckeyes roll to a 27-16 victory and the mythical national championship.

The Rose Bowl is the centerpiece of NBC's Bowl Day schedule, which the network proudly calls the widowmaker. It begins at 12:45 p.m. with Arkansas taking on Georgia in the Sugar Bowl, with the #9 Razorbacks stunning the undefeated Bulldogs, 16-2; and it wraps up with the Orange Bowl (6:45 p.m.), with undefeated #3 Penn State and #6 Kansas hooking up in one of the most thrilling bowl games of the decade. With just over a minute to play and Kansas clinging to a 14-7 lead, a desperation punt block gives Penn State the ball at midfield; a deep pass sets up a touchdown by Penn State quarterback Chuck Burkhart with 15 seconds remaining to make the score 14-13. Penn State coach Joe Paterno, who later says that "If we couldn’t win, we’d lose," goes for two-points and the win, only to see Burkhart’s pass broken up in the end zone. But WAIT! Kansas is called for having 12 men on the field (they’d actually had 12 men for the last several plays, but weren’t caught until the fateful conversion attempt). Given a reprieve, Penn State doesn’t miss this time; the successful convert makes the final score Penn State 15, Kansas 14, in one of the great Orange Bowls of all time. It wasn’t for the national championship; it was better than that.

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

Sullivan: Tentatively scheduled guest: Eddie Albert of Green Acres; singers Lanie Kazan, Judy Collins and Earl Wilson Jr.; comedians George Kirby, Charlie Manna, and Elias and Shaw; singer instrumentalists Your Father's Mustache and the Chung Trio; and Burger's Animals.

Palace: Host Donald O'Connor presents comedians Sid Caesar and Bob Melvin; singer-ventriloquist Shari Lewis and Lambchop; singers Don Ho, Ted Lewis and Marilyn Maye; and juggler Rudy Cardenas.

You know that I generally try to present these listings as they're printed in the issue, but I couldn't bring myself to duplicate the typo that has Shari Lewis' puppet as "Lampchop." (It also ought to be two words, but we'll let that one go.) Nevertheless, she, along with Donald O'Connor and Sid Caesar, make for a strong leading trio, and while Ed's show is eminently watchable this week, I'm ending the year by giving a slight edge to The Palace.

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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. 

Just as it used to be said that the way to a man's heart was through his stomach, it is true that the way to Cleveland Amory's heart is often through being different. Even if a show is not particularly good, it will always get points for offering something out of the ordinary, a change from the lockstep monotony so often seen on the tube. If it happens to be good as well, then you've won the jackpot.

Such is the case, this week, with ABC's comedy-drama Here Come the Brides, "a logging-camp saga, handsomely awash with interesting and even new-fashioned characters." It's set in Seattle, just after the Civil War, with Robert Brown playing Jason Bolt, a logging-company boss trying to recruit women to come to the Great Northwest as brides for the lonely male loggers. As Westerns go, the emphasis is on comedy rather than violence, a quality that sets the show in good stead in this, one of television's periodic anti-violence campaigns. It's a quality that Cleve approves of as well; of the pilot, he writes that "This is the kind of comedy that the average show would make so corny that you just couldn’t bear it. But in this episode, saints be, you not only bear it, you grin and do so."

In another episode, Amory singles out the performance of Don Pedro Colley, playing a "ruffian" named Ox. "Here again, what might have been another bust-‘em-down and shoot-‘em-up became something very different. . . Ox turned out in the end to be not only the hero, but also to give one of the most memorable performances we’ve seen this year.” It's this playing-against-type that works for the show, and works for Amory.

Here Come the Brides runs for two seasons, with Bobby Sherman and David Soul becoming the breakout stars of the series. Cleve gives it one of his best reviews of the year—but then, remember that he also loves The Good Guys.

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We still live in the days when it's something of a coup to attract a major motion picture star to make the move to the small screen, and few such coups have been bigger than CBS's successful bid to lure Doris Day to television. She's the subject of Dwight Whitney's snarky cover story.

Dodo's move to television was engineered by her late husband, Martin Melcher, who'd arranged a lucrative deal in which they would retain ownership of the negatives and control all rerun rights to The Doris Day Show. CBS was eager to engage Day as leverage against Lucille Ball's perennial threats to quit her show, but "[t]he reasons Doris accepted are somewhat more obscure," Whitney says; "She hardly needed the money. She already had, according to inside estimates, somewhere between $15,000,000 and $18,000,000, the happy results of 20 years as a superstar." But, of course, that turns out not to have been true; as we now know, Melcher and his business partner had squandered Day's earnings, leaving her massively in debt. While Day hated the idea of doing the show, she felt duty-bound by the agreement that Melcher had reached. Whitney also puts Day's move to television into the perspective of a star rapidly being left behind by a changing culture; as one producer puts it, "[T]he Doris Day-type, Goody Twoshoes kind of picture wasn't bringing the kids out. They would rather see Rosemary impregnated by the devil."

There's also Day's rocky relationship with the press. The press frightens her, prying into areas she'd rather leave unexplored: her two previous marriages, the smoking habit she gave up when she turned to Christian Science, her rocky family background. When Melcher created "Areas of Sensitivity" into which the press could not tread, they began to think there was something out there that they'd overlooked. As a member of the press, Whitney shares in these bruised feelings, and lets them show in his profile.

We know the rest of the story; The Doris Day Show is a success, "pure, unadulterated, wall-to-wall freckle, Doris-Daysies-in-my-garden type Doris Day, a real throwback to the good old days when there was no problem that goodness couldn't solve." The show runs for five successful years, and even though Day largely retires after it leaves the air, her legacy remains: countless hit movies and records, the Presidential Medal of Freedom, and a reservoir of good will, with the public if not the press, that ensures lasting affection from the public until her death earlier this year.

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Let's take a look at the rest of the week—excepting New Year's Day; I think we've already covered that pretty well.

