April 30, 2021

Around the dial

That could have been me up there in that picture, the little kid watching television so intently. If I'd had a chair like that. And if I was blond. And if we'd had wallpaer like that in our living room. Yep, could have been me. But I digress.

At Cult TV Blog, it's another week of The Avengers; this time, it's all the way back to the first season, as John looks at the reconstruction of "Toy Trap," with Steed and Keel (Patrick Macnee and Ian Hendry) investigating a prostitution ring.

That's not the only Brit show on the list; at Fire-Brething Dimetrodon Time, Grant reviews "An Author In Search Of Two Characters," an episode of Jason King, the 1971-72 action series about an novelist whose trips invariably wind up involving him in adventures to rival his own books. Plenty of Avengers alums in this series.

"Bob Gets Neighborly" in this 1957 episode of Love That Bob!, and if you don't know what kind of trouble that could cause, Hal's here to tell us about it at The Horn Section. How does Bob make out? As if we didn't know.

I thoroughly enjoyed writing last week's piece on Peter Falk and Columbo, so naturally I'm going to see what Rick has to say about Falk's performance in the Neil Simon comedy The Cheap Detective over at Classic Film & TV Café. Come for Falk, and stay for Madeline Kahn and Dom DeLuise. 

The Broadcasting Archives at the University of Maryland links to an article at CNBC that asks a serious question: how will local stations remain relevant in a world of streaming video? We've got a digital antenna to get our locals, but I've got to tell you, it's mostly the subchannels we watch.

At The Twilight Zone Vortex, it's theme week, as Jordan looks at the many TZ episodes in which a telephone plays a pivotal role. It's more than you might think, which reminds me of an article I wrote a few years ago on how cellphones would change the standard plots of many shows.

We all have our guilty pleasures, don't we? This week at Comfort TV, David looks at one of the "terrible shows I like": the 1988 series Eisenhower and Lutz. I have to admit that this show completely got past me; not only didn't I remember it when I first read David's article, I still didn't remember it the second time.

At Television Obscurities, Robert passes along the news about yet another classic TV diginet operating as a subchannel of one of your local stations. Rewind TV, from the people who brought us Antenna TV, will focus on sitcoms of the 1980s and 90s. Good for them, but I don't think I'll be tuning in.

I've written many times about my love of the space program since I was growing up, so I'll end this week with something completely unrelated to TV: Terence's tribute to the late, great Apollo 11 astronaut Michael Collins, at A Shroud of Throughts. Collins went on to head the magnificent Smithsonian Air & Space Museum, one of the coolest places I've ever visited. R.I.P., spaceman. TV  

April 28, 2021

The remarkable life of Harry Townes

You might not remember the name, but I'll bet you recognize the face. If you've spent any time in the classic TV world of the 1950s, the '60s, even the '70s and '80s, you've seen Harry Townes somewhere: Perry Mason, Gunsmoke, Thriller, The Fugitive, Bonanza, Star Trek, Mannix, The Incredible Hulk. During his long career as a character actor, he appeared on Broadway and in movies, and more than 200 television shows—he wasn't actually in everything; it just seems that way. 

He frequently played flawed individuals: decent men who were weak when it came to doing the right thing; vulnerable men who lacked the strength to stand up to evil; indecisive men without the killer instinct to carry the day; corrupt men who betrayed the public trust; men who could be craven when courage was called for, but who might at the last minute find the strength to sacrifice themselves for the hero. Because of this, he was effective playing both good guys and bad guys, and he could keep you guessing until the end, rarely telegraphing the role he'd assume in the night's story. He was never a big star, but he was never out of work either. As he once said, "I feel I was lucky to get the work that I did. You always feel thankful because there are so many actors for so few jobs that it seems God is being good to you when you get a job."

And yet, if you only knew Harry Townes as an actor, you didn't really know him at all, nor did you know the work of which he was most proud.

Townes had become an actor in 1936, with several roles on Broadway and in other New York theaters, before enlisting in the Army. After a stint in the Air Corps during the war, he moved to Hollywood and resumed his acting career. While he was in his thirties, his sister Jean was diagnosed with terminal cancer. “Jean was told by several doctors that she had a terminal illness,” he said, “and X-rays bore them out.” 

And then, one night, she had a vision. Townes didn’t go into the details of the vision, but "[T]he next morning when she awoke, she knew she was cured." Tests and X-rays followed, but her healing had been as complete as it was sudden; doctors found "not one trace" of cancer. "I knew then," he said, "that there was a power above man’s comprehension and that I was destined to enter the religious field."

    Fr. Townes and a parishioner, 1986
He began taking philosophy courses at UCLA, then, while continuing his acting career, he put himself through seminary at the Bishop Bloy School of Theology in Los Angeles. He was ordained as a transitional deacon in 1973 and then, at age 59 and after ten years of study, he became Father Harry Townes in a ceremony at St. Paul's Episcopal Cathedral in Los Angeles on March 16, 1974. He was a nonstipendary priest, meaning he would continue to earn his living as an actor and would take no salary as a priest. There was, he felt, no conflict between acting and the priesthood; "The theater, too, is for goodness, truth and beauty." 

For his first assignment, Father Townes was sent to St. Stephen's in Hollywood, where he worked with "alcoholics, dope addicts, and prostitutes," as well as those in need of spiritual help. "This is not my permanent parish," he explained to a journalist. "I might be assigned to other parishes at any given moment. And this is the way I desire it. I still want to continue my life as an actor as well as serving my fellow man."

He continued to serve in various roles, including at St Mary of the Angels Church in Hollywood and the Church of the Bells in Palm Springs, before retiring from acting in the late 1980s and returning to his hometown in Huntsville, where he resided until his death on May 23, 2001 at age 86.

A reporter once described Harry Townes as "an uncommon man who has found satisfaction as an actor and inner peace as a priest." Of his career, Townes offered an assessment that could double for his life after acting. "I guess we're never entirely happy with what we do; we would like to do better," he said. "Of course, I would have loved to have done better, we all would. But we always think we can do it better in one more take. On the whole, I'm satisfied, though. As long as the audience was satisfied, then I'm satisfied." I'd like to think that his Producer was satisfied with his peformance as well. TV  

April 26, 2021

What's on TV? Monday, April 25, 1966

It occurs to me that I haven't paid enough attention to daytime shows in those little snapshots up there each week; usually I pick something from primetime. I've rectified that this week; remember Morning Star? Paradise Bay? Unfortunately, all the interesting shows today are in primetime. For example, KCMT's airing of McHale's Navy (probably a tape of last week's network run) goes all the way back to the show's first episode from 1962, when Ensign Parker joins McHale's crew, assigned by Captain Binghamton to whip them into shape. Like that worked well. Or Robert Preston hosting a tour of "The Surprising Middle West" on ABC's This Proud Land. And how can we overlook Dean Martin's guest shot on The Lucy Show in a dual role, playing both himself and his double. Good night of TV from the Minnesota State Edition, don't you think?

