March 30, 2022

Star power




Xarlier this month, someone on Facebook asked me about my March 7, 1959 TV Guide writeup—in particular, about a teaser that ran across the top of the cover. What, he wondered, was the story "How Deals Are Made for Guest Stars" all about? I told him I'd be happy to oblige, and since writing is what I do here, let's see what that story is, indeed, all about.

Television, as we know, has always been a cutthroat business, and in the early decades of the medium, one of the most ruthless aspects was the competition for big-name guest stars. Movie stars, especially those rarely seen on the tube, were always in big demand, and TV itself had been around long enough to create its own stars. For the sponsors eager for sales and the network executives eager for ratings, that star power—whether applied to a variety show, drama or sitcom—could be a bonanza! 

But how to appeal to the star? Money isn't really an incentive, since the star's income probably puts him in the 90 percent tax bracket; who wants to work for so little in return? As for the exposure that a television appearance brings, he's well aware that too much of it takes the edge off his drawing power. The shows need him more than he needs the shows. Therefore, money alone is seldom the only factor in making a guest appearance. So what does one give the guest who has (almost) everything?

Well, in the case of Jane Powell, Steve Allen has been after her for a long time. But clever Jane waited until her appearance at the Hotel Plaza's Persian Room in New York before taking Steverino up on his offer. The result: increased publicity for her nightclub act, and one less trip required to New York. Coordinating such TV appearances with promoting upcoming movies is a major part of any star's strategy; Tony Curtis plugged his upcoming movie The Vikings with appearances on I've Got a Secret and The Perry Como Show in the same week, and the following week Kirk Douglas was on with Allen for the same movie. 

This strategy isn't always sure-fire, though; Esther Williams was all set to plug her new line of swimming pools with an appearance on the Bob Crosby Show when the show's sponsor nixed the promo—whereupon Esther nixed the appearance.

Cross-familiar promotion is a good way to snag a star; Helen Hayes appeared on the Arthur Murray show to publicize her son James MacArthur's career by dancing with him during the show. (She also contributed her fee to the Mary MacArthur polio fund; charitable donations are also effective in attracting top talent.) James Mason appreciates having his wife Pamela and daughter appear with him; Jerry Lewis wants the opportunity to put in a word for Muscular Dystrophy, and Danny Thomas does the same for St. Jude; perhaps the biggest example of this was Arthur Murray offering Walter Winchell $50,000 for the Damon Runyon Cancer Fund (a fund which Winchell started) if he'd get Red Buttons and Jackie Gleason on his show. Winchell complied, but Gleason first insisted that another $50,000 donation be made to the Runyon Fund in his name alone. 

Finally, there's what I might call the "Ralph Edwards" method, although the two aren't complete alike. In this scenario, the enterprising producer approaches a major star with an offer to appear on a testimonial show, honoring their many years of service to the entertainment industry. "We shall salute you. Not only that, but we'll give you $10,000 just for your trouble." The producer then uses the attraction of this famous star as bait to get the star's friends—only the big ones, like Sinatra, Peck and Bacall—to be part of a "party" for the star, only telling them after they've agreed that the "party" is actually taking place on a television show. But you'll pay them a token fee, even though you know they're really only there to honor the star. Of course it's a racket, but it's too late at this point to back out. The Edwards method worked with Ethel Barrymore and Ed Wynn on a pair of Texaco Command Appearance shows. 

The article concludes with the dwindling list of really important stars who've yet to appear on television: Marilyn Monroe, Danny Kaye, Alec Guinness. But, if some executive out there is brushing up on Izaak Walton's The Compleat Angler, they might come up with the bait to attract them. It's an interesting article, and I'm glad I returned to it here, with an opportunity to go through it in more detail than if it had simply been part of the Saturday review. Today, of course, things have changed. It's prestige television that has the most to offer the movie star, and judging by the success that HBO, Paramount+, AMC and the like have had in attracting them to limited series, I'd say the practice is alive and well. TV  

March 28, 2022

What's on TV? Wednesday, March 30, 1955




Naturally there's more on TV tonight than the Oscars, as you can see in this Chicagoland TV Guide. Disneyland (6:30 p.m., ABC) has a tour of two of its fabled lands, Fantasyland and Adventureland, including a conversation between Kirk Douglas and Peter Lorre about their movie 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea. NBC warms the Oscar audience up with This Is Your Life; the honoree is never listed in the issue because the show is live, but tonight it happens to be three-time Oscar winner Walter Brennan, surprised right there on the red carpet! And if you're not in the mood for movie stars, Willie Pep and Gil Cadelli might be seeing them if there's a knockout on CBS's Pabst Blue Ribbon Bouts at 9:00 p.m. Not bad for a Wednesday night.

March 26, 2022

This week in TV Guide: March 26, 1955



I know we've been spending quite a bit of time in the 1950s lately, but I'm going to stick with it for one more issue, because I'm a sucker for what the Academy Awards used to be.

The Oscars are yet another topic you've heard me complain about ad infinitum, so if you're sick and tired of it, feel free to skip this portion and go to the next section. The reason I'm even bringing it up now is because the Oscars seem every year to move farther and farther away from what they used to be. I mean, ask yourself—how many of you are planning to watch tomorrow night's show? How many of you have been to more than two of the Best Picture nominees? How many of the acting nominees have you seen in more than one or two movies? How many of you have heard of all three of this year's hosts? How many of you consider the Dolby Theater glamourous?

Now, there are probably a few of you out there, cinephiles perhaps, who can give a positive answer to most of those questions. But here's my next question: how many of the people who watched the 1955 Academy Awards broadcast considered themselves cinephiles, and how many were simply fans of the movies?

