October 3, 2020

This week in TV Guide: October 7, 1961

It's true that John Kennedy was the first TV president, but Dwight Eisenhower was the president of television's Golden Age; and unlike JFK, Ike didn't need television to introduce him to the public. This week, as we approach the one-year anniversary of his successor being chosen, the former president sits down to spend some significant time with CBS' Walter Cronkite on Thursday night at 10:00 p.m. ET.

Tonight's show, the first of three, focuses on Eisenhower's views on the Presidency: what constitutional powers the president has and how he can use them, the qualities of leadership required in the men who would presume to hold the office, and his own adjustment from being Supreme NATO Commander and President of Columbia University to President of the United States.

The CBS crew that arrived at Eisenhower's farm in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, found the four days spent with the former president a special occasion. "It was like a nice, warm visit with your grandfather," according to Cronkite, who would one day inspire the same feelings from his viewers. Executive Producer Fred Friendly, who had instructed the crew "against bothering Mr. Eisenhower* for autographs for 'telling him how you fought alongside him during the war'," said that Eisenhower "was wonderful. He wrote me several letters after we completed the job and returned to New York. He also wrote generous letters to Mr. [William] Paley [head of CBS] about Walter, about the crew and me." Cronkite abstained from what he called "Mike Wallace" questions, and Eisenhower was frank in many of his answers. It's perhaps not surprising then that when Ike returned to Normandy for a television special on the 20th anniversary of D-Day, it was on CBS—with Cronkite.

*Throughtout the article, the former president is referred to as "Mr. Eisenhower." A bit of decorum that we don't often see anymore. 

All in all, it sounds like a very interesting show, with a man who is obviously still revered by the American people. I wonder how it did in the ratings, up against Sing Along With Mitch and The Untouchables?

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At 1:45 p.m. Saturday afternoon on NBC, it's Game Three of the World Series, which really was a classic back in those days when only one team from each league made it to the postseason. (They had fans in the stands as well.) This year, the Fall Classic pits the heavily favored New York Yankees, led by new home run king Roger Maris, Mickey Mantle, Yogi Berra, Whitey Ford and the rest, against the surprise National League champion Cincinnati Reds, led by Frank Robinson and Joey Jay.* The teams unexpectedly split the opening two games in New York, which means the Reds can capture the title by winning their three games at home. Alas for the Redlegs, it's the Yankees who sweep the three games, and the Series, which concludes on Monday afternoon. Here's a brief clip from the original broadcast of that Game Three.

*Fun fact: In the long history of organized baseball, Joey Jay was the first Little League player to make it to the major leagues.

Following the Series, ABC's college football game of the week takes us to Los Angeles, where #1 ranked Iowa takes on USC. In a spectacular game, the Hawkeyes edge the Trojans 35-34; it is, alas, the last hurrah for Iowa, which finishes the season a disappointing 5-4. USC's season ends dismally as well, at 4-5-1. Neither team will be seen in the New Year's games.

Saturday night, it's the 1953 movie Titanic on NBC's new Saturday Night at the Movies (9:00 p.m.), starring Clifton Webb, Barbara Stanwyck and Robert Wagner*. This was the first movie I'd ever seen about the Titanic (though I saw it several years later on local TV), and though I was initially frightened by the upcoming collision between the ship and the iceberg, I was nonetheless hooked for life on the great tragedy.

*Fun fact: In the movie, Stanwyck plays an unhappy wife who's left Webb, taking her two children with her. Wagner plays a college student who romances Stanwyck's eldest daughter during the trip. In reality, Wagner and Stanwyck (whe was 23 years his elder) were in the midst of a torrid four-year affair.

If the sinking of the Titanic doesn't float your boat, you might be more interested in ABC's Fight of the Week, featuring journeyman heavyweight Alex Miteff taking on the unranked but up-and-coming fighter Cassius Clay. We're told that Clay "didn't look too impressive in his last bout" and "is up against a strong, aggressive puncher tonight." Clay, of course, comes out on top; a little less than two-and-a-half years later, he would be heavyweight champion. If you're curious, here's how it looks, brought to you by El Producto:

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The World Series continues on Sunday, as does professional football. The defending NFL champion Philadelphia Eagles are at home this week, which according to the archaic NFL blackout rules, means there's no televised NFL football in Philadelphia, home of this week's issue. On the other hand, the AFL has no such restrictions, and it's the ABC (and later NBC) telecasts of AFL games into blacked-out NFL markets that helps the new league gain a foothold in the nation. This week, the Buffalo Bills take on the defending AFL champion Houston Oilers in Houston; the Bills take an upset victory, 22-12.

