October 30, 2023

What's on TV? Saturday, October 29, 1966

Interesting show on N.E.T. Journal at 6:00 p.m. on "The Vanishing Newspaper," which reminds us that the trouble faced by print journalism is nothing new. Strikes were the major factor in the 1960s, causing some papers to merge and others to fold altogether, but there was also the growing impact of television news, and the understanding that newspapers could never compete on TV's ability to bring you the sights and sounds as they happened, and that papers would have to give you the "rest of the story." According to this program, other factors include accusations that metropolitan dailies ignored market changes, abdicated certain responsibilities, and sacrificed integrity; small papers, in the meantime, act as little more than advertising media, concentrate almost exclusively on local news, and ignore world news and editorials. (Part to of this two-part report airs on Monday.) Could the critics back in 1966 have predicted how much worse things would look in the newspaper business today? I wonder? This week's issue is from Northern California.

October 28, 2023

This week in TV Guide: October 29, 1966

We've read so many articles in the pages of TV Guide about the future of pay-TV, it's hard to keep track of them. It always seems to be just over the horizon, waiting for whatever it is that is sure to unlock its potential. And now, in this week's As We See It, we learn that pay television is dead.

The editors take no pleasure in writing this, for it's clear that commercial, over-the-air television could use some competition to force it to provide a greater variety of programming, and pay-TV has always promised big movies, sporting events, and cultural fare. But it's been tried, over the years, in city after city, and in each and every case it has failed. It became evident, say the editors, that pay-TV viewers weren't interested in "but movies and the most important sporting events" 

After all, educational television now answers the call for lectures, symphonies, and cultural programming. Furthermore, "[n]o one needs a pay-television system for sports any more. There may be a couple of big events a year that aren’t on free television." And as for movies, "ABC and CBS have just contracted for another $92.3 million worth of them. That just about clears the vaults of movies that haven’t been offered to free television." The conclusion: "There may have been a reason for pay television once, but not now. It’s all over."

We have to make some allowances here for the idea that pay-TV often was used to describe what would later be referred to as pay-per-view. And if you want to limit it to that, then the editors were mostly right; more on that in a minute. If, however, you take the term "pay-TV" literally—as in "TV you pay to watch"—then the editors were way off the mark. Pay-TV, not only in the form of HBO but in cable (and later streaming) packages, has come to define television—so much so that free television came to be seen as an anachronism. "Prestige television" was almost exclusively seen on services we paid to watch, cable and streaming shows dominated the Emmys, and every time we turned around, another studio was starting up its own streaming service. And as for public television answering the call for cultural and educational programming—that was a laugh.

Now, however, things have changed again, leaving television in a state of what could charitably be called "flux." Cable-TV is on the verge (so we're told) of total collapse, while streaming hasn't taken off as predicted. And while many people still watch their local stations via antennas, "FAST" (Free Ad-Supported Television) services such as Pluto, Roku, Tubi, Xumo, and the like are what many people mean when they talk about free television.  

Which brings us back to that pay-per-view discussion I started a couple of paragraphs ago. Contrary to what the editors thought, PPV did survive, but it was—and continues to be—driven mostly by sports. Many media analysts say that many of those who continue to subscribe to cable TV do so in order to watch sports. Streamers, from Amazon to Apple to WB-Discovery, look to sports to add the value they need to continue. Virtually all of the top 100 programs on television the past season were sports, mostly football. Sports is the only type of programming that is consumed live anymore; virtually everything else is on-demand, a term that would have utterly thrown the editors back in 1966. I'm watching a football game right now as I write this.

"No one needs a pay-television system for sports any more," the editors wrote. And yet today the only league that continues to broadcast the majority of its games on free television is the NFL. The college football playoffs are on cable. The World Series may be on Fox, but the majority of playoff games are not; neither are those in hockey and basketball, and college basketball's Final Four is on cable every other year. It's almost easier to list the major sporting events that aren't on pay-TV. (Well, that might be an exaggeration, but only slightly.)

The whole thing is kind of hard to summarize. The editors were way off-the-mark in predicting that pay-TV was dead. They were, kind-of, correct in thinking that pay-per-view wasn't the answer. And they were absolutely right in their assessment that sports would drive pay-TV, although they were wrong in thinking that major sporting events wouldn't migrate to pay-TV. It's easy to see that, almost 60 years later. Nowadays, you'd be a fool to predict what the television landscape will look like 60 days from now.   

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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 are George Jessel; rock 'n' rollers James Brown and Nancy Sinatra; "singing" grandmother Elva Miller; comedians Arthur Hynes and Rich Little; and the tumbling Rudas Dancers.

Palace: Herb Alpert and the Tijuana Brass host this week, with comedian Shelley Berman; French vocalist Gilbert Becaud; the rock ‘n’ rolling Supremes; Ullett and Hendra, comedy team; the Sorreletis, musical-comedy quartet; and the Santos, low-wire act.

I'm not positive, but this could be the only time we ever see James Brown and Nancy Sinatra mentioned in the same sentence as performers in the same genre. I just never thought of them that way; no imagination, I guess. Anyway, when you have hosts like Herb Alpert and the TJB, you can bet they're going to be the featured act of the night, and such is the case, as they perform their hits, including "The Lonely Bull," "Zorba the Greek," "Mame," "Spanish Flea," "Whipped Cream," "A Taste of Honey," and "The Mexican Shuffle Work Song." No one else on either show can match that, and when you throw in the Supremes, singing "Somewhere" and "Keep Me Hanging On," that pretty much settles things. This week, Palace hits the high notes.

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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. 

The Time Tunnel, ABC's new sci-fi adventure series, aims to take us back to the Good Old Days, says Cleveland Amory. "You remember those carefree happy times—Dunkirk, Appomattox, Valley Forge . . ." And Cleve really liked—well, the first scene of the very first episode was terrific. We got to see a U.S. senator whisked from the desert to a huge underground lab where 12,000 people, including Whit Bissell, John Zaremba, and Lee Meriwether are spending billions to send man into time. And to prove how important this secret project is, scientist Tony Newman (James Darren) dashes into the time tunnel before it's even known how to bring him back!

In that first episode, Tony finds himself on the deck of the Titanic, trying futilely to warn Captain Smith of the ship's impending disaster. It doesn't work, of course; these things never work in time travel stories. The scientists back at the other end of the tunnel send Tony's partner Doug Phillips (Robert Colbert) back after him, but even with a copy of the newspaper showing what happened, they're powerless to prevent it. They are able to escape before going down with the ship, though, and soon they find themselves in Honolulu, at the Japanese consulate, on December 6, 1941. You can see where this is going, can't you? Of course, they aren't able to change this any more than they were the Titanic. Obviously, they haven't read the documentation that states time travelers can't change history.

