September 29, 2021

Television with (Golden) Balls

The brilliance of television, and the tragedy, lies in its uncanny ability to reflect in its tube the essence of human nature. Nowhere is that more apparent, for better or worse, than in reality television, which isn't really real at all—except for when it is.

I was reading an article from a few years ago by Joe Posnanski, one of the best sports writers around, and while he may be an unlikely source of information for a TV website (although I think by now you'll agree that I can find inspiration from just about anywhere), he provides a brilliant insight into just how television does this. It concerns a British game show called, believe it or not, Golden Balls. It's a really good piece, and I would have linked to it even if I didn't have one thing to add to it. In fact, I think you should stop right here and read it now. If you don't, though, I'll give you another chance later.

As we learn from the always-reliable Wikipedia, Golden Balls was a show that tested every facet of human emotion—trust, greed, betrayal, passivity, lust—and did it all under the naked lights of a television studio. The premise was simple enough, as Posnanski describes, starting with a team of two contestants. "[They] would open these, well, golden balls and build up money in what was sort of a joint bank account. It’s actually a bit more convoluted than that, but for the point in this post that doesn’t really matter. Just know that money gets piled up."

At the end of the show, with the two having amassed something between £10,000 and £120,000, the denouement comes. Each of the contestants is presented with two golden balls to choose from. One says "Split," the other "Steal." The contestants know which ball is which, so there's no confusion there. Each one of them chooses a ball, in a variation on the old Prisoner's Dilemma. One of three things then happens:

  • If they both choose to split the money, they will split the money.
  • If one chooses to split the money and the other chooses to steal, the stealer gets everything.
  • If they both choose to steal, nobody wins any money.

When the big moment arrives, you can cut the tension with a knife. It exposes, Posnanski says, "the stark and bare humanity" of our lives. Most of the time the two players agree in advance that they're going to choose "Split"; after all, half of the prize is better than nothing. But what if one of them gets greedy? That's where the psychology comes in. If you can convince your partner that "Split" is the only logical choice, and then choose "Steal" yourself, you get everything. But if your partner is overcome by a case of the greeds and goes for "Steal" as well, thinking that he's going to outsmart you, then each of you winds up with nothing. The only safe, logical choice, therefore, is "Split"—but, as most of you are probably thinking, a man doesn't become rich by playing it either safe or logical. Particularly, when money is concerned, by being safe.

The whole thing is a fascinating, grotesque look at the human psyche. Posnanski focuses on one particular episode involving two gentlemen named Ibrahim and Nick, in what could serve as a master class in psychology, running the gamut of all those emotions I listed above, but centering on trust and greed. You see, unlike most contestants, Nick tells Ibrahim outright that he's going to steal. But—and here's where it starts to get interesting—he adds that if Ibrahim will just choose split, allowing Nick to get all the money, then heNick—promises that he will, in fact, split the money with Ibrahim 50/50, as if they had both chosen split.

See the difference? Instead of Nick appealing to Ibrahim’s essential goodness like everyone else does, he challenges Ibrahim’s fury. OK, he’s basically saying, I’m telling you straight out I’m going to steal. I know that ticks you off but, frankly, I can’t help that. I’m stealing. Now, what are you going to do? How badly do you want to punish me for choosing steal? Are you so angry that you will choose steal yourself, assuring that neither of us will get a dime? Or will you choose split and take the chance—however low you might believe it to be—that I really will give you half the money?

Posnanski discusses this in quite a bit more detail which I won't repeat here—he's a much better writer than I am, you'll enjoy his account more—but suffice it to say I found the whole thing spellbinding, if not absolutely brilliant.  (You can also see it play out for yourself in this YouTube clip.)

And here's the point of it all, the reason I brought this up in the first place (besides sharing a piece I really liked). Since the beginning of this blog I've talked about how television is an indicator of our culture, our society. It shows us our DNA. No matter what people might say about television influencing the viewer, it's clear to me that most of the time it merely magnifies what's already there. A schemer on Survivor or Big Brother isn't going to be any less of a schemer in real life; television merely gives him or her the chance to magnify that trait in front of a national audience. Granted, reality TV can create a monster, but I'm willing to bet that nine times out of ten it's a monster that was already in there, in the psyche of that individual; the id, the libido, the ego, what have you. Woe be to the producer that magnifies or exploits that particular trait, for they may well find it better had they never been born. But all the same, it's probably true that there's more "reality" in reality TV than we'd like to think.

I'm assuming that by now you've read Posnanski's piece and watched the clip of Ibrahim and Nick, but if you haven't, that's all right—I'll wait until you've caught up. Go ahead.

(Sound of absent-minded humming, toe tapping.)

All right, everyone back? What did you think? Was not that one of the greatest examples of psychology you've ever seen on television? I don't want to read too much into it, or exaggerate its importance*, but I thought there was a deep existential element to the whole thing, an exploration of the meaning of trust that goes far beyond what you're likely to see in most scripted programs.

*Exaggeration: something I never, ever, ever do.

I'm not advocating that we all become reality television fans; that's probably the one and only episode of Golden Balls that I'll be checking out, at least anytime soon. But this particular example, and Posnanski's retelling of it, is utterly fascinating. It is as good an example as we're apt to see of the way television can show us what we're all about. I would like to think that the best drama, and even the best comedy, can still do that; unfortunately, at least on the networks, it often doesn't. But, at least in this case, it's given us storytelling every bit as gripping as anything you'll see in scripted TV. TV  

September 27, 2021

What's on TV? Thursday, October 3, 1968

It's always nice to be back in the Twin Cities, even though there isn't a lot of remarkable programming this week. The World Series, still an all-daytime affair in 1968, is of course the big show of the day, but I'm sure you can find some other interesting tidbits here. For example, there's an ad for KMSP's Saturday night movie, Lolita, which was such a shock back in the day that the tagline reads, "How did they ever make a movie out of Lolita? The answer: not very well.

September 25, 2021

This week in TV Guide: September 28, 1968

Dean Martin is, in 1968, the highest paid entertainer in show business - anywhere. His eponymously-named variety show has just been renewed by NBC for not one but three years, at a cost (to the network) of $34 million. Added to the $5 million that Dean's already making*, the man they call the “King of Cool” is sitting pretty, on a very big pile of cold, hard cash.

*$750,000 each for three movies (not including his share of the profits), $825,000 for his records, $150,000 for three weeks at the Sands Hotel, and $2 million for the past season of the show.

