January 21, 2023

This week in TV Guide: January 23, 1965

When last we saw Chuck Connors, the actor and former professional athlete was hanging out with his old buddy, Leonid Brezhnev. This week, however, he's involved in something far more mundane: his new Western series Branded, which debuts this Sunday on NBC. Most of you are probably familiar with the show, in which Connors plays Jason McCord, a U.S. calvary officer drummed out of the service on an unjust charge of cowardice. If nothing else, I'm sure you've seen the opening (reproduced below), in which Connors is stripped of his rank, his sword is broken in two, and he's unceremoniously escorted out of the fort. From then on, he spends each episode trying, through his actions, to disprove the charge against him.

It's interesting, therefore, to see how Larry Cohen, the show's 29-year-old creator, envisions Branded's themes. "My intellectual concept of the show is that it’s like a Shakespearean tragedy," he explains, "a man mistakenly, unfairly hated and persecuted—a man who must fight to destroy the image of dishonor that follows him." Cohen acknowledges the show's obvious similarities to The Fugitive, but it differs in that "Connors isn’t chasing a one-armed man." Instead, it's the much more existential concept of honor.

Connors wants to create the image of a man as different as possible from Lucas McCain, his character in The Rifleman. "I even changed my hair. I decided to keep it short and let my sideburns grow, and have it long in the back. I wanted to look military—I’m a West Point man in this show. That’s why I lost weight, too. I’m 12 pounds lighter than when I was doing The Rifleman." (And check out that sweater he's wearing; I used to have a blanket that looked like that.) And unlike The Rifleman, in which he owned only a "small piece," he's "equal partners" with Goodson-Todman, Branded's producer (one of the company's rare non-game show properties). 

At one time, the article concludes, there were 29 Westerns on television. Branded will be TV's first half-hour Western since Have GunWill Travel left the air two seasons ago. Connors is confident: "There'll always be a place for Westerns on television, because they’re Americana and you can’t throw America out of America. The Western is the American fairy tale." Unfortunately, Branded only runs a year-and-a-half and leaves the airwaves in September 1966. The late 1960s was not a good time for the American fairy tale—more like the American nightmare.

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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.

Ed Sullivan: Tonight's scheduled guests include Metropolitan Opera soprano Birgit Nilson; comic Alan King; impressionist George Kirby; puppeteer Shari Lewis; Vietnamese pop singer Hach Yen; comedians Marty Allen and Steve Rossi; the rock ‘n’ rolling Animals; the Haslevs, tumblers; and roller skaters Ravic and Babs.

Palace: Hostess Kate Smith introduces comedian Mort Sahl, singer Trini Lopez and pantomimist Ben Blue. Also on the bill: the Juan Carlos Copes dance troupe from Argentina; harmonica player Stan Fisher; English comedy dancers Desmond and Marks; and the Karlini and Jupiter dog act.

A fairly straightforward matchup this week, and for my money a fairly straightforward choice. Birgit Nilson is a celebrated legend of the opera stage, and Alan King, George Kirby and Shari Lewis round out a strong top of the lineup. Notwithstanding Kate Smith's legendary status of her own, and Mort Sahl's typically satirical standup, Palace just doesn't have the depth. This week: Sullivan takes the bravos.

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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. 

This week, Cleveland Amory takes a look at ABC Scope, a weekly half-hour news documentary airing on, well, ABC. And, says Cleve, Scope is not only well worth your attention but is also one about which the network is legitimately entitled to congratulate itself."

Documentary, though, is such a stuffy word. Today, we'd call programs like Scope newsmagazines. Each show focuses on a specific topic (after all, it only has 30 minutes to work with), but "it does not tie itself to the week's news or even, necessarily, the 'news' at all." One week it could be a look at the Ecumenical Council in Rome, the next an examination of discotheques. Amory was particularly impressed with a pair of episodes written by Ernest Pendrell, one a story about a doctor working in the mountains of Balsam Grove, North Carolina; the other a profile of Preston Lewis, a 48-year-old man who has been consistently unsuccessful at various jobs throughout his life—bellhop, dishwasher, janitor—with one exception: playing Santa Claus. "Two scenes of “The Gift” still stand out in our mind. In one, Mr. Lewis is worried about being a good Santa Claus because he is so thin; in the other, we have the sound, still ringing in his ears as he walks through the park after his job is over, of the child’s voice saying 'I love you, Santa Claus.'" These shows weren't just good, Amory says; they were great.

Other episodes that caught Cleve's eye included a look at the town of Massillon, Ohio, perhaps the most football-crazy town in the United States (it still is today, as far as I know), the other an appreciation of Winston Churchill by Richard Burton. It would have been interesting to see how ABC Scope might have developed, as a kind of forerunner to 60 Minutes, if it had continued in this vein. However, in February 1966, Scope shifts its focus to report exclusively on Vietnam, with each episode subtitled "Vietnam Report" followed by the topic to be examined. Although it continues to be scheduled in primetime, many affiliates push it off to Sunday afternoons, where it can do less ratings damage. The last episode airs in March 1968; I wonder if Cleveland Amory ever reviewed it in this format?

