September 9, 2023

This week in TV Guide: September 11, 1965

It's always a good idea to know what you're in for, and in this special issue previewing the new season, the Editors let you know right away: it should be an amusng season. "It won't be packed with entertainment innovations or impressive drama or cultural uplift, but by and large it should be amusing." (That's encouraging, I guess.) They go on; "The trial and error of past seasons apparently has proved to the networks that nighttime hours are most profitably filled with a week-in, week-out schedule of pure escape—comedy and games and vaudeville and adventure and soap opera. As a result, 97 of the new season’s 100 nighttime network programs are escapist; the other three are informational." (Perhaps they meant "weak-in, weak-out.") 

All is not lost, however; we can still look forward to programs that exhibit "high standards of quality and a semblance of balance" to our viewing. Those programs are called "specials," and one wonders if there is some wishful thinking involved in saying that they will "frequently" pre-empt the regular schedules. As always, however, "television will be most satisfying to those who use the on-off knob most discreetly." 

And with that as an introduction, let's dive right in. Just don't say you weren't warned. 

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The Editors, as you could probably tell, weren't exactly, shall we say, enthusiastic about the season's new shows, yet I think you'll agree that several of them have since attained, if not iconic status, a prized place in the classic TV pantheon. (It could, on the other hand, be that we've simply lowered our standards.) I won't say too much about any of them; I think you're probably pretty familiar with them. 

The weekend alone sees the debuts of Get Smart! and I Dream of Jeannie (both Saturdays on NBC) and The FBI (Sundays, ABC). Get Smart! is described as "a cluck-and-dagger series" (was this written by Cleveland Amory?), with deadpan comedian Don Adams as "the compleat secret agent" except for one thing: he's an idiot. Barbara Feldon is part of the group bailing him out. I Dream of Jeannie, meanwhile, stars Barbara Eden as a "dish" of a genie and Larry Hagman as a "poor sap" of an astronaut; since Jeannie "wears the latest in harem fashions, she’s bound to enchant at least part of the audience." Oh, I think she enchanted more than just a part of the audience, and she still does, 58 years later.

The FBI  "applies the melodramatic touch of Quinn Martin" to actual cases from the files of the Bureau, with Efrem Zimbalist Jr. playing stolid G-Man Lewis Erskine. There's also mention of "a running romance—and an accompanying conflict" because Lew Erskine's daughter (Lynn Loring) is in love with Erskine's partner (Steven Brooks), but Erskine doesn't want her marrying an FBI agent. That subplot lasted about nine episodes before everyone figured out love and justice didn't mix. The lack of attention paid to the private lives of the agents is one of the big things that helped this series last for nine seasons. 

Monday sees the debut of Run for Your Life (NBC), with Ben Gazzara as the man suffering from a terminal illness, trying to "cram a full lifetime into a day—or a minute." Tuesday, the standout is ABC's cavalry sitcome F Troop, which only runs two seasons but takes hold in the hearts of many a viewer, including our friend Hal Horn; its stars include Larry Storch and Forrest Tucker as frontier versions of Bilko, and Ken Berry as the helpless commander. Wednesday gives us a quartet of solid hits: The Big Valley (ABC), starring Barbara Stanwyck as the matriarch of a sprawling family; Lost in Space (also CBS), about "an average American family pioneering the frontiers of the future"; Green Acres (CBS), the latest member of the Hooterville universe, with Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor as the farm transplants; and I Spy (NBC), with Robert Culp and Bill Cosby as globe-trotting spies.

On Thursday, CBS premieres their first movie series, the Thursday Night Movies, which promises 30 big-time features throughout the season. (If this week's selection is any indication, they're more than living up to the hype, but you'll find that out below.) If you want to catch the movie, though, you're going to have to pass up the other sterling debut of the night, The Dean Martin Show (NBC), which Dean describes as "the kind of show where a man can take his wife and kids, his father and mother—and sit around a bar and watch." The blurb promotes big name guest stars but "no sketches"; of course, we know that the sketches, with Dean valiantly trying to keep a straight face, become one of the show's highlights. 

Watch Honey West on a new Magnavox; $498.50    
Friday won't be left out in the cold, beginning with CBS's The Wild Wild West; it would be called a "steampunk"  Western today, but back then it was just a lot of fun, with Robert Conrad and Ross Martin. The preview sees Martin as more of a sidekick, a "Gabby Hayes" to Conrad's leading man, but we know that Martin more than held his own throughout four successful seasons. There's also Hogan's Heroes (CBS), "escapist entertainment in more ways than one," with Bob Crane leading his merry bunch of POWs through six seasons. And then there's "television's slinkiest sleuth," Anne Francis as Honey West (ABC); it lasts only one season, but maintains a popular cult following, and goes into the history books as the first American television action series to feature a female lead.

