May 23, 2020

This week in TV Guide: May 28, 1966

Back in the 1960s, it used to be something of a joke to conflate Mr. Spock, the unflappable Vulcan of Star Trek, with Dr. Spock, the world-famous pediatrician. You don't hear that many jokes about Dr. Spock anymore, and I suspect if you mentioned his name today, a lot of people would think you were talking about the television character, and had simply given him a degree he didn't have. Some of that is because having children in this society isn't as ubiquitous a part of everyday life as it used to be; hence, Dr. Spock's baby-rearing books aren't part of the popular conversation. Some of his ideas have been discredited, and his reputation became intertwined with his involvement in liberal politics in the 1960s and '70s. Nevertheless, The Pocket Book of Baby and Child Care was the largest-selling paperback book of all time, and when Dr. Benjamin Spock sits down (via TV Guide) to talk to you about your children and television, you're probably going to listen.

The doctor doesn't watch television himself except for the daytime drama The Doctors, which he watches while eating lunch in the snack bar at the ice rink where he skates twice a week. ("When other people in the snack bar asked me why I was glued to the set, I told them I was getting pointers. But nowadays the doctors in the show have become totally absorbed in their own personal problems (none of them seems to be married to the right person), and the hospital is merely a backdrop.") Most of what he knows about television comes from what mothers tell him, and what he hears from schoolteachers and principals. And his conclusion: "[T]elevision in its present state is intellectually stimulating to children as well as endlessly delightful to most adults." Now, that's good news if, like me, you happen to be an aficionado of television. But—and you knew this had to be coming—there are some caveats.

Violence, for example. Spock cites The Three Stooges as a show encouraging youngsters to whap each other over the heads for no good reason, because that's what the Stooges do. His conclusion is that while violence doesn't "turn a good child into a delinquent one, it is certainly capable of lowering his standards." He also points to the violence and injustice going on in the United States (Vietnam, civil rights, crime) and criticizes TV for, until recently, failing to cover the these issues and their consequences.

Television also fails to fulfill its promise as teacher. By providing information about the world we live in, about other cultures and peoples, and about our histories, TV can open us up to the rest of the world, and educate us to the needs of those in other countries. "America and Europe must provide, for years, the agricultural and industrial equipment and the capital funds. Television would be by far the best medium for making America aware of the primitive living conditions and desperate needs of the peoples of the underdeveloped world." In doing so, he says, it could make us "proud of what we did and what we are doing to help."

None of this is new to you if you've been reading TV Guide's series of articles over the years dealing with the promise and wasted potential of television. Almost all of these articles point out how Americans can learn more, become better citizens, live up to the leadership role that is expected of us. (I looked at several of them in The Electronic Mirror.) It's impossible, though, to read Spock's comments outside of the context of his controversial political activism. By this time, his opposition to the Vietnam War had led to criticism that his methods encouraged the coddling of children, leading to permissiveness and a desire for instant gratification. (One critic said that children were being “Spocked when they should have been spanked.”)

In the conclusion to his article, Spock says that television's primary ethical goals should be teaching children to "abhor violence, to respect other people's feelings, to settle disputes peacefully." Noble goals indeed, but one must also remember that in the method lies the madness.

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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: Ed's scheduled guests are Edward Villella and Patricia McBride of the New York City Ballet; singers Bobby Vinton and Jane Morgan; comedy teams Wayne and Shuster, and Calvin and Wilder; the Thomas Group, an instrumental group featuring Danny Thomas's son Tony; the Indian Dance Festival of Santa Fe, NM; and baton twirler Diane Shelton.

Hollywood Palace: In the first of a series of reruns, host Liberace presents comedian Bob Newhart, singers John Davidson and Marni Nixon; the comedy team of Avery Schreiber and Jack Burns; magician Channing Pollock; and trapeze artist Betty Pasco.