It hasn't always been this way. After the tumultuous breakup of Martin and Lewis, Dean had watched as Jerry made it big with a string of solo movies. Martin’s movie career, by contrast, laid an egg - a bomb called Ten Thousand Bedrooms. He’d received $250,000 for that movie, but that wouldn’t do him much good if he wasn’t able to turn things around. That turning point came with a dramatic role in the movie The Young Lions, which Martin eagerly accepted even though it paid him almost $200,000 less than he’d received for Ten Thousand Bedrooms. He then followed up with his own string of hits—Rio Bravo and Some Came Running—and all of a sudden Dean Martin was hot stuff again.

When NBC approached Martin for a weekly series, he exhibited the same lack of interest he has about most things. His answer was no. Still, they pressed, so he gave them his terms.  He knew they'd never accept them; he wanted a lot of money, and only wanted to show up for the actual taping—no rehearsal. They said yes anyway. He told his family, "They went for it. So now I have to do it."

It's that laid-back, devil-may-care attitude, the attitude that Frank Sinatra so admired and wished he had, that keeps Dean Martin cool. It's reflected in the way Martin answers questions from writer Dick Hobson. A few examples:

TVG: Tell me, Mr. Martin, is this your third or fourth [television] season?
DINO: You know, I don't know! Boy, that's a tough question!

TVG: I understand you're building a big Spanish home out on your ranch in Hidden Valley, with stables, corrals and a heliport?
DINO: It's a place to live.

TVG: Why so far out? To get away from your admiring public?
DINO: Actually, it's the air. Gettin' away from the smog.

TVG: For a man whose public image is Mr. Devil-May-Care, don't you find those magazine articles about "The Illness Dean Martin is Too Ashamed to Admit" an embarrassment?
DINO: What illness?

TVG: That illness sometimes associated with nervous tension. To be blunt, Mr. Martin, is it true about your ulcer?
DINO: Oh, that. Well, you can say I'm eatin' my spaghetti with butter sauce now.

TVG: [Addressing Martin's lack of rehearsal] What happens when a problem comes up?
DINO: Problems aren't necessary. We don't put up with problems.

TVG: I suppose you have plenty of people to deal with any problem that might come along?
DINO: People who like problems aren't there any more.

TVG: Do you mean to say that you never have problems?
DINO: I have a very peaceful life. [Ironic, given that he pays $2,400 a month in alimony.]

TVG: Can you tell us your philosophy of life in 10 words or less?
DINO: I can do it in less.

TVG: Go ahead.
DINO: Everybody should have fun.

Well, it's hard to argue with that, isn't it? That's cool.

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During the 60s, the Ed Sullivan Show and The Hollywood Palace were the premiere variety shows on television. Whenever they appear in TV Guide together, we'll match them up and see who has the best lineup..

Sullivan: Ed launches his 21st season with tentatively scheduled guests Red Skelton, Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme, Diana Ross and the Supremes, the Jefferson Airplane and the winners of the Harvest Moon Ball dance contest. Also: a scene from the movie "The Secret of Santa Vittoria," in which Ed appears as an Italian peasant.

Palace: The Palace's sixth season opens in traditional fashion - with Bing Crosby as host. Bing's guests: Sid Caesar; singers Bobby Goldsboro, Abbey Lincoln and Jeannie C. Riley, and the rock group from off-Broadway's hippie musical "Your Own Thing." Also: the acrobatic Iriston Horsemen from the Moscow State Circus, the tumbling Four Robertes and St. Louis Cardinal pitcher Bob Gibson.

Ed has Red Skelton and Steve & Edie, the Palace has Sid Caesar, Jeannie C. Riley (singing "Harper Valley PTA," natch) and Bob Gibson, promoting Wednesday's start of the World Series. I can't bring myself to go any further: The Verdict: Push.

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

This week, Cleveland Amory takes on Dick Cavett's morning talk show on ABC, a precursor to his nighttime program. We'll get the suspense over with in a hurry, as Amory does: he likes Cavett and his show; in praising Cavett's low-key approach, he calls it "the least of the many virtues of this fine show."

After analyzing Cavett in relationship to TV's other talkers (he hasn't "the mugging, jack-in-a-box quality of a Johnny Carson, the deep-down goodness as well as on-top funniness of a Joey Bishop, the earnest naughtiness of a Merv Griffin or the nice-nelliness of a Mike Douglas"), he tries to put his finger on the source of Cavett's appeal: "a not-too-cute cuteness which somehow manages to make every woman over the age of discontent want to mother him and yet which somehow also manages not to make every man over the same age want to drown him." Interesting take on the other hosts, no?

Among Cavett's other plusses is an ability to tell jokes without having to get into joke-telling contests, a modesty about his status that adds to his charm, and a sly, often self-deprecating opening monologue that he describes as "a kind of high comedy of low errors." Best of all, though, are his guests: especially "the remarkable comedy team" of Bob and Ray, with their patented satires of everything, including the political scene. (Sample interview question of a possible Vice Presidential candidate: "What would you say if I said you were a backwoods booby?" "I'd say you have a right to your opinion.") Says Amory in conclusion, "Every single one of these satires was head and shoulders over the best of the elaborate kind of sketch on the Carol Burnett or Jerry Lewis shows, and Mr. Cavett deserves high marks for putting them—and us with them—on."

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It's football season, with college and pro games galore: on Saturday, it's Purdue vs. Notre Dame (1:00 p.m. CT, ABC); Sunday belongs to the pros, with the Detroit Lions and Green Bay Packers in the NFL Game of the Week (1:00 p.m., CBS), and an AFL doubleheader on NBC, with the New York Jets taking on the Buffalo Bills at 12:30 p.m., followed by the Oakland Raiders and Houston Oilers ar 3:00.

Despite all this, the big story of the week is the World Series between the defending champion St. Louis Cardinals and the Detroit Tigers, commencing with Game 1 Wednesday afternoon in St. Louis (1:00 p.m., NBC). The 1968 World Series is a milestone for many reasons, foremost being the last to be held before the start of divisional play the following season. For the last time, the American and National League champions would face off without having to go through a playoff series first—it would be good enough merely to finish with the best record in the league. This presents a unique, never-again-to-be-repeated World Series preview on Saturday's Game of the Week (1:00 p.m., NBC), with cameras shuttling between the Astros-Cardinals and Senators-Tigers games. There's nothing left to settle, with the pennant races long over and the two teams just waiting for Wednesday, and if you think that sounds boring, then you've put your finger on the reason why both leagues introduced playoffs the following year.

