August 31, 2020

What's on TV? Thursday, September 4, 1980

We've talked about half-hour shows, hour shows, 90-minute shows, and even 45-minute shows, but here we see an exampe of the 70-minute show. What's that, you say? You don't remember 70-minute programs? Of course not, because there aren't any. In reality, they're nothing more than hour-long shows with ten extra minutes of commercials! As if some of these shows weren't already long enough, the late-night timeslot has become dominated by bonus commercials. Look at WCCO and KMSP, for example, or the ABC affiliates. All of a sudden, instead of programs starting on the hour or half-hour, they begin at 11:40 or 12:10. Yes, just what we need: more commercials. Well, never mind me; enjoy these listings from the Minnesota State Edition. Meanwhile, I have to tell some kids to get off my lawn.

August 29, 2020

This week in TV Guide: August 30, 1980

In May of 1980, the city of Miami was rocked by three days of rioting, described by Dan Rather as "the Nation's worst outbreak of urban disorder in a single city" since 1967 in Detroit and Newark. The riots broke out after the death of a black man in police custody. Fires burned out of control, looters ran in and out of destroyed stores, police patrolled the streets. Does the story sound familiar yet?

Media critic Edwin Diamond takes a close look at how the networks covered the violence, and concludes: "something was missing from the story." The carefully considered "riot coverage guidelines" used by the networks are necessary, perhaps, but "not sufficient for the reporting assignment at hand"—indeed, perhaps, they "may prevent television from finding the stories beyond the immediate breaking news."

The trigger for the Miami riots was the acquittal of four Dade County police officers in the death of a black salesman, Arthur McDuffie, in a struggle after a high-speed chase. At the height of the violence, Miami mayor Maurice Ferre talked of "two Americas," and was quoted by NBC that "There's no way that those of us who live in air-conditioned comfort with two cars outside and $30,000 boats in this community can live side by side with people who live 10 to a room. . . infested with rats." This was the exception, rather than the rule, to TV's coverage of Miami. Part of the problem was that the riots coincided with the eruption of Mount St. Helens, a story that dominated the news cycle. It was, in the words of ABC World News Tonight anchor Max Robinson ("probably the most prominent black newsman on television") a "safe disaster," one that Diamond describes as "much more confortable for whites to contemplate compared with the human volcano" of Miami. But then, as Diamond points out, network television can't be "too sociological" in its coverage.

Diamond reviews what he calls the "safe, neutral, [and] responsible" provisions of the "riot coverage guidelines." For instance:

  • "Be restrained, neutral and non-committal in your comments and behavior."
  • "Do not describe a disturbance as a 'riot' unless the police or some other respnsible agency or official so designates it. Do not call a disturbance 'racial' until it is officially so described."
  • "Avoid reports about 'crowd gathering' following incidents involving police in known trouble areas and avoid pinpointing sites of growing tension and possible trouble in a city."
  • "Regard with suspician any interviewing of participants during riots. It is questionable whether such interviews serve a valid purpose and they may incite rather than inform."

You get the point. The overall reporting from all three networks was typical, with talks of how white businesses and black consumers were most hurt by the destruction, promises of Federal investigations, and so on. But do they get to the bottom of the story? Says one black journalist, "[I]n all my years in television, I don't recall ever sitting down at a meeting to discuss the different overall perception blacs and whites have of the racial climate in America," while another says, "We need special reports holding up a mirror to white America, but do people want to see that?" Diamond's conclusion is that television desperately needs to engage in coverage which involves "a lot of us—black and white—more deeply in its stories, and allow us to find our reactions to the major continuing American story of our time." And we need to do it "before the fire next time."

Has coverage really changed over these 40 years? Look at this summer, for example.  There was scarcely a whisper visible of the old riot coverage guidelines; oftentimes, reporters not only didn't regard participant comments with suspicion, they took them at face value and became advocates for it. Was reporting "restrained, neutral and non-committal"? My perception is that we're hearing much of the same rhetoric as before, but this time it comes from the media, advocating rather than reporting on the issue, lecturing instead of encouraging open discussion—prohibiting open discussion in many instances. Of course, that's only one way of looking at it, and this is hardly the place to debate the underlying issues. It's just fascinating, as always, to see how seldom things really change—either in America or in television.

t  t  t

So just how smart are these televisions of 1981, anyway? Well, for starters, they've got computers! And keypads have replaced dials! Now you can use your TV's remote to tune your cable stations! And some models even offer stereo sound! Is there no end to this technology?

Yes, this can only mean that it's time for David Lachenbruch and his annual look at the new model TVs. Most of the technological advances discussed in this issue have to do with refining color and adding inputs in the rear of the television for the discerning technophile's VCR or laserdisk. I shouldn't really make fun of this; I was around in these days, and I remember being as impressed as anyone by these advances. But what interests me most about this article is that there's no attempt at forecasting the future, envisioning television screens as large as walls, or anything like that. It would have been fun, as always, to see just how close they came to predicting the future.

In the end, though, it's true that all of these advances have been incorporated into today's televisions as a fundamental part what makes TV work, and without them we probably wouldn't have what we enjoy today.

t  t  t

Herminio Traviesas tells us what it's like to be a network censor, or as the headline puts it, "the thankless task of cleaning up everyone else's act." Traviesas is the former vice president of Broadcast Standards for NBC, which means one of the shows under his purview is Saturday Night Live, enough to give anyone a headache.

It's interesting getting a look at the SNL skits that Traviesas vetoed—for example, the one that made fun of the plight of the Iran hostages, proposed shortly after the militants seized the U.S. Embassy. Or the skit in the wake of the Jim Jones massacre in Guyana, when the show wanted to use it as imagery to represent the large number of shows NBC had just cancelled. That one might make it through today, but I think the hostage bit probably would never have a chance—it's fine to use the historical event in a movie such as Argo, but for humor? Likely not.

Traviesas also tells of a line that he vetoed from the old Laugh-In show, belonging to Henry Gibson's meek pastor, who would have said, "I don't understand members of my flock who on Saturday sow their wild oats and on Sunday pray for crop failure." That one definitely would make it today; in fact, even if Gibson's pastor was a Catholic priest, they'd probably let it go.

Lest you think Traviesas' job was limited to the series that one might expect to be pushing the envelope of good taste, he throws this one in, from The Dean Martin Show. Seems that one year Dean's producer, Greg Garrison, wanted to open every show in a bar. Traviesas explained to him why this couldn't be done: "community standards, the feminist movement, the plight of alcoholics," and so on. That probably wouldn't be an issue today; you'd likely have to glamorize it in a setting other than that of a successful variety show headed by a man known for having a fondness for drink. At any rate, Garrison wasn't having any of it, either. "Last year," he told Traviesas, his voice rising, "you took away the broads. Now you want to take away the booze. What have I got left?"

