December 12, 2020

This week in TV Guide: December 16, 1972

We've already looked at the story of the Duke and Duchess of Windsor, aka Edward Windsor and Wallis Simpson, when it was a multi-part miniseries in 1980. Time isn't always linear though, as you might have noticed if you've been reading this feature the last few years. Just because 1972 comes before 1980 doesn't mean that we actually get to it first. (I wrote that other piece about the Duke and Duchess at the start of this year, and frankly I'm surprised they're running even that close to each other.) And so we find ourselves making a big deal about The Woman I Love, an hour-long drama airing Sunday at 9:00 p.m. PT on ABC.

This might be the first big American TV drama about the "Love Affair of the Century," and so it's understandable that it would be on this week's cover. That, and also because the couple are being played by Richard Chamberlain and Faye Dunaway, and even though Chamberlain hadn't yet ascended to his Shogun/Thorn Birds-era status as King of the Miniseries, he's still glamorous enough to match wits with Dunaway.

Basil Boothroyd's background story tends to concentrate on the political crisis instigated by Edward's romance with the twice-divorced Wallis; he says that the king "never for a moment considered" the alternative of retaining the throne and giving up "the woman I love," and doesn't consider the post-abdication live of the Duke and Duchess. While religious objection to the marriage is seen today as outdated, especially considering the marital situation of Prince Charles, it was in fact the primary reason for the crisis in the first place; for his part, Edward was, in the eyes of some historians, bluffing with his abdication threat, in a failed power play to retain the throne and marry Wallis. As far as the romance is concerned, I've read accounts on both sides; most historians suggest that the couple remained in love until Edward's death earlier in 1972, but at the same time Edward yearned to live a more meaningful life, one that never came, as the couple became mainstays of café society. It's probably just as well that this story ends where that story begins, for while the political machinations (particularly by Prime Minister Baldwin) are fascinating, they're no match in the end for a royal love story, are they? Just ask the Hallmark Channel.

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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 era. 

We've seen throughout the years that Cleveland Amory has an antipathy toward shows lacking originality. A show that isn't good but at least tries to be different always has it over a show that is neither good nor original. Welcome to Bridget Loves Bernie, the CBS sitcom about the Catholic girl (Bridget, played by Meredith Baxter) married to the Jewish boy (Bernie, also known as David Birney). It is, says Cleve, "pretty awful." In other words, it's not the "Love Affair of the Century."

It's not that the marriage itself doesn't have problems, he says. For one thing, "they're always either talking about [love] or smooching so much they couldn't talk anyway," and I can certainly understand how that might get a little tiresome after, say, half an episode. No, as with many marriages in the real world, the problem here lies with the families of the young marrieds. "There ought to be a law on TV against in-laws on TV who live in," as in the case of Bernie's parents (as well as a maiden uncle) who run a deli right below where the happy couple lives; meanwhile, Bridget's parents (and a brother who's also a priest, making him—what, Father Brother?) may not live with them, but "they're always there, whenever the show needs them—and also when it doesn't." There's always Bernie's friend Otis, "the show's nonresident black," which pretty much means every box of the stereotypical sitcom has been checked.

This show was controversial when it aired in 1972; the idea of interfaith marriage was a much thornier situation than it is today, when pretty much anything goes. Nonetheless, it might have been better had the controversy surrounded the lack of support given to the cast: Birney is a likable Berney, says Amory (I'm surprised he didn't have a name joke there), and as Bridget, Baxter is pretty. The in-laws are pretty good as well, barring Audra Lindley as Bridget's mom, who's a bit much, but she's supposed to be. Where the show falls short is in the plotting, which leads to stories that are, as far as I can tell, dumb more than anything else. There is, for instance, the one where the couple broke their bed. (It's probably better that we're not told how this happened.) Each family, of course, buys them a new bed, and they buy themselves a new bed as well. A water bed, apparently, because it leaked, "just like the plot." And then there's this week's episode, which Cleve fortunately doesn't get to, in which the families quarrel about whether to celebrate Christmas or Hanukkah. He recalls plots like this with "a stabbing pain," and even without watching it, I'm beginning to feel it myself. It's not that there isn't a place for a show like this, he concludes: "what's a nice soap opera like you doing in prime time?" Bridget may love Bernie, and Bernie may love Bridget, but the viewers only loved them 24 episodes worth.

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Christmas is just over a week away, so we can't be surprised that holiday programs have their own section in the week's highlights.

On Sunday afternoon, Christmas Is (12:30 p.m. PT, KGO) finds a schoolboy transported to the Nativity, where he encounters innkeeper Hans Conreid. John Huston narrates the documentary Christ is Born (6:00 p.m., KCRA), filmed on location in the Holy Land. Season's Greetings from Mike Douglas (7:30 p.m., KPIX) finds the talk show veteran ringing in the season with Cliff Robertson, Louis Nye, Joan Fontaine, and Marilyn Michaels. The gang at the 4077th celebrates Christmas on M*A*S*H (8:00 p.m., CBS), while KBHK has a Father Knows Best Christmas episode at 9:00 p.m.