It's no wonder that Cleve finds The Time Tunnel "one of the most annoying shows we've seen." The gimmickry and photography are inventive, but the acting is "stilted and unbelievable, the dialog is soap-operaish." Not to mention how ridiculous it is to have bombs coming up the tunnel, when they can't do the same for Tony and Doug. By the time they encounter Halley's Comet, one of the scientists says, "I think the time has come to rethink this whole project." Concludes Amory, "We couldn’t have agreed more."

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I've been a fan of Van Williams ever since I saw him in Bourbon Street Beat a few years ago. His character in BSB, Ken Madison, then transferred to Surfside 6, where he hung out for a couple of seasons, and while the show's quality let him down, I thought Williams himself was pretty good. From there he moved on to the show that probably brought him the most fame, as well as an appearance on this week's cover, The Green Hornet. And for Van Williams, a man who acts not because he needs the money—he's co-owner of a bank (along with his business manager and James Garner!), a ranch, a shopping center, and a downtown building in Fort Worth, Texas—but because he enjoys it, playing the Hornet suits him just fine. 

Raddatz makes the point, and I think we can see it as well, that Williams—VanZandt Jarvis Williams, to be exact, from a family whose Texas roots go back to "when Fort Worth was really a fort"—is a change from the usual celebrity profile we read in these pages. He has "none of the tortured self-seeking or the need for love or escape from a deprived childhood which traditionally mark so many of his contemporaries." He has no pretentions about being a thespian; he's objected to two Hornet scripts because they had too much dialogue and not enough action. "The Green Hornet is a pretty dead-pan guy," he tells Leslie Raddatz. "Lots of action—that's what makes a show." In fact, he'd never planned to be an actor; he was intending to be a rancher in his home of Fort Worth, but fate intervened during a vacation in Hawaii, when he met the late Mike Todd, who gave him the acting bug. Warner Bros. picked him up after a role in G.E. Theater, and that's where BSB came in. 

On the set he's charming and likable; the only time his charm ran out was on the Surfside 6 set when he lost his patience with an actress (I'm betting it was Margarita Sierra) who was perennially late on the set. "After some weeks, an observer recalls, 'Van just blew up. One day when she came in late, he gave her a kick in the derriére—not a hard kick but an impressive one— and said, "If I can be here on time, you can, too."" He's an admitted tightwad who keeps a close eye on spending and only bought a new car after signing for Hornet. And as far as his acting career, "I’d like to be a success, but I’d never count on it —it’s too harum-scarum." But, Raddatz concludes, "he is also, at 32, still kid enough to enjoy running around in that silly mask." In other words, just a good guy.

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This week's Mission: Impossible (Saturday, 9:00 p.m., CBS) features a story that bothered me the first time I saw it, and has stayed with me since: "A Free World country may become a dictatorship unless IMF can insure an honest election and get the frightened populace to the polls." IMF's way of doing the former is to tamper with the voting machines themselves, to override the tampering that's already been done by the ruling junta. In other words, a quasi-official government agency is directly involving itself in the internal affairs of an independent nation in order to guarantee the election of a government that will be friendly to the United States. I know it's only a TV show (and a favorite of mine), and this episode is just as entertaining as any of them, but still—there's a message here that doesn't pass the smell test, and today I imagine it looks much worse than it did back then.

Sunday has always been a prime night for variety shows, and I'm not just talking about Ed Sullivan; the Tiffany Network will team Ed with The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour in the years to come, and this year Ed is followed by The Garry Moore Show (9:00 p.m., CBS); Garry's regulars in this second incarnation of his prime-time show are Durward Kirby, Jackie Vernon, and John Byner, and his guests tonight are Dick Van Dyke, Connie Francis, and Jim Kweskin and his jug band. After that, switch over to NBC for The Andy Williams Show (10:00 p.m.), with a cast that would probably top both Sullivan and The Palace this week: Bing Crosby, Kate Smith, Tennessee Ernie Ford, and the Young Americans. If you're looking for a different type of variety, look no further than The Play of the Week (8:00 p.m., NET) and part one of 1960's two-part "The Iceman Cometh," with Jason Robards, Myron McCormick, and Robert Redford, directed by Sidney Lumet.

Carol Burnett stars in part one of a two-part Lucy Show on Monday (8:30 p.m., CBS). Carol plays a librarian who answers Lucy's ad for a quiet roommate. I wonder what David Stewart, of Agincourt, Ontario, thinks of this? In this week's Letters, he writes of the recent special Carol & Company that it "was so unbelievably bad I was so fascinated I couldn't turn it off," and wonders, "Was this show deliberately unprofessional and humorless as a stunt to discover what the public could be made to endure?" I guess he won't be watching it, then. Instead, check out one of the early tests of Monday Night Football, as the Chicago Bears take on the St. Louis Cardinals. (9:30 p.m., CBS, taped from a live telecast earlier in the evening) The game's being played in St. Louis, of course, as Wrigley Field, the Bears' home stadium, still lacks lights.

Tuesday's syndicated episode of The Outer Limits (9:00 p.m., KTVU) is a personal favorite of mine: "O.B.I.T.," a disturbing story about a secret government project involving a machine that "allows the observation of anyone, anywhere, at any time," and the courageous U.S. senator (Peter Breck) determined to discover the truth about the machine's existence. It's both dark and prophetic, the kind of story that Outer Limits does so well.

On Wednesday, Don Adams hosts the 30th annual Shipstads and Johnson Ice Follies, from San Francisco. (9:00 p.m., NBC) We've seen these shows in the pages of TV Guide many times over the years, and they're always crowd pleasers. Adams was obviously chosen in order to promote Get Smart; he's kind of an unusual choice, I think, since past hosts, such as Ed Ames, Arthur Godfrey, and Jimmy Dean were also singers who could provide a tune or two. I'd expect jokes from Adams, who'll probably be comic relief for the skaters, such as Follies favorite Richard Dwyer (who was still skating last year at age 87!), former world champion Don Jackson (the first man to perform a triple Lutz in international competition, seen here on Wide World of Sports), and West German champion Ina Bauer (would you believe she actually has a figure skating move named after her?).

The set-up on this shot is a faithful reproduction    
 of Chet and David's convention layout. As for    
the mayhem — perhaps a preview of Chicago '68?   
On Thursday's highlight is "Dizzoner the Penguin," part two of the Batman story that began yesterday, a very funny satire on politics that lines up well with next week's elections. (7:30 p.m., ABC) Aside from the obvious jab at politics itself—Batman, campaigning against The Penguin for mayor of Gotham City, confidently says that "I’m convinced the American electorate is too mature to be taken in by cheap vaudeville trickery. After all, if our national leaders were elected on the basis of tricky slogans, brass bands, and pretty girls, our country would be in a terrible mess, wouldn’t it?"—the episode's highlights include the clever wordplay used for the names of the episode's characters: Gotham City mayor Lindseed (New York mayor John Lindsay), third-place candidate Harry Goldwinner (Barry Goldwater), and the pollsters Gallus, Rooper, and Trendek (Gallup, Roper, and Trendex); and the obligatory brawl that breaks out during a jewelry store robbery, with cameos by TV personalities playing reporters covering the story as if it was a political convention: Dennis James as Chet Chumley, Allen Ludden as David Dooley, Don Wilson as Walter Klondike, and Jack Bailey as the moderator of a debate interrupted by the robbery. I think you can guess who they're supposed to be. Oh, and there's also Paul Revere and the Raiders!

