April 9, 2022

This week in TV Guide: April 11, 1964

dith Efron asks the question: is speech on television really free? The answer: no, at least according to the right wing. And according to the left wing. What could possibly bring these two divergent sides together?

The answer is the Fairness Doctrine, or as Efron describes it, "the latest and most disturbing development in the history of America's only Government-regulated communications medium." Both the left and right are "simultaneously blaming it for the suppression of their views and invoking it for protection." The Fairness Doctrine, dating back to 1949, gives broadcasters "the right to express [their] views—provided [they] also sought out and presented 'all sides of controversial issues.'" Said presentation must be "'fair,' 'non-distorted,' 'nonpartisan,' 'non-one-sided,' 'equal,' 'equally forceful.'"

In theory it's supposed to prevent broadcasters from "slanting" the news. In reality, as Efron finds out, it's almost impossible, an "outright myth," to prevent editorializing. The respected Quincy Howe, veteran reporter at ABC, points out that "[t]he newscaster editorializes in what he emphasizes and what he plays down, in what he omits and in what he includes." As NBC's David Brinkley points out, "News is what I say it is. It's something worth knowing by my standards." Documentaries are no different; ABC's John Secondari says it is "absolutely impossible to write, broadcast, or put together pictures without having a point of view."

Given how impossible the task seems, then, how does a broadcaster abide by the Fairness Doctrine? Says Efron, by "making sure that newscasters and documentary producers conform as closely as possible to a safe, middle-of-the-road point of view." Howard K. Smith calls it "conformist. As compared to the other media, TV is by far the most colorless, the most cowardly." Don Hewitt, who will go on to be longtime producer of 60 Minutes, says that networks "are in the hands of corporations, which see the world the same way
—as moderate liberals." 

But, as Efron points out, the political middle "does not reflect the views of millions of Americans who represent a vast reservoir of diversified political opinion, both left and right of center." They feel they've been relegated to a "token role," that they're "being actively deprived of an 'equal' and 'equally forceful' voice on the publicly owned air waves." Their numbers, which include 60 percent of those at a recent meeting of the Radio-Television News Directors Association, argue that, in essence, broadcasters are being deprived of freedom of the press. Until then, says Maryland Congressman Glenn Cunningham, "broadcasting will never have the political diversity that the other media all have."

The FCC, from whose hands the Fairness Doctrine was created, begs to differ. Chairman E. William Henry accuses broadcasters of "voluntary self-constriction," and points out that the Commission believes in "proportional representation," that a spectrum of ideas should be presented "based on the statistical prevalence of such positions in the country." Practically speaking, this would result in news and public-affairs departments that "represent all the polar political positions in this country. They would cover and interpret news from these identified points of view, like by-lined newspaper reporters and columnists. They would produce documentaries on social and political issues from these different identified points of view." Efron believes that such an application of the Fairness Doctrine would produce news that was both politically more realistic and also livelier, with the public the big winner. They would get "a glimpse of U.S. political life as it really is, a violently colored dramatic spectrum of conflicting ideas." 

I think it's fair to say that, despite the fact the Fairness Doctrine was repealed in 1987.  no news network comes even close to representing this idea of "proportional representation." What we have instead is a variety of echo chambers, each responding to the desires of its audience, and that's a disservice to the nation as a whole. If it is true that the airwaves belong to the public—especially the ones we pay for—then it seems we should expect no less.

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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: Tonight's taped hour is devoted to the Moscow Circus, which visited the United States last fall. Acts include: Filatov's trained bears, who are accomplished motorcyclists, boxers; Cossack horsemen, precision gymnasts; acrobatic strongmen; tumblers who somersault onto stilts; the Volzhansky wire walkers.

Palace: Host Donald O'Connor introduces comics Jack E. Leonard and Jerry Van Dyke; songstress Fran Jeffries; impressionist Rich Little; the Wellington Singers; the singing Four Little Angels; Tarzan and his eight lions; and the Frielanes, balancing acrobats.

Hmm. Both shows have acrobats, both shows have animal acts. I'm sure the Moscow Circus puts on a very colorful show (even in black-and-white), but it's very dry unless you can actually see it. And while it might not win every week, I think Donald O'Connor gives the Palace an edge that holds up even though the guest lineup isn't the best. I wouldn't blame you for going the other way, but I've got the Palace getting the nod.

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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. 

Chronicles, which alternates each week with CBS Reports, is one of those cultural shows I talked about a couple of weeks ago, the kind that networks like to boast about to keep the FCC off their back. That description sells Chronicles short, though, because as Cleveland Amory says, it really is quite a remarkable program.

Every program is, as the network describes it, "a collection of random entries on the arts and sciences, some items from the long list of human achievements and human failures, it all being a record of interesting people, places and events and some notes on the human condition, past and present." If that sounds ambitious, it's also largely accurate, for despite some of the hokum implicit in such a description, the show is often "worth your attention," artistic but not teachy, with a way of drawing you into the subject before you're even aware you're interested in it. A recent segment on five major scientific breakthroughs, for example, was "long and at times tedious, but the treatment was remarkable," thanks to executive producer Richard Siemanowski, host Charles Collingwood, and special effects wizard Paul Wittlig; another show included "Four Views on Caesar," taken from Plutarch, Shakespeare, Shaw, and Caesar himself.