Let's look at the list of nominees for Wednesday night's program (9:30 p.m. CT, NBC). First, there's the time itself—7:30 p.m. in Hollywood, which gives the whole thing the air of a movie premiere, with spotlights and screaming crowds flanking the red carpet as the stars stride into the Pantages Theater, one of Hollywood's storied locations. This year's ceremony begins at 5:00 p.m., which means the stars don't come out at night—they appear in the middle of the afternoon. Anyone can tell you that a full moon visible during the day isn't nearly as awe-inspiring as it is in the dark of night.

Then you have the nominees, both the actors and the movies themselves: Humphrey Bogart, Marlon Brando, Bing Crosby, James Mason, Dorothy Dandridge, Judy Garland, Audrey Hepburn, Grace Kelly, Jane Wyman, Eva Marie Saint, Nina Foch, Claire Trevor, Lee J. Cobb, Karl Malden, Rod Steiger. You probably recognize most of these names, if not all of them. Even a lesser-known actor, such as Best Actor nominee Dan O'Herlihy, gains credence by his very inclusion with grand names. (The Oscars were always good at that, and finding those nominees is one way of introducing yourself to very good performances in very good movies.) And the movies themselves: The Caine Mutiny, The Country Girl, On the Waterfront, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, A Star is Born, Three Coins in the Fountain, The High and the Mighty. It's a great night for the movies—and maybe that's another thing: the Academy seems more interested today in films than in movies.

There's only one host in 1955, and there could only be one host: Bob Hope, Who else could it be? And he was charged with keeping the show moving; the listings give the running length at "About 2 hours." (The ad on the left even suggests 90 minutes!) The last time a normal ceremony was held, back in 2020, the running time was three hours and thirty-six minutes; previous ceremonies had been known to eclipse four hours, filled with clips that remind you how much better the movies used to be.

Don't misunderstand me: I love going to the movies, and there are still very good movies being made, movies that feature very good actors. Denzel Washington, for example, is an excellent actor, and I hope he wins tomorrow night. I'll admit that I've not seen a movie starring Nicole Kidman, but the same goes for her. (I read Billy Bathgate though, if that counts for anything.) Some of this year's nominated actors are probably better than some of the actors nominated in 1955. The point is, a great actor isn't necessarily a movie star. Right?

The Academy Awards are all about movies, and they're all about glamour. They're missing too much of the former, and too much of the latter, and that's why I miss what they used to be. 

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Oh, one more thing about Wednesday's show—the nominated songs and their singers. Dean Martin sings "Three Coins in the Fountain" from the movie of the same name; Johnny Desmond does "The High and the Mighty" from that movie; Rosemary Clooney performs "The Man Who Got Away" from A Star is Born, Danny Thomas sings "Count Your Blessings" from White Christmas, and Tony Martin does "Hold My Hand" from Susan Slept Here. Not a bad lineup of songs or singers, is it?

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The weekend highlight is the color extravaganza Entertainment 1955 (Sunday, 6:30 p.m., NBC), a 90-minute spectacular to celebrate the dedication of NBC's new Burbank color studios (made so famous in later years by Johnny Carson). It's a showcase of how television can cover "the lively arts," with Helen Hayes presenting the Tony award for Best Play; Dinah Shore in the studio, singing "Whatever Lola Wants"; Leontyne Price recreating her recent NBC Opera Theatre appearance as Tosca; comedy from Buddy Hackett, Pat Carroll, and Tom Holmore; Sue Carson doing a nightclub act, and host Fred Allen performing some of radio's greatest moments. NBC executives Pat Weaver and Robert Sarnoff, make a special appearance. 

Sunday's a pretty good night on the tube; on Toast of the Town, Ed Sullivan welcomes Rodgers and Hammerstein as they commemorate the 12th anniversary of their celebrated musical Oklahoma! (7:00 p.m., CBS) That's followed at 8:00 p.m. by General Electric Theater, as host Ronald Reagan introduces Henry Fonda as the young Emmett Kelly in "Clown," based on Kelly's autobiography.

Speaking of the circus, John Daly takes us behind the scenes at Madison Square Garden in New York City as Ringling Bros.—Barnum & Bailey prepares to kick off the 85th edition of "The Greatest Show on Earth." (Tuesday, 7:00 p.m., NBC) About half of the hour-long program focuses on the actual acts, while the other half consists of Daly's co-host, John Ringling North, leading viewers on a tour of what makes the Circus tick. The broadcast, which will utilize 12 live cameras at various points in the Garden, required the approval of Cecil B. DeMille, who, as a result of producing the Oscar-winning movie version The Greatest Show on Earth, had veto control over any television broadcast of the Circus. This year's broadcast is something of an experiment; if it proves to be an effective commercial for the Circus, the cameras will be back next year.

Next on Tuesday's agenda is March of Medicine (8:30 p.m., NBC), a special that provides us with some historical perspective. Entitled "Ten Years After Hiroshima," it's a report on the effect of atomic radiation on the survivors after "the first atomic weapon ever used in war." There's also a look at the U.S. Atomic Bomb Casualty Commission, and the work being done by research labs in Boston and Chicago. To me, at least, this is a show that gives one pause; it's not even ten years since Hiroshima, and this isn't some distant memory—almost everyone reading this issue was alive when the bomb was dropped, and the research is based not on theoretical experiments, but on the actual survivors of the blast.

We'll round off the week with Person to Person (Friday, 9:30 p.m., CBS), and tonight Ed Murrow's lead guest is none other than Marlon Brando, who on Wednesday won Best Actor at the Oscars for his performance in On the Waterfront. Ed didn't know for certain that he'd have an Oscar winner as a guest, obviously, but I think he had a better than 20 percent chance of being right. According to the description, Brando plans to "show off his seashell and book collections and his observatory, from which he can see the Pacific, almost all of Los Angeles and the Sierra Nevadas." I can't remember if this show was live or not; I think not, but in any event I wonder if anything changed based on Brando's win.

