A Year in TV Guide: October 31st, 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 #7
October 31st, 1964
Vol. 12, No. 44, Issue #605
Western New England Edition

On the Cover: John Astin and Carolyn Jones from ABC’s The Addams Family

The Magazine

Those of you who have been following A Year in TV Guide since it started last month will know that every issue was building towards the 1964 Presidential Election between President Lyndon Johnson and Senator Barry Goldwater. TV Guide ran articles and editorials about the upcoming election as well as news reports. The start of the 1964-1965 season saw both parties buying time on the networks, pre-empting regular programming both nationally and locally.

Now, finally, the election is here. On Tuesday, November 3rd, 1964 the country chose its next president and the networks were there to cover the returns. Helping them this year were computers. Lots of computers. Lots of big computers. Neil Hickey’s article “The Night of the Computer” includes details about the computers: ABC had a Burroughs B-5000 Information Processing System; CBS had some IBM 7010s; and NBC had a bunch of RCA 303 and 3301 computers.

In addition to their computers and experts, the networks joined with the Associated Press and United Press International to form the Network Election Service (NES) to tabulate votes. That way the total number of votes would be uniform across the networks, making it easier for viewers to keep track of what was going on. Each network would, however, have its own projections.

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

There are three other articles in this issue. “Out of the Purple Onion…” is a two-page look at the Smothers Brothers, who were still a few years away from courting controversy with their CBS variety show. “‘I Knew I Had Been Shot'” is a fascinating oral history by NBC reporter Alvin Rosenfeld and cameraman Jay Miller who came under fire in August 1963 while covering the conflict between Turks and Greeks in Cyprus. And Dwight Whitney’s “Addams’ Eve” examines the life of Carolyn Jones, who played Morticia on the new ABC sitcom The Addams Family.

The “As We See It” editorial this week supports legislation introduced by Senator Jacob Javits (R., NY) that would close all polls at the same time to avoid voters being influenced by the close of polls in certain time zones. All polls would be open at least 12 hours. It opposed other legislation that would prohibit reporting of election returns until all polls had closed.

Cleveland Amory’s review of Mr. Broadway on CBS was printed in the national section this week. He noted the fast pace of the series, which starred Craig Stevens as a public relations man, but called it “strangely unmoving” because “the world depicted is so patently phony that it is hard to get enough unphoniness, let alone believability, to hold us for a full hour.” He criticized all of the “plugs” in the first episode for New York City restaurants and night clubs as well as appearances by designer Oleg Cassini and columnist Leonard Lyons.

Also in the national section: a two-page picture feature showing how the island set for Gilligan’s Island was constructed at the CBS Studio Center; another Designer’s Choice feature showcasing outfits by Helen Rose modeled by actress Vera Miles; a crossword puzzle; and a cartoon on the inner back cover by L. Herman depicting the evolution of TV sets from 1947 to 1965.

Notes from the Hollywood and New York TV Teletype columns:

  • Dick Williams will be the choral director of “NBC’s Follies of 1965,” a special set to air on November 27th, with Steve Lawrence, Juliet Prowse, Jill St. John, Allan Sherman, and Nipsey Russell.
  • An hour-long special on the Inter-American Highway, produced by Lou Hazam, will air on NBC on March 23rd, 1965.
  • Dragnet may be returning to television with Jack Webb producing and starring.
  • Several pilots will start production this month, including “Kissin’ Cousins” with Edd Byrnes and “Campo 44″ under the direction of Buzz Kulik. [Neither were picked up.]
  • CBS will air a new version of the Rodgers and Hammerstein musical Cinderella on February 22nd, with Lesley Ann Warren, Ginger Rogers, Walter Pidgeon, and Celeste Holm.

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

  • The FCC’s equal time doctrine reared its ugly head in the middle of October when President Johnson spoke for 17 minutes on October 18th about Khrushchev’s removal from power in the Soviet Union and China exploding a nuclear device. When the Republican party asked for equal time for Senator Goldwater, the networks refused and the FCC backed them up. NBC decided to allow GOP Chairman Dean Burch to talk for 15 minutes and he used his time to attack the President and the Democrats who, in turn, asked for equal time to respond. NBC said no.
  • Three new dramas on CBS may be in danger of cancellation. Both Mr. Broadway and The Reporter will halt production after 13 episodes while Slattery’s People will continue filming. By November, the network will likely know what it wants to do based on further Nielsen reports.
  • Jackie Mason has filed a $15 million lawsuit against Ed Sullivan stemming from Mason’s October 18th appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show. Sullivan thought Mason was gesturing obscenely and cancelled his contract. [Mason won the suit.]
  • Maurice Gosfield, who played Doberman on The Phil Silvers Show, died on October 19th. He was 51.

There was only one letter about the new season in the letters page this week and it was a response to Cleveland Amory’s October 18th review of The Rogues:

Cleveland Amory rightly used the strong term “offensive” in describing a recent episode of The Rogues. It was so degenerate that government regulations could be right around the corner for a network that would accept 30 pieces of silver to endanger the Nation’s moral fiber.
M.F. Kennedy
Oklahoma City, Okla.

(The episode in question is “Viva Diaz!” which originally aired on October 4th, 1964.)

