January 15, 2022

This week in TV Guide: January 16, 1965

Well, I wanna tell ya, in 1965 there was no doubt that Bob Hope was, as the cover says, an American Institution, and had been for quite some time. It is not lightly that we dress someone in a red, white and blue tie and pose him as the Statue of Liberty, after all. And yet, to some—as the late Terry Teachout (and you don't know how much it pains me to say that) pointed out in this essay from a few years ago—Hope is, today, a forgotten man.*

*I wrote about that Teachout piece when it first came out, though I'm not of a mind to go back and look up what I wrote back then. What Teachout wrote was thoughtful and provocative, as he usually was, but as I've thought more about it, I've come more and more to disagree with it, as you'll soon see.

What makes a man an institution? As Dwight Whitney writes, it's more than whether or not you're funny. Hope "has long ceased to be a mere jokesmith, quipster, and all-around funny fellow." He is a man who has traveled to virtually every country in the world, often at Christmastime. He is a man called upon by the State Department to use his prestige in the cause of international diplomacy, as in the case where he facilitated a Japanese Little League team getting their visas in time to come to the Little League World Series. He is a man who can glibly throw spears at politicians from all parties and still have them love him. He receives 50 requests a week to appear at benefits for hospitals, churches, homes for juvenile delinquents. "He considers them all, then agonizes because he can do only a few." He does all this—and more.

I think the Hope-Crosby Road movies are very funny. Watching Hope's TV specials (or listening to his radio programs) I can take him or leave him; some of the jokes work, others don't, although the audiences of the times seem to have appreciated them. He stayed around too long, as his last shows attest; but then, how many performers really know when it's time to say goodbye?

Times change, as to tastes. One commentator on Teachout's article remarked that he didn't find Hope funny, but then he didn't think Dick Van Dyke or Bob Newhart were funny either. His taste ran more toward Seinfeld, to which another wrote that Seinfeld was old news, that he wasn't funny either. You can accept Teachout's thesis that Hope's main flaw was that he wasn't a "Jewish comedian," but my hunch is it as much more to do with our short-attention-span generations, where except for slights (real or imagined), nothing that happened more than 36 hours ago is worth mentioning. Hope forgotten? Yes, as are most of the Founding Fathers and U.S. presidents (well, perhaps Grant's Tomb was a little hasty), Johnny Carson, Peter De Vries, Sinclair Lewis, Jackie Gleason and—for the latest generation—even Jerry Seinfeld. Playwrights, poets, novelists, movie stars, television heroes, political leaders, religious figures; their time always seems to come and go, when a society doesn't care to remember its history.

Bob Hope may not be the funniest man in the world to modern ears, but in context he was at the top. He was a great humanitarian, an institution at the Academy Awards, a Godsend to the troops. You just don't forget someone with the body of work he has. Even if you don't respect his humor, you respect his accomplishments, and to the extent that he is forgotten, it says little about him—and a great deal about us.

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No "Sullivan vs. The Palace this week; usually, it's because ABC's found some reason or other to bump The Hollywood Palace, but this time it's CBS', fault—Ed makes way for the network's annual showing of The Wizard of Oz, hosted by Danny Kaye, at 7:00 p.m. It's easy to forget that in the days before DVDs and VCRs and all-movie cable channels, the showing of a movie like The Wizard of Oz could be quite an event. In its early broadcast years, it was shown as part of pre-Christmas festivities, but starting in 1964 it was moved to January, which is where it is this year. I was surprised to learn, in a somewhat jumbled and repetitive article from the always-reliable Wikipedia, that the movie has never been shown on local television—it's always been broadcast either on an over-the-air network or on cable. I guess it's true that you learn something new every day if you're not careful.

Anyway, I digress, It's too bad Ed didn't show up for the battle this week, because it's the first anniversary of The Hollywood Palace, and to celebrate they've brought back the host of that first show, Bing Crosby. Bing welcomes his co-stars from his ABC sitcom, Beverly Garland and Frank McHugh, the King Sisters, ballet dancers Jacques d'Amboise and Catherine Mazzo, comedian Corbett Monica, the Three Rebertes acrobats, and Leonardo, who does some always-welcome plate spinning. Bing's joined for a skit by previous Palace hosts, including George Burns, Liberace, Cyd Charisse and Tony Martin, Gene Barry, Ed Wynn, Debbie Reynolds, Groucho Marx, Buddy Ebsen, Phil Harris and Bette Davis. I think I'd have to give the week to Palace even if Ed was on.

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

This week, Cleveland Amory takes a trip into the world of spies with The Man from U.N.C.L.E. Now, this is another program we enjoy watching, so we have to admit having our feelings hurt a bit when Amory begins his review by noting that earlier in the month, NBC had preempted the show for a White Paper report on "The Decision to Drop the Bomb," and then remarks, "They should have kept U.N.C.L.E. on while they dropped the bomb."

To be fair, though, those first few U.N.C.L.E. episodes really weren't that good, at least compared to when the show found its stride in the last part of the first season and throughout season two. For one thing, the episodes Amory references come from before the producers figured out that David McCallum was just as important to the success of the show as Robert Vaughn.* One contemporary critic commented that it was McCallum's presence that allowed Vaughn to become a more well-rounded character, rather that the generic superspy he was originally conceived as. That, and the fact that McCallum had tremendous appeal to the young female fans of the show.

*In the past I've commented that Robert Vaughn is the only man I know who can make even the hero look and sound smarmy.

In that sense, we can't really disagree with Amory's observation that "for all the fast pace and gimmickry, there just isn't enough charm." Even when the concept is a good one, as was the case with "The Double Affair," the execution is lacking. "But there was also scene after scene which seemed to be building up to something that never happened." Even when it does, he complains, you don't really care about the characters; he's sure one bad guy keeled over not from violent mayhem, but because " he was, we are certain, bored to death."

He does credit McCallum as being better than Vaughn, although not by much, but again - it would be interesting to see if Cleve revisits the series in a year or so. Not during the dreadful season three, when the show becomes a grotesque parody of Batman, but when the balance between thriller and spoof seems to be just right. By then, we feel, Vaughn and McCallum are doing just fine as Napoleon and Illya - and we think he might agree with that.

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I'm often impressed by the narrow lead time some issues of TV Guide have; take G-E College Bowl, for example, in which the winning college returns the following week to defend its championship. The show airs live on Sunday afternoons, and yet week after week the name of the returning champion can be found in the following week's listing. Assuming the magazine comes out on Thursday or Friday, that gives it only a couple of days to get everything ready. Sometimes, however, especially in cases of the unexpected, we run into a listing for a program that never was. Such is the case this week.