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On the cover this week is one of television's favorite second bananas, Gale Gordon. To a later generation, he would be known as the long-suffering Mr. Mooney, one of the many roles he played as the longtime foil of Lucille Ball, but his appearance in this week's issue is as the long-suffering Mr. Conklin, the principal and foil to Eve Arden in both the radio and television versions of Our Miss Brooks.

In real life, Gordon is anything but the "bellowing" Conklin. He's a pipe-smoker, plumber, carpenter, fruit grower, oil painter, playwright, and gun collector; in addition, he's "one of the few actors in history to appear in a radio dramatic role without saying a word," having played the footsteps of the Unknown Soldier. Somehow, that seems perfect for a man who is about as unassuming as Hollywood stars get. 

Gordon seems to have played just about everyone, mostly on radio (including Lucy's boss on My Favorite Husband), and has worked with just about everyone (including Mary Pickford and John Barrymore, who said he had the best diction of anyone "on the stage, radio or screen." He's played  Mayor LaTrivia on Fibber McGee and Molly, Inspector Lestrade on Sherlock Holmes (with Basil Rathbone), and in a radio episode of Gangbusters, he played not only the killer, but the cop who arrested him, and the siren that belonged to the cop's car. 

Gordon has a rich career, even appearing in Lucy's final TV series, Life With Lucy. You might even say that it was a career to shout about.

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Perhaps the most famous Miss America in history, Bess Myerson has parlayed her crown into regular appearances on television, and it's no wonder. A striking 5-foot-10 in her stocking feet*, Bess has "moved from bathing suits to mink," and it seems that she's thoroughly enjoying it. Last year, she pulled in $125,000 as "The Lady in Mink" on the giveaway show The Big Payoff, while also pitching products on three major networks, and finding a regular place on various panel shows (she would be a regular on I've Got a Secret from 1958 to 1967). 

*And, the article is quick to mention in the way of the times, her "classical dimensions" of 36-26-36.

It's a very interesting article, as much for what it doesn't say as for what it does. It's been ten years since she became the first (and, to date, only) Jewish Miss America, and while the article makes note on her musical performance at the pageant (an accomplished musician, she wowed the judges with excerpts from Grieg's Piano Concerto), there's no mention of how three of the pageant's five sponsors refused to have her represent their companies as Miss America. (Obviously, television sponsors were far less concerned about her religion.) Much is made of her marriage to Allan Wayne, which produced Barra; there's no indication of the domestic violence that would result in divorce in 1957. 

And, of course, still ahead lies her time as head of New York City's Department of Consumer Affairs in 1969; her involvement in big-time Democratic politics, including Ed Koch's successful campaign for mayor, and her own unsuccessful run for the U.S. Senate in 1980; and her involvement in a scandal involving her relationship with a married man, her friendship with the judge hearing her paramour's divorce case (and employment of the judge's daughter), and subsequent trial for conspiracy, mail fraud, obstruction of justice, and using interstate facilities to violate state bribery laws (she was eventually acquitted). Ah well, he that is without sin. . .

As starlets go, Bess Myerson is already more successful than most—really, she's already a star—and anyone who's watched her in the old kinescopes of I've Got a Secret that used to run on GSN will remember her as charming, witty, urbane, and still beautiful. Whenever I see her in one of those old reruns, I still prefer to remember that, and ignore the messy stuff. I think she's entitled to that, don't you?

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And just a reminder that if you like what you've seen, there's plenty more where that came from.
 

  TV  


March 25, 2022

Around the dial




Xet's start this week with bare-bones e-zine, as Jack's Hitchcock Project introduces us to a new writer: Sarett Rudley who adapted the magazine story "The Baby Sitter" into a teleplay of the same name for the series' first season. The story stars two greats, Thelma Ritter and Mary Wickes, but still lacks that certain, what, je ne sais quoi

Being a writer myself, I tend to attach a certain importance to how well-written a television show is, and my fellow writer David shares that interest in this week's Comfort TV entry, in which he looks at what may be the best written shows in TV history, as selected by the Writers' Guild. How much did they get right? You be the judge. . .

Great news from Jodie at Garroway at Large: the document has gone to the printer! That means we're that much closer to getting the definitive Dave Garroway biography. And yet, as she points out, there still a lot of work to be done. Pretty exciting!

The Broadcasting Archives links to an NPR piece on the end of the Maury Povich show after a 30-year run. That sound you're hearing is champagne corks popping everywhere, although I don't mean that as a personal slam at Maury, who is probably a great guy. It's just that—well, you know my feelings about reality television.

At Silver Scenes a favorite episode from The Avengers: "You Have Just Been Murdered." It's a terrific story from the Steed and Mrs. Peel era, with a clever, witty script and a great villain in Mr. Needle, played by George Murcell. 

Over at Cult TV Blog, John continues the Orphaned Episodes series with a closer look at "A Woman Sobbing," one of the surviving episodes from the 1972 supernatural anthology Dead of Night on BBC. think Gaslight, and you're on the right track.

Next up, Terence at A Shroud of Thoughts reviews the classic Maverick fourth-season episode "Hadley's Hunters," which includes just about every Western star on a Warner Bros. series. And I'll say one more time, no relation! If you know or have heard of anyone named Hadley, we're not related!

At Drunk TV, Paul undertakes the massive task of looking at Gunsmoke, one of television's most influential shows (of any kind, let alone Westerns), starting with season one (of 20). I really enjoyed reading this piece for a number of reasons.

Finally at Once Upon a Screen, Aurora has a warm, touching tribute to her mother, who passed away last December. Her stories about watching television with mom remind us—and we could use it—that television was always intended to be a communal experience, to be watched and shared with others. That, in large measure, is where it derives its power from, and let's not forget it. TV  

March 23, 2022

The Descent into Hell: "The Architects of Fear" (1963)




The time: the early 1960s.

