June 30, 2021

The Descent into Hell: "Number 12 Looks Just Like You" (1964)

A person, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia, is defined as "an individual substance of a rational nature. It implies independence or existence in itself." It goes on to state that, "The strongest proof of the reality of human beings in the world around us rests therefore on the evidence for human personality, and for each of us ultimately on the proof of our own personality." It is what makes us different from animals; only persons exist as rational beings (though some, through their actions, certainly seem bent on disproving that fact); and therefore only persons can be said to be self-conscious, aware of such things as reason, ethics, and truth.

That self-consciousness, combined with one’s collective memories, limitations, and free will, is what guarantees our continued existence as an individual human being, as “a free, self-conscious, separate personality, possessed of a genuine individual existence” that belongs to no one else. As John Stuart Mill would write, individuality is essential to the development and refinement of the self; it becomes a moral necessity for the individual to have freedom to make choices based on his or her own experiences and beliefs, else they have no more character "than a steam engine has character." 

And so the individual human being, with all those characteristics and traits, with free will and consciousness and the knowledge of right and wrong, could therefore be said to be the majesty of God’s very creation, the shining jewel in the crown. 

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Let's set aside the metaphysics for a moment and look at "Number 12 Looks Just Like You," an episode of The Twilight Zone that aired on January 24, 1964, the fifth and final season of the series, written by John Tomerlin and based on a short story by Charles Beaumont.* 

*The episode's credits list both Tomerlin and Beaumont as scriptwriters, but Tomerlin wrote the script in its entirety. Beaumont's name was used to sell the story, but he was unable to write any longer, due to the Pick's Disease from which he would die in 1967. 

The key element in "Number 12"—the only science fiction element in the story; everything else is psychological—is a process known as the "Transformation," which everyone undergoes upon reaching the age of 19, and by which you essentially trade in your body for a designer model. In true democratic fashion, you're even given a catalog of styles from which to choose! Needless to say, all the models will transform you into either an astoundingly beautiful woman, or an extraordinarily handsome man. (One aspect which the writers didn't factor in to their vision of the future: that someone would want to transform themselves into a person of the opposite sex. Science fiction is one thing, after all, but who in their right mind would want to do that?) The transformation not only turns you into an insanely handsome or beautiful person, it also eliminates most illnesses and extends your lifespan by two, maybe three times, As someone puts it, "The transformation is the most marvelous thing that could happen to a person." 

Our heroine, Marilyn (Collin Wilcox), has just reached the age of transformation, and being a rather plain girl, you'd think she'd be excited about it all. On the contrary: she wants nothing to do with it. As she tells her mother (Suzy Parker, who, it must be said, is gorgeous), "I want to stay ugly." 

Concerned, her mother takes her to Dr Rex (Richard Long), who assures her that the transformation is nothing to fear. "The transformation has become a normal part of growing up. It's a sign of maturity." It also, Dr. Rex adds, plays a very important role in "psychological adjustment." But Marilyn is adamant: her late father, a "nonconformist," had called transformation a "tragedy" that took away one's individuality, made everyone alike. His words resonate in Marilyn's mind. "There's got to be more to life," she insists. "Being like everybody. . . isn't that the same as being nobody?"

Marilyn is kept in the hospital—Dr. Rex tells her, "I am afraid that for the time being, you must let us decide what is best for you." Her best friend Val urges her to embrace transformation. "It isn't as if it hurts or anything." To Marilyn's protests that "I won't let them change me," Val replies with the inane ditty, "Life is pretty, life is fun, I am all and all is one."

Attempting to escape from what she now sees, correctly, as a prison, Marilyn runs through deserted corridors, hides from passing nurses, sees a body being wheeled away on a gurney. Another person who's gone through the transformation. Recoiling from the sight and realizing that they don't intend to allow her to refuse, she runs through a doorway which then closes behind her. Inside, two nurses are waiting for her. "Come in, my dear," one says, "we've been expecting you. Sooner or later, everyone wants to be beautiful."

And so the transformation is accomplished. Marilyn emerges from the room, identical to her friend Valerie, who had urged her to undergo the process. Beaming, she admires herself in a mirror. And the nicest part of all, she says to Val: "I look just like you."

"Portrait of a young lady in love," Rod Serling says in his closing narration. "With herself."

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The origins of transformation: "Many years ago," Professor Sig explains, "wiser men than I decided to try and eliminate the reasons for inequality and injustice in this world of ours. They saw in physical unattractiveness one of the factors which made men hate. So, they charged the finest scientific minds with the task of eliminating ugliness in mankind." But that's not all: "As we learned to reshape the features, remold the body, we also learned to eliminate most of the causes of illness and thus to prolong life. Before the transformation, you could have expected to live 70, 80, perhaps 90 years. But now you can live twice that long. Perhaps three times. This is a good thing, is it not?"

Interesting, don't you think? 

Of course, one could say that ideas such as "racism," "prejudice" and "bigotry" are just another form of ugliness, an internal one. And if there was a way to remove such ugliness from a person, that would be a good thing, would it not? And to prevent people from, say, holding racist opinions, would it not be justified to teach them to detest that ugliness within themselves, to retrain the way they think about themselves and the world, to own up to their past sins (even those that date back generations) and to transform themselves into new men and women? That would be a good thing, would it not? And to prevent these people from having a platform in which they could spread their insidious ideas—to "cancel" them, let's call it—that would be good as well, would it not?

In the meantime, people like that have to be kept from attaining positions of influence in business or government. The education of their children has to be turned over to a more responsible authority, one not tainted by such dangerous ideas. Think of what a wonderful world it would be if we all saw things the same way.

As one political commentator says, "Error has no rights."

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There are two great reveals in "Number 12," or perhaps we should say one reveal and one discovery that shouldn't come as a surprise to anyone who knows how these things work. The reveal comes in Marilyn's hospital room, where she is "resting." Marilyn's mother and Valerie continues to press Marilyn on why she's so unhappy. After all, her mother says, "all they want to do is make you pretty." That's not true, Marilyn replies, recalling what her father had once told her: "When everyone is beautiful, no one will be, because without ugliness there can be no beauty." As Marilyn becomes more agitated, the doctor suggests they leave her alone, but Valerie asks to stay behind for a moment. She truly cannot understand why Marilyn feels the way she does; furthermore, why does she care so much about what her father said? He's dead, and she's had plenty of fathers since then. "I cared about him," Marilyn says. "He was good and he was kind and he cared about me. Not what I wore, not the way I looked, but what I thought, what I felt. He cared about himself and his dignity as a human being." And then she tells Valerie what really happened: her father didn't die in an accident; he committed suicide following his own transformation. "Because when they took away his identity he had no reason to go on living."*

*It's quite possible that Dr. Rex is making an oblique reference to this when, speaking of the transformation process, he mentions how "we've improved methods since the old days and now it always turns out well." 

