A Year in TV Guide: December 26th, 1964

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

Week #15
December 26th, 1964
Vol. 12, No. 52, Issue #613
Western New England Edition

On the Cover: Dancer Juliet Prowse (photo by Ivan Nagy).

The Magazine

There’s no football in this issue, other than an assortment of advertisements and close-ups in the listings section, although there was certainly plenty of football on television. The big article this week is “How to Make a Dream Come True” by Neil Hickey which delves into the history of a planned series of United Nations specials sponsored by the Xerox Corporation. ABC will debut the first 90-minute special on December 28th at 9:30PM. Titled “A Carol for Another Christmas,” it features a script by Rod Serling and directing by Joseph L. Mankiewicz. Others who have agreed to work on the specials include Fred Zinnemann, George Sidney, Richard Condon, Richard Rodgers, and Henry Mancini. All will work for scale.

Hickey called the specials “one of the most remarkable ventures in television’s history” and I’m inclined to agree. Six were originally planned, later reduced to five. Three of the remaining specials will air on NBC while ABC will broadcast another at some point. CBS declined to participate, worried its subject matter will lead to groups like the John Birch Society opposed to the United Nations asking for equal time. All involved had high hopes, considering the amount of money and talent involved. Mitchell Hadley of It’s About TV has a wonderful article about the United Nations specials over at TV Party! so there’s no need for me write too much here.

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

Arnold Hano’s “Out of the Moth Balls Came the Coonskin Cap” examines actor Fess Parker’s return to television as Daniel Boone, a character very similar to Davy Crockett who Parker played for four years. Crockett made him rich but when it was cancelled he tried to change and refine his image. It didn’t work so he decided to find a character like Crockett and Boone fit the bill. Parker owns 30% of the series, with producer Aaron Rosenberg owning 20%, and the remaining 50% split between NBC and 20th Century-Fox. Ratings have been good and merchandise seems ready to start flying off the shelves. The 40-year-old Parker doesn’t need money, he just wants to act.

“The Compleat Schnook” by John Gregory Dunne is about actor Jack Klugman, who has made a career out of playing meek characters, most recently on Harris Against the World, part of NBC’s 90 Bristol Court. The series has been cancelled, however, and will go off the air in January. “I’ve walked away a little richer and a little wiser,” said Klugman of the cancellation. “After all, no one told me we were going to do ‘King Lear’ here.” He agreed to star in the series because it offered him two days of rehearsal each week and, more importantly, it was comedy and would hopefully lead to more comedy in the future. (It did, as most TV viewers know. Klugman would go on to star opposite Tony Randall in The Odd Couple from 1970 to 1975.)

The two-and-a-half page article “Daytime Delilahs” explores the “conniving, back-biking, manipulating, seducing, home-breaking, domineering” women of daytime soap operas. Examples include the characters played by actresses Joan Anderson of The Doctors, Audra Lindley of Another World, Haila Stoddard of The Secret Storm, Lee Lawson of Love of Life, and Ludi Claire of The Edge of the Night. All have received terrible letters from viewers who hate them specifically, not just their characters. Said Lawson, “One anonymous woman writes to me regularly, in pencil, telling me that I am wicked and that I must die.” Some have actually run into viewers who have shoved or berated them. All the actresses enjoy playing Delilahs more than good characters.

The “As We See It” editorial in this issue was two pages of vague criticism of network programming being based on marketing computers that allowed advertisers and agencies to purchase spot advertising in specific cities where their products need a boost. Sponsors who want to reach different kinds of sponsors are out of luck because the networks are not offering unusual program out of fear it will drag down ratings for comedies and action-adventures shows. “The programs may not all be aiming for the lowest common denominator any more,” explained TV Guide, “but most of them are aiming for the same common denominator. The shows are being made for the advertiser, but the funny part of it all is that the advertisers are far from pleased with this system.”

Cleveland Amory’s review of The Doctors and The Nurses was mostly negative. He decried hospital soap operas in general and specifically the decision by CBS to add doctors to The Nurses and make it an even worse show, in his opinion. He felt Shirl Conway and Zina Bethune had “tender but limited talents.” Most of the series were too heavy for Amory, including one devoted to menopause and another two-parter about abortion that “ended wth about as silly a chase as we can recall.” There were a few episodes he liked, however. “A Family Resemblance” had both good writing and some good acting, mostly from Ossie Davis and Nancy Pollock. “The trouble is,” Amory wrote, “right after you try to credit executive producer Herbert Brodkin with at least attempting some difficult subjects, he turns around and crosses you with an episode like ‘So Some Girls Play the Cello,’ which for long, drawn-out nothingness would be hard to beat.”

