August 12, 2023

This week in TV Guide: August 13, 1966

Edith Efron leads off the week with one of television's truly existential questions: what do game shows prove? In the summer of 1966, game shows comprise 32 of the 110 weekly hours of network daytime programming. As Efron notes, with a brief break for lunch, "it is possible to watch. 13 game shows in a row from 10 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.—two on CBS, three on ABC; and eight on NBC." While they might not be as popular as soap operas, they attract a weekly audience of about 45 million, and since children are in school, these shows are designed for and watched by adults. What does it all mean?

The games themselves, Efron says, are not stupid. "Even the much-lamented Supermarket Sweep, which has been written off by casual observers as a graceless plundering of supermarket shelves, actually requires detailed knowledge of market prices plus the ability to make arithmetical calculations, involving fractions, at high speed." Network executives and hosts agree that the basic appeal of the shows is intellectual; The Match Game's Gene Rayburn says that "TV games are popular because they test people’s ability to think under stress. This has always interested people. Human beings have a survival need to keep their wits strong and alert." Allen Ludden, host of Password, adds that "It’s not accidental that Password, which is primarily dependent on deductive reasoning, is one of the most popular game shows on the air. Logical reasoning is very attractive to people." And Ed Vane, director of daytime programming at ABC, says that "The only game shows which succed are those which stimulate the viewer intellectually." 

Perhaps surprisingly, those from the world of academics agree with this analysis. Detroit psychologist Roger Callahan, ex-president of the Michigan Society of School Psychologists, tells Efron that "The appeal of the game shows is the same as the appeal of all quizzes and parlor games—they give people an opportunity to exercise their minds." This is seconded by professor Herbert Hyman, head of Columbia University’s graduate department of sociology, who says that the popularity of game shows derives from such factors as "traditional American pleasure in a contest" and the "intellectual pleasure of play," and Boston psychologist Barbara Klein says "The appeal of the game shows is obviously intellectual." Greed is not generally seen as an attraction; Klein and Callahan call the hypothesis of collective vicarious greed "absurd," and "irationally unfounded." 

Specialists in game shows—the creators, the hosts—are adamant that the success of the genre indicates people want smart television, and that networks underestimate the intelligence of their daytime audiences. "[Viewers are] hungry for the sight of brightness on the air," according to Bob Stewart, one of the creators of Password and To Tell the Truth.. "They’re starving for intelligent programming," adds Ludden. This is not, however, a view shared by network executives, who insist that more "mentally demanding" shows won't be successful. NBC's Larry White says "Most of the daytime viewers are women. They’re working during these hours—washing dishes, making the beds, answering the doorbell, taking care of the babies. They don’t have the time or inclination to watch more demanding shows." (Or fashion shows? You'll read about that shortly.) News-and-talk shows such as Calendar with Harry Reasoner, or Mike Wallace's morning news, "were calmly ignored by most of the daytime audience." "It’s hard enough to get an audience for intellectual shows at night,” says White. "Look at CBS Reports, look at East Side/West Side. If you put an intellectual show on in the daytime, you'd get zero ratings."

Ludden, for one, isn't buying it. "The networks simply don’t understand the difference between native intelligence and public-affairs stuffiness. The viewers are not academic squares, but that doesn’t mean they have 12-year-old minds." The psychologists agree. "Too often," Callahan says, "what passes for intellectual programming on the networks isn’t intellectual at all. Too often, it consists of dull, unresolved drama; dull, unresolved discussions; and dull, unresolved public-affairs shows, to which the only appropriate response is—so what? Such shows are mentally frustrating. Most viewers reject them day and night—and rightly so. To judge people as intellectually deficient because they repudiate such shows is absurd."

Where does this leave us? Efron notes that "native intelligence in the mass audience is rarely mentioned in all the brouhaha about TV programming," and that it is this native intelligence, not formal education, that comprises the audience. But network executives admit no study has ever been conducted on "the number of brains—the number of just plain bright people in both the day and the nighttime audiences." Personally, I agree with this totally; intellectuals, or pretentious executives, often confuse education with intelligence, and almost never consider common sense. After all, all those letters that follow someone's name makes them part of an elite minority, and to admit that this doesn't necessarily make them smart means they aren't special anymore, either.

