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.
December 19th, 1964
Vol. 12, No. 51, Issue #612
Western New England Edition
On the Cover: Christmas drawing by William Steig.
This was an atypical issue in a few ways due to the Christmas holiday. The cover, for example, had nothing to do with television. Instead, it was a lovely Christmas scene courtesy of artist William Steig. The first page of the issue featured a complete list of all national and regional TV Guide editors as well as other staff. And there was a lengthy holiday poem from Allan Sherman (of “Hello Muddah, Hello Faddah” fame) which referenced every single TV show on the air in 1964. Here’s an excerpt:
Hail Andy Griffith, hail Gomer Pyle,
And Slattery’s People and Gilligan’s Isle.
Hail Jackie Gleason, whose group is so dandy.
Hail both the Williamses, Cara and Andy.
Greetings Walt Disney and Lucy and Hazel,
The joy you have brought is beyond our apprazel.
Hail Alfred Hitchcock, master of terror.
Hail My Four Sons (a typing error).
It’s an impressive work. If not for copyright concerns I would reproduce the entire thing.
Front Cover – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.
The articles this week are a mixed bag. For fans of The Munsters, there’s a very brief essay by Leslie Raddatz about his experience driving the Munster Mobile or Munster Koach. It went from 0-80 in 15.4 seconds, according to Raddatz, and is capable of making it all the way to 150 miles per hour. Inside were a stereo tape recorder, three TV sets, an electric shoe-polisher, a blender, and two antique French phones.
There’s a two-page essay by Philip R. Smith Jr. about the history of Indians in combat from the Revolutionary War through the Korean War. It’s connection to TV is limited; the author notes that viewers who think all Indians were savages could be forgiven due to the depiction of Indians on television. Smith hoped that “perhaps some day Hollywood’s writers will truly give the Indian his due. There’s plenty of rich, historical material waiting to be dramatized.”
Edith Efron’s article “This is the Girl That Really Is” examines Nancy Ames, the “blonde, muscular, sardonic Amazon who delivers the blaring theme song of That Was the Week That Was,” said by her publicists to be “a peppy Social Critic, an Intellectual, a Controversial Figure.” According to Efron, it turns out the TV persona was nothing like the real Ames. I’ve never seen an episode of That Was the Week That Was and had never heard of Ames before reading this article.
Richard Gehman’s four-page article about the friendship between Jack Benny and George Burns is a nice look at the two comedy legends. I’m not very familiar with either of them, to be honest. The two discuss old jokes, their hairpieces, their careers, and try to remember how long they’ve been friends.
The two have very different work ethics. Benny works perhaps 13 hours a week over the course of four days while Burns is nearly always working with his writers. He’s convinced that weekly television is the easiest job in the world:
If you do four [shows] a year, all four better be really spectacular. If you do a half hour a week, and one isn’t as good as the week before, they make excuses for you, the audience. They say, ‘he wasn’t as good this week, but maybe he’ll be better next week.’ I think the people who stay on week in, week out, year after year, are the people who work easy.
Without a doubt the best article is Ron Wren’s “Oh well, back to the drawing board” about failed TV station promotions. Included are a half-dozen stories about various TV stations whose promotions went horribly awry. For example, an unnamed ABC station staged a bank robbery to promote The Untouchables, complete with its personalities decked out in fedoras and pin-striped suits toting violin cases holding actual machines guns (loaded with blanks, of course). Everything was cleared with the bank and the local police but an off-duty police officer unaware of the promotion happened to be nearby and came close to opening fire on the fake robbers, stopped only by an officer who knew it was a stunt.
Other failed promotions included WAAM in Baltimore celebrating changing its call letters to WJZ-TV with a fireworks display in a park that was flooded, washing $10,000 worth of fireworks away; KTVI (Channel 2) in St. Louis commissioning a San Francisco bakery to bake 50,000 fortune cookies to promote Hong Kong only for the baker to print KTVU (Channel 2 in San Fransisco) on the fortunes rather than KTVI, thinking it was a mistake; and WMCT in Memphis planning to promote Ripcord by having its promo man jump out of an airplane holding the film for the first episode (he couldn’t find anyone else willing to do it) only for the poor guy to realize he was too scared to jump.