April 24, 2021

This week in TV Guide: April 23, 1966

A mostly interesting "compilation of opinions about Andy Williams" is Dwight Whitney's cover story, which leads off this week's clip-filled TV Guide review.

I'm usually suspicious of articles like this, which consist of no original writing whatsoever, just a collection of quotes that could have been dug up by a research assistant. However, it's a refreshing change from the celebrity hit pieces we read so often in this era of TV Guide, filled with snarky quotes from anonymous sources. This one reads more like an authorized biography, as we get quotes from friends, family, and past and present co-workers, telling the story of Andy's rise to his current celebrity. There's the odd sour quote, but the image that comes through is of a pretty good guy, one who's certainly ambitious and wants to succeed, but doesn't seem inclined to run over people in order to get there.

The most interesting thing to come from the story is how difficult it was for TV people to figure out what to do with Williams. Is he an urbane sophisticate, dating back to the time when he and his brothers performed with singer Kay Thompson?* Or is he the farm boy from Iowa, the kid in a tuxedo on a tractor, as he once put it? Is he hip, simple, down-home, what?

*Fun fact: Although she had a successful singing career and was a mentor to Andy, she's best-known today as the author of the Eloise kids' stories, supposedly based on her goddaughter, Liza Minnelli.

The producer of his first television special, Bud Yorkin, puts it best when he says that "all he has to do is be himself." He can control the audience now, Yorkin says, because "At last he is in charge." And you know what? Simply being Andy Williams led to a pretty good career for Andy Williams, didn't it?

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During the 60s, the Ed Sullivan Show and The Hollywood Palace were the premiere variety shows on television. Whenever they appear in TV Guide together, we'll match them up and see who has the best lineup..

Sullivan: Scheduled guests: comic Shelly Berman, satirist Allan Sherman, Metropolitan Opera soprano Roberta Peters, dancer José Greco, the rock 'n' rolling Dave Clark Five, the singing Kessler Twins, gospel singer Steve Sanders, magician John Moehring, comics Hendra and Ullett, and dancers Brascia and Tybee.

Palace:  Host Victor Borge introduces singer Jane Powell, choreographer-dancer Peter Gennaro, comedian Irwin Corey, the singing Kim Sisters, and the Brothers Kim, instrumentalists, and Irish trapeze artist Gala Shawn.

This is from one of Victor Borge's funniest routines: phonetic punctuation. Although the clip's not from the Palace (it's from the Sullivan show, ironically), this is one of the bits he would have done on the show. I think Borge is terrific—always liked him, always thought he was funny. However, I'm not sure even he would have been enough to propel this week's Palace past Ed.

Quick quiz: who was the most frequent guest on the Ed Sullivan show? If you answered Roberta Peters, you'd be right. She appeared with Ed 65 times, more than anyone else. It's a testimony not only to the lost era of what Terry Teachout calls "middlebrow culture," but to the charm of Roberta Peters, who made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera when he was only twenty years old. Here's a sampler of her work from a previous appearance with Ed:

Besides Peters, Ed has a very strong lineup, what with Shelly Berman (who actually impressed me more as a dramatic actor than a standup), the wonderful Allan Sherman, and the great dis cancer José Greco. I think we've got a winner here: Sullivan hits the high notes this week.

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No review this week from Cleveland Amory, because our favorite curmudgeon critic is reporting from Africa, U.S.A., the park about 50 miles northeast of Hollywood where most of today's television and movie wild animal scenes are filmed. The park—which includes a "jungleland" complete with Zulu villages, a "Beverly Hills" section for more urban scenes, and "more than 300 African, Asian and in fact, world-wide animals" including Clarence, the Cross-Eyed Lion—is co-owned and operated by animal trainer Ralph Helfer and television producer Ivan Tors, and houses animals "ranging from aardvarks, alligators and anteaters to Xipheosaras, yaks and zebras.

     Cheryl Miller with trainer Ted Derby
On the day of Cleve's visit, Africa, U.S.A. is hopping with action: Marshall Thompson and Cheryl Miller of Daktari are filming a scene with a Bengal tiger on one stage; on another, a cheetah is attacking a hyena that's attacking actress Dina Merrill; and other stages feature a rhino charging a station wagon full of people and a baby lion and chimp on the back of a crocodile. Having all the animals together like this makes perfect sense; they're around people who know how to train them and take care of them properly; and the place is, as we see, well-equipped to handle any kind of simulated jungle that a director might require. Thompson says, "I've worked here every day for a year, and I still don't believe it."

As we know, the humane treatment of animals is a high priority for Cleveland Amory, and I suspect that this was at least part of the story behind his trip to Africa, U.S.A. What is perhaps the money quote of the story appears when Tors discusses the importance of the project to him. "We live a phony existence," Tors tells Amory. "We don't underatand life and death. We fell out of rhythm with nature. We pretend we don't kill, but let others kill for us." He senses a change in the attitude society has regarding the treatment of animals. "[T]hree years ago, when a safari started out from the New Stanley Hotel in Narobi, the natives would cheer. Now they jeer. And right here in our country there's beginning to be an entirely different feeling about everything to do with animals—from hunting all the way to laboratory animals."

In January 1969, Africa U.S.A. is destroyed following severe flooding and mudslides; on the positive side, only nine of 1,500 animals drown. Eventually, it will be redeveloped as part of Marine World, and after relocating, it winds up as part of Six Flags Discovery Kingdom.

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Can you believe it? ABC's Wide World of Sports celebrates its fifth anniversary this week (Saturday, 4:00 p.m. CT). What's fascinating about the clips shown in this special is how vividly it brings to life what kind of sports people paid attention to in 1966. There's Valery Brumel setting the world high-jump record, Bob Hayes with the 100-yard dash world record, and Jim Beattie becoming the first man ever to run a sub-four-minute mile indoors—all track and field events (which all played out as Cold War substitutes), none occurring during the Olympics, which is about the only time America pays attention to these events nowadays. Peggy Fleming, who's yet to win the Olympic gold, is featured in her recent victory at the U.S. Championships, and Scotsman Jim Clark wins the 1965 Indianapolis 500, while Arnold Palmer takes the crown in the 1962 British Open, a time before American stars routinely made the trip overseas to compete in the tournament.

