October 30, 2021

This week in TV Guide: November 1, 1980

After months of long, hard, and at times tedious and controversial activity, Campaign '80 is at its conclusion.  And TV Guide tells you how you can pick the winner!

But first, a word from our publisher.

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"TV GUIDE has never before taken a position in a Presidential election and as head of the company that publishes the magazine I intended that it remain silent in this one. I, cannot, however, as a matter of conscience, refrain from speaking up when the result of this election is so critical to the future of this nation."

With that, Walter H. Annenberg, President of Triangle Publications, Inc., makes a rare appearance in the pages of his most famous publication for the purposes of endorsing Ronald Reagan for the Presidency. "To put it bluntly," he says, "we see ourselves as a nation on the decline," a country overwhelmed with problems thought to be too big for anyone to solve. Inflation tops 10%, unemployment "especially among young black people" is glossed over, and foreign policy is a mess. "European and other world leaders are impressed by performance, not conversation," and talk seems to be all they get from the current occupant of the White House, "a well-intentioned, hard-working public servant" who has demeaned the office of the Presidency by portraying his opponent as "a warmonger with simplistic, antiquated economic ideas who would divide the country into antagonistic racial, religious and geographical factions." America needs "an administration determined to solve our painful problems by attacking the basic causes of social and economic ills rather than by applying local anesthetics in the form of quickly dissipated Government handouts."

Annenberg writes that "While I respect the President's supporters for their loyalty to him and have high regard for Rosalynn Carter and her dedication to her husband, his unfortunate record of performance in office does not warrant his reelection." Ronald Reagan, a man Annenberg has known for 30 years "as an actor, as a union leader and as a capable governor," will offer "in place of more years of political expedients to bolster weak domestic and international positions," an administration dedicated to ending "the feeling that we no longer can control our own destiny" and promises to "restore the self-confidence and the self-respect that until recent years have been the foundation of the American spirit." In conclusion, "As we achieve these goals, our friends abroad—and our potential enemies—will respect us too."

It might seem strange, given the pulp fan mag that TV Guide has turned into, to read Annenberg's words—to think that the magazine's political preference would matter, either to the readers or to the nation as a whole. But keep in mind that throughout these years of TV Guide, the magazine took its responsibilities to the public seriously, and felt that its readers were entitled to intelligent discussion of the issues of the day. A critic once observed that TV Guide felt itself closer to magazines such as The New Yorker than to television and movie magazines, and it often showed in the types of articles published in TV Guide.

The Annenbergs and the Reagans
Annenberg himself was no stranger to Republican politics, having served as ambassador to the Court of St. James during the Nixon administration. (He was, in fact, the man who introduced Reagan to Margaret Thatcher,) Annenberg's wife Lenore was appointed the State Department's Chief of Protocol, and the Reagans and Annenbergs often celebrated New Year's Eve together. This was not merely an endorsement of friendship, though—Annenberg enthusiastically agreed with Reagan's philosophy, and saw in him a man with the confidence and the political acumen to lead the United States through trying times both at home and abroad.

Regardless of where one stands politically, it really is quite something to see a publication like TV Guide—one that took seriously the role and responsibility of television in the shaping of American culture—take a partisan stand like this.* Nowadays, it's more interested in what musical instrument a candidate plays, or what kind of underwear he or she wears.

*And what better way to demonstrate television's gravitas than to endorse for the presidency a man who once hosted a television series?

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In our lead article, Elmer L. Lower, formerly president of ABC News and currently a professor of journalism at the University of Missouri, gives readers a brief recap of each candidate's electoral strategy, and gives viewers tips on what to look for throughout what is expected to be a long and suspenseful election night. For example, the polls close earliest in Indiana and Kentucky; Reagan is strong in Indiana, so he's expected to take it at 6:30 p.m. ET when the evening news programs come on. Carter took Kentucky in 1976 but the state appears less certain for him, so "a Kentucky victory for Reagan would be significantly good news for him."

Meanwhile, five Southern and border states close between 7:00 and 8:00, all of which Carter swept in 1976. Reagan's best chances to break Carter's almost-solid South are Florida, Alabama and West Virginia. And the crucial hour, according to Lower, will be that 7:00 to 8:00 hour, when the networks are expected to project as many as 10 states, including New England and Texas. Reagan is sure of Kansas and Vermont, while Carter can count on Massachusetts. Back in 1976, Gerald Ford won both New Jersey and Connecticut; Reagan will do the same.

Lower is anticipating a long night—for example, by 11:00, it's likely that only Texas and New York, among the large states, will have been projected. Pennsylvania, Michigan and Ohio will still be out, and the polls on the West will just be closing, so "you'll have to stay up late, it appears, if you want to know who your next President is before you fall asleep." In fact, it may well be after 3:00 a.m. before a winner is finally projected; in 1976, NBC was first to project Carter as the winner, at 3:29 a.m., when they gave him victory in Mississippi.

As we now know, of course, such was not the case. The early news is indeed good for Reagan - in addition to Indiana, he does take Kentucky. In the next hour, Carter's "solid South" of 1976 goes entirely for Reagan, with the exception of Carter's home Georgia (which the president takes by a much smaller margin than he did in '76). At 8 p.m., Reagan wins Texas, as well as those two Eastern states he had to win, New Jersey and Connecticut.  And at 8:15 p.m., over seven hours earlier than in 1976, NBC's count puts Reagan at 270 electoral votes, enough to win the election.

Television coverage of the 1980 election is extremely controversial, to say the least. NBC's early projections rely heavily on exit polling data (the first time projections had been made on that basis), and in fact the polls are still open in many Western states (including my home of Minnesota)* at the time of the call. Carter's concession at 9:50 ET, again before the polls have closed on the West Coast, doesn't do the Democrats any favors either, despite reminders from network pundits that there is more than just the presidential election at stake, and the Republicans take control of the Senate for the first time since the Eisenhower administration.

