April 1, 2023

This week in TV Guide: April 3, 1965

Let's start this week with Vince Edwards. The star of ABC's medical drama Ben Casey has long had a reputation, and as you know, when we speak of having a "reputation," it's usually a bad one. As Richard Gehman describes him, "Edwards was stubborn and surly, uncooperative, unavailable and—it was our suspicion—uncouth." His brooding, scowling visage on television caused Hollywood types to regard him "with all the joy we would have shown if we had scared out a Gila monster." Now, as you know if you've been reading me for a few years, I'm always a little skeptical of Gehman's pop psychology/snark analysis of celebrities, but in this case his observations aren't without merit; there are many stories of how Sam Jaffe, who played Casey's mentor, Dr. David Zorba, quit before Casey's final season because he'd become fed up with Edwards' unprofessionalism and his addiction to spending time at the racetrack betting on the horses instead of doing his scenes. 

But we're straying from the story, which is colorful enough. A couple of years ago Gehman was writing an article on the show for TV Guide, and Edwards stood him up four times; he finally wrote the story without Edwards. Recently, though, the two of them were seated opposite each other at a birthday party for Walter Winchell (!), and became acquainted enough that Edwards agreed to an interview, at which he opens up on subjects he hasn't previously talked about. He's in psychoanalysis, for example, "because I wasn't utilizing the full capacity of my own ability because of certain guilts and hang-ups." In other words, he ought to stop not liking himself and give himself credit for having succeeded as he has.

He says directing has allowed him to understand the importance of maintaining the show's budget, that "to make money, art sometimes goes out the window." "There's a place to sell filet mignon and a place to sell hot dogs," he says. "Television is hot dogs." He's not bored with Ben Casey, but he is tired; his five-year contract ends next year, and that's when the series will end. He wants to produce and direct more, record more, make some more movies, have a family. He sounds like a man struggling to find his place in his life; "I sit here many a night, thinking, 'Well, where am I going, what am I going to do, and what are they going to write about me when I go?'"

He also says he has no problem being "part of the machinery," because it's his job, and because he wants to work. At the end of the day, "when they finally shut my orbs I can breathe a sigh of relief and pass on without having any guilts, and having enjoyed what Ive earned. That’s all I can say." It seems to be enough for Gehman; "The surly, stubborn, uncooperative, unavailable and uncouth Vince Edwards who started out playing Ben Casey is a good deal different today." Perhaps it was the analysis that did it, but "analysis is only a tool for a man who [already] wants to improve himself." For whatever reason, "Vince Edwards is a changed man. For the better." 

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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: Ed’s guests are Vince "Ben Casey" Edwards, comedian Alan King, singer Abbe Lane, comedian George Kirby, English pop singer Cilla Black, French singer Jean Paul Vignon, English music-hall comic Arthur Haynes and Djoliba, an African instrumental and dance ensemble. 

Palace: Host Dale Robertson introduces guitar-strumming George Gobel, who does a comedy monolog; singer-dancer Lisa Kirk; songstress Barbara McNair; comic Tim Conway of McHale’s Navy in an obstetrician sketch; the comedy team of Gaylord and Holiday; the Four Winds of Notre Dame, vocal quartet; the Morways from Prague, teeterboard artists; and the Hanneford Family's comedy animal act. 

The question is: how funny is Tim Conway in a obstetrician sketch? (We already know what he's like in a dentist sketch.) And is he funny enough to elevate this week's Hollywood Palace? We don't know the answer for sure, but my money's on Ed; even though Vince Edwards (whom we'll read more about later) is appearing ascv  a singer, I'm casting my lot with Alan King and company. It's not the greatest lineup we've ever seen, but it's good enough to give Ed the edge.

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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. 

I did not know this, but according to Cleveland Amory, The King Family was ABC's replacement for The Outer Limits. Of course the possibilities are limitless, and so is the King Family: at 36 members (currently), that, says Cleve, amounts to two Kings per square inch on his screen. "It has been said that one can take, in murder mysteries, one murder, two, even three or four murders. But at five one becomes uneasy and at six one draws the line. One now has not just a murder but a massacre." That's not to accuse the King Family of such horrors, but it does seem at times as if even the members of the family have trouble keeping track of their numbers.

