November 29, 2021

What's on TV? Wednesday, November 29, 1961

One of the things I noticed in today's listings was a little note in the description of the U.S. Steel Hour story "Tangle of Truth." "Taped from a live broadcast," it says, and of course it's because of the time difference because we're out here in Oregon this week. No, what's interesting is that, here in late 1961, we still have weekly (or every other week, in the case of the U.S. Steel Hour) shows that are broadcast live. As I've mentioned before, live television is really a different animal from film or tape; by now, other than soap operas and news and sporting events, live broadcasts are pretty much limited to prestige drama anthologies and variety shows that try to capture the energy of live performances. They're not completely gone in 1961, but they're becoming fewer and farther between.

November 27, 2021

This week in TV Guide: November 25, 1961

In 1962, Bob Dylan adapted a Canadian folk tune called "Peter Emberly" into a song which he titled "The Ballad of Donald White." It's not one of his more well-known songs, and he didn't perform it often, possibly because he only wrote the lyrics.

The song begins:

               My name is Donald White, you see,
               I stand before you all.
               I was judged by you a murderer
               And the hangman's knot must fall.
               I will die upon the gallows pole
               When the moon is shining clear,
               And these are my final words
               That you will ever hear.

In Anthony Scaduto biography of Dylan, a friend named Sue Zuckerman recounts the story behind the writing of the song. Zuckerman "recalls watching television* with [Dylan and Suze Rotolo] one night (February 12, 1962). The program was about crime and capital punishment—a film called 'A Volcano Named White.' A 24-year-old black man was sitting in his prison cell in Texas talking about his life, its oppression, his cries for help that were ignored, until he finally killed somebody and was now waiting to be executed. "Bobby just got up at one point," Miss Zuckerman says, "and he went off in the corner and started to write. He just started to write, while the show was still on, and the next thing I knew he had this song written, Donald White."

*WPIX in New York.

On Wednesday night at 8:00 PT, we see the original telecast of that documentary, The Volcano Named White, produced by Seattle's KING-TV and broadcast on its sister station, Portland's KGW. Scaduto's description of the show isn't quite on the mark; White's crime occurred not in Texas but in Washington State. But the bones of the story are there: on December 24, 1959, Don White was accused of the murder of two people, strangers he had never met: a white great-grandmother and a black longshoreman. White was arrested and tried for the crime, and in May 1960 a jury found him guilty and sentenced him to death. Today, he sits on death row in the state prison at Walla Walla, waiting while his appeal follows the process.

The story, narrated mostly by White himself, examines "the shortcomings of society which contribute to the creation of a criminal and killer" through the environment in which the 24-year-old White grew up: an intolerable childhood spent with an unbalanced foster mother, in and out of reformatories and jails, receiving medical treatment in various institutions. And yet White is also a talented writer and painter with an IQ of 120. And so the question is raised: how does a man like this wind up a brutal killer in the death house? 

You can see how Dylan would be tempted to romanticize White's plight, at a time when the civil rights issue is front and center. Look at how Scaduto accepts the  narriative that White sits imprisoned in Texas—don't things like this always happen in the South?

In fact, the murders which White committed aren't quite as romantic as the folk ballads would have it. In 1962, White appealed his death sentence to the Washington Supreme Court; the Court decision denying his appeal includes White's own description of the first murder, that of Mrs. Alice Jumper (my apologies to anyone who might be bothered by the graphic language):



As I was passing the laundry room, I looked in and noticed a white woman doing something with some clothes. She was either folding or hanging up clothes. I decided to go into the laundry room to use the head. The woman had her back to me as I entered the door and was standing over by one of the dryers. I walked past the woman into the back and tried the door to the head but it was locked. I then turned around and started back out. When I got even with the woman I just punched her with my fist knocking off her glasses and knocking her to the floor. The glasses slid across the floor to a spot near the door. The woman wasn't knocked unconscious by my blow and she grabbed me around the legs and by one hand. I then lifted her up off the floor real fast and fairly high so that her legs flew up in the air. I then dropped her and her head hit the cement floor before the rest of her body. The woman still wasn't unconscious and was trying to get up. I then picked her up and took her back into a small storage room. I laid her down on the cement floor on her back with her head toward the door. She still wasn't unconscious so I hit her three or four times with my fists in her face. She didn't move anymore then except she sort of raised her arm and I removed her watch and ring. I then started to leave but then came back to where she was lying. I had earlier torn off her panties and had ripped her dress so when I got back into the room I had sexual intercourse with her. I had intercourse with her for about a minute but did not reach a climax. I would describe this woman as being about 45 or 46 yrs. of age with grayish black hair and with a stocky build. I don't remember what kind of clothes she was wearing. As I walked back out of the storage room, I noticed the woman's glasses laying near the door. I picked them up and put them in a laundry tub nearby. 

To top things off, White would, later that day, murder black longshoreman Willie Leroy Dixon at Seattle's Yesler Terrace Housing Project. Keep in mind that this murder, as well as the subsequent murder White committed, occurred on Christmas Eve. White was convicted of first-degree murder in Mrs. Jumper's death, and second-degree murder for the death of Dixon.

