May 18, 2024

This week in TV Guide: May 21, 1966

This week's cover features the stars of CBS's hit steampunk Western-cum-James Bond adventure series The Wild Wild West, Robert Conrad and Ross Martin. Although Conrad is the focal point of the CBS series (he is, after all, the one named West), it is Martin's performance as Artemus Gordon, master of disguise, that remains in the memory years later; Conrad himself freely admitted that Martin brought a warmth and style to his character that complimented and softened Conrad's brash and typically heroic James West, in much the same way that David McCallum did with Robert Vaughn on The Man from U.N.C.L.E. And, much as was the case with McCallum's Illya Kuryakin, Artemus Gordon has built up a fan base of his own, culminating in Leslie Raddatz's profile of "The wild, wild man from The Wild, Wild West." 

Martin, an exceptionally talented actor, has resigned himself to the fact that he'll never be the star, the heroic romantic lead; he was a psychopathic killer in the movie Experiment in Terror with Glenn Ford and Lee Remick, John Vivyan's sidekick Andamo in Mr. Lucky, and one of the regular panelists on Stump the Stars. "I can't say I'm happy being a second banana," he tells Raddatz, although he concedes that the role of Gordon, in which he eventually plays over 100 different characters, is "a show-off's showcase!" So far, he's had the chance to portray "a myopic Viennese geologist, a desert-rat prospector, a hammy Shakespearean actor, a derelict Civil War veteran, an old Swedish railroad worker, a Chinese coolie, a Parisian art connoisseur and President Grant himself." A show-off's showcase, indeed.

The road West hasn't always been a smooth or straight one; as Martin Rosenblatt, a new graduate from the City College of New York in 1940, he took the stage name Mickey Ross and started out in a vaudeville act with a classmate named, ironically, Bernie West. The act focused on topical comedy, and gave him the chance to impersonate contemporary figures such as FDR, Hitler, Ronald Coleman, and even the rooster that figures in the opening credits for the RKO-Pathé newsreel. After settling down and starting a family, the itch to return to acting—the job he wanted all along—became impossible to ignore. He was hired as an actor and announcer at WTOP radio in Washington D.C., where he also served to introduce Arthur Godfrey's daily show. "The first day, after Ross had intoned the introduction in what he considered the proper announcorial tone, Godfrey came on saying, 'Ross Martin —well, la-de-da!' The next morning, Ross made the announcement in an exact take-off of Godfrey’s voice. There was a moment of silence, after which The Great Man merely said, 'Good morning,' which is the way it was from then on."

His big break came when he landed a small part in Peter Gunn, a prototype of the Andamo role he was to take on in Mr. Lucky. Both shows were directed by Blake Edwards, who remembered him, and when Edwards called him six months after Gunn and offered him the job in Mr. Lucky, Martin thought it a joke at first. From there on, the TV and movie roles followed. Although Martin describes himself as "a warm, somewhat talky, even-dispositioned, multi-interested, bright dilettante," he is in fact respected and well-liked by his contemporaries. He has a friendly but somewhat guarded relationship with Conrad, as he did with Vivyan on Mr. Lucky; in fact, most of his friends are from outside of show business. 

Although The Wild Wild West was Martin's best-known role, he remained working in television; in addition to returning as Artemus in two Wild Wild West made for TV movies, he played a recurring villain in Hawaii Five-O, did a wonderful turn as a murderer in Columbo, and even portrayed Charlie Chan in a pilot for a possible series. Oh, by the way, he was also a concert-trained violinist, a talent he was able to employ in an episode of West. He died from a heart attack in 1981 at the much-too-early age of 61, but he left a body of work that continues to entertain today.

l  l  l

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: Scheduled guests: singers Maria Cole and Nancy Sinatra; Metropolitan Opera baritone Robert Merrill; the comedy teams of Allen and Rossi, and Stiller and Meara; Elva Miller, a housewife-turned-singer; and the West Point Glee Club.

Palace:  Host Bing Crosby introduces comedian Shelly Berman; singer Leslie Uggams; lyricist Johnny Mercer; the singing King Family; the Three Mecners, Polish acrobats; Mac Ronay, French comic magician; and British vaudevillians Pat Daly and Bill Wayne.

