Prime Time Television Line Up of 1968 - History

Prime Time Television Line Up of 1968 - History

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Prime Time Television Line Up of 1968 - History

CBS began broadcasting their Saturday morning kid fare at an earlier hour, 8:00am, thanks to a growing baby boomer audience looking for cheap thrills. The other networks followed suit soon after.

Superheroes had been hot on Saturdays for a few years, Superman scored big numbers for CBS in 1967, so this year he was tag teamed with the animated adventures of Batman. ABC's Batman live-action primetime series was still running, so Batman had two shows on two networks.

Hanna-Barbera and a few other smaller animation studios pumped out an amazing array of comic book inspired mind candy for 1968-69, some of it actually good.

Although Hanna-Barbera produced shows dominated the morning on all three networks, The Archies made Filmation a force to be reckoned with for the next two decades.

by Billy Ingram


Go-Go Gophers
Genuinely fun cartoon featuring characters from the creators of Underdog. Voices by Sandy Becker, George S. Irving and
Kenny Delmar.


Bugs Bunny
/ Road Runner /
This new hour-long format on CBS ran until 1973. Bugs Bunny starred in a solo Saturday series on ABC from 1962-1967 before moving to Sunday mornings in 1967-68.

On CBS, Bugs shared the spotlight with Road Runner cartoons - that pairing remained popular for decades.


Wacky Races / CBS

Hanna-Barbera scored another long-lasting hit that led to two spin-offs in 1969 that were essentially the same show with the same plotlines and characters.

Featured the immortal voices of Paul Winchell (Dastardly and Mutley), Janet Waldo (Penelope Pitstop), Don Messick (Peter Perfect) and Mel Blanc (The Ant Hill Mob).

In order to avoid violent situations, the racing cartoon was born.


This was one of the most popular cartoons of the era, the number one Saturday show for 1968-69. Thanks to the success of this and other CBS Saturday hits, programming exec Fred Silverman was given the job of prime-time programmer.

Howard Morris (Ernest T. Bass on 'The Andy Griffith Show') provided the voices of Moose, Hot Dog and Jughead. Jane Webb voiced Betty, Veronica, Sabrina and Miss Grundy.

The Archie's tunes hit the pop charts in 1969 ('Sugar, Sugar' made it to number one) and inspired a multitude of other music-themed cartoons on Saturdays for years to come. Ron Dante sang the songs as Archie.

Archie aired on Saturdays well into the eighties.


Batman / Superman Hour of Adventure / CBS
Superman appeared on Saturday mornings first (1966 and 1967) but Batman had a primetime show on ABC so he got top billing.


Herculoids / CBS
Reruns of galactic Hanna-Barbera weird pointlessness. Gone after this year.



Jonny Quest / CBS
Still popular reruns of the exciting Hanna-Barbera prime time adventure series that originally ran for only one season.


Moby Dick & Mighty Mightor / CBS
Second year for the Hanna-Barbera adventures of caveboy Tor becomes Mighty Mightor when he raises his club and curses the heavens. If only it were that easy!

Seen in separate segments - Tom, Tub and their pet whale Moby. Swimming with whales is now illegal.

CBS was getting huge ratings on Saturday mornings, so they extended their kidvid schedule by an hour on either end of the morning.

Lone Ranger
Reruns from last year, from Format Films. The Lone Ranger and Tonto were embroiled in bizarre adventures with a random array of robots, aliens and villains like The Black Widow voiced by Agnes Moorehead.

Often pre-empted by local stations.

Aquaman could be
seen on CBS Sunday
mornings 9:30-10:00am.

:1968 Commercials:

Frito Bandito

Local Programming / ABC

(Often Tarzan movies, Popeye cartoons, Our Gang and Three Stooges shorts.)


Casper / ABC
If you don't know who Casper is, fugedaboutit!

Casper appeared on ABC in 1963 with new animated adventures, this was the final season of reruns.

Casper the Friendly Ghost started on TV in 1950 with airings of a series of popular theatrical shorts from the forties.


Adventures of Gulliver / ABC (debut)

Ginny Tyler also provided the voice Flirtacia in this cartoon based on the Jonathan Swift novel. 17 episodes ran for two years.


Spiderman / ABC
A rare second season of new episodes, leading off with the 'Origin of Spiderman'. Stories for 1968-69 were now 30 minutes in length, last season there were two 15 minute episodes per show.

A third season was produced for syndication - the series had the same theme song, but the show took on a darker look and attitude with surrealistic watercolor backgrounds (by DC artist Gray Morrow) and a new guy playing Spidey's voice. Ralph Bakshi produced the third season.


Journey To The Center of the Earth / ABC
Season 2 with the voices of Pat Harrington, Jr. ('One Day At A Time'), Ted Knight and Jane Webb.


Fantastic Four / ABC
Second season, reruns from the year before. This show moved to Sundays in 1969.

Most of the stories were based closely on the early Stan Lee / Jack Kirby comic book adventures, that made this arguably one of the best of the TV comic book adaptations to date even if the standardized Hanna-Barbera animation was fair at best.

Comic book plotlines included The Red Ghost, Invasion Of The Super Skrulls, Galactus, It Started On Yancy Street and more.


