Monday, May 22, 2023

Sometimes, Remembering Is Enough


Health issues, family issues, and work issues of late have all contributed to a more sporadic posting schedule here, and I apologize for that.  


While trying not to be overwhelmed by the uncertainties of the future, the last thing I should have done was read the latest in Mitchell Hadley’s series of pieces called “Descent Into Hell,” about how television shows of the past foretold so many of the calamities of our present day. Of course it was as insightful and thought provoking as everything on his It’s About TV blog, but at the time the last thing I needed was another reminder of where we are vs. where we were.


However…while some classic television shows told science fiction and fantasy stories that were cynical about our future, there were many others that celebrated the virtues of their present day, usually without a conscious effort to do so. And every time I visit with these shows I once again feel blessed to have been raised in and lived through that moment in history. 



That wasn’t what originally drew me to the classics – I discovered a lot of these shows in reruns when I was still in elementary school – The Dick Van Dyke Show, Bewitched, The Brady Bunch. At that time the shows airing in prime time were not that different from the shows in syndication. The way people lived then – this would be the 1970s – was still the same way the characters in these shows went about their daily lives. Black and white could make some series seem more distant than others, but that fictional world was not far removed from the one I inhabited.


In my college years I found Nick at Nite, and a new (to me) collection of vintage shows that quickly became favorites: Get Smart, The Donna Reed Show, The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis, The Patty Duke Show, all while rediscovering the appeal of Lucy and Mary Tyler Moore and Sgt. Joe Friday. From that point on I could not wait to take an even deeper dive into what the networks served up from the 1950s through the 1970s. 



I now own full runs of more than 85 shows on DVD – Saturday morning cartoons,  courtroom dramas, British imports, sitcoms, variety series, detective shows, escapist fantasies, coming-of-age stories, and shows that are not complete unless every episode includes a song. I still make the occasional purchase but the supply of retro releases on home video has dwindled to the point where I don’t expect that 85 number to reach 100.


When DVDs started coming out I was still just buying and watching these shows because I liked them. That was more than reason enough. I wasn’t seeing a bigger picture – or maybe I recognized it subconsciously but did not ascribe my affection for the shows to a longing in me that was growing with each passing year. 



Now, and really for at least the last ten years, classic television has become far more than a pleasant diversion. It’s a way to experience once again the sights and sounds of our collective past. And it’s sometimes seeing parallels in what is happening in the episode with moments from my own life.


That’s what my school classroom looked like.

That’s the way our home was furnished.

That’s how we rode our bikes to the park.

That’s how Christmas looked and felt in my house.


Of course that’s partly nostalgia – the same warm feeling anyone would get when they hear a song they loved as a kid, or during a visit to their hometown after moving thousands of miles away. But over the last few years in particular, watching these shows has affected me in a way far beyond the usual wistful contentment we all get thinking back on happy memories.


Sometimes I truly believe these shows have actual healing power. I recall a very stressful day not long ago when I watched “The Banjo Players,” an episode of The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet. When it was over, I would swear my blood pressure had lowered to a healthy level, and without any of those side effects announcers rush through in prescription drug commercials. 



You have to be over 40 – and maybe over 50 – for these shows to have the same effect. I would not expect anyone raised on 400 channels and streaming services and Dear White People to see anything they like in them. And that would be fine – you watch your shows, I’ll watch mine; except the more vocal among today's culture warriors are not content with that arrangement, and are determined to eradicate everything they find personally offensive.


And boy do these old shows qualify. They are “problematic,” and “distasteful to contemporary standards.” I’ve read the articles on sites like Collider. 


Such assessments are as short sighted and misguided as so much of what passes for journalism now. That’s another reason why part of me still suspects that the destruction of the classic sitcom homes on Blondie St. feels like more than just a land reallocation project.


So I would not be surprised if many of them disappear from the airwaves over the next ten years, or are shown with warnings about their offensive content. That’s why it’s nice to have the DVDs. That’s where I’ll be, while this deeply unserious nation awaits the next outrageous affirmation from the enlightened herd. Don’t mind me – I’ll be quietly time-travelling through the old shows and remembering. And sometimes remembering is enough.

Thursday, May 11, 2023

When Magazines Mattered


When I was in college and beginning my career as a freelance writer, my biggest goal was to sell an article to a national magazine. Having my work appear in a publication available in bookstores across the country was, to me, a sign of prestige and success. It was an exciting day when I achieved that goal for the first time.