On Saturday at 2:00 p.m., ABC is scheduled to broadcast the AFL All-Star Game, live from the Sugar Bowl stadium in New Orleans. In reality, although the game is played that Saturday, the all-stars are not in New Orleans. It's one of the more important sports-associated events of the civil rights movement; thanks to sports documentaries, the details have been pretty well shared by now, but if you're not a sports fan I don't know if you've ever heard the story.

New Orleans in the 1960s remained a racial tinderbox—one of the most segregated and racist cities in the South, according to some. In fact, just a couple of weeks prior, the Sugar Bowl (which began in 1935) had hosted its first game that included a fully integrated team (Syracuse University), a game which had come off without incident. The American Football League had scheduled the All-Star game for the city as a try-out for a possible expansion team; at the time, there were no professional franchises located there, and the NFL and AFL were competing for cities in the underrepresented South. However, as this excellent article points out, New Orleans was headed for a major black eye. Despite assurances by the league and city officials, black players were almost immediately subject to discrimination as soon as they arrived for the game:

[M]any of the black players were left stranded at the airport for hours when they arrived in town. Once in the city African American players were refused cab service and in some cases those who were given rides were dropped off miles from their destinations.

Other players were refused admittance to nightspots and restaurants, while nearly all were subjected to tongue-lashings and to a hostile atmosphere on Bourbon Street in the French Quarter while sightseeing.  The situation became so uncomfortable for the black players who clearly felt unwelcome that most simply returned to their hotels.

Eventually, the twenty-one black all-stars—supported by many of their white teammates—voted to boycott the game if it remained in New Orleans. Panicked league officials, with little time to do anything else, were forced to act quickly. On Monday, January 11 - only five days before the game - AFL Commissioner Joe Foss announced the game was being moved to Houston. It was too late for TV Guide to do anything about it, but the Close-Up remains a reminder of the climate of the times, and of how long it took some things to change. I wonder how the announcers on the telecast addressed the situation?

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Wednesday is January 20, and we all know what that means every four years - the inauguration of the President and Vice President of the United States. This year, President Lyndon Johnson will take the oath of office for his first full term, in circumstances quite different from those which existed when he became President on November 22, 1963.

For the first time since that date, the nation will have a Vice President, as Minnesota Senator Hubert Humphrey is sworn in, followed by LBJ himself. After a landslide victory over Republican candidate Barry Goldwater, it is a chance for Johnson to rejoice, to feel the sense of triumph denied him due to his sudden accession to the presidency. As one newsman commented—probably Edwin Newman; it has his puckish sense of humor—Johnson "looked as if he could dance all night, and probably did." And yet, I wonder if the nation had really recovered from JFK's assassination. It's only about 14 months since then, and just as news commentators compared Kennedy's triumphant inaugural trip down Pennsylvania Avenue to his solemn funeral cortege along the same route, it was bound to occur to more than one observer that LBJ's victorious parade could well have been—should have been—Kennedy's.*

*A brief political interjection: though I'm no fan of Johnson's politics, I've always felt compassion for the man considering how he was treated by so many of the Kennedy loyalists. 

TV coverage of the inauguration is complete, beginning at 7:00 a.m. on NBC with Today, and continuing on CBS at 10:00 and ABC at 10:30, leading up to the oath-taking at noon, with musical performances by Leontyne Price and the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, followed by the Inaugural Parade. That night, attention shifts to the four Inaugural Balls (and Johnson's all-night dancing), so big that even The Tonight Show is preempted in order for NBC to cover them.

Four years later, the scene will repeat itself, with a stunningly different cast of characters. Richard Nixon, thought to be cast into political oblivion, is now President; LBJ, harried and hated, leaves office after choosing not to run for reelection; Robert F. Kennedy, the heir-apparent to Camelot, is dead; Hubert Humphrey, four years a Vice President, barely misses catching Nixon at the end. Not for the first time, nor for the last, does one muse on how nobody possibly could have predicted it.

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Let's see, it's been awhile since we've had a starlet of the week, hasn't it? Well, let's try Debbie Watson on for size.

Debbie, still 15 at the time this issue comes out (she turns 16 on January 17) is, in the words of "people who should know," one of the "it" girls—that is, whatever "it" is that makes someone a star, she has it. She's the lead in the sitcom Karen, one of the three programs that makes up the umbrella series 90 Bristol Court on NBC*, and even though that series only lasts a year, she'll rebound to star in the 1965-66 version of Tammy, based on the big-screen movies. In 1966 she'll take the place of Pat Priest in Munster, Go Home. And at this point, she is getting a kick out of the whole thing.

She's naive, though, and hasn't seemed quite to understand what it means to star in a TV series. She's been late to a photo shoot, and she's skeptical that being an actress will change much about her life. These things aren't offered as criticisms, but pointed out to show just how green she is. And maybe that's why her career is so short. Her last entry in IMDb is an appearance on Love, American Style in 1971, and after that she retired to what has been by all accounts a relatively satisfied life. And there's nothing wrong with that.

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A couple of weeks ago ABC telecast the United Nations drama Carol for Another Christmas, which strongly supports international interventionism, and at the time I mentioned there'd be more discussion to come. That discussion comes in the form of the Letters to the Editor section, which—unlike the reviewers—are strongly positive. Ruth Halfman of St. Louis writes to say she was "greatly moved," while C. Herbert Wolf Sr., who lives in Roswell, New Mexico, calls it the finest sermon he's ever heard, and adds that "it put the Christ in Christmas." George Oliver of Metairie, Louisiana thanks Xerox, writer Rod Serling, director Joseph L. Mankiewicz and ABC itself for "the best Christmas present of the year," and appreciates the lack of commercials.

Not everyone is so sanguine, though; George W. Coughenour of San Bernardino, California congratulates everyone involved for "a wonderful piece of Communist propaganda," and Frances K. Samuels of New Caanan, Connecticut complains that "Rod Serling laid the blame for all the world's wars and ills on the American doorstop."

Perhaps the most ironic letter comes from Linda Love of Pensacola, Florida. In its entirety: "My husband spent the last few months in Vietnam. After seeing this program I won't have to ask why. Thank God we Americans care enough for our fellow man to fight to free him from oppression." Why do I call it ironic? Well, the conventional wisdom, for what it's worth—certainly for Mr. Coughenour, as well as Daniel Grudge, the Scrooge-like character played by Sterling Hayden in the show—is that those who like the show and support the mission of the UN are nothing more than bleeding-heart activist liberals. And yet within three years, many of those same liberals will be marching through the street, chanting "What are we fighting for?" and Muhammad Ali is saying "I ain't got nothing against those Viet Cong." Even the UN turns against the war.

TV Guide says that letters are running "about 6 to 1" in favor of the UN series. I wonder, if they were to revisit those letter writers in 1968, how many of them would feel the same way?

