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  

1 comment:

  1. Henry "Bombastic" Bushkin didn't become Johnny Carson's lawyer, or even meet Johnny Carson, until he was freshly out of law school in 1970. He was asked to take part in a raid (actually cover any illegalities) which Carson had organized to look for dirt on his 2nd wife, Joanne, who was discovered to be having an affair w/ Frank Gifford. Bushkin's book about his 18-year employment by & friendship w/ Carson, titled appropriately JOHNNY CARSON, is very interesting, though some points in it have been disputed.


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