April 10, 2020

Around the dial

This week saw the deaths of two of classic television's stars, and I defer to Terence at A Shroud of Thoughts for his remembrances. First: James Drury, also known as The Virginian, one of the biggest westerns of the 1960s—and with a total of 249 episodes at 90 minutes each, I do mean big. With that kind of air to fill, The Virginian had to have a big cast, and James Drury was the one who could hold it together.

And then there's Mrs. Cathy Gale—or Pussy Galore, depending on your tastes—Honor Blackman, who mastered the art of creating chemistry with Patrick Macnee's John Steed on The Avengers. Her episodes weren't as well-known over here as those of Diana Rigg until much later, but you can't truly know or love The Avengers until you've seen her, and after that you'll never forget her. She's much more than those two roles, though, as Terence details.

One of the things I appreciate about Jack's Hitchcock Project summaries at bare•bones e-zine is how, by tracing the roots of many of the stories appearing on Hitchcock, we get a look at the magazines in which those stories originally appeared, a rich collection of mystery and crime magazines that well document a time and genre. This week, the first installment of the works of Morton Fine and David Friedkin gives us "Change of Address" from 1962, and it's a great example of what a talented writer (or writers) can do to flesh out a story when adapting it for television.

The roots of classic television can often be found in the programs from old-time radio, and The Abbott and Costello Program is no exception. Learn more about the show, and enjoy episodes featuring some of the biggest names in Hollywood, over at Once Upon a Screen,

Comfort TV continues to provide comfort in these uncomfortable times, and this week David looks back at some memorable career moments of Cheryl Ladd, starting with her voice work on Josie and the Pussycats. We saw her back when in this edition of TV Guide.

What's in The Twilight Zone Vortex? This week, Jordan goes back to 1963 for a look at James Whitmore's memorable performance in one of the best of the hour-long episodes, and one of Rod Serling's finest scripts, the heartbreaking "On Thursday We Leave For Home."

We'll wrap up for the week by returning to Terence for a look at the creation of one of the landmark shows in television history, Twin Peaks, on the 30th anniversary of its premiere. I feel for those who don't know what TV was like before Twin Peaks; many of the things that you take for granted today owe their existence to that show. I remember watching the premiere, and I can tell you that I'd never seen anything like it before, and I don't think I've seen any show do it as well since. It was, and is, an astonishing moment. Watch it again, and have a piece of pie while you're at it. TV  

April 6, 2020

What's on TV? Tuesday, April 6, 1954

On Saturday I mentioned some of the differences between the TV Guide of 1954 and that of the later years we're more used to seeing, and there are more on display today. You'll notice right away that the familiar television-shaped channel number is nowhere to be seen; instead, the Philadelphia stations have a white sans-serif number inside a black circle, while the out-of-market stations have a black serif number inside a white square. And some of the descriptions that accompany the program titles are wonderful: Ramar is not just adventure, but "Jungle Adventure." A show like Art Linkletter's House Party is "Fun." (I like that; we could use more of that today.) Some programs appear on multiple stations, even within the same city. And apparently you have to be in prime time to have your name in ALL CAPS. But if everything was the same all the time, it would be just too dull, wouldn't it?

Loyal reader and commenter J.D. Rowe suggested I post an entire page from the issue to give you an idea of what this all looks like:



If you want to see more, this issue is available at the Internet Archive; you can page through it at your leisure, or you can just read the listings below:

April 4, 2020

This week in TV Guide: April 2, 1954

This week we get a brief glimpse into how the TV Guide empire was assembled, way back when. We're in Philadelphia, and just before the programming section, there's a preface called "Happy Birthday To Us!"

One year ago this week, TV Digest, Philladelphia's leading television magazine, was officially adopted by Triangle Publications and became the Philadelphia edition of TV GUIDE, a national television publication.

We've suffered "growing pains" . . . we've changed our size, undergone a face-lifting, enhanced our appearance with color . . . we've played "put and take" with ideas, always guided by the preferences of our readers.

We've grown! We've added many branches to our family tree until today we boast 19 sister books throughout the nation.

In this first year of our TV GUIDE life we've learned, time and time again, one must crawl before endeavoring to walk. But today we are confidently standing on a steady foundation and preparing not only to walk but to take giant steps in the months to come.

So, as we light the single candle on our Birthday No. 1, we immodestly point to our list of accomplishments in the past 12 months and lustily shout, "Happy Birthday to Us!".

The celebration continues on the
back cover.
The prose is so purple it would make the Minnesota Vikings proud. In there, though, is an unmistakable sense of pride in what's been accomplished over that last year. Twenty issues nationwide! This is how TV Guide came together, through a combination of new issues being created and current publications being acquired, until by the mid-90s there were nearly 150 regional issues.

After one year, you can see the magazine still evolving into its familiar format. Channel numbers, for instance, are shown in circles and squares, and the television week begins on Friday rather than Saturday. For every show with a familiar name (I Love Lucy, Dragnet, Studio One, The Jack Benny Show, Arthur Godfrey Time), you'll see twice as many (Meet. Mr. McNutley, with Ray Milland; James Daly in Foreign Intrigue; Rocky King, the DuMont staple, with Roscoe Karns) known only to God and classic TV buffs. There's still the New York and Hollywood Teletypes, recipes to enjoy while you're watching your favorites, and plenty of ads, local and national. Let's see what's up.

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On March 9, Edward R. Murrow's See It Now presented what is often considered one of the most important programs in television history; the episode in which Murrow takes on Senator Joseph McCarthy. The McCarthy era was in its fifth year as Murrow's show aired; it was, for the most part, McCarthy in his own words, punctuated by Murrow's righteous indignation. A couple of days later, McCarthy countered with an accusation that Murrow, before the war, had been involved with exchange student programs that had helped spread the Soviet message on an international level.

Following the broadcast, CBS offered McCarthy equal time to respond, and that's what we see Tuesday (10:30 p.m., CBS). Tonight's See It Now listing includes both McCarthy's telegram accepting the network's equal-time offer, and Murrow's response to it. "If I am correct in my position that you have consciously served the Communist cause," McCarthy says, alluding to his charge against Murrow, "it is very important for your listeners to have the clear-cut, documented facts so that they can decide whether or not you are truthful, as you attempt to make out, or are deliberately misrepresenting the facts." Murrow replied, "Regarding your statement that I have consciously served the Communist cause, I deny it utterly."

Here are clips from both Murrow's original show and McCarthy's response, as well as a subsequent program with Murrow's final word on the subject.




It's difficult to say just how much Murrow's broadcast had to do with McCarthy's downfall; some suggest that McCarthy's star had already started to dim, or that lawyer Joseph Welch, who famously asked the senator during the Army-McCarthy hearings if he had “no sense of decency,” were more important in McCarthy’s downfall. Regardless, two things are certain: first, that by all accounts Murrow came out ahead in the confrontation between the two; and second, that it was a milestone moment in the history of the young medium. If you were around when this TV Guide came out, you could see it all.