Sunday also brings us a little Cold War news, in the person of Ed Sullivan, who's taken his show to West Berlin to entertain 6000 Allied military personnel and their families. (8:00 p.m., CBS) Tonight, Ed gives us a highlights show, featuring Louis Armstrong, Sid Caesar, Shari Lewis, Maureen O'Hara, Rowan and Martin, opera star Roberta Peters (Ed's favorite guest), and more.

Later still on Sunday (10:00 p.m.), CBS presents Candid Camera, and there's an accompanying article in the national section that tells about the show's own Cold War moment: how creator Allen Funt successfully smuggled 90,000 feet of film (and two cameramen) in and out of the Soviet Union. Funt tells writer Martin Cohen how he had feared bureaucratic red tape would prevent him from ever getting there legally, so he and his crew simply went there on their own, registering as tourists, and spending over a week doing some of their most famous bits before unsuspecting Russian citizens, all with hidden cameras that would likely get them arrested if they were ever discovered. Fortunately for them they weren't, and Funt emerges with, he says, enough footage for an hour's program, which will be seen sometime in the future.

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Some leftovers for the rest of the week, but as is often the case, leftovers can be pretty good.

John Daly, the longtime anchor of ABC's evening news (as well as its news director), has left the network, which leaves him free to concentrate on What's My Line?, as well as make guest appearances on other shows. This Monday, he's hosting NBC's Westinghouse Presents variety special "The Sound of the Sixties" (10:00 p.m.), starring Art Carney, Vic Damone, Gogi Grant, Pat Harrington, Mahalia Jackson, Andre Previn and Tony Randall. Too bad they couldn't get any stars.

On Tuesday, Lee Marvin and Arthur Kennedy star in the initial presentation of ABC's new anthology series Alcoa Premiere (10:00 p.m.), with Fred Astaire as host and occasional star. He's not on tonight's program, "People Need People," starring Arthur Kennedy as a psychiatrist who's given ten days to prove the value of his new treatment for mentally ill former soldiers—what we'd call PTSD. Lee Marvin plays the afflicted vet, and I wonder how quaint, or how insightful, the discussion of treatment would look to us today, given what we now know about the syndrome.

Now, you might be wondering, after seeing the ad above for The New Bob Newhart Show (Wednesday 10:00 p.m., NBC), what the old one was like. It's kind of hard to say, because the evidence points to this being his first series. Perhaps they mean it's a new series, as opposed to whatever old ones it replaced; this is, after all, its debut episode. One thing's for sure: history will show that more people were interested in Bob Newhart's really new series—The Bob Newhart Show that featured him as a psychologist in Chicago, with Suzanne Pleshette as his wife.

In any event, the buttons on the ad refer to Newhart's celebrated comedy album The Button-Down Mind of Bob Newhart, which won the Grammy as Album of the Year in 1961 (before that award was specified for musical performances). The album features most of Newhart's greatest bits, including the imaginary telephone conversations, and NBC must have felt this made him a natural for a variety show. As it turns out, it was not the variety format that suited him best (he also featured in The Entertainers, a failed variety show with rotating hosts, one of whom was Carol Burnett), but the sitcom. Admittedly, that might not have been so obvious back in 1961, but as we've seen since, Newhart was one of the first of many stand-up comedians to have a successful sitcom shaped around his act, or shtick. In Newhart's case, it happened successfully not once, but twice.  Not bad at all.

Also on Wednesday, a couple of things: a great animation block, with The Alvin Show on CBS at 7:30 p.m., and Top Cat on ABC at 8:30 p.m. Loved them both. And then, on Armstrong Circle Theatre (10:00 p.m., CBS), host Ron Cochran—soon to move to ABC as anchor of its nightly news, thanks to Daly's resignation—presents "Legend of Murder: The Untold Story of Lizzie Borden." The legend of Lizzie Borden has always been a storied part of American history; I wonder if it's ever taught in school nowadays.

On Friday, it's one of the very best episodes of The Twilight Zone, featuring Jack Klugman and Jonathan Winters in "A Game of Pool." (10:00 p.m., CBS) It's an example of Klugman's one-note intensity used to its best effect, in a powerful performance as a man trying to prove that there's one thing he can do better than anyone else: play pool. He's countered by an equally good Winters, in a rare dramatic role as Fats, the long-dead legendary pool great, come back to force Klugman to prove that his game is more than just talk—that he has the guts to be the best.