This raises an interesting question. From what we can see and hear, we know that Marilyn is her father’s daughter. She's inherited his sensibility, his way of looking at life, and she clearly idolizes him. Could it be that her hostility toward the transformation is based in part on the desire to give her father's death some greater meaning, that he was a martyr to a philosophy of life—to what it meant to be human—rather than the alternative, that he was suffering from depression and had lost the will to live? I know that's a particularly Freudian way of looking at it, but considering one of the doctors interviewing Marilyn is named Professor Sigmund Friend, it wouldn't have been out of line had it been brought up. 

As for the discovery I mentioned, the "Soylent Green is people!" moment, it is the revelation that the transformation process is mandatory, despite the assurances that everyone makes—"No one has ever been forced to take transformation if he didn't want it," Dr. Rex had told Marilyn, but that was a lie, and anyone who's been reading this series could probably have told Marilyn that actually believing she had a choice in the matter had another think coming. No government, no regime, is ever going to pass up an opportunity to make something mandatory if it helps them stay in power. In her desperate dash through those bleak, antiseptic corridors of the "hospital," Marilyn finds herself in a rat's maze with no way out; no matter which way she goes, she's always going to wind up running through that doorway into the waiting arms of the nurses who, of course, only want to "help"  her. 

Elk verzet volledig zinloos, as the Nazis put it in their declaration of war against The Netherlands: Resistance is useless.

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Although the theme of "Number 12 Looks Just Like You" seems obvious, and its message a sobering one, not everyone feels the same way. In an in-depth look at the episode at the blog Shadow & Substance, one commentator wasn't sure that this "utopia" was such a bad thing:

Come on, she was quite happy afterward. I suppose other races had their own change machines. They're just making everybody perfect. Sounds good to me. 

I understand your response. But I have to ask myself, after the transformation is there no more racism, murder, poverty,...etc?  If so, having to live a sanitized existence is a small price to pay.

For some people, free will isn't that big a deal. Maybe some of you feel the same way.

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It has to be noted in any discussion of this type that unfettered individualism, which can quickly morph into utilitarianism or hedonism, creates a danger as great as that which we see in the cold, soulless dystopic environments of stories like “Number 12.” But right here, right now, we're interested in the beauty and majesty at the heart of the individual, and the individuality that is at the heart of creation: two snowflakes never alike, fingerprints unique to each person.

The importance of the individual—the power of the individual to change things, which makes him just a magnificent and frightening person—is a theme that is a constant in literature, in movies, in television shows. In Fahrenheit 451, the Fire Chief explains to Montag just why books have to be destroyed: "We must all be alike. Not everyone born free and equal, as the Constitution says, but everyone made equal. Each man the image of every other; then all are happy." Books contain knowledge; once people begin to accumulate knowledge, they are no longer equal, and that cannot be allowed to happen. (Interesting that "Number 12" also takes place in a society in which books have been outlawed.)

In one of the most significant television series ever made, the epic British series The Prisoner, the unnamed title character—christened Number 6 by his captors—fights for the right to be himself. "I will not make any deals with you," he tells the ubiquitous Number 2. "I will not be pushed, filed, stamped, indexed, briefed, debriefed or numbered." He concludes his stirring defense of the individual by defiantly pronouncing, "I am not a number. I am a free man." (And six times two is 12—coincidence?)

One of the main benefits of transformation is that it eliminates illness, lengthens lifespans, makes us happy—and that, too, is a good thing, is it not? And yet, in the otherwise disappointing Star Trek V, Kirk resists the efforts of Sybok to take away his innermost pain, "You know that pain and guilt can't be taken away with a wave of a magic wand," Kirk says to his friend Dr. McCoy. "They're the things we carry with us, the things that make us who we are. If we lose them, we lose ourselves. I don't want my pain taken away. I need my pain."

Would we be willing to give up everything that makes us who we are, in return for such a life? What would a life like that mean?

In A Man For All Seasons, Robert Bolt's play about the martyrdom of St. Thomas More, the future saint is confronted at his trial by the betrayal of his former friend Richard Rich, who, as part of the deal for providing damaging evidence against More, has been made Attorney-General for Wales. With his characteristic humor, More looks at the chain of office that Rich wears, and wryly comments on the sellout, “For Wales? Why Richard, it profit a man nothing to give his soul for the whole world. . . but for Wales?”

But then, when all is said and done, it is as Cromwell had predicted to Rich when they made the deal to betray Thomas. "That wasn't too painful, was it?" Cromwell asks. "No," Rich concedes. "No," Cromwell agrees. "And you'll find it easier next time."

It's always easier next time, isn't it?

When they ask you to sacrifice for a few weeks—wear the mask, close the stores and offices, shut down the churches—that's a small price to pay for the common good, isn't it? And when they ask you to keep doing it, when a few weeks become a few months and then a year—well, if you've been doing it this long, it's just easier to keep doing it, isn't it?

And to live twice as long, or three times as long, as you used to; what wouldn't we do to extend life like that? Take a shot of an unproven vaccine? Everyone's doing it! It's for the common good! And if you have to get another shot, or a different shot for the next virus that comes up—well, it didn't hurt the last time, so it must be all right to do it again this time, isn't it?

Besides, whenever the inhabitants of Marilyn's world get stressed or upset, they just have a glass of Instant Smile. It's like those little pills, mother's little helpers, isn't it? So enticing, and soulless. 

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"The combination of all these causes forms so great a mass of influences hostile to Individuality, that it is not easy to see how it can stand its ground," John Stuart Mill wrote in his treatise On Liberty. "The demand that all other people shall resemble ourselves, grows by what it feeds on, It will do so with increasing difficulty, unless the intelligent part of the public can be made to feel its value—to see that it is good there should be differences, even though not for the better, even though, as it may appear to them, some should be for the worse." 

