August 30, 2021

What's on TV? Friday, September 3, 1954

Xaptain Video and His Video Rangers, at 6:00 p.m. on WGN, is one of the last stalwarts of the DuMont network. Debuting in 1949 and lasting until 1955, it was the first science-fiction series on television; since it ran as a five-days-a-week serial (and sometimes on Saturday as well), the series totaled more than 1,500 episodes, as well as a wealth of toys and other commercial tie-ins. (You can still find them in antique stores and at various nostaligia shows.) Unfortunately, very few episodes exist, but while the special effects were crude and the show suffered from the typical pitfals of early live television (the always-reliable Wikipedia says cast members could sometimes be seen turning away from the carmeas so they wouldn't be seen laughing, it still remains one of the halmarks of early television, and a historic feature of this Chicagoland issue.

August 28, 2021

This week in TV Guide: August 28, 1954

This week's "As We See It," the editorial that often leads off TV Guide, focuses on college football on television—or the lack of it, as the case may be. From the outset, the rights to televise the college game—which, in 1954, is much bigger than its professional counterpart—have been controlled by the NCAA. According to the terms of the current contract, one game will be shown each week, on a national network. "No college eleven will be seen on the air more than once, no matter how much viewer interest there may be in top teams in various parts of the country." This, in contrast to the NFL, which plans as many as five regional games a week, plus one game broadcast nationally.*

*Keep in mind that in 1954 there were only 12 teams in the NFL, meaning a maximum of six games per week.  

The NCAA's professed concern has always been that TV games are bad for ticket sales, especially those of smaller schools. After all, who wants to see Slippery Rock take on Potsdam State when you can watch Notre Dame and Oklahoma from the comfort of your living room? And yet, point out the editors, pro football attendance was up five percent last season despite the increase in televised games. (To be fair, the college bosses were also concerned about the possibility of a team (read: Notre Dame) signing a contract to broadcast all their games nationally, giving them even more of an unfair recruiting advantage than they already had.) The answer, according to the editorial, is for "the big colleges, which can get offers to televise their football games, [declare] their independence from NCAA, an organization run by small colleges determined to keep the big boys off television."

Well, it only took 30 years, but eventually the wishes of the editors came true. In NCAA v. Board of Regents of the University of Oklahoma, the Supreme Court ruled, by a 7-2 vote*. that the NCAA's television plan violated the Sherman and Clayton Antitrust Acts. That opened the door to virtually unlimited college football on TV; the first Saturday of 2021 will see 57 games on television, not including additional TV games on Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Sunday, and Labor Day. (And yes, Notre Dame did sign a contract to have at least all their home games on national TV.) All of the big conferences have their own network television contracts; for that matter, most of them have their own networks, and the result has been a series of monetary machinations which have resulted in the big schools becoming even bigger, while realignment has created megaconferences, ended traditional rivalries, and turning college football into one of the biggest of big businesses. 

As for TV Guide's note that "college football attendance is declining steadily" without TV, we now have all the televised games that anyone could ask for—and attendance declines steadily. We've also gotten a national championship game, for which many fans clamored for decades, which has turned out to be dominated by a very, very few teams; the cream of the cream of the cream, so to speak.* It is difficult to say with honesty that anyone is happy with the current situation, except for those with all the money.

*I wrote about all of this here; it provides a much more detailed background, and also serves to prove that some issues never go away. 

Could all this have been forecast by the editors? It would be unfair to insist that they should have known, and yet we all know that the love of money is the root of all evil, that absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely, and that the Golden Rule really means, "whoever has the gold rules." And in looking back at this all, we also ought to remember to be careful what we wish for.

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As it happens, in 1954 NBC lost the NCAA contract for college football to ABC, and with NFL games divided between DuMont and ABC, the Peacock needed something to put on the air. I'm not sure anyone ever coined the phrase "Go North, Young Man," but that's just what the network did, and the result is the debut of the Canadian Football League, Saturday at 12:45 p.m. CT., with a game between the Ottawa Rough Riders and Toronto Argonauts, live from Varsity Stadium in Toronto. 

Those of you whose readership goes back a few years know my affinaty for Canadian football (if not, you can read about it here and here). It really is a different game from the American version, so much so that an insert in this week's Close Up goes through some of the fundamental differences. 

At this point in history, the CFL is actually pretty competitive with the NFL when it comes to salaries, and many black players find the country more welcoming than their own (some would eventually settle down in Canada and become Canadian citizens), so it's not as if NBC is showing a minor-league brand of football. Nonetheless, next season NBC regains the college football contract, and aside from several years when the Grey Cup championship was carried by Wide World of Sports, the CFL remains off American television until 1982, when NBC brings it back for three weeks as an experiment during the NFL players' strike. 

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That fetching young woman with the come-hither look on the cover is Roxanne, "decorative aid" to Bud Collier, host of CBS's Beat the Clock, the show that's home to outrageous stunts each week. (Example: drop two toupees, suspended by strings, into a stovepipe hat open at the top and worn by one of the contestants, without using your hands.) The show's stunts are thought up by "two professional pranksters"—I had no idea such people existed outside the White House—"who furnish 20 ideas a week." Jean Hollander, the show's co-producer, says their funniest stunt was when "Mother and children bandaged Daddy right up to his eyes, leaving him just room to brfeathe. Then everyone squirted Daddy with cream." Remember, when television was new, people would watch anything just because of the novelty.

Yup, Roxanne was a real doll.
Roxanne's real name is Dolores Rosedale, born in Minneapolis in 1928. (The Rosedale Center mall in Roseville, Minnesota was not named after her, but maybe it should have been.) She was well-known enough that a plastic "Roxanne Doll" hit the market in 1953; it was 18-inches tall with moveable legs a red camera, and had a tag with the Beat the Clock logo and Roxanne would give it to the children of contestants. She'll leave the program later in 1954, a few months before giving birth; she was still alive as of a few years ago, living in Minneapolis.

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It's pretty close to the start of the fall season, close enough that we've got some new series getting a head start. One which you might have seen in the classic TV DVD bins is Hey Mulligan, Mickey Rooney's "new family comedy series." (Saturday, 7:00 p.m., NBC) Mickey plays a page at an unnamed "West Coast broadcasting company," who, of course, really wants to be an actor. (Wait until he gets there, though, then he'll really want to direct.) This is not to be confused with the movie Mickey (9:30 p.m., WTMJ), in which "A pretty fifteen-year-tomboy finds fun in a small town." (Unless, I suppose, she finds it with Mickey Rooney.) And at 10:00 p.m. on WNBQ, it's Champagne For Caesar, one of the great satires on television, with Ronald Coleman as a polymath contestant trying to prove the banality of TV quiz shows, Celeste Holm as the femme fatale, Vincent Price as the show's sponsor, and Art Linkletter as the smarmy emcee.