Friday features a pair of movies for the whole family, beginning with the ABC special Hans Christian Anderson (7:30 p.m.), the 1952 musical starring Danny Kaye, and featuring classic Frank Loesser songs including "Thumbelina" and "The Inchworm." Jeanmarie and Farley Granger co-star. Later in the evening, the CBS Friday Night Movie is 1964's First Men in the Moon (9:00 p.m.), with a cameo appearance by Peter Finch, and special effects by the great Ray Harryhausen. Perhaps it's not quite the way it plays out for Apollo 11 in three years, but with H.G. Wells, it's hard to go wrong.

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At The Doan Report, NBC president Julian Goodman says the network may introduce a prime evening hour each week, starting next fall, that will be dedicated exclusively to news, public affairs, and cultural programming. (You know, the kind you don't need pay-per-view to watch.) It would reduce the number of specials aired by the network each year; they've already cut back to about a dozen this year, as opposed to the 40 or more that they aired a few years ago. Pat Weaver must be spinning in his grave hearing that.

Meanwhile, ABC's thinking about devoting not one but two movies on Wednesday nights beginning in January. Under this plan, Batman would be followed by Off to See the Wizard, a Disney knockoff featuring movies from MGM. (This would include movies such as Flipper, Tarzan, and Clarence, the Cross-eyed Lion, all of which have been turned into weekly series on other networks.) Wizard would be followed by The ABC Wednesday Night Movie. In the end, Wizard doesn't premiere until the fall of 1967, on Friday night rather than Wednesday.

Speaking of movies, Chevrolet denies rumors that they offered the producers of the James Bond movies $3.5 million for the television rights in an attempt to "get back at Ford for knocking Bonanza off its top ratings perch with the ABC showing of The Bridge on the River Kwai." I guess such machinations aren't restricted to politics. 

And remember that article from a couple of weeks ago on television's coverage of Vietnam? Well, CBS News president Dick Salant made a trip to Saigon earlier this month. His conclusion: "If the public will tolerate it, we’ve got to tell more in words and less in pictures."

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MST3K alert: Night of the Blood Beast (1958) An alien entity takes control of an astronaut’s body. Michael Emmet, Angela Greene, Ed Nelson, Tyler McVey, Ross Sturlin. (Saturday, 1:15 a.m., KCRA in Sacramento) You have to imagine what the prospect of manned space travel was like in the late 1950s—a total unknown, when we didn't even know if the human body could survive the stress, let alone what might happen to him once he made it into outer space. It's a trope that stretches from B-movies like this to The Twilight Zone, and everywhere in-between. And I hope it never goes away. The MST3K version is combined with a really bad short, "Once Upon a Honeymoon," which features Virginia Gibson before she wound up on ABC's Discovery. Well, I guess everybody has to start somewhere. TV  

October 27, 2023

Around the dial

At The View from the Junkyard, Mike continues his examination of Star Trek: The Animated Series with "The Infinite Vulcan," an episode written by Walter Koenig. Does this episode live up to expectations? Well, you'll have to read it and find out, but, like it or not, it's undeniably Star Trek.

Ready for some seasonal fare? At A Shroud of Thoughts, Terence takes a look at "The Haunted House," a fourth-season episode of The Andy Griffith Show. It's considered the only Halloween episode of the series, though it's not specifically referred to as such. But when you've got a haunted house to play with, who's going to complain?

Speaking of Halloween, just about any episode of Night Gallery could qualify as a story worthy of the season, but at Shadow & Substance, Paul uses the episode "Dr. Stringfellow's Rejuvenator" as background for how Rod Serling loved using roving pitchmen as a plot device. I suppose pitchmen still exist today in a city like New York, but I've only seen them at state fairs.

At Cult TV Blog, John continues his series on the Seventies with a look at two British game shows that are very much of the time: The Indoor League, which ran from 1973 to 77 and involves people playing pubroom games (darts, foosball, etc.); and The Joker's Wild (1969-74), which bears no resemblance to the American game show of the same name.

David has a new Comfort TV piece that should be seen to be appreciated, as it deals mostly with pictures of famous television pairings (Lucy & Ethel, Matt & Miss Kitty, Ozzie & Harriet, etc.), through which you can essentially trace the history of classic television. See if this doesn't bring back some fond memories for you!

Finally, my latest appearance on Dan Schneider's Video Interview is available for your viewing pleasure; in this episode, Dan and I discuss the history of television variety shows. It's an interesting topic, to which I hopefully did some justice, so when you have some time, check it out!  TV  

October 23, 2023

What's on TV? Thursday, October 23, 1969

Fredd Wayne, one of the guests on this morning's Today Show, was a familiar character actor on television and in the movies, but he became best known for playing one character in particular: Benjamin Franklin. Wayne first played the Founding Father in 1964 in the one-man show "Benjamin Franklin, Citizen," which he created, directed, and starred in, and is on Today to promote another one-man show, the off-Broadway "Go Fly a Kite." He would appear as Franklin numerous times on television, most famously in a two-part episode of Bewitched in 1966 (the first episodes to be filmed in color), but also on Tonight, Simon & Simon and Voyagers, and in a Bob Hope Bicentennial special. He later recorded an acclaimed audio version of The Autobiography of Benjamin Franklin, and would perform "Benjamin Franklin, Citizen" for the rest of his career, all the while continuing to appear in other non-Franklin character roles on various projects. But you can catch him tonight on NBC in Daniel Boone, where he plays—Benjamin Franklin! All this and more is from the Northern California edition.

October 21, 2023

This week in TV Guide: October 18, 1969

It could be said that the history of Mission: Impossible falls into three distinct eras: the first, which covers only the inaugural season and features Steven Hill as M;I leader Dan Briggs; the second, which began with Hill's replacement by Peter Graves as Jim Phelps; and the third, which is marked by the departures of Martin Landau and Barbara Bain, rendering the remainder of the series, to a large degree, forgettable. This week, we get a look behind the scenes at what instigated the show's fall from the summit. 