There were five letters about sports. One complained that half-time ceremonies weren’t being fully broadcast, two were about the World Series and, and two were negative responses to NBC’s Olympic coverage:

If NBC didn’t want to carry the Summer Olympic Games, why did they bother to bid for them? After the magnificent coverage given the Olympic Trials all summer by ABC, Americans had a right to expect more than the kind of coverage usually given the daily weather.
John E. Higgins
Scituate, Mass.

In my opinion, NBC’s Olympic coverage was pitiful. Maybe it was because I was spoiled by ABC’s masterful job last summer.
William J. Blewett Jr.

There was also a letter complaining about commercials that were “whispered, confidential messages” and another suggesting a new name for That Was the Week That WasThat Was the Weak That Was.

The TV Listings

This being Election Week, the were plenty of election advertisements. Both CBS and NBC ran full page ads promoting their respective election coverage, as did WTIC-TV (Channel 3) in Connecticut for its local and network coverage. A special page in the listings section gave readers and overview of who would be hosting election coverage on each network.

WTIC-TV Election Ad
WTIC-TV Election Ad – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.
NBC Election Ad
NBC Election Ad – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.
CBS Election Ad
CBS Election Ad – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.

The three days leading up to the election were filled with paid political talk on multiple stations, some national and some apparently local. TV Guide listed ten such programs in its TeleVision Guide but I think there were even more within the listings. On Saturday, Sunday, and Monday TV Guide printed a notice warning readers that the major parties could purchase additional political time, further disrupting network schedules.

(Nationally, it looks like CBS was preempted from 8:30-9:30PM on Saturday for Republican talk; NBC from 10:30-11PM on Sunday for Democratic talk; CBS from 8:30-9PM for Democratic talk and 10-10:30PM for Republican talk on Sunday; ABC from 9:30-10PM for Democratic talk and 10-10:30PM for Republican talk on Sunday; and NBC from 10-10:30PM for Democratic talk and 10:30-11PM for Republican talk on Sunday.

On Election Night, a full-page TV Guide Close-Up ran down how the networks planned to cover the elections, with comprehensive lists of reporters. All would start at 7PM, although locally in Connecticut WNHC-TV (Channel 8) would air local coverage from 6:15-7:30PM hosted by Stelio Salmona and George Thompson, pre-empting the first half-hour of ABC’s national coverage. A special notice was printed at the end of the day’s listings alerting viewers that network coverage would continue “throughout the early morning hours until major races are decided.”

The day after the election, there were a few post-election specials. CBS Reports was pre-empted on Wednesday, November 4th for an hour-long live special called “What Happened Last Night,” with Walter Cronkite. ABC aired an installment of its Politics ’64 series from 10:30-11:30PM called “Where Do We Go from Here?” with Clare Boothe Luce, Arthur Schlessinger, Oliver Quayle, Howard K. Smith and others. And NBC aired a live post-election special with Chet Huntley and David Brinkley from 11:30PM-12:30AM, interrupting The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.

Here are the TV Guide close-ups for the week:

  • College Football (NBC, Saturday at 1:15PM)
  • Election Coverage (ABC/CBS/NBC, Tuesday at 7PM)
  • The Bob Hope Show: “‘Out on the Outskirts of Town'” (NBC, Friday at 8:30PM)
  • Twentieth Century: “Smear: The Game of Dirty Politics” (CBS, Sunday at 5PM)
  • World War I: “Verdun the Inferno” (CBS, Tuesday at 8PM)

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: Godzilla vs. The Thing (Saturday at 6:30PM, $1.25)
  • Movie: The New Interns (Saturday at 10:30PM, $1.25)
  • Pro Hockey: Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers (Live, Sunday at 7:30PM, $1.25)
  • Imogene Coca Comedy Special: A Rainy Day in Newark (Monday at 8:30PM, $1.50)
  • Movie: Ride the Wild Surf (Tuesday at 7PM, $1.25)
  • Movie: The Thrill of It All (Friday at 8PM, $1.00)

Locally, I’m sure every station covered Election Night to some degree, but aside from the WNHC-TV coverage it doesn’t look like any station pre-empted national coverage or aired any specific post-election specials.

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

New Spotlight: Thrills and Chills

This month’s Spotlight shines on Thrills and Chills, a very early television series that premiered on WNBT in New York City in August 1941. Host Doug Allan interviewed adventurers and explorers who showed films of their expeditions. I’ve been researching this series on and off for years but there is frustratingly little information to be found.

Much of what I do know comes from Allan’s 1946 book How to Write for Television (which I reviewed earlier this month). It didn’t have a set time slot, didn’t always air on the same day of the week, and was off the air for months at a time. Television listings in The New York Times unfortunately provide an incomplete broadcast history of the series so I can’t even say how many episodes were produced

Thrills and Chills aired first on WNBT from August 1941 to May 1942 and then on W2XWV/WABD from August 1942 to June 1946. This was long before the kinescope process was introduced so all the episode are lost. The Library of Congress has audio from a number of WNBT programs circa 1941/1942 so it’s possible but unlikely that audio could survive.

I will continue to try to dig up more information about the series. If anyone out there knows anything about it I’ve love to hear from you.

Read the full Spotlight here.

A Year in TV Guide: October 24th, 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 #6
October 24th, 1964
Vol. 12, No. 43, Issue #604
Philadelphia Edition

On the Cover: Robert Vaughn of NBC’s The Man from U.N.C.L.E.