On Sunday, Mel Allen narrates filmed highlights of the championship game in the Little League World Series (12:00 p.m., WBBM). If you'd like a little more extensive baseball action, feel free to tune in to WGN at 1:30, where the Cubs take on the Pittsburgh Pirates in a doubleheader at Wrigley Field. The news program You Are There returns for its third season as host Walter Cronkite looks at "The Treason of Aaron Burr." (5:00 p.m., CBS) And on Toast of the Town (7:00 p.m., CBS) Eddie Fisher guest hosts for Ed Sullivan and does some singing of his own.

Monday night, and I'm wondering if this might have wound up being carried by more than one network, President Eisenhower is scheduled to make a major policy address at the American Legion Convention in Washington, D.C. (8:00 p.m., ABC) The speech covers the president's signing of the Atomic Energy Act, which created the Atomic Energy Commission as part of increased support for a civilian nuclear industry. 

On Tuesday, we see more shows returning for the new season, starting with a couple of music programs hoping to strike the right notes in the 15-minute timeshare with the evening network news; at 6:30 p.m. on NBC, it's the debut of the smooth baritone Vaughn Monroe and his epononymous varieth show; at 6:45 p.m. Jo Stafford returns for her second season on CBS. At 8:00 p.m., it's the return of the half-hour anthology series Fireside Theater, followed at 8:30 by the new season of Armstrong Circle Theater, both on NBC. And at 9:30 p.m. on CBS, it's the fourth season of See It Now, as Edward R. Murrow returns from a trip to Southeast Asia, "so vital to Western defense."

Ed Wynn is Red Skelton's special guest on Wednesday (7:00 p.m., CBS), and while Red may be an institution, he hasn't quite found the rhythm since moving from NBC o CBS; he didn't make a dent against Milton Berle when he was on Tuesday's, and CBS has been using him in Arthur Godfrey's Wednesday slot during the summer, expanding the show from a half-hour to 60 minutes. However, according to this week's unbylined review, Red is "buckling under the weight." While he's one of the best clowns in show business, his characters are getting a bit stale, and "Red has become too much of a free-wheeler, ad-libbing in a manner that's often unfunny and sometimes in deplorable taste." Poor Red; his show only has another 17 seasons to run.

looks like a night for stars, begining with Four Star Playhouse (7:30 p.m., CBS); one of those four stars, Charles Boyer, haedlines "The Bad Streak," about a young man seeking revenge on his father. Virginia Grey is the mother who brought her son up to hate; the cast includes Horace McMahon, who later stars in Naked City. Transitioning from a future police show to a present one, Dragnet (8:00 p.m., NBC) sees Friday going undercover to infiltrate a blackmail ring. On Ford Theatre* (8:30 p.m., NBC), Ronald Reagan and Teresa Wright are a couple considering adoption, and Lee Aaker (Rin Tin Tin) is, of course, a young boy. And on Kraft Theatre (8:30 p.m, ABC), Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright George Kelly is one of the stars; he wrote tonight's episode, "Philip Goes Forth," possibly an autobiographical story of a young man going to New York to bcome a great playwright. Philip's played by Roddy McDowall.

*Footnote: in October, Ford Theatre will become the first network television series to be filmed regularly in color.

The much-loved sitcom Mama, based on the book, stageplay and movie I Remember Mama, returns for its seventh season (Friday, 7:00 p.m., CBS), with Peggy Wood as Mama, and the young Dick Van Patten as one of the children. And Edward R. Murrow is back with the second season of his second series, Person to Person (9:30 p.m., CBS). 

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It's always fun to see an alum of these old issues make good, and this week's starlet, young June Lockhart (the "Encyclopedia with Curves," for reasons you'll find out), is just such an example. For the last couple of years, she's been a panelist on the quiz show Who Said That?, about which she says, "I can name evry member of almost every cabinet, including the Secretary of the Interior in Wilson's administration. This is the sort of thing most girls can get along without." 

June's no stranger to the spotlight, coming as she does from an acting family; her parents are actors Gene and Kathleen Lockhart, and you may recall that they played Mr. and Mrs. Cratchit in the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol, in which June also appeared as one of the Cratchit children.* June appeared on Who Said That? for 2½ years, matching wits with such luminaries as John Cameron Swayze, commentator H.V. Kaltenborn, columnists Bob Considine and Earl Wilson. No wonder she found herself reading seven daily newspapers and five weekly news and picture magazines, cramming for each show. "I found writing down quotes helped me to remember them," she says. She finally left the show last year, just before giving birth to her daughter, Anne Kathleen.  

*Gene also plays the judge in Miracle on 34th Street and the banker in Going My Way, meaning you see him a lot around Christmastime.

The history of Who Said That? is an interesting one, by the way. It began on NBC radio in 1947 before becoming one of the early shows to transition to television, in December 1948. The object was for a celebrity panel to identify the newsmaker responsible for a quote appearing in recent news reports. The show's first emcee was CBS newsman Robert Trout, and the last, in 1955, was What's My Line? host John Charles Daly. Some of the other panelists who made regular appearances on the show were Boris Karloff, Morey Amsterdam, and Bennet Cerf. 

Besides quiz shows, she's also done some acting on Braodway and in summer stock, and she's currently under contract to NBC. She also says she's "scouting around for another panel show." She never gets one, at least as a regular, but her career speaks for itself: Lassie, Lost in Space, Petticoat Junction, General Hospital, hostess on the Miss USA and Miss Universe Pageants, the Tournament of Roses Parade, and CBS's Thanksgiving Day parades, and countless television and movie appearances. 

When she debuted on Broadway, one of the critics wrote that "June Lockhart has burst on Broadway with the suddenness of an unpredicted comet." A comet that never did die out. TV  

August 27, 2021

Around the dial

The name Robin Miller won’t mean anything to most of you, but within the motor sports world Miller was a giant, the premier chronicler of Indycar for decades. More than that, he could be said to be the conscience of the sport. Miller was a fixture not only in print but on television, particularly on “Wind Tunnel,” the late, lamented motorsports show on the late, lamented Speed Channel. (So how’s that working for you Fox, replacing Speed with FS2?) He knew everyone who was anyone in the sport, and he defended the sport with a passion against threats both material and existential. On Wednesday Robin Miller died after a lengthy battle against multiple myeloma and leukemia, at the too-young age of 71. Not only will open-wheel racing be poorer for his absence, so will the experience of the sport for its fans. Racer has the complete details. R.I.P.

At The Ringer, Alison Herman’s review of the Apple TV+ series Ted Lasso raises a point that I think is germane to this website in general: is there such a thing as “just” a TV show? I’ve made it clear, I think, that television shows should not be faulted for aspiring to “mere” entertainment, while at the same time demonstrating that it is not only legitimate but essential to look at the content of particular shows, and the industry in general, as an indicator of something more illuminating, more significant. In fact, one could say that Herman’s article proves my point: I don’t care one whit about Ted Lasso, but reading the article introduces ideas that enhance the way one thinks about television. Which is one reason why I read articles about shows in which I have no interest.

