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.
January 2nd, 1965
Vol. 13, No. 1, Issue #614
Western New England Edition
On the Cover: Yvonne DeCarlo, Fred Gwynne, and Al Lewis from The Munsters on CBS (photo by Philippe Halsman).
With this issue, the first of 1965, TV Guide kicked off its 13th volume. Included are five articles and two picture features. My favorite article is Edith Efron’s “A Close Look at the Critics,” a survey of television critics across the country. TV Guide interviewed a dozen critics and determined the following: “critics are of both sexes; they range in age from the early 30’s to the late 50’s; and three-quarters of them are college graduates.” Every single one of them started as a professional journalist. Only one — Marya Mannes — had real experience in television. Most read a lot about the television industry, although one admitted he had never read a single book about TV and was concerned only with what was on his screen.
TV critics spend about 15 to 20 hours a week watching television, all on their own time at home after a busy day at the office writing columns, answering phone calls, and worrying about shows being cancelled before they can be reviewed or analyzed. According to Efron, TV critics must have :a sturdy soul with the patience of a saint, eyeballs of steel and a childlike faith that somehow, someday, television shows will be better. And they will, too–if only on the grounds that nobody’s working conditions can go on being this round indefinitely.”
(Considering how many reviews or review excerpts from the mid-1960s I’ve read over the years, I was surprised to only recognize a handful of the critics quoted in the article, including Anthony La Camera of The Boston Record American and Bernie Harrison of The Washington Star.)
Front Cover – Copyright 1965 Triangle Publications, Inc.
Stanley Frank’s article “Winters wings it” examines comedian Jonathan Winters, who regularly improvises routines and jokes rather than sticking closely to a script. His November 9th, 1964 NBC special with guest Mickey Rooney was a critical failure, featuring content “identical with the plodding script they had rehearsed.” Apparently there are those who feel Winters is playing it safe because he’s making lots of money and doesn’t want to risk upsetting anyone. His executive producer disagrees. In any event, Winters seems more interested in movies than television:
What I like best about the movies is the unbroken mood you can project. That’s impossible on TV with the constant interruptions for commercials. I’m not knocking the medium. It can’t exist without sponsors, but I’ve always thought it’s silly to show the hero fighting for his life in a tense situation and then in the next shot you see him smiling and all gussied up plugging a cigaret. That sort of thing destroys artistic unity.
Audiences, according to Winters, know “when you’re winging honestly and they’re tolerant of an occasional flop. It gives them a feeling of being a part of the most mysterious thing in the world, the creative process.”
There’s not much substance in “‘I’m a Lord-Knows-What’,” a profile of Barbara Walters. She’s appearing three times a week on NBC’s Today, one of three women regulars on the show (the others are Aline Saarinen, an art critic, and Judith Crist, a movie and theater critic). A feature reporter, Walters stories “often have a feminine angle,” revealing how policewomen are trained, for example, or what it is like to work as a Playboy bunny. According to the article, Walters is conflicted about how to balance her career with motherhood. All of her friends have babies but she put her plans to have a baby on hold when she was promoted. Nevertheless, if her three weekly appearances aren’t enough for viewers, one day Walters might become a “full-fledged morning star.”
“He Rang the Bell with the Bellhops” by Bob Higgins is a depressing account of how Bill Dana furiously promoted his NBC sitcom The Bill Dana Show in New York City for three days in September 1964, saw it cancelled two months later, and then watched as ratings began to rise. His “promo” work included an in-person appearance at Stern’s department store, an interview on The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, an appearance on NBC’s game show Word for Word, and more. He would have appeared on The Today Show but it was scheduled for Yom Kippur and Dana refused to work on the Jewish holiday.
All that promotion didn’t help much and NBC announced in November that The Bill Dana Show would be ending on January 17th, 1965. Then the ratings started to rise, reaching a 19.6 Nielsen rating during one November week. Initially angry, Dana soon came to terms with the loss of his series. “I’ve had the chance,” he told TV Guide, “to be a writer, a producer, a recording and series star. So maybe now I’ll have a chance to do something new. Life is a smorgasbord.”
