November 30, 2020

What's on TV: Thursday, December 4, 1958

I mentioned on Saturday that this was a week of specials, but for today's feature I chose a day with no specials, a chance to take a look at an ordinary schedule before it becomes overloaded with Christmas festivities. That's not to say there aren't interesting things to see. For example, look at The Pat Boone Show on ABC. This has to be one of the few instances in this 62-year-old issue (outside of shows with child actors) in which both the star and one of the guests, future Hogan's Heroes star Robert Clary, are still with us. That alone makes it special, don't you think? It all comes from the Minnesota State Edition.

November 28, 2020

This week in TV Guide: November 29, 1958

There's a little something for everyone in this issue, including specials, sports, and even a Christmas show, so let's get right to it before we forget!  

Saturday night Victor Borge stars in his fourth CBS special (8:00 p.m.), and the Great Dane takes the opportunity to talk with TV Guide's Frank DeBlois about some of the challenges involved in doing television. "On TV there is always the problem of the studio audience," he says. "I dislike to complain, but sometimes I have found that the professional TV studio patron, with a jaw full of rock candy and a carpetbag slung over the shoulder, is not there to watch me play the piano, but rather is there to forage for salami. If I had a show every week I would pass out smorgasbord." He adds, however, that he cannot perform without an audience; it is like "looking into a mirror without a mirror." And, he assures DeBlois, there is no such thing as a bad audience. "A bad audience is merely one the performer cannot handle." 

Sunday strikes a musical note or three, starting with Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic in the first in a monthly series of programs doing what Berttstein would do so well in his young people's concerts: explaing classical music. (4:00 p.m., CBS) This month, the maestro takes an in-depth look at Beethoven's Ninth; among the soloists assisting Bernstein is the future legend Leontyne Price. The hour-long program ends just in time for NBC's Peter and the Wolf (5:00 p.m.), starring Art Carney and the Baird Puppets, with music based on Prokofiev's themes and composed by Paul Weston, and lyrics by Ogden Nash and Sheldon Harnick. The highlight, however, is probably the musical comedy Wonderful Town, with the wonderful Rosalind Russell reprising her Tony-winning Broadway role (8:00 p.m., CBS), and featuring songs by none other than—Leonard Bernstein. And guess what: you can see it right here!

Monday morning starts the week with a little Yule cheer, the Santa Claus Party (WCCO, 7:45 a.m.), which airs every Monday, Thursday and Friday through the Christmas season. "Shows will be taped ahead with the new Video Tape Recorder, so the youngsters who appear on the show will be able to see themselves on TV." That evening, the Salvation Army's "Tree of Lights" pageant is presented by WTCN (7:00 p.m.), live from the balcony of the Calhoun Beach Hotel, which just happens to be home of WTCN's studios. At 9:00 p.m. on CBS, Danny Thomas and his TV family, fresh off of their own weekly appearance at 8:00 p.m., are the guests on a special Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour that features Danny Williams and his gang renting the Ricardos' Connecticut home for a vacation, while Lucy and Desi are in Hollywood making a picture. This being Lucy, you know things aren't going to be that easy: the project is cancelled, and the Ricardos want their home back. Hilarity ensues.

I don't think I've ever mentioned the espionage series The Man Called X. It ran on the radio from 1944 to 1952, with Herbert Marshall as Intelligence Agent Ken Thurston, but Barry Sullivan takes on the role in the syndicated television version (produced by Ziv), which ran for two seasons, from 1956-57. Tuesday's episode (7:00 p.m., KMSP), "Ballerina Story," was actually the second to air during the show's original run; "Thurston is dispatched from Washington to help a ballerina escape from a dictatorship." Are you sure that's not a typo, that Thurston's dispatched to Washington to help the ballerina escape the dictatorship? No, maybe not. If you're looking for some laughs, George Burns is a popular man tonight: he first appears in his own show (8:00 p.m., NBC) with singer Tony Martin as his special guest; then, at 8:30, George himself is the special guest on The Bob Cummings Show, as he tries to help Bob's nephew Chuck with his singing career. I'll bet Hal could tell us more about this episode at The Horn Section!

On Wednesday's U.S. Steel Hour (9:00 p.m., CBS), we're reminded that panel show regular Betsy Palmer is also an actress, as she stars with Ed Begley in "The Enemies," a predictable Romeo-and-Juliet story set in the world of small-town politics. A better bet would have been the Wednesday Night Fights, airing opposite on ABC, with future heavyweight champion Sonny Liston, currently the #9 ranked contender, taking on Howard King in Chicago. However, Liston pulled out (probably due to injury); his replacement, #2 light-heavyweight Harold Johnson, who took the fight with only six days of preparation, outpointed King to take "an easy, but unimpressive victory in the televised Chicago Stadium bout." The recorded live attendance was 625.

I often mention how prominent movies used to be in the everyday TV schedule, especially when it comes to local stations and their programming; later on, you'll read about WTCN and its nightly Movie Spectacular; Thursday night, however, KMSP has to take the honors with its 9:00 p.m. showing of High Noon, the 1952 Western that won an Oscar for Gary Cooper and also starred Thomas Mitchell and Grace Kelly. Seems to me they could have made a bigger deal about having this; maybe they'd already shown it once before? One of the co-stars of High Noon was Lloyd Bridges; his hit Sea Hunt appears opposite the movie, at 9:00 on WTCN and 9:30 on WDSM. Also at 9:30 but on KROC, it's Decoy, the Beverly Garland show that foretold Police Woman.

Friday's Walt Disney Presents (7:00 p.m., ABC) continues the story of fictional Revolutionary War hero Johnny Tremain with "The Short That Was Heard Round the World" at Concord, Massachusetts. Hal Stalmaster stars as Johnny, with Walter Sande as Paul Revere. I have to admit I've lost track of things lately, so you have to remind me: are these guys still heroes or not? At 8:00 p.m. on CBS, Bilko cons the McGuire Sisters into appear on his variety show by hiring two people named "Frank Sinatra" and "Kim Novak." Of course, they aren't the Frank Sinatra and Kim Novak. . . And Edward R. Murrow's guests on Person to Person (9:30 p.m., CBS) are TV star Ann Sothern and Pakistani U.N. ambassador Aly Kahn, playboy and former husband of Rita Hayworth. Who could imagine the diplomatic life could be so exciting? 

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At one time it was one of the biggest football games of the year, annually attracting over 100,000 fans to Philadelphia Stadium, including, frequently, the president of the United States. Even today, regardless of the records of the two teams, it's guaranteed a national television audience, at a time when no other games are scheduled. It is, of course, the Army-Navy game, and on Saturday (12:15 p.m., NBC) they meet for the 59th time, with Army holding 29-24-4 advantage. Nowadays their fortunes rise and fall, with aspirations to appear in some of the more minor bowl games, but in 1958 the service academies, particularly the Army, still reflect the glory, and success, of the wartime teams. Army enters this year's contest with a record of 7-0-1, ranked #5 in the nation; Navy, ranked as high as #6 at one point in the season, is 6-2. (The Air Force, in case you're wondering, finishes #8 at 9-0-2, and plays on New Year's Day in the Cotton Bowl.) On this day, the Cadets come out on top, defeating the Middies 22-6 to cap off their undefeated season, and finish #3 in the nation. It is, to this date, the last undefeated Army team.

