May 30, 2020

This week in TV Guide: May 29, 1971

This week features a couple of programs that show just how tender the nation's passions are right now.

The first is an ABC News Special on Sunday afternoon, "The Calley Case—A Nation's Agony," discussing the significance of the court-martial of Lieutenant William Calley for his role in the My Lai Massacre in 1968. It's hard to describe now just how charged this case was; the murder of hundreds of unarmed civilians in South Vietnam, and the subsequent court-martial, created a polarization that was Vietnam in a microcosm. The details of the crime, including the gang-rape of women, were horrifying enough, but the crime also served to illustrate the difficulties of the war, from the guerrilla tactics employed by the Viet Cong (tactics that the U.S. Army was ill-equipped to fight) to the dangers of becoming involved in a war where it was often difficult to tell the two sides apart, and where North Vietnamese terrorists often operated under the cover of rural civilians.

For many Americans, Calley was seen as a scapegoat, the only officer convicted in relation to the massacre. Calley's commander, Captain Ernest Medina, claimed that the men in the company committed the massacre of their own volition, and that in fact he was not aware that anything was going on until it was already well underway. (Medina was acquitted, being defended by a team led by F. Lee Bailey.)* The fact that Calley alone was convicted created a firestorm, so much so that two days after his conviction, President Nixon ordered him released from prison to house arrest. After years of appeals that alternated between overturning and reinstating his conviction, Calley was released after serving three-and-a-half years.

*Bailey often told clients that he'd charge them a whopping fee, then help them find a job to pay it off; after leaving the Army, Medina worked at an Enstrom Helicopter Corporation plant owned byF. Lee Bailey. 

The guests on ABC's program include Senator and future attorney general William Saxbe (R-OH), Representative and Jesuit priest Robert Drinan (D-MA), and John Kerry, leader of the Vietnam Veterans Against the War and future presidential candidate. Had the 24-hour news network existed in 1971, we'd probably still be debating it.

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This week's cover story is about the second program stirring things up: All in the Family, CBS's new hit comedy, and it's probably safe to say there's never been anything on American TV quite like it. The headline of Rowland Barber's story declares that "Bellowing, half-baked, fire-breathing bigotry" has made the show a hit, "and may make Archie Bunker a permanent part of the English language." I suppose that's true, although the younger generations have abandoned cultural history to the extent that anything older than last week may have fallen out of the consciousness. And, after all, they're the ones who are going to make the rules. Just ask them.

You might have forgotten the disclaimer that was read (by "a disembodied voice") prior to the inaugural episode: "The program you are about to see is All in the Family. It seeks to throw a humorous spotlight on our frailties, prejudices and concerns. By making them a source of laughter we hope to show—in a mature fashion—just how absurd they are." Oddly enough, many of those groundbreaking taboos that the show shattered are probably just as taboo today. You couldn't call someone a "Polack" today, I don't think—or "hebe," "coon," or "spick," all part of Archie's contemptuous vocabulary. And while the show meant to ridicule Archie's ways, the popularity soared, at least in part, because of an audience identification with what Archie said.

As Barber runs through the comments by people praising or condemning the show, it's interesting how closely they parallel each other. A lot of people, says Barber, like it because it depicts "life as it is really lived," while those who don't like it complain that it's "too much like life." The most commonly used words in complaint of the show are, in order, "disgusting," "vulgar," "revolting," and "trashy." People who loved the show enjoy the Archies and Mikes of the world being "exposed and put under a comic spotlight"; people who hate it are horrified to find that their grandchildren  laughing and celebrating Archie's insults. Letters have been running about 2-to-1 in favor of the show, but both sides remain vocal. Then, as now, we're a nation divided.

There's no denying that All in the Family changed television, and to a certain extent American life. Barber relates the story of a man who feels as if he's probably become more racially tolerant as a result of seeing how foolish intolerance looks coming from Archie. And the character does have a soft side, as we see after he admits having cried watching Love Story. The show's appeal always mystified me, but then, what do I know?

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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. 

