January 14, 2023

This week in TV Guide: January 13, 1968

Sometimes it seems I just can't help repeating myself. I repeat: sometimes it seems I just can't help repeating myself. I don't really mean to do that; at the very least, I'd like you all to think I have more than just a handful of points that I recycle over and over. But, as I've said many times before (see!), plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose; the more things change, the more they stay the same. Case in point this week is the sporting event of the week, the "second annual Super Bowl" pitting the AFL champion Oakland Raiders against the NFL (and defending Super Bowl champion) Green Bay Packers (Sunday, 3:00 p.m., ET, CBS). You may notice three things right off: the game's already being referred to as the Super Bowl even though that isn't its official designation; it hasn't yet become so affected that it uses Roman numerals ("second annual"); and it's being played in the daytime rather than primetime. It isn't even the last sporting event of the day; the Bing Crosby National Pro-Am Golf Classic airs at 6:00 p.m. on ABC, with defending champion Jack Nicklaus, Bob Hope, Dean Martin, Andy Williams, Phil Harris, and the host. 

There's something else you'll notice: the game's being played on January 14. By contrast (and this is where I repeatedly get repetitive), this year's playoffs don't even start until January 14. Of course, there are only eight playoff teams between the two leagues in 1968, whereas there are 14 in the playoffs today. Still, at least until the last couple of decades, football has at least made a pretense of trying to end its regular season in the same calendar year as which it started. But I suppose if the World Series can end a few days after Halloween, the Super Bowl can be played a couple of days before Valentine's Day.

Anyway, the real question, as Melvin Durslag points out in his feature story, is: what if the AFL should win? This is the eighth season of the rival league, and the second time their champ has played the champ of the NFL. The AFL has shown progress during those eight years, but how much? "That is," he says, "we know for a certainty the National League is stronger, but we aren't sure by how much." The NFL champion Packers, considered by many to be the greatest professional football team in history, are coming off their third consecutive NFL title, and fifth in the last seven years; last year they defeated Kansas City 35-10 to win the inaugural Super Bowl. Their opponents this year, the Raiders, finished the regular season 13-1 and defeated the Houston Oilers 40-7. They're viewed by some as perhaps the finest team the AFL has ever produced. 

And if the stakes are high for the players, they're even higher for the two networks covering the leagues, CBS (the NFL) and NBC (the AFL). Last year, when the two networks televised the Super Bowl simultaneously, CBS spent more to promote the game than any other program they'd ever televised. "Our cash outlay alone ran more than $100,000," says one executive, "and very possibly we gave away a million dollars' worth of time." During the course of the regular season, CBS pays upward of $22,000,000 to the NFL, which it recoups with commercial times of up to $70,000 a minute. Would advertisers, Durslag wonders, still be willing to pay that amount should the AFL prove itself an equal rival? "Like the league it backs, NBC has the sweet irresponsibility of everything to gain with scafrcely a thing to lose."

Last year's game, played in Los Angeles, was blacked out on both networks; this year it moves to Miami, a much smaller market, which should help CBS out ratings-wise. The Packers win their second consecutive Super Bowl, defeating Oakland 33-14. However, that question about what happens if the AFL wins—they won't be asking that much longer.

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During the 60s, the Ed Sullivan Show and The Hollywood Palace were the premiere variety shows on television. Whenever they appear in TV Guide together, we'll match them up and see who has the best lineup.

Sullivan: Scheduled guests: Duke Ellington; actress-singer Tammy Grimes; singers Buddy Greco, and the rock 'n' rolling Vanilla Fudge; comedians Flip Wilson, and Davis and Reese; magician Silvan; and baton twirler Diane Shelton.

Palace: Joining Bing Crosby to open the series' fifth year are Peggy Lee, Milton Berle, Jimmy Durante, Lawrence Welk, Phil Harris, Roosevelt Grier and the Los Angeles Rams' Fearsome Foresome, and the acrobatic Solokhins of the Moscow Circus. Cameras recall past Palace guests, including Louis Armstrong, Fred Astaire, Jack Benny, Nat King Cole, Bette Davis, Ella Fitzgerald, Judy Garland, Buster Keaton, Bert Lahr, Ethel Merman, George Burns, Gloria Swanson and Ed Wynn.