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You remember how a couple of weeks ago I mentioned how popular boxing used to be on television? Well, here's the proof:

  • Boxing (Friday, 10:00 p.m., NBC) The Gillette Cavalcade of Sports
  • Boxing (Saturday, 9:00 p.m., ABC) The Saturday Night Fights
  • Boxing (Monday, 10:00 p.m., DuMont) General Tire Bouts
  • Boxing (Wednesday, 10:00 p.m., CBS) Pabst Blue Ribbon Bouts

Of the four nights of boxing, the one fight that stands out is Friday's bout for the world middleweight title, pitting middleweight champ Bobo Olson against welterweight title holder Kid Gavilan, from Chicago, Illinois. Writing for TV Guide, NBC's announcer Jimmy Powers calls this "One of the biggest matches of all time," and for once this isn't hype. It's only the fifth time the welterweight champ has moved up in weight to take on the middleweight title holder, and you have to remember this was a time when boxing had only eight weight classes, and only one champion in each of them, so you're seeing 25% of the world's champs tonight. In a tough, brilliant fight, Olson wins a majority decision to retain the middleweight title.

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One more thing about this issue that makes it challenging to find out what the TV week is all about: the program descriptions don't always give much of a description of what you can actually expect to see on the show. For instance, check out this one from Tuesday night's Red Skelton Show: "Comic antics and characterizations made famous by the popular comedian." Yeah, that helps a lot. Seriously, I suspect that with a show like Skelton's, which is live, the list of guests might still have been up in the air as the issue went to press, so we'll give this a pass. Besides, there are plenty of highlights we can still look at.

On Friday, Dave Garroway takes a break from Today to look back on the "good old days" in Chicago, where he learned his trade. (8:00 p.m. ET, NBC) Among the guests are other Windy City alums: Burr Tillstrom with Kukla and Ollie; actor and radio announcer Cliff Norton, the announcer on Dave's radio program (you might recall him as Boss on It's About Time); dancers Ken Spaulding and Diane Sinclair; and singers Jill Corey and Jack Haskell. The history of Chicago television, and its contributions to television history overall, is a fascinating one.

NBC continues on Saturday with a pair of shows that any classic TV fan will recognize: Your Show of Shows (9:00 p.m.), the 90-minute extravaganza with Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner and Howard Morris, which a lot of people will consider one of the funniest shows ever done; and Your Hit Parade (10:30 p.m.), sponsored by Lucky Strike, counting down "the top tunes all over America, as determined by your hit parade survey." This week features yet another appearance from Kukla, Ollie and Tillstrom, along with regulars Dorothy Collins, Gisele MacKenzie, Snooky Lanson, Russell Ames, and conductor Raymond Scott.

Sunday sees Toast of the Town (8:00 p.m., CBS), which next year will change its name to The Ed Sullivan Show. An interesting theme for the show, one I wager you wouldn't see today, is that the show is celebrating its fifth year with its current sponsor; the listing doesn't actually tell you who that sponsor is, but since it's just you and me, I'll whisper in your ear the name "the Lincoln-Mercury Division of the Ford Motor Company." But I digress; the gimmick is that all of tonight's guests made their first television appearances on that initial Lincoln-Mercury-sponsored show, including Sophie Tucker, Ben Hogan, Eartha Kitt, Billy De Wolfe, Teresa Brewer, and Metropolitan Opera stars Roberta Peters, Cesare Valletti, Cesare Siepi and Fernando Corena. Opposite that on NBC is The Colgate Comedy Hour, hosted this week by Eddie Cantor, with singer Connie Rusmean sell and a "surprise mystery guest." And at 10:00 p.m., it's Loretta Young and her swirling dresses, in her eponymous anthology series, tonight co-starring John Hoyt and Aunt Bee herself, Frances Bavier.

Monday is I Love Lucy night (9:00 p.m., CBS); tonight Lucy "creates havoc in the Ricardo household" (since when is that new?) when she decides to write a novel. Lucy's far from the only familiar name tonight; Burns and Allen is on CBS at 8:00 p.m., 8:30 sees the long-running Voice of Firestone (ABC; it's listed only as "Concert," but I know what it is), followed at 9:00 p.m. by one of Jack Benny's old foils, The Dennis Day Show, with Charley Weaver (Cliff Arquette).* And at 10:00 p.m., t's it's the CBS anthology series Studio One with the drama "Stirmugs," a play that doesn't particularly mean anything except that one of the stars is the young Joanne Woodward.

*Something else you wouldn't see in later years: the show's description concludes with "Sponsored by RCA Victor." Lincoln-Mercury must not have greased the palm of someone at TV Guide.

And if you want even more stars? You'll have them on Tuesday, with Uncle Miltie (8:00 p.m., NBC); it's not Texaco Star Theater anymore, but The Buick-Berle Show. By either name, though, it has to be beat Jackpot Bowling. His guests this week are the great British actors Judith Anderson and Cyril Ritchard (and I can guarantee you wouldn't see them on Jackpot Bowling). Bishop Fulton J. Sheen's Life is Worth Living (8:00 p.m., DuMont) discusses "Three Times in the Nation's History," a warning about the challenges facing America, "Sponsored by The Admiral Corporation." (Yes, they bought ad space in the issue.) Make Room for Daddy, starring Danny Thomas, airs at 8:30 p.m. on ABC; meanwhile, on CBS, it's the aforementioned Red Skelton (I'm afraid that's about all I can tell you about it), followed at 9:00 p.m. by Roddy McDowell and Patricia Breslin* starring in another of the era's great anthologies, Armstrong Circle Theater. 

*Married, until her death, to Art Modell, owner of the Baltimore Ravens and the most hated man in Cleveland.

It's another of Arthur Godfrey's programs on Wednesday; Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts airs on Monday, and tonight it's Arthur Godfrey and His Friends (Wednesday, 8:00 p.m., CBS), with the McGuire Sisters numbering among the guests. At 9:00 p.m. it's Kraft Theatre (NBC) with Carlos Montalban, brother of Ricardo; Kraft Theatre runs from 1947 to 1958, and it leaves the air as the longest-running anthology series in history to that time. The panel show I've Got a Secret is on at 9:30 p.m. (CBS) with special guest Billie Burke trying to stump the panel, and at 10:00 p.m. it's This Is Your Life (NBC); you won't read who the honoree is in TV Guide because the show's live, but it's former Olympian and WWII hero Louis Zamperini, the subject of Laura Hillenbrand's 2010 book (and subsequent Coen Brothers movie) Unbroken: A World War II Story of Survival, Resilience, and Redemption.

