September 23, 2023

This week in TV Guide: September 26, 1970

Occasionally I'll run across people talking about how, back in the "good old days" (i.e. unlike today), the news on TV was just that—news, without any bias, given by real newscasters without a partisan angle. Now, there's something to this; I think the newscasters of the past—Cronkite, Huntley and Brinkley, Smith, Reynolds, Reasoner—were men of gravitas who presented the news with a seriousness and, dare I say, dignity, that dwarfs what we see on television today. I have great respect for them; sometimes I'll go on YouTube and watch an old newscast from the 1960s or '70s just to see how things used to be.

But when it comes to bias, let's be honest: claims of bias in news reporting go way back, even beyond those good old days to the very beginning of television. And as we enter the decade of the Seventies, the clamor and discontent with TV newsmen is in full swing, articulated by Vice President Spiro Agnew's attacks on the "nattering nabobs of negativism," the influential journalists who "espouse a liberal or anti-Establishment breed of politics and display that bias in their reporting." Seldom, he complains, are the conservative viewpoints represented or even honestly explained.

And so we come to this week's lead story by Max Gunther looking at media coverage of one particular aspect of the race riots in Asbury Park, New Jersey on July 7-8, 1970. The fulcrum around which this story centers is reporter Dell Wade, covering the riots for WABC in New York. Appearing with his head bandaged and face bruised, Wade went on to tell of police firing shots into black crowds, using clubs to keep people away, and in one case, "pushing a man through a plate glass window." When he tried to report on this violence, he said, he was beaten by police and arrested. Their purpose, Wade believes, was to prevent him from "trying to tell it like it was."

"Maybe the story was true," Gunther writes. "On the other hand, maybe it wasn't. A doubt exists, and its existence illustrates some prickly and so far intractable problems facint the TV news business in this nervous age." 

In the wake of Wade's reporting, residents of Asbury Park flooded newspapers and television stations with complaints about coverage of the riot, protesting "erroneous information, slanted editing, leading questions, inflammatory comments." Police officials, led by chief Thomas S. Smith (himself a black officer) agreed with the comments. "It seems to me the news media should try to be constructive in a situation like this," he tells Gunther. "Help cool things off, not get everyobody heated up stil worse." While he wouldn't comment further on the situation, he gave Gunther carte blanche to talk with his officers on the spot, without time for them to prepare or coordinate any comments. And while their stories—at first—parallel Wade's account, the two versions soon diverge "so sharply that it's hard to believe you're hearing about the same episode." 

In contrast to Wade's accusations of police brutality, the officers single out Wade as the sole reporter on the scene who refused to stay behind the line set up for media reporters; says Special Officer Patrick Barrett, "[T]here was this guy with his tape recorder—no helmet, no protection. State police lieutenant tells me, 'Get that guy out of here while he's still alive!'" Barrett moved Wade back to where the other reporters were stationed, "But a while later I see him out there again!" This version is backed up by one newspaperman who says that "Wade was distinctly out of line. He didn't need to go prancing iup there 10 feet from the kids. I could see everything perfectly from where I was, behind the police line." 

Wade tells Gunther the police "started firing. I didn't actually see anybody hit, but I did see that the police were shooting level—I mean, not into the air. Shooting level. And I saw one cop push a man through a plate-glass window with a baton at his throat." According to Patrolman Charles Rockhill, however, "There was a kind of hush, you know? Both sides waiting to see what was going to happen. And then I heard this man Wade shouting into his tape recorder, 'They're shooting people! They just pushed a man through a plate-glass window1' Nothing of the kind was happening." Adds Barrett, "The crowd was falling back. We didn't need to use violence." And Asbury Park Evening Press reporter Raymond Tuers notes, "I've never known Pat Barrett to lie to me." There were protesters treated for gunshot wounds following the riot. But a doctor at Jersey Shore Medical Center says "most of the wounds were small—like birdshot, not police bullets." And many in the group were themselves carrying guns. There are further discrepencies throughout the stories, including Wade's treatment at the police station.