For many readers, Cleveland Amory's last column of the season is one of the season's highlights. Not because they won't have to read him again until fall, although there are those who feel that way, I'm sure. No, it's because this is the week when Cleve takes a look back at the past year's worth of columns; when, as he puts it, "we have to decide if we went too far overboard" with the praise or scorn heaped on the season's programs. He definitely didn't go overboard on shows like All in the Family ("it's terrific"), Mary Tyler Moore ("she's wonderful"), and The Odd Couple (also wonderful; "all this and no laugh track, too.") He calls it a good year for comedy, but laments that "there were far too few new bright spots" on the dramatic scene; only The Senator (part of The Bold Ones) and Masterpiece Theatre scored. As for shows like The Tim Conway Show, The Don Knotts Show and Dan August, he concedes that he went "too far underboard" on those.

During the year, he was harsh on the "ruralities": The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres, Mayberry R.F.D. and Hee Haw. Their cancellation is no cause for celebration, though, "for the simple reason that, judging by past track records, chances are their replacements will be worse." It comes with the shrewd caveat, though, that "if they were individually thought to have run out of gas, fine. But if they were canceled as the result of a general policy—because of some nonsense about appealing to the 'young rich' or 'the quality viewer'—we hardly think that's good news." "We don't think every show should be for everybody—in fact we don't think any show should be for everybody," he adds. "We do think, though, that every show should be at least some people's very favorite show."

He notes the growing disappearance of the variety show, what with Lawrence Welk, Johnny Cash, Andy Williams, Ed Sullivan, and Red Skelton among the casualties. He's been mostly harsh about these shows, and he wasn't terribly fond of two that survived: Carol Burnett and Glen Campbell. Of those remaining, he likes Dean Martin ("who still has style if not class") and Flip Wilson ("who has both style and class"). Once again, however, he takes no satisfaction in the dwindling number of variety shows on the air, especially ABC's decision to cancel Lawrence Welk, Johnny Cash and Pearl Bailey. He calls the decision "incredible," adding that the three shows were "of their kind, the best. And what will these fans be offered instead of their favorites next season?"

In the end, the television season is much like the baseball season, with eternal hope and promise just around the corner. "Wait until next year," we say every time, no matter how disappointing the past season might have been. That's where Cleve is as well; when the new season starts, "we'll be there watching." A warning to the networks, though: "we have a long memory."

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Saturday night brings us a sporting first. For the past few years, fans of the Indianapolis 500 have had three choices: plunk down a few dollars to watch the live closed-circuit telecast of the race in a local movie theater, listen to the live broadcast on the radio (a subtle pleasure, something I did for years), or wait until the following Saturday to watch edited highlights on Wide World of Sports. But this year, for the first time, ABC presents same-day prime time coverage of the Greatest Spectacle in Racing, starting at 6:30 p.m. MT. Jim McKay, Chris Schenkel, Jackie Stewart, Keith Jackson and Chris Economaki (a veritable plethora of big-name voices) are on hand for all the action; the end of the race is still being edited as the two-hour broadcast goes on the air. ABC has paid $750,000 for the rights to the race, according to Richard K. Doan, with hopes to go live next year. We’ll have to wait until 1986, however, for ABC’s first live broadcast of the 500.


As for the race itself, it's an all-star lineup of who's who in Indycar racing, with Peter Revson (heir to the Revlon fortune) on the pole, and past and future winners including Mark Donohue, Bobby Unser, Mario Andretti, Johnny Rutherford, Gordon Johncock and A.J. Foyt; future announcer David Hobbs, and stock car champions Donnie Allison and Cale Yarborough. But in the end, the race is dominated by defending champion Al Unser, who leads 103 of the 200 laps en route to his second consecutive win; he'll wind up with a record-tying four victories. Some say the racing at Indy is better than ever, though the star power (of both drivers and announcers) and popularity of the sport have both dwindled over the years. But you'll have to admit this about the 1971 race: at least it was held in May.

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It may be a great week for sports, but, as Judith Crist points out, it’s a lousy week for movies. Take Blast-Off (Sunday, 7:00 p.m., ABC), a 1967 British movie originally titled Jules Verne’s Rocket to the Moon, then released here as Those Fantastic Flying Fools in order to take advantage of Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines. That’s a lot of explaining required for a movie that, in Crist’s words, is a "poverty-program relative" of Magnificent Men and is "strictly from foolish." Then, there’s The Violent Ones (Thursday, 7:00 p.m., CBS), a movie on "an allegedly adult level" that Crist views as "even cheaper looking and more simple-minded today" than it was when originally released in 1967. Only Fernando Lamas seems to take it seriously; he probably has to, "since he directed it." Wild Women (Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., ABC), a story about bad women in the Wild West, would test "the credibility of anyone over the age of 6," and, in fact, serves as "a sort of IQ test."