These eventstrack, golf, figure skating, auto racing—were, along with boxing, staples of Wide World for many years, and they're part of the reason I was such an avid fan of the show growing up. I got to see sports that weren't normally on television, often from exotic locales, sometimes live, almost always with a sense of drama and importance. There was, indeed, a feeling that these were on TV because they were special, as were the people competing in them.

Today, you can get most of these events pretty much any time you want, on any one of the all-sports networks out there. We've become used to them, or (as is the case with track) we've ignored them. In other words, seeing them on TV isn't special any more. And that's unfortunate.

Meanwhile, at 1:30 p.m. Sunday on NBC, it's Game 1 of the NHL's Stanley Cup Final between the Detroit Red Wings and Montreal Canadiens. Detroit's trying to win its first cup since the 1950s, while Montreal looks to make it seven out of the last eleven years.* The Wings take the opener in Montreal, 3-2; they'll also win Game 2 two nights later by the score of 5-2. Heading back home for two games, and only two wins away from the Cup, they'll lose the next four, and won't appear in the finals again until 1995.

*How times have changed, part 1,458: the Canadiens, winners of more Stanley Cups than any other team in history, last won the Cup in 1993—their longest drought in team history. The Wings, on the other hand, have won four during that span, the most recent coming in 2008.

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Is this interesting only to me? In this week's editorial, Merrill Panitt wonders out loud whether or not it was necessary for all three networks to devote as much time as they did to the emergency splashdown of Gemini 8 on March 17. For those of you too young to remember this, the Gemini capsule piloted by Neil Aermstrong and David Scott began tumbling uncontrollably while in orbit on the first day of their mission. NASA decided to bring the capsule back as soon as feasible, and the astronauts splashed down safely that night 500 miles east of Okinawa. The drama—and, make no mistake, the astronauts were in real danger—lasted a little over four hours, from 7:15 to 11:25 p.m. ET. The networks provided continuous coverage throughout, preempting the entire prime-time schedule.

"We bow to no one in our concerns for the astronauts' safety or own own respect for teh networks for throwing overboard so much advertising income," Panitt writes. However, he notes, was such in-depth coverage necessary? The lack of actual hard news meant that "Messrs. Bergman, Cronkite and Wallace, Brinkley and McGee ad-libbed, reiterated, stalled and generally tried to cover up the fact that they had nothing to report." Panitt suggests that the answer to all this is a system by which one network (on a rotating basis) provides continuous coverage, while the other two interrupt from time to time with updates, augmenting a running news ticker at the bottom of the screen.

Obviously, we can debate how one determines which news stories merit such extensive coverage, but Panitt points to a problem that is all-too real today: that of the need to fill a continuous 24/7 news cycle. As we've seen, our "news" channels answer that question by turning virtually every local news story into one of national importance worthy of saturation, simply filling the dead time with politically charged commentary that doesn't help in the least. Compared to what passes for news today, the Gemini 8 emergency coverge is hardly a blip on the screen.

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And now, another episode of "Random Notes."

On Monday night at 9:00 p.m. Duluth's WDSM, Channel 6, is the only station in this issue carrying the syndicated broadcast of the world middleweight boxing championship fight from Madison Square Garden, pitting champion Dick Tiger against welterweight champ Emile Griffith. In an unpopular decision booed by the fans in the Garden, Griffith takes the title with a unanimous 15-round decision.

Tuesday's episode of McHale's Navy (7:30 p.m., ABC) presents a dilemma that remains one of television's great tropes: "An Italian signorina and her soldier boyfriend want to get married, but there's on one around to perform the ceremony—except possibly boat captain McHale." Which raises the question: can a ship's captain really marry people? Pertinent to this episode, the United States Navy says no: "The commanding officer shall not perform a marriage ceremony on board his ship or aircraft." And in non-military situations, a captain can only perform a marriage if he or she already has the authority: if, for example, the captain is a Notary Public, a recognized minister, a judge, or a justice of the peace. In other words, as a Notary, I can perform your marriage. It will cost you, though.

Our latest installment of "when television used to show classy dramas," presented without comment: Wednesday's Hallmark Hall of Fame presentation of "Lamp at Midnight" (6:30 p.m., NBC), the story of the epic conflict between Galileo and the Catholic Church, with an all-star cast including Melvin Douglas as Galileo, with David Wayne, Michael Hordern, Hurd Hatfield and Kim Hunter. (There's a nice color feature on the production elsewhere in the issue.) Interesting, isn't it, how the advertising tries to capitalize on the space program to attract viewers to a story that occurred 400 years ago?

A couple of shows are worth mentioning on Thursday: first, it's the finale of this season's series of National Geographic specials (6:30 p.m., CBS), which also serves as a beginning of sorts. It's "The World of Jacques-Yves Cousteau," produced by David L. Wolper and narrated by Orson Welles, and it documents the famed undersea explorer's third journey to the continental shelf in his exploration capsule Conshelf Three. In 1968, the series The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau will premiere on ABC (narrated first by Rod Serling and later by Joseph Campanella), and runs through 1976. At the same time on ABC, Batman does battle with the archfiend Riddler (Frank Gorshin) and his moll, Pauline (Sherry Jackson). And here's a question that parents probably found easier to deal with than the ones their kids usually come up with:

McHale's Navy isn't the only show this week to feature a matrimonial theme; on Friday, it's a repeat of The Farmer's Daughter's November episode (8:30 p.m., ABC) in which Katy (Inger Stevens) finally gets her man, marrying Congessman Glen Morley (William Windom). The Farmer's Daughter wasn't the first sitcom to feature a "very special" wedding; that would be Mister Peepers in 1954. But it was one of the earliest, and it personifies two traditions that continue to this day: the wedding episode is a ratings winner, and viewer interest in the series generally goes downhill from there. Why? Well, the wedding episode often serves as the culmination of a long-running theme, and as such eliminates the storyline (and tension) that has kept the series going. What more is left to say? (How many times have we heard viewers say that things "just aren't the same" after the wedding?" Probably as often as marriage counselors.) Does the wedding episode kill off a series, or does it simply conclude it? Chicken and egg.

