July 6, 2024

This week in TV Guide: July 8, 1967

ohn Edgar Hoover likes The F.B.I. I mean, he really likes The F.B.I. The longtime director of the Federal Bureau of Investigation has been a staunch supporter of the ABC series ever since its debut in 1965. Testifying before a House subcommittee, Hoover says that "I have received hundreds of letters from people saying that the inspector on the FBI series portrayed what they thought an FBI agent should portray." He added, "I want our agents to live up to that image."

The inspector in question is Lewis Erskine, portrayed by Efrem Zimbalist Jr., formerly of 77 Sunset Strip, and the subject of this week's unbylined cover story. Hoover is also a big fan of Zimbalist; he says that the actor "has captured the esprit de corps of the FBI and what it is like to be an FBI agent . . . He has helped to depict the dedication of law enforcement officers to duty, integrity, and law and order."

Zimbalist is in Washington. D.C. to film some background shots for the upcoming season of The F.B.I., and he receives a hero's welcome from the Bureau's agents, three of whom provide Zimbalist with an escort as he and a camera crew drive past the city's landmarks, establishing the proper atmosphere for the series. Following filming, Zimbalist will be ushered in to a brief private meeting with Hoover, as he has several times during the run of the series. Hoover calls Zimbalist "one of the team."

I've often spoken of my fondness for The F.B.I., particularly the opening credits from the series' first few seasons. Besides the memorable theme music, the opening provides a montage of Washington's most revered symbols: the Capitol building, the Washington Monument, the Supreme Court, and the Department of Justice building, the original home of the FBI. I swear, it makes you want to run out there and sign up. 

The F.B.I.
was more than a propaganda piece, though it certainly portrayed the Bureau in an exceptional light. At the time the FBI was indeed a highly respected department—referred to be CBS during a report on the JFK assassination as "almost never doubted"with agents that were thought by the public to be incorruptible. (That may not have reflected the reality then, and almost certainly doesn't now, but that was in fact the image, and we all know what wins out when perception clashes with reality.) But the series succeeded on its own merits, portraying hard-working law enforcement agents who rarely had the improbable flashes of brilliance and technological miracles of today's police procedural. Instead, they depended on the science of the day, combined with good, exhaustive investigative work. In place of quirky, stereotypical characters, the emphasis was on plot and detection, and the unquenchable thirst for justice.

My favorite story about The F.B.I. concerns a pair of columns written by the political satirist Art Buchwald. One mentions an FBI agent named Efrem Zumgard; the other tells the story of the first wiretap, when Hoover himself personally bugged the first phone call made by Alexander Graham Bell. ("When he said, 'Mr. Watson, come here—I want to see you,' the Bureau had the tape in 30 minutes.") Buchwald has Hoover registering in the hotel under the name of Zimbalist. Still makes me smile.

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For the first time in history, baseball's All-Star Game is being televised in prime-time. It's being played at the four-year-old Anaheim Stadium, home of the California Angels, and NBC is taking advantage of the time difference to start the game at 7:15 p.m. Eastern time, 4:15 p.m. on the West Coast.

Unfortunately, starting the game at that hour produces some unintended side-effects, chief among which is that the late-afternoon sun is right in the batter's eye for much of the game. The National League scores in the top of the second, the American League ties it up in the bottom of the sixth, and there it remains for awhile. Quite awhile, in fact. It isn't until Tony Perez' home run in the top of the 15th inning, almost four hours later, that the National League wins the snoozer, 2-1. The game sets records for most strikeouts (30, as every one of the game's twelve pitchers records at least one strikeout) and innings played, and is the first All-Star game in which every run is scored via home run. Had the game simply started at the usual time for a game being played in the Pacific time zone, it would have made it into prime time in the East anyway.

This year's game is the middle edition in a troika of dismal Midsummer "Classics"; last year's affair, played in the afternoon in St. Louis, featured a game-time temperature of 105° (turning the stadium, according to the St. Louis Post-Dispatch, into a "torture chamber"), while the 1968 contest, another prime-time game played in the air-conditioned comfort of the Houston Astrodome (where the angle of the sun won't make a difference) will be yet another dull clash, won by the National League 1-0 via a first inning run scored on a double play. Except for 1969, when the game is played on Wednesday afternoon due to rain, the game will remain in prime-time thereon.