White's appeal does not claim innocence; the above, after all, comes from his own confession. Instead, the appeal is based on several technical issues, including White's confession having been recorded without his knowledge, and the refusal of the trial judge to permit psychiatric testimony that had been obtained under the influence of truth serum, which would have enabled the jury to "better understand the basis of the psychiatrist's opinion that [White] had a psychotic reaction which was chronic, recurrent, and episodic." Although White's appeal was denied and the U.S. Supreme Court refused to get involved, a subsequent appeal was upheld in U.S. District Court, overturning White's conviction and ordering a new trial, which occurred in 1966 and resulted once again in White's conviction, and this time a sentence of two concurrent life terms. Washington Governor Daniel Evans commuted White's sentence to time served on June 30, 1972. 

Bob Dylan's song ends with the following lines:

               But there's just one question
               Before they kill me dead,
               I'm wondering just how much
               To you I really said
               Concerning all the boys that come
               Down a road like me,
               Are they enemies or victims
               Of your society?

To the best of my knowledge, neither Dylan nor anyone else wrote a song upon White's release. 

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There are other, less volatile, programs on this week. 

For most of the country, this weekend's top college football matchup pits undefeated Ohio State against bitter archrival Michigan, but you can probably tell by the way this sentence begins that such will not be the case in this week's issue. Yes, out West, viewers are getting the battle for the Apple Cup between Washington State and Washington, live from Seattle. (Saturday, 1:15 p.m., ABC) Washington, winner of last season's Rose Bowl, enters the game with a record of 4-4-1, while Washington State, led by end Hugh Campbell (who will win five consecutive Grey Cup championships as a coach of the Edmonton Eskimos) is 3-6. Maybe it's not Ohio State-Michigan, but it's a tight game anyway, won by Washington 21-17. 

Later Saturday (8:30 p.m., CBS), The Defenders presents an intriguing situation: the Prestons (E.G. Marshall, Robert Reed) defend a man (Edward Binns) who was arrested for a murder committed during a robbery. He then suffered a complete nervous breakdown, and has spent the last 25 years in a mental hospital. He's now being released—and he'll be put on trial for the crime. The premise reminds me a lot of the Naked City episode "Which Is Joseph Creeley?" which I wrote about here. (And, you'll note, my friend David Hofstede cited this episode in his comment on that piece. I love it!)

On Sunday (8:00 p.m., CBS), Ed Sullivan's guests are actor Richard Boone, singers Johnny Mathis, Sophie Tucker and Gloria Lynne, comedians Jackie Mason and Will Jordan, and country singers Deedy and Bill. Later, Hugh Downs appears as himself in Car54, Where Are You? (8:30 p.m., NBC)—Toody and Muldoon (Joe E. Ross, Fred Gwyne) nick Hugh for speeding, and try to leverage it into getting their friend on the Jack Paar show. (Hugh, by the way, fills in for Jack on Tuesday night.) 

One sure way to tell what the hot trends are is to watch kids shows; on Monday, the space race comes to Kukla and Ollie (5:00 p.m., KGW), as Kukla interviews the first "lady astronaut"—Beulah Witch. (Who beats Valentina Tereshkova into space by a good 18 months.) Jimmy Durante, playing himself, is special guest on The Danny Thomas Show (9:00 p.m., CBS), and Dennis Hopper is—what else?—a psychopathic killer on 87th Precinct. (9:00 p.m., NBC) No typecasting at all, right?

If you're a fan of MST3K, or schlock horror movies in general, you'll recognize the premise of Tuesday's Red Skelton Show (9:00 p.m., CBS), which features special guests Marie Windsor and John Carradine: in a sketch called "The Great Brain Robbery," Dr. Prager (Carradine) plans to send a gorilla into space with a human brain—George Appleby's (Red). Next, on the discussion show Family Castle, it's the first seasonal program of the year: a method of wrapping Christmas presents for mailing is shown. (9:30 p.m., KOAP)

A few months ago I wrote about the David L. Wolper documentary series Hollywood and the Stars; Wednesday we see the de facto pilot for that series, Hollywood: The Golden Years (7:30 p.m., NBC), a one-hour look at Hollywood's silent era, culminating with the premiere of The Jazz Singer. Gene Kelly narrates; Elmer Bernstein composed and conducted the music. If you're more interested in the present than the past, Steve Allen gives you a good reason to feel that way: special guest Sophia Loren. (7:30 p.m., ABC)

Some classy entertainment on Thursday, but you'll need two sets to catch them both. At 9:30 p.m. on NBC, Hallmark Hall of Fame presents "Victoria Regina," with Julie Harris as Queen Victoria, James Donald as Prince Albert, and Basil Rathbone as Disraeli. That takes you to 11:00, which means you'd miss all of Yves Montand on Broadway (10:00 p.m., ABC), as the French star teams up with Polly Bergen, John Raitt, Helen Gallagher, and Bobby Van. A pair of great shows, but they'll cost you Sing Along With Mitch and The Untouchables in return.

On Friday, Leonard Bernstein and the New York Philharmonic return with a new season of Young People's Concerts (7:30 p.m., CBS; the first in the series to be shown in primetime). Tonight's subject: "What is Impressionism?" No, it's not Rich Little or Frank Gorshin; it's the French composers Debussy and Ravel. (Follow the link to the video.) I'm sure this would be considered way too elitist for kids today. And Dinah Shore takes the prize for star power (9:30 p.m., NBC), with her guests Frankie Avalon, Nelson Eddy, and Milton Berle. And it's all brought to you by S&H Green Stamps!

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In addition to The Volcano Named White, a couple of other shows merit pullout status. First, NBC's occasional documentary series Now. . . In Our Time presents "The Good Ship Hope" (Tuesday, 7:30 p.m.), a look at the famed American hospital ship (privately financed) that travels around the world, spreading medicine and good will. Ralph Bellamy narrates, and in a separate article writes about the journey that he calls "one of the most dramatic experiences of my life."

