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  

1 comment:

Thanks for writing! Drive safely!