The 1968 Series is one of the last to be played entirely in daytime (the first night game is introduced in 1971), and in this "Year of the Pitcher" it is the last to take place before the pitching mound is lowered and the strike zone redefined. As befits this year of superior pitching, two other accomplishments which haven't been duplicated since: in Game One, Bob Gibson strikes out 17 Tigers to set a World Series record, and in Game Seven Mickey Lolich becomes the last pitcher (to date) to start a Series game on two days' rest. Today's pitchers require four, and sometimes five, days' rest between starts; Lolich pitches three games in eight days, going the distance all three times, winning all three games. These guys today are such wimps!

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When last we met Lee Marvin, it was on the set of M Squad, his early-60s Chicago cop show. At that time, he gave what can only be called a remarkable interview with TV Guide, in which his interviewer had barely any chance to say anything. Now Marvin's a big star; an Oscar winner for Cat Ballou, with the highly-anticipated (!) musical Paint Your Wagon coming up. This week he's in TV Guide for the network television premiere of Cat Ballou, and we asked ourselves: could this interview possibly be anything like the other one?

"What has TV Guide ever done for me?" it starts out. "I never had a cover in TV Guide; all the crocodiles and dancing bears and honeysuckle farm boys got the covers. All those big stars of TV, and where are they now, baby? Where are they now?

"I don't make any deals with TV any more, " he continued. "What for? The reason to do a TV series is to get accredited, to establish yourself so you can go into features. You hit 35 million people a week for three years and they start to know who you are. I did that with M Squad, so I don't have to do it any more. Now I can burn my union card. Or maybe I'll dip it in the blood of Ronnie Reagan."

All right, it's not the M Squad interview, but it's not bad.

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A brief political noteit is an election year, after all. According to The Doan Report, there's a general consensus in Congress on suspending the Equal Access provision of the FCC regulations in order to allow presidential debates, but only if they include George Wallace, the American Independent candidate. Wallace is all for it, of course, as is Democratic nominee Hubert Humphrey. Against it, however, is Republican candidate Richard Nixon, to nobody's surprisenot only is he the front-runner, with everything to lose in a series of debates, he has bad memories from the last time something like this happened. You'll still be seeing plenty of Nixon in the last few weeks, though - he has a huge monetary advantage over Humphrey, who winds up holding telethons to raise the funds for his final push.

It's no wonder Humphrey finds himself in the hole, after that disastrous convention in Chicago. The TV coverage of that riot-filled week hasn't escaped the notice of Congress, which is threatening an investigation of the networks after the FCC was flooded with complaints from viewers upset about the images being beamed into their homes - most of them accusing the networks of bias in favor of the protesters and against Mayor Daley and Chicago police.

It's a sentiment shared by Mrs. Eugene Robinson of Schriever, Louisiana, whose Letter to the Editor complains about the reference to "Stalag Daley". "Mayor Daley is one leader in this country today who is trying to live up to his responsibilities," she writes. As Godfrey Hodgson would point out in his book America In Our Time, the media had, to a man, been shocked and appalled by the brutality they'd witnessed on the streets of Chicago, and they'd brought what they felt was the truth to the viewers. They were even more shocked to find that those viewers, by a wide margin, rejected their editorializing and sided instead with Daley and his police against the media. It is, in retrospect, a turning point in the way Americans saw the American media, one which Spiro Agnew would build upon in the next year, and which continues to play itself out today.

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Even though it's the end of September, it's still the honeymoon period for the shows of the new fall season. It's great to see so many ads for ABC's new series, since so many of them will be around for so little a time. The Don Rickles ShowJourney to the UnknownThe Ugliest Girl in TownThat's LifeThe Outcasts? Easy come, easy go. They're not all flops, naturallyThe Mod Squad has a nice run, and Here Come the Brides runs for two seasons.

Besides, ABC doesn't have a corner on the market for unsuccessful series: Lancer, The Good Guys and Blondie fail to crack the top of the charts for CBS, while NBC's sole disappointment is The Outsider. On the other hand, Hawaii Five-0 starts its long run for CBS, with Here's Lucy, Mayberry R.F.D. and The Doris Day Show among CBS's other successes; NBC, meanwhile, will be able to celebrate the debut of the very solid Adam-12, with Julia, The Name of the Game and The Ghost and Mrs. Muir as, at the very least, minor successes.

Returning series undergo changes of their own; Peyton Place, one of ABC's worthies, is going through some growing pains of its own, as Carolyn See points out, with the show attempting to assimilate a more realistic demographic; "the population has become younger and blacker." June Lockhart signs on to Petticoat Junction, where she'll become the female lead following the death of the beloved Bea Benaderet. And Roy Rogers and Dale Evans will host the Country Music Association awards on an upcoming episode of NBC's Kraft Music Hall (Wednesday, 8:00 p.m., NBC). Now's, it's got a show of it's own.

It's not only the new season for TV series, but for movies as well, and two of Hollywood's bigger hits make their TV debuts this week. ABC's offering is Cat Ballou (Wednesday, 8:00 p.m., ABC) which, as we pointed out, won a Best Actor Oscar for Lee Marvin in a duel role as "Kid Shelleen, the lushest gun in the West, and Tim Strawn, the villainous silver-nosed gunfighter." Judith Crist calls it a classic comedy, and adds that it's "a family film in the finest sense, with good rousing fun for all." It's followed on Thursday night by a completely different movie, Tennessee Williams' The Night of the Iguana (8:00 p.m., CBS), which Crist calls "a penetrating and affectingly compassionate exploration of the human agony." Richard Burton, Deborah Kerr, Ava Gardner and Grayson Hall headline the cast.

And finally, one more look at Letters to the Editor. I don't know anything about the 1968 Miss America Pageant other than that Judith Ford, Miss Illinois, comes away with the crown. It must not have been a very impressive show, though; according to Mickey Falton of Carle Place, NY, "After seeing the girls on this year's 'Miss America Pageant,' I cast my vote for Bert Parks." As Jack Benny would say, "Well!" TV  

September 24, 2021

Around the dial

Xt bare-bones e-zine, Jack's Hitchcock Project continues to survey the work of Joel Murcott with the third season episode "Flight to the East," which sounds like it should be a Cold War drama but in reality is something quite different. Different also is Murcott's teleplay compared to the original short story—find out how.

Garroway at Large is back, and this week Jodie tells the story of the time Dave one-upped Milton Berle on Today. It's not often that Uncle Miltie becomes the straight man, so enjoy the story and pictures.