Little-known fact of the week: when the King Family first appeared on The Hollywood Palace, almost two years to the date from this issue, the outpouring of public approval (reportedly 53,000 letters) resulted in them getting their own series. That series has since come and gone, but this week the Kings are back on the Palace. As for the rest of the matchup, on the one hand you have the great Robert Merrill, the occasionally funny Stiller and Meara, the funny-then-but-not-so-much-now Allen and Rossi, and Nancy Sinatra; on the other you have Bing Crosby, Shelly Berman, Leslie Uggams, and Johnny Mercer. Almost a push, but not quite, so we'll Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate the Positive and give the nod to the Palace. (Besides, the Kings outnumber the rest of us.)

l  l  l

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. 

Peter Graves had a considerable body of work to his name prior to Mission: Impossible, including a raft of B-movies that wound up on Mystery Science Theater 3000. As far as television is concerned, though, I'm guessing he was probably best known for Fury. It's interesting, therefore, to get Cleveland Amory's take on one of his lesser-remembered series, the military drama Court-Martial, which co-stars Bradford Dillman. 

Court-Martial is part of the British invasion of American television, produced by Lew Grade's ITC (responsible for British imports ranging from Thunderbirds to The Avengers, The Prisoner, and The Saint), but the focus is on Graves and Dillman, who play Judge Advocate Generals for the United States Army during World War II. It probably has one of the longest gestation periods of any television series, based on a 1963 episode of Kraft Suspense Theatre that also starred Graves and Dillman; however, it was worth the wait. Despite its title, relatively little of the series actually takes place in court; most of the plots focus on the preparation of the case for the defense, with Graves and Dillman rotating leads each week. Unlike the criminal justice system, military justice can be somewhat unforgiving, and the mitigating circumstances that might get you a reduced sentence in a regular court don't count for much here. Frequently, "there’s only one ending possible, an unhappy one." Fortunately, adds Cleve, this is a British production, and "the British have the guts to make those endings possible on your screen."

In addition to the challenging storylines, the series features exciting storylines and excellent performances, from guest stars and leads alike. According to Amory, "Graves, brother of James Arness, is more believable in his role than is Dillman, husband of Suzy Parker." Have no fear, though, for regardless of who plays the lead, "this is the kind of show where even the bad guys are such good actors you feel sorry for them." There used to be some episodes floating around on YouTube and the Internet Archive, although most of them seem to have disappeared; on the other hand, if you're dipping into the grey market, you'll be able to track them down. You just might find it worth your while.

l  l  l

Saturday begins with some major sporting events, starting at 2:00 p.m. PT as Cassius Clay defends his world heavyweight championship against England's Henry Cooper on ABC's Wide World of Sports, live via Early Bird satellite from Arsenal Stadium in London. Cooper is thought to have a real chance in this fight; he'd knocked Clay down in their previous bout in 1963 before Clay rallied to win. Cooper is a bleeder who cuts easily, though, and after Clay opens up a cut above Cooper's left eye in the sixth round (which would later require 12 stitches to close), the referee stops the bout, with Clay retaining his title. 

Stateside, it's the Preakness Stakes, second jewel of the Triple Crown, with CBS's half-hour coverage beginning at 2:30 p.m. Kauai King, the Kentucky Derby winner, takes the prize here as well, but his Triple Crown hopes will be dashed three weeks hence with a fourth place finish in the Belmont. And, if you're up for it, there's yet another championship boxing match, with José Torres successfully defending his light-heavyweight championship against Wayne Thornton, live from Shea Stadium in New York City (7:30 p.m., KTVU in San Francisco). For the less violent, try the ◀ Miss U.S.A. Beauty Pageant (10:00 p.m., CBS), live-on-tape from the sun-and-fun capital of America, Miami Beach, with June Lockhart, Jack Linkletter, and Pat Boone placing the crown on Hungarian refugee Maria Remenyi, Miss California. 

Sunday night, it's the final first-run episode of Perry Mason, "The Case of the Final Fade-Out" (9:00 p.m., CBS), with (spoiler alert!) Dick Clark as the killer! I love how this episode ends; after everything's wrapped up, Perry, Della, and Paul begin looking over the files of another case. The implication: though the series may be over, Perry's work never ends. A perfect lead-in to an eternity of reruns and TV-movies.