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Finally, a note from Richard Warren Lewis' article on the development of the ABC series Peyton Place. It is said that the idea to air the show twice-a-week was inspired by twice-weekly soap opera Coronation Street "that was aired on British television and earned huge ratings." I'm sure Lewis didn't mean to refer to Coronation Street in the past tense, as if it weren't on television anymore. It premiered on ITV on December 9, 1960, and at the time of this article had been on for just over four years.

Peyton Place
, which debuted on ABC September 15, 1964, would run to June 1969, and then was resurrected for a daytime run on NBC in the early '70s. Coronation Street, on the other hand, remains a British institution, more than 60 years after its debut and still going strong, with over 10,000 episodes under its belt. Something which we can all only dream of. TV  

January 14, 2022

Around the dial

I'm beginning to get the feeling that the obituaries for our classic stars are simply being continued from one week to the next. At Comfort TV, David thinks back on the life and times of Betty White and why we loved her

At A Shroud of Thoughts, it's Terence's tribute to the one and only Dobie Gillis, Dwayne Hickman, who died at the start of the week. Let's not forget that he was also a regular on Love That Bob, as well as an executive for CBS, and director of numerous TV shows. He never stopped acting, either. Inner Toob has a tribute to him as well.

Terence also remembers the great Sidney Poitier, who died late last week, as does The Last Drive In. Poitier was a man and an actor of great dignity—not the kind that one finds often in the business any more.

On a lighter note, Silver Scenes brings back memories of the early '70s Saturday morning scene with this piece on Josie and the Pussycats, Hanna-Barbera's version of the Archies; unlike that cartoon, Josie and the Pussycats was a real band as well, with one Cheryl Ladd as a member. How much more real can it get?

At Garroway at Large, Jodie shares images from the 1987 prime-time special Today at 35. What a titanic list of talent—and television history—on that show (I hadn't realized how many of them outlived Dave Garroway.) To think it's been 35 years since then. 

Over at The Horn Section, Hal as a link to his recent appearance with Dan Schneider (whom I've appeared with a couple of times myself) on his "Why This TV Series Is Great" series. The show in question: F Troop, of course!

At bare-bones e-zine, Wiliam D. Gordon's "The Dark Pool" becomes Jack's latest entry in The Hitchcock Project. It's an unsettling, chilling story with Lois Nettleton, Anthony George, and Madlyn Rhue.

And finally, Cult TV Blog returns to American television and The X-Files with "Rm9sbG93ZXJz" (pronounced "Followers," of course), which itself is a sequel of sorts to the first season episode "Ghost in the Machine," and a prescient episode indeed. Is this our brave new world? TV  

January 12, 2022

What television is all about

The turning point in Preston Sturges’ wonderful 1941 satire Sullivan’s Travels comes as our hero, a director of light comedies who wants to make a searing, socially relevant drama about the human condition, heads out on the road, pretending to be a tramp in order to research first-hand the plight of the average man. Through a complicated misunderstanding best left alone for now, he winds up on a prison chain gang, mistaken for a murderer. One night, the inmates are treated to a showing of the Disney cartoon Playful Pluto, and as he observes these men reacting with childlike joy to the movie’s antics, he comes to understand that the simple pleasure derived from this cartoon comedy outweighs any so-called enlightenment they might have gotten from his social drama.* Thus enlightened, he comes to see his comedies, which he’d disparaged as superficial, are in fact just what audiences want—entertainment.

*Proposed title: O Brother, Where Art Thou? And yes, that's where the Coens got the title.

If you've been a longtime reader, you might remember the article you're about to read—I originally wrote it, I think, about five years ago—but I was drawn to revisit because of a couple of separate but related ideas I've been working on. It's not one continuous story, but when the pieces are all put together, I think it will tell us some interesting things about television and the times in which we live. We'll see what you think over the next couple of weeks. 

When I first wrote this, I did so a couple of weeks after having written about the renown Dr. Karl  Menninger and his theory on "comforting TV." As has been pointed out many times, television is a medium in which the entertainers are invited as guests into our living rooms (or at least that's how it seemed when it first started). One thing that guests don't generally do is harangue their hosts on how they should think, feel, or act. Well, some of them do, but they don't usually get invited back for a second chance. Just as we look forward to a pleasant, relaxing evening when we invite friends over for dinner, we should expect the same from the television we invite into our consciousness.

I think it's important, as we dig deeply into the meaning and consequences of television vis-à-vis the social welfare, that we not lose sight of this. Television is, first and foremost, entertainment, and while not every program provides us with the sheer joy that John Sullivan saw on the faces of his fellow inmates, we should at least aspire to have a good time. That doesn't mean every program you watch has to be mindless drivel, lulling you into a drooling coma; and television programs should provide something that is, if not uplifting and inspiring, at least not a near occasion of some sort of sin. But you get the point. Certainly, as Lileks put it a while back, watching a television series should never become a chore, a burden to be endured each week rather than a pleasure to be relished. Yes, I watch many classic television programs in hopes of learning something to further my writing here, but that's almost incidental to my main purpose, which is an hour or so of enjoyment and relaxation. You'd have a hard time convincing me to watch a series that I found boring, irritating, or mindless, just because there was something instructional about it.

If I were a fan of the NBA (which I'm not), I wouldn't be watching a game in order to get a political lecture from Gregg Popovich. I'd be watching it because I liked basketball and wanted to see who won. And that's all. It doesn't matter if he's bashing Trump or praising William F. Buckley, Jr.—I just want a little entertainment. It's the same with TV series that start mistaking proselytizing for plot development; at the end of the day, does this show scold you or keep you engaged? Are you exhausted but exhilarated, or weary from being harangued? Has your blood pressure stabilized, or is the cuff about to burst in two? And do you find yourself entertained, or does the show just make you as mad as hell and not going to take this anymore?

You remember that episode of The Twilight Zone that I wrote about a few years ago, the one which allowed me to expand on the existential nature of Christmas? That was secondary to the primary reason I watched it in the first place: because it was an episode of a show I liked. The vast majority of programs in my collection, the shows that we watch each week, are there because we like watching them. I'm not ashamed to admit that I like television; it's enriched my life, given me hundreds of hours of enjoyment. And so, no matter what we talk about here, no matter how deep it gets, never lose sight of the big picture: television must provide entertainment. And when that stops, that's when television stops as well. As for what some people find entertaining—well, that's a topic for next week, isn't it?  TV  

January 10, 2022

What's on TV? Thursday, January 14, 1971

This week we're in Philadelphia, all set to have a good time. We're halfway through the first month of the year, and as you'll see, some of the new season's hopefuls are already dropping off the schedule. ABC has it particularly tough; Vince Edwards' return to series television ends with the final episode of Matt Lincoln, followed by the end of the first half of the Neil Simon sitcom duo, Barefoot in the Park, and Christopher George's Fugitive-like series The Immortal. Matt Lincoln will be replaced by the debut of Alias Smith and Jones, while Barefoot makes room for Danny Thomas' Make Room for Granddaddy. Whoever said April was the cruelest month obviously wasn't a television producer.