George of the Jungle / ABC
Second season of reruns, George joined the Sunday morning line-up in 1969, then returned to Saturdays in early 1970.

Also seen - 'Super Chicken' and 'Tom Slick'.


American Bandstand / ABC
Guests this season included Freddy Weller, The Four Seasons, Johnny Nash, The Association and Sandy Nelson. Commercial for
Space Food Sticks


Happening / ABC
Also known as 'It's Happening' 'Happening '68' and 'Happening '69,' similar to a 1965 series, "Where the Action Is."

Beginning in January, 1968 this music show (produced by Dick Clark) followed 'American Bandstand' on Saturdays. That meant this program was seen six days a week in the summer of '68 - a rocking half-hour of bands and bikinis.

Hosted by Paul Revere and Mark Lindsay, guests included Paul Revere's Raiders, The Monkees, Don Adams, Don Rickles, Linda Ronstadt, Todd Rundgren and Bobby Hatfeild.

Local bands were also seen in weekly competitions with celebrity guest judges. There has never been another national music show like 'Happening,' a TV bright spot in 1968. Peter Max inspired ad for 7-Up:

Major Matt Mason was a popular toy in 1968:


Super 6 / NBC
Year two, ran for three years - well-liked adventures of six super-powered do-gooders available for hire from Super Service, Inc.


Top Cat / NBC
Another season of repeats from the 1961-62 primetime Hanna-Barbera series. Popular sitcom character 'Sgt. Bilko' was the inspiration. Arnold Stang (shown) was the voice of Top Cat.

This was one of three former primetime H-B series being rerun on Saturdays - can you spot the other two?


Flintstones / NBC
This classic prime-time animated series went off the air in 1966 and promptly moved over to Saturday mornings for three years of reruns.


Banana Splits
Hour-long variety show hosted by costumed theme park characters voiced by Paul Winchell, Allan Melvin, Daws Butler, and Don Messick.

Naturally, they made up a bubble gum rock band with songs that included "Wait till Tomorrow" and "I Enjoy Being a Boy."

Cartoon segments ran between the Banana Splits' antics - The Three Musketeers, The Hillbilly Bears, Arabian Nights and Micro Venture.

'Danger Island' (a live action series) was also seen, starring Frank Alletter ('It's About Time') and teen idol Jan Michael Vincent ('Airwolf') who had a career as a kid actor in the sixties with a string of hit Disney movies.

This was the most expensive Saturday morning show to date. Produced by Hanna-Barbera, it was their first live action attempt and the only bright spot on NBC's losing Saturday schedule.


Underdog / NBC
"When Polly's in trouble, I am not slow - it's Hip, Hip, Hip and away I go!"

Underdog ran from 1964-1973, most of those years on NBC.

Also seen: The World of Commander McBragg and Klondike Kat featuring Savoir Faire, a French mouse pursued by Klondike. "Savoir Faire is every-waire!"

Birdman / NBC
Hanna-Barbera's Birdman was seen in repeats from 1967. This show was originally conceived as a primetime entry.

Storybook Squares / NBC
A junior version of the popular NBC daytime game show 'Hollywood Squares' with children as contestants.

In this variation, celebrity guests in the giant ticktacktoe board dressed as storybook characters. They included Paul Lynde (who dressed once as the evil Queen in Snow White), Marty Allen (as Tarzan), Rip Taylor (as Custer), Kaye Ballard, Paul Winchell, Nanette Fabray, Wally Cox, Abby Dalton, Charley Weaver, Jim Backus, Judy Carne, Ted Cassidy, Jo Anne Worley, Carolyn Jones, Arte Johnson, Michael Landon and Barbara Eden.

'Storybook Squares' lasted from January, 1969 - August 1969. Saturday Morning Commercials:


Super President

Super President's second term was cut short - he was impeached mid-season and replaced with.

Untamed World / NBC
A nature program narrated by Phillip Carey.

One episode featured a colorful look under the sea, especially impressive since many people were buying color TVs for the first time in 1969.

Debating on Television: Then and Now

A little more than half a century ago, American politics stumbled into a new era. In WBBM-TV studios in Chicago on September 26, 1960, presidential candidates Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy stood before cameras and hot lights for the first-ever televised presidential debate. An extraordinary 60 percent of adults nationwide tuned in. This encounter—the first of four—boosted support for Kennedy, a little-known Massachusetts senator and political scion who would go on to win the White House. Elections in the United States would never be the same again. No single aspect of presidential campaigns attracts as much interest as televised debates, and they have provided some of the most memorable moments in modern political history.

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In 1960, Nixon, then vice president, was expected to perform brilliantly against Kennedy, but few politicians have ever bombed so badly. The striking contrast of their images on the television screen made all the difference. Nixon, who had recently been in the hospital with a knee injury, was pale, underweight, and running a fever, while Kennedy, fresh from campaigning in California, was tanned and buoyantly energetic. Before they went on the air, both candidates refused the services of a cosmetician. Kennedy’s staff, however, gave him a quick touch up. Nixon, cursed by a five o’clock shadow, slapped on Lazy Shave, an over-the counter powder cover-up. It would only heighten his ghastly pallor on the TV screen. Voters who listened to the debate on the radio thought Nixon performed just as expertly as Kennedy, but TV viewers could not see beyond his haggard appearance.