We are, I think, entitled to wonder why "Number 12 Looks Just Like You" ends as it does, with no miracle, no last-gasp reprieve. In a sense it can be seen as a companion piece to the classic "Eye of the Beholder," where beauty is the exception rather than the rule, but even there Serling can be said to have offered a glimmer of hope in the form of a colony to which those plagued by "ugliness" are sent. In offering the consolation of companionship, it raises the prospect of an ending that leaves the soul bruised and battered but still breathing. Here, there is no such hope, no prospect for escape: just soul-crushing conformity. Even worse, our heroine seems to have succumbed wholeheartedly; she goes through the transformation and comes out on the other side as "one of them." No regrets, no prospect of martyrdom, not even the sidelong glance that suggests the transformation was not, after all, quite complete. This is no pyrrhic victory; it's more 1984 than Darkness at Noon. Notwithstanding the propensity for The Twilight Zone to engage in such unusually downbeat endings, it is one that can leave the viewer feeling discouraged.

"So," you might ask, "what, then, is the point?" The point, I think, is that this is meant to serve as a warning, a reminder that not all stories end with the characters living happily ever after. It's a warning on how easy it is to lose your individuality, your soul. And for what? For a lifetime expanded far beyond what we know it today, a life filled with pleasure, happiness, free from want, free from fear. How enticing such an offer can be. 

There’s got to be more to life.

John Stuart Mill concludes: "If resistance waits till life is reduced nearly to one uniform type, all deviations from that type will come to be considered impious, immoral, even monstrous and contrary to nature. Mankind speedily become unable to conceive diversity, when they have been for some time unaccustomed to see it."

And then? Elk verzet volledig zinloos. TV  


June 28, 2021

What's on TV? Monday, June 28, 1965

A couple of shows debut on ABC in today's lineup; you can see one of them above. A Time for Us is a retooled version of the low-rated A Flame in the Wind, which premiered in 1964. The new and improved version, made over by soap maven Irna Phillips, survives almost to the end of 1966. That’s preceded by the Dick Clark-produced pop music show Where the Action Is, hosted by Linda Scott and Steve Alaimo, and frequently featuring Paul Revere and the Raiders. Since we didn’t get around to discussing cover story Hullabaloo on Saturday, I’m afraid this is as close as you’ll get. This one ran until the end of March, 1967—not bad for a mid-afternoon music variety show. We’ve also got the usual accompaniment of ABC shows popping up on other affiliated stations, but that’s part of what makes these Minnesota State Editions so entertaining, right?

June 26, 2021

This week in TV Guide: June 26, 1965

If there are five people funnier than Stan Freberg, I don't know who they are. There may be many more as funny as Freberg, but none funnier. Now that we've established that bit of linguistic caretaking, let's take a look at Freberg's diagnosis of what's wrong with educational TV, and how it can be rectified. And it's perhaps not really all that surprising that most of what he says is dead serious.

His article consists of excerpts from a recent speech he gave to National Educational Television affiliates. "He expected to be lynched by his audience," the introduction says, but instead, he "was asked to become consultant to the president of the National Educational Television network." And he says right from the start that he has no complaints with the daytime, classroom-oriented programs that local stations air; it's the evening programming that bothers him. "It's one thing to reach intellectuals and TV snobs, like me, and the 'upward with the arts' crowd who couldn't wait for the educational channel to get under way in their city." However, and this has been the knock against public television for a long time, "how about going out of your way to reach the average person who would go for better evening's worth of TV in a minute, but doesn't even understand the meaning of the term 'Educational Television.'"

It seems to Freberg that "ETV doesn't really make an effort to reach thes people, choosing instead to reach out to the intellectuals, and then writes it off by saying, 'Well, that's not our audience anyhow.' We don't want to reach 'the mass.'" But, he points out, where would Christianity be today if all the church ever did was look for people who already shared their beliefs, instead of seeking out those who were looking for something in which to believe? (That's a lesson, by the way, that most internet pundits could take to heart.)

Freberg is convinced that people are dissatisfied, that they want better television (an opinion shared by, among others, Cleveland Amory), but they're too apathetic to do anything about it. ETV can, and must, reach out to them, get them to understand that educational television doesn't mean Mr. Novak. It needs publicity—but again, the "elitist" tag gets in the way. "[T]he publicity I have seen on educational TV," Freberg says, "tends to be pretty stuffy." Believe me, if anyone knows about advertising, it's Stan Freberg, and as he says, "You can't stretch the mind of the average person by telling him, in effect, 'Stand by, we're going to stretch your mind.'" It's a fault shared by larger corporations; most clients, Freberg says, "tend to talk to themselves or, at best, their competition. I told a large cereal company once that they'd spent millions on TV talking to furniture. Sofas, armchair, here and there an ottoman."

So educational television is plagued by apathy (the viewer) and lack of creativity (the stations). He notes also that most educational stations are on the UHF dial (if you're old like me, you'll understand that), and ETV has to convince people why they should spend 50 bucks to buy a UHF converter. That brings us to the fourth challenge: can educational television produce anything entertaining, or will it choose to remain in its academic ivory tower? "I must report that the program my wife and I watched the other night, in prime time—an explanation of the human nervous system, showing each individual vein and nerve fiber—was, shall I say, only semigripping." In the end, they were, somehow, glad: "glad it wasn't in color." He's sure, though, that some people found it gripping: "My doctor. . . the man who was narrating it. . . his doctor." 

Freberg stresses he's not against this kind of television, but it has to be balanced by programming that has a wider reach. A few years ago I recall one of television's critics pointing out that you can't survive on dessert; you have to have veggies as well. ETV, Freberg seems to be saying, has the opposite problem: it can't survive on veggies alone. "You're so worried about your special-interest audiences—and so concerned lest you stoop down to the mass, and so 'Educational' with a capital E, that you're getting hung up on your own image." 

I wonder what Stan Freberg would think of PBS today? It seems to me they might have taken his suggestions a little too much to heart. Look at the state of educational television—I mean, public broadcasting—today. Arts programming, which was a major part of what ETV supporters envisioned all those years back, is virtually non-existent. The endless pledge breaks seem to be geared almost entirely to boomers, with nonstop showings of Suze Orman, Dr. Wayne Dyer, and refugees from the seniors rock tour. Even shows with an educational background often seem to have as much glitz and celebrity as they do facts. 

I'd love to hear what he had to say.