Despite all this, there's a lot to like about The King Family. The production is smooth and quick-paced, thanks to producers Nick Vanoff (who also does The Hollywood Palace*) and Saul Ilson (a veteran of The Smothers Brothers and The Danny Kaye Show), and to the children, who are "extraordinary": "They are, among other things, the least pushed-to-perfection stage children we have seen—perhaps because their mothers aren’t “stage” mothers who stay backstage, but mothers on the stage."

*The King Family Show was the result of their successful appearance on The Hollywood Palace, which generated a reported 53,000 letters of approval, back when people wrote letters.

Cleve is mightily impressed with the King women as well, particularly the original King Sisters (Yvonne, Alyce, Luise and Marilyn). Undoubtedly, although he didn't single her out, he's also impresed with Yvonne's daughter, Tina Cole, who would graduate to My Three Sons. He's not, however, that impressed with the males of the family, save Alvino Rey, Luise's husband and conductor of the show's orchestra, "who can play any instrument, even the ones he makes himself," The King Family lasts for two seasons, plus a revival in 1969; they also appeared in syndicated holiday specials for ten years. It's a very pleasant setup for a Christmas special, but as a regular series, The King Family is from another era.

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There have been big changes in the broadcasting industry recently, with three of the more prominent figures being given the pink slip. Since TV Guide devotes one entire page of its "As We See It" editorial to the changes, we probably ought to take a look at them, and the lesson to be learned. For each of them, in his own way, was a con man, which isn't necessarily a bad thing; the key to success in this industry is being "a rich blend of businessman, salesman, showman and con man." You either have it or you don't; it's just that sometimes, you have it and then you lose it.

First is James Aubrey, until recently the president of CBS. "His con was playing the ruthless heavy. He alienated some of CBS's top stars by kicking them around. He alienated his executive colleagues by making all decisions himself. He alienated advertisers by telling them what they could buy. He alienated the press by refusing to talk to reporters. He alienated everyone but his buddy Keefe Brasselle, an unsuccessful ham whom Aubrey turned into a production tycoon overnight with three shows —all awful—on the CBS network in prime time." He finally realized that the people you kick on the way up are waiting for you.

Matthew J. Culligan was a success as head of NBC Radio, and used to be head of the Curtis Publishing Company. "His con was action. He was busy, busy, busy. It worked at NBC. It got him his job at Curtis. He couldn't wait for autos—he traveled by helicopter and zipped from redecorating fancy new offices, to explaining to advertisers how he was going to take Curtis out of the red, to reorganizing magazines by placing men in command whose chief aim was to get rid of Culligan." It sounds like a great idea for a TV series, doesn't it?

Finally, and sadly, there's Pat Weaver. "His con was dreaming. As president of NBC he dreamed beautifully, envisioning—and bringing to reality—the Today show and The Tonight Show and the concept of special shows pre-empting regular programming. But Weaver dreamed expensively and he had to take his dreams to an advertising agency. Then the promoters of Subscription TV came along and Weaver was hired to dream of a brave new television world where viewers would pay and pay and pay. The viewers didn’t pay." Or perhaps, as was so often the case, he was just ahead of his time—or ahead of the viewers.

The lesson, and I think this is one we should all take to heart: "Maybe a con isn’t supposed to work forever." 

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What do we have to look forward to on the tube? Well, if you're a kid like I was, you'll be excited to see the return of Top Cat (Saturday, 8:00 a.m. PT, NBC). The cartoon originally aired in prime time on ABC during the 1961-62 season, but I think it's best known for its long run on Saturday mornings. I've got the box set, so Saturday morning is whenever I want it to be. It's also the debut of Secret Agent (9:00 p.m., CBS), the Patrick McGoohan-helmed follow-up to Danger Man and the precursor to The Prisoner, which I mentioned last week. And if you can stay up late, you won't want to miss The Seven Samurai (11:15 p.m., KGO), Akira Kurosawa's magnificent samurai movie, which was the inspiration for The Magnificent Seven

Classical music fans will want to tune in for Camera Three (Sunday, 9:00 a.m., CBS), featuring Peter Schickele—who has an entire comic persona as P.D.Q. Bach, "the hitherto unknown son of Bach,"—discussing, appropriately enough, humor and parody in music. Schickele, who spent five decades doing his Bach schtick*, is one of those rare humorists who can, in his own persona, can discuss his topic with intelligene and insight. We had the good fortune to attend one of his P.D.Q. concerts a few years ago; it was a delightful, hilarous evening. Turning to nighttime, ABC presents a David L. Wolper documentary, The General (7:30 p.m.), profiling the late Gen. Douglas MacArthur on the first anniversary of his death. It's sponsored by 3M, as part of their continuing series of specials on important issues of the day.