David poses an interesting question at Comfort TV: are classic TV fans introverted? It's an interesting question. David thinks they are, but I'm not sure—I'd ask someone, but I'm afraid to, and besides, I nevefr see anyone.

At the Broadcast Archives, a look back at the career of trailblazing newswoman Ann Corrick, who began working in radio news in the 1940s, and was on Group W radio from 1958 to 1967. There's not much of a record about her life, and there should be; I've heard recordings of her on Westinghouse's coverage of the JFK assassination, and was surprised that I couldn't find out more about her.

At Eventually Supertrain, Dan and I are back discusing Search. You'll also want to stick around for Planet of The Apes with Amy the Conqueror and Kolchak with Tim. A good time is had by all, including, we hope, the listeners.

And finally, in the Mailbag, an email from David, who writes:

"I am looking to replay an episode of Colonel the Clown (Channel 30 , Hartford, Conn) which I appeared on TV when I was about 8 years old in approx 1966. I was on the show with a few other youth because I won a contest related to 'Peanuts/Charlie Brown' and was awarded a Peanuts Character Bus! Do you have access to those as I would love to watch it. PLEASE let me know, if you do or know any other means by which I can view and/or obtain it.

David, I don't know how to get that video, if it hasn't been wiped by the local station, but one of our readers might know?


September 22, 2021

Ratings to die for

"Being happy with what you've got is the one sin that is never forgiven."

That line appears on page 5 of William L. DeAndrea's Killed in the Ratings, a murder mystery set in the world of television, and I'll have more on the profound nature of that line at the end of this review. The book came to me as a gift from our loyal reader Mike Doran, who thought I would appreciate it and looked forward to what I'd have to say about it. Well, Mike, this one's for you.

Killed in the Ratings

By William L. DeAndrea

HBJ; 243 pages

$7.99 in Kindle; available at used booksellers

The headquarters of a national television network would seem an obvious setting for murder, given that it rivals Washington, D.C. in terms of infighting, backstabbing, ambition, dishonesty, and greed, all the while producing a product that too often insults, corrupts, and dehumanizes the hearts and minds of its viewers. And while none of the murders in Killed in the Ratings actually takes place inside network HQ itself—in other words, no dead body slumped over a control panel with a knife sticking out of his back—they're all most assuredly connected with the industry.

Our narrator and protagonist is one Matt Cobb, troubleshooter extraordinare in the network's Department of Special Projects. Cobb is what we'd call in politics a fixer, following the network's stars and cleaning up after them before they can bring the network into disrepute. As he says, "We do everything that's too touchy for Public Relations, and too messy for the legal department." 

As the story begins, Cobb is the recipient of a phone call from someone who refuses to give his name, but suggests he has information that could be extremely damaging to the network: the accident that put  network president Walter Schick in the hospital in what could be a permanent coma might not have been an accident, after all. Naturally, with a bombshell like that floating around, Cobb has no choice but to meet this mysterious source and find out just what he knows. Naturally, when he gets to the hotel room where they've agreed to meet, Cobb finds the man dead. Naturally, he then gets knocked out by someone who was hiding behind the door when he came in. 

And naturally, he becomes the prime suspect in the eyes of the police—especially Detective Second Grade Horace Rivetz, one of those cops who makes up his mind after about five minutes of investigation and shows little inclination to go out of his way looking for any evidence that might upset his pat theory. Cobb, being a reasonably reliable narrator (he's refreshingly upfront when it comes to his occasional lack of judgment), leaves us with little doubt of his innocence. So, like many an innocent man who finds himself in the middle of a murder investigation, he realizes he can only clear his name by finding the real murderer. (I consider myself fortunate that in my 61 years, I've never been in such a situation myself. I must be the only one.) At the same time, Cobb has to keep an eye on the scandal involving Schick, one that could conceivably bring down the network, as well as the possibility that the beloved ratings system, at the heart of commercial television, might be rigged. It's obviously all connected—but how?

Fortunately for an innocent man trying to exonerate himself, Cobb has no lack of suspects to choose from, including:

  • Monica Tibaldi, television star, Cobb's former inamorata, and—unluckily for Cobb—the ex-wife of the dead man. She wants to get back together, but is it just a ruse to trap Cobb?
  • Cynthia Schick, not-quite-widow of Walter Schick, and daughter of the network chairman. She and her husband quarreled before the accident—was she looking to finish the job?
  • Roxanne Schick, daughter of Cynthia and Walter. Years ago she was one of Cobb's projects, strung out on drugs. He saved her life; are her intentions romantic or devious?
  • Thomas Falzet, Walter Schick's rival for power at the network, passed over for president in favor of Schick. Could this have been his revenge?
  • Herschel Goldfarb, who utilized his talent for accounting to buy up bad debt from the city's gamblers, and may have had murder—and a bad credit risk—on his mind 

As you may be able to tell, Killed in the Ratings isn't exactly hard-boiled detective fiction. It is, however, an enjoyable story that delivers a twist or two about the business and builds up to a conclusion that is both satisfying and unexpectedly moving. Cobb is an engaging protagonist (this represents the first of eight Matt Cobb mysteries written by DeAndrea), and his frequent asides show a shrewd (and cynical) knowledge of the network television industry. (At first, I found his narrative style distracting, even annoying, but he's the kind of guy that grows on you, and his insider insight into the business of television is shrewd and on the point; not surprising, considering his background in the industry.)

And now for that line that led off this review. It's a penetrating comment, not only on life in general, but the television industry in particular. In a 1966 issue of TV Guide, Gore Vidal wrote that what television could use is "a sense that getting people to buy things they do not need is morally indefensible." DeAndrea's quote is in reference to the inadvisability of turning down a promotion (your career's "death sentence"), but it could apply to the very nature of commercial television. After all, the entire system of American television (and radio before that) was built on the idea of selling commercial time to sponsors, who would in turn sell their products to viewers and listeners. And isn't mass consumption a form of ambition, of keeping up with those rich and famous people we see on television every night? 

It's a vicious circle, even more vicious than the murders that Matt Cobb encounters in Killed in the Ratings. Those people only lose their lives; the rest of us risk losing our souls. TV  

September 20, 2021

What's on TV? Wednesday, September 19, 1979

This week we're back in the Twin Cities, in an issue from my own personal collection. At first glance, it looks to be to be as thick as the Minnesota State Editions I used to get when I lived in The World's Worst Town™, even though we only have listings for six stations. The reason? Ads. You can't turn a page without seeing one, two, perhaps three ads for various shows. They're bold, with lots of wide black striping and white lettering. In isolation, it perhaps looks crisp and easy to read, but when you see them bunched one after another, the effect is cluttered and cramped, hard on the eyes, and the busyness of the page makes it difficult to find and focus on the listings. But that's progress.