*It wasn't just television; radio reports throughout the day gave updates on the exit polls, with one CBS mid-afternoon broadcast suggesting that the numbers indicated a possible Reagan landslide. 

In retrospect, the results shouldn't have been as much of a surprise as they were. Internal polls had already shown momentum moving toward Reagan, and the Reagan-Carter debate proves to be the decisive moment in the campaign. Reagan's eventual 489-49 victory in the Electoral College is the largest ever for a non-incumbent, and his popular vote percentage of just under 51% is remarkable for a three-way election.

But it's a surprise to most of the "experts," and the stunned expressions of NBC's anchors as they watch Reagan's sudden sweep of the early states remains a vivid memory, nearly 40 years after the fact.

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And now, some images from Election Night 1980:

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And now the rest of the week. Last Tuesday night, NBC had scheduled a two-hour Bob Hope special, built around Hope's campaign for President.* He's nominated by Johnny Carson, his campaign is managed by Tony Randall, and he uses Angie Dickinson and Stefanie Powers to appeal to women voters (although I think their greater appeal would be to males).

*Of course, having been born in the United Kingdom, Bob would technically have been ineligible to serve as president, but this is a comedy show, after all.

Unfortunately, something came up last Tuesday that prevented the special from airing, namely the Reagan-Carter debate. NBC didn't have many options left for a topical show as time-sensitive as this one, so look for it on Saturday (7:00 p.m. CT), followed by another special with political overtones bumped from Tuesday, an hour of comedy with the Smothers Brothers.

The recent end to the actors strike means we're still seeing season premieres of new and returning shows, and a big CBS player on Sunday night starts out with a bang: Archie Bunker's Place, the successor to All in the Family, opens the 11th season for the combined series with Archie coming to terms with the death of his long-suffering wife Edith. (7:00 p.m.) It's a struggle for Archie, who "refuses to acknowledge his grief." It's also a revelation for anyone who compares this Archie from the Archie of the first episode.

On Monday ABC (7:00 p.m.) and CBS (9:00 p.m.) block out an hour each for paid political programs, while NBC reserves 90 minutes (8:30 p.m.). Meanwhile, PBS comes in first in the early returns, first with the conclusion of the brilliant miniseries Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy, starring the incomparable Alec Guinness (7:00 p.m.); followed by the great political satirist Mark Russell in his Election Eve special (8:00 p.m.), live from Buffalo.

Tuesday is Election Day, and for one of the candidates, it will be High Noon (3:30 p.m., WDIO), but if you're looking for an alternative, PBS's Nova (7:00 p.m.) explores the search for a cancer cure, and Dick Cavett has the first of a two-part interview with the legendary Ray Bradbury (10:00 p.m.)

Wednesday's feature event is CBS's Wednesday Night Movie, George Hamilton's hit comedy Love at First Bite (8:00 p.m.), which Judith Crist calls "uneven but frequently very funny," and lauds Hamilton's "hitherto unexpected and unexploited comedic gifts." And on NBC (also 8:00), it's part one of Alcatraz: The Whole Shocking Story, which is not only shocking but "based on a true story," with Michael Beck, Art Carney, Telly Savalas, and Alex Karras.

Thursday night, it's the presumably shocking conclusion of Alcatraz (7:00 p.m., NBC), and PBS scores again with Live at Lincoln Center presenting something they barely have time for anymore: classical music, in the form of Rossini's charming opera La Cenerentola (Cinderella), performed by the New York City Opera. (7:00 p.m.) For the rest of us, 20/20 (9:00 p.m., ABC) has a profile of David Bowie, who was probably promoting his latest hit, "Ashes to Ashes," and NBC presents a "pilot" from 1968: Lassiter (9:00 p.m.), starring Burt Reynolds. The ad boasts that it's the "first time on TV!" and you have to ask yourself just how good a pilot can be if it's taken twelve years to make it to television.

Friday's season premiere of Dallas is preceded by a literal bang—it's a rerun of the season-ending "Who Shot J.R.?" episode (8:00 p.m., CBS). As TV Guide's preview notes, though, "the solution to this whodunnit is still weeks away."

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Finally, a note in the TV Update section that Saturday Night Live is about to be "reborn," with an all-new cast and 15 new writers. New producer Jean Doumanian sees "the public going crazy over them. I went crazy over them." In fact, most people probably would have amended that last sentence to read "I went crazy over them." Doumanian and her new cast almost killed the show.

The new "Not Ready For Prime Time Players" consisted of Charles Rocket, Denny Dillon, Gilbert Gottfried, Gail Matthius, Joe Piscopo, and Ann Risley, with Eddie Murphy as a featured player. This cast is probably best known for the February 21, 1981 program in which Rocket, during a spoof of the "Who Shot J.R.?" craze, dropped the F-bomb on live television. He was fired, along with Gottfried and Risley, and Doumanian was replaced as producer by Dick Ebersol, who had been involved in the creation of SNL and was now being asked to help save the show. At the end of the season he axed the rest of Doumanian's players, with the exceptions of Piscopo and Murphy, around whom the next generation of SNL would be built.

In fact, SNL had fallen behind ABC's Fridays in both audience ratings and critical approval, and was coming quite close to being cancelled altogether. The fact that it continues on the air today, more than 35 years later, may be a testament to the inertia that grips late night television, but it also demonstrates the necessity of acting quickly in the midst of crisis. Had NBC waited until the end of the 1980-81 season to make changes, there might not be a Saturday Night Live today. TV  

October 29, 2021

Around the dial

This week starts off with the happy news that Episode 115 of the Eventually Supertrain podcast is up, which means that Dan and I are talking Search once again: specifically, "Countdown to Panic," which some of you might find disturbingly close to today's world. I'd be interested to see what you think of it.

Meanwhile, at Comfort TV, where David remembers one of The Dick Van Dyke's most memorable—and most surrealistic—episodes, "It May Look Like a Walnut," which even features producer Danny Thomas in an uncredited cameo!