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Richard Rodgers and Lesley Ann Warren
Next, we'll look at an article by a most distinguished contributor: Richard Rodgers. During his career, the composer would go on to win an Oscar, an Emmy, a Tony and a Grammy (the first to do so), as well as a Pulitzer and a Kennedy Center honoree. His partnerships with Lorenz Hart and Oscar Hammerstein II resulted in just a few musicals you might have heard of: Oklahoma!, Flower Drum Song, Carousel, South Pacific, The King and I, and The Sound of Music. On his own, he wrote the score for the NBC documentary series Victory at Sea. Not a bad career, hmm?

This week, he's writing about another of his collaborations with Hammerstein: Cinderella, the made-for-TV musical (the only such piece ever written by R&H) which originally debuted in 1957 with Julie Andrews, and was at the time the most-watched television program in history. The new production, which airs next month on CBS, will be in color, and stars 18-year-old Lesley Ann Warren as Cinderella, with Celeste Holm as the Fairy Godmother, Walter Pidgeon and Ginger Rogers as the King and Queen, and Stuart Damon as the Prince. There are other changes as well: a brand-new book (the non-singing dialogue) and a new song that had been composed for South Pacific but wasn't used.

I suspect this is the version of Cinderella that most of you are familiar with; it airs eight times over the next ten years, and it's available on DVD. It's not, in my opinion, one of Rodgers and Hammerstein's best musicals, certainly not in a class with Oklahoma! or The Sound of Music, and it lacks a signature song that provides immediate identification; speaking of the 1957 production, New York Times critic Jack Gould called it "a pleasant Cinderella that lacked the magic touch." Perhaps it was asking a bit much for two of the premier Broadway writers to put together a musical that would have a running time of less than 80 minutes and would be interrupted six times by commercials. Nonetheless, it's a much-loved story that continues to be a crowd-pleaser today.

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And now a word about our sponsor. 

No look at television history would be complete without a mention of Kraft Foods, because Kraft's involvement with television goes back to the very beginning of TV. Starting in 1947, Kraft Television Theatre was television's first commercial network program, and when it left the air in 1958 after 650 episodes, it was the oldest and longest-running dramatic anthology in television history, introducing such stars as Grace Kelly, Jack Lemmon, and James Dean. (For a time, Kraft actually sponsored two completely separate stories each week, one on NBC and the other on ABC.) Then, there was The Kraft Music Hall (which had started on radio in 1933 and was hosted by Bing Crosby for ten years), with first Milton Berle and then Perry Como acting as emcee.

Now, however, there's a new entry in the Kraft stable: Kraft Suspense Theatre, which one critic calls "an oasis of drama in a wasteland of comedy." It airs three out of every four weeks each month, with the fourth week being filled by Como's Music Hall. Talking about the program, executive producer Frank P. Rosenberg compares it to shooting a movie each week; "We try to make a picture that people would walk up to the box office and pay $2 to see." And while, as an anthology, there are no continuing characters, there are what Rosenberg calls continuing characteristics, "basically human characters that the audience can understand as human beings, put in suspenseful situations."

Each episode costs upward of $200,000 to shoot, and while the stars aren't quite up to the caliber of a Crosby, they're filled with recognizable names, such as Steve Forrest and Dana Wynter. As many as four episodes are being shot simultaneously at the time of the article, including "Rapture at Two-Forty," the pilot for Run for Your Life. In the end, Suspense Theatre's run is fairly modest: two seasons, 59 episodes. It may not have the impact of Kraft Television Theatre, but it's an eminently watchable series that enjoyed a healthy existence in syndication, and you can find it on YouTube today. 

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Oh, and how about a trip to Denver? Bob Denver, that is. He's come to Gilligan's Island fresh off of four successful seasons as Maynard G. Krebs in Dobie Gillis. In fact, however, Denver had never set out to be an actor; he originally studied to be a lawyer, and almost turned down the chance to audition for Maynard. (His sister was secretary for the director of new talent at the studio making Dobie Gillis.) He's something of a pessimist, but an all-around good guy. 

But what's most interesting in what we learn is not about Bob Denver per se, but his Gilligan's Island castaway castmate, Tina Louise. "Denver will not say why he and the glamorous Tina do not get along, nor will any of the castaways—they just ignore her, and she ignores them." Between scenes, she sits off by herself while the other six chat and tell jokes. "And recently when Denver was asked to pose for pictures with her, he adamantly refused." I don't suppose any of this is particularly new; there have always been stories about an ambivalence between her and the others, so all this really does is confirm some of that gossip. 

The unbylined profile concludes with the comment that Denver can't be too much of a pessimist these days; "there are reports that Tina Louise will be leaving Gilligan’s Island to go into another series." Well, that didn't happen; Tina was around for all three seasons of the show, and presumably would have been on the fourth season had not Babe Paley become involved in the network's scheduling. But she was also the only member of the original cast to decline involvement in the show's three movie sequels.

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Several items of interest help us round out the week, and I'm sure there must be someone out there thinking, "Finally!" Hopefully, you'll feel I've done you right.

