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.
August 14th, 1965
Vol. 13, No. 33, Issue #646
Southern Alabama Edition
On the Cover: Robert Bray and Lassie’s Pup Ranger (photograph by John R. Hamilton, Globe).
The cover article this week about Robert Bray includes some insight into the changes made at Lassie this season. Fans of the series will recall that in 1963 the producers decided to experiment with a potential revamp of the series with a five-part story in which park ranger Corey Stuart (played by Robert Bray) rescued Lassie after he was separated from Timmy and his parents. Viewer reaction was very favorable and the decision was made to phase out the Martin family. An article in the October 17th, 1964 issue of TV Guide discusses the transition.
A three-part story airing in September 1964 kicked off Season 11. It started with the Martins moving to Australia and ended with Lassie permanently in the care of Corey. Bray was one of a half dozen actors who tested for the role of Corey and it eventually came down to him an an unidentified “well-known Western player.”
Front Cover – Copyright 1965 Triangle Publications, Inc.
Everyone wanted to go with the other man but the dog (or dogs, given that Lassie was portrayed by multiple dogs) liked Bray. According to associate producer Bonita Granville Wrather, “Lassie just didn’t take to the other man, and it came over on film.” Viewers certainly took to Bray and the new format. Lassie reached more households during the 1964-1965 season than any other year. A new contract with CBS has been signed, future episodes will be filmed in color, and viewers are writing letters in record numbers.
Here’s what Alice Hawkins, who handles Lassie fan mail. has to say:
At first, we got quite a few letters from mothers and little-boy viewers, wondering what had happened to the family and whether or not they would be back, but now Robert Bray is going like Gangbusters–nobody inquires about the family any more.
Also liking Bray is the United States Forest Service, which appreciates how the actor has helped the public image of forest rangers. Bray feels he is just playing himself. “I was born hunting, fishing and camping out.” Much of the article is the typical TV Guide profile with details on Bray’s career, life, and five marriages.
Neil Hickey’s four-page article “In This Corner: Peter Jennings” is not the typical TV Guide profile, although it does touch briefly upon the youthful ABC news anchor’s early career. Instead, Hickey provides an overview of Jennings and his critics. Those in the TV news business questioned ABC’s decision in February to make Jennings the anchor of its 15-minute nightly newscast (retitled Peter Jennings With the News, a name the anchor doesn’t like). Jennings initially turned down ABC’s offer and then negotiated for 17 days before finally agreeing to take the job. His terms? He wanted to be able to travel to the source of the news when possible.
As a Canadian, Jennings has had some problems with pronunciations. He once mispronounced Appomattox and continues to use the British pronunciation of the word lieutenant (“leftenant”). Prior to taking over the anchor desk, he famously misidentified “The Marines’ Hymn” as “Anchors Aweigh” during President Johnson’s Inaugural Parade in January. But he feels being Canadian offers him insight into America. For example:
When I was traveling for ABC in the South, I discovered it was a distinct advantage to be a Canadian, because I had come from a society in which racial strife does not exist, and I could thus see both sides. In his own eyes, the situation of the Southern white is just as grave as that of the Negro.
He strongly believes TV news should focus on providing visuals rather than shots of anchors behind desk. To that end, since February he has traveled all over the world to cover news stories and on July 5th left for a six-week news gathering trip that may even take him to China (another perk of being Canadian). He’s unsure whether he’ll succeed or fail as an anchor. “If I blow this show–and that possibility exists equally with the possibility that I’ll succeed–I’m still young enough to come back and make another name for myself.” [Jennings voluntarily stepped down as anchor in 1967 to become a foreign correspondent. In 1978, he returned to the anchor desk as one of three anchors for the new World News Tonight before becoming sole anchor in 1983. He continued in that role until April 2005 when he stepped down due to poor health. He died of lung cancer in August 2005.]
“Lennon Meringue” is a three-page profile of the Lennon Sisters that catches readers up on the four singing sisters. Dianne and Peggy are both married and have children while Kathy and Janet still live at home with their parents and their seven other siblings. Janet is engaged. Neither get an allowance. “If we want something,” explains Kathy, “we ask Mommy and she decides whether we really need it or not.”