In other sports news, CBS has some "ice hockey" on Saturday at 1:00 p.m., with the Boston Bruins and New York Rangers meeting at Madison Square Garden. In Sunday's NFL action, the Los Angeles Rams taken on the Chicago Cardinals (1:00 p.m., CBS), and in the NBA Game of the Week, it's the New York Knickerbockers and Philadelphia Warriors (1:30 p.m., NBC),* 

*Yes, the Cardinals were in Chicago before they moved to St. Louis, which was before they moved to Phoenix, which was before they were renamed Arizona. (Hey, they're birds; they migrate a lot.) And the Warriors moved cross-country from Philly to San Francisco, then across the Bay to Oakland, and then back to San Francisco. It keeps moving companies—and stadium builders—in business.

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Speaking of movies on local television, as we were a couple of stories ago, this week's focus is on WTCN, and while it may be the ABC affiliate in the Twin Cities, that doesn't stop it from airing the Movie Spectacular every night at 9:45 p.m, no matter what the network might have in mind. (The station aired 15 minutes of news at 9:30, leading up to the movie.) And while local stations, including WTCN, have been known to exaggerate from time to time, I have to admit they're on to something here.

Well, all right, perhaps Saturday's feature isn't that spectacular: Tugboat Annie Sails Again, even though it has Jane Wyman and Ronald Reagan, but check out the rest of the week. On Sunday it's the reformist classic I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang, with Paul Muni; Monday is the bullet-riddled This Gun For Hire, starring Alan Ladd and Veronica Lake; Tuesday, William Holden and Joan Caulfield star in Dear Ruth; Wednesday, it's Olivia DeHavilland's Oscar-winning performance in The Heiress, with Montgomery Clift; Thursday is Cecil B. DeMille's Reap the Wild Wind with John Wayne, Susan Hayward and Ray Milland; and Friday winds things up with Bing, Bob and Dorothy Lamour in Road to Singapore. But it doesn't stop there! We've also got ads for next weekend: Saturday is For Whom the Bell Tolls with Ingrid Bergman and Gary Cooper, while Sunday's feature is the war drama Wake Island, starring Brian Donlevy, Robert Preston and William Bendix.

It's a great lineup, but it's almost as important to note that each of the weeknight features are making their television premiere. Movies you haven't seen on TV before are a real attraction for viewers wondering what to watch. Every time I see something like this, I'm reminded again what a marvel television must have seemed like for people back then, bringing things like these blockbuster movies into one's living room (or bedroom). It's so easy to take it for granted when we can watch whatever we want, whenever we want (on our telephones!) but programming like this, with the World Series and a few boxing matches thrown in, might have even gotten some people to go out and buy a TV. 

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It's always nice when someone writes a positive review of a favorite show, and that's what we have this week with Peter Gunn. Our reviewer, R.S., praises the show's innovations: Henry Mancini's driving jazz theme, dialog that cracks, courtesy of creator-producer-director Blake Edwards, and top-level performances from its stars. As Gunn, Craig Stevens is "tall, hamdsome and rugged," a private eye with the touch of the Ivy League, and succeeds by underplaying the role. His girlfriend Edie, played by Lola Albright, is lighthearted and compelling, and their relationship is adult and sophisticated. Hershel Bernardi is good as Gunn's policeman sidekick, Lieutenant Jacoby, a role "without whom such shows could not exist." The show itself has its share of violence—it "borders slightly on Mickey Spillane—but never gratuitous; and the locales, from rough waterfront docks to beatnick hangouts (complete with "jive talk) helps to lend atmosphere. It is, in short, an unpretentious half-hour of well-placed, interesting entertainment, "all that could be asked for." 

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Wondering what to do with those Thanksgiving leftovers? Well, you've come to the right place! "A television-viewing meal," our culinary expert says, "prepared in an electric skillet handy to the set, can be both easy and satisfying," and who am I to disagree with this? There are several recipes to choose from, but let's go with a couple of favorites: turkey scramble and onion rings parmesan.

As always, if anyone tries 'em, let us know how it turned out.

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A few weeks ago we looked at something called the "T-Venus Contest." Actually, you couldn't help but look at it, since 1) it was on the cover, and 2) both the cover and the story inside involved beautiful women. One of the fun things about stories like this is finding out whether or not any of the young women involved became big stars, or even medium-sized ones, and it's actually surprising how many times you run across someone who really did hit the jackpot.

Well, we're getting another chance this week, as TV Guide covers the Sixth Annual Deb Star Ball of the Make-up Artists and Hair Stylists Union of Hollywood. That may be a mouthful, but it's not as long as the line of entrants; the winners were selected from 229 entries sponsored by studios, networks, film companies and talent agencies. For the lucky 13 "young beauties" selected, it isn't a guaranteed ticket to stardom (although past winners include Kim Novak and Anita Ekberg), but they do get to keep those ball gowns they're wearing (designed and paid for by their sponsors), and in addition to the publicity that comes from being one of the winners, they all appeared on last week's Bob Hope Show on NBC. It's like when Bob used to have the College All-America Football team on, only more fun.

Anyway, we shouldn't be surprised to find that although all of the winners achieved some level of fame, there are a few who wound up being more familiar than the others. It may be kind of hard to make out the names at the bottom, so I've added numbers to identify those whom you might recognize (although I'm sure many of you will be able to pick out a role or two played by any of the others). Number one, for instance, is Judi Meredith, who was mentioned in this issue from earlier in 1958. Number two, Kathy Nolan, is Luke's wife in The Real McCoys, and goes on to become president of the Screen Actors Guild. Myrna Fahey, number three, appeared in many movies and TV series over the years, including Zorro and The Fall of the House of Usher. I mention Arlene Howell, number four, because she was in Bourbon Street Beat, which I spent the better part of a year discussing on Eventually Supertrain. And the other two don't really need a build-up, because I think you'll recognize them anyway: number five is Jill St. John, and Tuesday Weld is number six.

I guess 13 isn't such an unlucky number after all, is it? TV  

November 27, 2020

Around the dial

This, really, is the only way to watch television on the day after Thanksgiving. Or any other day, for that matter. If you're struggling with a tryptophan hangover, or, like me, if you have to work today, then you probably need something to wake you up. Not saying this is all you need, but perhaps it's a good start.