Sander Vanocur, who was a member of the press panel with NBC for that premier debate, says today that he was too caught up in the moment to notice Nixon’s illness, but he recalls that the vice president “seemed to me to be developing some sweat around his lips.” One thing, however, was unmistakable, Vanocur says: “Kennedy had a sure sense of who he was, and it seemed to radiate that night.” Countless viewers agreed. Later, Kennedy said that he never would have won the White House without the televised debates, which so effectively brought him into the living rooms of more than 65 million people.

There were three further debates, but they hardly mattered, says Alan Schroeder, professor of journalism at Northeastern University and a historian of presidential debates. “Kennedy left such a positive impression in the first debate, it was quite difficult for Nixon to overcome it.” No election rules require candidates to debate. After his dismal performance in 1960, Nixon refused to participate in 1968 and 1972. More recently, John McCain tried to cancel one of his matchups with Barack Obama in 2008, saying that he had urgent business back in Washington. But over the years, the public has come to expect that candidates will be courageous enough to face each other on television, live and unscripted.

Tens of millions of viewers tune in to watch debates, and advocates call them indispensable for helping undecideds make up their minds. “If the campaign is a job interview with the public,” says Charlie Gibson, moderator for the 2004 Bush-Kerry contest, then debates are a priceless chance “to compare styles, to get a sense of their ease with issues.” In several elections, debates have dramatically shifted voter perceptions and even, some experts argue, changed the outcome of the race.

An extraordinary 60 percent of adults nationwide tuned in for the presidential debate between Richard M. Nixon and John F. Kennedy. (Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images) On September 26, 1960, presidential candidates Nixon and Kennedy stood before cameras for the first-ever televised presidential debate. (Time & Life Pictures / Getty Images) Jimmy Carter rode a post-debate spike in the polls to narrowly beat Gerald Ford in 1976. (Corbis) By appearing bored and impatient during the presidential debate with Bill Clinton and Ross Perot, George H.W. Bush inadvertently reinforced his own image as an aloof patrician. (Associated Press) Al Gore's erratic performance in 2000 contributed to his loss to George W. Bush in one of the closest elections ever. (Associated Press)

Jimmy Carter rode a post-debate spike in the polls to narrowly beat Gerald Ford in 1976, for example, and Al Gore's erratic performance in 2000 contributed to his loss to George W. Bush that November in one of the closest elections ever. “Debates have a very powerful effect on how candidates are perceived,” says Schroeder, “and in giving voters confidence they are making the right decision.”

Partly because they exert such great influence, televised debates have always received heated criticism. Some complain that the answers tend to be superficial, that charisma trumps substance, that pundits needlessly obsess about minor goofs. Certainly the stakes are sky-high. “It’s a long walk from the dressing room to the debate platform,” says Walter Mondale, a veteran of several debates. “You know if you screw up that you’ll live with it the rest of your life.” No wonder candidates fight to keep formats short and free from messy interpersonal exchanges—although these sometimes happen anyway, as when Lloyd Bentsen contemptuously told Dan Quayle in the 1988 vice-presidential debate, “You’re no Jack Kennedy,” to which a stunned-looking Quayle replied, “That was really uncalled for!”

Little spats like this one are catnip to the media, who habitually cover debates as if they were sporting events, with clear winners and losers. “They’re trying to make it a political prizefight,” says John Anderson, who debated Ronald Reagan as an Independent in 1980. “They want to see a candidate throw a sucker punch.” It’s this mentality that causes commentators to magnify every blunder: in 1992, for example, George H.W. Bush repeatedly glanced at his watch during a town hall debate with Bill Clinton and Ross Perot, and pundits had a field day. “That criticism was unfair,” says former Gov. Michael Dukakis, who debated Bush in 1988 and was watching again that night. “In a long debate, you’ve got to have a sense of where you are—so there’s nothing strange about a guy looking at his watch. But it hurt him.”

By appearing bored and impatient, Bush inadvertently reinforced his own image as an aloof patrician. Many debaters have similarly damaged themselves by confirming what voters already feared—Carter seemed touchy-feely in 1980 when he implied that his young daughter, Amy, advised him on nuclear arms Gore, supercilious when he loudly sighed in 2000 McCain, angry when he dismissively called Obama “That One” in 2008. Such episodes are so common, we tend to remember debates not for what went right, but what went wrong.

Fifty years after Nixon’s fatal debate debut, a similar upset played out recently in Great Britain, where televised debates were introduced this spring for the first time ever in a general election. Nick Clegg, 43, a little-known candidate from the small third-place Liberal Democrats Party, performed spectacularly in debate against two better-known rivals. After the first encounter, his personal approval ratings skyrocketed to 78 percent, the highest ever seen in Britain since Churchill’s in World War II. As with Kennedy in 1960 (also just 43), the public could suddenly envision the energetic Clegg as a national leader.

Today the Liberal Democrats share power with the Conservatives, and Clegg is deputy prime minister—an outcome few could have imagined before the debates. In Britain as in America, televised debates promise to exert a potent influence over political life, permanently changing the campaign landscape. For all their riskiness and high drama, they play a crucial role now and are doubtless here to stay.