Melvin Durslag’s two-page article titled “They Can Do Everything But Translate Dizzy Dean” discusses the impact of computers on televised sporting events. There were computers working behind the scenes at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics. General Electric has developed a computer that can calculate “clutch ratings” for baseball players that is used on Yankee Baseball Game of the Week on CBS. The computer knows there are some 52,800 situations that a batter can face during a game and the “pressure factor” for each situation. The clutch rating is determined by how batters perform under stress. Computers were also used during ABC’s “Grand Award of Sports” last spring but failed to select the champion, resulting in the programming running about a minute and a half late.
The fifth and final article, “Remember the Days of Black Lipstick?” by Robert Reed (no, not that Robert Reed), is a three-page look back at the early days of television. Reed discusses how he was first introduced to TV in the late 1930s at NBC. By 1950, he was directing shows at the DuMont studios in New York City. At the time, very bright lighting was required. How bright? Reed tells the following story:
One day a buxom young lady with a low-cut dress went on to sing. An oval metal brooch, suspended from a chain around her neck, rested on her upper chest. When she finished her performance, she ran back into the wings, immediately bent double, and started to sob. Startled, I ran over to find out what the trouble was. She had removed the brooch, and pointed to the spot where it had rested. There was an angry, red, oval burn on her chest. The heat from the banks of “bird’s-eye” lights had been so intense that the brooch had burned into her skin.
Reed also explains how in the early days it was necessary for stations to experiment and innovate. He had a hand in developing a “ghost writer” that allowed handwriting to be shown on TV sets as well as a mirror system for getting overhead shots.
The “As We See It” editorial this week argues that the Television Code should be updated to protect viewers from too many interruptions during late-night movies. The Code currently allows six minutes of commercials per half hour during non-prime time (plus two minutes of commercials during the station break and 10 seconds of station identification that can be sponsored) but prohibits more than three consecutive commercial announcements. That is why late-night movies are interrupted about eight times, roughly every 10-12 minutes, for three commercials. TV Guide feels that four interruptions consisting of six commercials each would be better. If advertisers are worried about their message being lumped together with too many others, “they should rely upon ingenuity to make an impression, rather than upon the helplessness of the viewers.”
Cleveland Amory reviews Perry Mason this week and reveals his disappointment with the long-running legal drama. “The producers […] apparently feel under some compulsion to cram into every episode not only a plot and a subplot but also a sub-subplot,” making it difficult for viewers to follow along. Many of the plots are unbelievable. As for star Raymond Burr, he “plays Mr. Mason well, but the character always seems to us to have about as much color as a corporation executive on the way to, and slight late for, the 4:12 club car from Grand Central.” Amory does like co-stars William Hopper and Barbara Hale and wishes they had larger roles.
News from the Hollywood and New York TV Teletype columns:
- CBS will air “The Making of the President: 1964” on October 19th. The 90-minute special is based on Theodore White’s book of the same name.
- Phyllis Kirk will host ABC’s new daytime show The Young Set, which premieres September 6th.
- Micki Grant, James Congdon, and Ellen Weston have joined the cast of NBC soap opera Another World.
- CBS is reportedly interesting in turning the new movie Those Magnificent Men in Their Flying Machines into a TV show for the 1966-1967 season.
- Ginger Rogers will host the season premiere of NBC’s The Bell Telephone Hour on September 26th. Guests will include Ella Fitzgerald, John Davidson, Robert Peters, and Earl Wrightson.
- Bud and Travis have recorded the theme song (“The Ballad of Jesse James”) to ABC’s new series The Legend of Jesse James.
- Burt Metcalfe, who played Myrna Fahey’s husband on Father of the Bride, has quit acting and is now casting director for Screen Gems.
- Kathy Nolan is starring in a new pilot called “Angie” about the world of high fashion.
Rounding out the national section are two picture features. The first highlights a Physical Action Lab workshop that Sally Field attended in Hollywood, run by a nonprofit organization called The Film Industry Workshops. The second examines changes to Hazel next season as it moves from NBC to CBS and includes a brief profile of star Shirley Boothe. There is also the regular TV crossword puzzle.