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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: Ed's guests this week are Tony Bennett; puppet Topo Gigio; rock 'n' rollers Billy J. Kramer and the Dakotas; comic Jackie Vernon; the singing Kim Sisters; magician Johnny Hart; the two Carmenas, acrobats*; and Africa's Djolimba song and drum ensemble.

*My wife, upon hearing this lineup, suggested that the two Carmenas would be followed by the two Buranas.  If you don't get it, look it up.

Palace: Host David Janssen introduces vocalists Edie Adams and Vic Damone; comedians Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks; Les Surfs, a singing group from Madagascar; the Harlem Globetrotters; Tim Conway; the knife-throwing Zeros*; and the Princess Tajana trapeze act.

*Let's hope that refers to the number of errant throws they make.

Actually, we're cheating a little here, since Hollywood Palace is preempted this week by football (more about that in a minute). The episode we've got is last week's, as it appears on WKBT, Channel 8 in LaCrosse, Wisconsin, a CBS affiliate that also dabbles in that wacky cross-affiliate programming. They air Palace on Tuesday night at 10:30 p.m., right after your late edition of the local news, but we don't care, do we? We're talking about this week in TV Guide, so it counts.

Now, I'll admit that when it comes to variety show hosts, David Janssen is not the first name that comes to mind. However, the producers have surrounded him with a very strong cast, especially the wonderful Edie Adams and Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks, and Janssen's up for it in a skit where his team of "Hollywood Dribblers" take on the Globetrotters. 

Ed has Tony Bennett, and while that's not nothing, it's not enough. This week it's the Palace in a slam dunk.

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Throughout the 60s and early 70s, TV Guide's weekly reviews were written by the witty and acerbic Cleveland Amory. Whenever we get the chance, we'll look at Cleve's latest take on the shows of the era. 

We're in the age of Peyton Place, the first great primetime soap opera, which ABC airs twice a week. As you might expect, with Peyton Place a hit, now everyone wants one, and CBS's version is called Our Private World, which is also on twice a week. It's not exactly like the ABC drama, though; for one thing, Peyton Place is based on a best-selling novel, while Our Private World is a spin-off, or at least a nighttime version, of the top-rated daytime soap As the World Turns, and even has Eileen Fulton reprise her daytime role as Lisa Hughes, newly moved to Chicago to start over after a divorce. (She'd boarded the train for Chicago in her last episode on the daytime show, and arrives as Our Private World begins. After its cancellation, she'd return to As the World Turns.) 

Be that as it may, though, Cleveland Amory warns that if you're looking for something deep to come out of this series, you're looking in the wrong place. "In fact, if it weren't for repeating everything twice, we don't think they'd be on twice a week." Take, for instance, the following piece of dialogue, which I repeat because it makes the point far better than I could: "All the man said was, 'Can I help?' And do you know what I wanted to do? I wanted to murder him. Becuase he couldn't help. Does that make sense? 'Can I help you?' That's all he said. And I hate him." Now, that kind of dialogue might work for Samuel Beckett or Harold Pinter, but it does not work in a soap opera.

Anyway, Cleve cites several other examples pointing to the pointlessness of Our Private World, and the quality, or lack thereof, but again, I'm going to defer to his exact words to give you an idea of what he really thinks. For a man who delights in clever word play, he's pretty blunt: "Altogether it is the first show we've seen in a long time where literally nothing is good—the idea, the producing, the writing or the directing. As for the acting, it has to be seen to be believed—and, believe us, it shouldn't be. The girls are bad and the boys are worse." He concedes two things, though: one, that it makes Peyton Place look good; and two, that the title, Our Perfect World, is perfect: "The mistake was in making it public."

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That football game I mentioned earlier is the Coaches All-America college football game, live from Buffalo. (Saturday, 8:30 p.m. CT, ABC) This is one of the more unusual post-season all-star games, coming as it does more than five months after the end of the college football season, the last opportunity for many of these players to be seen before they enter the NFL. (Unless they're in next month's College All-Star game, which pits an all-star team against the defending NFL champions.) For football fans, though, the game is a treat, a much-needed antidote to the endless stream of baseball throughout the summer, and a signal that football season is just around the corner. And besides, with Curt Gowdy and Kyle Rote on hand to announce, it has to be a big game, right? Among the stars in this year's edition are a trio of immortals: Gale Sayers, Dick Butkus and Roger Staubach; plus Brian Piccolo, Craig Morton, and Marty Schottenheimer.  

Bing takes home the prize
That's not the only sports on Saturday, though; in fact, the day gets off to an early start with the Irish Sweeps Derby horse race (8:45 a.m., ABC), live via Early Bird satellite from Dublin, with Jim McKay and Irish sports announcer Michael O'Hehir providing the call. It's not unprecedented for ABC to provide Saturday morning sports coverage from overseas (the 24 Hours of Le Mans and the British Open, for example). The Early Bird, quite famous at the time, was launched in April, leading me to suspect ABC is covering the Derby not just because it's a big race, but because they can. Lending credence to this theory is a mention in "For the Record" that Comsat is set to start collecting fees for the use of the Early Bird, ending the free run that had existed prior to then. By the way, the Derby was won by Meadow Court, partly owned by Bing Crosby. I'm surprised a tape of the race wasn't found in his basement.

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Also on Saturday night, it's Secret Agent (8:00 p.m., CBS), the precursor to The Prisoner, starring Patrick McGoohan as John Drake, the man who may or may not be Number 6. (In England, the show is known by the name Danger Man.*) This week's episode, "Whatever Happened to George Foster?", doesn't play into the Prisoner theme in the way that some other episodes do, but it's a strong one in its own right. And speaking of familiar faces in unfamiliar roles, isn't that Bernard Lee playing the heavy? You know, "M"—as in the James Bond movies? Glad he finally turned away from his life of crime.

*Admit it though, Johnny Rivers singing Secret Agent is way cooler than the original theme.

Way back when, I wrote about The Rogues, the clever, humorous series about a family of thieves (Gig Young, David Niven and Charles Boyer, with Gladys Cooper and Robert Coote) embarking on delightful scams of people who deserve to be scammed. Sunday night's episode (9:00 p.m., NBC), "The Boston Money Party," features Young's character (the three stars rotated turns as leads) "posing as the owner of a New England textile plant, to trap Paul Mannix, the 'wolf' of Wall Street." (J.D. Cannon, not to be confused with Leonardo DiCaprio) An attraction of this episode: it's written by William Link and Richard Levenson, the creators of Columbo and countless other clever shows. 