1972 – The TV Guide Fall Preview

There are those who say that 1939 was Hollywood's "greatest year" or its "golden year." I know I bought the book, Hollywood's Golden Year: 1939. It's not a thesis that I'm entirely willing to accept because it is my belief that there have be en other years – before and after 1939 – when Hollywood achieved artistic and commercial high points. Similarly I don't wish to suggest that any given year was "TV's Golden Year" but I would suggest that if someone were to come up with a list of "Greatest Seasons," 1972-73 would be very near the top. Even some of the failures were in their own way brilliant. W ith the possible exception of NBC, 197 2 was a hell of a good year for just about everyone, in particular the viewers.

Let's take a look at the network with the biggest problems first. On the surface it didn't look as though NBC was having problems. They debuted five new series in 1972 compared t o seven each for CBS and ABC. The problem was that of the new shows o nly two stuck, and both of them needed major surgery to stay in the line-up. In addition three series that started the season ended their seasons in January 1973. One of these was Rod Serling's Night Gallery. By this point Serling had essentially disowned the series because his contributions were being ignored and his complaints to producer Jack Laird were essentially being ignored. By the final season Serling was so dissatisfied that he label led the show "Mannix in a cemetery." The situation with Bonanza was even worse and very similar to what happened with Petticoat Junction. The death of Dan Blocker after the 1971-72 season seriously damaged the dynamics of the show – which had suffered a significant ratings loss the season before – and competition from the new CBS series Maude were enough to kill it. As for The Bold Ones, the shows fourth season retained only the New Doctors segment after going to two segments the previous season. It also lost John Saxon as one of the characters, who was "replaced" by Robert Walden (yeah, not really much of a replacement). It ran sixteen episodes and I'm going to suggest that maybe the quality of the scripts was hurt by having to have new scripts every week rather than every other week (or every third week in the fir st two seasons). Me, I preferred the episodes with Burl Ives and company.

As for the new shows that NBC had that season, the only two shows that got a second season were Th e Little Peop le with Brian Keith and Shelley Fabares, and the Wednesday Mystery M ovie. In The Little People Keith play a pediatrician working with his daughter in a practice in Hawaii. The show was a comedy and did well enough in the ratings to get renewed. However when the show was renewed the decision was made to add a couple of new characters, a child-hating and very proper doctor, played by Roger Bowen, and the woman who owned the clinic – and much of Hawaii – played by Nancy Kulp. This changed the focus from the relationship between the two doctors and their patients (and the patients' parents) to the conflicts between the adults. (They also changed the name of the show in that season to The Brian Keith Show) further distancing itself from the original intent of the series. The Wednesday Mystery Movie was an attempt to ex pand the Mystery Movie franchise. The original group of shows – Columbo, McCloud, and MacMillan & Wife – we re moved to Sunday night. They were supplemented by a fourth show, Hec Ramsey which starred Richard Boone as a former gunfighter and lawman (who in one episode claimed that he once worked under the name Paladin) who had left the west to study modern (for 1900) methods of detection, stuff we now call forensics. The show lasted two seasons and died not because of poor ratings but because star Richard Boone had disagreements with the studio (that doesn't seem to be an uncommon thing with Richard Boone). The Wednesday Mystery Movie was entirely new. It featured three shows Cool Millions with James Farentino as a globe-trotting private detective who charges a millio n dollars to take a case (back when a million dollars was big bucks), Madigan with Richard Widmark recreating his role from the 1968 movie of the same name (although in the movie, Madigan dies at the end), and Banacek with George Peppard as freelance insurance investigator out to stick it to the insurance company that his father had worked at for years before. Banacek ran for two years and was picked up for a third. until Peppard quit to keep his ex-wife Elizabeth Ashley from taking a l arge percentage of his income in her divorce settlement.

As for the rest of the NBC shows, Banyon, was 1930s period piece starring Robert Forster as the title character and '30s movie star Joan Blondell as the owner of a secretarial school that provides Banyon with office employees. The show ran fifteen episodes. The other two NBC shows lasted a full season but while Search – about a high tech detective agency that constantly monitors its operatives – and the anthology Ghost Story (renamed Circle of Fear at the same time that it dropped host Sebastian Cabot) but weren't popular enough to pick up.

NBC also had one show that didn't make it beyond the 1972-73 season, but that was because it h ad literally run its course. That was America: A Personal History of the United States, writer- broadcaster Alistair Cooke's love letter to his adopted homeland which alternated with the NBC news show NBC Reports. Today no commercial network would put a show like America on it would be relegated to PBS or to some cable network (after all opponents of PBS constantly say that cable can and will do everything that PBS does). In 1972-73 not only was it a popular success, it won the Emmy for the Outstanding New Series beating The Julie Andrews Hour, M*A*S*H, Kung Fu, Maude, and The Waltons, and was actually nominated in the Golden Globes as Best TV Show – Drama.