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Radziwill with Farley Granger in Laura
There's a note in the Doan Report that David Susskind has lined up a blockbuster for one of his two-hour ABC dramas next month: Princess Lee Radziwill, sister of Jacqueline Kennedy, will star in The Voice of the Turtle, John Van Druten's Broadway hit, adapted by Truman Capote. Now, as far as I can tell, "The Voice of the Turtle" never made it to television, and the story behind that might be interesting. What did make it to TV the next season was a disastrous adaptation of the mystery classic Laura, starring Radziwill (billed as Lee Bouvier, her maiden name), and adapted by Capote. To say that it was panned doesn't quite do it justice; it was absolutely trashed. "Slow moving," "Awkward material," "The wardrobe alone emerges unscathed," were some of the kinder comments.

Now that I think of it, I'm sure the story of how The Voice of the Turtle became Laura would be more interesting. I do know that Capote, a longtime friend of Radziwill, was the one who encouraged her to get into acting, talked Susskind into casting her, and wrote the script for her. Ironically, a repeat broadcast of Laura in June 1968 will postponed due to the assassination of Lee Radziwill's brother-in-law, Robert Kennedy.

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Doan also reports on high hopes that the bill authorizing creation of the Public Broadcasting Corporation, currently in Congress, will pass. It does, although not without some fireworks, and by 1969 we'll see the debut of PBS' most lasting legacy, Sesame Street.*

*Note: this is not the famous hearing in which Fred Rogers swayed Senator John Pastore's mind on funding for PBS; that happens in 1969.

Not everyone is a fan of government funding for education, however. California Governor Ronald Reagan, himself a former actor, comes out against the government entering into "direct competition with private television," and says that educational TV should be developed through closed-circuit systems, aka cable-TV. To this day, there's more than one TV critic, including yours truly, wondering what PBS offers today that can't be found elsewhere in the cable or streaming universe. Supporters of public broadcasting counter that, without government funding, the network has to rely on programming that attracts viewers, just like commercial networks, rather than providing the kind of niche programs that its supporters envisioned. 

Oh, by the way, although The Voice of the Turtle never made it as a TV play, it was made into a movie by Hollywood. One of its stars? None other than Ronald Reagan. But, as far as I know, the movie has never been shown on a PBS station.

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Alan Kogosowski today
No "Sullivan vs. The Palace" this week; Piccadilly Palace, Hollywood's summer replacement, is itself pre-empted on Saturday night by the Coaches' All-America all-star college football game, (6:30 p.m. PT, ABC). Ed's around, though (Sunday, 8:00 p.m., CBS), with a rerun featuring Tony Bennett, Nancy Sinatra, Count Basie and his orchestra, dancer-choreographer Peter Gennaro, comedienne Totie Fields and the comedy team of Hendra and Ullet, 13-year-old classical pianist Alan Kogosowski, and the acrobatic Mecners.

Neither my wife nor I were familiar with Alan Kogosowski, and between us we're pretty savvy when it comes to classical music. Naturally I wondered if this 13-year-old had ever amounted to anything, so of course I looked him up on the always-reliable Wikipedia. His story turns out to be quite interesting: he did indeed achieve some fame as a concert pianist, particularly in performing the works of Chopin, but perhaps more significant has been his work researching and treating carpal tunnel syndrome and repetitive strain injury. Who knew?

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Every year, we run into the staple of the summer television season, a collection of unsold pilots that have been packaged into a series that would run for 13 or so weeks. Monday night features Vacation Playhouse (8:00 p.m., CBS), a charming title which hides the faint odor of failure. Tonight's episode (from 1963!) stars Ethel Merman as Maggie Brown, the owner of a restaurant near a U.S. Navy base.  My recollection of these playhouse-type episodes is that it was easy to see why none of the pilots ever made it as regular series. Speaking of vacations, on The Tonight Show, Bob Newhart begins a three-week stint as guest host for Johnny Carson. (11:30 p.m., NBC) Must be nice.

