Thursday, September 13, 2018

Thrifty Acres: TV Time In 1965

Hello! Once upon a time, network television was the only game in town: no cable channels, no original programming from online sources, etc. So ABC could promote its 1965 programming line-up with a 10-page ad in Reader's Digest:

Today is a Thursday, but it is September 13th, so what better day to show off what TV watchers could expect from ABC back then? 

How about "The most exciting of all television seasons. A season of great entertainment. Seven nights a week. All year long. On ABC." 

Sounds rather grandiose, doesn't it? But after all, it was the debut of "adorable newcomer" Sally Field, in Gidget:

Gidget fell under this heading:

"The excitement of high comedy", which also included shows that became rerun staples for decades: McHale's Navy, F Troop (new in 1965), Ozzie and Harriet, The Patty Duke Show, The Donna Reed Show, Bewitched, The Flintstones and The Addams Family. But as I'd never heard of The Farmer's Daughter, O.K. Crackerby! or Tammy, I assume those weren't nearly as successful. Still, obviously a line-up that stood the test of time!

Maybe you'd rather have "The excitement of great drama"? Then these are the shows for you:

Of this grouping, Ben Casey, Peyton Place, The Fugitive, and The Big Valley stand out as shows people talked out. The Big Valley was new in 1965, and newcomer Lee Majors was on the show. 

And there's another new show:

 The FBI, starring Efrem Zimbalist, Jr. I was 5 1/2 when this show debuted, but it lasted through 1974, so I do remember watching this one! 

Another new crime-oriented show in 1965, although one that wasn't as successful, was Honey West. The ad blurb for the show is cringe-worthy today: "Wait till you see Anne Francis as Honey West, private eye-ful if there ever was one". Ugh. I'll admit that Ms. Francis was attractive: 

However, I don't think that "eye-ful" remark would go over too well these days. By the way, the show only lasted one season. 

Moving along, we now come to:

"The excitement of music...and movies". Shindig was "...entertainment as its go-goest!" This was the 2nd season of the pop music-oriented show, but it didn't last beyond January of 1966. 

Of course, other musical genres had a home on ABC as well, like The Jimmy Dean Show for country music fans. I wonder how many people today now associate that name with sausage and other breakfast foods? But Jimmy Dean had a long career in music and in television. 

The Lawrence Welk Show had its fans too, of course. Fun personal fact: my parents, my in-laws, and the parents of my two brothers-in-law were all about the same age. Yet out of these four sets of parents, mine were the only ones who never watched Lawrence Welk and his gang. Because of this, I grew up thinking hardly anyone had watched his show in the 1960's. I was quite surprised to learn that wasn't the case, at least among the families whose sons married into mine!

The King Family sounded interesting: "Thirty-seven (count 'em) thirty seven singing, dancing sisters, husbands, nephews, cousins and aunts in a warm, wonderful half-hour variety show". Quite a family indeed! This was actually the second season - and last - of the show, so the 39 shows produced just about equaled the number of people who were on the show. 

ABC didn't have much to say about movies, just a list of some that would be aired (North To Alaska, The Hustler) and some of the stars in them (James Stewart, Helen Hayes, John Wayne, Paul Newman). Nevertheless, "Save Sunday nights for movies on ABC!"

And, let's not forget:

"The special excitement of specials...and the thrill of sports." The dapper gent in the top of the photo is Rex Harrison, who was set to show off Paris on TV. An animated version of Alice in Wonderland was going to appear over the holidays, and Robert Preston was going to tour the US in six appearances of This Proud Land.

Sports programming featured pro bowling, NBA basketball ("pro basketball at its best, brought close to you by ABC's imaginative techniques" - I assume they meant camera work here), baseball, football specials, golf and the US Tennis Championship. 

"Not a week goes by without outstanding sports on ABC." But what I remember most about ABC sports is this show:

Hooray for Wide World of Sports! "The thrill of victory and the agony of defeat". I remember watching this show with my brother. For some reason, motocross was one of my favorites (I still enjoy watching it, which my husband can't understand.)

Wild World of Sports ran for an incredible length of time: April 1961 to January 1998. Yet it had  been conceived as only a single-season summer replacement series for that first year! 

This show made the sporting world big news, but naturally ABC didn't want us to forget its news division either:

"The excitement of world-wide news". And who's the man at the news desk at the top?

Why, it's none other than "dynamic, fast-moving Peter Jennings with the News". Dynamic he might have been, but apparently his first stint at the anchor desk didn't go well, and he became a foreign correspondent in 1968. But eventually he triumphed at that earlier position: ten years after that, he returned as one of three ABC news anchors, and became sole anchor in 1983. He remained at that helm until his death in 2005. 

So who's this guy, and why is there a bottle on the wall near his head? Silly you, didn't you know about ABC's "...superbly informative reporting of the news from space...Jules Bergman, ABC's Science Editor, and the entire news team with their continuing coverage of the Gemini flights". So you see, that's not a bottle above Bergman's head, it's a model of a Gemini spacecraft. Looks pretty cheesy compared to the images we see from space now, but that's the best they could do back then. 

Bergman would have been plenty busy covering Gemini flights, as there were seven missions in a little over a year's time after this Reader's Digest issue came out. And there was plenty more space news to cover in the years ahead, which Bergman did through 1987. So from unmanned space flights to man landing on the moon to the space shuttle program, he saw a lot. And I bet eventually he didn't have a bottle-like object above his head during his segments! 

Back to the general news, in 1965 Bob Young did the weekend news. And for the ladies, "Marlene Sanders and News with the Woman's Touch, weekday afternoons". That sounds awfully lightweight, but Sanders was actually a trailblazer for women in television. She had many firsts in her long career, such as being among the first women war correspondents in Vietnam. After joining ABC in 1964, she became the first woman to anchor a major network's news show when the regular anchor became ill. And eventually she became the first woman vice-president of ABC's news division. I have no idea if "News with the Woman's Touch" was actually lightweight, but clearly Sanders' career was anything but that!

Well, I think this is enough of TV Time in 1965. I enjoyed the look back - but I think I'll go read a book now!



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