April 2, 2022

This week in TV Guide: April 1, 1967

A while back, I caught The Sit-In, the Peacock documentary covering the historic week in 1968 when Harry Belafonte served as Johnny Carson's guest host on The Tonight Show. It was pretty good, and it put it in a political and cultural context, something that many documentaries fail to do properly. (There were too many clips of contemporary celebrities nattering on, but that's the way of it nowadays, especially when so many of the original participants are no longer among the living.) The limited clips from the show were terrific, but what struck me most in watching this show was how so few "TV historians" were aware of this program. If you're a regular reader, you know I've been talking about this for years; I first mentioned the Belafonte week way back in 2009, and did another piece on it in 2017, based on an article in The Nation, of all places.

Godfrey Cambridge and Moms Mabley
During The Sit-In, there's mention of another landmark show, one that we see in this week's issue. It airs on Thursday, as a part of ABC's anthology/variety show Stage 67—"A Time for Laughter: A Look at Negro Humor in America," produced and hosted by Belefonte, and featuring Sidney Poitier, Godfrey Cambridge, Redd Foxx, Diahann Caroll, Richard Pryor, Dick Gregory, Moms Mabley and Pigmeat Markham. One sketch features Pryor as a nervous undertaker forced to deliver the eulogy when the clergyman doesn't show at the funeral, while another has Gregory as a civil-rights marcher discussing "Black Power." I suppose it might seem tame today when compared to what contemporary black comics discuss, but it probably says a lot more about the history of black humor and what it was like for blacks in America in the 1960s; it was, in all likelihood, unlike much that had been seen on television up to that time. While it won an Emmy nomination for best variety special, I wonder how many viewers saw it, considering it was up against Dean Martin (this week's guests: Phil Harris, Sally Ann Howes, Paul Winchell, comedian Bob Melvin and the singing Kessler Twins).

The reaction to these programs from contemporary commentators is uniform: Why didn't anybody tell me about these? I can tell you how I found out about them: by reading old TV Guides. I'm not trying to make light of this; if they would that TV Guide as a serious original source of cultural history, they might know a lot more about what was going on back then and be a lot less surprised. They also might try getting out a little more; The Nation, hardly the place you'd think to go for television history, had articles on both programs, and there are other resources as well. Now, I'm sure that there are plenty of events that they're familiar with about which I have no clue whatsoever, so I don't want this to be a case of pointing fingers. But it really is remarkable how much you can learn about America from the pages of this little magazine, isn't it? Ah, if only more people knew about me.

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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: Metropolitan Opera baritone Robert Merrill; comedians Alan King and Henny Youngman; folk-rock singers Sonny and Cher; the comedy team of Wayne and Shuster; the Gospel Jazz Singers; the singing Kane Triplets and the Happy Jesters.

Palace: Host Bing Crosby welcomes Louis Armstrong, Nanette Fabray and Red Buttons. Also: the Goodtime Washboard Three, novelty musicians discovered by Bing; the Black Theatre of Prague, a Czech pantomime troupe; the tumbling Ghezzi Brothers; and magician Marvin Roy.

After all these years matching these two shows up week after week, I've come to the conclusion that the winning program tells you more about me than it does about the relative merits of either show. After all, you may think that the Supremes are the best thing around, and can't understand why I always pick Sammy Davis Jr. Well, neither show has such a lineup this week, but Palace has a mighty guest list with Bing and Louis, and comedy fans will probably like Nanette Fabray and Red Buttons. On the other hand, Ed has Robert Merrill, Alan King, and Henny Youngman, and that's a show I can like as well. As Soloman once displayed, the best way to settle this is right down the middle: the winner this week is a Push.

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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. 

Every once in a while, the lightbulb comes on over your head, and you suddenly understand why something is the way it is. Even if that something isn't a good something, there's still the thrill of discovery. That's how Cleveland Amory must have felt this week when he found out that the ABC sitcom Rango was scheduled without a pilot having been made. "This fact, among others, is obviously why it got on the air in the first place. It is our theory, however, that if the network executive who made that commitment saw the show now, he would go back and shoot only only a pilot but several people too.

Reading about a show isn't the same thing as having seen it, and I'll admit that while I've certainly read enough about Tim Conway's comedy Western to know something about it, I've never seen an episode—so I can't speak for the accuracy of Cleve's acerbic review. However, if reviews are really meant to educate the potential viewer, I think we might want to just mosey away from this one while we can. For starters, it's a carbon copy of several other series (including the "late but far superior Run, Buddy, Run), it also has "the additional indistinction of managing, within the confines of one half-hour, to combine the faults of half a hundred shows." The jokes are not only stale, they're so old that "by the time they're repeated as much as they are here, they're senior citizens." 