Interesting; this week has almost a person-for-person matchup. The Palace has a comedy team; Sullivan has two. Sullivan has a dance troupe and a baton twirler; the Palace has a magician and a trapeze artist. I really like Bob Newhart, but I really hate John Davidson (it's too bad Marni Nixon, who dubbed Audrey Hepburn's voice in My Fair Lady, couldn't have dubbed Davidson's as well). Villella and McBride are tremendously talented, the kind of performance that Sullivan specialized in, but it's not enough to raise the show above mediocrity. The only possible answer this week: Push.

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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. 

Unlike What's My Line?, which Cleveland Amory eviscerated back a couple of years ago, Our Critic speaks fondly of To Tell the Truth, CBS's panel show that airs five times a week in the daytime, and once a week at night. I don't happen to agree with him on this one, because What's My Line? is in my Top 10 list, and I think it works better than To Tell the Truth. TV Guide, however, did not hire me as their critic (probably a good thing, since I was only six at the time and hadn't been taught how to write cursive yet, let alone type), and besides, I have no animus toward TTTT.

Amory doesn't presume to explain the rules of the game, since it's been on for ten years and the only people who don't know how it works by now don't want to know. But for you younger folk out there who may not be familiar, the premise is a simple one: three people come on the show, each claiming to be a particular person. Only one of the three is actually telling the truth, and it's the job of the celebrity panel to determine which person that is. The most thrilling moments on the show (if a show like this can be said to have thrilling moments) come when the impostors stump the panel, and nobody correctly guesses who's telling the truth. Indeed, nobody can say that the show's title is false advertising.

Bud Collyer, who's hosted the program from the start (excepting the pilot, which was emceed by Mike Wallace), heads up a cast of regulars that includes Kitty Carlisle, Tom Poston, Peggy Cass and Orson Bean, and they all work quite well together, both for the show's benefit, and for the viewers at home. And frequently there's an interactivity present, such as the show in which the panel tries to come up with the real national champion woman duck-caller, who gets to demonstrate her skill at the end. One can gather from his remarks that Cleve would have preferred WML? follow suit, but the story is that John Daly was always against it. I'm just fine with that; it was part of the decorum with which Daly infused his show—and that's the truth.

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There's a Gemini flight scheduled for this week; Gemini IX, scheduled for launch on Tuesday, but actually delayed to Friday due to some technical issues during the extremely narrow launch window. The original crew for Gemini IX, command pilot Elliot See and pilot Charles Bassett, were killed in a plane crash on February 28, 1966, resulting in the elevation of the backup crew, Tom Stafford and Gene Cernan.* The launch delay means we'll have to wait to experience CBS's plans to rely on daily highlights rather than providing extensive live coverage; nevertheless, as TV Guide reminds us, the networks will be providing coverage throughout the week, making regular programs subject to change.

*Because Stafford and Cernan were promoted to prime crew, Jim Lovell and Buzz Aldren were moved from Gemini X backup crew to Gemini IX, which put him on the prime crew of Gemini XII. This, in turn, played a large part in Aldren being selected for the crew of: Apollo 11.

The pre-Monday-holiday era that we're in means that Monday, May 30 is Memorial Day, and KREM in Spokane acknowledges it on Saturday evening with a half-hour preview of Monday's Indianapolis 500 (7:30 p.m.). The film includes highlights of previous races, as well as a look at this year's time trials. If you want to see the race, though, you've got two choices: go to your favorite movie theater that's showing a live closed-circuit broadcast of the race, or wait until the following Saturday when the highlights are on Wide World of Sports. As for this week's Wide World (3:00 p.m., ABC), the main event is taped coverage of last Sunday's Grand Prix of Monaco, the world's most prestigious Formula 1 race.