There are a few other shows that merit mention, even though they weren't big hits: The Loner (Saturday, CBS) is a Rod Serling-helmed Western starring Lloyd Bridges; although it too runs for just a single season, it's admired by many today simply because of Serling's reputation. Since it came out on DVD, people have also found out it's pretty good. Trials of O'Brien (Saturday, CBS) is known today as Peter Falk's favorite series of all those he worked on; to my mind, the combination of courtroom drama and domestic humor doesn't really work, but I'll admit I could be wrong about that. Gidget (Wednesday, ABC), stars Sally Field and Don Porter, and just most people agree it just wasn't very good. And then, there's—well, there's My Mother the Car (Tuesday, NBC), which stars Jerry Van Dyke and the voice of Ann Sothern, and remains one of the dumbest ideas ever for a television show. I won't say any more.

So as we look back on everything, there are some pretty successful series debuting this season, shows that to this day have loyal and loving audiences, and have guaranteed their spots in pop culture history. I counted thirteen, not including the honorable mentions; most of them have since come out on DVD, and you can find many of them on YouTube or the Internet Archive as well. I'd think that over the last 40 years or so, networks would have given a lot to have had a season introducing as many popular shows as this.

Of course, there are the also-rans as well, series such as The Wackiest Ship in the Army, The Legend of Jesse James, The John Forsythe Show, A Man Called Shenandoah, The Steve Lawrence Show, Please Don't Eat the Daisies, O.K. Crackerby!, The Long, Hot Summer, Laredo, Mona McCluskey, Tammy, Camp Runamuck, The Smothers Brothers Show (the sitcom, not the variety show), Hank, Mr. Roberts, and Convoy. All of them have their fans, none of them had the ratings to last more than a season or—in the case of Laredo and Daisies—two.

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First Lady Johnson tours D.C.    
on Thanksgiving (ABC)   
Since the Editors made a point of praising the many specials on tap for the season, I guess I ought to spend a couple of paragraphs on these as well. And they're good, too: Julie Andrews and Gene Kelly team up for a special on NBC; Harry Belafonte does one for CBS, and A Charlie Brown Christmas makes its premiere in December on CBS. Carol Channing (CBS), and Sammy Davis (ABC) host variety hours; Jack Benny, Danny Thomas, Perry Como, and Bob Hope have their regular specials on NBC; Mary Martin returns with Peter Pan, also on NBC; and Andy Griffith hangs out with Jim Nabors and Don Knotts in a CBS special

On the cultural front, Sir John Gielgud performes selections from Shakespeare on Ages of Man for CBS; NBC Children's Theatre presents "Stuart Little" (narriated by Johnny Carson) and others; the United Nations series (Carol for Another Christmas, The Poppy is Also a Flower) returns with two more ponderous dramas on ABC; and Hallmark Hall of Fame boasts six programs for NBC. Peter Ustinov plays the voice of Michelangelo in a two-part special narrated by Jose Ferrer (NBC), and Dick Van Dyke hosts the late Stan Laurel on CBS. 

We're also promised space shots and news specials on all three networks, parades on Thanksgiving and New Year's Day, the Ringling Bros. Circus on NBC, awards shows, and beauty pageants. On the sports front, NBC televises football from the colleges and the AFL, plus the World Series; CBS has the NFL, the Masters golf tournament, and the Triple Crown horse races; ABC has the U.S. Open and PGA golf championships, plus games of the week for major league baseball and the NBA. They all sound special to my way of thinking.

And by the way, if you enjoy these highlights of the fall season, you'll want to tune in again on Wednesday, when I'll have a special insert from this week's issue!

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Meanwhile, time and tide and television wait for no one, so while we're talking about what's upcoming, let's not forget to watch what's on right now.

I'm blowing off the usual "Sullivan vs. The Palace" feature this week for two reasons: first, The Hollywood Palace is a rerun, with Roy Rogers and Dale Evans hosting, and we already looked at that episode here. More important, however, is the headliner for Ed's 18th season opener: The Beatles.