Note: This was the first of several issues not in my collection. The copy I was able to acquire is the Philadelphia Edition, which includes listings for a total of just nine stations in and around Philadelphia (compared to the 16 stations included in the Western New England Edition). You’ll notice that the issue itself is in very good condition. The cover is slightly detached from the staples and unfortunately has a mailing label but otherwise is nearly pristine condition with sharp edges and very few creases or tears.

The Magazine

The cover article this week is a far-too-short look behind the scenes of NBC’s new spy series for the 1964-1965 season: The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. Personally, I’m a bigger fan of The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. but I still enjoyed the article and it had a lot of behind-the-scenes information, including some insight into just how much of a role Ian Fleming — the creator of James Bond — had in developing the series. According to Norman Felton, despite reports to the contrary, Fleming had next to nothing to do with the series.

Felton talked to him about and Fleming was excited about the concept but was forced to withdraw from any actual involvement after a heart attack. His only real contribution was the name Solo, which was initially going to be the name of the series until producers for the James Bond movie series got involved, so the name was changed to The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. Felton gave all the credit for developing the series to Sam Rolfe.

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

The article also includes a few other interesting bits of information. For example, a legal charter for the United Network Command for Law and Enforcement was drawn up and the cast and crew became members. Felton and Rolfe once handed out U.N.C.L.E. membership cards at an NBC affiliates meeting. The cards were accidentally printed in three different colors (gold, silver, and blue) and the two were immediately besieged by calls from people asking why they received a silver or blue card and not a gold one. People who would not believe that the colors were meaningless. Oh, and that iconic U.N.C.L.E. gun? Four were built for the series. Each cost $3500. They could fire real bullets or 38-caliber blanks.

The other articles aren’t quite as a good. “Lincoln Learned a Lesson” is an overview of the impact of photographs and later moving images on Presidential elections. Senator Goldwater, for example, asked the networks for three things in their coverage of the 1964 Republican National Conventions: that they stay away from low angles to avoid any Big Brother imagery; that they not cut to reaction shots from the crowd during his speech; and that no “creepie-peepie” cameras (small, handheld video cameras) be used. The networks, according to the article, ignored his requests.

Here’s what NBC’s James Kitchell had to say about covering politicians:

“Good taste is the only restriction we recognize in deciding how to photograph a politician. If a speaker has a big scar on one side of his famous, we stay off it. Mrs. Johnson doesn’t happen to photograph well in full profile, and you’ll rarely see her pictured that way on television. It’s all mostly a matter of good taste.”

(I doubt TV Guide writes much of anything about politics these days.)

I admit to not reading all of Melvin Durslag’s “If Televised Football Arrives…” because it wasn’t about television, not really. It was about football coach Sid Gillman and how the American Football League had signed a huge five-year contract with NBC and would soon be flush with money. “Never Toss a Tomato at A Lady” is a fluff piece on actress Cathleen Nesbitt, then co-starring on ABC’s The Farmer’s Daughter. Finally, TV Guide published another excerpt from Only You, Dick Daring! Or How to Write One Television Script and Make $50,000,000, 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.

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.

Disappointingly, the “As We See It” editorial this issue was little more than an advertisement for Only You, Dick Daring! which makes me wonder whether the publisher paid TV Guide to feature the excerpts. The editorial claims that the chapters excerpted in TV Guide “are funny, and instructive, for they reveal something of how an idea becomes a script, something of what goes on at a meeting of network brass and something of why much of television is bland, safe, unexciting.” That may well be true but such effusive praise on top of two excerpts seems like a bit much.

Rounding out the national section this week are a picture feature on the opening credits to Gunsmoke being updated for the first time in eight years; another Designer’s Choice feature showcasing outfits by Bud Kilpatrick modeled by actress Gena Rowlands, and a crossword puzzle.

Cleveland Amory’s review in the listing section this week focused on ABC’s Bewitched. He’s a fan, praising Sol Saks, Danny Arnold and William Asher “for their switch on this old-wives’ witch story–particularly the basic idea of making their girl a young, suburban housewitch. He calls Elizabeth Montgomery “enchanting” and Dick York both “sometimes trying” as well as “winning” in some scenes. But he’s critical as well, particularly of Agnes Moorehead for “overplaying her part and witching about everything.” He doesn’t like the commercials featuring Montgomery and Moorehead, either. In the final paragraph of the review, he somehow he finds a way to use every possible variation of the word witch (i.e. “witching hour,” “witch hunt,” “witch doctor”). It unfortunately obscures his point. I think he’s suggesting that that the series is in danger of relying too much on witchcraft special effects but he might be seriously concerned about the depiction of witchcraft on prime time television.

Notes from the Hollywood and New York TV Teletype columns:

  • Sally Field will play the title role in the pilot for My Gidget from Screen Gems.
  • Cynthia Pepper and Gary Lockwood will star in a pilot called “Sally and Sam” for 20th Century-Fox. [It wasn't picked up.]
  • The November 1st episode of Candid Camera will include a sequence with a woman wearing a topless bathing suit.
  • George Tobias and Alice Pearce will have fairly regular roles on Bewitched playing neighbors to Elizabeth Montgomery and Dick York.