Rod Serling was no stranger to the idea of a killer doll; remember Talky Tina from The Twilight Zone? Serling may not have written that one, but as Paul points out at Shadow & Substance, he took a crack at the concept in the memorable Night Gallery episode "The Doll." 

At Drunk TV, Paul Mavis presents a strong rebuttal to those critics who put down the family sitcoms of the 1950s and '60s; his look at My Three Sons posits it as a "remarkably complex, innovative" sitcom, a position I completely agree with, whether the cultural elitists like it or not.

Over at The Hits Just Keep on Comin', JB flashes back to October 27, 1962, a day that would have been exceptional for being unexceptional—except it's also "the most dangerous day in history," as the drama of the Cuban Missile Crisis nears its climax. You can relive those days with the highly-recommended The Missiles of October.

At Cult TV Blog, John returns to Randall and Hopkirk (Deceased) and the episode "It's Supposed to be Thicker than Water," and yes, this delightful episode is yet another one in which the driver of the white Jag bites the dust. To find out what that means, head on over there.

And finally, Fire-Breathing Dimetroden Time takes a moment to remind us of the death of Joanna Cameron last week, at the way-too-young age of 70. A lot of readers here will, I'm sure, remember her from the CBS Saturday morning lineup and Isis. TV  

October 27, 2021

TV close-up: The Hollywood Palace, October 25, 1969

How about something from this week's listings? We don't get to do this all that often, and it's always kind of a kick to find a show in its entirety from that particular day. Of course, if you have a boxed set of a certain series, it's pretty easy to find out what aired on that day; it's much more challenging when it comes to a special, a movie, or a variety show.

Here's a reminder of when ABC thought they'd found the next Tom Jones in the person of Engelbert Humperdinck, who'd had a big hit with "Release Me," had his own show in 1969-70 and on this particular night hosted The Hollywood Palace with guests Sid Caesar, Maureen Arthur, Mickey Deems, Nancy Ames, Gladys Knight and the Pips, Jack E. Leonard, and Lonnie Donegan, Worth a watch, don't you think?


October 25, 2021

What's on TV? Saturday, October 25, 1969

An uneventful day in an uneventful week, and I suppose we should be grateful for small favors like that. Over on NBC, one of the two schools on College Bowl is the University of Minnesota at Morris, located about ten miles from the World's Worst Town™. They lost badly to Bradley, though, so I don't feel too bad about it. On the syndicated music show Upbeat (1:00 p.m., WGR), whoever edited the listings managed to misspell Lesley Gore's name, but considering the number of typos I make, I shouldn't complain too much. And on tonight's Boston Symphony concert, the narrator of Copland's "Lincoln Portrait" is Senator Ted Kennedy. I wonder when this was recorded; Chappaquiddick, after all, was only three months before. What would Honest Abe have thought?

October 24, 2021

Doctor Who comes to the big screen

The following is part of the Third Great Hammer-Amicus Blogathon, running this weekend at many of your favorite blogs. Be sure to check our sponsors,Cinematic Catharsis and Realweegiemidget, throughout the weekend for the latest posts.

In a just world—that is to say, one that responded to our every whim and folly—the two Doctor Who movies made by Peter Cushing would have featured not only the Daleks, but The Master, who of course would have to have been played by Christopher Lee. The sky would have been the limit: Cushing as the brilliant, eccentric genius, against not only the most malevolent creatures science fiction has ever seen, but Lee as the most suave, charming, and sinister villain anyone could ask for. Think of it!

Alas, the world is not just, which is why we still have to put up with taxes and rainy days and Jimmy Kimmel on late night television (or any television, for that matter). Instead, our story opens with Terry Nation, the mastermind behind The Doctor's eternal adversaries, the murderous metallic marauders of the universe, the Daleks. In an era when monsters (including those seen on Who) were frequently little more than stunt men in rubber suits, the Daleks were a revelation: they bore no resemblance whatsoever to a human being, had no visible means of propulsion, and spoke in a harsh, grating voice, threatening anyone who attempted to get in their way with "extermination." They were also cruel, ruthless, and virtually indestructible, not to mention ideal for product tie-ins. Their appearance in the second serial of Doctor Who in 1963 made them instant stars, soon to appear in books and a comic strip. 

Nation, who conceived and wrote the early Dalek stories, was eager to capitalize on the popularity of his creation, and harbored hopes that he could spin them off as a separate entity, into the United States. As a possible first step, Nation sold the film rights to his first three Dalek serials—The Daleks, The Dalek Invasion of Earth, and The Chase—for £500 to a pair of Americans, Milton Subotsky and Max Rosenberg, who in 1964 had founded Amicus Productions, specializing in in low-budget sci-fi and horror films. 

The potential for a series of movies featuring the Doctor and his arch enemies must have been the cause of great excitement on the part of Whovians, which probably lasted until they heard of Subotsky's plans to turn the stories into thrillers—for kids. While it's true that the TV series was often seen as children's programming, there was a subliminal adult sensibility to many of the stories, and the Daleks themselves were an allegorical representation of the Nazis. As well, many of the Who stories during the first few seasons were historical dramas set against the background of real events such as the French Revolution. In other words, the show's appeal to children was based on excitement and adventure, with just enough education to satisfy the BBC.

Another important element, however, was the ability to provide children with a good fright. The show had become known for the image of kids hiding behind the sofa, peering around the corner to watch the Daleks that they couldn't quite stop watching. As anyone who's been a child—which basically means all of us—knows, kids find the prospect of being scared to be equal parts daunting and enthralling. This, however, was not what Subotsky had in mind, as he told Kinematograph Weekly in April 1965:

We’ve taken Terry Nation’s first seven episodes of the tv serial and re-written them into a screenplay, at the same time injecting a considerable amount of comedy. On tv, they take themselves so deadly seriously. This is all action, excitement and comedy. We intend to full use of the colour, spectacle, and action that make the difference between large and small screen entertainment. One of the things we have to make it different and better is splendour.

