February 8, 2023

The long and the short of it

A while back, I was reading a thread—I think it was on Twitter—that asked a simple question: Would you start watching a show knowing that it was had already been cancelled? I was particularly interested in someone who replied that, sure, if there was a final episode that provided a resolution, they'd watch, but if the series ended without a resolution, they wouldn't even start. (Coronet Blue would, I suppose, be the preeminent example of the kind of show they're talking about, although that didn't prevent it from becoming a cult classic.)

What interests me the most about this conversation is that it highlights how much television watching has changed over the decades. Many people today never knew, or don't remember, the days when most television series consisted of self-contained episodes, with stories that began and ended within the episode. If the story was really big, it might rate a two-parter, or in rare cases even a three-parter, but that was about it. No, today's television viewers are used to a series that is essentially one very long episode with a story that begins with the first episode and ends with the last episode, at which time the question which has been with us since the beginning comes to a resolution. Of course, real life often isn't quite that neat; there are many, many things over the course of a lifetime that are never resolved or are so inconsequential (a meal is cooked and consumed, the dishes are cleaned and put away) that they would never work as a series-long story arc. Our modern-day desire for "closure" can result in a great deal of frustration, because that's not the way life is.

Although it wasn't the first series to have a final episode, when it comes to wrapping up the storyline, most people think of The Fugitive, and Dr. Richard Kimble's elusive search for the one-armed man who had killed his wife, while he in turn is being hunted by Lieutenant Gerard, the man who wants to return him to death row. You'd think that perhaps the ending to this saga had been written at the very outset, but it hadn't; in fact, Quinn Martin had to be talked into providing an end for the series. He feared that doing so would damage the show's prospects in syndication—who would want to watch it when they already knew how it would end? This is precisely the opposite way of thinking from that which we saw in that Twitter thread, but times change.

(By the way, one of the things that made The Fugitive's final episode unique was that it came not at the end of the first-run cycle of episodes, in May or June, but in August, after the rerun season had concluded. The final episode of The Fugitive was, in fact, the final episode, and it was an extraordinary way to end the series. And it happened because Quinn Martin needed to be convinced to do it, which meant a conventional airing date of May/June wasn’t possible, and the network decided to go with the next best thing. Still, you have to admit that even if it was accidental, it was a stroke of genius, a felix culpa.)

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In replacing episodic television with increased serialization, it's sometimes said that the new way of looking at things is more realistic, allowing for an opportunity to explore the story in more depth, more detail. Now, I'll grant that the traditional episodic form of a series such as, let's say, Perry Mason, can leave something to be desired; an attorney who specializes in trial law can hardly be expected to try 30+ cases a year. We didn't really think about that, though; we relied on being entertained for one hour each week by Perry and his latest case and didn't try to fit it all into some larger puzzle. (Hopefully, Peacock's new hit Poker Face can help revive, at least in some cases, the idea of contained episodic television.)

A series like this didn't need a final episode, because there was no overarching theme that required resolution. It was just a series of snapshots of a very successful attorney's life, and if you were willing to overlook the flaws inherent in the construction of said series, it was a template that could be applied to the lives of most of us; life was simpler back then. As I said, real life isn't nearly as neat as television can make it out to be. In that way, Coronet Blue was probably more realistic than we'd like to admit; Michael Alden didn't have any guarantee that he'd ever figure out what "Coronet Blue" meant, any more than Dr. Kimble was guaranteed he'd find the one-armed man. By being more realistic, television can also be less realistic, and if you can figure that out, then you're way ahead of the game. Life also isn't always lived on an epic scale; I'm nearly 63 and I'm still waiting to figure out what my storyline is. 

One of the other trademarks of the new television (if we can call it that) is the shorter number of episodes in a season. Back in the day, the average television season for a series could consist of anywhere between 28 and 39 episodes; today, somewhere between ten and 12 is more likely. Thanks to the miracles of modern technology, viewers can binge-watch an entire season over a weekend, and can catch up on a long-running series over a few weeks. This makes sense on a couple of levels; if your series is going to tell a unified story that has a beginning, a middle, and an end, you've got to make it digestible for the viewer. Watching the whole season in two or three days makes the story more cohesive, easier to remember and follow, without the writers having to spend time recapping the story or using clumsy techniques to remind us of what's going on.

It's also said that writing and production quality can be higher when resources don't have to be stretched as far as they did over the course of a long season, and it's probably easier to get big-name stars to commit to longer arcs that it used to be (although one of the pleasures of the classic era was in seeing a big-name star appearing in a one-off guest spot, and in the age of the self-contained episode that was usually good enough). In the pre-VCR era, the reruns gave you the chance to catch up on what you might have missed during the regular season, which made the 52-week season practical in more ways than one—it kept the show foremost in the mind of the viewers, keeping them poised for the show’s return during the always exciting Premiere Week in September.

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But let's go back to The Fugitive for a minute. There were 120 one-hour episodes of The Fugitive 4(an average of 30 per season), and but through the course of those 118 stories that led up to the final two-parter, a tremendous amount of suspense built up. Yes, we knew that our hero would escape the clutches of Lieutenant Gerard, or whatever ham-fisted local policeman happened to have Kimble in his sites, but that didn’t prevent the viewer from experiencing the sense that Kimble was on a type of epic journey, an Odyssey if you will, crisscrossing the country in search of a goal so elusive that it was only the occasional glimpse of the one-armed man that convinced Kimble it wasn’t all just a dream. The Harrison Ford big-screen version of The Fugitive was swell and all, terrific on its own terms, but it all happened just too fast; it lacked that sense of ordeal that Kimble had suffered. If The Fugitive were made today, I wonder; could this sense of time and journey, could the epic nature of it all, have been done in just 30 or 40 episodes?

Maybe it could—The Prisoner ran for just 17 episodes, after all, and yet created one of the most bizarre worlds television has ever seen, one that left viewers and actors alike utterly exhausted when it was done. Had the series lasted longer than it did, I’m not sure anyone could have stood it. For it to have come back for a second season would have been ridiculous. There’s a key difference, though, one that might help answer the question, at least in part. Number 6 (or John Drake, if you prefer) was never someone we actually were supposed to know; it was the enigmatic quality of the show that made it work in the first place. The Fugitive, on the other hand, succeeded precisely because of our ability to know and trust Kimble, to believe that he was innocent of his wife’s murder, and to put our rooting interest in his escape from authority. Therefore, while brevity was an asset to The Prisoner, familiarity was essential to The Fugitive.