The S.S. Hope spent nearly nine months in Indonesia and South Vietnam, "[providing] medical training—and some curing, operative and postoperative treatment" in the area. Bellamy recounts the conditions the doctors found, which left them "in something bordering on disbelief" as they toured Bien Vien Hospital in Saigon, as "hundreds of the lame and the blind were streaming in off the streets," waiting patiently for the doctors to get to them. Hope doctors became involved immediately, helping the overworked doctors treat some of the 2,500 patients they saw every day. From Saigon, the doctors headed to Can Tho, an area in which Vietcong guerrillas operated almost every night, and then to Phung-hiep, where guerrillas had attacked just two hours before. Bellamy describes how the villagers live in fear of the Communists—"[T]hese gentle people want no part of Communism. They are furiously opposing it. They're desperate for help. They are deeply moved by the American help being given through the SS Hope." It is, indeed, quite a story.

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Hope of another kind is the message of Billy Graham in his article "Spreading the Word Throughout the World," a tie-in to an NBC documentary The World of Billy Graham, that airs Wednesday at 10:00 p.m., almost as an antidote to The Volcano Named White. The documentary, narrated by Alexander Scourby, tells of how the North Carolina farm boy became a internationally-renowned evangelist and confidant of world leaders and presidents, and shows Graham both on the road and back home in Montreat, North Carolina.

"Christianity," writes Graham, "is a faith with a built-in compulsion to communicate. It is a secret that cannot be kept; a light that cannot be hidden; a dynamic that cannot be contained." Its progress began with the apostles traveling by ship and communicating the message via letters to Asia Minor and Europe; Gutenberg's press carried the Word through books written in the common language of the people. Radio enabled the Gospel to be taken to the ends of the world. And now, television: as the Chinese say, "A picture is worth a thousand words," and television, Graham writes, is the ideal medium to fulfill Christ's command that the Word should be proclaimed throughout the world. 

Graham relates how, during the 14 weeks in which his New York Crusade was televised Saturday nights on ABC, "scores and hundreds of people were brought to Christ and the church." One man, listening to the broadcast in a bar, "left his drink and ran to Madison Square Garden, where he took his place with those deciding for Christ." He then returned to the family from which he had been separated. A pharmacist 700 miles away locked up his store and traveled to New York; he's now studying for the ministry.

Television makes this evangelization possible, Graham says. In an era when the threat of Communism and its dedicated followers is omnipresent, it is only through a moral and spiritual awakening that the threat can be defeated. And Graham is convinced that "television, as the greatest means of communication, has a vast responsibility in the rekindling of spiritual values in the West." What more can you say to that besides "Amen"? TV  

November 26, 2021

Around the dial

Happy day-after-Thanksgiving to you all, and hopefully you've recovered from yesterday's tryptophan coma (which, as we all know, is just an urban legend). Classic television, of course, does not take time off for holidays, so we're back with a reduced, but still potent, trip around the dial.

We begin with Drunk TV (which is how some of you might feel today) and a look at the infamous 1978 Star Wars Holiday Special, which Paul assures us is "what today's world needs." Find out what's behind his thinking at this very special post.

At Cult TV Blog, John brings us to the insane humor of The Goodies, the 1970s Pythonesque comedy which John calls "stonking good television." We really are going to have to have a conversation someday about what I should be watching with my region-free DVD player.

RealWeegieMidget takes a look at "Cop Out," a first-season episode from Hart to Hart, with the late Markie Post in a guest-starring role. At MANC a few years ago I got to see Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers, who were as charming and witty as they are on TV. Just think: wealthy, good-looking, and smart: Nick and Nora Charles live!

Once Upon a Screen celebrates its tenth anniversary this week, and Aurora takes a look back at some of the blog's hits from the last decade. Take some time to read the highlights, and follow the links to read a lot of terrific writing.

As I'm writing this, I'm also watching Miracle on 34th Street, the greatest Christmas movie ever, which starts with the memorable image of a drunk Santa, portrayed by Percy Helton. At A Shroud of Thought, Terence takes a closer look at Helton's filmography, one loaded with noir and other dark roles.

And speaking of noir, don't miss The Last Drive In and 31 flavors of noir that are sure to draw you in. It may be the most wonderful time of the year, after all, but that doesn't mean everything needs to be merry and bright. TV  

November 24, 2021

Let's give thanks for Thanksgiving!

Some of you may know that we've been in the process of relocating, once again. During the lifespan of this blog, I've written from seven different homes, and this one makes it eight. There's an air of permanance about this one, and though I've said that before, this time I mean it. 

Anyway, everything's gone resoundingly well, for which we're quite thankful. And it's appropriate to feel that way, seeing as how tomorrow's Thanksgiving Day. It's one of my favorite holidays, second only to Christmas, filled with happy memories of parades, football, and food. Since last year's celebration was pretty much a fizzle (thanks to the virus and our politicians), there's a feeling that Thanksgiving is back this year, and given that we're not completely settled in yet, I hope you'll indulge me in a flashback to a couple of Thanksgivings ago

As we know, it's all too easy to take these kinds of things for granted; hopefully, you'll spend the day with family and friends, and take the meaning of the day to heart. 

