December 31, 2022

This week in TV Guide: December 31, 1955

As most of you probably know, every few years New Year's Day falls on a Sunday, and when that happens, the whole kit and kaboodle of what makes January 1 unique—the Rose Parade, the bowl games, even hockey's Winter Classic—gets moved to Monday. Everything but the New Year's hangover; I'm afraid you don't get a break there. 

I say "most of you," because the last time this happened, I found out there were some people who obviously didn't know this. It came to light when the company I worked for at the time published its schedule for the coming year, which indicated we'd be open that Monday. Now, it was no skin off my back; if we were open, I'd just take the day off. But you know me; I love to throw a spanner in the works. So I emailed the HR department and asked them if they were aware that Monday was a national holiday. No mail delivery, offices closed, that sort of thing. They'd be asking people to work while the parades and games were on, and you know, some people like to watch those. As it turned out, they weren't aware of this, even though it had only been five years since it had last happened. I can almost guarantee, I said, that those parades and games and things wouldn't be happening if they weren't confident people would be home. They thought about it for awhile, and decided to change the calendar. Sometimes you wonder how people like that get to be executives.

(Incidentally, some of you might wonder why this is. It has nothing to do with the NFL, as some people who ought to know better believe; in fact, it dates back to 1893, the first year since the parade's 1890 founding that January 1 fell on a Sunday. "Parade organizers were afraid that the parade would spook the horses located outside of churches along the parade route for Sunday services. The 'Never on a Sunday' exception has been observed ever since even though people no longer use horses to get around Pasadena (or anywhere obviously)." So that should satisfy any curiosity you have.)

I bring this up because January 1, 1956, falls on a Sunday, and so the parade and bowl games are all trooping over to Monday (you'll be able to see it for yourself in Monday's listings). For me, not being the reflective type, what New Year's mostly has meant is football, and there's plenty of it, beginning on Saturday with the Gator Bowl from Jacksonville (1:00 p.m., CBS) pitting Auburn and Vanderbilt. The Blue-Gray game (1:15 p.m., NBC) and East-West Shrine Game (3:45 p.m., NBC), a couple of all-star games for players whose teams didn't make it to bowl games (and there are plenty of them, since there are only seven bowl games this season), round out the day. 

The big games are on Monday, of course, and this season none are bigger than the Orange Bowl (1:00 p.m., CBS, with Tom Harmon calling the play-by-play) pitting undefeated national champion Oklahoma against undefeated, third-ranked Maryland. Keep in mind that back then, the champion was selected at the end of the regular season, so the bowls are really just exhibition games, rewards for outstanding seasons, but bragging rights can be just as important. Oklahoma wins 20-6, by the way, for their 30th consecutive victory of a still-record streak that will reach 47 before it ends in 1957. The next biggest game of the day is the Rose Bowl (3:45 p.m, NBC, with Mel Allen at the mic), with second-ranked Michigan State defeating #4 UCLA 17-14. The game's noteworthy because of a costly penalty called on UCLA for having a coach signal a play in from the sidelines; of course, that's part of the game today, but back then, quarterbacks were expected to call their own plays. Imagine that!

In the sign-of-the-times game, Pittsburgh takes on Georgia Tech in the Sugar Bowl (12:45 p.m., ABC, with Bill Stern and Ray Scott), with Pitt's Bobby Grier becoming the first black player in Sugar Bowl history. Georgia governor Marvin Griffin tried to keep Tech from playing an integrated team; in the past, a "gentleman's agreement" had usually resulted in any black players from northern teams being benched before playing southern teams. Tech's coach Bobby Dodd even polled his team to see if they had any objections to playing against a black player; the team voted unanimously to play. In the end, Grier's pass interference penalty leads to the only score, with Georgia Tech winning 7-0. In the Cotton Bowl (12:45 p.m., NBC, with Lindsey Nelson and Red Grange), a game featuring no controversy whatsoever, Mississippi defeated TCU 14-13. I don't know how people were able to keep up with all the games without a remote!

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I feel like I've spent too much time on the bowl games, so let's look at something else. Something like NBC's New Year's Eve special from Times Square in New York, hosted by Ben Grauer and Lee Meriweather. What a show—running all of 15 minutes, from 10:55 p.m. to 11:10 p.m. But then, just how much time does it take to ring in the new year—after the ball drops, what do you do for the remaining nine minutes? On the local front, the Lind brothers, Phil and Dale, host a special 90-minute version of their variety show (11:30 p.m., WBKB) scheduled to coincide with midnight in Chicago. 

Even though the festivities aren't until Monday, New Year's Day still has its highlights, beginning with Dave Garroway's Wide Wide World (3:00 p.m., NBC), as the Master Communicator plays tour guide for live shots from all over North America, including pianist Alec Templeton in New York; a fashion show in Palm Beach; bell ringers in Victoria, BC.; retired racehorses at Calumet Farms in Lexington; the Mormon Tabernacle Choir in Salt Lakie City; swimmers testing the icy waters in Towas Bay, Michigan; and Dave's interviews with New Yorkers on what they did last night and what their plans are for the coming year.  

At 4:00 p.m. on CBS, Alastair Cooke's Omnibus presents a true variety of performances, including "The Best Year in the History of the Whole World," a one-act play by William Saroyan; a Kabuki dance group from Japan; a reading of Ogden Nash's parody of "The 12 Days of Christmas"; a performance by Olympics gymnastics champions; and the brief documentary film "A Day in the Life of a Cat." Then, at 6:30 p.m., NBC's Sunday Spectacular has its own New Year's variety, including world figure skating champions Barbara Ann Scott and Dick Button, George Gobel, Peggy Lee and Stan Kenton, Alan King, and a short "12 Days of Christmas" film. ABC's Famous Film Festival presents part two of the 1948 movie The Red Shoes (6:30 p.m.); you can round out the night with Ed Sullivan's first show of the new year, a parade of young and up-and-coming talent, the best-known of which is probably pianist Roger Williams (7:00 p.m., CBS). Happy New Year to you, too!

  What the parade looked like until
   we got a color set in the '70s.
We'll be looking at the Monday listings in a couple of days, but a few notes on the Tournament of Roses Parade. It's on two networks; ABC's two-hour coverage, in living black-and-white, begins at 10:45 a.m., and is hosted by actress Jeanette MacDonald and her husband, Gene Raymond. Over on NBC, the 90-minute broadcast is in color, and it's hosted by actor and radio announcer Bill Goodwin, and the one and only Betty White. The celebrities in the parade include Dinah Shore, Hopalong Cassidy, Roy Rogers and Dale Evans, Guy Madison, and Andy Devine. And the parade's Grand Marshal is none other than: Charles E. Wilson. Who, you might ask? Well, he's the current Secretary of Defense, and his selection is a reminder once again of the dangerous times we live in. The previous year's Grand Marshal was Chief Justice of the United States (and former governor of California) Earl Warren, the year before that it was General William F. Dean, winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor, and the year before that it was Vice President-Elect (and California native) Richard M. Nixon. Times do change, don't they? 

