Decades Diginet Launches Today

Decades, the classic television digital specialty network (or diginet) announced in Ocober 2014 officially launches today — Memorial Day — after a soft-launch in January that included complete or nearly-complete marathons of more than 40 different TV shows including including F Troop, The Fugitive, The Doris Day Show, The Donna Reed Show, I Love Lucy, and Love, American Style.

Unlike competing classic TV diginets Me-TV, Cozi TV, or Antenna TV, Decades will not feature a set weekly schedule. Instead, each weekday will focus on the “news events and cultural touchstones of a specific day, week or other time frame or theme” and feature a six-hour repeating block of TV shows. That explains how an entire day can be dedicate to a single theme. It’s not the entire day: just six hours.

Today’s theme is not surprisingly the Memorial Day holiday and will include episodes of The Rat Patrol and Hogan’s Heroes, plus the film Hair.

Decades will also feature an original series called Through the Decades (originally titled Decades Retrospecticalsm) hosted by Bill Kurtis, which will premiere at 7AM ET to kick of the first six-hour block of Decades programming. The block will repeat at 1PM, 7PM, and 1AM.

On weekends, Decades will feature marathons of individual shows, with The Mary Tyler Moore on May 30th/31st and The Beverly Hillbillies on June 6th/7th.

The official Decades website can be found here. A list of affiliates can be found at Wikipedia.

A Year in TV Guide: May 22nd, 1965

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 #34
May 22nd, 1965
Vol. 13, No. 21, Issue #634
Eastern New England Edition

On the Cover: Julie Andrews (photograph by Ivan Nagy).

The Magazine

There wasn’t much to read in this issue, with just three articles. It’s interesting that Julie Andrews graced the cover even though there wasn’t an article about her inside. There was, however, a lengthy picture feature about her upcoming NBC special. The big article in this issue is a profile of Max Baer titled “‘A Lot of Hostility'” that runs a little under three pages.

The son of boxer Max Baer, the junior Baer grew up in the shadow of his famous father, developing both trust issues and big ambitions. After his father died in 1960, he moved to Hollywood and eventually became an actor. He soon landed the role of Jethro on The Beverly Hillbillies.

Front Cover
Front Cover – Copyright 1965 Triangle Publications, Inc.

Although the dim-witted Jethro doesn’t allow for much depth, Baer isn’t too concerned:

I’m not complaining. Sure, Hillbillies isn’t my type of humor, personally. I’d like to move on to bigger things. But I go for this good Hollywood life. The money’s good, the dames are good, even if all the older dames in town want to mother me.

He’s also very opinionated, about actors, acting, stardom, and more. Jim Drury (The Virginian) is “a nice guy personally but a nothing actor” while Robert Reed (The Defenders) is “a nice-looking kid and that’s all.” On the topic of politics: “What do I care which party blows up the world?” About acting: “Acting is a business, not an art. You don’t have to study to learn a business.” He has turned down acting roles that he knows he can’t handle, suggesting he’ll be ready for them in four of five years.

The profile concludes with some introspection by Baer:

There’s a lot of hostility churning inside of me. Some days I stand in front of the mirror and I stare at my chubby face and I holler, “I hate you!” about four thousand times. But then I think, “Hey, wait now, be reasonable. I’m 27 years old. I wish everyone could be as successful as I am at 27–and I hope to heaven I can say the same at 50.”

Also in this issue is TV Guide‘s fourth “If I Had a Network” essay, this one from British humorist and critic Malcolm Muggeridge. It’s titled “I’d Serialize ‘Huckleberry Finn’ Instead of ‘Peyton Place'” and makes for very dull reading.

(Previous entries came from Max Schulman in the December 5th, 1964 issue, Marya Mannes in the February 6th, 1965 issue, and Leo Rostein in the April 3rd, 1965 issue).

Muggeridge would first mount “a furious, sustained and lethally well-documented assault” on the Nielsen ratings, instituting instead some sort of qualitative and quantitative system to more accurately estimate viewing habits, perhaps through the sociology department of Columbia University. Next, he would focus his network’s content on comedy, which should be “television’s greatest asset” but unfortunately is not. “Those tired old tell-maestros (I name no names) who for years past have been repeating their gag-writers’ indifferent jokes for vast sums of money–are they worthy exponents of television’s comic possibilities? Surely not.”

To help with the comedy problem, Muggeridge would reach out to Zero Mostel and together they would develop “the comedy of daily life, wrung from misfortunes and discomforts, as well as skimmed off the ebullient surface of joys and delights.” In other words, soap opera. He calls the soap opera, like England’s Coronation Street, “the most satisfactory of all television offerings.” The BBC’s Steptoe and Son “got somewhere near” the ideal program that Muggeridge would strive for. So, too, did the British version of That Was the Week That Was (but not the NBC version).

Muggeridge would then entice Fred Friendly to leave CBS and take charge of news and public affairs programs. Friendly would have just two directives to follow: “to go for comment, the harder and more vehement the better” and “to leave news stories as such to the news agencies, as sensible newspapers do, devoting all available camera resources to elucidating the meaning or significance of what is happening in the world.” Finally, Muggeridge would focus on making his network “intensely American,” perhaps by turning Huckleberry Finn into a serialized TV show rather than Peyton Place. His network would thus be “something joyous, innocent, humorous; exactly contrary to the gangster violence, the sick sex obsessions, the portentous moralizing, which so often, alas, pass for being American.”

The final article, “Be a Rich TV Writer” by F.P. Tullius, isn’t an article at all. It’s a list of 14 “dramatic situations” and readers are tasked with guessing the line of dialogue that would follow. Here’s an example:

Duke, a slightly tarnished but good guy, has agreed to tackle a rough job for Oliver Heaviside, a slightly tarnished but bad guy. However, Duke has got wind that the caper includes murder. Duke: “I think you’ll have to get yourself another boy.” Heaviside:

Drawing a blank on what the next line of dialogue should be? Here it is: “You know I never accept resignations.”

The “As We See It” editorial this week tackles Gresham’s Law (“Bad money drives out good”) in relation to television. Unlike radio, TV Guide feels there is still good in television despite all the bad money. While there may be fewer musical specials and limited drama and far too many “B” movies, soap operas, and wriggle ‘n’ writhe shows in prime time, “you really can’t call this proof that the bad is driving out the good, because television still has much that is quite good, and besides in many cases it’s all but impossible to decide what’s better than what, or worse.”

Cleveland Amory’s review of Celebrity Game suggests viewers have to drink before watching. Amory is in top form with this review, offering many quotes and examples but little substantive criticism. He doesn’t seem taken with host Carl Reiner or many of the guests. At the end of the review, Amory “looked back fondly on to the show on which Tommy Sands prefaced his answer ‘I’m not going to try to be cute or funny, because I’m not cute or funny.’ With that line, he almost stole the show.”

News from the Hollywood and New York TV Teletype columns:

  • NBC News is working on a number of specials for the 1965-1966 season: a report from David Brinkley about why the French hate Americans; two specials in the Of Men and Freedom series (“The Reformation” and “The Defeat of the Spanish Armada”); and “A Look at the Congo.”
  • ABC Scope plans to examine an African village and U.S. Ambassador to Kenya William Attwood. And in June the series will take a look at college graduates from Ohio State University.
  • Joan Baez, Pete Seeger, Sonny Terry, and The McPeake Family will all appear on NET’s Festival of the Arts series.
  • Combat! will film five episodes in Europe next season.
  • Daniel Boone will film episodes in Kentucky, Utah, and South Dakota next season.
  • Guy Marks will be a regular on The John Forsythe Show.
  • Hazel is replacing Don DeFore and Whitney Blake with Ray Fulmer and Lynn Borden.
  • Ruth Warrick and Leslie Nielsen have been added to the cast of Peyton Place as semiregulars.
  • Vincent Edwards has a new record out featuring “See That Girl” and “No Not Much.”
  • Sammy Jackson and Laurie Sibbald of No Time For Sergeants have been signed by Warner Brothers for a movie called Summer Tour. [I don’t believe it was ever made].
  • Tippi Hedren will make her television debut in an episode of Kraft Television Theatre. [“The Trains of Silence” aired on June 10th, 1965.]
  • The Patty Duke Show is moving to Hollywood now that Patty Duke has turned 18 and can work more than four hours a day.

Rounding out the national section is a two-page picture feature examining the use of rear-projection on Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, a much longer seven-page picture feature showcasing Julie Andrews preparing for her November NBC special, a TV Jibe feature from Helen M. Braun offering humorous ways to fix a broken TV set, and the regular TV crossword puzzle.