Wade, a reporter with excellent credentials, insists, "I'm a trained observer. I don't report what I don't see." Special Officer Barret says, "My post takes in the black district. I like the people there and they like me. Why would I be shooting them? Why would I cover up if I saw anybody else pushing them around?"

    Scenes from Asbury Park
What to make of it all? Writes Gunther, "Only three conclusions are possible, and each is unpleasant in its own peculiar way." One, the police are lying, or "recalling the events inaccurately." Two, Wade is lying, or "gripped by hysteria, simply didn't see what he imagined he saw." Or three, both Wade and the police are telling the story inaccurately. "This conclusion may be twice as bad as either of the others." Whatever conclusion you come to, Gunther concludes, "it can't conceivably make you content."

Covering breaking news stories such as a riot is never an easy thing. Having witnessed the reporting first-hand during the 2020 riots in my former home (those, like the one in Asbury Park, were race-based), I heard a great deal of criticism that news reporters were shading the news, presenting an inaccurate version of events (particularly when it came to the killing of George Floyd), ignoring the violence that continued in the aftermath of events. I also read the reports of the police brutalizing citizens, using excessive violence, and targeting people based on their race. Leaving aside the specific events in the Floyd case, I've read plausible stories supporting critics of the police, and other stories supporting critics of the media. 

One of the problems we have today, in a society that has lost trust in virtually every institution, is that when that trust is gone, it isn't easy to tell who's telling the truth. There is, in fact, a tendency to assume what Gunther called option three, that everyone is lying about some aspect of the story. But, as we see here, this isn't something new, something that's just started in the last few years. It may be more pronounced today, but it has, in fact, been around forever.

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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. 

One sure sign of fall, in addition to the turning of the leaves, is the return of Cleveland Amory to the pages of TV Guide, What new, exciting program will he have in his sights this week? One of the breakout shows of the new season? A returning series with a retooled format? 

Or maybe a once-a-month newsmagazine?

If you're feeling a bit let-down, don't be. We all know our Cleve is a sucker for thoughtful, intelligent programming, and NBC's First Tuesday certainly fits the bill. Hosted by veteran newsman Sander Vanocur, First Tuesday is a two-hour, once-a-month examination of news features big and small—not just the stories we know about, but the stories we ought to know more about. There was, for instance, a story about baton twirling, and while that might seem trite on the surface, it morphed into what Amory calls "a truly powerful expose of an awful mother-daughter push." He also praises Tom Pettit's report on chemical and biological warfare, "The Secrets of Secrecy," done without the cooperation of the Department of Defense, which was "a sterling example of TV reporting at its all-too-rare in[depth and investigative best"—think of what a reporter like Pettit might have been able to come up with in Wuhan, if news outlets still adhered to reporting instead of partisan shilling. A later feature on an increasing Soviet presence in the Middle East included a memorable interview with Israeli prime minister Golda Meir, who was asked if U.S. policy in the Middle East had encouraged a deeper Russian involvement. "Let me put it more kindly," she replied. "It hasn't discouraged them."

Remember that First Tuesday aired in an era when 60 Minutes had yet to become an institution; in fact, Mike Wallace and Harry Reasoner weren't even on every week back then, only every other Tuesday, meaning that once a month First Tuesday and 60 Minutes opposed each other for an hour. Just think: NBC's quixotic effort to mount a successful clone of 60 Minutes went through no less than fifteen failed attempts prior to landing on Dateline NBC. And here they'd had it all along, if only they'd stuck to it. 

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ABC has a lot of ad space in this week's issue, touting its new fall lineup. When I see this kind of advertising, I usually think one of two things: either these programs are really good, or they need all the help they can get. Which is it this time? I'll let you be the judge.