This is, again, a show that wouldn't be on commercial television today; it might make it to public broadcasting, which is what PBS is for in the first place. Amory closes his review with a look at a program that featured an interview with a Mr. Merry, an 80-some-year-old trolly-car conductor in Masachusetts. Mr. Merry's is a modest story, one of three unconnected stories from 80-year-olds that comprises "American Tap Roots," but its unforgettable conclusion remains with Amory: "It took me two hours to get from here as far as that cattle cart," he said, "and to this day the feeling's still here." I suspect it's still there for anyone who saw this program; I wonder how many of today's programs can make that statement?

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Second only to the TCM year-end tribute to stars who died during the past year is the moment when the networks announce the fate of their current shows. Which shows have survived (especially among the new entries), and which are headed for the great syndicator in the sky.

Roughly a third of last season's debut shows have won a second season, including favorites like The Fugitive, The Patty Duke Show, Burke's Law, The Farmer's Daughter, The Outer Limits, and The Hollywood Palace (ABC); Petticoat Junction, My Favorite Martian, and The Danny Kaye Show (CBS); and Mr. Novak, The Bill Dana Show, Kraft Suspense Theatre, Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theater, and That Was the Week That Was (NBC). When you think about it, that's a pretty impressive lineup of programs all to have debuted in the same season. 

The story doesn't end with the winners, of course, as we see several big-name shows bite the dust after their inaugural seasons. Jerry Lewis's much-heralded two-hour extravaganza is the most glaring casualty, but Judy Garland's variety show is another, as are attempted comebacks by Phil Silvers (The New Phil Silvers Show), Richard Boone (The Richard Boone Show) and Imogene Coca (Grindl). East Side/West Side and Arrest and Trial were also one and done. And some old favorites are also moving on: The Garry Moore Show, Sing Along with Mitch, Route 66, The Eleventh Hour, 77 Sunset Strip, The Twilight Zone, and The Joey Bishop Show are among those bidding adieu.

Note how many of these shows—both those that were renewed and those cancelled—are available either on DVD or YouTube. When you throw in series such as Combat!, The Beverly Hillbillies, The Dick Van Dyke Show, Bonanza, Gunsmoke, Perry Mason, Dr. Kildare and others that have already made it through a few seasons, I wonder if this isn't one of the earliest TV season to be so well-preserved. Anyone who wanted to could probably spend months recreating exact lineups for each night of the week, and I think that's a pretty cool thing. 

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You might remember a couple of weeks ago when we looked at the power of guest stars circa 1959, and the inducements used to bring them to the small screen. Such is still the case in 1964, if this week's Hollywood Teletype is any indication. For example, Burke's Law—a show that thrives on the cameo big-name star—is boasting the following for a single episode: Martha Hyer, Jeanne Crain, Hazel Court, Joanne Dru, and Susan Strasberg; another ABC series, The Greatest Show on Earth, not only has Jack Palance as star, but he'll be directing an upcoming episode with a trio of old-time stars: Buster Keaton, Joan Blondell, and Joe E. Brown. 

Note, though, that there are still those who could be thought to prefer substance to sizzle: "CBS's plan to boost ratings of the six-year-old Rawhide with liberal use of big-name guest stars and 'anthology-type' scripts caused dissension among the brass. Executive producer Vincent Fennelly and associate producer Paul King resigned in protest."

Meanwhile, CBS News president Fred Friendly has told station managers that "he wants Edward R. Murrow, now recuperating from a lung operation in California, back on the CBS News team as soon as possible." Murrow has been serving as head of the United States Information Agency (USIA) since early 1961, but stepped down due to lung cancer, and that operation was to remove a lung. He never returns to CBS, and will be dead just over a year from now.

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One of golf's biggest tournaments winds to a conclusion this weekend, as CBS brings us coverage of the third (Saturday, 5:00 p.m. ET) and final (Sunday, 4:00 p.m.) rounds of the Masters, featuring a star-studded field including defending champion Jack Nicklaus, three-time winner Arnold Palmer, Gary Player, Billy Casper, Tony Lema, Julius Boros, and more. Did I say that Palmer was a three-time winner? Make that four, as Arnie marches to a six-stroke victory for his seventh, and last, major championship. Nicklaus finishes in a tie for second with future network golf commentator (and PGA champion) Dave Marr.

More sports: back in the day, the really big heavyweight title fights were seen not on home television, but on closed-circuit broadcasts carried in theaters, which meant that when the fight was eventually shown on home TV, it was an event. Such is the case on Wide World of Sports (Saturday, 5:00 p.m., ABC), when one of the most historic title fights, both athletically and culturally, is shown for the first time: the February 25 bout in which Cassius Clay takes the crown from Sonny Liston. Would boxing ever be the same again?

