June 1, 2024

This week in TV Guide: June 1, 1963

One of the storylines we've seen in our continuing journey through the history of television is the role of the sponsor in determining the programs that viewers saw. It wasn't uncommon for advertising agencies to create and produce television shows, which would then be shown on timeslots purchased from networks by sponsors. The agency got its show, the sponsor got its exposure, and the network got its money, and everyone was happy. 

Among those happy sponsors was the Armstrong Cork Company, which started out making bottle corks in 1860, and over the past hundred years has expanded to include everything from gaskets to vinyl flooring. It has, writes James J. Dailey, "doubled in size on the average of once every eight years in this century." It has also, for the past 13 years, sponsored Armstrong Circle Theater*, "one of the most solid, enlightened programs ever to grace the sometimes superficial medium of television." "We built this show with one basic idea," according to Max Banzhaf. formerly Armstrong's advertising director and now one of its vice presidents. "We wanted something that offered more than mere escapism, something that would stick to the ribs—point a moral—educate and entertain." 

*It was actually spelled "Theatre," as was the case with many television series, but since it's spelled "Theater" in the article, I'll use that here as well.

True to Banzhaf's word, Circle Theater evolved over the years, expanding from 30 minutes to an hour, and morphing from a standard dramatic anthology program to a weekly docudrama, offering stories dealing with real people and current issues ("actuals," as David Susskind once called them), with subjects running from medical quackery, the sinking of the Andrea Doria, and drug dealing, to war orphans, payola in the music industry, and the story of Radio Free Europe.

And then, one day, Max Banzhaf opened up the pages of Variety, only to read that CBS planned to cancel Circle Theater in order to make room for The Danny Kaye Show, which the network thought would be a bigger challenge to NBC's The Eleventh Hour, the top-rated show in the Wednesday at 10:00 p.m. timeslot. He was passed from vice president to vice president until he was told that he'd have to wait until CBS president James Aubrey returned from a trip to Europe. Several weeks later, Aubrey did, in fact, return, whereupon he called Banzhaf and confirmed the news. He then offered Armstrong the opportunity to sponsor a portion of the Kaye show, which the company reluctantly accepted.

As Dailey points out, this demonstrates most clearly an evolution in the way television does business. Companies like Armstrong—Westinghouse and U.S. Steel are given as other examples—are what the industry calls "considered-purchase companies"; in other words, the audience for their products is not an impulsive one, but one more likely to take its time before deciding to invest in products as substantial as those offered by these companies. "Such audiences may be smaller," Dailey notes, "but in the opinion of 'considered-purchase' manufacturers contain a greater average of people who will buy their goods. In the days before we all became familiar with demographics, such targeted groups were called "selective audiences."

The networks, on the other hand, are becoming less and less interested in selective audiences; instead, they have their eyes on programs that deliver higher ratings, because they, in turn, deliver "more people and more money under the cost-per-thousand-viewers formula." Shows that appeal to such audiences are being squeezed out, he says, in favor of more "popular" programming. A cynic would refer to this as pandering to the lowest-common denominator, but, as you know, such cynicism is anathema at this website, something we would never dare to suggest. 

With this in mind, Armstrong was left with limited choices. It could wait for another time slot on the schedule to open up, which would likely be a half-hour rather than an hour; it could try to move the show to another network; or it could accept CBS's offer to sponsor another program. Banzhaf says the decision to sponsor Kaye was not an immediate one, nor did everyone in the company agree with it. "We wouldn't sponsor just any baggy-pants comedian," he insists. Kaye, he explains, has dignity and a sense of character, and has been involved in many national and international causes. "To this extent I feel we are still rendering a service to the American public—though not everybody in the company feels as I do." Indeed, some insiders wonder if Kaye has what it takes to carry a weekly series; in the event, it ran for four seasons of variable quality, as opposed to Circle Theater's 14. 

The bottom line is that it is now the networks, and not the sponsors, who carry the weight in television. U.S. Steel, which sponsored the since-cancelled U.S. Steel Hour, General Electric, which formerly sponsored G.E. True and, before that, G.E. Theatre, and Firestone, which fought the networks over The Voice of Firestone, decided to opted out of prime time television after their shows left the air. For his part, Banzhaf believes that without sponsor input, the quality of television programming has suffered as networks have strived for higher ratings. Dailey concludes that it is "debatable" whether any program will be able to replace Circle Theater in the eyes of its followers.

