January 25, 2020

This week in TV Guide: January 20, 1973

On Saturday, after having been reelected by one of the biggest landslides in American political history, Richard M. Nixon and Spiro T. Agnew will be sworn in for second terms as President and Vice President of the United States. Less than 19 months later, they both will have resigned due to scandals that predated the election. That's the context for this week's issue.

All three networks are providing coverage of the Inaugural and parade; while NBC and CBS are also having late-night wrap-ups of the balls. On ABC it's Howard K. Smith and Harry Reasoner, while Walter Cronkite and Eric Sevareid are in the CBS booth, and John Chancellor and David Brinkley are on NBC. (Richard K. Doan points out that it's the first time for Reasoner and Chancellor anchoring inaugural coverage; I suppose this is what happens when you're covering a story that only happens every four years.) Because the inaugural falls on a Saturday, NBC's also planning an hour of prime-time highlights for those who were out and about during the day, The networks estimate it'll cost about $3 million to cover the day's events, about the same as they spent in 1969. For that investment, they're figuring on a viewing audience of over 30 million. Four years later, we'll be replaying the same scene, but by then the characters will have changed dramatically—something that nobody watching the events today could possibly have imagined. History has a way of playing tricks on us, doesn't it?

Speaking of history, there are two occasions when we're invariably reminded of something that makes America stand out from other countries throughout history. It happens when a president dies in office, and again when a new president takes the oath of office on January 20, and you can take it to the bank that at least one broadcaster somewhere will take a moment to reflect on the greatness and wonder of a nation where such a peaceful transition of power routinely takes place: without challenge or revolution. Not to be a Debbie Downer, but I wonder—I just wonder—just how much longer we'll be saying that.

t  t  t

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. 

If you're searching for something good to watch on TV tonight, your search isn't going to end with Search, says Cleveland Amory. In fact, this series was originally supposed to be called Probe, until the producers found out someone else already had the rights to that title. The search for a new title wound up being self-fulfilling; "So much for what's good about this show." Ouch! "What's bad about it is that it is just one more of those revolving-trio things in which, in alternating weeks, three different zeroes—we mean heroes—strong-arm and brainstorm their way through muscle-bound plots."

The three zeroes—er, heroes—are played by Hugh O'Brian, Tony Franciosa, and Doug McClure, with Burgess Meredith as the constant who provides our boys with the tools they need to complete their mission, thanks to ear implants through which they receive information from home base, which is still, for some reason, still called Probe. Through a mass of screens, scanners and computers, Meredith and his team are able to tip off the agents when someone is lying, when an adrenalin surge indicates possible violence ahead, or when their own body heat may be tipping off where they are.

This gimmick might work, Cleve notes, "if the plots did. But they don't." True, O'Brien often rises above the material, but that's because "he's often in a helicopter." The dialogue is painfully painful; in one episode, guest-star Barbara Feldon discovers that the initials of McClure's character's name, C.R. Grover, stand for "Christopher Robin," she replies, "I think it's winsome. I wish I had a cuddly name." Bad plots and bad dialogue usually make for a bad combination, and in the case of Probe, that is, Search, the mixture fuels a run of 23 episodes. For creator Leslie Stevens, who'd previously made The Outer Limits, it's an obvious case of better luck last time.

t  t  t

And now, some news of interest from this week's TV Teletype:

In April, Raymond Burr is Pope John XXIII in ABC's special A Man Called John; I covered that back here. Mia Farrow's landed one of the most sought-after roles in Hollywood: she'll be playing Daisy Buchanan in the big-screen version of The Great Gatsby, starring Robert Redford. Meanwhile, Lee Marvin takes on Eugene O'Neill in The Iceman Cometh, with Fredric March, Robert Ryan and Jeff Bridges. Glenn Corbett is doing The Stranger, an NBC pilot about an astronaut stranded on a strange planet; unfortunately for Glenn, it doesn't go anywhere from there.*

*Although it provides plenty of fodder for MST3K.