Why not begin with the Nelson family? That's what David does, in this comforting Comfort TV look at how Ozzie & Harriet spend the day after Thanksgiving. If you've ever had your heart set on something you can't get, you'll know how Ozzie feels.

Once Upon a Screen celebrates a 9th anniversary with some wonderful pictorial representations of the traditional gifts for the occasion. Nine years; as I can attest, time does fly when you're having fun, whether you're on the writing or the reading end of things.

It's always nice to be reminded, as Jodie does in this Garroway at Large, that Dave did more than Today. This week, she offers a rare clip from a 1957 episode of Wide Wide World, and it is too bad that so much of our television heritage from this era has been lost, isn't it?

The Broadcast Archives at the University of Maryland links to this Slate article on the times, and they really weren't that so long ago, when the puppets known as the Kuklapolitan Players could charm the nation's TV viewers. If we could just depend on something that gentle today.

At Television's New Frontier: the 1960s, it's a look at 1962 on The Andy Griffith Show, and beyond the usual good rundown on the season's episodes, take a special look at the guest star lineup, a terrific collection of familiar, and sometimes surprising, faces.

You may love Christmas as much as anyone, but if you're getting just a little tired of hearing the same old tunes year after year (especially when they start playing them in October), Martin Grams may have the answer for you: a list of vintage Christmas music you may never have heard. 

Finally, at The Hits Just Keep on Comin', JB's latest podcast shares his recent experience spending five nights in the hospital, four of them in the ICU. He's good now, and even though it's the day after Thanksgiving, that's something for which we can all be thankful. TV  

November 25, 2020

Happy Thanksgiving!

It's been that kind of year, hasn't it? In our particular circle of Hell, we've been told that we can't get together with family and friends for Thanksgiving unless we all constitute part of a "household." It's not surprising that something like this would happen at Thanksgiving, and I'd expect the same thing to happen at Christmas and, if they can get away with it, at Easter. 

It's all part of celebrating a "Thanksgiving Like No Other," although, not having been around during the Thanksgivings of World War II, for example, I don't know how accurate that label is. After all, it's one thing to apart from your loved ones due to a quarantine, but it's something altogether different when that loved one is overseas fighting a war for your freedom, or sitting somewhere in a POW camp, or even dead. Perhaps all wartime Thanksgivings are ones like no other, which begs the question as to whether or not they might even be more common than not. Maybe there's no such thing as "normal"; maybe there never was.

There's nothing wrong with being outraged about injustice; in fact, we'd be a pretty sorry lot if we weren't. (Just how one defines injustice is, of course, another question.) But tomorrow is Thanksgiving, and while it's very easy to kvetch about things, as I've been doing in the past couple of paragraphs, there's still a great deal to be thankful for, if you're willing to be fair and reasonable about it. On the balance sheet of life, many of us still have more assets than debits. I prefer to look at 2021 as a year with an opportunity for improvement. True, there are many reasons to think that next year will be even worse (and I'm not just talking about the virus, either), but other than doing what little we can about our own lives and circumstance, what else can we do? What's the old saying: let God and let go? Well, that's about it.

I'm thankful, as always, for your patronage, your comments throughout the year, and your continued interest in classic television. I appreciate the TV Guides you've allowed me to borrow, and the friendship you've given me freely. I'm grateful for the mere fact that this platform allows me to write about something that interests me, and that it interests many of you as well. I'm always excited about things that bring back warm memories, such as these two pieces from TV Party!, the outlet that gave me my first opportunity to write about classic TV. If watching those shows doesn't make you feel better, at least for a little while, then you're a candidate for a Grinch story about Thanksgiving. 

For you and your friends, family and loved ones, wherever you are and whatever you're doing, please accept my very best wishes for a blessed and happy Thanksgiving. Unless you still think turkeys can fly, you're well ahead of the game. TV  

November 23, 2020

What's on TV? Thursday, November 26, 1970

I think this is new territory for us, although we might have seen a part of Oregon in one of the northern California issues. Even in 1970, we still have a lot of dual-affiliate stations, and I heartily approve of those like KIEM, a CBS/ABC affiliate that has the good sense to transition from NFL football to college football. Now that's the kind of Thanksgiving I can relate to!

November 21, 2020

This week in TV Guide: November 21, 1970

Let me be among the first to which you all a happy Thanksgiving! Of course, that shouldn't be too difficult, since this year, as was the case 50 years ago, Thanksgiving is still five days away. It's coming, though, and Thanksgiving week has always been a big one when it comes to specials of all kinds, and 1970 is no exception.

Thanksgiving Day on the West Coast starts at 7:30 a.m. PT with my personal favorite of the era, The CBS All-American Thanksgiving Day Parades, three hours of fun featuring CBS personalities announcing four department store-sponsored parades: Macy's in New York, with Peter Graves and Julie Sommars; Gimbels' in Philadelphia, with Harvey Korman and Vicki Lawrence; J.L. Hudson's in Detroit, with New York Mets pitcher Tom Seaver and his wife Nancy; and, taped in Toronto,* the Eaton's Santa Claus Parade, with Mike Connors and Amanda Blake. For many years Bob Keeshan and the Captain Kangaroo gang hosted the overall coverage, but I don't know who (if anyone) was doing it by 1970.

When I say that Toronto's parade is on tape, in actuality all four parades are taped for Pacific Coast viewing, since the coverage actually started at 6:00 a.m. PT. If you really want to check out a tape-delay broadcast, go to NBC, where its Macy's coverage doesn't begin until noon—six hours after the fact, because for the first time, NBC has NFL football on Thanksgiving. We'll discuss football later, but because live coverage of the game begins at 9:00 a.m., there's no alternative but to show the parade afterwards. Lorne Greene and Betty White, NBC's longtime team, are back this year, along with Today's Joe Garagiola.

Besides the parades, there's more fun in store for the kids, with carton specials. At 10:30 a.m., CBS has a 90-minute animated adaptation of A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur's Court, with Orson Bean as the voice of the Connecticut Yankee, which you can see here. At 3:00 p.m. on NBC, it's a repeat of the Rankin-Bass special The Mouse on the Mayflower, with Tennessee Ernie Ford, Eddie Albert, John Gary and Joanie Sommers, and you can see that here.

Thanksgiving night gives us one of the week's biggest plums, the television premiere of the 1955 hit musical Oklahoma—uncut (CBS, 8:00 p.m.). It's no turkey, according to Judith Crist, who asks rhetorically, "what more would one want to top off a feast?" The screen is aglow with Shirley Jones and Gordon MacRae "charming" as the embattled love interests, Rod Steiger "properly repulsive" as Jud, the villain trying to steal Shirley, and Gloria Grahame "delicious" as Ado Annie. It's one of the great movie musicals of all time.