It is the fifth and final "live" performance by the Fab Four on Sullivan, although it was taped on August 14 for airing on this date;* hence, the precise details on their playlist. Interestingly, the Beatles don't kick off the show; they're the fourth act on the bill, following Soupy Sales, Cilla Black, and Fantasio. They perform "I Feel Fine", "I'm Down", and "Act Naturally" in their first set, and then close the show with "Ticket to Ride", "Yesterday", and "Help!"   

*The Beatles were in New York for their legendary Shea Stadium concert on August 15, so their apperance was worked around this schedule. The Sullivan show was usually aired live; I've read contradictory accounts as to whether this particular show was taped in its entirety on August 14, or only the Beatles segment, which was then integrated into the live broadcast. A close look at the way Ed's pocket handkerchief is folded suggests it could have been the former, but maybe Ed just left his hanky in the suit for a month. You can watch the entire show here and make up your own mind.

The show garners Ed a 60 share of the audience. It's also the last black-and-white episode; from  next week on, the show will be broadcast in color. Too bad the studio wasn't ready for that in August.

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Barbra Streisand with her Emmy    
for "My Name is Barbra." It was   
close, though: she won by a nose.   
Sunday turns out to be a big start to the new season; following Sullivan and the Beatles, it's the 17th annual Emmy Awards (10:00 p.m., ABC on tape delay), hosted by Sammy Davis Jr. at the Hilton Hotel in New York, and Danny Thomas at the Hollywood Palladium. This year, the Academy is rolling out a new format for the show; "the categories have been boiled down to four, and the word 'excellence' has replaced 'best,' so that more than one nominee in each category—or none—may get the Academy's nod. The categories: Outstanding Program Achievements in Entertainment; Outstanding Individual Achievements in Entertainment; Outstanding Program Achievements in News, Documentaries, Information and Sports; and Outstanding Individual Achievements in News, Documentaries, Information and Sports." 

In the event, only eleven awards are handed out, covering just five different programs. The big winner is NBC's Hallmark Hall of Fame, with three wins for "The Magnificent Yankee" (not Babe Ruth or Mickey Mantle, but United States Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes), including "Outstanding Program Achievements—" ah, hell, I'm still calling it "Best Show"—along with Alfred Lunt as Best Actor, and Lynn Fontanne as Best Actress. This new format is used only this year; next year's Emmys go back to the old way, which has been used ever since. 

By the way, NBC led with 21 nominations, followed by CBS with 14. ABC garners exactly two.

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Merv Griffin was never one to shy away from controversy (as CBS finds to its dismay during his brief tenure with the network), and on Friday, his syndicated show welcomes one of the most controversial literary figures in the country, poet and playwright LeRoi Jones. (11:20 p.m., KSBW in Salinas) You can see a clip from the interview here

Jones, one of the leaders of the black liberation movement. Jones, who will later change his name to Amiri Baraka, is one of the leaders of the black liberation movement, has spoken out against Dr. Martin Luther King's anti-violence campaign, and has been accused of, variously, anti-Semitism, anti-white racism, armed resistance, and advocating rape; if that doesn't quality as controversial, I'm not sure what does. Merv's other guests include musical-comedy performer David Burns, Boston columnist George Frazier, comic George Carlin, and singers Fleury D‘Antonakis and Johnny Desmond, and that's about as eclectic a combination of guests as you can get. If I'm not mistaken, in the clip you'll see Frazier sitting behind the desk with Merv; he had been an influential jazz columnist for the Boston Herald, while Jones, in 1963, had written Blues People: Negro Music in White America. Meanwhile, Carlin was one of the best-known countercultural comedians in the business. so there's some synergy in the guest lineup; I would have enjoyed seeing them all sitting on the couch together. 

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    Warren McVea in the Astrodome
The rest of the week's fun begins Saturday with the season kickoff of NBC's college football Game of the Week (10:45 a.m. PT), as Tulsa takes on Houston in the historic first football game ever played in Houston's "Harris County Domed Stadium," known to one and all as the Astrodome.* Although the listing doesn't mention this, the game is significant for one additional reason; Houston's Warren McVea becomes the first black player in the university's history. He'll be with them next season as well, when Houston plays Washington State in the first football game ever played on artificial turf. TV Guide refers to previous games between the two teams as being "high-scoring," but Tulsa comes out on top in this one, 14-0.

*Not the first indoor college football game, though, nor even the first one televised, as we saw here.