The lineup on Saturday is a bit misleading, insofar as ABC is sticking with it's tried-and-true favorites: Let's Make a Deal at 7:30 p.m. and The Dating Game at 8:00 p.m., followed by The Lawrence Welk Show at 8:30 p.m. Its only new Saturday offering, The Most Deadly Game, doesn't premiere until October, possibly because of the need to recast Inger Stevens' role after she committed suicide following the pilot; the role goes to Yvette Mimieux. Its timeslot tonight is filled by a comedy-variety special, "Howdy," hosted by Ferlin Husky, with guest stars Glenn Ford, Pat Buttram, Nanette Fabray, and Terry-Thomas. (9:30 p.m.)

night starts off with The Young Rebels (7:00 p.m.), a Revolutionary War drama that tries—and fails—to show that today's kids are really no different from their predecessors, willing to fight for what they believe in. As we'll see tomorrow night, it's not the only show on the network to emphasize the word Young. How did it do? Well, it's up against Lassie and The Wonderful World of Disney, if that gives you any ideas. (15 episodes) That's paired with the only other returning shows to get the ad treatment: The FBI (8:00 p.m.), starting its sixth season, and The ABC Sunday Night Movie (9:00 p.m.), this week presenting Hurry Sundown, starring Michael Caine, Jane Fonda, and Diahann Carroll. Despite the big-name cast, Judith Crist pans it as "unadulterated tastelessness," and for good measure adds that it has "idiot plotting and [a] patronizing approach to blacks." 

Monday it's a double-dose of new programming, beginning at 7:30 p.m. with The Young Lawyers, with Lee J. Cobb mentoring a group of, well, young lawyers—no, make that idealistic young lawyers—including Zalman King, who tonight defends a young man currently serving time for murder-two as the result of a plea bargain; he insists he's innocent. (24 episodes) That's followed by The Silent Force, starring Ed Nelson as the leader of a undercover government team fighting against the mob. He's aided by Percy Rodriguez and Lynda Day; Day will receive a promotion next season, as she moves over to Mission: Impossible. (15 episodes)

On Tuesday, we get a full-page layout for the Movie of the Week, Night Slaves (8:30 p.m.), starring James Franciscus, Leslie Nielsen, and Lee Grant. It's a science-fiction thriller with Franciscus as a man who, one night, witnesses various townsfolk, including his wife, boarding trucks to leave town; the next morning, they're back, with no memory of it ever happening. Sounds suspicious, but then Franciscus is recovering after an auto accident that left him with a metal plate in his head—can we believe what he thinks he saw? 

starts off with a new show that's not really new; it's Danny Thomas in the revival of Make Room for Daddy, only now he's Granddaddy. (8:00 p.m.) Marjorie Lord and Rusty Hamer are back, and Angela Cartwright makes an appearance in the first episode. The only thing that doesn't come back are the viewers, even with big-name guest stars, such as tonight's guest, Sammy Davis Jr.* (24 episodes) Later, Burt Reynolds stars in the crime drama Dan August (10:00 p.m.), a rare misfire from Quinn Martin. Later, Reynolds would memorably say, "I swore I'd never play a cop on TV because you can't make jokes or have a broad. You wind up loving your car a lot. I was halfway out the door when Quinn said the magic words–$15,000 a week." (24 episodes)

*Sammy also guest-stars as himself on Monday's Here's Lucy, on opposite The Silent Force.

Thursday gives us another example of a returning star in a new vehicle: Vince Edwards as the "community psychiatrist" Matt Lincoln* (7:30 p.m.), who tonight tries to prevent killer Martin Sheen from killing again. Sheen's character is named Charlie—after his son, perhaps? I'd hate to think he'd name his son after this kind of character. (16 episodes) At 9:00 p.m., it's back-to-back Neil Simon adaptations, beginning with Barefoot in the Park, starring Scoey Mitchell and Tracy Reed playing the roles made famous by Robert Redford and Jane Fonda. (12 episodes) That's followed by another of Simon's hits, The Odd Couple, with Jack Klugman and Tony Randall taking over for Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon. As opposed to some of ABC's other offerings, this one pays dividends for both the network and audiences. (114 episodes)

*As Matt Lincoln was championing a new and relevant kind of psychiatry, perhaps it should have been named The Jung Rebels.