For those of you wondering how Tim Conway fares, his character is neither directed or written well, and he overacts. Guy Marks, as his Indian sidekick Pink Cloud, is better, due to the "Amory Law of Levity"—since he has fewer lines, he's got to be funny once in a while. Norman Alden, as Rango's superior, deserves an award just for his ability to react to the lousy material he's surrounded by. And since there's only one real joke to the show—he's the nephew of the commandant of the Texas Rangers; thus, no matter how incompetent Rango is, he can't be fired—if you've seen one episode, as Amory points out, you've seen them all. Cleve concludes with a rumor that there are men who claim to have witnessed several episodes. "They are not many, though, and they are fading rapidly. We know—we've seen Rango four times."

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Plenty to see this week, starting on Saturday with the premier event on the Pro Bowlers Tour, the Firestone Tournament of Champions (2:30 p.m., ABC). Jim Stefanich defeats Don Johnson in a two-frame roll-off after they tie at 227, but the highlight of the broadcast is Jack Biondolillo rolling the first-ever nationally televised 300 game in the first round. I miss the days when pro bowling was a major sport; it was always a great way to spend a Saturday afternoon.

A variety of programs mark Sunday, from the NBA playoffs (the 76ers defeat the Celtics; 1:00 p.m., ABC) to hockey (Black Hawks vs. Rangers, 3:00 p.m., WTCN), to NBC Experiment in Television's closeup on "Theater of the Deaf," narrated by Nanette Fabray, herself hearing-impaired (3:00 p.m.) At 5:30 p.m., Secretary of State Dean Rusk faces a panel of international journalists on an hour-long NBC news special which looks a lot like Meet the Press. (It even has Edwin Newman and Lawrence Spivak!) The main topic, of course: Vietnam. In primetime, CBS presents a repeat showing of last May's acclaimed production of Death of a Salesman, starring Lee J. Cobb, Mildred Dunnock, George Segal and James Farentino (8:00 p.m.). 

On Monday, it's a repeat of last December's Frank Sinatra: A Man and His MusicPart 2 (8:30 p.m., CBS), a follow-up to the 1965 Man and His Music special. Whereas that first special was just Frank and his songs, he's joined for this one by daughter Nancy, perhaps the ultimate expression of fatherly love. It's followed by the final episode of I've Got a Secret (9:30 p.m., CBS), which debuted in 1952. Lynn Redgrave is the guest for this last show; it should have included Garry Moore, who was host up until 1964.

The latest installment in CBS's series of "National Tests," which began in 1965 with the award-winning National Drivers Test*, and went on to include the National Citizenship Test and National Health Test, is the National Science Test (Tuesday, 9:00 p.m.), hosted by Harry Reasoner and Joseph Benti, with an appearance by Mr. Wizard himself, Don Herbert. There's a handy "Official Test Form" included in this week's issue so you can keep score at home; considering how everyone with at Twitter account is now a certified infectious disease expert, perhaps it's time this test was resurrected.

*That 1965 broadcast was the highest-rated program of the week, by the way.

Wednesday's highlight is a reunion of the Your Show of Shows crew, as Sid Caesar welcomes Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner and Howard Morris to The Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, Howard Morris Special (7:30 p.m., CBS). They're not the only ones in the reunion; most of the writing crew, including Mel Brooks and Larry Gelbart, are back as well. One of the highlights is a spoof of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, and I wonder if they ever thought they'd be doing anything like that on TV? Anyhow, you can check it out for yourself here. (Thanks again, YouTube.)

Also on Wednesday, an NBC News Inquiry hosted by Frank McGee takes a closer look at a NASA that's at a "Crossroads in Space." (9:00 p.m.) And crossroads is the case indeed; it's less than three months since the disastrous Apollo 1 fire that killed three American astronauts and threw the entire moon race into question, while the growing costs of the space program continue to rise.

I always enjoy running across episodes that appear to be ordinary at the time but wind up being a part of television history, and such is the case on Thursday with the much-loved Star Trek episode "The City on the Edge of Forever" (7:30 p.m., NBC), Harlan Ellison's legendary story of Kirk and Spock entering through a time portal to rescue McCoy, and running into an impossibly young Joan Collins in the process. What I wouldn't give to see this episode for the very first time, not knowing what to expect. (And if you're interested, reading Ellison's book on the making of this episode is a must.)

The 1967 baseball season begins on Monday, and ABC puts you in the mood on Friday with a "Portrait of Willie Mays" (9:00 p.m.), narrated by Chris Schenkel. Filmed during last season's pennant race, this look at the most charismatic baseball player of the time is, as I suppose it should be, a throwback to a more joyous era of the game; the first labor stoppage is still five years away, there are no endless playoffs, and the strongest words you hear from this star are, "Say Hey!"

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This week's starlet is our comely cover girl, 24-year-old Cheryl Miller (that's her on cover right, not to be confused with Judy the Chimp), one of the stars of CBS's series Daktari. She talks with Dwight.  Whitney from Africa U.S.A., the setting at which Ivan Tors' latest animal drama is being filmed, and it's clear that Cheryl's what we would today call an animal whisperer. Or at least that's what I gather from her exchange with a 425-pould Bengal tiger called Sarang, whom she cuddles and caresses until the tiger begins licking at her throat. 