The big news is that The Hollywood Palace is back on Saturday nights where it belongs, and hopefully the person who decided to move it to another night is back where they belong—in another job. You can't really say much more about the anniversary show than the lineup above, and ordinarily that would be more than enough to win. I have to admit, though, that one of my favorite Sullivan clips comes from this show: Vanilla Fudge singing "Keep Me Hangin' On." Go figure. Oh yes, there's Duke Ellington too; what a delightful mess of a mix. For sentiment's sake, this week is a Push.

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

"In the general category of adventure shows," Cleveland Amory says, "there are only three in the A class—I Spy, Mission: Impossible and Ironside." There are several in the B category though, including one of the season's new offerings: Mannix, the detective series starring Mike Connors and Joseph Campanella. I might quibble a bit with Cleve putting Mannix in the "adventure" category; it's a private-eye series, which just happens to have a lot of action. I can't argue with his conclusion, however, which is that Mannix is one of the best of the Bs.

I've read comments over the years from fans of the show who point out a warmth and humanity in Connors' depiction of Joe Mannix, and I think Amory picks up on that fairly quickly; he acknowledges that there is too much violence in the show (a non-uncommon Amory argument), and too many melodramatic chases, but the violence "seems more excusable than in most shows," and as for the chases, "these too are by no means so melodramatic that you don't care. You do care—even when, as in one recent episode, you felt that even Mannix himself didn't think he had a chance." That's a shrewd point, and I think it goes a long way toward explaining the series' longevity (it will run for eight seasons, and leaves only because of a dispute over reruns shown on other networks). We do care about Mannix, and one reason is that he seems to care about his clients, enough so that he'll go where angels fear to tread, but bad guys hang out far too often. 

Mannix has many things going for him, including a sense of humor, and in this first season, where he works essentially as an employee of private-detective firm Intertect (run by Campanella), he shows a rebellious streak that will serve him well when he strikes out on his own next season, assisted by the capable Peggy Fair. But one thing that never leaves him is a sense of justice, as Amory points out in an episode about police corruption. " 'Since when,' one policeman asks Mannix, 'did some of the guys in your line of work start worrying about being legal?' Replies Mannix grimly, 'Since some of the guys in your line of work stopped worrying about it.' " We could use a man like Joe Mannix again, couldn't we?

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Robert Stack, George Sanders, Lee Bouvier 
There have been, as we know, many bad decisions made in the history of television. Many, many bad decisions, if we're being perfectly honest about it. (And they weren't all made by the person who moved Hollywood Palace to Mondays.) One of those lesser decisions, to be charitable, belongs to David Susskind, who was inspired by Truman Capote to produce a remake of the 1944 film classic Laura as a vehicle for Capote's friend, Princess Lee Radziwill. (Susskind and Capote discussed several options before deciding on Laura.) If you look at the cast of this production, though (Wednesday, 9:00 p.m., ABC), you won't see Radziwill's name anywhere; instead, you'll see that Laura is played by Lee Bouvier. Now, Lee Radziwill is a real princess (her husband is Prince Stanisław Albrecht Radziwiłł), but her maiden name is Bouvier—as in Jacqueline Bouvier, her older sister, whom you might recognize by her married name, Jacqueline Kennedy. See how it all adds up?

Anyway, we can be brief about this. Laura, the 1944 version, is, as I said, a classic, nominated for five Oscars, with a memorable theme song. Laura, the 1968 version, is terrible. Robert Stack, in the role played so well by Dana Andrews in the original, would later write that "the production resembled a junior high school effort." One critic called it the "worst drama" of the season, adding that Radziwill was "unbelievably bad." (In other words, she's no Gene Tierney, Laura circa 1944.) It having been made unavailable for preview, all Judith Crist can do is marvel "at the courage of those involved in attempting to surpass that 1944 film triumph." George Sanders, Arlene Francis, and Farley Granger round out the cast. 

There are a couple of ironic footnotes to the story: although Laura is scheduled for January 17, with a prominent Close-Up in TV Guide, it winds up being pushed to January 24 due to President Johnson's State of the Union address. And a repeat broadcast in June 1968 is postponed due to the assassination of Lee Radziwill's brother-in-law, Robert F. Kennedy. Perhaps they should have left well-enough alone.

