July 15, 2023

This week in TV Guide: July 15, 1967

I'd suppose most of you are familiar with Desilu Productions, if for no other reason than the number of times its logo appears at the end of your favorite programs, from The Untouchables to Mission: Impossible to Star Trek—and, of course, the series of sitcoms starring its president and 60-percent owner, Lucille Ball. Desilu has, under Lucy's leadership, become the largest TV-producing facility in the world, and as Dwight Whitney picks up the story, Desilu has become the target of Charles Bluhdorn, owner of the $650 million conglomerate Gulf & Western Industries, who not long ago added Paramount to his financial empire.  

The executive suite which Lucy occupies is oak-paneled, once occupied by Joseph Kennedy and Howard Hughes; she gave it a womanly touch that probably would leave Joe shaking his head. But don't think that this is all fun-and-games for her, one of those adventures that her TV-self might be involved in; since buying out her ex-husband Desi Arnaz in 1962, she's turned a loss of more than $665,000 into a profit of $830,000, and she's shown a deft hand at choosing good advisors ("and having sense enough to listen to them"). She has what Whitney describes as an "almost fanatical" loyalty to her people, and evokes a similar loyalty from them. She agreed with Fred Friendly's recent complaint that CBS chose to air a Lucy rerun rather than vital Vietnam hearings. 

She's also proved to be a strong advocate for the shows her studio produces, including Star Trek, which she championed, and Mission: Impossible, "a show which she had bulled through over strong opposition both from within her own studio and, particularly, from [CBS]." And then there's her own show, which CBS values to the tune of $350,000 annually and which she perennially hangs over the heads of network executives, with the threat that "I have other things I want to do." Her most recent contract with CBS provides "financing for the show at a record $90,000 per half hour, two one-hour CBS-financed Lucy specials, and a deal for future daytime stripping of her present series which [her advisor] estimates will bring in excess of $7,000,000 to Desilu before it is through."

Lucy knows that times are changing in the industry. "A company in TV alone cannot survive today’s market. You have to make 20 pilots to get three. How do you amortize that?" She knows that Bludhorn's offer makes sense—it would give her about $10 million of G&W stock, and it would be arranged to give her a "substantial" capital gain—and it would ease the "ataggering interest burden" on the $3 million she borrowed to buy Desi out. Still, she remains reluctant throughout the process until, impressed by Bludhorn, she agrees to the merger. 

Was it worth it? Many people at Desilu will complain in the future about Paramount's management of the company, how it no longer has the buzz of a family enterprise which it once had, and many of its properties will suffer from penny-pinching and corporate interference. Lucy, following the merger, will found her own new production company, Lucille Ball Productions, which continues to profit from residuals from Here's Lucy. And nobody ever thought twice about the idea of a crazy redhead running a major studio.

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While The Hollywood Palace is on summer break, ABC fills the Saturday night time slot with Piccadilly Palace, a London-based variety show starring the iconic British comedy duo of Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise. We'll stop in from time to time during the summer months to see who has the best lineup..

Sullivan:  Ed's guests in this rerun are Ginger Rogers; singers Johnny Mathis, the Lovin’ Spoonful and Abbe Lane; comics Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara, and Bob King; the tumbling Three Kims; and puppet Topo Gigio. 

Piccadilly:  Guests are singer Frankie Avalon and the New Vaudeville Band, with regular Millicent Martin.  Hosts Eric Morecambe and Ernie Wise do some wild impressions of Julius Caesar, and Samson and Delilah; and Wise offers an improbable version of Grieg’s Concerto in A Minor. Frankie sings "What Is This Thing Called Love?" and "I Could Write a Book" while the New Vaudevlle Band sings "If I Had a Talking Picture of You" and "Finchley Central." Millicent sings "Window Wishin'"

Piccadilly Palace is just different enough from Ed—the show is centered around the skits of Morecambe and Wise—that the matchups become imprecise. Having said that, I'm no particular fan of either the Lovin' Spoonful or the New Vaudeville Band, and Morecambe and Wise's skits sound ridiculously funny. But Stiller and Meara can be very clever, and with Ginger Rogers and Johnny Mathis, chances are Sullivan takes the week.

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There's a lot of history in this week's programs. Not the kind of history that necessarily shows up in the books, but history all the same. It's something I've stressed since I started this project all these years ago: the idea that TV Guide represents a history book, a pop culture mirror, all kinds of things besides what's on TV tonight.