Magazines, like bookstores, are no longer viewed with the same reverence – or even interest. Time Magazine’s “Person of the Year” now carries no more weight than People’s “Sexiest Man Alive.” The February arrival of the Sports Illustrated swimsuit issue no longer raises a young man’s pulse rate in an era when beautiful women in bikinis can be ogled on 10,000 websites.


But in the Comfort TV era magazines were still a big deal, which is why I viewed writing for them as a proud achievement. Back then almost every household subscribed to at least one periodical, whether it was People or TV Guide, Newsweek or National Geographic, Good Housekeeping or Better Homes & Gardens. And there was trust that had been built, often over decades, between reader and publication. We had faith in their credibility, whether they were analyzing the Middle East conflict or sharing a recipe for pumpkin spice cake. 




Magazines were so much a part of life in America that they figured into stories on almost every classic TV series.


Let’s start with The Dick Van Dyke Show, where you’d expect the writing staff of The Alan Brady Show to be no strangers to publicity. But in “My Two Showoffs and Me,” Rob is concerned when a reporter from Manhattan magazine wants to spend a day in the writer’s room for a feature story. That day quickly devolves into an exercise in backstabbing and one-upping, as Rob, Buddy and Sally all try to garner a flattering write-up.


The series gave us a second look at the impact one magazine article can make in “My Husband Is the Best One.” A prestigious publication (Time was clearly the model here) is doing a cover story on Alan Brady, for which Rob is interviewed. Unfortunately Laura is there for the interview, and her non-stop praise of Rob’s contributions to the show are featured in the article – to the point where his name is mentioned more than Alan’s. That results in one of Carl Reiner’s classic scenes as the short-tempered Alan Brady (“Shut up Mel!”)



And if show business veterans would react that way to how their names appear in print, imagine the excitement felt by Carol Brady (no relation to Alan) when she is invited to write a story about her blended family for Tomorrow's Woman magazine in “Tell It Like It Is” (The Brady Bunch). 


Carol’s story chronicles both the joys and the challenges of bringing two families together, and is rejected for focusing too much on the challenges. A second draft, more upbeat but less truthful, is accepted. Tomorrow’s Woman apparently preferred telling readers what they thought they wanted to hear, instead of what is actually happening. There’s still a lot of that going around, unfortunately.


Sunday newspapers used to come with magazines, both local and national. That tradition ended after more than 80 years when Parade ceased publication on a print version in 2022. But when the Partridge family lived in San Pueblo everyone read the local Sunday supplement, especially when Danny contributed an article entitled “The X-Rated Life of Keith Partridge.” This episode, entitled “I Am Curious Partridge,” is one of the series’ funniest. 



Another staple of magazines was the test article, with subjects like “How well do you know your spouse?” On The Patty Duke Show, Patty fails a test measuring how well she’s navigating teenage life, and vows to change her ways (“The Perfect Teenager”). 


Episodes like this typically have our characters following the advice of “experts” and regretting it later - another lesson worth remembering now, given the glut of dubious experts bloviating on cable news networks.


Many Comfort TV shows also thought that a magazine must be an interesting place to work, as it allowed characters to cross paths with the powerful and influential. When they weren’t capturing evildoers as Electra Woman and Dyna Girl, Lori and Judy were chasing down stories for Newsmakers magazine. On My World…And Welcome to It, curmudgeon John Monroe contributed stories and cartoons to The Manhattanite. Shirley Logan of Shirley’s World moved to London to shoot photos for World Illustrated.


On That Girl Donald Hollinger wrote for Newsview, and somehow kept his job despite the high-maintenance demands of his girlfriend. On The Doris Day Show, Doris joins Today’s World magazine as an executive secretary, before eventually being promoted to staff writer and later associate editor. Tom Corbett was a publisher of magazines on The Courtship of Eddie’s Father



Donald was in New York, Doris in San Francisco and Tom in Los Angeles – three of the most expensive cities in America. I miss the days when working for a magazine earned an income that made that possible. Tom in particular was too nice a guy not to pay his writers fairly.


The best magazine-set series was The Name of the Game, an ambitious 90-minute drama featuring Robert Stack, Gene Barry and Tony Franciosa, supported by Susan Saint James in her usual sassy sidekick role. Each episode delved into the workings of a major publishing conglomerate and the stories published in their magazines, a wide-open premise that took viewers into international intrigue, corporate battles, political scandals and celebrity misbehavior. 