On Saturday, The Jackie Gleason Show (6:30 p.m., CBS) has another of the hour-long Honeymooners stories; this time, Ralph gets into the fight business, managing Norton's hick relative, Dynamite Moran. That's followed at 7:30 p.m. by My Three Sons, with Oscar-winner Ed Begley as the tyrannical carpenter building the nursery addition to the Douglas home. And Lawrence Welk and his Champagne Music Makers get ready to welcome the New Year. (7:30 p.m., ABC)

It's Championship Sunday in pro football, with both the NFL and AFL choosing their representatives for the third Super Bowl. It starts at noon on NBC, as Joe Namath and the New York Jets defeat the Oakland Raiders for the AFL crown; it ends at 1:30 p.m. with the Baltimore Colts besting the Cleveland Browns on CBS to win the NFL title. Nobody remembers these games, though; everyone remembers what the Jets did to the Colts two weeks later. If sports ain't your thing, boy are you in the wrong place—I mean, you have other options. John Secondari's documentary series Saga of Western Man presents "The Road to Gettysburg" at 3:30 p.m. on ABC; Senator George McGovern, a leading opponent of the Vietnam War, is the guest on Meet the Press (4:00 p.m., NBC)

Monday starts off with the ABC premiere of Let's Make a Deal (12:30 p.m.), which made the network move after having aired on NBC since its debut in 1963. I only ever remembered it as being an ABC show, until I fell into my TV Guide research. Later, a grim reminder of the reality of life in the city comes from NBC's two-hour White Paper report on the urban crisis, "The People are the City." (8:00 p.m.) My eight-year-old self rejected this civics lesson in favor of WTCN's coverage of college basketball's Holiday Festival championship game live from Madison Square Garden in New York (8:00 p.m.), won by UCLA. Following the game, WTCN switches to tape-delay coverage of the inaugural Peach Bowl, pitting LSU against Florida State.

Outside of New Year's Eve programming, the prize on Tuesday belongs to the network-television premiere of Come Back, Little Sheba, the 1952 drama that won Shirley Booth an Oscar for her big-screen debut, and co-stars Burt Lancaster. Judith Crist calls it "rich and rewarding," and says "it touches the heart with sincere sentiment and never for a moment leans upon the sentimental." Would that more movies were like that.

Thursday's highlight is a rerun of Mark Twain Tonight! (6:30 p.m., CBS), Hal Holbrook's acclaimed Tony-winning one-man show; Holbrook started his fabled Twain portrayal in 1959; he retires from the role in 2017, which, according to the always-reliable Wikipedia, means that Holbrook "has portrayed Twain longer than Samuel Langhorne Clemens did."

Friday, NBC's Prudential's On Stage presents "Male of the Species" (7:30 p.m.) a British import that presents a unique look at three men and their relationship with the same woman. (It was shown in three separate segments in England; here, it's being shown all at once.) The three men are portrayed by some of the best talent that Britain has to offer: Paul Scofield, Michael Caine, and Sean Connery. The "lady of the moment," played by Anna Calder-Marshall, interacts with each of the three in a different way: Connery plays her widowed father, Caine is a smooth-talking ladies' man, and Scofield is the lawyer whose eye she catches. Laurence Olivier hosts and narrates each of the stories.

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With that, it's the last TV Guide of 1968, and the last review of this year. By this time in 1969, TV Guide will have a new look: modern, streamlined, minimalist. (Kind of like the shows it covers, when you think about it.)

Next week starts a new cycle of reviews here, and hopefully we'll have 52 new issues to look at over the course of 2020. It should make for an interesting year, and I hope you'll join me for it. TV  

December 27, 2019

Around the dial

Just because Christmas Day has passed doesn't mean Christmas itself is over; in fact, the Twelve Days have just started, so we're going to keep with Christmas content, starting with David at Comfort TV, who recalls the warm memories that come from those great Kraft commercials that used to run on specials around this time of year. "Because nothing says holiday magic like processed cheese, described by the soothing narration of Ed Herlihy."

Continuing the theme, Perry Como was the longtime host of Kraft Music Hall on television; this clip at Television Obscurities is from one of his earlier shows, when Perry hosted a 15-minute show three times a week. Regardless of when, it's a reminder of why Perry Como was one of America's favorite singers and television personalities of the time, and how his Christmas shows were always a staple of the season.

One of the signature aspects of Rankin/Bass animation has been the celebrity-turned-Anamagic character that appears in so many of the company's specials—think Burl Ives, Fred Astaire, James Cagney, and others. But, as Jodie reminds us at Garroway at Large, the Master Communicator himself appeared in Anamagic once, in the lesser-known Christmas special Jack Frost, which also starred Robert Morse and Buddy Hackett.

At A Shroud of Thoughts, Terence has two Christmas-themed stories; the first gives us some background on the unlikely success of one of the most-loved of all Christmas specials, A Charlie Brown Christmas; the other is a list of five Christmas-themed movies that TCM should run every year. No arguments here.

That's about it for a light week, but come on back tomorrow for the final TV Guide review of the year. TV  

December 25, 2019

Peace on Earth

When you watch television from the 1960s and early '70s, as I do, one of the things you notice about Christmastime is an overwhelming, almost desperate desire for Peace on Earth. It's no surprise; by the end of the decade of the 1960s, the nation had already experienced, or was struggling through, a convulsive struggle for civil rights, three shattering political assassinations, an unpopular war that threatened to tear the country apart, the constant threat of nuclear war, riots in the streets, and an upheaval in lifestyles and morals that obliterated whatever sense of stability and certainty most people had known. At the Christmas Eve church services, the congregations played their folk songs of peace and justice and an end to war; "Let their be peace on earth," they sang. The singular redeeming event of the decade, the moon landing, served to further underline the fragility of the planet by reducing it in size to where it could be obscured completely by a man's thumb. "Pray for peace, people everywhere." Peace on earth, indeed.

It's easy to see the parallels between the tumult of that age and our own, and yet—it may just be me; as I've suggested before, I don't get around as much in this culture—we don't hear that prayer for an all-encompassing peace as we did back then. Perhaps people just don't believe in that kind of peace anymore, the peace that comes from without and lives within. Television certainly doesn't help any, presenting us a world that, for all its artistic accomplishment, often comes off as nasty, brutish, and short. It is a world that seems decidedly short of goodwill to men, one that believes only in a peace that comes from conquest and domination, not brotherhood and fellowship. In such a world may live a like-mindedness of thought and action, but one could hardly call it peace. If all you're looking for is the absence of conflict, than this peace may be good enough for you.

