You remember last week we took a look at some Thanksgiving programming from the early and mid 60s. As an afterthought, I pulled out this issue of TV Guide from November 1971 - not one of my favorite eras from either television or TV Guide (the severly truncated style used in the programming section generates absolutely no interest), but even here there are bits and pieces that make your post-Thanksgiving snack more than palatable. (As before, all photos are from the author's collection.)
You can see at right that the parades are still big - both networks have expanded their coverage to three hours - but without the pictures and the full-page close-up, it doesn't have quite as much charm.
What I remember most about Thanksgiving 1971 - what any sports fan would remember - is the epic "Game of the Century," the showdown between Nebraska and Oklahoma, the top two teams in the country. As you can see from the listings, there was every reason to believe this was destined to be a big one - but for once, the game actually lived up to the hype. Oklahoma, playing before a frenzied home crowd, with quarterback Jack Mildren playing the game of his life, rallied from an 11-point deficit to take a 31-28 lead (on an audacious 4th down touchdown pass from Mildren to Harrison) more than halfway through the fourth quarter, only to have Nebraska counter with a late touchdown and win, 35-31. Over 55 million people, at the time the largest television audience ever for a college football game, were left drained. (Click on the image at left to enlarge.)
Notice that opposite the football, NBC is showing "Cricket on the Hearth," which shows that in the 70s there was still romm for holiday-themed programming in the afternoon (see the variety shows of the 60s, for example). "Cricket" was followed by "The Mouse on the Mayflower"; unfortunately, neither of these cartoons seem to be part of the holiday canon anymore, at least on TV. Cute ad, though.
Unbelievably, for a nation of football fans still exhausted from one of the greatest college football games of all time, there was still another game to follow - Georgia (9-1) vs. Georgia Tech (6-4). Less emotional, but no less competitive, as the Bulldogs win 28-24. I wonder how many were able to even stay awake for that, between the drama of the first game and the tryptophan of the turkey.
And - well, that's about it for Thanksgiving day. There was no Arthur Godfrey special to wind down with, no Garry Moore for the family to sit around enjoying. There was a regular compliment of series programming (all of it, interestingly, original - the idea of showing reruns on Thanksgiving hadn't yet become the norm) and a CBS documentary on the American Dream (wonder how many people watched that?), but the only signs of variety were regular episodes of Flip Wilson and Dean Martin.
On Friday there was a basketball game on ABC (generously advertised during the Turkey Day games), preceded by ABC's cartoon festival from 9:30 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., when the Saturday cartoons made a rare Friday appearance. (They did that for many years, before cartoons themselves became passé with kids. Thankfully, though, Thanksgiving itself hasn't - yet - become passé. ◙