When I was growing up, there was no sports stadium cooler than the Houston Astrodome; you'll just have to take my word for it that playing football and baseball indoors on plastic grass was beyond amazing. When the Louisiana Superdome came along in the 1970s, it couldn't take the place of the original, but it was still cool, and a lot bigger. And that's just a prelude to Gil's review of the 1978 TV-movie Superdome, starring David Janssen, Van Johnson, Tom Sellick, Donna Mills, Ken Howard, Edie Adams, all at Realweegiemidget

I've never pretended to be the most talented writer in the family, and to prove that point, I'll direct you to my wife Judie's blog Nearer My God, where she touches on the extraordinary legacy of conductor Leonard Bernstein, including his groundbreaking television work on Omnibus, The Young People's Concerts, and the Norton Lectures. I've always enjoyed and admired how Bernstein never talked down to his audience, even children, and made classical music accessible to anyone.

The Hitchcock Project begins a new chapter, with the first episode written by Joel Murcott: "Number Twenty-Two," from the show's second season, with Rip Torn and Russell Collins. Jack has the lowdown on it at bare•bones e-zine.

At Cult TV Blog, John takes a look at O.T.T. ("Over The Top"), aver the Top, "a late-night adult version of the anarchic ATV children's show Tiswas," and I'm not quite sure how to describe either show, so you'll have to rely on John for the lowdown. I'll admit, though, that in the pantheon of English football chants, "Your mom is your dad's sister" was new to me.

The following has nothing to do with classic television, but I don't see how you can possibly pass up Mae West singing The Doors' classic "Light My Fire," do you? Read (and watch) all about it at Silver Scenes.

I'll admit that from time to time I can be a little critical of TV shows that I'm watching. ("A little?" she says), but even I'm not as bad as Star Trek fans, who, as David points out at Comfort TV, never, but never, seem to be satisfied. If I ever get like that, please shoot me.

At The Twilight Zone Vortex, Jordan goes in-depth on one of the greatest and most loved of all TZ episodes, "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet," with William Shatner at his most unforgettable Shatner-ness. I'll wager that even if you're not a Zone fan, you've seen this episode. TV  

August 25, 2021

My books—FREE for a limited time!

I think the time has come to turn Labor Day into one of those gift-exchange holidays. After all, it's not as if it has a lot going for it right now, other than a three-day weekend: it's the end of summer, there's nothing to look forward to until Thanksgiving, and, unlike those of us who sit behind a desk and type for a living, many real laborers don't get the day off. Jerry Lewis isn't even on anymore. So why not liven things up a bit with some presents, maybe a party, and a nice card? (I'm surprised Hallmark hasn't already started a line of Labor Day cards.)

So that nobody can accuse me of not doing my part, I have an excellent gift suggestion: check out my Bookstore and, if you haven't already, make a gift of one of my books. And this week only, as an incentive, I'm making these books my gift to you—and you won't have to pay a dime! You heard that right! For the next five days—from now until Sunday—the Kindle versions of The Electronic Mirror, The Car, and The Collaborator are absolutely free. It's my way of promoting the daylights out of my books thanking you for your loyalty over the last 11+ years. All I ask in return is that you submit a (hopefully positive, but above all honest) review afterward; easy for you, and helpful for me. 

I'll be the first to admit that, besides the ad that runs permanently on the sidebar, I haven't done nearly as much as I should to promote these books, and the last couple of years of shutdowns haven't helped. But I wouldn't be asking you to check them out if I didn't think they were worth your time, and it will never be easier, or cheaper, than this.  

This collection of essays looks at TV during its formative years and examines how this most personal form of mass communication reflects the culture of its time, how it has fulfilled (or failed to fulfill) its initial promise, and how TV has—intentionally as well as unintentionally—predicted the future, with sometimes disturbing results. It is the sometimes humorous, occasionally ironic, but always interesting story of how classic television indeed is an “electronic mirror.”

It begins with the car. But for Winter, an ordinary man living an ordinary life, it will not end until he learns what has happened to the car’s owner and why the car has been left abandoned and ignored on a city street. As Winter’s curiosity turns to obsession, his search for the missing owner intensifies and he finds the car taking him on a journey that he never expected, one of dreams and reality in which nothing–and no one–is what it seems. Not even him.

In this eerily prescient novel, a wildly popular new Pontiff promises reforms designed to focus the Catholic Church on inclusion, social justice and modernization. He is opposed by the powerful Prefect, a cardinal dedicated to preserving the traditional teaching of the Church, who fears the Pontiff’s plans will destroy the Church. Their inevitable confrontation is brought to a head by a Journalist’s investigation that uncovers a story of ambition, loss, deceit and more.

Pick up one, or try all three. There's nothing authors appreciate more than the sense that others are reading their words. Just remember that this promotion ends on Sunday. And if you don't, I'll just keep plugging them more and more frequently until you do. After all, it works for public broadcasting, doesn't it? TV  

August 23, 2021

What's on TV? Saturday, August 19, 1972

In a week dominated by the Reepublican Convention, I thought it only fair to give you a look at one of the four days of the week with somewhat regular programming. Not for the last time, we look at the CBS lineup and remember that people used to stay at home watching television on Saturdays, or watching it with their friends. We're also  reminded that a lot of those Saturday morning cartoons of the early 1970s were pretty awful, but that there were still a few classic ones around. We're in the Twin Cities this week, with a note that the PBS stations, KTCA and KTCI, don't broadcast on Saturdays in the Summer.

August 21, 2021

This week in TV Guide: August 19, 1972

When last we visited Miami Beach, the Sun and Fun Capital of the World, it was for the most entertaining stretch of television since Jackie Gleason and the June Taylor Dancers were in town. I speak, of course, of last month's Democratic National Convention, otherwise known as the Circular Firing Squad, otherwise known as the convention where their nominee for president gave his acceptance speech at 3:00 a.m. Eastern time. "They blew that terribly," Walter Cronkite tells Richard K. Doan and Neil Hickey in this week's story previewing this week's Republican Convention, to be held in the same city. "I think it must have hurt them a great deal."

The Republicans take their turn in Miami Beach determined not to repeat the Democrats' mistakes of 1968 and 1972. Their solution: what may be the first purely made-for-TV convention. One Republican strategist puts it succinctly: "It's be short and sweet and to the point. And it'll be a whole new kind of TV show, different even from our own conventions of the past." After all, they only have two things to accomplish: "to nominate Richard Nixon in prime time, and to get those delegates in bed each night before midnight." As David Brinkley says, "This one will be even more difficult for us than the Democrats' because there will be fewer surprises, less suspense, and less to talk about." 