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The $64,000 Question has been television's top show since its debut, and you can bet the networks have taken notice; this week's unbylined feature on the big "TV Giveaway" notes that "Sponsors, networks, producers have been frantically casting about for ways to shower down fortunes and capture the Nation's viewers." One show, The Big Surprise, has already had a contestant walk away with the $100,000 top prize; Truth or Consequences offered the same amount to a 19-year-old contestant if she could break a hypnotic spell; Stop the Music had as a grand prize "a two-week uranium prospecting tour," billed as a $1,000,000 hunt, with a secondary prize of a furnished four-room bungalow or a trip to Hollywood with a guaranteed screen test. Even The Lawrence Welk Show is getting in the act, with the winners of a Dodge safety slogan contest competing to win a new car each year for the rest of their lives.

Are there warning signs in this story? "Networks and sponsors, despite these telltale signs, insist they are not trying to 'buy' an audience for their shows at the expense of more creative and more literate programming. But most sponsors nonetheless are beating at the doors of their ad agencies and networks to 'find me a show like $64,000 Question.'" And one network VP, unnamed, says, "This whole idea of buying an audience is a sickness. I don't think TV will be discharging its obligation if it pursues that course." Then, there are the ratings, which show that even big prizes for Surprise and others have failed to get them the same ratings as Question. Says the network VP, "I doubt whether there's room for even one successful giveaway program on each of the three networks."

To answer my own question, these sure look like red flags to me. Networks and sponsors willing to "buy an audience," big ratings for The $64,000 Question, and not-so-big ratings for other shows. Perhaps, one might think, our contestants need to be more appealing, more attractive to viewers. But how to guarantee that the "right" contestants win? We don't have to give them the answers; we can just find out what they know and make sure the questions correspond to their areas of expertise, right? Yup, I don't think you need to be a rocket scientist to know where this is headed. Even at the beginning of 1956.

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What does the best of the rest of the week have to offer? On Tuesday morning's Today (7:00 a.m., NBC), a two-way interview from Washington, D.C. with Massachusetts Senator John Kennedy, discussing his new book, Profiles in Courage. Next year it will win the Pulitzer Prize for Biography.

  Emcee Jack Bailey crowns the latest queen for a day
On Tuesday afternoon, it's the TV premiere of Queen for a Day (3:30 p.m., NBC), which originally debuted on radio in 1945, and would run on television until 1964. The premise of the show is fairly simple: female contestants appear on the show, telling their stories of recent hardship and pathos. At the end of the program, the audience votes on which contestant's story is the most deserving (read: pathetic), and the loser, er, winner, receives a package of fabulous prizes. Does it raise the consciousness of viewers, or does it exploit human misery for fun and profit? You be the judge. By the way, the show was revived in syndication in 1969, but, according to the always-reliable Wikipedia, "Viewers turned away from the format when it was revealed that, unlike the radio and earlier television versions, the new show was rigged and the 'winners' were apparently paid actresses chosen to 'win' the prizes prior to the start of each taping." For further explanation, see our previous story.

Tuesday evening sees the debut of another quiz show, Do You Trust Your Wife? hosted by Edgar Bergen, Charlie McCarthy, et al (9:30 p.m., CBS). The show runs until March, and when it's revived in September on ABC, it's with a new host: Johnny Carson. This week, however, you can still see Johnny on his current variety program, The Johnny Carson Show (Thursday, 9:00 p.m., CBS). 

That four-legged friend on the cover helping us celebrate the New Year is Cleo, one of the "stars" of The People's Choice (Thursday, 8:00 p.m., NBC). Cleo's gimmick is that she "talks" back to the show's star, Jackie Cooper, thanks to the voiceover talents of actress Mary Jane Croft. Cleo is one of many dogs featuring in this season's shows, although the others may be far-better known to you: Rin Tin Tin, and Lassie, big enough stars that their shows are named after them, and Bullet, loyal companion to Roy Rogers. The People's Choice is no dog, though; it's ratings are good enough to keep it on the air for three seasons. And for those of you in the Chicagoland area, Cleo will be making a one-day personal appearance in Chicago on January 19, accompanied by her co-stars, Cooper and Patricia Breslin*. 

*Patricia Breslin, after her acting career, married Art Modell, owner of the Cleveland Browns, who would eventually move the team to Baltimore and earn the enmity of the entire city of Cleveland, a hatred that lasts to this day. Coincidentally, the end-zone area containing the most rabid Browns fans was known as "The Dog Pound." Don't know if they were all basset hounds, though.

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MST3K alert: Cat-Women of the Moon (Wednesday, 10:00 p.m., WGN). 1953; Chicago TV Debut. "This story deals with a rocket ship that lands on the moon. The crew consists of four men and one woman. Sonny Tufts, Marie Windsor, Victor Jory." That description doesn't tell us much about this Rifftrax-worthy feature, so let's look at the Amazon description: "An expedition to the moon discovers a subterranean cavern of ferocious, love-starved cat-women who have not seen men in centuries." That's much better.

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Finally, if you're planning to be out tonight celebrating the New Year, have fun and be careful—we need as many readers as we can get here. TV  

December 30, 2022

Around the dial

Here we all are, at the end of another year. Some of you will be taking the weekend off, so I'll wish you all a Happy New Year now. Fortunately, we've got some items here to help you see the year off.

At bare-bones e-zine, Jack wraps up the Jerry Sohl segment of the Hitchcock Project with the sixth season episode "A Secret Life," based on the short story by Nicholas Monsarrat. One of my favorite aspects of the Hitchcock Project is how Jack shows the evolution of an adaptation from its origins to the screen; in this case, the results are somewhat lacking.

As you know from reading Comfort TV, David has been going through 1970s TV, year-by-year, night-by-night. We're now up to Wednesday, 1971, and that means everything from Adam-12, Bewitched, and Mannix to Shirley's World and The Man and the City. See how many of them you remember.

Jack returns to the British series Tales of Unease this week at Cult TV Blog, and the episode "Ride Ride," a variation on the vanishing hitchhiker story that goes beyond some of the usual tropes to strike at the fears inside all of us.

At The Horn Section, Hal is back with Love That Bob!, and this week it's the story about a character having to live up to their tall tales about being a star in Hollywood. In this case, the character is Schultzy, and it's up to Bob (with some help from Alan Ladd!) to get her out of the jam.

Remember that the Christmas season runs through January 6. That means Christmas specials are still in the queue for viewing, and at Silver Scenes, the Metzingers have highlighted some specials available at Tubi, ones that you might not have seen lately. Check them out!

One of the specials we watch every year is "Happy Holidays with Bing and Frank," the Christmas episode of The Frank Sinatra Show that features guest star Bing Crosby. At Drunk TV, Paul takes a delightful look back at this quirky episode, including a comment from Bing that might give one payse today.

Finally, last week I mentioned that Diane McBain had died, along with my suspicions that we'd see a more in-depth obituary this week. Terence has that at A Shroud of Thoughts, showing the wide range of roles she could play, and why she'll be missed. TV  

December 28, 2022

Happy New Year?

I was scrolling through YouTube the other day, looking for some video of Guy Lombardo ringing in the new year as crowds cheered in Times Square, when it occurred to me to wonder if people really celebrate New Year's like this anymore, with a sense of optimism about the coming year. Otherwise, I mean, what's the point of celebrating, other than as an excuse for getting drunk? (And frankly, wouldn't that make more sense if you were convinced that next year would be even worse than this year had been?)