January 8, 2022

This week in TV Guide: January 9, 1971

It's long been a contention of mine that the early years of the 1960s are really an extension of the '50s, and that the '60s as cultural phenomenon reach into the early '70s. However, as is the case with most theories, there are exceptions, and one of the clearest examples of how the decades differ is Andy Griffith. If this was a Matlock mystery, it might be called "The Case of the $3,500,000 Misunderstanding."

Bill Davidson's cover story does indeed tell a story, that of the beloved television star finding out you can't go home again, but if we're honest about it, that story really dates back to 1957, when Andy Griffith made a great movie called A Face in the Crowd, after which nothing would ever be the same. The movie made Griffith a star, but it left a deep scar in him as well; critics began to refer to him as "another Jimmy Stewart," and whether you agree with that assessment or not the fact remains that Jimmy Stewart never was sheriff of Mayberry (although he could be as homespun as anyone), and while The Andy Griffith Show made Griffith a millionaire and the undisputed star of CBS, it also left him craving another bite of that dramatic apple—a bite it seems he'll never get.

This would seem to explain his decision in 1968 to abandon Mayberry in favor of a five-year contract to star in at least ten movies for Universal, where they assured him he'd "be another Jimmy Stewart or Hank Fonda." The deal lasted but one year, and produced one movie (Angel in My Pocket), and when the studio asked him to do a comedy with Don Knotts, "That cut it," Griffith says. "I love Don, but teaming up with him again would be like going backwards."

And so his next step was, if not backwards, at least lateral—back to television, thanks to his longtime agent Dick Linke, in a dramedy called Headmaster. CBS was so excited at the prospect of getting their star back that they signed on to a series without a script, or even a scenario, for $3.5 million. Headmaster called for him to play "a stern but just high school principal," with the comedy left to others, but the Andy that audiences knew and loved clashed with the new Andy, the one "pompously moralizing with minsermons on such maxitopics as drug addiction and freedom of academic expression." The show was a bomb, and though Griffith's stature alone could probably have gotten the series a second season, both he and the network agreed to scrap it in favor of The New Andy Griffith Show, in which he returned to his rural roots as mayor of a small Southern town. There are hopes for the series as this issue goes to press, but alas, the new new Griffith show does even worse than the old new Griffith show, and before the year is out CBS is back to running reruns of Headmaster in the timeslot.

It's just one of several setbacks which will come Griffith's way: Adams of Eagle Lake, Salvage 1, and The Yeagers are all short-run series, and he'll make at least as many failed pilots. He remains popular and in the public eye due to his numerous TV-movie appearances, including some of those darker roles he craved. Finally, in 1986, he hits the jackpot again with Matlock, where he plays the down-home Southern lawyer, but with a sharp edge that had been missing with Sheriff Andy Taylor. The series runs for nine seasons, even longer than the original Andy Griffith Show.

But while it's always nice to go out on top, one can't help but think of his words when describing A Face in the Crowd. "I wish I could get a role like that again," he says in this article. "It'll come along." Success may return to Andy Griffith, but that one role he craves, that second bite of the apple, never does.

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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. 

It may only be January, but Cleveland Amory's already looking toward August—Dan August, that is, Burt Reynolds' new police drama that premiered on ABC just last September. And although the show seems to be of two minds about just about everything, Amory is single-minded in his verdict: no matter what the producers try, this series falls short. It is, in many ways, a prime example of television cynicism at its worst.

The problem plaguing August, according to Amory, is that "they want it both ways. A tough, hard-hitting, violent, beat-'em-up—but, of course, mustn't have too much violence, so, in at least two episodes so far, they give you, in the station house, a kind of second-degree third degree." Anti-establishment enough to attract "the kids," but not so anti that it turns the elders off. Stories that invariably feature two sides. And so on. Even the setting—large enough for big-city crime, small-enough that cases still involve August's friends.

Lest you think the producers are merely covering all the bases, Amory notes, "like every other show that ever set out to have it both ways, Dan August hasn't got it either way." The result is an unreal mishmash that usually leaves you with nobody to root for, or even identify with. As for Reynolds, "[t]hey are so careful to make him not one thing or another—not too superhero, for example, nor too bumbly—that they end up not making him anything. He is all wood and a yard wide." His co-stars "just trail around after Dan, trying to pick up the pieces of the plots and expositions." That is, those who aren't either invisible or irritating.

In fairness, Amory does find the good in Dan August, in that the show takes on, as we noted, difficult themes, ones that present both sides of an issue. "It does not do them particularly well, mind you, but it does undertake them." Alas, the old adage that the person who walks in the middle of the road winds up getting hit from both directions holds true for TV series as well: Dan August never sees August, going off in April 1971. It reappears in reruns only after Burt Reynolds' career takes off later in the '70s. Proving, I suppose, that no good deed goes unpunished.

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On Sunday, the NBA and NHL seasons get underway on ABC and CBS. Now, if you're a sports fan, you might have thought the seasons actually began in October. But, you see, those games don't count—like the internet today, nothing happens unless it's seen on television. Back in the days before sports saturated the tube, the networks didn't pick up on hockey and basketball until after the football season had ended, and so with football all but over, it's time to move on to other sports. On Saturday, ABC kicks off the tenth season of the Professional Bowlers Tour with the St. Paul Open, televised live from St. Paul, Minnesota (3:00 p.m. ET), while the PGA tees off on CBS with coverage of the Glen Campbell Los Angeles Open (5:00 p.m. Saturday, 4:30 p.m. Sunday).

The Juice and Jill St. John
I said that football was all but over: there is, in fact, one game yet to be played, but that one game is the Super Bowl, to be played on January 17 in Miami. It will be a game of firsts: the first Super Bowl since the AFL-NFL merger, and the first to be played on artificial turf. But that's next Sunday; this Sunday evening at 8:00 p.m. CBS warms us up for the big game with something called The Super Comedy Bowl, a one-hour variety special featuring an odd combination of celebrities and sports figures, including Lucille Ball, Jack Lemmon, John Wayne, Charlton Heston, Jill St. John, and Charles Nelson Reilly from the Hollywood side, and Ben Davidson, O.J. Simpson, Joe Namath, Roman Gabriel, Deacon Jones, and Dick Butkus on the jock side. This is the first in a series of Super Bowl tie-in variety specials over the next few years, most of which would be broadcast the night before the game with titles such as Super Night at the Super Bowl, as networks began to appreciate the capitalize on the growing hype value of the game and the consequent opportunities for cross-promotion.