That's followed at 10:00 p.m. by the 18th annual Emmy Awards (CBS), hosted by Danny Kaye in Hollywood and Bill Cosby in New York. The night's big winner is The Dick Van Dyke Show, which takes home four awards, including best comedy series, best actor (Dick Van Dyke), and best actress (Mary Tyler Moore). The other major winners include The Fugitive for best drama, The Andy Williams Show for best variety series, and Frank Sinatra: A Man and His Music as best musical program. The broadcast clocks in at a cool 90 minutes; those were the days.

Monday marks the start of the week, and the start of celebrities' week-long stints on various daytime game shows. It's a pretty good lineup on hand: Peter Lawford and Lee Remick on Password (1:00 p.m., CBS), John Astin and Ruta Lee on You Don't Say! (2;00 p.m., NBC), and Carol Lawrence and Mitch Miller on The Match Game (2:30 p.m., NBC) 

This week marks the 49th birthday of the late John F. Kennedy, commemorated with two specials during the week. On Tuesday, Joseph Cotton narrates "Young Man from Boston" (7:30 p.m., KGO in San Francisco), which follows JFK in his early years, including his days at Harvard, his life as son to Ambassador Joseph Kennedy, his naval career, and the beginning of his life in politics; Gordon MacRae, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir, and the Kingston Trio provide the music. On Wednesday, Cliff Robertson (who starred as Kennedy in the movie PT 109) narrates "John Fitzgerald Kennedy" (9:00 p.m., KTVU in San Francisco), which picks up with Kennedy as a freshman senator, his election as president, and major events including the Bay of Pigs, the Cuban Missile Crisis, and the Berlin Wall. Jim Bishop, author of A Day in the Life of President Kennedy (and future author of The Day Kennedy Was Shot) describes JFK's family life—the sanitized version, one would imagine. Also on Tuesday, CBS presents the second National Drivers Test (10:00 p.m.), and there's a handy answer form in TV Guide for those of you competing at home. Walter Cronkite and Mike Wallace are the hosts.

Opinions have always been split on Gilligan's Island: some thing it's nothing more than a silly sitcom, while others see it as a shrewd satire on the human condition. Thursday's episode (8:00 p.m., CBS) as a little something for everyone, I think: "Scientists believe they've discovered life on Mars, unaware that their space probe veered off course—and that the rocket's TV camera was focused on the castaways' hut. An absurd idea, unless you want to view it as a poke at the gullibility of scientists—which, considering the last few years, may be exactly the way to watch it.

More and more, it seems as if the humor in politics is unintentional, or at least ironic, but there was a time when one could find plenty to laugh about in satirizing our elected officials, and we can see it in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the White House (Friday, 7:00 p.m., in a rebroadcast of a network program from last week, KRCR in Redding). Jack Paar is the host and narrator, which his guests Elliott Reid, Tom Lehrer, the Plaza 9 Players, and the Buster Davis Singers. We could use some laughs like this today, couldn't we?. 

l  l  l

Speaking of sports, as we were, there's another article of interest in this issue, notable as much for what it doesn't say as for what it does. It's Neil Hickey's "Is There An Athletic Gap?", a look at Sunday night's NBC documentary The Russian Sports Revolution. The question on everyone's mind is why the Soviets have become such a athletic superpower. The reasons given are the standard ones: special training for promising athletes identified at a young age to be groomed for success, governed and subsidized by a government organization called the All-Union Committee for Physical Culture and Sport. "It's a sports-crazy country," sportscaster Jim Simpson says, and international success by Soviet teams and individuals has become a prime weapon in the ongoing Cold War.

Accepting the idea that the Soviet system has its advantages, how can the Americans hope to compete? The ongoing rivalry between the Amateur Athletic Union (AAU) and the NCAA is blamed for much of the nation's problems. "We have such a hit-and-miss, shoddy athletic system here it's unbelievable," Simpson says. A special Senate committee investigation produces such a gloomy prognosis that Vice President Humphrey appoints a special arbitration committee in hopes of resolving the intra-organizational dispute.