The show that gave Traviesas the most problems? None other than Johnny Carson's Tonight Show. Johnny would, on occasion, throw out a word that he knew wouldn't make it past the censor, but he used it to get a rise out of the studio audience. He was cool with it being bleeped out of the show. His guests, however, weren't as understanding, as in the case of one who used a word which, interpolating the context of the story Traviesas relates, I would guess was "ass." You hear a lot worse today on family shows, but this one got the boot. (Kind of nice, when you think about it.) Says Traviesas, tongue-in-cheek, "I just made another momentous policy decision for NBC."

t  t  t

That really bad artist's depiction on the cover (not the art, but the colors are all wrong, especially on that Los Angeles Rams uniform) can mean only one thing: time for Melvin Durslag to pick this year's NFL winners. Over the course of the next few weeks, we'll probably run across several Letters to the Editor critiquing Durslag's picks, using the most colorful imagery available to a family magazine. However, we'll just have to make due with comparing his predictions to what really happens.

For instance, Durslag has as his three AFC division winners New England, Pittsburgh and San Diego. That actually sounds as if it would be a good bet today as well, doesn't it? In fact, however, of the three only the Chargers made it to the playoffs; both the Patriots and Steelers had winning records that would probably have gotten them into the playoffs nowadays, but back then there were only three divisions and two wild cards, so New England's 10-6 and Pittsburgh's 9-7 were just not good enough. Over in the NFC, Durslag faired no better. Of his division winners—Philadelphia, Chicago and New Orleans—only the Eagles came out on top (and they'll go all the way to the Super Bowl, before falling to the Oakland Raiders, whom Durslag had finishing third in the AFC West). The Saints, who Durslag saw as a team possibly on the rise, finished with a record of 1-15, the absolute worst in football. They didn't call them the 'Aints for nothing.

Of interest is Durslag's commentary on ABC's Monday Night Football. The franchise is still going strong, with Fran Tarkenton filling in for Don Meredith in nearly half the games. But there are possible cracks in the foundation, mostly pointing back to Howard Cosell. It's true that ad rates for MNF have risen from $65,000 a minute to $230,000 a minute today.* But for the first time the ratings have slipped a little, and CBS Radio, also carrying the games, reported a record audience. Stories are that people watch the picture on ABC but turn down the sound to favor CBS. No such long-term worries, though: MNF (now seen on ESPN) and its progeny,  NBC's Sunday Night Football, continue to rule the ratings roost for their respective networks.

*The prorated figure today is nearly $1.2 million, by contrast.

t  t  t

It's Labor Day Weekend, which back in the day meant only one thing: the Jerry Lewis Telethon. If I can digress for a moment and give a personal opinion, I'm still offended by the way in which the Muscular Dystrophy Association gave Lewis the heave-ho after so many decades of service, making a heretofore unknown disease into one of America's Charities (if that isn't too crass a way of putting it; it isn't meant to be). The MDA Telethon was an institution, and by the time it left the air altogether it had been reduced to little more than an infomercial with a few music videos thrown in. The failure of MDA to disclose the reasons for the change don't say much for the organization's definition of transparency either, enough so that we've stopped giving to them. For all the criticism Jerry Lewis took over the years, there was never a shred of evidence of any financial impropriety, a rarity for any charity nowadays, and given MDA's tight-lipped response, it would cause one to wonder how reputable the agency is in handling its donations with Lewis gone. The sad part of this is that it's the kids, as always, that suffer. I know they have a completely different fundraising model they follow now, and you still see many of the same community groups out their raising funds at this time of the year (firefighters asking you to fill the boot for MDA, etc.), know they're still taking in a lot of money (although I've heard that the conversation rates on pledges is much lower than previously; whether that's an urban myth or not I don't know), but they're not getting any of ours.

Be that as it may, there's no doubt that the show's quality declined over the years, which isn't surprising given the shift in entertainment, away from variety shows and mainstream Vegas entertainers and toward artists that no longer carry the cache in mainstream America. The 1980 lineup features some big names, including Frank Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Liza Minnelli, John and Patty Duke Astin, Johnny and June Carter Cash, Tony Bennett, Paul McCartney, and more. Now, there was an actors strike that year, so it's possible not everyone appeared, but it's still a pretty good lineup. I'm pretty sure I watched the Telethon that year; it might have been one of the last times I decided to make a go of it and watch the whole 21+ hours without sleep. I could do that back in my younger days, you know. The haul that year was $31,103,787.

t  t  t

I realize I've gotten this far, and I really haven't talked a bit about what's on television. Hmm.

Saturday: Not a program, but one of those "Vital Statistics" that TV Guide used to insert into the programming guide to fill space. According to the Screen Actor's Guild, "Although they are a full one-third of this Nation's population, people under the age of 19 make up only one-tenth of television's fictional population." I wonder if that's still true today; it sure seems as if there are more youngsters, or adults playing teens, than there used to be. At least as far as the IQ of today's shows, we can rest assured that teens are well-represented.

Sunday: Here's a program that has a reach far beyond its local roots: Three American Reporters (9:00 p.m., PBS/KAVT), which I suspect was produced by KTCA, the PBS affiliate in Minneapolis-St. Paul. It features, well, three American reporters with Minnesota roots: Harry Reasoner, co-host of 60 Minutes; Harrison Salisbury, the distinguished New York Times correspondent; and Eric Sevareid, CBS commentator. Sailsbury was born in Minneapolis; all three attended high school in the city and went to the University of Minnesota; Reasoner and Sevareid both wrote for Minneapolis newspapers; and Reasoner worked for the precursor to Minneapolis' KMSP, while Sevareid's brother Paul was a news anchor in the city. The program's host is Minneapolis Tribune editor Charles Bailey, who was co-author, with Fletcher Knebel, of the best-seller Seven Days in May. Quite a show, huh? For people who think of Ted Baxter when they hear about Minneapolis news anchors, nothing could be further from the truth; before CBS, Walter Cronkite was offered a job as anchor at WCCO, a station which also produced CBS correspondents Susan Spencer and Tom Fenton, and CNN correspondent Skip Loescher, among others. Cedric Adams was a nationally-known television and newspaper personality, Headline News veteran Don Harrison was previously at KMSP, and the Magers brothers, Ron and Paul, both went on to great success in Chicago and Los Angeles, respectively. The local news situation isn't much anymore, but back in the day Minneapolis-St. Paul produced as many network correspondents as anyone.

