September 26, 2020

This week in TV Guide: September 25, 1965

There's a good reason Jackie Gleason is known as The Great One; like him, everything he does is  larger than life, flamboyant. But, as Thomas B. Morgan writes in this week's cover story, there's something misleading about the application of the word, the hint that Gleason is "a man who almost gets away with it."

The occasion for this medidation is "The Great Gleason Express," a 14-car "party train" carrying Gleason and his cast, including Steve Lawrence, the June Taylor Dancers, a Dixieland jazz band, a film crew, and 20 newspaper reporters and columnists, on a junket from New York City to Miami Beach, where the Gleason show is done.

The adventure starts Saturday with a celebratory brunch at Gleason's favorite watering hole, Toots Shor's. Gleason, resplendent in a gray suit, a florid purple vest, ruby cufflinks, and a red carnation in his lapel. A crowd of about 200 feasts on a buffet including lamp shops, scrambled eggs, and shrimp salad, topped off by champagne (the tab for the brunch plus the ensuing train runs CBS $23,500), while Gleason holds court, accompanied by Miss Miami Beach. From there the troup troops to Penn Station, where Gleason is cheered by onlookers as he and his merry band board "The Great Gleason Express." 

As the train rolls merrily on the way to Miami, the band plays "Sweet Georgia Brown," June Taylor and Steve Lawrence dance in the aisles, and copious amounts of alcohol are consumed. (Lawrence figures prominently in the trip, promoting his own variety show this fall on, you guessed it, CBS, acting as Gleason's straight man.) Later, after Gleason takes an opportunity to quietly retire to his compartment for a break, he reemerges in a green sweater, "looking almost fresh," talking about how he was going to be starring in an upcoming movie with Frank Sinatra called The Odd Couple. (He couldn't be referring to the movie that eventually starred Jack Lemmon and Walter Matthau, could he?) There's more singing and dancing, card tricks, Dixieland, amd drinking. As Saturday turns to Sunday, the train passes through Savannah, Georgia, and by noon it's in Auburndale, Florida. The train's arrival in Miami Beach is marked by a 36-piece brass band, a marching string band, and a Beatleesque pop group, while Gleason strolls off with the mayor of Miami Beach, Elliott Roosevelt. (Yes, that Roosevelt.) Later that night, there's a banquet at the Doral Beach Hotel, where everyone celebrates the estimated $9,000,000-a-year in free publicity that the show brings to the city. 

And away we go!
Throughout the trip, Morgan toys with the idea that the Gleason greatness is a facade, a show for the benefit of others. At one point, catching Gleason looking out the window at the Pennsylvania countryside, he asks The Great One "if he ever felt as though he were living in the middle of a movie." Gleason shakes his head; "'No,' he says wearily, 'this is for real. I enjoy it.'" Meanwhile, further back, a publicist wonders out loud if they're "pressing Gleason too hard." "We have to get all we can while we can," the other replies. Late in the trip, the sudden appearance of a terrier running up the aisle causes Gleason to really laugh "for perhaps the first time in 24 hours." The weekend ends with Gleason and Lawrence and a round of golf; as the accumulated events of the weekend catch up with him, Gleason tires, "and he played the last three holes without smiling."

I get the impression that Morgan doesn't like Steve Lawrence, is skeptical about Gleason, and in short is somewhat cynical about the whole thing. Maybe it just isn't important enough for him; having previously been a press aide to Adlai Stevenson, he goes on to work for Eugene McCarthy and John Lindsay, served as editor of The Village Voice, and works for the United Nations Association. Quite a career—too bad he doesn't get more out of his travels with The Great One.

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During the 60s, the Ed Sullivan Show and The Hollywood Palace were the premiere variety shows on television. Whenever they appear in TV Guide together, we'll match them up and see who has the best lineup..

Sullivan: On the second show from Hollywood, Ed’s scheduled guests are Dinah Shore; comic Jack Carter; rock ‘n’ roller Trini Lopez; actress Gertrude Berg; singer Leslie Uggams; the University of California (Berkeley) Band, and Komazuru Tsukushi, a top-spinner.

Palace: Host Bing Crosby introduces jazzman Louis Armstrong; comedian Phill Harris; the 36 singing Young Americans, led by Milton Anderson; comic magician Carl Ballantine, a regular on “McHale’s Navy”; Pat Woodell, formerly of TV’s “Petticoat Junction,” who makes her TV singing debut; Danish trapeze artist La Norma; French ventriloquist Fred Roby; and Simms’ performing ponies.

At first glance Ed may seem to have the edge, with Dinah Shore, Leslie Uggams and Trini Lopez, plus malaprop comic Jack Carter. And it's true that Ed's lineup has the depth that the Palace lacks. On the other hand, it's very, very hard to top Der Bingle and Satchmo, and Phil Harris and Carl Ballantine make for good second acts. This week, The Palace hits the high notes.

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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. 

It's Cleveland Amory's first review of the new season, and his advice is to do as the title of this show suggests: run for your life. And, let's face it, it's a potential source of trouble when one of the kindest things a critic can say about a show is that "the color is magnificent", although it should be added that in this day when shooting a series in color was a real selling point, this praise isn't perhaps as faint as it would seem.

