October 10, 2020

This week in TV Guide: October 13, 1973

When we ask the question "Does TV Go Too Far," keep in mind that we're looking at this from the perspective of 1973, Today, society has become so libertine that I'm not sure you can go too far on TV (or anywhere else for that matter), but despite Watergate, Vietnam, inflation, drugs, and disco, the 1970s are a more innocent time, and so we ask the question. 

The poll, commissioned by TV Guide and conducted by Opinion Research Corporation of Princeton, NJ and documented by Neil Hickey, tells us that Americans have definite opinions regarding what is called the "new permissiveness" on television. Among the conclusions suggested by the poll:

  • Almost 40 percent think TV is "a lot more open and frank than it should be."
  • Forty-one percent think there's too much sex, while nearly two-thirds think there's too much violence.
  • More than half are in favor of a review board "to screen TV shows for the purpose of keeping programs of 'questionable taste' off the air." 
Not surprisingly, as we've seen with similar TV Guide polls, the Northeast is more liberal than other parts of the country. People 60 and older were the most conservative on questions of sex, while 73 percent of those 18-29 saw no problem with it. Protestants were more concerned about it than Catholics, as were rural Americans vs. those in the city. Despite the fact that television nudity in the 1970s is pretty tame compared to today (when you can see actual nudity), 60 percent agree with the proposition that there's too much of it. A popular refrain you hear is that if you don't like what you see on TV, just turn it off; 40 percent said they'd done just that at one time or another, due to violence (35%), sex (27%), bad language (22%), offensive ethnic jokes (15%), or nudity (11%). 

The most troubling news for television executives, Hickey says, is 51 percent favor creation of a review board to keep certain programs off the air. (Now there's a propositon made for mischief if ever there was one.) Lest one think television is being singled out, a majority believe that such a board "ought to apply equally to newspapers, movies, books, radio and magazines." Frankly, this is troubling news period. There's no word here as to who they think should comprise this board, who selects the members, how long they serve, who decides what constitutes "questionable taste," or anything else. And if you don't think this could cause problems, ask yourself what's going on with Facebook, Twitter, and other forms of social media today.

The biggest takeway from this, aside from the apparent quaintness of American society back then, is that the divide everyone talks about today has pretty much always existed: urban vs rural, young vs. old, white-collar vs. blue-collar, and so on. And as we've seen during other times of high dudgeon, such as the revulsion against violence following the King and Kennedy assassinations, things don't seem to change much in the long term; if anything, they simply seem to continue their inexorable advancement. Perhaps the question isn't, after all, where one should draw the line. The real question is this: can one even be drawn?

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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. 

On first reading this week's review of the NBC sitcom Lotsa Luck, it's hard to tell what Cleveland Amory thinks of it. After repeated viewings, I've come to the conclusion that Amory likes it in spite of himself, or at least more than he'd want to admit. 

Lotsa Luck stars Dom DeLuise as Stanley Belmont, who works in the lost-and-found department at the bus depot and lives at home with his sister Olive, brother-in-law Arthur, and mother. As the latest Britcom to make the leap across the ocean (in the footsteps of All in the Family and Sanford & Son), Lotsa Luck, executive produced by Bill Persky and Sam Denhoff (whose other credits include the original Dick Van Dyke Show and That Girl) is, writes Cleve, long on humor but "short on taste. Any time they can work in deodorant humor or unattractive sex jokes, they will." Amory somewhat quaintly refers to this as "blue" humor*, and if you want an idea of what blue humor looks like in 1973, there's this storyline involving Olive that is "one long toilet joke" when Olive gets her foot stuck in the flush tank of the family toilet. (I don't want to even speculate on that.) 

*I wonder if the editors saved this review for this particular issue? 

It gets better, though, and Amory means this sincerely. By the time we get to an episode in which Stanley's mother tries to fix him up with a single librarian, the show is generating genuine laughs (despite some tastless jokes about death at the start of the episode). Dom DeLuise, says Amory, "can be hysterically funny, and without always being hysterical, either." (As anyone who's seen him on old Dean Martin shows can attest.) Despite this, Lotsa Luck pulls out of the depot after only 22 episodes, never to be seen again (until DVD). Perhaps, says Cleve, the producers [need] to get themselves a new taster."

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This week we get another three-way showdown between the premier music shows of the day: NBC's The Midnight Special, ABC's In Concert, and the syndicated Don Kirshner's Rock Concert. Who's better, who's best?

Kirshner: The Allman Brothers Band joins Wet Willie, the Marshall Tucker Band and Martin Mull.

Special: Rock music from War (hosts), Mott the Hoople, the New York Dolls, the Climax Blues Band and the Bachman-Turner Overdrive, and pop singer Danny O'Keefe.

