July 31, 2021

This week in TV Guide: August 2, 1969

Until its reappearance as a guest-star vehicle for Rick Dalton in Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, it was mostly only oldtimers like us who remembered Lancer, the western which ran on CBS for two seasons from 1969 to 1971. As is the case with so many Westerns, Lancer thrives on drama involving intertwined family trees; Bonanza's Ben Cartwright sired three sons with three different mothers, The Big Valley had an outsider who turned out to be the illegitimate son of the deceased Tom Barkley, The High Chapparal featured a second wife 30 years younger than John Cannon. (These family patriarchs sure did get around, didn't they?)

In the case of Lancer, our patriarch is one Murdoch Lancer, dealing with the tensions brought on by the relationship between his two estranged sons, each the product of a different marriage, who are now brought together to help the old man protect his ranch, also known as Lancer, from land pirates. It probably seemed like a good idea at the time, and in fact even though the series only ran two seasons, it was well-regarded by many western fans, and boasted good scripts and fine guest stars. It also had the advantage of this week's cover star, Andrew Duggan, in the title role. 

   With his two "sons," James Stacy (left)
and Wayne Maunder.
Dugan is one of those actors who invariably makes any show better than it would be otherwise, and even comes through bad shows with his dignity intact. And "dignified" is a good way to describe the subject of Leslie Raddatz's article: standing 6-feet-5 and 205 pounds, with his prematurely gray hair (he's only 45, but "I have always looked old," he tells Raddatz), and smooth voice (product of several years on the stage), he knows how to command a stage. Not that he lords it over people; those who work with him describe him as "unpretentious," "a fine human being," and "a real man." Of his work in Lancer, he acknowledges that "It barely gets through the second layer of you," but he doesn't complain; as a professional actor who's never wanted to be anything else, "I do the next thing to come along."

Lancer is the second show in which Duggan has starred, following the Warners detective series Bourbon Street Beat, and although I've always enjoyed his work, it was his portrayal of detective Cal Calhoun in BSB that made me a fan. He was adept at playing both heroes and villains (and sometimes you were unsure until the final scene), though his turns on the dark side were often complex and three-dimensional, and usuallty featured his own brand of charm. You're likely to recognize him from his many movies (70, including the unlikely coupling of The Incredible Mr. Limpet, with Don Knotts, and Seven Days in May, with Kirk Douglas and Burt Lancaster) and guest-starring appearances on television (more than 140). When he died of cancer in 1988, only 64, it was a loss. No matter what he was in, it was always worth a watch. 

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The humorist S.J. Perelman was a frequent visitor to the pages of TV Guide in the day. I'm not sure how many of you remember Perelman, who died in 1979, and how many more of you know him only as a name. As has been the case with so many humorists of the time (Thurber, Parker, Levenson, Menken, Buchwald), Perelman's style of writing, which featured most prominently in The New Yorker, has fallen out of favor over the years*, and reading him today can be a struggle, even for those of us who consider ourselves reasonably well-read, although I'm perfectly willing to take the blame for it.

*Arguably, P.G. Wodehouse is the one humorist from that era who has remained reasonably popular, probably because of his beloved creations Jeeves and Wooster. I'd be willing to include Damon Runyon in that category, thanks to Guys and Dolls and his eccentric, "Runyonesque" characters.

Anyway, Perleman is writing this week about nudity on television, and if you think I was going to pass up that story, you're crazy. The origin of the story comes from a recent BBC documentary dealing with nudism. The whole thing bothers Perleman, not because the site of naked men and women offend him; after all, as he points out, "every schoolboy polled [in Britain] knew more about sex than his family obstretician." No, what bothers our author is how the BBC wasted this nakedness on a documentary, eschewing "the juicy potential of skin as entertainment."

As an alternative, Perleman proposes a story based on the recent case of Miss Pamela Brewer, 18, who was found guilty of violating University of Florida rules for posing nude "on a bear rug" for a men's magazine. In Perleman's hands, Miss Brewer becomes Crystal Gondorf, a "demure but zottick freshmen, with a brain rivaling Spinoza's encased in the body of a Lollobrigida" Having undeniably verified that the picture is, in fact, of Miss Gondorf, university president Butterfoss has no alternative but to expel her. Crystal claims her innocence, comparing her situation to that of Josef K. in Kafka's The Trial. Eventually, it turns out the picture was doctored, the culprit being one Babs Cheesewright, a classmate jealous of Crystal's (pre-nude) popularity.