The tranquility of the Christmas night, the stillness of winter amidst the twinkling of the stars overhead, seems an appropriate time to contemplate peace. Bishop Fulton Sheen could talk about it, back when television could take on what was even then a countercultural idea. He sought to unify those two types of peace, that of the world and of the soul. "The Christmas message is not that peace will come automatically, because Christ is born in Bethlehem; that birth in Bethlehem was the prelude to His birth in our hearts by grace and faith and love," he once wrote. "Peace belongs only to those who will to have it. If there is no peace in the world today, it is not because Christ did not come; it is because we did not let Him in."

There is, in some circles, a tendency to think of an overemphasis on peace as so much talk by bleeding hearts, and it's true there can be a superficiality to it when its two aspects are separated, much as one may attempt to separate the body from the soul. Maybe that's why we don't hear as much about it today because people strive for the one without allowing the other. Maybe, but this is the perfect time for it—not just the hour, not just the day, but the very age. If not now, then when?

People who know me, either personally or through this website, know that I'm not particularly what one would call a bleeding heart, but perhaps for just a few minutes we can go back and borrow that spirit of peace stuff—minus the folk guitars, because after all there has to be a limit—and join together with a true wish to be rid of the headlines, away from the conflict, and return to something that really matters. Peace on earth. Can it be? It's not a bad thing to wish for, especially today. TV  

December 23, 2019

What's on TV? Sunday, December 25, 1960

Isn't that a delightful header? It comes from the days when TV Guide celebrated Christmas not only with a headline spread across two pages, but by labeling the day as such, rather than simply saying, in this case, "Sunday." That last part is a trait that they continued even after they stopped doing the header, by the way. By the end of TV Guide's days—at least the TV Guide that we all knew and loved—they'd ceased to recognize Christmas in any meaningful sense. It reminds me of one of our hometown newspapers, I can't remember which one—there's one on each side of the river. In any event, on Christmas morning, above the masthead, the person in charge of the layout had splashed, in big letters, "Happy Holidays!" It was the source of much ridicule in the days to come; one liberal commentator observed that, no matter how you felt about it, December 25 was undeniably Christmas Day, and the paper could hardly have gotten in trouble by stating a declarative fact. This is, however, the city that once banned red poinsettias in government buildings; you could have white ones, or pink I suppose, but red was "too" Christmasy. Might offend someone, you know. Me, I'll quote one of my favorite writers, that "Offend" should be my middle name.

Today's listings come from New York City, with a touch of Connecticut thrown in. And, as promised, there's plenty of Christmas commentary thrown in.

December 21, 2019

This week in TV Guide: December 24, 1960

How do you feel about Christmas in New York City? Well, too bad, because that's what you're going to get this week, whether you like it or not. . . what's that? You like the idea of Christmas in New York? Never mind then; let's just get to it, shall we?

Saturday is Christmas Eve, which is a pretty good way to get the week off to a start. As far as television goes, Christmas Eve has always had a pattern all its own. The early evening, pre-network schedule sees stations dig into their Yuletide inventory; The Early Show on WCBS (5:00 p.m.) has the Reginald Owen version of A Christmas Carol, with Gene Lockhart as Bob Cratchit.* The story of the world's most famous Christmas Carol is told in "Silent Night" (6:00 p.m. and 9:30 p.m., WNBC; 7:00 p.m., WCBS; 10:30 p.m., WTIC), an episode of Douglas Fairbanks Presents, also known as Rheingold Theatre. This episode was originally produced in 1954, but by 1960 it's become something of an annual presentation on many channels. It was also filmed in color (the only episode in the four years of the series to be so done), and so it's kind of a surprise that it doesn't show up on line anywhere.

*You should also remember Gene Lockhart for his memorable turn as Judge Harper in Miracle on 34th Street. The Cratchit casting really was a family affair. Gene Lockhart's wife Kathleen played Mrs. Cratchit, and their daughter June played Cratchit daughter Belinda. June went on to a pretty successful career of her own; even after all those years on Lassie, you can't say it went to the dogs.

Music variety shows continue the trend in primetime; Richard Hayes' The Big Beat (8:00 p.m., WNEW) is given over to Christmas music, and Lawrence Welk is live at 9:00 p.m. (ABC) for his annual Christmas episode, with Aladdin reading "The Night Before Christmas" and the Glee Club singing "Silent Night." Norma Zimmer is listed as "Guest vocalist" for this episode; next week, she'll be introduced as the new Champagne Lady, officially taking over for Alice Lon.

At 10:30 p.m. on WNTA, The Play of the Week presents "Emmanuel," the story of the Nativity, with Albert Dekker as Herod, Mark Richman as Joseph, and Lois Nettleton as Mary. Opposite that, on WOR, "A Star Shall Rise," made for Family Theatre in 1952, tells the story of the Three Wise Men, with Raymond Burr, Richard Hale, and John Crawford as the Kings; you can check that out here. And the syndicated West Point (10:30 p.m., WNHC) focuses on the plebes and upperclassmen left studying at the Point during the Christmas season.

Would we see an ad like this in
the TV Guide of today?
And then, as the night becomes late, the venue moves to the church, and, as one would expect from the vast panoply that is New York City, it is an eclectic assortment of faiths. It starts at 10:00 p.m. as NBC covers the Festival of the Seven Lessons and Carols at the Washington's Episcopal National Cathedral. At 10:45 p.m., ABC presents a candlelight procession and carols from the Episcopal Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City, followed at 11:00 p.m. by the Christmas Eve service. The Russian Orthodox take center stage at 11:15 p.m. on CBS, with 15 minutes of Russian Orthodox hymns, while NBC presents 45 minutes of Christmas melodies by musical groups from Midwestern industries; the Illinois Bell Telephone Company Choir, the United Staets Steel swing Vo-chestra, and the Steelworks Goodfellow Carollers. Do such musical groups still exist today? At 11:30 p.m., it's the turn of the Dutch Reformed, in a Christmas Eve service broadcast by CBS from Brooklyn. Midnight itself belongs to the Catholics; Midnight Mass from St. Joseph's Lower Cathedral in Hartford (WTIC), St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York (NBC), and the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. (ABC). CBS wraps it up at 12:30 a.m. with a church service by the Franciscan Friars of the San Diego De Alcala Mission in California.

