TV used to be simple. There were three networks. Each major city had one or two independent channels. That was it. What wasn’t simple was finding out when things were on. There weren’t any guide channels, there wasn’t any Internet. So, you had to rely on the daily newspaper for daily listings or the Sunday paper for weekly listings. Or you bought the latest issue of TV Guide.
What a difference 50 years makes. The cover is a drawing of the stars of the show “I Spy.” Robert Culp, who was also in “The Greatest American Hero” and my favorite Outer Limits episode – Harlan Ellison’s “Demon with a Glass Hand,” died in 2010. His co-star, Bill Cosby, is now famous for more sordid things. The only blurb on the cover is “What are your children watching Saturday mornings?” which is not an article on Bill Cosby but is, instead, just the article we want to read. To get there, we have to page past the two-page Chevy coupe ad (Yes, those big cars are 1960s coupes), the TV Teletype: Hollywood info (“Richard Deacon replaces Roger C. Carmel in ‘The Mothers-In-Law.’ Carmel left when he didn’t get a satisfactory boost in his $2000-a-week salary.”), the credits info (I don’t know if those are their real names but the Publisher really is listed as James T. Quirk as opposed to Star Trek’s James T. Kirk and the Editor’s last name is really Panitt as in “pan it.”), and the ad for the “No winding” Electric Timex ($39.95). You can read most of the article in the scan I’ve added but here’s the gist. Saturday morning cartoons have been taken over by the “Weirdo Superhero.” Mentioned in this group are the Fantastic Four, Birdman, Space Ghost, Super President, and Spider-Man about whom our writer says, “”Spider-Man is a born loser named Peter Parker. Beset with job worries and usually bedded down with a cold, Peter nevertheless is compelled to slip into a grotesque spider suit to polish off villains.” If you haven’t guessed by that description that our writer, Robert Higgins, is no fan of the comic book, here are some other lines from the story. “”Super-king-size in brawn and just about as freakish as anything you’ll find on a sci-fi dust jacket, the weirdies have virtually taken over Saturday morning network television.” “The Thing’s thing is to be ugly, which, since he resembles a demolished Edsel, isn’t hard.” And “Saturday morning has become a Grand Guignol gold mine.”
Higgins tells us that the cartoons previously shown on Saturday mornings were old movie features like Mighty Mouse and Bugs Bunny and that supply was getting low. The networks turned to comic books for inspiration. Higgins quotes Stan Lee and Chip Goodman here, representing Marvel Comics. Then he goes on to discuss the violence of the current shows. (Which is pretty funny, in retrospect, if you’ve seen the old FF and Spidey shows.) He introduces Dr. Wilbur L Schramm who argues that such shows do not induce juvenile delinquency and…guess who…Dr. Fredric Wertham, the man who testified against EC Comics in the 50s…who argues that the cartoon violence is bad for kids. But Allen Ducovny, producer of the Superman-Aquaman show says, “Most of those old cartoons which people thought were so cutsie-wootsie, were far more violent than anything that’s on today.” And ABC’s Ed Vane rounds out the article, saying, “We’d love to give the kids ‘Reading Room’ or ‘A Day at the Planetarium.’ We’d be applauded by many – and watched by absolutely no one.”
The accompanying illustration shows Spider-Man, Hawkman, Mr. Fantastic, Thor, the Thing, the Human Torch, the Flash, Green Lantern, Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, Batman, Aquaman, and Sub-Mariner scaring off Popeye, Huckleberry Hound, Mickey Mouse, Daffy Duck, Bugs Bunny, and Felix the Cat. The artwork is awkward and block-like and uncredited.
Also in this issue:
“Petticoat Junction Springs a Leak,” a behind-the-scenes look at the flooded kitchen in the episode Ring-a-Ding-Ding set to air on March 23. (Except in Denver…I’ve got the Colorado Edition here…where it is airing March 25.)
“Zsa Zsa Talks About Zsa Zsa,” in which Zsa Zsa says, “And the hippies! It’s an outbreak by people who achieve nothing, to get some kind of recognition. They accomplish nothing individually.”
“Letters,” in which “(Name Withheld)” of San Jose, California writes, “The tasteless, so-called adult humor of the Smothers Brothers and Rowan and Martin is one more step toward the moral disintegration of our society.”