It's not the only special on Thursday night though; NBC counters with Festival at Ford's, an all-star musical special in the recently reopened (in 1968) Ford's Theatre, which had remained closed since Lincoln's assassination in 1865, serving as a warehouse and office building until its renovation. While Festival may not be the spectacle that Oklahoma is, it's not short on star power, with Andy Williams as host, and guests Pearl Bailey, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Bobby Gentry, Henry Mancini, The Supremes, Dionne Warwick, and Jimmy Stewart with a tribute to Lincoln.

Quite a day, wouldn't you say? And that doesn't even include the football; we'll get to a big week in sports, along with the rest of a special week, after these words from Cleveland Amory.

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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. 

Youth will be served—if not by America's leaders, at least by America's television networks. We've already had The Young Lawyers, which Cleveland Amory tells us "are really great guys when you get to know them," and now it's ABC's Revolutionary War story The Young Rebels, which is apparently supposed to show us that "the youth of yesterday were no different from the youth of today even if they were a little—well, older." Like today's youth, these young rebels blow things up, only back then it was the British. "The youth, in other words, will not only set you free—they did set you free." In fact, young people back then aren't really any different than they are today. The heroes of The Young Rebels (or, as Amory puts it, "a kind of Mod Squad Spirit of '76") include a student painter whose father doesn't understand him; a pioneer women's libber who's all girl at heart; a freed slave who's now a blacksmith; and his former owner, who looks like Benjamin Franklin. In other words, a little something for everyone.

Sometimes you look at a movie or television show that's so bad, so improbable, that you wonder how it ever got greenlighted, but I can easily see The Young Rebels coming out of a network boardroom., with executives who desperately want to be seen as relevant and, in turn, see young people as another demographic to try and attract. Now, I know this sounds cynical, and heaven forbid that I ever give you that impression; let's just call me cautious. And I'll also admit that I never saw even a single episode of The Young Rebels, which really isn't my fault since it was only on for 15 weeks. It's just that when I read Amory's account of one episode in which General Washington (!) tell our heroes that "General Lafayette wouldn't trust anyone over 30 with a mission like this," I get a little—cautious.

Lafayette, in fact, is one of the characters in The Young Rebels, played by French actor Philippe Forquet; Amory says he's so good that he'd be the star of the show if it weren't for Alex Henteloff as the ersatz Ben Franklin, who is "as good an actor as we have seen this year." It's almost easy to overlook future Oscar winner Louis Gossett Jr., as the blacksmith, but he's passionate and true to his cause as well. Unfortunately for this very good cast, they're drafted in service of a show that doesn't keep up its end of the bargain. The British, who are supposed to be the bad guys, "are made so ridiculous that if you can believe them at all, you certainly can't believe them as a real threat." And, of course, there's that line from Washington about being over 30. In fact, he says, the show would be better if it were a little worse, "because then it would be supposed to be funny." It's too bad, because many of the heroes of the Revolution were young; Lafayette was 20, Nathan Hale 21. They're just unfortunate to be in a situation where they only have one role to give for their series.

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Thanksgiving week has traditionally been big for college football, starting with Saturday's slate of games, many deciding spots in major bowl games. Back in 1970, the Rose Bowl still holds an honored place in America's sports pantheon—it's never just "one" of the bowls—and the Big Ten half of the equation is settled with the battle of the unbeatens: #4 Michigan at #5 Ohio State (10:15 a.m., ABC). The Buckeyes carry the day, soundly defeating the Wolverines 20-9 to punch their ticket to Pasadena. Ordinarily, their opponent would have been decided by the second-half of the doubleheader, USC vs. UCLA (5:00 p.m, ABC). This year's a little different though, as Stanford, led by Heisman Trophy winner Jim Plunkett, has already locked up the Pacific-8 title and Rose Bowl berth. The game between the Trojans and Bruins is strictly for pride, and UCLA takes it, 45-20.

I mentioned earlier that one reason for the Macy's parade scheduling challenge in the Pacific time zone was NBC's first-ever NFL Thanksgiving Day game. Now, that's not to say that NBC never showed football on Thanksgiving; for the last few years, the network has featured an AFL Turkey Day contest, usually including the Kansas City Chiefs. It's a new era, though; the two leagues have merged, with the result that NBC and CBS each get half of the Thanksgiving doubleheader wishbone. This year it's NBC's turn for the early game, the traditional clash hosted by the Detroit Lions, as they take on the powerful Oakland Raiders (9:00 a.m.), and the Lions rise to the occasion with a 28-14 upset victory. That leaves the second game to CBS, as the Green Bay Packers take on the Dallas Cowboys (12:30 p.m.); the Cowboys emerge triumphant, 16-3.

The college game on Thanksgiving is kind of lackluster; Houston vs. Florida State from Tampa (4:30 p.m., ABC), with Houston winning 53-21. I would imagine the network was constrained somewhat in which game they could show due to the limits on how many times during the season a school could appear on national television (for example, #1 Texas dismantled Texas A&M 52-14 that afternoon), but don't worry—ABC makes up for it next year. Following the game, Chris Schenkel and Bud Wilkinson look at the "Greatest College Football Players of the Last Decade" (7:30 p.m., ABC). And ABC comes up with a bonus on Friday, taking advantage of a free afternoon for an NBA game between the defending champion New York Knicks, led by last year's MVP Willis Reed, and the Milwaukee Bucks, with last year's Rookie of the Year Lew Alcindor (soon to be Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and all-time great Oscar Robertson. The Knicks win 103-94, but the Bucks get the last laugh next spring, sweeping the Baltimore Bullets to win their first NBA championship in only their third season of existence.

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I mentioned at the outset that we're in for some big programs this week, so let's get to it.

On Saturday, Lawrence Welk follows college football with "A red, white and blue Thanksgiving spectacular" (8:00 p.m., ABC), a program of songs devoted to love of God and country, neither of which would be cool on network TV today. On Adam-12 (8:30 p.m., NBC), a unique, dialogue-free episode called "Elegy for a Pig" traces the on- and off-duty life of a policeman killed in action. Martin Milner narrates. And at 9:00 p.m., KATU shows the sci-fi classic When Worlds Collide—definitely not MST3K fodder. Moving ahead to Sunday, Ed Sullivan presents a tribute to composer Richard Rodgers (8:00 p.m., CBS), telecast from the Hollywood Bowl, with Cass Elliot, Johnny Mathis, the Lennon Sisters, Shirley Jones, John Davidson, and others singing Rodgers favorites from such classics as Oklahoma, The Girl Friend, The King and I and The Sound of Music. 

One way you can tell that Thanksgiving is near is when Today starts acting like the Food Network; on Monday (7:00 a.m., NBC), it's cooking expert Roy Andries De Groot on how to prepare a Thanksgiving dinner. Meanwhile, on Captain Kangaroo (8:00 a.m., CBS), the Captain and friends celebrate Thanksgiving week with part one of "The Legend of 12 Moons," a three-part history of the American Indian. And I've not seen this before, but KATU shows ABC's Monday Night Football  on a one-hour delay, at 7:00 p.m. rather than 6:00. (Surprising for a city the size of Portland, don't you think?) If I'm coming home from work I love it, but it would be hard to do nowadays with social media.