Monday, PBS repeats The Plot to Overthrow Christmas (6:00 p.m.) a re-creation of a studio broadcast of Norman Corwin's 1938 verse play about the Devil's plan to kill off Santa. On Bill Cosby's variety show (10:00 p.m., CBS) George Kirby plays the three Ghosts of A Christmas Carol (as Pearl Bailey, Bette Davis, and Flip Wilson's Geraldine), and Bill thinks back to Christmases past. Tuesday, it's Pete Seeger's New England holiday show (6:00 p.m., PBS), with gospel and folk artists including the great Doc Watson. Temperatures Rising has its first (and last) Christmas episode (8:00 p.m., ABC)

Wednesday offers some great choices: The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour (8:00 p.m., CBS) has a Yule-themed show with guest star William Conrad, who plays Santa, a Christmas Eve bill collector, and a lodge owner where the Bonos vacation for the holidays. Christmas music abounds! At the same time on PBS, it's A New England Christmas, a festive, Currier and Ives-like look at Christmas memories in Maine. Julie Andrews has the Christmas edition of her weekly show at 8:30 on ABC, with James Stewart as the featured guest, plus cameos by Jack Cassidy, Cass Elliot, Joel Grey, Carl Reiner, and Rich Little as Jack Benny playing Scrooge.

Thursday night, PBS has A Joyful Noise (8:00 p.m.), "a holiday package of carols and folk songs" with the Beers Family, Brenda Joyce, and the Sounds of Joy. Later, it's Dean Martin's Christmas show (10:00 p.m., NBC), and Dean is joined by Glenn Ford, Lynn Anderson, and the Golddiggers. On Friday, Lawrence Welk hosts his annual Christmas show (7:00 p.m., syndicated), while KRCR shows The Night the Animals Talked (7:30 p.m.) the story of what happened on a December night 2000 years ago when the animals—well, I guess you can figure that one out for yourselves. The score is by Jule Styne and Sammy Cahn, and although it doesn't figure in this cartoon, one of their best-known songs is "Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow!" Yuletide stories pop up on The Little People, where Brian Keith faces being replaced as Santa in the Christmas pageant (8:30 p.m., NBC), and The Partridge Family (8:30 p.m., ABC), as the Partridges are told an Old West Christmas tale by an old prospector (Dean Jagger).

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Dwight Whitney has an interesting interview this week with Gary Crosby, son of Bing, semiregular on Adam-12, and feeling "good about myself" for the first time in his life. Now, with no disrespect intended to Gary, he's not what's interesting about this interview; in fact, I'm not quite sure why he's being interviewed, since he's got nothing particularly timely to promote. No, what we're interested in, nearly 50 years hence, is what Gary has to say about his illustrious father.

When asked by Dwight Whitney whether or not he loved his father as he was growing up, Gary replies, "We worshiped him. What he thought was everything. . . Maybe he'd send us to our room for some minor infraction. 'Now you guys stay there for the next two hours,' he'd say. He could leave town and we'd still be sitting in the same position." When asked about Crosby's reputation for being insensitive, even cold, Gary disagrees: "Absolutely wrong. He was tremendously sensitive and he cared deeply. He just had a rough time showing it." He admits that while parts of his childhood did come across like the American Dream, it wasn't always good. "As we grew older, terrific arguments developed over girls, cars, curfews. My rage was constant."

The Crosbys, from 1952: (l-r) Philip, Gary, Bing, Lindsay, Dennis
He does detail difficulties he had with his father, such as the time the elder Crosby sent son Lindsay's Christmas presents back unopened, simply because Lindsay had chosen to spend Christmas with Gary in Las Vegas. "I got madder than Linny did, holding love out on us like that!" Gary says. "And it took a long time to smooth that one out." Eventually it does get smoothed out; Gary says that the love of his wife Barbara is what helped tear down the wall that Gary's built around himself; "She had to teach me to show affection." And his relationship with his father is much better; "I know he loves us. I'll grab him and he'll grab me back. . .Now he can even say, 'You know, Gary, maybe I was a little too strict with you kids.'"

Now, you'll recall that it was Gary who made headlines in 1983 with his book Going My Own Way, in which he accused his father of having abused him when he was a boy. The stain on the elder Crosby's memory is one that's hung around since, although I have to wonder how many of today's generation are even aware of it (or know who Bing Crosby was, for that matter). The accusation was simply taken as fact back then, even though two of Gary's three brothers took issue with it, and Crosby biographer Gary Giddins has said he's never found any evidence to back it up.

Despite the affectionate way in which Gary talks of his father here, it doesn't necessarily contradict that story. Of course, many abused children love their parents deeply, as if they could win their love. Perhaps Gary, as part of his continuing efforts to overcome his alcoholism, had to learn that he wasn't entirely to blame for those conflicts with his father. In later years, Bing would talk about how he had made mistakes with his first family, mistakes that he was determined to rectify after he married Kathryn (his first wife, Dixie, had died of cancer). Anyway, it would have been terribly difficult for Gary to make those accusations while Bing was still alive, although waiting until after Bing's death did make it impossible for his father to respond to them.