So there are the requirements for today's successful television series: it needs to tell a serialized story with a beginning and end, and it will probably run for about a dozen episodes. In that respect, modern television most closely resembles the old miniseries, a genre that was hugely popular but, at its peak, ruled for a relatively short period of time. The original concept of the miniseries was to tell a story in an epic amount of detail, far more than could be handled in a traditional movie (even a three-hour or two-part movie), but a story that nonetheless fell short of filling the space necessary to occupy a multiseason series. Rich Man, Poor Man was a huge success at 12 episodes of varying lengths (the sequel was somewhat less successful, possibly because it was written entirely for television); Roots, at eight consecutive nights, was a success beyond all expectation and triggered an avalanche of miniseries, from Shogun to Holocaust to The Winds of War and the incredibly ambitious War and Remembrance. What these all had in common was that they had literary sources, were of limited duration, and told stories that had finite endings.

Today's modern series, with the beginning, middle, and end, have copied the MO of the miniseries, but with the advantage that they’ve not limited to one six- or eight-week season, but can keep coming back for years and years. The drawback to this, as anyone who’s read the original source material for shows such as, say, Game of Thrones, is that the book generally runs out of material before the series runs out of time (or, in the case of GOT, isn't even written yet). 

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You could call this the long and the short of the new television: longer storytelling, stretched over an entire series; and shorter seasons, designed to be compatible with the new storytelling.

What we’re missing, I think, is a commitment to our favorite show as viewers, and a concurrent commitment by those shows to us. There was something comforting to being provided with a guaranteed hour of entertainment at the same time every week all year long, save an interruption or two for specials or something unexpected. Yes, as I said at the outset, not all of them were winners, but a lot of them were pretty good, and most of them were at least entertaining. At the end, they usually gave you what they wanted, which was all we usually asked from our shows. The summer season, when some of the series went off the air to give prospective new series a tryout, was what brought shows like The Prisoner to American television in the first place.

Sometimes I think too many television shows today try to operate on too grand a scale, as if every episode was the second act of Tosca, where the diva gets to sing the show-stopping aria before plunging the dagger into the chest of the villain, thus setting the stage for the grand finale. That kind of emotion is unsustainable over a protracted season, one reason for the truncated seasons. But not every series needs to be Tosca; sometimes it's enough to simply provide, as my friend David Hofstede calls it, Comfort TV. We burn through a season a weekend and look for more, we catch up on a decade's worth in a month, we text and talk and our attention spans grow ever shorter, and then we wonder why our comfort turns to indigestion. TV  

February 6, 2023

What's on TV? Sunday, February 2, 1969

How many of you, besides Mike Doran, remember My Friend Tony? (10:00 p.m., NBC) I must confess that, until I saw a few episodes of it pop up on YouTube last year, I had never heard of it. No memory whatsoever, not even of having run across it in Brooks and Marsh's Complete Guide to Prime Time Network TV Shows, and I used to browse through that just for fun; I can assure you that doesn't happen very often. At any rate, James Whitmore stars as John Woodruff, a criminologist assisted by Tony, who was a street urchin in Italy during WW2 (where he met Woodruff while trying to pick his pocket) and later emigrated to America. Sixteen episodes; I watched a few minutes of it last month and was not impressed. But hopefully you'll be impressed by the rest of this lineup from the Northern California edition.

February 4, 2023

This week in TV Guide: February 1, 1969

I think I've written this before—by the way, people sometimes think writers are able to remember pretty much everything we've ever written, and that we're able to recall things at a moment's notice. I'll have someone ask me why I had Winter do what he did on page 142 of The Car, and meanwhile I'll be thinking, "I wrote that?" And when you tell them, they'll ask you in an insinuating way if you actually write your own material. Well, I'd gladly take someone up on that offer, but I'm afraid you'll like them better than you like me, and then the gig will be up. 

But I digress (and I think I've written this before as well). I think I've written this before, but one of the first things I look for in a TV Guide is a hook, something that I can start off with, which usually allows the rest to fall into place. I've even been known on occasion to reject an issue because there was nothing there to get me started. Those cases are few and far between, but still, unless I'm familiar with an issue, there's that moment of suspense: will I find what I'm looking for, something that jumpstarts the week. Does this issue of February 1, 1969, have anything for me?

And there it is:

I'm assuming that most of you know the story of Turn-On, the shortest-lived television series of all time (based on the fact that some local affiliates were cancelling it during the broadcast), a show that has become synonymous with the word "fiasco" to the point that it's listed in the dictionary under F instead of T. (OK, I made that last part up, but a guy can dream, can't he?)

The TV Guide of May 17, 1969, goes in-depth on what it called "The Biggest Bomb of the Season" (yes, I do remember having written that), and it's interesting to look back on how intense the response to Turn-On was, particularly by ABC's affiliates. Robert Doubleday of KATV in Little Rock, one of the show's most outspoken critics, said the network should have listened to people like him warning that "most people still have standards of taste and morality." "It would be a good idea," he said, "to load those people who do those TV series into Greyhound buses and take them on a trip across the country to show them how the rest of the people live."

What's particularly interesting to me is that we have the next week's TV Guide which, due to printing deadlines, still lists the never-seen second episode (here's a clip from it, proving at least that it exists), and one could speculate on what would have happened had the show not been pulled from the schedule so abruptly. Would it simply done its 13-week run and then disappeared? Would the controversy have been replaced by ambivalence, even disinterest? (That might have been even worse.) Would the humor have gotten tamer and lamer as time went on, or would the producers have doubled down on it? Might it even have caught on in certain circles, such as college campuses? Most important of all, what would Cleveland Amory have thought of it? I'll leave all this to people smarter than me to figure out, but it makes for amusing speculation. 

Remember, all this was long before it became customary for a network to pull the trigger on a program so quickly.* Up to that point, the show voted Most Likely to Be Remembered as a Total, Abject Failure was The Tammy Grimes Show, and that at least made it for four episodes before it was yanked. (According to TV Guide, that was a disaster, but not a bomb.) And then there's Jackie Gleason's You're in the Picture, another of television's famous Titanics; true, the show wasn't very good, but one could argue that it's remembered more because of Gleason's brilliant apology the next week. Technically, I suppose you could describe it as a single series consisting of one episode of Picture, one episode consisting of Gleason's apology, and eight episodes of The Jackie Gleason Show, the talk show that filled out the ten-week run. 