She's a girl of many traits: she sings, was on the track team in school, flies jets, rides horseback, skis, and climbs mountains. When she's not doing all of that, she's also making personal appearances; "If you need a Miss Christmas Seal or a marshal to decorate your parade, or a pretty-fundraiser for the Junior Foundation for the Blind, Cheryl is always available." At times, it almost seems as if she looks at acting as an afterthought. After Daktari ends in 1969, she continues to appear in television up until 1980. Today, the only Cheryl Miller most people probably know of is the former basketball player. Somehow, I'm not so sure this Cheryl Miller would mind.

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Finally, "Television Fights the War of Ideas," is one of the feature articles in the issue, written by Neil Hickey. When I first saw that headline, I figured Hickey might be talking about how TV fights to keep ideas off the air, but in reality, it's an examination of the United States Information Agency, the government's propaganda arm, and how it beams the American ideal into living rooms around the world. Because if I'd been right—if it had been TV vs. the war of ideas—then I think we can say, from today's perspective, that TV won, and ideas lost. TV  


  1. I actually saw the original broadcast of "The City On The Edge Of Forever" on April 6, 1967. After faithfully watching the first season of Star Trek, even my 13 year old mind thought that it was one of the better episodes of the initial season.

  2. Just doing a day-by-day of the Chicago listings for this week:

    - WFLD-Channel 32 is now in its second year of operation in Chicago; I'll be mentioning some of their shows this week as we go along.

    I've seen the Hollywood Palace show mentioned above; there's a feature in the color section showing Nanette Fabray doing some of her ballet work, which is even more impressive when you see her actually dancing on point.
    - Meanwhile, Channel 32 is showing Bengal Bouts, from Notre Dame University, in which "veteran boxers" (whatever that means) compete for charity; Channel 26 (the other UHF station in town) is running their Saturday night bullfights, described by Carlos "Gus" Chan; and Channel2 (the CBS station) is preempting Pistols 'n' Petticoats for a special about the wedding of Sharon Percy and Jay Rockefeller (big story locally).

    - Channel 32 has They Don't Make Movies Like This Anymore!, which is a showcase of early '30s films hosted by Richard Christiansen, the arts editor of the Chicago Daily News (a corporate parent of Ch.32).
    This was a time when most TV sets couldn't get UHF without a converter, which did hold the audience down just a bit ...
    - Channel 32 is showing talk programs six nights a week at 10:30; Sunday's talker is David Susskind's New York-based show.

    - Not much here, so I'll just note that Ch.32's late talker is a repeat of Tom Duggan's live show from the previous Friday (mostly loud yelling and bad manners; the guest was the famously corrupt mayor of Aurora IL, Paul Egan, so you can guess how that went).

    - Everybody's going into reruns this week.
    - Ch32 has Bill Veeck twice tonight:
    In prime time, Bill has a baseball half-hour, this week with Ernie Banks.
    At 10:30, Bill does what is now a twice-weekly 90-minute show, tonight about "The Sorry State Of Amateur Athletics" (Bill covered a lot of ground on his Ch32 shows).

    - On The Virginian, Myrna Loy is making a rare TV appearance, as a wealthy Western widow going one-on-one with Charles Bickford.
    - Bob Hope's show has a drama about a hermit monk (Patrick O'Neal) facing off against three escaped outlaws.
    - And at 10:30, Ch32 has Alan Burke, a bearded New York snoot who brings on the kooks.

    - I saw that ABC Stage 67 show when it first aired; the sketch I mainly remembered had Godfrey Cambridge and Diana Sands as a very bourgeious couple who hired Moms Mabley as a maid, with the expected results - the 1967 audience laughed, but I wonder how it might play today ..
    - Bill Veeck's second late-night Ch32 show was about "Present Day Crime and the Syndicate", with a pretty powerhouse set of guests.
    - And oh yeah, there was that Star Trek thingy, but who really cared about that? ...

    - Maurice Evans is making the second of what became four appearances on Tarzan, as an old colonial who wins over the African tribes.
    - Meanwhile, Michael Dunn is doing his annual bit as Dr. Loveless on Wild Wild West; while The Green Hornet goes up against a 1967 supercomputer - business as usual.
    - Ch32 talkers are Tom Duggan in prime time, and Alan Burke in a late-night rerun (32 was negotiating to bring in Joe Pyne's LA show, but that was in the future ...).

    Running dry right now; more later if I think of it ...

  3. NBC was scheduled to premiere a new game show, SNAP JUDGMENT (called Paper Password more than once), that Monday, 4/3, but when I look up the show's history, I've seen its premiere date given as 4/10 (exactly a week later) or even 4/11. Is this just an error, or did the AFTRA strike postpone the premiere by a week? I was too young to watch or remember watching the show myself.

  4. The AFTRA strike lasted from March 29th until about 5 minutes before the Oscars telecast on April 10, which would have delayed Snap Judgment til the 11th.

  5. Thursday April 6 also brought F TROOP's final first run episode, ironically titled "Is This Fort Really Necessary?" Too bad Warner Brothers didn't give the same answer that viewers did.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!