Let's start Thursday with a look at some weekday afternoon programming that has nothing to do with soap. Since Philadelphia is the home of American Bandstand, we'll start over at WFIL, where at 3:00 p.m. Bandstand (it doesn't become American until the show is picked up by ABC in 1957), hosted by Bob Horn. In 1956 Horn loses his job after a drunk-driving bust;* he's replaced by Dick Clark, who hosts American Bandstand until 1989. If you're not a teen, you might opt for The Kate Smith Hour, also at 3:00, on NBC. Later in the afternoon, NBC has a double-bill of kids' shows, with The Pinky Lee Show at 5:00, followed by Howdy Doody (before it moved to Saturday monings) at 5:30. You've also got a pair of Westerns with strong kid appeal: Hopalong Cassidy at 5:00 (WFIL) and Gene Autry at 5:30 (WCAU). The prime time highlight is our old favorite favorite Dragnet (9:00 p.m., NBC); this week, Friday and Smith investigate a dead body in a hotel. It doesn't sound good. More on them next week.

*The Philadelphia Inquirer was doing a series on drunken driving at the time, and the arrest embarrassed the owner of both the Inquirer and WFIL: Walter Annenberg, also the publisher of TV Guide. Amazing how incestuous this all is, isn't it? 

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Finally, here’s something that—I suppose—we should be proud of, at least as a TV milestone: the first color commercial. It’s for Pall Mall cigarettes (see photo on left), and the plan is to show it on the first Pall Mall-sponsored show to be broadcast in color. (It was also filmed in black-and-white so it could be used right away.) Filming this milestone commercial was no easy task; it took 15 hours to film the 60-second ad, plus weeks of set construction, costume design, rehearsal, and so forth. The mastermind of the commercial is Peter Elgar, who made his trade through educational and religious films in Europe; he’d never done a commercial until 1951. “It is like making any other motion picture,” he says, “except that the finished film is 60 seconds long.”

Which gets me to thinking: you can find collections of classic commercials all over YouTube (not to mention on DVD); I enjoy them myself. Their appeal, you have to think, is based on nostalgia: either for the product itself ("I played with that when I was a kid!") or for the actors who wound up being big stars. You have to remember, though, that with few exceptions, the people who saw those commercials at the time found them every bit as annoying as we find ours today. TV Guides of the era are filled with complaints about how much louder the commercials are than the programs they constantly interrupt. And don't forget that commercials back then were a lot longer; many of them, as we read, were one minute long, and some of them were even longer. The commercials that were integrated into the shows themselves, or were done by the stars themselves, could be more interesting, but that didn't hide the irritation they caused. And this from a time when there were fewer commercials interrupting our favorite shows than today (unless you're on premium cable).

And so I wonder, as Peter Elgar compares his commercials to 60-second movies, I wonder if he had any idea how much people would be cursing him and his progeny, from now to eternity? TV  

April 3, 2020

Around the dial

That picture up there reminds me of an old saying, or at least it was meant to be old; I think I first heard it on the miniseries Captains and the Kings. It goes, "Never tell people you don't think, or people will think you don't." Some days, we're headed in the direction of not thinking for ourselves at all. Are we there yet? Not sure.

It must be the week for old sayings; this week's Love That Bob! episode at The Horn Section is called "The Models Revolt," and that brings to mind a Wizard of Id strip from many years back, where Rodney the knight tells the King, "The peasants are revolting," to which the King replies, "You can say that again." This episode isn't revolting, though; once again it involves Our Hero and girls, and it's the first directorial appearance in the show of star Bob Cummings. It's a bit rough, but he'll get better at it rapidly.

You'll recall that The Twilight Zone Vortex is offering us monthly stories from the TZ comic book to help us get through the quarantine, and this month Jordan gives us a carnival and kewpie dolls, and you know that's not a good combination when you're in the Twilight Zone. Or anywhere else, for that matter.

At Garroway at Large, Jodie explains her recent silence on the blog front (although her Facebook posts continue to be hilarious), and demonstrates amply that it's no fun being a teacher during an epidemic. No fear, though; everyone's healthy, and as the Great Communicator himself might say, it's not an end, just a pause.

Rick reviews what looks like a really interesting book, Cinema '62, at Classic Film & TV Café. In it, authors Stephen Farber and Michael McClellan make the case that 1962 was the greatest film year ever; arguable, but certainly plausible. You know, someone should do a similar book about television. What year would you pick?

At A Shroud of Thoughts, Terence shares the details of the TCM Classic Film Festival: Special Home Edition, necessitated by you-know-what. Some very interesting films on tap during the April 16-19 festival; it's an excellent way to spend some more time with your TV.

Finally, don't forget to join Dan and me for another look at Bourbon Street Beat, along with more fun, at the latest Eventually Supertrain podcast!

As was the case last week, we're still doing well here; drop us a comment and let us know if things are well with you, too. TV  

April 1, 2020

TV Jibe: April Fool!

There's always been a next frontier when it comes to television: from smaller pictures to large, black-and-white to color, analog to HD, 2-D to 3-D. All interesting, to be sure, but what if you could not only see, but smell what you saw on TV? And imagine where that could lead.

That's the idea the BBC had on April 1, 1965—click here to read about one of the great April Fools' hoaxes of all time. And laugh, because we could use it. TV  

March 30, 2020

What's on TV? Tuesday, March 31, 1970

In this week's "As We See It," Merrill Panitt takes a moment to look at the dilemma of counterprogramming in children's programming. When Sesame Street took to the airwaves, the producers specifically asked educational stations not to program the show against CBS's Captain Kangaroo; there were so few good options for children to watch, they didn't want to automatically eliminate one of them by having them both on at the same time. "Unfortunately," Panitt notes, "a few stations have moved Captain Kangaroo in opposite Sesame Street. Sometimes there are good reasons for this, but we can't think of any reason more important than giving youngsters a chance to see both programs." There's no problem in Philadelphia, as we can see: WCAU dutifully carries the Captain at 8:00 a.m., while WHYY accommodates by showing Sesame Street at 9:00 a.m. (WLVT, the second NET affiliate in the area, doesn't visit the Street until 4:00 p.m.) And with that example of brotherly love between stations, let's look at the rest of what Philly viewers have in store.

March 28, 2020

This week in TV Guide: March 28, 1970

Is there a laugh to be found on the set of Laugh-In? Or is Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In? That’s Bill Davidson’s mission this week, as he goes behind the scenes of NBC’s groundbreaking variety show to find out if all that glitters is truly gold, or at least funny.

Rumors abound*, as they always do in Hollywood, that tension seethes just under the surface: rancor between stars, bitterness over stars leaving for film careers, tension between the writers and performers, between Rowan and Martin, and between Rowan-Martin and the producers, George Schlatter and Ed Friendly.

*Just like horses gallop, sheep graze, and geese fly south for the winter. It is, apparently, what rumors do.

According to Davidson, based on his three weeks of observation on set, along with that from an undercover reporter (!), most of the rumors are exaggerated. There is tension, to be sure, but not more than one is accustomed to seeing on the set of a busy television program. Schlatter dismisses stories of bitterness on the part of departed cast members, with the exception of Judy Carne, who complained about her salary. (“Judy’s enormous talent does not extend to her knowledge of the economics of television.”) He also doesn’t worry that the defections will weaken the show’s appeal; “On this show, if we don’t bring in fresh new people, we die. We lose a Goldie Hawn and we find a Lily Tomlin; we lose an Arte Johnson and we find a Johnny Brown.”

