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  


  1. It's so ironic that LSU, whose played at the inaugural Peach Bowl (beating Florida State, 31-27, BTW), is back at this year's Peach Bowl, whopping my Oklahoma Sooners, 63-28, getting one step closer to the National Championship Game!!! GEAUX TIGERS!!!

  2. Nice to see a mention of Don Pedro Colley, who deserved a better career than he had. If TV fans remember him at all now it's likely for a handful of appearances on The Dukes of Hazzard.

  3. Mitchell,
    One of the joys of having a account is looking up old TV schedules. I can confirm that Guy Lombardo was in fact syndicated that New Year's Eve. The NY Daily News, home market of the show had it on channel 7 (ABC) at 11:30 PM. Meanwhile, neighboring market Hartford had it on channel 3 WTIC (now WFSB,still CBS) at the same time (Hartford Courant) .

    Happy New Year!!! No intention of having my first sentence sound like a commercial. :D

  4. Back on line after a lost (hacked) weekend.

    - Doris Day:
    The Hollywood press had been laying in wait for Miss Day for some years, largely because of Marty Melcher.
    The TV deal was as a red rag to a bull.
    Melcher's sudden death (and the revelations thereafter) - the call to arms.
    Since this was the Day Show's first year, it became a prime target for snarkmeisters like Dwight Whitney: they didn't have to watch it - they knew it couldn't be any good.
    It was Doris Day's good fortune to have friends who over the five-year run steered the show toward stronger comedy, surrounding her with talents like Kaye Ballard, Rose Marie, Billy DeWolfe, Bernie Kopell, Peter Lawford, Jackie Joseph, and ultimately Mr. John Dehner, who brought out her comedic chops (better writing and directing definitely helped). By the fifth season, the Day Show was actually pretty funny.
    But that was in the future …

    - My favorite article in this issue was John Cushman's account of how he was finding his favorite old movie character actors in TV commercials.
    I was only 18 when this article appeared, but my TV youth had already made me a Movie Buff; I was home free (most of my contemporaries would likely have been lost, but that was their tough luck).

    - From the Teletype:
    Hamilton Camp, who was popular in Chicago's folk music clubs, is announced as a regular on ABC's forthcoming comedy series Cockamamie.
    That was one of the working titles of what eventually came to be known as Turn-On, to considerable notoriety a little while later …

    - There's also a note about M. K. Douglas, Kirk's 24-year-old son, who's making his debut in a forthcoming CBS drama special.
    The network was apparently worried about possible confusion with that talk-show guy in Philadelphia …

    - Thought I'd throw in that on Jackie Gleason's show, the hick boxer was played by Peter Palmer, who'd been Li'l Abner on Broadway just a few years before.
    Just so you know …

    More later, maybe …


  5. The Twin Cities might have been the only major market not getting Guy Lomabrdo's December 31st, 1968 New Year's special.

    For most of he years Lombardo did a New year's special, it was on CBS; but there was a period of several years through much of the 1960's when the show was produced live for syndication (and probably on a tape-delay in the West).


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!