Sunday, March 22, 2009

TV Guide Fall Preview 1970 – The Comments

First up we have Mike Doran, helping to fill in some of the holes that I had in the ABC and CBS line-ups:

I can't call NBC's midseason moves to mind readily (I'll look them up when I get home), but here are the others: CBS replaced Tim Conway's hour with Jackie Gleason repeats from the few years before - most if not all Honeymooners. As for ABC, Lawrence Welk moved up an hour, and Pearl Bailey came in to take his old spot. With the other spots you mention, ABC decided to get a jump on the Prime Time Access Rule by leaving those timeslots open - giving the stations an hour on Sunday and 90 minutes on Saturday.

The Gleason repeats were all hour long Honeymooners from episodes he did in the late 1960s. These colour Honeymooners are nowhere near as well known as the half-hour episodes from the 1950s although the episodes are available on DVD from MPI Home Video and air on American Life TV in the US. I couldn't imagine colour working very well with The Honeymooners but that's probably because the shows I remember are the "classic 39" and the addition of colour makes the Kramden's apartment look somehow less squalid and depressing.

These days it is difficult to imagine a network not programming time that they had a right to, even if it is with reruns. The networks hold onto Saturday nights with a death grip in just this fashion, so it is a bit surprising that ABC would actually give the affiliates two and a half hours even with the Prime Time Access Rule coming into force. Then again that was ABC we're talking about, and not at the height of the network's popularity.

I would like to put in a word for THE MOST DEADLY GAME, which may have been the most snakebitten show in recent TV history. The original female lead was supposed to be Inger Stevens, but her unexpected death knocked things off the rails. Yvette Mimieux came on at literally the last minute to try to keep it going, but the premiere had to be delayed to late October, by which time GAME never had a chance.

I think that snakebitten is an accurate description, although whether it would have lasted longer than it did if everything had gone according to plan is questionable; it was going up against Mary Tyler Moore and the first half-hour of Mannix on CBS and the Saturday Night Movie on NBC. The show had a reasonably strong cast with Ralph Bellamy and George Maharis. Arguably Mimieux might have been more famous than Inger Stevens (although Stevens had been in some pretty good movies after she left her first TV series, The Farmer's Daughter, including Hang 'em High, Five Card Stud, and Madigan) which has to be considered an asset for the series.

One thing that I find interesting is the reluctance of TV to take a failed idea and try to tweak it and remake it into something better; in other words recycling their failures. This is a prime example of a show that could be tweaked a bit and be made into something that works. One could make "Mr. Arcane" (the Ralph Bellamy character) very mysterious – really living up to his name – while his ward (Mimieux's character) and her origins would be only slightly less mysterious. That would leave the Maharis character as an "ordinary" guy who splits his time between working on the cases that are brought to them – possibly cases touching on the "unexplained" or supernatural – and trying to discover the truth about his partners. But of course that's just the bare bones of a concept and there are probably plenty of reasons why it wouldn't work.

In a second comment Mike added:

I finally got around to looking up those NBC replacements, and the pattern set by the other two nets holds. CBS used Gleason reruns, already in house; ABC gave large chunks of time back to the local stations; and NBC simply started their Saturday night movie a half-hour earlier - all in anticipation of the Prime-Time Access Rule , which didn't officially kick in until fall (also known as the coward's way out). Meanwhile, BRACKEN'S WORLD gave way to STRANGE REPORT, a Sir Lew Grade product that had been sitting on NBC's shelf for a couple of years. STRANGE was a detective show starring Sir Anthony Quayle as a scientific sleuth in London. By 1971, Quayle was starring on Broadway in SLEUTH, appropriately enough, which might have been a factor in NBC's decision to finally put it on.

Strange Report had as one of its co-stars Anneke Wills, who dedicated Doctor Who fans might remember as Polly, one of The Doctor's companions. She debuted in The War Machines during Hartnell's time as The Doctor, and left in the first year of the Patrick Troughton's run in the role. Most of her episodes are missing but she once described her take on Polly was that she'd react to any threat by doing the sensible thing and running away. Wills was married to Michael Gough (today best known as Alfred in the Tim Burton-Joel Schumacher Batman movies), who worked with Anthony Quayle in Sarabande For Dead Lovers and QB VII.