This provides us with a nice segue to some of the week's variety shows. We're past the era of The Hollywood Palace, and Ed Sullivan is preempted tonight by the Super Bowl show, but that doesn't mean we're without variety. Glen Campbell is enjoying Sunday evening success with his Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour on CBS (9:00 p.m.), and tonight his guests include Liberace, Neil Diamond, Larry Storch, Linda Ronstadt, and the winner of the aforementioned Glen Campbell Los Angeles Open. That's followed by Jackie Gleason's show (10:00 p.m., CBS); tonight's rerun stars Bing Crosby, Maureen O'Hara and Bert Parks in a Honeymooners-goes-to-Hollywood musical.

On Monday night Rowan and Martin (8:00 p.m., NBC) welcome Johnny Carson, Gore Vidal, and Los Angeles mayor Sam Yorty (an odd collection if ever there was one), and on Carol Burnett (10:00 p.m., CBS) the guests are Jerry Lewis and Leslie Uggams. Tuesday features The Don Knotts Show (7:30 p.m., NBC) with Lloyd Bridges, his sons Jeff and Beau, Nancy Wilson, and Tommy Roe (but no Andy Griffith, we might add.) The second half of the Knotts show overlaps with Hee Haw (7:00 p.m,. CBS), still on its network run, with Roger Miller, Peggy Little, and New York Yankees outfielder Bobby Murcer (?) leading the way. And we've got dueling shows at 9:00 p.m. on Wednesday, with NBC's Kraft Music Hall going up against ABC's Johnny Cash Show. On the former, "Alan King Plays the Games People Play" with James Coco, Anne Meara, and Mary Ann Mobely; the latter features Jane Morgan, Homer and Jethro, Bill Anderson, Gordon Lightfoot, and Jan Howard.

Thursday night features Flip Wilson (NBC, 7:30 p.m.), and an eclectic guest cast of Zero Mostel, Steve Lawrence and Roberta Flack. Meanwhile, do you remember that Jim Nabors left Gomer Pyle to host his own variety series? (Probably, except for some of you youngsters out there.) It ran for a couple of seasons and did very well, but it was included in the rural purge that claimed so many of CBS's other successful series. Anyway, Jim's special guest this week is Robert Goulet, along with Jim's regulars Ronnie Schell and Frank Sutton (8:00 p.m.). Of course, the crown jewel of Thursday's shows is always Dean Martin (10:00 p.m., NBC), and this week Deano has something for everyone, with Orson Welles reading from the Bible (I'll bet you thought he only did roasts), and Charles Nelson Reilly and Don Rice for comic relief. Finally, on Friday, This Is Tom Jones ends its two-year run, with Petula Clark as Tom's sole guest. (10:00 p.m, ABC)

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It's interesting that even in 1970 people within the medium were predicting the eventual end of the networks, and it's a theme that will continue through this year of 1971. Some thought they'd be gone before the turn of the century; nearly all of them felt they'd have disappeared by now. The reasons are fairly simple: the dreck polluting the airwaves today, combined with the coming growth of cable television, something that nearly everyone knows is coming. In the first of a two-part analysis by Richard K. Doan, we learn the details of the gloom descending on network boardrooms.

There are a host of reasons for pessimism, to be sure: loss of revenue, due at least partially to the ban on cigarette advertising ($200 million annually); loss of a half-hour of prime time per night starting next year ($170 million in lost billing); a movement to ban commercials on Saturday morning cartoons (the biggest profit center other than soap operas and The Tonight Show); a prohibition of networks syndicating their old series to local stations ("lucrative"); increasing attacks from politicians, particularly Vice President Spiro Agnew; and that's just the tip of the iceberg. Says one insider at NBC, "Let's face it, we're as big as we're ever going to get. From now on it's a defensive action."

Mike Dann, the former head of programming for CBS, is blunt: "I believe there is no chance the network structure as we know it can or will survive." Paul Klein, the former head of audience research for NBC, agrees that there is no future for the networks, and adds that most viewers "settle for the least objectionable programs, rather than watching anything they really care about," which in turn results in the networks offering what he refers to as "future schlock"—"a slow deterioration of network fare toward 'cheap' shows such as games and more and more reruns." And then there's the growing trend of affiliates pre-empting network programs to run old movies and syndicated series; Jack Harris, president of KPRC in Houston, says "Such pre-emptions are made for only reason. It is spelled M-O-N-E-Y and pronounced money." When the most profitable affiliates do it, "then the pronunciation is GREED."

Donald McGannon, president of Group W, said the programming put out by networks is "not relevant to our times," and was a major backer of the FCC move to give a half-hour per night of prime time back to local stations. He felt the result would be "socially relevant, innovative and instructional or cultural" programs every night on all stations. The result, of course, has been syndicated game and talk shows and other such pablum. And there we have it, for just about every plan to reform television has failed. Greater network control of television programs, started as a response to the Quiz Show Scandals, has resulted in an increased emphasis on ratings, which in turn has caused programmers to dumb down their shows in search of that "lowest common denominator" programming. The salad days of the past, when the networks were rolling in money, have resulted in unrealistic profit expectations. As one executive points out, "what other business expects to return 45 [cents] out of every dollar to profit? And that's the return right now."

(In Group W's defense, it should be noted that in 1976, they launched Evening Magazine, called P.M. Magazine on non-Group W stations, which would run throughout the remainder of the 1970s and '80s, and included segments produced by local stations as well as the national content.) 

We don't know what the second half of this article says about what all this means for the future of broadcasting and the effect on viewers, but we can make a few observations based on what we know today. Network television did survive the dismal predictions, at least for a little while. The growth of cable television reduced network ratings, true, but for awhile the networks seemed poised to survive. The attraction of cable in those days was mainly uncut movies, female nudity, sports, and news. Networks bought into cable networks, and those stations even became prime buyers of network syndicated programming. Once cable started producing its own original programming, however, the tide indeed began to turn. Before long the Emmys were dominated by cable series, and cable became a byword for quality. Then streaming video entered the picture, first through services like Netflix and Hulu, and then these services started producing original programming as well. The "cut the cord" movement became a real thing, though its long-term trend is still up in the air.

And so we have returned once again to the future of network broadcasting. Whereas the concerns of the '70s were based in part on fear of the future, today's worries seem more grounded in fact, in an analysis of what's happening right now. It's not just concern about network survival, either—it's the entire concept of television as we know it, for the cable networks stand to lose the most. Some even predict the networks could come out of this in better shape, at least in the short term.

One thing's for certain, however: the future of television has always been a matter of great speculation. Only now, we find ourselves asking if that future has finally arrived.

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This week's starlet is Angel Tompkins, the typical ambitious actress, and Leslie Raddatz says don't bet against her when she talks about how she hates losing and likes beating the system. The hook Raddatz is using in his story is that Tompkins lives on the same street as Bob Hope, but it's not the neighborhood with the mansions—rather, she lives with her son in one of a row of tiny cottages for which she pays rent of $145 a month. It's every bit the rags-to-sort-of-richest story, coming from a broken home, with a childhood full of insecurities, a failed early marriage, a number of television credits to her name, and the determination to "work and improve."

