November 11, 2023

This week in TV Guide: November 14, 1970

Christopher George is one intense cat, and Arnold Hano means that literally; when you're around him, you're reminded of jungle images, and George "paces like a jungle cat, just out of camera range," as he waits for a scene to be shot. That intensity comes through, "[n]o matter how inane the role." Witness a shaving-cream commercial he made in 1962; he played a man shaving just before his honeymoon night. When his bride admires his smooth skin, he purrs, "It's all for you." "I put everything into that 'all for you'," George remembers. Not only did the ad win an award, viewers reacted. "Girls chased me down 57th Street in New York. I had to jump into a cab to get away. The mail was unreal." He made more than $30,000 for that commercial. For shaving cream.

Chris George, late of The Rat Patrol and currently star of The Immortal ("out of Superman by way of The Fugitive"), brings that same intensity to his real life. He complains constantly about the quality of Immortal scripts. "You want to replace me?" he growls at a producer. "Who is this man I'm supposed to be playing?" To Hano, he confides, "Some of the scripts are rotten. In one they've got me playing an introspective character who practically sucks his thumb. In the next I'm a finger-snapping, gum-chewing wise guy. The scriptwriters don't know what they're doing." It might be why The Immortal will be cancelled in January after 15 episodes (plus a pilot), without the show's key premise—a man whose rare blood makes him immortal, being pursued by a billionaire who wants the blood so he can be immortal—is never resolved.

George sees himself as a man who came "too late" to acting, in a time when the industry is ruled not by creative people but bookkeepers and accountants, and when profitability rules over all. But he's been in the business for nine years, and he's a survivor. He survived The Rat Patrol, through the internecine warfare at the upper levels of production, at having to live "in garbage cans," of a series that ran for two years and ended $1.8 million in the red. And that bit about "survival" should be taken literally as well; during the run of the series he twice dislocated his left should, three times dislocated his right, broke a hand, sprained a knee, suffered multiple brain concussions, broke his back in a jeep accident, and contracted dysentery. (Those injuries could have contributed to his death in 1983 at age 52.)

And yet, for all this, Chris George loves acting, unlike his wife, Lynda ("who if she isn't the most beautiful blonde in Hollywood is surely in the top 3), who doesn't much enjoy it. Yes, despite all these complaints, he loves acting. Comparing himself to a lion in the jungle who turns down the chance for a cushy life in a zoo, "I've got to do my own thing. Even if it kills me."

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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 Odd Couple, ABC's new sitcom based on the hit Neil Simon play and movie, was, according to Cleveland Amory, made to order for television. It presents the viewer with not one, but two "poor, dumb" bachelors, trying to make a go of life on their own. And the two are as different as night and day, "broad and slapsticky and so different you don't need a program to tell them apart." Felix (Tony Randall) is a photographer, "neat and tidy and fussy and prissy. He likes opera and squash and hangs his socks on a hanger." Oscar (Jack Klugman) is a sportswriter, "crass and brassy and a girl chaser. He is messy and sloppy and even slobby." On Broadway they were played by Art Carney and Walter Matthau; in the movies they were Jack Lemmon and Matthau.

And this, Amory says, is a key to appreciating The Odd Couple: "Given television's boundaries, Klugman and Randall are actually better than their predecessors." Even through their broad characters, the actors give them point—"Klugman something besides vulgarity, Randall something besides neurosis. And, at the same time, they never forget that the main point is to be funny." After a failed evening with the Pigeon sisters, Oscar lays it on Felix. "Your idea of a fun evening is defrosting the icebox. You've ruined another evening with your tidying and your cleaning and your fussing." But Felix doesn't take it lying down. Referring to Oscar's bedroom, he plays the part of the responsible one. "There are things growing down there. Lawrence of Arabia couldn't get through that dust." In another episode, after Felix has ruined yet another of Oscar's plans, he asks him if there's something he'd like to do now. "Yeah," replies Oscar, "but I've got to make it look like an accident." 

It is funny, and Klugman and Randall make it funnier. True, Cleve opines, it may well disappoint those who saw the play on Broadway or the movie. And anyone who objects to "slightly blue lines" is going to be annoyed. But, in a way, that's the point of the whole thing; what made the play and movie funny was that roughness, and the producers have succeeded in transferring that to television, "again, given television's boundaries." So if you haven't seen the most recent episode, don't miss the next one. "It may not be as funny," Amory says, "but the chances are it'll be funnier than any other situation comedy on your screen this season." And that about says it; during its five seasons, The Odd Couple was never a ratings smash, but it was, and remains, a show much loved by the many who remember it.

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We don't have Sullivan vs. The Palace anymore. Oh, Ed's still around for another season, but The Hollywood Palace made its final curtain call at the beginning of the year. That doesn't mean we don't have a variety of variety shows to look at, though—in fact, there's one for every night of the week. And, as always, variety shows are a great indicator of who's star is shining at any given time.

