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  


  1. They had reruns of Tarzan on streaming on Tubi before they ripped it down. All I can say is, it didn't age well.
    Mike Henry was the first choice for the TV version until he got bit on the chin by a male chimp and sued the production company. As a former Pittsburgh Steeler he would occasionally come to town and play poker with Press and Post Gazette sports writers. The scar was still visible on his chin.
    There's a reason why most of the Tarzan movies featured female chimps. The males can go crazy at any time.

  2. From the "Murder at NBC" special, Bill Cosby and Shecky Greene (97 years old) are still with us. Only Sally Field remains from the HOLLYWOOD SQUARES premiere week among the celebrities, but "Master of the Hollywood Squares" Peter Marshall (10 days older than Shecky Greene) is still with us.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!