December 24, 2022

This week in TV Guide: December 22, 1973

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And finally, to one and all,



  1. If Pope Paul's Christmas Eve Mass at the Vatican was held at 12 Midnight local time, WNEW would have carried it live since 12 Midnight in Vatican City is 6 P.M. in New York and the rest of Eastern time zone.

    1. You're right, of course. The WKBS broadcast would have been taped.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!