Come Friday, and it's time for ABC to pair the returning Brady Bunch with The Partridge Family (8:30 p.m.), starring Shirley Jones, David Cassidy, Susan Dey, Suzanne Crough, Jeremy Gelbwaks, and Danny Bonaduce—oh, and Dave Madden, who keeps things from getting too sugary. Tonight Harry Morgan plays the heavy, which must have been a nice change from being Jack Webb's sidekick on Dragnet. (96 episodes, eight albums)

There's one other new series I forgot to mention earlier, one that's had a fair amount of success. It's called Monday Night Football, and this week it's the second-ever MNF game, featuring the defending Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs and the Baltimore Colts. (9:00 p.m.) The Chiefs win the game, 44-24; the Colts, however, wind up winning the Super Bowl. (719 episodes—er, games—and counting)

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I don't want you to have the wrong impression here; there are some non-ABC programs worth mentioning this week. 

Personally, I think ABC could have left The Hollywood Palace on Saturday night; it couldn't have underperformed any more than The Most Deadly Game. It also gives me one more easy mark each week, when I can compare it to Ed Sullivan. But while Palace is no more, Ed is still hanging in there for one more season, and on Sunday (8:00 p.m., CBS) he presents highlights from the Holiday on Ice Revue, a competitor to ice shows like the Ice Capades and Ice Follies. As a bonus, he also has performances from Bobby Vinton, Karen Syman, and the Rare Earth rock group. I'm not sure, but I think I'd probably go with Palace no matter what the lineup might have been.

OK, one more ABC mention: on Monday night following the football game, Dick Cavett welcomes author Norman Mailer as his only guest for the entire 90 minutes (12:15 a.m., time approximate). The controversial Mailer is scheduled to discuss his reasons for quitting politics (he ran for mayor of New York City in 1969); his new book Of a Fire on the Moon, about the Apollo 11 mission; and his recent movie Maidstone, about a film director who runs for president.

The Men from Shiloh, which we all knew and loved as The Virginian before it changed its name for its final season, features a rare television appearance by Janet Leigh as the Virginian's old flame, who's being threatened by three mysterious men. (Wednesday, 7:30 p.m., NBC) 

Kraft Music Hall
presents another in its occasional series of Friars Club roasts on Wednesday (9:00 p.m., NBC), with Don Rickles in the role of the victim. Those on the dais make up an odd collection: Johnny Carson, Milton Berle, and Henny Youngman, but also George C. Scott, Dick Cavett, and Chet Huntley (!). If you've not seen the Friars Club roasts before, they're the model for the popular Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts, although the Friars, in their unedited formats, could get a bit more, well, adult

Joseph Campanella turns in a "powerful" performance as a heroin addict on Ironside (Thursday, 8:30 p.m., NBC), with Ironside trying to nurse his old friend through withrdawal when the men are isolated in a mountain cabin by a heavy snowfall. Also on Thursday, it's the network premiere of the movie Butterfield 8 (9:00 p.m., CBS), which won Elizabeth Taylor her 1960 Best Actress Oscar. It's a movie with "a certain nostalgia for those interested n our changing mores" according to Judith Crist, who added that when it was made it was considered a "lingerie meller." 

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This week's cover story is a profile of Michael Constantine, the beleagered principal Seymour Kaufman on ABC's Room 222, and a man with no illusions about his fame within the Greek community, a community which includes such luminaries as Telly Savalas, Christopher George, George Maharis, and Melina Mercouri. "Greek people couldn't care less what kind of parts I play," Constantine says. "All they care about is that they can look at our show and bask in the refledtion of a good Greek face on the screen."

He's proud of his Greek upbringing, having grown up in a home where everyone spoke Greek and he didn't speak a word of English until he was seven. (He can still read and write in the language.) Although he loved being Greek, he hated being patronized for being different. He still hates it, but he doesn't let it define him; "Nobody makes me feel inferior without my permission," he recalls hearing and old black woman say. "And that's how I feel."

Constantine honed his acting chops in New York, working in off-Broadway shows and the occasional TV drama, but found Hollywood more profitable. "I"d fly out to do an Untouchables or a Fugitive and they'd pay me twice as much as I got in New York doing Defenders or Naked City. 'What am I doing in New York?' I finally asked myself. 'What am I proving, how artsy-craftsy I am?' The next time I went to Hollywood I stayed, and nothing wil get me back." There are other benefits to working on the West Coast as well; "An actor in New York is treated like contemptible dirt—humiliated by receptionists, made to feel worthless by producers, made to feel desperately grateful for crumbs. Contrary to legend, in Hollywood they treat actors like human beings." 