None of Charlie’s Angels actually worked for a magazine, but they sometimes pretended to be journalists to get closer to a suspect. In “Consenting Adults,” Kelly tells a mob boss who owns racehorses she’s an editor with “New Sport” magazine. “Never heard of it,” he said. “Our first issue hits the stands in three months,” she replies, and that was enough to get the information she needed.  My guess is that only works if you look like Jaclyn Smith. That approach would never work for Barnaby Jones.


Now that I think of it, I believe Emma Peel used a similar cover in The Avengers, though if memory serves she also moonlighted as a real journalist, among her many other talents. 



Now, of course, the Internet has largely devalued magazines, devalued writers, and eliminated the need for anyone to pay very much for well-written content (Bitter? Not me!) And with the emergence of ChatGPT, freelancers will soon be lucky to find places that even pay ten cents a word. So much for taking Ann Marie out to dinner every night. 

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

My Journey Through 1970s TV: Sunday and Monday Nights, 1972


We’ve reached 1972 in my quest to watch at least one episode from every 1970s prime time series. Let’s start as we did in 1971 with a look back at the first two nights of that season, as numerous shows were carried over (and already discussed) from the previous year. 



Sunday, 1972




The ABC Sunday Night Movie


Once again The FBI anchors ABC’s Sunday lineup, as it has every year since 1965. It was still a top 30 series, as viewers gladly returned for another 26 installments. 




The Wonderful World of Disney

The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie

Night Gallery


Another evening of shows we’ve covered in previous pieces. The only change is the addition of Hec Ramsey to the rotating slate of NBC Mystery features that included Columbo, McCloud and McMillan and Wife. For me it was certainly the one I’d have switched channels on most frequently. I liked Richard Boone in Have Gun, Will Travel, and thought he was well-cast as the dapper and refined gentleman gunfighter Paladin. As Ramsey he is scruffier and less sophisticated, and nowhere near as compelling. A shame – mysteries set in the old West was a novel concept. 




Anna and the King


The Sandy Duncan Show

The New Dick Van Dyke Show



I actually have a memory of watching Anna and the King first-run, even though I was only eight years old at the time. Twenty years after Yul Brynner first played the King of Siam on Broadway, he returned to the role that won him an Oscar, opposite Samantha Eggar as the British teacher Anna Leonowens. 



The show didn’t last, but Brynner would continue to play the King for another decade on stages around the world. The best part of the series for me was the wonderful opening theme by Jerry Goldsmith.



MASH was not an immediate hit when it debuted this year, but it would prove durable enough to survive several timeslot moves and the kind of cast turnover that would cripple most shows. I may be in the minority but I always preferred the later seasons with Hawkeye, BJ and Winchester to those with Hawkeye, Trapper and Frank. I liked Harry Morgan’s Col. Potter more than McLean Stevenson’s Henry Blake as well, and found Margaret more interesting when she became less of a caricature than she was in the show’s early years. 



CBS moved the Sandy Duncan and Dick Van Dyke sitcoms to Sundays from their Saturday schedule, but neither show fared any better. Duncan’s series got the extreme makeover treatment with a new title (so long, Funny Face) and a new supporting cast, including Tom Bosley as her gruff but kindly boss. It wasn’t enough to keep it around beyond this season.



Monday, 1972



The Rookies

Monday Night Football


The Rookies was a first-year hit and the first official Aaron Spelling-Leonard Goldberg production. Spelling carried over his preference for trios of lead characters, which also worked well on The Mod Squad, in this show that followed the careers and personal lives of three rookie cops in southern California. It was well cast with George Stanford Brown (Terry Webster), Michael Ontkean (Willie Gillis) and Sam Melville (Mike Danko) as the officers, but most of the fan mail went to Kate Jackson, who played Officer Danko’s wife, Jill.  



When the show ended ABC and Spelling/Goldberg knew they wanted to capitalize on her audience appeal in another series, which led to the story of three little girls who went to the police academy – we’ll meet them later in our journey through the 1970s.



Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In

The NBC Monday Night Movie


This was the final year for the groundbreaking Laugh-In, which by then had already lost several of its top stars. You don’t replace Goldie Hawn with Barbara Sharma and expect viewers not to notice.