, CBS presents It's What's Happening, Baby! (8:30 p.m.), a public-service announcement disguised as a variety show. Listed as a "Teen-Age Special," What's Happening is "designed to acquaint teen-agers with the work of the U.S. Office of Economic Opportunities" (TV was filled with do-gooder shows like this back then), and is hosted by New York DJ Murray the K, The guests, all of whom appeared without pay, include Bill Cosby, Johnny Mathis, Ray Charles , Dionne Warwick, Herman's Hermits, the Dave Clark Five, Tom Jones, the Supremes, Marth and the Vandelias, Jan and Dean, and Mary Wells. It runs for 90 minutes, and needs every one of them. (And guess what? It's made its way to PBS! Look for it during pledge break season!)

I think we all enjoy running into well-known actors in these old issues, and Tuesday is quite the night for guest stars: Celeste Holm and Ed Asner on Mr. Novak (6:30 p.m., NBC), Robert Duvall on Combat! (6:30 p.m., ABC), Lloyd Bridges on Cloak of Mystery (8:00 p.m, NBC), Nick Adams, Edgar Bergen, Gale Storm, Debra Paget, and Marie Wilson on Burke's Law (9:00 p.m., KDAL), and Pat Hingle, Dabney Coleman, Tom Skerritt, and Burt Mustin on The Fugitive (9:00 p.m., ABC). Some were already well-known, some would become far better-known. All of them were on TV Tuesday night. Did we appreciate it?

And speaking of guests, on Wednesday CBS brings the Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour back for a summer run of 11 episodes. Lucy-Desi began as a series of specials during the 1957-58 seasons and continued through 1960, with a grand total of 13 episodes; this is the fourth time that the network has aired the series as a summer replacement. (It will return one more time, in 1967, as the last black-and-white series to be run on the network. Tonight, Danny Thomas and his TV family are guests. (9:00 p.m.)

We're still three seaasons from the premiere of Hawaii Five-0, but we still have a double-dose of Jack Lord this week.  First, on a Dr. Kildare rerun (Thursday, 7:30 p.m., NBC), Lord plays a doctor who fears rheumatoid arthritis may end his surgical career, just as it once ended his professional football career. I'll bet we get Jack in full-on bitter mode here. Question for any of you doctors out there, though: if his character had rheumatoid arthritis as a young man, bad enough that it stopped him from playing football, how was he ever able to become a surgeon in the first place? I'm no doctor, I'm just wondering. Later in the week, Jack's back in an episode of his very good modern-day cowboy series Stoney Burke, which I wrote about in this space just last week (Friday, 10:15 p.m., KDAL).  In this episode, a rodeo colleague of Stoney's is killed while riding a Brahma bull. How does Stoney figure into it? We'll find out. 

Fred Astaire has essentially retired from Hollywood a few years ago, limiting his appearances to rare (and critically acclaimed) variety specials, but he and his current partner Barrie Chase are back this week in a comedy on NBC's Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre called "Think Pretty." (Friday, 7:30 p.m., NBC) "Record company owners Fred Addams* [played by you-know-who] wants to win over female talent manager Tony Franklin—he's trying to sign one of her clients to a recording contract." Fred and Barrie do a few dances, and Fred sings the title song. Nice.

*I wonder—since this was up directly against ABC's The Addams Family, did they perhaps spell Fred's character's last name that way on purpose?

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This week's starlet is "well-designed" Janine Gray, the 25-year old British actress currently making her way through various TV appearances in search of stardom. Though she's only had a "fistful" of roles so far, "It really is a marvelous time for English girls," she says, thanks to the impact of Julie Andrews. "Julie broke all the rules, you see. Though attractive, she's not conventionally beautiful. She has sex appeal, but mainly she's a lady."*

*Cue Tom Jones.   

Among her credits to this point are appearances in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., 12 O'clock High and The Alfred Hitchcock Hour. Quinn Martin says "She has an interesting talent to go with those lovely looks." While she's a newcomer to the U.S. scene, though, she's had considerable experience in England, including a stint as emcee on a Shindig-like show called Six-Five Special and a number of dramatic roles. And between jobs, she was a cab driver. (Oh, and we shouldn't forget her near-nude role in The Americanization of Emily.)

She has upcoming roles in The Bob Hope Show and the "new comedy series" Get Smart! And she remains steadily in credits through the end of the Sixties, when her IMDb list pretty much runs out. Not a bad career, thoughcertainly better than mine. According to the always-reliable Wikipedia, she now lives with her husband in Cape Town, South Africa.

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The CBS drama The Nurses, starring Shirl Conway and Zina Bethune, debuted in 1962, and continued for two seasons before Joseph Campanella and Michael Tolan were brought in as doctors, to increase the dramatic possibilities. Accordingly, the show's title was changed to The Doctors and the Nurses, but none of it helped, as the show was scheduled opposite ABC's new hit series The Fugitive. and disappeared after its third season.*

*Only to return as a daytime soap opera, under it's original name of The Nurses. It was shown, ironically, on ABC.

Anyway, in a TV Guide article earlier in June, the humorist Art Buchwald wrote about how The Doctors and the Nurses could have survived against The Fugitive. His suggestion, as you can see here, was that a man would be brought to the Doctors/Nurses emergency room, "and as one of the doctors took the sheet off him, the audience would discover he had one arm. Just before he dies on the operating table he would gasp, "I am the one-armed man the Fugitive is looking for. Richard Kimble is innocent and I killed his wife."

As it turns out, a very funny letter to the editor from Arthur Joel Katz, former producer of The Doctors and the Nurses, suggests (likely tongue-in-cheek) that he proposed just such an idea. "A one-armed man comes into the hospital, confesses to Zina [Bethune, one of the nurses] that he killed David Janssen's wife, and dies. The police broadcast the news, but Janssen suspects a trap and doesn't believe it. Thereafter, Zina sets out in search of David, but at every town she gets off the back of the bus just as David gets on the front. The only trouble with this story is that I couldn't sell it to the writers. Thus The Fugitive continues his adventures in oblivion, while we just fade into it."  TV  

June 25, 2021

Around the dial

At Comfort TV, David fires up the Blu-ray to take in what he describes as an "almost perfect" episode on Wonder Woman: the two-part story "The Feminum Mystique," with Nazis, John Saxon, Debra Winger as Wonder Girl and of course the incomperable Lynda Carter as the real WW. 

