October 24, 2020

This week in TV Guide: October 21, 1967

News item: the second week of the 2020 NFL season sees seven plays lost for the season with knee injuries in what observers speculate could be "the league’s most catastrophic week for injuries in decades," continuing a trend that started last week.

As you know, one of the themes that runs through this look at TV Guides from the 1950s through the 70s is that there's very little that's really new. History either repeats itself, or it never changed in the first place. Given that sports, like everything else, is part of the human condition, it's not surprising that the same rules apply. And, as Joe King reports in one of this week's cover stories, a "secret NFL poll" reveals that as far back as 1967, officials were coming to the conclusion that "the game is becoming too dangerous for the players."

What's most interesting about this article is that, for a contemporary reader, it's easy to see how things have changed even as they've stayed the same. Take the subject of knee injuries, the dominant aspect of King's article. King presents an alarming list of players kayoed by injuries that occurred during the pre-season, which in 1967 consisted of six games. At any given time, the average NFL team enters a game missing 4.6 players due to injuries that occurred since the start of training camp, and a staggering 32 players (out of a 16-team league) missed at least 10 games (in a 14-game season) due to knee injuries. Says one doctor, the knee has become so vulnerable that "no protective device could be guaranteed to guard it." 

Now, it's true that knee injuries remain as common today as ever. At the same time, there can be no debate that the incredible advances in surgical procedures, including but not limited to arthroscopic surgeries, have made an incredible difference. It's not uncommon for a severe knee injury to cause a player to miss the rest of the season, but injuries far less severe than that used to end a player's career, or leave him a shadow of his former self. This is unquestionably progress of the best kind.

    Gale Sayers, carried off the field in 1968. (UPI)
Doctors aren't sure what's causing this epidemic of injuries, but they've dismissed the playing surface as a factor. For all teams except the Houston Oilers, that playing surface was natural grass, and the Oilers only played on artificial turf because of the Astrodome. Today, despite improvements to artificial playing fields, most players dread taking to the fake stuff. Several of the players cited as suffering season-ending injuries in our lead paragraph did so on the artificial surface at MetLife Stadium, home of the New York Jets and Giants. (And an outdoor stadium, by the way.) Despite player complaints over the last five decades, artificial turf remains a part of the game. The maintenance, you know.

And then there's the length of the season. One finding that the doctors did agree on is that most injuries occur during the pre-season and the first three weeks of the season, and then again in the last four weeks. They wonder: perhaps players start up too fast and wear down too quickly? The lack of a pre-season this year, due to the virus, could help explain the rash of early-season injuries, but the regular season, 12 games long as late as 1960, is now 16—and is soon to expand to 17. Not only that, but the playoffs, which once were limited to two teams, now consists of 14—meaning even more playoff games. The players understand this puts them at greater risk. The owners, presumably, know this as well. But, you know, money. They covet the revenue that comes from more games. 

It's possible, though, that the biggest difference between then and now is in the area of head injuries. Mark Duncan, the NFL's supervisor of officials, tells King that the protective equipment players wear is "the finest" in history, and it's constantly being improved. Says King, "The modern helmet, for instance, stems from military research and has virtually eliminated the head injury, so feared in the past." Well. I think it's safe to say that probably the single greatest concern when it comes to the health of football players today is the head injury. We now know, from scientific studies, that the head trauma sustained by football players at every level of the game, can be permanent; furthermore, it can often be years before the effects of repeated injuries becomes apparent, in the form of early dementia that can destroy a player's later years—that is, if it doesn't cause him to commit suicide. Let's face it: there's a big difference between shortening a player's career and shortening his lifespan. Would that it were a thing of the past.

Players have become so fast, so strong, so big, that what was once called a contact sport is now referred to as a collision sport, a sport of violence. Whereas players who used to play both offense and defense had to be taught their trade, the era of specialization means that players are often woefully inadequate when it comes to even fundamentals such as tackling; it's often easier—and more dangerous—to simply throw yourself at your opponent. And as the surge in head trauma continues, and as scientific studies point to how even the impact which a player sustains in practices can cause irreperable damage, more people begin to wonder if football can be saved. Not just professional football, but all the way down to the peewee level. 

King's conclusion, true for the time, crackles with bitterness when viewed through today's eyes. "Unless somebody finds a doctor in the house who can prescribe a cure for football's knee ailments, the high-riding pro game could be hurt." And that, my friend, is not all.

