Q & A: Was F Troop Supposed to Have a 3rd Season?

I get a lot of e-mails from people asking me about television shows, made-for-TV movies or miniseries they remember from years or decades past. I try to answer each question as best I can. Every now and then I like to dig through my inbox and pull out a few choice e-mails to answer here at Television Obscurities for everyone to read. Keep reading for today’s questions and answers.

I have been wondering was the 60’s sitcom F Troop supposed to have a third season?
Darla

Was there going to be a season 3 of F Troop?
Adam

As I often do before attempting to answer questions about a specific television program, I refreshed my memory by reading its Wikipedia entry. As a general rule I’m not a fan of Wikipedia but I’ve found that for television programs it is usually a pretty good resource. I was surprised to find the following paragraph included in the article for F Troop:

The show’s ratings were still healthy after the second year, but according to Tucker, Warner Bros.’ new owners, Seven Arts, discontinued production because they thought it was wasteful for so much of the Warner Ranch being taken up by a single half-hour TV show. Producer William Orr says the studio was unhappy with the added costs of producing the show in color during its second season.

Unfortunately, there were no sources listed for these statements. That doesn’t mean they aren’t true. I find it hard to believe that someone would decide to mess with fans of F Troop by editing the show’s Wikipedia entry and adding false statements about its non-existent third season. Still, not knowing when/where these statements were made is frustrating. Was it a print interview? TV Guide, perhaps, or a newspaper? A television interview?

I don’t have actual Nielsen ratings for the 1966-1967 season but from the information I do have available it appears that F Troop was performing solidly in its 8-8:30PM time slot on Thursdays, easily beating CBS (which initially programmed Jericho from 7:30-8:30PM and later a variety hour called Coliseum) and not doing all that worse than Daniel Boone on NBC. So in terms of ratings it was probably strong enough to return for a third season.

In Tom Lisanti’s Drive-In Dream Girls: A Galaxy of B-Movie Starlets of the Sixties, Melody Patterson recounts that F Troop was canceled after Jack Warner had a stroke:

“The studio was really his alone to control and he hadn’t diversified at that time,” reveals Melody. “When he got sick and then died, everyone got the pink slip–from his son-in-law, who was the head of the television department, to the lowliest grip. The studio basically shut down for awhile.” [1]

Although Jack Warner may have had a stroke in 1967 he didn’t die until 1978, so Patterson, who played Wrangler Jane, was mistaken. According to Lisanti, Forrest Tucker had tried to find a new home for F Troop in first-run syndication, traveling to Spain to look for suitable (and cheap) studio locations, only to return to New York and discover that repeats of show had already sold into syndication [2].

Jack Warner had agreed to sell his Warner Brothers stock to Seven Arts in November 1966 and resigned as head of the new Warner Bros.-Seven Arts studio in July 1967. Forrest Tucker, in an August 10th, 1967 Milwaukee Journal article, insisted that F Troop — according to him the highest-rated show to be canceled at the end of the 1966-1967 season — would still be on the air if not for “the sudden sale of Warner Brothers” [3].

While Melody Patterson may have been mistaken in her recollection of F Troop‘s cancellation, it seems clear that the takeover of Warner Brothers by Seven Arts was the primary reason the show did not return for a third season. It had done well enough in the ratings during the 1966-1967 season for ABC to renew it but instead Warner Bros.-Seven Arts ceased production. Still, the statements found in the Wikipedia entry for F Troop — that it took up too much of the Warner Ranch and was too expensive to produce in color — have yet to be confirmed.

Works Cited:

1 Lissanti, Tom. Drive-In Dream Girls: A Galaxy of B-Movie Starlets of the Sixties. Jefferson, N.C.: McFarland, 2003: Page 144.
2 Ibid.
3 “City’s Very Special to Forrest Tucker.” Milwaukee Journal. 10 Aug. 1967: 4.

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10 Comments

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    Of course, there was supposed to have been a third season: the series’ primary sponsor, Quaker Oats, was VERY happy with the ratings and response it was getting (don’t forget, they also had the cast appearing in “integrated commercials” for several of their products, including Quaker Oats and Ken-L Ration pet foods, at the end of those episodes). No, it was Warner Bros. who decided that the series was “too expensive” to sustain a third season [in one of the last episodes, "Our Brave In F Troop", one key scene towards the end was filmed against a photographic backdrop of the "training area" because it was cheaper to film that scene IN THE STUDIO, instead of on location at the Warner Ranch]. Ouaker Oats had to settle for co-sponsoring “F TROOP”‘s replacement on Thursday nights in the fall of ’67 (with Colgate-Palmolive), “THE FLYING NUN”.