The place: a secret conference room in a secret underground laboratory somewhere in the world.

The audience: a dozen of the world’s top scientists. 

As we look in, Scientist A is addressing the group:

"And, gentlemen, I’m pleased to announce that, with another week or two of testing, we will have turned science fiction into fact with the production model flying car!"

A hearty round of applause follows.

Scientist B then stands up. "I believe I may have done my learned colleague one better," he begins. Inserting his hand in his pocket he withdraws a small, metallic-looking rectangle slightly bigger than a credit card. "In a matter of months we will introduce a miniature telephone that not only fits in the pocket, but allows the person calling and the person being called to see each other live and in color!"

A confused murmur runs through the room. "Why would anyone want that?" one of the scientists says, as others nod their agreement.

An important-looking man (for they are all men) sitting at the head of the table interrupts the conversation. "Fellow scientists, if I may have your attention! We have something far more important to consider here than flying cars and miniature telephones. It is nothing less than the survival of mankind. Gentlemen, I am talking about world peace."

The room falls silent. 

"We stand here today on the precipice of thermonuclear war. Never before have men had the ability to destroy life as we know it with such ease. Our leaders have proven themselves too impetuous, too ideologically rigid, to be trusted with such power. The average citizen is too occupied with his own problems to do anything about it. Therefore, my colleagues, the duty falls to us. It is up to us, and us alone, to save the world from itself."

There are murmurs of agreement all around. 

"I have spoken with several of you over the past weeks," the Head Scientist continues, "and I believe we have hit upon the broad outline of an idea. It is our job today to turn that idea into reality, to come up with a plan that will bring all men together as one to ensure peace and harmony for all."

"But how?" Scientist C asks, on behalf of all the men in the room.

"We must concoct a threat that is so grave, so unthinkable, so overpowering in its ability to terrify, that it will unite all humanity against this perceived, common threat." 

"Brilliant!" Scientist D shouts. The rest share their agreement, and the men set about discussing what such a threat would look like.

"Eureka! I’ve got it!" Scientist E exclaims. "What about a deadly virus that infects people indiscriminately and has no known cure. It moves through the air, and spreads so easily and rapidly that it would overwhelm Earth in no time. Imagine how it would bring medical researchers together from around the planet to develop a vaccine, and in the meantime all mankind would be united, regardless of race, religion, gender or creed, to safeguard against spreading the virus for the sake of your fellow man.  It would even come with a publicity campaign: 'We’re all in this together.' A motto that would appear on television and radio, on billboards and advertisements, everywhere. Every man, woman and child standing together, united against a common and deadly foe."

"How long would it take to develop this?" the Head Scientist asks, turning to Scientist F, their communicable disease expert.

"Well," Scientist F says after an uncomfortable pause, "we’ve actually been working with one in the laboratory that should be just about ready to go." He hesitates again.

"Wonderful! So, what’s the problem?"

Again there's a pause, and Scientist F clears his throat before continuing. "Well, it’s true that the virus is almost ready. It’s just that. . ."

"That what? Out with it, man!"

"Well, you see, although the virus is extremely transmissible, and it does make some people deathly ill, the survival rate overall is almost 99 percent. Most who die already have severe health problems. A lot of people only notice mild symptoms, and many who have it will never even know it." 

"You’re kidding," the Chief Scientist says.

"We could warn everyone how dangerous it is," Scientist F says lamely. "That it will keep evolving, and unless they take the vaccine, once we invent it, they’re sure to die." He pauses. "It could work."

"What the hell kind of threat is that?" Scientist E shouts, rising out of his chair. "You think anybody in their right mind is going to fall for that story? They’ll laugh us right out of town! We’ll look like a bunch of fools, Chicken Littles running around telling people the sky is falling! And they’ll be right!"

"We've got to do better," the Chief Scientist says, disgustedly. "People aren’t that dumb."

Scientist F bows his head and says nothing.

Eventually, the scientists come up with a different plan, one less far-fetched: convince the nations of the world that a foreign invader threatened the planet, and that they would have to band together in order to defeat it. It would work. It had to work.

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Satire, as Jonathan Swift demonstrated, can be a very effective weapon against what Hannah Arendt called "the banality of evil," to which in this case can be added, "the banality of arrogance." 

What you've just read is, more or less and with a certain embellishment, the premise of "The Architects of Fear," a memorable episode of The Outer Limits first broadcast on September 30, 1963, starring Robert Culp and Geraldine Brooks. 

And the winner isAllen Leighton! 
In the actual story, Dr. Allen Leighton (Culp) is among the group of scientists deathly concerned about the possibility of nuclear apocalypse. The scientists have come to the conclusion that only a common enemy can unite the world and prevent a holocaust, and their answer is to create a threat from an alien planet that they are planning an invasion of earth. Rather than create fake radio transmissions or put a man in a rubber suit, they've produced an alien-type "creature" through genetic engineering that totally transforms a man's body until there is nothing human about it. The scientists agree to put their names in a hat to decide which one of them will undergo the procedure, from which there is no turning back. Allen's name, of course, is the one drawn at random, meaning that he will get to be subjected to the radical injections and surgeries necessary to transform him into the alien. Even though he is deeply in love with his wife Yvette (Brooks) and discovers that she is expecting their child (a child they both want desperately, and feared they could never have), he chooses to go ahead with it all—that's how important world peace is, and how committed he is to this plan. Yvette, of course, knows nothing of this, and will be told that her husband is dead.

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At this point, let's take a step back and see where we are so far. 