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

  • Correspondent Sander Vanocur has quit NBC News over a contract dispute. His contract expired October 3rd and he worked an extra week to see if NBC would meet his demands (rumors to be $100,00 a year when NBC was offering half that). He denies asking for that much.
  • The first two-week Nielsen report for the season, covering the two weeks ending September 27th, have the following shows in the Top 15: Bewitched (2nd); Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. (5th), No Time for Sergeants (7th), Peyton Place (8th); The Addams Family (10th); The Munsters (12th); The Tycoon (14th); and Wendy and Me (15th).
  • ABC plans to move its headquarters to a building in New York City between 53rd and 54th Streets on Avenue of the Americas, meaning all three networks will soon be within four blocks of one another.
  • Ed Sullivan is furious at Jackie Mason for refusing to leave the stage when instructed to do so during the October 18th episode (and for expressing his defiance by thumbing his nose). [In fact, Sullivan thought Mason had given him the finger and the resulting controversy eventually led to Mason filing a libel suit against Sullivan.]

The letters page is once again filled with great responses to the new season, most about new shows:

Slattery’s People gets my vote–whatever his party affiliation may be. It may be a bit premature, but here’s hoping that he comes up for reelection.
John A. Mutka
Hobart, Ind.

Not just three, but six cheers for Slattery’s People.
Rick Gonzalez
Santa Monica, Cal.

Cheers for the new “chuckles” season. With death and taxes always present, it seems good to spend an evening with such goodies as The Tycoon, No Time for Sergeants, etc. It’s too bad, with so many poor programs, the networks have to try to eliminate good shows by spotting them opposite each other, i.e., Bewitched against Dr. Kildare.
E. Edgerley
Westerly, R.I.

Whoever said that Dennis Weaver would always be a “Chester” can go limp around the bock. Kentucky Jones is one of the few new programs which I have thoroughly enjoyed.
(Name withheld)
Sumter, S.C.

Last night ended The Danny Kaye Show for me. I can’t bear to watch that talented man do the trashy stuff he is doing this season.
K. DeWitt
New York, N.Y.

An eagle feather to Daniel Boone. It is refreshing to watch a show in which the American Indian is portrayed as a human being rather than a howling savage.
Beth Oxford
Phoeniz, Ariz.

There’s also a letter critical of Cleveland Amory’s review of Peyton Place in the October 10th issue and a very lengthy tirade from a reader angry at how the networks are drowning out the closing themes of shows with promotional voiceover announcements for other shows.

The TV Listings

The 1964 Summer Olympics ended on Saturday, October 24th. NBC aired a two-hour special from 5-7PM that included finals in basketball, boxing, and equestrian jumping, plus the closing ceremonies and highlights from the games. A final hour-long special aired on Sunday, October 25th from 6:30-7:30PM consisting of interviews with athletes and coaches, reviews of outstanding performances, and the final medal count, plus a preview of the 1968 Summer Olympics in Mexico City. There was a lot of football on Saturday and Sunday and a lot of advertisements for football.

There was also a lot of political and election programs throughout the week. Both President Johnson and Senator Goldwater were on television on Thursday, October 29th. Johnson spoke live from Philadelphia’s Convention Hall on WFIL-TV (Channel 6), the city’s ABC affiliate, so My Three Sons was pre-empted locally. A taped Goldwater speech aired nationally on CBS from 9:30-10PM, so The Baileys of Balboa was pre-empted across the country.

The issue is filled with advertisements for election coverage, including a full-page ad for NBC’s national coverage and WRCV-TV’s (Channel 3) local coverage with Vince Leonard. There are also some small ads for WCAU-TV (Channel 10) sprinkled throughout the issue in the form of black arrows running across the bottom of several pages, enticing viewers to follow TV10 on election night.

A new game show called What’s This Song? premiered Monday, October 26th at 10:30AM on NBC, hosted by Win (later Wink) Martindale. Beverly Garland and Lorne Greene were the guests. Each week the celebrities teamed with audience members to identify songs.

There are an incredible nine TV Guide close-ups this week:

  • College Football (NBC, Saturday at 1:45PM)
  • Summer Olympics (NBC, Saturday at 5PM
  • Pro Football (CBS, Sunday at 1:30PM)
  • Twentieth Century: “Smear: The Game of Dirty Politics” (CBS, Sunday at 5PM)
  • World War I: “Verdun the Inferno” (CBS, Tuesday at 8PM)
  • Mock Election Returns (WFIL-TV, Wednesday at 5PM, Live)
  • The Perry Como Show (NBC, Thursday at 10PM)
  • The Defenders: “The Man Who” (CBS, Thursday at 10PM)
  • Rawhide: “Canliss” (CBS, Friday at 7:30PM)

One of these is for a local program so now I’m curious about whether the close-ups were typically the same in every regional issue or if different regions had very different close-ups each week.

I had hoped to perhaps find some short-lived shows being aired in syndication in the Philadelphia area but other than The Rebel, they were all well-known shows like I Love Lucy, The Real McCoys, The Andy Griffith Show, Father Knows Best, and Surfside Six.

Philadelphia had a lot of local programming, much more than Western New England. I can’t hope to identify everything local. There is of course the Mock Election Returns broadcast on WFIL-TV on Wednesday, October 28th, which received its very own close-up. The elaborate four-week mock election involved high schools throughout the tri-state area (in this case the tri-state area means Delaware, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania). Rallies for either Goldwater or Johnson were held each Saturday for four weeks, the last of which aired on Saturday, October 24th.