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t's been said that in New York, people refer to it as the "Macy's Day Parade," such is the identification the parade has with Thanksgiving. There are other, and older, Thanksgiving parades; Detroit, Philadelphia, Chicago, and Houston come to mind. And, if you ask me, the telecast of the Macy's parade has suffered over the years; the floats and bands and balloons almost seem to take second place to the pop stars and dancers lip-synching their way through Herald Square. If I wanted to torture myself that way, I'd watch the Grammys. (I don't know if MTV has music anymore, but if it does. . .) And with the current crew from Today doing the announcing, the parade sometimes becomes unwatchable.

But I come here not to bury the Macy's parade, but to praise it. No matter how bad the coverage may be (and whether you watch it on NBC or CBS, it's equally bad), I still have to catch a few minutes of it while flipping back and forth between the other parades. And when you strip away all that's annoying, it's still magically colorful. (Probably the best way to see it is to go to New York and view it from a point where the pop stars aren't warbling.) Take a trip through the years with the ads below, most of which have a prominent mention of the television coverage.

There was no TV for the first parade, though. I wonder if anyone thought it would last.

No parade was held between 1942 and 1944 due to the war. I'm guessing this might have been from the first year without the parade; having the balloons enlist is a clever way to make the point that everyone needs to sacrifice for the war effort.

This ad for the 1954 parade is just fun, don't you think? It sums up the magic of Thanksgiving and Christmas all in one. Believe it or not, the parade was first televised in 1946; you can see that by 1954, it's become an integral part of a company's advertising strategy.

The 1963 parade went on as scheduled, even thought it was six days after the assassination of President Kennedy, and the day after Lyndon Johnson's speech to a somber joint session of Congress. The rationale was to try and keep the day as normal as possible for children. All of the floats were adorned with black mourning streamers.

McDonald's was a sponsor of the telecast in 1965; it looks kind of like kids were supposed to color this in, doesn't it? And take a look at the vintage version of the Golden Arches at the bottom. Remember when all McDonald's looked that way?

An ad for the 1968 parade, from WRGB-TV in Albany, New York.

The 1982 parade; Bullwinkle is in the parade for the 22nd time, despite the fact that Rocky and Bullwinkle haven't been on network TV since 1964. The years may change, but the characters stay the same.

Garfield the cat appeared for the first time in the 1984 parade, as did Raggedy Ann, at least this incarnation. As the small print says, be sure to "See it live or on NBC-TV.!

Here's the poster for tomorrow's parade. It's filled with the iconic images from history; the Tom Turkey float (which from that angle inspires thoughts of the NBC Peacock—coincidence?), the elves, and, of course, Santa. And speaking of iconic, there's Snoopy in his space suit, throwing back to the famous image of him that became so popular around the 1969 moon landing. And notice the things you didn't see on the other posters: the web address and hashtag. 

Even though I complain about them, the parades are one of my favorite things about Thanksgiving. Thanks to those miracles of technology, you can see the Macy's parade, as well as those in other cities, via streaming video (in the case of Macy's, the cameras from other locations probably make for a better viewing experience). Whatever, wherever, and however you watch, I hope it lends to the pleasure of your day, and that you all have a peaceful and most thankful Thanksgiving Day! TV  

November 22, 2021

What's on TV? Tuesday, November 25, 1958

I don't know much about the history of Nebrasa television, other thank that glorious moment in 1975 when it turned out that NBC had spent upwards of $1 million to design a new logo that was, except for the colors, an exact duplicate of the sylized "N" that Nebraska public television used. It was tremendously embarrassing, and it served NBC right; they should never have gotten rid of the snake logo in the first place. Anyway, this week's edition covers the Nebraska/South Dakota/Iowa area, America's heartland.

November 20, 2021

This week in TV Guide: November 22, 1958

Xne of the things I've noted in the past regarding Thanksgiving is that because it doesn't have a fixed date, you're never entirely sure when it's going to show up in a late November TV Guide. Fortunately, this week happens to be one of those happy occurrences, and since you could be reading this at any time of the week, it should fit right in with whatever you're doing, from finishing off that pumpkin pie to hanging your Christmas decorations.

I've also commented on how Thanksgiving isn't quite what it used to be, but when one looks at how it was in 1958, you can really see the changes. Take the parades, for example: CBS used to show multiple parades prior to casting its lot exclusively with the Macy's parade, but in 1958 there are but two, neither of them in New York. The coverage starts at 9:15 a.m. CT (following an abbreviated 15-minute edition of For Love or Money) with Captain Kangaroo himself, Bob Keeshan, hosting a 45-minute telecast of the Hudson's Thanksgiving Day Children's Parade* in Detroit. Following that, it's Arthur Godfrey's half-hour morning show at 10:00 a.m., which the Old Redhead will interrupt periodically to look in on the Gimbles Toyland Parade in Philadelphia, where the grand marshal is Jimmy Dean and the TV Guide float is ridden by Orson Bean and Pat Carroll.

*I've never seen it referred to in that way, as the "Children's Parade," but a quick spin around the web shows several such references in this era. 

Over on NBC, where Macy's parade coverage has swollen to three hours in recent years, the 1958 broadcast runs but an hour, with Bert "Miss America" Parks and Frank Blair, newscaster on Today, as hosts. The big story in this year's parade is the workaround required to get the balloons aloft because of the nationwide helium shortage. For awhile there were concerns that the balloons might have to be abandoned, but ultimately they were saved with an ingenious solution: they were inflated with regular air and held aloft by cranes.*

*Helium is still in short supply, although there's been no serious threat to ditch the balloons. This article tells more about the growing demand for, and shortage of, helium.