What I find interesting about all this is that the network philosophy of pursuing higher ratings would, itself, only last about ten years. CBS, which axed Circle Theater, would be responsible for the rural purge that rid the network of some of its highest-rated programs, because—get this—they were not attracting the right kind of viewers, the ones that sponsors craved. In other words, demographics. Kind of ironic, I guess, but as they say, what goes around comes around. Plus ça change, plus c'est la même chose.

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Let's take a look at some industry news, courtesy of the Teletype. First, we read that CBS has signed Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright William Inge (author of Picnic and Bus Stop) to develop a one-hour dramatic series for CBS for the 1964-65 season, with the tentative title All Over Town. I was interested, as the only Inge-related TV series I was aware of was the aforementioned Bus Stop, which had a single-season run in 1961-62. As it turns out, Inge never does do the series; instead, he writes a play, "Out on the Outskirts of Town," which winds up as an episode of Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre on NBC. In short, not only does CBS not get the series, they don't even get the play that took its place.

We also find out that CBS has "temporarily shelved" its plan for a new production of Rodgers and Hammerstein's Cinderella, which they'd planned to do next fall, because Julie Andrews (who'd starred in  the original 1957 broadcast) will be working on a Walt Disney movie. That movie, Mary Poppins, makes Julie an international film star and wins her a Best Actress Oscar. CBS does eventually remake Cinderella in 1965, with Leslie Ann Warren in the title role. 

Finally, ABC will become the first network to premiere their entire primetime fall schedule, both new and returning shows, during the course of a single week, with the unveiling is scheduled for the week of September 15. NBC and CBS both plan to introduce their new seasons over several weeks.

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Here's something we don't see often: a TV Ticket Guide to how you can get tickets to your favorite shows if you happen to be in either New York or Hollywood. Not surprisingly, most of the New York-based programs are game shows; for your convenience, you can pick up tickets at the Gimbels-TV Guide Summer Festival Center on Broadway and 33rd. Among the shows for which you can get tickets are Who Do You Trust? on ABC, Amateur Hour, Password, Talent Scouts, To Tell the Truth, and What's My Line? on CBS, and NBC's Concentration, Match Game, Play Your Hunch, The Price is Right, and Say When. You can also write directly to the networks if you're planning your trip; their addresses are included.

In Los Angeles, there's more variety to the choices; in addition to game shows, there are also variety shows and sitcoms; you can also write directly to "The Steve Allen Playhouse" for tickets to his syndicated show. The Lawrence Welk Show is sold out—well, the tickets are free, but you know what I mean—but rush tickets for the dress rehearsal are available first-come, first-served on the day of the show. Otherwise, you can visit the ABC ticket office for Day in Court, Queen for a Day, and Seven Keys. I'm surprised by Day in Court; I had no idea that was taped in front of a studio audience. CBS Television City has tickets for House Party, The Danny Kaye Show, and The Danny Thomas Show, but be aware: Kaye and Thomas won't be be taping their fall shows until August. And you can write to NBC or stop in for last-minute tickets at Sunset and Vine in Hollywood; the shows available are Truth or Consequences, Your First Impression, and You Don't Say!

Remember, though: if you're writing for tickets, please allow four weeks for delivery. And keep in mind that most programs are taped at an earlier hour or on a different day from when they're aired. Personally, I've never been in a TV studio audience, save a local show when I was young. How about any of you?

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One of the programs not mentioned in the list above is The Garry Moore Show; the 1963-64 season will be the show's last, save a brief revival in 1966. Be that as it may, Garry is on the cover of this week's issue, along with one of his regulars, comedienne Dorothy Loudon. Loudon, who debuted on the December 4, 1962 episode, was such a hit with viewers that she was signed for 16 additional episodes, and becomes a full-fledged regular this coming season, replacing former regular Carol Burnett.