The differences will be noticeable even before the gavel drops; unlike most modern-day conventions, this one is scheduled for three days rather than four. The convention floor itself will be less cramped, with the Republicans having only 1,348 delegates as opposed to 3,016 for the Democrats. The platform and credentials procedures are scheduled for afternoon sessions, rather than in prime time. To liven things up, three giant video screens have been installed around the convention hall to provide slide shows and films for viewers, including three short films by documentarian David L. Wolper. And because ABC is once again foreswearing gavel-to-gavel coverage, major speeches won't be scheduled until after 9:30 p.m., to make sure they appear on all three networks. Says Fred Rheinstein, who oversees the party's television and radio arrangements, "If the convention has a good look and is visually effective and interesting without seeming manipulated—which it will not be—then I've succeeded."
The convention itself kicks off Monday night with a speech by temporary convention chairman, Ronald Reagan, thought to be a kind of consolation prize since he was obviously finished as a presidential hopeful; followed by a speech from GOP Chairman Bob Dole (who was old even then). Tuesday night Nixon's name is placed in nomination by another old adversary, New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller. And then on Wednesday night Vice President Spiro Agnew delivers his acceptance speech, leading into Nixon's own speech. Everything ends by 11:00 p.m., or close to it, and everyone goes home happy. In November, Nixon wins 49 out of 50 states, garnering nearly 61 percent of the popular vote. Less than two years later, he'll be out of politics. Such are the vagaries of politics, after all.

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I should have warned you that this was going to be a political issue; in the first of three parts, Edith Efron takes a look at the state of blacks in broadcasting. Namely, why are there so few, and what's being done about it. 

Considering we're only going to get one-third of the story this week, a top-level overview is probably the best way to take it. Examination of the problem begins with the Congressional Black Causus; their investigation sugggests that the black community is "grossly excluded, distorted, mishandled and exploited by the white-controlled news media," and that "black people are systematically excluded from employment at most levels in newspapers, radio and television stations, though token nubers are to be found." Furthermore, the white media have "failed miserably" at honest reporting in the day-to-day news from the black community. In other words, Efron summarizes, "the hiring-promotion-and firing proces is racist, and that news coverage is racist."

Somewhat interestingly, Efron decides to investigate rather than simply take the words of black groups that the discrimination is intentional and racially motivated. The people she talks to at the station level, mostly heads of network-owned and operated stations, offer various perspectives on increasing black representation in the newsroom. Robert Hocking, at WCBS, stays that it's difficult to train people in these "complex jobs"; thus, they tend to rely on those who've already received training. They're also moving to increase hiring in the sales area, since "most stations get management people through sales." Across the board, they agree that although the numbers are still low, major strides are being made.

Howard University professor Samuel Yette, the "self-appointed" spokesman for the black journalists, contends that the increase in hiring is largely "pacification, not unlike other pacification measures aimed at blacks during the last decade." To which a white editor replies, "Do you realize what he's saying? He's saying we're racists if we don't hire blacks—and that we're racists if we do hire blacks." One top decision-maker explains the complexities involved. The bottom line is "protecting the station license," and everything is measured against that. If you hire too many blacks, you face the public calling you "the black station." If you hire too many inexperienced blacks, "the work begins to sink." If you put too many in the sales department, "those people in the ad agencies [may] take their business elsewhere." Most important for the credibility of the station, "How many blacks without real managerial experience can you put in decision-making jobs before they bankrupt you." At the same time, he acknowledges a double-standard. "Our staff is loaded with white mediocrities. Every staff is loaded with white mediocrities. But we're used to white mediocrity. When it's a black mediocrity, it feels as if somebody forced him down your craw. I grant you, it's racism."

The bottom line, Efron says in the conclusion to part one of the story, is that Yette's analysis, "couched in 'master-slave' language, is seeing the situation from the 'outside.'" Station mangers and executives look at the same problem from the "inside." What does it add up to? Black unpreparedness due to historical racism is a reality; but contemporary efforts to fix the situation are also a reality; but continuing racism in the industry is also a reality. Which is the dominant one? What they all agree on is that there is a problem. 

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Surely there must be something available for anyone not in the political frame of mind. And even with the Convention taking up three nights, there's a little something for everyone.

Football season will be here before you know it, and on Saturday, NBC airs a prime-time pre-season matchup between the Raiders and Rams from Los Angeles. (8:00 p.m.) For those of you trying to keep track of these things, this pits a team that would move from Oakland to Los Angeles and then back to Oakland and finally to Las Vegas, against a team that had moved to Los Angeles from Cleveland and would eventually move to St. Louis, and then back to Los Angeles. At one point both teams played in Los Angeles at the same time. After all that, who cares who wins?

includes what's sure to be a controversial episode of William F. Buckley Jr.'s Firing Line (PBS, 7:00 p.m.), as Buckley welcomes the controversil psychologist ◄ B.F. Skinner, discussing his book Beyond Freedom and Dignity. (You can see it here.) Among other things, Skinner advocaters that "man be controlled and conditioned to serve group interests." I'm not entirely sure about this, but I think Skinner might have wound up as head of the Centers for Disease Control; he certainly sounds like it. Either that, or he's a distant relative of Anthony Fauci. And speaking of programs with a modern theme, Darren McGavin stars as the defendant on "The Lawyers" segement of The Bold Ones (9:00 p.m., NBC). He admits causing $50,000 worth of damage to a private investigating firm: but it turns out the firm had complied a secret dossier on him that cost him his job, his marriage, and his reputation. The script, which won an Emmy following the original broadcast, was entered in the Congressional Record. Today, the firm that compiled the dossier would probably get a government contract. (According to IMDb, the information they gathered was erroneous, which guarantees they'd get the contract.)

With convention coverage starting on Monday, our pickings are going to begin getting a little slim, unless you're a political junkie as I was when I was that age. Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In (6:30 p.m., NBC) has an all-sports rerun, featuring Rams quarterback Roman Gabriel, whom you might have seen in the game Saturday, and cameos from Vida Blue, Andy Granatelli, Sugar Ray Robinson, Bill Russell, Doug Sanders, Vin Scully and Willie Shoemaker. Nice show. For those of a musical vein, the 1971 Montreaux Jazz Festival is featured on PBS (7:00 p.m.), and ABC—making good use of their extra 90 minutes before joining the convention in progress—repeats the pilot for the upcoming series The Rookies (7:00 p.m.), with Darren McGavin as Sergeant Ryker, a role that will be played in the fall by Gerald S. O'Loughlin, and Jennifer Billingsley as Danko, who will be played by Kate Jackson in the series.

It's the annual NBC telecast of the Ice Follies on Tuesday (6:30 p.m.), and this year Snoopy and his creator, Charles M. Schulz, are the headliners. On a repeat of The Mod Squad (6:30 p.m., ABC) has Andy Griffith as a man facing death threats after his testimony puts away a killer. And on Marcus Welby, M.D. (7:30 p.m., ABC), Gary Collins plays a hard-nosed father whose tough discipline is making things worse for his son; I'd bet on Dr. Welby against any bully. The GOP Convention wraps up on Wednesday, as does Steve Allen's stint as guest host (along with wife Jayne Meadows) on The Dick Cavett Show (11:30 p.m., ABC). Different time, same situation: Joey Bishop is guest host on The Tonight Show (10:30 p.m., NBC). Unlike the Democratic Convention, which saw sessions running until 6:00 a.m., the talk shows are in no danger of being pre-empted by the GOP. 

