September 29, 2023

Around the dial

The great David McCallum died this week, aged 90. Although he had a long and successful run on the show NCIS, for many, he'll always be remembered as Illya Kuryakin on The Man From U.N.C.L.E., the man given the seemingly impossible task of humanizing Robert Vaughn—and succeeding. He was, indeed, "ultra-cool," as Terence says in this fond appreciation of his career at A Shroud of Thoughts

In the "same church, different pew" category, we skip to Cult TV Lounge and the much-maligned The Girl From U.N.C.L.E., starring Stefanie Powers and Noel Harrison. In truth, the series had enough highlights that it wasn't a total waste, but it unfortunately arrived on the scene when its partner series was at its nadir, and the franchise build experiment ended after one season.

From spies to cowboys—at Television's New Frontier: the 1960s, we arrive at Gunsmoke in 1962, a year which sees the Western continue to evolve in a one-hour format, adds Burt Reynolds to the cast, and introduces another character that wouldn't become a regular for another year: Festus Haggen, played by Ken Curtis. 

From the definitive Western, we go to the definitive animated space opera, as Mike continues his look at the animated Star Trek with the episode "One of Our Planets is Missing" at The View from the Junkyard. I always did enjoy how it displays such continuity with the original series, and Mike rightly sees it as a continuation of TOS.

I write often about how prominent movies were during the fundamental days of classic television, and what would those days be without the science fiction and fantasy classics helmed by George Pal? Martin Grams reviews a new biography of Pal, George Pal: Man of Tomorrow, writen by Justin Humphreys; if you're a fan of his work, this book is for you.

At Drunk TV, Paul explores the third season of Dennis the Menace, which includes the sudden death of Joseph Kearns, the actor who played Mr. Wilson. What did it mean for the series to lose a character so important to the story? And how does Gale Gordon fare as Mr. Wilson's brother, in what looks to be a test for his future role as Lucille Ball's exasperated foil? Read all about it.

We've spent today mostly in the 1960s, so let's skip ahead a few years, as David continues his Comfort TV journey through 1970s TV with a stop at Saturday nights, 1972. It wasn't always sports and reruns on Saturday, as we see from a list that includes classics such as All in the Family, Mary Tyler Moore, Bob Newhart, Mission: Impossible (all on CBS!), plus Emergency! and The Streets of San Francisco.

Cult TV Blog keeps us in the 1970s, as John kicks off his look at the decade with the corporate-intrigue drama The Organization,  and while you probably haven't heard of it, it was winner of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain Award for Best Television Drama Series in 1973. And by the way, John has a new address for the blog; be sure to make a note of it.

Finally, an interesting piece at the religion site Aleteia on how G.K. Chesterton explains why "prestige television" is boring. Agree or disagree, there are some provocative points to consider here, and some that you've read in comments here in the past. We know that not all classic TV is classic, but today's writers could do a lot worse that to look to the past to see what works. TV  


  1. The Aleteia article is spot on.
    A few years ago I decided not to be a ‘fuddy duddy’ and watch a popular show I had never seen before called “Chicago PD”. Unbeknown to me the show frequently shows police breaking laws themselves to enforce them and violating civil rights. The episode I watched had a white officer roughing up a black suspect and was promptly protected by his white superior (who I assume to be the hero?) by making up a story for the altercation.
    At that point, I turned it off. A few years ago, I turned off “Blue Bloods” for a similar reason.
    In this day and age of frequent reports of police brutality and shooting of unarmed civilians, this is what entertains…who? Many times, you can tell the moral compass of a nation by what entertains them.
    In creating a ‘new normal’ we must be conditioned to accept the morally repugnant.
    I won't.
    I would much rather read a book or pop in a DVD of something that puts me in a good and mellow mood. The Britcom Last of the Summer Wine (sort of the UKs answer to Mayberry) or Hogan's Heroes got me through my sick time this past summer.

  2. Judy Carne was best known as LAUGH-IN's "sock-it-to-me" girl, though Goldie Hawn got her share of water thrown at her too, even once when going back to visit the show after she'd left & starred in "Cactus Flower".


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!