Finally, there’s a one-page article about Betty Bundy, who, like Nancy Ames, was someone I’d never heard of. She’s described as “20, wide-eyed, pert-nosed, normally self-confident, moderately ambitious and reasonably talented.” Unlike most young actresses, however, “she thinks, talks and acts in a disarmingly direct, natural way. She seems to know exactly what she is, and is not the least bit interested in creating any other impression.” A quick look through her Internet Movie Database profile reveals she guest starred in dozens of TV shows throughout the 1960s and 1970s, including one-season wonders like Occasional Wife, The Interns, Search, and The Manhunter.
There’s another glowing review from Cleveland Amory, this time for Profiles in Courage on CBS. Here’s how he concludes the review:
The key to Profiles in Courage seems to us to lie in the underplaying, documentary approach to drama about vital, bone-deep issues–which makes it such a powerful contrast to so many other overblown, skinny-dip sagas. Now all that remains is for the networks to get the message, which is that there is room in television for dramas–and documentaries too–about ideas that are not necessarily popular. We don’t always have to agree with what’s being said and done on the screen to enjoy and perhaps learn from it.
News from the Hollywood and New York TV Teletype columns:
- A pilot script is in the works for a series starring Jose Ferrer as Mr. Moto, the Japanese detective portrayed by Peter Lorre in the movies.
- The 1960 Gregory Peck movie The Gunfighter may become a weekly TV series.
- Pat Priest has replaced Beverly Owens on The Munsters.
- David Susskind, Nat Hiken, and Elroy “Crazy legs” Hirsh (University of Wisconsin) will face off against Franklin D. Roosevelt Jr., Erskine Caldwelll, and Mortimer Caplin (University of Virginia) in the January 10th, 1965 episode of Alumni Fun on CBS, hosted by Peter Lind Hayes.
- The new British musical group Herman’s Hermits will debut in an episode of Shindig, which expands to an hour beginning January 20th.
- NBC’s Sunday will shift to the 3-4PM time slot starting January 17th.
Rounding out the national section is a three-page picture feature on actor Sterling Holloway’s home in Laguna, CA (filled with art) as well as the regular TV crossword puzzle. There was no “As We See It” editorial in this issue.
There was just one news report in the “For the Record” column in the listings section this week, all about the latest national Nielsen report out on December 7th. It has been called “the $100,000,000 Nielsen report” for its importance to the networks and sponsors and its impact on programming. Covering the two weeks ending November 22nd, the report led to a number of cancellations on all three networks. Here’s the Top Ten:
- Bonanza (NBC) – 35.8
- Bewitched (ABC) – 29.4
- Gomer Pyle, USMC (CBS) – 28.7
- The Fugitive (ABC) – 27.4
- The Andy Griffith Show (CBS) – 27.4
- The Red Skelton Show (CBS) – 27.2
- The Munsters (CBS) – 27.0
- The Lucy Show (CBS) – 26.2
- The Jackie Gleason Show (CBS) – 26.1
- Peyton Place II (ABC) – 26.0
According to the report, a 17.0 Nielsen rating has been considered “a passable grade” but there are plenty of shows rating lower than that, including Valentine’s Day, The Flintstones, The Outer Limits, Slattery’s People, The Baileys of Balboa, The Defenders, The Reporters, My Living Doll, 90 Bristol Court, The Man from U.N.C.L.E., and That Was the Week That Was. In response to the report, CBS made drastic mid-season changes, with nine shows shifting to new time slots, three new additions, and two cancellations. NBC and ABC, on the other hand, seem to be sticking by their earlier programming changes (i.e. The Outer Limits and Mickey cancelled by ABC and two-thirds of 90 Bristol Court cancelled by NBC).