September 18, 2021

This week in TV Guide: September 15, 1979

It's always nice when an issue serves up a softball you can hit out of the park; it saves the effort of trying to figure out what to write about. This is such an issue.

Any article that presupposes to predict the top 15 shows for the coming season, as predicted by Michael Dann—television consultant and former programming head for both CBS and NBC—falls into that category. Keep in mind he's not predicting the most successful new shows of the season, although some rookies might make their way into the list. Nor is he necessarily saying the shows will finish in the order listed, just that these will be the top-15 at the end of 1979*.

*The cutoff date of December is to allow for hit mid-season replacements that Dann would not have been aware of at the time of this writing.

With that proviso, let's see what Dann's list looks like. At the end of this article, we'll look at the actual list and see where he went wrong (and right).
  1. Three's Company (ABC)
  2. Happy Days (ABC)
  3. Laverne & Shirley (ABC)
  4. Mork & Mindy (ABC)
  5. Taxi (ABC)
  6. Eight is Enough (ABC)
  7. 60 Minutes (CBS)
  8. The Associates (ABC)
  9. Barney Miller (ABC)
  10. ABC Sunday Night Movie
  11. Benson (ABC)
  12. M*A*S*H (CBS)
  13. Little House on the Prairie (NBC)
  14. Angie (ABC)
  15. The Love Boat (ABC)
You'll notice one thing straight away; ABC dominates the predicted list, with an even dozen of the 15 shows. CBS has two, while lowly NBC can only offer one. Will that hold true in real life? Stay tuned.

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Cleveland Amory, our regular TV critic, has moved on from his TV Guide gig by 1979, replaced by Robert MacKenzie, and it is to him that the duty falls to review one of ABC's new series, The Ropers, a spin-off from the above-mentioned Three's Company. If you remember Three's Company, do you also remember The Ropers? One was a hit; the other, not so much.

Both shows are similar, MacKenzie notes, in that the general perception is that they're all about sex, even though you never see any, and nobody ever seems to have any. "But viewers seem to love it, for whatever that means about the national psyche." He's ambivalent about the series' two leads, Norman Fell and Audra Lindley; they "can be funny together," but now that they're the focus of the show rather than playing supporting characters to the two girls and a guy, "sometimes there is a twist of cruelty in their exchanges that sets me to wincing when I'm supposed to be chuckling," an observation which I find perceptive.

The Ropers, MacKenzie writes, "is one of numerous comedies now exploring the rather bleak frontiers of innuendo," and adds that "Small kids who watch these shows may be getting their first impressions of sex: as something that makes adults nervous and giggly, that involves underwear in some way; is seldom done and never talked about seriously, but that figures somehow in the reproduction of jokes." Not quite up to vintage Amory perhaps, but not bad at all. And I think this tells us a lot, not only about the state of television in 1979, but today as well. Back then many series chose to deal with fairly serious issues, such as sex, with an adolescent sense of humor that did kids no favors. Today, the same issues are presented with absolutely no holds barred, in all their graphic glory, which does no one any favors. Mackenzie's conclusion about The Ropers: "I know it's cute, but don't ask me to get excited about it."

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Speaking of cute, there's a feature this week on one of the stars of The Dukes of Hazard, Catharine Bach, who seems utterly sanguine about the possibility that "many viewers of The Dukes of Hazard appear to be as interested in her abbreviated outfits as they are in her dramatic status." (No!) "I wouldn't mind that at all," she says. "I'd think it was cute, but people wouldn't turn on the show just because Cathy Bach is wearing a pair of shorts." I'm not sure whether or not she expects us to believe that. . .

PBS is still in the culture business in 1979, and they're proving it on Sunday afternoon (2:30 p.m. CT) with a live telecast of Ponchielli's opera La Gioconda from the San Francisco Opera, featuring an all-star cast including Renata Scotto, Luciano Pavarotti, and Ferruccio Furlanetto. You don't have to be an opera buff to recognize some of the music from La Gioconda; all you have to be is a fan of Allan Sherman's "Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah" or remember the dancing hippos in Disney's Fantasia. But just in case you've forgotten, here is "Dance of the Hours" in the context of the opera.

See, I knew it would ring a bell.

Sunday night also presents three potential blockbusters, all going up against each other. On NBC, it's a three-hour Bob Hope special from China (7:00 p.m.), with guests Crystal Gayle, Peaches and Herb, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Shields and Yarnell (who I hear were big stuff in Peking), and Big Bird. That's countered on ABC by the network television premiere of Woody Allen's Oscar-winning Annie Hall (8:00 p.m.), which according to Judith Crist presents in its full glory "the humor and compassion that are peculiarly [Allen's] own, an adult view of the human comedy." To complicate things, CBS gives us Carol Burnett in a rare dramatic role, starring with Keith Michell in The Tenth Month (7:00 p.m.), the story of a divorcee who finds herself pregnant by a married man. Or maybe this doesn't complicate matters; Crist calls it "pat predictability" with Burnett unconvincing in the role, and a host of preposterous plot twists; she adds that "after an hour of this overblown opus you will, in your wisdom, switch to Annie Hall." I'll have more later on the dilemma of having too many good shows on at the same time.

Annie Hall's not the only big-screen smash to make it to television this week, as NBC gives us Coming Home on Monday night (8:00 p.m.), with Oscar-winning turns from Jane Fonda and John Voight, and the same network presenting Semi-Tough the following night (8:00 p.m.); Dan Jenkins' sardonic football satire stars Burt Reynolds, Kris Kristofferson and Jill Clayburgh. I think I might have watched The Eiger Sanction on Saturday night (8:00 p.m.), which is good fun if you like Clint Eastwood tossing people off mountains, which I do.

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The sports season is in full swing, with the baseball pennant races winding down, and both the NFL and college football underway.

The battle for first place is tight in the National League West, and that's where NBC is focusing its Game of the Week cameras, with the Cincinnati Reds taking on the Dodgers in Los Angeles in the prime game (3:15 p.m.) and the Houston Astros visiting the San Francisco Giants in the rain game. At this point, the Reds hold but a half-game lead over the Astros; with the Reds win and Astros loss today, that lead jumps to 1.5 games, which is where it will end when the season concludes on September 30.