Remember how important context is; many disciplinary methods that were that were tried and true back then are unacceptable today, and the stern father of yesteryear is a borderline monster now. Consider also that since this article appeared, Gary divorced not only Barbara, whom he'd given credit for helping him turn his life around, but two subsequent wives. Gary Crosby was, by his own admission, a troubled man, and while it's entirely possible that he was telling the truth in his book, it's equally possible that he exaggerated what had happened (Bing didn't deny his faults), either for effect or because that's what he'd come to believe. I don't pretend to know the truth, but I lean toward the reading that Bing Crosby was, like all of us, human; and Gary Crosby, like all of us, struggled to explain why his life turned out the way it did.

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I promised you there was more to the week than just Christmas programming and so there is, beginning on Sunday with the world's greatest ballet dancer, Rudolf Nureyev, joining the National Ballet of Canada in Tchaikovsky's immortal ballet The Sleeping Beauty (7:00 p.m., PBS). It's also the final weekend of the NFL season, which means there's no Monday Night Football; this was done in the early seasons because it was possible one of the teams might have to turn around and play in a playoff game on Saturday. ABC carries forth the spirit, and keeps the time slot warm, with the first college bowl game of the year, the Liberty Bowl (6:00 p.m.), pitting Georgia Tech and Iowa State, with the men from Atlanta winning, 31-30.

Tuesday's ABC Theatre presentation of "If You Give a Dance You Gotta Pay the Band" (8:30 p.m.), a gritty, hard-hitting drama about life in the ghetto, features young Larry Fishburn as one of the stars. At this point, he's only 11 years old, and it's his first screen credit. From 1974 to 1976, he'll play Joshua Hall on One Life to Live; during that run, he makes the movie Cornbread, Earl and Me, billed as Laurence Fishburne III. (The lack of an e at the end of his last name in 1972 is either a typo on TV Guide's part or one of the styling changes in his name.) In 1979, he's one of the crewmembers of the hopeless trip up the river in Apocalypse Now; as time goes on, he's nominated for a Best Actor Oscar for playing Ike Turner in What's Love Got to Do With It, wins a Featured Actor Tony for Two Trains Running and takes home an Emmy for TriBeCa. He's starred in movies like The Matrix and TV series such as CSI, and he continues to have quite a career. I wonder if anyone saw it coming from this 11-year-old in 1972? Also on Tuesday, a whimsical episode of Hawaii Five-O (8:30 p.m., CBS) features Andy Griffith as head of a family of con artists who find themselves in over their heads when one of their victims turns out to be one of the island's leading gangsters. Ol' Barn ain't gonna bail you out of this one, Andy.

On Wednesday, ABC's Movie of the Week (9:30 p.m.) demonstrates everything that's wrong with the post-Vatican II Catholic Church, in The Weekend Nun, a based-on-true-events story of a nun who's also a probation office, and is forced to ask herself where she does the most good: the convent or the mean streets. Now, don't get me wrong; I've got nothing against probation officers, who I'm sure perform an important job for the community, even though I've never had to make use of one myself. The point is that a nun already has a full-time job, or at least she did until the Church tried to become more "relevant" in the modern world. That job was called praying, and it just might be every bit as effective in keeping delinquents out of trouble. And Thursday, Charlton Heston stars as an aging cowboy facing changing times in a hard world in Will Penny (9:00 p.m., CBS), a role that I recall Heston saying was one of the more satisfying of his career.

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In the odds and ends department, the Teletype reports that Telly Savalas is joining the list of stars in detective movies with an upcoming CBS TV-movie Cojack, with Jose Ferrer and Marjoe Gortner. When that movie does air, on March 8, 1973, it's with Ned Beatty instead of Ferrer, and the character's name is spelled "Kojack." By the time the series begins that October, it's Kojak, the name that we know and love, baby.

And last but certainly not least, the Teamsters is trying to "polish its image" by sponsoring a CBS special on Christmas night, Opening Night U.S.A., hosted by Ed McMahon. It is, according to the network, the first time a labor union has ever sponsored a prime-time show. Why does the Teamsters—the union headed by Jimmy Hoffa, who's spent the last four years in federal prison and will step down as its president in June—need to polish its image? I think I've asked and answered my own question. The ironic part of this story is that there's a good chance that the strike against CBS by the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers might still be in progress, with technicians on the picket lines, leaving management to see to it that there is an opening night for Opening Night. Apparently, according to Richard K. Doan, the union isn't bothered by crossing that line. TV  


  1. Leaving aside whether it was actually any good or not, "Bridget Loves Bernie" was a big hit, ranking 5th in the ratings for the 72-73 TV season, but how could it not, comfortably hammocked between #1 "All in the Family" and #7 "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." I believe it's the highest-rated show ever to be cancelled, but I don't have a source for that.

  2. Indeed, Jose Ferrer did co-star (as did Ned Beatty) in The Marcus Nelson Murders, which introduced Theo Kojak.

  3. I believe the three networks preempted two hours of regular programs each on December 19th (late morning in the Bay Area; mid afternoon on the East Coast) for live coverage of the splashdown and recovery of Apollo 17, the final Apollo moon landing mission.

    Today, 48 years later, no human being has returned to the moon.


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