Things get started on Saturday with the syndicated Vikki Carr Show (3:30 p.m., KMOX in St. Louis), with Bobby Vee and the New Christy Minstrels as Vikki's guests. As we move into primetime, it's the latest incarnation of The Andy Williams Show (6:30 p.m. CT) featuring guest stars Leslie Uggams, Ken Berry, and Claudine Longet, i.e. Mrs. Williams. That goes up against KPLR and their syndicated lineup of Country shows, including Country Carnival at 4:30 p.m., Country Place at 5:00, That Good Ole Nashville Music, with Roy Acuff, at 5:30, The Wilburn Brothers at 6:00, Porter Wagoner at 6:30, Stan Hitchcock at 7:00, Buck Owens at 7:30, Bill Anderson at 8:00, and Nashville Now at 8:30. Not my kind of music, but that's quite a lineup. And to round the evening off, Hugh Hefner's show (12:30 a.m., KSD) features Milton Berle, Barrie Chase, Jo Anne Worley, and Tony Joe White; it's probably the best lineup of the night. 

On Sunday, the aforementioned Sullivan show features ballerina Natalia Makarova, who recently defected from the Soviet Union (remember when events like that were a big deal?) and will be dancing with the American Ballet Theatre's Ted Kivitt; comedians Dick Gregory and Jeremy Vernon; British musical-comedy star Norman Wisdom; singers Abbe Lane, Tommy Roe, Billy Joe Royal and Joe South; and racing drivers Stirling Moss, Dan Gurney, Jackie Stewart and Graham Hill, competing in a miniature-car race—I'd give Ed the edge over anyone else based on them alone. (7:00 p.m., CBS) Up against that is The Klowns, an hour-long circus show hosted by Sammy Davis Jr., with Jerry Lewis, Juliet Prowse, Charlie Callas, Don Rickles, the Smothers Brothers, and three acts from the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus. (7:00 p.m., ABC) Sullivan's show is part of a three-hour block of variety shows; it's followed at 8:00 by The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour, with Dean Martin, Anne Murray, and John Byner; then at 9:00, it's The Tim Conway Comedy Hour, with Carol Burnett and Steve Lawrence.

Monday is a night of big names on NBC, starting with The Red Skelton Show (6:30 p.m.), with guest Godfrey Cambridge as football star Joe Broadway, managed by San Fernando Red. That's followed by Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In (7:00 p.m.), featuring Bob Newhart playing an NBC prop man. At 8:00 p.m., it's a Bob Hope special, with Bob's third annual vaudeville show; special guests are Lucille Ball, George Burns, Tom Jones, and Danny Thomas. The night winds up with another special celebrating Jack Benny's 20th TV Anniversary, featuring highlights from 20 years of Jack's shows, and including guests Bob Hope, Frank Sinatra, Dinah Shore, Lucille Ball, Dean Martin, Red Skelton, and Jack's wife Mary Livingston. Sounds like a lot of the same people we've been reading about already, doesn't it? CBS counters with The Carol Burnett Show (9:00 p.m.), with Ross Martin and Martha Raye.

Have you noticed how big Country music shows are in 1970? And I'm not talking about the Countrified pop crap that you see so much today, but the real thing. In addition to that strip of twangy shows that KPLR had on Saturday, Tuesday has Hee Haw (still on its network run) with special guest Charley Price. (7:30 p.m., CBS), and on Wednesday it's The Johnny Cash Show, with guests Kris Kristofferson, Cass Elliot, and Lorne Greene (8:00 p.m., ABC). After all that, I was so hoping Eddy Arnold was hosting one of the Country-flavored editions of Kraft Music Hall (8:00 p.m., NBC); alas, it's "Don Adams Investigates The Detectives," a musical-comedy satire on famous sleuths (no offense meant to Don, of course), with Raymond Burr, Will Jordan, Elisha Cook, and David Janssen. And I'll bet they've got some Thanksgiving recipes on the commercials.

The fun continues on Thursday with The Flip Wilson Show (6:30 p.m.), and Flip's guests, Marcel Marceau, Arte Johnson, Moms Mabley, and Cajun fiddler Doug Kershaw. (I knew we'd keep that Country theme going.) And at 7:00 p.m., The Jim Nabors Hour (CBS) has Don Rickles and singer Karen Wyman, in a salute to the English music hall. Finally (for tonight, anyway), The Dean Martin Show (9:00 p.m., NBC) welcomes Vikki Carr, the Temptations, and English comic Billy Baxter.