Also on Sunday, an episode of William F. Buckley Jr.'s Firing Line (4:00 p.m., PBS) features Buckley's tribute to liberal activist Allard Lowenstein, who'd been murdered five months earlier. I include this because it shows how much politics has changed since the '80s; Lowenstein and Buckley were about as far apart politically as could be. Buckley was the author of the nation's conservative movement, while Lowenstein was a former congressman and head of the radical Americans for Democratic Action. Yet he was also a frequent guest on Firing Line, and the two men maintained a mutual respect despite their political differences. According to Buckley, Lowenstein "spent a praiseworthy and highly unusual amount of time listening to his constituents' complaints and trying to redress their grievances and injustices one-to-one, face-to-face." That, Buckley said, was a reason why he endorsed Lowenstein's reelection effort. Buckley was one of the eulogists at Lowenstein's funeral; here's a clip from the episode of Firing Line in question.

I wonder how many on either the right or left are like Buckley and Lowenstein today?

Monday: It's Labor Day, which means regular programming is subject to change. The Telethon continues on many channels, both independent and network affiliate. The CBS stations are covering the start of the second week of the U.S. Open tennis championship, with the broadcast starting at 11:30 a.m. CT and continuing through to 5:30 p.m., although WCCO bails out at 3:00 p.m. to present The Joker's Wild, followed by The John Davidson Show (talk about an unforced error). Until I started rereading the early '80s issues, I'd completely forgotten that Davidson had taken over for Mike Douglas on the Group W stations. He had the whole format down, from the 90-minute timespot to the celebrity co-host. Davidson didn't have Mike's easy charm or appeal, though, and the show ended after two seasons. I never really liked John Davidson, by the way, either professionally or personally. But then, I'm sure he feels the same way about me.

Labor Day sports include a matinee between the Cubs and Braves, tying up both WGN and WTBS for the afternoon, and a live broadcast of the All American Futurity quarter horse race from Ruidoso Downs, New Mexico. It was billed as the richest event in horse racing, and was broadcast at 7:00 p.m. on KMSP. I always coupled the Futurity with the Telethon back in the day; I didn't consider my marathon TV watching complete unless I was able to make it through the race as well.*

*I was so disappointed the first time I saw the race; it was the first time I'd ever seen a quarter horse race, and I wasn't expecting the even shorter-than-usual event. I remember thinking, "All this for a million bucks?"

Tuesday: It occurs to me that I've neglected to give you the biggest television story of the week, the continuing actors strike, which has indefinitely postponed the start of the new television season. As such, we're stuck with reruns, bad television movies, and reruns of bad television movies. Tonight we get part 1 of the massive war epic Midway (8:00 p.m., NBC); the disease-of-the-week drama "Echoes of a Summer Night" (8:00 p.m., CBS), salvaged by a cast including Richard Harris, Lois Nettleton and Jodie Foster); and reruns of staples like Happy Days, Laverne & Shirley and The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo. And you wonder why I don't spend much time on television of the '80s?

Wednesday: A 90-minute NBC White Paper (8:30 p.m.) looks at the influence of Fidel Castro, "the spiritual godfather of every leftist revolution in Latin America." Back then, the U.S. still fought against Communist insurgents, particularly in this hemisphere. On the flip side, a coterie of stations present night two of telecasts from Billy Graham's crusade in Edmonton.

Thursday: PBS' afternoon talk-show lineup features a couple of episodes worth watching; the late, great Hugh Downs' interview with Peter Pan herself, Mary Martin, and her son, Dallas' own Larry Hagman (2:00 p.m., KTCA). Following that, Dick Cavett talks with the great opera baritone Sherrill Milnes, and there were few better than him.

Friday: The action's all on late-night this time: Bob Hope, Richard Chamberlain and David Bowie are among Johnny's guest on The Tonight Show (10:30 p.m., NBC), while CBS' late night features a classic Steed-Mrs. Peel episode of The Avengers (11:00 p.m.), followed by part 1 of the Charlton Heston-Sophia Loren epic El Cid (12:10 a.m.). And if that isn't enough for you, the classic sci-fi movie The Incredible Shrinking Man airs on WGN at (11;00 p.m.). In a week of reruns, it proves that the classics can still be the best thing on TV. TV  

August 28, 2020

Around the dial

Not a lot of new material this week, but what there is is well worth reading, so let's get right to it.

The Hitchcock Project at bare•bones e-zine is always a good place to start, and this week Jack continues his review of the work of Harold Swanton with the sixth-season episode "Museum Piece" a nasty little story that's worth your time.

You may recall that last week at Comfort TV, David offered a challenging quiz on characters from classic TV shows—this week he gives us the answers. How did you do?

At Classic Film & TV Café, Rick looks at one of Clint Eastwood's first post-spaghetti movies, Hang 'Em High, a staple of cable television for years. Whenever you're looking for something to watch on a Sunday afternoon, you can almost always find a Clint flick to entertain you.

Television's New Frontier: The 1960s is back with a very good, in-depth look at the 1962 edition of Dr. Kildare, comprising the last part of Season 1 and the first part of Season 2. Find out about the guest stars that went a long way toward making this show such a hit.

I'm not on the latest episode of Eventually Supertrain, but hey! that might make you more likely to listen to it! Anyway, some good talk with some good people, so listen to it here.

And at Shadow & Substance, it's a close-up look at an expensive but most interesting book, Rod Serling’s Night Gallery: The Art of Darkness, Scott Skelton and Jim Benson's coffee-table book featuring all of the paintings and sculptures that featured in the gallery. It sounds terrific.

Not a bad week at that, eh? TV  

August 24, 2020

What's on TV? Tuesday, August 25, 1959

Let's see: what do we have this week? Well, you might notice that the anchor of the CBS evening news this week is Ron Cochran, and if you're an eagle-eyed reader, you'll probably recognize him more for his time as anchor of the ABC evening news. He's with CBS until 1963, and in fact he'll be the host of the network's Armstrong Circle Theatre in 1961 and 1962, as was Douglas Edwards before him. See, network anchors have to find a way to make ends meet, just like the rest of us.

The rest of the day is pretty ordinary, but I'm sure you'll find your favorites anyway. The listings come from the Minnesota State Edition.

August 22, 2020

This week in TV Guide: August 22, 1959

There's a little something for everyone this week, and there's no better place to begin than at the beginning, so let's go through the week a day at a time!

Saturday night football! The NFL preseason continues with a game between the Pittsburgh Steelers and Chicago Cardinals from Austin, Texas (9:00 p.m. CT, ABC). The appeal of this game would have been obvious: Bobby Layne, the star quarterback of the Steelers, was a native of Texas and an all-time great at the University of Texas (which, of course, is in Austin), while John David Crow, star halfback of the Cardinals, had won the Heisman Trophy at Texas A&M. In these days before widespread coverage of pro football, when Texas didn’t have any professional football of its own, I imagine the chance to see two of Texas’ greatest football stars live and in person made for quite an event in Austin.