The one area in which the rumors do seem to pan out is the tension between the co-hosts and producers. Says Schlatter, “The one thing Dan and Dick have in common is hatred of me.” Some of it is relatively small; for example, the hosts wish people would refer to the show by its official title, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, rather than the commonly used Laugh-In. The larger point of dispute, however, concerns credit for the show’s concept. Dan Rowan claims it originates with a 1963 pilot the duo did for ABC; Schlatter says that in 1967 he and Digby Wolfe came to Friendly, who at the time was VP of programming for NBC, with a “kooky idea” for an alternative comedy show without hosts. When NBC insisted that the show at least have hosts, Schlatter says, Friendly brought in Rowan and Martin, and—well, you know the rest. (Friendly was so pleased with his matchmaking that he quit the network to become Schlatter’s partner,)

Davidson suggests that the evidence, so to speak, tends to favor Schlatter’s version of the story; their 1963 pilot (as well as their 1965 NBC summer replacement show) was relatively conventional, whereas Schlatter had long been attracted to such avant-garde fare as Ernie Kovacs, and was responsible for hiring most of the talent. Rowan and Martin added their non sequitur bits from their nightclub acts, and: magic! Says Rowan, “The guts of this show came from our 17 years of hard work in the toilets of America. We finally got a chance to stand up and say, ‘Here’s what we do,’ and suddenly all the announcements are about Schlatter hiring so-and-so and NBC doing so-and-so, Why can’t it be The Rowan and Martin Show, just like it’s The Carol Burnett Show and The Bill Cosby Show?” Counters Schlatter, speaking of cast members such as Hawn, Johnson and Tomlin, “Who would even know them or want them if they weren’t with us?” In fact, suggests Davidson, neither Rowan-Martin nor Schlatter-Friendly have had that much success without the other, suggesting that it’s all mostly a team effort.

All well and good. What I find interesting, looking back at it all from the perspective of 50 years, is that for all the discussion of how Laugh-In represents “a TV landmark,” the show today appears rather tame. While it do much to make popular “the one-line gags, the quick cuts, the fantastic pacing,” the show lacks the timelessness of an Ernie Kovacs, or even Carol Burnett. Despite the many guest cameos (including Richard Nixon), it lacks the clips of musical and comedy acts that has make The Ed Sullivan Show such a treasure trove of cultural history. The humor, which was “iconoclastic and bawdy” back then, is tame compared to other shows today. Even the pacing and blackouts for which the show was so famous were done, and done better, by Monty Python’s Flying Circus, another show which has aged much better. In fact, one critic commented when the complete Laugh-In was finally released on DVD a couple of years ago, it’s remarkable how mild and conventional the show really is. Watching it today, one is tempted to say—as James Lileks said once about Christmas cartoons of the 1960s—that nostalgia is the prime appeal of the show. Without that, how many people would actually care?

Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In spawned many performers and writers who went on to greater things, and shaped the future of television in a unique way. It was, for a time, the number-one show on television. However, it was also a show of its time, a show that looms large in the cultural history of the 1960s and ‘70s, but shrinks outside that bubble. Perhaps that was always its destiny, to be remembered more for what it did than what it was.

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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. 

Cleveland Amory already harbors a grudge toward Paris 7000, the ABC series starring George Hamilton as a troubleshooter based in the American embassy in Paris. It has to do with one of his personal favorites, Barbara Anderson, one of the stars of Ironside, “a girl with whom we’ve been going steady every Thursday night since any of you can remember.” Seems she was guesting on an early episode of Paris 7000, “just visiting a show, for heaven’s sake, the first time we’ve ever seen her on another show, and before we get a good look at her, she’s dead.” Thrown out a window, apparently. “She was a stewardess, you see, in Paris for the first time, and she’d fallen in love with him. Honestly, in love with George Hamilton. No wonder this show is going off the air. There’s no reality We ask you, in real life would a girl like Barbara Anderson fall in love with George Hamilton? It’s like asking would you rather read just any critic, or read us? The answer is obvious. Thank you.” Well, when you start off on the wrong foot like that, there’s nowhere to go but down.

This is one of those shows, says Cleve, that challenges you to justify its existence—as far as he can tell, its sole purpose is “to find something for George to do. He went down, you’ll recall, on the Titanic—or rather The Survivors—and ABC apparently had to keep on paying him. So they decided to shoot this show around him. Our feeling is they should have done the reverse.” The premise is that Hamilton is there to help Americans who find themselves in trouble and, if they can’t find Roger Moore or Patrick McGoohan or Richard Bradford or Steve Forrest to help them out (my interpretation), they enlist George. However, Amory notes, “With allies like George, who needs trouble spots?” There are plenty of them in Paris 7000, though; “in fact, the first show we were telling you about was all one.”

The key word here seems to be believability (Amory notes that one of the writers of that Barbara Anderson episode was named Guerdeon Trueblood, and it was directed by Jeannot Szwarc; “Why should we believe it?”), and even though you might be able to understand why Barbara Anderson would be attracted to Hamilton, there’s also the episode in which Diane Baker guest-stars as a German refugee who enlists Hamilton “to help her re-enter East German and find her long-lost brother and her accent.” By the end of the episode, Amory recounts, we’ve encountered “majors, colonels, security men, East German undergrounders and even Russians.” Some of them, he says, are unbelievably good, others unbelievably bad. But, like the show itself, they share one trait: they’re unbelievable.

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Television's real Nanny
I knew that QBVII, the 1975 ABC TV-movie, would be a waste of my time the moment Ben Gazzara, at his smarmy best (or worst), started tomcatting around while he was married to Juliet Mills. Seriously—this requires a suspension of disbelief I’m not prepared to invoke for anything that isn’t labeled Science Fiction, and even then I’m not so sure.

The winsome Miss Mills, daughter of the distinguished actor John and sister of the Disney star Hayley (and subject of many a young boy’s crush), is co-starring in ABC’s midseason replacement Nanny and the Professor as the aforementioned nanny, Phoebe Figalilly by name, whom Richard Warren Lewis describes as “a composite of the most commercial elements of Mary Poppins, the good witch Samantha, Jeannie, Dr. Dolittle and The Flying Nun.” Which raises the immediate question: why would a classically trained actress and member of a distinguished acting family, with stage credentials at Stratford-on-Avon, London’s West End, and Broadway, sign up for this—well, fluff?

Well, the money, for one thing. “Working in the theater in England you really don’t get paid anything,” she tells Lewis. As a star in plays such as She Stoops to Conquer, Mills was making less than $200 a week, not to mention falling behind her more famous family members careerwise. “It’s never much bothered me,” she says, “But I’ve been very much poorer than any of my other relations.” It was, in fact, her father, who urged her to consider it. “He thinks that to do a series in America is still the greatest way to get exposure. Millions of people see you and you can make a great deal of money.”

