December 3, 1968: That’s Life

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December 3, 1968, was a Tuesday. Tonight, ABC leads its network newscast with stories about student unrest in San Francisco and New York City. San Francisco State University reopened yesterday with 300 cops on hand to restore order after a student strike. Today, students toss rocks and bottles at police and battle with fellow students opposed to the protests. In New York City, the rioting students are high-schoolers who protest longer school hours imposed due to a teacher’s strike earlier in the year. CBS leads with ongoing trouble in the Middle East, as Israel and Jordan engage in an artillery battle. NBC leads with President-elect Richard Nixon’s appointment of Robert Finch, who had served as senior advisor during Nixon’s campaign, as Secretary of Housing and Urban Development. As part of the story, NBC reports that Nixon is considering the appointment of 1948 presidential candidate Thomas E. Dewey as attorney general, or possibly FBI director should J. Edgar Hoover choose to retire. In addition, all three networks cover reaction to this week’s report on the violence at the 1968 Democratic National Convention in Chicago that describes it as a “police riot.” Rod Serling speaks at Moorpark College in Moorpark, California. His appearance is briefly in doubt after he refuses to sign a loyalty oath. He speaks about current events, including the violence in Chicago, San Francisco, and in Vietnam. Future actor Brendan Fraser and future singer Montell Jordan are born.

United Press International’s final college football poll makes Ohio State the national champion. The undefeated Buckeyes will meet Southern California in the Rose Bowl on New Year’s Day. USC, ranked #4 in the poll with a record of 9-1-1, is led by running back O. J. Simpson, who is the favorite to win the Heisman Trophy, to be awarded on Thursday. After a year of dominating pitching performances, including Bob Gibson’s 1.12 earned run average and Denny McLain’s 31 wins, Major League Baseball lowers the pitcher’s mound and adjusts the strike zone to give hitters some help.

In primetime tonight, NBC airs Singer Presents . . . Elvis, Elvis Presley’s first TV special and his return to live performance after several years concentrating on movies. It’s sponsored by the Singer Sewing Machine company. The show, which was recorded over several days last June, includes both stand-up and sit-down perfomances and concludes with “If I Can Dream.” It will be the highest-rated program of the week, get mostly positive reviews, and go down in history as the ’68 Comeback Special. Before the Elvis special, NBC airs episodes of The Jerry Lewis Show and Julia. It’s followed by The Unabridged Brigitte Bardot, a variety special produced in France. CBS counterprograms with a National Geographic special titled “Reptiles and Amphibians,” followed by The Red Skelton Show, The Doris Day Show, and a news special in which Supreme Court Justice Hugo Black discusses the Bill of Rights with reporters Eric Sevareid and Martin Agronsky. On ABC, it’s The Mod Squad, It Takes a Thief, N.Y.P.D, and an episode of That’s Life, a musical comedy that stars Robert Morse and E. J. Peaker as a young married couple who have various domestic and workplace adventures and periodically break into song. The Kinks play in Madrid and the Troggs play in Paris. At WABC in New York, “Love Child” by the Supremes is in its second week at #1. “Abraham, Martin and John” by Dion moves to #2 from #5. Other songs on the WABC chart include “Hey Jude,” “Both Sides Now,” “For Once in My Life,” “Magic Carpet Ride,” “Wichita Lineman,” “White Room,” and “I Heard It Through the Grapevine.”

Perspective From the Present: We would not have watched Elvis on this night, because the favorite TV show at our house, the only one I can remember all of us wanting to watch together every week, was The Red Skelton Show. Tuesday was the only night of the week we weren’t required to go to bed at 8:00, since Red’s show lasted until 8:30. Several CBS sitcom themes of the late 60s, including “Que Sera Sera” from The Doris Day Show, come with the strong image of hearing them while lying in bed at the end of the hall while the TV continued to play in the living room, and not being ready to sleep.

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