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Joe Namath, don't quit your day job
F Gwynplaine MacIntyre from Minffordd, North Wales
11 July 2003
The number in the title 'ABC Stage 67' referred to the one and only
year in which this series aired: the 1966/67 TV season. If it had run
longer, would they have upped the number every year? (This was done for
the children's TV series "Discovery '62", which became "Discovery '63"
in its second season.) UPDATE: My thanks to correspondent J. Posner,
who points out to me that ABC's Manhattan studio is located in West
67th Street; this is likely the real explanation for the title 'Stage
At all events, 'ABC Stage 67' was an ambitious attempt to repeat the
success of the 'Omnibus' TV series a decade previously ... offering a
mixed fare of music, comedy, drama, and documentary. Regrettably, 'ABC
Stage 67' transmitted only 26 episodes from September '66 through May
of the next year. One other episode was produced but never aired: 'Eat
the Document', a hodgepodge of rock-concert footage featuring Bob
Dylan, John Lennon and Johnny Cash.
This posting is a review of the 12 October 1966 episode of 'ABC Stage
67', an original musical comedy (in colour) called 'Olympus 7-000',
with music and lyrics by Richard Adler ... chiefly of interest for a
brief appearance by Joe Namath and the New York Jets.
The songwriting team Richard Adler and Jerry Ross wrote the excellent
score for "John Murray Anderson's Almanac", a 1953 Broadway revue that
really ought to be revived. More famously, they wrote the songs for two
Broadway musicals that have been classics ever since: 'The Pyjama Game'
and 'Damn Yankees'. Most songwriting teams consist of a composer and a
lyricist, but Adler and Ross co-wrote their tunes and their lyrics.
They were proteges of the great songwriter Frank Loesser, who likewise
wrote music and lyrics. Jerry Ross died of leukaemia before his 30th
birthday, leaving us to wonder what great shows this talented team
might have written. Richard Adler has continued to write new material,
but he has never recaptured the early success of his teamwork with
The script of 'Olympus 7-000' was by Broadway veteran Jerome Chodorov,
who had earned success with 'My Sister Eileen' and other projects ...
but his story for 'Olympus 7-000' was terrible, and derivative with it.
You can almost smell the desperation of this project, and I suspect
that most of the blame should go to Richard Adler. His most successful
project had been 'Damn Yankees', a musical comedy in which the Devil
comes to Earth to help the world's worst baseball team win the pennant.
'Olympus 7-000' is a blatant reworking of the same premise: this time,
God comes to Earth to help the world's worst football team win the
championship. But some viewers might get perturbed if the Lord God
Jehovah got involved in such mundane activities. So, instead of the
Judaeo-Christian deity, we have the Greek god Hermes showing up in New
England to help a college football squad in the present day (1966).
Straight from the kick-off, this raises some unpleasant questions: if
the Greek gods are real, where have they been hiding all these
centuries? And if Hermes (or any other god) is willing to give
supernatural assistance to a football team, then why doesn't he lend a
hand to all the people dying in earthquakes, famines, and so forth?
Maybe I shouldn't inject these big metaphysical questions into a frothy
little musical comedy, but 'Olympus 7-000' is such a plodding lump of
work that I had plenty of time to ponder such issues while I watched
this old kinescope.
The god Hermes is played by Donald O'Connor, looking not so much
godlike as elfin. As Hermes, O'Connor wears a metallic silver-coloured
outfit and a shiny bowler hat with wings on the brim. In this
glittering ensemble, O'Connor looks like the mutant offspring of a
one-night stand between the Tin Woodman of Oz and Og the Leprechaun
from "Finian's Rainbow". O'Connor brandishes a little silvery stick
which is apparently meant to be the caduceus of Hermes, but it looks
more like Glinda's fairy wand. And, yes, 'Olympus 7-000' is Hermes's
Veteran comedian Eddie Foy, Jnr struggles gamely in his role as Casey,
the coach of the hapless football team. Character actor Fred Clark
(whom I always enjoy watching) is deliciously dyspeptic in a
badly-written role as the dean of the college. Phyllis Newman is quite
attractive as the dean's daughter, although I can do without her
singing. The underrated Larry Blyden provides the love interest for Ms
Newman, and vulgar comedian Lou Jacobi leers and smirks on the
The most interesting bit of casting in 'Olympus 7-000' is also the only
reason why this poor musical (only an hour long, with commercials) is
ever likely to be made available on video. The quarterback of the
incompetent football team is played by none other than Joe Namath, who
was probably at the peak of his popularity at this time. Namath
demonstrated some minor talent elsewhere (not here) as an actor. Namath
eventually starred as Joe Hardy in a dinner-theatre production of 'Damn
Yankees' ... a role similar to the one he plays here, but in a much
The best songs in 'Olympus 7-000' are 'Better Things to Do' (a duet for
O'Connor and Newman) and Eddie Foy's number 'The Three of Us' ... but
'best' is hardly the proper word here. This terrible show was directed
by Stanley Prager (who?), and the musical numbers were staged by Gordon
Rigsby (huh?). If you're a fan of any of the performers in this show
(including Joe Namath), be assured that all of them did much better
work elsewhere. 'Olympus 7-000' is hardly the stuff of the gods,
although I might consider it a Greek tragedy.
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