Over at ABC, the network unveiled some impressive new shows. In what may be one of the earliest examples of placing a show as a lead-in because of the gender of fans it would attract, the network put the male oriented cop show The Rookies as the lead in for Monday Night Football. The show fit the standard formula of a group of young people, three (male) rookie cops of various backgrounds (Georg Stanford Brown, Michael Ontkean and Sam Melville), being mentored by an older superior offi cer, played by Gerald S. O'Laughlin. Kate Jackson played the lone woman in the regular cast, a nurse married to Melville's character (years later he played her ex-hu sband in Scarecrow & Mrs. King). Another highly successful show for ABC was Streets of San Francisco the entire cast of which consisted of a former and a future acting Oscar winner. Karl Malden (Streetcar Named Desire) played Lieutenant Mike Stone, a veteran of over 20 years on the San Francisco PD while his partner, Steve Keller, was played by Michael Douglas (Wall Street). Keller was college educated but had no experience as a cop. Stone was (yet again) a mentor for the younger cop.

The third huge success for ABC was Kung Fu. Supposedly the show was based on a concept created by actor Bruce Lee (this is according to Lee's wife Linda who claimed that Warner Brothers stole the idea) and Lee had been considered for the part of Kwai Chang Caine – the producers decided that they needed someone "serene" for the role and that the only reason Lee was considered for the part was because the network wanted someone more muscular. The producers claimed that they wanted David Carradine of the role of Caine from the beginning even though he wasn't Asian (which stirred quite a bit of controversy in the Asian American acting community). At the time Carradine was in the middle of what can probably be called his "hippie phase" so the part of Caine seemed to be a perfect fit for him. The show was a perfect fit for the early 1970s with its mix of social responsibility, spirituality, Buddhist thought, and pacifism (at least until forced into action).

Kung Fu was initially scheduled to run once a month, alternating with ABC's other western Alias Smith & Jones on Satu rday nights. However, the ABC line-up underwent a major reshuffle wh en the third hour of the Saturday night line-up, the paranormal thriller Sixth Sense died. Alias Smith & Jones was also dropped and Kung Fu and Streets of San Francisco moving to Thursday night in the second and third hours of primetime respectively. Owen Marshall: Counsellor At Law moved to Wednesday night while The Julie Andrews Hour (a variety show that was a major break for impressionist Rich Little) moved to the second hour of Saturdays replacing Kung Fu. The Men, a wheel show featuring Assignment: Vienna (Robert Conrad as an undercover spy in Vienna), Jigsaw (James Wainwright as a cop who chafes at standard police procedures but is effective in finding the missing persons he seeks), and The Delphi Bureau (Laurence Luckinbill as a counter-espionage agent with a photographic memory) moved to the third hour of Saturday nights. Both The Julie Andrews Hour and The Men were cancelled at the end of the season. The other new show cancelled at the end of the season was The Paul Lynde Show, in which Lynde played a family man who had to deal with his wife and two daughters as well as his eldest daughter's new husband Howie, the bane of Paul's existence.

The other ABC show to survive the season was Temperatures Rising, produced by William Asher.It probably shouldn't h ave survived given what happened to it. In the first season the show starred James Whitmore as the chief of staff at Capitol General Hospital in Washington, with Cleavon Little as Dr. Jerry Nolan, a resident who is also the hospital's chief "operator" (if there was a card game or a wheelchair race in the hospital, his character knew about it). Reportedly the public disliked Whitmore but liked the show and liked Lynde but hated his series so Whitmore was dumped – along with everyone else in the first season cast except Little – and Lynde and a new cast (including Mister John Dehner) were inserted. The result was a mess. Lynde's character, Paul Mercy, was thoroughly dislikeable but not as unpleasant as his invalid mother who bought the hospital. The series was cancelled and then revive d, with the mother character dumped and replaced with a previously unknown sister played by Alice Ghostley. Of course, both Lynde and Ghostley were veterans of Asher's previous hit for ABC, Bewitched.

Of course it was CBS that had the greatest success in the 1972-73 TV season. Consider the CBS shows that debuted that year – M*A*S*H, Maude, The Waltons, and the Bob Newhart Show. Even when they failed something good came out of it. Consider the network's only mid-season cancellations of the year Anna And The King starring Yul Brynner and Samantha Eggar in a non-musical (and allegedly a sit-com!) version of The King And I, and The Sandy Duncan Show which was an attempt to revive Duncan's earlier series Funny Face (which ended when Duncan was hospitalised due to cancer which took the sight in one eye). Both aired on Sunday nights along with M*A*S*H, The N ew Dick Van Dyke Show, and Mannix. When they cancelled the shows, CBS moved The New Dick Van Dyke Show from 9 p.m. Eastern to 7:30 p.m., shifted Mannix to 8:30 and added Buddy Ebsen's return to TV as a dramatic actor, Barnaby Jones. The show, which had ties to another CBS detective series Cannon, ran for a more than respectable eight years.