I think it's fair to say that NBC owns the day on Sunday, starting with part one of a two-part NBC White Paper (4:30 p.m.) on "The Age of Kennedy," a look at the life and times of the late president of the United States. Chet Huntley narrates the documentary, while Henry Fonda reads from Kennedy's writings. This is one of the rare White Paper episodes that survives to this day; you can see the entire two hours here:

At 8:00 p.m., NBC comes back with the acclaimed Frank Sinatra special "A Man and His Music," which originally aired last November. It's an hour of nothing but songs, including "I've Got You Under My Skin," "I Get a Kick Out of You," "My Kind of Town," "It Was a Very Good Year," "Lady Is a Tramp," and more.

Most of us have Monday off, which explains the 15th Annual National Golf Day (2:00 p.m., NBC). I've never heard of this before, but it's an 18-hole "Round of the Champions" between Gary Player, 1965 U.S. Open champion, and Dave Marr, 1965 PGA champion, live from Firestone Country Club in Akron. The winner gets $10,000, but more important than that, sets the "target score" for amateur golfers from around the country, who have two weeks to submit their best handicap score in order to beat the target. Those that do receive a PGA certificate. Just for the fun of it, I Googled "National Golf Day" to see if it's still around. It is, but it's a little different now: it's a day for leading organizations and industry leaders to educate (i.e. lobby) Congressional members on golf's impact.* (There doesn't appear to be any kind of "target score" round, but if there was, it would presumably be held at Congressional Country Club.) A baseball bonus comes at 4:00 p.m. on NBC; a holiday matinee between the Dodgers and Braves from Atlanta.

*Oddly enough, a version of "National Golf Day similar to what we read here is held in South Africa. Among the professional golfers against whom the amateurs compete: Gary Player.

On Tuesday, in addition to the planned Gemini coverage, CBS presents a Vietnam special at 10:30 p.m. "Anthony Eden on Vietnam" is an interview with the former British prime minister, who talks with Charles Collingwood about the progress of the war and the prospects for peace. Along with the Vietnam report Sunday afternoon on ABC Scope and a daily 15-minute Vietnam Update on Salt Lake City's KUTV, it's more evidence of the increasing attention being paid to the war.

Wednesday's highlight is The Danny Kaye Show (8:00 p.m., CBS), which features an all-star guest cast of Buddy Ebsen, Clint Eastwood, Fess Parker, and Charo (?) in "The Ballad of Pinky Dan," a Wild West spoof that has Sheriff Dan (Kaye) facing down the notorious Rotten Brothers (Buddy, Clint and Fess). Charo presumably fits in as, I don't know, maybe a saloon singer? At 9:00 p.m., an episode of NBC's Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre has an equally talented cast; Robert Ryan, Leslie Nielsen, Diana Hyland, Robert Duvall, Richard Beymer, Leif Ericson and Pippa Scott in the story of an assistant D.A. (Nielsen) putting together a citizen's committee to patrol the neighborhood against crime.

There is no one standout program on Thursday, but I'm drawn to Dean Martin's lineup (8:00 p.m., NBC), with Sid Caesar and George Gobel, opera star Marguerite Piazza, Abby Lane, the Lettermen, and acrobats David and Goliath. We'll be taking a closer look on Monday, so you can see for yourselves what you think.

Friday features a rerun of Sir John Gielgud's acclaimed Ages of Man (8:00 p.m., CBS), based on his successful one-man Broadway show, in which the legendary actor reads from Shakespeare. As I recall, this was originally shown in the Sunday afternoon cultural ghetto time, so I suppose Friday in prime time might be a promotion. Or then again, maybe not. Later on, Kate Smith has a special from the Palladium in London (9:00 p.m., NBC), with Millicent Martin, Tom Jones, and Morecambe and Wise.