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Speaking of that Farmer's Daughter episode, maybe it's just me, and the memory playing tricks, but I always thought the summer rerun season came later in the year, in May or (in some cases) even June. And yet here we are, in virtually the last week of April, and the reruns are starting: besides The Farmer's Daughter, Honey West, Flipper, The John Forsythe Show, The Addams Family, McHale's Navy and Daniel Boone are among those "beginning a series of reruns," while Perry Como's Kraft Music Hall airs its last show of the season, and Sing Along With Mitch returns "for a series of warm-weather reruns." Keep in mind that there were more episodes per series back then, oftentimes over 30*, and this suggests there weren't that many reruns shown outside of the summer season.

*Of course, as a series progressed through several seasons and accumulated inventory, the annual number of episodes produced would generally go down, the gaps being filled in with episodes from years past.

The variety series is often a clue as to when summer actually arrives: Jackie Gleason, Red Skelton, Dean Martin and others take the summer off, with their slots being taken by those Summer Playhouse-type anthologies consisting of failed pilots, or a variety series hosted by a new young comic or singing star. (Glen Campbell! Vic Damone! George Carlin!) Jackie, Red and Dean are all on this week (albeit with a few reruns sprinkled in), so don't make those summer vacation plans quite yet. TV 

April 23, 2021

Around the dial

Let's start off this week with Jack's latest Hitchcock Project at bare•bones e-zine. It's a new era for Hitchcock, having moved to NBC for its sixth season, and a different kind of story: "The Contest for Aaron Gold," adapted by William Fay from a short story by Phillip Roth, and featuring Sydney Pollack in one of his occasional acting roles.

As I'm writing this, I note that it's Jack Nicholson's 84th birthday, but we're looking back to the young Jack with an attitude: 1970's Five Easy Pieces, nominated for four Academy Awards™. However, writes Rick at Classic Film & TV Café, it's possible the movie hasn't aged as well as Jack; read it and find out for yourself.

At Silver Scenes, the "Listen and Guess" game features actors who sing: mystery recordings from well-known actors of movies and television, stars whose names might not immeditely come to mind when you think "recording artist." Head over there and see how many you can get!

The actor Felix Silla died this week aged 83, and if the name doesn't sound familiar, you'll surely remember his most famous role: Cousin Itt on The Addams Family. There's much more to his career than that, as Terence tells us in this nice remembrance at A Shroud of Thoughts.

"The Monster of Peladon" is a story from the Pertwee era of classic Doctor Who; as John points out at Cult TV Blog, it's not the show's greatest moment. It's a sequel to the superior "Curse of Peladon," and it covers a little too much of the same ground. But I'll still wager it's better than anything you'll see on the new Who, which I gave up on a long time ago.

Now, this is a story you have to love: "A Production Primer from Television's First Cameraman," at Eyes of a Generation. Can you imagine beign recognized as the first-ever TV cameraman? I mean, how cool is that? 

A fun article from JB at The Hits Just Keep On Comin', involving a 1970s high school literary magazine, a family who'd gotten rid of TV years ago, and the movie And Now For Something Completely Different. If that sounds like a recipe for disaster, consider the title, "The Night It Hit the Fan." 

No such troubles here; we'll be back tomorrow with, hopefully, a controversy-free issue of TV Guide. You never know, though. TV  

April 21, 2021

What I've been watching: March, 2021

Shows I’ve Watched:

China: The Roots of Madness

The Best of Ernie Kovacs

W'e've been a little short on new programs here at the Hadley network the last month or so. Or perhaps I should rephrase that; after all, strictly speaking, there's never much new television here, but I respect all of you enough to assume that you know what I mean. It's that right now we're in the midst of a succession of long-running series, which means there hasn't been that much turnover lately. And while a documentary such as David L. Wolper's China: The Roots of Madness is engrossing and terrifying and reminds you that Communist China is and always has been (and always will be) a threat to the rest of the world, the 90 minutes doesn't go very far in filling up the dance card. 

Some of our regular shows are wrapping up in the next few weeks, though (Cannon, The Best of Ernie Kovacs, T.H.E. Cat), and while this may or may not fill you with excitement, it does mean more work for me the next time this feature returns. 

At any rate, the topic this month is Columbo, and there are several takes you can have on this series, each one about as good as the next, unless your take is that it's not any good, in which case you would be dead wrong, deader than the corpse at the center of each week's episode.

The take I'm going to take, if that makes sense, is that Columbo is the direct anthesis of the kind of show I was writing about last week. In case you've forgotten, and I wouldn't blame you if you had, last week I was ranting about episodes that put a main character into what I called "false jeopardy," that is, a situation that you already know is a bogus threat, given that character is contractually obligated to return next week. The end result, if that plot point takes up the whole episode, is that it becomes a waste of time, since it's virtually impossible to sustain the suspense of false jeopardy for the better part of an hour.  

There was, I suggested, a show that mastered this abiility, and in fact turned it into an asset, a signature that made it one of the most watchable shows on television. And this is that show. 

Columbo wasn't a whodunnit, or even a how'd-he-do-it, since we got to see the presumptive murderer plan and execute their sinister scheme right at the start, before we even met the title character. You'd think, given the number of mysteries where we're shown the killer's shoes (or back, or shadow), all in an attempt to keep their identity secret, that this would be a fatal flaw. But that never happens in Columbo, in large part because of the superior writing, casting, directing, and acting, especially in the case of Peter Falk. Yes, I know Bing Crosby was originally offered the role; yes I know that several actors have played Lieutenant Columbo on stage (and even on TV, in 1960's The Chevy Mystery Show), which makes sense considering the original pilot first saw life as a play. Even so, Peter Falk is Columbo, and to imagine anyone else playing it is—well, it's really impossible to imagine, given how totally Falk left his stamp on the character.

When you add Falk to a mix that already includes, as creators, Richard Levinson and William Link; writers like Steven Bochco; directors like Steven Spielberg; and a guest cast that reads like a good year of nominees at the Academy Awards, you've got a pretty good chance of having a pretty good show. And not just the first time you watch it, or the next two or three times; Columbo has to be one of the most watchable mysteries television has ever produced.

