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Thursday, August 11, 2016

F TROOP Fridays: TV GUIDE, August 13-19, 1966

Once again lifting what is a regular feature by Mitchell Hadley at his excellent blog It's About TV, I'm going to take another excursion into his territory for this week's edition of F Troop Fridays with a look back at another classic issue of TV Guide.

It was 50 years ago Saturday that the great Larry Storch became the second star of F TROOP to make the cover of the venerable U.S. television weekly (with co-star Melody Patterson). 

F Troop was riding high at the end of its first season, the first ABC show to survive the time slot on Tuesdays at 9 PM ET opposite CBS' seemingly invincible Red Skelton Show since The Rifleman accomplished the feat in 1961.  Michael Fessier Jr. profiled the man producer Hy Averback called "our gravy comedian" for The World of Larry Storch.

Fessier caught up with Storch and the rest of the F Troop cast during filming of the second season opener, The Singing Mountie. Fessier notes that the comedian seems to have it made at age 43: "a berth on a hit series, an $85,000 dream house, a lovely and devoted wife". 

Forrest Tucker, profiled by the magazine the previous December, has the memorable quote about his lifelong friend and co-star: "Larry lives in a world belonging to Larry Storch; when you get lucky he lets you in."  Fessier goes back to Storch's show-biz beginnings as a boy impressionist in New York, noted for his ability to do character actors of his youth like Guy Kibbee and Charles Grapewin; later, Storch could approximate radio star Frank Morgan so well that he often did the show for Morgan while the star was nowhere near the studio!

The year 1960 is listed as a "career nadir" for Storch, with a stalled career and a problem with alcohol--something that Tucker would also battle with years later.  (It was a rare year without imdb credits for Larry, save for WHO WAS THAT LADY? which was shot in 1959.)  Enter Norma Booth, credited with "shaping him up", taking over management of his career, and marrying Larry in 1961. 

L to R: Larry Storch, Melody Patterson and Norma Storch in 2003

(Incidentally, there's no mention of Norma Storch's bi-racial daughter June Cross in the article, no doubt a sad sign of the turbulent era.  Ms. Cross told her story in the 1996 Frontline documentary Secret Daughter, which she later turned into a book.)

There is, however, an interview with another lifelong Storch friend, Tony Curtis, then still riding high in Hollywood and a co-star with his old Navy friend in four features, including the prior year's THE GREAT RACE and the aforementioned WHO WAS THAT LADY?, mentioned in the article. 

Storch in THE GREAT RACE (1965) as Texas Jack

The second feature article is Edith Efron's TV Game Shows: America's Great Spectator Sport.  Just eight years after the infamous quiz show scandals, all appears to be forgiven, with 32 hours of programming weekly, mostly during daytime.  Predictably, Efron laments the failure of more "intellectual" programs like The Young Set in daytime and 1963-64's East Side/West Side in prime time.  Her article, featuring comments by mainstays like Match Game's Gene Rayburn, Allen Ludden of Password and producer Mark Goodson, isn't a flattering one, but fifty years later, it's safe to say that the venerable game show still isn't going anywhere anytime soon.

Picture feature They're In the Air--As Well as On It profiles the numerous prime time stars who own and fly their own airplanes.  Robert Lansing of Twelve O'Clock High and Lansing's successor, Paul Burke, both fly, as does Daniel Boone icon Fess Parker.  James Franciscus, late of Mr. Novak, owns a $35,000 twin engine Piper. 

This isn't a "males only" club, we learn that Peyton Place star Susan Oliver is a licensed pilot who sees flying as "a nebulous escape from this world we live in".  The four page feature has one glaring exclusion: Bob Cummings, whose flying was featured prominently in three of his series.  A flight instructor offscreen, Cummings' acrimonious departure from My Living Doll in 1965 ended his long run as a prime time sitcom star. 

At 29, singer Nancy Wilson is already a Grammy winning chart topper away from the tube and a frequent variety guest on it, and Singing Fashions features her in four outfits designed by Chuck Howard for those appearances. 

Of course, I have to give Nancy Wilson an extra picture. 

You're welcome.

Another nice surprise is in store on page 36: two pages on Professor Jerry McNeely, who teaches TV writing at the University of Wisconsin and is also Moonlighting for Fun and Profit.  In this case, "those who can't do, teach" is obliterated: McNeely is a decade into his run as one of TV's busiest writers.  His career started in 1956, the same year he joined UW's faculty.  Ten years later, TV Guide is crowning him "television's numero uno writer in Madison, Wisconsin and a radius of a thousand miles in any direction therein".   

Professor Jerry McNeely with students in 1987
A high-minded intellectual writing for "a maligned TV wasteland" (the writer's words, not mine or McNeely's, and this article isn't credited)?  McNeely admits that he yearns for "more challenging" opportunities, but takes the ones TV has to offer and does the best he can.  From my vantage point, ya did quite well, Teach!  McNeely's work for The Twilight Zone, The Eleventh Hour, and Mr. Novak is mentioned, as is the fact that he contributed more scripts to Dr. Kildare (in its final weeks on the air) than any other solo writer. 

McNeely resigned from UW in 1975 to write fulltime and kept selling teleplays, including the TV movies SOMETHING FOR JOEY and FIGHTING BACK: THE STORY OF ROCKY BLEIER.  His career was cut short by a diagnosis of Parkinson's disease in the 1990's: he died in 2014.


