October 7, 2023

This week in TV Guide: October 8, 1955

This week's TV Guide Preview asks the quite sensible question, "Who's doing what on your TV screen during the next seven days?" (That's why it's called a preview, I guess.) It's a week where some old favorites return, while others already back will be up to new tricks. (Trust me, that's what it says.) Plus, there are two spectaculars on tap—one looking to the future, the other to the past. 

Among your returning favorites, Our Miss Brooks (Friday, 8:30 p.m. ET, CBS) sees Miss Brooks exchanging her classroom at Madison High School for a new position at a private elementary school. Now, don't think it's because she's given up on the students: the school is being razed to make way for a new highway. (And who says urban renewal isn't a good thing?) Since she won't have to work for her nemesis, Mr. Conklin, she takes the opportunity to tell him off once and for all. But since Madison High is closing, Conklin needs a new job as well. And guess where he's headed. . . 

Our Miss Brooks isn't the only show on the move: Bishop Fulton Sheen's Life is Worth Living returns on a new network, switching from Du Mont to ABC. (Thursday, 8:00 p.m.) The good Bishop's topic for tonight: "Has Russia Really Changed?" I suppose that's a question that's as timely today as it ever has been.

Other returning favorites include George Gobel (Saturday, 10:00 p.m., NBC), Omnibus (Sunday, 5:00 p.m., CBS), and, in syndication, Amos 'n' Andy. (Sunday, 2:00 p.m., WPTZ) John Wayne is the special guest on I Love Lucy. (Monday, 9:00 p.m., CBS) And everyone's favorite baby doctor of the day, Dr. Benjamin Spock, debuts a new series on challenges faced by parents. (Sunday, 3:00 p.m., NBC) Meanwhile, on Saturday morning, Commando Cody takes his last orbit on the schedule (11:00 a.m., NBC); he'll be replaced next Saturday by the children's classic Fury, starring Peter Graves, for a five-year run. It sounds like there's something for almost everyone, so let's get started. 

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What will life be like for the average American in the year 1976? That is the question being asked in the our first spectacular, 1976—Life in the Future (Sunday, 4:30 p.m., NBC), hosted by Dave Garroway and featuring Wally Cox, Nanette Fabray, Arlene Francis, and Sid Caesar. I'd like to know more about this special, how close they came to predicting the future, and how hard they tried. For instance, Caesar and Fabray appear in a skit about a wife smashing up the family helicopter, which probably owes more to cliches about bad woman drivers than it does any serious attempt at futurism. 

However, I did notice some predictions that seem pretty astute, if slightly off the mark, such as an entire wall that becomes a TV screen; they were a little off on when that would come to pass, but they pretty much nailed the concept, as they did with their idea that shopping could be done by video. Another prediction: kitchen wall cabinets that have adjustible temperature settings (you might be able to accept that under the general category of the smart home). On the other hand, the prediction that jobs would involve less drudgery and more creativity is a split decision—it's true that technology has created much more room for creativity in graphics and science programs, but I think most of us working slobs would agree that life in the office can be pretty dull. 

At any rate, these shows with predictions of the future usually wind up being off the mark—except, perhaps, for The Jetsons.

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Since we're looking at a Philadelphia issue this week, we shouldn't be surprised to run into Dick Clark, but we might not have expected to see him as host of House of Charm (Saturday, 6:30 p.m., WFIL—the ABC affiliate, natch), in which he "discusses what prospective home-owners should look for when inspecting the construction of new homes." A special feature at the end of each episode is "Rate a Contractor," where Dick and two inspectors discuss and rate the work done by home contractors. OK, I made that last part up, but it works, doesn't it?

In the second part of our future/past doubleheader, NBC recreates the history of pop entertainment from 1902 to the present in Show Biz: An Enterainment History (Sunday, 7:30 p.m.), a 90-minute spectacular. Art Linkletter hosts, and Groucho Marx narrates, while an all-star cast takes viewers through the the histories of vaudeville, burlesque, and nickelodons; nightclubs, Broadway, radio and movies; and USO shows and television.  Rosemary Clooney, Dennis Day, Phil Harris, Beatrice Kay, Buster Keaton, Eartha Kitt, Bert Lahr, and Groucho's daughter Melinda Marx are the stars.