Thanks to the intervention of Fox’s VP of Sales, David Gerber, the rocky initial pilot (which included a kangaroo “in a very important part”) was reshot, minus the roo and with an entirely different cast except for Mills. Gerber went as far as to buy out the house at London’s Garrick Theater to free her up for the shoot. With ABC in their then-annual ratings crisis, the network bought the concept, and she got the call to be in Hollywood and ready to go in four days.

She very much misses London from the home she rents just three minutes from the studio (the end of her eight-year marriage doesn’t help); her new friend, Steve McQueen’s wife Neile, helped her pick out a puppy for company. She’s hired a nanny of her own to look after her five-year-old son Christopher—one who, like her own character, “could just muck in.” And while she admits to being totally ignorant about how American television and its ratings system works, she’s philosophical about everything. “If Nanny isn’t picked up [for the fall], I’ll be going home this spring. It won’t break my heart.”

Nanny is in a tough time slot, opposite Hee Haw on CBS, but it survives that initial half-season and makes it to the fall schedule, where it’s moved to Friday nights. In 1971 it’s moved again, to Monday nights, where it’s plagued by a lack of affiliate support and departs the airwaves at the end of December. It’s fondly remembered by people of a certain age, though, and so is Juliet Mills, who goes on to a long career in the theater and television, including almost 10 years on the NBC soap Passions, where she plays a character with magical powers as well. She even wins an Emmy for QBVII, which goes to show that there’s some magic in Juliet Mills as well, even if she wasn’t able to save it from being VI hours of my life I never got back.

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A couple of newsy-type notes before we kickoff some of the shows of the week: the Smothers Brothers are hunting for a comeback after their ignominious sacking by CBS last year; they're supposedly in "hush-hush" negotiations with ABC for a summer series, with the only stumbling blocks being "agreement by the Smotherses to be good boys, submit tapes well in advance of air time, and not give the network any CBS-type troubles." I'm shocked, shocked, that they'd be balking at that. In any event, the show does in fact become a reality, with The Smothers Summer Show debuting on Wednesdays starting in July 1970; the show's destroyed in the ratings by Hawaii Five-O and leaves the air in September.

My, he looks Senatorial, doesn't he?
Another show that's on the way: NBC's working to bring Hal Holbrook to the network in a series based on A Clear and Present Danger, the TV movie featuring Holbrook as a U.S. Senate candidate. This report also becomes fact, with The Senator premiering in the fall as one of the elements of The Bold Ones, replacing The Protectors. It's also a one-season show, but Holbrook does manage to cop a Best Dramatic Actor Emmy.

But enough of the future; what does this week bring us? Sunday is Easter, and what tipped me off to that was Saturday night’s feature on KYW, King of Kings, starring Jeffrey Hunter as the Messiah, with Robert Ryan as a much-too-old John the Baptist (he should have been about Christ’s age), Siobhan McKenna as am affecting Mary, Harry Guardino as a smug, insufferable Barabbas (not unlike many of the roles he plays, to be honest), Rip Torn as a confused Judas, and a dignified Ron Randall as the centurion who witnesses several of the events in Christ’s life, and ultimately becomes a witness to Him; it all takes place under a magnificent score by Miklos Rozas. The ad proclaims King of Kings as “the greatest Biblical epic of all times,” and at three hours, it had better be, since you’re going to start watching it at 11:20 p.m. 

Sunday features several Easter programs, including church services live from St. Peters Square (NBC, 11:00 a.m., hosted by Douglas Kiker), and Boston (CBS, 11:00 a.m.) The sporting life returns Sunday afternoon with a regular season NHL clash between the Boston Bruins and Detroit Red Wings (CBS, 1:30 p.m.), while the NBA playoffs tip-off with game three of the Eastern Division semifinals between the Baltimore Bullets and New York Knicks. Ed Sullivan and his guests Bobby Gentry, David Frye, Marty Allen, Nancy Ames, George Kirby, Buck Owens and the Buckaroos, and Gladys Knight and the Pips tour VA hospitals in Denver and San Antonio to thank Vietnam vets.

There's not a whole lot to report on Monday, but I couldn't let it go by without mentioning that our very own (well, sort of, anyway) Cleveland Amory is one of Dick Cavett's guests (11:30 p.m., ABC). Tuesday's highlights include a musical adaptation of Goldilocks (8:30 p.m., NBC) starring Bing Crosby and his family; Mary Frances gets to play Goldie, but in this version she doesn't shoot the Cheshire Cat. Speaking of which, I'm not even sure he makes an appearance in this version, set in a "swingin' place" that includes a bear family playing golf (Bing and Nathaniel,* natch), and "a militant bobcat starting a protest march." Riiiiight. Paul Winchell and Avery Schreiber supply additional voices. And over at Red Skelton's show (8:30 p.m., CBS), we've got the Original Caste singing "One Tin Soldier." Yep, the times are a' changing.

*Nathaniel was no mean golfer himself; he won the 1981 U.S. Amateur championship, a tournament won by Jack Nicklaus, Bobby Jones and Tiger Woods; it once counted as a major championship (and should still.)

As a tribute to the late Kenny Rogers, I mention this appearance by Kenny and the First Edition on The Johnny Cash Show (Wednesday, 9:00 p.m., ABC), where they perform “When I’m on My Journey,” “Ruby,” and “Ruben James.” Johnny’s other guests are Roy Orbison (who sings “Crying,” “Only the Lonely,” and “Pretty Woman”; too bad he didn’t do any hits) and humorist Shel Silverstein. That’s on against a Bill Cosby special on NBC, and I don’t have any problem deciding which one to choose.

I rather like the attitude of It Couldn’t Be Done (Thursday, 7:30 p.m., NBC), a salute to the marvels of American achievement and engineering, hosted by Lee Marvin, with music by the 5th Dimension and Steve Mills. Vintage footage and interviews cover the construction of such landmarks as Mount Rushmore, the Golden Gate and Brooklyn Bridges, Hoover Dam, the Panama Canal, and the Alaska Highway. It’s a nice reminder, especially today, of our history of what we can do when we put our minds to it. And, unfortunately, a show with a topic that's becoming all too common in 1970: David Susskind's topic is "Where Did We Fail—Parents of Junkies" (9:00 p.m., WHYY),

Friday night starts off with an NBC Science Special (7:30 p.m.) on "The Unexplained" puzzles of science, from UFOs to life on other worlds to Stonehenge. It's hosted by 2001 author Arthur C. Clarke with a script by Clifton Fadiman and narrated by Rod Serling. And it's a night of specials at CBS, starting at 7:30 with a repeat of 1965's Cinderella—the Lesley Ann Warren version, with Stuart Damon as her prince, and a cast including Walter Pidgeon, Ginger Rogers, Celeste Holm, Jo Van Fleet, Pat Carroll and Barbara Ruick as the evil stepsisters. At 9:00 p.m., Don Knotts gets a chance to show the network what he'd do with his own variety hour, with Juliet Prowse, the Establishment, Andy Williams, and special guest star Andy Griffith. And you don't think that ad over there refers to any other show on television, cough—Laugh-In—cough, do you? That's followed at 10:00 p.m. by Like Hep!, Dinah Shore's chance to show the network that she's with it just like the kids out there, with Lucille Ball, Rowan and Martin, and Diana Ross along to lend a hand. And Flip Wilson guest hosts on The Tonight Show (NBC, 11:30 p.m.), with Louis Armstrong as one of his guests.