As a performer, Maurice Zolotow tells us, Loudon is the epitome of sophistication and cynicism, singing of "strong, masculine arms and predatory women," a product of 10 years performing at such clubs as New York's famed Blue Angel; "her musical monologues," Zolotow says, "were so pointed they were single-entendre." But that we find out, is not the real Dorothy Loudon—at least that's what she says. "I want to have a family and cook and keep house for them," she says. "I hate show business. I hate the whole way of life that goes with it. I hate being a performer. I'm glad I'm on this Garry Moore thing because at least it keeps me out of night clubs which I hate and I don't have to travel on the road—I hate living in hotels." Her friends call her a romantic who can "get her heart broken quicker than the average girl can get a run in a new pair of nylons." Zolotow notes that there is something inherently antifeminine about being a great comedienne, and in compensating for it, "comediennes are more vulnerable to romance than any other type of performer, except Elizabeth Taylor."

Prior to her success in comedy, Loudon was, or hoped to be, a torch singer. But everything changed when she auditioned with Julius Monk for a new show at a supper club. Monk went into hysterics when she sang the line, "It costs me a lot but there's one thing that I've got—it's my man." "It was so unconsciously funny that I just literally fell down on the floor laughing," Monk says. "I couldn't stop laughing for five minutes and Dorothy, poor thing, her feelings were hurt. But I told her she was the screaming end. She was just a natural-born comedienne and she couldn't help giving any song a crazy twist, even if she did it seriously." And, just like that, Dorothy Loudon became a comedienne, playing in Monk's show for three years, becoming one of the hottest acts in nightclubs, and doing TV guest shots with Steve Allen, Dave Garroway, Ed Sullivan, Jack Paar, and others. 

She still feels a bit uncomfortable with the material she's being given, that the sketches working for Burnett, Carol Channing, or Nancy Walker don't work as well with her. Coleman Jacoby, one of Moore's writers, says that Loudon is a much subtler comedienne than the slapstick Burnett. "That's what makes her so hard to write for—those nuances."

As I mentioned earlier, the Moore show leaves the air after the 1963-64 season, but that's not the end of Dorothy Loudon's career. She wins a Tony Award in 1977 for Annie, and is nominated for two other Tonys. And in case you were wondering, she does get married, in 1971 to composer Norman Paris, but does not remarry after his death in 1977.

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There's a little bit of everything on tap this week, although no Sullivan vs. the Palace; after all, The Jerry Lewis Show hasn't even debuted yet, and we all know how that led quickly to The Hollywood Palace. But for now, that Saturday night timeslot is still held by ABC's Fight of the Week, and this week's bout is for the world light-heavyweight championship, as challenger Willie Pastrano takes on champion Harold Johnson, live from Las Vegas. (10:00 p.m.) Despite being a substitute after the scheduled challenger, Henry Hank, was injured, Pastrano pulls off the upset and wins a 15-round split decision, which you can see here. He holds the crown until a loss in 1965*, after which he retires.

*Pastrano lost the title in a one-sided defeat to José Torres, but not before producing one of the great quotes in boxing history; when he was asked by the ring doctor if he knew where he was, he replied, "You're damn right I know where I am! I'm in Madison Square Garden getting the shit kicked out of me!"

Just because the Palace isn't here, though, we won't ignore Ed's lineup (Sunday, 8:00 p.m., CBS), which would probably have been a winner in any event: Sammy Davis Jr., Janet Blair, Rowan and Martin, the Kim Sisters, singer Jessie Pearson, and comedienne Sue Carson.

Monday night, Arthur Godfrey begins a one-week stint substituting for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show (11:15 p.m., NBC); his guests tonight include Music Man composer Meredith Willson, the Buffalo Bills singing group (who appear in The Music Man), Nipsey Russell; and singer Frank D'Rone. There were so many interesting guest host choices back in the day, and it's a pity talk shows today are so star-centric (or the hosts are so insecure) that we don't have guest hosts anymore.

On Tuesday, What's My Line? host John Charles Daly presents an award to Don Wilson in honor of his 27th year as announcer on The Jack Benny Program (9:30 p.m., CBS). Predictably, chaos ensues. John's only one of a number of notable guest stars on tonight; there's also John Cassavetes on The Lloyd Bridges Show (8:00 p.m., CBS), Ed Begley on Empire (8:30 p.m., NBC), Cyril Ritchard on The Red Skelton Hour (8:30 p.m., CBS), Kathy Nolan and Robert Duvall on The Untouchables (9:30 p.m., ABC), and Don Knotts on The Garry Moore Show (10:00 p.m., CBS).