The basic hook of Bracken's World – a show which I vaguely remember today – was that one never actually saw Bracken but his orders were generally filtered through the medium of his secretary, played by triple Oscar nominee Eleanor Parker. When the show debuted for its second season this conceit – and Parker – was gone and Bracken was seen, played by Leslie Nielsen. It probably wasn't what killed the show but it certainly didn't help it.

One question: are you moving forward or backward or both in this series? My strongest period for this knowledge is the early-to-mid 60s; my resources start to thin out around 1976.

Forward. 1969 was the earliest Fall Preview issue that I still have (there were earlier ones but in the nature of such ephemera were too damaged to retain). I'm going to run into some troubles the closer I get to modern times. I was never a subscriber to the magazine and towards the end of the Canadian edition's publication history the stores never seemed to get many copies of the Fall Preview issues, and they seemed to disappear from the stores almost as soon as they were put out. Maybe someday I'll get the opportunity to fill in and improve my collection.

And here's a comment from our old friend Sam Johnson:

I am diggin' on these TV guide recaps, Brent. I've always wanted to do a breakdown of Saturday morning cartoons from 1960 up until around the early Ninties kind of like this in some type of form. Still, free time keeps me away from the good times, but I digress.

TVSquad.com has been doing something along that line (the one I've linked to is part of a series but as is typical with TVSquad it isn't easy to locate them all). Still there's always room for more - and probably better – writing on the subject.

I know nothing much of the schedule, but a few of the shows I do remember. I recalled that Arnie had Arlene Gonkola as The Harried wife. The only reason for that was the name was just so weird to me as a kid.

Arlene Golonka (on the left here) didn't play the wife on Arnie; that was Sue Ane Langdon (on the right this is the correct spelling, though you do see it as Sue Anne and Sue Ann). Arlene Golonka was on TV at this time, co-starring on Mayberry RFD as the love interest for Ken Berry's character Sam. It is not a particularly surprising mistake, since the ladies did bear a strong resemblance to each other. Sue Ane – who played Alice Kramden on Jackie Gleason's variety show for less than a year around 1962 – was a pretty hot number in the 1960s. A Google Image search under Sue Ann Langdon yields a couple of "interesting" photos she did for Playboy around 1966 in connection with a movie she did with Sean Connery called A Fine Madness.

I was just starting to read then and began to remember names of TV shows easier. But in my house, the name "Flip Wilson" was the easiest. Before then, it was Bill Cosby, Leslie Uggams, or Lou Rawls with shows (I think Miss Uggams and Mr. Rawls had Summer replacement shows), but seeing Flip with his own show made my family rush to the set to watch what he'd do that week. All I know is that the show brought a lot of pride to my family along with a lot of laughs.

As I pointed out last week, the Leslie Uggams Show debuted in September 1969 and ran for twelve or thirteen episodes before being cancelled. I believe that she was the first African-American woman – and maybe one of the first African-Americans of either sex – to have a variety series. Nat King Cole had a short lived series in the 1950s but that was exclusively a music show, with none of the extras (comedy, dancers) that made for a true variety show. I was a big fan of The Flip Wilson Show as well, but obviously it didn't have the same impact on a skinny white kid from Saskatchewan that it would for you. I suspect that it's in the nature of broad-casting that because it has to appeal to the mass audience it generally reflects, albeit with some delay, the direction that society is proceeding in.

Cappy writes:

The end of The Jackie Gleason Show and the start of Mary Tyler Moore marks the beginning of the decline of Western Civilization.

Interesting opinion. If meant humorously, funny; if meant seriously, it requires at least some explanation.

And now, a couple of themes from the 1970-71 season. First up, one that everyone knows. No, not that one, the other one that everybody knows.


And now for a really obscure one, from a replacement series.

Coming up next weekend 1972!