I've written before about the British sci-fi series The Tomorrow People, because John has written about it at Cult TV Blog. If you've been intrigued by the stories, you'll want to check out this week's post, which links to all of John's previous posts about the show. Read it today, not tomorrow.

It's been a fast-moving year, which often happens when you're considering major changes, and so it hardly seems possible that we're already up to Christmas in July, but that's the case over at Joanna's Christmas TV History. Not for me this year, but it should be fun to read—maybe you've got a favorite to share!

Another name from the past departed this week, as Joanne Linville died Sunday at the age of 93. If you've watched any classic TV at all, you'll recognize her, because it seemed as if she was in everything at one time or another. Terence reviews her career at A Shround of Thoughts. Ironic; the day she died, we were unknowingly watching her in an episode of Columbo.

If you're a fan of The Lone Ranger, or just like good books, you'll want to check out the latest from Martin Grams and his co-author, Terry Salomonson, The Lone Ranger: The Early Years 1933-1937. Find out how to get it at his website. TV  

June 23, 2021

How old is old?

I've long since become accustomed to the idea that nothing of much value comes from the BBC; it is, after all, the network that got rid of the Jeremy Clarkson version of Top Gear. I'm not here, though, to rag on the BBC. Instead, I'm going to rag on a recent article at the BBC website.

The article, by David Renshaw, asks the question: Is Watching Old TV Good For the Soul? For those of us who hang out here, the answer is obviously yes. It is, in the words of my friend David Hofstede, Comfort TV. It's something of an existential question, getting to the heart not only of what old television purports to be, but how it intersects with the increasingly fluid values displayed in today's pop culture. I suppose you could describe it as the basis for everything this website is about, and in fact I did describe it that way in the first chapter of my book The Electronic Mirror, which is pretty much all about the question of what classic television is. The only question that concerns me right now, however, is how you define the word old

I've used the words old and classic more or less interchangeably in that paragraph, because that's how I've always thought of it myself. Maybe I've been wrong about that, though. One of my favorite commentators, Mike Doran, once suggested using the word "vintage" instead of "classic," since classic implies a certain quality that doesn't necessarily depend on age; hence the otherwise oxymoronic term "instant classic." (I suppose one could say that "instant classic" is as oxymoronic as "instant coffee," but since I don't drink coffee, I don't have a horse in that race.) Anyway, it was a good suggestion, but I was already too far down the road I've taken to change, and so the term remains "classic television." 

But this Renshaw article redefines old in a way that isn't familar to me. Some of the "old" television programs mentioned in the article include:
  • The Sopranos
  • The Office
  • Seinfeld
  • The West Wing
Depending on what you think of them, these shows (and others from their era) could, I suppose, be considered classic, but would you consider them old? I don't; to me, "old" means the 1950s and 1960s, perhaps the 1970s. I suppose, though, today's viewers would consider them not old, but ancient. Maybe that's what bothers me about this article; after all, if shows from less than 30 years ago can be considered old, what does that make me, in the early years of my seventh decade? Am I ancient too? Hell, I'm not even eligible for Medicare yet. 

It gets worse. Renshaw quotes Daniel D'Addario, Variety's head TV critic: "'The sea-change I'm really expecting is that there will come a point where we're so far past Friends and The Office that future generations cannot relate to them,' he says, pointing to I Love Lucy as an example of a classic TV show that no longer chimes with modern audiences."

It's true that I've never been much of a fan of Lucy, but I'm going to take a stand on her behalf here. Yes, the world populated by Lucy and Ricky Ricardo is one that might appear foreign to modern audiences, unless they grew up watching Mad Men (another "old" program). And yet, I have to ask why Lucy wouldn't chime with them? The show's humor, much of it rooted in the human condition, is timeless, and often laugh-out-loud funny. Love, friendship, misunderstandings, couples getting mad and making up—these are things that have tickled the funny bones of people for generations. And as for slapstick, someone once said that nothing was funnier than a man slipping on a banana peel, because the anticipation was half of the fun. Isn't that how we feel when Lucy and Ethel are trying to keep up with the chocolates on the assembly line in the candy factory? And I'm not just talking about comedy; is there any who can really say, with a straight face, that a show like The Twilight Zone doesn't have something to say to us today?

No, you know what kinds of shows I think future generations won't be able to relate to? Shows that traffic in political proselytizing in the guise of entertainment. These shows don't even attempt to be timeless; they're geared to appeal to others of similar beliefs, a kind of secret handshake that welcomes like-minded viewers into an exclusive club, from which they can laugh at and ridicule those outside their clubhouse walls. I suppose these shows, like so many other things in our modern economy, are designed to be disposable; considering the number of programs viewers can choose from (532 original scripted television series were created last year), maybe they don't need to have any shelf life at all. We watch them, and when we're done with them we just throw them away. Maybe it's just me, but I doubt that in twenty years very many people are going to be laughing at jokes about presidents with orange hair.

The best part of this article, by far, is D'Addario's explanation of why people turn to old shows, and it's as David Hofstede says: for comfort. "[T]here is the comfort of familiarity. The things people are binging are not deeply experimental, you know the rhythms of these shows very well. It's about knowing what you're getting and letting it wash over you." And for people who feel alienated from today's world that seems to say that right is wrong, left is right, up is down—well, for them (and there are a lot of them), that familiarity is not going to be found exclusively in the shows of the last thirty years; they're going to find it in shows like Leave it to Beaver, Andy Griffith, and, yes, I Love Lucy.

It is, I think, alarming that we've come to the point that we consider something from thirty years ago as old. It really doesn't have anything to do with television at all, you know. It's a disregard for experience, for history, for tradition; it's a scorn for values that were accepted and lived out for centuries, if not millennia. It's the mark of a society that thinks only the now is important and that values are transitory, that crucifies people for the sin of having been products of their time, that views the past and those from it as being as disposable as, well, those TV shows I was talking about. 

So that brings us back to the question I posed at the beginning: how old is old? It's a question we all struggle to answer; we keep coming up with trite phrases like 60 is the new 40 and then plaster them on wooden plaques we hang on our walls to make ourselves feel better as the birthdays ramp up; we keep talking and dressing and living as if we're still twenty years younger than we are. We don't want to grow up, let alone grow old.

