February 1, 2020

This week in TV Guide: January 30, 1960

What are we to make of this week's cover story, "Can Ratings Be Fixed?" Does it imply that the ratings system is broken, that networks and advertisers pay far too much attention to them, sacrificing admirable but low-rated programs at the altar of profitability and popularity? Or do we understand "fixed" to have the same meaning as "rigged," that the integrity of the ratings system has intentionally been breached so the  figures reflect something other than the truth, all to profit an unknown someone in position to tamper with the numbers? Oh, the uncertainty of it all.

As it turns out, according to Bob Stahl, it's a little bit of everything. In addition to those choices above, the overriding question, one on everyone's mind, is: "How can electronic gadgets in only 1050 homes measure accurately what 112,000 viewers are watching?" A Senate investigating committee is looking into it (yes, they don't have anything better to do than that), for as Oklahoma Senator Mike Monroney says, "[t]he struggle for rating supremacy led to rigging of TV quiz programs." Put that way, compared to the constant threat of nuclear war, I guess it is an important question.

The fact is, as is the case with alcohol, guns, technology, and, well, television, the ratings are neither good nor bad, but neutral. "They serve a useful and necessary purpose in the business," Stahl points out. "The fault lies in the way ratings are constantly misused." Max Banzhaf, advertising director of the Armstrong Cork Co. (sponsors of Armstrong Circle Theater), says that ratings are "designed to serve only as a guide in making program judgments," but that "too often [they're] used as a substitute for judgment. ABC President Oliver Treyz says ratings are "only one factor in any program decision." Answering critics who claim networks are too eager to jump on the bandwagon and copycat successful shows, NBC Vice President Hugh M. Beville Jr. replies, "Is it wrong to give the people what they say they want?"

Counters historian (and Kennedy confidant) Arthur Schlessinger, "The television industry must see its job, not as that of catering to the worst or even the average taste of its audiences, but in part as that of elevating taste." And Marion B. Harper Jr., president of the imposing McCann-Erickson ad agency, says that networks "must telecast more shows of quality than the ratings indicate the public wants to see." (We touched on this question of who decides what quality is last week.)

Garry Moore, who's been on TV long enough to know a thing or two about ratings, raises this question: "Is a comedian any funnier when he gets a 30 [rating] than when he gets a 20?" As an example, "[s]uppose the comedian gets a 20 when he has a really good show. His audience will talk up the show to friends; more people will tune in the following week. So he may get a 30 rating that second week and not have as good a show. Wouldn't that mean he was funnier with a 20 rating than with a 30?" Yes, the ratings are necessary, but they "don't show whether viewers buy the sponsor's product." As to the question of whether or not the ratings are rigged, Sen. Monroney says they aren't. "[W]e concluded that rating samples are inadequate, that ratings receive far too much emphasis in the industry, [but] we never charged that ratings were rigged." It's possible that television could see something akin to the payola scandals that rocked the radio world, but unlikely.

Unsurprisingly, reports Stahl, "There is no clear-cut answer to all of this." Broadcasters and advertisers need to be taught how to use the ratings correctly, and, says Beville, since the press aren't experts enough to write about them, "ratings should have no place in the press." Dr. Frank Stanton, president of CBS, offers the final word: beyond ratings, the networks need to know something more: what people want to look at. "We need constantly to know what the audience things we ought to be doing." To that end, they're conducting their own public-opinion polls, but I'm not sure that's necessary, because we all know what the audience thinks the networks should be doing: putting on better shows.

t  t  t

If you think we're done with Garry Moore because of that little quote above, you've got another think coming. He's looking pretty satisfied on the cover, and for good reason: his Tuesday night variety show has more than held its own against NBC's heavily promoted Startime specials despite the latter's massive budget advantage ($250,000 per show, as opposed to Moore's $100,000), and I've Got a Secret, the panel show he's emceed all these years, is doing "quite all right" against NBC's Perry Como Show. (You'll notice ABC's not even in the discussion, which is par for the course in these days.)

"You can't run scared," Moore says of the doomsayers predicting disaster for both of his prime-time shows at the hands of well-funded competitors. Of his Tuesday night show, he says that "we expected very rough competition and we were prepared for it." It's true that Showtime got off to a good start, but Moore credited the loyalty of his viewers for his show's success. "People were familiar with our show from last year and I guess a lot of them liked it." It doesn't hurt either that the supporting cast includes Durward Kirby, Allen Funt and his Candid Camera, and Carol Burnett. "I guess the most important thing is to have faith in what you've all learned over the years and not start running around scared when the ratings slip a point or two."

