February 10, 2024

This week in TV Guide: February 7, 1970

No, I didn't inhale. Never even had the desire. But then, I always was a square, even though the edges have been worn off over the years.  

Now that we have that joke out of the way, we can get on to Dick Hobson's report on Marijuana use in Hollywood. I suppose there's a tendency to think of this as being part of the "good old days," as opposed to today's talk about fentanyl or other opioids. But "The use of marijuana is one of the most vigorously debated subjects in America today," and Hollywood is a community, just like any other, with adults trying to figure out how to cope with this latest aspect of the Generation Gap. Some try to supervise the drug's use by their children; some, like Meredith MacRae, take a benign attitude towards it. "I have friends who smoke it and some who don't," she says. "So long as they're not hurting anyone else, why not?" Others, like Buddy Ebsen, will have no part of it. He says that "Parents who do that are soft-headed pseudo-intellectuals!"

Everyone has an opinion on this, and most of them are pretty predictable: Peter Fonda is for it, Dick Clark says its use is "rampant" in Hollywood and elsewhere, Eddie Albert sees it as the "in-thing" for swingers, and an act of rebellion by kids. Steve McQueen thinks it should be allowed, but the "bad drugs" should be banned. Jack Webb doesn't buy the distinction; "I am a very narrow-minded person on this subject." MacRae acknowledges that if she were to be caught with it, it would ruin her career; her contract with Petticoat Junction includes the standard morals clause, which would "probably not be invoked until bad publicity began to hurt the show."

For our purposes, what I find interesting is how television is handling this ticklish subject. Art Linkletter, whose daughter died after taking LSD, complains that many top 40 songs contain "secret messages" on drugs, and Hobson notes that "most" variety shows, including The Ed Sullivan Show, feature "head music." Ernest Chambers, producer of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour and The Leslie Uggams Show, says that "CBS censors are going crazy," citing an example from the Smothers Brothers show in which Leigh French was prevented from calling herself "Mary Wanna" but okayed the name "Goldie O'Keefe," only to wonder later if "'Goldie' referred to Acapulco Gold, high-grade Mexican marijuana, and 'Keefe' to kef, a high-grade variety from Morocco." "They were always coming to us with 'Does this mean something? Does that mean anything?' Chambers says. "They think the young are putting something over on them."

What all this tells me is that the line is always being drawn somewhere, and the same issues keep coming back time and again, under different guises. Take sex, for example; it has, at various times, been about married couples in separate beds, use of the word "pregnant," Elvis Presley's swiveling hips, pre-marital sex, nudity, homosexuality, and transsexuality. It all boils down to the same thing, one way or another; it's just the scale that keeps sliding. Violence, language, "Me Too," drug use—it's all the same. Half of the concern is about what's being shown on-screen, the other half is about what's being done off-screen by those responsible for what's being seen on-screen. TV Guide was always at the forefront of asking these questions, back in the day. The magazine, such as it is, doesn't cover these issues anymore, at least not in any serious way, and that's too bad, because it would be interesting to see what it would say about the times we live in today.

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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: Ed's scheduled guests include country music’s Chet Atkins, Floyd Cramer and Boots Randolph; comic-impressionist David Frye; Connie Stevens; comic Richard Pryor; and Sam and Sammy, balancing act. 

Palace: Bing Crosby, who hosted opening night at the Palace on Jan. 4, 1964, rings down the curtain with a large sampling of highlights from the past six years.

If we were traversing these TV Guides in chronological order, we would be coming to the end of this feature today, as The Hollywood Palace bows out after a six-year run. Fortunately (or not, depending on how you look at things), that's not how it goes around here, so you still have many more episodes of Sullivan vs The Palace to look forward to. We're not playing by the regular rules this week, though: who can argue with a highlights package that ranges from Nat King Cole and Fred Astaire to James Brown and Sammy Davis Jr., and stops along the way to pick up Ed Wynn, Bert Lahr, Buster Keaton,  Milton Berle, Buddy Rich, Tiny Tim, Kate Smith, Don Rickles, Petula Clark, Burns and Schreiber, Perry Como, David Janssen, and so many others we've read about through the years. And who better to guide us through this history than Bing Crosby, who hosted Palace more than anyone else. I'm not even going to bother looking at Ed's lineup (or whether or not it has any head songs), because this week The Hollywood Palace takes the prize for old times' sake

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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. 