Football coverage was different as well. This year features three NFL games* and a pair of college tilts, but in 1958 the number of games was two: the traditional game in Detroit featuring the Lions and the Green Bay Packers at 11:00 a.m. on CBS, and the annual college game between Texas and Texas A&M at 1:45 p.m. on NBC. The Lions and Packers don't play every Thanksgiving anymore, although they do play on Turkey Day more often than would be dictated by random choice. Texas and Texas A&M, bitter rivals for a century, don't play each other at all anymore, thanks to conference realignment. This will probably change in the next few years with more conference realignment, but for now it's yet another example of progress not necessarily constituting an improvement.

*Still falling short of the four that were telecast in the last year prior to the NFL/AFL merger: two in each league.

Before the Texas-A&M game, KMTV Channel 3, the NBC affiliate in Omaha, has an appropriate special on at 12:30 p.m.—The Mayflower Story, a color documentary on the ship Mayflower II, an exact replica of the original, which traveled across the Atlantic in 1957, docking in New York City on July 1 of that year, after which her captain and crew received a ticker-tape parade along the city's Canyon of Heroes. You can see a brief clip of the ship's 1958 arrival in Washington here.

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There aren't many other specifically Thanksgiving-oriented shows this week, although Red Skelton's Freddie the Freeloader looks for a free turkey dinner on Tuesday's program (8:30 p.m., CBS), and Lawrence Welk's Wednesday night show (he was on twice a week at this point) is his Thanksgiving special—but more about that on Wednesday. There may be others that were not described as such in the listings. And anyway, the holiday period has always been a prime one for specials, and this year is no different. For starters, I didn't know Dean Martin did a yearly series of NBC specials a year long before he started his weekly series, but on Saturday night at 8:00 p.m., Deano kicks off his first special of the season, with special guests Bing Crosby and Phil Harris.

On Monday, The Voice of Firestone (8:00 p.m., ABC) celebrates its 30th anniversary, having started on radio in 1928; from 1949, when the television version began, until 1956, when the radio version ended, the program was simulcast on both TV and radio. The program celebrates its anniversary with some of the biggest names in opera: Rosalind Elias, Anna Moffo, Cesare Valletti and Cesare Siepi (but no Maria Callas). The host is John Daly, taking time off his ABC newscasting duties and CBS What's My Line? hosting. Busy guy. Later that evening, CBS's Desilu Playhouse presents "The Time Element," the de facto pilot for The Twilight Zone, which I wrote about when it was rerun the following April. And the following night, NBC's Eddie Fisher Show is preempted for a special presentation of Shirley Temple's Storybook, the telling of Hans Christian Andersen's "The Emperor's New Clothes." Not a bad week's lineup.

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Sportswise, the college football season winds down with the season-ending game between Iowa, winner of the Big Ten Championship, and Notre Dame. It's a down year for the Fighting Irish, as is the case any time the university isn't contending for the national championship, although their reputation does secure for them the #17 national ranking. For Iowa, their 31-21 victory over Notre Dame, followed by a 38-12 defeat of California in the Rose Bowl, gives them an 8-1-1 record, good enough for the #2 ranking behind undefeated Sugar Bowl champ LSU.*

*Interestingly enough, 1958 was the first year to feature the two-point conversion, introduced to help enliven what was, in Michigan athletic director Fritz Crisler's description, "the dullest, most stupid play in the game." Nearly 60 years later, people still describe the point-after that way, which causes me to ask where the progress is.

If you're in the mood for some "ice hockey," CBS has it with its NHL Game of the Week Saturday afternoon, featuring the Detroit Red Wings and Boston Bruins from Boston Garden. (I would love to see footage of that game.) If the NFL suits you better, there is a game aside from the Thanksgiving Day feature, with CBS carrying the Chicago Cardinals hosting the Pittsburgh Steelers. There's also some NBA action on Sunday, with the St. Louis Hawks and Cincinnati Royals playing on NBC.*

*Just to recap, the Chicago Cardinals moved to St. Louis and then Phoenix, where they're now known as the Arizona Cardinals. The St. Louis Hawks came from Milwaukee and would move on to Atlanta, while the Cincinnati Royals, once the Rochester (NY) Royals, later became the Kansas City-Omaha Kings, the Kansas City Kings, and now the Sacramento Kings. At least the Steelers stayed put.

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This week's starlet is Diana van der Vlis, who might be the next Grace Kelly, or Maria Schell, or Eva Marie Saint. But what she looks forward to is the day when someone might come up to her and say, "I've seen an actress who looks just like you." She's earned her acting chops, from Broadway to B movies to television guest roles in shows such as Kraft Television Theater and Naked City. She's done a pilot, but the show hasn't yet been picked up. (And in fact never will be.) Her greatest fame will come on the daytime circuit, most notably in the soaps Ryan's Hope and Where the Heart Is. One thing's for sure, though: when you've seen her once, you'll never miss seeing her again.

And a note from TV Teletype that Jennifer Lea has been signed to play Carl Reiner's wife in Reiner's new series Man of the House. The series never made it, but a few years later Reiner retooled and recast it, and it wound up as The Dick Van Dyke Show. Hmm—Jennifer Lea as Laura Petrie? Or Barbara Britton, as rumor had it? I think it would have been worth a look.