In Concert: Rock, blues and a little bit of soul with Blood, Sweat & Tears, the Persuasions, savoy Brown, Roy Buchanan and Bobby Womack.

Perhaps Special would have been in the battle if Eric Burdon had been with them, but such is not the case, which means we're basically talking about a showdown between the Allman Brothers and Blood, Sweat & Tears. And in that case, we'll have to go with the Allmans, which means Kirshner rocks this week's lineup.

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The sporting highlight of the week has to be the World Series, which starts Saturday at 3:45 p.m. on NBC, as the defending champion Oakland A's take on the Cinderella New York Mets. The Mets barely finished over .500 during the regular season, but upset Cincinnati in a tempestuous National League Championship Series. It's the final World Series appearance by the great Willie Mays, and one of the most memorable images, not to mention one of the saddest, is that of the aging Say Hey Kid, one of the most graceful outfielders ever to play the game, tripping and falling in the outfield while trying to track down a fly ball by Deron Johnson in the ninth inning of Game Two. I could have pulled up a picture of that, but I don't have the heart; I'd much rather remember Willie for his 1954 catch of that line drive by Vic Wertz. Oh, by the way, the A's win the Series in seven games.

The Series may be the biggest event of the week, but it's by no means the only one. The annual showdown between Oklahoma and Texas, played at the Cotton Bowl during the State Fair of Texas, is ABC's college football game of the week (Saturday, 12:45 p.m.). This game usually has implications for the national championship, and this season is no exception. Oklahoma, undefeated and ranked #6, destroys #13 Texas 52-13 en route to a 10-0-1 record and a share of the national title. There's also the usual assortment of professional football on Sunday afternoon and Monday night.

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With the demise of Jerry Lewis's Labor Day telethon, the once-ubiquitous television fundraiser has pretty much been reduced to the occasional two- or three-hour special, usually following some kind of natural disaster. It wasn't always that way, though, and this week we see an example I wasn't aware of, for an organization I've never heard of. It's a New York City organization called the Association for the Help of Retarded Children (still existing today under the acronym AHRC), and their 1973 telethon, a star-studded affair airing on WOR in New York, runs for 19 hours, from 10:00 p.m. ET Saturday to 5:00 p.m. Sunday. Your hosts are Steve Allen and Jayne Meadows, and in addition to numerous appearances by Broadway stars, you'll see TV talent such as William Conrad, Buddy Ebsen, Carol Burnett, Sonny and Cher and more. 

Slotted against the start of the telethon is Griff (Saturday, 10:00 p.m., ABC), Lorne Greene's new dramatic vehicle, in whch he plays a former police officer turned private detective. Apparently viewers preferred that Greene do his travelling on horseback, as Griff lasts only 13 weeks, illustrating the difficulty a star faces when trying a change-of-pace after a long-running success. Perhaps the most notable aspect of the series, at least for me, is that the pilot didn't air until June of 1975, a year-and-a-half after the series itself was cancelled. (I wonder what they would have done had the movie been a hit?) According to the always-reliable Wikipedia, the pilot, which involves Griff going after criminals who killed his son, a plot identical to that of the Barnaby Jones pilot. Oh well; as Cleveland Amory could tell us (and has, frequently), a surplus of originality is not something one normally sees in the television business.

On Sunday, ABC's centerpiece movie is John and Mary (8:30 p.m.), a 1969 movie which Judith Crist calls an attempt "to cash in on Dustin Hoffman's hit in Midnight Cowboy and Mia Farrow's in Rosemary's Baby, and looks it." It's directed by Peter Yates, who was coming off his big hit in Bullitt. Would that the results were even partially as successful as any of those three movies; says Crist, it's so earnest in its attempt to connect with the "now" generation, it comes off as square. Enjoy the scenery and Hoffman's charm, and you might be able to make it all the way through. You might be better off taking a nap and staying up late for the debut of The Burt Reynolds Late Show (NBC, Saturday or Sunday following your late local news). the first of six scheduled late-night shows taking the place of the weekend Johnny Carson reruns. For the premiere episode, Burt goes to Leavenworth Penitentiary to bring some entertainment to the mostly forgotten men who inhabit a prison that makes Alcatraz look like "a seaside resort." In addition to a guest lineup that includes Dinah Shore, Jonathan Winters and Merle Haggard (himself a former resident of San Quenten), 33 of the prisoners will be chosen to perform on the program. (You can read more about Reynolds' show in this article at Television Obscurities.)