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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 shows of the day. (Graphic by Al Hirschfeld)

It isn't often that Cleveland Amory starts out on such a high note, but high he is, on NBC's new Western, The High Chaparral. The hour-long show opened with a special two-hour introduction, and it was clear from the start that creator David Dortort had put his all into it: "Extraordinary scenery, a generous cast, 14 plots, 82 sublopts and four full-fledged wars—one witgh the Apaches, another with the Mexicans, a third betwen a father and a son, and a fourth between a stepmother and a stepson." That may sound to you like a lot of fighting, but trust me—or Cleve, at least—this was something worth fighting for. The cast, led by Leif Erickson, Cameron Mitchell, Joan Caulfield, Linda Cristal, Frank Silvera, and Henry Darrow, was outstanding. Granted, Mark Slade "did a bit too much blubbering for us," but, as the son in the father-son round of fighting, that was the role he had to play. 

If that was all there was to this, we'd be able to wrap this review up pretty quick and mosey on to the next story, but, as we all know, life is seldom this straightforward. "What happened to The High Chaparral between the first two hour episode and the following one-hour one." Amory says, "shouldn't have." Yes, the magic is already gone. "John had turned on Victoria; Victoria had turned on John, her brother and Mrs. Cannon No. 1; Blue had turned on everybody; and if you didn't turn it off, we miss our guess." The third episode was better, but still nowhere near the quality of that introductory two-hours; says Amory, "it would have been thin for a half-hour show, let alone an hour." 

It's not surprising, given that the first episode is often the pilot that sells the series, that a show will start out with a bang (in this case, a literal one) and go downhill from there, but that doesn't make it any less discouraging. Often a series, given enough time, will go on to find its equilibrium, a point between the high of the first episode and the lows of the subsequent efforts. That may well be what happens with The High Chaparral, for it goes on to a four-season run, in an era when the TV Western was truly drying up. It would be interesting to see if Cleve takes another crack at it somewhere down the line, to get his second impressions. But even if it doesn't get a second chance to make a second impression on him, we'll be left with those 98 episodes, as well as one of the great TV themes of all time. It may not be Paris, but it isn't bad.

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It's a week of specials of every kind, many of them on ABC—must be a sweeps week or something. It begins on Sunday with Mia Farrow, this week's cover girl, in Johnny Belinda(8:00 p.m. CT, ABC), a remake of the 1948 movie that won a Best Actress Oscar for Jane Wyman. It's the first in what the network is calling a series of "Movie Night" TV dramas based on big-screen classics of the past and featuring stars of the present.* The role is a challenging one for Farrow, who had to learn sign language for the role of Belinda McDonald, a deaf mute with no speaking lines. Joining her is Barry Sullivan as her father, David Carradine as the drunken fisherman who rapes her, and Ian Bannen as her doctor. You can see how it come out here.

*Future installments include Of Mice and Men with George Segal and Nicol Williamson; Dial M. For Murder with Laurence Harvey, Diane Cilento and Hugh O'Brian; and The Diary of Anne Frank with Max Von Sydow and Diana Davila. ABC was fond of this kind of remake, as you'll see.

, and the emphasis is on documentaries, beginning with Coach Bryant: Alabama's Bear (7:30 p.m., ABC), an hour-long profile of Alabama's already-legendary football coach Bear Bryant. Chris Schenkel gives viewers a look at Bryant's coaching style (including an interview with former Alabama quarterback Joe Namath), and reviews last season, when Bryant's defending national champions finished the season as the nation's only unbeaten, untied team, only to finish third in the final polls. (That finish became a prime motivator for Bryant to integrate the team.) Then, followng a break for Peyton Place, it's an ABC News Special entitled "The Long Childhood of Timmy," a report on the life of a mentally retarted child, narrated by E.G. Marshall.

Tuesday is music night, starting with NBC's special presentation of The Beatles' A Hard Day's Night (6:30 p.m.). Judith Crist calls it a movie of "fantastic charm," with probing portraits of "four very likeable young men." Thanks to the movie's early start, you'll have time to check out ABC's revival of Armstrong Circle Theatre (8:30 p.m.), which originally ran from 1950 to 1957 on NBC and 1957 to 1963 on CBS, thus covering all the network bases. Unlike its earlier incarnation, however, this time it's just the umbrella title for a series of musical specials; previous presentations included Brigadoon and Carousel, both starring Robert Goulet, while this week it's Kismet, featuring an all-star cast that includes Jose Ferrer, Barbara Eden, Anna Maria Alberghetti, Hans Conreid and George Chakiris. Any resemblance between this series and the network's Movie Night is, I presume, entirely uncoincidental. 