Thursday is a night of specials on ABC, topped off by a series' "best show of the season." It starts at 7:00 p.m. with Kid Power, a prime-time preview of a new Rankin-Bass Saturday morning animated series that begins next month. It's based on the "Wee Pals" comic strip, focusing on a multicultural group of youngsters sharing thougths on "prejudice, teamwork and responsiblity." A total of 17 episodes are made. That's followed at 7:30 by a "fast-paced" concert starring Three Dog Night with special guest Roberta Flack, and it had better be fast-paced since they're going to fit six songs into a half-hour (minus commercials). But I know; songs were shorter back then, and why not? At 8:00, it's a cinéma-vérité look at Julie Andrews, who just happens to have an ABC variety series starting next month, directed by Blake Edwards, who just happens to be married to Julie. And at 9:00, Owen Marshall, Counselor at Law presents "Victim in Shadow," a charged episode dealing with rape. Stefanie Powers is the victim, and Rick Nelson is the rapist.

The Summer Olympics start tomorrow in Munich with the Opening Ceremonies, and on Friday (7:00 p.m.) ABC presents a two-hour preview of what is already being referred to as the "Peaceful Olympics," meant to erase the bad memories of Hitler and the 1936 Berlin games. The network is planning a record 61½ hours of coverage (which is a drop in the bucket compared to what NBC does today, but times were different back then), and tonight's special gives us a look at the favorites, along with some memorable moments from the past. Next week's TV Guide will have an extensive look at the Games, but it's worth a look at an excerpt from that article, describing the atmosphere likely to prevail:

The atmosphere surrounding the Games should be thick with Bavarian Gemutlichkeit [friendliness]. A German Olympic official has promised, "We know only too well that crimes have been committed in the German name, and how many people have suffered . . . These Olympics will be what they are supposed to be: the great meeting of the youth of the world; of the new, hopefully enlightened generation; and thus a small contribution to world peace."

Ironic, isn't it?

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The last word, though, belongs to our cover star, Chad Everett. Everett was riding high on the success of Medical Center in 1972, and Jeanie Kasindorf's profile highlights some of Everett's, shall we say, controversial viewpoints, such as referring to his wife as "the most beautiful animal I own." (Did I mention already that this was a heavily political issue?) That remark, on the Dick Cavett show, caused guest Lily Tomlin to walk off, and for that reason alone we probably ought to thank Everett for performing a public service.

Everett was something of a chauvinist, albeit a benign one, who professed that he'd never heard of Gloria Steinem. But his comments suggest something more: an insight into the the very nature of gender roles, and the cultural controversy that exists today about the definition of masculinity and what it means to be a man in the 21st Century: "Please, women, don't take all of my roles as a protector away. Let me open doors and take care of you. If you want to come out and compete in the business world, I'm still gonna give you my seat on the bus."

(I'll interject here a juxtaposition with another article in this week's issue, a profile of soap opera star Marie Masters, who plays Susan Stewart on As the World Turns. In Ross Drake's story, she talks about the need for "a more balanced relationship" between men and women. "There is no reason why a man should be a prince, while everybod else in his home is a slave." Maybe this just interests me, but when Kasindorf asks Everett about John Lennon and Yoko Ono calling women "slaves," Everett—who "bristles" at Lennon and Ono's description—indirectly responds to Masters as well: "It's ridiculous. A woman shares in the income of her man by giving a cleaning service. It's honorable work. Wives aren't slaves or prisoners." As I say, maybe I'm the only one interested in this, but it's almost as if these two articles were posited against each other. Coincidental, I suppose. And this is probably the longest parenthetical digression I've ever engaged in.)

Everett, a political conservative (in case you hadn't guessed), sees Communism trying to "destroy morals and break down the family unit." And also makes what I find a curious comment, and I find myself wondering if it had anything to do with him being involved in a medical show, since I don't think this was something on the radar of the average American in 1972: "For us, day care centers and test tube babies are things that are unthinkable. I know I would rather not have children if the only type of woman who was available to me was one who wanted to get pregnant, transfer her embryo to another woman's body, then receive the baby back from the hospital and stick it in a child care center." 

You might wonder how his wife, the actress Shelby Grant, felt about all this. Well, she differed from him on some points, but on the whole her thoughts align with his. "Chad's never changed a diaper, and a lot of women don't like that attitude. But I don't think, as long as he's making the money, he should have to. I've seen a lot of pussyfoot men at the laundromat and the supermarket each week. In our house Chad doesn't waer my clothes and I don't wear his." (Masters thinks that it's "unfair" for any woman who can't afford a housekeeper to have to do all the work herself. But I'm digressing again.) And when she died in 2011, she and Chad had been married for 45 years. Not bad for a piece of property. TV  

August 20, 2021

Around the dial

For those of you searching for something interesting, I'm making my semi-regular appearance with Dan on the Eventually Supertrain podcast, discussing—what else?—Search. The rest of the show is pretty good, too. We'd surely appreciate you tuning in.

At The Ringer, Claire McNear has a pretty unflattering look at the new host (for at least a second or two) of Jeopardy!, Mike Richards. I have to admit I don't have a horse in this race; I haven't watched Jeopardy! in years, at least in part because I'm not much interested in the questions. Having said that, I will allow as to how my favorite host has always been Art Fleming, That's not to diss Alex Trebek, though; we saw him once at the Minnesota State Fair, and the man couldn't have been more gracious. When the station ran out of pictures for him to sign and suggested the crowds should disperse, he not only seemed disappointed, but volunteered to stayed around until they could get more pictures, continuing to sign other things in the meantime. What is class?

As you know, I like to mix my classic television with books about classic television, and if you're of a similar mind, you'll want to check out John's latest at Cult TV Blog, in which he links to several Avengers novelizations available at the Internet Archives. Ah, what a resource.

At Fire-Breathing Dimetroden Time, it's a continuation of Danger Man, which may or may not be the prequel to The Prisoner. This week: the exciting second-season episode "The Battle of the Cameras," with guest star Dawn Addams as "the femme fatale."

Silver Scenes goes back in time to a 1967 interview with Roger Moore that suggests the off-screen Roger Moore is much like Simon Templar, The Saint. Maybe, maybe not, but for all of the distinguished personages who've played the role, from George Sanders to Vincent Price, I've always felt that Roger Moore is The Saint.

At Classic Film & TV Café, Rick looks at one of the classics of the British "kitchen sink dramas," The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner, with a brilliant performance by Tom Courtenay. I've always been fond of this period of British movies, which includes This Sporting Life, Saturday Night and Sunday Morning, Look Back in Anger, and others. Watched almost all of those on late-night TV.

Alex Cord, the venerable actor of television and movies, died earlier this month, aged 88. He was never what you would have called a big, big star, but he was a busy and very good actor, and Terence has an appropriate appreciation of his career at A Shroud of Thougths. And while you're at it, spare a thought for Terence, whose brother (fortunately) survived a massive heart attack last week. 