There is something good about the week, in case you’re wondering: Nine Hours to Rama (Friday, 6:30 p.m., CBS), a riveting story about the assassination of Gandhi, starring Horst Buchholz as the conflicted assassin, with Jose Ferrer as a police superintendent and J.S. Casshyap’s "remarkable" portrayal of Gandhi. All in all, it’s no wonder that Crist sees the week’s supply as being found "at the bottom of the trash barrel in a deserted drive-in."

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Yes, it's May, the end of the television season, but if you can believe it, we're already talking about shows likely to be cancelled next season. Such is the case, at least, with ABC’s Nanny and the Professor, which the network plans to move from its current Friday time period to Mondays at 7:00 p.m. By an odd quirk ABC has chosen to turn the half hour from 7:30-8:00 p.m. (that is, the half hour preceding Monday Night Football) back to the affiliates, many of whom are planning to preempt Nanny in favor of a 6:30-8:00 p.m. local movie spot. "Without a competitive line-up of stations," Richard K. Doan writes, "Nanny is as good as washed up." (Of course, it didn’t help that, for affiliates choosing to stick with Nanny, the competition was Gunsmoke and Laugh-In.) And indeed, the end of December brings the end of Nanny as well.

Meanwhile, NBC has some ratings problems of its own. Since the end of The Huntley-Brinkley Report last year, its new NBC Nightly News, with John Chancellor, David Brinkley and Frank McGee as alternating anchors, has fallen to a "slow second" behind the CBS Evening News with Walter Cronkite. What to do? McGee, who had been sidelined by illness, is back, but he’s also scheduled to take over for Hugh Downs as host on Today. Additionally, Brinkley’s contract expires at the end of next year, and he’s hinted he may want out afterwards. In the end, the network settles on Chancellor as sole anchor, with Brinkley providing commentary (although the network pairs the two as co-anchors from 1976-79 in an effort to improve ratings). The arrangement lasts until Tom Brokaw takes over in 1982.

Although Cronkite had taken the ratings lead from The Huntley-Brinkley Report during the 1967-68 season, the slide accelerated following Chet Huntley's retirement in 1970. I've never made a secret here of my admiration for both Huntley and Brinkley, but NBC is now discovering the truth of what Cronkite's producer, Sandy Socolow said in Lyle Johnston's biography of Huntley, Good Night, Chet: "All of us—effete easterners—had always assumed it was Brinkley who was drawing the audience with his wit and charm. He was a breath of fresh air, and we'd wait to see what smarty thing he was saying tonight. But low and behold, when Chet left, the audience left—and they came to CBS."

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Saturday gets off to an early start with the NBC Children's Theatre presentation of "For the Love of Fred" (9:00 a.m.), a charming little story about Fred the caterpillar and his friends, portrayed by the Ritts Puppets, and featuring the music of Miles Davis; Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young; and the New York Rock and Roll Ensemble. It ends with the first of a two-part Name of the Game with Sammy Davis Jr. as a Vegas soul singer (10:30 p.m., KRTV). If you recall, Name of the Game is a 90-minute series, which means this story is important enough to take up three hours. It claims to be "studded with cameo appearances," and at that length, it had better be. (KRT)V actually airs these episodes a day after they originally run, so the rest of the NBC network will see the conclusion this Friday with Ike and Tina Turner and Dionne Warwick joining Sammy.