The networks, Efron says, need to understand that "there are many millions of modestly schooled adults in this country who have good minds, and who would actively welcome more intelligent programming." To recognize "the existence of multimillions of intelligent 'common' men and women could have a profoundly salutary effect on U.S. television."

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That's no cavalry corporal on the cover, that's Larry Storch! And, with all due respect to Forrest Tucker, I think it's safe to say that without Storch, there would be no F Troop. In this week's episode he plays multiple roles, including the notorious bandid El Diablo, Grandma Agarn, Gaylord Agarn and Carmen Agarnado. But, says Michael Fessier Jr., the zany comedian you see on screen is, when the cameras stop rolling, "melancholy and detached, light years in his thoughts from the frantic activity surrounding him."

"Nothing’s easy for me," he says. "I'm always in a quandary over things." With a half smile, he adds, "I guess it’s my dark Russian soul." He broods about "ultimate meanings and truths," from Vietnam and underpriviledged children to "the well-being of every living creature." Not surprisingly, he's a product of the Depression, a boy who hated school and, one suspects, became an impressionist and jokester to stay away from the classroom. He "stumbled" into radio acting after WWII, impressing with his ability to mimic voices, and moved into some TV and film roles; his friends feel that it's his "unaggressive nature" that's kept him from going further. "[H]e deprecates himself," says one friend, Tony Curtis. "He’s afraid to assert himself. He doesn’t want to offend anybody. But underneath he’s fully aware of his talent."

In fact, it is Curtis, along with Storch's wife Norma, who deserve credit for keeping Storch's career alive. Norma, who used to manage him, got his career going after it appeared dead in the water, while Curtis got Storch a part in the movie Who Was That Lady I Saw You With? (Storch had played the role on Broadway); they've appeared in three more movies since, but Curtis says it's due to talent. "Larry's a very terrific actor." 

In addition to many television appearances, Storch will return to the stage after F Troop ends, and remains popular throughout a career that runs well into the 21st Century. He was a frequent guest at the Mid Atlantic Nostalgia Convention, where I saw him the last time I was there; his autograph prices were more reasonable than anyone else's, and I'm sorry I didn't take advantage of it at the time. He died last year, at the age of 99—still wearing the corporal's hat to the end.

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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 include Jimmy Durante, opera singers Franco Corelli and Dorothy Kirsten, British singer Petula Clark, comic Myron Cohen and Britain's rocking Animals. Also on hand are contortionist Gitta Morelly, balancer José Cole, dancers Lawrence and Carroll, and Durante’s partner, singer Sonny King. Durante and King perform excerpts from their night-club act. 

Palace: Host Victor Borge introduces singer Jane Powell, choreographer-dancer Peter Gennaro, comic professor Irwin Corey, the musical Kim Sisters and Kim Brothers, and Irish trapeze artist Gala Shawn. Victor offers his routine about phonetic punctuation. 

A pair of reruns this week offer us a pair of good lineups. Victor Borge's phonetic punctuation is funny no matter how many times over how many years you see it, and Jane Powell and Peter Gennaro are great guests. On the other hand, Ed's got Jimmy Durante and Myron Cohen, both of whom are funnier (IMHO) than Irwin Corey; the great stars Franco Corelli and Dorothy Kirsten are more than a match for the Kim Sisters and kim Brothers, and the Animals can take care of the rest. This week Sullivan takes the prize.

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If you've been following along with this series of Northern California issues I've been looking at this year, you might recognize KLOC, the independent station in Modesto. Channel 19 has been missing from earlier 1960s issues, but this week it makes its debut, premiering at 7:00 p.m. on Monday, broadcasting "approximately 50 hours [weekly], seven days a week.*" Welcome aboard!