As long as we're talking about pilots, Lee Majors took some time off from Owen Marshall to film an ABC movie that, although it's not billed as such, proves so popular that, unlike The Stranger, it does become a series. It's called Cyborg here, but by the time it makes it to TV, it's called The Six Million Dollar Man. ABC's busy; in the works as well is an ABC Theatre docudrama about the U.S.S. Pueblo which, although it isn't mentioned here, will star Hal Holbrook as Captain Lloyd Bucher. Holbrook wins two Emmys for the role (one as Best Dramatic Actor, the other as Actor of the Year), and the movie wins five overall. And then there's the two-part movie QBVII, starring Ben Gazzara (and also some actor named Anthony Hopkins), which you'll see this spring. As I commented after seeing it, its VI hours of my life I'll never get back.

t  t  t

You might have read about the brawl that broke out earlier this week in a college basketball game between Kansas State and Kansas. In an amazing coincidence, we have an article this week about the epidemic of brawls in—college basketball. In "The Big Brawl Era," Al Stump looks at increasing violence in the college game: not just involving players, but fans as well. At a game last January at the University of Minnesota, a fight between Ohio State and Minnesota players featured fans coming on the court to attack Ohio State players.* At Kansas, officials were held prisoner in their dressing room by more than 100 people until they were rescued by the police. A game in Berkeley between Cal and USC was forfeited to the Trojans after Cal fans littered the court with eggs, apple cores, beer cans, and shoes. Maryland coach Lefty Driesell was knocked flat by rioters at North Carolina. Perry Wallace of Vanderbilt, the first black player in the SEC, had a knife thrown at him at Alabama.

*I remember that game well, being 12 years old and living in Minneapolis at the time; the Gophers got a bad rap on that one. One of the Minnesota players involved in the fight, who escaped punishment, went on to play another sport: Dave Winfield.

I suppose it's natural that the fans have become rougher, considering the amount of violence that aniti-war students are exercising on campus, but USC coach Bob Boyd thinks television deserves its share of blame for what's going on. "Commentators exaggerate the wild side. They deliberately build up feuds, fouling and fighting. They emphasize close-in shots of irate coaches and overexcited fans and junk flying. The cumulative effect is to increase hard feelings and cause a beef next time the same clubs play. I'm no censor . . . but why does TV have to show fist fights in their entirety?"

Counters Dan Shedrick, head of Coliseum Sports, which produces college basketball telecasts, "Boyd and our other critics are acting like censors. We pay colleges $20,000 and more for rights fees to one contest. Nothing in the contract states that we shouldn't cover a free-for-all. The reality of sport is involved here, and our policy is to let it all hang out, raw-journalism style, in any gym where we buy the package." Alan Lubell, an executive at Coliseum competitor TVS, agrees. "We have an obligation to report, even if they burn the barn down. We didn't create this scene. There may be news management in other telecast sports, but not with us."

In a cautionary film made for television, John Wooden, coach of champion UCLA, looks out at a game being played in an empty arena. "It could come to this," he says to the camera. "This is what could happen if we don't stop the violence in the game." It still could.

t  t  t

ABC's latest late-night strategy is Wide World of Entertainment, four rotating elements* that each air for one week, and the big news is the return of Jack Paar. The network's hope, according to The Doan Report, is that Paar's old magic can help topple the reigning King, Johnny Carson. Jack Paar Tonite's debut week produces mixed results: Paar was tops in New York, while Carson dominated Los Angeles. The networks were at a loss to explain, but it seems obvious to me that Paar's sophisticated touch appeals to the East Coast, while Carson's more laid-back, Hollywood-based shows are more the Left Coast's style.

*In addition to Paar and Cavett, the other two elements are Wide World Mystery, and Wide World Comedy. One of the mystery elements is the British series Thriller, not to be confused with the Boris Karloff-hosted show of the early '60s. It explains why, during this era, we see Boris Karlof Presents Thriller in the listings, to differentiate between the two. That solves one of life's questions for me.]=

This week, however, belongs to Dick Cavett, who returns with a terrific guest list: Monday's 60-minute show (shortened due to part two of the network's movie, How the West Was Won) has Paul Newman and John Huston, while Tuesday features Barry Goldwater, Germaine Greer, and former Lt. Col. Anthony Herbert, in the headlines for accusing his superiors of abusing Vietnam POWs. The next three nights are devoted to Dick's famed single-guest shows: Wednesday with Sir Laurence Olivier, Thursday with Orson Welles, and Friday with Ray Charles. Those shows were fascinating for two reasons: first, the intimacy of a 90 minute conversation with a single guest; and second, how that intimacy is increased by airing the interviews in a late night setting. That's something Jack Paar understood as well. Paar, by the way, reappears on Saturday night (10:00 p.m. ET, ABC) with a prime-time interview of "Three Remarkable Women": Ethel Kennedy (widow of Bobby), Jane Goodall (and her husband, Hugo Van Lawick), and Broadway star Mary Martin.