I'm interested in Sunday's "special edition" of The Ed Sullivan Show hosted by Jack Jones (6:00 p.m., CBS). The final new episode of the Sullivan show had been on March 28; April 4 saw Ed Sullivan Presents Movin' with Nancy on Stage, which is nothing more than Nancy Sinatra's Vegas act, taped at Caesar's Palace. The show then continues in repeats until this week, and although Ed is shown in the listings as the host, I suspect it might not be anything more than a taped appearance up front, with the rest of the show devoted to Jack and his guests, Stiller and Meara, Loretta Lynn, the New Seekers, Your Father's Mustache and the Electric Peach Fuzz. Next week is another repeat, and after that—the CBS Sunday Night Movies. It's the end of an era. For Firing Line (7:00 p.m., PBS), it's the beginning of an era: the debut of William F. Buckley Jr.'s show on Public Broadcasting. For the past five years it's been in syndication, but the move to PBS presents the chance for live shows as well as shows taped closer to the air date. Says Buckley, it's "the advantage of contemporaneity."

Remember George Plimpton, the sports iteration of the "new journalism"? The man who when from behind the typewriter to behind the center with the Detroit Lions in Paper Lion is back on Monday  with Plimpton! The Man on the Flying Trapeze (7:00 p.m., KULR), documenting his preparation to join the Flying Apollos acrobat group with the Clyde Beatty-Cole Bros. Circus. And since it's Monday, that means Johnny Carson is off, so his guest host is Burt Reynolds, with Doug McClure, Bobby Goldsboro and Don Meredith (10:30 p.m., NBC).

Not much to write home about on Tuesday; those pesky variety shows that Cleveland Amory's writing about, Hee Haw (6:30 p.m., CBS) and The Don Knotts Show (7:00 p.m., NBC) plus Wild Woman, the awful movie that Judith Crist panned, means that the best of the bunch may be Suspense Playhouse (8:00 p.m., KRTV), with an episode entitled "Call to Danger," starring Peter Graves as "a chess-playing trouble-shooter" whose assignment involves retrieving stolen currency plates. If this sounds a lot to you like an episode of Mission: Impossible, there's a good reason why—it was a pilot, originally intended as a vehicle for Graves in the event that M:I was cancelled. (Just wait a couple of years.) At 9:00 p.m., KRTV preempts Mannix for the annual Harlem Globetrotters special, with Curly Neal and the gang (and special guest Nipsey Russell!) taking on the hapless New Jersey Reds.

On Wednesday, KSL's prime time movie is The Outsider (8:00 p.m.), the pilot for Darren McGavin's moody detective series, one that probably deserved more than its single-season (1968-69) run. Another series that has only a one-year lifespan is NBC's Four in One (8:00 p.m.), a wheel series with a twist: each of the four segments of the series (McCloud, Night Gallery, San Francisco International Airport, and The Psychiatrist) aired all six of its episodes consecutively, rather than the four series rotating each week. As you can tell from the lineup, two of the series were more successful than the other two.

Thursday, a couple of child stars made good: Bill (don't call me Billy!) Mumy hires Johnny Lancer as a hit man to get the men he thinks killed his father (6:00 p.m., CBS), and Tony Dow plays a cop on Adam-12 (6:30 p.m., NBC). Elsewhere, someone tries to frame Ironside (7:00 p.m,. NBC), but I don't think they'll get away with it; Flip Wilson has a superior lineup (9:00 p.m., NBC), with Bing Crosby, the Supremes and David Steinberg; and Burt Bacharach hosts an hour of his own music (9:00 p.m., KSL) as performed by Dionne Warwick, Joe Grey, Sacha Distel, and Bacharach himself.

Bobby Sherman is ABC's new hope for the young generation; he has a new series coming up this fall (Getting Together, a spin-off from The Partridge Family; it dies after 14 episodes), and on Friday the network teases the audience with a Bobby special (9:00 p.m.) featuring the 5th Dimension, along with the "zany" humor of Rip Taylor. Now, that's OK if you're into it, but here's something you'll really like: The Terror, (11:30 p.m., KCPX), the movie that Roger Corman directed on the set of The Raven, starring Boris Karloff and Jack Nicholson. It's one of the most colorful experiences in the very colorful life of Corman; you can read about it at the always-reliable Wikipedia, including the story of how even Francis Ford Coppola had a share of the directing duties.