Here's an example of something that is in the history books, although you might not all be familiar with it. It's the CBS News Special "How Israel Won the War" (Tuesday, 10:00 p.m.), with Mike Wallace leading the look at Israel's devistating victory in what came to be known as the Six-Day War, including interviews with Israeli Defense Minister Moshe Dayan and Army Chief of Staff (and future prime minister) Itzhak Rabin. We've grown used to endless wars, in these last few decades; the idea that a major war could be conducted, and won, in less than a week, is almost hard to imagine. 

Tensions in the Middle East were, then as now, at a heightened level, which came to the boiling point when Egyptian president Nassar closed the Straits of Tiran to Israeli shipping, and ordered the UN emergency force out of the area. On June 5, as the UN personel were evacuating, Israel launched a preemptive strike, wiping out Egypt's air defenses and occupying the Sinai Peninsula, the Golan Heights, the West Bank, and the Gaza Strip. Jordan and Syria entered the war on Egypt's side, but a ceasefire was agreed to on June 11. There were more than 20,000 Arab casualties, while Israel suffered fewer than 1,000.* The politics, as well as the ramifications from the war, can be debated, but it created a mystique about the efficiency of the Israeli military that would continue for decades. 

*Elsewhere in this issue it is mentioned that Ted Yates, NBC's acclaimed reporter, was killed in Jerusalem during the war.

Next we head ringside, for what's being billed as a "heavyweight elimination fight" between George Chuvalo and Joe Frazier, live from Madison Square Garden in New York (Tuesday, 7:00 p.m., syndicated). This refers to the June 20 decision to strip Muhammad Ali of the heavyweight title after he refused draft induction. (Ali was also sentenced to five years in prison for draft evasion, fined $10,000, and banned from boxing for three years. His conviction was overturned by the Supreme Court in 1971.) 

This "elimination fight" business in the ad is a bit misleading; the World Boxing Association did set up a tournament involving the top eight heavyweights, the winner of which would be their new champion. Frazier, however, declined to take part in the tournament, instead continuing to build up his undefeated record, and Tuesday's fight against Chuvalo will be his toughest test yet, one which he'll pass with flying colors by stopping Chuvalo in a fourth-round TKO. It's likely that the only "elimination" aspect of this fight was that whoever lost was out of the running for the time being. 

In March 1968, Frazier defeats Buster Mathis in the inaugural event at the new Madison Square Garden to win recognizition by the New York State Athletic Commission (and five other states) as its heavyweight champ. Frazier defeats Jimmy Ellis, the winner of the WBA tournament, in February 1970 to win the undisputed championship; he'll retain that title with an epic victory over the reinstated Ali in March 1971.

And then, there's the revolution that wasn't. The supersonic transport—SST—was supposed to be one of the great aviation advancements of the 20th century, revolutionizing transatlantic flight. That it wasn't is a fascinating story in and of itself, but in 1967 the promise of the SST is still alive, if not yet functional, and forms a major thread in "The Aviation Revolution," an NBC News Special reported by Chet Huntley. (Wednesday, 9:00 p.m.) The report looks at the challenges facing commercial aviation, including overcrowding skies, increasing noise pollution, and pressure on designers and builders.

In 1967 the SST is still in the planning stages; the United States, Britain and France, and the Soviet Union are all designing SSTs, with Boeing working on the American version. Controversy continues to dog the plane, though, with concerns about sonic booms and the plane's effect on the ozone layer causing a lengthy and contentious debate that results in Congress killing funding for the SST in 1971, and banning overland commercial supersonic flights over the United States. When the Anglo-French Concorde begins service in the mid-1970s, it's prohibited from flying into New York City, although the ban is eventually overturned. (The Soviet version, the Tupolev Tu-144, began flight in 1975.) Even after environmental concerns are overcome, though, the SST fails to become profitable, and both versions are eventually retired from use. So much for the plane of the future

By the way, here's a footnote for you: In 1967, Boeing was still headquartered in Seattle; when the city was awarded an NBA expansion team (which, ironically, began play in 1967) the team took the name SuperSonics, in tribute to the forthcoming plane. Today, there is no SST, and the Seattle SuperSonics are now the Oklahoma City Thunder. And if you want more irony, the FAA sonic boom tests that so conerned congress were conducted in 1964—in Oklahoma City. 

