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  


  1. There was a noticeable drop in the quality of scripts in season 4 of MI. But there were still some good episodes that season. It was Season 5 that made the switch from foreign jobs to domestic jobs (I assume in concert with the budget cuts). They never seemed to leave the backlot. The episode with Phelps returning to his hometown was really bad, I generally skip over that one.

  2. All these years later, I still have not watched an episode of Mission: Impossible from the years after Barbara Bain left. I'll watch reruns on Pluto and if I see its from Year 4 or later I switch. Cinnamon Carter forever!!

  3. Memory from Season 4 onward:
    I've been a credit watcher all my life, and a TV Guide reader just as long.
    After I read this story at its first appearance, I began to notice something at the end of Mission: Impossible:
    As the closing credits ended, the screen would go blank at the very end - on the last slide.
    I'd seen enough credit crawls to know that this would be the slide that read:
    In Charge Of Production

    I also noticed that Mr. Cramer's credit also disappeared from the closing credits of Mannix, which was also produced by Bruce Geller.
    Well ... Paramount had a few other shows on networks other than CBS, and as I recall, Mr. Cramer always got his nod at the finish.
    I haven't checked recently, but I seem to recall that in the half-century since the episodes were filmed, the DVDs all seem to have had Mr. Cramer's credits restored to both series (I will check this out in the near future).
    So who blacked out Doug Cramer's credit?
    Paramount TV?
    Bruce Geller specifically?
    Mike Dann at CBS?
    Some combination of the above?
    After 50+ years, who knows?
    I guess we'll never really know ...


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!