Back to the Big Muddy

(Above: Screenshot from YouTube video of ‘Waist Deep in the Big Muddy’ by jguitarification)

Fifty years ago tomorrow, CBS News anchor Walter Cronkite declared the Vietnam War “mired in stalemate,” reportedly prompting President Lyndon Johnson to respond, “If I’ve lost Cronkite, I’ve lost Middle America.”

New York’s Carnegie Hall, though, in promoting its current citywide festival “The ’60s: The Years that Changed America,” gives the date of Cronkite’s highly influential broadcast as February 26, 1968. So we’ll defer to that venerable institution and mark the 50th anniversary today with his memorable concluding statement :

Cronkite’s Report from Vietnam, in its entirety, will kick off the “1968/Television” portion of Carnegie Hall’s festival, taking place at the Paley Center for Media in both New York and Los Angeles every Sunday afternoon in March.

This week on CBS 50 years ago was heavy with historic anti-Vietnam moments as, two days before the Cronkite report — or was it just one? — Pete Seeger overcame the network censors to sing “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy” on The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour. The Paley Center will show the complete episode from February 25, 1968, immediately following its Cronkite screening, but you can see the best part right here:

Also on Sunday’s bill: an NBC Experiment in Television documentary by Jim Henson, titled “Youth ’68 – Everything’s Changing or Maybe It Isn’t”; and a James Brown concert, broadcast live on Boston’s public TV station WGBH the day after Martin Luther King Jr’s assassination, that’s credited with diffusing racial tensions in the city:

If you’re in the New York or Los Angeles area, the screenings on Sunday, March 4, are free. For more information, visit PaleyCenter.org.

And check back with The Savvy Screener next Thursday, March 8, for a preview of the “Television/1968” program on Sunday, March 11.

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About Les Luchter

Les Luchter is a former managing editor of Multichannel News, editor-in-chief of Cable Marketing, and news editor of Broadcast Week.

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