The letters page in the listings section this week included three letters praising the November 30th, 1964 episode of Slattery’s People on CBS:
I regard the Slattery’s People episode, “Question: Do the Ignorant Sleep in Pure White Beds?”, having to do with sex education in our public schools, among the most relevant, timely and appropriate of any television show I’ve seen this season.
Ronald N. Katen, Associate Advisor
Young People’s Fellowship
As a minister, I believe that parents must realize that “kids” grow up . . . and they need to be prepared for growing up.
William G. Hughes, Minister
First Church of Christ
Sweet Valley, Pa.
I am a high school junior, 16, and I can cite you many similar incidents to this program in my own life. A sex education class such as this show advocated would be a welcome addition to our high school curriculum. Those few who would be offended by it are perhaps those who need it most.
Toms Rivers, N.J.
There was also a letter from a doctor objecting to NBC cancelling a proposed crossover between Mr. Novak and Dr. Kildare involving venereal diseases. Two readers sent in letters about network daytime pre-emptions for coverage of the Bobby Baker Senate hearing , one opposed and one in favor. Finally, there was a letter from a staff sergeant in the Air Force noting that on the cover to the December 5th issue of TV Guide, Sammy Jackson of No Time for Sergeants was shown with his shoulder strap out when it should have been under his coat collar per regulations.
The TV Listings
Just as this was an atypical issue of TV Guide, it was an atypical week for television due to the Christmas holiday. There were plenty of regular episodes of TV shows, true, but there were also many specials and quite a few church services as well. And there were sporting events, including the Liberty Bowl (Western Virginia University vs. the University of Utah) and the Bluebonnet Bowl (the University of Mississippi vs. the University of Tulsa), both on Saturday, December 19th and both on ABC. ABC also broadcast the 19th Annual North-South Shrine All-Star Game on Friday, December 25th.
ABC aired a two-hour documentary called “1964: A TV Album” on Sunday, December 20th from 3-5PM. Harry Reasoner hosted the review of major news events from 1964, including the ouster of Nikita Khrushchev in the Soviet Union, the murder of civil rights workers in Mississippi, the 1964 Presidential campaign, the Warren Commission report, the Tokyo Olympics, the Beatles coming to America, and the deaths of Herbert Hoover, Gracie Allen, Harpo Marx, and others. Also on Sunday, NBC rebroadcast the 1963 version of “Amahl and the Night Visitors” from 4-5PM.
NBC pre-empted 90 Bristol Court on Monday, December 21st for two specials: “The Story of Christmas,” a repeat of a Tennessee Ernie Ford special from 1963 and “The Coming of Christ,” a Project 20 special narrated by Alexander Scourby featuring paintings from the Middle Ages and the Renaissance illustrating stories from the Bible exploring the live of Jesus. And Maureen O’Hara hosted an installment of The Bell Telephone Hour on NBC on Tuesday, December 22nd from 10-11PM. Guests included Howard Keel, Phyllis Curtin, and Martha Wright.
On Christmas Eve (Thursday, December 24th) television was filled with Christmas music and church services. ABC aired a Protestant church service live from the Cathedral of St. John the Divine in New York City from 11:15PM-12AM. This was followed by a live Catholic church service from 12-1AM live from the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C. CBS aired a fifteen-minute program of music featuring the Mormon Tabernacle Choir from 11:15-11:30PM followed by “Sounds of Christmas” with Baroness Maria Von Trapper from 11:30PM-12:AM, then a Protestant church service live from St. Luke’s Lutheran Church in New York City from 12-1AM. And NBC aired a 45-minute special hosted by Sammy Davis Jr. called “Christmas Card” from 11:15PM-12AM followed by a Catholic church service from 12-1:45AM from St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City.