So Michael Constantine is living the good life, with his wife and two children. When he's not on Room 222, he's at Theater East, an L.A. workshop for actors. He studies photography, reads, and enjoys the sun. His colleagues love him; "The show spins around him," says producer Gene Reynolds, "and he holds it all together." Co-stars Lloyd Haynes and Denise Nicholas are great admirers. And every once in a while, he gets to head back to his home town of Reading, Pennsylvania, where he found himself invited to a Greek wedding. "I sang, I danced, I had a ball," he says. "It was sublimely, soul-nourishingly Greek."

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MST3K alert: San Francisco International 
(Made-for-TV, 1970) This TV-movie, filmed on location, previews one part of the new "Four in One" series. Like the movies "Airport" and "The V.I.P.s," this behind-the scenes airport drama is jam-packed with plot angles: a plan to rob $3,000,000; a kidnapping; a marriage near collapse. Pernell Roberts, Clu Gulager, Tab Hunter. (Tuesday, 9:00 p.m., NBC) It isn't often that we see a riffed movie during its network run, but this effort deserves it. And while Pernell Roberts is the putative star of this pilot, he'll be replaced by Lloyd Bridges when the series begins. Including tonight's movie, there are seven episodes in total, beginning at the end of October. According to Wikipedia, the MST3K airing "rescued" the movie from obscurity. A double-edged sword, if you ask me. TV  


  1. Charlie Sheen, born Carlos Estevez, turned 5 years old the month before this MATT LINCOLN episode, so he wasn't named for his dad's character here, though I suppose the character could've been named for him.

    That PARTRIDGE FAMILY episode, the 2nd of the series, also featured a brief early appearance by Farrah Fawcett, whom Danny hired w/ Reuben's money, to trick Harry Morgan's character (unsuccessfully). Harry Morgan made another PARTRIDGE appearance late in S2.

    Since you mentioned Michael Constantine going to a Greek wedding, I'm surprised you didn't mention probably his most famous late career role as Toula's dad in "My Big Fat Greek Wedding". He continued the role into the brief sitcom (for which the movie was meant to be the pilot) MY BIG FAT GREEK LIFE.

  2. Like you Michell I’m old enough to remember the turbulent 1960s and Civil Rights movement. Every night the news would show what was going on down South. I remember the chief response to this was: ‘well, it’s fault of the news media for giving it attention!’ Mainly television.
    We forget how much television changed the world. Prior to it coming the rest of the country would never have seen, with their eyes, what was happening.
    Their cameras were the cell phones of the day. SEEING it unfold, made all the difference. Especially in Vietnam.
    Fifty-two years later, we hear the same, EXACT complaint.
    “It’s the MEDIA!” (cue the sinister music).
    The word (according to used in its proper context is defined as “any means of communication, such as radio and television, newspapers, magazines, and the Internet, that reach or influence people widely.”
    So, a word that simply means communication, now has a sinister undertone to it every time it’s mentioned. The endless harping about this evil unseen entity known as the “media” has had the opposite effect.
    It’s now a meaningless word.
    I admit 've never been a fan of broadcast or Cable news (BTW, two weeks in the hospital with nothing but Cable to watch really cemented this home). Maybe it's because I worked in a newspaper for 8 years that I prefer printed news.
    Lately I've been re-watching Lou Grant on YouTube. It really encapsulated an era now long gone. I realize it was a romanticized view of newspapering (having worked in a real one). I would love to see that time again. Reporters doing their jobs which is enshrined in the Constitution. Asking the hard questions to leaders and protecting the rights, even of people who demonize them.
    They defend our freedom without a gun.

    1. Lou Grant. is a top five show for me. Their insistence on accuracy, objectivity and fairness is sorely needed now.

      And Mitchell - "As Matt Lincoln was championing a new and relevant kind of psychiatry, perhaps it should have been named The Jung Rebels." -- oh, how I wish I thought of that in my '70s journey pieces. Props to you, sir.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!