Here’s Lucy

The Doris Day Show

The New Bill Cosby Show


CBS programmed Mondays with three popular returning hits, followed by a new variety series starring Bill Cosby. That show helped launch Lola Falana to Vegas headliner status, but it didn’t do much for its host. That same year, however, CBS introduced a hit Saturday morning series, also hosted by Cosby, featuring a group of friends in Philadelphia known as the Junkyard Gang, famously led by Fat Albert. I know there are those who won’t go near anything by Cosby now, but give Fat Albert and The Cosby Kids its due: the show lasted for a decade, combined education and entertainment with the grace  of a PBS series, and represented a significant advancement in multiculturalism in children’s television. 




Two nights into 1972 and no shows added to the “Missed” list! We’re off to a good start. Let’s see what Tuesday brings..


Shows Missed:

The Don Knotts Show (1970)

San Francisco International Airport (1970)

Nancy (1970)

The Headmaster (1970)

The Man and the City (1971)

The Chicago Teddy Bears (1971)

Thursday, April 20, 2023

There Goes the Neighborhood


It’s not a real street. You won’t find it indexed on Google Maps, or on any postal carrier’s route.


The houses too aren’t real. They look charming from the outside, with their freshly mowed lawns and white picket fences, but if you opened the front door on any of them, you’d be stepping into an empty shell – no furniture, no carpet, no appliances. Houses, not homes – no one ever really lived in any of them.


But for the first generations of Americans that came of age with television, this was a street as familiar as the one where they grew up. It was a place they visited regularly for years, even decades, often several times a week. It was warm, and welcoming, and special. 


It was the place where Bud Anderson worked on his jalopy, while his father offered advice on life that was sometimes heeded, sometimes not. 



It was where the Partridge Family rehearsed for their next club date.


It was where Dennis the Menace gave Mr. Wilson one headache after another.


It’s where Major Nelson returned home, wondering what chaos Jeannie was about to conjure when he stepped inside. 



It’s where Mary Stone’s boyfriends paused on the front porch after a date, hoping for a kiss goodnight.


It’s where Gidget grabbed her surfboard before heading to the beach.


It’s where Mrs. Kravitz spotted so many strange goings-on at the Stephens residence, across the street at Morning Glory Circle. 



All of those things happened there. Maybe the moments were no more real than the houses themselves, but they still exist in our collective memories, in a place that blended fantasy and reality. If classic television – if Comfort TV – had a dwelling place, this street was it.


And soon it will be gone. This week, the process of tearing down the homes began.


On the Warner Bros. Ranch in Burbank, it was designated as Blondie St., after a series of popular films that were filmed there. It was never part of the studio’s tours, so most of us never had the chance to have their pictures taken in front of these homes or just stroll down the sidewalk and soak in the nostalgic rush. A few lucky fans with a connection managed to get there – I know quite a few of them. I was not as fortunate. I had an invitation extended to me back in 2014, but before I could schedule a visit the WB employee who contacted me was laid off, and no one else filled her position.


Why is this happening? If we are to believe the few sources even bothering to report on this, it’s about money. The land where these structures sit can be repurposed for soundstages that will contribute more to the studio’s bottom line.


That is probably the motivation. I have no reason to think otherwise. But given so many other events that have happened around the nation over the past ten years or so, I can’t not see this as something else as well – the destruction of what these places represent.


What values were promoted by the shows set in these homes? What types of families lived there? What did they look like, and how did they live? What lessons did their kids learn at school? Did they understand the difference between right and wrong? Between men and women? Were they patriotic? Were they religious? Did they value work? Did they live in a place with dances, and socials, local ball leagues, community singing, and parades? 



If you grew up with these shows as I did, and if you still watch them as I do, you know the answer. And I doubt that those responsible for producing the television shows now emerging from that studio will give a second thought to eradicating any reminders of that time.


I wrote this back in 2014:


There’s a reason we bestow landmark status on exceptional places. It elevates them above mere property controlled by a corporation, and protects them against the whims of the bureaucrat, the robber baron and the unenlightened. Blondie Street is a place to walk in the footsteps of television’s most beloved characters. It has the ability to reconnect adults with the blissful days of their childhoods.


Perhaps that’s not sufficient for the kind of safekeeping afforded to the Ryman Auditorium or the Old North Church. But if the home of Millard Fillmore can make the cut, so can the home of Samantha Stephens. 