Those games are up against ABC's college football, which gives us a classic matchup: Notre Dame vs. Michigan from Ann Arbor (2:15 p.m.). At the time, Notre Dame is ranked #9 in the country, Michigan #6. It's a defensive struggle; the Fighting Irish manage four field goals and upset Michigan, 12-10. Both teams have a down season in 1979, each losing four games, although Michigan's comes in the Gator Bowl, while the 7-4 Irish decline a bowl invite.

On Sunday, the NFL offers a light schedule for fans in the Twin Cities. At 1:00 p.m. the Minnesota Vikings host the Miami Dolphins on NBC; due to the television rules of the time, that meant no other game could be broadcast in that time slot. Since NBC has the doubleheader this week, we're aced out of the second game, and have to rely on CBS's offering of the Chicago Bears and Dallas Cowboys at 3:00 p.m., played in Texas Stadium. For ABC's Monday night's extravaganza, the New York Giants play the Redskins in Washington. (8:00 p.m.)

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Once again, the As We See It editorial takes the side of the viewers, with a problem that would seem almost incomprehensible to anyone in the last couple of generations. It has to do with what happens when two of your favorite shows are on at the same time.

As TV Guide points out, "The comparatively few people who own videocassette recorders for catching one show while watching another may be sanguine about the dilemma of which show to tune in," and I can understand that; we didn't own a VCR at the time, and as I recall they were damn expensive back then. "Audiences have grumbled about this problem for years," that being the habit networks have of scheduling blockbuster specials up against each other, or using a popular show to try and knock down the ratings of a competitor. The networks argue it's nothing more than free enterprise in action, "and may the better show win."

The solution offered by Merrill Panitt (who likely wrote the editorial) sounds like a pipe dream at best: somehow, convince the networks that it's not in the viewers' interest to continue such programming decisions. Panitt cites the example of cooperation between the BBC and Thames TV in England when it was discovered the Beeb was scheduling Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy against Themes' Quatermass miniseries; the two networks got together and agreed to juggle the scheduling so neither show appeared against the other.

The networks, of course, claim this would be seen by the government as collusion, which would violate antitrust laws. The government, naturally, is powerless to force networks to do anything. And so the viewers, as seems always to be the case, are left stuck in the middle, "What ever happened," Panitt concludes, "to 'public interest, convenience and necessity'," all of which broadcasters are supposed to take into consideration.

The ultimate solution, not surprisingly, is also the most American one. If a problem is big enough, and inconveniences enough people, and if finding a solution is profitable enough, someone will figure out a way to find it. In this case, VCRs became more practical and the prices went down. When that wasn't enough—whether they were too hard to program or whatever the reason—TiVO came along. And then it was the cable and satellite providers who developed their own DVRs that could be included in the conversion boxes. Then it was on-demand programming. Now, just about anyone can watch just about anything just about any time they want, whether on a TV, computer, laptop, iPad or phone. It's truly remarkable how far this technology has come in a relatively short time. And I'm left wondering if it would have come this far, or this fast, had the networks found a way to avoid scheduling conflicts, whether or their own or through government intervention of some sort.

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And now let's return to those top 15 shows that Michael Dann had predicted at the beginning of this article. How did he do?

They are, in order:
  1. 60 Minutes (CBS)
  2. Three's Company (ABC)
  3. That's Incredible (ABC)
  4. Alice (CBS)
  5. M*A*S*H (CBS)
  6. Dallas (CBS)
  7. Flo (CBS)
  8. The Jeffersons (CBS)
  9. The Dukes of Hazzard (CBS)
  10. One Day at a Time (CBS)
  11. Archie Bunker's Place (CBS)
  12. Eight is Enough (ABC)
  13. Taxi (ABC)
  14. House Calls (CBS)
  15. Real People (NBC)
It should be noted right off the top that several of these shows shouldn't count, since they were in fact mid-season replacements and weren't available for Dann's predictions. That's Incredible, Flo, and House Calls were brought up during the season but had the staying power to land in the top 15 and remain there. If we were to discount those three series, we could add Little House on the Prairie (NBC) and Happy Days (ABC) to the list. (The third, NBC's CHiPs, had not made Dunn's cut.)

Having said that, Dann's predictions turn out to have been something of a mixed bag. He was outright correct on five shows—seven, if you add in the two I mentioned above. Five more were good enough to finish in the top 30. But what about the three that missed altogether?

The most notable is probably Laverne & Shirley. Dann saw that as a success "in Mork's old time period against the tired Waltons and Buck Rogers in the 25th Century," and called it "an easy big winner." In fact, however, the show was all over ABC's schedule, bounding from its original Thursday timeslot to Mondays at 7:00 p.m., and then Tuesdays at 7:30 p.m. It was the only season that the show did not finish in the top 25, and perhaps that was one reason the format was changed the following season, with the show's locale shifted from Milwaukee to Burbank.

As for Angie and The Associates? Critically, The Associates was praised, but Martin Short's first starring turn in a sitcom was pummeled by CBS's One Day at a Time, and even with Mork & Mindy (in its new timeslot) as a lead-in, it lasted for only nine episodes. Mork, which was buried by Archie Bunker's Place, moved back to its old spot (thus pushing out Laverne & Shirley), and The Associates became yet another example of a critical darling that failed to catch on with the audience.

Angie should have done better; it was co-created by Garry Marshall and was sandwiched between Happy Days and The Love Boat. As Dunn says, "everybody knows why" it makes the list. But the show, which was a hit in its first half-season, suffers from the move to the new time slot, and with both Happy Days and The Love Boat down in the ratings (Dann had thought The Love Boat would be "more popular than ever," but its two lead-ins, The Ropers and Detective School were both flops), and with the show losing some of its pizzazz after its romantic conflicts were solved by marriage*, the series was cancelled at the end of the season.

*Gee, who could have imagined that?

What this tells us, as our loyal reader Mike Doran told us once, is that ABC's decision to break up its most popular nights during the week backfired spectacularly. "Splitting up a winning combo on any given night has a long history of backfiring big time, and this season was no exception." And this doesn't even touch on the network moving Fantasy Island to Friday night, separating it from its Saturday running mate, The Love Boat

All-in-all, I suppose we'd have to give Dann a C+ on his predictions. He was right on about half of them, and just missed on a few more. His outright failures were only three, and one of those suffered from a down season. Only two were outright swings-and-misses, and considering the nature of television, I suppose that's to be expected. In other words, his performance was fitting for the season as a whole—average. TV  

September 17, 2021

Around the dial

A few months ago, I delved into the history of early British television, lighting on the BBC's "first identifiable drama," Murder in the Cathedral, which aired in 1936. This week at Cult TV Blog, John goes back even further, to 1933, and The Crooked Circle: the first film ever broadcast on commercial TV.