The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau returns for it's fourth season of specials on Tuesday (7:30 p.m., ABC), with a visit to Alaska's Kodiak Island and the amazing upstream spawn of the red sockeye salmon, narrated by Rod Serling. That's followed at 8:30 by ABC's Movie of the Week, the "World Premiere" (but aren't they all, in that series?) of Crowhaven Farm, a "chilling story of vengeance from beyond the grave" with a very familiar cast, including Hope Lange, Paul Burke, Lloyd Bochner, John Carradine and Milton Selzer. Late night, The Tonight Show (11:30 p.m., NBC) is in its third week out in Hollywood, and Johnny's guests are Bob Hope, Jack Lemmon, George Carlin and Lulu.

Wednesday includes another big movie musical premiere, Debbie Reynolds' The Unsinkable Molly Brown (7:30 p.m., NBC), the 1964 story of the Denver socialite who became famous after having survived the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Molly doesn't quite fare as well with Judith Crist; she says that Molly seems devoted "only to the vulgar and venal" in her quest for social climbing, and that Reynolds' plays her "with raucous and desperate energy," countered by her Prince Charming, played by Harve Presnell "with good voice and no inspiration." Even Oral Roberts gets into the Thansgiving act; his holiday special, syndicated around the country and airing Wednesday night on most of the stations in our Oregon edition, features an eclectic guest list including Jerry Lewis (!), singer Kay Starr, and Jay Silverheels, aka Tonto. The televangelist's sermon is on Samson and Delilah, which should make for an interesting Thanksgiving message.

If you thought we'd already finished with Thursday, you've got another think coming. David Frost is in Hollywood this week as well, and he's got an eclectic guest list with Lorne Grene, Buck Owens, Godfrey Cambridge, Tim Conway, and Bill Medley. (8:30 p.m., KPTV) At 9:00 p.m. on KEZI, it's the Oscar-nominated Days of Wine and Roses, with Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick, and while it's a great movie, it's kind of a downer for Thanksgiving, don't you think? I mean, it's not the kind of thing I'd want to watch while I was digesting my turkey sandwich. On the other hand, we know there are a few families out there who tend to hit the bottle during holidays, so maybe this could be a cautionary tale. And speaking of drink, Dean Martin is first-run tonight, with Mike Donnors, Dom DeLuise, Rich Buzzi and Laurie Ichino. (10:00 p.m., NBC)

Friday night ABC has part one of what's essentially a two-part infomercial on behalf of UNICEF. Tonight it's "To All the World's Children" (7:30 p.m.), a look at how UNICEF helps needy children of the emerging nations. The infome—I mean, special concludes on Sunday morning with a profile of Arizona artist Paladin, known for his portrayals of Indian children for UNICEF cards.

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Sally at a vegetarian lunch
We've often wrapped up our TV Guide reviews with a look at the starlet du jour; this week, the question on the cover asks "What it takes to be a starlet in the '70s." Our guide through this odyssey is Sally Marr—not the Sally Marr who was Lenny Bruce's mother; no, our Sally is 29, from Texas, and is the starlet of today: "creative but no aesthete, not beautiful but gives the illusion of classic beauty; she wants to be an actress not a star; she is, above all, nonconformist. . . She doesn't go to Hollywood parties, chic eating places, premieres, or any other place which might be politic for her career if she wanted to be the starlet of the year." She gardens, paints, has a dog and a cat, is into astrology, clairvoyance, palms, handwriting. She could lie about her age, she says, but she doesn't.

She always wanted to be an actress, but felt too self-conscious, so one day she decided to up and go to Paris. While on the boat, she met a model who helped her get into modeling. In Paris, she got a boyfriend who taught her about the right wines, the right restaurants, and operas. Meanwhile, her friend from the ocean voyage decided to go to Majorca with her boyfriend, but insisted that Sally go with her. While on the plane to Majorca (I know, this is better than a movie, isn't it?), she noticed a Frenchman flirting with her, and after they landed he asked her to dinner. He turned out to be Gilbert Becaud ("the French Frank Sinatra"), which she only found out because the other diners applauded until he got up and sang a song.

When she got tired of modeling in Paris ("We were doing bathing suits on the Seine in the middle of winter"), she moved to London, where she appeared in Harper's Bazaar, Vanity Fair, Flair, and other fashion mags. That's where she met her current boyfriend, John Bloom, who accompanied her to New York, where she made a movie called The Drifter that "won a lot of prizes at the Venice Film Festival." While in Los Angeles, she did more modeling, and found herself doing roles in movies and television shows: Mayberry RF.D., The Men from Shiloh, and besides her modeling, "now I've got a great role in an Italian film. Right on."

Here's Sally modeling for a line of mannequins
As I said, quite a story, isn't it? So no sitting around at Schwab's Drugstore in a tight sweater waiting to be discovered; this, apparently, is how it is to be a starlet nowadays. And, especially as a model, she's had a good bit of success. But I know, you're all wondering how this story ends. I wish I could tell you, but the not-always-reliable IMDb has failed in this regard. For example, the episode of The Men from Shiloh that she did? According to IMDb, that was the other Sally Marr, Lenny Bruce's mother. Then there's an episode of the 1979 series A Man Called Sloane called "The Seduction Squad" that features international supermodels brainwashed into engaging in industrial espionage (which I suspect happens all the time)—"Sally Marr" plays one of the models, but considering that she was 73 at the time, I rather suspect that this could have been our Sally as well. And there's The Facts of Life Goes to Paris, made in 1982, and—hell, who knows what the truth of the matter is? It proves the importance of research—good research, not just easy research. There is more than one Sally Marr in the world.

Yes, I know that with a bit of that good research and a little effort, I could get to the bottom of it all, but as much as I love all of you out there, I'm not about to spend hours of my life trying to find this out just to write one paragraph for this article. I'm sorry, but that's the way it is. Now, if any of you want to take it on. . . TV  

November 20, 2020

Around the dial

on't look now, but Thanksgiving is next week, which means those can't-miss Christmas programs aren't far behind. (But I wish they'd at least wait until December.) For the up-to-the-minute details on when you can catch your favorites, or avoid your non-favorites, as the case may be, be sure to check out Joanna's list at Christmas TV History.

Cult TV Blog takes another look at an American series; this time, John's checking out "Dangerous Games," an episode of the series Police Story, with James Farentino. It's John's intro to the series, so you'll want to get his impressions on how the 1970s look from an American perspective.

As a fan of classic sports, one of the things I enjoy is the chance to see an entire game, rather than just the highlights, so I can take those big plays in context. It's somewhat the same when you get to share an entire article rather than just summarize it, as Jodie points out at Garroway at Large with a 1953 article from Esquire which is now out from behind a paywall and available for us all to read.