News from the Hollywood and New York TV Teletype columns:

  • ABC will debut Alcoa Preview on February 4th at 10PM. The four one-hour specials will go behind the scenes of major motion pictures, Broadway shows, and other big entertainment events.
  • A two-part Mr. Novak is in the works with guest stars Burgess Meredith and Cloris Leachman. It will involve a faculty talent show.
  • Peter Falk has been signed by CBS for a series that will be produced by Elliott Gould. [Could this be The Trials of O’Brien, which Falk starred in during the 1964-1964 season? I don’t believe Gould was involved with the series, however.]
  • CBS has another potential series called You’re Only Young Twice, with Ed Wynn and Ethel Waters. The script by Stan Dreben and Lorenzo Semple, Jr. involves a professor who discovers an elixir for youth. [A pilot by this named aired on CBS in July 1967 as part of Vacation Playhouse but did not star Wynn or Waters.]
  • MGM has a pilot in the works for a series called “The Ghostbreaker” with Kerwin Mathews, Diana Van Der Vlis and Norman Fell. [The pilot aired as a made-for-TV movie in September 1967.]
  • Warner Brothers has a series called F Troop in the works, about the post-Civil War United State Cavalry.

Rounding out the national section are two picture features: one goes behind the scenes of the CBS special “Noye’s Fludde” while the other presents Juliet Prowse in a number of wild costumes. There is also a humorous two-page chronological guide from F.P. Tullius intended to help viewers date old movies on television. And, of course, there was the regular TV crossword puzzle.

Once again there was just one news report in the “For the Record” column in the listings section this week and it runs for a page and a half. It’s all about a CBS lawsuit attempting to force the Teleprompter Corporation, a community-antenna television (CATV) company in New York City, to pay the network for permission to retransmit its programming. Sound familiar? CATV was once used to bring TV to areas that couldn’t receive it over-the-air but companies have started expanding and that has stations worried. It looks like the case may not have reached trial until May 1972 (CBS lost, if I’m reading the decision correctly). CBS appealed and the case eventually reached the U.S. Supreme Court in March 1974 but I can’t figure out exactly what the decision decided.

The letters page in the listings section this week included four letters reacting to various programs. One reader ranted about The Les Crane Show, calling it “phony intellectualism, the worst kind of interviewing, gauged to expand Crane’s ego and diminish our enlightenment.” Another referred to The Jonathan Winters Show as “the sickest program of the year.” A third praised praised NBC’s December 6th “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” special.

Here’s the fourth letter, from a reader somewhat upset about Peyton Place:

Peyton Place, the new serial soap-opera, is stealing my girls. When I call on a Tuesday or Thursday night, they say, “Call back after 10 P.M., Peyton Place is on.”
(Name withheld)
New Hyde Park, N.Y.

Another letter urged “complacent middle-of-the-roaders” to rise up and push back against the “lunatic fringe of prejudiced, prolific letter writers” opposed to the United Nations TV specials sponsored by Xerox. Although not named in the letter (or at least the portion printed by TV Guide), the lunatic fringe referred to is most likely the John Birch Society, which according to the article in this issue about the United Nations specials, urged its members to flood Xerox with letters.

One reader wrote in response to TV Guide December 12th “As We See It” editorial which discussed NBC’s November 18th special on The Louvre:

I feel so strongly about “The Louvre” that I feel I must write. I quote from the “As We See It” in the Dec. 12 issue of TV Guide: “And we found one fault with the audience. It was too small.” Could it be that there were other areas such as ours where viewers were not given a chance to see the program? On the night when “The Louvre” was being shown in prime time in other localities, WDAF-TV had a movie (vintage 1940, at that).
Jean Russell
Lawrence, Kan.

Finally, there was a letter from a reader criticizing Max Shulman for his December 5th essay about running a network.

The TV Listings

Football and parades were the big things on television this week. ABC broadcast the 1964 AFL Championship Game between the Buffalo Bills and the San Diego Chargers on Saturday, December 26th at 2PM. Scheduled for 4:45PM after the game was a “All-Pro Scoreboard” special hosted by Pat Hernon highlighting those players selected for the 1964 AFL All-League Team. At 4PM that same day NBC aired the Sun Bowl pitting the University of Georgia’s Bulldogs against the Red Raiders of Texas Tech. Also at 4PM, the second year of CBS Golf Classic premiered.