If there's one thing—OK, make that two things—we've seen in abundance over the last couple of seasons, it's been sitcoms featuring widows and sitcoms featuring widowers. To break the mold, says Cleveland Amory, The Brady Bunch gives us something new and different: a sitcom about a widow who marries a widower. Not only that, but there are children, too—the widow has three, who all happen to be girls, and the widower has three, who—"you'll never guess this"—all happen to be boys. And there's a dog, too! As for the "all-knowing housekeeper," don't worry. "The all-wise people who run this show have her, all right." This show seems to have everything—except a point.

"There's nothing really wrong with The Brady Bunch," Amory acknowledges. "But nothing is really right, either. Everything is so contrived that you don't believe what goes on any more than you believe sketches in a variety show." In one episode, for instance, Alice the housekeeper begins to feel unneeded, and tells the family she has to leave to tend to a sick relative in Seattle. "Don't you," asks Cindy, "like us better than Attle?" ("Honestly, that's what she said—we wrote it down.") "Seattle's a place," one of the boys replies, "like Mississippi." "Mrs. who?" asks the girl. "We tell you," Cleve says, "kids not only say the darnedest things, they also have the damnedest writers." Another episode features Bobby, the youngest boy, wanting to run away from home because, after seeing Cinderella on television, he thinks his stepmom, Carol, doesn't love him. Amory's theory is that "he didn't really want to run away from home—just the show." 

I paid scant attention to The Brady Bunch when I was growing up, and I've never had the urge to revisit it in later years. Lately, we've been watching The Defenders, that great legal drama from the early 1960s, and every week I wonder how Robert Reed, the junior half of that father-and-son law partnership, ever wound up on a show like The Brady Bunch. There is a temptation to suggest that Reed's agent may have urged him to take the role as a career move, stressing how it would be good for the public image of a man who was, in fact, a closeted homosexual. I'm not sure, but I think Amory may have furnished another possibility. "There are millions of stepchildren nowadays," he notes, "and surely their problems, and those of their parents, deserve, even in a comedy series, something more than this mish-mush." Perhaps that possibility was something that appealed to Reed's serious side as an actor, when he signed up to play Mike Brady. Unfortunately, for both him and us, Sherwood Schwartz had other ideas.

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A couple of weeks ago, we were looking at an issue from this same year, 1970. In that issue, we read about "Married Alive," a comedy starring Diana Rigg and Robert Culp that seemed to promise some light entertainment. I wasn't familiar with it, nor was one of our commentators, who was sure he must have seen it but didn't have any recollection of it. Now, thanks to a fairly pointless feature called "Second Look" by Scott MacDonough, we can get some idea of what it was all about.

I call this feature pointless not necessarily because of MacDonough's writing, nor his judgment, but because the purpose of "Second Look" is, for the most part, to look back at what's just been on TV*. That makes sense today, but back in 1970, with no VCRs, no video-on-demand, no way to see a show again unless it's shown during the summer rerun season, what service does it perform to let us know about a show that's already aired, especially a one-off special? I can understand how a single episode from a given series might tell us something about the quality of episodes to come—that's Cleveland Amory's gig. And Judith Crist's movie reviews can help us decide whether or not to invest a couple of hours of our time on the CBS Thursday Night Movie. But unless there's some in-depth analysis to be found in the review, I don't see where it does us any good. If the show's going to be repeated later in the year, that's the time I can use a reminder of how good (or how bad) it was, not in the immediate aftermath, when I'm likely to have forgotten about it by the time it's shown again. And as I've said, it's not as if I've recorded it for playback later; that technology doesn't exist yet for you and me.

*As if to prove me a liar, MacDonough also has a (very good) preview of an upcoming program, but in this recurring feature that's generally the exception, rather than the rule

As for "Married Alive," MacDonough wasn't impressed. While he liked Rigg and Culp (farceurs supreme, he calls them), the story itself was a piece of "flapdoodle." "When a playwright has nothing to say and nowhere to go," he writes, "a fashionable way of padding is to bring on the food and drink. During "Married Alive," Mr. Culp (by our tally) consumed four lightly boiled eggs, two pots of tea, two slices of whole-wheat toast, four Scotch and sodas, and a half-bottle of ketchup. Draw your own conclusions." MacDonough says he mentions this "primarily for the benefit of trend-spotters," so I suppose we should automatically be suspicious of any future shows that feature people eating and drinking, which doesn't bode well for the next airing of the movie Tom Jones, I guess. But will I remember it by the time "Married Alive" rolls around again? Your guess is as good as mine. 