Opposite that, Ed Sullivan counters with some variety power of his own. (8:00 p.m., CBS) Tonight, Ed presents a filmed preview of the upcoming MGM musical Guys and Dolls, including recreated performances with the movie's stars, Marlon Brando, Jean Simmons, Frank Sinatra, and Vivian Blaine. Other guests on tonight's show includ singer June Valli, comedian Johnny Carson, and the singing Les Compagnons de la Chanson.

Jackie Gleason is the star in Monday's Studio One play "Uncle Ed and Circumstance," adapted by Frank D. Gilroy from Gleason's own story. (10:00 p.m., CBS) Gleason plays the black sheep of an extended Irish family, who galvanizes all of Staten Island when he becomes a contestant on The $64,000 Question. Interesting, at least to me, is that Question's emcee Hal March, who did act in various roles from time to time (including a Question parody with Jack Benny a couple of years later) doesn't play himself tonight*; the role of the emcee is played by actor John Baragrey.

*But then, in the TV Teletype New York, we read this tidbit: "Ever notice that Hal March has a broken nose? Well, the guy who broke it for him was Jackie Gleason. Hal guested once on Gleason's old Cavalcade of Stars, where Jackie was to hit him on the schnozz with a breakway bottle. Seems the bottle didn't break away." I'm sure that isn't the reason March isn't on the show, but it's interesting anyway.

On Tuesday, Arlene Francis originates her Home show from the Cleveland Mall (11:00 a.m., NBC), and to show you how we've been conditioned to think over the years, the Cleveland Mall isn't a shopping center, but a landscaped public park, a la the Mall in Washington, D.C. It was constructed between 1910 and 1931, and exists on the National Register of Historic Places. This has only a marginal connection to television, but I think it's an example of how the meaning of things changes over time; nobody in 1955 would have thought "shopping" when they heard the word "mall." Of course, the way malls are collapsing around the country, maybe we're headed back in that direction.

Mickey Mouse is the star of Wednesday's Disneyland (7:30 p.m., ABC), with the entire hour devoted to clips from Mickey cartoons. Included is "Mickey and the Beanstalk," narrated by Sterling Holloway (whom you might recognize as the voice of Disney's Winnie the Pooh) and featuring Donald Duck and Goofy as his sidekicks. We also see Mickey conducting a band, climbing the Alps, and engaging with Chip and Dale. I wonder what Mickey would think of Disney today?

On Thursday, the fourth star of Four Star Playhouse, Ida Lupino, stars in "The Face of Danger" as a woman remembering her romance with a wanted outlaw. (9:30 p.m., CBS) Paul Picerni, who'll go on to become one of Eliot Ness's Untouchables, co-stars as the outlaw. I thought she might have directed it as well, since she was one of the first prominent female directors—and a very good one, too—but no such luck; the episode was directed by Roy Kellino.

, Ed Murrow's guests on Person to Person (10:30 p.m., CBS) are Charlton and Lydia Heston, followed by Mr. and Mrs. Bert Bacharach. He's the men's fashion expert; his son is the songwriter. Person to Person's gimmick, if you will, was that Murrow, from the CBS studios, would interview his guests long distance in their homes; elsewhere in this issue, famed etiquette expert Amy Vanderbilt tells us what it's like when you have CBS crews invading your home to do Person to Person. Among the things you should know: the phone company will be putting a tower up on your property, the network will be tapping your main power line, and you'll be invaded by 18 crewmen, including cameramen, sound technicians, and someone in charge of hazards—like cats. (The Vanderbilt household has four mother cats and 13 kittens, plus a rabbit and a bloodhound.) And when the time comes, you don't even see Murrow, because there's no monitor for the interviewee; instead, the voice comes over a speaker, while you look just to the right of the camera. Oh, and the crew will be at your home until about 3:00 a.m. picking up, so be sure you have a buffet available for them. It's only proper etiquette, after all.    

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I think there's a general consensus that The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp was the first of the so-called "adult" Western—in other words, as opposed to the cowboys-and-Indians features by Roy Rogers, Gene Autry, and the like. (It debuted four days before Gunsmoke, or we might not be having this conversation.) We get confirmation of that in this week's review, as Bob Stahl refers to Wyatt Earp as "first to be offered up" in the genre; and, he adds, "If the others are as good, adult viewers will become as Western-conscious again as they were back in their own childhood days."