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Finally, after all that's been going on lately, I think we're entitled to wrap things up with a laugh or two, don't you? Since April Fools' Day falls smack in the middle of this issue, the editors thought it might be fun for TV Guide to lampoon itself with an evening of "not quite the real thing" listings (written by Roger J. Youman), with some very funny results. Not all of them are home runs; a bit that points out how television is dominated by shows that are simply variations on the same theme (a sentiment with which Cleveland Amory would surely agree) works the first time, but by the third or fourth go-round (Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin and Dick Cavett all have the same five guests, simply listed in a different order), you kind of want to shout, "We get it, we get it!"

Nevertheless, when the descriptions drift into the truly absurd, the parody works wonderfully, as in this family musical written by—Rod Serling?


This one is a spoof of the current naming craze in Hollywood (both movies and people):

 
I don't remember this ever happening to Dr. Welby:


How dare he!


I guess it really is all relative, isn't it? They only neglected to mention that it was written by Sterling Silliphant.


You can see the whole spread here. As I say, very funny. If they're not careful, these could wind up on Laugh-In.  TV  

March 27, 2020

Around the dial

It occurs to me that, what with everything that's going on in the world right now, it's probably time for us to take a moment and see how everyone's doing. Here at TV HQ, I'm among the fortunate able to work from home, and while it's not perfect, it does mean business as usual, so I don't want to hear anything about "What are you doing with your extra time," because I don't have any, Well, maybe an extra half hour in the evenings because I don't have to take the bus home, but not enough to go on some movie binge or anything like that. I just sit and watch our retirement savings come and go in the market, and figure I'll have to work another couple of years. But we're fine, only taking trips out to get groceries and occasionally support our local restaurants by getting something for dinner. And how are all of you? Whether you're a regular reader or you're just stopping by with all that extra time you now have, take a moment to leave a message in the combox and let us know how you're doing. Seriously.

At bare•bones e-zine, Jack wraps up the Sterling Silliphant segment of The Hitchcock Project with the 1959 episode "Graduating Class," starring Wendy Hiller. No details since this is another episode I haven't seen yet, but you'll want to be sure to check it out.

May 16 is National Classic Movie Day, and to celebrate the occasion, Rick has announced a "6 from the 60s" Blogathon at Classic Film & TV Café. I'll be there and so will many of your favorite classic bloggers; these are always a lot of fun, for both participants and readers, and I know you'll have a good time, so be sure and stop by.

At Cult TV Blog, John's supposed to be working from home; he'll explain it all for you, as well as telling you about the Avengers story "Man-Eater of Surrey Green," not to be confused (one supposes) with Soylent Green. It's cracking good fun, as long as you don't hold it too much to account.

The Twilight Zone Vortex continues the comprehensive review of Rod Serling's The Twilight Zone Magazine, and this week we're up to November, 1982, with some interesting short stories, an interview with John Carpenter, the classic teleplay "A Quality of Mercy," and more good stuff, courtesy of Jordan.

Speaking of blogathons, A Shroud of Thoughts is hosting the sixth annual "Favourite TV Show Episode" Blogathon. I'm not sure I could think of my favorite episode from any of my favorite shows; there are so many of them. It's always fun to see what others have to say, though, so you'll want to take some time there.

And fitting into that, at The Horn Section, Hal's entry in the blogathon is "It Takes a Smart Man," from the final season of the NBC Western The High Chaparral. It's an exciting, thought-provoking episode, the kind that makes you want to watch it even if you haven't kept up with the show.

Realweegiemidget (how many times does the average person get a chance to type that?) is part of the blogathon as well, with a look at "Reluctant Traveling Companion" from the second season of The Fall Guy. Hey, Richard Burton guest stars as himself, so I don't see how anyone could miss it!

At Medium, Herbie J. Pilato has an excellent article that finally explains in a cogent manner one of the biggest problems I have with modern television (and movies): "Everything is too dark, in lighting and tone. All the characters are unhappy, sad, miserable sacks." Bad sound editing and sound mixing. Dark characters, dark stories. Preach it, brother. There's also an article on the home page about "The 7 Habits of Highly Ineffective People," but I'm staying far, far away from that. Even more than six feet, metaphorically. TV  

March 25, 2020

NBC Opera Company: Gian Carlo Menotti's Labyrinth

Since we seem to have some extra time on our hands nowadays, how about something truly confusing? This is an extremely rare color videotape of an NBC Opera Company presentation, in this case the world premiere of Gian Carlo Menotti's one-act opera Labyrinth, broadcast on March 3, 1963. Labyrinth is a highly allegorical story, dealing with the meaning of life; none of the characters have proper names, only titles ("The Bride," "The Groom," "The Spy"), and in a brief introduction at the beginning of the telecast, Menotti, after explaining the allegory to viewers, encourages them to forget what he's just said and simply enjoy the music.

Like many of Menotti's other televised operas, Labyrinth was commissioned by NBC; however, in this case Menotti took advantage of the medium (as opposed to The Medium) to incorporate several special effects into the performance, effects that would at the time have been impossible to duplicate in a stage production. (Rear projection might make it possible today.) As a result, this broadcast is the one and only performance of Labyrinth, and we have it right here.

The production is directed by Menotti himself, while NBC Opera stalwart Kirk Browning directs the television side. John Reardon plays The Groom, and Judith Raskin is The Bride; Herbert Grossman conducts members of the Symphony of the Air. The video was shared to YouTube by Menotti's adopted son, Francis.


TV  

March 23, 2020

What's on TV? Wednesday, March 22, 1967

It seems as if it's been awhile since we visited the Twin Cities, but then for a few weeks that's all we were looking at, so I suppose things have evened out. Besides—well, I probably shouldn't tell you, but if I can't share it with you, who can I share it with? Among other things in store for the future, I've planned an extended stay in Chicago circa 1953, which I think you'll enjoy. But in the meantime, we have to live in the present, and the centerpiece of tonight's viewing is the heavyweight championship bout I wrote about on Saturday, but even if you're not a boxing fan (in other words, if you're like my wife), there's plenty to keep your interest. Sodom and Gomorrah, anyone?

March 21, 2020

This week in TV Guide: March 18, 1967

The relationship between television and boxing has always been a complex one. At the dawn of television, boxing was a major sport—more popular than professional football, comparable to baseball and college football—and it was a mainstay of early TV. It was cheap to broadcast, easy to televise and had a ready-made audience, and all four networks (including DuMont) had regularly scheduled boxing shows which garnered huge ratings and made bartenders the country over very happy. By the mid-1960s, however, prime-time boxing was gone from the networks—a victim of massive television overexposure, mob involvement, fight-fixing scandals, and deaths in the ring. Oh, fights were still to be found, mostly on Wide World of Sports, but the big-time championship bout had headed for the world of closed-circuit, pay-per-view broadcasting, which is what makes Wednesday night's heavyweight title fight between Muhammad Ali and Zora Folley all the more interesting.