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Some highlights from a quiet week:

Saturday's Wide World of Sports (5:00 p.m., ABC) comes from Tulsa, Oklahoma, where we get tape-delay coverage of the U.S. Figure Skating Championships, with Jim McKay and Dick Button on hand to describe the finals in men's, women's, and pairs competition. I suppose it ages me that, as is with the case in most other sports, I recognize all these names—Tim Wood, John Misha Petkevich, Janet Lynn, and Julie Lynn Holmes—while I couldn't name the current champions if you offered me a million dollars. I also recognize the names on a colorful Andy Williams Show (7:30 p.m., NBC), as Andy welcomes Sid Caesar, Dusty Springfield, and Jo Anne Worley in a something-for-everyone show. 

morning offers a possible example as to why religious belief has steadily been falling in the united states over the last few decades. It comes in a CBS religious special, "Concern, Confrontation and Crisis" (8:00 a.m.), hosted by Hughes Rudd, and discusses the two challenges facing the National Council of Churches: "how to embrace more Christians (including Catholics) and recruit additional black leaders." Notice there's nothing there about things like, you know, spreading Christianity and preaching the Gospel. I suppose they know best. In more pleasant news, we greet some old friends once again, as Kukla, Fran and Ollie return for a five-episode run on NET (5:00 p.m.). On tonight's episode, Ollie attempts to engage the Supremes and the Beatles for a variety show—gratis. Good luck, Ollie! 

The Shape of Things to Come, part two: Last week, it was NBC's special "The Voice of the Dragon"; this week, it's "In the Company of Men," a report on NET Journal (Monday, 9:00 p.m., NET). From the description: "A sensitivity-training session becomes a battleground for thrashing out the hostilities between whites and blacks. At a Southern auto factory, films show psychiatrists’ work with white foremen and blacks who have been termed ‘hard-core unemployed.” On camera: preparatory sessions with the foremen; roleplaying sessions where blacks and whites exchange jobs; and a candid discussion about the ambitions of both foremen and workers." Reminds me more than a little bit of Jane Elliott's "blue-eyes-brown-eyes" experiment from the same era, don't you agree?

That favorable preview by Scott MacDonough that I mentioned above was for "The Day Before Sunday" (Tuesday, 9:30 p.m., CBS), an original drama written for CBS Playhouse, starring Uta Hagen and Martin Balsam as two middle-aged people who meet on a flight Hagen is taking to her niece's prep school graduation, and the obstacles that stand in the way of a possible relationship. It's an examination of the rapidly changing mores of a culture that, with its turbulent shifts, seems to be tearing itself apart, The "free-swinging hedonism and forthright honesty of the 'younger generation'" is presented as both appealing and appalling, resulting in a ending that is "inconclusive, or, if you prefer, [a] cop-out." Best to tune out ten minutes before the end, to appreciate Hagen's powerful performance, as well as strong supporting portrayals by Michael Anderson Jr. and Dianne Hull. I should note here that not all contemporary critics were as kind to the play as MacDonough, so perhaps there's hope for "Married Alive" after all.

On Wednesday, Lorne Greene and Bobbie Gentry host highlights from the 30th edition of the Ice Capades (9:00 p.m., NBC), an annual television special. It's part of an evening's entertainment that's heavy on music on all three networks; CBS offers Hee Haw, with the gang welcoming Lynn Anderson and George Jones (7:30 p.m.), while ABC counters with The Johnny Cash Show, featuring Ray Charles, Neil Diamond, and Tammy Wynette (9:00 p.m.), followed at 10:00 p.m. by The Engelbert Humperdinck Show, with Lena Horne, Joel Grey, Trisha Noble, and Vanity Fare.

Thursday is Lincoln's Birthday, which in 1970 was a holiday in 24 states and the District of Columbia, and to commemorate the 161st anniversary of his birth, Daniel Boone tells the story of the stormy courtship of Lincoln's parents, Tom Lincoln and Nancy Hanks (7;30 p.m., NBC). The Boones' efforts to bring the couple together are hampered by Tom's practicality, which clashes with Nancy's conviction that she will have a "boy baby who will sit in high places." William Wright's script is based on characterizations from Carl Sandberg's The Prairie Years

The Name of the Game is another one of those wheel series that revolves around a central concept, in this case, a publishing company. There were three rotating leads; Gene Barry was the publisher, while Tony Franciosa and Robert Stack played, respectively, a reporter and an editor of other publications. Susan Saint James, in her pre-McMillan and Wife days, was the only constant appearing with all three leads. The episodes starring Barry could, at times, be quite offbeat or surreal, as we see on Friday in "Tarot" (8:30 p.m., NBC), which stars Jose Ferrer in a rare television appearance involving the occult and an alleged suicide. William Shatner, David Carradine, and Bethel Leslie costar.