The Chicago Cardinals were nearing the end of their run as the second team in the Second City. Their history in Chicago dated back to 1920, but those years were spent mostly in futility and by 1959 the team had had only one winning season in the decade. There was no way the Cards could compete any longer with the Bears, and as the Bidwell family (which had owned the team since 1932) looked for options, a number of businessmen sought to buy the team and relocate it. Those attempts failed due to the family’s insistence on maintaining majority ownership of the team, and eventually the NFL allowed them to move the team to St. Louis.

Among those businessmen seeking (separately) to buy the Cardinals were Lamar Hunt and Bud Adams. When those efforts failed, they joined forces with others to form the American Football League, Hunt owning the Dallas Texans (which eventually moved to Kansas City) and Adams the Houston Oilers. I can’t help but wonder if the scheduling of this game was perhaps a trial run to test out the Texas market. In any event, by the next year the Lone Star State would have three professional teams: the Texans, the Oilers and the Dallas Cowboys. Of the three, only the Cowboys remain where they started.

t  t  t

On Sunday afternoon at 4:30, Arkansas Senator J. William Fullbright* (listed in TV Guide as “James W.”, which is technically correct but not the way he was usually referred to) is the guest on CBS’s Face the Nation. I’ve frequently mentioned how sports was not always wall-to-wall on the weekends, and stations generally filled the time with public affairs and documentary programming. At various times this Sunday we have Open Hearings (hosted by ABC’s John Secondari), College News Conference, Victory at Sea, Conquest (a science program on CBS narrated by Eric Sevareid), NBC’s Meet the Press (with this week’s guest, Erwin D. Canham, president of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and editor of the Christian Science Monitor), The Twentieth Century (CBS), and Chet Huntley Reporting (NBC). Religious programming, such as This Is the Life, This Is the Answer and The Gospel in Art fill out the schedule, along with Quiz a Catholic, which I guess would be both religion and public affairs.

*Fun fact: Fulbright’s sister Roberta is the maternal grandmother of Fox pundit Tucker Carlson.

There is some sports on Sunday; both NBC and CBS have afternoon baseball (Red Sox vs. Indians on CBS, Orioles vs. Tigers on NBC), but the games are blacked out in the Twin Cities, as the Triple-A Minneapolis Millers are hosting the Kentucky Colonels. WCCO fills the time with more auto racing from Shakopee’s Raceway Park, a place that I visited several times during my youth (with the souvenier checkered flag to prove it.

t  t  t

The American Legion is having its national convention in Minneapolis, and on Monday at 9:30 a.m., both Channels 4 and 9 offer coverage of the Legion’s parade, which is expected to last eight-to-ten hours, with 7500 marchers, floats and bands, and delegations from nine foreign countries. Channel 4, the CBS affiliate, breaks away from the coverage from time to time for local news, soaps, and game shows; Channel 9, the independent station, actually begins its broadcast day 2½ hours earlier than usual, and only breaks for an afternoon movie. Can you imagine a local station doing this now? A few years ago, when we were living in Minneapolis, the Legion returned to the city for its convention, and I can testify that the parade is very long and very colorful, though I don’t think it attracted the crowd it did in 1959.

One thing I really like about the listing for this is the reference to representatives from “the 49 states.” That’s right, we’re in that one-year period when Alaska’s achieved statehood, but not yet Hawaii. That we’re able to capture a reference like this in writing, from such a relatively short timeframe, is just a very cool cultural reference.

At 9:00 p.m., CBS’ Westinghouse Desilu Playhouse presents the story of famed gangster Al Capone in part one of the two-part “The Untouchables,” with Neville Brand as Capone and Robert Stack as Eliot Ness, the G-Man who helped bring Capone down. The show was a hit when it was originally broadcast in January, and in October it premieres as a weekly series on ABC, where it remains for four successful (and extremely violent) seasons.*

*Fun fact: Desi Arnez, whose Desilu studio produced The Untouchables, went to high school with Al Capone’s son.

t  t  t

Tuesday features a David Brinkley report entitled “Back to School” (7:00 p.m., NBC), which takes advantage of the upcoming start of the school year to examine the problems faced by America’s public schools. Not surprisingly, they’re some of the same problems that exist today, particularly financial ones: crowded classrooms in New York, no money for school construction in New Orleans, no funds for facility maintenance in Los Angeles, and desegregation problems throughout the South. But if you look closely, you’ll notice something strange. Many of those challenges facing American school systems in 1959 are the result of overcrowding. New Orleans, Los Angeles, Oklahoma City, New York—all face a need for more school buildings to house additional students. The school I attended for grades K-6, built early in the 20th century, had temporary classrooms built to accommodate the growing student population. And that’s not happening today. The baby boom is over, and in many places the increase in student enrollment comes from immigration, from people moving to a community from another state or country. Some school systems may be looking at expansion, but in how many situations is this anything other than a zero-sum game, with enrollment increases in one area coming at the expense of another?

So many things have changed since 1959, but the decrease in population growth is one of the most significant, and I think one of the saddest, of all. Maybe Bishop Sheen’s program (7:30 p.m., KMSP) has some insight into what plagues us today. The topic: "Cure for Selfishness. To do great deeds we must supplant self with the Divine Will." But Bishop Sheen won't have much of a chance to say anything about it, not if the world of tonight's David Niven Show episode "The Last Room" comes to pass. (9:00 p.m., NBC) "In a totalitarian country where religious worship is a crime, a brutal inquisitor attempts to force prisoners to name the leaders of a group of citizens who are secretly attending church services." But that can't really happen here, not today. Can it?

t  t  t

Wednesday: One of the more unique programs on television is Court of Last Resort (7:00 p.m., ABC), based on Erle Stanley Gardner’s organization, devoted to investigating cases in which reasonable doubt about the original verdict exists. Gardner, the creator of Perry Mason, started the actual Court of Last Resort in 1948 as a column in the popular magazine Argosy, and the program’s 26 episodes are based on actual cases investigated by the Court. The show ran for a single season in 1957-58 on NBC, and the broadcast in this week’s TV Guide is part of the series’ rebroadcast on ABC in 1958-59. Actors played the principles, but the real members of the Court appeared at the end of each episode.

Gardner believed that, because of "the exceptional nature of American liberty," no actual court could ever truly be a court of last resort; instead, that verdict could come only from "the people themselves." As opposed to today's organizations, which often work to free the unjustly convicted through DNA and other scientific findings, Gardner's cases were driven by polygraph tests, and augmented by findings from the Court's staff of investigators; the results would then be published in Argosy in hopes of creating a groundswell of public opinion. "Public opinion must be molded," he was once quoted as saying, "but it must be an enlightened public opinion based on facts, otherwise we would be charged, and justly charged, with the tactics of the rabble rousers."