And now for regular programming, and Saturday evening Dennis Weaver makes his farewell as Chester Goode on Gunsmoke (10:00 p.m., CBS). "Bently" isn't really a "final episode" for Weaver; he's the star of the story, but isn't written out, per se. Ken Curtis had already appeared as Festus Hagen several times, beginning in 1962, so it's an easy transition for him to become Matt Dillon's right-hand man. That's Chester there on the left, with friend.

Rounding out the weekend, on Sunday, NBC presents an encore broadcast of the Children's Theatre presentation of "Robin Hood" (6:00 p.m.), with Dan Ferrone as the wealth redistributor, and a couple of familiar faces in supporting roles: Lynda Day as Maid Marian, and Sorrell Booke as the Sheriff of Nottingham. You might think this unusual, seeing as how it was just shown a couple of months ago, on February 15, but such is the way of it in the pre-VCR world. Had this happened a decade or so ago, the show would have been live, and a repeat would have meant staging the whole show all over again, live, hopefully with the same cast and the same results. Who says technology can't make things easier?

Monday's star event is the Academy Awards (10:00 p.m., ABC), hosted by Jack Lemmon. I gave my opinions on the Oscars in detail a couple of weeks ago and so I won't add to it here; as for the winners, the British comedy Tom Jones takes home Best Picture and Best Director (Tony Richardson), while Sidney Poitier wins Best Actor for Lillies of the Field, and Patricia Neal takes home the Best Actress honors for Hud. Poitier's historic win is the highlight of the night, but in second is Sammy Davis Jr., who first is given the wrong envelope while presenting the award for Best Adapted Score (Sammy saves the moment with his comment, "Wait until the NAACP hears about this!"), and later brings down the house with a medley of Best Song losers (including an encore of "Blues in the Night"); at the end, the audience rewards Davis with a long ovation. "He's a genius," Lemmon says, and it's hard to disagree.

The other day I celebrated baseball's Opening Day by writing about the movie Rhubarb, and this Tuesday honors another Opening Day with another Ray Milland baseball movie: It Happens Every Spring (7:00 p.m., WJAR), the story of a chemistry professor who develops a formula that produces a real curve ball. 

On Wednesday, the original Dr. Kildare of movies and the radio, Lew Ayres, guest stars on Kildare's great television rival, Ben Casey (9:00 p.m., ABC) as a businessman who may have only a few hours left to live. He should see Ben Gazzara's doctor—he gave his patient a couple of years. By the way, tempting as it is to think of Ayres' appearance as stunt casting, he was a terrific actor who always delivered a dignified performance.

That ad on the left for the debut of the new Ford Mustang doesn't give us much encouragement, does it? Despite that, Thursday's highlight is probably Clint Walker, making a rare television appearance (his first dramatic role in two years) as a mysterious hermit in Kraft Suspense Theatre's "Portrait of an Unknown Man" (10:00 p.m., NBC). A young(er) Robert Duvall is one of the guest stars. 

The Oscars don't have a corner on the awards market this week; Friday, Bob Hope hosts the fifth annual TV Guide Awards (8:30 p.m., NBC), and this is my kind of awards show. The first 45 minutes is all Hope's regular show (on tape), with guests Tony Randall, Martha Raye, and Jack Jones, and including Bob's monologue; the awards, which are presented in the show's final 15 minutes, are broadcast live, with Bob assisted by TV Guide publisher James Quirk in Hollywood, and assistant publisher Arthur Shulman in New York. There's no "Best" involved here, just "Favorite," based on fan votes. In case you're interested, Dr. Kildare wins favorite series, The Fugitive is favorite new series, Richard Chamberlain is favorite male performer, and Carol Burnett is favorite female performer.

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If I recall correctly—yes, here it is!—we looked at a TV Guide article a few years ago that reported on a pay-TV experiment taking place on a UHF station in Hartford. Well, this week we get to see it for ourselves on that very station, WHCT, channel 18. For the most part WHCT airs recent movies such as Two for the Seesaw, starring Robert Mitchum and Shirley MacLaine ($1.00); The Last Time I Saw Archie, with Mitchum and Jack Webb ($0.50); and Kings of the Sun, starring Yul Brynner and George Chakiris ($1.25). The price of each program, along with a code, are included in the description for each show. 

It's not all movies, though; there's also a taped presentation of the play Spoon River for $2.00, and there are also non-pay program, like The Adventures of Charlie Chan. The most interesting free show of the week, however, might be Friday afternoon—the grand opening of New York's Shea Stadium, as the "New York Metropolitans" christen their gleaming new ballpark with a game against the Pittsburgh Pirates (1:45 p.m.). Now, I've occasionally seen the Mets referred to as the Metropolitans, given that it is its corporate name ("The New York Metropolitan Baseball Club, Inc."), and people have called them that, kind of as a reverse shorthand, but I don't know that I've ever seen it used in such formal circumstances as the pages of TV Guide. Oh, and did you know that the Mets' original colors were nearly pink and black? But that's a story for another time. TV  

1 comment:

  1. The Wellington Singers on Hollywood Palace are better known for a little ditty which would open a certain sitcom a few months later, "Just sit right back and we'll the tale of a trip, a fateful trip that started from this tropic port."


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