As 1940 passed into 1941, there would have been a sense of apprehension about the European war, but still confidence that we'd be able to remain out of it. As 1962 turned to 1963, we lived in dangerous times, but nobody would have had a clue about what was coming next. And then 1967 becomes 1968, and the new year couldn't possibly be as bad, could it? We all worried about Y2K, and when that didn't happen, we celebrated 2001 because of the movie and all. When 2019 slid seamlessly into 2020, the talk was about a new Roaring Twenties. How'd that work out for you? It would all be fixed by 2021 though, which had to be better, but it wasn't. Neither was 2022. Is there any reason to believe 2023 will be any different?

On a personal level, our lives have shown improvement each year, but I like to think it's been because of proactive things we've done to make things better for us. In that sense, I have guarded optimism that 2023 will continue in that trend. But make no mistake; if so, it will be a personal victory in a world that continues to deteriorate. And I have to ask myself, in all this, how a society can possibly keep going when its people have no confidence that things will, or even can, get better? Without that hope, how does it survive? The answer can only be inside each of us, I suppose.

Ah yes, Guy Lombardo. For those of you who don't remember the name, Guy Lombardo epitomized New Year's Eve for generations of Americans. He and his Royal Canadians began ringing in the New Year on radio in 1929 and on television in 1956, and though he displayed a musical style that some thought was old fashioned even back then, his fans included both Lawrence Welk and Louis Armstrong. You could usually find Guy and the orchestra ringing in the new year from the Waldorf Astoria in New York City, and it was a fixture on CBS (except for a few years in the late 1960s when the show was syndicated), with no serious challenger until Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve came along. His popularity remained, though, to the extent that even though he died in 1977, the broadcast continued for a couple of additional years. For many people, his rendition of "Auld Lang Syne" remains the definitive way to celebrate the beginning of the new year, even if they don't know who's performing it.

Here's the 1957-58 show in glorious black and white, as well as a clip from his last show, on New Year's Eve 1976; although the show's in color (and some of the music is a painful attempt to be modern), there's still kind of a black and white sense to it, don't you think? (I love how CBS is still using the same kind of clock they had on the Gemini and Apollo flights!)

New Year's Eve hasn't been the same without Guy Lombardo, just as it isn't the same without Dick Clark. Just as it isn't the same without hope and optimism. Nevertheless, you have the opportunity to make it good for you, so go out there and make it so. TV  

December 26, 2022

What's on TV? Tuesday, December 25, 1973

Happy Boxing Day! In many of the world's civilized countries, the day after Christmas is a legal holiday, but here in the United States, where we don't celebrate Boxing Day, we have today off anyway because Christmas fell on a Sunday. (Interestingly, where Boxing Day is celebrated, it remains December 26, and the Christmas day off is December 27. Go figure.) But I digress, other than to say that I hope you all had a happy and blessed Christmas. 

Today we're looking at Christmas, 1973, I could have chosen a TV Guide from Minneapolis-St. Paul rather than this one, which includes Philadelphia and New York City, but quite frankly the Yuletide programming for the Twin Cities was fairly underwhelming. This way, with larger metropolitan areas and more TV stations to choose from, I've got a lot more to work with! 

For the most part, the Christmas season is over as far as the networks are concerned, since all the presents have already been purchased, so most of our Christmas television comes from the locals. There's one exception, although, which is NBC's annual coverage of the Christmas Day Service from Washington's National Episcopal Cathedral (10:00 a.m.). This was always a lovely program which some wonderful Christmas music; I think the service is still shown online. WOR and WPVI also have live coverage of Christmas services, and WKBS rebroadcasts Pope Paul's Midnight Mass (10:30 a.m.). ABC's movie of the week is Home for the Holidays (8:30 p.m.) with Eleanor Parker, Sally Field, Jessica Walter, Julie Harris, Jill Haworth and Walter Brennan, but it's not what you think: a holiday family reunion in which one of the family members is a murderer.

Other programs today are rebroadcasts from earlier in the week (such as WTAF's Ranch Hope Christmas Show), but WNET presents A Joyful Noice, music from the Beers Family (10:00 a.m.), followed by a quintet of short Christmas stories (11:30 a.m.), and KYW's Christmas Story (noon) has entertainment from area ensembles, including the Philadelphia Civic Ballet, Holy Trinity Church Choirs, Westminster Bell Ringers, and LaSalle College Singers. There are a couple of airings of Christmas Is, an animated special with Hans Conried as the voice of the Innkeeper, and WABC has Christmas in Jazz (10;30 a.m.), with Tommy and Ernie Furtado and their jazz groups. And of course, there are movies for the kiddies, including Pinocchio in Outer Space and The Wacky World of Mother Goose. Here are the complete listings; enjoy the day!

December 24, 2022

This week in TV Guide: December 22, 1973

Xemember the Energy Crisis™ of 1973? You would if you'd lived through it. Record gas prices, long lines at gas stations, even-odd days when you could even buy gas. Events were rescheduled for daytime so lights didn't need to be used; many cities kept their Christmas lights off that year, and some (like Minneapolis) never put them back up. It's a good thing we don't have to go through anything like that any—well, let's just forget that last sentence.

Unlike today's energy problems, though, there's a good reason for the crisis of 1973: the Arab oil embargo, a response to U.S. support for Israel during the Yom Kippur War, which resulted in the price for a barrel of oil going from around $2.90 a barrel before the embargo to $11.65 a barrel by January 1974. The price at the pump went from 39 cents per gallon before the crisis to 53 cents in 1974, and while that sounds like a dream price today, back then it represented an increase of around 36% in less than a year.

But you didn't come here for a lesson in international power politics, now, did you? No, you came here to read about television, and right about now you're waiting to see how I'm going to tie all this in together, aren't you? As it happens, Richard K Doan is going to take care of all that for us, in his report on how the energy crisis is actually good news for the television industry. "Faced with gasless Sundays and the like, they figure, more people will stay home and watch the tube." Before they get too excited, though, they should know that Congress is worried about the amount of television people watch. Not because TV is bad for viewers; it's that they're afraid people watching too much TV will put a drain on electricity, and to combat that there's been talk of establishing a 1:00 a.m. TV curfew, or perhaps something even earlier. Meanwhile, the FCC is gathering data on just how much energy those radios and television sets consume. The networks insist that this is all much ado about nothing; says one executive, "TV helps keep people off the road ant that saves a lot of gasoline. Personally I think people would rather wear sweaters to cut down on heating oil than cut back on their TV."

If all this sounds pretty ridiculous to you, you're rightit sounds like something out of a Don DeLillo novel, franklybut I can't say that I'm surprised the government would think of a TV curfew; it's just one more way to regulate your behavior. I am surprised, though, that I don't remember any talk about establishing a television time-out; you'd think that when it comes to turning off TV, I'd be all ears. Of course, at the time I was rotting away in the World's Worst Town™, so that might have something to do with it. KCMT went off the air after Johnny Carson anyway, so it wouldn't have changed a thing.