One of the cases investigated by the real-life Court was that of the accused murderer Dr. Sam Sheppard in the late 1950s, with Gardner believing in Sheppard’s innocence even though nothing came of the Court’s investigation. Had The Fugitive existed in the same universe with Court of Last Resort, I suspect they would have investigated Dr. Kimble’s case as well. And isn’t that a meta conversation: a TV show about a fictional character from another TV show being aided by a fictional version of a real organization started by the creator of a different fictional character in an unrelated TV show. Makes your head spin, doesn’t it?

t  t  t

Thursday: Now here’s the type of local programming you don’t see anymore: at 7:30 on WCCO, Operation Southdale presents a fashion show in the Garden Court of the famed Southdale Center in Edina, Minnesota – the nation's first enclosed shopping center, and a mall in which I've spent many, many hours over the decades. “For the men’s benefit,” an auto show is being held in the parking lot. And a musical group called the Jimarlen Trio provides background color for the show. For this, WCCO pre-empts a rerun of Yancy Derringer.

Later, Playhouse 90 (8:30 p.m., CBS) presents a curious drama, based on the true story of the first hydrogen bomb test. In “Nightmare at Ground Zero,” starring Barry Sullivan, the scientists behind the development of the bomb discover that they’ve made a few miscalculations, and that the bomb is really many times more destructive than they’d anticipated. Whoops!

On the face of it, this sounds like all the makings of one of those 50s sci-fi movies that wound up on MST3K. You know how it goes – the bomb goes off, much more powerful than they’d thought, with the result that people or insects or vegetation (or all three) are turned into mutants 50 feet tall. And it was written by Rod Serling. But it’s also directed by Franklin Schaffner, who would eventually win an Oscar for Patton, and the true story of the blast, which went off at 15 megatons rather than the expected five and vaporized three coral islands, in the process raining the fallout over a 7,000 square foot area , is remarkable.

t  t  t

A big matchup for NBC’s Friday night fight on Gillette Cavalcade of Sports (9:00 p.m.), as Gene Fullmer faces Carmen Basillo for the world middleweight championship from the Cow Palace in San Francisco. I’ve written before about how boxing used to be a major sport on television, and Friday’s bout is one of two broadcast in prime-time this week (the other being ABC’s Wednesday Night Fights). But there’s one thing that never changes in boxing, and that’s politics. The reason Fullmer and Basillo are meeting for the title is because the National Boxing Association (which would have been the bigger “NBA” at the time), had stripped Sugar Ray Robinson of the title, leaving the top two contenders, each of whom had both won and lost title fights to Robinson in the past, to settle the score.

Fullmer wins on a 14th round TKO.

t  t  t

On the cover this week is the cast of I've Got a Secret, the long-running panel show on CBS. Inside, we read about some of the wackier secrets that have involved members of the panel through the years. There was, for instance, the time that Paul Newman appeared on the show. His secret was that, a few weeks before, he had appeared at Ebbets Field in Brooklyn, disguised as a hot dog vendor, and sold an unsuspecting Henry Morgan a hot dog. It was hilarious stuff; Morgan might not have recognized Newman, but some in the crowd did, and by the time Newman reached Morgan's row he had already sold $25 worth of hot dogs. Well, acting is an uncertain occupation.

Among the more mundane and intriguing secrets which people both ordinary and famous bring to I've Got a Secret, it has become increasingly popular to involve the panel in the stunts. Host Garry Moore once wrestled an alligator (and did pretty well at that), while Ernest Borgnine, taking lessons from Newman, dressed up as a taxi driver and drove panelist Jayne Meadows to the show. By consensus, the butt of most of these "secrets" is Morgan, the acclaimed satirist and humorist who manages the almost impossible feat of simultaneously being witty, urbane, and charming, all the while remaining vaguely unlikable. In addition to his encounter with Newman, he's also wrestled a female judo expert and spent an entire day entertaining three women, ages 10, 20 and 30, whose identical secrets were, "I want a date with Henry Morgan." Ah, but then, the name of the show is I've Got a Secret, not I've Got a Neurosis.

t  t  t

She's not exactly a starlet, but this week's profile is Diana Lynn, who's personal trademark is that of a "shrinking tigress." You know, the "brave but frightened girl, torn by conflicting emotions." Says a director of her characters, "Diana either can't scream above a whisper or is murmuring 'I love you' at the top of her lungs." She's a hard worker who's spent 20 years in the business; "I had no training. All I had was a kind of desperate, honest quality" that's taken her from a Hollywood career in movies to New York where she's done live TV on the major dramatic series, hit Broadway with Maurice Evans, and recorded an album of piano music—her dad's a piano teacher in Los Angeles, and she was considered a prodigy.

The last couple of years she's concentrated on her family and community work, with most of her appearances coming on Playhouse 90 (she's starred in it five times). She enjoys her work, wants to keep working, but appreciates the good life she has as a wife and mother. Remarkably, when this article comes out she has only a dozen years to live; while getting ready to do the movie Play It as It Lays, she suffers a stroke and dies in December, 1971.

t  t  t

Finally, on Monday night there’s this ad from Channel 4 for a “Girl Reporter.” A few weeks ago I referenced Barbara Walters’ role as the Today show’s “Today Girl,” so the term wasn’t terribly unusual; still, it’s another of those things that reminds the reader that they’re in a different place and time. Naturally, the Girl Reporter’s job is to cover the unveiling of CBS’ daytime television schedule.

I wonder who the winner was, and if she ever went into the media business? TV  

August 21, 2020

Around the dial

I enjoy a good quiz as much as anyone, and at Comfort TV, David has a good one: name the classic shows that features these characters. Remember, don't read the comments until you've taken your best shot.

Hal's back to Love That Bob! this week, with the 1959 episode "Bob's Boyhood Love Image," as Schultzy (Ann B. Davis) goes through Bob's past to identify his childhood crush—all the better to learn what Bob's ideal woman is like, so that she can become that woman.

A very nice Dave Garroway ancedote is Jodie's contribution at Garroway at Large, as she explains how a story about Dr. Jonas Salk (who discovered the polio vaccine) can give all of us a little hope of better days ahead.

At Fire-Breathing Dimetroden Time, the focus is on Department S, the 1969-70 British spy series, and the episode "The Duplicated Man," which sounds as if it should be from The Prisoner or The Avengers, concerning someone who may or may not be a double agent.

The movies of Doris Day and Rock Hudson were a staple of network movie shows of the day, and at Classic Film & TV Café, Rick casts his eye on one of their very best, 1959's Pillow Talk, co-starring Tony Randall and Thelma Ritter. A Best Actress nom for Dodo, and Supporting Actress for Ritter.