It involves, as is so often the case, a behind-the-scenes power struggle at Paramount, where the series is produced. The heavy, according to Richard Warren Lewis in his 10-page article (expect this to be a dramatically condensed version), is Douglas Cramer, vice president in charge of production at Paramount. He's been charged with reducing the costs of producing Mission: Impossible, which is a very successful, but also a very expensive, program; each episode costs Paramount more than $225,000, while the network pays the studio little more than $170,000 (plus a "small sum" of foreign sales) to air it. Cramer (whom Lewis describes as "sipping a Bloody Mary in a studio office he had decorated with Jasper Johns and Robert Rauschenberg abstracts," ordered creator and executive producer Bruce Geller to reduce what he called the series' "alarming" expenses, both in front of and behind the cameras. Geller, furious about what he took to be "insinuations and implications that he had operated in bad faith," voiced his own objections about Cramer's meddling. 

While this was going on, Cramer was inspecting the various assets of the program with an eye to what brought M:I the greatest value. His conclusion was that "the audience buys the show itself, rather than those who populate it," with the exception of Peter Graves, who was seen as the glue that held the entire show together. The study also suggested that it would be possible to find a substitute for Martin Landau, whom Lewis characterizes as "undoubtedly one of the most charismatic performers on television," but who also came at a high price ($6,500 per episode, residuals amounting to 75 percent of his full salary, and an additional $60,000 "to be used by him personally for developing properties"), and had a unique year-to-year contract, rather than the standard five-year contract. Geller accuses Cramer of looking for an excuse to get rid of Landau; "Right from the beginning, he did not want Marty back. I don’t know why."

Paramount and Landeau came to loggerheads on negotiating a contract for the fourth season; Paramount offered to bring him back as a guest star for half of the season's episodes, which Landau's representative, Ed Hookstratten, rejected out of hand. Michael Dann, vice president of programming at CBS, pleaded with Paramount to do whatever it took to bring Landau back, but he was, according to Lewis, "dealing from less than a powerful position," as existing contracts prevented the network from exercising creative control over the show or its cast. "That [expletive] Doug Cramer is crazy," he complained. "The real truth of the matter is that he wants to show he’s bigger than anybody involved in the show. He wants control. The loss of Landau is a great tragedy. CBS is terribly upset.'

Meanwhile, Landau's wife and co-star Barbara Bain, a multiple Emmy winner for the show, was experiencing contract difficulties of her own. Paramount had yet to pick up her option for the fourth year of her five-year contract, and when she was notified to report to the studio on Monday for wardrobe-and-makeup discussions, she refused, telling the studio that Monday was her maid's day off, and Tuesday she was scheduled to do promos for the American Cancer Society and the Heart Association. She asked for permission to report on Wednesday, but heard nothing back from the studio. Instead, Cramer moved to charge her with breach of contract and sought to replace her with Dina Merrill. Bain filed a countersuit alleging not just breach of contract but defamation of character. Geller fumed, and didn't recast the part at all.

So at this point, Cramer has succeeded in reducing costs, and imposing a lower budget on the show, not to mention putting some of his own people on the production staff. Geller, angered by Cramer's moves and resentful of Cramer's people, says, "Mr. Cramer has provided an aura under which it is very difficult to operate. The crew doesn’t feel that. this is a happy place to work. Nor do they feel that management has a high opinion of them. I’m terribly upset. People are depressed, irritated, unhappy—almost despairing. | have a hit show, a hit operation and a flop management." CBS is furious; Dann says that "Cramer has jeopardized the show in the most serious way possible. He has interfered creatively, telling them how to do the show. This is from a man who has never produced a show." Bain says she doesn't know what is going on, and Landau, working on a movie in Sicily, comments only on the camaraderie shared by the old cast.

Cramer vows that the viewer "will see a show in no way different from what he has seen in the past," and predicts that Nimoy will be "superb" in the role. Neither prediction is accurate; Nimoy, frustrated by a lack of depth to his character, will leave after the show's fifth season. Lesley Ann Warren is brought in for the fifth season, but never hits it off, and leaves at the same time as Nimoy; Peter Lupus is reported to be replaced by Sam Elliott, who appears in several episodes, but an outpouring of viewer support forces Lupus to be brought back. While the series itself will survive until the end of its seventh season, it never attains the heights and panache of those first three seasons. Cramer leaves Paramount in 1971 to form his own production company, and later joins forces with Aaron Spelling. After all, you know what they say about people failing upwards.

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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: Tentatively scheduled: Cyd Charisse, comics Bill Dana and Joan Rivers, Spanish singer Raphael, Australian songstress Lana Cantrell, jazz trumpeter Don Ellis and his band, puppet Topo Gigio, and Tanya the Elephant.

Palace: Diana Ross and the Supremes (Cindy Birdsong and Mary Wilson) do a return engagement as Palace hosts, Guests: Sammy Davis Jr., Laugh-In’s Alan Sues, ventriloquist Willie Tyler and the Jackson Five (aged 7-16), Diana’s proteges.

From an entertainment standpoint, this week's winner depends largely on your taste in entertainment. From a historical perspective, however, I think it's fairly easy to see who comes out on top. With Diana and the Supremes, Sammy Davis Jr., and the Jackson Five, the Palace not only has a talent edge, but when you include Willie Tyler (and, undoubtedly, Lester), it's an example of a mainstream network variety show with an almost entirely black lineup. My, how the times have changed. This week, Palace takes the crown.

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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. 

When CBS's sitcom The Governor and J.J. premiered, William Drinkwater (Dan Dailey) was introduced merely as the governor of a quiet Midwestern state. That didn't prevent speculation as to which state he was supposed to be from, especially as the series was in the habit of introducing real-life state governors playing themselves in cameo roles. (According to the Teletype, Florida's Claude Kirk has just been signed as the fifth governor to do so.) One leading theory was that the state in question was Minnesota, a state which was highly regarded at the time and hadn't yet fallen into the cesspool of crime and homelessness. We never did find out just what state the Guv was from, but that doesn't stop Cleveland Amory from giving a qualified thumbs-up to this series.

Given the dismal state of sitcoms in 1969, Cleve says, "this show is probably as good a comedy half-hour as you're likely to get. It is fast-paced, reasonably funny and even, for this type of program, relatively sophisticated. But beyond that we will not go." It's wildly implausible (if you believe these characters, then this show "is after your bedtime and you should not be watching it"), and there hasn't really been a good TV show about politics since Slattery's People. The plots, so far, have featured such dilemmas as the widowed governor's daughter, J.J. (Julie Sommars), discovering that the chairs put out for her appearance at the opening of the art museum are covered with the same material as her dress. Come to think of it, if that was the worst we had to anticipate from our politicians, things really were better back then.

Nevertheless, as Amory pointed out at the beginning, there are bright spots. "Dan Dailey is very good as Ronald Reagan and Julie Sommars makes an excellent Julie Nixon." James Callahan, as the governor's press secretary, is good as well, and the dialogue is generally fun, if not always funny. Speaking from the perspective of a former Minnesotan, however, I can promise you that Dan Dailey as governor would be at least twice as good as the current incumbent—and Dailey has been dead for 45 years. That's politics for you.