One of the reasons it's so watchable, no matter how many times you've seen it, is that it doesn't matter that you know how it turns out; you knew it from the very beginning. Removing this distraction allows you to concentrate on other aspects of the show, such as the subtlety of Columbo's investigation: that moment when he knows who the killer is (usually by the time he's done looking around the scene of the crime); his dogged assembly of the evidence he needs for a conviction; the cat-and-mouse game he plays with the killer throughout the episode; and the coup de grace, when he lowers the boom on the guilty party, who turns out not only to have grossly underestimated the lieutenant's intelligence, but to have grossly overestimated his own. 

You watch it again, and notice how Columbo conducts his investigation like a grand master surveying the chessboard, deciding what he's going to reveal and when, in order to achieve the maximum impact. Every time he uses that trademark "Just one more thing," it usually winds up with him dropping a minor bomb on the suspect just as he heads out the door. In fact, you don't even have to be the suspect to experience the Columbo style; in "The Greenhouse Jungle," he's dealing with an unfaithful wife whose husband, after staging his own kidnapping, turns up dead (murdered by his uncle and co-conspirator, Ray Milland). As she and her tanned hunk of a lover are about to go for a sail. Columbo, stepping off the boat, tells her that, by the way, her late husband had confided to his secretary that his wife's boyfriend had offered to leave town in return for $50,000. I'll bet that was a chilly boat trip. 

You watch it again and listen to Columbo go off on seemingly unrelated tangets about his wife, nephew, or brother-in-law—people who may or may not be real, and may or may not have said what Columbo has them saying; but by putting words in their mouth rather than his own, he's able to make his point from an oblique angle, accusing without actually accusing. That's about when it begins to dawn on the suspect that Columbo isn't the fool he makes himself out to be, and it creates more unforced errors than the bullying tactics of many a detective on one of today's proceduals.

You watch it again, and you appreciate the relationship between Columbo and his suspect. Most of the time Columbo regards his suspect with a cool aloofness, a respect that belies what he may or may not be thinking. On occasion, as in episodes with Donald Pleasence and Johnny Cash, there's the sense that Columbo has genuine sympathy for the killer, that there's a mutual respect between the two. It's as if Columbo knows that this person has committed the only murder he'll ever commit—still a killer, to be sure, but also a victim of the human condition. Remember the scene at the conclusion of "Any Old Port in a Storm," when Columbo and Adrian Carsini (Pleasence) share a glass of wine? Magic, and a moment of humanity.

And then there are those times, as with Gene Barry or Leonard Nimoy, when Columbo displays a real animus, a determination not only to get the killer, but to let that killer know he's going to get hm. That's when Columbo drops all pretense and addresses the killer with—pardon the expression—deadly seriousness. No more games. The jig is up. I know exactly what you did. It's both thrilling and terrifying: thrilling for us, terrifying for them. Damn, but it's satisfying.

Every time you watch Columbo, there's always one more thing you notice about it, and that's why it never gets old. There is no "false jeopardy," no concern that the lieutenant won't get his man (or woman; there were plenty of them, too), no waiting around impatiently for the inevitable ending that everyone knows is coming. It's a cliché, but in this case it's also true: the pleasure is not just in the destination, but the journey itself. TV  

April 19, 2021

What's on TV? Saturday, April 15, 1967

You wouldn't know it from looking at today's listings (from the Minnesota State Edition), but we're in the middle of an epidemic of multi-part episodes; Flipper and Gunsmoke are both conclusions of two-parters, and Get Smart is part two of three. I never liked multi-part stories; not because they're padded (although they frequently are), but because I didn't like having to wait until next week, often with a cliffhanger that we all knew wasn't really going to kill the star, to see how things end. I suppose I was impatient even when I was a kid. The nice thing about the digital age is that you don't have to wait until next week to find out how things end; the strange part of it, at least in my case, is that even though I can just advance to the next episode, I never do. Like it or not, I still believe in honoring the original TV conventions. I suppose that's just me being me.

April 17, 2021

This week in TV Guide: April 15, 1967

IIn the past, we've seen issues of TV Guide where circumstances have contrived to make programming listings subject to change. Most of the time the changes are caused by news coverage of breaking events, but this week we have something completely different: the strike by AFTRA, the American Federation of Television and Radio Artists, which has already thrown the networks for a loop and threatens to complicate things for an indefinite period of time.

The strike, which all in all ran for 15 days, was actually settled by the time this issue hit the newsstands*, but at press time there was no telling when the end was going to come; thus, almost every other page contained some variant of the warning that programming—mostly newscasts, soap operas, variety programs and game shows—was being affected due to the AFTRA strike, and therefore might change. However, "[b]ecause the strike might end soon, TV GUIDE's listings are based on normal network schedules."

*The strike ended at 8:05 p.m. on April 10, just in time for the broadcast of the Academy AwardsI'll leave that to you as do whether or not that was a good thing. Had the strike still been going, the Academy had announced the show would go on with or without television; Bob Hope himself was unsure as to whether or not he would appear as host.

The effects of the strike have been immediate and quite noticeable, with results that in many cases were more entertaining than the regular programming. There's the sudden cult celebrity of Arnold Zenker, for example, thrust into the anchor chair of the CBS Evening News. Walter Cronkite isn't the only newscaster honoring the picket lines; he's joined by Peter Jennings of ABC and David Brinkley of NBC. (Hugh Downs, host of Today, was "chauffeured to the picket line 'in a Cadillac limousine supplied by the network.'")

Jennings's place on the newsbeat is being taken by producers Daryl Griffin and William Sheehan, neither of whom commands the following of Zenker. Others, however, including Brinkley's co-anchor Chet Huntley (who famously said he was "a newsman, not a performer"), Frank McGee and Ray Scherer, are continuing to work; at an event to pick up the Broadcasters' Distinguished Service Award, Huntley, and Brinkley confessed that "they really did not see eye to eye about Huntley's strike-breaking." Some would speculate that the perceived split between the two damaged their chemistry in the eyes of viewers; whether or not it does, the ratings for The Huntley-Brinkley Report will never be quite the same. and Cronkite (after reclaiming his anchor chair from Zenker) would beocme the face of the evening news for a generation.    

Equally hard-hit are the soaps, most of which are still being broadcast live. In place of the stories, networks have been running repeats of old favorites like Candid Camera and Father Knows Best. Some regular viewers have been suffering withdrawal because of the changes, which have left some key characters in life-threatening situations. "Oh please, bring them back," one said. The effects were not all bad, however, as many other viewers are feeling a sense of relief—much like an alcoholic drying out, as one put it. Many housewives have been telling reporters they've found themselves getting much more housework done than they used to; as a Mount Pleasant mother of four put it, "Once you break the habit, you feel free again." (I wonder, though, how many of them went back to it once the strike ended?)