Regarding that $100,000 per show budget, Moore provides an example of how that money doesn't really go very far. "Nine years ago if we wanted a smoke effect for some kind of a skit, somebody would borrow a bucket from the janitor and get 40 cents' worth of dry ice from the drugstore. Today you've got to have three special-effects men and a hand-forged bucket and the tab is $40. That's the way it goes." Multiply that by thousands, and now we know why simple things cost so much nowadays.

Moore closes with a great take on the quiz show scandals. Asked if they were embarrassed, he says, "Of course we were embarrassed. Embarrassed because no one bothered to investigate us." Apparently giving away $80 per show doesn't attract much attention. But Moore wouldn't have it any other way. "I turned down a job as host on a big-money quiz show because I figured that, on it, I wouldn't be a host at all. I'd be a croupier."

t  t  t

Invariably, one of the programming victims of the ratings game is the cultural/educational genre. These shows haven't disappeared from TV completely, but with few exceptions they've been relegated to the Sunday ghetto, This week is a good example, beginning with CBS's famed trio of Sunday morning religious and cultural shows. At 10:00 a.m. ET, Lamp Unto My Feet presents "Far God and Country," a documentary on the role of religion and the Scriptures in American politics during the Revolutionary War. At 10:30 a.m., it's Look Up and Live, with "The Betrayal," the final episode in the five-part series "Images of the Bible." Finally, at 11:00 a.m., Camera Three has scenes from Colette's novelette The Vagabond, interpreted in dramatic and dance sequences. Following that bloc, CBS continues with the CBS Television Workshop, an hour-long anthology series that ran on Sundays throughout 1960. This week's presentation is the drama "Heart of a King," but the program also utilized Afredo Antonini and the CBS Symphony Orchestra for opera and classical music programs.

Speaking of, the culture continues at 3:15 p.m. on NBC (following the NBA game of the week between Detroit and Boston), with NBC Opera Theatre's live, color special of Mascagni's one-act opera Cavalleria Rusticana. The title might not be familiar to you, but this might be: the Intermezzo, one of the most famous orchestral pieces in opera, used in all kinds of movies including Raging Bull.

Following the opera, it's back to CBS at 4:30 p.m., with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic, on Ford's Sunday Musical Showcase. While Bernstein is famous for his Young People's Concerts,* he's also a frequent teacher and commentator on classical music; in this program, "The Creative Performer," guest Igor Stravinsky conducts the Philharmonic, with pianist Glenn Gould and Met soprano Eileen Farrell. And after that, it's NBC, with G-E College Bowl at 5:30 p.m. (Case Western Reserve University of Cleveland vs. Purdue; the Boilermakers win, 260-15).

*He's also famous for having written the music for On the Town and West Side Story. Well, it didn't hurt.

None of these shows—none—would be on television today, save some niche cable station, and I'm not even sure about that. Nor am I sure that there's any network television on Sundays outside of prime time, save the political talk shows and sports. And where are those "public affairs" programs? Well, Meet the Press is on at 6:00 p.m.—prime time!

Bernstein is just fortunate that in Ford, he has a big sponsor supporting his show. Hallmark is another big sponsor, which is why Hallmark Hall of Fame airs in color on NBC Wednesday night at 7:30 p.m. It's not one of those saccharine pieces of drivel you see on the Hallmark Channel, either; it's Shakespeare's The Tempest, starring Maurice Evans, Richard Burton, Lee Remick, Roddy McDowall, and Tom Poston. Don't worry; I promise I'm not going to go off on one of my toots about this. I'm saving that for a Wednesday piece of its own.

What else? Well, there is sports this weekend, though not the volume we have today. At 2:00 p.m. Saturday, the NHL game of the week has the Detroit Red Wings vs. the Bruins at Boston Garden, while at 2:30 p.m. NBC counters with the NBA matchup between the Philadelphia Warriors (before they moved to San Francisco) and New York Knicks from Madison Square Garden. Sunday night, CBS presents a two-hour retrospective on "The Fabulous Fifties," hosted by Henry Fonda, with an all-star cast including Jackie Gleason, Rex Harrison and Julie Andrews, Mike Nichols and Elaine May, Betty Comdon and Adolph Green, and news highlights with Arthur Godfrey, Roger Bannister (the first sub-four-minute mile), Navy Captain William Anderson (who sailed his submarine, the Nautilus, under the polar ice cap), and Edmund Hillary (conqueror of Mount Everest). Eric Sevareid provides commentary.