Sammy Davis Jr. is back on Friday, but it's not in a variety show; instead, he's a guest on part one of a two-part Name of the Game (7:30 p.m., NBC), playing soul singer superstar Billy Baker; Ray Charles, Tony Martin, Marilyn Michaels, Jack Carter, Norm Crosby, and Redd Foxx also appear in an episode that might as well be a variety special, don't you think? And wrapping up the week, Tom Jones has his first London special of the season, with Jack Jones, Joey Heatherton, and Jerry Reed. (9:00 p.m., ABC) And they said the variety show was dead; I don't know about you, but I'm exhausted just typing all this. Did I miss anyone?

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A couple of additional programs to report on this week: On Tuesday, the Hallmark Hall of Fame opens its 20th season with "Hamlet," starring Richard Chamberlain, (8:00 p.m., NBC) You might not think of Dr. Kildare as your first choice to play the role, but Chamberlain won raves in Britain last year when he became the first American Hamlet since John Barrymore. He's backed by a heavyweight supporting cast, including Michael Redgrave as Polonius, Margaret Leighton as Gertrude, John Gielgud as the Ghost, and Martin Shaw as Horatio. As you can see here, it's a handsome production, set in Europe of the 1800s, as opposed to the bleak and minimal versions that one often sees nowadays.

Also on Tuesday, it's one of the ABC Movie of the Week presentations that many will remember fondly: The Over-the-Hill Gang Rides Again (7:30 p.m.), a sequel to last year's Over-the-Hill Gang movie. It's your run-of-the-mill movie, with the highlight definitely being a cast that includes Fred Astaire, Walter Brennan, Edgar Buchanan, Andy Devine, Chill Wills, and Parley Baer; Paul Richards and Lana Wood are on hand as younger faces. Says Judith Crist, it's "designed for Golden Agers and movie buffs who get a bang out of seeing familiar faces."

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ABC's rotating cast of news anchors has taken another turn, reports Richard K. Doan, as the network turns to CBS veteran Harry Reasoner in its search for ratings success. Reasoner, who's been the long-time second anchor on the evening news (filling in for Walter Cronkite when necessary), will replace Frank Reynolds as Howard K. Smith's co-anchor beginning December 7. Reynolds has come under increasing fire for his outspoken liberal commentaries, recently calling for a total ban on TV advertising, but Elmer W. Lower, president of ABC News, insists that this had nothing to do with Reynolds' replacement. "Reasoner is 'simply a bigger box-office star,'" Lower says. "He has great independence of mind, too, and will do commentaries twice a week." Reynolds, meanwhile, is being reassigned to special segments.

As longtime readers know, I'm an admirer of both Reasoner and Reynolds (and Smith too, for that matter); when I was in my formative years, the Smith-Reasoner evening news was my preferred news broadcast—when I could see them, that is, given that I spent many of those years living in the World's Worst Town™. And while Reynolds' politics diverged from mine, I always found him a straightforward, dignified, and likeable presence. Of course, that rotating cast will continue to turn; eventually Howard K. Smith will be replaced by Barbara Walters (a terrible move), and partly as a result of that, Reasoner winds up going back to CBS. And when Roone Arledge comes in as head of ABC News and creates World News Tonight, he brings back former anchor Peter Jennings as London correspondent, and as the main anchor, he turns to—Frank Reynolds. A good move.

In other news from The Doan Report, CBS's second-season plans are coming into focus. In addition to cancelling The Tim Conway Comedy Hour, the network is planning on dropping either The Governor and J.J. or To Rome with Love in favor of "a satirical venture tentatively titled All in the Family." The new show is an Americanized version of the former British hit, Till Death Us Do Part, a show "which managed to insult all minorities." CBS president Robert Wood is said to be determined to "hang his hat on this one," seeing the new sitcom as analogous to NBC's Laugh-In in its ability to "enliven TV." Time will tell, I suppose. 

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MST3K alert: The Eye Creatures
(1945) The strange inhabitants from a flying saucer terrify a lovers' lane. John Ashley, Cynthia Hull, Warren Hammack, Chet Davis, Bill Peck. (Saturday, 8:00 p.m., KDNL) As you can see from the picture at the left, the original title was rendered in a stylized logo. When the movie was re-released as Attack of the Eye Creatures, whoever was in charge of graphic embellishments inexplicably added "Attack of the" to the title, meaning that it reads literally as, well, Attack of the The Eye Creatures. No fan of MST3K would ever refer to it any other way. And I think that tells you just about everything you need to know about this movie. TV  


  1. In a way, ALL IN THE FAMILY replaced both THE GOVERNOR AND J.J. and TO ROME WITH LOVE. ALL IN THE FAMILY replaced TO ROME WITH LOVE Tuesday at 9:30 PM ET (after HEE-HAW!), and TRwL moved into the Wednesday night time slot of the cancelled G&JJ.

  2. I do remember To Rome with Love as a kid. I think it was a spin-off of Family Affair.

    1. While "To Rome with Love" existed in the Fedderson Universe along with "My Three Sons" and "Family Affair" as evidenced by crossover episodes, it was not a spin-off. It was more like "My Three Daughters" instead.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!