April 3, 2021

This week in TV Guide: April 8, 1967

As hard as it may be to believe, at one time the Academy Awards was appointment television. I wrote about the Oscars at length here, but even though I haven't watched the show in years, I'm still a sucker for the old shows, as much for what they tell us about the movies as for the movies they tell us about. 

The 1967 broadcast, celebrating the best of the 1966 movies, is hosted for the 13th time by Bob Hope, and one look at the nominees tells us that the British invasion continues in full swing. Only two of the five Best Actor nominees—Alan Arkin and Steve McQueen—are American; on the Best Actress side, it's even more pronounced, with only Elizabeth Taylor representing the USA (even though she was born in England).* As Bob Hope says, "There'll always be an England—even if it is in Hollywood." Or the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium, as happens to be the case this year.

*Anouk Aimée is French, Ida Kaminska Polish, which just goes to show that Oscar was becoming more international even back then.

One of the challenges facing this year's producer, Joe Pasternak, is getting the nominees to show up in the first place. You wouldn't think that would be so difficult, especially when an awards show gives the winner free airtime to pontificate on whatever political cause turns them on, but in the '60s and '70s, it was actually somewhat fashionable to not appear. Stars have various reasons, of course; Sophia Loren supposedly told the Academy that she'd only show up if she knew she was going to win. "Eef I am, I'll come." They wouldn't tell her, she didn't come, and she won anyway. "Last year," Pasternak says, "Julie Christie was reluctant to come. She felt she'd be too embarrassed if she lost." She came anyway, and she won. 

As C. Robert Jennings says in his backstage look at the Oscars, it's not all glamor and glitter. The pressure to win is imnense. "There's a tendency to get too tense about it now," Marlon Brando says, "and lose sight of the real purpose of the award." And that, says Jennings, is money. One producer estimates that winning an Oscar is worth about $5 milllion, and it's no wonder: "There are 50 million people who are old enough to go out to the movies but don't—thanks to TV," one movie exhibitor says. "We only see them once a year—when the Academy Award pictures are available." In that sense, I guess things haven't changed that much; TV still damages the box office, but it's not commercial television—it's streaming and on-demand.

Jennings notes that Oscar season is no longer the "political free-for-all or lugubrious, in-fought popularity contest it once was," and the Academy has tried to curb the "vulgar solicitation for votes," but still the campaigns continue. Two of the biggest spenders this year were Milton Berle and Stella Stevens, who tried unsuccessfully to parlay their supporting roles in The Oscar and The Silencers, respectively, into nominations. However, as one look at Harvey Weinstein's track record—no, not that record—reminds us, it's still possible to purchase an Oscar, and don't think Netflix isn't right there trying to get the big one for Mank. And as for popularity, I suppose you could say that it no longer depends on how many friends you have; it's how woke you are.

So as the stars begin to gather—well, not this year, perhaps, but maybe next year if they let us out of our cages—for their big night on the town, they may do well to ponder why the Oscars aren't what they used to be. There's been a trend the past few years toward nominating small pictures that few moviegoers have seen, and the move toward streaming isn't entirely to blame; one recent headline notes that "On the Netflix Chart, It’s Like the Oscar Nominations Never Happened." Remember Norma Desmond's line about how it was the pictures that got small? I think that's true today, and that can be extended to cover movie stars as well. 

Perhaps, and this is just a guess, but perhaps people don't like to be preached to or ridiculed based on their political or religious beliefs, either. I know I don't, and that's one reason why I quit watching the show years ago. Samuel Goldwyn, who knew a thing or two about making movies, also knew how to deliver a quote. "If you want to send a message," he said, "call Western Union." Today's celebrities probably don't even know what Western Union was. They also don't know good advice when they hear 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: dancer-chorergrapher Peter Gennaro; singers Ed Ames, Shirley Verrett and Lana Cantrell; comics Richard Pryor, Davis and Reese, and Douglas and Haig; and accordianist Dick Contino.

Palace: Tony Martin and his wife Cyd Charisse introduce comedians Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks, who satirize advertising; the singing Kim Sisters; the folk-rocking Buffalo Springfield; comic Jackie Clark; high-pole acrobat Danny Sailor; and comic illusionists Milo and Roger.

Looking back at these lineups reminds me of how big comedy teams used to be: two of them on each show. Some of them had a longer shelf life than others; Davis and Reese were TV staples during the 1950s and '60s, and of course Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks were unforgettable, both individually and as a team. On the other hand, I have no memories of either Douglas and Haig or Milo and Roger. Tony Martin and Cyd Charisse are probably the most talented duo, and they're not even a team except in their personal life. Nevertheless, Ed Ames, opera star Shirley Verrett and Richard Pryor are enough to strike the right note. This week's verdict: Sullivan.