I find this kind of surprising, to be honest, considering the reputation that Amicus would have over the years for horror movies. Not only that, but they had Van Helsing himself, Peter Cushing, playing the Doctor. But then, I've never been in the movie business, so I don't pretend to understand how the moguls think. Or don't as the case may be. 

With that in mind, let's take a brief look at the two movies that resulted from the Amicus-Nation deal, and why true Doctor Who fans should give them a look despite their, ur, limitations.

Dr. Who and the Daleks (1965)

The first, and perhaps most critical, decision was to strip the Doctor of his unearthliness. No longer was he a renegade Time Lord, on the run from his own people. In fact, he wasn't any kind of alien; instead, Dr. Who (a title and a name, not a question) was one of those eccentric inventors that we've all come to know and love over the years, experimenting (as all eccentric inventors must, it seems) with a machine capable of time travel. Why the change? Well, in addition to helping streamline the story without getting bogged down in details, there was a very real reason for the change: as writer Kyle Anderson points out, the deal Subotsky made with Terry Nation didn't include anything other than what was in Nation's Dalek scripts; since the premise of the series was laid out in the very first episode, the Time Lord concept (which was the IP of the BBC) couldn't legally be adapted into the movie. 

Dr. Who has not one, but two granddaughters: Susan (played by Roberta Tovey) and Barbara (Jennie Linden). Barbara's old enough to have a boyfriend, Ian (Roy Castle), so we still have the Barbara-Ian dynamic. Best of all, we have the Daleks—big, bold, and colorful. (The television version on steroids, so to speak.) The plot, adapted to accommodate the changes to the premise and not constrained by the need to segue into the subsequent story, roughly follows that of the TV version: our heroes are whisked off in the time machine that Dr. Who has been working on, a machine he calls Tardis, and wind up on a barren planet called Skaro (although it's not referred to as such until the sequel). The Doctor tricks the others into journeying to the large city they see in the distance, telling them that Tardis' fluid link is leaking and they must try to locate mercury to repair the leak; in reality, there is nothing wrong with the link; the Doctor just wants to investigate.

As they are exploring, the Doctor and his companions are taken prisoner by the Daleks, who confiscate the fluid link from the Doctor, trapping the four on the planet. While in captivity, the Doctor overhears the Daleks talking, and finds out that  find themselves in the middle of a civil war between the human-looking, pacifist Thals and the murderous, Nazi-like Daleks. They also find out that the planet is contaminated by radiation: it keeps the Daleks prisoners inside their casing and the city, and it means death to the travelers unless they can get the anti-radiation drug that conveniently happens to be inside the Tardis. The Doctor makes a deal with the Daleks: if they allow Susan to return to the Tardis and bring back the drug, they will share the drug with the Daleks. 

Stick 'em up!

On her way back from the Tardis, Susan meets Alydon (Barrie Ingham), leader of the Thals, the other race on the planet. The Thals and Daleks are old enemies, having fought the nuclear war that contaminated Skaro. The Thals also have an antidote to the radiation poisoning, but they have problems of their own: their crops have failed, and they're hoping to trade it with the Daleks in return for food. The homicidal Daleks, though, don't need it anymore (thanks to the Doctor), so they lay a trap for the Thals, hoping to wipe them out and take over the planet. 

In a wonderful scene, the Doctor and his companions are able to overwhelm a Dalek, and escape from captivity. They haven't really escaped, though; as long as the Daleks have the fuel link (remember that?), they remain stranded on Skaro. They try to convince the Thals to help them recover the link, but not so fast: remember, the Thals are now pacifists, horrified by the war and vowing never to fight again. But the Doctor, devious as ever (and when it comes to that, Cushing need not take a back seat to William Hartnell), makes as if he's willing to trade the Thal woman Dyoni (Yvonne Antrobus) for the link. In fighting to prevent Dyoni from being used as a hostage, the Thals find out they aren't such pacifists after all, and they launch an attack on the city

The Daleks, for all their fearsomeness, have always had an Achilles wheel, I suppose you would call it; I think it was Tom Baker's Doctor who speculated that it was their inability to think the way humans do, but I've forgotten the details. Anyway, in the movie version they retain that knack for snatching defeat from the jaws of victory; the link is recovered, Ian is able to trick them into accidentally blowing up their own control counsel, and everyone lives happily ever after, or at least until the next movie.*

*James Bond isn't the only one with no time to die, after all. The Daleks never really do disappear, do they?

The movie was, I suppose, successful enough; the always-reliable Wikipedia reports that it was the twentieth biggest British box office moneymaker in 1965. (The #1 movie at the box office that year? The Sound of Music, which could have used a Dalek or two.) The critics hated it, as they often do with movies of the genre; my favorite review is Stuart Heritage's 2013 retrospective look, in which he said, of Roy Castle's Ian, "to call him hammy would be to provide the greatest disservice to pigs." It is perhaps the single biggest mistake that the movies would make; making the Doctor an eccentric scientist is questionable enough, but defensible when considering the terms of the contract. The television version of Ian Chesterton, though, was cut from the bolt of heroic cloth, an intelligent and compassionate teacher who nonetheless maintained his cool when thrust into what would have been an incomprehensible situation for anyone. He was not, under any circumstances, a buffoon, and Castle's portrayal, whether or not dictated by the director and the script, brings credit to no one.

The movie won plaudits for the sets and use of color, but everyone agreed that Cushing, in attempting to take on a role that had already been made iconic by William Hartnell, was in a no-win situation; as a human Doctor, he couldn't possibly satisfy fans of the series, but Subotsky's script* didn't give him enough to do.

*Even though Subotsky was assisted in both movies by David Whitaker, the TV series' first script editor, as well as the ghost writer of the Dalek comic strip. 