There are three news reports in the “For the Record” column in the listings section this week:

  • ABC is planning to launch its own domestic satellite, in part to save money on AT&T circuits which cost the networks $50 million a year. Comsat, meanwhile, is working to finish a ground complex for Early Bird with FCC permission. Stations will be built in the northeastern and northwestern parts of the continental U.S. plus Hawaii, with additional “gateway” stations in New York and San Francisco to allow programs to be transmitted to the ground stations to be relayed to Early Bird.
  • ABC-TV Major League Championship Baseball color commentator Leo Durocher met his match in Vice President Hubert Humphrey when the latter stopped by a stadium in Washington, D.C. to watch the Washington Senators play the New York Yankees and the two discussed baseball.
  • Not content to let the FCC regulate television alone, Representative Oren Harris recommended last week that Congress set “reasonably specific and concrete national television policy goals,” starting with the creation of an advisory group consisting of both television industry professionals and outsiders.

There is no letters page in this issue. There is, however, an article in the listings section. It’s not included in the table of contents. It comes after the TV Movie Guide and TV Sports Guide but before the Saturday listings. “When It’s ‘Ice-Cream Time’ in the White House” by Samuel Grafton is a two-page examination of the ongoing disagreement between the networks and the White House over President Johnson’s televised addresses. The networks continue to maintain that they need proper notice, which previous administrations offered, while President Johnson apparently prefers to go on at the last minute.

The TV Listings

The listings section this week is filled with advertisements for local programs. The networks, it seems, have started to check out for the summer. There are eight local ads, most of them full pages, and just one network ad, a half-page advertisement for The Bell Telephone Hour. That’s not to say there wasn’t anything interesting on the networks during the week.

ABC aired a baseball game between the San Fransisco Giants and the Houston Astros at 2PM on Saturday, May 22nd. At 2:30PM, NBC Sports in Action aired its final Saturday afternoon episode for several months, featuring coverage of Notre Dame’s annual charity football game (the following day it would move to 6:30PM). NBC aired an Early Bird special called “The Changing Face of England” from 6-7PM, with Sander Vanocur. It was not live. Four weeks of Jackie Gleason repeats kicked off on CBS at 7:30PM.

At 2PM on Sunday, May 23rd NBC aired “The Inheritance,” an hour-long color special tracing the development of the ancient Hebrews from a nomadic tribe into a nation. Alexander Scourby narrated. ABC repeated the “Custer to the Little Big Horn” episode of Saga of Western Man from 4-5PM. At 6:30PM, NBC Sports in Action premiered in its new time slot with coverage of the Monte Carlo Rally. [The sports series would remain in this time slot until August.]

On Monday, May 24th from 10-11PM CBS aired a CBS News Special called “‘National Drivers Test'” that was split into four sections. Judgement featured Walter Cronkite explaining how to prevent common collisions. Knowledge was an animated quiz on rules of the road. Perception was a short film examining driving hazards and alertness. Special Situations showed viewers how to deal with an unavoidable collission. After each segment, Mike Wallace discussed test results from 2,000 drivers tabulated by computer.

[TV Guide revealed in its May 1st issue that CBS was receiving 50,000 requests a day for test forms and more than 20 million people were expected to participate.]

The season premiere of Moment of Fear aired on Tuesday, May 25th from 8:30-9:30PM on NBC. Like Cloak of Mystery, which debuted last week, the anthology series consisted of repeats from earlier filmed anthology series. The premiere episode was “Cat in the Cradle,” which originally aired on G.E. Theatre in 1961. At 10PM, Donald O’Connor hosted a tribute to Cole Porter on NBC’s The Bell Telephone Hour.

Perry Como’s last show of the season aired from 10-11PM on Thursday, May 27th on NBC. Guests included Richard Chamberlain, Diahann Carroll, and the New Christy Minstrels.

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

  • Special: The Inheritance (NBC, Sunday at 2:00PM)
  • NBC Sports In Action – Monte Carlo Rally (NBC, Sunday at 6:30PM)
  • Special: National Drivers Test (CBS, Monday at 10:00PM)
  • Perry Como’s Kraft Music Hall (NBC, Thursday at 10:00PM)

Locally, it was a relatively quiet week. Another installment of This Is UConn aired on WTIC-TV (Channel 3) from 1-1:30PM on Saturday, May 22nd. Both WHDH-TV (Channel 5) and WPRO-TV (Channel 12) aired a baseball game between the Boston Red Sox and the Cleveland Indians at 1:30PM. WNHC-TV (Channel 8) aired a different baseball game, this one between the Washington Senators and the New York Yankees, at 1:55PM.

At 5PM, WBZ-TV (Channel 4) premiered Hollywood a Go Go, a syndicated musical variety series that debuted in other parts of the country in January 1965. At 4PM, WBZ-TV pre-empted NBC’s Early Bird special (“The Changing Face of England”) for an episode of Death Valley Days.

On Sunday, May 23rd from 10-11AM, WNAC-TV (Channel 7) aired highlights of the May 20th Massachusetts Committee of Catholics, Protestants and Jews Awards Dinner. Southern Connecticut State Teachers College was featured on WNHC-TV’s Morning Seminar from 11-11:30AM. At 12:55PM, WNHC-TV aired another baseball game between the Senators and the Yankees while at 1PM WHDH-TV and WPRO-TV aired another baseball game featuring the Red Sox and the Indians. WBZ-TV pre-empted NBC Sports in Action at 6:30PM to air an NBC News Special about Russian leaders, delayed from the previous week.

At 7:30PM on Monday, May 24th WGBH-TV (Channel 2) premiered a new series called Changing Congress with Joseph F. McCaffrey. The premiere episode was titled “A House Divided” and examined the House of Representatives. At 9PM, WGBH-TV aired an hour-long special highlighting the May 15th public hearing on American policy in Vietnam. [Both programs were likely National Educational Television presentations.] Finally, at 10PM, WGBH-TV aired a local special called “Years of Trial” about changes in science and math education.

On Thursday, May 27th, WNHC-TV pre-empted ABC’s Jonny Quest and The Donna Reed Show repeats for an hour-long David L. Wolper documentary called “France: Conquest and Liberation” with narrator Richard Basehart.

Here’s an advertisement for WNAC-TV’s new weekday morning lineup:

Advertisement for WNAC-TV's new weekday morning lineup
Advertisement for WNAC-TV’s new weekday morning lineup – Copyright 1965 Triangle Publications, Inc.

Here’s an advertisement for WTEV’s weekday afternoon kids programming (note the outdated ABC eagle logo):

Advertisement for WTEV's weekday afternoon kids programming
Advertisement for WTEV’s weekday afternoon kids programming – Copyright 1965 Triangle Publications, Inc.

Here’s an advertisement for WJAR-TV’s weekday live telephone quiz games:

Advertisement for WJAR-TV's weekday live telephone quiz games
Advertisement for WJAR-TV’s weekday live telephone quiz games – Copyright 1965 Triangle Publications, Inc.

Here are the episode descriptions for Dateline Boston, a local series broadcast live and in color Monday through Friday from 6-6:25PM on WHDH-TV (Channel 5):

Monday, May 24th, 1965
Capt. Bob illustrates line and perspective.

Tuesday, May 25th, 1965
A look at a new program that provides opportunities for qualified women to return to the teaching profession.

Wednesday, May 26th, 1965
Host John Fitch explores a current scientific project.

Thursday, May 27th, 1965
[No description given.]

Friday, May 28th, 1965
A program of classic music is presented by the students of concert pianist Miklos Schwalb.

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

New Obscurities of the 2014-2015 Television Season

The 2014-2015 television season officially ended yesterday. Remember last September when we all guessed what the first cancellation of the season would be? In case you’ve forgotten, it was Manhattan Love Story, canned by ABC after just four episodes had aired.

By my count, 19 new obscurities were born during the 2014-2015 season. There were a few very short-lived shows (the aforementioned Manhattan Love Story, Allegiance, and Weird Loners, for example). Only two or three shows survived long enough to be considered one season wonders, depending on whether Stalker counts with 20 episodes rather than the typical 22 episodes for a full season.

New Obscurities of the 2014-2015 Season

Red Band Society (FOX) – 13 episodes
Forever (ABC) – 22 episodes
Manhattan Love Story (ABC) – 11 episodes (7 unaired)
Selfie (ABC) – 13 episodes (5 unaired)
Stalker (CBS) – 20 episodes
A to Z (NBC) – 13 episodes
Bad Judge (NBC) – 13 episodes
Mulaney (FOX) – 13 episodes
Cristela (ABC) – 22 episodes
Marry Me (NBC) – 18 episodes (4 unaired)
Constantine (NBC) – 13 episodes
The McCarthys (CBS) – 11 episodes (4 unaired)
State of Affairs (NBC) – 13 episodes
Backstrom (FOX) – 13 episodes
Allegiance (NBC) – 13 episodes (8 unaired)
Battle Creek (CBS) – 12 episodes
One Big Happy (NBC) – 6 episodes
Weird Loners (FOX) – 6 episodes
The Messengers (The CW) – 13 episodes (still airing)

If I’ve left out any shows, I apologize. Maybe they were so obscure even I’ve forgotten them. Not included in the list are reality shows like Utopia (FOX). I’m also not including The Slap (NBC), Gracepoint (FOX), or recently introduced Wayward Pines (FOX) because they were promoted as “limited” or “event” series, although in the case of Gracepoint there probably would have been a second season had the ratings not been terrible.