The Annual "Serling Fest," honoring you-know-you, was postponed this year due to the virus, but that didn't stop the Rod Serling Memorial Foundation from taking the shown online. Shadow & Substance gives us the lineup, and you can catch the presentations at the Foundation's Facebook page.

At The Lucky Strike Papers, Andrew reports on the death of choreographer Tony Charmoli, who worked on Your Hit Parade back in the 1950s. Andrew includes links to a couple of past pieces on Charmoli, who was 99 when he died this month. We should all be so lucky. TV  

August 19, 2020

Philip Marlowe on the small screen

Often, when I find myself looking for a little less heavy reading, I find myself catching up with one of my old friends on the bookshelf: Raymond Chandler.

Chandler's Philip Marlowe is, to my mind, the prototype of the private detective as we have come to see him, a knight both noble and tragic. And Chandler himself was not merely a great writer of detective fiction, he was a great writer, period. I've said in the past that I'd put Chandler up favorably against Fitzgerald any day; I found The Long Goodbye a far superior book to The Great Gatsby, among other literary classics I'm supposed to be impressed with.

Mickey Spillane's Mike Hammer is another favorite of mine (as you can see, I tend not to go for genteel detective stories), but Hammer is a far rougher, more violent man than Marlowe. The writing is similar; Spillane is nowhere near the wordsmith Chandler is, but he can tell a cracking story. And perhaps that's why Mike Hammer has come through better on television than Philip Marlowe. So much of the appeal of Marlowe stories lies in Chandler's way with words, from his dingy description of Los Angeles to the utter futility that Marlowe sometimes experiences, and those are moments that simply can't be captured on screen. In fact, the most famous passage from Chandler's classic The Big Sleep, the concluding line that explains the title of the book (and is the only time the title is used in the manuscript) never appears in the most classic version of that story, the Bogart/Bacall movie.*

*It does, however, make an appearance in voiceover in Robert Mitchum's 1978 version. Mitchum makes for a compelling, older and tired Marlowe, but stick to his first of two Marlowe turns, 1975's Farewell, My Lovely.

Marlowe's made it as a regular on the small screen twice. The first time was a 1959-1960 series on ABC, starring Philip Carey. I liked what I've seen of it, although, as the always-reliable Wikipedia points out, the show wasn't very true to the character.  Check it out for yourself and see what you think.

The more successful version aired on HBO from 1983 to 1986, starring Powers Boothe in the title role. Booth did well; he certainly carried more weightines than Carey, although he very much lacks the charm of Bogart in The Big Sleep, or especially Dick Powell in Murder, My Sweet (the renamed Farewell, My Lovely).* It's difficult to picture Boothe playing chess or reading the classics, as Marlowe was known to do under the spell of Chandler's typewriter; actually, he might have been better cast as Mike Hammer. Still it's a significant upgrade in both style and substance from the previous effort.

*Powell would play Marlowe again on television a decade after Murder My Sweet, on the dramatic anthology series Climax! in 1954. Nobody seems to have a copy of it, though. Pity; his Marlowe is one of the very best.

I've written before of my disappointment that the private detective, once a staple of television, has pretty much disappeared from the airwaves. One of the reasons, I suspect, is that procedurals have become so completely reliant on technology, the type that goes far beyond wiretapping in its intrusiveness. Sure, private detectives can (and do) engage in this kind of work as well, and can be very effective doing it, but you have to admit it doesn't quite have the romance of the fog-shrouded, rain-slick streets, the lonely truthseeker with the brim of his fedora worn low and the collar of his trenchcoat pulled high to keep the chill away. After all, he's a knight, not a technician, remember? And as for the detective's traditional antagonism with the police force (every private eye had a frenemy in the department), just make him a rebel within the force itself; all the procedurals are full of quirkbots like that.* Heaven forbid he should show too much individualism, though. We don't seem to like that much.

*They don't come much quirkier than Elliot Gould's big-screen portrayal in The Long Goodbye, a reimagination that calls for much more space in a blog devoted to movies. Like this one.

Another reason might be that detective fiction seems to work best in a period atmosphere. One of the challenges with Stacy Keach's Mike Hammer series was that it tried to tell the story within a contemporary time period (a flaw inherent in James Garner's otherwise perceptive Marlowe, an adaptation of Chandler's The Little Sister), which merely solidified Hammer as a desperate anachronism, a character that was resolutely not of this time. To the extent that it worked, it was due to Keach's ability to see the anachronism, but the detective as we know him—the Marlowe prototype—seems to thrive more in the noir grime of the last century's first half.

At any rate, from Philip Marlowe to Jim Rockford, from Richard Diamond to Peter Gunn, from Darren McGavin's Hammer to Stacy Keach's, the private detective has been a welcome presence on television. In light of HBO's recent successes with both period and crime dramas, it might be a good idea for them to revisit Marlowe, or some of the other great literary detectives of the past. At any rate, let's hope there's a comeback one of these days, and that it's a little grittier than, say, Moonlighting or Remington Steele, hmm? TV  

August 17, 2020

What's on TV? Thursday, August 21, 1969

In Saturday's write-up, I spent some time on the late-night talk show wars, now fully joined with the addition of Merv Griffin to the continuing battle between Johnny Carson and Joey Bishop. We've got a second sighting of Merv tonight, with an appearance on WCCO at 7:00 p.m.; since Arthur Treacher, Merv's sidekick, is on the show, it looks like an episode of his old syndicated show. Doesn't hurt the hype, though. Speaking of which, you notice that WCCO is showing Wednesday's show on Thursday; good old Channel 4, tape-delaying it a night because the news runs until 10:45 p.m. And while Dick Cavett isn't on tonight, Hugh Hefner is—and Steve Allen's on in the morning. What a deal! These listings are from the Minnesota State Edition.

August 15, 2020

This week in TV Guide: August 16, 1969

A new era in television begins this week, as Merv Griffin enters the late-night talk show fray with his debut on CBS. (Guests for that first show: Joe Namath, Woody Allen, Leslie Uggams.) Merv's hardly a stranger to the game, having helmed a daytime show on NBC as well as his syndicated chatfest for Group W, but as Neil Hickey writes, things are a little different now.

This is the first time ever that all three networks are programming simultaneous late-night talk shows, with Joey Bishop representing ABC's entry in the "Insomnialand Sweepstakes." And we're not talking about peanuts in this battle-to-the-death contest; Johnny Carson's Tonight Show earned about $15 million for NBC last year. For years, CBS's affiliates had survived on the network's inventory of old feature films, but with prices going up and inventory shrinking, change was in the air; when around 80% of CBS affiliates said they'd clear the show in the late-night timeslot, the game—or, in this case, the show—was on. As for the host, . . .