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Robert Musel takes a look at what British television has had to offer this season, and among the notes we read about "Monty Python’s Flying Circus—the name means nothing—a late-night comedy show which is the end product of giving five young. actor-writers complete artistic freedom and an adequate budget. It is a strident, biting, sometimes cruel mélange of sketches and animation that some of its small, fanatically loyal audience might describe as satire, although the cast dreads the word." No word on whether or not this show will ever be seen in the United States.

Staying with the subject of possible British imports, The Doan Report speculates that "A TV-user tax similar to Great Britain’s is being quietly discussed in Washington now as the prime means for generating millions of dollars yearly for U.S. public television." According to the proposal (which, thankfully, never comes to pass, the plan would mean something like "a levy of $2 or $3 on each TV set in the home, paid annually with income taxes." It might work, says one cynical insider, "because the taxpayer has no lobby to fight it."

And Carolyn See profiles Dick Sargent, the new Darrin on Bewitched, who comes across as a wry, modest fellow who's extremely proud of the work he's done renovating his house, particularly the garden. ("Oh, actors have a lot of time on their hands, you know, ha ha.") Among other things, we learn that he was actually suggested to play Darrin when the series first started, but at the time he was committed to Broadside, a spinoff of McHale's Navy that ran for the 1964-65 season. Did he regret how things turned out? "No, I couldn’t tell then which series was going to make it. I don’t think anybody really knows what's going to happen, although they generally make enough remarks one way or the other to cover themselves either way." In the entertainment business, as in politics, that's the name of the game, isn't it?

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MST3K alert: 
(English; 1961) It might not have been a good idea to bring that live prehistoric monster to London— it has a parent that’s coming after it. Bill Travers, William Sylvester, Vincent Winter, Bruce Seton, Martin Benson. (Friday, 6:30 p.m., KTXL in Sacramento) Leonard Maltin's memorable cameo as himself, trying to come up with the world's worst movie in order to torture Mike and the Bots, is one of the great bits in the show's history. Asked if this movie was going to "hurt" them, he replies, "Well, that's a matter of opinion, Mike. Now I actually like Gorgo, but when we reviewed it for my number one best-selling Movie and Video Guide, it put two of my assistant editors into intensive care. So who knows?" Need we say more? TV  


  1. I always liked Robert Reed better as Lt. Tobias on Mannix, which he did simultaneously with the BB. In fact, the set was used several times in episodes of Mannix. Shame they never considered a spin-off for him. Reed liked the kids on the show and was only reason he came back for the sequels and revivals. They looked at him as their second dad.

    1. I liked him in that, too. One of the things I really appreciated about Mannix was that they had Joe work with several lieutenants, not just one. I know a lot of it probably had to do with the actors that were available (Larry Linville, Ward Wood), but it struck me as being more realistic.

  2. I've been a BRADY fan since I was watching it Friday nights on ABC. I've also bought & read most of the books about the show. From what I've read, Robert Reed had a "pay or play" contract with Paramount at the time, so Paramount, wanting to have Robert Reed working since he was being paid anyway, wanted him to have the job. He had a good test with Florence Henderson as his wife, so he got the part. He hated the role but was stuck in it for 5 years. He chose to appear in all the sequels, including the horrible Brady variety show, thought he gave Sherwood Schwartz & his son Lloyd trouble fighting over the show's realism and that of their sequels. (They had nothing to do with the variety show.)

    In addition to Cleveland Amory's review, this issue has a profile of BRADY's Florence Henderson from Arnold Hano titled "Susie Sweet, She Ain't". The profile points out that Ms. Henderson wasn't as pure in person as Carol Brady was as a character. When hearing the "Susie Sweet" nickname applied to her, she was quoted saying "It's better than being called a ------.". As the author states just after, "She said it so sweetly".

    1. I enjoyed that Hano article too; it's nice to remember that Florence Henderson was a living, breathing human being and not just a television icon. I do feel for Robert Reed - watching him on "The Defenders," and seeing him on shows like "Mannix" show how fine an actor he was. Thanks for the additional information on that. And Amory doesn't always get his reviews right!


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!