Elsewhere at The Doan Report, morning shows are big news. CBS, struggling with its disastrous pairing of Hughes Rudd and Sally Quinn on the CBS Morning News, is putting Quinn on the Washington beat for a couple of weeks. It doesn't necessarily mean she'll be reporting from there permanently; "We're just trying various approaches." The one they finally settle on is to ask Quinn not to approach the program anymore; the February 1, 1974, program is her last, as the network buys off her $70,000-a-year contract.

ABC, meanwhile, is looking for something different with its morning show, opting for a format that "will be basically entertainment with news capsules dropped in, presided over by a show-biz personality rather than a newsman." In other words, they're looking back at the old CBS Morning Show, hosted by, at various times, Walter Cronkite, Jack Paar and Dick Van Dyke, and featuring the Baird Puppets. Well, you know how television goes; what's old is new again. Anyway, the program, AM America, hosted by newsman Bill Beutel and Stephanie Edwards, with the news provided by Peter Jennings. It lasts just ten months before being replaced by Good Morning America with David Hartman, the show which finally strikes the balance the network is looking for.

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. 

Our first look at detective Theo Kojak came last year, with the TV movie The Marcus-Nelson Murders. It was, Cleveland Amory says, "one of last season's better TV-movies." Now that it's a weekly series, Amory calls it "not only one of the better series, but the best new series of the season."

Now, it's true, he says, that there are too many crime shows on TV, so "drop one of the ones you've been watching and try this one instead." It's also true that, outwardly, there's nothing to distinguish Kojak from these other shows, with the same absurd chases and awful music and psycho robber-killers. But even when it's awful, "it was really awful—there was reality there." And in far better episodes, there's even more reality. It spares no horrors; "we admit it's not for the squeamish," but it also spares no expense—"it isn't one of those shows that looks as if it is trying to fill the time without spending too much money." The crowd scenes have real crowds, "and when you get up against a gang, you don't get just the indication of the gang, you get the whole dang gang."

The supporting cast for Kojak—primarily Dan Frazier as Kojak's boss, and Kevin Dobson as one of his detectives—does the job without constantly reminding you what kind of cop they're supposed to be, so pay attention the first time. But above all, Kojak is Telly Savalas, who is "far more than just a good, strong actor playing a good, tough cop. He is a very fine, sensitive actor playing a very interesting, sensitive man." His reactions, Amory says, are "forked lightning." He shoots quickly, he can "grab a killer or twist the arm of a suspect so rapidly that it's almost over before you see it."

If Kojak fails short, according to Cleve, it's in the episode featuring a bad guy named Cleveland. "He's a hot young hood," Kojak tells his boss. "Got a piece of the action everywhere." Then again, they did describe Cleveland as a hot young hood.

Whenever when we can, we'll match up two of the biggest rock shows of the era, NBC's The Midnight Special and the syndicated Don Kirshner's Rock Concert, and see who's better, who's best.

Kirshner I (Saturday, 8:30 p.m., WNEW): Seals and Crofts, and Tower of Power are the guests. Songs include "We May Never Pass This Way Again," "Summer Breeze," "Hummingbird," "Ruby Jean and Billie Lee," "Unborn Child." (Seals and Crofts).

Kirshner II (Saturday, 1:15 a.m., KYW): Johnny Winter and Argent perform at New York's Palace Theatre. Numbers include "Rock and Roll Hoochie Koo," "Jumpin' Jack Flash," "Silver Train," "Johnny B. Goode" (Winter); "Hold Your Head Up," "God Gave Rock and Roll to You," "I Am the Dance of Ages," "It's only Money" and "I Don't Believe in Miracles" (Argent).

Special: An all-country show featuring Marty Robbins (host), Charlie Rich, Tanya Tucker, Doug Kershaw, Johnny Rodriguez, Bobby Bare, Barbara Mandrell and Barbie Benton. Marty sings "Gotta Travel On" and "My Woman, My Woman, My Wife," and Charlie performs "Behind Closed Doors."

It's hard to compare two entirely different genres, which is what we have this week; it's like trying to compare athletes from different eras. As always, you may have your own ideas, but it's hard to deny that Midnight Special's all-country lineup is an all-star one as well; not my kind of music, but talent will out, and for Marty Robbins alone, Special hits the top of the charts.

We're now at the point where football games start to mean something, which makes it much more interesting, with NFL doubleheader playoff games on both Saturday and Sunday. On Saturday, the Minnesota Vikings defeat the Washington Redskins 27-20 (1:00 p.m., CBS), while the Oakland Raiders best the Pittsburgh Steelers in a rematch of last year's Immaculate Reception game, 33-14 (4:00 p.m., NBC). Sunday, it's the defending Super Bowl champion Miami Dolphins over the Cincinnati Bengals 34-16 (1:00 p.m., NBC), and the Dallas Cowboys take the Los Angeles Rams 27-16 (4:00 p.m., CBS). 

One of the announcers in that last game is Pat Summerall, whose new CBS contract next year will make him the network's #1 announcer. As Melvin Durslag's article points out, Summerall is one of those announcers who's made it to the top even though he "neither talks like country folks, feeds off controversy, coats his subjects with sweet batter, nor projects the notion that he is a longhead to whom franchise-holders tell it first." A former player with the Cardinals and Giants, Pat taught high school history in the off-season (imaging athletes having off-season jobs nowadays), and did some announcing a radio station on the side. Eventually, after his career ended, he made it to CBS, where in addition to the NFL, he's also the network's anchor for golf, the NBA, tennis, and bowling, and brings the same sense he does to football—that the game is more important than the announcer. He was what I always called a big-game announcer, meaning that any time you heard him on a broadcast you automatically paid attention, because it was important. I wish there were more like him today.

We're also at bowl season for college football, with a couple of games this week: Saturday night, the Tangerine Bowl pits Miami of Ohio against Florida, with #15 Miami coming out on top 17-16 (8:00 p.m., Mizlou syndication). The Tangerine Bowl, in case you were wondering, is still around; today, it's called the Florida Citrus Bowl, played on New Year's Day. Then, on Friday, it's the Peach Bowl from Atlanta, with Georgia defeating #18 Maryland 17-16 (8:00 p.m., Mizlou). There's a slight increase in the number of bowl games in 1973; the total is now eleven. This year, there are 43. There's also an all-star game on Christmas night from Miami, the North-South Shrine Game, for those players whose teams didn't make it to bowls. (Tuesday, 8:00 p.m., Mizlou). Of note, the quarterback for the South is UCLA's Mark Harmon—before he became an NCIS agent.

Then, there's the most unusual sporting event of the week, on Wide World of Sports (Saturday, 5:00 p.m,, ABC). It's Billy Smart's Christmas Circus, featuring an international lineup of acts, and hosted by Jim McKay from London. And that leads us to our next topic. . .

Now, you didn't think I'd ignore Christmas, did you? We may only have a half-week's worth of programming to look at, but it'll be more than enough. Several stations are broadcasting the syndicated Christmas with Oral Roberts, an hour-long special featuring the televangelist and his family, joined by the Lennon Sisters, Doc Severinsen, and the World Action Singers. Michael Landon hosts A Whole New Season Called Winter (Saturday, 2:30 p.m. ET, WNBC), described as "a musical romp" through Grand Teton National Park, with the Landon family, Dr. Joyce Brothers, Larry Storch, and the Joy People singing group. (Can't wait to see the production number in that one!) 