There are four news reports in the “For the Record” column in the listings section this week:
- Peyton Place has a plan in place should Mia Farrow decide to marry Frank Sinatra and not return to the series following her four-week vacation, although producer Paul Monash last week expected her to. Just before Farrow left, a scene was shot in which her character (Allison) was injured in a hit-and-run. If Farrow returns, Allison will be fine. If she doesn’t, Allison will be killed off. [Farrow did return to Peyton Place. She eventually married Sinatra in July 1966 and left the series soon after.]
- Most critics agree that Joey Bishop did a fine job substituting for Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show. Many, however, feel the episode featuring Frank Sinatra and Sammy Davis, Jr. wasn’t very good due to excessive fawning” over Sinatra, perhaps not realizing it was all tongue in cheek.
- The networks are all airing specials on the Vietnam War. CBS has a four-part documentary series called Vietnam Perspective that premiered August 9th. ABC will air “The Agony in Vietnam” on August 25th. And NBC’s September 7th special “American White Paper: U.S. Foreign Policy” will deal in part with Vietnam.
- Bob Hope sent Secretary of State Dean Rusk a telegram “congratulating him for revealing that some nations are still doing business with North Vietnam.” What made Hope break from his tradition of not involving himself in political controversy? He has been “charged up” by critics of U.S. intervention in Vietnam and the Dominican Republic. “People seem to forget we’re at war.”
The letters page includes nine letters, five of which are brief and amusing responses to a July 17th article about TV station call letters. There is also a letter from a reader who takes issue with the July 31st article about Mike Douglas:
You are wrong, Mr. Richard Gehman. We women do not shirk our duties when the Mike Douglas show is on. Mike’s show makes the family ironing a breeze!
Mrs. Helen Johnson
Here’s a letter from a reader upset about sports shows:
Sports shows are bad enough during the week and on Saturday and Sunday afternoons, but must we have them on Saturday and Sunday mornings too? If these shows are so popular, how come they are outranked by a hefty margin by old movies, reruns, etc. when these shows are placed opposite them?
Finally, there was a letter from a reader upset that David E. Davis Jr., in the July 31st issue, suggested that drag-racing is for teen-agers only. That prompted an editorial note in which Davis argues “the sport is definitely teen oriented. Most spectators and participants definitely are teen-agers.”
The TV Listings
[This was the fifth issue I had to purchase to fill a hole in my collection. The copy I acquired is the Southern Alabama Edition with listings for ten stations in six markets in Alabama and Georgia. As is always the case with issues I’ve had to buy, I’ve done my best to highlight some of the local programming but please note that I’m not familiar with these stations. Complicating matters somewhat is the fact that while Alabama is in the Central Time Zone, Georgia is in the Eastern Time Zone. It appears all of the stations in the region started prime time at 6:30PM.]
The big event on the networks this week actually didn’t take place: the planned launch of the Gemini V space flight on Thursday, August 19th was postponed until Saturday, August 21st. As it did with earlier space flights, TV Guide published multiple notices regarding the network coverage, including the possibility that Gemini V would be delayed until Friday. More on that below.
ABC’s regular afternoon baseball game on Saturday, August 14th started at 11:30AM and pitted the Minnesota Twins against the Cleveland Indians. At 11:45AM, the Kansas City Athletics played the New York Yankees on Yankee Baseball Game of the Week on CBS. ABC aired coverage of the third round of the PGA Championship starting at 3PM. On Sunday, August 15th at 2PM, ABC aired coverage of the final round of the PGA Championship. At 6:30PM, NBC repeated “The Tall American, Gary Cooper” an hour-long documentary about Gary Cooper, originally aired in March 1963. Walter Brennan narrated the documentary, which was part of NBC’s Project 20 series.
Starting Monday, August 16th CBS made some changes to its daytime schedule. In the Central Time Zone this involved CBS Morning News with Mike Wallace moving from 9AM to 6:05AM, replacing local programming. Repeats of I Love Lucy shifted from 9:30AM to 9AM and repeats of The Real McCoys from 10:30AM to 9:30AM. Repeats of The Dick Van Dyke Show made their daytime debut at 10:30AM.
At 7:30PM on Monday, CBS aired unsold pilot “Young at Heart” as part of its Summer Playhouse series. Mercedes McCambridge starred as Mrs. Mallory, the new house mother for the Kappa Phi sorority. At 9PM, CBS aired “Vietnam: Winning the War,” the second of four CBS News specials in the Vietnam Perspectives series. The documentary dealt with the nation’s military role and techniques in Southeast Asia.