There is something tremendously immoral about what the scientists are up to. Fully in thrall to the "ends justify the means" school, they scheme—for that is what it is, with all its negative connotations— to employ a massive deception on the earth's population. Assuming that this works—and it's a stretch, I think—what kind of megalomania do these scientists have to have to take upon themselves the authority to engage in an act with such global consequences? Who made them God? They were not elected, they were not appointed, they simply take it upon themselves to manipulate the lives of others. It is, without doubt, a characteristic of all dictatorial, totalitarian societies. And where does it end? Having achieved world peace, do they now undertake a similar deception to end other ills? Mandatory sterilization to stop overpopulation? Deindustrialization to end air pollution? Rationing of food to cure obesity? The thing about playing God is that once you go down that road, it becomes pretty hard to pull over to the side.

The human dimension of The Architects of Fear is heartbreaking. Forget whether or not what the scientific cabal is up to passes moral scrutiny; the anticipated sense of loss overshadowing Allen, all while he's pretending to Yvette that everything is normal, is just painful—there won't even be a chance to say goodbye. For her part, the sudden revelation of Allen's death, as she's preparing for the birth of her child, is devastating to Yvette, and to us. Anyone who's experienced that kind of loss, especially one that doesn't afford any closure—well, it results in the entire episode being permeated with an overwhelming feeling of sadness, underscored by an affecting original score from the magnificent Dominic Frontiere. It's a human dimension that science fiction doesn't often experience, so concentrated as it is on science. It's the human dimension that our scientific cabal totally overlooks; they're so intent on saving all of humanity, they forget the wonder of the individuals that make up the leviathan. In a sense, they can't see the trees for the forest.

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In a 1990 study of scientists in science fiction, Patrick Parrinder writes that "Not only do scientists in science fiction often appear as lurid, melodramatic and evil, but they frequently … evoke the pre-scientific past. That is, the evil scientist—or the future scientist surviving into a post-industrial society—carries with him the trappings of sorcery, wizardry, and alchemy."

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If you'll pardon the pun, it doesn't take a rocket scientist to figure out that this is destined to go horribly wrong. The transformation of Allen into the alien creature is complete (though not without some nasty reactions), and he is launched into space, to follow a reentry path that will suggest an interstellar voyage, given credibility by an announcement that an alien spacecraft is approaching earth. 

      Ecce homo?
However, it turns out those scientists weren't so smart after all. Due to a navigational error, Allen's ship lands not in front of the United Nations as planned, but in the woods near the laboratory, where he's set upon and shot by a frightened group of hunters. Mortally wounded, he staggers back to the lab, where he's met by Yvette, who never really believed he was dead. Allen makes a secret sign that only Yvette will recognize, and then dies, a martyr to the cause of science.

It's a deceptively simple ending, and not nearly as abrupt as I'm making it out to be here. It's as tragic as the ending of any Verdi opera, and not because of the failure of the plan to bring about world peace. No, this is tragedy on a human scale, the grandest scale of all, and sets the lie to the famous line near the end of Casablanca, when Humphrey Bogart tells Ingrid Bergman that, compared to the war engulfing the world, their problems don't amount to a hill of beans. No, the tragedy of Allen and Yvette is precisely what hurts so deeply. What doth it profit the world to gain peace and lose love?

All in the name of science.

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I don't know if C.S. Lewis coined the term scientism—I think he did, but in any event, he certainly provided the modern understanding of the theory, and why it was something to be feared. Lewis defined scientism as "science characterized by principles and practices tending toward controlling rather than investigating nature," resulting in what he termed a "moral devolution of science." In his book The Abolition of Man, Lewis predicted that if "scientific planning [were] cut free from traditional values" it would eventually become "joined to modern ideologies," the result of which would be

a not-so distant future in which the values and morals of the majority are controlled by a small group who rule by a perfect understanding of psychology, and who in turn, being able to see through any system of morality that might induce them to act in a certain way, are ruled only by their own unreflected whims. In surrendering rational reflection on their own motivations, the controllers will no longer be recognizably human, the controlled will be robot-like, and the Abolition of Man will have been completed.

It would be wrong to see Lewis as anti-science, though: As James A. Herrick points out in The Magician's Twin: C.S. Lewis on Science, Scientism, and Society, "Lewis respected scientific work that pursued knowledge of the natural world. Science, for Lewis, was a means of seeing and thus of appreciating nature, and the inviolability of nature was the principal value guiding its investigations. By contrast, the new science, or scientism, developed out of an impulse to see through nature by deconstructing its processes until everything in it—including the human being—was explained as a matter of mere physical causality. Scientism’s ultimate goal is placing all of nature under human control." 

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As a series, The Outer Limits was always skeptical of science, especially when it was put in the hands of powerful men. "The Architects of Fear" is no exception, for these powerful men, these scientists who thought they could bring the peoples of the world together, were not only trying to create fear; they were acting out of fear themselves. The episode's closing narration: 

Scarecrows and magic and other fatal fears do not bring people closer together. There is no magic substitute for soft caring and hard work, for self-respect and mutual love. If we can learn this from the mistake these frightened men made, then their mistake will not have been merely grotesque. It will have been at least a lesson—a lesson at last to be learned.

We have, in our own lifetimes, seen the triumph of scientism, not just in the way we live our lives, but in the terms by which the battle is defined: the words that can be used, the concepts that can be discussed, the opinions that can be held in public. And, as is always the case, to be on the other side is to be not just different but wrong. As Christopher O. Blum points out in the article "C.S. Lewis and the Religion of Science," "It is alarming to learn how the rise and growth of a scientific culture has been linked with the most blatant subjectivism." Now, of course, everything is subjective, thanks to scientism.