I particularly like how the early morning winds down, for those returning home from their own church services, or the non-religious. WCBS repeats the Reginald Owen Christmas Carol at 1:00 a.m. on the Late Late Show, while WNHC counters with the Alastair Sim version (the superior one, in my opinion). And at 1:15 a.m., WTIC has the best of all Christmas movies, Miracle on 34th Street.

As for Christmas Day itself, we'll take a closer look at that on Monday, in our weekly programming listings. Is that enough of a clue for you?

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As David Maraniss points out in his excellent Vince Lombardi biography When Pride Still Mattered, "The television sports industry had not yet cracked the sacrosanct Christmas barrier," so this year's NFL championship game between the Green Bay Packers and Philadelphia Eagles will kick off at noon ET on Monday, December 26. "Monday noon [the early start time was dictated because Phiadelphia's Franklin Field had no lights] was not exactly television prime time, but even placing the game that close to Christmas seemed excessive to many people, a sign of commercialism run amok." More than one sportswriter attending the game saw it as yet more evidence of television's growing control over sports. "Sports slowly are being beamed for the mass TV audience," wrote New York columnist Jimmy Powers, "the millions who sit comfortably at home. . .absorbing statistics and, through the magic of powerful lenses, actually seeing more of the intricate play."

And so it comes to pass that, beginning with the pre-game on NBC at 11:45 a.m. Monday, the Packers and Eagles duke it out for the NFL crown, with Lindsey Nelson and Ray Scott behind the microphones. It's a thrilling game, with the two teams trading the lead throughout, until Eagles linebacker Chuck Bednarik brings down Packers star Jim Taylor at the nine-yard-line on the final play of the game, clinching a 17-13 victory for the Eagles. The game should be appreciated not only for the action on the field, but for its historical context; between the two teams, 14 future Hall-of-Famers are on the sidelines (with a couple more in the broadcast booth); it's the only time a Vince Lombardi-coached team loses a playoff game, and it's the last time until 2017 that the Philadelphia Eagles win the championship.

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From time to time I've mentioned Jackpot Bowling Starring Milton Berle, usually in passing and with a tone of pity over the rise and fall of Mr. Television. How did people see it at the time, though? We get a chance to find out this week, thanks to sportswriter Melvin Durslag's series review.

Durslag, in addition to being TV Guide's in-house sports editor, was for nearly 40 years a columnist for the Los Angeles Herald -Express, but I don't know how much he knows about bowling, which he describes as "the monumental boredom that results from watching balls rolling down the lanes." Granted, this was in the days before ABC's Pro Bowlers Tour, with the great Chris Schenkel at the mic, made the sport one of the most popular on Saturday afternoons from the early 1960s through the 1990s. Durslag apparently isn't the only one who fails to appreciate the drama of pro bowling, though; NBC, the network that brings us Jackpot Bowling every week, tries to answer Durslag's question of how to make bowling interesting by giving us three things: comedy, sports, and sex.

The comedy comes from Berle, "a traveled entertainer who understands comedy. You gather at times that he is laughing at himself, doing stand-up jokes amid such odd environs. Bowling, he appears to be saying, needs him like a hole in the head pin." I've always seen it differently; Berle laughs at his predicament because he's too old to cry, and it's not bowling, but Berle himself, who ought to have a hole in the head. What a man doesn't do for a network when he's under a lifetime contract. Chick Hearn, who goes on to great fame as the voice of the Los Angeles Lakers from 1965-2002, provides the play-by-play, and again Durslag's description probably doesn't do him justice; "Trying to give animation to bowling is almost like doing the play-by-play of marbles," he writes, but of course it was Schenkel's decision to play to the drama and anticipation, much as in golf, that made bowling the great theater it was. And then the sex: "a half-dressed doll appears intermittently, to pass out the sponsor's cigars," Durslag says, but if you've seen any of the few episodes that appear on YouTube, you're probably thinking of British bombshell Diana Dors, whose 1961 appearance was during her marriage to Richard Dawson.

It's an odd combination, and to be honest none of it really works; "There isn't enough Berle for laughs, there isn't enough Hearn for sports interest—and the half-dressed doll remains half-dressed." Durslag correctly identifies the keynote of Jackpot Bowling in a recent appearance on the show by Steve Allen. When Berle tells Allen he should do a show like this, Steverino replies, "It isn't because I haven't got the talent. I haven't got the guts." Take that any way you will.

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You know who Dr. Joyce Brothers is, don't you? I don't like to take things like this for granted, but I suspect that most classic TV buffs, especially those from the era that we discus here, know of the young psychologist who parlayed an honest winning streak on The $64,000 Question into a long career as a newspaper columnist and television personality. In 1960, she's hosting her own half-hour weekday show on WNBC, which ought to tell us something about people's problems back in 1960.

The show's off on Monday thanks to the NFL championship, but on Tuesday "A young woman asks for help to choose a winter vacation spot where she can meet eligible young men." Wednesday: "Are women more sensitive to colors than men?" Thursday: "A mother wants to know if her son is passing through a phase or if he is becoming a problem child." (I suppose it depends on whether we're talking about him sucking his thumb or trying to strangle other children.) Friday: A young girl writes, "What is it that makes a playboy so fascinating? Please tell me how to hold on to him."

I mention this because earlier this week, I saw one of those paid-ad teasers on a sidebar, linking to an advice column at Slate magazine. The question: "Help! I’m Hooking Up With My Ex-Nephew and Honestly It’s Great." I wonder if Dr. Brothers ever had a question like that? (The answer to that one, by the way: "Bail out now. No lasting good can come from this. He is your nephew.") I guess things have changed, haven't they?

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There are things other than Christmas specials on this week; let's take a look at some of them.

On Saturday, Perry Mason (7:30 p.m., CBS) confronts a mystery that only Perry can solve (and isn't that most of them?): "Perry gets a phone call from George Beaumont. He finds this a bit odd, since he attended Beaumont's funeral three years before." Yes, I think I'd find that a bit strange myself. Ross Elliott plays Beaumont, so we know at least that part of the story is on the up-and-up.