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Daleks' Invasion Earth: 2150 A.D. (1966)

By the time we get to Daleks’ Invasion Earth: 2150 AD, we are now in, well, the year 2150, and rather than taking place on Skaro, the action has moved to earth itself, which the Daleks are now attempting to conquer. It was inevitable that there would be a sequel, given the relative success of the first movie and the continuing popularity of the Daleks. Once again, Peter Cushing is on hand as The Doc—I mean, Dr. Who, with Roberta Tovey as Susan. Thankfully, we're spared the Ian/Barbara duo; instead of Roy Castle's bumbling Ian, we have Bernard Cribbins* as bumbling policeman Tom, who accidentally stumbles into the adventure when he mistakes Tardis for a Police Box. (Imagine that.) And Dr. Who's granddaughter Barbara has been replaced by his niece Louise (Jill Curzon), meaning that the Doctor not only has a child out there somewhere, he also has a sibling. How big is this guy's family, anyway?

*Cribbins will return to the Whoniverse in 2007 as Donna Noble's grandfather Wilfred Mott, making him the only actor to play two different companions in any iteration of the story.

At any rate, the Doctor, Susan, Louise and Tom have traveled to London of the year 2150, and discover that the city in a state of near destruction at the hands of the Daleks. (They probably also discovered that even in 2150, England hasn't won the World Cup, but that's a different story.) A resistance has formed (more shades of the World War II allegory), including David (Ray Brooks) and Wyler (Andrew Keir); meanwhile, the Daleks have turned some captured prisoners into brainwashed Robomen (not to be confused with Cybermen or Cybernauts, of course), while other prisoners are forced to work in the mines in Bedfordshire.

The Doctor and his three companions take turns being captured and recaptured during the struggle between the Daleks and the Resistance. Eventually, it transpires that the Daleks' ultimate plan (as opposed to their Master Plan) is to use the mine to blow out the Earth’s core and turn the earth into an interplanetary spaceship from which they can maraud about the universe, and the various elements of the plot contrive to bring everyone to Bedfordshire for the climactic struggle. Looking at diagrams of the mineshafts, the Doctor realizes that an old shaft leads to a convergence between earth's magnetic poles, and that if the Dalek bomb can be redirected to blow up here, it would result in a force that would suck the Dalek saucer into the core, destroying it.

During the ensuing battle, Tom is able to create a ramp that will serve to redirect the bomb; meanwhile, Dr. Who uses the radio to order the Robomen to attack the Daleks, allowing all four of the earthlings to escape. While the Daleks are able to put down the rebellion and release the bomb, their plans are foiled when the bomb explodes and, as the Doctor anticipated, sucks the Daleks into the core, and brings their saucer crashing down on the mine, delivering a blow to the British mining industry perhaps, but saving the rest of the world. Dr. Who and his companions return to the present day, and everyone lives happily ever after—until the next time. . .

Reviews for Invasion Earth: 2150, as was the case with Dr. Who & the Daleks, were mostly negative, with the Times calling it "little advance on the first." The technical depiction of the Daleks once again was the most praiseworthy element of the movie, and critics had kind things to say about the climactic destruction of the Daleks' saucer. Compared to the first movie, Invasion was a financial disappointment, and plans for the third movie, The Chase, were abandoned.  

A criticism often made of Invasion is that Peter Cushing isn't given enough to do, and winds up being more of a device to advance the plot; in fact, Cushing became ill during production of the movie, with the result that his participation was cut back, with some of his scenes rewritten for other characters.

Even while acknowledging the changes that were made to the stories, whether required by the legal terms of the contract or by the running times of the movies (neither of which exceeded 90 minutes), the movies fall short of expectations. The Doctor's male companion, whether Ian or Bernard, is generally unherioc. The plots can be difficult to follow, and a warning should have been included that these movies could induce considerable eye-rolling in anyone over the age of six. There's also a decided superficiality to the movies; while the television series (at least originally) sought to be educational as well as exciting, and with a basis in history as well as rousing adventure, Invasion plays more like a Saturday-afternoon serial—all sugar and no nutrition. 

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And so you're forced to ask the question: why? Why make the movie, when the series is already there? Why use some aspects of the Whovian canon, and not other? In other words, why change it and yet leave it the same? And what does watching the movies today offer to the modern viewer, one who has had far more access to the Doctor Who universe than could have been imagined when the movies came out?

To answer the first question first, the movies offered the obvious appeal of seeing the Daleks in glorious color, and almost larger than life, compared to the television series. For modern eyes, especially those who tend to avoid anything in black-and-white, you can't underestimate the power that comes from seeing in crisp, vivid color for the first time something that's only been viewed previously in various shades of gray. It's almost like viewing a two-dimensional image in three-dimensions--perhaps not as stark, but not far off. 

In addition, there's the status of the movies as a historical document. As one critic perceptively noted, the great value of the movies is that they serve as a visual record of the Hartnell era at a time when those episodes weren't readily available. You might balk at that description, given how much canonical ahistoricality there is, but remember that back then, the original Hartnell episodes were rarely replayed--and, in the United States, they weren't seen at all, except perhaps in brief clips, until the late 1980s. It wasn't as simple as just popping a disc in the DVD player, or streaming it on the Doctor Who Roku channel; if you wanted to see, and not just read about, the genesis of the Daleks (no pun intended), this was about as close as you were going to get. Even with all the changes that the movies, the storylines would have been obviously recognizable to anybody seeing them at the time. And so while we might complain about them, we should also view them with a certain gratitude for the context they can offer.

If the movies do have something of the intellectual content of the Saturday-afternoon serials, it should also be remembered that those serials could be fun. Reviewing Invasion, the film critic for the Times wrote that "Grown-ups may enjoy it, but most children have more sense." Sometimes, though, grown-ups are right about these things; children may have sense, but they're also prone to being very literal, and maybe you need to be a grown-up to appreciate that kind of movie that we have to admit is just a bit silly.