And if that subjectivism continues, where does it end?  Perhaps Scientist F's flawed virus will not be the last thing to come from that lab. We've already seen vaccines mandated, economies crushed, police states established, and lives destroyed. And then, what? Social credit expanding, healthcare and food rationed, jobs and insurance dependent on whether or not you toe the party line? Life and death itself? And by then, will any of us be recognizably human?

There is, of course, one more lesson to take from all this, one that we would all do well to remember: Except the Lord keep the city, the watchmen waketh but in vain

And the Architects of Fear will continue to live in the night, and thrive. TV  

March 21, 2022

What's on TV? Thursday, March 26, 1959




Xhis is about as representative a week of television as you're likely to find, and there's nothing wrong with that. We know, for example, that not all shows during the Golden Age were really golden, and quite a few were even below average. Likewise, some of the shows that we're tempted to reject as naïve are actually far more accurate to the tenor of the times than we know. So as you look through these listings from the North Texas edition, concentrate on the genres, the formats, the stars, and ask yourself what they tell you about the era of the late 1960s and the early 1960s. What was considered important back then, what was still a shadow of the past, and what was a preview of things to come?

March 19, 2022

This week in TV Guide: March 21, 1959




One of the items that has remained consistent in TV Guide throughout the '50s and '60s is the question of television's effect on children. As you recall, a couple of weeks ago we read an article that suggested television might have a positive role in encouraging children to read. Weighing in on the topic this week is anthropologist Margaret Mead, who ponders the effect of television violence on children.

*Another example of how inconceivable it is that today's TV Guide would have an article by someone of her stature.

Mead raises good points from the very beginning of the article—that not all violence is the same, that the very radio programs now being lauded as alternatives to violent TV were themselves condemned not that long ago as being violent—before drawing some clear differences between "good" and "bad" violence. Take fairy tales, for example. Children already have developed within them some idea of good and evil, of the weak and the strong. "Children even feel better, more like good children, their anger and hate drained safely out of them, after watching stories in which the weak encounter, battle and defeat the strong." "[T]hose who would denature fairy tales," she adds, "[taking] the chase, the shooting and the victory out of Westerns are actually constructing a world with escape without catharsis, without safe fantasy for childish aggression."

  We last heard from Dr. Mead
here.
However, she cautions, this remains true "only when the story on the screen is palpably fiction, fantasy and unreal." Even if they're angry with their parents, even if they see them (in the form of grownups in general) taken down in a television story, they still know that "they cannot do without them, even for a night." Introduce a situation in which "someone who might really be themselves now or in the future, actually kills real human beings who might be their parents or their teachers or their older brothers and sisters [and this] is quite a different matter." She also worries about the effect of such violence on the lonely child, or the child influenced by a too-real depiction of violence that has no guidelines, that doesn't say to the viewer "This is fiction, this isn't and couldn't really be you."

Part of the answer is parental supervision and involvement with what their children watch, in which they can "interject a running commentary, in which the words 'story,' 'just a story,' 'not real' are introduced, and so they can provide what the television program should itself provide." What they need to be protected from are stories in which children are either the victims or the perpetrators of violence. With the lonely child, loneliness can turn into hatred, and the violent show becomes "an incentive and program for possible crime." It seems as if many of these comments—parental involvement, not leaving children alone—are still with us today.

Mead's conclusion is that television has a unique responsibility to protect small children from "the horror and violence of real crime." If it can meet this responsibility, it will continue to provide the exciting stories that children need to experience, and "voluntarily refuse to tempt children's minds over the brink of crime."

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Starting in 1954, Steve Allen helmed his own NBC variety show which, at the beginning, aired opposite that of Ed Sullivan. It didn't run as long as Ed's, of course, but then Allen said his goal was never to conquer Ed, just to coexist with him, which he did for several seasons. Let's see who gets the best of the contest this week. 

Sullivan: Ed's guests in this show from Portugal are Maurice Chevalier, Jacquelyn McKeever, the Ames Brothers, Richard Hearne and John Gilpin, and Marilyn Burr.

Allen: Steve's no longer a regular on Sunday, but this 90-minute special features Sammy Davis Jr., actor Sessue Hayakawa, singer Joanne Gilbert and impressionist Frank Gorshin.

Ed's in Portugal for the Carnival, and his acts have an appropriate European flair; Richard Hearne, who according to the always-reliable Wikipedia was "the first performer to be known as a 'television star' and also the first to have his own television series, is famous for playing the bumbling character Mr. Pastry on stage and television in Britain; while Maurice Chevalier needs no introduction (I think; I keep forgetting I'm probably older than most of you). Meanwhile, this Steve Allen special features a guest lineup that's just as special; Sesse Hayakawa was a major star in the silent era, and nabbed a Supporting Actor Oscar nomination as Colonel Saito in The Bridge on the River Kwai. And what do you bet Sammy Davis Jr. and Frank Gorshin exchange impressions? This is no impression, though; this week Steve takes the prize.

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It's Holy Week this week, and perhaps the week's most interesting program is also a television first—the first-ever repeat on the Hallmark Hall of Fame (Monday, 8:30 p.m., NBC). It's Marc Connelly's play "The Green Pastures," the story of a Sunday-school teacher presenting her class with stories from the Bible, based on Roark Bradford's collection of stories, Ol' Man Adam an' His Chillun. The play, which received the Pulitzer Prize for Drama in 1930, had made history on Broadway with the first all-black cast, and had then been made into a movie in 1936. Its initial live Hall of Fame presentation had been in October, 1957, where it won great acclaim but relatively few viewers, having been broadcast opposite Mike Todd's Madison Square Garden party to celebrate the first anniversary of his movie Around the World in 80 Days.*

*Walter Cronkite, who was "conscripted" into hosting what has been called "one of television's most memorably vulgar events," recalls that memorable night here.