Those things begin with the debut of The King Family Show (Saturday, 7:30 p.m., ABC). For those of you who aren't familiar with the Kings, there are 37 of them—the original King Sisters (Alyce, Luise, Marilyn, and Yvonne), plus other subsets of the family (cousins, children, etc.), the best-known being Yvonne's daughter Tina Cole, who'd go on to My Three Sons. It fits in perfectly with ABC's Saturday night schedule, along with The Lawrence Welk Show and The Hollywood Palace; it runs through June, and then comes back in a half-hour format from September of 1965 to January 1966. There's one more iteration of The King Family Show that ABC airs, starting in March 1969—in the timeslot formerly held by the infamous Turn-On.

On Sunday, Dr. Werner von Braun discusses the future of space travel—specifically, project Apollo—on Science All Stars (5:00 p.m., ABC). As for the past, The Twentieth Century (6:00 p.m., CBS) looks at one of the most enigmatic figures of World War II, Rudolf Hess, and what may have been behind his bizarre flight from Germany to Scotland in 1941. It's also the debut of the aforementioned Branded (8:30 p.m., NBC), and the American premiere of composer Gian Carlo Menotti's new opera, Martin's Lie (9:00 p.m., CBS). It's the first time since Menotti's acrimonious dispute with NBC over a new production of Amahl and the Night Visitors that one of his operas has appeared on another network. Kirk Browning, who directed many productions on NBC Opera Theatre, is the director here.

Monday's episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E., "The Yellow Scarf Affair" (8:00 p.m., NBC), is notable more for the guest stars than for the plot, with appearances by Kamala Devi and Neile Adams, also known as Mrs. Chuck Connors and Mrs. Steve McQueen, respectively. On The Andy Griffith Show (8:30 p.m., CBS), Barney has to deal with the consequences of throwing away a chain letter. (I did that once, which is why I'm here in rural Indiana typing these words instead of enjoying life on the French Rivera.) And The Andy Williams Show (9:00 p.m., NBC) boasts a stellar lineup, with Burke's Law's Gene Barry, Jill St. John, and the brilliant Antinio Carlos Jobim. 

Tuesday's most interesting topic, although it may not be the most interesting program, is an NBC news documentary on The French Revolution. (10:00 p.m.) The reason I'm hedging my bets is because, even today, relatively few Americans understand the ramifications of the Revolution—not surprising, given that the philosophy behind the founding of the United States is based on the Enlightenment, something very much at work in the Satanic horrors of the Reign of Terror. I think, however, it would be well worth watching to see what the take is.

Wednesday's highlight is the 1951 movie Detective Story (Wednesday Night at the Movies, 9:00 p.m., NBC), a tough, gritty police drama starring Kirk Douglas, Eleanor Parker, William Bendix and Lee Grant. The movie was nominated for four Oscars, including a Best Director nom for William Wyler. That's on opposite The Dick Van Dyke Show (9:00 p.m., CBS), with Jerry Van Dyke guesting as Rob's brother Stacey. 

Leonard Bernstein returns with another Young People's Concert on Thursday (8:00 p.m., CBS), highlighting young artists. A couple of artists who are not young, but are quite distinguished, are the husband-and-wife team of Alfred Lunt and Lynn Fontanne, two of the greats of the stage, who make a rare TV appearance as the stars of the Hallmark Hall of Fame production of "The Magnificent Yankee" (9:30 p.m., NBC), the story of Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes. Somewhere in-between is David Susskind's Open End (9:00 p.m., KVIE), with "Seven Beautiful Airline Hostesses" discussing their "glamorous—and at times difficult—jobs."

Friday night, Bob Hope's Chrysler Theatre (8:30 p.m., NBC) tells the story of "The Loving Cup," in which a yachtsman racing in the America's Cup needs to contact his former wife's flame to raise the financial backing. I find these kinds of stories fascinating, in that how-many-times-has-this-happened-to-you way; it seems as if men are always being forced to seek out rivals for their wife's affection because they need money. Isn't there anyone else around they can borrow money from? Like a bank? Either that, or the population of this country is much smaller than I thought, with about a two-degree separation between a man, his wife, her former flame, and financial security. What are the odds? I mean, what are the odds?

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MST3K alert: Invasion, U.S.A. (1953). "A forecaster named Mr. Ohman envisions the destruction of the United States. Gerald Mohr, Dan O'Herlihy, Peggie Castle, Erik Blythe, Wade Crosby, George Sylvester." (Friday, 11:30 p.m., KNTV). The message of this Cold War thriller: a vote against the military-industrial complex is a vote for communism. Dan O'Herlihy, who plays Mr. Ohman, will be nominated for Best Actor two years later for Robinson Crusoe. Obviously, nobody told him acting was optional here; his performance is much better than the typical B-movie requires. TV  


  1. Shari Lewis may have been my first crush!

  2. I live in Massillon. They are still nuts about High School Football

  3. "KRAFT SUSPENSE THEATRE" was syndicated under the title "CRISIS" (although some stations aired the repeats under the 'SUSPENSE THEATRE" title). WABC-TV in New York scheduled them- on and off- for over 17 years.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!