At bare-bones e-zine, Jack's Hitchcock Project continues with the works of Alfred Hayes; this week, it's the eight-season episode "Paragon," from the Alfred Hitchcock Hour version of the show, based on the story by Dame Rebecca West and well worth reading about. 

Norm Crosby, king of the malaprops, was a staple on television for decades beginning in the 1960s, certainly one of the most popular stand-up comedians of the era. He died last Friday, and at A Shroud of Thoughts Terence has a rundown on his career for those who might have forgotten about him, or younger readers who might not have had the chance to enjoy his comedy. TV  

November 18, 2020

The midnight hour


ccording to various Christian traditions, it is the archangel Gabriel who will blow the horn announcing the Lord's return to Earth and the Time of Final Judgment, as described in the Apocalypse of John.

With that as the preface, I thought that, since we've been spending some time lately looking at "cultural" programs of the past, it would be appropriate to continue the trend with The Horn Blows at Midnight, Jack Benny's fabled comedy, as seen in a live television broadcast on Omnibus from November 29, 1953, and introduced by the series host, none other than Alistair Cooke. Before we get to that, though, a little background.

The Horn Blows at Midnight originally debuted as a big-screen movie in 1945. It tells the story of a studio musician, played by Benny, who falls asleep and dreams that he's Athanael, a junior grade angel ("third phalanx, fifteenth cohort") who's been given a small but important assignment: to travel to one of the fairly insignificant planets—Earth—and blow the horn that signifies the end of the world. A variety of complications ensue, all of which conspire to prevent Benny from carrying out his assignment, at which point Benny awakens from his dream and returns to reality.

I don't know if the word "bomb" is an appropriate description for the movie's reception, but it certainly underperformed, critically and at the box office, considering the presence of a star like Benny. Shrewdly, Jack adopted the movie as one of his longest-running punch lines on both his radio and television programs, building it up (or tearing it down, as it were) until it had attained a status as an epic failure, if not one of the worst movies ever made. ("When the horn blew at midnight," he once said, "it blew taps for my movie career.") This, of course, gave the movie far more publicity than it would have gotten otherwise (after all, people thought, it couldn't possibly be that bad!), burnishing Benny's reputation for self-deprecating humor, and helping the movie recoup its investment.

Benny with angelic girlfriend Dorothy Malone
and Lester Matthews as The Chief 
A version of The Horn Blows at Midnight was produced for the radio program Ford Theater in 1949 with Benny reprising his role, and this version differs a bit from the movie, most significantly in the dropping of the framing device that begins and ends the story. Here, it's no dream; Benny actually is Athanael the angel, and he really has been sent to blow the horn and drop the curtain on Earth's existence. However, as Athanael goes from one predicament to another, with the clock edging ever closer to midnight, he begins to question his assignment, asking "whether or not the people of Earth, just suffering World War II, deserved to be extinguished with the Earth or given another chance." In the end, after Athanael pleas for mercy on behalf of humanity, The Chief (God? St. Peter? Gabriel?) relents, giving the planet and its people one final chance. It is the radio verison, rather than the movie, that serves as the basis for the Omnibus adaptation. 

The change adds a level of genuine poignancy to the story. Athanael looks at the suffering residents of Earth, many of whom bear no responsiblity for the atrocities of the global war, and confronts the implicit moral dilemma as to whether they should pay this price without even having had a chance to build a world of their own. With a compassion and humility not unlike that of the Old Testament prophet Abraham praying for God to spare Sodom from destruction, Athanael pleads that the people of Earth be spared. He tells of the good, decent people he's met, and the young couple who've learned that their love for each other is more important than any other problems that might exist. "There are millions of others just like them, just hoping and praying for a better world. If you'd just give them a little more time," Athanael explains to The Chief. "You’ve waited so long, thousands and thousands of years, suppose you wait just a little while longer, and then maybe everything can straighten itself out and be exactly the way you want it to be." 

Before we completely let the curtain fall on this bucolic scene, however, we'd do well to consider that final exchange between Athanael and The Chief. Reflecting on a conversation he'd heard between a couple of taxi drivers, Athanael points out that "if there’s another war, the whole world would destroy itself and then there’d be no more Earth." Then he appeals to The Chief's sense of justice, as well as his practicality: "Remember Chief, if that happened, then the responsibility wouldn’t be yours. You wouldn’t be to blame." Won over by Athaneal's argument, The Chief agrees to stay his hand—for now. It is, if not a happy ending, at least a hopeful one.

I know what you're thinking: don't go there. And I shouldn't, but I can't not. There is, of course, more than one way for the world to end; it can happen, as T.S. Eliot put it, "not with a bang but with a whimper." In our headlong rush toward iconoclasm and nihilism, we seem—quite literally—hell bent on self-destruction. And so, we should be hoping that The Chief shows as much patience with us as he did in 1953. Either that, or we have someone as eloquent as Jack Benny pleading our case for us 

Meanwhile, night falls, and the clock continues to go tick, tick, tick . . . TV  

November 16, 2020

What's on TV? Tuesday, November 14, 1972

There's something particularly enjoyable about today's programming. It's not just the notables—for instance, Bonanza's ill-fated move to Tuesdays, which culminates in the show's cancellation after 14 seasons, or the premiere of America, which we discussed on Saturday, or the debut on WNET of Coronation Street, the beloved British soap that dates back to 1960, and is still on today. (I wonder at what point they picked it up?) But, let's face it, Saturday's articlFlorese was a little grim, wasn't it? So it's only proper that we try to find something fun in this issue. Take channel 3 at 6:20 a.m.—Making of a Jew. Well, when a male Jew loves a female Jew very much . . . On channel 4's Not for Women Only at 9:00 a.m., opera great Anna Moffo discusses acupuncture. At 7:30 p.m., channel 6 has Hess department store's annual Chrismas Toy Show, which has to be one of the first holiday specials of the season. And Dick Cavett's guests tonight include professors Radu Florescu and Raymond McNally, discussing the origins of Dracula. Might have been better to have on before Halloween, but better late than never, right?

November 14, 2020

This week in TV Guide: November 11, 1972

What would Alistair Cooke make of America today? Now, we're all friends here, and I know you won't mind me speaking frankly, or hold it against me. 

It was 48 years ago this week that Cooke introduced his landmark, thirteen-episode series America, to viewers. Cooke, the longtime American correspondent for England's Guardian newspaper, had been approached by the BBC and asked to make a television series about this country, the land in which he had lived for over thirty years, and try to, in the words of BBC producer Michael Gill, "distill this whole experience into a series of television programs." After a couple of days of deliberation, Cooke arrived at the format for his series: "to try to tell the history of the United States on television in 13 hours." 