On Sunday, December 27th at 1:30PM CBS aired the 1964 NFL Championship between the Baltimore Colts and the Cleveland Browns. I suspect this was the bigger game. CBS took out a full-page advertisement and it received a TV Guide close-up. Preceding the game at 1PM was a half-hour countdown special hosted by Tom Harmon. After the game at approximately 4PM was another special celebrating the NFL champions, with Frank Gifford, Ken Coleman, and Chuck Thompson. Also on Sunday was an hour-long “Year-End Review” on NBC at 4PM, anchored by Frank McGee, and an hour-long “Winterland on Ice” special on ABC at 7PM, hosted by Gordon and Sheila MacRae.

At 9:30PM on Monday, December 28th ABC broadcast “Carol for Another Christmas,” a 90-minute special directed by Joseph Mankiewiz and scripted by Rod Serling. Intended to promote the work of the United Nations, it was the first in a series of specials sponsored by the Xerox Corporation and broadcast without commercials. TV Guide ran an article about the special in this issue, covered earlier in this installment, and also gave it a TV Guide close-up. CBS at 10PM aired an hour-long special called “Years of Crisis,” featuring a bevy of CBS News personnel reflecting on 1964 and wondering about 1965.

NBC aired its own forecast of 1965 on Tuesday, December 29th at 10PM. “Project ’65” was moderated by Frank McGee and saw the network’s foreign news correspondents predicting what the new year will bring.

I know so little about football that when I saw that there were three bowl games scheduled for New Year’s Day (Friday, January 1st, 1965) I thought it had to be a mistake. I couldn’t believe that three huge games would be played on the same day. Then I turned the page and discovered there was a fourth game. At 1:45PM, CBS aired the Cotton Bowl (Nebraska vs. Arkansas) while NBC broadcast the Sugar Bowl (Syracuse vs. Louisiana State). Then at 4:45PM NBC aired the Rose Bowl (University of Michigan vs. Oregon State) followed by the Orange Bowl at 7:45PM (Alabama vs. Texas). That’s a lot of football. Viewers could turn on NBC at 1:45PM and not change the channel until 10PM and see nothing but football.

Here’s an NBC ad for its New Year’s Day programming:

NBC New Year's Day Advertisement
NBC New Year’s Day Advertisement – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.

Earlier in the day was the Cotton Bowl Parade (CBS, 10:30AM) as well as the Orange Bowl Festival Parade (NBC, 11AM) and, of course, the Tournament of Roses Parade at 11:30AM. Both CBS and NBC aired coverage of the Rose Parade. Bess Myerson and Ronald Reagan were the CBS hosts while NBC had Lorne Greene and Betty White. Not to be left out, ABC aired coverage of the Mummers’ Parade in Philadelphia at noon, hosted by Les Crane and Kathy Nolan.

Capping off NBC’s impressive day of television at approximately 10:30PM was the “1964 Sports Roundup,” a special hosted by Jim Simpsons reflecting on the year in sports.

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

  • NFL Championship (CBS, Sunday at 1:30PM)
  • Special: “Carol for Another Christmas” (ABC, Monday at 9:30PM)
  • Cotton Bowl (CBS, Friday at 1:45PM)
  • Sugar Bowl (NBC, Friday at 1:45PM)
  • Rose Bowl (NBC, Friday at 4:45PM)
  • Orange Bowl (NBC, Friday at 7:45PM)

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: Lili (Saturday at 6:30PM, $1.00)
  • Movie: Lilith (Sunday at 9PM, $1.25)
  • Movie: Roustabout (Monday at 7PM, $1.25)
  • Movie: Tales of Terror (Tuesday at 9PM, $1.00)
  • Movie: Becket (Wednesday at 9PM, $1.50)
  • Pro Hockey: Toronto Maple Leafs vs. Boston Bruins (Friday at 8PM, $1.25)

Locally, it was a very quiet week. Four stations aired “The Big Little Show,” a half-hour syndicated special raising money for the March of Dimes, on Sunday, December 27th. Robert Taylor hosted the special, which appearances by Lena Horne, Bob Hope, David Janssen, and Connie Stevens. WHYN-TV (Channel 40) aired it at 3:30PM; WNHC-TV (Channel 8) at 4:30PM; WHCT (Channel 18) at 5:30PM; and WTEV (Channel 6) at 7PM. That same day at 8PM, WNHC-TV aired a half-hour “Season for Song” special, pre-empting Broadside. The special featured the Yale University Whiffenpoofs a cappella singing group and the choruses from the University of Connecticut, Southern Connecticut State College, an Albertus Magnus College, all singing holiday songs.