*Nine of the ten shortest-lived series of all time, including several that didn't make it to a second episode, have come since 1995. 

There have been others since then; Andy Griffith once had two series cancelled in the same season. And I believe there have been a couple of series that were actually cancelled before they aired. But few of them have the fame, or infamy, of Turn-On. When a network acts this drastically, there's no way to keep it quiet, and Turn-On probably became more famous because of it than if it had simply run its course. After all, we're still talking about it, right?

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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: Tentatively scheduled: singers Sergio Franchi and Vikki Carr, the rocking Vanilla Fudge and Temptations, comedians Stiller and Meara, Jacques d'Amboise of the New York City Ballet and the Antonettes, novelty act.

Palace: Host Don Adams swings the spotlight on singers Tony Martin and the Lettermen, dancer Barrie Chase, comic Joey Forman, Ruth Buzzi and Alan Sues of Laugh-In, the juggling Half Brothers and illusionist Igor Kio from the Moscow State Circus.

Neither show has a great lineup this week, neither show has a bad one. I'm not a great fan of Laugh-In (personal preference only), so Alan Sues and Ruth Buzzi aren't going to do anything for me. Barrie Chase is a terrific dancer, but then so is Jacques d'Amboise. I think, although I'm not positive, that Sergio Franchi and Vikki Carr edge out Tony Martin and the Lettermen, so on that very narrow basis, I'm giving the edge this week to Sullivan.

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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. 

For those of you who thought that perhaps Cleveland Amory didn't come out during the daytime, guess again. Thanks to a week in bed with the flu, Cleve had the opportunity to become acquainted with Dark Shadows. "At the end of the week, by which time we had decided that this series was, in our considered judgment, the worst in the history of entertainment, we found that when Saturday came and there was no show, we missed it." And that, he says, is the key to the success of this gothic soap opera: "[T]he worse it is, the more you'll love it." 

But wait: it gets better. "No matter how terrible you may think an idea is—wait, hold your judgment. The execution of it will be so bad that, in retrospect, the idea seems terrific." The same goes for the dialogue; "once you've seen that action, you will look back on that dialogue as manna from heaven combined with the balm of Gilead." Nobody, but nobody, escapes Cleve's tongue. Joan Bennett, who played Elizabeth Collins Stoddard until she was killed off a few weeks ago, "plays this part as if she'd just forgotten where she'd put it." But then, considering your star is Barnabas Collins (Jonathan Frid), "your friendly neighborhood vampire," who's been dead for 200 years, anything is possible. Frid "is at his best—i.e., worst—when he's discovering something for the fourth time that somebody else has already discovered for the third." And then there are the children, Amy and David (Denise Nickerson and David Henesy): "We swear to you that if we see those two talking to that ghost Quentin through that disconnected telephone one more time, we will call them on a connected telephone and read them his review collect."

Does Amory really like Dark Shadows? What do you think? He concludes with a look at Dan Curtis, the executive producer of Dark Shadows. He declares that he "dreamed the whole story of Dark Shadows during, he says, 'a big sleep in upstate New York.' " Says Cleve, "In that case all you can think, or hope, or even pray is that Mr. Curtis never, ever gets that tired again."

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It's too bad Turn-On overshadows the rest of the programming on Wednesday, because it's a notable night of entertainment, beginning with the Hallmark Hall of Fame production of "Teacher, Teacher" (7:30 p.m. PT, NBC) starring David McCallum as a tutor trying to rebuild a life shattered by drinking and divorce; Ossie Davis, a handyman denied other opportunities because of his race; and Billy Schulman as the retarded youngster who becomes central to their lives. "Teacher, Teacher" goes on to win critical and popular acclaim, as well as an Emmy for Outstanding Dramatic Program; Schulman, himself retarded, is nominated for Supporting Actor. Even if Shakespeare is too highbrow for today's Hallmark Channel, you'd think that a moving story of redemption like this—no, Hadley, don't go there again. Just don't. (You can watch it here.)

"Teacher, Teacher" ends just in time for you to switch to ABC for part one of Sparticus (9:00 p.m.), the epic adaptation of Howard Fast's novel about a slave revolt against the Romans in the 1st Century B.C., directed by Stanley Kubrick, written by Dalton Trumbo, and starring Kirk Douglas, Laurence Olivier, Charles Laughton, Peter Ustinov, and Tony Curtis. Judith Crist is of two minds about it; it's the rare epic that deals with serious political and social issues, with fine performances particularly from the supporting characters, and has moments that are "literate and even witty." On the other hand, it's also "uneven and dawdling," and Curtis provides "unwitting low-comedy relief as a Bronx-accented Roman poet." Part two airs at the same time next week; Crist thinks "the timing of the film may be helped immeasurably."

With all of that, it's easy to overlook Kraft Music Hall (9:00 p.m., NBC) with Steve Lawrence and Eydie Gorme in "What It Was Was Love," an original suite of songs written and arranged by Gordon Jenkins "as a scrapbook for Steve and Eydie," who had one of the most enduring marriages in show business. With St. Valentine's Day just around the corner, it's not a bad reminder of the important things in life.

Wednesday is the best night of the week by a long way, but there are some other shows of interest, such as Firing Line (Sunday, 7:00 p.m., NET), when William F. Buckley Jr. is joined by our own Cleveland Amory and former bullfighter Barnaby Conrad to discuss animal rights. I also like the program on opposite it, a 1967 BBC production of The Mikado (7:00 p.m., KPIX) starring Cyril Ritchard in the title role with the famed British comedian Harry Worth as Ko-Ko; according to the always-reliable Wikipedia, it's the first-ever color presentation of the Gilbert & Sullivan classic.

There's some prime-time boxing on Monday, which I'm fairly sure I would have watched with my grandfather; George Chuvalo takes on Buster Mathis in a bout between two of the world's top heavyweights, live from Madison Square Garden (7:00 p.m., syndicated). First Tuesday (Tuesday—duh—9:00 p.m., NBC), the Peacock Network's monthly newsmagazine, includes a look at American preparations for chemical warfare, including "animals dying 44 seconds after exposure to nerve gas; human volunteers and animals in 'infection studies'; the manufacture of nerve gas and nerve gas artillery shells; and, briefly, top-secret Pine Bluff (Ark.) Arsenal, a pilot 'germ production' plant." My former home of Minneapolis was the site of chemical warfare experiments in the 1950s; I'll let the morality of all this stand without comment. And on Friday, NBC pre-empts Star Trek for the third-season opener of Experiment in Television (10:00 p.m.), "This is Sholom Aleichem," a series of skits based on the life of Yiddish writer whose short stories were adapted into Fiddler on the Roof. After tonight's episode, the show will be seen on Sunday afternoons, which is probably a good thing. 