(NBC hasn’t officially cancelled American Odyssey or A.D. The Bible Continues, so the list could grow if one or both are cancelled.)

Some of these new obscurities were yanked with episodes left unaired. Fortunately for fans, many of these unaired episodes were later made available online and on demand. That’s how I was able to enjoy the five episodes of Selfie that ABC didn’t air. I don’t believe the unaired episodes of Marry Me or The McCarthys are officially available anywhere. It’s possible they may be burned off this summer.

Personally, I’ll miss Forever the most. I’m not alone: Forever topped an Entertainment Weekly poll of most-missed cancelled shows (both new and returning) from the 2014-2015 season. At least it got a full season and a decent season-turned-series finale. I also really enjoyed Selfie. I’m convinced the title doomed it before it even hit the air.

Looking over the list of new obscurities, I’m left wondering what will ultimately be the “most” obscure new obscurity of the 2014-2015 season? In other words, a decade from now which of these shows will be forgotten to a greater degree than the others? From a Nielsen perspective, The Messengers, Weird Loners, and Mulaney had the lowest ratings and the fewest viewers. One episode of Mulaney was watched by just 990,000 viewers while the least-watched episode of The Messengers (so far, anyway) drew just 650,000 viewers. In terms of fewest episodes broadcast, only four episodes of Manhattan Love Story aired while Allegiance managed one better with five.

Hit the comments with your thoughts on what will be the most obscure new obscurity in the long run and which of these departed shows was your favorite.

UCLA Screening Archive Television Treasures

As part of its year-long 50th anniversary celebration, the UCLA Film & Television Archive has put together an “Archive Television Treasures” program that will run from May 29th through June 24th. Included will be more than a dozen episodes of network shows like Armstrong Circle Theatre, East Side/West Side, Hallmark Hall of Fame, and Mister Peepers, plus syndicated Play of the Week and local Los Angeles shows Help Thy Neighbor and Queen for a Day.

Here’s a description of the program:

UCLA Film & Television Archive continues its year-long 50th Anniversary commemoration with a curated selection of television treasures. Television materials were among the first items to enter UCLA’s moving image collections, and today UCLA Film & Television Archive holds one of the largest archival television collections in the U.S., with over 100,000 holdings documenting the entire course of American broadcast history, from the late 1940s to the present. Embedded in this vast repository of 35mm prints, 16mm kinescopes and 2″ video reels, are many rare, and, in some cases, unjustly forgotten titles, as well as popular programs and important landmarks of the medium. Ranging from groundbreaking situation comedies to uncompromising social dramas, from variety to musical theater, and from vintage anthology programs to early iterations of the “reality” genre, these selections also include early glimpses of (then) newly emerging stars, such as Anne Bancroft, Robert Redford and Paul Newman, and provide high-profile showcases for beloved entertainers at the height of their fame, including Nat “King” Cole, Frank Sinatra and Dinah Shore. Please join us for an extended look back at some of the most interesting, entertaining and illuminating television programs of the 20th century drawn from the Archive’s holdings.

And here’s a complete list of the screenings:

Friday, May 29
7:30 p.m.
ARMSTRONG CIRCLE THEATRE: “Time for Love”
NBC, 6/21/1955
Talent Associates. Producer: Robert Costello. Director: Paul Bogart. Teleplay by Douglas Taylor. With: John Cassavetes, Gena Rowlands, Richard Morse, Joseph Sweeney.

Married for 35 years, John Cassavetes and Gena Rowlands made cinema history as collaborators in a number of landmark films, including A Woman Under the Influence (1974). The famed couple enjoyed their first joint screen appearance in this charming early television play concerning an engaged small town girl (Rowlands) and a handsome man (Cassavetes) she meets unexpectedly at a fair.

PRODUCERS’ SHOWCASE: “Our Town”
NBC, 9/19/1955
Producer: Fred Coe. Director: Delbert Mann. Based on the play by Thornton Wilder. Written for television by David Shaw. With: Frank Sinatra, Eva Marie Saint, Paul Newman, Shelley Fabares.

Thornton Wilder’s beloved drama is adapted here by Tony Award-winner David Shaw (Redhead) and helmed by Academy Award-winner Delbert Mann [Marty (1955)]. Led by a stellar cast including Frank Sinatra, Eva Marie Saint and then-newcomer Paul Newman, the teleplay features songs written especially for the television production by the Academy Award-winning team of James Van Heusen and Sammy Cahn.

IN PERSON: Gena Rowlands, Eva Marie Saint, Illeana Douglas (moderator).

Saturday, May 30
7:30 p.m.
HELP THY NEIGHBOR
KCOP, Los Angeles, 10/9/52
Commodore Productions. Producer: Walter White Jr. Director: Rudy Behlmer. Host: Hal Styles

Hal Styles, “television’s friendly counselor, the first do-gooder of the airwaves,” hosts this locally-broadcast show in which people relate their problems and then ask home viewers to phone in with pledges of help. Here, a widow with teenage sons who is having trouble making ends meet offers to sell one of her eyes, and an aspiring Native American singer, convinced that racial prejudice is hindering his career, asks for assistance.

QUEEN FOR A DAY
KHJ, Los Angeles, 7/4/55
A Mutual Radio Network production. Host: Adolphe Menjou. Once each year, Queen for a Day became King for a Day as five men vied for the crown and a host of prizes. Actor Adolphe Menjou fills in for vacationing regular host Jack Bailey and is congratulated by one contestant for his public anti-Communist stance. Broadcast live from the Don Lee Studios in Los Angeles and simulcast on both radio and television.

THIS IS YOUR LIFE: “Arries Ann Ward”
NBC, 2/27/57
Ralph Edwards Productions. Producer: Axel Gruenberg. Director: Richard Gottlieb. Host: Ralph Edwards.

One of America’s most popular and fondly remembered programs, This is Your Life (1952-61), with effervescent host Ralph Edwards, offered tributes to hundreds of notable people both famous and little-known, every week from 1952 until 1961. In this fascinating episode the show’s subject is a 95-year-old woman, born into slavery in 1862.

END OF THE RAINBOW: “Pilot”
NBC, 12/4/57
Ralph Edwards Productions. Host: Art Baker.
Bob Barker takes viewers from the Truth or Consequences set to Art Baker standing on a street corner in Minneapolis, where local grocer Ronald Eskew and his family are given a “planned miracle.” As a reward for their long-standing and unselfish community service efforts, their small store and their entire lives are given complete makeovers. This program was the pilot for a short-lived series (just six episodes) that ran on NBC in early 1958.

Sunday, June 7
7 p.m.
MISTER PEEPERS: “Pilot”
NBC, 5/15/52
NBC. Producer: Fred Coe. Director: James Sheldon. Writer: David Swift. With: Wally Cox, Norma Crane, Joseph Foley, Leonard Elliott, Betty Sinclair, David Tyrell.

In this pilot episode (possibly unaired), Mr. Peepers (Wally Cox) arrives at Jefferson Jr. High School six months early and is mistaken for a student. Walter Matthau, under the name David Tyrell, appears briefly as gym teacher Mr. Burr.

MISTER PEEPERS: “Train Trip to Chicago”
NBC, 4/19/53
NBC. Producer: Fred Coe. Director: Hal Keith. Writer: Jim Fritzell, Everett Greenbaum. With: Wally Cox, Marion Lorne, Tony Randall, Patricia Benoit, Georgeann Johnson.

In one of series creator David Swift’s and writer Everett Greenbaum’s favorite episodes, Mr. Peepers’ best friend, history teacher Harvey “Wes” Weskit (Tony Randall), is nervous about his upcoming marriage to his fiancée Marge, as he, Mr. Peepers, Mrs. Gurney (Marion Lorne), and Nancy Remington (Patricia Benoit) take the train to Chicago for the wedding.

THE GOLDBERGS: “The Mother-In-Law”
CBS, Oct. 1949
Producer: Worthington Miner. Director: Walter Hart. Writer: Gertrude Berg. With: Gertrude Berg, Philip Loeb, Eli Mintz, Larry Robinson, Arline McQuade, Betty Walker.

In this episode, 18-year-old Anne Bancroft (billed as Betty Walker) guests as a young, recently married woman at odds with her mother-in-law as Molly Goldberg (Gertrude Berg) concocts an unusual plan to make things right between the two women.

THE GOLDBERGS
DuMont, 10/12/54
Producer: Cherney Berg. Director: Martin Magner. Writer: Gertrude Berg. With: Gertrude Berg, Robert H. Harris, Eili Mintz, Arlene McQuade, Tom Taylor, Michael Rosenberg, Dora Weissman.