The election results program aired live on WFIL-TV, a mixture of films of actual Presidential campaigning and taped highlights of the mock rallies. The schools voted using paper ballots or voting machines and reporters at each school were to call WFIL-TV with the results. Joel Alberts and John Roberts reported on the election results and interviewed student campaign managers. What are the chances someone reading this participated in those mock elections fifty years ago?

WFIL-TV also pre-empted Bewitched locally on Thursday, October 29th in favor of an installment of its Studio Workshop series, which this week presented The Paul Roberts Choir.

Advertisement for WFIL-TV's Studio Workshop
Advertisement for WFIL-TV’s Studio Workshop – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.

Various stations aired locally produced political and/or election-related programs throughout the week. On Sunday, October 25th WRCV-TV (Channel 3) aired a half-hour Report to the People from 11:30AM-12PM featuring Mayor James H.J. Tate of Philadelphia while WCAU-TV (Channel 2) aired a similar report with Governor Richard J. Hughes of New Jersey in the same time slot. That same day, WRCV-TV also aired an hour-long Meet the Candidates special from 3-4PM in which Pennsylvania’s Congressional candidates spoke about their campaigns.

On Tuesday, October 27th WRCV-TV presented Television Kitchen, a weekly half-hour series in which Florence P. Hanford prepared dishes live and in color. This week she made brisket, horseradish sauce, carrot-onion potatoes, Italian sald bowl, applesauce biscuits, and fresh chocolate rolls.

Advertisement for WRCV-TV 's Television Kitchen
Advertisement for WRCV-TV ‘s Television Kitchen – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.

WHYY-TV (Channel 10) was the only educational station serving the Philadelphia region in 1964. It appears to have offered a lot more locally produced programming than WEDH-TV out of Hartford. It had its own news shows and also aired local school reports and political debates.

And of course there was local news, sports and weather on several different channels throughout the week.

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

CBS and Weigel Launching New Classic TV Diginet Called Decades in 2015

The CBS Television Stations group and Weigel Broadcasting have announced plans to launch a new classic television digital specialty network — or diginet — called Decades during the second quarter of 2015. It will air on the 16 CBS owned-and-operated stations as well as any other stations that Weigel can sign affiliation agreements with. It will likely also be available via cable and satellite. According to an official press release published by the futon critic, Decades will feature more than 100 series, including classics like I Love Lucy, Star Trek, Happy Days, and Cheers, as well as feature films and made-for-TV movies.

Additionally, Decades will also feature content from the CBS News and Entertainment Tonight libraries. Unlike similar diginets like Me-TV and Antenna TV, Decades will air different shows and movies every day. From the press release:

DECADES will take viewers into a daily time capsule presentation of entertainment, popular culture and news. The service will feature DECADES RETROSPECTICALSM, a daily one-hour program that will be produced around the news events and cultural touchstones of a specific day, week or other time frame or theme. The TV series and movies presented each day will reflect that day’s theme or commemorative event.

For example, DECADES will look back at classic series such as HAPPY DAYS and its “jump the shark” episode, explain its historical significance and then broadcast that episode. Viewers will also be taken back in time to rediscover events that shaped our world, such as the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Neil Armstrong walking on the moon, the Beatles’ U.S. debut on THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW and the birth of software and technology companies like Microsoft and Apple. DECADES will connect these events to what people were watching on television, seeing at the movies and experiencing as a nation.

The press release doesn’t offer much in the way of detail but of course it is just an announcement. Hopefully more information about Decades will be made available in the next few months. While I’d love to see Decades go the TCM route and air everything uncut and commercial free that’s never going to happen. I’m intrigued at the inclusion of archival footage from CBS News, and to a less extant from Entertainment Tonight, because it’s rare that old news reports, specials and documentaries are rebroadcast.

Increased competition in the already crowded classic TV diginet business could also finally lead to less well-known shows being dusted off and aired. All those hours have to be filled somehow. We’re probably never going to see truly obscure or short-lived shows. But we could certainly see more shows like Mr. Lucky, The Rebel, Banacek, The Deputy, and The Name of the Game would be nice. Those are all shows that are airing either on Me-TV or Cozi TV.

(Speaking of Me-TV, operated by Weigel Broadcasting, it currently airs a number of shows from the CBS library. Will they be pulled from Me-TV to become Decades exclusives?)

Decades will join Antenna TV, Cozi TV, Me-TV, and Retro TV, all of which focus heavily on classic TV shows, as well as This TV, FamilyNet, Bounce TV, and INSP, which also air some classic TV shows. In late September, Weigel launched Heroes & Icons, a new diginet with only a handful of affiliates that airs shows like Cannon, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The Wild Wild West, and Wagon Train. And there’s The QUAD TV Networks, a proposed group of four classic TV diginets each focusing on a different decade that was announced in June 2013 but was put on hold in August 2014.

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.

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 Hates 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.

NBC Cancels Sitcom Mission Control Before It Can Blastoff

The Hollywood Reporter is reporting that NBC has cancelled sitcom Mission Control prior to its expected mid-season debut. The series was announced in May when NBC released its 2014-2015 schedule but was never given an actual premiere date. According to Deadline Hollywood, NBC gave Mission Control a six-episode order. A pilot was shot but there were casting issues and no additional episodes were filmed.