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Finally, we probably should spend a minute or so on Sally Field, this week's cover story. The star of the recently-cancelled Gidget is not yet 20, and one could make the case that the two-time Oscar winner is one of the most distinguished of the many starlets to grace the pages of TV Guide. Leslie Raddatz's profile is liberally sprinkled with WORDS in ALL CAPS, presumably mimicking Field's perky style of SPEAKING. (Although that's only a GUESS.) She comes across as talented, down-to-earth, unaffected. Now that Gidget has been cancelled, she's looking forward to "theater-in-the-ROUND this summer, and in the FALL, she will probably do MOVIES." She's got a couple more TV series in her future, The Flying Nun and The Girl with Something Extra, but it is in fact in movies that she reaches her greatest heights. I don't know that you would have predicted that from this article; in fact, I'm sure of it. But I can also assure you that it isn't anything personal. After all, we like her; we really, really like her. TV  


  1. I don't have (or at least can't find) this issue.
    However, a few observations present themselves:

    - Dr. Spock seems to believe that The Three Stooges was a TV show - and it wasn't, really.
    Those were theatrical movie shorts from 20-30 years before; They were never intended to "influence" anybody's behavior, children especially, any more than Westerns, crime movies, pre-Code sex comedies, or anything else that was being shown extensively on local stations were.
    In '66, I would have been 15 years old; my one-year-older brother and I both recognized this attitude as so much expired horseradish, as did our Irish-Catholic parents.
    In the half-century plus since then, I've never seen any convincing evidence to the contrary.

    - This next is about What's My Line?, and its so-called "decorum", which you loved - and which many others, like 'Clip' Amory, didn't care for at all.
    Here's a quote from a conversation from circa 1960:
    "There's one television show, lad, that I can't abide. It's the one with that panel of ultra-chichi folks. The one called What's My Line? It sends me straight up the wall. I call it The Snob Family"
    The speaker is Stan Laurel, in conversation with Dick Cavett, from a visit by the latter to the former in 1960 (Cavett says he was 24 when this took place, which is how I can date it).
    At the time, Cavett was a junior writer for Jack Paar; the Paar show was on a week's visit to Hollywood, and Cavett took the opportunity to meet Laurel in person (this developed into a friendship over time).
    Interestingly enough, when Cavett turned pro a few years on (after Laurel's passing, I should note), he scored a booking on the What's My Line panel, where he hit big with one of his most-quoted lines: "I think the Mystery Guest is sitting there trying to figure out who I am."
    Big laugh from the audience - but later on, Cavett learned that John Daly didn't approve ("decorum", you know …).

    For the record, I happen to think that To Tell The Truth was by far the better game, because you could play it at home along with the panel.
    I've read that Mark Goodson felt the same way, which is why he kept bringing back Truth so many times over the years.
    The Truth format does hold up better - or at least it did before the current ABC "reboot", which isn't so much a train wreck as a demolition derby - but that's another story …
    … and I think you can imagine what the current management might do with (or to) What's My Line?

  2. Another tv milestone occurred this week in tv history with the first airing of THE DICK VAN DYKE SHOW finale, titled "The Last Chapter", on Wednesday, June 1. It was second-to-last filmed, as CBS had aired the last episode filmed, "The Gunslinger", a week earlier on May 25.
    If you find anything annoying about how Leslie Raddatz wrote his cover profile of Sally Field, you'll probably really be annoyed by his cover profile of Jim Nabors for the issue of Nov. 21, 1964. (According to your index, you haven't reviewed the issue yet.) Nabors had just started his spinoff sitcom, GOMER PYLE, USMC, that fall, and Raddatz wrote the whole profile as though it was spoken by Gomer himself. The article was titled "Hello, Frayands", and the country-speak gets even worse from there. I found it very hard to read, let alone enjoy.

  3. As you frequently feature Cleveland Amory's reviews here, I thought you may enjoy seeing him in person on Merv Griffin's show. He appears at 7:54 into the clip and has some words w/ Eddie Albert & Eva Gabor about the GREEN ACRES scripts, and Eddie defends Jay Sommers' writing:

  4. I see from your mention of Spokane's KREM 2 that you're reviewing TV Guide edition for my hometown. However, I wouldn't have been watching much TV that week in 1966 since I was 15 months old.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!