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The new television season may only be a month old, but of course it's never too early to start worrying (or celebrating) about ratings, and with the first report in, there's room for both—sometimes with the same show! Take Get Smart, which during the off-season was cancelled by NBC and picked up by CBS. It finished 66th for the week, and that's bad news. But, it got better ratings that the shows it was up against, Let's Make a Deal on ABC and High Chaparral on NBC, and that's good news. And, CBS boss Mike Dann gloats, wait until next month when the Smarts have triplets. "The ratings should leap up," he tells Richard K. Doan in this week's Doan Report, "and Get Smart could have a five- or six-year run!" Or more likely seven months, to be precise: the show's final episode airs on May 15, 1970.

Last summer's success, Hee Haw, is said to be on the sidelines warming up to replace the weakest of the network's new shows: Medical Center. Guess again; Medical Center winds up not only surviving the year, but becoming one of the longest-running medical shows on television, running for seven successful seasons,* while Hee Haw instead replaces The Leslie Uggams Show. Other shows in trouble: The Good Guys (also on CBS), The Music SceneThe New People, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (another import from NBC), Land of the Giants, and It Takes a Thief on ABC; and The Andy Williams Show on NBC (suffering from being up against The Jackie Gleason Show). Of those shows, only Andy lives to see another season.

*Tied with Marcus Welby, M.D., which also ran for seven seasons, beginning and ending in the same seasons as Medical Center.

As for the hits, the aforementioned Marcus Welby debuted in the top ten, as did The Bill Cosby ShowWelby stays there for awhile, as we know, while Cos continues through next season—but he'll be back.

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A note at the beginning of the program section warns us that if the World Series is still going, games six and seven will pre-empt regular programming. That's not a problem, since the New York Mets completed perhaps the greatest story in baseball history by defeating the Baltimore Orioles on Thursday to win the Series a mere seven years after setting baseball's all-time record for losses in one season. That doesn't mean the week's without history, though.

To put things in context, remember that in the 1960s and 1970s, the NBA Game of the Week didn't start until January (after football season), so for a network to televise a game in October, it has to be a special occasion. And this Saturday is one of those occasions, as Wide World of Sports presents the regular season debut of the Milwaukee Bucks' Lew Alcindor, one of the most heralded rookies to ever enter the NBA. (11:00 a.m. PT, ABC) Alcindor, who played three seasons with UCLA, was twice named Player of the Year, set a college record for field goal percentage, and won three national championships. The Bucks had earned the first pick in the draft by finishing with the NBA's worst record in their inaugural season. They won 27 games that first year; with Alcindor in the lineup, they would win 56 games and finish in second place; in their third season they won the NBA championship, and Alcindor was named MVP. Alcindor, who will change his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar the year after that title victory, will retire in 1989 as the NBA's all-time leading scorer, with six MVP awards, six NBA championships, 19 selections as a league All-Star, and a memorable role in Airplane

There's one more sports story, of a sort: on Sunday, NBC presents a repeat of the 1968 TV movie Heidi. (7:00 p.m.) It's been almost a year since the memorable 1968 Heidi Game, in which the network cut away from a New York Jets-Oakland Raiders game that was running late in order to show the start of Heidi, only to have the Raiders come from behind with two touchdowns in the final minute to defeat the Jets. Thus, this note:

For the record, the Oakland Raiders are once again involved in the late contest, this time hosting the Buffalo Bills in a game that would have kicked off at 4:00 p.m. Eastern time. The Raiders come out on top, 50-21, and I can guarantee the situation with Heidi did not repeat itself.

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Kraft Suspense Theatre
had a nice two-year run on NBC from 1963 to 1965, but while the series consistently featured well-known performers and decent scripts, few of the episodes really made an impression, either in first-run or syndication. Saturday's episode (11:30 p.m., Channel 4), however, is an exception: it's "Rapture at 240," the pilot for Run for Your Life, with Ben Gazzara as attorney Paul Bryan, who learns that he has only a year or two to live. It's an interesting concept, yet another variation on The Fugitive, but the problem with turning it into a series was that it was self-limiting: two years at the most, according to his doctor. And while series have always played fast and loose with the passage of time (Combat!, Hogan's Heroes, and M*A*S*H all ran far longer than their respective wars, for example), Gazzara himself thought the show lost credibility when it returned for a third season. Maybe they could have given him a brain tumor or something instead, one of those deals where it could burst in ten minutes or ten years, or go away completely. I'm probably overthinking it.

Frank Sinatra Jr. gets to follow in his famous father's footsteps on Sunday, as the 25-yera-old singer gets his first network special, filmed in and around Las Vegas. (9:00 p.m., CBS) Joining the junior Sinatra in "With Family and Friends" are Jack Benny, Sammy Davis Jr., Nancy Sinatra, the Doodletown Pipers, Arte Johnson, Jack E. Leonard, and the Air Force Thunderbirds precision flying team. Oh, and a duet with dad. 

I mention this because in order to catch Frank Jr., you'll have to pass up ABC's Sunday Night Movie, Stagecoach (9:00 p.m.), a remake of the John Ford classic that, according to Judith Crist, "embodies all that has gone wrong with movies in the past 30 years—unspectacular spectacle, violence for its own de-luxe-color bloody sake, dialogue riddled by maudlin sociology and five-cent psychiatry and inept performances by ersatz stars." Included in the cast are Ann-Margret, Alex Cord, Red Buttons, Mike Connors, Bing Crosby, Bob Cummings, Van Heflin, Slim Pickens, Stefanie Powers, and Keenan Wynn. And still the movie doesn't work. 

Nineteen sixty-nine marks the 100th anniversary of college football, commemorated in a CBS special, "100 Years Old and Still Kicking," hosted by Charles Kuralt. (Tuesday, 10:00 p.m.) Kuralt looks back at the game's history dating back to a painting of the first college game, played between Princeton and Rutgers, and film by Thomas Edison at the turn of the century. There are also clips of great stars, including Jim Thorpe, Red Grange, Knute Rockne, Glenn Davis, and Doc Blanchard; scenes from movies showing the game's role in pop culture; and how television has helped the game boom. Oh, and since CBS only shows a couple of college bowl games each season, there's also a segment on the professional game, including the Super Bowl. I'd think Kuralt would be just about right hosting a program like this. 

Speaking, as we were, of Get Smart, Friday night's episode is well worth a look, as Broderick Crawford guest stars in "Treasure of C. Errol Madre" (7:30 p.m., CBS), a wild takeoff on The Treasure of the Sierra Madre, with Don Adams as Smart as Humphrey Bogart. We're told that the script, by Chris Hayward and Bob DeVinney, is loyal to the movie, which I assume means there are no stinkin' badges. It makes a good warmup for a Gene Barry episode of Name of the Game (8:30 p.m., NBC) with Darren McGavin as one of Barry's reporters, searching for a missing scientist (James Whitmore) suspected of defecting to Cuba. Not interested? Then stick with CBS and the movie The Last Challenge, a Western with a terrific cast, including Glenn Ford, Angie Dickinson, Chad Everett, Gary Merrill, and Jack Elam. Unlike that other Western on Sunday, Judith Crist says this "unpretentious stock story" glows.  