Most of Sunday's musical presentations have to do with Christmas, which isn't surprising. The Dinah Shore Show (9:00 p.m., NBC) has a Yuletide song itself, but the accent is on the Orient, as Dinah hosts a troup of Japanese singers, dancers and variety artists. At 9:30 p.m. The Jack Benny Program (9:30 p.m., CBS) features Jack's annual amateur talent show, with Nanette Fabray playing an untried entertainer trying for her big break." My bet is that Jack's famous Christmas show, the one with he and Rochester shopping in an insane department store, probably aired a week or two before, when commercials for gifts would have done more good.

Things are more back-to-normal on Monday, with some odds and ends to report. John Charles Daly stepped down as the anchor of ABC's evening news on December 16; this week, the news is being anchored by John Secondari, host of ABC's Saga of Western Man series and author of the novel Coins in the Fountain, which became the Oscar-winning movie Three Coins in the Fountain. Let's see David Muir top that! Later, in the Warner Bros. detective universe, Grant Williams takes time off from Hawaiian Eye to play the bad guy in Surfside 6. (8:30 p.m., ABC) And speaking of guest hosts, Hugh Downs sits in for Jack Paar this week on The Tonight Show. (11:15 p.m., NBC)

Tuesday's best starts with the Alfred Hitchcock Presents episode "The Man Who Found the Money" (8:30 p.m., NBC), starring Rod Cameron. "William Benson loses nearly all his money the first night of his Las Vegas holiday. But it's not so disastrous—he finds a money clip crammed with thousand-dollar bills." Something tells me this is not, repeat not, going to end well. Later, on One Step Beyond (10:00 p.m., ABC), "Fred Summers wants Kate Maxwell to become his bride. But Kate hesitates—she doesn't believe that her pilot-husband is actually dead, even though he's been missing in action for two years." Maybe she should ask Perry Mason how that works.

I think Wednesday's best bets have to include Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall (9:00 p.m, NBC), with guest stars Connie Francis and Kay Thompson, but that could be because I was watching one of Perry's Christmas shows tonight. (You know what they say about how the last thing you watched effects you.) Grant Williams is back on the side of the good guys on Hawaiian Eye (9:00 p.m., ABC), Barry Sullivan's trying to find out the embassy official who's on the side of the bad guys on The United States Steel Hour (10:00 p.m., CBS), and Peter Lind Hayes finds himself on the wrong side of everything in Peter Loves Mary (10:00 p.m, NBC); he's dressed in his old uniform for a reunion when he's mistaken for a secret Air Force courier.

Thursday, Harold J. Stone stars as hood Tommy Karples in a terrific episode of The Untouchables (9:30 p.m., ABC), followed by an episode of Ernie Kovacs' panel show Take a Good Look, which is really just an excuse for getting a good look at some of Kovacs' weird sketches. At 10:00 p.m., Edward R. Murrow hosts a roundtable of CBS news correspondents taking a look back at the year in news in The Years of Crisis. Puzzling title, isn't it, considering we're only talking about one year? Oh well.

Friday, it's one of the most famous and moving of all Twilight Zone episodes, "A Stop at Willoughby" (10:00 p.m., CBS), with James Daly superb as the harassed businessman searching desperately for a simpler life in a simpler time. If you're not sure whether or not you've seen it, you haven't; once you have, you never forget it.

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Apologies that this week's article is a bit shorter than usual (I didn't even get around to the article about one of Hal Horn's favorites, Ralph Taeger, current star of Klondike and future star of Hondo. I'll be making up for that on Monday, though, with a longer-than-usual version of the TV listings; there's a lot of Christmas programming to review! In the meantime, some of you may be travelling for the holidays or otherwise thrown off your regular schedule; to all of you, my best wishes for a Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays. For the rest of you, see you back on Monday. TV  

December 20, 2019

Around the dial

Before we get started, I'd like to inject a somewhat personal note.

I don't know Terry Teachout, the author and drama critic for the Wall Street Journal, at least not personally. I consider him a friend, though, at least via Facebook, and whenever I get a like from a writer as good as he is, I feel I've really accomplished something. Well, his beloved wife, "Mrs. T.," is very, very ill; I don't think it an exaggeration to suggest that it's grave. I don't know if they're at the stage where only a miracle will save her life, but it wouldn't hurt. If you're the praying type, I'd ask you to say a prayer for them both; regardless, please keep them in your thoughts.

And now, something a little more lighthearted.

It's "Maverick Mondays" at The Horn Section, and this week Hal looks at Brett's adventures as "The Sheriff of Duck 'n' Shoot," from 1959. Hey, could be worse; could be the Sheriff of Duck 'n' Cover, right?

We don't go to the movies much anymore, so perhaps it's no big deal to call a movie the best I've seen all year, but the clear winner this year is Quentin Tarantino's Once Upon a Time. . .in Hollywood, and Realwidgiemidget highlights some of the best parts of the movie, including Rick Dalton's (Leonardo DiCaprio) stint as a Western hero in Bounty Law, which should remind you of Wanted—Dead or Alive.

In honor of the Christmas ghost story, Jordan and Brian of The Twilight Zone Vortex review some of the show's best forays into the ghost genre. Dickens didn't create the Christmas ghost story, but he certainly popularized it, and the best adaptations of A Christmas Carol keep that ghostliness in mind.

We recently completed the run of Darren McGavin's thoroughly enjoyable Kolchak: The Night Stalker, and so I know exactly what Fire Breathing Dimetrodon Time is talking about with the wonderful byplay between McGavin and guest star John Dehner in "The Knightly Murders."

It's time for part two of the Hitchcock Project's look at Sterling Silliphant (and yes, he does pop up on our home conversations from time to time; say what you will about the Hadley household), and at barebones e-zine Jack reviews the second-season thriller "The Manacled," with Gary Merrill.

I don't pretend to be an expert on Japanese cinema, nor have I memorized the works of director Akira Kurosawa, but I know greatness when I see it, and few are better than Kurosawa. At Classic Film and TV Café, Rick most appropriately looks at Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress, the inspiration for Star Wars—and that's the least interesting thing about it.