The broadcast won a Peabody award in 1958, and Mildred Freed Alberg, executive producer of Hall of Fame, feels that this Easter week is an appropriate time to offer it again. For Monday's live broadcast, virtually the entire cast from the 1957 staging is back, including William Warfield as De Lawd and Eddie "Rochester" Anderson as Noah (a role he also played in the 1936 movie). Unfortunately, you probably wouldn't see this on TV today, or perhaps anywhere else; even in 1930 it received some criticism for its racial stereotyping, not to mention that both the play and the book on which it was based were written by white men, so it's likely unthinkable that it would be permitted today. And then there's the whole religious thing, of course. You can find the 1936 movie, but surprisingly, you can also see the second half of the 1959 broadcast here.

Earlier on Monday evening, Voice of Firestone (8:00 p.m., ABC) features Fred Waring and his Pennsylvanians with their own program of Easter music, hosted by John Daly. And on Good Friday afternoon (1:30 p.m.), NBC presents a special half-hour program featuring two rural French churches conducting the Holy Week liturgy as revised by Pope Pius XII. At the same time on ABC, Loyola (Chicago) professor Francis L. Filas, an expert on and believer in the Shroud of Turin, presents a half-hour documentary on the history of the Shroud of Turin. It's the sixth consecutive year for the show's broadcast.

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By the way, before I forget:

Be sure to get your party platters today!

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Looking at the TV Teletype, we see some previews of coming attractions for the new season, with a very good record of success.

For example, an upcoming 77 Sunset Strip will serve as the pilot for a proposed detective series called Bourbon Street Beat, which does indeed premiere that fall, with Richard Long, Andrew Duggan, Van Williams and Arlene Howe. It lasts just the one season. More successful is James Michener's Adventures in Paradise, which runs for three seasons with Gardner McKay at the helm. There's also a pilot being prepared for ABC, Lincoln Jones, starring James Whitmore. This one has to wait a year, premiering in 1960 as The Law and Mr. Jones, and runs for two seasons. 

From the New York Bureau, Robert Stahl reports that Vic Damone wants to be a Western star on TV, making him television's first adult singing cowboy. Watch out, Gene Autry. Stahl also mentions that, for the fifth consecutive year, NBC has won the contract to broadcast college football this fall. The payment: a cool $2,200,000. For comparison, the three major networks (ABC/ESPN, Fox and CBS; NBC has a separate contract with Notre Dame) paid a total of $1.4 billion to broadcast college football last season.

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Speaking of children and violence, guess who's back: the Three Stooges! I know, it's kind of hard to figure; for me, the Stooges have been a part of pop culture my entire life, but this was not always the case; "for years," the unbylined article says, the Stooges "were in almost total eclipse." Now, however, Screen Gems has released 78* of their old shorts into syndication, and the results can be seen in the numbers: "In Chicago their rating jumped 16 points in three months. In Philadelphia last month they had a 27.8 American Research Bureau rating, in Detroit a 14.8. Latest New York rating is 17.9." They've also made the rounds of shows like Masquerade Party and The Steve Allen Show. "This is rather rough on mothers, but the kids are happy."

*In Television Diary, Dwight Whitney reports that Screen Gems is releasing 40 more, and have been "swamped with offers from toy manufacturers, comic-book publishers and record companies, all wishing to cut themselves in."

The current, and final, lineup of the Stooges includes Joe De Rita as the third Stooge, joining Moe Howard and Larry Fine. They're enjoying their renewed fame, especially since they weren't always such fan favorites. "The kids used to hiss me in the streets," remarks Moe, known then as the "Mean Stooge." "The other day when we finished our act, a little girl came up and kissed me. That wouldn't have happened in the old days." Adds Larry, "The kids paint our faces on eggs and electric light bulbs now. They used to throw things at us." 

Moe perfectly describes their comedy as "sound" comedy. "When I belted Curley with a mallet, you heard a clear, bell-like sound. And when Larry runs a comb through his hair, you hear a crackling sound, like someone had exposed a live wire." Watch a clip of the Stooges performing live sometime; without the sound effects they're still funny, but not nearly as funny. But with 200 total Stooge shorts that continue to play on TV today, we're no longer in any danger of the Three Stooges going into eclipse again. And in these tough times, that's good news.

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We'll take some quick looks at the rest of the week:

Saturday afternoon is the championship game of basketball's National Invitation Tournament, from Madison Square Garden in New York (3:00 p.m., CBS). It's won by St. John's, 76-71 over Bradley, but the curiosity is that the NIT has a national television contract—and the NCAA tournament does not. In fact, it will be well into the '60s before the Final Four becomes a television staple, while the NIT will remain a viable and popular tournament for a number of years more.

At 4:00 p.m. on Sunday, NBC presents one of those "cultural" programs I wrote about last week. It's Kaleidoscope, hosted by Chet Huntley, and this week's episode is "The Big Ear," a look at the increasing use of wiretaps and other eavesdropping equipment by law-enforcement agencies, "raising serious moral and legal issues," and asking the question, "is our classic concept of privacy being undermined by these activities?" Kind of prescient today, don't you think?

On Monday, WFAA, the ABC affiliate in Dallas-Fort Worth, presents a couple of series that have been relabeled in syndication: the newspaper drama Deadline for Action, formerly known as Wire Service, starring Dane Clark (8:30 p.m.), and Ten-Four, which, as you can probably guess, is better-known as Highway Patrol, with Broderick Crawford (9:30 p.m.). They're taking the place of the network's offerings, This is Music and The Patti Page Oldsmobile Show.

Perry Como's latest special (Tuesday, 7:00 p.m., NBC) comes to us from Broadway, where his guests are all currently starring on the Great White Way: Claudette Colbert ("The Marriage-go-round"), Gertrude Berg and Sir Cedric Hardwicke ("A Majority of One"), Cyril Ritchard ("The Pleasure of His Company"), France Nuyen ("The World of Suzie Wong"), and Juanita Hall ("Flower Drum Song"). 