The fifth and final article (“The Prince of Iran Was Wild About Her…” by Melvin Durslag) is a profile about Yvonne DeCarlo, who plays as Lily Munster on The Munsters on CBS. She was a relatively well-known movie star in the 1940s and 1950s, with famous friends all over the world, but dropped out of the spotlight at the end of the 1950s. Her husband, stuntman Robert Morgan, was seriously injured during the filming of How the West Was Won in 1962, losing a leg, and DeCarlo started taking any work she could find to pay the bills. That’s how she got the role on The Munsters, something many people might consider beneath her.
The article includes the following quote from an unnamed producer about DeCarlo: “Yvonne is like a good utility baseball player. She can sing, dance, do comedy or straight stuff. She isn’t superior in any, but is valuable for her versatility.” That’s a compliment, I suppose.
This week’s “As We See It” editorial tackles network publicity about Nielsen ratings. All three networks have claimed to be number one for the new season, using slightly different figures, and all have attacked one another for unfair calculations. “These are grown men doing all this bickering,” declared TV Guide, the same men who not only say they deplore all the publicity given rating figures, but who insist that ratings are not all-important in television programming.” The networks are squabbling about one-tenth of a ratings point and according to Arthur Nielsen, Jr. in a November 7th TV Guide article, ratings can be off by three percent either way.
According to Cleveland Amory, there are two fine war shows on television: Combat! and 12 O’Clock High. He reviewed the latter in this issue:
We approached it, we admit, with strong reservations. War is bad enough, but bombing war is worse. Nonetheless, in the capable hands of executive producer Quinn Martin of Fugitive fame, it is, if you can take the bombing, first-rate TV.
Amory praised star Robert Lansing as magnificent. The series was renewed for the 1965-1966 season but Lansing was replaced in the first episode of the new season. I wonder how Amory reacted to that.
News from the Hollywood and New York TV Teletype columns:
- NBC has Bonanza producer David Dortort working on two pilots, one a Western and the other a contemporary drama. Whichever NBC picks up will be guaranteed 26 episodes. [Does anyone have any idea what these pilots were?]
- Producers for the new CBS series The Quest have acquired rights to Clair Huffaker’s novel The Diary of Chance Latigo and intend to make three episodes out of it.
- Burgess Meredith has signed on to replace Dean Jagger on Mr. Novak after a two-part guest appearance.
- Security surrounding an episode of The Alfred Hitchcock Hour (“An Unlocked Window”) is high on the University City lot. A security guard is keeping the set locked down and the cast have not been given the final three pages of the script.
- Quinn Martin has signed Steve Forrest and Lola Albright to star in his hour-long pilot “Will Banner,” about a former boxer who becomes sheriff of a small town. [The pilot was not picked up.]
- NBC is considering picking up hour-long pilots “Pay the Piper” (with Jack Kelly) and “Star Trek” (with Jeff Hunter) for the 1965-1966 season. [The latter, of course, was picked up.]
Rounding out the national section are two picture features: one about the vintage Western signs used on Rawhide and the other profiling physics professor Julius Sumner Miller’s demonstrations on The Mickey Mouse Club. There is also the regular TV crossword puzzle, three pizza recipes, and a confusing cartoon by Perry Barlow.
There were two news reports in the “For the Record” column in the listings section this week:
- ABC signed a $12.2 million contract to broadcast Major League Baseball games in 1965 and 1966. The first year will include a package of 27 games and kick off April 17th. The only teams not involved are Philadelphia and the Yankees. Everyone is happy except the umpires who aren’t thrilled with ABC’s “isolated camera” which may catch plays the empires missed. Also, Joe Garagiola will take over for Mel Allen as commentator for the New York Yankees.
- The Nielsen report for the two weeks ending December 6th saw NBC’s Bonanza at the top. Ranking 10th was NBC’s broadcast of “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” on December 6th. The networks are not planning any additional “big switches” this season, although ABC is premiering a new documentary series about Franklin Delano Roosevelt called F.D.R. on Friday, January 8th.