In other strike-related news, The Doan Report tells us that Johnny Carson is "quitting his show for good" because NBC is combatting the strik by showing reruns of The Tonight Show. According to Carson's attorney (Bombastic Buskin?). the network is essentially turning Carson into "a scab against himself." NBC, however, responds that the star, who's making $780,000 a year (roughly $6.2 million in today's dollars) and has already developed a reputation for difficulty (remember his 15-minute flu?), is merely holding out for more money.

NBC newsman Edwin Newman, in a TV Guide piece entitled "Confessions of a Rookie Picket," humorously confesses that there is an upside to pounding the pavement in the line outside Rockefeller Center: "the females in the area are quite personable, and miniskirts add a new dimension to picketing.  Male pickets who appear downcast aren't. They are actually looking about two feet above the ground."

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During the 60s, the Ed Sullivan Show and The Hollywood Palace were the premiere variety shows on television. Whenever they appear in TV Guide together, we'll match them up and see who has the best lineup..

Sullivan: Scheduled guests include singer Nancy Wilson; Norman Wisdom of the Broadway musical "Walking Happy"; and comedians Norm Crosby, Totie Fields, and Hendra and Ullett.

Palace: Host Milton Berle talks with baseball's Willie Mays, Maury Wills and Jim Piersall, and joins them for a parody of "Diamonds Are a Girl's Best Friend." Also: Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Buddy Rich and his band, singer Marilyn King, illusionist Prassano Rao and the tap-dancing Dunhills.

Ed's lineup this week is a little light, to be honest, with some of his favorite comedians, Norm Crosby and Totie Fields, and Nancy Wilson. But what lineup can compare when you have Maury Wills leading off and Willie Mays batting clean-up? Throw in Roy Rogers and Dale Evens, and Buddy Rich and his band, and the winner is clear. It's Palace with a home run. 

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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. 

Felony Squad, just concluding its first of three seasons on ABC, is yet another example in the abandoned genre of half-hour dramas, which really is unfortunate; as I've said before, the brief running time forces each episode to be more tightly constructed, and less focused on the personal lives of its stars, which in general is always a good idea. Felony Squad also demonstrates that a police procedural can be fun for the whole family. 

Our crime-fighting heroes are a trio of cops with, says Cleve, "a separate copy for each age group to identify with." stars Howard Duff as the middle-aged Sam Stone, which is about as good a name for a veteran cop as you could ask. He's given to fatherly talks with the junior partner of the firm, Jim Briggs, played by Dennis Cole. Jim has this annoying habit, according to Amory, of getting shot, on average, once in each show. But have no fear; "He's left-handed, you see, and even when he's shot in one arm, before you know it, he comes back for more, blazing away with the other." And for seniors, there's Ben Alexander as Dan Briggs, Jim's father, and you could be forgiven for wondering if we're talking about Frank Smith, Alexander's character from the original version of Dragnet*, or Steven Hill, who plays Dan Briggs on Mission: Impossible. Oh well; that's always the risk one runs in the TV universe. 

As police shows of the 1960s go, Felony Squad is pretty good. Its characters are likeable, and Duff is always a steady, sturdy presence in any role he plays. Cleve has a bone to pick with him, and the series, though: those "fatherly" talks he's always having with Jim extend to the crooks they've just shot, and "Take our word for it—after on of them, the crook is glad to go." In fact, the length of time it takes for the bad guys to die is one of Amory's chief complaints. A recent episode sees Ricardo Montalban shot by Stone "fair and square" after choking two men to death during a multi-million dollar industrial theft. He's given plenty of time for his "final curtain line," but can't resist resuming after the final commercial break to give his own heart-to-heart to Stone, asking him to complete the deal. When Stone refuses—he is the hero, after all—Montalban can only shake his head, verbally at least. "No style," he ruefully says. Harsh, maybe, but as Amory concludes, it described the show pretty well."

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Ready for some sports? The baseball season has opened, and NBC kicks off its Game of the Week coverage with the defending National League champion Los Angeles Dodgers taking on the St. Louis Cardinals, who will win this year's National League title (as well as the World Series). Newly retired Dodgers ace Sandy Koufax joins the NBC broadcasting team; Koufax was never a good fit in the broadcast booth, and he leaves NBC after the 1972 season.

The Minnesota Twins open their local television schedule on Friday night with a game against the Detroit Tigers (6:55 p.m. CT, WTCN and others). These two teams finished second and third in 1966 (behind the champion Baltimore Orioles), and they'll be key players in the four-team death match for the 1967 American League crown. The Twins plan to telecast 50 games during the regular season on WTCN, although they'll be adding some at the end due to the pennant race. Interesting how times have changed, isn't it—nowadays, between OTA and cable, almost every team televises almost every game.

WTCN follows-up on its Friday Twins telecast with The Winning Team (10:15 p.m., time approximate), the life story of Hall of Fame pitcher Grover Cleveland Alexander, starring Ronald Reagan. Many years ago Terry Cashman wrote a hit song called "Talkin' Baseball," which included the line "the great Alexander is pitching again in Washington." A lot of people didn't get that line, but he's talking about Reagan, the newly-elected president, playing Alexander in this movie. A nice touch.

On Saturday at 12:30 p.m., CBS presents coverage of the Stanley Cup playoffs, with game five of the semifinal series between the Toronto Maple Leafs and Chicago Black Hawks, or, if that series has concluded, game five between the New York Rangers and Montreal Canadiens. If both of those series have already concluded, we'll be seeing the first game of the Stanley Cup Final. It will in fact be the Toronto-Chicago game that is seen, with the Leafs winning 4-2 on the way to a 4-2 series victory, and an eventual Cup triumph over Montreal. It's a historic win for the Maple Leafs, the last champion of the NHL's "original six" era; in September the league will kick-off its new season with six new expansion teams, and since then the teams just seem to keep coming. It's also a historic win for another, more dubious reason: to date, 1967 marks the last time the Maple Leafs won the Stanley Cup.