Her credits continue into the '80s, and include a Playboy spread a year after this article appears, but in this household she'll always be best known for her too-infrequent appearances as technician Gloria Harding, Hugh Lockwood's (Hugh O'Brian) nemesis/love interest in the 1972-73 series SEARCH, which I'm currently reviewing with Dan Budnick on the Eventually Supertrain podcast. A pity she wasn't in that series more often; her character was one of great charm and spice, always looking to puncture Lockwood's ego while and the same time dispensing the information that helps save his neck. Ah, well; not the only lost opportunity in television history. She becomes heavily involved in SAG politics, and probably leaves a greater mark there than from her acting career. 

She never becomes the star she should have been, but she's done better than most.

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Finally, a woman who's a star by any and every definition of the word: Sophia Loren. There's no particularly good reason to include this, either in TV Guide or here, other than, well, Sophia Loren. She's not appearing on any program in the near future (although she's always been a hit on television), nor is she publicizing an upcoming movie. No, the reason we're here in Rome is simply to find out "what 'movie stars' look like these days, an era defined by "faded blue jeans and tie-dyed sweat shirts." The good news is that Miss Loren does not go in for this kind of clothing, at least not in public. "You must feel like a queen at that moment," she says. We'll leave you with these as parting shots.


January 7, 2022

Around the dial

Let's see—why don't we start this week over at Classic TV & Film Café, where Rick shares with us seven things to know about Yvonne Craig, the one and only Batgirl. There was, of course, much more to her than that, and now's your chance to find out.

The Twilight Zone Vortex returns, and it's about time, with a story that's, well, about time—the 1963 episode "A Kind of Stopwatch." It's not without its flaws, but as Brian points out, it has its good points as well. See what you think.

At Garroway at Large, Jodie takes a moment to offer a warm and heartfelt remembrance of Dave Garroway Jr., the Master Communicator's son, who passed away a little less than a year ago. Not only was he of enormous help in Jodie's bio, he sounds like the kind of man who was just good to know.

Meanwhile, at Cult TV Blog, John writes about Hammer House of Mystery and Suspense—not the Hammer House of Horror that we might be more familiar with—and the episode "In Possession," disorienting, perhaps cheaply made, but worth watching.

As someone said, 2021 couldn't resist getting one last lick in, with Betty White's death on New Year's Eve, virtually the eve of her 100th birthday, and at A Shroud of Thoughts, Terence has a wonderful look back at the life of a remarkable woman. TV  

January 5, 2022

Odds & ends

Since I don't have anything big to write about this week. it seems like a good time to go through some miscellaneous items that you might find interesting.

The Daytime Delilahs. Commenting on last Saturday's TV Guide (December 26, 1964), MemotoSelf asks, "Who are they? And why do 'they make housewives' blood boil'?" 

The Daytime Delilahs in question are, from left to right, Lee Lawson (who plays Barbara Sterling on Love of Life), Haila Stoddard (Pauline Rysdale on The Secret Storm), Ludi Claire (Elizabeth McGrath from The Edge of Night), and Audra Lindley (Liz Mathews on Another World). (Joan Anderson, aka Nora Hansen on The Doctors, is not pictured. They are the vixens of video, the harlots and harridans who exist to lure your favorite male heroes from home and hearth and ensnare them in their deadly webs of sin, and female viewers love to hate them. All five of the featured vixens report having been accosted in the street by fans, and the mail they receive is often so venomous that the networks won't let them see it. (One anonymous woman, reports Lawson, writes regularly "telling me that I am wicked and that I must die.") People like that haven't disappeared, by the way; they've just moved to social media.

Name That Episode! From that same issue, I mentioned that quite a few of the programs from Sunday's listing are available on DVD or streaming, but that I didn't have time to list the episodes. Well, I'm not sure I have any more time now than I did then, so maybe I was just lazy. But here's a sample for you. In addition, since shows like Bullwinkle are out as complete series, we know this week's episode is available even if we don't have its name.

The Roaring 20's: "So's Your Old Man"
Surfside 6: "Spring Training"
87th Precinct: "Man in a Jam"
Profiles in Courage: "John Adams"
Harbor Command: "Illegal Entry"
My Little Margie: "Margie, the Writer"
Car 54, Where Are You?: "The Biggest Day of the Year"
My Favorite Martian: "Won't You Come Home, Uncle Martin, Won't You Come Home?"
West Point: "Start Running"
Bonanza: "The Saga of Squaw Charlie"
The Rogues: "The Real Russian Caviar"
Men of Annapolis: "Blinding Light"
What's My Line?: Season 16, Episode 17
The Ed Sullivan Show: several individual acts on YouTube

Pretty much all of the movies from that day are available as well:

Going My Way
Slattery's Hurricane
The Thing
The Ride Back
Never Wave at a WAC
Blue Murder at St. Trinian's
The Dummy Talks
The Adventures of Tom Sawyer
The Jackpot

If you ever wanted to try and recreate a day of television, this might be a place to start. 

And Now For Something Completely Different. Finally, speaking of Ed Sullivan, we've often talked about how jarring it can be seeing rock acts performing alongside pop singers, Broadway actors, ventriloquists, animal acts, and Topo Gigio. Here's a great example: a terrific rendition of "Keep Me Hangin' On" by Vanilla Fudge from January 14, 1968. This isn't your grandfather's really big shew.


January 3, 2022

What's on TV? Sunday, December 27, 1964

Today's listing gives us an opportunity to really appreciate what television was like nearly 60 years ago. Every so often this happens, when we have an unusual number of programs available either on DVD, streaming, or YouTube. For instance, from the Minneapolis-St. Paul issue, we have Car 54, Where Are You?, What's My Line?, Harbor Command, My Favorite Martian, Bonanza, The Rogues, Bullwinkle, Men of Annapolis, Profiles in Courage, The Roaring '20s, Surfside 6, 87th Precinct, The West Point Story, several moviesthey're all out there, in whole or in part, for anyone looking for them. Depending on where you live, there might have been other shows on that are just as available.

You might like to know the titles of these episodes. Well, I don't have time to get them now, but I'll check them out and get back to you.

January 1, 2022

This week in TV Guide: December 26, 1964

A Happy New Year to everyone from this little corner of the world. I'm sure many of you are waking up this day with hopes that 2022 will turn out to be a better year, perhaps the best year yet. It would be hard to imagine things could continue to get worse (although on a personal note this year ended on a real high note), so let's look on the bright side of things—namely that flickering box in your living room. Just what does it have in store for us?