Here’s the official NBC description for the series:

Houston, we have a problem! Dr. Mary Kendricks (Krysten Ritter, “Don’t Trust the B—- in Apartment 23″) is a tough but brilliant aerospace engineer, leading a team of NASA scientists at the cutting edge of space exploration. The only problem is, this is the 1960s and she’s a woman. Navigating the ridiculous boys’ club of astronauts and engineering nerds is no easy task, but she’s up to the challenge… until her boss brings on Tom (Tommy Dewey, “The Mindy Project”) – a former hotshot test pilot and overall man’s man – to co-manage her team. It doesn’t help that he initially mistakes her for a secretary. Between him, her astronaut boyfriend Cash and her offbeat all-guy team, Mary certainly has her hands full… but at the end of the day, they all want the same thing: to get a man on the moon. It might just take a woman to get him there.

NBC’s website includes a page for Mission Control that likely will disappear shortly. Check it out while you still can.

Less than two months ago, NBC cancelled Emerald City, a 10-episode limited series that never got past the script stage. Back in 2012, the network canned sitcom Last Caller after completing four episodes.

(Thanks to Bob for passing this along.)

A Year in TV Guide: October 10th, 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 #4
October 10th, 1964
Vol. 12, No. 41, Issue #602
Western New England Edition

On the Cover: Gig Young, Charles Boyer, and David Niven of NBC’s The Rogues.

The Magazine

Although the title printed across the cover of this week’s issue may suggest otherwise, there is not an article filled with “complete details of Olympic Coverage.” There is an article about the 1964 Summer Olympics, but it isn’t about television coverage. The complete details referred to on the cover are in fact confined to a single page in the listings section.

There are four articles in this issue. “It’s Game Time In Tokyo,” by sportswriter Melvin Durslag, is the aforementioned article about the Olympics. It discusses NBC’s plans to broadcast the two-hour opening ceremony live, courtesy of the Syncom III satellite, as well as 14-and-a-half hours of taped coverage. “Too Much Too Soon” by Blake Hunter is an interesting overview of instructional television (ITV) seen in classrooms, separate but often related to educational television (ETV), as well as the recently introduced 2500-megacycle instructional television fixed service (ITVFS). “They Laughed When She Played It Straight” offers a brief biography of actress Pamela Britton, then co-starring in My Favorite Martian on CBS.

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

The cover article this week is Dwight Whitney’s “The ‘Rogue’ That Got Away” which includes several interesting factoids about The Rogues, which was basically a last-ditch effort by Four Star Television to create a new hit show. The death of Dick Powell in January 1963 led to a rapid decline for the company, which went from having a dozen shows on the air during the 1960-1961 season to just one during the 1963-1964 season. The Rogues, with rotating stars Niven, fellow Four Star owner Charles Boyer, and Gig Young, was an attempt to revive Four Star.

Niven could spare just five weeks over the course of April and May 1964 to come to the United States for filming. So, 21 scripts were hastily completed and the five episodes starring Niven were shot, plus brief scenes to be added to five others. A total of 30 episodes were produced and Niven appeared in more than five, so he must have returned at some point to film additional episodes. Unfortunately, The Rogues was not the huge success Four Star hoped for. NBC cancelled it after the 1964-1965 season.

The “As We See It” editorial in this issue focused on pay television (or pay-TV), specifically Pat Weaver’s Subscription Television service suspending program production and laying off 143 employees. TV Guide noted that the 6,000 subscribers watched mostly movies and sporting events, not the cultural programs championed by Weaver. That was worrisome:

If pay-TV can succeed only with sports and movies, it follows that pay-TV must complete with free-TV for those sports and movies. This despite Weaver’s insistence that pay-TV would not compete with free-TV for programs.

We’d like to see pay-TV have a fair trial and learn whether it can offer its subscribers programs that are new and different, that are not now seen on free-TV. But what would viewers gain if the programs they now see for nothing are switched to pay-TV?

(Subscription Television launched in Los Angeles on July 17th and in San Francisco on August 14th. California responded, at the urging of movie theater owners, with a state referendum that would ban pay-TV in the state. It would pass in early November only to be ruled unconstitutional by the California State Supreme Court in March 1966. In October 1966, the U.S. Supreme Court refused to review that ruling, meaning pay-TV was legal in California. But it was too late for Subscription Television, which went bankrupt in 1965.)

As promised in the September 26th issue, Cleveland Amory’s TV reviews returned in this issue, with his thoughts on ABC’s new twice-weekly prime time soap opera Peyton Place. Suggesting that viewers would either love the show or hate it, Amory admitted that he was fascinated by the show. Airing it twice weekly was a “bold new concept” and praised the producers and writers “for taking the adulterated trash of the original [novel] and making out of it, not only adult entertainment but also a program which, at 9:30, is not too gamey for the children.”

Amory was impressed with some members of the cast, notably Dorothy Malone and Ryan O’Neal, but wasn’t quite sure about Mia Farrow.

Notes from the Hollywood and New York TV Teletype columns this week:

  • Jean Arthur will probably provide the voice of the mother/car on My Mother, the Car, referred to as “probably the most far-out comedy series yet” by Walt Anderson in the Hollywood TV Teletype. [The mother was ultimately voiced by Ann Sothern.]
  • Don Knotts will leave The Andy Griffith Show at the end of the current season to focus on movies.
  • The Hanged Man, the second “Project 120″ production, will air on November 18th as an installment of Wednesday Night at the Movies on NBC. Edmon O’Brien, Vera Miles, Robert Culp, and others star.
  • Astronaut Alan Shephard and ABC’s science editor Jules Bergman will discuss new photographs of the Moon in an episode of ABC’s Discovery ’64 on October 18th.