That’s what I thought then. I still think so now. But now it’s too late, or soon will be. Empty facades on a sham street, some will say – who will miss them?


I will. Very much.



Thursday, April 13, 2023

The Unshakeables: John Monroe Welcomes You Into His World


A television show succeeds if it holds your attention for the time it’s on. But some episodes stay with you long after the credits roll. The emotions they generate do not dissipate for several minutes – sometimes several hours. And when you think about them months or even years later, you find the imprint they left on your mind remains as formidable as ever.

These are the “Unshakeables.”


“I hate women – oh, I know I married one of them, but there was never anything else around.”


“I hate children – especially ours.”


Those are quotes from the first episode of a situation comedy. If you were to guess, you’d probably consider Married With Children, or one of the multitudes of 21st century series in which self-important families freely express their hostility toward each other and the dreadful hand life dealt them. But you would be incorrect.


The episode in question debuted in 1969, when families on TV still had more in common with the Bradys than the Bundys. Maybe that’s one reason why this particular show didn’t last. It was called My World…and Welcome To It, and it was billed as a series “based on stories, inspirational pieces, cartoons, and things that go bump in the night by James Thurber.”  



At 7:30 pm on September 15, viewers first met John Monroe (William Windom), as he strolled onto their screens in front of a crudely drawn black-and-white illustration of his Connecticut home. He introduces himself as a cartoonist and writer for The Manhattanite, a magazine modeled after the sophisticated urban snobbery of The New Yorker, where many of Thurber’s stories and illustrations appeared.


John is in no hurry to arrive home. “I don’t get along with any of them,” he says of his wife Ellen (Joan Hotchkis) and young daughter, Lydia (Lisa Gerritsen). Pausing at the front door he resigns himself to his fate: “I suppose I might as well go in – I don’t have enough money for a motel.”


The episode is appropriately titled “Man Against the World.”


Heady stuff for the time, and not just in its freewheeling mix of animation and live action that still seems innovative 50 years later. But apparently viewers were not yet ready for such a unique presentation. Maybe they turned it off after that opening scene, wondering why anyone would want to spend the next 30 minutes listening to a gloomy curmudgeon. Or maybe they just preferred to stick with Gunsmoke on CBS. Even now, after many lesser one-season-and-out shows have found a new audience on DVD, My World and Welcome To It remains out of circulation.


The first audience to embrace the series consisted of those who worked in the television industry, and understood how rare it was for something truly different to break into a prime time schedule. They recognized a kindred spirit in John Monroe, and the series built around him by writer-director Melville Shavelson. It was a celebration of the artist’s creativity, and an acknowledgement of the sacrifices creators make to bring something special into the world.


John is happiest when he is at his drawing board; family obligations take him away from that, out of the limitless realm of his thoughts and into a mundane world of teacher conferences and dull dinner conversation. Whatever invades the sanctity of his attic workspace is an annoyance. 



Even when John is away from his sketchpad, his mind wanders into fantasies that serve as a coping mechanism in situations he’d rather avoid. Forced to meet Lydia’s teacher, he imagines her as a beautiful young woman who tries to seduce him. When Ellen says “Yes, indeedy,” a phrase that makes him cringe (we all have them), he pictures her hanging from the living room chandelier – and smiles.


We know he is good at his job. His work appears in prestigious publications, and affords his family a comfortable existence. Does he need to be the way he is to keep that going? That seems to be the reality, and it is one to which his family has adjusted.  When Ellen speaks to Lydia about her father, she says that allowances must be made for the eccentricities and social awkwardness of creative people.


Anyone who has worked 16 hours a day trying to come up with a new idea for a story or a song or a script, as the clock ticks down toward a deadline, would appreciate how those allowances are considered. Those in television understood that reality all too well, which is one reason why My World and Welcome To It won the Emmy for Best Comedy, and William Windom was also honored as Best Actor.


And if more viewers stuck around for that first episode they’d have discovered that, thankfully, we do see that there’s hope for John, particularly in salvaging his relationship with his daughter, which until now was based on an understanding that neither gets the other, and they’re fine with that.


At first it seems an impossible situation. Usually in a parent-child dynamic where one is clinical and one is fanciful, it’s the parent that’s all business and the kid that can’t focus on serious subjects. But it’s the opposite here, and here the series also benefits from casting Lisa Gerritsen as Lydia, as she was always one of those kid actors that projected a maturity beyond her years. 



