June 27, 2020

This week in TV Guide: June 28, 1969

You might think that an event being shown on television for the first time in 1969 would have made a repeat appearance by now, even if it was only an irregular occurrence. Here we are, though, 51 years later, and the investiture of Prince Charles as Prince of Wales, broadcast live and in color via satellite from Caernarvon Castle in Wales on July 1, 1969, is still the one and only time we've seen this ceremony on TV—and it doesn't appear to be changing any time soon.

It's a glittering event, second only to that of the Coronation (and we haven't seen one of those since 1953), and there's been no little amount of controversy about it. Why, say some Welch, should their nation celebrate an event that meant "the end of its life as an independent country?" At a time when there's a need for improved housing, schools, roads and electric power, the Crown is spending $500,000 on a pageant that isn't even all that traditional, but a combination of several older rituals.

Charles, just 20 years old and having concluded his second year at Cambridge, was candid in a rare personal interview prior to the ceremony. Of course there's a certain amount of apprehension, he says; "I don't blame people demonstrating. They've never seen me before; they don't know what I'm like. I have hardly been to Wales, and you can't really expect people to be overzealous about having a so-called English Prince to come amongst them."

For those able to watch the festivities at home, coverage begins on NBC with Today at 7:00 a.m. ET, Ray Scherer and Barbara Walters reporting. CBS's broadcast starts at 8:00 a.m., with Harry Reasoner, Winston Burdett and Morley Safer, while ABC enters the scene at 9:30 a.m., with Frank Reynolds and George Watson. NBC and CBS remain on the air until 11:30 a.m.; ABC signs off at 11:00. (CBS also airs a 30-minute review at 10:30 p.m. for us working stiffs.) The ceremonies include a procession to the castle by Welch society, followed by the arrival of the Prince, then the Queen and members of the Royal Family, and concluding with the investiture itself, including an address by Prince Charles to the people of Wales, in Welch.

Charles has been Prince of Wales for over half a century now, the longest-serving Prince of Wales in British history. No heir has waited longer to become the monarch. I wonder if he, or anyone else, expected that he would still be Prince of Wales at age 71? But then, Elizabeth was only 43 herself at the time. Since she became Queen, we've gone through 14 U.K. prime ministers, 13 U.S. presidents, seven popes, and the turning of a century. How time flies.

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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. 

The last Cleveland Amory column of the season is something like the last day of school: casual, loose, enjoyable. You can imagine him sitting in his office with the windows open, a light breeze tossing the curtains gently, one of his cats curling at his feet as he pens his final column. The sense of lightheartedness extends to this week's subject matter—a simple Q&A with readers. It is, as usual, a delight.

Q: Why do you use the "we" style? Who is we? You and who else? Do you think you're royal?
A: We is just me. However, to me, we is more amusing than I is. We would not have laughed, for example, if Queen Victoria had said, "I am not amused."*

*We might have, though, if she had said, "We is not amused."

Q: I think you are mellowing. Are you?
A: Nonsense. We weigh just what we weighed in college. It's just that with us writing each week, television could hardly fail to get better.

There are some questions that provoke more insightful answers, though. For instance, the one that asks Cleve how many episodes of a series he watches before he reviews it. "At least three," he says. "Three strikes, we figure, and you're out." Someone asked what shows he watches for his own personal pleasure. "Ironside and Mission: Impossible," he replies. Ironside because he likes the chemistry between the lead characters; "The only time this show leaves us cold is when they have a guest star take over. Then it's just like any other show." And in the case of M:I, "it's a real tour de force—without, praise be, too much force."

Then someone asks him which shows he regretted seeing go off the air, and the answers aren't a surprise for anyone who's followed Amory over the years. He liked The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, which he felt fell victim to an interdepartmental fight between CBS news and CBS entertainment. Yes, the Brothers were partisan and one-sided in their material, but the obvious answer is not to take them off, but "to put on another show which makes funny comments on the other side." He also liked That's Life, the musical comedy show starring Robert Morse and E.J. Peaker. It was, he thought, "a sparkling, innovative, really different musical-comedy effort."

And then there's the question about whether or not people take his criticisms seriously. Yes, he says; Monty Hal cornered him at a hockey game and went through the entire review, "line by line. He was against it." The best one, however, was a 12-year-old boy who called him at home late one night to lay into him. "Your review of Dark Shadows was the most close-minded review I have ever read. Letter will follow." It did, too, he says, and there he has me beat. I've gotten a few emails over the years, some overnight, but I've yet to have someone call me to complain. And don't get any ideas.

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The Fourth of July is right around the corner (more about that later), which means it's time for—college football? That's right: it's the ninth annual Coaches All-America Game, telecast Saturday night from Atlanta (8:30 p.m., ABC). It's kind of hard to explain this college all-star football game to anyone who wasn't alive to see it—it was played from 1961 to 1976—and even then, it's well, odd. Officially, it's the last game of the college football season, staged by the American Football Coaches Association, the group that names the college All-America teams each year, and the purpose of the game was to raise money for AFCA scholarships. It started out in Buffalo before shuffling to Atlanta, and this is the last year in the Peachtree City before it relocates to Lubbock, Texas, where the game really begins to take off; over the seven years it was played in Lubbock, it averaged over 40,000 per game in attendance. I'm not entirely sure why the game was played in the summer; the NFL training camps haven't opened yet, and this is before the days of year-round workouts, so perhaps this was a chance for players to arrive at camp in better shape than the veterans; it might also have been an opportunity for undrafted free agents to display their wares for scouts. Not surprisingly, despite the game's popularity, it was reluctantly ended after the 1976 game; much like the reasons for ending the College All-Star Game (in which the all-stars took on the NFL champions), the injury potential negated any upside for college seniors and NFL teams. I, for one, always enjoyed this dose of summertime football—but then, as people have reminded me, I'm kind of different.