On Yom Kippur, the Jewish Day of Atonement, the Goldbergs attend synagogue for the solemn Kol Nidre services. However, Uncle David (Eli Mintz) is upset because his son is absent.

Saturday, June 13
7:30 p.m.
THE NAT KING COLE SHOW
NBC, 10/29/1957
NBC. Executive Producer: Carlos Gastel. Producer: Bob Henry. Director: Bob Henry. Announcer: Vince Pelletier. Host: Nat “King” Cole. With: Johnny Mercer, The Cheerleaders.

One of the most popular entertainers of his generation, Nat “King” Cole sold millions of records and played to packed audiences across the globe. In this pioneering effort, Cole would break television’s unspoken color barrier as one of the first African Americans to host a network TV show. This stellar episode of the landmark variety series features the sublime talents of Cole and his guest, fellow musical legend, Johnny Mercer.

THE DINAH SHORE CHEVY SHOW
NBC, 4/5/1959
A Henry Jaffe Production in association with NBC. Producer: Bob Finkel. Director: Dean Whitmore, Bob Finkel. Writer: Johnny Bradford, Ray Brenner, Leo Townsend. Host: Dinah Shore. With: Louis Prima, Keely Smith, José Greco, Sam Butera and the Witnesses.

One of the most beloved television icons of her era, Dinah Shore brought her considerable Southern-styled charm and vocal talents to this multi-Emmy Award winning variety show that ran for seven successful seasons on NBC. In this broadcast, Dinah reminisces about her TV career and welcomes show-stopping entertainers Louis Prima and Keely Smith and their musical group, Sam Butera and The Witnesses.

THE BIG PARTY
CBS, 10/8/1959
Producer: Perry Lafferty. Director: Norman Jewison. Writer: Selma Diamond, Jay Burton, Goodman Ace, George Foster. Guest Host: Rock Hudson. With: Tallulah Bankhead, Sammy Davis, Jr., Mort Sahl, Esther Williams.

In a perfect mélange of the television variety show genre and high camp, The Big Party explores a tantalizing premise—what if movie idol Rock Hudson phoned his pal Tallulah Bankhead for her advice in throwing a bash for their celebrity friends? The charmingly offbeat results defy expectations, with an eclectic all-star line-up of party guests including Sammy Davis Jr., Esther Williams and comedian Mort Sahl.

Friday, June 19
7:30 p.m.
PLAY OF THE WEEK: “Black Monday”
Syndicated, 1/16/1961
Talent Associates. Executive Producer: Worthington Miner. Producer: David Susskind. Director: Ralph Nelson. An original play by: Reginald Rose. With: Pat Hingle, Robert Redford, Ruby Dee, Ivan Dixon, Ossie Davis, Edward Asner, Charles Grodin.

In this first original television play produced for the ambitious anthology series, Play of the Week (1959-61), Emmy Award-winning screenwriter Reginald Rose (12 Angry Men) unflinchingly tackles the issue of integration. As an African American child enters a white school in the Deep South for the first time, the tense drama unfolds from three different perspectives, including that of a Black family.

EAST SIDE/WEST SIDE: “Who Do You Kill?”
CBS, 11/4/1963
Talent Associates. Executive Producer: Arnold Perl. Director: Tom Gries. Writer: Arnold Perl. With: George C. Scott, James Earl Jones, Cicely Tyson, Diana Sands.

In this controversial episode of the critically acclaimed, short-lived East Side/West Side television series, the issues of racism and Black poverty are uncompromisingly addressed when an African American couple’s infant is attacked by a rat in her crib in their Harlem tenement. Some Southern stations refused to air the episode, which went on to win an Emmy Award for Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Drama.

Wednesday, June 24
7:30 p.m.
HALLMARK HALL OF FAME: “Kiss Me, Kate”
NBC, 11/20/1958
Hallmark Hall of Fame Productions/Milberg Productions. Executive Producer: Mildred Freed Alberg. Producer: George Schaefer. Director: George Schaefer. Writer: Sam Spewack, Bella Spewack. With: Alfred Drake, Patricia Morison, Julie Wilson, Bill Hayes, Harvey Lembeck, Jack Klugman.

Featuring Cole Porter’s timeless songs, this Hallmark Hall of Fame adaptation of the hit musical Kiss Me, Kate was hailed by Variety as “high voltage entertainment, fashioned with skill and artistry.” The telecast stars Alfred Drake and Patricia Morrison reprising the roles they originated on Broadway in 1948, with Harvey Lembeck and Jack Klugman bringing expert comic relief as the play’s winning pair of offbeat gangsters.

ONE TOUCH OF VENUS
NBC, 8/27/1955
Producer: Jack Rayel. Director: George Schaefer. Book by S.J. Perelman and Ogden Nash. Adapted for television by: George Schaefer, John Gerstad. With: Janet Blair, Russell Nype, George Gaynes, Laurel Shelby.

Just prior to this live television production, staged from NBC’s Brooklyn studios, Emmy Award-winning director George Shaefer and cast ran two weeks of stage performances of the show to enthusiastic audiences at the Dallas State Fair. The result here is a thoroughly polished, electric telecast which includes several numbers from the original Broadway production which were excluded from the 1948 film version of the play.

IN PERSON: Miles Kreuger, Institute of the American Musical.

All of the screenings will take place at the Billy Wilder Theatre. Tickets can be purchased online in advance or at the box office.

A Year in TV Guide: May 15th, 1965

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 #33
May 15th, 1965
Vol. 13, No. 20, Issue #633
Iowa Edition

On the Cover: Robert Lansing (photograph by Ivan Nagy).

The Magazine

This week’s cover article “The General Died at Dusk” by Jerry D. Lewis asks why ABC decided to replace Robert Lansing, star of the network’s new military drama 12 O’clock High. The series premiered in September 1964 and was renewed for the 1965-1966 season but will be moving from its Friday at 9:30PM time slot to Monday at 7:30PM. With the move, Lansing is out. Lewis references Variety, which in turn quotes executive producer Quinn Martin as saying ABC told him they want Lansing for a 10PM show and, had 12 O’clock High stayed in its original time slot, Lansing would have stayed, too.

Front Cover
Front Cover – Copyright 1965 Triangle Publications, Inc.

There are a lot of rumors circulating in Hollywood about the reason for Lansing’s departure. Maybe ABC wants a younger actor to reach a younger audience at 7:30PM. But Paul Burke, Lansing’s replacement, is actually older than Lansing. Maybe ABC wants a more “versatile” star. Only Lansing has had a wide-ranging career. Yet another theory suggests that viewers can’t identify with a leading character who is a general, so Burke’s character will be a colonel.

Whatever the reason, Lansing is not angry. “I can’t hate ABC,” he says. “Hating a network would be like hating Dodger Stadium. Maybe I could be sore at the individual executive, but I have no idea who he is. My contract was with Quinn Martin, and he’s the only one I’ve talked to. I can’t be mad at Quinn, either. He says it was the network’s decision, and I have no evidence to make me doubt him.”

He refused to return in a recurring role next season, however, because he felt the changes made to the series to reach a younger audience will reduce the quality and “12 hours a day is too long to work at something you don’t like.” So far, he has turned down a few other series roles (he once turned down the lead role in The Fugitive, according to Martin). Instead, Lansing plans to focus on features. [Lansing would return to series TV during the 1966-1967 season in The Man Who Never Was on ABC.]

Richard Warren Lewis finishes his look at Gilligan’s Island with “Only You, Sherwood Schwartz,” which isn’t quite as interesting as last week’s article. It focuses on all the problems Schwartz faced trying to get Gilligan’s Island on the air, from his original 10-page outline to the $175,000 pilot to dealing with former CBS-TV president Jim Aubrey who hated the pilot. United Artists Television didn’t want him to include a theme song. The pilot was shipped to CBS with a note from Schwartz stating it did not represent his “original thinking” and CBS rejected it.

Schwartz then wrote a theme song, reedited the pilot, and shipped it back to the network. A test audience loved it. CBS couldn’t believe the reaction and tested it two more times. Both audiences loved it. Aubrey finally gave in and picked up Gilligan’s Island but insisted on recasting several of the characters which led to two extra and costly days of filming. The first episode aired was “a pastiche of three separate shows, including half of the pilot, welded together by the CBS group think.” Schwartz wanted the pilot to air first but was overruled. Viewers didn’t seem to mind, however.

Also in this issue is a lengthy TV Guide poll asking various TV newsmen to respond to Walter Cronkite’s recent suggestion that the political parties should ban television from their convention hall floors: “It certainly makes a mockery of the fact that this is a convention of delegates who are supposed to be listening to the speeches and tending to some sort of business on the floor.” The vast majority of the those questioned are strongly opposed to Cronkite, including Chet Huntley (NBC), Mike Wallace (CBS), Howard K. Smith (ABC), William R. McAndrew (NBC), David Brinkley (NBC), Peter Jennings (ABC), Sander Vanocur (NBC), and Eric Sevareid (CBS).