When Ellen tells John to help Lydia with her history homework, the awkwardness in her bedroom is palpable. At first they fall back into their standard positions – Lydia suggests he just sit there for a while and then leave, and she’ll tell mother he was helpful. “Excellent idea,” he responds.


But then Lydia complains about how dull it is to study General Ulysses S. Grant and the close of the Civil War. “There was nothing dull about Ulysses S. Grant,” John responds, and he whips out his sketchpad and draws the scene of General Lee’s surrender at Appomattox. That becomes a fantasy sequence in which a drunk Grant doesn’t know he won the war and offers his sword to Lee. 



Lydia laughs at the story, and will soon write a composition based on that scenario that will get both her and John in trouble – but at least this time they are on the same side. “Imagination,” he tells her after finishing his yarn, “is what makes life tolerable.” 


And that’s the key line to the whole piece. 


As he leaves they smile at each other – perhaps for the first time. It was a moment well earned by a smart script and a talented cast.


William Windom would continue to make Monroe’s difficult traits more palatable than they would play from a less likeable actor. 


Some of his misogyny was toned down in subsequent episodes as well, but apparently not enough to allow one of television’s most original shows to survive beyond 26 episodes. Our loss, and one that will be felt most deeply by those oddball creative types that see a universe of possibilities in a blank sheet of paper. 


I'm no Thurber, but I like to think I'm one of them. 

Thursday, March 30, 2023

My Journey Through 1970s TV: Saturday Nights, 1971


Time to close out 1971 in my quest to watch at least one episode of every 1970s prime time series. Once again we have a varied batch of hits and misses to review, including a Partridge Family spinoff, a British import with Roger Moore and Tony Curtis, new shows featuring Sandy Duncan and Dick Van Dyke, and our introduction to a guy from Queens named Archie Bunker.  




All In the Family

Funny Face

The New Dick Van Dyke Show

The Mary Tyler Moore Show

Mission: Impossible


So controversial was All In the Family when it debuted that CBS ran a disclaimer before the first episode to prepare viewers for what was to come:


“The program you are about to see is All in the Family. It seeks to throw a humorous spotlight on our frailties, prejudices and concerns. By making them a source of laughter, we hope to show — in a mature fashion — just how absurd they are.”


Perhaps you too are old enough to remember when television viewers were deemed capable of responding to provocative content “in a mature fashion.”


The show was not an immediate hit, but by season’s end it became the top-rated series on television, a position it would hold for five years.



The Tiffany Network owned Saturday nights this season, as it did throughout much of the 1970s. While the Sandy Duncan sitcom Funny Face is not remembered as a hit, it finished the season ranked #8, with The Mary Tyler Moore Show at #10 and The New Dick Van Dyke Show at #18.


I mentioned Funny Face once before in this blog, in a piece about shows that were canceled despite top ten ratings. The series was essentially a west coast version of That Girl – Duncan played Sandy Stockwell, who leaves a small town in Illinois headed for Los Angeles with dreams of a career as an actress. At the time I hadn’t had a chance to watch it, but since then a couple of episodes have turned up online. They were about what I expected – Duncan was delightful but she didn’t get much help from pedestrian scripts and a forgettable supporting cast. 



That said, I can’t say I didn’t enjoy it. In the episode “Dream a Little Recurring Dream of Me,” Sandy has the same odd dream every night about a strange date with a French man, and later finds elements of the dream starting to come true. She plays the reactions to the situation wonderfully, especially in some slapstick moments with Cesare Danova as her French date. Coincidentally, Danova also played a similar dashing foreign character in an episode of That Girl (“The Face In the Shower Room Door”). These little classic TV connections are another reason I so enjoy visiting and revisiting these shows.


CBS tried some clever scheduling by running the Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore shows back-to-back, after audiences previously fell for both of them as husband and wife. I’ve seen several episodes of The New Dick Van Dyke Show, which barely registers now on anyone’s nostalgia-meter. But 72 episodes is not a bad run, and I always like seeing Hope Lange, who plays Dick’s wife. Episodes like “Queasy Rider” gave Van Dyke opportunities for some hilarious physical comedy moments. But I think the biggest problem with The New Dick Van Dyke Show is that it wasn’t the old Dick Van Dyke Show, and too many viewers wondered what Rob Petrie was doing in Arizona. 