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Finally, our starlet this week is 22-year-old aspiring actress Alison Rose, and if she doesn't make it big-time, it won't be for lack of trying—or belief. "I'm one of the supreme egomaniacs," she tells Leslie Raddatz. "No way can my life be a fiasco. I won't allow it." She's been working steadily in The Doctors, The Secret Storm and Divorce Court (and has been "consistently disappointed" in her work, and of her biggest role to date, in the TV-movie Marriage: Year One, she told the screenwriter (via a poem) that "a masochist must indulge her pain." Despite that, she says, "There has never been any argument or controversy over the fact that I'm good." She modeled for the top fashion magazines in New York and studied acting for two years before heading for Hollywood last year, and so far her biggest disappointment has been missing out on the Candice Bergen role in Carnal Knowledge. She continues to look for that one big role that changes everything, and, says Raddatz, "don't bet that it won't come along. Or that she won't be good in it."

Well, the right role did come along, but not the way you think. She was a receptionist at The New Yorker in 1987 when she was "taken up" by the writers there, and eventually became one of them herself. In her memoir, Better Than Sane: Tales from a Dangling Girl, which has become something of a minor bible for single women, she writes of those days living in New York around the time she talked with Leslie Raddatz, "sleeping in Central Park, subsisting on Valium, Eskatrol, and Sara Lee orange cake," and hanging out with her colorful friends, including "Francine," who danced with Elvis, married Paul Burke's son, and has a page about her at the senior residence where she lives. (I'm not making this stuff up. The things you can find out thanks to Google.)

You wouldn't know any of this from looking at her IMDb page, which merely lists four credits for her, the last of which being the 1997 movie As Good as It Gets, in which she played "Psychiatric Patient." In fact, there are several Alison Roses out there, but the fact that she writes about her psychiatrist dad in California, combined with Raddatz's mention that "her father is a prominent San Francisco psychiatrist" leads me to believe that they're one and the same (although it looks as if she may have lied about her age). In fact, there's nothing new about her after 2004 or so, which is a shame; who knows what else there might be. Of course, I'm trusting that one of you out there has some new tidbit, like her being your aunt or something like that. But that's what's so interesting about all this, isn't it?  TV  



6 comments:

  1. "Call to Danger" does have a moment of television immortality - the theme, composed by Morton Stevens, was shortened into the famous musical intro to "A CBS SPECIAL Presentation." The whole track is on Stevens' "Hawaii Five-O" soundtrack album.

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    1. Because it was used as background music on the show.


      Paul Duca

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  2. Two notes about the 1971 Indianapolis "500"

    1. Chris Schenkel was in the pace car of the "500" along with astronaut John Glenn when at the start of the race, it hit the photographers stand. While Schenkel and Glenn when shaken and left unscathed, many of the photographers were not so lucky. Injuries, but thankfully no deaths. Schenkel does not appear in the telecast after the incident.

    2. A little known weatherman from channel 13 WLWI (now WTHR)Indianapolis, who goes by the name of David Letterman is one of the turn reporters during the race. He even interviews Mario Andretti after he crashes. Gee, I wonder whatever became of him? ;) By the way, Al Unser Sr. won the race.

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    1. I wonder how long it took Unser to get his replacement Dodge Challenger?
      (cute story...supposedly A.J. Foyt won his first Indy in 1961 because his mother loved the Ford Thunderbird pace car, and he promised her he would win and give it to her)

      Paul Duca

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  3. Part of the problem for S3 of NANNY AND THE PROFESSOR, in addition to its competition, was that it rarely faced that competition from the other networks. From what I've seen, only the ABC O&O affiliates in ET & CT, along w/ assorted other affiliates, carried it at 8 PM ET. As you mentioned above, most ABC affiliates, including both tv markets where I spent my childhood, carried the show at other time periods, such as early Sat. or Sun. afternoon, if at all. This was even worse in other time zones, since MNF was carried live coast-to-coast. This means that MNF took all 3 hours of prime time in MT (7-10 PM) and the beginning of prime time in PT. No ABC affiliates, even the O&Os in SF & LA, carried the show after MNF, which at 9 PM or later would be a bad time to carry a kids' show anyway.

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  4. Cronkite was actually beating Huntley and Brinkley during the summer months for several years before taking the lead overall, and the joke was that the duo's viewers were sailing rather than watching.

    Barber's article appears in THE FIRST 25 YEARS compilation, and I love what he wrote about a viewer's supposed reaction to the disclaimer:

    "What the hell's coming on next--a topless salute to the Vietcong?"

    Paul Duca

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Thanks for writing! Drive safely!