The NBA's in playoff mode as well—Sunday's game on ABC is expected to be from the finals, and indeed it is: game two between the San Francisco Warriors and Philadelphia 76ers. The Sixers are led by Wilt Chamberlain, who used to play for the Warriors, who used to be in Philadelphia before moving to San Francisco.* Philly's going to win this game, 126-95, on the way to a six-game victory over the Warriors.

*They then moved to Oakland and became the Golden State Warriors, but in 2017 they moved back to San Francisco. They're still called Golden State, though.

Also that Sunday (1:30 p.m.), CBS presents the premiere of a brand-new soccer league, the National Professional Soccer League, forerunner to the North American Soccer League*, as the Baltimore Bays tangle with the Atlanta Chiefs. I love this attempt in the listings to explain soccer for American fans who don't understand much about the game: "Placing best foot (and head) forward, 11-man teams maneuver the ball in a field roughly 110 by 75 yards. Only the goalkeeper can touch the ball with his hands or arms. Each goal is worth one point." I guess that does about cover it, though it loses something in the translation.

*The NASL was formed in 1968 by a merger between the aforementioned NPSL and the rival United Soccer League, and lasted until 1984.

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It's been a big week for Ronald Reagan, too. In addition to The Winning Team, the California governor is scheduled to appear on the premiere of Joey Bishop's late-night ABC talk show. The show itself was in doubt right up until the last minute, due to the strike, but it goes on as planned. Not planned is that, due to a scheduling mixup, Reagan shows up late for the live broadcast. Nowadays people would say this was a harbinger of things to come for Bishop, but as we know Joey was actually serious competition for Carson for a time.

The rerun season is beginning, and many of the biggest shows will be doing second-runs throughout the summer (except for the variety shows, many of which had summer replacements). One show presenting the first in a series of reruns: The Fugitive, in its final season. But as the listing notes, "Viewers will learn the truth about Dr. Kimble's guilt or innocence in a two-part episode to be telecast in August." As I've mentioned before, this may be one of the only times the concluding episode of a series has been shown after the rerun season, as the positively final episode of the show's run.

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There have been many starlets in the pages of TV Guide over the years, but this week's starlet gives us the opportunity to ponder the different ways in which the word can be used. It can refer to an up-and-coming female star, kind of like a junior star; or (as the word "boomlet" is to politics) it can mean a star whose sheen peters out, never attaining the brilliance that had been hoped for. In this case, both definitions apply to cover girl Karen Jensen, "The Starlet, 1967." 

Have you heard of Karen Jensen? I hadn't, although that in and of itself doesn't mean anything. Her IMDb listing gives us some information about her career, including that she was a regular in the NBC series Bracken's World. She also was named "Miss Fire Prevention Week," narrowly lost out to Sharon Tate for the part of Jennifer in Valley of the Dolls, and once won the Golden Calf Trophy for the actress with "the most beautiful legs in the world."  

In a whimsical, if somewhat mocking (today we might think of it as snarky), unbylined article, TV Guide goes into detail on how Jensen has all the prerequisites for stardom: vacuity and giggling innocence combined with sexual qualities, interests in obscure philosophies and material goods like furs and jewels, dates with the right men, and an attitude "which must exude the essence of Starletism."

Karen Jensen has it all going for her: she's "bright, pretty, affable, affected and a bit vague about just what it is she's saying." She has the "kit": she reads the "right" books: Kahlil Gibran's The Prophet and Siddhartha by Herman Hesse (of the later, Jensen reports, "It's about this young man who wants to find himself. I identified with him. He walks with his soul!"), she makes the rounds with the "right" people (George Burns' son Ronnie; producer Sy Weintraub; singer Jimmy Boyd (who "taught me a lot about ethics"); she has the "right" kind of sex appeal and knows how to talk about it ("I'd rather go nude now than wear something wrong"); and her life has the "right" kind of tragedy (her boyfriend Randy Boone went away "to think things out about us. I cried when he went. Then he married a girl he'd known only a few weeks. I was very sad.")

Mind you, I'm not making fun of Karen. Well, maybe a little, but you understand what I mean. She's done a lot more in the industry than I ever will. She worked steadily, if not spectacularly, for a number of years. No, I think, if anything, this shows how hard it is to make it big in Hollywood, and perhaps how our perceptions have changed over the years. There's a sexist, patronizing tone to the story, which I doubt you'd read today. Even the term "starlet" could be seen as sexist, seeing as how it fails the unisex test; we don't distinguish between "actors" and "actresses" anymore, except at the Academy Awards. But the thing is—I suspect it's just as accurate as it was then.

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Finally, TV Teletype tells us that comedians Rowan and Martin are being considered for an NBC series for the '68-'69 season, and will be doing a special as lead-in to the network's Miss America coverage. There are many false alarms in the Teletype rumor mill, but this isn't one of them: that specialRowan & Martin's Laugh-In—will indeed lead to a series, which debuts as a replacement for The Man From U.N.C.L.E. in January of 1968. And the rest, as we know, is history. TV  

April 16, 2021

Around the dial

At GQ, Jason Diamond kicks things off this week with the story of how Columbo became "an unlikely quarantine hit." Turns out it's just the ticket for these strange times, as longtime fans and newcomers alike enjoy the show's many pleasures. 

Peter Falk isn't the only crowd-pleasing detective on TV; at Comfort TV, David says a good word (or several, really) on behalf of Banacek and the art of the locked-room mystery. Was there anyone smoother than George Peppard, with his turtlenecks, long cigars, and confidence to burn?

At Bob Crane: Life & Legacy, Carol and Linda set the record straight on Bob's appearance on the 1978 Canadian show Celebrity Cooks, which took place just months before his death in 1978. Odds are, whatever you've seen or heard up to now is wrong.

The Twilight Zone Vortex returns to the world of The Twilight Zone Magazine, as Jordan looks at the second anniversary edition from 1983, with, among other features, a batch of short stories, an interview with Colin Wilson, and Richard Matheson's teleplay for the classic “A World of His Own.”

Let's stay in the Zone at Shadow & Substance, with an in-depth look at one of the two dozen teleplays (out of 92!) which Rod Serling' adapted from other sources: 1963's "The Old Man in the Cave," starring James Coburn, based on a short story by Henry Slesar. 

At The Horn Section, Hal writes well of James Hampton, best known as F Troop's Private Hannibal Shirley Dobbs, who died last week at age 84. A wonderful actor, who appeared in many roles both comedic and dramatic.

I grew up in Minneapolis, but Minnesota KidVid has a story of a local kids' show of which I have absolutely no memory: "Sunday Storybook," with Barbara DeValerio, which aired circa 1966 to 1968. Too bad there's no video on it.