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Last week, I mentioned the program The Legend of Silent Night, which appeared in TV Guide under the generic heading "Christmas Drama." This week (Monday, 8:30 p.m. CT, ABC), we have another such Christmas Drama, Rod Serling's legendary take on A Christmas Carol, Carol for Another Christmas.

The movie, directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz and featuring an all-star cast, is the first in a series of planned movies made by the United Nations for the purpose of demonstrating the organization's mission. (I wrote about them a few years ago at TVParty!, so I won't rehash all the details here.) Now, your mileage may vary, but it's true that Carol got some pretty bad reviews at the time, with many critics suggesting that Serling's strident, polemical script served to undercut its intended drama; in fact, its "legendary" status may be due to being considered a "lost classic," having gone unseen for nearly 50 years after its original broadcast until it was rebroadcast in 2012 on TCM. 

But you know, not everything that Rod Serling wrote was great; he knew that better than anyone. And not every "lost classic" is actually a classic. It's still worth watching, though, as a part of television history. 

One last thing; you know how I've written about how quick we are to declare Christmas over as soon as the calendar flips over to December 26. Well, Carol for Another Christmas was aired on December 28. And it was still called a Christmas Drama. And that's not all; on Saturday, Jackie Gleason offers his annual Christmas show (6:30 p.m., CBS), in which he talks about his own childhood Christmas memories and reads "'Twas the Night Before Christmas," while his sidekick Frank Fontaine offers his version of "A Christmas Carol." Try telling the Great One that Christmas was over before his Christmas show aired!

I've made this point before, but the 12 Days of Christmas don't start until Christmas, and it's quite apparent from past TV Guides that even in the '60s, the period of time between Christmas and New Year's was considered an extension of the holiday. Schools were out, parties were held, many people were taking time off if their office wasn't already closed. Heck, WCCO even has the Mora High School choir singing Christmas music Saturday afternoon. Today things seem different; a couple of years ago we actually saw store employees taking down decorations on Christmas Eve. By the time December 26 rolls around we're already on to something else, stripped trees already sit on the curbside waiting to be picked up by the trashman. By December 28, it can often be as if Christmas had never happened. As I said, we're in too much of a damn hurry.

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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 are singer Leslie Uggams, impressionist Frank Gorshin, comedian Rip Taylor, the Serendipity Spingers, comedienne Jean Carroll, the Czechoslovakian State Folk Dance ensemble and Burger's animals. On tape: juggler Gil Dova and the comedy team of Davis and Reese.

Palace: Host Van Johnson introduces actress-singer Betty Grable; tenor Sergio Franchi; comedian Jackie Mason; French trapeze artist Mimi Zerbini; comic Paul Gilbert; the Jambaz balancing act; the dancing Bal Caron Trio; and the Zeros, knife throwing act.

I'm not convinced that this is the strongest week you'll see. Of course, Frank Gorshin probably could have impersonated everyone on either show, and that would have been worth watching. I'm not a big Leslie Uggams fan, though, and Rip Taylor always used to drive me crazy. On the other hand, if therest of the cast weren't enough, I think Betty Grable gives Palace at least one leg up on the competition, if not two

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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. 

When this week's series first premiered in 1962 it was called, simply, The Nurses. Now, by the time Cleveland Amory has gotten to it, it's become The Doctors and the Nurses. What's it all about? Says Cleve, "There are four kinds of opera—grand opera, soap opera, horse opera and, last and least, hospital opera. We have our own thoughts as to why so many people have, for so many years, found the hospital shows so fascinating—including every last gory operation-room detailbut up to now we have spared you this theory."

As I say, the show started out as The Nurses, starring Shirl Conway and Zina Bethune in the titular roles, but after a couple of seasons doctors Michael Tolan and Joseph Campanella were brought in to add some bulk to the dramatis personae; as one of the producers put it, there's only so much drama you can squeeze out of a storyline that deals with nurses, because there's only so much nurses can do on their own. At some point, you have to bring doctors into the mix. According to Amory, the additions have done little good: "CBS, not content to do the gentlemanly thing and let the old show, The Nurses, go—a decision by which they could have won the undying gratitude of millions yet unborn—have, instead, in their infinite obstinacy, seen fit not only to keep The Nurses on, but, horror of horrors, to add to it."

Storylines are almost uniformly grim, "some of the heaviest fare this side of the Black Hole of Calcutta—and we hesitate to mention that for fear they'll shoot that, too." Stories include examinations (no pun intended) of menopause, the concerns a black patient has about having a black doctor, and a two-parter about abortion. That one, in which a woman apparently died as the result of a botched abortion, climaxes with "about as silly a chase as we can recall, with the abortionist engaging in a high school debate with his chaser (Tolan), who had been accused of performing the operation." The innocent Tolan, says Amory, "behaved like such a heel that to this day we don't believe the script got it right. We believe he was guilty. As to the Mata Hari girl who helped him (Katherine Crawford), if ever we saw a nurse's aide who needed aid, she was it."

To be fair, there have been some good episodes, marked by good writing and acting, but these seem to be the exception rather than the rule, as the very next episode will invariably be another turkey. He did like one, which featured an interesting guest-star turn by Barbara Harris, but "As for the writing, the kindest thing on could say about it was that there wasn't any. Maybe Miss Harris ad-libbed it from an old movie."

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I'm surprised there's no New Year's Eve programming on the networks, at least here in Minneapolis-St. Paul. I'd assumed that CBS might have been showing Guy Lombardo, but as we look into it further, it turns out we're in that period from 1965-70 in which Guy and his Royal Canadians were syndicated, and apparently no one in the Twin Cities thought it was worth carrying. Over on NBC's Tonight, Johnny Carson probably has a cutaway to Times Square for the ball drop, and ABC has The Les Crane Show (carried in Minneapolis on WCCO, the CBS affiliate), which doesn't even begin until midnight. In fact, the only New Year's Eve show is a local one, from KSTP, Channel 9. It's called Nightwatch, a three-hour live music program from Souls Harbor ministries in downtown Minneapolis. I never watched this, but I remember this program running on New Year's Eve for years. Not the same program, of course.

The New Year rings in bright and early with The Today Show (7:00 a.m., NBC), which devotes the entire two hours to the Grammy-award winning Swingle Singers. The festivities continue with the Cotton Bowl Parade from Dallas (9:30 a.m., CBS), hosted by Allen Ludden and for-mer Miss America Marilyn Van Derbur. At 10:00 a.m., NBC carries a half-hour of highlights from last night's King Orange Jamboree, hosted by Dennis Weaver, with Grand Marshal Jackie Gleason. At 10:30 a.m., CBS and NBC offer dueling coverage of the Tournament of Roses Parade and Grand Marshal Arnold Palmer; CBS's features Bess Myerson and Ronald Reagan, while NBC has the long-running team of Lorne Greene and the now-late Betty White. Finally, at 11:00 a.m., ABC's Les Crane and Kathy Nolan host the Mummers Parade from Philadelphia. Added to the football to come, there should be no complaints about finding something to watch. 