has a little something for everyone, beginning at 8:00 p.m. on CBS with a cartoon doubleheader. First it's a newish Peanuts cartoon, You're Not Elected, Charlie Brown, which sees Linus running for student body president. Perfect fodder for this time of year, as it was when it debuted nine days before last year's presidential election. Like so many of the newer Peanuts cartoons, though, it never becomes an institution. That's followed by a brand-new Dr. Seuss cartoon, Dr. Seuss on the Loose, three rhyming stories introduced by the Cat in the Hat. At 10:00 p.m., it's the Country Music Association Awards, also on CBS, live from Nashville and hosted by Johnny Cash. Imagine that: an awards show lasting only one hour. And at 1:00 a.m. on NBC, it's the debut of what TV Guide calls "a new-style talk show" called Tomorrow, hosted by Los Angeles newsman Tom Snyder. It's a show that truly wants to be different: "no monologue, no band, no studio audience, no big names for the most part," according to producer Rudy Tellez. I only got to see Tomorrow during the summer when I could stay up late; it's a pity we don't have any talk shows like this today.

Kim Novak makes her television debut Tuesday in the made-for-TV movie The Third Girl From the Left (8:30 p.m, ABC), co-starring Tony Curtis. That's up against the CBS movie Viva Max! (9:30 p.m, CBS), a very funny farce with Peter Ustinov as a modern-day Mexican general trying to retake the Alamo and being opposed by Jonathan Winters, Keenan Wynn and Harry Morgan. Wednesday features a rerun of Burt Reynolds' short-lived detective series Dan August (10:00 p.m., CBS), which originally ran in the 1970-71 season, before Reynolds shot to fame in Deliverance. The network's been running reruns this summer, capitalizing on his higher profile, as they will again in 1975, but for now this is the end of the rerun line; next week is the debut of a new cop series, Kojak. At the same time on ABC, Eric Braeden plays a man accused of the rape and murder of his fiancee's daughter, and only Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law can save him. His fiancee: Vera Miles. And a lackluster Thursday presents only one cant-miss show: Celebrity Bowling (Midnight, WTAF). Who could possibly pass up Dan Rowan and Michele Lee vs. John Astin and Ruth Buzzi?

On Friday night it's a special hour-long episode of Adam's Rib (9:00 p.m., ABC), the sitcom based on the 1949 movie starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn, with Ken Howard and Blythe Danner taking over the roles. This could well have been the most memorable episode of the series: it's the same case that was tried in the 1949 movie. Meanwhile, Dean Martin's Comedy Hour (10:00 p.m, NBC) roasts Bette Davis as the celebrity of the week, with a cast of roasters including Henry Fonda, Howard Cosell, Vincent Price, Nipsey Russell and Tom T. Hall. 

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One of these days, we really ought to take all these TV Guide reviews and run them in chronological order, where we could put events in context and let them build up naturally, rather than just dealing with them at random. Take Watergate, for example. We've read debates about whether or not an impeachment trial should be televised, we've seen how the hearings have disrupted daytime viewing, and now we've worked our way backward to the infamous White House tapes, and whether or not President Nixon should release them. That's the topic on this week's episode of PBS's The Advocates (Sunday, 6:00 p.m.). Of course, we know how it turns out, because we've already skipped ahead to the end of the book, as it were. The same could be said for the coming of cable television, the evolution of technology, and the growth of sports. Yeah, maybe I'll get around to that someday after I run out of issues, since we know that by definition we're dealing with a finite supply. I've always sort of counted on running out of time (or interest) before that happens, though. In the meantime, I'll count on you to flip back and forth; after all, you're under no obligation to read them in the order I write them. The links are all there—just think of it as on-demand reading. TV  


  1. All the acts that were on that Kirshner show were on Capricorn Records, which was the "Southern Rock" label back in the day. I'd go for the Midnight Special myself w/the NY Dolls, Mott the Hoople & War, who had hits & good ones after they spilt w/Eric Burdon

  2. On the Buses is the UK sitcom from which Lotsa Luck was derived.

  3. Rudy Tellez was Johnny Carson's 2nd producer, after Carson fired his original producer, Art Stark. According to Henry Bushkin's book about Carson, carson fired Tellez around 1971, freeing him to produce TOMORROW.

  4. Agree with Diskojoe. The New York Dolls were see-it-to-believe it wild.

  5. Game 2 of the 1973 World Series was also noteworthy for the incident when A's reserve 2B Mike Andrews made 2 errors in the 12th resulting in the Mets scoring the go-ahead and eventual winning runs. A's owner Charlie Finley was so pissed off that he "fired" Andrews after the game without talking to A's manager Dick Williams. Williams immediately objected and threatened to quit right there and then. After much acrimony between the two, Finley retracted his firing and Williams agreed to finish out the series. However, once the season was over, Williams left the A's.

  6. no wonder room 222 wasnt on on that friday.it was off for th
    ree straight weeks in october


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