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I shouldn't forget mentioning a couple of articles of interest. First is Leslie Raddatz's profile of Stephen Young, co-star of ABC's Judd, for the Defense, and since Judd is a program I thoroughly enjoy, I figured I should mention a word or several about it. We find out that the Canadian Young was good enough to earn a tryout with the Cleveland Indians, and he still plays hockey every Sunday night at an arena in Culver City. He's "very aggressive," according to a fellow actor, "but it's a charming aggressiveness. He has a fantastic faith in himself." Carl Betz says Young "just waits to pounce on his lines," and producer Harold Gast says "He's always looking for more to do, so we try to give him a bigger part." He's also popular with his fellow actors; one calls him "a real doll," and another says, "Most of these young actors get fat heads, but not Steve." He's very good in Judd, occasionally getting the lead but never overshadowing Betz. He's also young enough that he's still around today, with his last acting role coming in 2013.

And then there's Robert Musel's witty article about the 74 year-old British aristocrat who's putting his 23-acre French estate up for sale for only $1.2 million. His name is Edward Windsor, although his friends call him David; we know him better as the Duke of Windsor, formerly and for a short time ("Ten months and . . . I can't remember the days . . . oh, 18 days.") he was King Edward VIII. He and his wife, the Dutchess of Windsor, also known as Wallis Warfield Simpson, are being profiled by Harry Reasoner for this week's 60 Minutes (Tuesday, 10:00 p.m., CBS). 

The Duke comes across in Musel's article as a man with a dry, self-effacing sense of humor; at one point Reasoner asked him about the desk on which he signed his abdication—would he leave that for the buyer? "Why not?" the Duke shrugged. And after lighting the logs in the fireplace, he looked around for a place to put the match. "I can't leave it in the ash tray or the Duchess will complain," he confided to Musel. "I am very well house trained."  

Reasoner skillfully guided the Duke through the interview. asked. At one point he asked, "How did you feel when you were no longer King?" The Duke smiled faintly. "It was a great relief. But I enjoyed my work for my country." He didn't think his abdication made much difference in the long run; "I think about it," he admitted, but added, "I don't think I would have changed to course of history by not abdicating, not in a constitutional monarchy like Britain." After taking Reasoner on a tour of the grounds ("I probably don't have enough money to buy this building," Harry warned), the Duke sank gratefully into a chair. "Never stand when you can sit, never sit when you can lie down," he explained. (My kind of guy.) "What's the authority for that?" Harry asked. "Old age," the Duke replied. "After 60 something's bound to hurt."

The Duke and Duchess come across as charming, pleasant, enjoyable. A young English girl working with Reasoner and his team, remarked that "If there had been television in 1936, if the British people had been able to see her as she really is, there might not have been an abdication." Musel isn't sure; after all, the issue was that Mrs. Simpson was divorced. And how likely is it that they'll ever allow an English King to marry a divorcee?

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Finally, there's one more premiere this week that bears mentioning. On Friday night at 7:30 p.m, ABC presents the debut episode of a new variety show starring an exciting young Welsh singer: This is Tom Jones. Not only does it last longer than Turn-On, it's a lot cooler. And, like Stephen Young, Tom Jones is still around. And you know what? He's still cool. TV  

February 3, 2023

Around the dial

A lot of celebrities have been dying lately, and while that's kind of a grim way to kick things off this week, it's also a reminder of how much pleasure many of these people have given over the years, and an opportunity to look back at their careers in appreciation. At A Shroud of Thougths, Terence has his thoughts on two such stars: Cindy Williams, who died on January 25; and Lisa Loring, who died January 28. 

At Comfort TV, David takes the opportunity to praise the career of someone who's thankfully still with us, sharing "Ten Reasons Why Shelley Fabares Is a National Treasure," from The Twilight Zone to Coach, with a lot in-between.

In the mood for "lurid, pulpy, old-school true-crime mellers"? Then you'll want to visit Drunk TV, where Paul reviews the 1995 Lifetime thriller Dead by Sunset, featuring a “Psycho Hall of Fame” performance by Ken Olin. I think I've mentioned this before, but the perfect Hallmark/Lifetime movie would be a three-part miniseries that encompassed all of their genres: part 1 is the meet-cute romance that ends, in the final minute, with the woman's mother getting a call that her daughter has been murdered; part two is the true-crime investigation in which we find that the husband may—or may not
—have been the man everyone thought he was; and part three is the courtroom drama, in which we find out just where the truth lies. I might even be convinced to watch this; c'mon, who's with me?

Cult TV Lounge reviews a Twilight Zone classic from the first season: "The Sixteen-Millimeter Shrine," starring the dazzling Ida Lupino as a Norma Desmond-esque actress who finds her next role, unexpectedly, to take place in the Twilight Zone. A terrific episode.

This is not to be confused with Cult TV Blog, where John continues his fascinating look at pairing up episodes of The Prisoner to make a movie-length story out of them. This week: a continuation of the discussion on "Checkmate" and "Free for All," specifically on the structure and Lewis Carroll references.

At Classic Film and TV Corner, Maddy has a fascinating look at the movie Anastasia, the comeback movie for Oscar-winner Ingrid Bergman—as well as the real-life story that inspired it, that of the Russian Princess Anastasia, who may—or may not—have been murdered along with the rest of her family, including Tsar and Empress Nicholas and Alexandra, by the communists.

Over at RealWeegieMidget, it's the final few entries and wrap-up of the entertaining Muppet Show Guest Star Blogathon. I have to admit I didn't watch this program often, even though it was carried back in the World's Worst Town™; my Muppets were always on Sesame Street, and I never did warm up to Miss Piggy. But you'll find these very entertaining, and the list of guest stars fantastic.

Finally, as promised, check the comments from Wednesday for clues to the TV Guide crossword puzzle. You've got until next Friday to get your answers in!  TV  

February 1, 2023

Return of the crossword puzzle!