The bout, which Ali wins via a seventh round knockout (you can read a very interesting analysis of it here), comes during a transitional stage in the broadcast of heavyweight championship bouts. The fights had been steadily moving to closed-circuit TV broadcasts, shown in movie theaters or other large auditoriums, since the late 1950s, and many of Ali's greatest fights—his defeat of then-champion Sonny Liston in Miami, the "Fight of the Century" against Joe Frazier, the "Rumble in the Jungle" versus George Foreman, and the "Thrilla in Manila" rematch with Frazier—were broadcast on closed-circuit. The broadcasts made Ali and his promoter, the infamous Don King, a lot of money.

However, at this point you can still catch a heavyweight title fight live on home TV if you're lucky. Maybe Zora Folley isn't a big-enough draw (even though he's the number one contender), or possibly it was too soon to ask people to plunk down money for an Ali fight; he'd previously defended his title just seven weeks before, winning a 15-round decision against Ernie Terrell in Houston on February 6. At any rate, the prime-time broadcast of the first heavyweight title fight to be held in the famed Madison Square Garden since 1951 comes not on a network, but via a syndicated hookup of stations (produced by RKO General and Madison Square Garden),* with the great Don Dunphy at the mike and Win Elliot doing the color. You notice on the ad that Ali is also referred to by his former name, Cassius Clay, even though it has been almost two years since Ali changed his name, many people (including former champion Floyd Patterson) still refuse to refer to him as anything other than Clay.

*Prime-time boxing was pretty much confined to syndication by then, with title fights in many weight classes being shown on an irregular basis.

This is Muhammad Ali's last title defense for some time—in fact, it was the last time he would fight, under any name, for over three years. He'll be stripped of his title the following month for refusing induction into the Army, and remain in boxing limbo until his first comeback in 1970, when he fights and defeats Jerry Quarry.

Home broadcasts of heavyweight title bouts make a comeback as well, ironically with Ali at the helm of many of them (the ones not big enough to go to closed-circuit). Eventually, though, they disappear again, to be replaced by another kind of pay-per-view, as cable TV becomes the main delivery mechanism for championship boxing.

Here's the original broadcast (complete with commercials!) of Ali-Folley, one of the last big fights held in the old MSG. Coverage starts about 40 seconds in, with the pre-fight introductions.


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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..

Ed Sullivan: Scheduled guests: singer-dancer Jane Powell; the singing Lovin' Spoonful; bandleader Cab Calloway and his singing daughter Chris; the comedy team of Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara; Country and Western singer Johnny Rivers; comedians George Carlin, Jackie Kahane and Dave Allen; and the balancing Hoganas.

Hollywood Palace: Host George Burns presents the musical King Family; singer Lainie Kazan; Italian opera star Enzo Stuarti; Desmond and Marks, English music-hall comics; and Baby Sabu the elephant.

Not, perhaps, the best week, but despite the odd description of Johnny Rivers as a country singer (for singing this song?), Jane Powell, Cab Calloway and George Carlin are more than enough to give Sullivan the nod this week. Then again, you might want to wait until Thursday at 9:00 p.m, CT, when Dean Martin's guests include Buddy Greco, Louis Prima, Bob Newhart and the McGuire Sisters.

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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. 

Cleveland Amory wasn't the house critic at TV Guide when the original Dragnet dominated the airwaves in the 1950s, but have no fear: Cleve is on the beat this time, as Jack Webb returns to the scene of the crime and punishment with his Dragnet 1966 revival. And, says Amory, not only is Joe Friday back, he's good. In fact, "it's our duty to remind you not only of your constitutional rights, but also that he is still walking his old, shoulders-still, glide-walking, tough-talking, eyeball-to-eyeball self." If you haven't seen the new Dragnet, with Harry Morgan assuming the sidekick role played memorably by Ben Alexander, "you're missing something—some of the scenes between them are up there in the same league as the Culp-Cosby duologs in I Spy"

It is true that there's a tendency, in our 21st Century cynicism, see Dragnet as verging on camp, but those who look at it that way overlook how dramatically sound and tight the half-hour is (and again, I say, why can't we bring the half-hour drama back?), and, as Amory points out, "unlike some other shows which have purported to bring us 'true' case histories, [it] never seems to be too good to be true." Amory particularly likes the episodes that deal with teen-age problems, "of which there are so many these days; the minor characters—in both senses of both words—are not only real people, but their dialog is real, too."

If Amory has one criticism, it's a minor one, that Webb sometimes overuses the show's trademark voiceover narration; it "can be boring, and it can even be jarring when Friday goes too quickly from off-camera voice to on-camera person." A show this good, he concludes, doesn't need that kind of device; "Just the facts, ma'am." And even though it was actually Stan Freberg's Dragnet parody that gave us this memorable line, we're not going to quibble with Cleve's positive verdict.*

*Cleve will return later, in a different context.

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Speaking of variety, Jackie Gleason is once again the cover boy for this week's issue. He's in the midst of his fifth season with his eponymously-named variety show (Saturday, 6:30 p.m., CBS), telecast from Miami Beach, and Ted Crail's article gives us a behind-the-scenes look at the preparation for the show. Gleason is pretty much invisible until the day of the taping, when he swoops in and takes total command. He insists on the hours, and also the control: "There were comedians who relied on everyone else" he tells Crail. "They only got in trouble."

It's Sunday, home of the cultural programming ghetto; it's also Palm Sunday, and CBS pre-empts Lamp Unto My Feet and Look Up and Live for a Palm Sunday concert (9:00 a.m.) from Holy Cross Cathedral in Boston, featuring music from Stravinsky and Buxtehude. NBC follows suit with live coverage at 10:00 a.m. of a Palm Sunday service from Pleasant Ridge Presbyterian Church in Cincinnati. Also at 10:00, CBS's Camera Three has a centennial tribute to the late conductor Arturo Toscanini, who for many years led the famous NBC Symphony Orchestra; too bad his home network couldn't have found some time to honor the maestro. the media critic Marshall McLuhan discusses his opinions on communications theory in an NBC Experiment in Television, which you'll not be surprised to find is being broadcast at 2:00 p.m.

Sunday night, Ethel Merman makes a rare television appearance, starring in an adaptation of her 1946 Broadway hit (and 1966 revival) Annie Get Your Gun (7:30 p.m., NBC) along with Bruce Yarnell, Harry Bellaver , Benay Venuta and Jerry Orbach. Here's a clip from the broadcast, brought to you by "Your Gas Company"


Perry Como returns to Kraft Music Hall on Monday for his Easter show, with guests Connie Stevens and Woody Allen. (8:00 p.m., NBC) Incidentally, you'll be able to see more of Woody Allen all week; he's guest hosting for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. Regardless of what you think about Allen, and I've never been a fan of his for reasons having nothing to do with his current controversial status, it's an interesting choice; I would not have thought of him as a talk-show host. But see what you think; here he is hosting Tonight in 1971, with Bob Hope as one of his guests. 