Burgess Meredith turns in a typically outstanding performance in a typically fine episode of Naked City (Wednesday, 10:00 p.m., ABC), as poet Duncan Kleist, who's proud, sensitive, eloquent, entertaining—and an arrogant egotist who succeeds in getting himself murdered. I wonder whodunnit?

Thursday's episode of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet is a novelty: an actual variety show, the "June Music Festival," with Rick Nelson and his real-life combo, joined by folksingers Bud and Travis, the Brothers Four, Jennie Smith, and the Garrett Square Dancers. (7:30 p.m., ABC) His brother David interviews the guests backstage. 

Friday's Jack Paar Program (10:00 p.m., NBC), has an eclectic lineup, with Anne Bancroft, Buddy Hackett, and Kukla, Fran, and Ollie. There's a real art to preparing a guest mix that entertains, and I think this show succeeds. Something else that today's talk shows lack, since guests don't stick around after they've done their bit—I don't even know why they call them talk shows anymore. 

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Barbara Bain is not afraid of Elizabeth Taylor. She'd have good reason to be, if she were inclined; her husband, actor Martin Landau, is in the cast of Cleopatra, which stars Liz, Richard Burton, and Rex Harrison. But he returns home at the end of each day, and their neighbors in Rome tell her, "Ah, your husband really loves you! Leet-za don't get him!"

As this shows, we're fans, obviously!  
In these days before Mission: Impossible, Bain is known for having played "everything from femmes fatale to simple country girls" in series from Dobie Gillis and Richard Diamond to Empire. Before that, there were years of struggling, as is the case with so many young actors. "Neither of us worked for six months after we were married," she says of those days back in New York, where most of their friends still live. She augmented her income with fashion modeling; finally, after six months, she and Landau got parts in the touring company of the Paddy Chayefsky play Middle of the Night, with Edward G. Robinson. "It was our honeymoon," she says of the time. They ended up in Hollywood, where they've remained ever since.

Bain and Landau are part of the Mission: Impossible cast for the first three seasons, when the show was at its absolute peak. They would move on to the science fiction series Space: 1999, which, you may recall, was touted as the first really adult science fiction TV series since Star Trek. Later, they would divorce, but both would remain active in the business. Barbara Bain remains active, having appeared both in film and television as recently as 2020, and won three Emmys as Best Actress in a Drama for Mission: Impossible. And, believe me, she doesn't have anything to worry about from Elizabeth Taylor. TV  

1 comment:

  1. I don't think Jim Aubrey was responsible for the Rural Purge at CBS, since he was fired (by Bill Paley himself) back in Feb. 1965. It was most likely later CBS Presiden Robert Wood, who went against & succeeded Michael Dann as CBS President, as well as his well-known programmer Fred Silverman, who orchestrated it.

    I've been in a few studio audiences going way back to 1978, when we were living in the Nashville area and had tickets to 1 of 2 nights taping of "Lucy Comes to Nashville". I made my first trip to S. CA in 1998 and attended tapings of POLITICALLY INCORRECT and Roseanne Barr's brief talk show (which I never actually watched.) I also saw the Friday night filming of SUDDENLY SUSAN. I returned there in 2000, 2003, & 2005 and saw filmings of BECKER, ACCORDING TO JIM, and TWINS, as well as tapings of HOLLYWOOD SQUARES & Jay Leno's TONIGHT SHOW. Most of these shows had warm-up comedians/magicians who kept us "warmed up" during delays of varying lengths. I also attended NYC tapings of Conan O'Brien's show in 2006 & Jimmy Fallon's show in 2012. I wish I'd been around back in the 1960s to go to all the tapings then.

    Barbara Bain also could be a very funny comedienne, as she proved in her DVD SHOW appearance in 1963, where she played Rob's fiancee in flashbacks and terrorized her "Robby-Bobby-Boo" as he was breaking up with her.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!