Awhile back, I came up with the idea of using the famous TV Guide crossword puzzle as a kind of occasional feature, not unlike the TV Jibe cartoons. The last one we did was, let's see—May 24, 2017. I guess I haven't kept up on this very well, have I?

Anyway, today's puzzle is from Saturday's TV Guide (January 28, 1967), so keep that in mind when you're thinking about the stars and the shows featured in the clues. Use the comments section for your answers, and I'll update our progress on Friday, with the answers next Friday. If you're reading this through Facebook or Twitter, make sure you go to the website with your answers.

Good luck!


January 30, 2023

What's on TV? Saturday, January 28, 1967

Here's something that might only bother me, but I'm going to share it anyway. The CBS Golf Classic was a made-for-TV event that ran throughout the 1960s, with 16 two-man teams of top professionals. The winning team each week advances to the next round, and the season culminates with a championship match between the final two teams; the whole thing was actually taped months in advance, since I can pretty much promise nobody was playing golf in January at the Firestone Country Club in Akron, Ohio. 

Anyway, as it was back in the day, programs don't always air at the same time in different markets, and in this case WHDH in Boston is showing the "live" match, while WABI in Bangor is on a one-week delay. The team of Ken Venturi and Johnny Pott are in both, but in Bangor they're playing Frank Beard and Miller Barber in a first-round match, while in Boston it's a quarterfinal match against Julius Boros and Don January. If you're still with me, you might see the problem: anyone in Bangor reading this TV Guide and noticing that Venturi and Pott are in a quarterfinal match on WHDH will already know how their own match is going to end; Venturi and Pott will win, otherwise, they wouldn't be in the quarterfinals. They can see it right there! Geez, talk about killing the suspense! Perhaps the listing could simply have read, "Julius Boros and Don January take on the winner of last week's match between. . ." Oh well. As you may have surmised, this is the Northern New England edition, minus the educational channels; they don't broadcast on the weekend.

January 28, 2023

This week in TV Guide: January 28, 1967

Sometimes—perhaps most times—even when you're able to watch a program from 50 or 60 years ago it can be difficult to recapture the impact that show must have had on viewers at the time. After all, times change, people change. 

Take, for instance, Sunday's episode of CBS Playhouse, the network's successor to the fabled Playhouse 90*. Set in 1963, "The Final War of Olly Winters" stars Ivan Dixon as an Army sergeant serving as a United States military adviser in South Vietnam at a time before American soldiers had been committed to combat.

*Unlike the original, CBS Playhouse aired on an occasional basis (only twelve were shown over the three years that the show ran; it was dropped for lack of sponsorship).  

A couple of points about this: first, it's a neat trick to set the story in 1963, before Vietnam had become so polarizing. By the late 1960s, war protestors were vilifying American soldiers as war criminals, baby murderers, and the like. By doing this, I wonder if Ronald Ribman, the author of the play, wasn't trying to create some distance in order to make it easier for Winters to be accepted as a protagonist by the audience. I'm not attempting to psychoanalyze Ribman or his motives, but it does seem logical that making it a period piece by only four years would make sense. 

What I was really thinking about, though, was the casting of Ivan Dixon as Winter. Dixon was far from being unknown (he'd appeared in many movies and television shows, including a memorable appearance on The Twilight Zone in "The Big Tall Wish." At this point, however, he's been on Hogan's Heroes for nearly two full seasons, playing Staff Sergeant Kinchloe; Olly Winter is also a staff sergeant. Same rank, same uniform, same mustache. Surely viewers (and there were 30 million of them) would have been alerted by the TV Guide description that they were going to see something far different from Hogan. Still, look at him in that picture. Consider that he's been a soldier for 20 years—since 1943. Sure, Kinch would have been promoted for his heroic service in Stalag 13, but in some way you might have thought of Winter as Kinch, but in a very, very different story. I don't want to make too fine a point there, but you have to admit that it's kind of unnerving to see an actor playing a role that, on the exterior, looks so similar to the role in which we know and love him. And don't forget that he's playing Kinch at the time; as a matter of fact, you could have seen him on Hogan's Heroes just 48 hours earlier, Friday night at 8:30 p.m. 

In addition to Dixon, who will be nominated for an Emmy for Best Actor for his brilliant performance, "Olly Winter" boasts top credentials; Paul Bogart, the director, had already won an Emmy for The Defenders and he'll get a nomination for Best Director for this as well. (He was also nominated for directing sitcoms like All in the Family and The Golden Girls; hell, he could have directed an episode of Hogan's Heroes!) Fred Coe, the producer, had also done Playhouse 90. And the music was by Aaron Copland. "The Final War of Olly Winter" is a critical as well as popular success; I wish this had led to even more dramas of this type.

CBS would make one final effort in the early 1970s to bring back the dramatic anthology concept, this time resurrecting the Playhouse 90 title in its entirety (as well as the opening music and graphics); CBS Playhouse 90 would air a number of quality plays, including Ingmar Bergman's "The Lie" and Brian Moore's "Catholics." "The Final War of Olly Winter" isn't available commercially or online, but it can be seen at the Paley Center in New York or the UCLA Film & Television Archive in L.A. It's probably the thousandth show I have on my list to watch at places I'll likely never get to.

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

When you think of The Jackie Gleason Show, what comes to your mind first? Is it The Honeymooners, the classic sitcom? Is it the 1950s variety show, on which the Honeymooners sketches first appeared? Is it The American Scene Magazine, Gleason's 1962 return to weekly television? Or is it the show that Cleveland Amory reviews this week, which originates from "The Sun and Fun Capital of the World," Miami Beach and brings The Honeymooners back as a regular feature? If you're like me (and, once again, I hope you aren't), this is the version you're most familiar with. And it's a good thing, Cleve says, because this show, which has for too long been too average, is now "not only as bright comedy as is available anywhere on your dial, but it is also, at its best each week, a full-scale musical comedy."

Key to the show's evolution has been the reunion of Gleason with his Honeymooners on a regular basis—not just the great Art Carney, who makes The Great One "a great deal Greater," but the additions of Sheila MacRae as Alice (who, in her first continuing TV role, shows herself "not only a fine actress but a terrific reactress") and Jane Kean as Trixie ("both singer and swinger"), to make what Amory calls "a winsome foresome and then some." The idea of making The Honeymooners into a musical comedy (which, I'll admit, would not have occurred to me) has been transformational; the songs by Lyn Duddy and Jerry Bresler "are, if not Broadway caliber, so close to it that, when you consider they are turning them out week after week, even more remarkable than Broadway."