Doogie Howser—those were the days, weren't they? Neil Patrick Harris is on the cover of the December 16, 1989 TV Guide, the latest subject of Television Obscurities' feature "A Year in TV Guide." Find out what else was going on 30 years ago.

And with Christmas only a few days away, I think it's appropriate to conclude at A Shroud of Thought, as Terence recounts the history of White Christmas on NBC. Hard to imagine the season without it, isn't it? TV  

December 18, 2019

Recast It's a Wonderful Life? It's about time!


Since we went about reimagining one Christmas classic last week, why not take on another one this week? After all, for many people, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without watching It's a Wonderful Life on TV. I'm not one of those people—there's something about the dimwittedness of George Bailey that irritates the hell out of me. (And I like Jimmy Stewart!) I mean, sometimes you just want to grab him by the shoulders and slap him: “Don’t you get it, man? Clarence is an Angel! When he tells you that you don't exist in this world, believe him!” Until NBC mercifully stepped in a few years ago and obtained exclusive TV rights to the movie, one lived under the constant threat that someday they would find It's a Wonderful Life airing on every station, a kind of Orwellian nightmare that could turn even the biggest Christmas fan away from the Yuletide season forever. It's humbug, I tell you (keeping in the spirit of things).

I'll admit, as I always do, that I could be wrong about this; judging by the number of people who cite the movie as their favorite, I probably am.* So I've had to live with its presence; we even own it on DVD, though I don't think we've ever watched it. It just seemed somehow sacrilegious to not have it. But think of how dull life would be if had the same tastes and liked the same things?

*Of course, I have my own favorite, as I've mentioned before.

With that in mind, a few years ago I started thinking about how the movie might be saved, or at least made more palatable for people like me to watch. And then the answer came: remake the movie as a buddy picture with George and Clarence being played by a famous comedy team! Now, adaptations of It's a Wonderful Life have been done many, many times, probably as often as A Christmas Carol—after all, what better way to show someone the value of their life by demonstrating how different the world would have been without them? But unlike Carol, nobody has ever tried to actually remake the original story with the original characters; instead, they invariably try to shoehorn it into a program's existing cast or storyline, and that misses much of the story's character.

I realize that the Frank Capra estate probably has some kind of firewall constructed to prevent such an action, but at this website we live in world where pretty much anything can happen, restricted not by the laws of man but the creativity of the writer. So why not this? Let's see what might happen if we recast the two leads, and let their chemistry carry the rest. Herewith, a half-dozen suggestions for comedy teams that might be able to pull it off, and the relationships on which their performances would be based:

1. Stephen Fry and Hugh Laurie (Jeeves and Wooster)
I think this might be my favorite of all the variations. Laurie, who's been in way better shows than House, would be perfect in adapting his well-meaning but bumbling Bertie Wooster to the uncomprehending George, while Fry, who was simply unflappable as the faithful valet Jeeves, would be a stellar Clarence. Fry and Laurie are always wonderful together, and it would be terrific seeing them take on this pair.

2. Bing Crosby and Bob Hope (The "Road" movies)
Another thought that makes me smile. With Crosby as the cool, hip Clarence and Hope as the neurotic George, these two could give Wonderful Life a well-needed facelift. "C'mon, Junior, don't you get it?" Crosby/Clarence says. "You were never even hatched from the egg." Bonus points for casting Dorothy Lamour as Mary, and Joan Collins as Violet.

3. Jackie Gleason and Art Carney (The Honeymooners)
This one makes me laugh out loud. Imagine the look on Gleason's face when he finds out that his guardian angel is Ed Norton! You know, the expression that says, "Why didn't you just let me die back there?" And Clarence saying, "Georgie boy, you don't wanna be living down in the sewers with me." The more I think about it, the better it fits.

4. Tony Randall and Jack Klugman (The Odd Couple)
Or Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, if you prefer; either way, it works wonderfully. "George, George, George," Felix/Clarence says sadly, "you've made such a messy life for yourself. But just imagine if you'd never been born in the first place?" One drawback: Clarence's loud honking from his sinus condition after he and George are pulled from the freezing water.

5. Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis (all their movies together)
Two scenes describe it all: Lewis/George falling to pieces when he finally figures out the truth of what Martin/Clarence is showing him, and the scene in Potterville where George runs after the spinster Mary: "Lady!  Hey, Laaaady!" To which Clarence, with a drink in one hand and a cigarette in the other, replies, "Pally, you got a lot of learnin' to do."

6. Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman (Sherlock)
Not one you'd immediately think of, but then, why not? Could anyone be more precise, logical and irritating than Sherlock Holmes as Clarence? Not only would he demonstrate that George was now living in an alternate world, but he'd go on to explain exactly how it had all happened. Of course, you'd still have to explain how he and George survived going over  Reichenbach Falls. Andrew Scott (Moriarity) makes a cameo appearance as Mr. Potter.

See how easy it is? (I imagine it'll become the latest at all the office parties.) There are other options, of course: Charles Grodin and Robert DeNiro (Midnight Run, and wouldn't that be dark?) or Peter Falk and Alan Arkin (The In-Laws), but you get the idea. I'm willing to stake my reputation that any one of these combos would make for a better movie than the original. Well, maybe that's being a little presumptious, but you'd have to agree that at least it would be a different one. And I'd be only too happy to see if you can come up with some others. TV  

December 16, 2019

What's on TV? Wednesday, December 22, 1971

If you were like me when growing up, this was one of the longest weeks of the year. Christmas break had started at school, and yet Christmas Eve wasn't until Friday. That was a long time to wait. Today, I'd give anything for the week before Christmas to last that long.

One of the reasons I chose to spotlight today's programs is that, in a week full of Christmas shows, there's very little seasonal programming to be had tonight—a choral program on Channel 2, and Christmas Is on NBC—which I think adds to the sense of anticipation, the feeling that something's one the way but isn't quite here yet. Have you had that sense watching television this year? 

This week's listings are from the Minneapolis-St. Paul edition.

December 14, 2019

This week in TV Guide: December 18, 1971

Let's start off the week with a couple of true Christmas classics.

First up is Richard Williams' magnificent animation version of A Christmas Carol. TV Guide's pictorial takes us behind the scenes to show the process behind the animated special. The animators base their drawings on John Leach's illustrations in the first edition of Dickens' story, as well as old engravings of 19th-century London. Studies are made on things even as small as the items on Scrooge's desk.