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And now to the cover story: Ronald Reagan and his actress-wife, Nancy Davis Reagan. The "athletically lanky and likable" Ronnie, now 47, has for the last four years been the host and occasional star of General Electric Theater on CBS, and he and Nancy will appear on the show Sunday night, in the ironically-named "A Turkey for the President." Reagan doesn't play the president—that would come 22 years later, in the role of his life—he plays the father of a boy who enters his personal turkey in a contest, only to find out the "winner" of the contest gets to serve as the president's Thanksgiving dinner.

It's not that Reagan's career is winding down, but he's at a point where he's less interested in what the critics think than what the sponsor and its employees think. He's acutely aware that part of his job is to keep GE happy, and he uses the feedback he receives from employees, which he gets regularly while touring GE plants nationwide, to help formulate his opinions about what television should be like. "People will accept art on TV," Reagan says perceptively. "They want art, not just amusement. They'll accept an unhappy ending. But they do want to know what happens after the story ended and they want to know why. They do not want to be left dangling in the air after a TV show." One other thing they want: "stars, stars, stars."

The unbylined article contains most of the biographical information we've come to know over the years: the beginning calling Cubs games on WHO radio, the trip to California, where he would star in movies, his marriages to Jane Wyman and Nancy, his time as president of the Screen Actors Guild, and his current role as corporate spokesman, in which he may make as many as 15 speeches a day—not only to GE employees, but to Rotary, Lions and Kiawinis clubs, churches and chambers of commerce. It will not only polish his public speaking, it will give him a unique opportunity to tour the country, speaking to ordinary persons, making connections and leaving impressions that will be remembered in years to come. The writer observes that Reagan appears to enjoy this part of the job most of all.

What's fascinating about this, at least to me, is that we're not reading about this in an after-the-fact biography, or listening to a political analyst talking about it in the past tense. We're seeing it as it happens. In fact, though few (including Reagan himself) would realize it at the time, we are watching, in real time, the embryonic stages of Ronald Reagan's campaign for the presidency. It is happening before our very eyes, and though we aren't even aware of it, we can suspect that more than one person from the 250,000 he meets during this time will come away from their encounter mightily impressed by the meeting, impressed by the man.

Nobody would have predicted what would come next,would have predicted that Ronald Reagan would not stop giving speeches when GE Theater went off the air in 1962, would not return to acting after his final picture, The Killers, would not return to Hollywood at all but would wind up in Sacramento as governor, in Washington, D.C. as the last larger-than-life president. But there it is, the future staring right at us in black-and-white. And we don't even know it. TV  

November 19, 2021

Around the dial

We'll start off the week at Garroway at Large, where Jodie shares a charming tribute to Garroway at the Chicago School of television locally produced by a group from Chicago. It really is a treat to watch, and one wonders if there will be many such affectionate tributes to today's programs. Take some time to watch it!

Christmas shows ain't what they used to be (but then, what is?), but there's still a little something for everyone, and Joanna shares the details at Christmas TV History. And by the way, wouldn't one of her books make an ideal present under the tree for the Christmas fan in your household?

Back in the days before story arcs and serialized television, two-part episodes of your favorite program used to be quite the bomb. But every once in a while, even two episodes wouldn't be enough to contain a story, and at Comfort TV, David takes a look at those rare three-parters, and how effective they were.

If we're going to talk about George Sanders and television, you might well think of his portrayal of Mr. Freeze on Batman, but as Rick points out at Classic Film & TV Cafe, there were many memorable big-screen roles in the life of this suave, elegant actor.

At Cult TV Blog, John takes another first-time look at The Adventurer, the 1972-74 British series starring Gene Barry as a multi-millionaire secret agent—imagine that. Barry Morse and Catherine Schell co-star. And yes, there's white Jaguar footage.

Broken Arrow, the 1956 ABC series starring Michael Ansara and based on the 1950 movie of the same name, was, for the time, a sympathetic portrayal of American Indians—and one of the first to feature such a character as the series lead. At A Shroud of Thoughts, Terence takes time to remember a series that most have forgotten.  

That's it for the week; while blogging might be light next week, we'll be back to bring you the best. TV  

November 15, 2021

What's on TV? Friday, November 21, 1969

This week we travel to New York City for our pre-Thanksgiving listings. There were listings from a few other channels in New Jersey and Connecticut, but we're sticking with New York, New York. After all, if you can make it there, you can make it anywhere, right?

I'm always impressed with the local talent on the New York network affiliates; so many of them are either future network stars, or already appear on the network. Look at WNBC's 11 p.m. news: Jim Hartz, who in 1974 becomes host of Today after the death of Frank McGee*, is the news anchor; Dr. Frank Field, who frequently appears on Today as the network meteorologist, gives the weather; and former New York Giants great Kyle Rote, who announces AFL games on Sundays with Curt Gowdy, does the sports. See, they made it everywhere, but they made it in New York first.

*Fun fact: Jim Hartz also succeeds Hugh Downs as host of the PBS series Over East; he must have had something of a cottage industry taking over for former Today show hosts.

November 13, 2021

This week in TV Guide: November 15, 1969

A funny thing happened on the way to television's coverage of the second manned lunar landing. The funny thing involved an astronaut, Pete Conrad; a camera lens; and the sun. We can all laugh about it now if we choose, but back then nobody was laughing at the funny thing that wasn't really funny.