The Broadcasting Archives links to this interesting article at Variety on why, with traditional television less important and the schedules more fluid than ever, the Fall Season still matters. I can't remember the last time I checked out the first episode of a series I might be interested in watching, but then I'm different that way.

At The Horn Section, James Garner's Bret Maverick finds himself in "A Flock of Trouble," and Hal is here to tell us how he gets out of it, in this 1960 episode that includes the lovely Myrna Fahey as the best-looking cattle owner around.

Jordan's back to review the July/August 1983 issue of The Twilight Zone Magazine at The Twilight Zone Vortex, including an interview with H.P. Lovecraft (and his short story "Something About Cats," and a review of Natalie Wood's last movie, Brainstorm, with Christopher Walken, Louise Fletcher and Cliff Robertson.

Staying in the Zone for a moment, at Shadow & Substance, Paul looks at the 1962 episode "The Fugitive," and asks why it makes some fans uneasy, and whether they're right to feel that way. It points out, as Paul says, how different things can look when one views them from a 21st century perspective, and why this can be problematic for classic TV.

There's nothing better than discovering a forgotten show, and at Comfort TV, David is back with another installment of "Ten Forgotten Shows I'd Like to Watch." This edition covers the 1970s, and includes four shows I actually remember, though I don't know why. Raymond Burr as Kingston: Confidential? Yes, indeed.

Can it really be 50 years since the premiere of Columbo? You bet it can, and Terence is all over it at A Shroud of Thoughts. I, of all people, should know that television has been around a long time, and yet when you look at how crisp and alive these shows look, it just doesn't seem they could be that old. After all, that would make me even older. TV  

September 15, 2021

"The TV Season That Almost Wasn't"

We spent some time over the weekend with the 1980 Fall Season; as I've said before, one man's trash is another man's treasure; which side do you fall on? 

Courtesy of the YouTube channel RwDt09, here's a closer look back at "The TV Season That Almost Wasn't."


September 13, 2021

What's on TV? Sunday, September 14, 1980

This is your lucky day: since Saturday's postponed issue debuted earlier this morning, you're getting two for the price of one today. And this week's international issue reminds us that the United States and Canada aren't all that different, at least when it comes to television. Sunday features pro football, just as it is south of the border. And a good many American programs make the lineup on both CBC and CTV. No matter which way you look at it, it spells entertainment. This week's issue covers Washington and British Columbia, with Ted Turner's Superstation thrown in as part of the bargain.

This week in TV Guide: September 13, 1980

It's time once again for the Fall Preview issue (postponed from last Saturday), and as I see it, there are three ways I can lay this out for you. I can, of course, try to cover everything, which would take a very long time, and if true would mean that I am probably writing these words in July. I can concentrate on those shows that were huge successes, programs like Hill Street Blues that became a household name. Or I can do the opposite, look at the shows that failed miserably, which can be a lot of fun—especially if some of them were highly rated and had big names fronting them. 

I'll admit that each of these three options has something going for it. I'll be honest, though: since I'm not writing this in July, but in the middle of August, you can assume I've decided not to go the comprehensive route. The only fair way to decide this, then, is the age-old solution of flipping a coin. Heads I go for the winners; tails and it's the losers. And you're here to keep an eye on things to make sure I'm honest, right? So here we go—wait. What do you mean it landed on its edge? Yes, I know what it means, but—no, of course I'm not suggesting you'd lie in front of all these people. Of course I trust you. All right then, I'll just have to compromise and do a little of each. Fair enough?

A proviso, though: as we're warned in TV Guide, there's an actors' strike in progress, and some of the shows listed in this issue may be postponed, or even cancelled, because of it. I'll try to point that out as I go along.

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I mentioned Hill Street Blues (NBC), which is certainly the most acclaimed of the new shows, although it will come perilously close to being cancelled before it catches on. It won't actually air until January 15 of next year, and it airs on three different nights during that first half-season (including Saturdays!) before it finally settles down to Thursdays at 10:00 p.m.

The most popular series of the new batch, though, is probably CBS's Magnum, P.I., and it's pretty hard to bet against Tom Sellick's charm and an exceptional supporting cast; the Hawaii scenery doesn't hurt either. It's up against Barney Miller on ABC and Thursday Night at the Movies on NBC. It does a little better than Hill Street Blues in terms of debuting—it hits the airwaves on December 11. It does better in the ratings as well, finishing the truncated season #14, as opposed to #87 for the Blues.

Three new series base their hopes on the popular movies they're adapted from, and—well, one out of three ain't bad. rate. Breaking Away (Saturdays, ABC), based on last year's Oscar-nominated movie, actually premieres in November, but while it's heavily publicized by the network and even brings some of the same cast members as the movie, only seven of its episodes are broadcast, and it's actually off the air before Hill Street Blues premieres. Freebie and the Bean (Saturdays, CBS), based on the 1974 buddy cop comedy, it fares no better; seven and out. Harper Valley, P.T.A. (Fridays, NBC), birthed by both a popular movie and song, actually survives for two seasons, and I'd suggest that a big reason for that success lies in its star, Barbara Eden.

Imitation is, they say, the sincerest form of flattery. In Hollywood, it's also the surest way to survival. What other way to explain the resurgance of the prime-time soap opera, spawned by the success of Dallas and Knotts Landing. NBC has Flamingo Road on Tuesdays, with a big-name cast including Morgan Fairchild, John Beck, Mark Harmon, Howard Duff, Barbara Rush, and Stella Stevens, and it lasts two seasons.* CBS hopes to continue its success with Saturday's Secrets of Midland Heights, but even though it's produced by Lorimar, maker of Dallas, and stars Lorenzo Lamas and the pre-Terminator Linda Hamilton, it remained a secret to audiences, and disappeared after eight episodes. 

*It, too, was based on a successful movie, the 1949 hit starring Joan Crawford .

Closely related to the series based on a movie is the series spunoff from another series, and we've got a couple of those as well: Enos (Wednesdays, CBS), which takes Sonny Shroyer's character from The Dukes of Hazzard and puts him in his own series, actualy makes it through an entire truncated season of 18 episodes before Enos returns from whence he came. A spinoff of a different kind is Those Amazing Animals (Sundays, ABC), inspired by the same network's That's Incredible!, right down to having three hosts of its own: Burgess Meredith, Priscilla Presley and Jim Stafford. It's good for a full season.