Have you ever heard of a made-for-TV, family-friendly, disaster flick? Well, you have now, if you go to Drunk TV and read Paul's report on The Beasts are On the Streets, the 1978 NBC movie made by Hanna-Barbera. And that gives me an idea—why not reboot Gilligan's Island in the style of The Poseidon Adventure, but as a comedy with lovable characters? Who wouldn't watch it? TV  

August 18, 2021

The man who reminded us that life is worth living


I first  published this almost six years ago, and in looking back on it, I notice how dismal we thought things were in 2015. Back then, I wrote, "there seems to be this sense that things aren't good and they're only getting worse, that perhaps things might never get better." It seems as if I was more of an optimist back then. 

Whenever I scroll through Twitter, I'm struck by what I read. There are so many people out there in various states of despair and depression. They feel trapped by a system that seems to be systematically grinding them down into dust. They've spent nearly two years in various stages of isolation, until they feel that their lives are no longer their own. They worry about persecution at the hands of their own government. They're crying out in pain, pleading for prayers, feeling like there's nowhere for them to turn, and it's just heartbreaking to see.

The political situation? It doesn't matter who wins or loses, nothing changes. The economy? There's nothing we can do about it, and we'll probably never be able to retire. Religion? Who knows what to believe anymore. What kind of a world is it today? What kind of people are we? It may well be that we're suffering from what the 5th Century monk and theologian John Cassian defined as "acedia." 

So, if anything, it's more appropriate than ever to revisit what I wrote back then, and the message it contains: a message we desperately need to hear.

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In some ways, this isn't much different from the '50s and '60s. Remember that the '50s, for all the talk about limitless potential, was still marked by fear and trembling. The threat of the Bomb. The Russians leading in the space race. The pressure to keep up with the Joneses in a newly consumerist society is intense. The idea of an unwanted pregnancy or a spouse unwilling to agree to a divorce is the pivot point of many a murder mystery. Whenever you look at entertainment of the era, from Patterns to The Twilight Zone's memorable "A Stop at Willoughby" (both written by Rod Serling) to Arthur Miller's Death of a Salesman to the movie The Man in the Grey Flannel Suit, one can see the tumult just under the surface of the post-war era. And the '60s just ramp up the pressure, with Vietnam, sex, drugs and rock 'n' roll just the tip of the iceberg.

In such an era, is it any surprise that one of the most successful programs on television featured a Catholic priest whose message was simple yet direct: life is worth living.

That priest was Bishop Fulton J. Sheen, and his program, Life Is Worth Living, premiered on DuMont in 1952, and after moving to ABC in 1955, continued to air weekly until 1957; the program continued on in syndication, under the less-descriptive title The Fulton Sheen Program, off-and-on until 1968. Volumes have been written about Bishop Sheen (who began in broadcasting with a radio program in 1930), and I won't attempt to recapitulate it all here; suffice it to say that Fulton Sheen was extremely successful on television, drawing as many as thirty million viewers a week, and being the only show to provide any serious competition when aired opposite Milton Berle's hit show*; and was as successful in print, authoring over 70 books on the spiritual life. He was responsible for the conversion of many prominent people into the Catholic Church, and probably only God Himself knows how many other people he touched in one way or another. Bishop Sheen died in 1979, but many of his books remain in print, and many of his shows continue to air on television (EWTN) and sell on DVD.

*Berle, known as "Uncle Miltie," dubbed his good friend "Uncle Fultie," and when winning an Emmy, Sheen's acceptance speech thanked his four writers: Matthew, Mark, Luke and John.

It's a remarkable legacy for any media figure, let alone a clergyman. I'll grant you that times were different then; it's unimaginable that such a show as Life Is Worth Living could air on network television today. But then, in these confusing times it's unimaginable that so many people—Catholic, Protestant and Jewish alike—could find solace in those four simple words: life is worth living.

A side note: in one of his most famous broadcasts, delivered in February of 1953, he delivered what Brooks and Marsh's Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows called a "hair-raising" rendition (without notes) of Marc Antony's famous funeral oration for Caesar as written by Shakespeare. The show apparently doesn't exist, at least not at any site I've checked, but in my collection of scripts from the show I've got a copy of that one, in which Sheen substitutes names of prominent Soviet leaders—Stalin, Beria, Malenkov, and Vishinsky—for those of Caesar, Cassius, Marc Antony, and Brutus. It is hair-raising, just in print, and I can only imagine how it must have sounded in Sheen's magnificent, charismatic oration. Concluding the program, Sheen dramatically notes that "Stalin must one day meet his judgment." A few days later, Stalin suffered a stroke and was dead within the week.

Sheen was no Pandora; he recognized well the threat of Communism ("Communism in America," "Western and Communist World," "Does Capitalism Still Exist") as well as the threats that were implicit in the culture built by the post-war era. He discussed man's weaknesses ("Hope for a Wounded World," "Human Passions and Emotions," "Selfishness"), the struggles of daily life ("Gloom," "Guilt," "Suffering," "Temptation," "The Identity Crisis"), ways of self-improvement ("An Alcoholic is Not a Pig," "How to Improve Your Mind," "How to Think"). Shows such as "The Psychology of the Rat Race," "What is Meant by Happiness?" and "War as a Judgment From God" could be given today without very little editing, and in shows like "There Is Hope" he reinforces the message of those four words. And what could possibly be more appropriate for these times than "Fear and Anxiety"?

Listening to Sheen's programs today, one is struck (not for the first time when watching classic television) by how little has changed. The specific names of issues may be different, the circumstances may be slightly altered, but at heart the insecurities, frailties, fears and sins of man remain as ever they have been and ever will be. What Sheen understood, perhaps better than anyone who's ever appeared on television, is the essential existentialist struggle that is part of life. Pope John Paul II once remarked that the ordinary life is full of drama far beyond what any dramatist could concoct, and in a program such as "The Stranger Within" Sheen illustrates that existential drama. Television is in many ways a remarkable medium, but one thing it has never done well is existentialism. It does nihilism far better, by the way, and it's also quite good at amorality, but to seriously discuss the meaning of life and the implications arising from various answers is something one doesn't see anymore, and seldom did anywhere (aside from a top-notch drama) other than from Bishop Sheen.

Perhaps the biggest difference to be found, from the Catholic viewpoint, is how the Church has ceased to be the public foundation of certainty and instruction. Today, even if someone were to have the opportunity to speak from a network-provided pulpit, it's unlikely he'd be able to speak from any kind of authority; if people didn't like he was saying, they'd just get contradictory advice from another Catholic prelate.

So a debate rages on, mainly from within the Church but extending outside as well, as to what exactly the Catholic Church stands for, what she represents, what her role is in the world. What I find remarkable is that through all this conflict, which in and of itself is enough to cause one to despair, so few people have hearkened back to the message of Fulton J. Sheen, and how applicable it is to people today. And yet we live in a time when suicide is rampant, especially among young people and military veterans, when so many people are inclined to throw up their hands in exasperation, when nihilism has invaded the subconscious and the existential. We debate liberal vs. conservative, orthodox vs. heterodox, we've battled over race, gender, identity; we've done just about everything within our power to ridicule and demonize those who disagree with us, and even some of those who agree. But through it all, from each and every source, I rarely hear those four words, the words that Bishop Sheen preached every week for so many years, the words that are not necessarily the end but most assuredly are the beginning, and from which goodness can ultimately flow.