Earlier in the day, ABC's Wide World of Sports presents a heavyweight championship bout between challenger Jerry Quarry and champion Joe Frazier. (5:00 p.m., taped on June 23.) If you're wondering why it's just a heavyweight championship rather than the heavyweight championship, it's because we're once again in an era of multiple champions. Following the decision to strip Muhammad Ali of the title for refusing military induction, the World Boxing Association conducted a tournament to name a new champion, which was won by Jimmy Ellis. Frazier declined to take part in the tournament, instead fighting Buster Mathis in the inaugural event at the new Madison Square Garden, with the winner to be recognized by the New York State Athletic Commission as its heavyweight champ. (Not insignificant in an era when so many title fights were staged at the Garden.) Frazier won that fight, and made four more successful defenses of the title (including a seventh-round TKO of Quarry in this fight) before unifying the title with a defeat of Ellis in February, 1970. Got all that?

There's less complicated sports on this week as well; the Tigers take on the Orioles in the NBC Game of the Week (Saturday, 2:15 p.m.), and the Phillies play the brand new Montreal Expos, as well as the Pittsburgh Pirates, during the week. There's also Roller Derby at 3:30 p.m. Saturday on WPHL, for those of you interested in honest competition.

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NBC's Saturday Night at the Movies presents a repeat of Ray Bradbury's celebrated novel Fahrenheit 451 (9:00 p.m.), with ► Oskar Werner as the fireman charged with burning books, and Julie Christie in the dual role of Werner's wife and a teacher who instills in him the quest for knowledge. Judith Crist doesn't like it; she sees it as "pretentious, loaded with heavy-handed ironies that stress its simple-mindedness." I like it myself, although it doesn't quite measure up to the book, but then you have to go a long way to match a masterpiece. Crist has kinder words for Mickey One (Sunday, 9:00 p.m., ABC), the avant-garde cult classic by Arthur Penn, with Warren Beatty, Hurd Hatfield, Alexandra Steward, Teddy Hart and Franchot Tone. Beatty is "brilliant" and the supporting cast "superb," in this "parable of modern man on the run from the nameless fears and faceless terrors of his time." Does anyone out there notice how much that description sounds like our times? Honey West (4:30 p.m., WIBF) offers a storyline that sounds like it belongs more on The Avengers: "A robot breaks into Honey's office, knocks her unconscious and murders a toy manufacturer." The kind of thing that happens to private detectives all the time, right? And you might want to check out Walter Cronkite's 21st Century episode "Stranger Than Science Fiction" (CBS, 6:00 p.m.), which (in light of next month's moon launch) looks at how today's realities compare to "the dreams of yesterday's science fiction."

Also on Sunday, Hee Haw (9:00 p.m, CBS) has an all-star guest cast of Faron Young, George Jones and Tammy Wynette; according to Richard K. Doan, the surprise hit is giving CBS a real headache. They've been trying for years to find a show to put up against NBC's longtime hit Bonanza; for all the troubles the Smothers Brothers were, at least they gave the Western a run for its money. "Now, to CBS's consternation—and all but disbelief", the "hayseed version of Laugh-In" smoked Bonanza in the ratings in its June 15 debut. "CBS's unwanted dilemma: If Hee Haw is a hit, how do you throw it off come September?" You can already see the rural purge coming, can't you?

Monday's best bet is the terrific Orson Welles thriller The Lady from Shanghai, co-starring then-wife Rita Hayworth (8:00 p.m., WIBF). Check this one out sometime if you can. Tuesday's Red Skelton rerun (8:30 p.m,. CBS) features a rare TV appearance by the late Boris Karloff (who died in February; the episode originally ran in September 1968), co-starring Vincent Price in what must have been quite a show. Here's a look at the two of them with Red.

Jock Mahoney, who played Tarzan in the movies, gets to do the TV version on Wednesday (7:30 p.m., NBC). He doesn't get to play the vine-swinger, though; that's still Ron Ely. And in case you missed Orson Welles last night, you get another opportunity tonight; this time, it's Macbeth (9:00 p.m., WPHL), with co-stars Jeanette Nolan, Roddy McDowall and Dan O'Herlihy. On Thursday, Vincent Price is back, this time on NBC; he's the ringleader of a band of child thieves on Daniel Boone (7:30 p.m.). A rerun of The Prisoner (8:00 p.m., CBS) tells a prescient story about the dangers of technology; The Village has introduced "a crash course that would endow villagers with a university degree in three minutes. But at what cost to the will of an individual's mind?" And a terrific guest lineup highlights Friday's The Name of the Game (8:30 p.m., NBC), involving an investigation into where Gene Barry got the money on which he built his publishing empire; Barry Sullivan, Jack Kelly, Fritz Weaver, Gia Scala, Ray Danton and Ed Asner make up the cast.

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At various times throughout the history of this feature, we've seen the Fourth of July celebrated on television with parades, baseball games, and variety specials. It remains, however, a holiday not particularly suited to television specials. It is a day when people gather in groups—well, perhaps not this year, but normally—to go to parades, to picnic or have cookouts in their backyards, to go to fireworks shows at night or shoot them off for the kids in their neighborhood, or simply to enjoy the summer breeze. It's no real surprise, therefore, to see the day go pretty much unnoticed in this issue. And that's just fine with me. Even though a program with an Independence Day feel would be welcome—a concert, perhaps, or movie about the Revolution—I have no problem with people tuning things out while they celebrate with friends, or in a crowd. Human interaction is, after all, something of a reminder that the Revolution was fought for human freedoms. Imperfect freedoms, maybe, but freedoms nonetheless. That we celebrate the day with other humans seems to be kind of appropriate, don't you think? TV  

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