The show isn't perfect; Amory finds that the characters of Ralph and Norton are still "unnecessarily crude," a critique that many will agree with today; and, he says, "too many of the routines are routine," although my personal opinion always was that by (for example) sending the Kramdens and Nortons on adventures around the world, they were straying too far from the skit's original concept. But I suppose the tenements of New York don't lend themselves to all that many musical storylines, unless you're making West Side Story. All in all, Cleve concludes, "when you see wonderful episodes like Ralph being blackmailed by a senorita or being duped into becoming a Santa Claus bookie, somehow you like the show the way it is—warts and all."

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Now that the inaugural Super Bowl (and yes, that's what TV Guide has called it) is over, Stanley Frank is here to answer the big question: no, not which league is best, but which network won the TV game—CBS, with their broadcasting team of Ray Scott, Jack Whittaker, and Frank Gifford, or NBC's long-running announce booth of Curt Gowdy and Paul Christman.

As you probably know, both networks televised the game, with an agreement that they would alternate coverage of future games. With the largest U.S. audience ever to watch a sporting event on the line, the stakes were high. During the regular season, CBS outdrew NBC by two to one, which isn't surprising considering the NFL is not only the more established league but has the larger television markets; it was thought that CBS needed to win by about five ratings points in order to show it had retained its core audience, while NBC needed to keep things close or else they'd have trouble selling the AFL to advertisers next season.

As is typical when ratings are involved, there was good news for everyone. According to the Arbitron overnight figures, CBS scored a "smashing" victory, drawing 59 percent of the football audience and besting NBC by more than seven points; NBC countered with Nielsen figures that showed them trailing CBS by only 1.2 points in the critical New York City market. (The final ratings: CBS won the Nielsens 22.6 to 18.5, and the market share 43-36.)

How did the announcers do? Frank's analysis is that NBC's Gowdy betrayed his rooting interest in the AFL's Kansas City Chiefs, "flout[ing] the objectivity a reporter is supposed to observe," but he did inject excitement into the game while the score was still close. (I don't find that unexpected, considering that Ray Scott, who did the first half of the game for CBS, is known for his minimalist, "just the facts" style of play-by-play.) The NFL's Green Bay Packers made Gowdy look bad several times; after proclaiming that "Green Bay's famed ground game has been stopped!" Gowdy watched as Green Bay's Jim Taylor rolled 14 yards on the ground for a touchdown. He was, Frank says, "a prophet without honor and a partisan without a winner." Better was Gowdy's color analyst, Paul Christman, and it's too bad that more aren't familiar with his work today. He was the first announcer with the ability to, in Frank's words, "explain what was happening clearly and concisely, with a minimum of technical gobbledygook." He shrewdly anticipated plays and wasn't afraid to lay it on the line; with the Packers leading 7-0 and the Chiefs threatening, he called the next play the pivotal moment of the game, saying, "Kansas CIty will have to prove itself and score to have a chance to win."

CBS, in general, displayed a more impartial voice; Gifford "almost dislocated a vertebra bending over backward to laud the Chiefs and make character for his firm with AFL owners," no doubt hoping it would improve the network's chances of getting the whole TV package after the leagues merge. The inexperienced Gifford, a rookie announcer, struggled working the first half with the bare-bones Scott, but he became more comfortable as the game progressed, and worked well with second-half play-by-play man Jack Whittaker. Although he didn't have the analytical acumen of Christman, and he sometimes seemed surprised that the Chiefs were, in fact, an accomplished professional football team ("The Chiefs came to play football," he remarked "lamely" after they'd tied the game), he was particularly good at explaining the emotional aspects of the game; Frank feels that "his human-interest touches brightened what had become a dull contest" by the fourth quarter. Perhaps he knew what Kansas City players were feeling, Frank concludes; after all, in 1961 "Gifford's Giants met the Packers for the NFL title and were clobbered, 37-0."

Why did I spend so much time on this? Well, 29 of the top 30 most-watched television broadcasts of all time have been Super Bowls. The cost of a 30-second commercial in 1967 was $42,000; last year, it was between $6.5 and $7 million.

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I missed the point of The Monkees when they debuted in 1966. Sure, I watched the show from time to time, but since I wasn't a fan of The Beatles, the comparisons were lost on me. And since I wasn't a teenage girl, the "cute" factor was a non-issue as well. In fact, now that I think of it, I probably saw the show more often on Saturday mornings than I did in the original airing. I was never a fan, but neither did I dismiss them out of hand.

Leslie Raddatz's article rehashes everything we know about the group: the Daily Variety ad ("MADNESS!! Auditions—Folk & Roll Musicians-Singers—Running parts for 4 insane boys, age 17-21.") and the descriptions of our four heroes (Davy, "the little one"; Mike, "the one with the hat"; Mickey, "who was Circus Boy when he and TV were both young"; and Peter, "the shy one with the dimples."), and we're not surprised to find that the four not only are referred to as "kids" by everyone, "they act like kids, and that's the way they seem to think of themselves." But as Bob Rafelson and Bert Schneider, the co-producers, point out, their goal was not to find four actors to play The Monkees, but to be The Monkees.

Each one of them has his own story; Davy was a jockey in England as well as an actor; under contract to Columbia, he's the only one of the four who wasn't cast from the Daily Variety ad. Peter flunked out of college and worked as a kitchen boy while he sang in coffee houses; he originally didn't want to audition, "but I had let my hair grow in the Village, so I was ready for the part." Mickey was part of an acting family and starred in Circus Boy when he was 10; Raddatz describes him as "the only one who seems to be acting, rather than just being himself." Even at this early stage in their history, Mike is seen as different from the other three; he has "a brooding quality," and is the only one of the four who is "reluctant to talk about himself." He's worn his hat for five years, but "Now that I've got to wear it, I'm gettin' tired of it."