Finally, of course, there's the performance of Peter Cushing himself as The Doctor. After all, he's Peter Cushing, and there's something charismatic just about that.  One of the concessions that the television series had made to William Hartnell's age was to cast William Russell, who had played Sir Lancelot in the ITV series of the same name, as schoolteacher Ian Chesterton; his Ian would be capable of providing the traditionally heroic, action-oriented stunts that an adventure series required. Cushing, however, was more than capable of convincing viewers that he could take care of himself; having played everything from Baron Frankenstein to Profession Van Helsing in the Hammer oeuvre, he didn't need a stand-in, as it were, to assume those duties for him. Perhaps the script does fall short, but Cushing has enough residual hero cred from over the years that he doesn't need the script in order to play the part. 

Unlike Hartnell, Cushing's Doctor is instantly likeable, and doesn't rely on Ian for masculine heroism (a good thing, too). As is so often the case, the best way to approach Dr. Who and the Daleks is to forget about the TV series altogether and just appreciate it for what it is. I didn't have the insight to do that the first time I watched it, back when I was in the throws of discovering the Whoniverse; as a matter of fact, I don't know that I'd even seen Hartnell's Doctor that first time. To watch it that way was a mistake, one I didn't repeat.

And so we're left to wonder what Cushing, an actor of great dignity, would have been like in the TV series.  "With those piercing eyes and his dramatic gravitas," as one critic put it, "he would have been marvelous" as the TV doctor. By the time William Hartnell had handed off the keys to the Tardis, he had morphed into the heroic Doctor that we've all come to know and love; Cushing would have fit that mold magnificently. 

I would quite like to have seen Peter Cushing play the Doctor, with all of his indefinably alien characteristics, on television. And of course, I'm still waiting to see Christopher Lee as The Master. TV  

October 23, 2021

This week in TV Guide: October 25, 1969

This week's cover features William Windom, star of the NBC series My World and Welcome to It. My World is, for the time, a high-concept show combining live action and animation, as Windom plays cartoonist John Monroe, a thinly-disguised version of James Thurber (whose drawings are included in the series). It's a concept that's really ahead of its time, and if you count yourself a fan of Windom and/or Thurber, then you'll probably love it. Not enough did, however, as it ran for only the 1969-1970 season.

I remember watching it at the time and not really getting it, and it would appear this was a concern to others as well. Carolyn See suggests it "sounds a little like a wonderful cake with a few too many ingredients, or maybe an Indian recipe where you're expected to throw in the onion along with the coconut along with the pickled ginger and 23 other items besides." Windom, however, feels that for viewers willing to give it a chance, to "think outside the box" as we might say today, it's worth forgetting any preconceived notions you might have, particularly if you're a Thurber "purist" who might have trouble with his famous cartoons walking and talking. For those who do so, he says, "Then you can make the decision to take it or leave it alone." You might even wind up learning something about Thurber.

Windom's reputation with his colleages is that of a man who is "charming and disarming," (former co-star Inger Stevens), is "not crazy about himself" (a worker on the My World set), may or may not still be a ladies' man (he's currently on his fourth marriage, and there will be one more before his was done), and "enjoys every role that life deals out to him." On that subject, he is adamant. "[T]he main thing in life is to participate," he says. "I read the other day that the average college graduate spends over two hours a day watching television. That's disgraceful. You shouldn't watch life, you should be out in it."  

William Windom seemed to defy typecast. He firmly established himself as a good guy with his role as the Senator in The Farmer's Daughter, and yet he was often cast in guest roles as the villain: the smarmy, slightly greasy con man or killer, or the arrogant but weak authority figure. Later, of course, he'd go on to have a long, long run as Seth in Murder, She Wrote. It appears as if people accepted him as a bad guy as long as he was a guest star, but that he was destined to play the wise, humorous, good-natured type in a series. Whatever; I always enjoyed him, regardless of what he played, up until his death in 2012.

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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: Guests are Liza Minnelli, actor David Hemmings, Henry Mancini, composer-guitarist Mason Williams, Laugh-In's Judy Carne, the rocking Santana and the Trio Hoganas, aerialists.

Palace: Host Engelbert Humperdinck presents Sid Caesar (with Maureen Arthur and Mickey Deems), Nancy Ames, Gladys Knight and the Pips, comedian Jack E. Leonard and English musical-comedy performer Lonnnie Donegan.

Well, this is an interesting pair of lineups.  As we move ever closer to 1970, we see a very different set of guests from what we're used to.  Sullivan's lineup, for example, features Judy Carne, one of the stars of the hippest show of the time; David Hemmings, who starred in Antonioni's iconic Blow-Up; Mason Williams, who composed "Classical Gas" and hung out with the Smothers Brothers; Liza Minnelli, now on the verge of moving beyond being Judy Garland's daughter and Santana, who apparently is ageless.

Englebert, who would get his own variety series in a few month, was ABC's attempt to clone the success they had with Tom Jones, but it didn't pan out. I don't think Nancy Ames ever evolved beyond the B list of the era's singers, and I've never been much of a fan of Gladys Knight, et al. Of all the guests on both shows, it's only Sid Caesar who really hearkens back to an older time. And I'm afraid this isn't going to be enough to save Palace; this week, Sullivan takes the title.

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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 goes back to school, or perhaps it's he who gives us a schooling in what makes for good television. It's ABC's school comedy-drama Room 222, which Cleve quite likes. It's a prime example of the move by sitcoms of the era to become more relevant, dealing with issues, such as race, which previously had not gotten a lot of attention. 

This is apparent in the very first episode, where he relates an uncomfortable conversation between history teacher Pete Dixon (Lloyd Haynes) and student teacher Alice Johnson (Karen Valentine). In her attempt to balance what we'd today call her "white privilege" with her lack of experience being around minorities ("I went to a segregated school," she explains), she tells Dixon, "I think it's so significant that you're colored." (As if he had anything to say in the matter.) Be honest: doesn't it make you wince to read something like that? Then she goes on to ask him, "do you prefer 'colored' or 'Negro' or 'black'?" to which Dixon replies, "I've always preferred Pete." 