There were some who agreed with him, however, at least in part. ABC’s William H. Lawrence feels “there are some points in Cronkite’s approach that ought to be taken into consideration,” primarily the idea that TV cameras “create diversions from the regular, more important business of the convention.” Elmer W. Lower, ABC News Chief, argues that the entire convention system needs to be revised. ABC’s Edward P. Morgan would like to see the networks demand the parties “put an end to the programmed nonsense […] which drive away viewers and listeners” and threaten to drop live coverage if they don’t. Harry Reasoner of CBS also agreed with Cronkite, stating “this is one of several changes that would make the relatively new coverage of conventions more professional.”

Melvin Durslag’s “Why Atlanta will be the home of the Braves” is a two-page article that has every little to do with television. He discusses the reasons why the Milwaukee Braves (formerly the Boston Braves) will soon become the Atlanta Braves. It all comes down to fewer fans attending games and in turn fewer sponsors.

Finally, there’s a one-page profile of actress Marlyn Mason, who will appear in the first five episodes of Ben Casey in the fall. She lives above the Sunset Strip in an apartment with a window covering an entire wall. Despite being high above her neighbors, she always waves when she walks past the window in the nude, “just in case anyone is looking.” At 24, she’s been married once but is now single. Her living room and deck are filled with flowers. It’s possible she would have more TV work if she and her manager did not “insist upon guest-star billing.” [A look at her Internet Movie Database page reveals I’ve seen absolutely nothing Mason appeared in.]

The “As We See It” editorial this week includes little editorializing. Instead, it’s just a list of cancelled shows and an overview of the new TV fare for the 1965-1966 season. There will be more comedies (35 compared to 33 during the current season) and more Westerns (11, up from 6 this season) as well as more crime and adventure shows. Losing ground are drama and music-variety. The networks will air 99 shows, an increase from 93 this season due to the addition of more half-hours next season.

Cleveland Amory’s review of Branded is pretty negative. He says it is obviously a Western take on ABC’s The Fugitive. He also points out the absurdity of Chuck Connors, all 6-foot-5 of him, playing a character (Jason McCord) who is routinely beat up by men much smaller than he is, suggesting that “NBC’s idea of keeping down the violence is apparently to keep down the height of the guys who do it.” The plots are thin and repetitive and almost always involve someone or groups of someone beating up McCord.

News from the Hollywood and New York TV Teletype columns:

  • Eddie Albert will star in a CBS sitcom next season currently called Country Cousins but the name will likely change. [It did, to Green Acres.]
  • NBC’s The Mr. and the Misses has been renamed The John Forsythe Show.
  • Pat Woodell will leave Petticoat Junction after this season to resume her singing career.
  • NBC’s Saturday morning cartoons next season will include new shows called Atom Ant and Secret Squirrel, both courtesy of Hanna-Barbera.
  • Robert Preston has signed on to host a series of ABC color specials next season, to be broadcast once a month from November 1965 through April 1966. Phil D’Antoni and Norman Paer will produced the specials, which aim to “reaffirm the glories of our country” and will examine, in order, the East, South, Midwest, Southwest, West, and Great Plains. [The first installment of This Proud Land aired on November 9th, 1965.]
  • The First Look, a new NBC educational series, will air next season on Saturdays from 12-12:30PM ET. Bob Bendick will produce. Topics will include color, time, birds, and mathetmatics.
  • NBC’s George Rosen is scouring London for suitable 60 and 90-minute specials that can be carried by NBC via Early Bird, one in December 1965 and another during the spring of 1966.

Rounding out the national section is a TV Jibe list of ways viewers know they are watching old movies on television, courtesy of Harold Winerip; a picture featuring showcasing the animals of Zoorama on CBS; and a profile of soprano-turned-actress Helen Traubel, who plays Tony Franciosa’s mother on ABC’s Valentine’s Day; plus the regular TV crossword puzzle.

There are four news reports in the “For the Record” column in the listings section this week:

  • The news departments of the three networks are jointly upset with the White House over the handling of the President’s television appearances. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the recent Dominican Republic crisis when President Johnson twice took to the airwaves at the last minute. They insist they’re not given enough notice and are asking for early warning, if possible, and details about the contents of the addresses so they can decide how extensive their coverage needs to be. A meeting between press secretary George Reedy and network representatives was cancelled reportedly because the President is upset about the criticism.
  • Viewers on the West Coast were treated to the same ten minutes of an episode of The Virginian after the wrong film reel was loaded. NBC called it “just a human error.”
  • After deciding to get rid of Robert Lansing, ABC initially planned to kill off his 12 O’clock High character but Lansing refused executive producer Quinn Martin’s invitation to return to shoot a death scene. “I’m out of the show, and that does it,” Lansing explained. Network executives will have to settle for his character being transferred and disappearing forever.
  • ABC and CBS have announced that they will both colorcast one-third of their prime time programming next season. CBS plans to be 100% color by September 1966 and ABC will no doubt follow suit. NBC, of course, is more than a year ahead of the game and nearly all of its nighttime programming will be in color next season.

The letters page this week includes four letters gushing about “My Name is Barbra” on CBS:

To find a show in the same league as CBS’s “My Name Is Barbra” one has to go back to Ford’s 50th anniversary special with Mary Martin and Ethel Merman–nearly 15 years ago.
Brian Stein
Toronto

Can there be any doubt as to who is the musical star of this generation?
William J. Blewett Jr.
Baltimore

I hope, for the sake of television, that was just the beginning of many Barbra Streisand specials.
John Taylor
West New York, N.J.

Please, let’s have a repeat soon.
Joyce Dunn
New Orleans.

An editorial note informed readers that CBS does plan to repeat the special at some point and additional Streisand specials are to follow.

There is also another letter lamenting the end of For the People:

What in the world ever made the producers of For the People think they could get away with presenting a consistently fine actor in a series with realistic stories and imaginative photography? Such hopeless idealism. Bless them for it.
Steven B. Lynch
Beaverton, Ore.

Other letters: a complaint about the networks scheduling specials opposite one another, in this case “Melina Mercouri’s Greece” and “Lorne Greene’s American West”; a correction regarding the use of the word “bears” in a caption rather than “bares”; and criticism of all the repeats on television starting in April and May (“I am quite sure that next year we will see only three episodes of some series before reruns will start.”)

The TV Listings

[This was the third issue I had to purchase because the relative who collected TV Guide from 1964-1965 didn’t keep this issue. The copy I have is the Iowa Edition, which includes listings for ten stations in Iowa and two in Illinois. Keep in mind that both states are in the Central Time Zone, so prime time in 1965 started at 6:30PM rather than 7:30PM.]

The week featured a variety of sports and specials, all scheduled during the first half of the week. On Saturday, May 15th at 12PM, ABC aired a baseball game between the Chicago White Sox and the Los Angeles Angels. At 1PM, CBS aired the first round of the CBS Tennis Classic featuring Rod Laver and Mike Davies. Jack Whitaker and Jack Kramer called the match, which was taped in Dallas. At 3:30PM, CBS broadcast the 90th running of the Preakness live from Baltimore’s Pimlico Race Course. Jack Drees called the race.

At 4PM on Sunday, May 16th NBC aired a news special about Russian leaders Leonid I. Breshnev and Alexei N. Kosygin anchored by Frank Bourgholtzer with Elie Abel reporting from Washington. At 5:30PM, NBC aired “Kristie,” the last episode of NBC Children’s Theatre for the season. Ed Begley hosted. CBS premiered the first of 17 repeats of The Twilight Zone at 8PM, replacing For the People. NBC pre-empted Karen at 6:30PM on Monday, May 17th for a color special called “The Changing Face of England,” taped earlier in the day from the first live colorcast of the Early Bird Satellite. CBS Reports repeated “Abortion and the Law” at 9PM.

On Tuesday, May 18th at 7:30PM NBC aired “Best on Record,” a taped hour-long special featuring winners of the 1964 Grammy Awards. Dean Martin hosted the special, which featured Sammy Davis, Frank Sinatra, The Beatles, Petula Clark, Roger Miller, Billy Cosby, and many others. From 9-10PM NBC aired another special, “The Middle Ages,” from producer George A. Vicas. It explored Viking raids, the Crusades, the aftermath of the collapse of the Roman Empire, and the rebirth of town life.