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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. 

This week, Cleve takes a look at Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom; TV Guide doesn't give it the full title, but c'mon—who doesn't remember those great segues to commerical that Marlin Perkins used to do from the safety of the studio, while Jim Fowler was engaging in bare-armed wrestling with an alligator? "While Jim fights to keep death at arm's length, you won't have to fight to keep debt at arm's length with insurance from Mutual of Omaha."

To be fair, Amory does mention the commercial tie-ins, although he doesn't happen to mention the sponsor's name (which ruins half the fun), but we shouldn't be surprised that as an animal lover, he's much more at ease with Wild Kingdom than he is with, for example, The American Sportsman. Watching Wild Kingdom, you can find yourself, against all expectations, completely engrossed in the story of Adélie penguins in Anarctica, thanks to the show's excellent photography and Perkins' in-depth information. The fact is that Perkins, as a host, "is so stiff he is actually fascinating, and he delivers his lines as if he had just been told that, if he didn't, he would be severly punished," which makes the show's ability to reach out and squeeze you ("Pythons can squeeze with alarming power, but illness won't put the squeeze on you with Mutual of Omaha.") all the more impressive.

At the outset, Amory shares a story of the time when a lion cub bit Perkins on camera. What did he do? "I did," he says, "what his mother would have done. I bit him back." And, on camera. Unfortunately, as it turns out, Wild Kingdom's record on staging events for dramatic purposes wasn't all that good, and when a CBC interviewer questiond him about it in the 1980s, Perkins first demanded that he turn off his camera; when the reporter refused, Perkins punched him in the face. On camera. But then, Perkins hosted Wild Kingdom for 22 years; it was, in a sense, his baby. He just did what a mother would have done.

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Baseball season begins on Monday, and to celebrate the event, CBS offers the second showing of Charlie Brown's All-Stars, one of the oldest and least-remembered of the Peanuts cartoons—it's second only to A Charlie Brown Christmas in terms of air date, but it only aired through 1971. Why? Maybe because it isn't attached to a holiday (despite how baseball fans feel about Opening Day), maybe because the gang's criticism of Charlie Brown is harsh even when compared to other Peanuts cartoons. (And the strip always had a bit more of an edge to it than the TV shows.) Even though it was heavily merchandised (I still have a cap somewhere), it still never caught on in the same way.

Charlie Brown isn't the only celebration of the national pastime, though. On Saturday, NBC airs an adaptation of the marvelous musical comedy Damn Yankees (8:00 p.m., preempting Saturday Night at the Movies), with Phil Silvers as Applegate, aka the Devil; Jerry Lanning as Joe Hardy, the man who sells his soul in order that his beloved Washington Senators might finally beat those damn New York Yankees; and Lee Remick as Lola, the silky temptress who gets whatever she wants. The whole thing's introduced by Today sportscaster Joe Garagiola. If you're curious, you can see this version at YouTube. Hmm—maybe Opening Day is a holiday after all. Baseball has become a mostly regional sport since then, and I have no interest in the modern game, but I'll watch these old games from the 1960s any day.

As I've mentioned in the past, the 1967 baseball season sees one of the great pennant races of all time, with the Minnesota Twins, Boston Red Sox, Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox battling for the American League pennant down to the final weekend before the Cinderella Red Sox come out on top. That's all in the future, though, which gives us a chance to look at Melvin Durslag's pre-season predictions with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight. Durslag was half-right in thinking that the Tigers and Twins would be in the thick of it, but he had the defending champion Baltimore Orioles taking the flag. He had the Red Sox tabbed for ninth in the ten-team league, but we can't really hold that against him; nobody thought Boston had a chance. As for the National League, he sees the Philadelphia Phillies, who came so close in 1964, finally winning; the St. Louis Cardinals, who won the pennant and then defeated the Red Sox in a seven-game World Series, are picked for seventh. Ouch. A footnote: we also get the 50-game TV schedule for the Twins, all games (except for national broadcasts) are shown on WTCN. The schedule doesn't include the final weekend series against the Red Sox that decides the title; those games were added on the fly. Again, hindsight is—well, you know the rest.