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

  • ABC has suspended newscaster Lisa Howard due to her involvement with the Democrats-for-Keating Committee. She notified ABC days after The New York Times published a report on the formation of the group, something ABC News didn’t appreciate. [Howard later sued ABC but lost. She died in July 1965 after overdosing on barbiturates.]
  • NBC’s That Was the Week That Was began its new season on Tuesday, September 29th, a week after it was supposed to premiere, due to the Republican National Committee purchasing airtime on September 22nd. It would be pre-empted on October 6th and 13th for the same reason. In fact, the RNC wanted to also buy airtime on September 29th but was denied due to a one-minute spot purchased by the Democratic National Committee. According to an NBC spokesman, because the half-hour series aired live, the airtime was cheap to buy.
  • The networks were said to have done a fine job covering the release of the Warren Commission’s Report on the Assassination of President Kennedy, released publicly at 6:30PM on Sunday, September 24th. All three networks had specials on the air immediately after release of the report.

Letters this week ranged from one praising CBS for its coverage of the Warren Commission Report to one asking for Mitch Miller to return to television during election season. There was also a letter pointing out a mistake in the September 26th issue regarding the “winningest” football coach and one from the California State Electronics Association applauding TV Guide‘s September 12th article about the price of good TV service. And there were more articles about new shows:

I don’t think Bewitched will “be-watched” for very long.
Glenn Herzer
Murphys, Cal.

Thanks to NBC for Flipper, The Famous Adventures of Mr. Magoo, and Kentucky Jones. Saturday is one of the nights the kids can stay up and watch.
Mrs. INez Shaw
Spokane, Wash.

The Addams Family and The Munsters can go back to the graveyard.
Arthur Fox
Bethlehem, Pa.

Rounding out the national section was a four-page picture feature about Combat! faking a snow scene, a four-page Designer’s Choice article showcasing gowns by James Galanos modeled by actress Dana Wynter, and some humorous made-up TV plots by Jerry Buck.

The TV Listings

It was another big sports week on television, with plenty of Olympics coverage as well as the end of the 1964 World Series. The listings section is filled with “Special Announcement” boxes advising readers that World Series games, if necessary, will pre-empt regularly scheduled programming. All the games were necessary and there were games on Saturday, Sunday, Monday, Wednesday, and Thursday. The St. Louis Cardinals won the series 4-3 over the New York Yankees.

Advertisement for the Olympics on NBC
Advertisement for the Olympics on NBC – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.

NBC aired Olympic coverage every night of the week starting on Sunday with an hour-long special from 6:30-7:30PM. There were with highlights Monday through Friday from 11:15-11:30PM as well as specials on Tuesday and Thursday. The Sunday special included a recap of the opening ceremonies for those who hadn’t stayed up late to watch them live.

Other special programming during the week included reports on the British elections; a tribute to Eleanor Roosevelt (aired on three different stations, two on Sunday at different times and one on Monday); and a documentary titled “Berlin: Kaiser to Khrushchev” narrated by Richard Basehart that aired on four different stations.

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

  • The World Series (NBC, Saturday at 12:45PM)
  • Bob Hope Special: “Have Girls – Will Travel” (NBC, Friday at 8:30PM)

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: Robinson Crusoe on Mars (Saturday at 6:30PM, $1.25)
  • Movie: The Ceremony (Saturday at 11PM, $1.00)
  • Movies: Amazons of Rome & Roar of the Iron Horse, Chapter 1 (Sunday at 1PM, $0.50)
  • Concert: Bernard Haitink & the Concertgebouw Orchestra of Amsterdam (Sunday at 9PM, $1.25)
  • Movie: Looking for Love (Monday at 7PM, $1.25)
  • Movie: The Masque of the Red Death (Friday at 8PM, $1.25)

As an example of how difficult it has been to identify local programs, I noticed while flipping through the listings section that a new half-hour educational series called Family Living on WTIC (Channel 3). The premiere episode, “Television and the Family,” was about the problems of child raising. Was this a local WTIC series? I thought it might have been but eventually determined it was a syndicated series produced by the University of Michigan, hosted by Professor Robert O. Blood.

There were a number of local programs during the week, many of them on WWLP (Channel 22) in Springfield, MA and its satellite WRLP (Channel 32) in Northfield, MA. The station aired a 90-minute children’s program called Little Old Toymaker from 8:30-10AM on Saturdays. I don’t know anything about it other than the title. On Monday, October 12th from 4:30-6PM the station aired coverage of a Columbus Day Parade down Main Street in Springfield, with commentary from Sylvia Forestiere and Rollie Jacobs. It was not live.

Advertisement for Little Odd Toymaker on
Advertisement for Little Old Toymaker on WWLP/WRLP – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.

Plus there was the return of Schools Match Wits (also known as As Schools Match Wits) on WWLP/WRLP on Friday, October 16th from 7:30-8PM. The high school quiz show premiered in October 1961 and aired live. It is still on the air more than 50 years later, having moved to PBS affiliate WGBY in January 2007.

There was also a live football game between the Springfield Acorns and the Providence Steamrollers that same day on WRPO-TV (Channel 12) in Providence, RI.