Doubtless all of this was true, but we now know much more, including the preponderance of performance-enhancing drugs that were used by Eastern bloc countries, especially East Germany. Hormones, steroids, blood doping, and the like were thought responsible for as many as 10,000 athletes, many of whom had no idea they were being turned into addicts by their trainers and coaches. 

There had always been rumors about what the Eastern Europeans were doing; I wonder if any of them made their way into NBC's broadcast?

l  l  l

Scattered notes from the Teletype: Batman, after just one week, has hit the top 10 in Japan. Johnny Carson begins a five-week vacation in July; Joey Bishop will guest host. And Martin Landau has a recurring guest-star role in the new Mission: Impossible, playing a makeup artist who's a master of disguise.*

*Possibly a descendant of Artemus Gordon?

The thing is, if you watch the first season of M:I, you'll notice that Landau is in every episode, albeit listed as "Special Appearance by"—but how special can it be if he's there every week? In fact, one of the reasons for Landau's expanded presence on the series was that star Steven Hill, an Orthodox Jew, refused to work after 4pm Friday until after sundown Saturday, and Landau's character, who in fact was only supposed to appear as one of several rotating guest stars, took up much of the slack. (Indeed, in several episodes Landau's assignment has little to do with disguise.) Landau himself refused to sign the typical contract in order to maintain availability for feature film work, and didn't become an actual "regular" until the second season, by which time Hill had been replaced by none other than Court-Martial's Peter Graves; at least now we know what he was doing before he joined the Impossible Missions Force.

l  l  l

Last week, we spent some time looking at the quality of television programming in 1964, and there were a lot of people who felt it wasn't quite up-to-par. This week, Henry Harding looks at it from another perspective, based on a study conducted by the Politz Media Service in the fall of 1965, for which they surveyed 4,020 viewers on their television preferences. Nothing particularly unusual about that; Nielsen's been doing it for quite a while. What Politz did, however, was break down the results by various demographic characteristics*, and the results produced a number of surprises.

*I'm assuming, based on the amount of ink used on this article, that such extensive demographic profiling was fairly uncommon for the time.

For one thing, it appears that education level is not a defining characteristic when it comes to the most popular television programs. Shows that might ordinarily be thought of as "low-brow"—Red Skelton, Gomer Pyle, Lawrence Welk, Ed Sullivan and The Beverly Hillbillies were among the shows cited— were among the most popular programs for college graduates.

In search of an explanation for these seemingly counter-intuitive results, Herbert Kay Research, Inc. came up with some "tentative" conclusions, including: "People of high intelligence tend to like the same programs that people of lower intelligence like." That sounds obvious considering the findings of the Politz poll, but it's interesting nonetheless; we've long heard about how television viewers don't really want intelligent programming. Is this evidence of that, or do intelligent people watch "non-intelligent" shows because that's all that's on?

Ah, you might say, but intelligent shows don't get high ratings because there aren't enough smart people to watch them. Everyone knows smart people have better things to do with their time than watch the boob tube! But you'd be wrong; again, according to Kay Research, "proportionately more people of high intelligence than low were found among those who habitually watch a great deal of television."

I suppose you could argue that TV had already succeeded in dumbing down even the smartest audience.  But it's probably a question we'll never be able to answer.

l  l  l

MST3K alert: Teen-Age Crime Wave
(1955). Three dangerous juvenile delinquents take refuge in the home of a farmer and his family. Tommy Cook, Mollie McCart, Sue England. (Saturday, 1:45 a.m. as part of KGO's All-Night Movies ) Let's see, so far we've had Teen-Age Caveman, Teen-Age Strangler, and Teenagers From Outer Space, so I suppose this would be the natural succession. Our three stars are the three teens holding the family hostage, but of course one of them has to be the weak link, allowing the plot to fail. Well, what did you expect—In Cold Blood? And if those actors are teenagers, then I'm Truman Capote. TV  


  1. Housewife Elva Miller was better known as the infamous chanteuse Mrs. Miller whose first album peaked at an astonishing #15 on the charts. Her "singing" career was remarkable. Perhaps her greatest "achievement":

    1. Ah, Mrs. Miller! It's been a long, long time since I thought of that name!!


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!