On Christmas Day, (Friday, December 25th), NBC’s The Today Show was devoted to Christmas with the Kuklapolitans from 7-9AM. NBC aired another Protestant church service live from 12:30-1:30PM, from the Episcopal Cathedral in Washington, D.C. What aired in prime time on Christmas? Mostly new episodes of shows like The Entertainers, The Bob Hope Show, Valentine’s Day, Gomer Pyle, USMC, and The Jack Paar Show. There were a few repeats as well: Rawhide and The Addams Family, for example.
Here are the TV Guide close-ups for the week:
- Liberty Bowl (ABC, Saturday at 12:30PM)
- Movie: White Christmas (NBC, Saturday at 9PM)
- Special: 1964: A TV Album (CBS, Sunday at 3PM)
- The 20th Century – “Duke Ellington Swings Through Japan” (CBS, Sunday at 6PM)
- Wagon Train – “The Hector Heatherton Story” (ABC, Sunday at 7:30PM)
- The Andy Williams Show (NBC, Monday at 9PM)
- Special: Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol (NBC, Friday at 7:30PM)
- The Bell Telephone Hour (NBC, Tuesday at 10PM)
- 19th Annual North-South Game (ABC, Friday at 3PM)
- Special: Oratorio – Handel’s Messiah (Channel 24, Friday 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: Gun at Batasi (Saturday at 6:30PM, $1.25)
- Movie: A Shot in the Dark (Saturday at 8:30PM, $1.25)
- Pro Hockey: Montreal Canadiens vs. New York Rangers (Sunday at 7:30PM, $1.25)
- Movie: West Side Story (Monday at 9PM, $1.25)
- Movie: 633 Squadron (Wednesday at 7PM, $1.25)
- Ballet: Pinocchio (Thursday at 7PM, $1.25)
- Pro Hockey: New York Rangers vs. Boston Bruins (Friday at 8PM, $1.25)
Locally, there were plenty of Christmas specials as well. WHNB-TV (Channel 30) aired an hour-long Christmas concert featuring the Hartford Insurance Group Choir and the New Britain High Schools Combined Choir from 6-7PM on Saturday, December 19th. As it had the previous week, WATR-TV (Channel 20) broadcast a half-hour of Christmas music from 7-7:30PM Monday through Friday.
WNHC-TV (Channel 8) aired another installment of Esso World Theatre (“Sweden: Fire and Ice”) on Wednesday, December 23rd from 8:30-9:30PM, pre-empting Shindig.
On Christmas Eve. WNAC-TV (Channel 7) aired a half-hour special called “Christmas in Boston” from 7:30-8PM, hosted by Arthur Fiedler, conductor of the Boston Pops. It was rebroadcast Christmas Day from 2:30-3PM. WNHC-TV (Channel 8) aired a half-hour special called “Yale Glee Club” featuring the Whiffenpoofs from 8:30-9PM, pre-empting My Three Sons. It was repeated on Christmas morning from 9:30-10AM.
On Christmas Day. WHNB-TV (Channel 30) aired an hour-long Christmas concert from 9-10AM featuring the Asylum Hill Congregational Church choir and the Columbus Boychoir. WNHC-TV (Channel 8) aired its own holiday concert from 1:30-2PM, featuring the University of of Connecticut choir.
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, December 21st, 1964
Captain Bob shows the development of a sketch.
Tuesday, December 22nd, 1964
“Poetry in Motion.”
Wednesday, December 23rd, 1964
Host John Fitch presents “Frontiers of Science” in cooperation with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology.
Thursday, December 24th, 1964
Favorite Christmas carols of several countries are presented by the Giuliana Chorale of the Cape Cod Conservatory of Music.
Friday, December 25th, 1964
Dr. Erwin P. Booth presents a program on the meaning and observance of Christmas from ancient to modern times.
TV Guide and a number of stations took out advertisements wishing readers and viewers a Merry Christmas or Happy Holidays:
Best Wishes from TV Guide – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.
Seasons Greetings from WWLP 22 – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.
Merry Christmas from WHNB-TV 30 – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.
saiah 9-6, from WHYN TV-AM-FM – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.
That’s it for this week. Hit the comments with your thoughts.