In a slightly more serious vein, Burt Lancaster hosts An American Christmas (various days and times, PBS), a look back at Christmas past in films, readings and carols, with James Earl Jones, the Ella Mitchell Singers, the Columbus Boys Choir, and the Harlem Children's Chorus. On the ABC religious program Directions (Sunday, 1:00 p.m.), the late poet Dylan Thomas reads from his classic work, "A Child's Christmas in Wales," set against scenes of modern-day Wales. That story also makes an appearance on This is Tom Jones (Sunday, 5:00 p.m., WNEW), as Welshman Tom recites it; his guests are Judy Collins, David Frye, Millicent Martin and the Welsh Treorchy Male Choir. 

For those of you in the mood for a Christmas movie—not the Hallmark kind, but a real movie—you've got many to choose from, some of them shown more than once. In no particular order, your choices include but are not limited to: 
  • Christmas in Connecticut
  • It's a Wonderful Life
  • We're No Angels
  • Miracle on 34th Street
  • A Christmas Carol (with Alastair Sim)
  • The Bells of St. Mary's
  • Holiday Inn
  • Three Godfathers
  • Going My Way
  • Silent Night, Lonely Night
  • A Dream for Christmas
  • The Holly and the Ivy
  • Home for the Holidays
  • Holiday Affair
  • Bush Christmas
If you can't find something there to watch, you're really a Scrooge.

Since this week's issue is from the Philadelphia-New York area, it's not surprising that there's a colonial aspect to some of our programs on Christmas Eve: McKonkey's Ferry (6:30 p.m., WNJS/WNJT) dramatizes Washington's daring crossing of the Delaware River on Christmas Eve, 1776; Christmas Eve in Christ Church, 1775 (7:30 p.m., WCAU) recaptures the spirit of Christmas from 200 years ago; and Colonial Christmas at Williamsburg (9:00 p.m., WTAF), hosted by Melvyn Douglas, looks at a traditional Christmas in the colonial town. WTAF, incidentally, is presenting nine-and-a-half hours of Christmas specials on Monday, including Christmas episodes of Petticoat Junction, The Addams Family, Dennis the Menace, Bewitched, That Girl, and Laramie.

How about some more music? Arthur Fiedler conducts the Boston Pops and the Tanglewood Festival Chorus in an hour of Yuletide beauty in Christmas at Pops (various dates and times, PBS); the San Francisco Ballet presents The Nutcracker (3:00 p.m., WOR); the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and the Westminster Ensemble celebrate The Joy of Christmas (7:30 p.m., WNEW); the Arion Musical Club of Milwaukee performs Handel's immortal Messiah (8:00 p.m., WNET); A Renaissance Christmas (11:00 p.m., WNET) consists of Renaissance music from the Boston Camarata interwoven with readings from the Bible; and since Johnny Carson is off Christmas Eve, Doc Severinsen, Henry Mancini, and Victor Buono celebrate The Sounds of Christmas in the half-hour before the Midnight Mass (11:30 p.m., NBC). And we can't possibly forget the eighth annual appearance of the Yule Log! (9:00 p.m., WPIX)

That religious side of Christmas—and that, after all, is what it's all about—fills the late-night hours. Pope Paul VI's Christmas Mass is telecast from the Vatican live (6:00 p.m, WNEW) and on tape delay (8:30 p.m., WKBS), while Robert Schuler delivers the Christmas message in The Hour of Power Christmas Special (10:00 p.m., WPHL). At 11:30 p.m., CBS presents Bless the Lord, All Ye Beasts, hosted by Beatrice Straight, with drawings of the Nativity and stories of the saints; that's followed at midnight by the Christmas Eve service from the Church of St. Francis of Assisi in Chicago. And on NBC, the Midnight Mass comes from St. Patrick's Cathedral in New York City.

And then there's Christmas Day—but I'm afraid you'll have to wait until Monday to find out more about that. Ho ho.    

MST3K alert: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (Monday, 1:00 p.m., WPHL). 1964, Fantasy. "A Martian leader abducts Santa to make life better for Mars Kiddies. Children should like it. John Call, Leonard Hicks." (And, I should mention, an eleven-year-old Pia Zadora.) An obvious choice, but as for other options: The Crawling Hand, Gorgo, Attack of the Giant Leeches, Bride of the Monster, This Island Earth, and for Rifftrax fans, House on Haunted Hill. You could say that this week is the gift that keeps on giving—but what else would you expect on Christmas week?

And finally, to one and all,


December 23, 2022

Around the dial

I've used this photo before at this time of the year; it's not me, but it could have been: cat, TV, Christmas cards, presents. What more could you ask for? Anyway, I think it's just a great picture. 

Let's stay on that Christmas theme for a bit, starting with this look at Comet Over Hollywood at 75 years and five versions of Miracle on 34th Street, which includes the rare fifth version that stars Ed Wynn as Kris. I knew about that one, but I'd really like to see it someday.

At The Epoch Times, Jeffrey Tucker writes about the lessons we can learn from Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. I think there's a temptation to read articles like this tongue-in-cheek, but not this one: his conclusion is very serious, especially considering the times we live in today.

You'll recall that last week I wrote an article on the many things that are wrong with "holiday" movies on networks like Hallmark, Netflix and the like. This week, The Babylon Bee comes up with the natural headline: Hallmark Researchers Close to Developing a Second Movie Plot.

Meanwhile, over at Comfort TV, David looks back at That Girl's first Christmas episode, and how his opinion of it has changed upon second viewing. Sometimes things don't always turn out the way you planned, and that's a rare message for TV at Christmastime.

At Garroway at Large, Jodie reminds us of Dave Garroway's appearance as Santa Claus in the 1954 and 1955 productions of Babes in Toyland, as well as a link to the 1954 broadcast. We watched this last week, and it's absolutely charming; Dave is exactly what you'd expect as Santa. Well worth it!

And Silver Scenes has a look at another Christmas special we've got, although we didn't watch it this year (we like to rotate the Bing Crosby specials, since there are so many of them)—Mary Costa singing the Ukranian Carol on Bing's 1970 show, which also features Robert Goulet, as well as the Crosby clan. 

TV Guides from the mid-70s often referred to Boris Karloff Presents Thriller, which always puzzled me, there being only one version of a show called Thriller that I was aware of, until I learned about the British show of the same name. Today at Cult TV Blog, John talks about that version, and the episode "Kill Two Birds." 

For those of you already looking forward to the New Year's weekend, Shadow & Substance has the lowdown on Syfy's Twilight Zone marathon. It's hard for me to watch the edited versions, especially when I have it on DVD, but if you turn over for a few minutes, you might be there for a couple of hours.

Diane McBain, who was one of the last stars from the golden age of WB detective shows in the late-50s and early-60s, died this week at age 81. She was always enjoyable on these shows; she was criminally underutilized on Surfside 6, but I've complained about that before. I'll be we'll be seeing some tributes to her on the blogosphere over the next couple of weeks.