Sunday, like Saturday, starts off with sports: the American Football League opens its sixth season (and first on NBC) with the New York Jets visiting the Oilers in Houston (11:00 a.m.) Note that this game is not played in the Astrodome, but at Rice Stadium; the Oilers wouldn't move into the Dome until the following season. Meanwhile, the U.S. National Tennis Championships finish up at Forest Hills, New York (2:00 p.m., ABC), with Spain's Manuel Santana defeating Cliff Drysdale of South Africa to win the men's championship; Margaret Smith beats Billie Jean Moffitt to win the women's title. It's not called the U.S. Open yet, since professional players aren't allowed to compete.  

Monday, the new-look 12 O'clock High debuts, as Paul Burke takes over the lead from Robert Lansing when General Savage's plane is shot down. (7:30 p.m., ABC) Don't get me wrong; I like Paul Burke a lot, and he was excellent in Naked City, but Quinn Martin never should have replaced Robert Lansing. Elsewhere, the new season of Hullabaloo opens with Sammy Davis Jr., fresh from the Emmys, hosting; the guests are Sonny and Cher, The Supremes, the Lovin' Spoonful, and the Strangeloves. (7:30 p.m., NBC)

Speaking of format changes, it's not just 12 O'clock High; the fourth-season opener of McHale's Navy (Tuesday, 8:30 p.m., ABC) sees McHale and his entire crew (including Fuji) transfered to southern Italy, along with Binghamton and Carpenter. I've never been sure just how plausible this would have been, and besides: I thought the Americans wanted to win in Europe. But maybe I'm overthinking this; perhaps I should learn how to watch TV. For a more realistic view of warfare, the Korean War drama The Bridges at Toki-Ri, starring William Holden and Grace Kelly, makes its television debut on NBC's Tuesday Night at the Movies. (9:00 p.m.)

Among Wednesday's debuts, The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet begins its 14th season, and its first in color. (7:30 p.m., ABC) Compared to them, returning hits like The Beverly Hillbillies (fourth season), The Virginian (also fourth), and The Dick Van Dyke Show (fifth season) look like pikers. And here's another series that found out a format change doesn't necessarily mean an improvement, either in quality or ratings: Burke's Law is now Amos Burke, Secret Agent. (10:00 p.m., ABC) No Detective Tilson. No Detective Hart. No Henry, the chauffeur. No charm. No fourth season.

Here's a change that worked! My Three Sons starts its sixth season on a new network, CBS, after five seasons on ABC. (Thursday, 8:30 p.m.) It will remain on CBS for seven seasons, until it goes off the air in 1972 after a run of 12 years. And just to show that the Tiffany Network is serious about making tonight special, My Three Sons is followed by the debut of the CBS Thursday Night Movie and the TV debut of one of the greatest political thrillers ever: The Manchurian Candidate. (9:00 p.m.) Frank Sinatra stars, in what I think is his finest role, along with Angela Lansbury, Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh, and James Gregory. 

On Friday, it's The Man from U.N.C.L.E.'s turn to turn to color. as Rip Torn stars in part one of the second-season opener "The Alexander the Greater Affair." (10:00 p.m., NBC) This is, I think, U.N.C.L.E.'s best season, but its successful first season, with its cheeky combination of spy thriller and satire, has already influenced other shows—including, unfortunately, Burke's Law. And on the late night schedule, it's the 1959 movie The Wasp Woman (11:20 p.m., KSBW). "Janice Starlin’s beauty treatments are made up of wasp enzymes—but they have unexpected effects." Susan Cabot and Anthony Eisley star, and if this movie sounds like it belongs on MST3K, you're almost right: it was riffed on Cinematic Titanic, Joel Hodgson's successor to MST3K, which featured many of the show's original performers. And speaking of MST3K. . . 
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MST3K alert: It Conquered the World
(1956) A scientist discovers that one of his associates is helping some beings from outer space to conquer the Earth. Peter Graves, Beverly Garland, Lee Van Cleef. (Saturday, 5:30 p.m., KSBW). "He learned almost too late that man is a feeling creature… and, because of it, the greatest in the universe. He learned too late for himself that men have to find their own way, to make their own mistakes. There can't be any gift of perfection from outside ourselves. And when men seek such perfection… they find only death… fire… loss… disillusionment… the end of everything that's gone forward. Men have always sought an end to the toil and misery, but it can't be given, it has to be achieved. There is hope, but it has to come from inside — from man himself." TV  


  1. I wish The FBI was streaming somewhere. I'd love to see it again.

  2. I would beg to differ with prevailing opinion on 'Gidget.' Sally Field was spunky and adorable and Don Porter was wonderful as her understanding father. Viewers found the show in summer reruns after it had sadly been canceled, which was doubly sad for Sally as she left the beach for a convent in The Flying Nun.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!