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The Oscars and the major leaguers aren't the only big specials on this week; there's plenty to be seen, no matter what you might be looking for. On Tuesday, Dick Van Dyke makes his return to television with a singing, dancing, comedy special (7:30 p.m. CT, CBS) in which, as Joseph Finnigan points out in his cover story, he spends 56 minutes on camera. There's a good reason for that, Van Dyke explains: whereas most shows get their guest stars and then write around them, he and his writers decided to write the show first, and then get the guests to match. It's not quite a one-man show; he's joined by Phil Erickson, his old nightclub partner, and Ann Morgan Guilbert, who played Millie Helper on the Van Dyke show. Asked why he didn't go for movies like most other TV stars do when their series comes to an end, his answer is simple and satisfying: "If you want to entertain people, go to television. That's the place you can do things you can't do in movies."

Meanwhile, my old nemesis, KCMT in Alexandria, presesnts a Sid Caesar special—or, to be more precise, The Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris Special—that was originally shown on April 5 on CBS, but airs tonight at 6:30 p.m., preempting The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. It's a glorious reunion of the cast from Your Show of Shows, and if you were to watch that as a lead-on to Dick Van Dyke, you'd have a pretty good night of television. As a matter of fact, while I can't do anything for you with Van Dyke, here's the Caesear show for your viewing pleasure.

Danny Thomas is another old favorite back this week; his Wednesday night special (8:00 p.m,. NBC) features "guests representative of America's melting-pot heritage," including Jimmy Durante, Sammy Davis Jr., Vic Damone, Ricardo Montalban, Lawrence Welk and Myron Floren, Jane Powell, and Dennis Day. The Peacock Network strikes a far different note on Friday, though, with their 90-minute adaptation of Peter Miller's Broadway play "The Investigation," a stark and brittle drama that tells the story of Nazi death-camp inmates in their own words. 

All of this, mind you, is subject to change, as networks may preempt regular programming to cover President Johnson's trip to Latin America.

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Finally, we haven't had a fashion spread for awhile, and I can't think of anyone better to do the honors than The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.'s April Dancer herself, Stefanie Powers. KCMT may not have have time for Stefanie on Tuesday, but we'll always make the time.

The clothes are from California designer Joanna's Spring collection, and they really swing, don't they? Even THRUSH won't be able to keep up. The most expensive item, the red-and-beige checked linen pants suit, runs about $155 in 1967 dollars, which would be about $1200 today. Not knowing much about women's clothes, I still doubt it would be that expensive today. I'd hate to see what Mr. Waverly said about that expense account, though. TV  


  1. Being a long-suffering Red Sox fan growing up in central upstate NY, the 1967 season is considered to be the genesis of the modern history of the franchise.

    The great baseball journalist, Peter Gammons, summed it up in the April 2, 2021 edition of the Boston Globe when he said, "With a bleacher stub in my pocket, I was at Fenway for Opening Day 1967 along with 8,000 of my closest fellow Sox fans in the vain hope the long-suffering franchise would have its first winning season in nine years.

    “There was some hope,” Gammons recalled. “Dick Williams was the manager, Reggie Smith was playing second base. They won, 5-4, and I can remember leaving the park and thinking, ‘OK, well, Williams has a little fire, this is going to be fun.’

    “But there was that weird feeling; we did a thing for MLB Network a couple years ago, and said it — we all consider that the most important season in Red Sox history.

    “They were so bad, [owner Tom] Yawkey had talked about moving the team. [Carl] Yastrzemski had wanted to be traded but backed off at Yawkey’s request. Then three or four days later, you had a rookie named Billy Rohr, who got within one out of a no-hitter in Yankee Stadium. That thing carried over for a week and it really started something. People started saying, ‘This is the year now.’ ”

    1. I remember the end of the season well, of course, since the Twins were in the thick of it. People here were pretty confident, particularly during that Saturday game until Kaat got hurt. I remember being pleased that the Sox won, probably because they were playing at home and the crowd was cheering them on, but I was also satisfied that the Cardinals won the Series. What a great season, though.

      The radio broadcasts of all seven games are on YouTube, FYI.

  2. A holiday theme has little to do with the longevity of a Peanuts special--Otherwise, the Arbor Day and New Year's Day celebratory programs would have had more re-airings. And as far as peer callousness goes, witness Violet and Lucy's little ditty in You're in Love, Charlie Brown wherein they express how Chuck's unattractiveness will prevent any future romantic endeavors. Meow!

    P.S. the 'Notify Me' feature has ceased working again.

    1. As far as holidays go--both in the Peanuts universe and in the populace at large--I think there are only three that matter: Thanksgiving, Christmas and Halloween. Maybe the Fourth of July, although that seems to be less important over the years. Valentine's Day seemed to have a little more staying power. But frankly, I think it's been years (decades?) since there was a really inspired Peanuts story; the only two we ever watch are Halloween and Christmas.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!