There are those who say that seeking comfort in nostalgia is an attempt to escape the world of today, but maybe it's also a way of acknowledging that we're all growing older, at the rate of 60 minutes per hour, and that we've come to terms with it. Watching television from the 1950s and 1960s isn't a way of trying to recapture our youth—it's admitting that, like these shows, we are old, and we accept it. As Harry Reasoner (a really old TV guy, and therefore of no importance) once said, no matter how a man tries to avoid risk or grasp for youth, "he may get one day extra or none; he never gets eternity." Not in this world, anyway. TV  

June 21, 2021

What's on TV? Monday, June 21, 1954

I usually introduce these listings with some trite phrase like, "Find your favorites!" but the challenge with any random day in the early 1950s is finding shows that any of us, even me, have heard of. In choosing Monday, I've tried to provide a few you've heard of, and a few more that deserve recognition as part of the Golden Age: I Love Lucy, Voice of Firestone (which appears here as "Concert"), Burns and Allen, Robert Montgomery Presents (one of the best of the anthologies), Death Valley Days, Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts, Bob and Ray, and prime-time boxing. And of course, The Today Show is still on the air, 67 years later, even if you don't live in the Chicagoland area. Find your favorites!

June 19, 2021

This week in TV Guide: June 18, 1954

It's rare that we have three unrelated articles providing a unified theme, but such is the case in this week's issue, and the thread that connects these stories is one that portrays a medium in the process of coming of age. It begins, appropriately, at the beginning.

Time Magazine once said of Ed Sullivan that "His smile is that of a man sucking a lemon." Why, then, does he look so happy on the cover of this week's issue, and on the pages inside? Perhaps it's because this Sunday, the master of the variety show begins his seventh season on television, and to fully appreciate the effect Sullivan has had on the young medium, one need only read the list of firsts ascribed to his show, Toast of the Town: "the first hour-long program on CBS; the network's first sponsored show; the first variety show to introduce guests from the audience and to integrate dramatic skits; the first to offer so-called 'spectaculars.'" This may not seem like a big deal today, but standards, like cliches, have to begin somewhere, and their point of origin is Ed Sullivan.

He's also responsible, according to TV Guide, for doing "more than anyone else" to bring Hollywood to television. Even back in 1949, he got permission from MGM to feature Luise Rainer recreating her Oscar-winning scene from the studio's movie The Great Ziegfield. Clips from other MGM movies were used in biography shows Ed did for Helen Hayes and Robert Sherwood. Sulliven also anticipated the current trend toward "spectaculars" back in 1951, with an all-star tribute to Oscar Hammerstein. "I was getting tired of the straight vaudeville format," he says of the theme shows, "and wanted to inject something new before the audience grew bored." His trademark of introducing stars from the audience began as a budget measure; "I figured if names make news, faces make news, too." The stars loved the publicity; Ed loved that he didn't have to pay for their appearance.

The star parade shows no signs of letting up; on the cover, Sullivan appears with Metropolitan Opera star Rise Stevens, and inside photos show him with Teresa Brewer, Ed Wynn, Patti Page and Tony Martin. Thus has it been, thus shall it be—every week, every year, the stars come out with Ed, and they stay with him until the show goes off the air 17 years later, in 1971.

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Speaking of those spectaculars, the concept was invented by Pat Weaver, in part because he believed that radio ratings had declined because listeners had tired of predictable weekly shows. He sought to avoid a similar problem in television by introducing lavish special programs, shot in color with big stars and big production budgets. As things turned out, though, viewers apparaently hadn't tired of predictable weekly shows, at least not yet. While some of Weaver's spectaculars succeeded—well, spectacularly—most of them didn't; CBS, by sticking to a regular schedule, moved ahead in the ratings race (ABC, of course, wasn't a factor), and Weaver was sacked in 1956. 

This, however, is not 1956, but 1954, and Bob Stahl's report to the Teletype is filled with talk of upcomng spectaculars that will "provide most of TV's excitement for next fall." (I wonder, by the way, when the term "special" became accepted? Maybe when they stopped being spectacular.) Broadway producer Leland Hayward's monthly series of Monday night shows on NBC, subsequently to be known as Producers' Showcase—you'll recognize the name from previous references here—has Mary Martin, David Niven and Joseph Cotton signed up for the first show alone, with appearances later in the season by Tyrone Power, Henry Fonda and Ethel Merman. and a story to be directed by Alfred Hitchcock. That not all of these came to fruition doesn't diminish the ambition in these plans.

I mentioned before that CBS's traditional scheduling won the ratings day over Weaver's spectaculars, but that doesn't mean the Tiffany Network was exempt from the genre; Bob Stahl's report touts Best of Broadway, set to run every fourth Wednesday in place of Blue Ribbon Bouts, and featuring current Broadway stars; looking at the shows that were eventually broadcast, the lineup included Helen Hayes, Buster Keaton, Claudette Colbert, Art Carney, Ethel Merman and Mary Astor. Pretty good, don't you think?

Producers' Showcase ran for three seasons on NBC, while Best of Broadway was on CBS for a single season. What one sees in these, though, goes beyond the number of broadcasts—am ambition for something new, something experimental. Something exciting. Maybe it's not possible to come up with anything like that today; maybe everything's already been done, and we're at the point where all we can offer are variants, with bolder storylines and bigger stars. Those are often rewarding in and of themselves, but the question remains: is there still anything new under the sun?

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That's not to say that everything's all hearts and flowers between the movie studios and television networks; far from it. In fact, this week's issue gives us several examples of how TV has become a punch line, or a punching bag, for some of Hollywood's most recent films. 

For instance, in the movie Top Banana, Phil Silvers ► plays an "ego-happy" television comedian—a broad caricature, "if that's possible," of Milton Berle. Judy Garland's character in her upcoming musical spectacular (to coin a phrase) A Star is Born is a struggling entertainer who, at one point, "sinks to the level of doing a TV commercial." And in the Judy Holliday movie It Should Happen to You, a TV "sensationalist" turns Judy into a figure of ridicule on panal and other shows.  

This is nothing new, of course; movies have long made fun of television staples such as quiz shows (Champaign for Caesar) and commercials (rightly so). Times will change, though; Phil Silvers, who did so well spoofing Milton Berle, goes on to quite a career in television himself, and the wistful conclusion of the article is prescient. "Some day," it reads, "the movies may discover the likes of Edward R. Murrow", and not only was the result Good Night and Good Luck, it was directed by someone (George Clooney) who made his name in television. But in the meantime, we shouldn't be so surprised that the movies are picking on easy targets, "TV is still a menace to the movie box office." And you don't make fun of things you don't feel threatened by. 