According to Hickey, it was a call from the William Morris Agency to CBS's new late-night boss Mike Dunn that set things in motion. Among the Agency's many clients was one Merv Griffin, currently negotiating a new contract with Westinghouse, and the renewal was far from a done deal. The Agency asked if CBS would be interested in Griffin should he become available. Dunn replied that, yes, he'd be interested. When the Group W negotiations reached an impasse, about three weeks later, Griffin's handlers called Dunn back. A couple of meetings later, the deal was set: two years, with an option for six more, and CBS had itself a ready-made show to take on Johnny and Joey.

Merv's not under any illusions about the magnitude of the challenge, but he's also excited. "The biggest drawback to the show which I've been doing for the last four years was its built-in lack of topicality, caused by the fact that it was aired, in some cases, as much as five weeks after we made it." When Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy were assassinated, he says, "we had to just sit there as though it happened." He wants his staff to "read the front page as well as the theater page," but doesn't want propagandizing. "The fewer personal causes I exploit on the air the better the show we'll have." It's the guests he's interested in, and their areas of expertise. "These shows should reflect the whole contemporary scene: comedy, ideas, music." He's not going to let himself worry about the competition, either. "If I let myself pay too much attention to the competition, I risk falling into a tererible trap. I can't let them affect how I do my own show."

There's a very interesting comment made near the end of the article by a CBS executive. "Nobody knows how long Carson is going to work," he says. "He shows signs of wanting to do something else. When he does quit, NBC—which has enjoyed this lush oasis for so long—will suddenly be in the same position we were. Griffin will get a large chunk of Carson's audience and some of Bishop's." The truth, as Hickey concludes, is that nobody knows. And ain't that the truth. Carson, of coursee, is not near quitting; he'll continue another 23 years, to 1992. By that time Bishop is long gone—he won't even make it out of 1969. Merv is absent the scene as well; as Griffin's comments suggest, he wanted a topical show with topical, and often controversial, guests, and soon chafes under the restrictions CBS attempts to put on his show. and he secretly negotiates a deal with Metromedia to return to syndication as soon as CBS cancels his show, which happens in 1972. That edition of The Merv Griffin Show continues until 1986 when Merv finally hangs it up. Maybe he doesn't beat Carson, but he certainly leaves the scene unbowed.

t  t  t

Speaking of the late-night wars, 1960s style, if you're into this kind of thing then this is your week! Not only do we have Johnny, Joey and Merv slugging it out in the post-local news period, we also have Dick Cavett! Yes, in the timeframe between Cavett's morning show and his anointing as Joey Bishop's successor, during the summer of 1969, Cavett hosts a three-nights-a-week show for ABC. As such, on Monday, Tuesday and Friday of this week, you have all four of my generation's late-night titans appearing on the same evening, three of them at the same time. It's really quite extraordinary, when you think about it. And if you lived in the right market, you could also have seen Steve Allen's syndicated show. If only someone could have found a place for Jack Paar—wouldn't that have been a time!

t  t  t

We spend a lot of time here looking at woman's fashions, so it's only fair that this week we get a glimpse at Hollywood's "wild" new look for men.

It grooves, doesn't it? Our models are, from left to right, Stan Freberg, Robert Wagner and Robert Culp, three men with reputations as being among the most stylish dresers in entertainment. Dick Hobson gathered the three of them, plus Sammy Davis Jr., to see how they feel about the new styles. Wagner admits to the truth of his publicist's statement that he has "the most impressive wardrobe on the tube"; Culp concurs, saying that Wagner "always looks elegant," but says Davis is "the only cat I'd call a style leader." Not surprisingly, Freberg bosts of the most flamboyant outfits, living up to his daughter's description of him as "a groovy daddy." The formula: "An Edwardian suit with a dragoon collar. Or my Cardin suit with a sculptured back—a real mindblower. I have a Bill Blass blazer with his initials monogramed all over the lining, which is a little ostentatious of him, don't you think, considering it's my coat." He does have his limits, though: "The bell-bottom is a little too faddish for me."

As for other favorite outfits: Davis is proud of "Two mink coats and a mink cape and three pairs of doeskin boot-pants." The boots and pants are all one piece? "Yeah, you put them on just like a regular pair of pants. The gas is to casually put your leg up and people say, 'You mean they're all one?" Wagner boasts of starting the Cassini Nehru look; when Culp suggested that Tony Randall actually ntroduced the Nehru to America on the Carson show, Davis interjects, "No, I brought it from Paris and it wasn't called the Nehru; it was called Mao jacket. Because of politics, you wouldn't use the word Mao so I said it was a Nehru." Davis adds that "I came back from London three years ago wearing beads, and people said, 'Beads?' Within six months everybody was wearing beads." Freberg says that at first he felt a little self-conscious; "A year and a half ago I went on the Tonight show wearing what I thought was a wild Eric Ross jacket until Tony Curtis came on with Edwardian lapels, a whole row of military medals and high knee boots. Everybody applauded."

Yes, boys and girls, this is what the state of men's fashion looked like at the end of the Sixties. But there are some more traditional styles that the men admire: Wagner likes Cary Grant ("He never had to bother with an expernsive wardrobe because he wers clothes so well that the suit that looked well on him in 1939 still looks well on him."), Culp admires Johnny Carson (he "has a fabulous influence, though nobody has ever accused John of being adventurous."), Davis loves Fred Astaire ("Tails on Astaire look as comfortable as tennis shoes, Levi's and a T-shirt."), and they all agree that while Sinatra has loosened up from his investment banker look, Davis tells of how he once kidded the Chairman that "You're dressing like you're known all over the world," to which Sinatra replied, "Well?"

I love clothes myself; I never went for ascots and Nehru jackets, although I'll admit to a couple of leisure jackets in the day, but I've always been most comfortable in a nice three-piece suit or double-breasted jacket with dress boots, and I only wear a white shirt to weddings and funerals. My one regret is that I've never had the opportunity to wear a tuxedo; they say a tux looks good on every man, and at this stage in my life I'll probably never get the chance to find out. But a classic wardrobe is still timeless—I'll let you decide if the outfits above fill the bill.

t  t  t

As far as TV goes, summertime is reruntime, but that doesn't mean we can't still have a blockbuster. That's the case on Sunday, when NBC repeats Elvis Presley's historic comeback concert (8:00 p.m. CT), first shown the previous December. It was the King's first television appearance in eight years, and it's proven to not only be one of the definitive moments in Presley's career, but a riviting hour of television. In the rerun vein, Saturday night's Jackie Gleason show (6:30 p.m., CBS) shows how far the Honeymooners have come from their half-hour roots; in this hour-long musical-comedy episode, "The Honeymooners visit sunny Spain, where Ralph rushes to the rescue of a lovely senorita—and finds himself entangled in a blackmail plot." It's part of the story arc in which the Kramdens and Nortons have won a trip around the world; the elements are there, in that it would be typical for Ralph to get in over his head with some complicated scheme. But it seems a long way from that New York tenament, doesn't it?

