A Year in TV Guide: October 17th, 1964

A Year in TV Guide explores the 1964-1965 television season through the pages of TV Guide magazine. Each week, I’ll examine the issue of TV Guide published exactly 50 years earlier. The intent is not simply to examine what was on television each week but rather what was being written about television.

Week #5
October 17th, 1964
Vol. 12, No. 42, Issue #603
Western New England Edition

On the Cover: Lassie and Robert Bray from Lassie on CBS (photograph by Ivan Nagy).

The Magazine

It took five weeks but there’s finally a really interesting article about a television series in TV Guide. It’s the cover article (“You Can’t Teach An Old Family New Tricks”) by Richard Warren Lewis about big changes made to Lassie on CBS. Gone were the Martin family (played by Jon Provost, June Lockhart, and Hugh Reilly), who were shipped off to Australia. Lassie was now in the care of a forest ranger played by Robert Bray.

The long-running series, which premiered in September 1954, had already undergone one transition during the 1957-1958 season. According to the article, planning for the second overhaul started in March 1963 when producers decided that the show had become stale. Here’s how producer Bob Golden explained the situation:

After 10 seasons on television, we were in such a desperate state that we would by stories that we weren’t too enthusiastic about because we had to have then. Our shows were getting redundant. They lacked freshness. We got tired of that farmhouse. We’d had to set up more locales around it than could possible exist–rocks, farmland, mountains, rivers! The farm always had to be there. The element of suspense had diminished. Lassie always came back to the farm. Anybody in this business who thinks the same kind of successful thing can go on forever is making a mistake.

A five-episode experiment was devised in which Bray’s character cared for Lassie after she was separated from the Martins. Ratings soared, confirming to the producers that viewers were eager for a shakeup. Contract negotiations with Provost also factored into the decision to get rid of the Martins. So, over the course of the first three episodes of the show’s 11th season, broadcast during September 1964, the Martins said goodbye to Lassie and Bray’s character became her new owner. The series would remain on CBS through the 1970-1971 season before moving to first-run syndication for an additional two seasons.

Front Cover
Front Cover – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.

There are four other articles in this issue. One is actually an excerpt from a book written by scriptwriter Merle Miller (with Evan Rhodes) about his experience writing a pilot script for a proposed CBS series called Calhoun to star Jackie Cooper. The book was called Only You, Dick Daring! Or How to Write One Television Script and Make $50,000,000 and was published the same week this issue of TV Guide was published.

I haven’t read the book but the excerpt isn’t particularly interesting. It recounts a meeting between Miller, Cooper, a number of production people and CBS president James T. Aubrey but consists primarily of quotes from notes made by Miller and Cooper while on a research trip. In the pilot, which was produced by never aired, Cooper played a county agent. Unfortunately, this excerpt never explains what a county agent is. Maybe readers in 1964 would have known. I certainly didn’t.

“It’s Tough to Be 17 — Particularly When You’re 29” by John Maynard is a somewhat depressing article about 29-year-old actor Eddie Applegate who played 17-year-old Richard Harrison on The Patty Duke Show. The network’s publicity machine at first refused to allow Applegate to admit he was married and later suggested he lie about his age and his wife’s age to make it easier for the show’s young fans to accept. Applegate resented the fact that people assumed he was a teenager rather than a grown man acting as a teenager, which he thought was a pretty difficult thing to do.

In “The Rich Relatives Come to Town,” Samuel Grafton lays out the tensions between television reporters and newspapermen that had grown steadily throughout the early 1960s. Television, Grafton explained, both reported news, made news, and influenced news. It also forced newspapermen to the sidelines. If this article were written today, I suppose it would be about how bloggers and online news have pushed television to the sidelines.

Finally, there’s “Vroommm and Off You Go,” a short essay by actress Bek Nelson in which she discusses her career and love of motorcycles. Also in the national section is a picture feature spotlighting the November 10th, 1964 episode of The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in which a number of the show’s top production staff made cameo appearances.

There’s no “As We See It” in this issue but there is another review by Cleveland Amory in the listings section. This time he’s discussing The Rogues, NBC’s new drama series starring David Niven, Charles Boyer, and Gig Young. Amory is critical of the show’s attempt to mix humor with drama, arguing that the writer’s don’t seem to know how to balance the two. He also suggests that Boyer isn’t given enough to do but praises supporting cast member Robert Coote.