The lunar module Intrepid touched down early Wednesday morning, and the moon walk was scheduled for about 5:00 a.m. Minneapolis time. I'd gotten up much earlier than I usual, just to see the beginning of the walk, even though I'd have to leave for school before it was over. What I got to see that morning - what anybody got to see - was Conrad, the mission commander, walk down the ladder to the surface of the moon. Unlike Apollo 11, this broadcast was in color (from the moon!), and it promised to be spectacular. Conrad went to set up the camera, and as he did so it accidentally pointed at the sun. There was a flash, a brief flicker of an image, and then about two-thirds of the picture went black. It was still that way by the time I had to head for school, and despite all their efforts, it appeared it was going to be hard to get that camera to work.

As it was, NASA never was able to do anything about the lens - it was destroyed, and that was all anyone got to see of the famed second moon walk. There's no reason not to replay those memorable moments, though, so here's a look at Conrad descending to the moon's surface, followed by the unfortunate incident with Conrad, the camera, and the sun.

I had completely forgotten how absolutely stunning the color video of Conrad was, in comparison to the relatively ghostly images we'd seen of Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldren. Of course, the mind boggles at what it would be like today, with HD video of astronauts walking on the moon. But it's all relative.

That little glimpse of the moon's surface was the last we'd see for awhile; Apollo 13, of course, never got to the moon, but had to loop around and head back to earth after the explosion. It wasn't until Apollo 14, in February 1971, before we'd see men walk again on the moon. By December 1972, the moon landings were over, and they have yet to resume. Ah, it was something while it lasted, though.

I feel sorry for those of you too young to have been around when the Apollo program was riding high. You take it all for granted nowadays - back then, we lived through it. What a time it was!

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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. 

If Doris Day can have her own show, you may wonder, why not Debbie Reynolds? Well, Cleveland Amory can tell you why not Debbie Reynolds.

It's not that Debs is bad at what she does—she's very good at it, in fact, displaying "a tremendous amount of drive and spirit and bounce and effervescence and just about any other quality you can name." But, he points out, "these are not necessarily the qualities you want to see coming at you - especially so soon after dinner." Especially not in a sitcom—The Debbie Reynolds Show—that has such a derivative sit to it. Debbie plays the wife of a sportswriter; they live next door to her sister, who's married to his best friend. Debbie's 11-year-old nephew edits the neighborhood gossip rag. "Can you bear it? Please do. Because if you can, you can also bear with the plots," which, Amory writes, appear to be "thought up on the basis of how many different costumes they permit Miss Reynolds to wear."

The maddening thing, he says, is that there's a funny show somewhere here, and Debbie has what it takes to pull off the satire of the housewife who wants to be more. "But it's all so overdone, so overproduced and overacted, that it's a crashing overbore." He has kind words for most of the cast, especially Tom Bosley as Debbie's brother-in-law, but Patricia Smith, playing her sister, is far too broad, as are most of the guest stars. However, the best part of each show comes at the end, when "Miss Reynolds comes out dressed to the nines to say goodnight. We always look forward to that."

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It's a week without "Sullivan vs. The Palace." Ed's holding up his end of the deal, with a spectacular guest list including Carol Lawrence, Douglas Fairbanks, ballet dancers Edward Villella and Patricia McBride, Jack Carter, Moms Mabley, Creedence Clearwater Revival, Jerry Lee Lewis, and Karen Wyman. I'll say in advance that if The Hollywood Palace had been able to top that, it would have been a hell of a show.

However, ABC has chosen to preempt Palace for a rare prime-time college football matchup (kickoff at 9:30 p.m.!), as Notre Dame travels to Atlanta to take on Georgia Tech. The Fighting Irish, led by star quarterback Joe Theismann, come into the game ranked #9 in the country, and don't disappoint, defeating Tech 38-20. It's a historic season for Notre Dame, the year they finally abandon their decades-long policy of not going to bowl games. Come January 1, they'll play #1 Texas in the Cotton Bowl, their first time bowling since the 1925 Rose Bowl. They lose that game 21-17, but beat Texas in a rematch the next year, and have seldom been out of the bowl picture since.

Tonight's game is on opposite the second of two time capsule episodes on CBS, both out of the Henning factory. First, on Green Acres (9:00 p.m. ET), "Hooterville's alarming population drop (from 68 to 46 in one year) has Oliver crusading to make the farm community more appealing to young people." That's followed by Petticoat Junction at 9:30, in which "Janet and deputy nurses Bobbie, Billie and Betty plan to inoculate everyone in the valley against flu. Then they encounter hard-nosed Jasper Tweedy, patriarch of a large un-inoculated brood." Either of these stories could easily be told today, with only updates to reflect the change in era. Small rural areas still struggle with dwindling populations, still fight to find ways of keeping young people from moving away; and vaccinations have become increasingly controversial over the past few years, although I suspect that as far as opponents go, Jasper Tweedy doesn't cut nearly as fine a figure as Jenny McCarthy.

CBS wraps up the night with the Miss Teenage America contest live from Fort Worth. It's won by Miss Odessa, Texas, Debbie Paton. What's interesting is that the television personalities and judges are probably better known than the winner; the hosts are Dick Clark and former Miss America Marilyn Van Derbur, and the judges include former contestant and current Model of the Year Cybill Shepherd. You might think that Miss Teenage America sounds familiar, but it isn't around anymore, having crowned its final queen in 1997. In that case, you're probably thinking of Miss Teen USA, even though that one hasn't been on TV for years.