Perleman has some other ideas as well, his story running for another two pages. It's humorous (as opposed to funny), but I couldn't help but think, and again I may be the one to blame here, that the story was a bit like the skits we see in classic variety shows, running just a little too long for its own good. I appreciate long-form writing as much as anyone, but I kept wondering how I was going to summarize this story without taking up the entirety of today's column. As you can see, I finally gave up. This isn't meant to serve as a recommendation against reading Perleman's pieces, unless your job is to condense them. It just seems as if nudity on television should be, well, a bit more exciting, don't you think?

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You'll forgive me for taking a moment to catch my breath after all that. (Pause) Well now, for something else that's out of this world, The Doan Report takes a look at how last month's flight of Apollo 11 went over with TV viewers. It was, to coin a phrase, a smash. A worldwide audience estimated at 700 million watched the epic journey of Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins from the launch pad in Florida to the ghostly images live from the moon and the triumphant splashdown; just about the only parts of the world to miss the adventure were China, India, and most of Africa. But it was seen in Poland and Czechoslovakia, and even Moscow TV ran taped coverage of the moon walk three times in one day. Summing it all up was actress Gina Lollobrigida (she of the Perleman story above), who said, "Nothing in show business will ever top what I saw on television today." 

As for the coverage itself, the clear winner was CBS; Walter Cronkite and Wally Schirra garnered about 45 percent of the total audience, and Doan had high praise for the commentary of the former astronaut, who reassured viewers with clearly-understood explanations of what was going on during tense moments. 

And in a little more space news, on Saturday, the unmaned Mariner 7 is scheduled to pass by the southern region of Mars, five days after the flyby of its twin, Mariner 6, beaming black-and-white pictures of the Martian surface back to earth. The networks may preempt regular programming for coverage, including the possibility that the planet could support life.

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It's about time we get to what's on TV this week, don't you think? 

Spread across the weekend is coverage of President Nixon's visit to Romania and London, and back then it really was a big deal for an American president to visit a country behind the Iron Curtain; as a result, NBC plans live coverage of Nixon's arrival in Bucharest Saturday at 6:00 a.m. ET, while CBS has a prime-time special scheduled at 7:30 p.m., preempting Jackie Gleason's show—for one night, he wasn't the Great One after all. I'd assume there was more coverage than what was scheduled, though.

Here's something that caught my eye: an episode of All Star Theater entitled "The Tryst." (1:30 p.m., WIBF) Is the story any good? I don't know, but the cast is, with William Lundigan, Edward Arnold, and two very young future stars: Anne Francis and Vera Miles. The night rounds out with NBC's Saturday Night at the Movies (9:00 p.m.), showing a rerun of the pilot for this fall's new series Then Came Bronson, starring Michael Parks. a kind of Route 66 on two wheels. Unlike Tod, Buz and Linc, Bronson's adventures only ran for one season.

It's too bad we don't have Sullivan vs. the Palace this Sunday, but while The Hollywood Palace takes the summer off, Ed's back in reruns with a strong lineup: Johnny Mathis, singing a medley of songs by Henry Mancini (with Mancini conducting the orchestra); Diana Ross and the Supremes; dancer and chorergrapher Peter Gennaro; singer Shani Wallis; comedy from Burns and Schreiber and Rodner Dangerfield; and the balancing Rolan Brothers. (8:00 p.m., CBS) That's followed by a very good lineup on Hee Haw (9:00 p.m,. CBS), featuring Loretta Lynn and Waylon Jennings, along with Roy Clark and Buck Owens and the Buckaroos. For all of the ridicule Hee Haw takes from its cornpone humor, just about every big name country star appeared on that show over the years.

's highlight is a rerun of the 1966 historical epic Khartoum (8:30 p.m., NBC), the story of the 1884–1885 Siege of Khartoum, in the Sudan. Judith Crist hails this "intelligent epic," especially Robert Ardeny's screenplay, and a star-studded cast led by the two antagonists: Charlton Heston's "very good portrait of the enigmatic General 'Chinese' Gordon," leader of the British forces defending the city of Khartoum, and Laurence Olivier's "simply superb portrait" of the Mahdi, leader of the Arab tribesmen besieging the city. It is, says Crist, "the rare spectacular that engrosses the mind as well as the eye." If you're in the late-night mood, check out the guest hosts on the chat shows: Flip Wilson on The Tonight Show (11:30 p.m., NBC) and Pat Butrram (!) on The Joey Bishop Show (11:30 p.m., ABC); Pat's guests, by the way, include Gene Autry and Xavier Cugat and Charo. That might be the show of the week.