There are some interesting notes in the Hollywood and New York TV Teletype columns this week:

  • NBC will end Wednesday Night at the Movies after the 1964-1965 season and ha started searching for replacements.
  • Ted Yates spent two months in Vietnam producing an NBC special to air in December. [The documentary, Vietnam: It’s a Mad War, was broadcast on December 1st.]
  • A variant of The Fugitive called Escapade is in the works, with Stanley Adams as a fugitive on the ocean who must disguise himself whenever he goes ashore.
  • Tina Louise might get her own CBS series.
  • Court-Martial, a spin-off of Kraft Suspense Theatre starring Bradford Dillman and Peter Graves, is in proudction in London but there’s no word on when it will air in the United States. [The series would eventually run on ABC in 1966.]

This week’s “For the Record” column includes three reports:

  • Why was Mel Allen not one of the four sportscasters chosen to call the 1964 World Series? Apparently CBS made the call, having recently purchased the New York Yankees (for those like me who know nothing about sports, Allen was the voice of the Yankees for decades). CBS also apparently had decided not to renew his contract for the next season.
  • Rod Serling, president of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, was in New York the previous week to preside over a meeting of Academy officials to reform the Emmy Awards. The plan may involve setting up a panel to chose winners rather than letting the entire Academy vote.
  • Rumor has it CBS company president Frank Stanton may resign to take a position in the Johnson Administration should the President be re-elected. Stanton denied such reports.

The letters page this week is the best yet. Here’s one from a reader not quite sold on color television:

I would happily renounce TV in six delicious colors for plain old-fashioned black-and-white TV like we used to have in the days of The Philco Playhouse. In those days the play was the thing, not the tint.
Albert French
New York, N.Y.

Three readers complained about That Was the Week That Was:

Watching That Was the Week That Was, the idea crept into my head that at he end of the show, when the credits were shown, I would see the name of LBJ’s campaign manager.
(Name withheld)
Stevenson, Ala.

I’ve had it with TW3. It seems to me there should have been a notice at the end of the show saying: “This was a paid political broadcast by the Citizens for Johnson.” How About giving Barry a chance–we do have a two-party system.
George Morriss
Cos Cob, Conn.

Enjoyed the new TW3 skits. What a relief–a program packed with bias and utterly lacking in humor!
Mrs. R. W. Hirst
Louisville, Ohio

(I suspect there are plenty of people who feel the same way about all sorts of shows currently on the air these days, mostly on cable.)

There were two letters complaining about The Jack Paar Show:

The Jack Paar Show, Sept. 25: Mike Nichols and Elaine may in a scene from the obscene.
Mrs. Donald Huberty
Campbellsports, Wis.

Paar for the coarse. He hit an all-time low with two young no-talent comedians he presented in a backseat sketch, supposedly typifying current teen-age deportment. It was straight from the gutter.
S. John Schile
Missoula, Mont.

There were a few other letters, too, one of which pointed out that the pilots on 12 O’Clock High wouldn’t have been smoking king-size filter cigarettes, which apparently didn’t exist in the 1940s.

The TV Listings

The 1964 World Series may have ended the previous week but the 1964 Summer Olympics were still underway and TV Guide published another full page list of highlights. There were again 15 minutes of highlights Monday through Friday from 11:15-11:30PM, as well as a two hour program on Saturday and hour long programs on Sunday, Tuesday and Friday. There were lots of finals, ranging from track to swimming to water polo and canoeing. Other sports for the week included roller derby, pro football, skiing, rodeo and pro hockey.

The final episode of The Steve Allen Show (also known as The Steve Allen Westinghouse Show) aired on Friday, October 23rd. The series was syndicated nationally and aired on WBZ-TV (Channel 4) out of Boston. As explained in the October 3rd issue of TV Guide, Allen’s commute between New York and Hollywood to accommodate both this series and I’ve Got A Secret played a big role in the decision to end the series.

Paid political time for Senator Goldwater pre-empted Petticoat Junction this week.

There were again only two TV Guide close-ups this week:

  • College Football (NBC, Saturday at 2:15PM)
  • Hallmark Hall of Fame: “The Fantasticks” (NBC, Sunday at 10PM)

Here are some of the programs available for purchase by subscribers to Zenith Radio Company’s Phonevision pay television experiment on Connecticut’s WHCT-TV (Channel 18):

  • Movie: The Masque of the Red Death (Saturday at 6:30PM, $1.25)
  • Movie: Five Miles to Midnight (Saturday at 10PM, $1.00)
  • Movie: The Black Death / Serial: Roar of the Iron Horse, Chapter 2 (Sunday at 1PM, $0.50)
  • Pro Hockey: Maple Leafs vs. Rangers (Sunday at 7:30PM, $1.25)
  • Movie: The Birds (Tuesday at 9PM, $1.00)
  • Movie: I’d Rather Be Rich (Wednesday at 7PM, $1.25)
  • Pro Hockey: Maple Leafs vs. Bruins (Live, Thursday at 8PM, $1.25)
  • Boxing: Joey Giardello vs. Rubin Carter (Live, Friday at 10PM, $2.50)

That $2.50 cost for the Friday boxing bout is the highest price I’ve seen yet for a Phonevision program.