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

  • Special: Preakness (CBS, Saturday at 3:30PM)
  • The Ed Sullivan Show (CBS, Sunday at 7:00PM)
  • Special: Best on Record (NBC, Tuesday at 7:30PM)
  • Special: Middle Ages (NBC, Tuesday at 9:00PM)

The listings section includes listings for the following stations:

Des Moines-Ames
WOI-TV (Channel 5) – ABC
KRNT-TV (Channel 8) – CBS
KDPS-TV (Channel 11) – Educational
WHO-TV (Channel 13) – NBC

Fort Dodge
KQTV (Channel 21) – NBC

Ottumwa
KTVO (Channel 3) – CBS/NBC

Cedar Rapids-Waterloo
WMT-TV (Channel 2) – CBS
KWWL-TV (Channel 7) – NBC
KCRG-TV (Channel 9) – ABC

Quad Cities
WHBF-TV (Channel 4) – CBS [Illinois]
WOC-TV (Channel 6) – NBC
WQAD-TV (Channel 8) – ABC [Illinois]

[A notice at the top of every listings page stated the three stations from the Quad Cities were on Daylight Time. Presumably that meant all other stations were on Standard Time. Although TV Guide only indicated that KTVO shared affiliations, other stations also aired programs from multiple networks. For example, despite being an ABC affiliate, WQAD-TV aired the Preakness horse race alongside several CBS affiliates on Saturday, May 15th. Likewise, both WQAD-TV and KQTV (an NBC affiliate) aired CBS Sports Spectacular on Sunday, May 16th.]

The amount of local programming broadcast throughout the week was impressive. KWWL-TV (Channel 7) premiered a new children’s show called Fearless and His Friends at 11:30AM on Saturday, May 15th. A spin-off of the weekday Captain Jet, the 90-minute series featured games, cartoons, and features. [I’m not actually sure if this was a local KWWL-TV series or a syndicated series.] At 12PM, WMT-TV (Channel 2, CBS), WQAD-TV (ABC), and KQTV (Channel 21, NBC) all aired coverage of a bowling match pitting Dick Hoover and Jack Biondolillo against Carmen Salvino and Glenn Allison. [If this was a network broadcast, I have no idea which network was airing it.] At 3PM, WOI-TV (Channel 5, ABC) aired the annual Iowa State University intra-squad football game. At 3:10PM, KWWL-TV aired a baseball game between the Minnesota Twins and the Kansas City Athletics.

On Sunday, May 16th at 1:55PM, KWWL-TV aired another baseball game between the Twins and the Athletics. At 4PM WQAD-TV aired something called Iowa Varieties with Bill Riley. WOI-TV aired an installment of what appears to be a local educational documentary series called Status 6 at 4:30PM, showcasing the Iowa Vocational Rehabilitation Center in Des Moines.

Weekdays from 9-9:45AM WOI-TV aired a 45-minute children’s show called The Magic Window, hosted by Betty Lou. KWWL-TV aired a half-hour exercise program hosted by Chuck Hazama every morning except Wednesday from 9-9:30AM. On Wednesday, the station aired a history documentary in that time slot. Here’s an advertisement:

Advertisement for The Y's Way to Health with Chuck Hazama on KWWL (Channel 7)
Advertisement for The Y’s Way to Health with Chuck Hazama on KWWL (Channel 7) – Copyright 1965 Triangle Publications, Inc.

[I believe The Y’s Way to Health with Chuck Hazama was a syndicated series.]

Romper Room aired weekdays from 9:30-10AM on WQAD-TV, hosted by Miss Carolyn. Weekdays at 5PM, KQTV aired Fun House, a half-hour children’s series hosted by Dick Johns. Here’s an advertisement:

Advertisement for Fun House on KQTV (Channel 21)
Advertisement for Fun House on KQTV (Channel 21) – Copyright 1965 Triangle Publications, Inc.

At 5:15PM on weekdays, WMT-TV (Channel 2, CBS) aired Iowa Story, a five-minute documentary series (except on Tuesday, when Iowa History aired). Topics covered included “The River Boats,” “Early Dentistry,” “Indian Weapons,” and “The Old Post Office.” From 6:20-6:30PM each weeknight WOC-TV (Channel 6, NBC) aired an almanac program hosted by Bob Allard. Also, at 10:25PM on weeknights WOC-TV aired five minutes of commentary featuring Bill Gress.

At 6:30PM on Monday, May 17th WOC-TV aired Bill Gress: Focus ’65, examining development in downtown Rock Island, Illinois. On Thursday, May 20th WOI-TV pre-empted Jonny Quest from 6:30-7PM to broadcast a special news report highlighting former President Eisenhower’s visit to Grinnell College in Illinois on May 13th and 14th.

WHO-TV (Channel 13, NBC) pre-empted Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre from 6:30-7:30PM on Friday, May 21st for taped highlights of the May 16th Junior League Horse Show from the Iowa State Fairgrounds, with Jim Zabel. KQTV also pre-empted Bob Hope, airing instead a live and taped Memorial Dayu documentary celebrating historic figures in he Fort Dodge area narrated by Bob Dean.

Here’s an advertisement for KTVO’s news programming:

Advertisement for news on KTVO (Channel 3)
Advertisement for news on KTVO (Channel 3) – Copyright 1965 Triangle Publications, Inc.

And here’s an advertisement for news on WOC-TV:

Advertisement for news on WOC-TV (Channel 6)
Advertisement for news on WOC-TV (Channel 6) – Copyright 1965 Triangle Publications, Inc.

Finally, here’s an advertisement for news on WQAD-TV:

Advertisement for news on WQAD-TV (Channel 8)
Advertisement for news on WQAD-TV (Channel 8) – Copyright 1965 Triangle Publications, Inc.

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

Review: TV Turkeys

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.

TV Turkeys: An Outrageous Look at the Most Preposterous Shows Ever on Television
By Kevin Allman
First Published in 1987
Published by Perigee Books
191 Pages

TV Turkeys is not, as the title might suggest, a cookbook. Nor is it a comprehensive analysis of birds on television. The subtitle calls it “an outrageous look at the most preposterous shows ever on television” which isn’t quite true either. I’ll be honest: I don’t like the title. Jokes about poultry aside, I think it strongly suggests that the book will cover only short-lived failures and disastrous flops.

To me, in this context, “turkey” implies a flop, loser, or fiasco. But in addition to discussing a wide variety of true TV turkeys, author Kevin Allman also savages a few long-running TV shows like Knight Rider and Hogan’s Heroes, not to mention incredibly popular game shows and variety shows like The Dating Game, Hee Haw, and Queen for a Day.

The book is split into “channels” with Channel 1 a brief introduction to the book and Channels 2-13 each covering two to five shows. There’s a channel called “False Starts: The Humble Beginnings of Your Favorite Stars” (covering The Flying Nun, Cos, and Thicke of the Night) and another titled “Sick Transit: The Auto-erotic Shows About Cars and Trains” (covering My Mother the Car, Supertrain, and Knight Rider).

Front cover to TV Turkeys
Front cover to TV Turkeys – Copyright 1987 Bob Silverman/Perigee Books

It’s clear that Allman decided to write about TV shows he personally thought were stupid, vapid, insulting, or corny rather than try to actually tackle “the most preposterous shows ever on television.” Some of them are in there: Supertrain, My Mother The Car, Turn-On, and Pink Lady and Jeff are certainly preposterous. But are they any more preposterous than other shows?

What makes The Flying Nun more preposterous than Gilligan’s Island or The Girl With Something Extra? Why slam Knight Rider but not B.J. and the Bear? Me and the Chimp but not The Hathaways and Mr. Smith? Was Misfits of Science really worse than Mister Terrific?

In other words, if you’re expecting more than one man’s opinion about bad television you’ll probably be disappointed.

Back cover to TV Turkeys
Back cover to TV Turkeys – Copyright 1987 Perigee Books

Reading through TV Turkeys two things stuck out. First, Allman spends an entire channel discussing the failed TV shows of McLean Stevenson but devotes just two paragraphs to The McLean Stevenson Show, In the Beginning, and Condo. He focuses primarily on Hello, Larry and America (which Stevenson co-hosted). Either he really hated Hello, Larry or that was the only show he really watched and could write about. If you’re going to tear apart a man’s career, at least have the decency to cover it all.

Second, he attempts in a later channel to argue that NBC was obsessed with trying to make a hit out of superhero TV shows for several years. His evidence? Man From Atlantis (1977-1978), Manimal (1983), and Misfits of Science (1985-1986). I’m not sure three failed shows over the course of eight years means NBC executives were consumed with making the concept work.

Still, even if I can’t totally recommend TV Turkeys, it isn’t a bad read as long as you know what you’re getting. If it were to be written today, it would no doubt be in blog form and there would be plenty to write about. And I’d probably be a fan.

Museum Exhibition Explores Intersection of Modern Art and Television

The Jewish Museum in New York City recently unveiled a new exhibition titled Revolution of the Eye: Modern Art and the Birth of American Television, described as “the first exhibition to explore how avant-garde art influenced and shaped the look and content of network television in its formative years, from the late 1940s to the mid-1970s.”