As The Mary Tyler Moore Show was entering its peak seasons, Mission: Impossible was beginning to wind down toward cancelation. Episodes like “The Tram” recall the series’ glory days, but too often now there are stories where Phelps’ brilliant plans go awry, forcing the team to improvise. That’s not what made this team of professionals popular in the first place.



The Partners

The Good Life

The NBC Saturday Night Movie


CBS’s ratings dominance destroyed the competition, but thankfully the losses were nothing to weep over.


The Partners starred Don Adams, one year after the end of Get Smart, once again bumbling his way toward foiling criminal plots and frustrating an exasperated boss. I found watching it to be a sad and uncomfortable experience – here was an actor who created one of the most iconic characters of the 1960s, but then that moment passed and it’s as if no one told him. There was really no chance to recreate what had once worked so well within this premise and with this cast, and I felt sorry for him as I watched him try. 



In The Good Life Larry Hagman and Donna Mills played Albert and Jane Miller, a middle-class married couple that take jobs as a butler and cook for wealthy industrialist Charles Dutton (David Wayne). Just 15 episodes were made before everyone moved on to more successful projects. 


I’ve only seen one episode, entitled “A Tremendous Sense of Loyalty,” in which the Millers reveal they made up the references in their resumes; that becomes a problem when one of the millionaires they listed as a former employer is coming to town. 


It wasn’t terrible, but if this episode was typical of the show’s overall tone then for Larry Hagman it was nearly as big a retread as The Partners was for Don Adams. All of the nervous tics he perfected on I Dream of Jeannie are back as he tries to fast-talk and fumble his way out of another embarrassing situation. This installment was also boosted by guest star Bob Cummings, always slightly offbeat and smarmy but in an appealing way.



Getting Together

ABC Movie of the Weekend

The Persuaders


“A Knight In Shining Armor,” the last episode in the first season of The Partridge Family, introduced Bobby Sherman as Bobby Conway, a struggling songwriter who is great with music but terrible with lyrics. The Partridges introduce him to Lionel Poindexter (Wes Stern), an oddball who can’t hold a job but who can write beautiful words to Bobby’s music.


What happened to this unlikely duo next was to be explored in the spinoff series Getting Together. But when I finally watched a couple of episodes many years later, I was surprised to find that the show was nothing like the premise that was promised by the pilot. Gone were all of Lionel’s personality quirks and eccentricities. Even stranger, neither show I saw contained any reference to two guys trying to make it in the music business (though apparently we hear a song from Sherman in every show).



In “Memories Are Made of This,” the boys volunteer for scientific experiments to raise enough money to attend a party. That same plot was used earlier on another

forgotten series called Hey Landlord, and then later with much greater success on a classic episode of Laverne & Shirley. I liked “Blue Christmas” more, about our heroes and their neighbors (played by sitcom stalwarts Jack Burns and Pat Carroll) spending a miserable Christmas in a remote rustic cabin – but then I’m a sucker for holiday shows.


I was certain I was going to like The Persuaders, so it was really surprising when I found I didn’t. Tony Curtis and Roger Moore play wealthy partners, one an American with blue collar roots, the other from the British gentry (I’m sure you can figure out which was which). Together they occasionally solve crimes, despite having no experience in that field, and often wind up making bad situations worse.


I don’t know what went wrong here, at least for me. I loved another British series in which two stylish partners exchange whimsical banter while bodies drop dead around them, but Moore and Curtis are not Patrick Macnee and Diana Rigg.  The two stars also reportedly didn’t get along, which likely hurt any chemistry that might have made their scenes click. I will say it’s often a beautiful series to look at, with stunning locations and bold, colorful sets, but try as I might it just didn’t do anything for me. 



The Persuaders (I’m not even sure who they were supposed to be persuading) was a hit in several European markets, but never caught on in the colonies. Its timeslot likely didn’t help; I always question the decision to schedule any series after a movie in prime time, when most people are ready to switch off the set and do something else.


No new shows added to the “Missed” list! So on we go to 1972…


Shows Missed:

The Don Knotts Show (1970)

San Francisco International Airport (1970)

Nancy (1970)

The Headmaster (1970)

The Man and the City (1971)

The Chicago Teddy Bears (1971)