Don't worry, though, that this is all the series is about. One of the things Amory really appreciates is how the characters—black as well as white—stay away from stereotypical characterization, showing various shades of grey instead of (pardon the expression) simple black and white portrayals. The writing and acting are both thoughtful, Amory says; "with a little extra work on the writing, a little extra care on the characterizations and, above all, fine acting . . . a half-hour show can give you more for your money than all the old hour-long bang-bangs and beat-beats put together" and in particular he singles out Haynes and the late Michael Constantine for praise. Based on the first two episodes he's seen, Amory finds Room 222 an engrossing new series, concluding, "more power—black and white— to it."

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This week's issue is from upstate New York, which gives us an interesting look at the sports programs of the week. The World Series is over, with the New York Mets having put the finishing touches on their remarkable championship run almost ten days before this issue came out,* and so for the most part the stage belongs to football.

*Remember when the World Series ended before Halloween?

CBLT, Channel 6, coming from Toronto, has Canadian Football Saturday at 2:00 p.m., with the Toronto Argonauts taking on the Ottawa Rough Riders in Ottawa. South of the border, ABC has a Big 10 showdown (2:45 p.m.) between Iowa and Michigan State—showdown being a relative word in this case, since these two former powerhouses have fallen on hard times; Iowa will finish this season 5-5, while Michigan State winds up 4-6. Saturday night belongs to hockey, as Hockey Night in Canada gives us the St. Louis Blues and the Maple Leafs in Toronto. (8:00 p.m, CBC)

On Sunday it's more conventional action, although CFTO in Toronto has another CFL contest, this one between the Hamilton Tiger-Cats and Montreal Alouettes (2:00 p.m., CTV). NBC has the AFL doubleheader this week, with the early game giving us the Buffalo Bills and Miami Dolphins starting at 1:30, followed at 4:00 by the Oakland Raiders and San Diego Chargers. Meanwhile, on CBS' NFL coverage, most of the stations in the area get the St. Louis football Cardinals and the Cleveland Browns (1:30 p.m.), with CBLT picking up coverage of the San Francisco 49ers and Baltimore Colts. (2:00 p.m.)

And while Monday Night Football won't become a TV staple until next year, CBS makes a tentative foray into the prime-time market with a exhibition game pitting the New York Giants and Dallas Cowboys. CBS supposedly turned down the chance for a weekly Monday night game, leading NFL commissioner Pete Rozelle to offer the package to ABC; the rest, as they say, is history. Perhaps as an indication of CBS' apprehension about football's drawing power, the game starts at 9:30, a half-hour later than next year's start time. That way, it's not so disruptive on the schedule—or the ratings.

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It's a big week on television as we approach November.  Let's check out some of the highlights.

The famous dining scene.
On NBC's Saturday Night at the Movies at 7:30 p.m., it's the network broadcast premiere of the Oscar-winning Best Picture of 1963, Tom Jones. (The movie, not the singer.) It's an utterly charming, totally bawdy sex farce, with Finney* never better as the reprobate Tom, accompanied by a zany cast of bizarre characters. Judith Crist, in her stellar revue, wrote that "Movies haven't been the same since," and it's hart to argue with that. You might not think you could produce such a farce out of a novel written in 1749, but Crist praises how the movie "captures [author Henry] Fielding's classic in all the glowing coarseness, robust wit, unadorned venality, forthright hypocrisy, social cruelty and elegant crudity." No wonder it's one of my favorite movies.

*Surely it was an injustice that Finney lost the Best Actor Oscar that year to Sidney Poitier, whom I've always liked. But his performance in Lillies of the Field can't hold a candle to Finney's.

Sunday it's the fourth showing of It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown (7:30 p.m., CBS), the third Peanuts cartoon to make the transition to television. Like A Charlie Brown Christmas but unlike the second cartoon, Charlie Brown's All Stars, it's become an annual tradition; I wonder how much of a role it played in making Halloween the big deal it is today?  One thing I do recall is from grade school, a year or two after this airing, when I was introduced to one of the "Halloween Carols" to which Linus alludes during the cartoon. To the tune of "Jingle Bells", the refrain went, "Pumpkin Bells, Pumpkin Bells/ringing loud and clear,/Oh what fun Great Pumpkin brings/when Halloween is here." Remember when those Peanuts cartoons were shown on network television?

On Monday, we see what ABC hoped would be a revolutionary scheduling concept: the 45-minute program. Not an hour, not a half-hour, just 45 minutes. And there are, of course, two of them, making up a 90-minute block. It all starts at 7:30 p.m. with the rock/pop variety show The Music Scene, and continues at 8:15 p.m. wth The New People, a kind of Lost prototype. ABC obviously hoped their target audience (e.g. young people) would tune in for the music, and just keep it on at 8:15 rather than flipping over to the already-started Laugh-In. They didn't. and by January both shows were off. Surprisingly, in 1976 ABC was to try this strategy again, this time in daytime, with General Hospital and One Life to Live expanding from 30 to 45 minutes. This was more successful, but by 1978 both shows had adopted the more conventional one-hour format.

Tuesday starts off with "The Desert Whales," the latest episode of The Undersea World of Jacques Cousteau, narrated by Rod Serling (7:30 p.m., ABC). That's followed by The Red Skelton Show (8:30 p.m, CBS), with special guest star John Wayne, who's celebrating his 40th year in films. Opposite that, ABC's back with one of their made-for-TV movies, The Young Lawyers, which will return next season, with a slightly different cast, as a regular series. Whatever the viewers saw in the movie apparently doesn't translate to the series, which runs for a mere 24 episodes.

Wednesday has one of the hottest musical acts of the day, along with another big network movie premiere. The musical special stars Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass, with special guest star Petula Clark. Herb Alpert (the "A" in A&M Records) and his trumpet are big stuff throughout the '60s, starting with "The Lonely Bull" and featuring five #1 hits; he and his band win six Grammys.