On Wednesday, August 18th all three networks aired specials previewing the Gemini V space flight planned for the following morning. CBS aired a half-hour special from 6:30-7PM hosted by Walter Cronkite. At 9:30PM, Jules Bergman anchored a special edition of ABC Scope titled “The Space Frontier: Eight Days in Orbit” in which he looked back at previous Gemini missions and previewed Project Apollo. And at 9:45PM, following Wednesday Night at the Movies, NBC aired a 15-minute preview featuring Chet Huntley, David Brinkley, Frank McGee, and Peter Hackes.
All three networks planned to start their Gemini V coverage at 5AM on Thursday, August 19th. The launch was scheduled for 8AM. Here’s an advertisement for NBC’s coverage:
Advertisement for NBC’s Coverage of the Gemini V Space Flight – Copyright 1965 Triangle Publications, Inc.
According to a notice, if the launch went as planned the networks would pre-empt regular programming to cover the early orbits. If it was delayed, they would continue coverage. At 1PM, the networks planned to cover an attempted rendezvous between the capsule and the orbiting Radar Evaluation Pad. ABC scheduled one-minute reports until 10PM followed by a 15-minute wrap-up at 10:15PM. CBS planned to “make use of visual streamers running during regular programs at half-hour intervals” with a 15-minute summary airing from 10:15-10:30PM. And NBC planned several one-minute reports during prime time and a 15-minute wrap-up at 10:30PM.
[The launch was first delayed and then scrapped. Rather than return to regular programming, the networks remained on the air for seven hours discussing the mission before throwing in the towel. Regular prime time programming likely aired although it is possible there were special reports on some or all of the networks.]
Had Gemini V launched as scheduled, the networks would have interrupted regular programming throughout the day Friday, August 20th to air bulletins and updates much the way they had on Thursday afternoon. ABC planned an additional half-hour report at 9AM. Assuming it was not pre-empted for a special report, at 8:30PM Vacation Playhouse on CBS presented “Coogan’s Reward,” a half-hour drama originally aired on Alcoa Theatre in 1958. Tony Randall starred as a war correspondent who somehow writes detailed reports despite never being spotted near the front lines.
Here are the TV Guide close-ups for the week:
- Look Up and Live – “The Evolution of Eve” (CBS, Sunday at 9:30AM)
- Special: Pro Football, Chargers vs. Chiefs (WJHG-TV/WSFA-TV, Saturday at 1:30PM)
- Special: PGA Championship (ABC, Sunday at 2:00PM)
- NBC Sports in Action (NBC, Sunday at 4:30PM, Repeat)
- Special: Tall American (NBC, Sunday at 6:30PM, Repeat)
- Alfred Hitchcock Hour – “Photographer & the Undertaker” (NBC, Monday at 9:00PM, Repeat)
- Special: Gemini Space Flight (ABC/CBS/NBC, Thursday at 8:00AM)
- The Defenders – “Eyewitness” (CBS, Thursday at 9:00PM, Repeat)
The listings section includes listings for the following stations:
WDIQ (Channel 2) – Educational
WSLA-TV (Channel 8) – ABC
WRBL-TV (Channel 3) – CBS/NBC
WTVM (Channel 9) – ABC
WTVY (Channel 4) – CBS/ABC
Panama City, Florida
WJHG-TV (Channel 7) – NBC/ABC
WSFA-TV (Channel 12) – NBC
WCOV-TV (Channel 20) – CBS
WAIQ (Channel 26) – Educational
WKAB-TV (Channel 32) – ABC
Locally, there was quite a lot going on this week. At 6:30AM on Saturday, WRBL-TV (Channel 3) aired something called Chattahoochee, R.F.D., likely a local series. At 4:30PM, WTVM (Channel 9) aired wrestling. More wrestling aired at 5PM on WTVY (Channel 4). There were also three half-hour music programs at 5PM: Jim and Jesse on WRBL-TV, Glenn Reeves on WSFA-TV (Channel 12), and Shultz Show on WCOV-TV (Channel 20). Glenn Reeves also aired on WTVM from 5:30-6PM. At 10PM, WTVY aired “Social Security in Action.”