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Let's see, what else have we got going for us this week? On Monday, "The Seven Wonders of the World Affair" is the last show of the series for The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (8:00 p.m., NBC). Debuting next week in this time slot: Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In. Tuesday is a rerun of last February's fairy-tale favorite Jack and the Beanstalk (8:00 p.m., NBC), with Gene Kelly producing, directing, and starring as Jeremy, the peddler who sells the magic beans to our sucker—er hero, Jack. The special combines live action and animation; Bobby Riha is Jack, and in a wonderful piece of casting, Ted Cassidy is the voice of the giant. Tuesday is also the night for the adventures of Alexander Mundy, aka Robert Wagner, in ABC's new series It Takes a Thief (8:30 p.m.), which debuted only last week.

Wednesday night, President Johnson gives the State of the Union (9:00 p.m., all networks), and you'll be glad to know that while "our country is challenged, at home and abroad," the United States and her people "have the strength to meet our every challenge," as well as "the will to meet the trials these times impose." Free elections have been held in Vietnam, and "the enemy has been defeated in battle after battle." (Apparently someone forgot to tell the North Vietnamese the importance of this.) LBJ is also committed to using our abundance so that everyone can eventually share in it. In conclusion, this is the State of the Union: "seeking, building, tested many times in this past year—and always equal to the test."

Thursday night, Batman (7:30 p.m., ABC) features what many fans consider the worst episode of the show's three-season run, "Nora Clavicle and the Ladies' Crime Club," in which Commissioner Gordon, Chief O'Hara, and the whole police force are fired and replaced with women. Barbara Rush is wasted as Nora Clavicle, a woman's rights activist, and even I cringe from the sexism when I watch it. Better to watch Elizabeth Montgomery in a dual role of Samantha and Serena on Bewitched (8:30 p.m., ABC) or The Dean Martin Show (10:00 p.m., NBC), with guests George Burns, Eddie Albert, Florence Henderson and Janie Gee. On Friday, Lorne Greene narrates David L. Wolper's documentary World of Horses (7:30 p.m, NBC), which pre-empts Tarzan, and I'm not sure how you feel about that if you were a fan of Ron Ely, but I guess it's just fine with me. 

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I was mentioning to someone the other day that I'd counted ten Perry Como Christmas shows on YouTube, all from different years. Now, you might not think it was necessary for me to throw that last part in, but if so, you don't remember the days of Bob Hope, back when he had two Christmas shows each year.

For 25 years now, beginning in 1941, Hope has travelled around the world entertaining American troops wherever they might be stationed, including Tunisia, the South Pacific, Korea, Greenland, Berlin, and (since 1964) Southeast Asia. He'd do his regular studio Christmas special, which aired in December, and then he and his troupe (always including beautiful female stars; this year including Raquel Welch, Barbara McNair, and Miss World) would be off to wherever the action was, the results of which would turn up on television sometime in January. We're in such a hurry to take down Christmas tree nowadays, but back when I was growing up, it wasn't Christmas, or New Year's, or the bowl games, that signified the end of the holiday season—it was Bob Hope's show from Vietnam.

This week Hope shares some of his memories with Leslie Raddatz as a preliminary to The Bob Hope Vietnam Christmas Show (Thursday, 8:30 p.m., NBC). He's entertained audiences of 50,000 in Marseilles, France, and eight at an impromptu refueling stop in Alaska. The first year he went to Vietnam there was a bullet hole in his plane; last year, captured Vietcong documents showed that he and his troupe had missed a planned bombing of their hotel by 10 minutes. In Korea he passed a child's body in the road ("He had just been shot"); two weeks later he saw pictures of where his stage had been, burning after an air raid. "In '44," he tells Raddatz, "we played before 15,000 Marines on an island in the South Pacific. We knew that they were invasion troops and that half of them would never come back. Later we found out that 60 percent of them were knocked off."

Hope figures he's traveled about 6,000,000 miles in all these years, and he's received more than 700 awards and citations, including a tribute from President Truman that had been signed by 1,000,000 GIs. "It's a lot of work," he acknowledges, "from the time you wake up in the morning until you go to bed at night, you never have a minute. But it's a very exciting, gratifying thing, and I wouldn't have it any other way."

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MST3K alert: Creature from the Black Lagoon (1954). "In an Amazon lagoon, a scaly amphibious Gill-Man is captivated by the girl on scientific expedition. Richard Carlson, Julia [sic] Adams." (Friday, 1:30 a.m., WNAC). This never made it to the Satellite of Love, but the first sequel, Revenge of the Creature (1955) did, with John Agar, Lori Nelson, and John Bromfield. And, of course, Ricou Browning as the Creature. TV  

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