Life is worth living. On that you can depend. TV  

August 16, 2021

What's on TV? Monday, August 14, 1967

Xne of the things I notice in these older TV Guides is the sheer number of programs that used to be on. Almost all of the daytime shows are a half-hour, and a couple of the soaps on CBS are still 15 minutes long. Then there are the five-minute news updates, and the programs like The Children's Doctor and Doctor's House Call. Add in the 10 half-hour shows in primetime, including two half-hour dramas, and compared to today, or even to the 1980s, it makes for a long list of programs. (Though not as long as the listings from the 1950s, when it seems like everything was 15 minutes long.) Now, the remaining soaps are an hour, the remaining game shows are an hour, local news programs are at least an hour, and Today is what, eight hours long now? But then, since just about everything we consume has been super-sized, why should TV shows be any different? Your lengthy listings come from the Twin Cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul.

August 14, 2021

This week in TV Guide: August 12, 1967

There are times when, as a cultural archaeologist, you just shake your head at your good fortune. Take this week's opening story, written by Michael Fessier, Jr., who takes us backstage at what those Dating Game weekends are really like, by following a young couple who'd been paired up on a recent program. 

Our celebrity bachelor is a guy named Mike Reagan, 22, whose father happens to be governor of California. He's rather unpolitical in real life, but in time, he'll become a radio talk show host and political commentator; a chip off the old Gipper, so to speak. His date is 20-year-old starlet Sheryl Ullman, who stars in a bunch of Elvis Presley movies and winds up as one of Dean Martin's Golddiggers. Sheryl chose Mike from a panel of three bachelors, the other two being actor Sal Mineo and UCLA football star Norman Dow. Their reward is a fabulous weekend in beautiful Victoria, British Columbia. 

Fessier wants to learn more about how all this works, so he stops by Chuck Barris Productions—you knew, of course, that Barris had to be part of this somehow. The boss, unfortunately, is busy, so Fessier winds up talking with Mike Hill, the executive responsible for planning the Dating Game trips. Now, it's my theory—based on Barris's later claim that those trips to exotic international locations were just cover for his other job as a CIA assassin—that he's unavailable because he's over in Southeast Asia somewhere, but there's nothing in Fessier's article to substantiate this, unless Barris somehow gets to him later on.

Mike and Sheryl spend much of their time posing for photos—"One more in color," "One more in black and white"—before heading out for a Saturday night on the town: specifically, as guests of honor at a dinner dance being held by their home for the weekend, the Empress Hotel. They dance a bit ("the only ones on the floor") to music that's described as "pre-Guy Lombardo." The next day there's a visit to the wax museaum, followed by dinner at the Oak Bay Marina. This is breathlessly reported on the radio (Victoria is a place "hungry for even a whiff of glamor"), but what they didn't report as that the couple "returned to their suite, watched an old Brian Donleavy movie on television and retired to their separate chambers." This is different from The Bachelor, isn't it?

On the trip home Monday, Mike muses about his date. "She'll probably marry some millionaire who'll make me a star," he says. "I guess she thinks I'm some kind of nice boy or something." For Sheryl's part, she finally kicks loose at the wrap party, "high-kicking and free as a bird." "I really enjoy life," she says.

Alas, there's to be no storybook ending. Of Sheryl, Mike says, "I dig her and I don't dig her," while Sheryl vows the first thing she'll  do when she returns home is "call my agent."

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While The Hollywood Palace is on summer break, ABC fills the Saturday night time slog with Piccadilly Palace, a London-based variety show starring the iconic British comedy duo of Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise. We'll stop in from time to time during the summer months to see who has the best lineup..

Sullivan:  Ed's guest in this rerun are actors Eddie Albert and Carroll Baker; comedians Allan Sherman, Pat Cooper and Stiller and Meara; singers Sergio Franchi, the Four Tops, and the Kessler Twins; the Suzuki Violins; and trampolinist Dick Albers.

Piccadilly:  British comedians Morecambe and Wise are the permanent hosts of Piccadilly Palace, so by definition there's a limited guest lineup, but this week it is pianist Peter Nero and the rockin' Tremeloes. Singer Millicent Martin is part of the permanent cast.

Well, this really does bring into focus what it means when you're talking about the dog days of summer. There may have been individual bits and pieces of Piccadilly Palace that stood out, but on sheer volume Ed has the edge. Allan Sherman, Stiller and Meara, the Four Tops, Sergio Franchi. I don't know about you, but I'll take Sullivan by majority decision.

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I don't know if Cleveland Amsory ever spent a day of his life fishing. Maybe when he was a kid, but I've always assumed that he was born full-grown, with a pipe in his mouth and a pen between his finters. At any rate, everyone has to to on vacation sometime, so let's assume that wherever he is this week, he's having a good time. 

Usually when Cleve is out, we just skip the week's review, but this week I'm making an exception, as guest reviewer Burt Prelutsky takes a look at one of the great cult classic shows in summer replacement history, Coronet Blue. The show's cult was, I think, based primarily on its being an enigma, in more than one way: first, the hero, Michael Alden (Frank Converse), doesn't know who he is, and doesn't know why someone wants him dead. All he knows is that when he was rescued, half-dead, from drowning in New York harbor, he was mumbling the words, "Coronet Blue." Second, the show, which took two years to make it to television, ended without the mystery ever being resolved; it became a surprise hit during the summer, but by that time it was impossible to reunite the cast to continue the story. 

We may not know what "Coronet Blue" means, but we do know what Burt Prelutsky thinks about Coronet Blue: it is, he writes, "pretentious, boring and badly written." Of Alden's quixotic quest for his past, which drives the action each week, he says, "Go on he does—into one of the prize cockamamic shows of all time. There were enough hokey subplots an dcliche characters in that first 60-minute episode to keep most TV series running for a dozen years." And of Converse's performance as Alden, [he] does a lot of dopy things with his eyes that are supposed to denote, I suspect, the desperate plight of a man in search of his identity. It doesn't quite come off that way. What it really looks like, to tell you the truth, is like an actor doing a lot of dopey things with his eyes." 

At least we're not left guessing what Burt thinks. Thing is, having bought the series when it came out on DVD a couple of years ago, I'm in substantial agreement with much of what he says. Now, I'm willing to accept the amnesia premise—as dramatic devices go, it's got possibilities. Some of the stories, particularly as the series went on, were among the best the show had to offer. And I thought that the supporting characters, especially his friend Max (played by Joe Silver), were quite good. But I'm all in on his assessment of Converse—I liked him a lot as a tough detective in N.Y.P.D., and Michael Alden could have used some of that edge to his personality, as opposed to merely throwing punches without really knowing who he's striking out at. 

