The First Annual Kitty Awards


On Television THE FIRST ANNUAL KITTY AWARDS BY MARVIN KITMAN LADIES AND gentlemen of the television industry members of the press, my fellow TV viewers On the occasion of the release of the...

...On Television THE FIRST ANNUAL KITTY AWARDS BY MARVIN KITMAN LADIES AND gentlemen of the television industry members of the press, my fellow TV viewers On the occasion of the release of the networks' 1972-73 tall schedules, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all the people responsible It is with some relief that I can do this The schedules were released almost two months late this spring, leading to ugly rumors that the fall season had been canceled due to lack ot interest "The plan was just to keep rerunning the old programs m September," explained one reliably informed network source, "and nobody would have known the difference But the boys got cold feet at the last minute " First I want to single out the 1,577 men and women of the Federal Communications Commission (not counting the seven commissioners) whose job it has been since 1934 to regulate the airwaves in the public interest Without their continuing inattention to such petty details of broadcasting as programming, the new schedule would never have been possible The commissioners ?Charlotte Reid, Robert E Lee, H Rex Lee, Sherman Unger, Robert T Bartley, Nicholas Johnson, and Dean Burch (chairman)—deserve special mention for their determination, during varying terms in office, not to watch television shows Actually, Commissioner Johnson is m a separate category, he watches TV, but only the commercials Allow me also to express my appreciation to those government officials whose vision was responsible for the establishment of so fine a supervisory agency I don't remember anymore who they were, but I recall it was Secretary of Commerce Herbert Hoover who in 1924 told the American people "It is inconceivable that we should allow so great a possibility for service, for news, for entertainment, for education, and for vital commercial purposes to be drowned m advertising chatter " Hoover was some prophet Next I wish to thank from the bottom of my heart the Senate Commerce subcommittee on communications (formally known as "Baron von Pastore and His Flying Circus"), which guards the public interest in broadcasting as diligently as the Air Force, Army, Navy, and Coast Guard patrol the border with Canada Baron von Pastore is a man the networks fear, for his subcommittee has the power to change things like licensing rules Periodically this Ace zooms over Washington in his Sopwith Camel, with scarf flying, and drops verbal bombs that send the network executives scurrying under the hearing room tables He cuts a dashing figure while probing television excesses—like too much violence on the crime shows —but nothing changes Not that the networks are altogether unresponsive It is said the real reason they delayed the fall lists this year is that the Baron had scheduled hearings on TV violence for the precise time the networks expected to be basking in the glow of commendation that usually follows the announcement of their programs They didn't want the atmosphere poisoned by the Baron's explosion when he saw all the new crime shows slated for 1972-73 The question is why the networks aren't moi e responsive One problem involves a communications breakdown If Pastore came out pomt-blank and asked the networks about the increase m crime shows, they wouldn't even know what he was talking about There are no crime shows on TV only action-adventure" shows If any senator were to ask network executives to explain the rise of violence in these action-adventure shows, their answer would undoubtedly be "Life itself is full of violence " That may be true But people also go to the bathroom, and we don't see a rise in that kind of true-to-hfe activity on TV Still, the networks insist, a senator should be grateful for the action-adventure shows They are escapist entertainment designed to take TV viewers' minds off the reality of all the violence in American society A guy who has just been mugged on his way home from work, a woman who has just been raped in the basement laundry room—shouldn't they be given the chance to escape from reality with a little fantasy7 There was so much violence on the air last season that some observers believed the network programmers had gone berserk One analyst suggested this excess may have been the networks' way of saying Stop us Senator Pastore, put us away before we kill everything that was good on TV with our insatiable lust for mayhem and gore Investigate us, for we know not what we do " Alas, Baron von Pastore's latest bombing run on Capitol Hill (the week of March 20) only resulted in the network heads gomg back to New York and canceling a few violent action-adventure shows Curiously, these turned out to be the ones with the lowest ratings (Cade's County, O'Hara, US Ti easury) The high-rated violent action-adventure shows, like Mannix and Hawaii Fne-O, miraculously survived Baron von Pastore's purge "It's almost as if the networks had something on the senator," marveled one industry critic about their good luck "You know, hke one of those photos of a guy in a brothel beating up some 18-year-old kid with a whip " But I digress No list of those responsible for the wonderful new season would be complete without the names of the three major networks (NBC, ABC, CBS), and the three minor ones (PBS, Westmghouse and Metromedia) Julian Goodman, Elton Rule, Charles Ireland, and the minor presidents deserve the praise of everybody for supplymg the shows that will interrupt the commercials (briefly) And a special note of thanks to Fred Silverman, Mort Werner and Len Starger, the vice presidents in charge of actually picking next season's shows I don't want to slight all you other vice presidents, lesser corporate officials, press agents, casts and crews of the shows—especially you grips and set-designers—secretaries, coffee girls, the page boys at NBC, the elevators at the CBS and ABC buildings But it is the Silver-mans, Werners and Stargers of TV, the ones who stick their necks out season after season, who must be admired most What I admire most about them is their abihty to keep their jobs In any other business, an admission that 8 out of 16 new products failed to please the marketplace (another way to look at a new schedule) would be grounds for immediate dismissal TIME IS running short Before I forget, I want to thank the Zenith Corporation, for making the television set on which I will be watching the new season, my TV repairman, for being there to make it work all season long, my wife, for making the coffee that will keep me awake during the documentaries, and the Linotype operator, for setting this type so millions can share my gratitude I wish I had more space to mention everybody's name But you know who you are and what you did to help the new season answer the vital question Dick Cavett asked during the 1970 Emmy Awards program "Is radio really improved by the addition of pictuies9" Finally, I would like to say a few words about the new programs A fall schedule needs no introduction It speaks for itself I will close these brief remarks about the 1972-73 season by handing out an award or two for outstanding achievement in programming creativity There are two nominees this year for the Shirley MacLaine Prize (awarded annually to the most highly touted entertainment program most hkely to wind up unwatched) 1. Anna and the King of Siam (CBS, Sundays, 7 30 PM) A comedy-drama about a 19th-century Siamese potentate and the proper school mistress brought to court to educate the royal family It stars Yul Bnnner Here is a synopsis of the plot et cetera, et cetera and et cetera 2. Bridget Loves Bernie (CBS, Saturdays, 8 30 PM) A public-affairs comedy about an Irish-Jewish couple We haven't seen anything like this since Abie's Irish Rose There is no competition for The General Sarnoff Amateur Hour Memorial Award (the Sarnies go to the network which most clearly demonstrates its understanding of what television is all about) The winner is ABC, for its ingenuity in scheduling The Julie Andrews Show (Wednesdays, 10 PM) No doubt Miss Andrews will have Carol Burnett as a guest every week and that will take care of that m the ratings This show will be a weekly salute to the television of 30 years ago...

Vol. 55 • May 1972 • No. 9

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