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

Review: How to Write for Television (1946)

Bookshelf is a monthly column examining printed matter relating to television. While I love watching TV, I also love reading about it, from tie-in novels to TV Guides, from vintage television magazines to old newspaper articles. Bookshelf is published on the second Thursday of each month.

How to Write for Television
By Doug Allan
First Published in 1946
Published by E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc.
244 Pages
16 Photographs

Despite what the title would have you believe this book does not include much information at all on how to write for television. Published in 1946, when commercial television was still in its infancy and the networks barely existed, it instead offers an overview of television production at the time. Allan’s own television show, Thrills and Chills Everywhere, debuted in 1941 on NBC’s station WNBT in New York City before moving to DuMont’s station WABD at some point in 1944 or 1945. He refers to it several times as the highest-rated show in the city.

This is not a how-to book on scriptwriting. Far from it. Allan covers nearly very aspect of television production, ranging from camera angles to costumes and makeup, from films on television to making the best use of scenery, at times quoting extensively from those in the industry. In 1946, it seems, writers needed to know everything about television, including the proper makeup colors for men and women (both blondes and brunettes). Allan does discuss writing commercials and reprints three commercial scripts, one for Red Goose Shoes and the other for Tintex dye. He also briefly writes about dialogue for television, which he says is similar in many ways to theatrical dialogue.

Allan obviously assumes that anyone reading his book already has experience writing, perhaps even experience writing scripts for radio or movies. He’s more interested in exploring the current state of television and its rapid growth and expansion, which could mean some 4.5 million jobs by the mid-1950s.

Front cover to How to Write for Television
Front cover to How to Write for Television (no dust jacket) – Copyright 1946 E.P. Dutton & Co., Inc.

I thought How to Write for Television was an interesting, if very dated, book but what makes it invaluable as a resource are the photographs included and the scripts reproduced. The 16 black and white photographs document a variety of television productions from 1944 and 1945, all of which are lost. They provide a glimpse into the world of television in the mid-1940s. The scripts are even more invaluable. The six scripts, most of them complete, are also all for programs that are lost. So little is known about the content of television of the time. Reading contemporary articles or even reviews can only offer so much. Being able to read the actual scripts is about as close as we can get to watching the actual programs.

I’ve done a little research to try to determine when each program aired. Here are brief summaries of the scripts:

Sample Script: “The Woman Who Was Acquitted”

Based on a French one-act play written in the late 1800s, this dramatic play about a woman acquitted of murder who later confesses while under hypnosis first aired on WABD in New York City on June 2nd, 1944. It was produced by the Television Workshop and directed by Irwin A. Shane. The Television Workshop then decided to use it as an experiment to see if a television traveling stock company was feasible and it was staged a second time on August 11th over WRGB (the General Electric station) in Schenectady, NY.

Sample Script: “Folksey”

This “modern ballet” aired on WCBS in New York City on November 24th, 1944. The script is over 20 pages long. Based on Carl Sandburg’s 1936 lengthy poem The People, Yes, it was written by Sophie Maslow and featured Jane Dudley, William Bales, Pearl Primus, and the New Dance Group, plus Woody Guthrie and Tony Kraber as folksingers. Leo Hurwitz directed the half-hour program, which was so successful that WCBW decided to repeat it on January 12th, 1945 with the same director and cast.

Sample Script: “The Saga of Steve Cranberry”

Perhaps the most bizarre script included in the book, this was for a puppet show aired on February 16th, 1944 over DuMont’s then-experimental station W2XWV in New York City. It was a segment of a two-and-a-half hour experiment in commercials featuring three different advertising agencies: Compton Advertising, Inc., Ruthrauff & Ryan, and Charles. M. Storm Company, Inc. Compton was behind “The Saga of Steve Cranberry,” which was a glorified commercial for Duz soap. The 12 minute program required a 32-page script. According to Allan, it also aired over WRGB.

Sample Script (Adaption): “Paul’s Present”

This is the only script I haven’t been able to find an air date for. According to Allan, it was first published as a short story in Collier’s in February 1944. Written by Kurt Steel, it is about a 11-year-old boy sick in bed on his birthday. His mother has written the local radio station asking that they announce his birthday on the air. Allan included both the original short story and the shooting script. The program was produced by Bud Gamble but Allan doesn’t say when or over what station it aired.

Sample Script: “The Queen was in the Kitchen”

Allan included this partial script as an example of standard script format devised by the Television Producers Association. The half-hour program was about a woman baking a cake for her wedding anniversary, disappointed that her husband apparently forgot all about it. It a ired January 29th, 1945 on DuMont’s station WABD in New York City

Sample Script: Dunhill Show

Although referred to by Allan simply as the Dunhill Show, it aired under the title “This Is London” on July 26th, 1944 over WABD. Allan reproduced the complete set of documents produced by Charles. M. Storm Company, Inc. for a program sponsored by Alfred Dunhill of London. Set in an air raid shelter in London, it featured songs and some dancing. Included is a synopsis, a list of sets, photographs, film inserts, and props (referred to as properties), a transcript of the lengthy commercial shown at the end of the program, and finally the script itself, which Allan noted was similar to a radio script rather than a television script. Nevertheless, he called the documents “the most complete and logical presentation I have yet seen for a television show.”

How to Write for Television isn’t going to help aspiring scriptwriters break into the industry. But if you’re interested in early television, I recommend trying to find a copy so you can read the full scripts.