I don't think that much has to be said about most of the successful CBS shows in the 1972-73 season. Each of them achieved an iconic status. Who can forget Maude, the "liberal" spin-off of All In The Family where the lead character was the much married, opinionated, liberated force of nature who just happened to be the cousin of Archie Bunker's wife Edith. Then there was The Bob Newhart Show, which wasn't as politically opinionated as All In The Family or Maude but which meshed beautifully with its lead-in The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Both shows managed a near perfect blend of their respective characters' work and domestic lives, filled in each case with interesting and quirky characters in both areas. And of course what can really needs to be said about M*A*S*H, the comedy with dramatic overtones set during the Korean War but really an allegory for Vietnam and the illogic of th e military in general. M*A*S*H was one of the most honoured and respected TV shows ever even as it metamorphosed with the various cast changes over the years. Certainly the M*A*S*H that debuted in 1972 was far different from the show that ended its run in 1983, with the regular characters becoming increasingly realistic in tone, and the storylines becoming increasingly dramatic. And, I suppose, with the network becoming increasingly aware that they didn't have an "ordinary" sitcom on their hands (as we'll see in the 1973 season this realization took a while to dawn on them).

Then of course there was The Waltons. It may seem a bit surprising that CBS began airing a new rural series just two seasons after the great "Rural Purge" but I suspect that there were reasons for the network putting it on the air. I have a theory that its period setting allowed it to focus on what today would probably be called "traditional family values" the children are polite and responsible and obviously don't become involved in drugs or protests, they respected their parents and their elders and the whole family eats dinner together every night. Might I suggest that the material is the sort of thing that would appeal to the Nixonian "silent majority?" At the same time of course writer Earl Hamner Jr. was able to develop storylines that related to the issues of the day. In its own way, The W altons examined women's rights, race, addiction (in the form of alcoholism) and other issues that people could relate to. And perhaps the most impressive thing about the show is the way that its success seems to have come as a surprise. The 1972 TV Guide Fall Preview issue says the following about The Waltons: "They're descended from pioneer stock and they'll need all the strength they can muster – they're up against Flip Wilson and The Mod Squad." In fact it was those two shows that needed the strength The Mod Squad was cancelled at the end of the 1972-73 season, while The Flip Wilson Show was cancelled the next season.

CBS cancelled two of its new shows at the end of the season. One was the low rated New Bill Cosby Show which, along with the fifth season of The Doris Day Show, hadn't been able to thrive opposite Monday Night Football. The other show was Bridget Loves Bernie which occupied the Saturday time slot between All In The Family and Mary Tyler Moore. The show was a variant on the 1922 play Abie's Irish Rose, which had been made into a movie twice and even been a radio series from 1942-1944, and dealt with a young Jewish cab driver and writer (David Birney) who married a wealthy Catholic girl (Meredith Baxter). The format is an old one that has been adapted to other situations over the years (the Canadian series Excuse My French dealt with a poor Quebecois girl who married the son of a wealthy Anglophone businessman and had to deal with both of their families Dharma & Greg was about the son of a wealthy conservative family who married the daughter of unreformed hippies). Bridget Loves Bernie has the distinction of being the highest rated series ever cancelled by any American network. According to the 1972-73 ratings list on the Classic TV Hits website the show finished fifth overall with an average 15.681 million viewers, which means that it finished ahead of The Mary Tyler Moore Show which had an estimated audience of 15.293 million viewers. One suggestion is that the writers ran out of ideas after the first season, but it's generally accepted that CBS cancelled the show because of hate mail and protests from opponents of inter-religious marriage, supposedly various Jewish groups. However, at the time CBS denied the allegation. According to Robert Metz's CBS: Reflections In A Bloodshot Eye Mike Dann claimed that "though the ratings were good they weren't good enough. The show caused a "hammock effect" on the Saturday-night schedule. Sandwiched between Family which drew 46 million homes and The Mary Tyler Moore Show which drew 41 million, Bridget Loves Bernie only managed to attract 31 million." This assertion in particular seems erroneous (to say the least) given the data listed both by Classic TV Hits and The Complete Directory To Prime Time Network And Cable Shows 1946-Present. The story of protests by people who vehemently objected to the show seems most plausible. Whatever the truth, the cancellation of Bridget Loves Bernie, together with mid-season moves that moved the aging Mission: Impossible (which would be cancelled at the end of the season) from Saturday to Friday (for Sonny & Cher) and The Carol Burnett Show from Thursday (where it's time slot was occupied by Sonny & Cher) would set up one of the greatest nights of TV ever, the CBS Saturday night line-up of All In The Family, M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, The Bob Newhart Show, and The Carol Burnett Show.

(I'm still doing a bit of research on a couple of replacements for cancelled shows in the season. I need the show that filled the 8:30-9 p.m. slot on ABC and the two hours between 8 and 10 p.m. on Tuesday night on NBC. Help would be appreciated.) ( Update: I found the ABC 8:30-9 show. It was A Touch Of Grace starring Shirley Booth, J. Pat O'Malley and Marian Mercer. I still need the NBC show(s).)

Below is the 1972 ABC Fall Preview in three parts. Sorry, no TV criticism from President Nixon this time.

30th Anniversary of FOX in Prime Time

Technically, it’s not the 30th anniversary of FOX but the FOX Broadcasting Company did launch in prime time 30 years ago today. The network officially debuted on Thursday, October 9th, 1986 with its late-night talk show The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers. Its entry into prime time had to wait until Sunday, April 5th, 1987. The lineup that night consisted of two sitcom premieres, each aired three times.