*One of his favorite bits was a conposition called "Concerto for Piano vs. Orchestra," which, in concert, would often feature a local sports announcer "calling the action" between the pianist and the orchestra.

Monday's highlight is the 37th annual Academy Awards, live from Santa Monica and hosted by Bob Hope (7:00 p.m., ABC). It's another great year for the motion picture industry, with five Oscar-nominated films that everyone is familiar with and many people have seen—in other words, the exact opposite of what the Oscars are like today: Becket, Dr. Strangelove, Mary Poppins, Zorba the Greek, and the big winner of the evening, My Fair Lady. Andy Williams performs one of the year's nominated songs, "Dear Heart," from the movie of the same name; thanks to the miracle of video tape, he also appears on his own show (9:00 p.m., NBC), where his guests are Jonathan Winters and Polly Bergen. And for futurists everywhere, there's the 1939 movie Television Spy (12:50 a.m., KPIX), with William Henry as a young radio engineer trying to solve the problem of sending television signals over long distances. Forget it, kid; it'll never fly.

NBC's Hullabaloo, along with ABC's Shindig, was one of the 1960s variety shows featuring pop music stars (along with the Hullabaloo Dancers). Some of them might seem as if they're more in tune with the 1950s, while other acts are precisely what we think of when we consider the Beatles era. This week (Tuesday, 8:30 p.m.) we've got a mix of both: Paul Anka hosts, and sings "Red Roses for a Blue Lady"), with Chubby Checker, Sylvie Vartan, Joe and Eddie, Del Shannon, the Greenwood County Singers, and David Clayton Thomas and the Shays. During the early episodes of Hullabaloo, Beatles manger Brian Epstein would host a segment from London; this week, he introduces Mariane Faithfull. 

Wednesday features the season's final presentation of the Hallmark Hall of Fame, with Julie Harris starring as Florence Nightingale in "The Holy Terror" (7:30 p.m, NBC) with an outstanding supporting cast that includes Denholm Elliott, Kate Reid, Torin Thatcher, and Brian Bedford. Appropriately enough, Julie Harris is also profiled in this week's issue, with Robert Higgins writing that for all the success she's achieved on Broadway, in Hollywood, and on television, the actress remains a private, enigmatic person off-stage. "I’ve failed so many times as an actress," she tells Higgins. "I’m not an artist by any means. I don’t think I'll ever be one." Even today, considered one of America's finest actresses, she struggles with her own identity; powerfully shaped by an unhappy childhood which she overcame only by burying herself in her roles, she's only now starting to realize that there's more to life than work. And yet: "My family is as important to me as my life, but that doesn’t tell me who I am. Some people never do find themselves. But I, for one, have to go on trying." By the time of her death at age 87 in 2013, she had five Tony Awards, three Emmys, a Grammy, and an Oscar nomination to show for a brilliant career. And I'm not going to make any smart cracks about this being another example of how Hall of Fame used to turn out high-quality drama, although you can see for yourself in this clip.

Perry Como's live Kraft Music Hall tour of America continues on Thursday from the Miami Beach Auditorium (10:00 p.m. tape delay to the West Coast, NBC); Mr. C's guests are Al Hirt, Woody Allen, and Connie Stevens. I think the idea of these live broadcasts from around the country is terrific; there's very little live television being done these days, and the road show concept gives it the feel of a real special; too bad nobody can do this today.

On Friday, Jack Carter wraps up his two-week run as guest host on Nightlife, ABC's alternative to Johnny Carson. (11:15 p.m.) This is during the strange interlude between Les Crane hosting stints; it was The Les Crane Show from August of 1964 to February 1965, at which time Crane was sacked and the show renamed Nightlife. It then continued with guest hosts until late June, when Crane returned as host; he'd stay with the show until the end of original episodes on October 29, 1965. And what did the viewers think of it? Well, our Letters section may give us a clue: Ken Chu, of New York City, writes, "The United States had it first, Russia second, and now ABC has the biggest bomb of all—ABC's Nightlife." Lest we think this is a one-off, Eve Kennedy of Milwaukee asks a simple question: "Where is the life in ABC's Nightlife." After that, I guess we need not ask any further.

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A quick note on a controversial topic that could stand a much longer writeup: religion on television, and we're not talking about the televangelist kind. 