Cooke and his team decided early on that there would be no recreations, no attempts to cast actors in the roles of the Founding Fathers, no experts sharing their interpretations in monologues before the cameras. Only Cooke would face the camera, in what he calls "a one-man tour through the history of the land and the people who made it the United States of America. It took two years and more than 100,000 miles of travel, visiting Americans who were "doing their thing—selling a cow in Illinois, selling bloomers on New York's Lower East Side, rehearsing the War Alert on a submarine, bidding on the floor of the commodity exchange." 

Cooke felt that he was uniquely qualified to take such a look at his adoped country; "I believe that there is a true American heritage which, in dpite of its almost continuous betrayal since the beginning is something most Americans are only vaguely aware of." And indeed it's no surprise that Amercians should be so unfamiliar with their heritage, since history has so often done such a bad job of presenting it. Cooke hoped that America could be, in some small way, a correction to that, a chance to reacquaint them with their own remarkable story. "If I can reawaken Americans to the best of their story, and remind them of the worst, if we succeed in shaking up in your mind the myths and sentimentalities of your high-school textbook, we'll feel it was well worth doing."

Much has changed in the 48 years since America was telecast. For that matter, much has changed in the last 48 months, or the last 48 weeks. George Will once said that Cooke believed it was "the value of the simple virtues and decencies that can make communities flourish and that have made America great and exemplary." Today, communities that once pulled together now view each other with suspicion and distrust; those who dare to voice opinions are censored by those who view those opinions as unacceptable; those who fail to toe the party line regularly lose their jobs for no reason other than that they dare to believe in freedom of expression. The "people," who once made America, have now turned it into a bitter and divided country, prodded by groups preaching anarchy instead of order, division rather than unity, and an open contempt for "deplorables" whom they would seek to strip of their opnions, their rights, their lives. Leaders of business, government and religion work in an unholy alliance, seeking to control rather than serve, and to pay us off with the promises of bread and circuses, while their computers go about gathering information on our habits, our preferences, our movements. Immigrants who once came to this country because of its freedom—its liberalism—see that liberalism being replaced by the very thing they fled: totalitarianism. The America that once proclaimed itself One Nation Under God now worships at the foot of Moloch rather than the foot of the Cross. 

Today we see very little of the best that America has to offer, and far too much of the worst. The American heritage that Cooke admired, exemplified in the Founding Fathers, has been disparaged; their legacy has been slandered, their statues torn down, their names taken off of schools and buildings. Mobs gather in cities around America burning buildings and looting stores, all the while chanting slogans about bringing down the country. The "news" is, so many times, presented by a media more suited to propaganda than fact-finding, led by men who have more in common with Joseph Goebbels than William S. Paley. With few exceptions, educators fill their students with hate instead of learning, and practice intolerance against their own colleagues.

Even the colors of the flag have been distorted into a grotesque image; where red once stood for hardiness and valor, white meant purity and innocence, and blue symbolized vigilance, perseverance and justice, red and blue now stand for two unreconcilable sides openly discussing civil war, and white has become a dirty word. Meanwhile, that same flag is often found burning in the streets. Social media spreads its own unique blend of brutality and depravity, and seeks to shut down anyone who voices a dissenting opinion; we put on masks and lose the face of humanity. Even the results of elections have now fallen under a shadow. It's all the more depressing because I have friends on both sides of the political aisle, and I pride myself on never letting that interfere with friendship, but now I wonder—do I have cause to worry whether they still feel the same way? The United States of America? Not hardly. And our leaders fiddle like so many Neros while Rome—or Minneapolis, or Portland, or Baltimore—burns. 

As you probably know from the many TV Guides I've looked at over the years, I've spent most of my life in the Twin Cities. It's always been my home, even when I lived somewhere else. But it was my childhood neighborhood that burned this spring; the buildings that were scorched were the landmarks of my youth. And now Minneapolis disgusts me; the people who live there feel more like enemies. The city's leadership has not only broken the city, they've broken my heart, and in the end they're driving me out.

What would Alistair Cooke think of America today? How would he feel seeing the county he loved (he became an American citizen in 1941) turned into a tinderbox of hatred and resentment? What would his reaction be to the great American Experiment turned into a banana republic? My hunch is that his heart would be broken, too.

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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. 

Cleveland Amory has a big problem with The Little People, NBC's sitcom starring Brian Keith and Shelley Fabares as father-daughter doctors working in Hawaii. It's all those children, the "little people" of the title, who are the doctors' patients. And, good curmudgeon that he is, this thrills Cleve no end. "There are more 'little people' here than in any show since the Children's Crusade," he says. "[T]hey come in all ages, sizes, races, etc.—each of them a little darling, cuter, and more precocious and more all-around obnoxious than the rest. Our theory is they aren't children. They're midgets who are overacting."

As was the case in Keith's previous series, Family Affair, his character, Dr. Sean Jamison, is single and surrounded by children who aren't his, although his nurse, Puni, is played by Keith's real-life wife, Victoria Young. (No Mr. French for the Doc!) The theory, according to Amory, is that this makes him more appealing, and "The Little People will stop at nothing to get appeal. Four thousand kids, Hawaii and an unmarried pediatrician. What more could you ask? —except, maybe, a little less." Not only this, but the plots—well, "the plots are so saccharine, they stick in your throat,"

And yet, Cleve is forced to acknowledge that the show does have its funny moments, such as the one in which Dr. Jamison tries to get parents to stop making up stories about where babies come from. It was going well until the kid who says that babies come from cross-eyed bears. Seems her mother had said that "babies were a cross she had to bear." I'm sure the viewers could identify with that. 

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It's a big week for movies—I mean, a really big week—starting on NBC's Saturday Night at the Movies (9:00 p.m. ET) with part one of the TV premiere of Giant, the sprawling 1956 epic with James Dean totally overshadowing both Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson, which isn't easy. The movie earned Dean his second posthumous Best Actor nomination; his first was for East of Eden, and the only movie for which he didn't get nominated was Rebel Without a Cause, which is a pretty fair track record, if you ask me. 

Giant concludes on Monday night, which leaves Sunday open for another TV premiere, that of 1969's True Grit (9:00 p.m., ABC), the magnificent Western which earned John Wayne his Best Actor Oscar. Judith Crist limes the supporting performances of Kim Darby and Glen Campbell, but "it's Wayne, eye-patched, wide in the waist and high in the saddle, belching and burping his way to gallant action and shrewd valor, who makes the movie his—by right indeed." Roger Ebert once pointed out that, sentiment aside, John Wayne deserved that Oscar, and if you want to see why, just watch it sometime.

Wednesday night is another premiere, that of Paul Newman's The Left-Handed Gun (11:30 p.m., CBS), which doubles as director Arthur Penn's big-screen debut. In Newman's portrayal of Billy the Kid, Crist sees shadows of his performance as Butch Cassidy a dozen years later. And Thursday night brings the TV debut of 1967's In Cold Blood (9:00 p.m., CBS), the chilling true (more or less) story of the 1959 murder of four members of the Clutter family in Holcomb, Kansas, based on the storied best-seller by Truman Capote (and his research assistant, Harper Lee). It's filmed in black-and-white using many of the actual locations, powered by the performances of Robert Blake and Scott Wilson as the killers, and garnered a Best Director nomination for Richard Brooks.