  • pBOB says:

    Ken Berry had to be the unluckiest actor back in those days. Both F Troop and Mayberry got canceled at the height of their popularity. He never had a hit again until the syndicated verison of Mama’s Family in the 80s.

  • HCH says:

    I need to find a source, but I do recall reading a mid-season 1966-67 ratings review that had F TROOP averaging a 30 share, to DANIEL BOONE’s 32 share, as of January.

    Also, VARIETY magazine reported F TROOP in the “probable” category for renewal around the same time. I need to scan the early 1967 issues. I recall reading in an issue in either February or March that it was contending for the Wednesday 7:30 ET/8 ET slot that eventually went to the flop COWBOY IN AFRICA as well as consideration to return in the Thursday 8 ET slot.

    A Nielsen report in March 1967 had F TROOP ranking a season high 23rd in the 2 week ratings for the period ending March 5, so it certainly wasn’t a case of limping to the finish line either.

    Need to go to the library and get the actual sources to cite….read all of this while researching the show at UNT a loooong time back.

  • DuMont says:

    Part of the reason ‘F Troop’ got cancelled by ABC (I still do not believe that Warner self-cancelled it) was that their fall 1966 sked opened with problems, going from bad to worse, even threatening their cherished ‘Bewitched’/’That Girl’ sitcom pairing at 9-10 pm:

    7:30 pm ‘Batman II’
    8:00 pm ‘F Troop’
    8:30 pm ‘The Tammy Grimes Show’
    9:00 pm ‘Bewitched’
    9:30 pm ‘That Girl’
    10:00 pm ‘Hawk’

    ‘The Tammy Grimes Show’ was such as ratings disaster that it got pulled after a few weeks, replaced by quicky daytime-to-primetime transplant ‘The Dating Game’, which vastly improved the timeslot and helped to lift ‘Bewitched’ back up a bit (it had lost about 6.0HH from the previous season). At mid-season, the Alphabet moved ‘Bewitched’ to 8:30 pm followed by ‘Love on a Rooftop’ at 9 pm, ‘That Girl’ at 9:30 pm and ‘ABC Stage ’67’ at 10-11 pm. ‘Bewitched’ further improved upon ‘The Dating Game’, regaining its old ratings mojo, and making big household gains out of ‘F Troop’ each week.

    ‘Batman’ performed poorly during the 1966-67, so much so that when the upfront dog-and-pony presentations to ad agencies gathered steam early in the New Year of 1967, ABC was reluctant to take another full season, wanting only a limited 15-episode renewal (down from the astoundingly high 60-episode 1966-67 season order) and talking about moving it away from Wednesdays and Thursdays (even considering pairing it up with ‘Green Hornet’ somewhere else on the sked).

    Sometime in late 1966 or early 1967, ABC gave a very early greenlight to ‘The Flying Nun’, a new single-cam comedy starring Miss Sally Field, and they started pitching it around to advertisers, who were very keen to line up behind it given the success of ‘Gidget’ in attracting young women. ABC decided to keep ‘Bewitched’ at 8:30 pm, and that the high-demand ‘The Flying Nun’ was going to get the ‘F Troop’ slot. This was when ‘Batman’ began doing its survival dance just to get renewed as there were fears it would be a bad lead-in, and highly incompatible, to ‘The Flying Nun’. Mr. William Dozier re-jigged the show, adding Batgirl and shiftng to a one-episode standalone format in an effort to help improve the W18-49 delivery to ABC’s Thursday sked. They also cut the production costs as I believe ABC negotiated a cut in the license fee. After all the re-tinkering, 20th-Fox Television finally convinced ABC to go for the Batgirl addition, eventually ekeing out a 26-episode third season.

    Back to poor ‘F Troop’, which, while respectable (around 13.0-15.0HH I seem to remember), was unable to hold its ‘Batman’ lead-in, dipping about 3.0HH to 4.0HH each week.