It's mid-August, so the listings are full of reruns, sports.....and the premiere of a highly acclaimed documentary from a legendary screenwriter and his Emmy-winning brother:

Both The Ed Sullivan Show and Hollywood Palace air this week, so let's follow the example set by It's About TV and compare lineups:

Hollywood Palace: Victor Borge is your host, with comic professor Irwin Corey (who, incidentally, just turned 102 on July 29th!), choreographer-dancer Peter Genarro, the Kim Sisters and the Kim Brothers, and Irish trapeze artist Gale Shawn.

Ed Sullivan: as you can see above, Ed welcomes Jimmy Durante, comic Myron Cohen, Petulia Clark, contortionist Gitta Morelly, Franco Corelli, Dorothy Kirsten, and the Animals (featuring, of course, Eric Burdon).

While Professor Corey is legendary, so was the great Myron Cohen, who appeared on Sullivan's show 34 times.  Doesn't make him Wayne and Shuster, but obviously, Ed liked him.  (Cohen died in 1986 at age 83.)  I probably would take Borge over Durante, but it's close there too.  It isn't so close elsewhere IMO: Sullivan wins with a considerable overall edge in star power. 

A fitting rerun for a week that featured Larry Storch on the cover, as El Diablo gets an encore on Tuesday's F Troop.  The first of three episodes to give him multiple roles, with five show-stopping Storches this time out--two of them female roles.  I haven't gotten around to reviewing this installment yet; nice to get the reminder that I still have 54 F Troop Fridays to go.

Just in case you were thinking that summer was all reruns: earlier on Tuesday the 16th, at 7:30 ET, NBC aired The Angry Voices of Watts, with A FACE IN THE CROWD writer Budd Schulberg narrating and his brother Stuart producing.  Budd had established the subject of the documentary, the Watts Writers' Workshop, in the wake of the August 1965 Watts Riots.  Jimmy Sherman and Sonora McKellar were among the poets presenting their work.

 A legacy still celebrated, four decades later

A short time after The Angry Voices of Watts aired, contributor Harry E. Dolan Jr. sold a teleplay for NBC's fall premiere, The Hero.  This initial sale kick-started Dolan's career as a TV writer; his original drama Losers Weepers (starring a young Yaphet Kotto and also produced by Stuart Schulberg) soon followed in Febuary 1967.  Dolan kept writing and selling scripts until his untimely death in 1981; his later credits included multiple teleplays for Diahann Carroll's hit Julia.  Johnie Scott also benefited from prime time exposure: his article My Home Is In Watts made the October 1966 issue of Harper's magazine.

There's plenty of sports amidst the reruns, with major league baseball teams gearing up for the stretch run and plenty of exhibition football from both the NFL and the AFL.  Friday night finds Johnny Unitas' Colts (coached by Don Shula) battling Charley Johnson's Cardinals.


Goodson-Todman Productions reportedly has six shows pending with NBC for 1967-68, but it doesn't appear that any of them eventually made the prime time schedule.  The only one listed is Uncle Helen, starring My Favorite Martian star Ray Walston.

With The Dick Van Dyke Show ending its run, Morey Amsterdam is guesting on a Daktari in the fall.  The episode, The Chimp Who Cried Wolf, aired on December 27th.  We can safely assume that DON'T WORRY, WE'LL THINK OF A TITLE hadn't done much for his big screen prospects.

Unsold pilot The Two of Us airs August 29th on CBS.  Billy Mumy and Barry Livingston (My Three Sons) star.  Pat Crowley is also listed in the cast; I would assume that this was filmed long before 1966, since Crowley was starring in Please Don't Eat the Daisies for NBC from 1965-67.

Milton Berle is lining up the guest stars for his comeback series for ABC in the fall.  A closer inspection reveals the star studded lineup is heavy with Uncle Miltie's fellow ABC stars: Phyllis Diller (The Pruitts of Southampton), Adam West (Batman), David Janssen (The Fugitive) and Van Williams (The Green Hornet).

Finally, it wouldn't be a 1966 magazine without a cigarette ad!

And, Nancy Wilson, one more time:

This wraps up the F Troop trilogy of cover articles, but it won't be our last retro TV Guide review.  Pinky swear.  There's plenty of non-cover profiles of series stars (Melody Patterson, Edward Everett Horton) left to explore, and other TV Guide cover articles for our other ongoing classic TV episode guides here at the Section. 

'Til next time, do remember that you can get your vintage TV Guide fix weekly (every Saturday, as a matter of fact) at It's About TV.


Gary R. Peterson said...

What a packed post! I was able to enjoy a full cup of coffee while reading it. I love Larry Storch and you stirred up many good memories of his roles, like Charlie the drunk on CAR 54, WHERE ARE YOU? which is bittersweet knowing he was battling alcoholism around that time. I recently saw Tony Curtis and Storch together in the 1963 Gregory Peck film CAPTAIN NEWMAN, MD. (But my favorite Storch-Curtis pairing is in the PERSUADERS episode "Angie, Angie" with Storch in a convincing dramatic role.) I like the TV Guide look-backs and learning from your encyclopedic knowledge of classic television! Thanks for brightening my Saturday morning, which have been dim ever since SUPERFRIENDS was cancelled.

Hal said...

Thanks, Gary! Mr. Storch had so many great guest starring roles over the years; loved his appearances on BILKO and CAR 54 both (Hiken knew who to hire, didn't he?). I remember really liking CAPTAIN NEWMAN M.D. too, need to see it again. Thanks again for reading and for the kind words.

didi i said...
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