On New Year’s Day from 9-10AM WWLP (Channel 22) and WRLP (Channel 32) aired an hour-long live Chalice Mass with the Most Reverend Christopher J. Weldon, Bishop of the Springfield Diocese. WHYN-TV aired a 55-minute “Year-End Review” special from 6:05-7PM, highlighting local and national news from 1964. Other local stations, I’m sure, looked back at 1964 during their own news programs during the week.

WHYN-TV took out a half-page ad wishing viewers a happy New Year:

WHYN-TV (Channel 40) New Year's Advertisement
WHYN-TV (Channel 40) New Year’s Advertisement – Copyright 1964 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, December 28th, 1964
Captain Bob gives a drawing lesson.

Tuesday, December 29th, 1964
Representatives of the Massachusetts Department of Public Health discuss their immunization program.

Wednesday, December 30th, 1964
A weekend aboard the USS Hazelwood shows the training and benefits received by Naval Reserve sailors.

Thursday, December 31st, 1964
Irish girls entertain in a visit to Ireland’s Bunratty Castle.

Friday, January 1st, 1965
Dr. Erwin P. Booth discusses the origin of the New Year holiday.

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

7 Replies to “A Year in TV Guide: December 26th, 1964”

  1. That is a lot of bowl games in one day for the New Year!!! Nowadays, we have it one at a time, largely on ESPN!!! Of course, these bowls are concering it as part of the “New Year’s Classic Six Bowls”, alongside with the Peach and the Fiesta Bowls, playing it throughout New Year’s Eve and New Year’s Day!!! And, the Rose Parade is being aired on so many networks in 2015-NBC is still carried it, and ABC (Using ESPN’s Rose Bowl crew) is airing it, as does Hallmark Channel and HGTV (Which carried it commercial-free).

    1. The ’65 Orange Bowl was the first primetime bowl game, largely bolstered by the presence of Joe Namath, in his final collegiate appearance. Many old-timers consider this the greatest college football game of all time, as Alabama-led by Namath-defeated Texas, 21-17

      But, as to whether all this was a mistake, it was merely the start of a trend-as for the majority of the next 30 years, New Year’s Day meant this lineup:

      11 AM CBS-Cotton Bowl Parade
      12 PM CBS/NBC Rose Parade
      1/8 PM ABC Gator/Sugar Bowl
      1:30 PM CBS Cotton Bowl
      5 PM NBC Rose Bowl
      8:30 PM NBC Orange Bowl

  2. My first thought when seeing this issue’s cover in my college’s library microfilm collection was that Juliet Prowse’s dress was the ugliest I’d ever seen. It hangs off her legs like a sack.
    It’s neat seeing Audra Lindley & Norman Fell mentioned in the same TV Guide issue, some 12 years before they became Mr. & Mrs. Roper. Also Jack Klugman came a long way from playing all the schmucks he’d played earlier on tv with his roles as Oscar Madison & Dr. Quincy. He also made 4 Twilight Zone appearances just before this time, tied with Burgess Meredith, John Anderson, and probably a couple others for the most for any actor.

  3. What was the hook for putting Juliet Prowse on the cover? Her series MONA MCCLOSKEY wouldn’t debut until the following September.

    1. It’s not a serious guide. It’s basically just a list of 30 or so humorous “film descriptions” and a date. There are a lot of running jokes about clothing in Tarzan movies changing over the years; Randolph Scott always looking stern and unexpressive; Cary Grant always looking young, flippant, and boyishly handsome; and the changing depiction of Japanese characters on film.

      Some excerpts:

      -The actors’ lips move, but you can’t hear their voices … (Your set is on the blink)
      -In a Tarzan movie, Jane wears very little … 1934
      -The Japanese wear circular spectacles and are all funny, ingratiating little guys … 1934
      -Everybody talks staccato style, as though trying to save on film … 1936
      -Jane is all bundled up, but now Tarzan wears very little … 1940
      -The Japanese have protuberant dental formations, hiss menacingly, and have lost their comic touch … 1942
      -There are titles under the film, but the payers speak a foreign language … (1952-or your set is on the blink)
      -Jane and Tarzan are both covered up … 1954
      -Our Japanese allies help us frustrate a devious Chinese plot … 1957
      -There are no titles under the film,but the actors lips’ continue to move after the sound has stopped (1957-and your set is not on the blink)
      -Everyone talks real slowly, as though trying to use up film … 1959

  4. Thanks as always for the shout-out and the kind words! Paul – Juliet Prowse seemed to be a favorite for TV Guide covers – I just wrote about one she appeared on within a year of this one.

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