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The Doan Report tells us about ABC's massive shakeup in its schedule, cancelling five series and moving others around. The five facing the ax are mostly unforgettable; Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, a failed attempt by Monte Markham to revive the classic Gary Cooper movie; The New People, a 45-minute version of Lost without the metaphysical existentialism, which was coupled in a 90-minute time slot with The Music Scene, a successor to Hullabaloo that failed despite a plethora of big-name acts; and two long-running series - The Hollywood Palace and The Dating Game. Nanny and the Professor, The Johnny Cash Show, The Englebert Humperdinck Show, and The Pat Paulson Half-a-Comedy Hour are among the newbies, and every night except Sunday and Tuesday will see schedule changes.

Also, there's speculation that David Brinkley might become a solo when Chet Huntley retires from The Huntley-Brinkley Report next year. And indeed, the network does turn to a solo anchor system upon Huntley's adieu, sort of: NBC Nightly News presents a rotating system with Brinkley, John Chancellor, and Frank McGee taking their turns a week at a time. Eventually, Chancellor takes the top spot, with McGee becoming host of Today, and Brinkley doing commentaries until the network calls him back to team with Chancellor. None of it works, and CBS's Walter Cronkite remains on the top spot.

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What does the rest of the week have to offer?

On Saturday, NBC has some fun at CBS's expense on Saturday Night at the Movies, with the network television premiere of the 1965 movie The Fortune Cookie, starring Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. Lemmon plays a cameraman for CBS, who's injured while covering an NFL game, and is talked by his shyster brother-in-law Matthau into suing CBS, the Cleveland Browns, and Municipal Stadium. Throw in a greedy wife, suspicious insurance company, and devious private investigator, and you're in for what Judith Crist calls "vicious fun," for which Matthau wins an Academy Award.

Current events rear its ugly head on Sunday's Issues and Answers on ABC, with Senate Minority Leader Hugh Scott (R-PA) facing the inevitable questions on Vietnam and the latest calls for a cease fire, and President Nixon's recent nomination of Clement Haynesworth to the Supreme Court. Meanwhile, CBS's Look Up and Live asks the question "What's Happened to the Catholic Mass?", a question people still ask today, as the pews grow more and more empty. "[A] change from Latin to English, and the experimental [!] use of jazz and rock" might have something to do with that. Cleanse your palate by watching ABC's broadcast of the movie The Flight of the Phoenix later that night. It stars Jimmy Stewart in a role that's anything but the bumbling, sly charmer you're used to seeing from him.

Here's something you don't seen in Minnesota: the programming notice beginning Monday and running for the rest of the week, that independent station WNYC will have coverage of the United Nations General Assembly if it's in session. It's kind of like watching C-SPAN with an international accent, and without taking Novocaine beforehand.

On Tuesday, we see both sides of the coin that is modern America, going head-to-head at 8:30 ET. On CBS, it's Red Skelton, a stalwart on the network since 1951, who welcomes guests Lou Rawls and George Gobel. On ABC, it's the world television premiere* of The Ballad of Andy Crocker, starring Lee Majors, Agnes Moorhead, Joey Heatherton, and Pat Hingle, in what has to be one of the first movies to tell the story of the difficulties facing returning Vietnam veterans. For Majors' character Crocker, "no brass bands welcome him to his Texas home town. His girl friend has been forced into a marriage by her shrewish mother, the small business he left behind has been ruined by mismanagement and friends capable of more than sympathy are in short supply. It's written by Stuart Margolin, whom we probably know better as Angel in The Rockford Files.

*In other words, a made-for-TV movie.

Songwriter Burt Bacharach, whose music is "appealing to both sides of the generation gap," hosts Wednesday's Kraft Music Hall on NBC. (9:00 p.m.) Burt's guests, Lena Horne and Tony Bennett, sing some of his many hits ("I'll Never Fall in Love Again," "The Look of Love," "Alfie," and "San Jose," and ballet dancer Edward Villella dances to a couple more, "Promises, Promises," and "This Guy's in Love with You."

On Thursday, Tom Jones (9:00 p.m., ABC) looks as if he's taken a wrong turn somewhere and wound up in Nashville instead of Hollywood; his guests are Johnny and June Carter Cash, Minnie Pearl, and Jeannie C. Riley. I really dig the picture of Tom and Johnny wearing paisley neckerchiefs. If country ain't your thaing, I'd go with Dean Martin (10:00 p.m., NBC), who has Gordon MacRae, Dom DeLuise, Stanley Myron Handelman, Tommy Tune, and Dean's daughter Gail. If you want to stay up later, catch Johnny Carson during one of his sojurns in Hollywood before he moved The Tonight Show there permanently; he welcomes Charlton Heston, Goldie Hawn, Jane Powell, Fernando Lamas and George Chakiris.

Friday ends the week with an intriguing Hallmark Hall of Fame: "The File on Devlin," (NBC, 8:30 p.m.) a suspense drama with Dame Judith Anderson, Elizabeth Ashley, and David McCallum as, respectively, the wife, daughter, and biographer of Laurence Devlin, an author, journalist, and Nobel Prize winner. He also happened to be an occasional spy for the British government, and now he's disappeared. Has he defected, has he been kidnapped, or has something else happened? NBC follows up on that with George C. Scott in a rare comedic appearance as the star of "Mirror, Mirror, Off the Wall," on the occasional anthology series On Stage. Scott plays a failing author named Max Maxwell who becomes a sensation when he writes a dirty book under the pseudonym N.Y. Rome. The trouble begins when Rome's personality lets it be known he's tired of being kept in the background, and attempts to take over Max completely.

A pretty good way to end the week—you might say we're over the moon about it. Literally. TV