There were a lot of local programs seen on Saturday, October 17th. At 1PM WTIC-TV (Channel 3) premiered a new half-hour discussion show called Insights, featuring college professors, that I believe was a local production. That same day, at 5PM, WHDH-TV (Channel 5) out of Boston broadcast an hour-long Miss Teen-age Boston beauty pageant, hosted by Jess Cain. Judges included Arthur Fiedler, conductor of the Boston Pops, Tony Conigliaro, Red Sox player, and Frederick C. Ferry, Jr., president of Pine Manor Jr. College.

WHNB-TV, the NBC affiliate in Connecticut broadcasting on Channel 30 with a translator on Channel 79, premiered a local half-hour news editorial show called Starring the Editors on Saturday. The program aired from 7-7:30PM. This being 1964, all of the editors were white men, many of them old. Participants included Richard J. Murphy (from a paper out of Holyoke, MA), Frank F. Rosenau>Springfield Union, Edward J. O’Dea (Hampshire Gazette), and Robert W. Lucas (Hartford Times).

Advertisement for Starring the Editors on WHNB-TV (Channel 30)
Advertisement for Starring the Editors on WHNB-TV (Channel 30) – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.

The two Springfield, MA stations — WHYN-TV (Channel 40) and WWLP (Channel 22) — took out half-page advertisements in this issue. WHYN-TV promoted itself as “The News Station” while WWLP called itself “Springfield’s Total Information Station.” Here are the ads:

Advertisement for Station WHYN-TV (Channel 40)
Advertisement for Station WHYN-TV (Channel 40) – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.

Advertisement for Station WWLP (Channel 22)
Advertisement for Advertisement for Station WWLP (Channel 22) – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.

That’s it for this week. Hit the comments with your thoughts.

9 Replies to “A Year in TV Guide: October 17th, 1964”

  1. “Unfortunately, this excerpt never explains what a county agent is. Maybe readers in 1964 would have known. I certainly didn’t.”

    Well, my only knowledge about what a county agent is, comes from watching “Green Acres” and laughing (hysterically I might add) at the exploits of county agent Hank Kimball (Alvy Moore). But something tells me that probably wasn’t an apt representation of a real county agent.

  2. It is interesting what you wrote about “Dick Daring.” I read about the book somewhere, and it piqued my interest. I managed to purchase a copy a year or two ago, from Amazon Marketplace, I think. Anyway, I started to read it, but never finished it. It was written in a humorous style that is very dated today. There are some styles of writing that, although not in whatever the current style is, can hold up. The style of this book does not. Although it was interesting to read about the TV industry at the time, it did tend to go on-and-on with more detail than was necessary. I recently came across my copy of it, and was thinking of picking it up again and giving it another try, or at least skimming through it for some interesting tidbits.

  3. The TV Teletype comment about Tina Louise possibly getting her own series was interesting, and rather odd, considering she had just begun a leading role in a show that had recently premiered. In those days, ratings results were not instant like they are now, and CBS may not have even yet known how the first few episodes of “Gilligan’s Island” had done in the ratings. Maybe they were in talks with her about a show if “Gilligan’s Island” did not last past 13 weeks or one season. Otherwise, how could this proposed series come to be? Well, maybe she could have signed a contract guaranteeing her a series of her own once “Gilligan’s Island” was cancelled, whenever that would be. Or maybe Ginger would somehow be the only castaway to be rescued, leaving Ms. Louise free to star in her own series.

    1. You have to remember…CBS-TV president James Aubrey hated GILLIGAN’S ISLAND–he didn’t like the concept, and only reluctantly agreed to put it on the schedule. He also specifically had developed and bought THE BAILEYS OF BALBOA because he felt that was the way GILLIGAN should have been.

  4. The Giardello-Carter bout was postponed until December 14. Hurricane Carter lost what would be his only title bout (For Giardello’s Middleweight title) in a Unanimous Decision. We know what happened next for Carter!!!

  5. Mel Allen began broadcasting Yankees’ games on radio in 1939 and became legendary, but his voice gave out on him during the 1963 World Series, and Yankee management thought he talked too much on TV–a problem that sometimes affects announcers when they’re more familiar with being on radio.

  6. The WWLP and WHYN ads were quite interesting. These days, with the line between entertainment and information totally blurred, you’ve gotta wonder how stations would go about grabbing viewers for their local newscasts. The Springfield, MA ABC station now goes by the call of WGGB. Used to collect TV Guides myself.

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