If you haven't figured it out yet, this week's shows are heavy on the rerun side, but that doesn't mean they aren't worth watching; after all, it's when people used to catch up on the shows they'd missed in this pre-VCR era. For example, one of Tuesday's choices is "All Our Yesterdays," the much-loved episode of Star Trek that sends our heroes back in time: Kirk has to defend himself against charges of whichcraft, while Spock and McCoy are stranded in a prehistoric ice age with the woman who captures Spock's pre-Vulcan heart, Mariette Hartley.* Of course, if you're going to give this a watch, you'll have to pass up this week's episode of Lancer, with guest star Johnnie Whitaker. (7:30 p.m., CBS)

*Typo alert: in the TV Guide, she's listed as "Mariette Hart."

Mariette Hartley—this time with her name spelled correctly—is back on NBC Wednesday night, this time as a naive Missouri girl who hires David Ross to find her missing brother (Rick Jason) in Darren McGavin's cynical P.I. series The Outsider (10:00 p.m., NBC). One of these days, I'm going to have to dip into the grey market and get some episodes of that. Fortunately, I won't have to do that with "And When the Sky Was Opened," an excellent first-season episode of The Twilight Zone, starring Rod Taylor, Jim Hutton and Charles Aidman as the first three astronauts into space, who find upon returning to Earth that not all is as it seems. After all, I just bought the complete series. (6:30 p.m., WPHL)

Have you had the feeling, especially in the last year or so, that you're just a piece on a chessboard, being moved at will by someone else? Find out what happens when this is literally the case, on a rerun of "Checkmate" on The Prisoner (8:00 p.m., CBS). As usual, the plot involves one of the favorite topics in The Village: conformity. As usual, Number 6 meets the challenge with his own favorite topic: escape. Otherwise, check out one of those movies I mentioned that features our cover star, Andrew Duggan. Yes, it's The Incredible Mr. Limpet (9:00 p.m., CBS), which Judith Crist describes as "a movie about a schnook who becomes a dolphin." I'm not sure who Duggan plays, but Don Knotts is the schnook. 

Friday boasts an interesting lineup of guest stars, beginning on The Wild Wild West (7:30 p.m., CBS), with opera star Patrice Munsel as—what else; a tempestuous opera star—who's run afoul of the sinister Order of Lucia. That's followed at 8:30 p.m. by The Name of the Game (NBC), a Robert Stack episode featuring Ricardo Montalban as a ghetto priest taking on the syndicate, led by—not Bruce Gordon, alas, but Edward Andrews. On NET Playhouse (8:30 p.m., NET), David Hemmings, who's since become famous in Antonioni's Blow-Up, stars in "Auto Stop," the story of a "callow youth" hitchhiking across continental Europe in hopes of becoming a man. The Saint (10:00 p.m, NBC) features one of Roger Moore's future co-stars, Lois "Moneypenny" Maxwell, as Simon Templar becomes involved in revenge, blackmail, and murder. Sounds as dangerous as anything Bond will come up against. 

A precaution, though: President Nixon is scheduled for an address to the Nation tonight, at which he'll reveal his new welfare initiative, the Family Assistance Plan. Typical of the time, the speech will be followed by analysis from network correspondents. Regular programming will be preempted, rescheduled, or delayed.

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An interesting Letter to the Editor this week, from Bill Cifton of Shelton, Washington, writing about a recent article on whether or not there's too much violence on television. (A recent poll indicated viewers felt excessive violence on TV was detrimental to society.) It's a little long, but I'm going to repeat it because I think it resonates with many of us out here:

My boss tells me what time to come to work, take my coffee break, eat lunch, get my paycheck, take my vacation and go home at night. Then my wife tells me to cut the grass, trim the hedge, take out the garbage, eat my dinner, not drink too much, and lastly what time to get up. The bank tells me when to make my house payment, car payment, TV payment and bring more money because my account is overdrawn. The only escape I have is watching TV—especially a nice violent show—because now somebody else is getting theirs. If I don't get any healthy violence to watch, I'm going to get even: I'm going to call the bank to come get the TV set. Then I'll send Nielsen his 50c and form back and tell him I just listen to radio.

I'd like to shake Mr Clifton's hand.

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Finally in this issue from Philadelphia, dueling news legends:

In this corner, one-half of the news lineup on WCAU, narrator par excellence of NFL Films, John "The Voice of God" Facenda!

And in this corner, present newsman of WLS and future star of NBC News, Tom "The Tomorrow Man" Snyder!

Who have you got?
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OK, I lied. Here's the final thought. It comes from former U.S. senator Henry Clay, as quoted in a letter from Ira H. Schoen of Yonkers, N.Y., writing about that poll on TV violence. Said Clay, "Statistics are no substitute for judgment." Make of that what you will. TV  

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