ABC's specials continue on Wednesday with a real movie night, the TV premiere of 1956's The King and I (6:30 p.m.), with Yul Brynner in his Oscar-winning performance as the King of Siam, and Deborah Kerr as Anna, the English tutor to his 82 children, who isn't afraid to stand up to his majesty. Judith Crist hails Brynner's "greatest performance," describing it as "a creation of overpowering magnetism in the combination of complex intelligence and simple primitivism." The thought occurs to me that Yul Brynner, like James Cagney, played plenty of tough guys during his long career, but—like Cagney—found his greatest success, as well as his only Academy Award, for a musical. Interesting only to me, perhaps, but interesting nonetheless. And ABC isn't done yet; speaking of "overpowering magnetism," the movie is followed by With Love. . . Sophia, and the Sophia in question is, who else, Sophia Loren, taking viewers on a tour of her world. (And what a world it is!) Joining Sophia are Jonathan Winters (!), Peter Sellers, Marcello Mastroianni, and Tony Bennett; the music is by Leslie Bricusse.

it's CBS's turn to turn to specials. At 6:30 p.m. it's the second broadcast of one of television's most-loved cartoons, It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, Linus' eternal quest to see the mythical Halloween icon.* It's followed at 7:00 p.m. by a Don Knotts variety special, starring Don's old friend Andy Griffith, Juliet Prowse, Roger Wiliams, and the Kids Next Door (not this one, but the '60s singing group). ABC relies on its regular programming tonight, with a couple of special appearances: on Batman (6:30 p.m.), Milton Berle guests as Louie the Lilac, while F. Lee Bailey's guest on his interview program Good Company (9:30 p.m.) is the Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. And let's not leave out NBC; Jack Kelly and Antoinette Bower are on Ironside (7:30 p.m.), and Dean Martin's guests are Donald O'Connor, Jonathan Winters (who survived his night with Sophia), Nancy Ames, and Flip Wilson. (9:00 p.m.)

*As I was writing this sentence, I saw that Great Pumpkin, as well as the rest of the Peanuts cartoons, including A Charlie Brown Christmas, will be shown on Apple+ instead of ABC. No network airings of the classics, in other wordsand it seems to me that if there was ever a year that these specials should be on broadcast TV, it's 2020. Death by a thousand cuts, one at a time, isn't it?

Dueling specials round out the week on Friday. At 9:00 p.m, an NBC News Special looks at a question that remains pertinent today: does America's legal system really provide equal justice for all? As writer-producer-director Bob Rogers puts it, "Some people in the U.S. can't afford lawyers—which means they can't afford their rights." Opposite that on ABC, John Davidson hosts an hour of variety from South Bend, Indiana, to celebrate homecoming week at Notre Dame. He's joined under the Golden Dome by Judy Colins, Spanky and Our Gang, George Carline, and the Notre Dame Glee Club. For more excitement, opt for The CBS Friday Night Movie, with Robert Mitchum, Elsa Martinelli, and Jack Hawkins involved in jungle adventure in Rampage. "Good guy Mitchum gets the girl" says Judith Crist, "but the four-legged animals on screen win the acting honors."

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In the Teletype, Joseph Finnigan reports that "Jack Webb signed Martin Milner (Route 66) and Kent McCord as co-stars for the new police-series pilot he's producing for NBC at Universal." Yep, Adam-12. Hollywood Palace is heading back to Saturday nights after ABC's abortive move to Tuesdays. (No Sullivan vs. The Palace this week, due to all those specials, but Ed's scheduled guests are the American Folk Ballet; the singing McGuire Sisters; England's Lulu ("To Sir, with Love"); and comedians Jackie Vernon, Tommy Cooper, Norm Crosby, and Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, so it was definitely a beatable lineup.) 

Don Quine in more recent years
We frequently look at profiles of the latest starlets, but turnabout, as Peter Marshall used to say on The Hollywood Squares, is fair play, so this week we'll see the latest l'enfant terrible of the small screen, Don Quine of The Virginian. Dwight Whitney describes him as "young, bright, short-fused and just unruly enough in a ding-a-ling sort of way to be catnip for the ladies in the mini-skirts." He's driven publicists crazy with his refusal to "play the game," fought with directors (literally, in one case), told off actors twice his age, and antagonized both crew and writers. Says one studio hand, "I think he thought he was at least as big a deal as Frank Sinatra." Executive producer Frank Price finally has to tell him to cool it, or else. "He said he got the message and was grateful."