And then there's one of the highlights of the special: the stunning opening shot, in which "[t]he camera will focus on Scrooge's home and then pan dramatically down the facade of the building to the lighted window of the room occupied by the old skinflint." An artist works on the details of the scene, "using an old engraving as his source of authentic architectural details." Best of all, perhaps, the story features Alastair Sim recreating his 1951 film role as Scrooge; Michael Hordern, who played Marley's Ghost in the movie, does so here as well. Sir Michael Redgrave is the narrator.

The special airs Tuesday at 6:30 p.m. CT on ABC, and in a mere half-hour it does a remarkable job of condensing the story without losing any of the important details, let alone the flavor. At the end of the article, the author posits that viewers will decide "whether it is a 'Carol' to be remembered." The Motion Picture Academy certainly thought so; shortly after the airing, A Christmas Carol was released in theaters, and wound up winning the 1972 Academy Award for Best Animated Short Film.* Viewers thought so as well; despite its brevity, it remains one of the most-loved of all Carol adaptations. Richard Williams discusses it below:

*Not everyone was a fan, however; controversy about the eligibility of a film that had been initially broadcast on television resulted in a change to Academy rules, requiring all films to premiere in theaters first. We might think of it today as the "Netflix Rule."

Now we come to the CBS movie special at 6:30 p.m. on Sunday, one which TV Guide labels "A potential Christmas classic," and they're not wrong. It's The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, the pilot for The Waltons, written by and based on the novel by Earl Hamner Jr., with Academy Award winner Patricia Neal as Olivia Walton, Richard Thomas as John-Boy, and Andrew Duggan as John Walton. Ellen Corby, Judy Norton, and Mary Elizabeth McDonough will join Thomas when The Waltons becomes a weekly series in September 1972.

As Dick Adler writes in his profile of Patricia Neal, this is a homecoming in more ways than one. It's the first time she's really been before the cameras in Hollywood since her trio of massive strokes in 1965; The Subject Was Roses, her storied comeback after a three-year recovery, was shot in New York. Having been born in a small Kentucky town, she can identify not only with Hamner's characters, but having lived through the Depression, having lived through a Christmas with "no money in the house, snow outside and FDR on the radio." And though she's done several dramas for British TV (she's lived for many years in England with her husband, writer Roald Dahl), this is her first appearance on American television in over a decade. It is, to be sure, a memorable one.

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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. 

We begin Cleveland Amory's review of McCloud with the image of Dennis Weaver galloping down a New York street while riding a horse. (I don't imagine it was Wall Street; otherwise, he would have been riding either a bull or a bear.) Worry not, Cleve assures us, for while the show is not played narrowly, it's not played that broadly, either. But, he says, it is played well. The cop from the sticks—or, at least, Taos, New Mexico—teaches the city boys a thing or two. "It's kind of a one-joke premise, but these days, what television premises aren't?"

The joys of McCloud begin with Dennis Weaver, who plays "a terrific country slicker." He gets the nut cases, "but what he does with them makes wonderful little comic vignettes." Case in point: a man asking for police protection because of constant assaults by women. "With them," he says, "I am a sex object. "Replies McCloud, with wonderfully live deadpan, 'Well, it's a curse, all right.'" Weaver is aided by "the wonderful exasperation of J.D. Cannon, as McCloud's chief."

Not all the stories are plausible; in fact, most of them strain some level of credulity. But, in these days when so much of television looks and sounds so much alike, "there's something about that li'l ol' boy that relieves it—even when you can't quite believe it."

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Friday is Christmas Eve, and it's the last chance for weekly series to air their Christmas-themed episodes in. Let's take a look at a few of them.

Remember Getting Together, the Partridge Family spin-off starring Bobby Sherman and Wes Stern? Here's Saturday's episode (7:00 p.m., ABC), "Tale of an old-fashioned Christmas... in a run-down mountain cabin without heat, electricity or plumbing." And on Arnie (8:30 p.m, CBS), "A holiday tale about giving and receiving traces Arnie's anxiety over a Christmas bonus." Nothing for Mission: Impossible, though it wouldn't be hard to come up with something: "Responding to the dying declaration of a mob hitman, Phelps and his IMF team launch a scheme to protect a toymaker from being taken over by an Eastern syndicate." See how easy it is?

On Monday's daytime rerun of The Dick Van Dyke Show (4:30 p.m., KSTP), "'The Alan Brady Show Presents' a Christmas musicale" in which Laura joins the writing staff in showing off their talents. One of the best scenes features the four of them performing "I Am a Fine Musician."

On Adam-12 (7:00 p.m., NBC) reruns it's annual Christmas episode: "Tales of Christmas: a robbed Santa, an unwed mother caught shoplifting, an infant lost in a mountain area." Henry Fonda's single-season police-family drama The Smith Family (8:00 p.m., ABC) invites viewers to spend "Christmas with the Smith Family: the children are out of town, Betty has a touch of the blues and Chad's handling everything from shoplifting to a jail break." Hollywood Television Theatre hearkens back to the Golden Age of Radio Drama (Thursday, 8:00 p.m., PBS) with a re-creation of Norman Corwin's radio verse play "The Plot to Overthrow Christmas," about the Devil's plan to kill off Santa Claus. John McIntyre plays the Devil, who's joined in his efforts by Nero, Ivan the Terrible, Caligula, and Simon Legree. I've heard the radio version; it may sound like a comedy, but it isn't. And Christmas Eve brings perhaps the best of them all, The Odd Couple's classic Christmas episode (8:30 p.m., ABC) as "Dickens' 'A Christmas Carol' gets the comic treatment: Oscar's dreaming that he's Scrooge in a nightmare populated by Felix and their poker-playing pals." (Read more about it here.)

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The holidays also mean college football bowl season, starting Saturday with CBS's coverage of the Sun Bowl (12:00 noon), pitting LSU against Iowa State. And with the NFL regular season at a close, the Liberty Bowl slides into the Monday Night Football timeslot (8:00 p.m, ABC), pitting Arkansas against Tennessee.