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"For the Record" was TV Guide's precursor to The Doan Report—have I mentioned that before? I've done so many of these I can't remember anymore, and it couldn't have anything to do with old age. Anyway, Henry Harding reports that The Bell Telephone Hour barely made it through its season opener September 29 on NBC. Harry Belafonte, who'd been heavily advertised as host of the live broadcast, instead wound up in the hospital with a respiratory ailment. No worries; the show improvised by substituting a Belafonte performance from a couple of years back. That was easy, though, compared to the problems with the show's other star, Rosemary Clooney. The telephone people, who spend a lot of money every year to sponsor the program, wanted Clooney to cut a couple of her love songs; they thought they were inappropriate for a woman about to divorce José Ferrer (for the first time). Rosie promptly took a hike, and I can't really say I blame her. The producers recruited some substitute talent: opera stars Anna Moffo and Richard Tucker, plus Dorothy Collins and Eddie Condon. Well, you know what they say—the show must go on. Meanwhile, one of television's most popular programs may be in trouble; thanks to the aforementioned Saturday Night at the Movies, NBC was able to mop up on CBS's top-rated Gunsmoke, along with Have GunWill Travel and the last half-hour of The Defenders. Is this the end of the trail for Matt Dillon and the good people of Dodge City? Eventually, fourteen seasons from now. 

And then there's the story behind that photo of Jack Paar at left. It was taken during Paar's recent trip to West Berlin, at a checkpoint between East and West. Paar, in the process of filming three shows, talked the Army into appeairng with him; he appeared with, according to Stars and Stripes, "two colonels, one lieutenant colonel, a major, a captain, two lieutenants and about 50 enlisted men, some in bulletproof vests." Well, when word got back to the VIPs in Washington, you'd think Paar had provided aid and comfort to the enemy instead of talking with American troops. "Sen. Mike Mansfield, D-Mont., majority leader, asserted that what is happening in Berlin is a world tragedy and 'not a TV spectacular,' with military personnel used as background for a comedian. Sen. Hubert H. Humphrey, D-Minn., assistant majority leader, said this 'is intolerable and should not be done.' He said Soviet Premier Nikita S. Khrushchev can use 'this kind of incident' for propaganda around the world 'and beat us over the head with it.' Sen. Leverett Saltonstall, R-Mass., said the use of armed troops for such an occasion might lead to 'a shooting scene.' A number of the officers were disciplined for cooperating with Paar. 

The story doesn't end there, though, as we see in this week's Letters to the Editor. Jacqueline Ferguson, of Clinton, Kentucky, is not impressed with the opinions of those men in Washington, nor with the editors of TV Guide who viewed the whole thing as a publicity stunt. (For television? Imagine that.) TV Guide's editorial, Ms. Ferguson writes, "did not mention the tears of joy that must have been shed by the families of the few armed forces men we saw. They could not have understood the situation in any other way than to see the streets, the buildings as they were. mr. Paar did not have any intention of having a news broadcast, but all the same he brought us the news." She reminds us that "[t]here were jokes at Valley Forge [and] Abraham Lincoln's humor was not dampened by the Civil War," and that it is "typical of us to ralize completely the seriousness of a situation and still be able to find the humor in it." I have to wonder how many letters like this the Secretary of the Army received, because Harding now reports that—low and behold—the Army has reversed its decision. "A military investigation, which included a viewing of the controversial Paar film, concluded with a decision to cancel the disciplinary action 'in order to right an injustice.'" Maybe you can fight City Hall, at least some of the time.

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Finally, I'll leave you with some more ads. Here's one for Broderick Crawford's new series King of Diamonds, in which he's looking very much like Chief Dan Matthews in Highway Patrol.

Before Mike Connors was a star in Mannix, he played an undercover agent in the tense drama Tightrope! His character was so undercover, he didn't even have a regular name. Speaking of which, I'm surprised to see him referred to here as "Mike"—although that's how we know him today, back then he was usually billed as "Michael." Better than Touch, anyway.

This "Special Offer to Roger Maris Fans" reminds us that Maris had just completed one of the greatest season any baseball player ever had, breaking Babe Ruth's famed single-season home run record.*

*With the help of an *, of course. Perhaps he did need some extra games, but he didn't need PEDs.

And Richard Burton isn't on television this week, at least not in his own program—but just because you can't watch the "star of stage, screen and TV" doesn't mean you can't drink the wine he does. And it's imported from Denmark!

But is it as exciting as Liz? TV  

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Thanks for writing! Drive safely!