Wednesday
gives us a variety of choices on a variety of networks: Vera Miles guests on Wagon Train (6:30 p.m., NBC), Roddy McDowell and Victor Jory are the stars of "Night of Betrayal" on The United States Steel Hour (9:00 p.m., CBS), and the Golden Gloves amateur boxing finals, live from Chicago (9:00 p.m., ABC).

On Thursday, it's the premiere of Oldsmobile Music Theater (7:30 p.m., NBC), presenting an original 30-minute story accompanied by favorite songs of the era. It seems like a lot to cram into a half-hour, but I suppose you have to see it for yourself. Tonight, it's "A Nice Place to Hide," starring Jackie Cooper and the singer Genevieve, making her TV dramatic debut. It's hosted by Bill Hayes and Florence Henderson.

Finally, on Friday, Audrey Meadows substitutes for Edward R. Murrow on Person to Person (9:30 p.m., CBS), with this week's interviewees: playwright and director Joshua Logan, and sports columnist Jimmy Cannon.

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One sign of the changing times is that colleges are now offering classes for students seeking careers in television. To date, about 30% of colleges and universities offer majors in TV, but grads have yet to gain traction in the industry. "Many network and advertising-agency executives are graduates of Ivy League schools, few of which offered extensive training in television."

According to this article, though, that may be about to change. At Penn, the Annenberg School of Communications* is about to offer television courses as part of its curriculum. And there's more; New York University is offering a noncredit workshop for students to stage "a typical day in TV," while Northwestern has a six-week symposium on color TV, and the University of Denver's BA in Television includes classes in stage lighting, creative writing, production and direction, and camera work.

* Not coincidentally, Walter Annenberg is the owner of TV Guide.

For those looking to make a move into television, Professor Garnet Garrison, director of broadcasting at Michigan, has these tips when looking for a school. First, make sure the school is strong in liberal arts, as television requires a broad cultural background. Take courses in fields that will help you in television, such as psychology, literature and the arts, sociology, journalism, marketing and advertising. Look for\6ed with the school. Ask if the instructors have had meaningful experience in television. And finally, does the school itself have access to facilities that are comparable to those at television stations.

I don't know how this compares to today's education. I know that growing up, Brown Institute in Minneapolis was a renowned broadcasting school—one that I seriously considered attending myself. A look at their wall of fame shows a lot of people who went on to successful careers in local and national television. But if I had gone there, would I be writing this for you today? Who knows; maybe one of you out there would be writing about me.

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Finally, you'll recall that I once wrote about Bob Hope being "largely forgotten," although he was an enormous star in his time. This week, the cover story is on another largely forgotten TV star: Ann Sothern.

Though she was never a mega-star, Ann Sothern had a more than successful career, starring in two series (Private Secretary and The Ann Sothern Show) which combined ran for eight seasons and earned her three Emmy nominations. She also played the voice of the car in My Mother the Car, which would have been reason enough to love her (for retaining her dignity, if nothing else), and was a frequent guest on shows throughout the '50s and '60s.

At this point in time, Sothern is president of five corporations, spanning everything from television production to sewing to music cataloging, and she continues to juggle these successful businesses with her own acting career. It's a tough job, and leaves her with little time for anything approaching a social life. Says Sothern, "I would like to live elegantly.  Instead, I have to run five businesses."

Her last television role was in 1985; her final movie role in 1987. She has two stars on Hollywood's Walk of Fame, one for each medium. If that's the kind of career that winds up largely forgotten, I don't think I'd mind being lost to the mists of time myself. TV  

March 18, 2022

Around the dial




We'll lead with the biggest story of the week, which is my final appearance on Eventually Supertrain, as Dan and I wrap up the underappreciated Search. There's more cool stuff on this episode, including Kolchak and the original Battlestar Galactica, and hopefully I'll be invited back one of these days! But in the meantime. . .

The Broadcasting Archives has a nice piece on one of my favorite newsmen, the great Howard K. Smith. He and Harry Reasoner were the preferred newscasters in the household when I had a chance to choose. Back then you had to be a real journalist to anchor the evening news; I wonder what he would think of the evening news today?

You would think that a television show about a crime-fighting go-go dancer would be a no-brainer, rather than a candidate for Cult TV Blog's orphaned episodes series, but as John points out, Go Girl didn't even make it to the tube. Better read and find out more.

At The Horn Section, Hal takes a look back at the 1970 made-for-TV movie Hunters Are for Killing, with a pretty good cast that includes Burt Reynolds, Melvyn Douglas, Martin Balsam, Suzanne Pleshette, Jill Banner, and Larry Storch. Hal calls it "an agreeable enough time-waster," and sometimes that's all you need.

Last week I linked to Terence's obituary of Tim Considine, and this week at Comfort TV, David takes a look at Considine's rich body of work with Disney (the real Disney, not the faux one we see nowadays): the Mickey Mouse Club serials Spin and Marty and Annette

Speaking of Terence, over at A Shroud of Thoughts, he has a very nice appreciation of Emilio Delgado, who, of course, played Luis on Sesame Street for so many years. He died last week, aged 81, and you might be surprised to see the many roles he played on television.

At CBR, Cassidy Stephenson comments on the increasing trend of rebooting classic shows, including ten that have recently gotten a reboot. I'm not necessarily opposed to the practice, especially when you can bring back a good number of the original cast, but still—is there such a poverty of ideas out there?

Ciera Couto also notices the trend, and at The Medium she points out how rebooting contemporary children's shows like Arthur allow that generation to "[Say] hello to adulthood without saying goodbye to childhood." Here, and I always thought that's what happened when you started to pay income taxes. TV