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  


  1. Thanks to ESPN+, those of us who are CFL fans can watch every game. There is a unique flow when watching a CFL game, perhaps similar to the wide open play of the original AFL. Last night, I was happy to watch Hamilton at Montreal in a league game rather than an NFL exhibition.

    Those of us who grew up close to Canada were fortunate to get the CBC broadcasts over the air. Many local Syracuse U players became successful in the CFL and the local NBC affiliate would show CFL games on occasion. Sometimes, replays were shown on Sunday mornings after the condensed Notre Dame highlight show. Lindsey Nelson, the voice of Sunday morning Notre Dame replays, also called CFL games for NBC.

  2. Champagne for Caesar can be found, in its colorized format (UGH) on YouTube. A nice little comedy that Vincent Price plays with all his scene stealing charm.

  3. But you didn't give us the verdict on Liberace - virtuoso or ham? Enquiring minds want to know!

  4. Although the Southeastern Conference (SEC) has dominated on-field play in college football in recent years (SEC schools gave won four of the first seven NCAA College Football Playoff championships; Alabama has won three of those four), Notre Dame is still the biggest "brand name" in college football.

    The real reason the NCAA imposed a restrictive college football TV policy in 1951 was not to protect game attendance, but because Notre Dame (after having had its home games broadcast by DuMont in 1950) was on the verge of singing a TV contract (I believe it was to be with NBC) which would have televised every Notre Dame football game live, home and away, on the network (by the fall of 1951, transcontinental TV network lines were in place that would have allowed every Notre Dame game to be seen live from coast-to-coast).

    The NCAA was scared at the prospect of Notre Dame on TV every single Saturday, whether the game was in South Bend, Norman, Oklahoma, or Los Angeles.

    So they acted to limit how many college football games could be televised.

    And this policy stayed in effect, although modified (by the early eighties, a team could appear in TV six times in two years, with no more than three televised games a year, but four of those six telecasts within a two-year period were to be "regional") until the courts threw it out.

    Fans were done a big favor when this policy was tossed out.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!