And in case you're wondering, the current violence in the Twin Cities is closer to us than the riots from last year, but still far enough away that we're safe. For this week, anyway. Glad I've already got tomorrow's TV Guide ready for you! TV  

April 14, 2021

True-or-false jeopardy

A couple of weeks ago, we were watching an episode of 77 Sunset Strip in which Kookie (Edd Byrnes) was arrested on a trumped-up murder charge and thrown in a small-town jail. Will our hero escape the clutches of the crooked police and live to fight another day? What do you think?

The following week while we were watching an episode of Mannix, Joe (Mike Connors), in a small town investigating a murder, finds himself arrested on trumped-up charges and thrown in jail. Will our hero escape and find the real killer before the crooked cops finish him off? What do you think?

That these two episodes aired, at least in our household, on consecutive weeks, probably exacerbated my already-intense dislike of a hoary television trope that I like to call "false jeopardy." (Actually I only started calling it that a minute ago as I was typing this, but we'll let that go for the present.) 

False jeopardy—and I'm not referring to a game show hosted by someone other than Art Fleming or Alex Trebek—is what I call it when one of the lead characters in a TV series is put into an extreme life-or-death situation that is supposed to keep us in suspense. Now, I don't mean the ordinary kind of risk that private detectives or policemen encounter on a weekly basis, like being shot at, run over, beaten up, caught in a room filling up with water, being trapped between two walls of spikes closely closing in on you—well, you get the point. After all, these shows would be pretty dull without some kind of action.

No, what I'm talking about is the kind of jeopardy that serves as the catalyst for the entire episode. For at least two of the four acts, Kookie and Joe are slapped around by bully boys in blue, menaced by fellow prisoners, or threatened by corrupt officials. Their protestations of innocense are ignored; their basic constitutional rights are trampled. It's all very manipulative, designed to work the viewer into a simmering rage against the injustice of it all. And when the bad guys get their comeuppance, as they invariably do, it's seldom satisfying enough to make up for it all. 

I don't want to say that this kind of thing happens all the time, but any drama that runs for more than a season or two will have at lesat one episode involving false jeopardy, whether through imprisonment, kidnapping, a hostage situation, a life-threatening disease, or something of the sort. And for the better part of an hour, we're supposed to think that the outcome is in doubt. 

What it does is create impatience on the viewer's part; since we already know how things are going to end (at least insofar as the lead character is concerned), we just want to hurry up and get to the end so we can see the happily-ever-after ending. That's about the time when I reach for the fast-forward button on the remote. I think we're supposed to be curious as to just how things wind up the way they do; who the real killer is, how the police find out where the hostages are, what the doctor comes up with at the last minute. Maybe I'm just not that curious; I'm a cut-to-the-chase kind of guy.

Perhaps we're supposeed to put ourselves in the place of the lead, what it would feel like if we were the ones in a seemingly impossible situation. What we would do, how we might escape. If you ask me, the best series at creating that kind of atmosphere was The Fugitive; after all, the prospect of being executed for a crime you didn't commit has got to be horrible. (Think about it; you didn't even get the satisfaction of murdering someone you hated like the guilty parties in Perry Mason.) But in The Fugitive, this wasn't a gimmick; it was the premise of the whole series. There's a big difference. Sure, there were episodes that put Kimble in the same kind of false jeopardy I'm talking about, and those episodes are subject to the same criticism. But you can't use the premise of The Fugitive as an excuse for the other series that put their leads in false jeopardy.

I remember an episode of Hawaii Five-O in which McGarrett (Jack Lord) was temporarily blinded. Maybe I should say apparently temporary, because the doctors weren't sure he'd regain his sight. Now, we all know that he's going to see again, because the name of the series is Hawaii Five-O, not Longstreet. But I'd argue that the threat of permanent blindness was nothing more than a McGuffin. The suspense wasn't in whether or not McGarrett would recover; it was how he'd cope with being blind while the bad guy was out there looking to finish the job. Of course, that outcome wasn't in doubt either. The point is that this was a battle of wits, with the false jeopardy just a backdrop against which the real drama was played out.

Defenders of these plotlines would, I suppose, say that this is the point with all of these false jeopardy stories, that we're supposed to be taken in by the chess match between good and evil. But this isn't The Seventh Seal we're talking about, and it's only a superior storyline that can make the suspension of disbelief work long enough to get to the end of the episode. And the word I keep coming back to is maniuplative

We're supposed to hate the dirty cops that keep Kookie im jail, the corruption and the injustice in the system. That's not suspense; that's advocacy. We're supposed to hate the killers that hold Cannon and his client hostage, and thirst for the retribution that awaits when they get what's coming to them. And that's great, until you realize the writers have stacked the deck, that they're counting on you to react that way. Once you figure that out, the anger lessens. So does the suspense, though. It can't make us worry about the lead, because we already know he or she is going to be all right. (Unless we've read in the trades that their contract is up for renewal.) And the premise is too sustained, over the course of an hour, to keep the level of suspense high enough to take us along on the ride.

That leads to another kind of false jeopardy, one that's become much in vogue over the last decade or two: the season-ending cliffhanger. One of the first, and most famous, cliffhangers (I can't remember right now if it was a season-ender or not) was the "Who Shot J.R." episode of Dallas. It was a great gimmick, because it kept people all over the nation talking for months. It was also a shrewd one, one that kept the concept from slipping into the clutches of false jeopardy.

What was shrewd about it was that the purpose of the cliffhanger was not to keep us guessing as to whether or not J.R. was going to pull through; without Larry Hagman, there's no Dallas. No, what the braintrust did was to make us guess who shot him, and this created some real suspense. Nobody could be ruled out; a trial could have sent ratings shooting even higher (no pun intended). A clever team of writers could have figured out how to keep the storyline going without endangering the tenures of any of the regulars. If need be, they could even have played it all off as a dream, right?

I know that all entertainment is manipulative, to some extent. Whether it's music, literature, movies or television—they all play on our emotions, condition us to respond. That's OK; we like being manipulated, just as we like being scared. We don't want it to be too obvious, though; we don't like knowing that it's happening. And that's how I feel when I see the lead in false jeopardy. 

It doesn't have to be that way, of course, and next week we'll look at a series that understood how to play the inevitable outcome for all it's worth, and succeed spectacularly. TV