Tuesday night gives us programming that is anything but escapist: Lee Marvin, himself a former Marine, narrates Our Time in Hell (6:30 p.m., ABC), the harrowing story of the Marines in World War II's island-hopping Pacific campaign, including color footage of battles at Guadalcanal, Iwo Jima, and Bloody Ridge. The next time you hear someone talking about athletes as "warriors," show them this, beginning with Part 1.


Wednesday's feature is Sodom and Gomorrah (7:00 p.m., ABC), a three-hour biblical epic, which Judith Crist calls "a travesty made memorable by its seedy attempts to portray sin on a nursery-school level and by the Queen of Sodom's [Anouk Aimée] hailing a victorious army with "Greetings, Hebrews and Sodomites!" I'm guessing she didn't like it. On Thursday, That Girl (8:30 p.m., ABC) channels its inner Lucille Ball, as Don tries to remove a bowling ball stuck on Ann's toe before she has to appear on a televised awards show. That's followed at 9:00 by ABC Stage 67, which features "On the FLIP Side," an original rock musical about a singer on the decline, trying to adapt to the new hard rock sound. Ricky Nelson plays the singer, with Joannie Sommars costarring; the songs are written by Burt Bacharach and Hal David.

Friday's highlight is the network television premiere of Lillies of the Field (8:00 p.m., CBS), with Sidney Poitier in his Oscar-winning role as an ex-GI who helps a group of nuns build their chapel in the Arizona desert. Crist calls it a "descendant of the Going My Way school, but brilliant performances by Poitier and Lilia Skala, and "a joyousness, a sense of decency and an appreciation of the human spirit that pervade the film" make it worthwhile despite the sentimentality.

Oh, and one piece of news that I ought to mention here, because there's no place else to talk about it: Richard K. Doan reports that CBS has reversed its decision to cancel Gunsmoke; the Western will be back for its 13th season in the fall, moved to Monday (supposedly at the urging of CBS boss William Paley's wife, a fan of the series). To make room, the network is canceling Gilligan's Island and a planned new comedy called Doc.

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Time yet again for one of those "nothing ever changes" moments. This week's comes to us in two parts.

First up is an NBC News Inquiry (Sunday, 5:30 p.m.) entitled "Whose Right to Bear Arms?" At least the producers don't pretend this is anything other than an advocacy piece; says producer Fred Freed, "There are almost no real restrictions on buying guns. You don't have to travel very far to accumulate an arsenal." The show cites some outrageous truly examples of how easy it is to pick up a gun—in one place, if you don't have the cash you can use trading stamps, but offsets this true piece of journalism by stacking the deck with his spokesmen: gun control advocates include President Johnson and Senators Kennedy and Dodd (the elder), while the opponents, in addition to the NRA, include "a Grand titan of the Ku Klux Klan and the speaker at a neo-Nazi rally in Los Angeles." I wonder how this program would do with James Hagerty's creed for newsmen we looked at several years ago?  Nah, no bias there.

The second is an entertaining exchange that takes up the entire Letters to the Editor section, concerning Cleveland Amory's  recent review of ABC's The American Sportsman. Amory, no fan of sports hunting, was disgusted with the show; three letters appear in support of Amory, three in opposition. Jack Nicholas of North Hollywood likes Amory's "excellent and obviously heartfelt review," and Barbara Jager of Los Angeles adds, "Enough of cruelty." On the other hand, Warren King of Bridgeport, Connecticut writes that Amory "seems incapable of giving The American Sportsman an impartial review, and prefers to use it as a means to express his personal attitude toward hunting under the guise of public outrage," and Robert W. Sniegocki of Brooklyn says that if Amory would ever get out from behind his desk and into the outdoors, "it will make a man out of him."

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This ad probably wouldn't make much sense to people today, unless you're of the same bent that I am. But the audience in 1967 would have immediately gotten the reference to The Untouchables—not just the word play, but the style of clothing on the hoods as well. After all, the series itself had aired on ABC as recently as four years ago, and many local stations continued to carry it in syndication well into the early 1970s. But today?  Maybe some people would think of The Incredibles, but otherwise the joke probably falls upon deaf ears.

It reminds me of Scroogie, the cartoon strip from years past done by the late Tug McGraw, the former Mets and Phillies pitcher, and Mike Witte. Scroogie centered around a left-handed relief pitcher named Scroogie who played for a team called the New York Pets and bore a remarkable resemblance to McGraw himself. (I always thought Scroogie was probably baseball's version of Barney Miller, but that's another topic.) Anyway, in the cartoon I'm thinking of, Scroogie is dealing with a potentially serious arm problem. "It's over! My career is over!" he laments to a teammate. "I mean, who on earth would want a one-armed baseball player?" At this point another teammate comes in with some news: "Scroogie, there's a Dr. Richard Kimble here to see you."

It's a joke straight out of Mystery Science Theater 3000, isn't it? As a matter of fact, they both are. They're the kinds of jokes that whiz right at you, and if you get it, great. People of a certain time will know exactly what it's all about, of course, and people who aren't, who don't speak the secret code, won't know what we're talking about. It's something that brings people like us together, in knowing amusement, while the rest shake their heads at us, because they don't have a clue.

I love how ads like this one can be so firmly rooted in a time and place. They tell you about far more than just the products they're pitching.

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Finally, there's no doubt about it: color TV, the wave of the future, is here. If you've followed your TV Guide listings over the past months, you've noticed more and more shows being broadcast in color, and this year the networks have moved to all-color for their prime-time lineups. And yet, there's still trouble in paradise, according to the TV Guide editorial, which challenges the networks and producers to "set up color standards they all can and will follow."

Viewers are fed up, say the editors, with having to keep fiddling with dials and buttons because "some commercial producers turn out film or tape with higher color intensity than others," some using "film that accents blues and others film that boosts reds." The networks, the editors assert, can't even agree on what color flesh is.*

*Of course, speaking in a purely technical sense, "flesh" incorporates a wide variety of colors, from dark black to pale yellow. I think what they're talking about here more closely approximates what Crayola used to call "peach."

It's generally agreed that "before long nearly all homes will have color sets." Isn't it time, therefore, for everyone to come together to make sure these sets provide the quality that viewers expect? "Color is great," TV Guide concludes, "and we've been among its most enthusiastic supporters for many years." But "color will not be completely satisfactory to viewers until they can be freed from constant dial twiddling."  

The twin developments of digital television and high definition are amazing for many reasons, but even more than the astounding detail, their greatest contribution is that the viewer no longer has to deal with ghosts, interference waves, strange color tints and the like. It's something that younger viewers can't even imagine, but for those of a certain age it's little less than a miracle. It might even be considered a wonderTV