Sunday morning was filled with a mix of music and religious programs, some likely local. Several aired on multiple stations. Singin’ Time in Dixie aired from 6-7AM on WTVM and from 7-8AM on WTVY. Gospel Caravan aired from 7-8AM on WTVM and from 8-9AM on WJHG-TV (Channel 7). Gospel Jubilee aired from 8-9AM on WTVY and WTVM as well as on WSFA-TV from 9-10AM. Both WRBL-TV and WTVM aired a church service from 10-11AM. A religious program called The Answer aired from 9:30-10AM on WJHG-TV and then from 10-10:30AM on WSFA-TV.
At 11AM, WTVY and WCOV-TV (Channel 20) aired a baseball game between the Kansas City Athletics and the New York Yankees. Also at 11AM was a Baptist church service on WSFA-TV. At 1:30PM, WJHG-TV and WSFA-TV aired a professional football exhibition game between the San Diego Chargers and the Kansas City Chiefs. From 1:45-2PM, WKAB-TV (Channel 32) aired a talk show with Senator Sparkman. At 5PM, WTVM aired an hour-long interview with Secretary of State Dean Rusk, conducted by Ray Moore of Atlanta’s WSB-TV. News with Earl Hadaway aired from 5:45-6PM on WJHG-TV. At 10:15PM, WCOV-TV aired “Vietnam: The Decisions,” the first installment of the CBS News documentary series Vietnam Perspectives. [It originally aired on Monday, August 9th and WCOV-TV must have pre-empted it.]
Weekday programs that may have been local in origin included Daybusters with Donnell Brookins from 6:30-7:30AM on WJHG-TV; Rozell Show from 7-8AM on WRBL-TV; Morning Show with Bob Harmon from 7-8AM on WCOV-TV; Patsy’s Playhouse from 8-9AM on WTVM; Bulletin Board with Bob Fahrner from 11:45AM-12PM on WTVM; Televisit with Ruby Faircloth from 12-1PM on WJHG-TV; Woman’s World with Carole McDonald from 4-5PM on WSLA-TV (Channel 8); and Ham Operators Club from 5:30-6PM on educational stations WDIQ (Channel 2) and WAIQ (Channel 26).
WRBL-TV made some changes to its weekday line-up this week, bringing back repeats of Zane Grey Theater from 3:30-4PM and adding syndicated hour-long The Lloyd Thaxton Show at 4. WTVM also introduced several new shows: repeats of Bat Masterson from 4-4:30PM and repeats of Ripcord from 4:30-5PM, plus The Littlest Hobo from 6-6:30PM on Thursdays.
From 7-7:30PM on Monday, WDIQ and WAIQ aired a local travel series called See Alabama, which this week visited the cities of Dothan and Enterprise. At 9PM, WJHG-TV aired a syndicated hour-long documentary about the Korean War narrated by Richard Basehart. At 7:30PM on Tuesday, WJHG-TV aired a half-hour of filmed highlights of the Miss Panama City Beauty Pageant hosted by Earl Hadaway. The pageant was held in the WJHG-TV studios on July 17th. Barbara Etheridge won the talent trophy while Margaret West won the pageant. WTVM pre-empted ABC Scope from 9:30-10PM on Wednesday for Dateline Jaycee.
On Thursday, WDIQ and WAIQ aired a cooking series called Today’s Home from 6:30-7PM, which saw homemakers explaining how to make dishes from Huntsville restaurants. From 7:30-8PM the same stations aired a discussion of the University of Alabama Festival of Arts on Students on Campus.
Here’s an advertisement for CBS color programming this fall on WTVY (Channel 4) :
Advertisement for CBS color programming this fall on WTVY (Channel 4) – Copyright 1965 Triangle Publications, Inc.
Here’s an advertisement for the PGA Golf Championship on WKAB-TV (Channel 32):
Advertisement for the PGA Golf Championship on WKAB-TV (Channel 32) – Copyright 1965 Triangle Publications, Inc.
Here’s an advertisement for Woman’s World with Carol McDonald on WSLA-TV (Channel 8):
Advertisement for Woman’s World with Carol McDonald on WSLA-TV (Channel 8) – Copyright 1965 Triangle Publications, Inc.
That’s it for this week. Hit the comments with your thoughts.