Finally, congratulations to Aurora on the 11th anniversary of Once Upon a Screen. Here's hoping to many more!

For those of you who may not be checking in here until after the weekend, be safe if you're facing the heavy weather as we are here in Indiana, and my wishes for a very Merry Christmas! TV  

December 21, 2022

Who's Wonderful Life is it, anyway?

A few years ago, I got into the habit of writing vaguely humorous, Christmas-themed pieces that were even more eccentric than the usual content here. One year, it was imagining "A Christmas Carol" as an episode of The Twilight Zone; another time I speculated on recasting It's a Wonderful Life with various comedy teams in the roles of George Bailey and his guardian angel, Clarence; I got two stories out of Miracle on 34th Street, beginning with Fred Gailey as the Mystery Guest on What's My Line; and a few years later looking at proposals for various series concepts based on Fred's life after Miracle.

This year, it's a return to the world of Bedford Falls. Believe it or not, although it's almost impossible to imagine anyone else as George Bailey, the always-reliable Wikipedia says both Cary Grant and Henry Fonda were, at various times, considered for the role. Needless to say, it would have been quite a different movie with someone else, so we thought it would be interesting to speculate on what a dozen or so alternate versions of It's a Wonderful Life might have looked like, and how they would have appeared in the pages of TV Guide. 

To Catch George Bailey
Having been falsely convicted of theft from the Bailey Savings and Loan, George Bailey (Cary Grant) escapes after the train taking him to prison derails. With the help of his beautiful wife Mary (Grace Kelly), Bailey attempts to recover the money by breaking into the French villa of the real culprit, international thief Le Noir Potter (Martin Landeau) while being relentlessly pursued by the police detective obsessed with his capture (John Williams). Hitchcock cameos as a gargoyle.

Twelve Angry Bankers
When sinister financier H. F. Potter (Orson Welles) attempts a hostile takeover of Bailey S&L following the sudden and unexpected death of the CEO, the CEO's son, George (Henry Fonda), must try to convince the other eleven men on the bank's board of directors to reject Potter's offer. Initially Bailey is the only member to oppose the offer and, one by one, he attempts to sway the votes of the others. Co-stars Milton Berle, Alan Hale Jr., Sid Melton.

Genesee Blvd.
Savings and loan president George Bailey (William Holden) is found floating face down in an icy river, having apparently jumped to his death from the bridge. In flashbacks narrated by Bailey, we see the events that led to his death, involving his wife Mary (Barbara Stanwyck), mistress Violet (Jane Greer), alcoholic partner Bill (Edmund O'Brien) and hedge fund manager Henry Potter (Vincent Price). Meanwhile, Lieutenant Bert (Ray Collins) is determined to get to the truth. 

The Bailey Syndrome: A Space Odyssey
After returning from the first manned mission to Mars, astronaut George Bailey (Keir Dullea) discovers neither his wife (Peggie Castle), mother (Gladys Cooper) or anyone else in his hometown has any memory of who he is. Suspicious that his flight has somehow altered history, he consults astrophysicist Sam Wainwright (Roy Thinnes), who tells Bailey he believes his ship's computer, P.O.T.T.E.R. (voice of James Earl Jones) has something to do with it.

The Best Years of Bedford Falls
Returning from World War II, Army veteran George Bailey (Dana Andrews) finds that everything has changed in his hometown of Bedford Falls. Now being run by the mob, led by gangster Potter (Edward G. Robinson), the town has turned into a haven for brothels and gambling tables. Bailey hopes to clean up the town with the help of his old friend, alcoholic Police Chief William (Dan Duryea), and former flame Mary (Gene Tierney). 

Life at Point Blank Range
After having been imprisoned on trumped-up embezzlement charges, a bitter George Bailey (Lee Marvin) returns to his former home of Bedford Falls, determined to seek revenge against those responsible for putting him in prison: his ex-wife Mary (Jessica Walter), his former partner Bill (Henry Silva), and syndicate head Potter (Richard Widmark). Along the way, he reunites with an ex-con friend (Lee Van Cleef) and his former sister-in-law (Angie Dickinson).

The Manchurian Bailey Brother
Relying on a deathbed confession from an alcoholic pharmacist (Dean Martin), intelligence officer George Bailey (Frank Sinatra) races against time to thwart a plot to assassinate President Henry Potter (Raymond Massey). The assassin? Bailey's brother Harry (Laurence Harvey), a Medal of Honor winner who was unknowingly brainwashed by the Chicoms to kill every time an angel gets its wings. Mary: Janet Leigh. Wo Fat: Victor Buono.

Do Not Forsake Me Oh George Bailey
George Bailey (Gary Cooper) finds himself standing alone against the villainous Hank Potter (Kirk Douglas) for control of Bailey's hometown after the rest of the town's citizens desert him. When even George's wife Mary (Patricia Neal) urges him to give up the fight and let Potter win, Bailey knows he has only one choice left to him and calls out Potter to shoot it out on Genesee Street at high noon. John Wayne makes a cameo appearance as the town's marshal.

Tommy Tune's Wonderful Life
After winning a local dance contest, teens George and Mary (Mickey Rooney, Judy Garland) head to New York, hoping to make it on Broadway with the backing of their friend Sam (Oscar Levant), who's just made a fortune in plastics. Their big break arrives when Potter (Bob Fosse), a famous impresario, takes an interest in them—provided Mary's willing to visit his casting couch. Gwen Verdon, Twiggy. Sammy Davis Jr. appears as himself. Delightful songs by Allan Sherman. 

Die Wonderfully Hard
When his ex-wife Mary (Sigourney Weaver) is taken hostage during a terrorist attack at the Bailey Savings and Loan Christmas party, George Bailey (Bruce Willis) attempts to free those trapped inside from the villainous Potter Meinhof Gang and its leader (Christoph Waltz), unaware that Mary already has the situation under control. With Arnold Schwarzenegger, Mel Gibson, Harrison Ford, Charlize Theron, and Chris Elliot. Fantastic special effects.

The Seventh Day of Christmas
Ingmar Bergman's masterpiece. A weary knight, Sir George of Bedford (Max von Sydow) returns from the Crusades and enters into a chess match with the black-robed Potter (Bo Svenson) for the soul of his village's citizens. The penalty if he loses? Death. Olympic star Sonja Henie appears in the skating scene. Mary: Scarlett Johansson. Clarence: Dolph Lundgren. Violet: Inger Stevens. Uncle Bill: Viggo Mortensen. Shown with subtitles. Viewer discretion advised.

The problem with Hollywood today is that too many decision-makers are afraid to think outside the box. Your mileage may vary, of course, but I think any of these movies would be a cinch to join the Christmas canon. They didn't happen, but they could have, couldn't they?  TV  

December 19, 2022

What's on TV? Saturday, December 17, 1966

You know, I may remember this day, or at least one like it. Football games all day, in all varieties (AFL, college, NFL), and Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol in the evening. They all ring a bell; I have memories that I can date further back than this, so why not? Saturdays were always my favorite days during the Christmas season, and all that goes to show is that I haven't changed any over the years. Oh, but there's one special program I want you all to take note of! At 4:00 p.m. on KCMT, it's the high school choir from the World's Worst Town™! This was six years before we moved there, but what did I say the other day about a rose by any other name? Anyway, let's not talk about it; I'm having such a good day. We're looking this week at the Minnesota State Edition.