The letters page in the listings section this week included nine letters, only two of which were responding to the same topic (the CBS special “Casals at 88”). One reader wrote in to praise Jonathan Winters, another in support of 12 O’clock High. There was yet another letter from a reader who loved NBC’s November “The Louvre” special. One reader asked who wrote the December 12th article about Julie Newmar (it was none other than staff writer Leslie Raddatz). The last three letters on the page were perhaps the best:
These soap-opera serials are getting progressively fantastic; their characters seem to pack in one half hour more scandals, divorces and car crashes than I can find in three generations of a real family!
Deborah A. Borek
Gory, Gory, HalleGOUHLjah! I finally agree with Mr. Amory [“Gruesome Twosome,” Nov. 28].
New York, N.Y.
Just saw The Bill Dana Show again and can’t believe this fine show is going off the air.
When I saw that Bill Dana had apparently written to TV Guide in support of his own show I couldn’t believe it. I wonder if it was actually him.
The TV Listings
The big event this week was President Johnson’s State of the Union address, carried live by all the networks on Monday, January 4th from 9-10PM. If there was enough time after the speech, the networks planned to air commentary by their Washington correspondents. At 10PM, an episode of CBS Reports with Harry Reasoner was scheduled to feature a roundtable analysis of the speech. ABC and NBC went with regular programming.
There was a smattering of other special programming throughout the week. On Saturday, January 2nd ABC broadcast an hour-long special “Hollywood Deb Stars of 1965” from 9:30-10:30PM. George Gobel and Carolyn Jones hosted the look at the 10 most promising young actresses in movies and TV: Janet Langard, Donna Loren, Margaret Mason, Tracy McHale, Mary Ann Mobley, Barbara Parkins, Laurie Sibbald, Wendy Stuart, Beverly Washburn, and Raquel Welch. NBC pre-empted its Sunday series on Sunday, January 3rd for an hour-long special featuring an interview with Secretary of State Dean Rusk. He was questioned by Elie Abel and Robert Goralski on topics like NATO and the situation in Vietnam. And on Tuesday, January 5th at 8:30PM NBC aired “The Decision to Drop the Bomb,” the first NBC White Paper of the season.
Both Fred Astaire and Perry Como had specials during the week: Astaire’s hour-long special aired from 9-10PM on Sunday, January 3rd on CBS while the Como special aired on NBC on Thursday, January 7th from 10-11PM. On Monday, January 4th two-thirds of NBC’s 90 Bristol Court (Harris Against the World and Tom, Dick and Mary) aired their final episodes. Only Karen remained and it would be cancelled at the end of the season. Earlier that day at 2PM NBC premiered a Canadian soap opera called Moment of Truth. And ABC premiered its half-hour documentary series F.D.R. on Friday, December 8th at 9:30PM.
There were even more football bowl games this week, if you can believe it. ABC aired the 20th annual Gator Bowl (University of Oklahoma vs. Florida State) on Saturday, January 2nd at 2PM while CBS aired the NFL Play-off Bowl (Greeen Bay Packers vs. the St. Louis Cardinals) on Sunday, January 3rd at 1:45PM. There was also the 40th annual East-West Shrine Game between college football stars from the East and the West. It aired Saturday, January 2nd at 4:30PM on NBC. Prior to the East-West game at 4PM was an NBC Sports Special called “NBC Sports Roundup” narrated by Jim Simpson. It was postponed from the previous night due to the Orange Bowl running long. Professional basketball returned to ABC with a game between the Celtics and the Royals, airing Sunday, January 3rd at 2PM.