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No MST3K update this week, but a couple of Japanese sci-fi flicks that should have been on: first, Battle in Outer Space, from 1960, with Rye Ikebe, Kyoko Anzai, and Leonard Stanford (!). (Monday, 6:30 p.m., KTXL) "Catastrophes sweep the globe, and earth’s scientists conclude that beings from another planet are attacking." Makes sense to me; what else could it be? Then, there's the 1959 movie The H-Man, starring Yumi Shirakawa and Kenji Sahara. (Wednesday, 6:30 p.m., KTXL) "H-bomb tests create beings, made of water, that subsist on humans." Those would have worked, don't you think?  TV  

October 20, 2023

Around the dial

At bare•bones e-zine, Jack's Hitchcock Project gets the week off to a good start with the first of two Lukas Heller teleplays, "The Tender Poisoner," an eighth-season episode with Dan Dailey, Howard Duff, and Jan Sterling. Compared to the novel upon which it's based, this story comes off as—well, you'll have to find out for yourself.

John continues his Cult TV Blog sojourn in the 1970s with the British kids' show Play Away, which ran from 1971 to 1984 and is so good that John dragged himself out of a sick bed to write about it. Now that's dedication to the reader! It's the chance to look back at another time and a charming show.

Speaking of sojourns, David has been doing a 1970s journey of his own at Comfort TV, looking at at least one episode of every available prime-time show that appeared during the decade. This week, it's Sunday and Monday nights, 1973, with some familiar shows—Mannix, Barnaby Jones, The FBI, The Rookies, Gunsmoke—and some noble failures, which I'll let you find on your own.

At Drunk TV, Paul takes us back to a TV staple, without which no childhood would be complete: The Three Stooges. In Volume Four of the complete set of shorts, which covers the years 1943-45, you catch the Stooges (including Curly) at their peak, a time of primal, surreal physical comedy. I've got this volume, and I endorse this message. 

Martin Grams takes us to the funny pages for a strip that's anything but funny: an adaptation of the radio drama The Adventures of Sam Spade, made for advertisements for the show's sponsor, Wildroot, featuring an artist's conception of the Spade of Howard Duff and the Effie of Lurene Tuttle. Check out the first fourteen strips, covering 1947-50. Good fun!

It seems as if, every time I turn around, another figure from our television past has passed on, and this week Terence looks back at three of them at A Shroud of Thoughts: Piper Laurie, who performed in so many terrific movies and TV shows; Lara Parker, unforgettable as Angelique on Dark Shadows; and Suzanne Somers, best remembered for Three's Company, but with a career that covered much more than that.

Travalanche also covers the deaths of those three leading ladies in a single post; in addition, we have a look at the career of George Nader, an actor with whom I'm well-familiar due to his appearances in multiple movies shown on Mystery Science Theater 3000, which may be more of a commentary on these movies than anything else I could say. 

Finally, we'll visit The Avengers at The View from the Junkyard, with Roger and Mike comparing notes on the episode "The Living Dead," a spooky Steed/Mrs. Peel adventure that's more than appropriate for the season. Let's see how our heroes fare. TV  

October 18, 2023

Television in the Third Reich

Do I use the word "interesting" too often? I like to think I'm interested in a lot of different things, so it's certainly possible. Regardless, I recently ran across a documentary on YouTube that I think is interesting, and hopefully some of you will think so as well. It's called Television Under the Swastika, and it takes a look at the development of television in Nazi Germany prior to and in the early years of World War II. 

What's particularly—if you'll pardon the expression—interesting is looking at the technology used to develop and transmit the footage. And then there's the fact that some of the archival footage of actual programming still exists, complete with the presenter giving the obligatory "Heil Hitler" salute. (It was enough to send a bit of a shiver down the spine.) Included also are some clips of television coverage of the 1936 Berlin Olympics, and while it looks pretty primitive to us today, it must have been quite amazing for those who were able to see it back then—there were very few television sets in Germany, so "viewing halls" were created where people could gather to watch the limited programming offerings.

It's about an hour long, but it's in English with English subtitles, so it's easy enough to follow.

I wonder if the timeline of television development would have been markedly different if the Germans had been able to continue their experiments—if they were significantly advanced over either the British or Americans—before the war started. Conversely, would history have changed had television been in a more advanced state, and had someone like Goebbels known what to do with it? Speculation like that could prove to be quite—interesting. TV  

October 16, 2023

What's on TV? Tuesday, October 18, 1966

There's a documentary on KSBW at 7:30 p.m. called The Epic of Flight, part of the Time-Life series of TV specials. (Not to be confused with The Epic of Flight series of books, published by Time-Life.) I have very vague memories of having seen this back in Minneapolis, primarily because I was interested in airplanes, especially those used in World War I. (Good fodder for a six-year-old.) Nowadays you'd see something like this on the History Channel or one of its clones, although it would probably be five or six minutes shorter because of commercials, and you'd lose another few minutes spent recapping what happened before the commercials. (If you've seen a History Channel doc you'll know what I mean.) I think this would easily win the evening for me, as opposed to the documentary on men in prisons that CBS is showing. Anyway, find your favorites from this Northern California edition.

October 14, 2023

This week in TV Guide: October 15, 1966

One of the facts of life, a fact we all have to contend with, is that people die. It's just natural. Judy Carne and Peter Deuel, neither of them yet 30 when they appeared on the cover of this week's issue, are dead. So are Robert Goulet and Sally Ann Howes, the stars of Brigadoon, the musical that preempts The Hollywood Palace this week on ABC (Saturday, 9:30 p.m.). In fact, many of the people featured in this issue of TV Guide have passed away in the 57 years since it was published. And if they haven't, their careers have. 

And then there's William Shatner. As Michael Fessier Jr. (1939-2014) relates, the star of Star Trek is enjoying the good life. They've been interrupted by a young man, "eager-to-please," asking Shatner, "Would you like something cold to drink?" The Shat, after ordering, tells Fessier, "Before, I always thought that kind of, uh . . . toadying was beneath human dignity. But for the first time I’m able to see the reason for it. These little attentions do help. It makes life easier for me."

The road to the stars hasn't been easy for Shatner; after some success on stage, he declined a seven-year contract from Fox. "I was going to set Hollywood and Broadway on fire my own way," he remembers. Instead, except for some well-regarded television appearances, his career consisted of one mistake after another. He turned down the lead in Dr. Kildare. He was upstaged by Walter Matthau in A Shot in the Dark on Broadway. The pilot for one potential series, Alexander the Great, was a failure, while a series he did do, For the People, was bludgeoned by Bonanza. And while the Broadway play The World of Suzie Wong was "a money-maker," it did nothing for his career or his sanity. "Every night was a nightmare," he says. "I almost had a nervous breakdown." He was on the verge of giving up acting and turning to directing if the Star Trek pilot didn't pan out.