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Here's some more sports: the final round of the British Open, telecast live via Early Bird satellite from the Royal Liverpool Golf Club in Hoylake (Saturday, 7:30 a.m., ABC). Unlike major tournaments today, which run from Thursday-Sunday, the Open plays from Wednesday through Saturday, with any playoff round held on Sunday; this schedule lasted until 1980. As for the tournament itself, ◀ Roberto De Vicenzo, whom you may remember from the more unfortunate day when a scoring error cost him the Masters, wins the Open by two shots over the defending champion, Jack Nicklaus.

Competition of a different kind: the Miss Universe Pageant, live from Miami Beach (Saturday, 10:00 p.m., CBS; tape-delayed in PT). Bob Barker is the host in the Convention Center, June Lockhart hosts the TV broadcast, and singer Jean-Paul Vignon is the musical guest. The winner is Miss USA, Sylvia Hitchcock from Alabama. This is, incidentally, the first time hosting the Miss Universe Pageant for Barker; he'll host both this and the Miss USA pageant through 1987.

A quartet of notable guest stars appear on Thursday's reruns, starting with Daniel Boone (7:30 pm., NBC), which has Jimmy Dean playing a banjo-strumming woodsman on the lam from a murder charge. At the same time over on CBS, Tallulah Bankhead plays herself as Lucy's new neighbor on The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour; in order to impress her, Lucy tries to talk Fred and Ethel to pose as her maid and butler. Later on, Vincent Price is Count Sforza on F Troop (8:00 p.m., ABC), and the troopers at Fort Courage are convinced that he's a vampire responsible for the disappearance of Wrangler Jane. And finally, Reginald Owen, known to most people here as  Ebenezer Scrooge in the 1938 version of A Christmas Carol, guests on Bewitched (8:30 p.m., ABC) as Aunt Clara's boyfriend, Ocky, and he comes along just in time: Clara has just blacked out the entire Eastern Seaboard.

Friday night features a couple of classics on local TV. First, on KHSL in Chico, it's the chilling Twilight Zone episode "It's a Good Life" (7:00 p.m.), in which Billy Mumy casts anyone who makes him angry into the cornfield. Later, it's the supurb Twelve Angry Men (9:00 p.m., KXTV in Sacramento), with Henry Fonda single-handedly holding up the dignity of the judicial system. Interesting to note that the description refers to it as "an adaptation of Reginald Rose's TV classic"; for many years, the TV version, which appeared on Studio One and starred Robert Cummings in the Fonda role, was thought lost; it's since been recovered, but I'd imagine that nowadays very few people know about it and think only of the movie version. Personally, I think you could make a case that Cummings dones a better job than Fonda, but that's just me.

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On Coronet Blue (Monday, 10:00 p.m., CBS), Denholm Elliott and Juliet Mills guest star in a story that features Alden (Frank Converse) caught between a fugitive revolutionary and the gunmen out to get him. Coronet Blue has been the surprise hit of the summer season—but Richard K. Doan warns its fans that they'd better "prepare themselves to be left dangling." You see, the program, which was approved by Jim Aubrey (one of his "last ventures before his fall as CBS-TV czar") for the 1965-66 season. After Aubrey was bounced, his successor, Jack Schneider, "thought it a poor show and shelved it." However, producer Herbert Brodkin, who had a firm contract with the network for 13 shows, went ahead and shot them. This year, CBS decided to burn off the series in order to recoup some of its investment, and scheduled 11 of the 13 episodes for the summer. Without, of course, an explanation of the cryptic storyline. (Even if CBS wanted to continue the show, star Converse had already moved on (no pun intended) to N.Y.P.D. on ABC.) 

I'm sure many, if not most, of you are familiar with the Coronet Blue debacle, but here's an excellent article at Television Obscurities that goes into detail, including how the mystery was supposed to e wrapped up. You can see it on DVD, and while it may not live up to its mythic status, it's still fun.

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MST3K alert: Teen-Age Crime Wave
(1955). Three dangerous juvenile delinquents take refuge in the home of a farmer and his family. Tommy Cook, Mollie McCart, Sue England. (Thursday, 3:300 p.m., KHSL) Let's see, so far we've had Teen-Age Caveman, Teen-Age Strangler, and Teenagers From Outer Space, so I suppose this would be the natural succession. Our three stars are the three teens holding the family hostage, but of course one of them has to be the weak link, allowing the plot to fail. Well, what did you expect—In Cold Blood? And if those actors are teenagers, then I'm Truman Capote. TV  

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