*During the day, the station would simulcast the programming from sister radio station KLOC, including cameras showing the radio station's on-air talent. Now we know where ESPN got the idea! (Yes, I know Arthur Godfrey used to simulcast his show, but this is different.

With the exception of the one month that the United Network was in existence, KLOC remains an independent station until 1972, when it becomes an affiliate of Univision. As KUVS, it continues to broadcast to this day.

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Sunday is probably the most interesting night of this television week, one filled (as you might expect) with repeats. We begin at Tanglewood, located in Lennox, Massachusetts, the long-time summer home of the Boston Symphony Orchestra. (My wife used to be a regular visitor there each summer until I rescued her from the wilds of Maine.) On Sunday, NBC spends "An Afternoon at Tanglewood" (2:30 p.m. PT). a live concert with the BSO and conductor Erich Leinsdorf, featuring solo performances by 20-year-old pianist Misha Dichter and 19-year-old violinist Masuko Ushioda, both of whom go on to distinguished careers. During the intermission, host Edwin Newman interviews Leinsdorf and the two soloists. As I've mentioned many times before, this is the kind of thing networks used to show before Sundays became dominated by sports. 

If sports is your thing, though, there's the final round of the Thunderbird Classic golf tournament, from Clifton, New Jersey. (2:00 p.m., ABC) It's an important tournament; previous winners include major champions Jack Nicklaus, Arnold Plamer, Gene Littler, and Billy Casper. However, it's rookie Bob Murphy who comes out on top, firing a final-round 68 to win by three shots and take home the first price money of $30,000.

Ah, but what if your interest lies with unsold pilots? Don't worry; we've got you covered as well, with the debut of Preview Tonight (8:00 p.m., ABC), a five-week series of such shows. First up is Pursue and Destroy, a WWII drama starring Van Williams as the commander of a submarine in the days following the attack on Pearl Harbor. It has a very good supporting cast, including Dame Edith Evans, Jessica Walter, and Henry Wilcoxon; I wonder why it didn't get picked up? You can check it out here and see what you think. And Van Williams makes out just fine; instead of fighting the Japanese, he'll battle criminals as The Green Hornet.

Speaking of fighting crime, we can't really leave Sunday without mentioning "The Case of the Twice-Told Twist," tonight's episode of Perry Mason (9:00 p.m., CBS). It's the only color episode of the show's nine-season run, and had the show returned for a tenth season this is how it would have looked. I think I prefer it in black-and-white.

On Monday night, NET presents GI Joe (8:30 p.m.), a documentary following high-school senior Michael J. Frame, who's just been drafted into the Army. The cameras take us through his last days at school, a farewell date, and his swearing-in at an Army induction center. I always wonder, whenever I see a program from this era that features a serviceman, what winds up happening to him. Did he make it through basic training, and was he shipped off to Vietnam? I didn't find his name listed among those on the Wall, so that's encouraging; a quick Google doesn't turn up anything connecting anyone by this name to this documentary, which you might have expected in an obituary, and that's also encouraging. A "Michael J. Frame" does show up in another obituary, as the son-in-law of a woman who'd recently passed, so that's a possibility; if he was drafted in 1966, he was probably born around 1948, so he might still be alive. If anyone has more information, please let me know.

Tuesday afternoon features a rare daytime network special, The World of Fashion and Beauty: Italy (1:00 p.m., ABC), a fashion show highlighting the collections of Italy's top designers, with commentary by designer Lore Caulfield. I suppose it's on in the afternoon because, you know, women are the ones watching daytime TV, and that's what they'd be interested in, not "intellectually demanding shows." In the evening, NBC takes us to a different world, to The Angry Voices of Watts (7:30 p.m.), as author Budd Schulberg introduces us to a Watts writers' workshop, where the residents give voice to what it's like living in the infamous ghetto.