One gets the impression that Quine is a man desperately searching for himself; at the time of the interview, he's just given up Reichian Therapy in favor of Transcendental Meditation and the Indian mystic Maharishi. He says he's calmer, but he's also split from his wife. And it sounds as if, success notwithstanding, he's still not sold on this acting business. "The studio is really very happy with me. I think I'll probably give up the Hollywood bag, split and go to Europe at the end of the season. There are just too many interesting things in the world not to." One of those interesting things is karate; after he does, in fact, kick the acting gig, he goes on to write the self-defense book American Karate, and serve as president of the Professional Karate Association. A (PKA) whose Kick of the 80’s weekly fight series on ESPN ran for close to a decade. As Sinatra might say, ain't that a kick in the head.

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Earlier, I mentioned ABC's "Movie Night" and their reboot of Armstrong Circle Theatre. Adapting classic movies for radio had been going on for years (often with members of the original cast), but it was not uncommon in the 1950s and '60s to see made-for-TV adaptations as well. Many of these were shot not the way we would think of them today, as TV-movies, but were done more in the manner of a play, and were captured on videotape rather than film. Even into the mid 1970s, when film had become the dominant medium, we can see networks attempting to give viewers more of what might be called a "theater experience" by shooting on tape instead of film.* To understand how such things work, it's useful, as well as fun, to go back to the spring of 1958, as recounted in Stephen Battaglio's terrific biography of David Susskind.

*Occasionally, these adaptations could prove disastrous, as in ABC's 1968 version of the 1944 classic Laura, starring George Sanders, Robert Stack, and . . . Lee Radziwill, also known as Jackie Kennedy's sisterThe Chicago Tribune, in one of the kinder reviews, called it "the worst drama" of the television season. 

Not long after MGM had run a giant ad in the trade publication Variety promoting their upcoming $12.5 million epic remake of Ben-Hur, Susskind and his buisness partner, Al Levy, ran a (much smaller) ad announcing that their company, Talent Associates, was in preproduction for a live television version of Ben-Hur. As anyone who's ever seen the movie knows, such an idea was utterly absurd; in addition to the famed chariot race, there's also a naval battle that would be the centerpiece of any other story, large groups of Roman soldiers marching through the streets of Judea, a leper colony, and the Crucifixion, accompanied by an earthquake. The logistics of staging such a spectacle on live television would be impossible.* Nonetheless, Susskind and Levy announced with straight faces, there it was, and MGM was livid at the prospect of their investment (upon which the survival of the studio might depend) being undercut.

*Although, it should be added, Kraft Television Theatre did sink the Titanic on live television in their adaptation of A Night to Remember, so perhaps it's forgivable that MGM bit on such a ridiculous story.

Inagine this in a television studio!

Quickly a meeting was arranged between an MGM executive and Susskind and Levy. What, they were asked, was Talent Associates up to?

"We think it's a great story," Levy deadpanned. "Live television has never seen anything like it."

And then the meaning of it all became clear. "How much do you want," the exeutive asked. "We don't want any money," Levy replied, pulling out of his pocket a list of MGM movie titles. What they wanted, in return for "dropping" the Ben-Hur idea, was the television rights to the listed movies. The deal was made, and Susskind subsequently announced that TA was shelving their live Ben-Hur, saying that "he could not with a clear conscience pursue a project that could be damaging to the studio." Over the years, Talent Associates did a lot of TV adaptations of MGM movies, for programs like DuPont Show of the Week and the original Armstrong Circle Theatre, and eventually even the press began to catch on.

It has nothing to do with TV Guide, perhaps, but as a look at how the sausage is made, you can't beat it. TV  


  1. Was this the airing of "A Hard Day's Night" with the black-and-white animation of the NBC peacock at the beginning?

  2. I'd been wondering why "...Great Pumpkin" had yet to be scheduled. Thank God I have all the Sixties and Seventies "Peanuts" specials on DVD to watch at my choosing.

  3. Quickly:

    The 1968 Laura redo (from David Susskind for ABC) co-starred Robert Stack, not Robert Culp.
    Bob Stack wrote a very funny memoir, Straight Shooting, in which he writes about various projects he was involved with that went awry; Laura gets a whole chapter.

    1. You're right, of course, and I didn't even include some of those quotes on what he thought about that remake, or how he played the same role in a previous remake of it.

  4. Are they not owned by Apple tv now.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!