Holy Week begins on Sunday, April 11, and so TV Guide takes the opportunity to examine the state of religious programming. "Ecumenism," or religious tolerance (not meant to be a definitive definition, to be sure), is all the rage right now, coming on the heels of the Second Vatican Council, and the most honored of faith-based programs—Directions ’65 on ABC; Lamp unto My Feet and Look Up and Live on CBS; and Frontiers of Faith, The Eternal Light and The Catholic Hour on NBC—are often answering the challenge "by dramatizing through the arts the need for unity in a rapidly fragmenting world." Such programs, Neil Hickey notes, couch their message "in the language of dance, poetry, song and drama, and thus are not overtly 'religious' in a doctrinal sense." 

Not everyone agrees with the worthiness of these programs, though. Fr. Norman J. O'Connor, director of the Catholic Paulist Communications, says "Religious programs on network television are generally punk. That’s spelled p-u-n-k." His complaints are that such arty endeavors "miss their audience entirely," that for people in search of religious programming, "[t]heir interests are not represented. Therefore, they have a severe dissatisfaction with the material." He goes on to point out that those producing such programs have little to no experience in the entertainment business, with the result that "the shows have hardly any entertainment value—no color, feeling, or mood. They look as though they’re cultural, but they’re not, really. A little 'show biz' wouldn’t hurt them." His criticisms are shared by many Protestant observers, who concede that the networks have little interest in this type of programming. "If the networks could dispense with religious shows, and replace them with movies or reruns of situation comedies—the sort of thing that could turn a dollar—they’d do so,” says one Protestant broadcaster."

The reason they don't is because they're obliged to provide affiliates with religious programs so those affiliates can comply with FCC regulations. But, in the wake of the Supreme Court decision banning school prayer, there are now those who claim that the FCC "is in violation of the First Amendment when it employs the power of the Government to force TV stations to promote religion." If the FCC requirement is abolished, would networks still produce such programming? (Hint: no.) It's unfortunate, because regardless of your religion, or lack thereof, these programs are some of "the last expressions of individualistic thinking on television—artistically, culturally, sociologically." They've also been a "training ground" for young actors and writers; some of those young actors who grew up in the "pulpit playhouse" include Steve McQueen, James Dean, Warren Beatty, George Peppard, Suzanne Pleshette, Sal Mineo, and Colleen Dewhurst. They were some of the last forms of dramatic anthology and cultural programming—and for all the religious networks that exist today, the absence of this kind of programming on network television is missed.

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MST3K alert:
 The Brain That Wouldn't Die.
(1960) "A scientist tries to bring his girl friend back to life. Jason Evers, Virginia Leith." (Friday, 11:15 p.m., KSBW) That cartoon pretty much sums up this story of a mad doctor (are you surprised it's Jason Evers?) who keeps his fiancée's severed head alive while he tries to find a suitable body to graft the head onto. But then, what would Friday night be without a good mad doctor flick? Notably, this is also the first episode featuring Michael J. Nelson as the replacement for Joel Hodgson. The rest is history. TV  


  1. Cleveland Amory must've had a tiny tv screen if it only measured 18 square inches (about 3x6).

    Aside from dumping Jack Benny (which he did the previous year, leading Benny to move to NBC for the rest of his life), Jim Aubrey also hated the idea of GILLIGAN'S ISLAND, though he did allow it on the network starting that season. He wanted the boat to go to new locations weekly, and that idea led to another of his flops, THE BAILEYS OF BALBOA, which was also 1 of Brasselle's 3 flops that season.

    I remember "The Brain That Wouldn't Die" being nominated in THE GOLDEN TURKEY AWARDS book for "Most Brainless Brain Movie". (It lost the "award" to "They Saved Hitler's Brain".) I recall that Jason Evers, soon to star in CHANNING, was known as "Herb" Evers at the time.

    1. I wonder how much support a writer would have had coming up with a pilot for a series in which JIm Aubrey was stranded alone on a desert isle, with only Keefe Brasselle for support. Perhaps there's an alternate history like that out there.

  2. In William Murray's excellent book THE WRONG HORSE about Horse Racing and Gambling he devotes quite a lengthy story about Edwards and his inability to pick winners. Murray said in his last meeting with Edwards he gave him a winner which he figured Edwards promptly blew any winnings he might have profited from Murray's tout. He was even less thrilled about Edwards personality.

    1. That would seem to collaborate the other things I've read about him.

    2. Belatedly:
      I think the word you were going for here was corroborate.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!