    Then, there was the cost issue. I’m not sure the level that Warner was deficit financing the series, but I’m pretty sure that there was no way ABC was paying full freight on it because the show had been a marginal performer on Tuesday nights in the 1965-66 season. ‘F Troop’ was extra costly because it was a half-hour western, shot in single-cam, with multiple sets (fort set, Indian set, interior sets), a large cast with lots of extras-heavy scenes, and given its pratfall style of comedy, frequent calls for complicated stuntwork.

    But worst of all for ‘F Troop’ was that, like ‘Batman’, it was a poor flow/lead-in for ABC’s evolving femme-demo targeting plans for Thursday night. In the end, Warner might have said they were unwilling to continue deficit-financing the series, and ABC decided that they weren’t getting the Nielsens to justify a renewal. It was cancelled, and I don’t remember any hullaballoo at all at the time…that season there was an absolutely hysterical fan-based campaign that swamped the mailroom of 30 Rock to save ‘The Monkees’, which was on the bubble (they didn’t call it that then) as its first season approached conclusion.

    If you really want someone to blame for the demise of ‘F Troop’, I suppose one could point a mildly-accusing finger at Miss Sally Field. Had the Alphabet not made such a mistake in cancelling her W12-34-fave ‘Gidget’ series after one season, they might not have been so over-eager to lock-up ‘The Flying Nun’ so lickedy-split (it did have an absolutely gorgeously filmed hour-long pilot)…it did, however, turn out to be a big hit for them, gaining about 5.0HH over what ‘F Troop’ was delivering in the timeslot.

  • Ken Tucky says:

    I am the person who wrote the Wikipedia line about producer William T. Orr (“Producer William Orr says the studio was unhappy with the added costs of producing the show in color during its second season.”) As I recall, I did cite the source, but over the years, as people altered the Wikipedia entry on ‘F Troop,’ somehow the source was dropped.
    There’s a book called ‘The Box.’ It’s an oral history of TV’s early years, and consists of interviews with dozens of writers, actors, directors, producers, etc. William T. Orr is interviewed, and in it, he says Warner Brothers ended production of ‘F Troop’ because of production costs. He specifically cites the cost of producing the show in color during its second season. He may be right. He may be wrong. But that’s what he says.
    I also have some ratings information. There used to be a broadcasting industry magazine called ‘Television.’ I found copies of it in my college library. The magazine claimed that during the 1966-1967 season, ‘F Troop’ was in 39th place, with a rating of 18.8. It was ABC’s eighth-highest rated show, and its second most popular sitcom, after ‘Bewitched.’
    ABC was a distant third at the time. For ABC, 39th place wasn’t bad. Other shows, with lower ratings, were renewed that year, on ABC and on the other networks. In my opinion, it didn’t make a lot of sense for ABC to cancel ‘F Troop’ — if it was ABC’s decision.

  • HCH says:

    Echoing Ken Tucky and my own post above, I found Television Magazine’s Volume 24, Issue 8 magazine from 1967, which had the full 1966-67 season listing with “share” rather than the rating listed and the show rankings.

    F TROOP’s 18.8 noted above was good enough for a “share” of 31.3, and the show ranked # 40 out of 113 shows. Among those it outrated: GILLIGAN’S ISLAND (49th and also dropped) and STAR TREK (52nd but given a reprieve). Still, almost all of the top 40 was kept; one other exception was MR. TERRIFIC, which was 36th but dropped by CBS.

    In those days as noted above, a 30 share was usually going to get you renewed. Pretty clear that F TROOP was not cancelled due to low ratings. At # 40, it was only the slightest of dropoffs from its leadin, # 37 BATMAN (Thursday night showing–33 share), and BATMAN was renewed. DANIEL BOONE, at # 25, won the time period with CBS a very distant third all year.

  • D Dujon says:

    I remember seeing Larry Storch on the old Joey Bishop show with Sally Field He said that Sally’s show The Flying Nun was the reason F Troop went off the air.i find that ironic because F Troop is still popular in syndication after all these years. I can’t remember the last time I saw the Flying Nun on the air. Also I understand that Sally Field didn’t even like her series

  • Linda Brown says:

    Back in the 60’s, I remember seeing a commercial for Quaker Oats in which F Troop was firing their cannon (and shooting out Quaker Oats) and someone was singing “This is the cereal that’s shot from guns” to the tune of the 1812 overture. I’ve been searching the internet for it, but so far have not found it. Do you have any idea where I might locate it. I’d appreciate it if you could help me. L.B.

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