The Monkees cut quite a swath through pop culture in the 1960s, even though the series only runs for two seasons, with a total of 58 episodes. The show makes a comeback in 1986, thanks to a marathon on MTV, and it never really dropped off the map after that, with the group, in various incarnations, touring around the country. And yet, I don't know if anyone truly appreciated the impact it made until Davy Jones's unexpected death in 2012, and the overwhelming outpouring of grief and memories across social media. Sure, the Monkees had been popular, and Davy's death was a shock, but I think very few people were prepared for the tidal wave of warmth and affection that resulted. There were those, I know, who didn't understand, maybe couldn't understand, how a silly TV show could mean so much to so many people. And yet there it was. We saw it again in 2019 with Peter Tork's death, and in 2021 when Mike Nesmith died, leaving only Mickey Dolenz. 

And if that seems impossible to believe, well, Mickey's 77 now, and while he should have many years to go, eventually that time will come, and then The Monkees will be just a memory, four young men frozen in time on video. Even the thought of that seems impossible, but there it is. And then all of us will look back then, back to the days when we, too, were young.

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All right, let's look at what's on this week, and see if they interest anyone besides me.

Words mean things and they tell stories, and on Saturday's Lawrence Welk Show (8:30 p.m. ET, ABC), the story is told herein in the description of tonight's show, "A tribute to the late Walt Disney." Disney died the previous December 15, six weeks past, and the phrase "the late Walt Disney" must still have looked very strange (and very sad) to a public that had become so used to him and fond of him. 

You may have notice that there's no "Sullivan vs. Palace" this week; The Hollywood Palace is preempted tonight by the "Deb Star Ball," telecast live from the Hollywood Palladium and hosted by Steve Allen and Jayne Meadows. It's kind of hard to describe just what this event is; think of it as something like a beauty pageant with actresses. Donna Loren describes it like this: "Each year, ten of Hollywood’s most promising young actresses were dubbed Deb Stars by the Hollywood Makeup Artists and Hair Stylists Guild and were presented with the coveted 'Debbie' at the Guild’s annual ball." Past debs include Yvette Mimieux, Mary Ann Mobley, Yvonne Craig, Raquel Welch, Sally Field, and, of course, Donna Loren. This year's debs include Linda Kay Henning (Petticoat Junction), Debbie Watson (Tammy), Celeste Yarnall (The Nutty Professor), and E.J. Peaker (next season she'll be in That's Life). Not a bad lineup. We won't ignore Ed, though; his guests on Sunday's show (8:00 p.m., CBS) include the comic Smothers Brothers; the folk rocking Mamas and Papas, who sing "Words of Love"; singers Enzo Stuarti and Gale Martin (Dean's daughter); comedians Nipsy Russell and George Carlin; and Your Father's Mustache, banjo-playing singers. Frankly, I would have liked the Palace's chances. 

Also on Sunday, we see the transition of CBS's long-running 20th Century to the forward-looking 21st Century (6:00 p.m.). Still hosted by Walter Cronkite, tonight's debut episode is "The Communications Explosion," looking at the radical innovation of fiberoptics, which will allow "100 million phone calls on a single beam of light." 

I got to thinking about Monday's episode of Run for Your Life (10:00 p.m., NBC), in which Paul (Ben Gazzara) is defending an ex-cop charged with murder. (Remember, Paul Bryan is a lawyer by profession.) In the series, Paul has only one to two years to live due to his disease. Today, the average time it takes for an accused murderer to go to trial can take one to two years. Knowing that, would you want to hire Paul as your attorney? Mind you, I'm not criticizing the author of this script; 55 years ago, this probably wouldn't have been an issue. After all, Perry Mason gets his clients off in a matter of weeks. 

On the other hand, here, I think, is an example of why The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. failed: "April and Mark join a rock 'n' roll combo to protect Prince Efrem, the swinging heir apparent to a Tyrolean throne. The rockin' Daily Flash do 'My Bulgarian Baby. ' " (Tuesday, 7:30 p.m., NBC) This sounds to me more like a skit on a Bob Hope special, with Bob playing Prince Efrem. Help me out on this; would this ever have been hip? At least Vito Scotti is one of the guest stars; that helps. Occasional Wife, which airs a half-hour later on NBC, has a far more plausible plot: the man whose female friend agrees to pose as his wife in order for him to advance in the corporation.

Speaking of Hope, Wednesday's episode of Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre is notable in that the director of "The Lady Is My Wife," is Sam Peckinpah. Not surprisingly, the story is a Western, with Bradford Dillman, Jean Simmons, and Alex Cord. Peckinpah actually did quite a lot of television early in his career, including The Rifleman; he created the Brian Keith Western The Westerner in 1960, and had a major success in 1966 with "Noon Wine" on ABC Stage 67. but at the time of this Hope episode, he's also started to make a mark on the big screen, with both Ride the High Country and Major Dundee

     An ad from the 1964 airing.
begins with yet another quality drama on the Hallmark Hall of Fame: "Abe Lincoln in Illinois" (9:30 p.m., NBC), a 1964 rerun starring Jason Robards as Honest Abe, with Kate Reid as Mary Todd. Robert Sherwood's Pulitzer winning play begins in 1830 with young Lincoln establishing his law practice, and ends in 1860 with him bidding farewell as he departs by train for Washington, D.C., to be sworn in as President of the United States. Thursday ends with "David Frost's Night Out in London" on the aforementioned ABC Stage 67 (10:00 p.m.), with David "heading where the action is" in "the most 'In' town in the world," and running into Sir Laurence Olivier, Albert Finney, and Peter Sellers. 

On Friday night, NET Playhouse presents Roman Polanski's feature film debut, 1962's Knife in the Water (8:00 p.m., NET), a psychological thriller about two men fighting for the same woman. Ah, an eternal story, but not the way Polanski does it. After that, you can get The Avengers' take on The Invisible Man, as Steed and Mrs. Peel check out the case of two Slavic (i.e. Soviet) agents who've obtained an invisibility formula (10:00 p.m., ABC). You won't be able to see through that plot.

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MST3K alert: Gunslinger (1953). "The female owner of the town saloon imports a killer to slay the town's female marshal. John Ireland, Beverly Garland, Allison Hayes." (Thursday, 6:00 p.m. WEMT) The saloonkeeper is Allison Hayes; the gunman is John Ireland; the marshal is Beverly Garland, the producer/director is Roger Corman. Need we say any more? TV  

January 27, 2023

Around the dial

I remember someone once saying, "Never tell people you don't think, or people will think you don't." (It was probably on some TV show.) Words to live by, even though I'm sure if you did a search of this website, you'd find that I use the phrase "I don't think" frequently. But do I say it too often? I don't think so.