December 17, 2022

This week in TV Guide: December 17, 1966

James Burnham, the midcentury political philosopher, coined a series of ten maxims about the realities of life which his friends collectively referred to as "Burnham's Laws." Number four on the list is "You cannot invest in retrospect," and while that's certainly true, it's also unfortunate, because if you could go back in time and invest in some of the longshots of the 1966-67 television season, you'd be in pretty good shape.

You see, there are viewers out there who believe this is "the 'worst' television season on record." There are critics who agree with them. There are even network executives who—privately, of course—concede this to be the case. They're not talking about news or public affairs shows, specials, or movies; they're specifically referring to how few hits there have been among the new season of weekly shows. The last few seasons have produced at least one or two hits each year, but "Critics, professional and home-style alike, have been keenly disappointed in the series unveiled so hopefully last September. There have been a few raves, much criticism and vast indifference." What do we know?
  • The Rat Patrol is "the only new series anyone could cite immediately as a success of sorts."
  • Family Affair is "no instant hit but frequently touted as a comer for its quality of human warmth."
  • CBS's senior programming vice president, claims critical success for Mission: Impossible, "a view not necessarily shared outside CBS." 
  • Mort Warner, NBC's top programmer, believes "The Monkees would be a hit if the Monday series had more station clearances," but many program movies on Monday nights instead.
  • Warner also thinks "Star Trek could be in for a long run."
  • At ABC, an anonymous executive insisted that the network is changing what the audience doesn't, like, and "insisted that That Girl and Love on a Rooftop will wind up hits. He described The Time Tunnell as an "unsung hero." 
Well, let's see. The Rat Patrol did, indeed, run for two seasons, and spawned product tie-ins and comic books. But Family Affair does indeed strike that warm chord with viewers and lasts five successful seasons. Mission: Impossible does even better, running seven seasons, the first three of which are excellent. The Monkees lasts two seasons, but The Monkees last forever. Star Trek—well, there's no need to go where that series has gone before, is there? That Girl, like Family Affair, runs for five seasons and sets the standard for the single working woman. I don't think I'm exaggerating to say that each of these five shows (we're excluding Rat Patrol) became, in their own way, iconic shows in television history.

As for why the performance of the new shows has been so underwhelming, there are many reasons. Most agree that movies provide the stiffest competition, as there are now five, soon to be six, movie nights a week. Of course, the ironic thing is that if this is true, the networks have only themselves to blame, since they're the ones programming the movies. Herb Brodkin (The Defenders) thinks "the networks would like to improve the quality of their programming, but I don't think they know what to do." Producer Hubbell Robinson thinks it's "getting harder and harder to find something different." How many different ways, he says, can you tell the same story? One network executive says there's no new blood out there; out of 50 scripts for proposed new series, "I liked about three or four. One was sensational."

What do we make of all this? For one thing, you have to give those executives credit for defending their shows; if we'd bet on their success at the odds that must have been offered at the time, we might be able to afford our own network. But the closing comment from one station-group executive seems prescient for our times. "The American public has been spoiled," he says. "It's had too much programming to choose from, from early morning to late night." That was when there were only three networks; what would he say today, according to The Hollywood Reporter, the year 2021 featured 559 English-language scripted shows? To borrow his own words—hanged if I know."

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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: Scheduled guests: singer Diahann Carroll, Count Basie and his orchestra, dancer-choreographer Peter Gennaro, comedienne Totie Fields, and the singing duo of Tony Sadler and Ralph Young.

Palace: Host Eddie Fisher presents Agnes Moorhead of Bewitched, who offers a reading from Marcel Proust's Remembrance of Things Past; the singing Young Americans; comedian Joey Foreman; singing dancers Alice and Ellen Kessler; the Canestrelli Family's trampoline act; and the Swordsmen of the Lido.

You probably remember Diahann Carroll from last week's TV Guide, where she was appearing as an actress rather than a singer; I don't know if she's performing with Count Basie or not, but either way that's some top music. Sadler and Young top the Kesslers, and I think we'll be entertained by both Peter Gennaro and Totie Fields. Palace isn't bad, but 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. 

If you're a fan of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and you're thinking that twice as many shows would be twice as nice, Cleveland Amory may have you wanting to cry uncle before his review is over. You see, for a spoof like the U.N.C.L.E. franchise to work, "it must surely have, to begin with, something serious to spoof off from. Or, failing that, it must at least be funny enough that you don't care whether you believe it or not." Unfortunately, this spinoff, with Stefanie Powers as April Dancer and Noel Harrison as Mark Slate, "has neither one nor the other. It's about as believable as women's wrestling. And it has about as much wit as a roller derby." That hurts.

The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. came along as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. was going full Batman-style camp, so it's no surprise that it takes, as its inspiration, what was undoubtedly the worst of the three-and-a-half seasons of its predecessor. And it's no surprise that the stories involve the Lost Continent of Atlantis, cheese impregnated with microdots with secret information, and the like. Talented, likeable, charming actors can overcome such pitfalls, or at least make them more palatable. But, Cleve points out, Noel Harrison (son of Rex, singer of "The Windmills of Your Mind") "seems to conceive his role as a combination of court jester and village idiot." As for Stefanie, she "runs [or perhaps he should have said Dancers] charmingly around in leotards, shorts and bathing suits, and she bowls over all her enemies with just one whiff of her secret weapon." And your complaint is? 

Seriously, it's true that all that charm can only get you so far. "Even Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin look bad n their occasional appearances here." Now, I'm a big fan of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., I own the series on DVD, and even I admit that the show was on life support by then, and the final half-season was a case of too little, too late. The Girl never made it to a second season, which is probably for the best. I was wrong about one thing, though. At the end of his review, Cleve says it's enough to make you cry aunt. And here I thought I was being the clever one.

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This week's highlight is the premiere of Dr. Seuss's How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Sunday, 6:00 p.m., CBS), one of television's most beloved animated specials. Leslie Raddatz has a background article on the making of The Grinch, which took almost a year to complete, and is the most expensive half-hour animated cartoon ever created for television. Seuss, aka Theodore Geisel, had been reluctant to get involved with the Hollywood "mass-production area," but was assuaged by the assurances of his old friend, Chuck Jones, that he would give the Grinch "the same loving care that Geisel himself would." After all, as Geisel's publisher Bennett Cerf points out, "We have some great names on our list—Faulkner, O'Hara, Capote. But Ted Geisel is the only real genius among them."

But there's more! The festivities actually get started on Saturday, with The Jackie Gleason Show's Honeymooners Christmas episode (6:30 p.m., CBS), in which Ralph (Gleason) thinks that Alice (Sheila MacRae) is expecting, and takes a job as a sidewalk Santa. Opposite that on NBC, it's Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (6:30 p.m.), one of the best adaptations of the Dickens story, with Jim Backus unforgettable as Magoo. NBC continues the holiday cheer at 7:30 p.m. with Christmas with Lorne Greene, featuring the UNICEF Children's Choir, a group of 45 youngsters from Long Beach, California; included is an imaginary trip back to Dickens' London, and Greene's recitation of "One Solitary Life," the story of Jesus. NBC then rounds off the evening with the Irving Berlin classic White Christmas (8:00 p.m.), starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera-Ellen, and Dean Jagger. Judith Crist points out that it has a "soppy plot" and is "low on laughter," but tune in for the wonderful Berlin songs. 