In a box somewhere, I have TV Guide with a special insert for FOX’s prime time launch. Thanks to YouTube, enjoy the following 30-year-old FOX promotional spots as well as some commercials:

Here’s the schedule for that historic night when an upstart fourth network dared challenge the Big Three:

7:00PM Married… with Children [series premiere]
7:30PM The Tracey Ullman Show [series premiere]
8:00PM Married… with Children [repeat]
8:30PM The Tracey Ullman Show [repeat]
9:00PM Married… with Children [repeat]
9:30PM The Tracey Ullman Show [repeat]

Did the premiere-repeat-repeat strategy work? Preliminary ratings for 13 markets weren’t stellar. FOX focused on the cumulative ratings for its two sitcoms, insisting viewers weren’t going to watch the same episode three times. Nationally, Married… with Children earned a cumulative 10.7 rating, The Tracey Ullman Show a 9.4 rating. Here’s a breakdown by half-hour:

7:00PM Married… with Children [series premiere] – 3.9 rating (106 stations)
7:30PM The Tracey Ullman Show [series premiere] – 3.5 rating (106 stations)
8:00PM Married… with Children [repeat] – 3.6 rating (105 stations)
8:30PM The Tracey Ullman Show [repeat] – 3.1 rating (105 stations)
9:00PM Married… with Children [repeat] – 3.2 rating (105 stations)
9:30PM The Tracey Ullman Show [repeat] – 2.8 rating (104 stations)

Over the next month, FOX rolled out a number of other shows: 21 Jump Street, Duet, and Mr. President. It wasn’t until May 10th that the network had a stable Sunday lineup. A second night of programming (Saturday) debuted on July 11th.

FOX did not consider itself a traditional television network in 1987. “We call ourselves a ‘satellite-delivered national program service,'” programming chief Garth Ancier told The Los Angeles Times prior to FOX’s prime time debut. “There are tremendous uphill battles” to becoming a fourth network, Ancier explained. “There are technical and built-in audience obstacles. This hasn’t been done since before I was born, with the old DuMont Network.”

Somehow, FOX pulled it off and here we are three decades later.

Were you watching FOX make its prime time debut 30 years ago? If so, do you remember whether you preferred Married… with Children or The Tracey Ullman Show? Did you expect FOX to survive?

Hot Prime-Time Television Line-Up For Motor Fans

Petrolheads throughout New Zealand will be better served than ever before with an impressive line-up of prime-time weekend motor shows.

Triangle Television's Auckland channel along with nationwide Stratos Television (Freeview 21 and Sky 89) have packaged the popular 4WD TV, CRUIZIN', and DRIVE IT! programmes into prime-time offerings that will screen every Friday through Sunday.

Stratos Television Chief Executive Officer Jim Blackman says: "These programmes make Triangle Television and Stratos the leading choice for the dedicated car enthusiast by offering the best and most diverse motoring programmes ever offered in New Zealand in prime time".

>From the smell of leather in luxury limousines to the polish and chrome of unique and rare hot rods, and the down-and-dirty of off-roading in 4WD vehicles, these shows have it all and more!

Australian-made 4WD TV, which already has a good following in New Zealand, won the "most popular programme" vote for three consecutive years across the Tasman, and regularly attracts half a million Australian viewers. The show covers all aspects of four-wheeling and, as a bonus, showcases New Zealand and Australian bands by using their locally-produced music to accompany the action.

CRUIZIN' caters for lovers of hot rods, custom-mades, American cars, classics, muscle cars and street machines. The programme has been running for nine years and features hot rod motoring events from all over the world, as well as interviews with the owners, builders and creators of these magnificent collectible vehicles.

DRIVE IT! - smart, stylish and chic, this programme gives the European perspective of the international car market and is the latest automotive offering from German broadcaster Deutsche Welle. The programme takes a critical look at new models on the market, draws independent comparisons between makes and models, and highlights strengths and weaknesses that are revealed during test drives. The show also reviews the latest motoring technologies and acknowledges motoring history with a section devoted to vintage cars.

These programmes will also screen on Triangle Television in Wellington on a different schedule.

Stratos Television Saturdays 9.30pm
Triangle Television Auckland Fridays 9pm

Stratos Television Sundays 9.30pm (except April 13) and 11.30pm
Triangle Television Auckland Saturdays 9pm

Stratos Television (starts April 25) Fridays 7.30pm
Triangle Television Auckland: Commences April 25

Variety shows

After a period of experimentation, the immediacy of live television led programmers to turn to the theatre, especially vaudeville. Before the advent of radio and sound movies, vaudeville had been the most popular of the performing arts in the United States. Traveling shows circulated through cities and towns, providing live entertainment consisting of an emcee and a variety of acts, including musicians, comics, dancers, jugglers, and animals. Many former vaudevillians had become the stars of radio variety shows, and the vaudeville format promised to be even more amenable to television. Vaudeville-inspired variety shows could be shot live with a minimum of inexpensive sets, and there was still a significant pool of vaudeville-trained performers eager to work again.