Anyway, on with the show. At bare-bones e-zine, Jack continues the Hitchcock Project look at the work of Leigh Brackett with the episode "Terror at Northfield," based on an Ellery Queen short story, starring Dick York, Jacqueline Scott, and R.G. Armstrong. It is, Jack says, "a poor adaptation of a good story," which is why you need to read what he has to say to find out what it could have been.

As you'll recall, over at Cult TV Blog John has been pairing complimentary episodes of The Prisoner that would play well together edited into a film. This time it's the episodes "Many Happy Returns" and "A, B and C," and you owe it to yourself to read further and see how well this idea works.

Martin Grams takes a look at the late 1950s NBC series Harbormaster, starring Barry Sullivan—or is it the ABC series Adventure at Scott Island, starring Barry Sullivan? Well, as they would say on the classic SNL, it's both a floor wax and a dessert toping! The series started out as Harbormaster in 1957 on NBC, then changed networks and titles in January 1958. Only lasted one season, regardless.

Quinn Redeker, one of those actors you recognize even if you don't know his name, died near the end of last year, aged 86. It seemed as if he was on every television show, but he's probably best known for his roles in the soaps Days of Our Lives and The Young and the Restless. Find out about his career from Terence at A Shroud of Thoughts.

The Broadcast Archives links to a piece at oldshowbiz that offers a pictorial look at the vintage game show Concentration; it's a nice trip down memory lane for those of us who remember, and if you go to oldshowbiz you'll be led further down a series of posts that will leave you wondering where the time went, an hour or so later. TV  

January 25, 2023

Hope springs eternal

Last week, in my "What I've Been Watching" piece reviewing Christmas programs, I mentioned Bob Hope's Vietnam Christmas show; it was kind of a tangential follow-up to the TV Guide of January 13, 1968, in which Hope talked about his overseas Christmas trips to entertain American troops, which he had been making since 1941. We skipped over his 1968 show and watched the 1969 edition as our final Christmas program of the season. (Personal choice; Ann-Margret over Raquel Welch.)

People have differing opinions when it comes to Bob Hope; some of them think he's very funny, others not so much. Increasingly, the new generations don't even know who he is. There's no doubt that his humor comes from a different time, and his brand of joke-telling (along with the constant ogling of the beautiful women who populated his guest lineup) might play differently to newer and more tender ears. 

There can be no doubt, though, about two things, One, a historical fact: Bob Hope was, for much of his lifetime, a legend and an American institution. Two, not verifiable but likely: Bob Hope was a proud American, and he cared about the troops he entertained.

For these men, stationed in a foreign country they didn't want to be in and not really sure why they were even there, Hope was a slice of home, a reminder that there was a world other than the swamp they were in. And speaking of that home, a home that seemed to be sliding into a hellish morass with riots and assassinations and antiwar protesters calling them murderers, Hope and his crew provided evidence that there were people back there who remembered them and loved them and couldn't wait for them to come home. A tough reminder in many ways, as it always is for the soldier wondering how much longer an endless war would last, and if they would live to see it; but even a little bit of home is better than none at all. And in a strange country with a strange language, it had to mean something to see a backdrop being assembled, with "The Bob Hope Show" in large letters. That was something they could understand.

There was a moment I particularly enjoyed; although it was corny, it also said much about what these trips were about. Hope mentions in his narration that, prior to leaving on their trip, they'd been given tens of thousands of letters from home, and during the shows he'd call some of those troops up to the stage. There was Gunner’s Mate Jerry Long, for example, whose fiancée had written that she hadn't gotten a letter from him in awhile. Hope invited Long to dictate a letter to her right there on television. “Want to seal it with a kiss or anything? Right there in the camera. Go ahead, she’ll be watching. Go ahead, blow her a kiss. Blow it to the camera.” It was part of Hope's schtick, of course, but there was an intimacy about the way he said it, a humanity to it all, that made clear he viewed these men as more than just an audience. As he would say, "Our merry Christmas is knowing we made theirs a little merrier." I wonder if Jerry Long made it home? I hope so.

Near the end, as a montage of highlights from the trip is shown, Hope turns serious in a voiceover: "Discussions about our posture in Vietnam go on and on. The rights and wrongs of it are being debated and will continue to be debated for years. But one thing is not debatable and that is the contribution our men have made in Vietnam. Their courage, their kindness, their humanity and their sacrifice can never be undone. It’s now part of history. And it is in the finest tradition of America. This was our fifth trip. I never dreamed back in 1964 that we’d go on this long. It takes such a terrible toll."

And then he continues, with something surprisingly blunt. Yes, I know one of his writers probably wrote it for him, but I don't think he would have read it without it echoing his own feelings: "But here we are again, and somewhere along the way the realization hit me that we were trapped in a kind of quicksand, and that there was no end in sight. We were paying too high a price in our greatest natural resource, our youth." Everyone talks about the effect on the war when Walter Cronkite turned against it, the possibly apocryphal story that has Lyndon Johnson saying if he'd lost Cronkite, that was it. But what happens when you lose Bob Hope? It's not like he called for an immediate withdrawal, but he made no pretense that everything was hunky-dory.  

  Ann-Margret strikes an appropriate pose
    for an appreciative soldier
During the tour, Hope and his troupe had entertained 250,000 soldiers. They were "[t]he fighting kids, the wounded kids, the happy kids on their way home. Tough kids and frightened kids, sad kids, and just kids. These are the ones who have it all at stake, the ones who’ll win it all or lose it all. These are the ones who are going to pay the price if we fail. A lot of them have already paid the price." He and the other entertainers spent several minutes talking to injured soldiers on camera (some with Purple Hearts pinned to their pillows), presumably to let their loved ones know they're all right. All the time, their attention was on the men they're talking to, not the camera crew.

Remember that this tour came at the end of 1968, a desperately sad year that offered only a faint hope that things would be better. Richard Nixon, who was president-elect at the time these shows were filmed, had been given a mandate, slim though it may have been, to end the war. But how? It would take another four years for that to happen, and even then, the peace would only be temporary before the Communists accomplished the victory that we'd paid such a high price to prevent. 

It didn't make any sense back then, for those of us who lived through those days (even if we were young at the time), and it seems to make less and less sense as the years go by. For these soldiers, and for us, Bob Hope helped it make sense for at least a few minutes. TV