Bosom Buddies (Thursdays, ABC) is almost a spin-off; its men-in-drag scenario is certainly reminiscent of Some Like it Hot, and while it lasts for four successful seasons, both of its stars went on to bigger and better things: Peter Scolari, and—especially—Tom Hanks. And there are two other ABC sitcoms that deserve some mention: Too Close For Comfort (Tuesdays), which, between its network and syndication runs for seven seasons, makes Ted Knight the second most-successful alum of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, right after Gavin MacLeod; and It's a Living (Thursdays), which played the same network/syndication parlay to six successful seasons. 

And finally a brief moment of silence while we recite the names of those series whose names are, if not known only to God, remain nonetheless relatively anonymous: Ladies' Man (Mondays, CBS. Episodes aired: 15) and I'm a Big Girl Now (Fridays, ABC; couldn't make it even with Diana Canova and Danny Thomas. Episodes aired: 19) I've heard of the latter, not the former, but I just can't think of anything else worth saying about them.

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One of the continuing trends is the star-studded, epic scale miniseries (even though many of them are nothng more than two-part movies, but of course that isn't sexy enough), and for all the talk of coming attractions (Masada, East of Eden, The Gangster Chronicles), the biggest one of the season kicks off on Monday: Shōgun, NBC's $20 million gamble, a 12-hour adaptation of James Clavell's massive (1,152 pages) best-seller starring Richard Chamberlain and Toshiro Mifune.

The 12 hours are spread out over five consecutive nights, with three-hour episodes on Monday and Friday, and two hours each on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday. It's interesting scheduling, especially having it conclude on Friday; nowadays, I think we've become accustomed to Sunday being the big television night of the week, with multipart events skipping a night or two so that they can begin and end on that date. Having it air on consecutive nights is far more sraightforward, almost like the binge programming of today.

Shōgun is a huge hit for NBC, with the network garnering its highest weekly rating in its history. It will be nominated for 14 Emmys, winning three, including best limited series; it also wins a Golden Globe and a Peabody. Almost makes the rest of the season an anticlimax, doesn't it?

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One of the most anticipated sections of the Fall Preview is Judith Crist's look at the big-screen movies coming to television for the first time. Even with VHS and cable on the horizon, most of us still rely on the networks for the movies we missed in the theaters, or want to see again. Last year, there were 111 theatrical premieres on network TV, and that doesn't include 13 that had been announced but won't make it until this season. With that to look forward to, what are some of the highlights?

NBC's list is headed by two prestige hits from the middle of the last decade, 1976's All the President's Men, with Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman; and 1977's Julia, starring Vanessa Redgrve and Jane Fonda. Other features include The Boys from Brazil, with Lalurence Olivier and Gregory Peck; Eyes of Laura Mars, starring Faye Dunaway and Tommy Lee Jones; New York, New York, with Liza Minelli as the last person to sing the theme before Frank Sinatra appropriated it as his own; and the 1970 documentary Woodstock.

Over at CBS, the emphasis, says Crist, is on "froth rather than 'class'," including the "wonderfully witty" Who Is Killing the Great Chefs of Europe; George Hamilton and Susan Saint James in Love at First Bite; Same Time, Next Year, with Alan Alda and Ellen Burstyn, and Foul Play, with Goldie Hawn and Chevy Chase. Their headliner is 1979's The Amityville Horror, which Crist calls "the most boring, illogical and inept horror movie to have made $35 million at the box office," which was quite a bit of money at the time; and The Champ, with Jon Voight, Faye Duanway, and Ricky Schroder.

Last but not least, ABC has a lot to offer, beginning with 1977's Saturday Night Fever, which made John Travolta a star; 1977's The Spy Who Loved Me, which introduced us to the villain Jaws; Sally Field's 1979 Oscar turn in Norma Rae; Neil Simon's California Suite, and a doubleheader of Barbra Streisand: the "self-indulgent remake" of A Star is Born, and The Main Event. There's also Midnight Express, which details the horror of Turkish prison; and The Enforcer, Clint Eastwood's third turn as Dirty Harry Callahan. It's enough to make up for the "tedious, mindless" trucker movie Convoy.

All in all, says Crist, the season gives promise of being a good one for viewers. Even if you have to wait years, not weeks, for some of your favorites.

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In our hurry to look forward to the coming season, let's not forget that there are shows worth watching right now—depending on your tastes, of course. On Monday, it's the debut of Solid Gold (various stations throughout the week), with hostess Dionne Warwick welcoming Paul Anka, Irene Cara, and Johnny Lee. Hour Magazine, hosted by Gary Collins (and not to be confused with PM Magazine), debuts in syndication on Monday, while Alan Thicke premieres a weekday variety show; no, this isn't Thicke of the Night. Tuesday night gives two dubious changes: The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson goes from its traditional 90 minutes to an hour, while Tom Snyder's Tomorrow expands to 90 minutes to fill in the gap. An hour has since become the standard for such shows; it's hard to call them "talk shows" anymore, since nobody ever sticks around to talk. It is, in my opinion, a great, great loss to television, as well as the art of conversation.

On Saturday night at 10:30 p.m., PBS broadcasts the world television premiere of the opera The Ocean Flight, by Bertolt Brecht and Kurt Weill. The original title was Der Flug der Lindberghs, telling the story of Charles Lindbergh's historic transatlantic solo flight; Brecht, who would become disillusioned with what he saw as Lindbergh's wartime isolationism and Nazi sympathies, later changed the name and removed all references to Lindbergh from the text. 

I was curious as to what it was like. Perhaps you will be, too.

There are some excellent movies on this week, starting with the Oscar-winning A Man for All Seasons (Sunday, 11:30 p.m., KIRO); it took me many years to warm to this movie and watch it all the way through, but now that I have, it's one of my favorites. (You should watch it, too; we may be living this way sooner rather than later.) The Man in the White Suit (Sunday, 11:45 p.m., CBUT) is a very funny Alec Guinness satire on modern business.And I quite like the movie Badlands (Friday, 12:15 a.m., CHEK), based on the 1957-58 murder spree of Charles Starkweather and Caril Ann Fugate, with Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek. 

Of course, we can't forget Casablanca (12:15 a.m., CBUT), can we? Otherwise, we'll never have Paris. 

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Since this piece was postponed from September 11, you can read another piece later this morning: this week's retro TV listings. Be sure to return for it! TV