January 26, 2024

Around the dial

Saturday Night Life was a show that wasn't shown on the NBC affiliate back when I lived in the World's Worst Town™. This was back when the show debuted, so I was never sure whether the station thought it was too controversial, or simply wanted the revenue from showing old movies instead. At any rate, that was about 45 years ago, or around the same time that Garry Berman stopped watching it altogether. This week, he tells us why.

For years, we've been inundated with more television than anyone could possibly watch, thanks to the increase in streaming. But now, according to Mary Kate Carr at The A.V. Club, the end of Peak TV also means a decline in new television shows, by as much as 25%, if you can notice it. What does the future hold? It's a question we ask often, but nobody really knows the answer.

Kat Lively's latest episode of her podcast Calling Old Hollywood is now available, as she interviews screenwriter Neal Gumpel about Hollywood and the entertainment industry, films, AI, existentialism, the evolution (and censorship) of comedy, and other wide-ranging topics. You can see that episode here, along with past episodes, articles, and more. 

At Realweegiemidget, Gill looks at one of her favorites among the "retro television reunion film" genre, 1983's The Return of the Man from U.N.C.L.E., starring our heroes Robert Vaughn and David McCallum, with Patrick Macnee stepping in for the late Leo G. Carroll. It's one of the earliest of the reunion movies, and one of the most enjoyable; too bad it didn't result in a few more.

The Hitchcock Project continues unabated at barebones e-zine, with Jack reviewing the second and last contribution of Richard Fielder, 1963's "To Catch a Butterfly," starring Bradford Dillman, Diana Hyland, and Ed Asner. It's not just a gripping mystery, it is, as Jack says, "a fascinating look at parenting styles in America in the 1950s and 1960s," the kind of thing TV does so well.

The Broadcast Archives has a number of fascinating posts this week, including a 1949 Science Illustrated article (not written by AI, as Sports Illustrated might have done) on "What Every Family Wants to Know About Television," but I'm also recommending this look at Dave Garroway's pre-Today series Garroway at Large, an excellent example of the "Chicago Style" of television.

At Cult TV Blog, John continues his series of articles wondering if Patrick McGoohan's Number 6 was a plant, not a Prisoner, with the episode "Many Happy Returns." It's one of the series' more bizarre episodes, and looking at it from John's perspective makes it even more bizarre, but does it prove that Number 6 is a plant? You'll have to see for yourself.

Television Obscurities looks at a recent list from the Television Academy (the people who put on the Emmys) on the Top 75 Most Impactful Television Moments. Aside from my refusal to recognize "impactful" as a real word, I agree with Robert that it's nice to see a list that's not loaded with the recency bias that we see in so many of these lists. As always, YMMV.

Norman Jewison, the director whose works include the movies In the Heat of the Night, Rollerball, Fiddler on the Roof, and many more, died this week, aged 97. As Terence points out at A Shroud of Thoughts, Jewison also did a lot of television earlier in his career, particularly variety shows and specials. Quite a career, any way you measure it.

It seems like just yesterday that we were reading about Paul's journey through Season 1 of Bonanza, and already we're on to Season 2, as he recounts at Drunk TV. The legendary Western is hitting is its stride, and this season's episodes develops and expands on themes and characters introduced in the first season. It's already clear that Bonanza is not the average TV horse opera.

At The View from the Junkyard, Mike digs into "The Practical Joker," from the second season of Star Trek: The Animated Series. Romulans, gas clouds, practical jokes, and our first look at what is obviously The Next Generation's holodeck—what more, really, could anyone hope for from a 23-minute animated show? 

And finally, my friend Rodney Marshall has edited a new book, New Waves: 1980s TV In Britain, a collection of essays on the decade in British television drama. If that isn't enough, Maddy at Classic Film and TV Corner is one of the contributors, as she looks at The Gentle Touch, the first British series to feature a female police officer as the lead. Be sure to check it out. TV  


  1. 'John's perspective makes it even more bizarre'. One of the nicest compliments anyone's ever paid me, thank you. 😉

  2. Thanks for the mention, loved this movie - and you are right it would definitely have been fantastic if the Vaughn and McCallum double act had been reprised more. Have a good weekend x

  3. I was expecting something a little deeper than 'cue cards' in Garry Berman's critique of Saturday Night Live. I have never forgiven the show for preempting and eventually cancelling my childhood favorite Saturday night viewing: Chiller Theater. As I got older I watched it a few times, but wasn't taken in by the hype.
    About a decade or so ago I got the DVD of season one hoping age (the show's and mine) would be kinder, it wasn't. Outside of the Simon and Garfunkel music episode, the rest didn't age well at all. John Belushi's Samurai skits were still pretty funny though. But not enough for me to want to watch more. I ended up giving it to my older sister.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!