One of the week's original programs is Spotlight (Tuesday, 8:30 p.m., CBS)a British import hosted by comedian Shelly Berman and singer Shani Wallis (and, for a couple of weeks, Benny Hill!) that serves as the replacement for The Red Skelton Hour. (Tom Jones also has a turn as host during the series' run, which would lead in turn to This Is Tom Jones a couple of years later.) Tonight's special guest is Englebert Humperdinck; it might be worth a watch, especially if you're trying to stay awake after that All-Star game. 

One of the week's few original programs is The Steve Allen Comedy Hour (Wednesday, 10:00 p.m., CBS), the summer replacement for The Danny Kaye Show, with Steve's wife Jayne Meadows, and guests Tim Conway, Lou Rawls, and Stiller and Meara. Interesting note is that the sketches are directed by Harvey Korman. As for the reruns, Otto Preminger plays Mr. Freeze in Batman (7:30 p.m., ABC), and country stars Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs (who recorded "The Ballad of Jed Clampett") play themselves in a Beverly Hillbilles episode that involves the Clampetts filming a soap commercial (8:30 p.m., CBS). And speaking of Batman, Yvonne Craig is one of the guests on The Joey Bishop Show (11:30 p.m., ABC). You're welcome.

Thursday's highlight, at least for me, is the ABC documentary series Summer Focus, a collection of reruns from the various ABC docuseries. Tonight's episode is "I Am a Soldier," originally shown in 1965 on the network's Saga of Western Man series. The program's focus is on Captain Theodore S. Danielsen, a company commander with the First Cavalry Division in Vietnam, who completed his second tour a year ago. As was the case with Alan Kogosowski I was curious about Capt. Danielsen; whenever I see one of these Vietnam documentaries, I always wonder what happened to the soldiers they profiled. In other words, did they make it back home? I'm happy to report that, in this case, he did, retiring from the U.S. Army as Lt. Colonel Danielsen, after 27 years of service, during which time he was the recipient of the Silver Star and three Bronze Stars with Valor. He died in 2011, aged 75,  survived by his wife of 46 years, two children, and many relatives, and highly respected by the men who served with and under him. Not to mention a grateful nation.

The Green Hornet goes off the air on Friday with a repeat of the conclusion to a two-part episode involving the operator of a crooked health-club (7:30 p.m., ABC). As I think I've mentioned before, The Green Hornet had trouble in balancing expectations: was it a campy superhero series, a la Batman? After all, it had the same producer, Bill Dozier, and there was even a crossover story between the two series. On the other hand, Hornet lacked the eccentric villains and big-name guest stars of Batman, and had a decidedly straighter tone to it. Regardless, I'm sorry it only lasted one season; having watched the complete series a couple of years ago, I thought it was a lot of fun. Could have used more Bruce Lee, though. A lot more.

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Joseph Finnigan has a wry article on the Golden Globes, which he calls "the tongue-in-cheek awards," based on their longtime reputation for awarding performances based on suspicious criteria. For example, at this point very few nominees appeared for the show, and those who did were invariably the winners, which led more than one person to suspect that the only way to induce stars to show up was to promise they would win. The show has had a successful run for several years as part of The Andy Williams Show, but its reputation would catch up with it in 1968, when the FCC ruled that this practice constituted "mis[leading] the public as to how the winners were determined," which in turn led NBC to drop coverage of the show until 1975. Sounds vaguely familiar, don't you think?

The strange thing about this article, though, is that the Golden Globes were held on February 15, nearly five months before this article ran, and the 1968 show wouldn't be broadcast at all due to the FCC ruling. Usually you want some kind of a hook when your piece is going to runand I can't imagine why anyone would have been interested in reading about the Golden Globes in July. Can you?

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MST3K alert: 12 to the Moon
(1960) Moon beings fear that earthmen on their first manned spaceship are bringing greed and destruction to their world. They plan to retaliate. Ken Clark, Michi Kobi. (Saturday, 3:30 p.m., KCRA in Sacramento.) This ponderous space/soap opera isn't nearly as weird as Design for Dreaming, the short accompanying it on the MST3K broadcast. Masked people dancing to the future in the middle of the General Motors Autorama? Now, tell me that isn't weird. Almost as weird as Mr. B Natural, right? TV  

1 comment:

Thanks for writing! Drive safely!