By the 1949–50 season, the three highest-rated television programs were variety shows: The Texaco Star Theatre (NBC, 1948–53), Ed Sullivan’s Toast of the Town (CBS, 1948–71 renamed The Ed Sullivan Show in 1955), and Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts (CBS, 1948–58). Within a few years, entertainers such as Jackie Gleason, Dinah Shore, Perry Como, Red Skelton, and George Gobel would headline their own popular variety series. Common elements to most such shows included an emcee, a live audience, a curtain, and a steady stream of guests ranging from recording stars to comedians to classical musicians.

The variety format allowed for a wide range of styles. In contrast to the raucous pie-in-the-face antics of shows such as The Texaco Star Theatre, for example, was Your Show of Shows (NBC, 1950–54), an urbane comedy-variety program produced by Broadway legend Max Liebman and starring an ensemble of versatile character actor-comics that included Sid Caesar, Imogene Coca, Carl Reiner, and Howard Morris. A variety of acts punctuated this 90-minute program, including excerpts from operas and ballets, but it is most remembered for its superbly written and acted comedy sketches. Many of the cast members went on to star in another variety show, Caesar’s Hour (NBC, 1954–57), which included among its writing staff future film directors Woody Allen and Mel Brooks as well as playwright Neil Simon.

A Timeline Of Sitcoms Featuring Families Of Color

The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air in the early days — with the original Aunt Viv, too!

Code Switch

The Pre-Huxtable Golden Age Of The Black Family Sitcom

We've heard some of the same comments a lot about this fall's television lineup, which includes the shows Black-ish, Cristela, Selfie and Fresh Off the Boat: "Why is diversity all the rage now?" asked Robert Rorke of the New York Post. And Esther Breger called this season the "most diverse in recent TV history."

But as we pointed out a few weeks ago, back in 1974, three sitcoms featuring black families were at the top of the charts. So how much browner is today's TV landscape of sitcoms compared with the television offerings from a decade — or two, or five — ago?

To get at this question, we decided to make a list. We asked folks on Twitter and Facebook to scan their memories and help us compile as many notable prime-time sitcoms featuring families of color as we could. (Our criteria: The show had to be on a network — and we're counting PBS here.)

Here's a timeline of what we came up with. The shows that didn't last very long, by the way, are in light gray.

8:30-9:00: MASH

There would seem to be nothing funny about the Korean War (especially these days), but this series, based on the novel by Richard Hooker and the 1970 film of the same name, managed to mine plenty of humor out of the horrors of war. The focus is on the doctors and nurses of the South Korea-based 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital, and it features an incredible cast of actors and some of TV’s most memorable characters: Hawkeye Pierce (Alan Alda), Margaret “Hot Lips” Houlihan (Loretta Swit), Max Klinger (Jamie Farr), Father Mulcahy (William Christopher), Trapper John (Wayne Rogers), Henry Blake (McLean Stevenson), Frank Burns (Larry Linville), Radar O’Reilly (Gary Burghoff), B.J. Hunnicutt (Mike Farrell), Sherman Potter (Harry Morgan), and Charles Emerson Winchester III (David Ogden Stiers).

Interestingly, the show ran for 11 years (1972-83), compared to the actual Korean War’s two-and-a-half. When it came to an end with the two-and-a-half hour “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen”, it broke all sorts of ratings records and became a national event. MAS*H won 14 Emmy Awards (out of the 100 it was nominated for), and eight Golden Globes. It also gave birth to two-spin-offs, the single season AfterMASH, focusing on several of the characters working at a Midwestern hospital following the war and Trapper John, MD (1979-86), which took place 30 years after the war and starred Pernell Roberts in the Wayne Rogers role. A pilot that did not go to series was WALTE*R, which looked at Radar O’Reilly, who, after the failing of his family farm, becomes a St. Louis cop.

Fall Lineup Has Two Icons Returning to Prime Time

The fall season's slate of new shows features, zombies, gangsters, spies, cheerleaders and a pair of TV icons, Tom Selleck and William Shatner.

If these names can't carry a potent television audience, then we know these are wild television times.

Twenty-two years after the CBS-classic "Magnum P.I." went off the air, Selleck and his legendary 'stache are back with a hour-long drama "Blue Bloods," in which he plays a New York City police commissioner and the key figure in a three-generation family of Irish cops.

With stars such as Donnie Wahlberg and Bridget Moynahan playing parts in Selleck's crime-fighting family, expect the focus to be on character and story.

"While there is a good deal of police work on the streets of New York, the show is about how much that work affects the family," Selleck tells PopcornBiz. "I think this show is very much character-driven. That's where my appetite is."

"I don't think people get to see enough character-driven stuff on TV," he adds. "With reality shows and procedural cop shows, there isn't much of it around."

Shatner's return to situation comedy comes in the form of the quirky "$#*! My Dad Says," where he'll play the cantankerous father-figure dealing with his son, who has moved back home with him.

The show based on the famous Twitter account will allow Shatner to do what he does best -- ham it up. But it's not all joy for the consummate professional who is dealing with the ups and downs of a weekly studio audience.

"There’s maybe 400 or 500 people in the audience, and sometimes you can’t remember the words," he tells us. "When you’re in film, you say, 'What was that?' But here it’s very embarrassing."

It's never easy, even for Captain Kirk. Here's a list of the other most-prominent shows vying for your DVR time in the upcoming season.



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