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In this issue of TV Guide, the week still begins on Friday, and Friday spells the end—the final episode—of Kate Smith's afternoon variety show. (2:00 p.m., NBC) Next week in this timeslot: Mrs. U.S.A. and Ask Washington. Meanwhile, keeping in the musical vein, Edward R. Murrow's guest on Person to Person is Guy Lombardo, who with his Royal Canadians makes "the sweetest music this side of heaven." (9:30 p.m., CBS)

Saturday, NBC covers the final holes of the U.S. Open Golf Championship, or the National Open, as it's often called, live from Baltusrol in Springfield, New Jersey, the first time the Open has ever been shown on television. (3:00 p.m.) Today is what used to be known as "Open Saturday," 36 holes to determine the champion, rather than the 18 holes played Thursday and Friday. Journeyman Ed Furgol wins his only major, defeating Gene Littler by a stroke to win a first prize of $6,000. First prize in 2020, on the other hand, was $2,250,000. But when it comes to the U.S. Open, it's not the check that counts; it's the money.

Also on Saturday, Ted Mack hosts the National Amateur Hour Talent Championships live from Madison Square Garden in New York. (7:30 p.m., NBC) Among the three-time winners featured is 19-year-old singer Pat Boone, from Nashville, Tennessee.

Sunday, the aforementioned Ed Sullivan celebrates the sixth anniversary of Toast of the Town with a program of comedic, dramatic, and artistic skits that review the show's history, as well as honoring the many stars who made their TV debuts on the program. (7:00 p.m., CBS) And Margaret Truman joins the panel on What's My Line?, subbing for the vacationing Dorothy Kilgallen. (9:30 p.m., CBS)

And now some odds and ends from the rest of the week:

On Monday, Billy Graham—no, not the evangelist—takes on Chris Christensen in a ten-round welterweight bout from Eastern Parkway in Brooklyn (8:30 p.m., DuMont). Graham, currently ranked #6 in the world, never wins the title, thanks to mob control of the reigning champ, Kid Gavilan, but wins 102 out of 126 career fights, and in 1960 appears on To Tell the Truth—not as himself, but as one of the imposters. By the way, Billy Graham was his real name.

Tuesday is a great day for guest stars: Carl Ballentine, in his magician guise, is the guest on Garry Moore's afternoon show (12:30 p.m., CBS); Ralph Bellamy plays a man refusing to pay the ranson to rescue his son from kidnappers in "Fearful Decision" on The United States Steel Hour (8:30 p.m., ABC); and Arthur Murray's Dance Party welcomes three guests from the Brooklyn Dodgers: Duke Snyder, Carl Erskine and Russ Meyer. Snyder and Erskine are among the Dodgers' all-time greats; Russ Meyer did not go on to make Beyond the Valley of the Dolls with Roger Ebert. 

I wrote about Don McNeil's Breakfast Club a few months ago, and on Wednesday the venerable show celebrates its 21st birthday on the air, having debuted on the radio on June 23, 1933. (8:00 a.m., ABC) In primetime, James Gregory plays a man struggling to adapt to life after being released from prison in "The Long Road Home" on Kraft Theater (8:00 p.m, NBC). And although you won't see it in TV Guide because it's a live show and the guest is always a surprise, actress-dancer Gilda Gray is the honoree on This Is Your Life (9:00 p.m., NBC). Not only was she a tuberculosis survivor, she also popularized a dance called the "shimmy," and raised funds for Poland during World War II.

David Niven is the star of the week, playing a dual role in "Finale" on Four Star Playhouse (Thursday, 7:30 p.m., CBS).  He is, of course, one of the titular four stars, the other three being Dick Powell, Charles Boyer, and Ida Lupino. Four stars, indeed.  

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"I enjoy watching The Plainclothesman every Sunday evening," writes Bernice Mackaitis of Calumet City, Illinois, "but I was wondering why they don't ever show the lieutenant's face. I think it would be much better if we got to see him, at least occasionally." And thus we begin a look at one of the more unusual programs in this week's issue—in fact, in this entire era of television.

I first heard of The Plainclothesman in the first edition of Brooks and Marsh's Complete Guide to Prime Time Network TV Shows, back around 1980 or 1981. I probably read that book from cover to cover, cumulatively, three or four times, absolutely fascinated by all the shows I hadn't heard of, as well as the ones that vaguely remembered but couldn't, in this pre-internet era, really prove had existed. I've bought updated versions of the Complete Guide in the years since, but none have captivated in the way that first edition did. I wish I hadn't gotten rid of it; while the current volume is more up-to-date, it's filled with hundreds of shows I don't care about.

But back to The Plainclothesman. It premiered October 12, 1949 on the DuMont network, something else that endlessly fascinated, and ran until September 12, 1954, or about three months after this issue of TV Guide. It was television's first police procedural, though you couldn't prove that by me, but even though it was the first, it apparently still felt it had to rely on a gimmick. In this case, the gimmick, as you might have gathered, was that the face of the show's star, Ken Lynch ("The Lieutenant"), never appeared on camera.* The entire series was shot from his point-of-view, meaning that, as Brooks and Marsh put it, "The technique was camera-as-actor… If he lit his cigar, a hand (his) came toward the camera with a lighted match (even the tip of his cigar could be seen jutting out at the bottom of the screen); if he was knocked down, the viewer looked up from floor level." 

*OK, there was one episode in which his face was seen via a flashback. The arms and hands that appeared belonged to Lynch, though, which meant he "often had to climb on the sides of the camera, or kneel underneath it for long periods of time."

As Cary O'Dell points out, it almost certainly was inspired by The Lady in the Lake, the Philip Marlowe drama starring Robert Montgomery, which came out in 1947; and if it's true that DuMont did this to keep costs down (since they didn't have to pay as much to an actor who wasn't seen), it still proved to be surprisingly effective and creative. Here's a look at one of only four episodes that are thought to still exist (and the only one on YouTube):

There are literally hundreds of stories like this in the Complete Guide, of programs you may or may not have heard of, of plots unique or cliched, of behind-the-scenes details that in some cases are even more interesting that the programs from which they come. It's what got me interested in the history of television, and even though it took me 25 years to figure out it's what I should be writing about, it still grabs me today; and I get the greatest pleasure out of sharing it with everyone who'll listen. TV