At any rate, Run for Your Life is, according to Amory, "an obvious switcheroo on The Fugitive," which is perhaps no surprise since Roy Huggins, creator of Run for Your Life, also created The Fugitive. (Will wonders never cease?) The difference here is that while Dr. Richard Kimble ran to avoid death at the indirect hands of Lieutenant Girard, Paul Bryan runs to avoid death from the Grim Reaper himself, a fatal disease that gives him one, perhaps two years, to survive, but will leave him relatively symptom-free until near the very end. Bryan decides, in his words, "to squeee 30 years' living" into that period. You can't blame him for this, Cleve concedes, but "if the show runs longer than two years, he's going to have to start re-running."

In addition to the color, Amory praises Gazarra for giving his all, acting as if he really believed the far-fetched premise he'd been given. (Gazarra, a classically trained stage actor, often felt frustration himself with what he saw as the superficiality of the role.  In many ways it was a paycheck job for him.) At this early point in the series' history—Amory bases his review on the first two episodes—the writers are clearly struggling with how to tell the story without lapsing into cliche and heavy-handedness, and to Amory's ears they seem overly intrigued with Gazarra's health, turning him into something of a noble mystic spouting such mysterious lines as "I have played [the game of life and death]—and I lost." He also finds lacking many of the people Gazarra runs into in his adventures; speaking of Katharine Ross' performance in the premier episode, Amory says that "we couldn't tell whether she was that shallow or her part was—but no matter, we wanted no part of her." We do learn something, though: in the episode "The Girl Next Door Is a Spy," Amory says, we find out that the swans located in a particular city park live a hundred years. Predictably, Gazarra replies, "Those miserable swans." To which Amory might have appended, "Those miserable viewers."

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We've been spending the last few weeks looking at the new Fall Seasons from various years, and this week is no exception. We're about two weeks into the 1965-66 season, and the pages of TV Guide are filled with ads for new network lineups, such as these two, for  Sunday and Friday nights, respectively. NBC is particularly aggressive about this; they have ads for each night of the week, and they're making a big deal out of how many of their shows are in color. And in case the artwork looks familiar, it should: it was done by Mad Magazine's Jack Davis, who did many, many TV Guide covers over the years. The Fall Preview issue from a couple of weeks back featured a multi-page "mural" by Davis, covering NBC's entire 65-66 schedule, elements of which are used in the ads for these individual nights. (Thanks to longtime reader Mike Doran for that heads-up.) NBC's Sunday night lineup has some clear hits; Friday night, well, not so much. But at least they're in color!*

*Except for Convoy, a World War II drama that was forced to take the B&W route since it was heavily dependence on old war footage.  Because of that, many NBC affiliates refused to clear the show, and it was gone before the end of the year.  Not that the rest of them (excluding U.N.C.L.E. did much better.)

Next are a couple of ads for ABC. The ad on the left is a fairly standard ad, promoting the network's "Sunday best," a lineup that's actually pretty successful—headlined by The FBI. That's the focus of the ad on the right as well, with one exception: that one isn't from ABC, but from one of The FBI's sponsors, Alcoa. That kind of advertising isn't unusual in this issue; we're at a time when there's still a close identification between shows and their sponsors. Chrysler, for example, has a promo for Bob Hope's Wednesday night special, hardly a surprise given the car maker's long relationship with Hope. Likewise, The Andy Williams Show is now presented by Kraft, a point emphasized by the company in their ad. I don't know if any sponsors are tied to shows anymore; whenever pressure groups call for boycotts of companies advertising on various controversial programs, it often turns out that the sponsors don't even know what shows they're sponsoring. The spots are all placed by ad brokers or the network.

CBS alone foregoes advertising the entire night's programming.  I'm not sure why; perhaps I missed it from a previous issue, or maybe I'll run across it next week.  I've seen them in the past, though.  As a matter of fact, they have precious little advertising of any kind in this issue, but they do manage to sneak in a sole ad for the Thursday Night Movie.

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After a year's absense when its spot was taken by Mr. Mayor, Captain Kangaroo returns to the Saturday morning lineup this week (7:00 a.m., CBS). Terence has more on the single-season history of Mr. Mayor here. It's one of a number of changes here or coming to the Saturday morning lineup; among the cartoons debuting this week are Heckle and Jeckle (8:00 a.m., CBS), The Beatles (9:30 a.m., ABC) and Tom and Jerry (10:00 a.m., CBS), while next week Atom Ant replaces Hector Heathcote (8:30 a.m., NBC), and Secret Squirrel moves into the lineup, while Fireball XL-5 moves out. Stubby Kaye also returns with his half-hour game show for children, Shenanigans (9:00 a.m., ABC). Take it from me; it's a good time to be a kid. On the sports side, CBS broadcasts its last regular-season Game of the Week, with the Chicago White Sox taking on the Yankees in New York (11:45 a.m., CBS); next season, the Game of the Week moves to NBC. Speaking of, the Peacock Network college football is the rule of the day, with Iowa visiting Oregon State at 2:00 p.m. Next season, you'll be seeing your weekly games on ABC.