“The Doan Report,” in which Richard K. Doan writes, “For one of his ABC specials next season, underwater explorer Jacques-Yves Cousteau will search for the remains of the liner Lusitania, sunk by a German sub off Ireland in 1915.” Was this show ever produced?
“This Week’s Movies,” in which Judith Crist says of the star of “Send Me No Flowers,” “[Doris] Day looks like a cross between a tow-headed Pekingese yipping and cuddling and Carol Burnett doing an imitation of Shirley Temple – but you don’t have to see it to believe it.”
“The Magic of Marion Lorne,” in which we learn that the actress who played Aunt Clara on “Bewitched” “was the reigning star of London for many years, in her own theatre, the Whitehall. There she appeared in hit after hit, all written especially for her by her late husband Walter Hackett.” Marion Lorne debuted on the stage in 1905 and was still working 63 years later. She died two months after this article appeared and received a posthumous Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.
“Little Fou’s Big Revolution,” the story of “I Spy” director of photography Fouad Said (thus, the “I Spy” cover) who streamlined filmmaking techniques and fought against years of Hollywood intransigence.
“He’s Not Going Anyplace,” a recap of the interesting show business career of Paul Hartman who was playing Emmett in the “Andy Griffith Show” at the time of this article. He was “the son of…Ferris Hartman, ‘Ziegfeld of the West,’ who put on comic opera…throughout California from 1893 to 1923. His father carried baby Paul on-stage for the first time six weeks after he was born in San Francisco. (‘I must have been a flop, because I didn’t come back again until I was 3 months old.’)” The rest of his story is also intriguing.
“TV Teletype: New York: Neil Hickey Reports:” features, among other items, “Now that the Monkees have been scratched from the NBC fall schedule, they’re hard at work on their first feature film, called ‘Changes,’ which Columbia Pictures hope to release sometime this summer. Sonny Liston, former world heavyweight champ, and Victor Mature, are in the cast.” All Monkees fans know that this very strange film was released in November 1968 under the title “Head.” Also, Neil reports that “Rick Jason (Combat!) went hunting elephants in Kenya for ABC’s “American Sportsman” series. The segment will be telecast on April 7.” Celebrity elephant hunting on television! How about that for an example of how things have changed in the last 50 years? The “Combat!” after Rick Jason’s name is not a commentary on his elephant hunting but the name of the TV show in which he appeared. Sadly, according to Wikipedia, Rick Jason committed suicide in 2000.
The last page is a “Review” by Cleveland Amory, this time of “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In” which, he writes, is “a genuine, ingenuous breath of fresh fare. And this despite the fact there are two real drawbacks here. One is that the show is too long…The other drawback is that the show stars the Messrs. Dan Rowan and Dick Martin and yet their spots are, curiously, the least successful…We like all the regulars – Judy Carne, Eileen Brennan, Goldie Hawn, Henry Gibson, Gary Owens, Jack Riley, Roddy Maude-Roxby, Joanne Worley, et al. – but if we have to name our favorite, it’s Miss Worley.” “Laugh-In” has not aged at all well but it was a sensation when it came on in 1968 and we all watched it.
Now, I’m sure you all want to know what shows were on which major networks during this week of March in 1968. I aim to please.
All of the following are the Denver listings.
Saturday, March 23:
NBC: The Saint, Get Smart, NBC Saturday Night at the Movies (The aforementioned “Send Me No Flowers”)
CBS: The Beverly Hillbillies, My Three Sons, Hogan’s Heroes, Cimarron Strip, The Jackie Gleason Show
ABC: The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game, The Lawrence Welk Show, ABC Movie (“Sweet Bird of Youth”)
Sunday, March 24:
NBC: Flipper, Wild Kingdom, The Wonderful World of Disney, The Mothers-In-Law, The Ice Capades Special, High Chaparral
CBS: Gentle Ben, Lassie, The Ed Sullivan Show, The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Mission:Impossible, Gunsmoke, Mannix
ABC: Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, The FBI, The ABC Sunday Night Movie (“Guys and Dolls”)
I see that David Susskind was on local channel 2 at 9:30 PM. We talked a bit about David Susskind in the ASM #60 review.