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After months of struggle, the college and pro football seasons both come to conclusions this week. (Yes, I know it's hard to believe the NFL season once ended before February, but it's true.)

The two pro leagues have coordinated their championship game schedules to avoid conflict, and so the AFL leads off on Saturday with the defending champion San Diego Chargers taking on the Buffalo Bills at 1:00 pm on ABC. It's one of the most memorable games in AFL history, as the Bills, riding the arm of Jack Kemp and a ferocious defense, dismantle the Chargers 20-7. Most remembered of all is Bills linebacker Mike Stratton's tremendous hit on Chargers star Keith Lincoln, "The Hit Heard 'Round the World," which knocked the MVP of last year's title game out for the rest of this one. As a side note, NBC's new contract with the AFL, one that provides the upstart league with financial security, begins in 1965; until the start of Monday Night Football in 1970, this will be the final pro football telecast by ABC.

The following day at 12:30 pm, CBS gives us the NFL championship between the heavily favored Baltimore Colts and the Cleveland Browns. After a scoreless first half, which one sportswriter describes by writing, "Never have so many paid so much to see so little," the Browns come alive in the second half, and dominate the Colts, winning 27-0. It's the first time CBS has broadcast the championship game, under a unified new contract; even though the network carried most of the league's regular season games, previous title contests had been carried by NBC. It's also, to this day, the last championship won by the Brownies.

As for college football, believe it or not, the title—rather, the mythical national championship—has already been decided. The college football landscape is a lot different in 1964 than it is today; the national champion is chosen by the Associated Press and United Press International polls before the bowl games, which are considered little more than exhibitions. Speaking of bowls, there are only nine of them, and some conferences, like the Big Ten and Pac-8, put limits on how many of their teams can go bowling, and where. 

And so the undefeated Alabama Crimson Tide, led be star quarterback Joe Namath, have already been proclaimed national champions when they travel to Miami to play the #3 Texas Longhorns in the first-ever nighttime Orange Bowl (6:45 p.m., NBC). It's also the conclusion to NBC's "Football Widows" triple-header, which begins at 12:45 p.m. with the Sugar Bowl (LSU 13, Syracuse 10) and continues at 3:45 p.m. with the Rose Bowl (Michigan 34, Oregon State 7) before winding up in Miami. And while the Crimson Tide stride into the Orange Bowl as champs, they leave as chumps after losing to the Longhorns 21-17. Meanwhile, Arkansas, ranked #2 and also undefeated, beats #6 Nebraska 10-7 in the Cotton Bowl (12:45 p.m., CBS), and is chosen national champion by the Football Writers Association and the Helms Foundation. Don't feel too sorry for Joe Namath, though; the following day he'll sign with the AFL's New York Jets for $400,000, making him the highest-paid player in the history of professional football.

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Let's see what else we've got this week.

On Saturday, ABC's Wide World of Sports (4:00 p.m.) presents the Australian Rules football championship between Melbourne and Collingwood. Having watched many matches over the years, I can safely say that the description of the sport having "a complicated set of rules" is an understatement. Having no rules at all would be closer. 

At 9:00 a.m. Sunday morning, CBS presents another in their series of Sunday cultural specials, with a broadcast of a 1959 staging of "Noye's Fludde," a 15th Century miracle play set to music by Benjamin Britten. A nice color feature article accompanies the broadcast, taking a look at the nature of miracle plays and background behind the production. Of course, shows like this have always been stuck somewhere harmless in the broadcasting schedule, where they can't do much ratings damage. Later in the evening, Gordon and Sheila MacRae host Winterland on Ice (6:30 p.m., ABC), supported by members of the Ice Follies, including former world champion Donald Jackson. Then CBS puts a cultural bookend on the day with an 8:00 p.m. telecast of the Royal Ballet doing "Les Sylphides" by Chopin, followed by the third act of "The Sleeping Beauty" by Tchaikovsky. featuring the legendary Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev.

One of the things I find interesting is that the networks are still showing first-run episodes throughout Christmas and New Year's, in addition to specials. For example, there's a full-page ad for The Lucy Show on Monday night (8:00 p.m., CBS), with special guest star Danny Kaye (another CBS star, natch). 

Tuesday's episode of the aforementioned The Doctors and the Nurses (9:00 p.m,, CBS) probably drives Cleveland Amory crazy, and I'm not sure I blame him: the staff and patients witness a life-and-death drama across the street as a man threatens to jump off a building. 

And speaking of Danny Kaye—well, on his own variety show (Wednesday, 9:00 p.m., CBS), he has his own crossover guest, with The Beverly Hillbillies' Buddy Ebsen doing the honors. I just love this self-promotion.
I mentioned the dearth of New Year's Eve programming, but that doesn't mean there isn't anything on Thursday: on Kraft Suspense Theatre (9:00 p.m, NBC), Roddy McDowall stars as an alcoholic former teacher trying to prove a skid-row friend innocent of a robbery and murder that claimed his own life.

And if you're not into the football scene, Friday's highlight is probably Nuthouse (7:30 p.m., CBS) an hour-long satire of pop culture produced by Jay Ward and Bill Scott of Bullwinkle fame. As I recall, it was a pilot for a series that never went anywhere.

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Finally, if you've been past the toy aisle of a store lately, you know the Marvel Cinematic Universe has taken over pretty much everywhere. But this week's article about Fess Parker, written by Arnold Hano, reminds us that merchandising has always been a part of hit entertainment.

Parker became a huge star in the '50s by playing Davy Crockett, King of the Wild Frontier, on Walt Disney's show. Everywhere you heard "The Ballad of Davy Crockett," you saw kids wearing coonskin caps, and Parker drew thousands to his every appearance. When Disney declined to revive the series, Parker and producer Aaron Rosenberg sat down to see what other kind of Crockett-like character they might be able to adapt into a series. They settled on Daniel Boone, and today the Boone publicity machine is going non-stop.  "A comic-strip syndicate ordered an artist-writer team to rough up two weeks of panels for a daily Boone strip. A soft-drink TV commercial featured a cartoon figure of Daniel Boone. And—bless their hammer pin heads—the kiddies began singing: "Daniel Boone was a man . . . a big man . . ." Adds Parker, "We are ready to meet the demand for a merchandising program. NBC is even ready to create the demand, if it has to." As I often say, the more things change, . . .

Daniel Boone ran for six seasons. Parker, already a millionaire from the Crockett series and owner of 30% of Boone, became even more wealthy, turned down the lead role of McCloud, and retired from acting to oversee various real estate developments and operate a successful winery. Not a bad career. I imagine Disney took some notes, don't you? TV