Returning to Sunday, The Grinch unfortunately conflicts with the second half of The Bell Telephone Hour's live "Christmas Through the Ages" (5:30 p.m., NBC), with Florence Henderson hosting "a musical outline of the history and customs of Christmas" with Sherrill Milnes and Gianna d'Angelo of the Metropolitan Opera, and musical theater stars Anita Gillette and Bruce Yarnell, concluding with Mrs. Brady's reading of the Nativity. I own a DVD of this; it's as fine a Christmas special as you'd want to see. How unfortunate that viewers were forced to choose between these two specials back in 1966. The night concludes with The Andy Williams Christmas Show (9:00 p.m., NBC), with the traditional lineup: Andy's wife Claudine Longet, and his parents, the Williams Brothers, and their children. I think you'll agree that this is an easy choice over the Candid Camera Christmas show, as the hidden camera picks up a group of children debating whether or not Santa is real, what to give their teachers for Christmas, and their wishes for the New Year.

And let's not forget Perry Como; Mr. C's Kraft Music Hall Christmas special (Monday, 8:00 p.m., NBC) stars the Met Opera's Anna Moffo, ventriloquist Senor Wences, and Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara. In addition to Christmas music, Stiller and Meara do a North Pole skit, and Perry recites the Nativity story. Skipping ahead to Wednesday, ABC Stage '67 presents Truman Capote's autobiographical story "A Christmas Memory" (9:00 p.m., ABC), starring Geraldine Page and Donnie Melvin, and narrated by Capote himself; the much-acclaimed program will win an Emmy and Peabody the next year. Watch it, and you'll miss The Danny Kaye Show's Christmas episode (9:00 p.m, CBS), with Peggy Lee, Wayne Newton, and the International Children's Choir from Long Beach, Ca—wait a minute. That UNICEF choir on Lorne Greene's show on Saturday was from Long Beach. You don't suppose that these two choirs are one and the same, do you? I see a page for the International Children's Choir, but why would a UNICEF choir be based in Long Beach, instead of, say, Zurich? I wonder if we're looking at a case of rebranding here?

Finally, on Friday it's Merv Griffin's syndicated Christmas show (7:30 p.m.), with Garry Moore reading the Nativity, Merv's sidekick Arthur Treacher, ballet dancers Lupe Serrano and Scott Douglas, singer-actress Patrice Marand, singers Gilbert Price and David Soul, singer-actor Frankie Michaels, and the choir from St. Michael's Orphan Home on Staten Island. 

By the way, you'll notice the place the Nativity story plays in these shows. Garry Moore reads it—as do Perry Como, Lorne Greene, Florence Henderson, and Andy Williams (in the lyrics of his songs). The Nativity didn't used to be controversial on television shows, given that the event Christmas commemorates is, you know, the Nativity. I guess I'm just a little too simple-minded to understand what the problem is. 

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Speaking as we were of Danny Kaye, that Christmas show of his will be the last one, at least for the near future. After four "disappointing" seasons, during which the show dropped in the ratings to 77th (out of 100), CBS has decided to pull the plug. According to Richard K. Doan, "Kaye had evidently kept too well his 1963 promise: 'With a weekly show. . . I can take chances. I can afford to be lousy." CBS permitted Kaye to resign, so to speak, rather than get fired, by announcing that Kaye's agent had informed the network Kaye would not return to TV next season. I believe that Danny Kaye and Judy Garland both debuted their variety shows the same season; they were both big stars who had resisted going into weekly television for some time before finally taking the plunge. Of course, Garland had her own problems and really wasn't served well by the network, but (and this isn't an original thought), Some say he was at the height of his popularity, but his last few movies had been bombs; I wonder if Kaye waited too long to make the jump? Or perhaps, as Doan suggests, he was just lousy too often. His replacement? Carol Burnett, who would inherit Harvey Korman from the cast.

On Meet the Press (Sunday, 3:00 p.m., NBC), the guest is Republican governor Dan Evans of Washington, who's asked about the significance of the GOP's gains in last month's midterm elections. I can tell you the answer to that in one sentence: the Republican party just nominated Richard Nixon for the presidency. Let me explain; after LBJ's landslide win over Goldwater in 1964, the Democrats held supermajorities in both houses of Congress (68-32 in the Senate, 295-140 in the House). Nixon campaigned tirelessly for Republican candidates in the midterms, resulting in a gain of two seats in the Senate and 40 in the House. Nixon earned a lot of IOUs through his campaigning, and that would play an important role in his winning the nomination in 1968, especially in keeping conservatives from endorsing Ronald Reagan. The Republicans may not realize it yet, but Nixon is about to make the greatest comeback in American political history.

You remember the family specials I've mentioned that so often made up a part of the holiday season? On Monday night, CBS presents a musical version of Jack and the Beanstalk by New York's Prince Street Players (6:30 p.m.), one in a series of children's musicals the Players did on CBS. You can see that broadcast right here.

As a demonstration of how ambitious local news organizations used to be, WCCO's Phil Jones has just returned from Vietnam, and he reports on servicemen from Minnesota in Our Men in Vietnam (Tuesday, 8:30 p.m.). On Friday at 10:30 p.m., WCCO associate news director Joe Bartelme interviews Jones for further observations on his trip to Vietnam. Here's another WCCO report on Vietnam from 1969. I know KSTP anchors Gene Berry reported from Vietnam as well; I don't know how much of this happened in the Gulf. 

Wednesday night, Maurice Evans, who was so good in so many Shakespearian dramas on Hallmark Hall of Fame (not to mention Samantha's father in Bewitched) is The Puzzler in Part 1 of Batman (6:30 p.m., ABC). His M.O.: leaving a trail of Shakespearian quotes and puzzles, of course.

In the Teletype, Mike Connors will be playing a detective in the CBS pilot Mannix, filmed by Desilu. That's going to be a big hit for both Connors and the network. Also in the Teletype: "The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. is coming up with its first musical of the year. "The Brublegratz Affair" which will feature a new rock-'n'-roll group, the Daily Flash." That single paragraph goes a long, long way toward explaining Cleveland Amory's review above, and why the show won't be back for another season (and another musical). Fortunately for them, the Daily Flash had a longer career

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Finally, this week's MST3K alert: The Lost Missile (Monday, 10:30 a.m., WTCN). 1958. "New Yorkers have little more than an hour left to live as a radioactive missile circles the earth, destroying everything in a 10-mile-wide swath. Robert Loggia, Larry Kerr, Ellen Parker." This is another movie that wasn't on MST3K, but was riffed by Trace Beaulieu and Frank Conniff, the mad scientists from MST3K. Will scientist Robert Loggia save the city before it's too late? A riff by any other name would sound as snarky. TV