Here’s what the museum has to say about the exhibition:

Highlighting the visual revolution ushered in by American television and modernist art and design of the 1950s and 1960s, Revolution of the Eye features fine art and graphic design, including works by Saul Bass, Alexander Calder, Marcel Duchamp, Allan Kaprow, Roy Lichtenstein, Man Ray, Eero Saarinen, Ben Shahn, and Andy Warhol, as well as ephemera, television memorabilia, and clips from film and television, including Batman, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Ernie Kovacs Show, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In, and The Twilight Zone.

Revolution of the Eye examines television’s promotion of avant-garde ideals and aesthetics; its facility as a promotional platform for modern artists, designers, and critics; its role as a committed patron of the work of modern artists and designers; and as a medium whose relevance in contemporary culture was validated by the Museum of Modern Art’s historic Television Project (1952-55).

The exhibition opened on May 1st and will remain on view through September 20th. A national tour through 2017 will follow.

(via TVNewsCheck)

A Year in TV Guide: May 8th, 1965

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 #33
May 8th, 1965
Vol. 13, No. 19, Issue #632
Eastern New England Edition

On the Cover: Bob Denver and Tina Louise (photograph by Ivan Nagy).

The Magazine

The cover article by Richard Warren Lewis this week is the first of a two-part story about Gilligan’s Island. The series drew huge ratings when it premiered on CBS in the fall but was savaged by critics, which understandably upset most of the cast and crew. But not Tina Louise. She agreed with the critics:

I was ashamed when I saw the first show. I had studied at the Actors Studio and I’d started to get some interesting roles and some good reviews. I mean like my scene was singled out in Burke’s Law, and there were seven other stars. I only worked on what I wanted to work on in class, things like “Desire Under the Elms.” Finally I realized that I had to start to go back to commercial work. I’d heard about what series are like, but I really didn’t know how it would be. I found that I couldn’t use my work at all in this show. It was quite a shock. In this medium, you perform, everyone performs. There’s no such thing as a real moment, an honest reaction, because the show is like a cartoon. You’re not acting, not the way I studied it. I wouldn’t watch it if I wasn’t on it.

Although it’s well-documented that Tina Louise was unhappy with her role on the show, I’m continually amazed to discover just how vocal she was about it at the time. I imagine the set must have been tense at times.

Front Cover
Front Cover – Copyright 1965 Triangle Publications, Inc.

To be fair, other members of the cast have concerns as well about the incredible popularity of Gilligan’s Island and its impact on their careers. Natalie Schafer recounts being in New York City in December 1965 and being recognized by the wrong kind of people. “It’s supposed to be very good for your ego to have people recognize you in the street,” she says. “But I look around at the people and I think: ‘Oh, dear, if they were just a little more attractive, I’d like it better.'” Bob Denver doesn’t feel he’s reached his full potential as an actor. Dawn Wells would rather be doing Shakespeare.

In response to Louise saying she’s unfilled with the series, creator Sherwood Schwartz had this to say:

I dare say Miss Louise will always feel unfulfilled in what she feels are the extents of her talent on the show. I would thing she would be delighted. She’s an integral part of a major hit. What else does an actress want? I don’t know what would make her happy. It seems to me that she’s not a very happy person. I don’t thoroughly understand her.

Schwartz is more upset that critics haven’t “reviewed the show from its sociological aspects” and compares it to The Beverly Hillbillies.

Neil Hickey’s “‘We interrupt this program…'” is the sort of TV Guide article I like because it really digs into network policies surrounding a particular aspect of television as it existed in the 1960s. President Johnson’s illness in January 1965 and the escalation of the Vietnam War in February 1965 led to huge numbers of news bulletins. The networks circulated memos and reaffirmed policies that bulletins be used only when appropriate but Hickey argues there are no real rules when it comes to interrupting network programming for news bulletins.

Sometimes bulletins are plain wrong, as was the case in 1964 when CBS broke in to announce that Nikita Khrushchev was reported dead. It isn’t just the networks. Local stations often break in with reports of plane crashes, for example, without any details which worries everyone who has a relative or friend traveling by air. The heads of all three network news divisions argue that they attempt to do the best they can balancing the public interest of a news bulletin with the public’s interest in watching TV uninterrupted. They also insist that commercials are interrupted by news bulletins, not just programming.

Hickey suggests that the networks have finally realized they need to reign in news bulletins due to the “volatile potential in a number of international situations” ranging from the Vietnam War to nuclear proliferation. And there may be help on the way. One of the networks is working on an expensive piece of equipment that will allow news bulletins to be displayed along a strip of letters at the bottom of the TV screen (Hickey notes that while such displays currently exist, they are too slow for bulletins). Another network is considering placing bulletins over the closing credits of a show unless absolutely necessary to avoid interrupting regular programming.

Edith Efron’s profile of Douglas Fairbanks Jr. is depressing, focusing as it does on how far Fairbanks has fallen. He “is not a major figure in the contemporary entertainment world,” she writes. “He is not even a minor figure after years of separation from this medium, in which he was once active.” His recent turn as host of Alcoa Previews was cut short, ending after only two of the planned four installments were produced. Yet his legend endures. Later, she discusses his current appearance, writing “were it not for the fact that he is famous, one would not give him more than a casual glance in a public place, unless one were unusually fascinated by men’s clothing.” She concludes, after two and a half pages, that he is a “complicated and contradictory man” who “can no longer quite live up to his own biography.”

Finally, there’s a one page article about actress Sharyn Hillyer, another name I wasn’t familiar with. There’s also a color picture and here, at least, she looks an awful lot like a young Grace Kelly. At 22, she’s best known for playing “everybody’s favorite teen-age girl friend” and has appeared in 11 episodes of The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriett plus a slew of other TV shows. Her husband is 12 years older than her; their baby is about 21 years younger.

The “As We See It” editorial this week addresses reaction to March 20th editorial suggesting that sports need to change to become more suitable for television. Sportswriters took issue with that idea. Some, like Dean Eagle of The Louisville Times, were calm about it. Others weren’t. TV Guide reiterated its support for these changes, pointing to the recent CBS telecast of the Masters Golf Tournament as proof and arguing that “television people would be the last ones to seek changes in sport events that would lessen their entertainment value.” If sportswriters have constructive suggestions, they should offer them.

There’s no review by Cleveland Amory in this issue.

News from the Hollywood and New York TV Teletype columns:

  • CBS Reports is working on a documentary about the Ku Klux Klan that will include footage of Klan meetings in the South as well as interviews with top Klan officials. [“Ku Klux Klan: The Invisible Empire” aired on September 21st, 1965.]
  • Craig Stevens, General Joe Ross, and the Maharajah of Bundi will hunt tigers in India for ABC’s American Sportsman next season.
  • Ben Casey will open the new season with a five-part storyline starring Marlyn Mason.
  • The National Geographic Society and Wolper Productions will produce four hour-long color specials next season.
  • Rights to long-running radio soap opera One Man’s Family, which already aired on television in two versions, have been purchased by Universal TV.
  • Edward Everett Horton will be a regular on F Troop next season.
  • Bonanza‘s Dan Blocker has become the first actor to win the Silver Spurs Award twice.
  • Irene Ryan of The Beverly Hillbillies commuted between Hollywood and Las Vegas daily while performing in a nightclub, leaving every day 5:15PM and flying back the next morning.

Rounding out the national section is a picture feature spotlighting actors on bicycles, a brief essay about The Fifteenth Street School in New York City (founded by actor Orson Bean), and the regular TV crossword puzzle.

There are three news reports in the “For the Record” column in the listings section this week:

  • The George Foster Peabody Awards were handed out last week, recognizing “bright spots” in television’s “dreary sameness and steady conformity.” There were no categories this year; all the awards were for “distinguished and meritorious service” to the television industry. CBS Reports, Intertel (NET), Profiles in Courage (NBC), and The French Chef (NET) were among the winners. [A complete list of 1964 Peabody Awards can be found here.]
  • War correspondent and broadcast journalist Edward R. Murrow died last week [on April 27th]. President Johnson called him “a gallant fighter, a man who dedicated his life as a newsman and as a public official to an unrelenting search for truth.”
  • CBS plans to repeats its Barbra Streisand special. It was unusual for such a young performer to receive their own special [Streisand was 23 at the time].

The letters page this week includes a number of responses to the April 24th “As We See It” editorial concerning the growth of “teen-age wriggle ‘n’ writhe” shows like Hullabaloo, Hollywood a Go Go, and Shiveree:

Re “As We See It’ in your April 24 issue, I shout AMEN! in many decibels, so as to drown out the noise that passes for music on those teen-age wriggle-and-writhe shows like Hullabaloo and Shindig.
Mrs. Donald Discon
New Orleans

…it all merely reminds me that we are not as far removed from the jungle and cave as we think we are.
John M. Hanjack
Suffield, Conn.