The movie premiere, on ABC's Wednesday Night Movie, is Georgy Girl, a bittersweet comedy-drama which earned star Lynn Redgrave an Oscar nomination for Best Actress.* Judith Crist calls it "offbeat and kooky and sentimental." You may not have seen the movie, but I'm willing to bet you might remember the theme song, which also was Oscar-nominated. The Seekers perform it here, in a clip from an American Bandstand episode of a couple years before:

*That year Redgrave went head-to-head against her sister Vanessa, who was nominated for Isadora.  Neither Redgrave sister won.

Thursday's variety night if it pleases you. At 8:00 CBS has The Jim Nabors Hour, with Juliet Prowse as guest star. An hour later flip over to ABC, where This Is Tom Jones (the singer, not the movie) boasts Barbara Eden, Wilson Pickett and comics Hendra and Ullett. To round out the evening, turn to The Dean Martin Show (10:00 p.m., NBC), with Tony Bennett, Sid Casesar, Charles Nelson Reilly and Pat Henry.

Friday morning opens with Today (7:00 a.m., NBC), as Judith Crist makes one of her occasional appearances to preview this weekend's new movies. On The Mike Douglas Show, author Irving Wallace promotes his new novel, The Seven Minutes, which is about a book called The Seven Minutes. It's not as strange as it seems, although the story itself is much stranger. At 4:00 p.m. on NBC is a game show I freely admit I'd never heard of, Letters to Laugh-In, hosted by Laugh-In announcer Gary Owens, and featuring two of the show's regulars each week, along with two guest stars. The premise is that viewers send in their favorite jokes, which are then judged by a panel of four. This week, the two Laugh-In stars are Henry Gibson and Teresa Graves, who are joined by Jack Carter and Louis Nye. The show runs for four months. I wonder if it was even shown in the Twin Cities?

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If you've been reading these features for awhile, then you know one of the frequent subjects discussed in TV Guide is the effect on television on children. This week's article, as is often the case, is written by Edith Efron, and asks the question: what can children learn from television?

The process by which children develop their viewing habits is a fascinating one. At age two, the toddler, driven by an overwhelming curiosity, is captivated by "the light and bright and motion." By three, they understand what they're watching and have "distinct preferences." But by the time they reach elementary school, they're being bombarded by so many information and sensory experiences that "no one can untangle, with any precision," what the child picks up from TV as opposed to other sources.

In fact, the data on television's effect on children is often contradictory, as befits a discussion that has only been around for perhaps twenty years. While some experts suggest that "the brightest children are early starters" who would have watched TV from an early age, other studies claim that bright children who watch TV tend to fall behind children who don't. One thing that many experts on both sides agree on, however, is that by age 10 children start to get bored by television, and their viewing tends to decrease. Why? Because by that time children crave mental stimulation, and they don't find it on TV, which for them is a passive experience.

I can understand this. Though I'm often a harsh critic of the quality of TV, particularly in today's programming, I've always defended television in general, particularly the idea that someone who watches a great deal of it tends to be less creative , less communicative, not as smart. For example, I learned much of history not from my time in the high school of The World's Worst Town™, but by watching Alistair Cooke's America. My love of classical music started with Bugs Bunny cartoons, and my fondness for reading was cultivated by Captain Kangaroo. My desire to write, particularly fiction, came from watching movies and critiquing their storytelling as much as by reading, which I often did while watching television. (A habit I maintain to this day, to my wife's exasperation.)

I don't argue that everyone is like me; there are a lot of TV kids who became couch potatoes, and kids who never watched it who are far better at almost everything than I am. But I'll leave it to you, readers, to decide whether or not television is Savior, or Satan.

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Finally, a word about Joe Foss, host of Saturday afternoon's outdoors show The Outdoorsman (4:30 p.m., syndicated). Well, it takes more than a few words, actually, to do him justice. At this point in his life, he's just a TV host, but his accomplishments includes World War II hero (the leading ace in the Marine Corps), Congressional Medal of Honor winner, general in the Air Defense Command, governor of South Dakota, first commissioner of the American Football League, two-term president of the NRA, Director of the United States Air Force Academy. original host of The American Sportsman, and philanthropist. And what have you done today? TV  

October 22, 2021

Around the dial

So what's on tap this week? Plenty, that's what!

At bare•bones e-zine, Jack's Hitchcock Project features the fifth of Joel Murcott's offerings, the fourth-season thriller "Man with a Problem," starring Gary Merrill, Mark Richman, Elizabeth Montgomery, and a satisfying twist ending that I'm positive you'll fall for.

Dave Garroway was an endlessly interesting man, and at Garroway at Large, Jodie lets us in on one of his pre-Today adventures, the Chicago late-night radio show The 11:60 Club, 11:60 being otherwise known as 12:00 midnight. It ends with a great example of how it pays to be the right man in the right place at the right tine. 

"The Evil of the Daleks" is something of a redundancy, I suppose—when, after all, are they not evil? But it also makes for a sinister Doctor Who story from the Patrick Troughton era, as Fire-Breathing Dimetroden Time relates. And speaking of the Daleks, there's more in store at this site this weekend—stay tuned.

At Comfort TV, David takes a look at I Love Lucy at 70. It's hard to imagine Lucy being 70 freaking years old, isn't it? Especially when you watch it in crisp prints, or even ones that have been colorized. The main reason we don't want to think it's that old, I suspect, is because it speaks to our own one-way journey down the finite highway.

Cult TV Blog turns back to the late-60s series The Champions, and the episode "The Final Countdown." What's not to like about an episode that, as John points out, features "Nazi war criminals intent on world domination, unexploded bombs and only The Champions standing between them and their ambition"? I'm there!

Betty Lynn, whom we all know and love as Thelma Lou from The Andy Griffith Show, died this week, aged 95, and at A Shroud of Thoughts, Terence has a look back at the long and successful career of a woman whom Terence says was "known for her sweetness and kindness." 

Finally, a little self-promotion once again, as I'm talking Search with Dan on Episode 114 of Eventually Supertrain. How can you possibly resist spies, apes and doppelgangers? The answer is, you can't. TV