Monday, March 25:
NBC: The Monkees, The Danny Thomas Hour, I Spy, Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In
CBS: Petticoat Junction, The Lucy Show, The Andy Griffith Show, Family Affair
ABC: Cowboy in Africa, Rat Patrol, Felony Squad, Kiss Me Kate (A Musical Special)
Tuesday, March 26:
NBC: I Dream of Jeannie, The Jerry Lewis Show, NBC Tuesday Night at the Movies (“The Second Time Around”)
CBS: The Red Skelton Show, Good Morning World, CBS News Hour (“Don’t Count the Candles,” a “photo essay on aging”), The Jonathan Winters Show
ABC: Documentary Special (“How Life Begins”), James Mason Special, N.Y.P.D., The Invaders
Wednesday, March 27:
NBC: The Virginian, Run For Your Life, Kraft Music Hall
CBS: Lost in Space, Green Acres, He & She
ABC: The Avengers, Dream House, The ABC Wednesday Night Movie (“The Marriage-Go-Round”)
Thursday, March 28:
NBC: Daniel Boone, Dragnet 1968, Ironside, The Dean Martin Show
CBS: Daktari, The Carol Burnett Show, CBS Thursday Night Movie (“A Night to Remember”)
ABC: The Second Hundred Years, The Flying Nun, Bewitched, That Girl, Peyton Place, It Takes a Thief
I’m refraining from commenting on these shows, for the most part, but I have to draw attention to “The Second Hundred Years,” one of those great, dopey, mostly forgotten, oddball sit-coms that come along every so often. Monte Markham, 32 years old at the time, plays a gold prospector from around 1900 who is caught in an avalanche and frozen unaged in suspended animation, a la Captain America. He is found, revived, and brought to his son’s house. Arthur O’Connell, who would turn 60 the day after this episode aired, played his son. Oh, and Monte Markham also played his own grandson. This was the last episode that aired as it was cancelled right after. It only lasted one season but I remember it well.
Friday, March 29:
NBC: Tarzan, Hallmark Hall of Fame (James Daly and Kim Hunter in “Give Us, Barabbas”), Star Trek (the wretched episode “Assignment: Earth”)
CBS: The Wild Wild West, Gomer Pyle USMC, Death Valley Days, The CBS Friday Night Movies (“The Hellions”)
ABC: ABC Movie (“The Big Land”), The Guns of Will Sonnett, Judd for the Defense
Interesting, isn’t it, how often the networks filled their schedules with old movies?
I also wanted to point out that Denver’s channel 2 showed repeats of the Twilight Zone and the Alfred Hitchcock Hour from 9:30 to 11:00 every weeknight. (That’s what I would be watching.) Unfortunately, this week, the Twilight Zones are mostly awful 5th season episodes such as “What’s in the Box,” “Black Leather Jackets,” and “I Am the Night – Color Me Black.” The Alfred Hitchcock Hour episodes are somewhat better. I bring Hitchcock up because I’m indulging in a bit of self-promotion. I am currently working on a podcast entitled “Presenting Alfred Hitchcock Presents” in which I will analyze each episode of the series in the order in which they aired. It can’t take me too much longer than this “From the Beginning” gig is taking…can it? The podcast will eventually be on iTunes (I am told) and I will let you know when it arrives.
It’s a cool little collectible. If you’re a fan of 60s TV, it’s fun to be reminded of long gone performers like Marion Lorne and Paul Hartman and the Zsa Zsa and Fouad Said articles are interesting trips in the time machine. It’s fun, too, to read ephemera by long gone columnists like Judith Crist and Cleveland Amory who were very well known in their day. (I love that Judith Crist quote about Doris Day.) But if you’re collecting for Spider-Man, there just isn’t much here. The whole point of the Higgins article seems almost quaint when you consider how tame those 60s super-hero cartoons are in retrospect. The only real fun is to see that Dr. Wertham found something else to stick his nose into. (It is interesting to note that, towards the end of his life, Wertham recanted much of his criticism and even ended up writing a book about fanzines, although, according to Dwight Decker, Wertham “completely misunderstood the nature and purpose of comics fandom.”) If you’re interested in something like this only to collect a little-known Spider-Man illustration, this one is not worth the effort.
It looks like TV Guide is still published today, although I haven’t seen one for a long time. Check out their website. In the meantime, I am giving this issue two webs mostly for the other features, not for "Mickey Mouse, Where Are You?"
Next: I first reviewed it back in 1996. Time to knock off the rust, add the reprint stories, and give it a rating. Marvel Super-Heroes #14.