Viewers may still exercise their Freedom of Choice by switching channels. Why find fault with these program that are only a part of growing up?
Frank J. Latella
Harrison, N.Y.

Whoever wrote the article must be 90 years old.
(Name withheld)
Inglewood, Cal.

An editorial response to the last letter said simply “Not quite.”

Other letters addressed 12 O’clock High being moved to an earlier time in an attempt to draw a younger audience (“What ever happened to adults? Don’t they count any more?”); called Bonanza “just too, too childish for evening entertainment”; corrected Walter Cronkite’s April 19th retelling of the 1939 Marian Anderson/Daughters of the American incident by pointing out that Anderson was only turned away by the DAR because of a Washington, D.C. city ordinance; and wondered if censors will ever allow anything “sexier or more controversial than a support hose commercial” to reach TV.

The TV Listings

The week was filled with specials, a pair of new show debuts and three shows signing off (two permanently). CBS aired an hour-long special live at 12PM on Saturday, May 8th called “Victory in Europe, 20 Years After” (originally titled “Europe, 20 Years After”) in which General Dwight D. Eisenhower and British Field Marshall Montgomery discussed the Allied victory in Europe during World War II. It was relayed via the Early Bird satellite. At 2PM, ABC aired its weekly baseball game, this time pitting the New York Yankees against the Washington Senators. CBS repeated “Victory in Europe, 20 Years After” at 9PM for viewers in prime time to enjoy.

ABC aired the final round of the Colonial National Golf Tournament from 4:30-6PM on Sunday, May 9th. At 5PM, NBC aired “Loyal Opposition,” a half-hour documentary special examining the future of the Republican Party. The final episode of Profiles in Courage (about Senator Thomas Corwin) aired at 6:30PM on NBC. The final episode of For The People aired at 10PM on CBS.

ABC pre-empted Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea at 7:30PM on Monday, May 10th to telecast “The Pilgrim Adventure,” the last installment of Saga of Western Man for the season. “The Winging World of Jonathan Winters” aired at 9PM on NBC, pre-empting The Andy Williams Show. It was the last Winters special of the season and guest-starred Steve Allen, Jerry Stiller, Anne Meara, Leo Durocher, Alexander Scourby, and Jack Paar. At 10PM, CBS pre-empted CBS Reports to air “Finlandia,” a tribute to the late Finnish composer Jean Sibelius, taped from an Early Bird relay earlier in the day.

(Also on Monday, The Merv Griffin Show premiered nationally in syndication.)

Frankie Avalon hosted the season finale of Hullabaloo at 8:30PM on NBC. The same network premiered Cloak of Mystery at 9:30PM on Tuesday, May 11th. The anthology series consisted entirely of repeats of earlier filmed anthology series. The debut episode was “Don’t You Remember” with Simone Signoret and Lee Marvin, originally broadcast on G.E. Theater. Hoagy Carmichael hosted The Bell Telephone Hour from 10-11PM on NBC, with guests Carol Lawrence, Leslie Uggams, Peter Nero, Bill Hayes, and others.

On Friday, May 14th NBC pre-empted The Bob Hope Show at 10PM for “The Man Who Walked in Space,” an NBC News Special about cosmonauts Alexei Leonov and Pavel Belyayev. A second NBC News Special about the dedication of the British memorial to President John F. Kennedy aired at 11:15PM. Jackie Kennedy and Senators Robert F. and Edward M. Kennedy were on hand, as was Caroline Kennedy. Footage of the dedication was taped earlier in the day and flown to the States.

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

  • CBS News Special: ‘Europe, 20 Years After’ (CBS, Saturday at 9:00PM)
  • Special: Loyal Opposition (NBC, Sunday at 5:00PM)
  • Walt Disney’s World – ‘One Day at Teton Marsh'” (NBC, Sunday at 7:30PM)
  • The Sunday Night Movie – The Miracle Worker (ABC, Sunday at 9:00PM)
  • Special: Men of Our Times (WGBH-TV, Monday at 9:00PM)
  • Special: The Winging World of Jonathan Winters (NBC, Monday at 9:00PM)
  • The Bell Telephone Hour – Tin Pan Alley (NBC, Tuesday at 10:00PM)
  • NBC News Special: The Man Who Walked in Space (NBC, Friday at 8:30PM)

Locally, there were plenty of sports and specials this week. At 2PM on Saturday, May 8th WBZ-TV (Channel 4) aired “Science Countdown 1965,” hosted by Norman Macdonald with participants from Massachusetts high schools in Pittsfield, Lee, and Dalton. At 2:15PM, WHDH-TV (Channel 5) aired a baseball game between the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox. ABC affiliate WTEV (Channel 6) aired “Victory in Europe, 20 Years After” at 6:30PM despite it being a CBS News special, likely because Boston’s WHDH-TV declined to air it at 12PM. WHDH-TV did air the prime time repeat at 9PM, however.

Both WTEV in New Bedford, MA and WNAC-TV in Boston took out advertisements for ABC’s baseball game of the week. Here’s the WTEV ad:

Advertisement for ABC's Saturday Baseball Game of the Week on WTEV (Channel 6)
Advertisement for ABC’s Saturday Baseball Game of the Week on WTEV (Channel 6) – Copyright 1965 Triangle Publications, Inc.

And here’s the WNAC-TV ad:

Advertisement for ABC's Saturday Baseball Game of the Week on WNAC-TV (Channel 7)
Advertisement for ABC’s Saturday Baseball Game of the Week on WNAC-TV (Channel 7) – Copyright 1965 Triangle Publications, Inc.

At 1:30PM on Sunday, May 9th both Boston’s WHDH-TV and Providence’s WPRO-TV (Channel 12) aired a baseball game between the Cleveland Indians and the Boston Red Sox. New Haven’s WNHC-TV (Channel 8) aired its own baseball game (New York Yankees vs. Washington Senators) at the same time.

WNAC-TV (Channel 7) aired another episode of Esso Repertory Theatre (“The Trojan Women”) at 4PM, followed by FDR at 5PM (which it pre-empted on Friday, May 7th for a movie), so it didn’t carry ABC’s coverage of the Colonial National Invitation golf championship. Boston independent station WIHS-TV (Channel 38) aired the golf tournament instead. At 6:30PM, WPRO-TV aired another installment of syndicated Men in Crisis (“Lindberg vs. The Atlantic: Ordeal by Air”). Edmond O’Brien narrated.

Boston educational station WGBH-TV (Channel 2) aired the first episode of a British documentary series called Men of Our Times at 8PM on Monday, May 10th. The series examined men who have shaped 20th century history. The premiere focused on Adolf Hitler. Future episodes would cover Lenin, Gandhi, King George V, Mussolini, and former British Prime Minister Stanley Baldwin. WHDH-TV pre-empted the CBS special “Finlandia” for a David L. Wolper documentary called “Prelude to War” about the British policy of appeasement prior to World War II. Richard Basehart narrated.

At 11:30PM, WBZ-TV premiered the new syndicated talk show The Merv Griffin Show. Here’s an advertisement:

Advertisement for The Merv Griffin Show on WBZ-TV (Channel 4)
Advertisement for The Merv Griffin Show on WBZ-TV (Channel 4) – Copyright 1965 Triangle Publications, Inc.

On Tuesday, May 11th, WGBH-TV aired a live two-hour Boston Pops concert from 8:30-10:30PM. Arthur Fielder conducted. WNHC-TV pre-empted ABC’s prime time line-up for a baseball game between the St. Louis Cardinals and the New York Yankees. It started at 7:55PM.

WGBH-TV telecast another college lacrosse game on Thursday, May 13th at 8PM between MIT and Wesleyan. WNHC-TV pre-empted ABC’s Jonny Quest and The Donna Reed Show from 7:30-8:30PM for an hour-log color special about the 12-hour Sebring Sportscar Endurance Race. Chris Economaki and Les Keiter narrated.

At 11:15PM on Friday, May 14th only Providence’s WJAR-TV was scheduled to carry the NBC News special about the dedication of Britain’s memorial to the late John F. Kennedy. A notice indicated that “at press time there was a possibility that Ch. 4 will carry this program this evening.”

Here are the episode descriptions for Dateline Boston, a local series broadcast live and in color Monday through Friday from 6-6:25PM on WHDH-TV (Channel 5):

Monday, May 10th, 1965
Special guest Vivian Vance salutes Mental Health Month.

Tuesday, May 11th, 1965
The high cost of scholarships is discussed by author Claire Cox.

Wednesday, May 12th, 1965
Singers and dancers from England, Thailand, Italy, Japan and Greece perform.

Thursday, May 13th, 1965
The third part in a story telling what goes on in the State House of 24 Beacon Street.

Friday, May 14th, 1965
Armed Forces Day is observed with a special program from the Army Research Center at Natick.

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