TV heroes

SILVER SCREEN — Craig Trott’s TV heroes from 1969 were “Adam-12” stars Kent McCord (above, left) and Martin Milner (above, right).

I scarcely know where to begin. There were so many from which to choose. But compared to the present, TV programming choices were but a drop in the bucket.

The fall TV lineup for 1969 was scheduled for premiere in September. Oh, it was a big deal with lots of expensive, mid-summer promotional hype and folderol orchestrated by the powerful trio of networks, CBS, NBC, and ABC as cable service was just taking its baby steps.

I was but a very green, acne-laced, 14-year-old headed into his dreaded freshman year of high school. Advancing that far without replicating a grade or two seemed a miracle as mathematics and science acumen were nearly nonexistent within my DNA. Oh, but that didn't deter me from viewing my favorite TV shows. There were priorities you know.

Black-and-white productions had gone by the wayside with lavish color creations entering our living rooms, bars, and hotel suites via the cathode ray tube. Stars of the silver screen continued switching allegiance to television as old Hollywood was quickly fading.

“The Debbie Reynolds Show” starred the former MGM musical phenom in her cute sitcom with Robert Young playing a mature, wise physician in Marcus Welby M.D. Folksy Burl Ives stepped into the role of senior attorney and E.G. Marshall as a top notch neurosurgeon in the multi-faceted cop, courtroom, hospital drama series “The Bold Ones.” Chad Everett headed the lineup for another new doc drama, “Medical Center.”

Eleanor Parker played the role of executive secretary to a bigwig producer in the drama contribution “Bracken's World” where “the fame and glamour of Hollywood life are often matched with disillusionment and disappointment.” The “Schnoz,” Jimmy Durante, paired up with the four Lennon Sisters in a short-lived variety display. Bing Crosby continued his run with another popular potpourri show, “The Hollywood Palace,” as did Red Skelton on Tuesday nights.

But there were some newcomers arriving on the scene as well. Glen Campbell's “Good Time Hour” delivered fresh, new music strummed by the former back-up guitarist from Arkansas. The farcical country and western variety show, “Hee Haw,” hit the airwaves with pickers and grinners Roy Clark andBuck Owens as hosts.

Testosterone-laden Tom Jones drew female viewers as he gyrated on-stage in a tight-fitting tuxedo, belting out his popular variety show theme song, “It's Not Unusual.” Tiger Beat magazine teenybopper heartthrob Bobby Sherman co-starred in “Here Come the Brides,” set in post-Civil War Seattle, Wash.

Actress/singer Leslie Uggams blazed a social trail becoming the first African-American female to host her own TV variety show. In the same light of barrier breaking, two of my favorite newcomers in '69, the attractive Denise Nicholas and Lloyd Haynes, delivered their somewhat “To Sir, with Love” roles to perfection in the classroom drama Room 222. A young Karen Valentine was their co-star, together with veteran Michael Constantine (“My Big Fat Greek Wedding”).

Sherwood Schwartz's iconic situation comedy, “The Brady Bunch,” made its debut in '69 co-starring a half-dozen kids we all came to grow up with, alongside Hoosier-native Florence Henderson and Robert Reed cast in the parental roles. “Former My Favorite Martian” second banana Bill Bixby portrayed the loving widower dad to child actor Brandon Cruz in sitcom “The Courtship of Eddie's Father.”

One show which debuted in '69 was a strange comedy taken from the writings of humorist/cartoonist James Thurber. Even at my adolescent age, I loved Thurber's style and tuned in to see popular actor William Windom star in “My World and Welcome to It” with cute Lisa Garritsen cast as his wiseacre daughter. It survived one brief season.

Those are but a scintilla of new stuff hitting the airwaves in '69. I was already hookin' up with Robert Conrad and Ross Martin in “The Wild Wild West,” Bob Crane in “Hogan's Heroes” and Mike Connors as supersleuth “Mannix.”

Others on my fave list included TV clown Carol Burnett, Jack Lord (“Book'em Dan-O”) in “Hawaii Five-O” (with television's best theme song) and curvaceous spirit Barbara Eden and “master” Larry Hagman in “I Dream of Jeannie.”

I wasn't into the mushy love shows; however I did find the sitcom “Love American Style” appealing, as the producers routinely cast captivating starlets, having them meander through the scenes. Hey, I was a 14-year-old, hormonal repository. I didn't really care about the scripts.

Mega popular “Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In” topped the TV charts in '69, followed by cowboy staples “Gunsmoke” and “Bonanza” with “Mayberry R.F.D” at No. 4.

Christened in '68, my personal topper revolved around a couple of L.A. TV cops, Reed and Malloy. Yep, the “Adam-12” boys sat at the apex as my heroes. I went as far as contacting Universal Studios to obtain their autographed mugs. 1969 promised to be a great season for catching more crooks.

Fifty years ago, unreal. Oh, the photos remain on display in our family room today. Drives my wife crazy. 10-4!

-That's 30-