For one thing, the show's based on a true-life character, whose exploits "were so crammed with gun-slinging action, suspense and excitement that a producer could hardly go wrong in basing a show on his life." But the show has more going for it than that; there's also its handsome star, Hugh O'Brian, who is "near perfect" as Earp. O'Brian hits all the right notes, "avoiding the sham heroics and adding bits of humor to lighten the taut action"; Stahl believes O'Brian "might conceivably nudge Fess Parker's Davy Crockett out of his favorite position with the kids and who most certainly will appeal to women." The scripts, by author-playwright Frederick Hazlitt Brennan, are also excellent, tightly-written stories, "with little phony romance to clutter up the action." The supporting actors are good as well, and the series has an authentic look in sets, costumes, and music.

Wyatt Earp was also one of the first series to have a clearly defined story arc, although it might not be readily apparent yet; it begins in Ellsworth City, Kansas, where Earp begins his career as a lawman, and through the six seasons of the series, it progresses through various mileposts in the real Earp's life, as he moves to Wichita, Dodge City, and finally Tombstone, where the series culminates with the famed Gunfight at the OK Corral.  

An interesting sidenote is added by the editor: Welcome Ann Earp, of TV Guide's St. Louis editorial department, is a distant cousin of Wyatt Earp, and has studied his life extensively. According to her, the program could be "more accurate," and that Earp was likely more "taciturn and serious" than O'Brian plays him. It seems to me that of all the magazines in America in 1955, it's only fitting that a relative of Wyatt Earp would work for TV Guide.

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Some notes from the news: Sheilah Graham, TV Guide's insider columnist, reports that Jack Webb has decided to stay with Dragnet. If that comes as a surprise to you that this was even up for discussion, Webb had recently made a movie called Pete Kelly's Blues, and had planned to play Pete on TV when it became a weekly series. Reviews were not positive, however, and so Webb sticks with Dragnet for four additional seasons (plus an additional four in the Sixties), and settles for TV immortality.

Meanwhile, you might recall that a few weeks ago we read about Loretta Young's absense from her weekly anthology series due to fatigue. Sheilah says that someone suggested Loretta might be able to return sooner if she confined her workload to hosting, rather than starring, in the show. Her respone: "It's cheating. A hostess, after greeting her guests, should have fun with them." Spoken like a true Miss Manners!

In Hollywood, Dan Jenkins reports that the Federal Government is going after the major movie studios for allegedly engaging in a conspiracy to withhold their movies from television. So far, the only studio to comply has been Republic, which was just a formality since they'd already released 80 percent of their movies to TV. The studios claim that making their movies available would glut the market and "drive the price down to mere peanuts."

And this week's As We See It editorial is an open letter to baseball Commissioner Ford Frick, urging him to prevent teams from cutting back on their telecasts. The World Series, which ended last week with the Brooklyn Dodgers taking the title, was terrific to watch, but team owners should not take that to mean that television threatens the live gate. Most of television's advantages over live attendance (high-priced parking, overpriced concessions, uncomfortable seats, and surly ushers) can be remedied without pointing the finger at TV. In addition, televised baseball has, if anything, increased the game's appeal, especially with youngsters. (Note to today's owners: having World Series games that end after midnight on school nights is not the way to attract kids.) The editors see no reason why most, if not all, of a team's games, both home and away, can't be televised. The moral of the story: televise it, and they will come.

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MST3K alert:
The Corpse Vanishes (1942) Nightcap Theater: A scientist tries to keep his elderly wife perpetually young. Bela Lugosi, Luana Walters, Tristram Coffin. (Saturday, 12:15 a.m., WFIL) I suppose that's accurate as far as it goes, but the real story is that brides are dropping dead at the altar, and their bodies are being kidnapped (corpsenapped?) by Lugosi in order to literally suck the life out of them and inject it into his shrewish wife. There's an intrepid reporter, a handsome doctor, a newspaper editor that would do Simon Oakland proud, and a midget sidekick. Plus, in the original MST3K airing, there's an episode of Commando Cody's Radar Men From the Moon. What more can anyone possibly want? TV  

1 comment:

  1. Of course one of the more famous "Honeymooners" episodes from the filmed 1955-1956 series has to do with tv quiz shows. Ralph Kramden tackles the "99,000 Answer"


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