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 


  1. I first remember Victor Borge's ("Bor-gie" according to Sullivan) "Phonetic Punctuation" from a filmed bit he made for THE ELECTRIC COMPANY. I remember seeing him in the open-air Saratoga Performing Arts Center (SPAC) in 1975 as well. I read about a performance he was giving fall 2000 at SMU near me, and I wish I'd gone, as he died just a few months after then.
    I have ABC WIDE WORLD OF SPORTS 30th & 40th anniversaries on tape & DVD, and I remember seeing the 20th anniversary in my family's pre-VCR days in 1981. The man who represented "the agony of defeat" for so many years had his skiing accident early in 1970, from what I've heard. He was brought onto at least 1 anniversary show to prove he survived the accident with no apparent problems.
    I DREAM OF JEANNIE would be maybe the best example of a series permanently changed, if not ruined, by marriage of the main characters. Personally I'm glad it created a few new plot possibilities by letting Jeannie interact in Tony's mortal world w/ people like the Bellows.
    As far as the changes in network summer rerun seasons go, some shows like LEAVE IT TO BEAVER, which produced 39 episodes every season, even showed an occasional new episode in July. GUNSMOKE & BONANZA also produced long seasons, and summer 1968 NBC mixed in a few new episodes in June & July 1968 w/ its reruns.

  2. Your memory is a little failing if you remember a series running through till May. Or at least you are older than I am. I base all of my TV memories of this era on my school calendar. School would start and the TV Guide Fall Preview issue would arrive. My week was planned around school events and TV shows. By the end of April we were into reruns even though school was still in session. That was the way I kept track of the year.

    Thank you again for all you do and the memories you shake down from our ever growing tree of life.

  3. 'May sweeps' came along in the mid-70s, and many shows began holding onto their last episode or two


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!