Roberta Peters (left) and Ginger Rogers
There's plenty of pro action on Sunday, with games depending on where you live. Most channels in the Minnesota State Edition get the game between the Kansas City Chiefs and the San Diego Chargers (2:30 p.m., NBC), but for some reason if you live in Duluth you're treated to Joe Namath and the New York Jets taking on the defending AFL champion Buffalo Bills at 1:00 p.m. Those lucky folks in Duluth also get to see the Minnesota Vikings playing at home against the Detroit Lions (2:15 p.m., CBS); due to the blackout, the rest of the CBS affiliates in this week's issue are SOL, except for the affiliate in La Crosse, Wisconsin, where the home state Green Bay Packers clash with the Baltimore Colts, in a preview of the tiebreaking playoff game between the two teams at the end of the season (a controversial game the Packers will win, but that's another story). Not a sports fan? Don't give up; NBC saves you with G-E College Bowl at 1:30 p.m., and The Bell Telephone Hour at 5:30 p.m. This week's episode, by the way, is a tribute to “The Music of Jerome Kern,” with Ginger Rogers, Ella Fitzgerald, Metropolitan Opera soprano Roberta Peters, msucial-comedy performers Earl Wrightson, John Davidson and Nancy Dussault, and pianists Ferrante and Teicher.

Monday night features dueling variety hours from two of America's easiest and most popular singers, starting with Andy Williams (8:00 p.m., NBC), doing his best for his new sponsor with Phil Harris, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, and the vocal group the Jubilee Four. That's followed—on another network, as they used to say—by Steve Lawrence's new series (9:00 p.m., CBS), this week with Diahann Carroll, Joey Heatherton, and Jordan Christopher and the Wild Ones. The network gives Steve a great lead-in, with The Andy Griffith Show and Hazel, and he consistently has a solid guest lineup, so I'm not sure why this series didn't do better. It could be because he's up against the aforementioned Run for Your Life on NBC (which turns out to be more popular with viewers than with Cleve) and Ben Casey on ABC. Or it could be just that viewers preferred seeing Steve and Eydie together.

Tuesday's local highlight is live coverage of the Miss Teen-age Twin Cities contest, from the Calhoun Beach Manor in Minneapolis. (8:00 p.m., WTCN) The winner heads off to Dallas for the Miss Teen-age America contest. Sounds exciting, but will it take viewers away from the riviting suspence that is Peyton Place (8:30 p.m., ABC), especially since Rodney (Ryan O'Neal) is charged with murder?

It's Bob Hope's first variety show of the new season on Wednesday (8:00 p.m., NBC), as Bob welcomes Bea Lillie, Douglas Fairbanks, Dinah Shore and Andy Williams. The sketches include a parody of Cat Ballou with Hope playing a cowardly, metal-nosed sheriff up against Bea's "Tiger Ballou." That's followd at 9:00 p.m. by the third episode of I Spy, and the globetrotting has already begun as Kelly and Scotty find themselves in Hong Kong, making a deal to get a million dollar back tax payment from a shady dealer.

The Dave Clark Five, Leslie Gore, Major Lance, Donovan, the Hollies, and the Turtles are the stars on Thursday's Shindig (6:30 p.m., ABC), and  Nehemiah Persoff is an exiled Latin American dictator who encounters the castaways on a classic episode of Gilligan's Island (7:00 p.m., CBS). And if you haven't had enough of the Dave Clark Five, they're back later this evening on the third episode of The Dean Martin Show (9:00 p.m., NBC), along with Eddie Fisher, Abbe Lane, Phyllis Diller, John Bubbles, and Yonely.

Johnny Carson's taken The Tonight Show to Hollywood for the next two weeks, and on Friday he celebrates his third anniversary as host (10:15 p.m., NBC); could anyone have imagined there were, what, 27 more of these to go?  It's not a clipfest as we would become accustomed to in years to come, just a regular show with Jerry Lewis and George Burns as guests to help him celebrate. It caps off an all-new night for the Peacock network, with Camp Runamuck, Hank, Convoy and Mr. Roberts. The only returning series on the night is The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and that's now in color.

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And finally, the jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi is the subject of the NET documentary Anatomy of a Hit (Wednesday, 9:00 p.m.), profiling the recording sessions for his new album, Black Orpheus, including the Grammy-winning hit "Cast Your Fate to the Wind." 

Guaraldi was a wonderfully talented musician - if the name doesn't sound familiar, perhaps this, his biggest hit, does.  You might have heard it a time or two.


1 comment:

  1. CONVOY wasn't the only NBC program still in B&W for this season. I DREAM OF JEANNIE also spent its first season in B&W, mainly since from what I've read about creator Sidney Sheldon, NBC & Screen Gems didn't have much faith in the show so didn't want to spend the extra $ to film it in color for Season 1. By Season 2, all prime time shows on all networks were in color.

    The Jack Davis NBC ads were also in select local newspapers. I've seen the ads in looking back at my hometown SCHENECTADY GAZETTE. The ads were chopped down in places, as our local NBC affiliate at the time, WRGB-TV, preempted a few of these programs.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!