We all know how that turned out. And, in the most Shat-like way, he reveled in the success. "I’ve gotten a great insight into the omnipotence of the series lead. Everybody does his best not to upset the star. It’s an almost unique position few in the entertainment world achieve . . . It’s like absolute power." He's used that power to change things on the set; for one thing, he's no longer subjected to last-minute script revisions. He requested, and got, a small gym set up for him by the studio. His suggestions are welcomed by Gene Roddenberry, who calls them "intelligent." And, says Fessier, "Too many ostensibly facetious allusions to his own 'hero' ambitions sneak into his conversation."

But while Shatner enjoys his stardom, he's also frustrated; he's already 35 ("It's a good age this year, but what about next?") and hasn't achieved what he thought he'd have by now. Still, it's hard to complain. Says Leslie Stevens, who wrote and directed the experimental movie Incubus in which Shatner starred, "He has an unquestioned greatness. How long it will take to flower I don’t know. . . But he has always kept his standards intact."

That was 57 years ago, and today, William Shatner is 92, still famous as Captain Kirk, but almost as famous simply for playing himself, which is what he's done the last few decades, no matter what the role. And whether you're a fan or not, there's something about being able to stay at that level of stardom for so long that impresses. Perhaps his star never reached the heights he thought it would, or hoped it would—but boy, it's burned for a long, long time, and one has to think that William Shatner is still enjoying the last laugh.

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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. 

The scenery in NBC's new adventure series Tarzan is, Cleveland Amory says, breathtaking. When that's the lead to your review, methinks you might be in trouble. And in this version, featuring "an articulate, modern Tarzan who is familiar with the ways of civilization," trouble is, indeed, as near as the latest hanging vine. As Cleve notes, "when you combine the idea of the Noble Savage with the clichés of modern TV, something's got to give. We wish it were the clichés, but in this show it isn't."

Scenery notwithstanding, any Tarzan series is only as good as the actor playing Tarzan, in this case Ron Ely. He looks like Tarzan—he's tall, has a good build, and is reasonably convincing as he's swinging from tree to tree or diving into waterfalls. And he sounds like Tarzan, but that's because the famous yell actually belongs to the famous Johnny Weissmuller, whose original yell is electronically reproduced. And, again, when that's all you have to say about Tarzan, it seems as if something is lacking.

Speaking of which, something else that's lacking is Tarzan's mate, Jane. In this version, Tarzan has only his loyal Cheetah and a little boy named Jai, "a part which is, if you can believe it, even sillier than “Boy” used to be in the old Tarzan films." The plots are filled with mysterious deaths, traps for Tarzan, elephants, coral snakes, murders, good-guy lions and bad-guy lions (who look exactly alike)—well, you get the point. Cleve's verdict: "We recommend Tarzan highly as a show to put the kids to bed by, but that’s as far as we can go." As for the rest of us, tune in again next week—same time, different station.

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It's no surprise to find out that the Pentagon has some complaints about the way television is covering the war in Vietnam, and Neil Hickey reports on his ten-week investigation into "the honesty and adequacy of television's coverage of the war; and to measure, count and catalog the problems relating to the coverage." It is clear, writes Hickey, that television is the "single most potent element" in forming public opinion, and that the war is certain to be the biggest issue in this year's midterm elections and 1968's presidential campaign. (Boy, is that an understatement.)

The Pentagon's misgivings about television coverage boil down to several points: that television focuses too much on the visual—battle scenes and air strikes—without covering what's going on politically in Vietnam; that TV crews move with smaller units, even though what happens at the platoon and squad level is only minimally significant, thus providing an out-of-context story; that young and inexperienced reporters lack the ability to cover the nuances of the war; that footage is edited to emphasize violence and drama; that too many internationals, who strongly disagree with the United States, have been employed in the news bureaus; and that casualties are occasionally portrayed on TV before the next-of-kin are notified.

Newsmen interviewed by Hickey concede some of the points; NBC's Jack Fenn allows that, because violence is inherently exciting, some events covered on television are inflated beyond their actual importance. Another newsman says that television at times try to explain things that can be done much better by newspaper reporters. "Television," he says, "will never replace The New York Times." (Neither will today's New York Times, for that matter.)

Are the reporters too inexperienced to understand the full picture? According to CBS's Charles Collingwood, "Vietnam is the most physically demanding role that reporters have ever been asked to take." It's a young man's war, with a young man's stamina required to keep up with it, and the networks are aware that when it comes to the wiles of Vietnamese politics, these young reporters are often out of their depth. Kalischer, the veteran, says that "I'm supposed to be the grand old man around here, and I' reluctant to do it myself." For that reason, the networks tend to leave the background reporting to occasional visits by newsmen like Eric Sevareid, Howard K. Smith and Chet Huntley, and to the veterans of the Asia bureau, who've had vastly more experience covering the area.

The biggest challenge faced by television, according to Hickey, is "to achieve balance between the seductive and the significant; to submerge the conviction that a sense of violence is important merely because a camera is recording it; to find the substance behind the shadow." Because television is limited in the scope of what it can cover, it often concentrates on what it can cover, at the platoon level." The Pentagon says this can be misleading; as Peter Kalischer, a veteran correspondent from Korea, points out, "Wars always look better from division headquarters than they do in the foxholes." And, in fact, commanders in the field are often more responsive to TV's challenges than the superiors in Washington. But it remains true that a visual medium like television has to go where the action is, even when the information is more available at brigade headquarters. 

Col. Rodger R. Bankson, Chief of Information in Vietnam, tells TV Guide that the military and media have been working closely to address the challenges faced by both in covering this war. He adds, "We have no problem out here which men of good will can’t solve." Considering that the Vietnam War will continue on for more than six additional years, with tensions rising both domestically and at the front, one can't help but regard this as whistling in the dark. 

The ad on the left, which runs in this week's issue, is a total product of its time, a stark reminder of the concerns many young people and their parents are facing at the time; one could read the first point more accurately as, "To go to Canada or to not go to Canada, that is the question," and it's going to become even more of a question as the Sixties progress. I've shared this anecdote before, but when I was in high school in the 1970s, discussing post-graduation options with classmates, we were reminded by our teacher that, if we'd been ten years younger, we'd be talking about the draft rather than what we'd be doing next year. (And at this point, we still had to register for Selective Service, and notify them whenever we changed addresses.) Boy, we didn't realize just how good we had it back then.

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No Sullivan vs. The Palace this week, as I mentioned, but there's still plenty to look at. If you want, you can certainly check out Brigadoon, which, as I mentioned at the top, has an excellent cast including Robert Goulet and Sally Ann Howes; the original production won Best Musical from the New York Drama Critics in 1947, and this adaptation was done by Emmy-winner Ernest Kinoy. If you're in the mood for a lyrical evening, watch it on YouTube.