Speaking of returns, Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore return Sunday in a repeat at of their 1969 variety special, Dick Van Dyke and the Other Woman (9:30 p.m., CBS), while NBC counters with Return to Peyton Place (10:00 p.m.), a prime-time edition of the daytime series. I guess you can go home again. And for the rest of the week:

Mike Connors, star of Mannix, has a nice turn on The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour (Wednesday, 8:00 p.m., CBS). He gets to return to his acting roots as a heavy by laying a ganster boss, a Gestapo officer, and an evil adviser to a queen.

NET Opera Theater, seen at various times and on various stations throughout the week, presents the Japanese opera "The Death Goddess," the story of "an unhappy undertaker who is granted the power to save the dying. His new-found power makes him rich, but he broods over the evil deeds of those he saves." It's written for TV; I wonder how much play it got afterward?

On Friday (9:00 p.m., ABC), composer Burt Bacharach hosts an hour of music staged on the set of the upcoming musical Lost Horizon (music by, ironically, Burt Bacharach!), with The 5th Dimension (or, as the ad for the show says, "The Fifth Dimension"), Richard Harris, Bobby Van, and Chris Evert. Not quite SCTV territory, but if you'd thrown in Andrea Martin as Mother Teresa, you'd have been there.

We don't often get to see a movie featured on MST3K in its natural habitat, but Friday night's late movie on CBS is Moon Zero Two (11:30 p.m.), starring James Olson and Catherine Von Schell, and Judith Crist's review gives us ample evidence as to how the movie wound up on the Satellite of Love: "Anyone 6 or under suffering from insomnia or parental ultrapermissiveness might enjoy Friday's Moon Zero Two, made in England in 1969 with the claim that it was the 'first space Western.' The year is 2021 and Hopalong Cassidy would cringe at the dumb goings-on."

t  t  t

Saturday night is a powerhouse for CBS, and Bob Newhart's right at the center of it. Through the pages of TV Guide, we've seen Newhart's TV career evolve over the years; there was his eponymously-named variety show in 1961, and he was one of the rotating hosts of the comedy-variety series The Entertainers in 1964, before CBS finally figured out what to do with the buttoned-down star. Now, his sitcom is a hit, and according to Dwight Whitney, he's stopped worrying about having to go back to accounting or selling shoes. Maybe that's a bit of an exaggeration, but not much; he used to worry about hecklers during his nightclub days, he worried at first that a sitcom wasn't the right way to go ("I kept saying no. Kind of reflex, I guess. Then one day I asked myself why."), worried that success would be fleeting and he'd have to fall back on other ways to make a buck ("How do you tell your children you were a game-show host?"). Now, as a remarkably well-adjusted comedian, he takes his success with the same low-key grace as always. It's good to see a good guy succeed. And after all, how bad can life be when your TV-wife is Suzanne Pleshette? Bob definitely married up in that case, didn't he?

t  t  t

Finally, this week's starlet is trying to emerge from an identity crisis. He bears the unlikely name of Cheryl Jean Stoppelmoor, and during her early professional days she adopted the name Cherie Moore, back when she toured the area around her hometown of Huron, South Dakota, singing with bands. (As Cherie Moore, she also does a turn singing the voice of Melody on Josie and the Pussycats; you can look it up.) Now she's in Hollywood, doing commercials and regularly appearing in guest spots on various TV shows, and she's back to Cheryl Jean Stoppelmoor. "Once people know my name, they don't forget it. After all, they don't say 'Engelbert Who?' Cherie Moore sounds phony, like the old Hollywood."

Cheryl's definitely from the new Hollywood, and she's got the ambition to succeed. She'd love to play one of the big rooms in Las Vegas; "It's kind of an ego thing to be up there in front of people, to make them feel through you." She says that "Whatever I do, I want to do it best," but she's also realistic; "If it doesn't work out or stars messing up my head, I'll get out. I don't want to be 30 years old and want to kill myself." Not to worry, Cheryl Jean; there's no threat of that. Although she's vowed that she "intends to remain" Cheryl Stoppelmoor, she'll marry producer David Ladd (son of Alan Ladd) later in the year, and take his last name. And it's as Cheryl Ladd that she'll star in Charlie's Angels, and remain a star for nearly 50 years, to this very day. It's one of those starlet stories that you dream about running across. And now you can say you read about her when. TV  


  1. I came across a funny bit from Mike Connors' appearance on Sonny & Cher's show this week, highlighting villains instead of Cher's usual vamps:


    1. Yes - I mentioned that on Monday's piece! Great minds think alike!


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!