Here are the TV Guide close-ups for the week:
- Special: Hollywood Deb Stars of 1965 (ABC, Saturday at 9:30PM)
- NFL Play-off Game (CBS, Sunday at 1:45PM)
- Profiles in Courage – “Robert A. Taft” (NBC, Sunday at 6:30PM)
- Sunday Night Movie: The Misfits (ABC, Sunday at 9PM)
- Special: State of the Union, 1965 (ABC/CBS/NBC, Monday at 9PM)
- NBC White Paper – “The Decision to Drop the Bomb” (NBC, Tuesday at 8:30PM)
- Special: Perry Como (ABC, Thursday at 10PM)
Here are some of the programs available for purchase by subscribers to Zenith Radio Company’s Phonevision pay television experiment on Connecticut’s WHCT-TV (Channel 18):
- Movie: The Young Lovers (Saturday at 6:30PM, $1.25)
- Play: The Ransom of Red Chief (Sunday at 7PM, $0.50)
- Movie: Lilith (Monday at 9PM, $1.25)
- Play: Time Remembered (Tuesday at 9PM, $1.25)
- Movie: Joy House (Wednesday at 9PM, $1.25)
- Movie: Johnny Cool (Thursday at 9PM, $1.00)
- Movie: The Lion (Friday at 7PM, $1.00)
Locally, two more stations aired “The Big Little Show,” a half-hour syndicated special raising money for the March of Dimes. Four stations aired it the previous week on Sunday, December 27th. Robert Taylor hosted the special, which appearances by Lena Horne, Bob Hope, David Janssen, and Connie Stevens. WHNB-TV (Channel 30) and its translator (Channel 79) aired it on Saturday, January 2nd at 2:30PM while WNAC-TV (Channel 7) aired it at 8:45AM on Sunday, January 3rd. Also on Sunday WTIC-TV (Channel 3) aired another installment of From the College Campus at 11:30AM. The topic of discussion was St. Joseph College in Hartford.
At 8PM on Monday, January 4th WWLP (Channel 22) and WRLP (Channel 32) aired an hour-long special titled “The Willis Report,” pre-empting the last hour of 90 Bristol Court. The special featured State Senator Kevin Harrington discussing a recent study of the Massachusetts School system. On Wednesday, January 6th from 10:30-11PM, WNHC-TV (Channel 8) aired a half-hour review of Connecticut events from 1964, pre-empting an episode of ABC Scope about teenage drinking in New York (which featured interviews with Connecticut teenagers who cross the state line to drink in New York where the drinking age was 18). Stelio Salmona hosted the special, which was originally scheduled to air the previous week.
There were also a few local sporting events. WPRO-TV (Channel 12) in Rhode Island aired a college basketball game between the St. Joseph’s Hawks and the Providence College Friars on Saturday, January 2nd at 8PM. The game pre-empted the last half-hour of The Jackie Gleason Show as well as Gilligan’s Island and The Entertainers. WJAR-TV (Channel 10), also in Rhode Island, aired its own college basketball game pitting the Holy Cross Cruasers against the University of Rhode Island Rams on Thursday, January 7th at 8:30PM. It pre-empted Dr. Kildare, Hazel, and the start of Perry Como’s special, which the station planned to join in progress after the game.
Here’s an advertisement for Gaddabout Gaddis, a half-hour series about fishing broadcast Sundays at 2:30PM on WWLP and WRLP in Massachusetts:
Gadabout Gaddis on WWLP/WRLP – Copyright 1965 Triangle Publications, Inc.
And here’s an advertisement for NBC’s Today on WHNB-TV (Channel 30) in Connecticut:
NBC’s Today on WHNB-TV (Channel 30) – 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, January 4th, 1965
Captain Bob guides home artists in composing a sketch of a New England winter skiing scene.
Tuesday, January 5th, 1965
Jack Woolner presents a film on winter sports and opportunities in New England.
Wednesday, January 6th, 1965
Roland Nadeau discusses the organ with WHDH music director Kenneth Wilson.
Thursday, January 7th, 1965
The opportunities available to Metropolitan Opera audition winners are discussed.
Friday, January 8th, 1965
Robert J. Ferulle continues his discussions of development of good speech habits in children.
That’s it for this week. Hit the comments with your thoughts.