Not everything movie-related is on the networks, though. I'm looking at Saturday's late-night lineup, for instance. At 11:30 p.m., WCBS has Cat Ballou, with Lee Marvin's Oscar-winning performance; KYW  counters with Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds, starring Rod Taylor and Tippi Hedren; WPVI has the shocker Hush. . . Hush, Sweet Charlotte, with Bette Davis, Olivia de Haviland and Agnes Moorehead; WABC offers Joe, with Peter Boyle's Oscar-nominated performance as the factory worker who hates hippies and social workers; and WCAU has the Irving Wallace tale The Prize, with Paul Newman and Edward G. Robinson. And that doesn't even include fun films like The Scarlet Claw (Basil Rathbone and Nigel Bruce as Holmes and Watson), The Bride of Frankenstein, starring Boris Karloff, and Morocco, with Gary Cooper and Marlene Dietrich. And this all on Saturday night—there's plenty more the rest of the week. Now, I know that you can dial up all of these movies, and more, through various on-demand services (commercial-free!), but imagine how exciting it must have been to live in a market with a dozen or so stations available, and have these to choose from. And you wonder why I'm always talking about what it was like when local stations ran movies.

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This Friday evening marks the 100th presentation of the Hallmark Hall of Fame, "The Hands of Cormac Joyce," starring Stephen Boyd and Colleen Dewhurst. (8:30 p.m., NBC) The decline of Hall of Fame from one of the prestige programs on television to telemovies barely suitable for Lifetime is one of the great disasters of television's evolution, but that's in the future; right now, Terrence O'Flaherty takes a look at the glorious history of the program, beginning with Amahl and the Night Visitors, the 1951 Christmas Eve opera. And how is it that Hallmark came to sponsor a program that wouldn't air until everyone had already purchased their Christmas cards? By taking the time to thank all those viewers out there who'd sent Hallmark cards.

You can see this attitude expressed in the comments of J.C. Hall, the founder of Hallmark, who says he has "no interest" in ratings. "Just because people watch your show doesn't mean they are buying your product," he declares. "I'd rather make eight million good impressions than 28 million bad ones." And you get those good impressions from presenting quality programs, thanks in large part to director George Schaefer, "a director who respected the playwright, the actors and the audience and realized all three were linked in the success of any drama." From Schaefer's direction came "a succession of dramatic gems" including Hamlet, King Richard II, Macbeth, The Corn is Green, The Taming of the Shrew, Man and Superman, Abe Lincoln in Illinois, That Fantasticks, The Tempest, and Blythe Spirit among them. And then there are the stars: Dame Judith Anderson, Maurice Evans, Katharine Cornell, Sir John Gielgud, Mary Martin, George C. Scott, Julie Harris, Richard Burton, and the husband-and-wife team of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne. Talk about a hall of fame of talent.

Four years ago the series began introducing stories from the contemporary scene, without compromising quality. Dramas like Teacher, Teacher (a broken teacher's relationship with a retarded child), A Storm in Summer (the uneasy friendship between a Jewish delicatessen owner and a black youngster), and A Punt, a Pass and a Prayer (an aging athlete coming to terms with the end of his career) have led the series into a new era. For years this will continue, as staged plays yield to filmed classics, but this, too, eventually fades away. Today, the brand exists only on Hallmark's television channel, with movies more appropriate for Bravo, Oprah, Oxygen, and, yes, Lifetime. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I read O'Flaherty's closing words with more than a pang of loss: Hallmark Hall of Fame, he rightly says, has always been "the Rolls-Royce of television entertainment, a handcrafted vehicle of comfort, style and precision. The very best." 

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On a somewhat related note, I mentioned on Wednesday that the BBC, which is funded through the "television license" (£154.50 per household per year), has come under increasing scrutiny over the last few years due to an alleged political bias in its news reporting—with the result that there's now a movement afoot to abolish the license and force the Beeb to become a more "commercial" network. Undoubtedly, this would affect the BBC's commitment to arts programming, just as funding cuts to PBS did in this country. But could things have turned out differently?

In the Doan Report, Richard K. reports that "PBS's days as the fledgling public-TV network may already be numbered." The new president of the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Henry Loomis, says the whole structure is "under review," including "whether PBS is to survive as the vehicle for national programming." The new CPB board of directors is already centralizing control, even when the Nixon administration has been advocating more "localism." (This is one reason why KTCA, the St. Paul-Minneapolis educational channel, was reluctant to join NET; even today, KTCA is one of the most-watched PBS channels in America.) One of the most controversial aspects of public broadcasting is its perceived liberal content, leading critics to urge the Corporation to "get out of 'news and public affairs' programming." Recently, the White House vetoed (for the second time) an HEW bill containing funding for CPB, which is likely to force the service to curtail prime-time programming.

Throughout PBS's history, it has come under fire for its liberal bias, a criticism with which, by and large, I'm in agreement.* The Nixon and Reagan administrations, in particular,  sought to slash funding; consequently, as the Corporation became ever more dependent on pledges and corporate sponsorship, it became ever more necessary to concentrate on popular, crowd-pleasing shows, which is why Pledge Week now looks like Oldies Night at the casino. Just as network cultural programming was first pushed into the Sunday afternoon ghetto and then off the nets entirely—"Let PBS do it; that's what they're for!"—we now seldom see dance, theater, music, drama, or other types of cultural programming on PBS on any kind of regular basis. (And no, Downton Abbey isn't the kind of "drama" I'm talking about.) Even niche cable networks like A&E, Bravo and Ovation wound up dumping their arts programs in favor of endless reruns of NCIS and Real Housewives of Dhaka, Bangladesh, or something like that. 

*Notwithstanding that in the 1980s I was a proud member of KTCA, to show my support for their broadcasting of Doctor Who. After all, man does not live by politics alone.

It's speculation, of course, but had CPB gotten the network out of "news and public affairs programming" back in 1972, could they have avoided the budget cuts that saw cultural programming gradually disappear from their airwaves? Could it, in fact, have preserved the diversity of programming that was part of educational television's original charge? We'll never know, of course (I've got a book on the shelf that might have some answers, if I ever get the time to read it), but it's a question worth asking.

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Finally, speaking of cultural programming as we've been, Sunday mornings today are pretty much dominated by political chatfests, but it wasn't always that way. CBS's Camera Three (11:00 a.m.) takes a look at "The dark side of life as photographed by Diane Arbus, who died last year. Her subjects include prostitutes, transvestites, the deformed and insane" 

Maybe it is about those people in Washington after all. TV