I don't know how many of you are familiar with Blue Light, a one-season (17 episodes) WWII espionage drama starring Robert Goulet as David March, an American journalist who's supposedly defected to the Nazis but is actually a double-agent for the U.S. This week's rerun (Wednesday, 8:30 p.m., ABC) presents one of those infinite-regression situations, as the Nazis ask March to pose as an American spy to get the goods on a Nazi admiral suspected of being involved in a plot against Hitler. In other words, he's an American spy posing as a German spy posing as an American spy, investigating a German who may be working for the good guys. This is either brilliant or totally confusing, and perhaps both.

On Thursday, NET's cultural program U.S.A. presents "Art as Religion" (10:00 p.m.), with author Tom Wolfe offering a commentary on U.S. culture. Wolfe's most recent book is The Kandy-Kolored Tangerine-Flake Streamline Baby, and throughout his career he'll be known for casting a sharp, jaundiced eye toward what he saw as pretentiousness in politics, art, architecture, and celebrity. Wolfe has always been a favorite of mine; his opinions are always well worth listening to.

The longer I'm at this gig, the more I realize how little I really know. On Friday, KLOC finishes a week-long (well, four days*, since they debuted on Monday) debut of country-western variety shows in the 6:30 p.m. timeslot: Ernest Tubb on Tuesday, Bill Anderson on Wednesday, Billy Grammer on Thursday, and, today, Midwestern Hayride. Now, I remember seeing Bill Anderson's show back in the days of the World's Worst Town™, but I had no idea it stretched all the way back to the 1960s, and I didn't know anything about these other shows, either. I guess they didn't air in Minneapolis.

*The following Monday saw the premiere of The Porter Wagoner Show, which began in 1960 and aired until 1981, a total of 686 episodes. Those of you of the male persuasion may recall that Dolly Parton was a regular on this show in later years.

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MST3K alert: The Sword and the Dragon
(Russian; 1960) A legendary Russian hero sets out to rescue his wife. Boris Andreyev, Andrei Abrikosov. (Sunday, 5:00 p.m., KGO) This issue has plenty of MST3K wannabees (Queen of Outer Space, with Zsa Zsa Gabor and Eric Fleming), but we'll stick with the real thing. The movie itself is nothing to write home about, but the interstitials include what is probably the greatest-ever Ingmar Bergman joke. Granted, that may not be a huge category, but even so, it's a classic. TV  


  1. Needless to say, a favorite issue of mine! I reviewed it awhile back for the Section, and it is pretty packed for a summer TV Guide of the era. I chose Sullivan over Palace this week too. :)

  2. ...and in two years, all game shows disappear from CBS until September 1972.

  3. Just a bit belatedly:
    Sometime in the '70s, I got to see Larry Storch on stage here in Chicago.
    It was a national tour of Arsenic And Old Lace, with Jean Stapleton and Marion Ross as the dotty old aunts, James Macarthur as Mortimer, Jonathan Frid as Jonathan ...
    ... and Larry Storch as Dr. Einstein, doing Peter Lorre all the way, having a ball.
    As all of us in the Shubert Theatre did that Saturday afternoon - we even got to see the second curtain call (I'll let you look up that reference if you want to).
    I haven't done all that much theatergoing in my life (mainly can't afford it), but that was a great day.

    I also took a look at the Pursue And Destroy pilot, which I note from the ad was supposed to be in color, although the Youtube imbed was in B/W.
    I stuck around for the credits: this was a late entry from Four Star, just before it went under, but they always brought their A-game - written by Ivan Goff and Ben Roberts (in between The Rogues and Mannix), with the surprise Guest Get of all time, Dame Edith Evans (possibly filling a chit for Dick Powell from years before).
    Those definitely were the days ...

    1. Quick followup:
      Just back from Youtube, where I found a TV spot for the Arsenic And Old Lace tour, with Stapleton, Ross, Frid, Storch, and Gary Sandy (who fell ill during the tour and was filled in for by James Macarthur).
      Turns out I had the date wrong.
      It was 1986 - a decade later than I'd thought.
      How time flies when you're getting senescent ...


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!