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Jason Evers ("The Brain That Wouldn't Die") played Joseph Howe, an
English professor at Channing University. Howe had been a "citizen
soldier" during Korea and was writing the great American novel in his
spare time. Henry Jones ("The Bad Seed") was the dean of Channing.
In one episode, Keir Dullea plays a sensitive, naive freshman with an overprotective mother. Keir's roommate at Channing is the smooth, confident sophomore Mark Goddard. Fellow student Joey Heatherton wraps Keir around her sexy little finger, and gets him to write her papers. Mark knows just how to treat Joey, but Keir has a breakdown from jealousy and attacks her. Keir leaves college for psychiatric treatment.
Don Gordon played a soldier back from Vietnam who is entering Channing. Don makes a pass at Jacqueline Scott, the sexy wife of older political science professor Wendell Corey.
Robert Lansing was a flamboyant, self pitying professor with a drinking problem.
Rip Torn was a perpetual graduate student with multiple degrees, who is having too good a time to leave Channing.
Stanley Rubin ("Bracken's World", "The Narrow Margin") was the executive producer. Jack Laird ( "Ben Casey", "Kojak") was the producer. Bob Rafelson ("Five Easy Pieces") was the associate producer.
The writing was often ambitious and provocative.
The guest stars were impressive: John Cassavetes, Peter Fonda, Michael Parks, George Segal, Chris Robinson, Joyce Bulifant, James Caan, Leslie Nielsen, Barbara Harris, Russ Tamblyn, Ralph Meeker, Telly Savalas and James Earl Jones.
I always thought Jason Evers had the looks and talent to be a fine series lead. He had a virile, straight forward style that reminded me a little of Ben Gazzara. Evers gave the best performance in "The Green Berets", much more interesting than stars John Wayne and David Janssen. Jason Evers might have made a good Joe Mannix. But this was his last chance at series stardom. Evers was the lead in the pilot for "The Young Lawyers", but early test audience reaction liked Zalman King but not Evers. Lee J. Cobb replaced Evers in the series.
"Channing" was an interesting failure, and a good companion piece to "Mr. Novak", which started the same year.
The more I find out about this short-lived and little remembered series, the more my curiosity is piqued. According to TV.com, it started out as an episode of an anthology series hosted by Fred Astaire(!). The pilot for the series itself was based on, a short story by the critic Lionel Trilling entitled "Of that time, of that place.", which, it must be said, is a pretty high-brow source for a TV show. The array of guest stars was truly incredible. In one episode, there was a Black economist ( played by James Earl Jones) who clashes with a Math Professor played by Agnes Moorehead.In another, Rip Torn played a perpetual graduate student. ( A campus type with whom I am quite familiar, having been one myself). Telly Savalas played a political scientist specializing in international relations. It was one of the first series for Tim Conway, Suzannae Pleshette, Joey Heatherton, and Mary Anne herself, Dawn Wells. I have seen blogs where TV buffs actually list certain of the episodes , such as "A Bang and A Whimper", A Window on the War", and "The Testament of Buddy Crown", as among the hundred best TV episodes of all time. A Bang and A Whimper starred Robert Stephens, who later starred in Billy Wilder's the Private Life of Sherlock Holmes", as a an alcoholic, womanizing Irish celebrity poet( shades of Dylan Thomas.),who has an affair with a married woman played by Susan, "Imitation of Life", Kohner. One last thing. One episode had a a plot line that strangely foreshadowed the events chronicled in In the Belly of The Beast, Professor Howe once befriended a prisoner on Death Row, who wrote passionately about his experiences. Very odd.
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