Coronet Blue's biggest problem, in the end analysis, is that it's not The Bourne Identity, which took a similar premise and ran with it at such high velocity that you didn't have time to look for any inconsistencies. And Frank Converse isn't Matt Damon, whose Jason Bourne had more edges to him than Gillette, and was too busy trying to stay alive to make cow eyes at sympathetic women. I liked Coronet Blue more than Prelutsky does, but it's a series that could have been so much better than it was. And wasted potential is something you just can't forget.

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It doesn't seem possible, but American Bandstand celebrates it's 10th anniverary on Saturday with the second of a two-part show featuring the Mamas and the Papas and the Supremes, while Dick Clark talks about how the music scene has changed during the decade and interviews former Bandstanders. (12:30 p.m. CT, ABC) Over on NBC, the baseball Game of the Week continues coverage of the torrid American League pennant race with three of the four contenders: most of the country gets the Chicago White Sox and Minnesota Twins, but in Minneapolis the home team blackout means we're getting the Baltimore Orioles (the odd team out) visiting the Detroit Tigers (1:00 p.m.) And on Critics Award Theater (11:30 p.m, WCCO), it's a movie that asks the same question I've been asking about this website for years: How to Be Very, Very Popular

The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King is the guest on Sunday's Meet the Press (1:30 p.m., NBC), and later in the afternoon an NBC News Special called "The Documentaries of Ted Yates" (5:00 p.m.) looks at the work of one of television's finest journalists; Yates was killed in June while covering the Six Day War. His widow, Mary, would later marry Mike Wallace. On a lighter note, Rich Litle is on Candid Camera (9:00 p.m., CBS), pranking a secretary by impersonating famous men on the phone.

On Monday Martha Raye begins a week-long stint as Mike Douglas's guest host (4:00 p.m., WCCO). Mike is this week's cover story, and Patrick Walsh says of him, "Talk is [his] stock in trade—and millions of housewives are eager to buy." Nowadays we think of daytime talk as consisting of self-help, celebrity puff pieces, armchair psychoanalysis, or cooking tips, but Mike Douglas was a real talk show host whose show ran in syndication from 1961 to 1982. Unlike other daytime hosts (Merv Griffin, Dick Cavett), Mike never made the move to prime time, being content to provide easy-going, middle of the road entertainment to an older, mostly female audience. And that's what's most interesting about this article, the emphasis on "housewives" and "grannies" who can't get enough of Douglas' "wholesome as whole-wheat soda bread" show, even though he had his share of controversial guests (Dick Gregory, Stokley Carmichael). How the culture has changed since then.

Get up early Tuesday morning to watch Today, (7:00 p.m., NBC) as guest host Burgess Meredith interviews Star Trek stars William Shatner and Leonard Nimoy. This evening, The Fugitive airs its last rerun before the two-part series finale that results in the exoneration of Dr. Richard Kimble and the apprehension of the One-Armed Man (9:00 p.m,. ABC). I've read that the final episode aired in August because the decision to end the series was made too late in the season to have the story ready an earlier; nonetheless, as far as I know, except for shows that went off the air immediately after their finale, no other series has done this, and I don't know why. Not only was it extremely effective, there was little competition from the other two networks. As you can see, the anticipation is building.

Wednesday is probably the most enjoyable night of the week; on part one of the latest Batman adventure (6:30 p.m., ABC), the villainous Catworman (Julie Newmar version) plans to steal the voices of British rockers Chad and Jeremy, playing themselves. Eddie Albert and Eva Gavor play dual roles on Green Acres (8:00 p.m., CBS), showing how their ancestors once crossed paths. Boris Karloff is the guest star of what must have been a fun episode of I Spy (9:00 p.m., NBC), playing a scientist working on an anti-missile system, who gets caught up in Quixotic escapades.

On Thursday night ABC's Summer Focus takes a look at the 1968 presidential contenders. It's easy to look at these shows in retrospect and make fun of them, but if the show was anything like the write-up for it, it proved to be remarkably prescient. For the Democrats, "the man is President Johnson. If he bows out, look for a bitter fight on the convention floor." As I say, you couldn't get more right than that, although I'm not sure they intended for the Democrats to take the word "fight" literally. As for the Republicans, the close-up quite accurately identifies Nixon as the front-runner, although "he must enter the primaries to prove that he is still a vote-getter," and Mike Reagan's father as a "fast-rising GOP star." They speculate on Nelson Rockefeller as a candidate who could win a deadlocked convention. (He would, in fact, finish second to Nixon, and just ahead of Reagan.) And yet, for all that, it barely scratches the surface of 1968.

, Jimmy Stewart is the host for a visit to the World Boy Scout Jamboree (8:00 p.m., ABC) held earlier this month at Farragut State Park in Idaho. For music fans, the highlight is an NET special on Duke Ellington (10:00 p.m.), featuring the Duke at the Monteray Jazz Festival, and including interviews with Earl "Fatha" Hines and Jon Hendricks.

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There's a short bit in The Doan Report about the networks taking yet another look at prime-time news programs, this time the idea of a show that would fill the last half-hour of the night's schedule. These kinds of ideas come up all the time; it seems as if there was never an era when there wasn't serious discussion about prime-time evening news, most of the time involving the perennially ratings-challenged ABC, but this one specifically mentions NBC as the network most likely to check it out, with the others to follow if it's a success. It isn't, and they don't.

There's also a note, kind of cynical if you ask me, about how audiences are more likely to watch a taped drama such as Death of a Salesman, which recently scored big ratings on CBS, if they think they're watching a movie. ABC plans to capitalize on this "misunderstanding," as all ten of their upcoming dramas are remakes of well-known movies such as Dial M for Murder. Their plan is to advertise them not as they'd originally intended, with the title A Night at the Theater, but simply as a special presentation. Imagine a television network trying to trick its viewers into thinking they're seeing something other that what's actually on. I'm shocked, shocked, at the thought.

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Finally, I don't know if I've ever written about That Girl, the series with Marlo Thomas, but this Thursday's episode gives us a real cultural snapshot. From the listings: "No matter how you add it up, Ann and boy friend Don face a delicate situation: They're stranded with newlyweds in a hotel—that has only two vacant rooms." It's clear what the dilemma for Ann and Don is: they can't share a room because they're not married, but if the two men take one room and the two women the other, they'll be separating the newlyweds, something the other couple wants no part of. This is interesting for so many reasons: first, the idea of an unmarried couple sharing a hotel room is nothing today—hell, probably most of the couples in hotels aren't married—or at least not to each other. Thing is (and I'll admit I haven't seen the episode, so this could be a moot point), this very type of scenario (unmarried couple sharing hotel room) has been a stalwart of the screwball comedy for decades. You can hang a bedsheet down the middle of the room, you can have the guy sleep on the floor, etc. etc. In other words, there's a myriad number of ways they could handle this. I wonder which ones they used?

For sure, you wouldn't see this dilemma on TV today. TV