Something I wanted to make sure to mention is the Sunday night movie on KTVU, The Thief (7:30 p.m.), a tense spy drama starring Ray Milland as an American scientist passing on atomic secrets to the communists. It's very good, but the movie's real hook is that there is no dialog whatsoever. And Ed Sullivan probably would have beaten Palace this week anyway; his guests include Eddie Albert, who reads Stephen Vincent Benét’s "A Ballad of William Sycamore"; and Carroll Baker, who offers songs from Gentlemen Prefer Blondes; comedians Allan Sherman, and Stiller and Meara; singer Sergio Franchi; the singing-dancing Kessler Twins from Germany; and the Suzuki Violins, 10 young Japanese instrumentalists. (8:00 p.m., CBS) 

The new season formally started last month, but we're still seeing new shows being rolled out as part of the daytime schedules. NBC has two of them debuting on Monday, beginning with The Pat Boone Show at 10:00 a.m.; this Monday-Friday half-hour variety show will run until June 30, 1967 (when it's replaced by the game show Personality). That's followed at 10:30 a.m. by a game show with a slightly longer run: The Hollywood Squares! "Peter Marshall hosts this game show based on tick-tack-toe." As originally produced, Squares featured five regulars: Rose Marie, Morey Amsterdam, Abby Dalton, Wally Cox, and Cliff Arquette as Charley Weaver. They'll be joined each week by four guests, and this week those guests are Agnes Moorehead, Ernest Borgnine, Sally Field, and Nick Adams. The most popular square of all, Paul Lynde, doesn't become a regular until 1968; The Hollywood Squares remains on the NBC daytime lineup until 1980, with a syndicated nighttime version running from 1971 to 1981. 

Here's a happy coincidence on Tuesday: at 8:30 p.m., The Man from U.N.C.L.E.'s Robert Vaughn is a guest on The Red Skelton Hour; in one skit, Vaughn plays Victor Virtue, "trying to rid the West of sin and saloon girls" until he runs into Sheriff Deadeye; I'm sure Vaughn's at his smarmy best in this role. Meantime, at 9:00 p.m. on KTLA, his U.N.C.L.E. co-star, David McCallum (of happy memory) stars in the memorable Outer Limits episode "The Sixth Finger"—that's the one where he becomes the smartest man in the world and winds up with this huge head. I'm sure you know which one I'm talking about. 

Two completely different types of murder mysteries highlight Wednesday night's schedule. At 9:00 p.m., Bob Hope's second comedy special of the season is a spy spoof called "Murder at NBC." Bob plays Von Smirtch, a mad scientist who's developed a nuclear chemical capable of shrinking the entire country so it can be towed away. (That's what it says, folks.) A network newsman is killed while he's about to break the story, hence the show's title. (Given that the NBC logo is prominent on the set of the newscast, it's too bad they couldn't have gotten, say, Edwin Newman to play the victim.) The main appeal of the show is in a fantastic ensemble cast, including Don Adams, Milton Berle, Red Buttons, Johnny Carson, Jack Carter, Bill Cosby, Wally Cox, Bill Dana, Jimmy Durante, Shecky Greene, Don Rickles, Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, Soupy Sales, Dick Shawn and Jonathan Winters. Although it's been mislabeled, you can find it on YouTube.

This is followed at 10:00 p.m. by ABC Stage 67 and the drama "The Confession," starring Arthur Kennedy as a veteran police detective investigating the death of Bonnie (Katharine Houghton), a young girl who entered into a suicide pact with her boyfriend Carl (Brandon de Wilde) when they discovered Bonnie was pregnant. While Bonnie died from the gas, Carl lived—and now Hammond is convinced that Carl should be charged with murder. Interesting concept, described as "the moral dilemma of a police officer who goes beyond the letter of the law to find the truth." Is Hammond a heavy-handed cop willing to bend the law based on his personal feelings, or is he convinced that Carl wanted Bonnie dead, and is just playing the victim card? Jack Gould, the Times TV critic, calls it "A muddled drama about a neurotic detective bent on administering a psychological third degree to suspects," which leads me to believe it was the former. 

This week's guest villain on Batman (Wednesday and Thursday, 7:30 p.m.) is the great Vincent Price, in the first of three appearances as Egghead (speaking of men with huge heads, or at least foreheads), a super-criminal created especially for the TV series; the story concerns Egghead's efforts to take control (legally, of course) of Gotham City when officials fail to renew the treaty with the Mohican Indian tribe, causing the city to revert back to them. Edward Everett Horton plays Chief Screaming Chicken, and any resemblance to the character he plays in F Troop, Roaring Chicken, is purely intentional.

On Friday, ABC News presents a special that's out of this world. No, I mean literally. It's "We Are Not Alone" (10:00 p.m.), based on the book by New York Times science editor Walter Sullivan and narrated by newsman Edward P. Morgan, which looks at the scientific case for extraterrestrial life. I bring this up as a fairly relevant story, considering the headlines we've been seeing lately about UFOs. (I'd think that the government admitting to the possibility should be enough to convince anyone not to believe it.) For the record, I think it's all a lot of hooey, but I'll admit there are times when I'd be more than happy to be transported somewhere far, far away from the madness of planet Earth. 

Running throughout the week are paid political programs; it is an election year, after all, and in this Northern California edition, the dominant race is for governor, with incumbent Pat Brown taking on the challenger, Ronald Reagan—and the Reagan campaign is unleashing its most powerful weapon, the candidate himself. He's on a live half-hour broadcast from his Malibu ranch at 4:00 p.m. Sunday (KPIX, KSBW, and KXTV), appears on the CBS News special Campaign 66 (Sunday, 6:00 p.m.), and can be seen for five minutes on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday (5:20 p.m., KSBW). Brown, who almost certainly was guilty of supreme overconfidence, is on for only five minutes on Wednesday. (7:25, KOVR) Did I mention that next month Reagan will defeat Brown by nearly a million votes?

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And now, a minute or more with another star who's still with us, the irrepressible That Girl herself, Marlo Thomas, who has some fall fashions for us to consider.

There's something pleasant about being able to pick up an issue from the Sixties and not having to refer to everyone in the past tense. Ron Ely and Katharine Houghton are still around as well, and I'm sure they're not the only ones!

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MST3K alert: The Undead 
(1957) An unscrupulous psychic researcher hypnotizes a street-walker and learns of her past life as a falsely-accused witch in the Middle Ages. Pamela Duncan, Richard Garland. (Thursday, second part of KGO's All-Night Movie, beginning at 1:30 a.m.) Directed by Roger Corman, perhaps the best analysis came from Mike Nelson, who commented, "I've never known more about what isn't going on in a movie." I've seen this several times, and I still feel this way. And we didn't even get a short at the beginning. TV