On Thursday night, the great French star Maurice Chevalier stars in a one-man show on CBS (10:00 p.m.), performing all his favorites, including "Thank Heaven for Little Girls," which he sings to some special members of the audience, including the daughters of Joan Crawford and Jack Paar. Friday, it's a one-man performance of another kind, as Art Carney stars in three one-act plays: Sean O'Casey's "A Pound on Demand," "Where the Cross is Made" by Eugene O'Neill, and "Red Peppers" by Noel Coward. (8:00 p.m., NBC, and in color, of course.) Elaine Stritch guest stars in "Red Peppers," doing a couple of song-and-dance numbers with Carney. Carney's singled out for praise in one of our Letters to the Editor as well, for his recent performance in "Cal Me Back." Anyone who thinks he's just Ed Norton has another think coming. Also on Friday, Robert Conrad makes a brief cross-over appearance as Hawaiian Eye's Tom Lopaka in "Who Killed Cock Robin?" on 77 Sunset Strip. WB's always good that way.

t  t  t

Interesting note in Burt Boyer's column about how Robert Young wants this to be the last year for Father Knows Best. When you figure that Young started out on the show in 1949 when it was on radio (he was the only member of the cast to make the transition to television), he's already been Jim Anderson for 11 years. Not only does Young want to do something different, his TV daughter, Elinor Donahue, is getting other offers herself. It's said that Young is looking for $11 million to sell a network the show's inventory of close to 250 episodes. As it turns out, this is Young's final season, and while I don't know how much he wound up getting, Father Knows Best ran for another three years in prime time; two seasons on NBC, and a final season on ABC. Think about that: three years of reruns in prime time, and additional years as part of ABC's daytime schedule.* The only similar example I can think of is Marshal Dillon, the name for the half-hour episodes that CBS ran on Tuesdays from 1961 to 1964 (while Gunsmoke was still in first-run), and then in syndication.

*It was an episode of Father Knows Best that was running on ABC affiliates in the Mountain and Pacific time zones at 1:30 p.m. ET on November 22, 1963, when President Kennedy was assassinated. The ABC footage on YouTube shows a follow-up voiceover bulletin interrupting the next to last scene of the episode, "Man About Town," before returning for some commercials and the wrap-up. Knowing what we do now about what the post-JFK years are like, it's actually kind of poignant. I do wonder what happened with Bud and the illusionist, though. 

Then, there's Dwight Whitney's note on Edd Byrnes, one of the stars of 77 Sunset Strip. Byrnes has joined the impressive ranks of Warner Bros. talent, past and present, who've been engaged in contract disputes with the studio, and consequently he's on suspension. In the meantime, he's taken a job as a greeter at the Sands Hotel in Las Vegas. He's making $400 a week, which equals what he made playing Kookie. (No wonder he's upset with his contract!) Says Byrnes of his temporary career change, "The bills were piling up. I need the money."

t  t  t

"Introducing Pat Crowley" in
the role of the Kookie.
Finally, this week's starlet is Pat Crowley, who, aside from her good looks, is known as someone who doesn't pine for her own TV series. She likes being a free-lancer, she explains; comparing it to a gym, she says it allows her to "work out on a different kind of bar bell every week." She's already been a success on the Great White Way, selected as "one of Broadway's most promising new personalities," and after a brief stint with movies ("The timing wasn't good," she explains. "Kookies weren't fashionable.*), she tried her hand at the small screen, and with appearances on Wanted—Dead or Alive, 77 Sunset Strip, and Maverick, she hasn't looked back.

*Except, as we've seen, on Sunset Strip.

She can afford to be choosy, since she's married to a Los Angeles attorney named Gregory Hookstratten. He's better known as Ed "The Hook" Hookstratten, and as one of the biggest legal names in Hollywood, he boasted of clients including Johnny Carson, Elvis Presley, Vin Scully, Joey Bishop, Bryant Gumbel, Tom Snyder, and Dick Enberg. He was general counsel for the Los Angeles Rams, fixed a DUI for Fred Silverman without it getting in the papers, and negotiated contracts for many a celebrity. All that, and Pat Crowley too (even though they wound up getting divorced). Quite an adventure, wouldn't you say? TV  


  1. Edd Byrnes did finally settle his dispute with Warners, returned to 77 SUNSET STRIP and got an expanded role as a full-time Detective - with a new character to fill the young sidekick role for the Detectives of 77SSS.

  2. Lamp Unto My Feet, Look Up and Live, and Camera Three made it all the way to 1979. They were replaced by CBS Sunday Morning, still on after 42 years.

  3. The FATHER KNOWS BEST 1960-62 repeats were on CBS...


  4. I know that for many years, Texaco sponsored the weekly Saturday-afternoon broadcasts of the Metropolitan Opera during the winter and early spring.

    I suspect that Texaco also sponsored the telecasts of the "NBC Opera Theatre".


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!