On Saturday and Sunday (4:00 p.m.), ABC presents third- and final-round coverage of the golf season's final major, the PGA Championship, from National Cash Register Country Club in Dayton, Ohio. (Yep, you read that right.) The tournament "offers a mouth-watering $175,000" in total prize money (2019's total purse: $11 million). and Ray Floyd holds on, despite a final round 74, to defeat Gary Player. Proving that political controversy is no stranger to sports, civil rights and antiwar protestors disrupt the third round, throwing a cup of water in Player's face and trying to grab Jack Nicklaus's ball off the green. "The tournament continued in a sinister cloak-and-dagger atmosphere," according to Associated Press. "Small groups of long-haired characters in hippie attire were seen congregating at various places. Police milled through the crowd." Player double-bogied the hole where the water was thrown at him; he lost by one shot. Rounding out the weekend sports scene, WTCN is the flagship for Minnesota Twins baseball, as the Twinkies take on the Washington Senators (noon both days) from Robert F. Kennedy Memorial Stadium in Washington, which just last year was known as D.C. Stadium.

Liberace is back on network TV with his own summer replacement show (Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., CBS) and his guests are Eve Arden, Mary Hopkin, Matt Monro, and ventriquilist Ray Alan with his dummy Lord Charles. That's on opposite It Takes a Thief (7:30 p.m., ABC), in which we get to see Robert Wagner and his fabulous wardrobe accompanied by a cast of unlikely guest stars: Joey Heatherton, Paul Lukas and Barry Williams. And at 8:00 p.m., "A black district attorney and a white cop are men at odds" in the TV-movie Deadlock, which winds up as "The Protectors" segment of The Bold Ones. We also get part two of a CBS News Special on the generation gap (9:00 p.m.); last week's first segment was called "Fathers and Sons," this week's follow-up is "Mothers and Daughters." The producers express the hope that viewers will watch the troubled families and take consolation in knowing they're not alone; executive producer Ernest Leiser says, "The only way to bridge the gap is with mutual compassion."  Thursday's episode of Ironside (7:30 p.m., NBC) strikes me as a prescient one. "Ironside is caught in a racist crossfire when he's ordered to prove the innocence of a Negro millitant accused of a riot murder. White extremists whant to set an example; black extremists claim it's a frame." I wouldn't want to be the Chief in this one.

t  t  t

This week's starlet is 22-year old French pop singer Mireille Mathieu, the girl who none other than Maurice Chevalier calls "A little queen [who] has come out of the peoplpe, to be workshiped by those who like French songs." Having made it big first in France and then the rest of Europe, she's now in the process of making it in the United States, doing the circuit with Ed Sullivan, Johnny Carson, Merv Griffin and Danny Kaye. Her agent, Johnny Stark, places her in high company, along with such French icons as Chevalier and Edith Pief, but to do so she will need to become both a singer (which she is) and an artist (an area in which she continues to evolve). And she has to be accepted in the U.S. as she is elsewhere.

Back in the day, it was possible to charm an audience by singing in a foreign language; after all, Piaf herself did it with "La Vie en Rose." But, Mathieu tells Robert Musel, she is determined to master the English language. "I cannot sing in English with the emotion I feel in French because the words do not mean as much to me. This makes me dissatisfied because I want the Americans to hear me at my best." She plans to remain in England after the end of her television series with John Davidson (Fridays, 7:00 p.m., ABC) "until I learn English really well." "When I talk with John on the show, I have to read the English from cards phonetically."

Music styles change; in the years since, the type of song Mireille Mathieu sings has waned in popularity. She never really became big with English language songs, and never reached the heights of Chevalier or Piaf, but she's remained popular in France, Germany and Russia, among other countries. And the 75 albums she's recorded, most recently in 2015, are 75 more than I've managed.

t  t  t

The original PBS logo, using the colors of  the old NET
What's in a name? We're not sure, but The Doan Report tells us that the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, about to begin it's first full season of broadcasting, is haggling over just what the new network is going to be called. The preferred name—Public Broadcasting System—is thought by some to sound too corporate, too "centralized," which is just what they don't want to employ, since much of the network's content will be provided by local stations for local stations. ("Besides," says one official, "it may sound too much like CBS." Would that they could get CBS's ratings, though.) Then there's the Public Broadcasting Network, but "the word 'network' is thought be be anathema these days to many congressmen." As we all know, they never did come up with a good alternative, and PBS it is, to this day. And still without CBS's ratings.

NBC, meanwhile, has announced plans for 100, count 'em, 100 specials for the 1969-70 season. There are so many, in fact, that Doan acknowledges the risk that the frequent preemptions may run the risk of antagonizing fans of NBC's hits, such as Laugh-In and Bonanza. I'm not getting too worked up about the specials, though; we're talking about things such as Christmas specials from Bob Hope, Dean Martin and Bing Crosby (plus a repeat of The Little Drummer Boy), standards like the Miss America Pageant, and an all-star circus with Tony Curtis, who can do a few acrobatic stunts himself. In other words, fun, maybe, but not too many "special" specials. Your mileage may vary, though, depending on how much you like the stars.

And the Teletype reports that "A specially set up network will carry Jerry Lewis's annual Muscular Dystrophy Labor Day telethon for 22 hours on Aug. 31. Last year, Lewis, who has been national chairman of the charitable organization for 18 years, raised $1,400,000 on the telethon." The all-time record, set in 2008, is $65,031,393.

t  t  t

Last but not least, for all you youngsters out there, one of the catchphrases of the post-Apollo 11 era was, "We can put a man on the moon, but we can't" followed by your favorite description of some worthy but insurmountable task, e.g. "We can put a man on the moon, but we can't figure out how to feed the hungry." Subconsciously, it was not so much a complaint about things that needed to be done (although it was certainly that), as it was a reminder of how monumental the moon landing was, and how unthinkable it had been for so long. I don't know what its equivalent would be today, since continuous technological achievement is more or less taken for granted, but you get the point. So did Susan Biles of Waterbury, Connecticut, who, in this week's Letters section, reminds us of something else we take for granted nowadays. "I can watch the fantastic live transmission of the moon walk," she writes, "but I cannot receive a local channel 24 miles away. Ah, the inconsistencies of life!" Indeed, Ms. Biles, and were it so that this could be our biggest complaint today. TV