What else have we got here? Well, Edith Efron's visit to Boston's respected PBS station WGBH yields this interesting observation from Greg Harney, executive producer of The Advocates, which I remember has being a very interesting show: "In our first year, we mostly had liberal advocates, activist types. It dawned on me we weren't clarifying the issues, we were muddying them up! We were trying to polarize within the liberal position! All we were attracting were the Eastern-liberal-leftist viewers!" So, Harney hired a strong conservative advocate, William Rusher, publisher of National Review. "It turns out that Rusher and [William F.] Buckley aren't splinter-groups spokesmen at all! They represent the point of view of millions of people. We've doubled our mail. And the show has become one of the few that he whole PBS system cherishes." They were shocked, shocked, to find out there was another legitimate point of view out there, and that, my friends, is how Boris Johnson and Donald Trump wind up being elected.

The Doan Report mentions that Merv Griffin's return to syndication with Metromedia after his run at CBS could be trouble for—David Frost. Merv will take Frost's prime-time slots on Metromedia's channels in New York, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., and Frost could wind up being moved to late evening, where he could wind up in competition with Johnny Carson and Dick Cavett. Group W says the show is not in jeopardy, but it will go off the air next year. There's also a report on cable-TV, where the future appears bright; the Alfred E. Sloan Foundation says that cable could bring "as many as 40 channels into 40 to 60 per cent of all American homes," and that the competition with broadcast TV will be good for viewers. And ABC is talking about cutting commercials back on Saturday morning kids' shows, from six minutes per half hour to four. The reason for the the discussion? The FTC is cracking down on children's TV, and ABC is floating the idea in hopes that the Commission picks up on it; they're "not likely" to do it on their own "for competitive reasons."

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Saturday at 2:00 p.m., WTCN carries the 40th Annual Santa Claus Lane Parade, taped November 25. Mickey Mouse is the star, along with Pat Boone, Johnny Mathis, Kent McCord, Gisele McKenzie, Wayne Newton, Lou Rawls, Robert Reed, Rudy Vallee, and the casts of Arnie, Room 222, The Doris Day Show, Nanny and the Professor, and many others! This parade is still around, known today as the Hollywood Christmas Parade. True story: Gene Autry, riding in the parade one year, heard a couple of excited children pointing further down the parade route and crying, "Here comes Santa Claus! Here comes Santa Claus!" And Gene, as smart a businessman as ever there was, thought to himself, "That gives me an idea. . ."

Speaking of Mickey Mouse, he's back Sunday in the live-action "Disney on Parade" on The Wonderful World of Disney (6:30 p.m., NBC). On Masterpiece Theatre (8:00 p.m., PBS), it's the final episode of Tolstoy's "Resurrection"; next week, it's a two-hour adaptation of "Cold Comfort Farm" starring none other than Alastair Sim; too bad that couldn't have been on this week, isn't it? Will Geer is the guest star on Bonanza (8:00 p.m., NBC); the next time we see him, he'll be sliding into Edgar Bergen's role as Grandpa on The Waltons.

Monday, Burt Lancaster hosts An American Christmas: Words and Music (7:00 p.m., PBS), with James Earl Jones, the Columbus Boychoir, the Harlem Children's Chorus, a series of short films, and more. That's followed at 8:00 p.m. by the special Christmas in Boys' Town, with the Boys' Town Choir.

Tuesday, NBC follows President Nixon around the White House for December 6, 1971: A Day in the Presidency (6:30 p.m., hosted by John Chancellor). What was going on back then? Henry Kissinger talks to the president about the India-Pakistan conflict (they're joined later by General William Westmoreland, Secretary of State William Rogers, and CIA director Richard Helms); Nixon and Vice President Spiro Agnew discuss a revenue-sharing bill; and Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau arrives for a conference and state dinner. At 8:30 p.m., CBS preempts Cannon for The Comedians, with Carl Reiner, Mel Brooks, Tony Randall, Don Adams, Peggy Cass, and Ron Carey.

Wednesday night at 9:00 p.m., Notre Dame travels to Los Angeles to take on UCLA in one of college basketball's great rivalries (WTCN/syndicated, probably by TVS; since school is on Christmas break, I would have stayed up to watch this). It's the first time the two have played since the Fighting Irish ended UCLA's 44-game winning streak in January; UCLA, led by Bill Walton and Henry Bibby, roars out to a 53-16 halftime lead, en route to a 114-56 win. The Bruins won't lose again until January 1974, when their 88-game winning streak ends, once again at the hands of Notre Dame.

Thursday night CBS continues the tradition of year-end reviews with part one of a two-part look back (8:00 p.m.), with Walter Cronkite leading the correspondents on a survey of the economy, the Supreme Court, prison riots, and jockeying for the upcoming elections. At 9:00 p.m., Jonathan Winters plays a "wisecracking Santa" (is there any other kind?) on The Dean Martin Show; and at 12:30 a.m., David Frost's guests are Joy Piccolo, Gale Sayers, and Dick Butkus—remember, it was just last month that Brian's Song premiered on ABC.

Friday is Christmas Eve, and CBS presents a rerun of the touching J.T. (7:00 p.m.), the touching Peabody-award winning story of a shy black youngster (Kevin Hooks) determined to nurse a mangy, one-eyed and half-starving alley cat back to health. I wonder why Hallmark doesn't do any movies like this?

If you've already seen it, check out Mitch Miller's Christmas show (7:00 p.m., WTCN), with Leslie Uggams and Diana Trask; it was originally broadcast in 1961. Don't ask me why, but I distinctly remember we were watching this before doing our Christmas Eve tree. As we pass into late night, with Santa coming our way, NBC gives Johnny Carson the night off; first, Skitch Henderson hosts a half-hour of holiday music with the Robert Shaw chorale (10:30 p.m.), followed by Midnight Mass live from St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City. CBS's traditional church service is the candlelight service from the True Light Lutheran Church in New York City's Chinatown (11:00 p.m.), followed at midnight by Christmas gospel music from the Greater Zion Church of God in Christ in Philadelphia. And what better possible way could there be to end Christmas Eve than with KSTP's showing of Miracle on 34th Street, the greatest Christmas movie ever? That's a gift anyone would be happy to find under the tree on Christmas morning. TV