45 years ago tonight, at 8:15PM on Sunday, September 22nd, 1969, ABC aired the first episode of The New People, part of its revamped Monday night line-up for the 1969-1970 season. Aaron Spelling produced the series. Rod Serling wrote the first episode but didn’t like how his script for a 60-minute drama was chopped up to fit a 45-minute time slot and declined to have his name attached to it.
The network hoped The New People and its other new Monday shows — The Music Scene, Love American Style and Harold Robbins’ The Survivors — would counter program to NBC’s Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In. Both The New People and the The Music Scene ran for 45 minutes, a strategic move intended to keep viewers from switching to NBC at 8PM. The New People ran from 7:30-8:15PM and The Music Scene from 8:15-9PM. The hope was that viewers who started watching The New People wouldn’t want to switch to Laugh-In, having missed the first 15 minutes.
It didn’t work. All four shows drew poor ratings and all but Love, American Style were off the air by January 1970.
Longtime readers will know that The New People is my favorite television obscurity of all time. It played a huge part in the development of what eventually became Television Obscurities. Prior to launching this website, I created a standalone website dedicated to The New People.
Over the years, I’ve acquired quite a collection of material relating to The New People, including the tie-in novel and both tie-in comics and their Mexican reprints, as well as ABC press releases, stills and slides, an original script, reel-to-reel audio tapes used in the production of the series. An exhibit or blog post about the reel-to-reel tapes is on my long list of projects to one day tackle.
There are so many short-lived TV shows I’d love to be able to see more episodes of. The New People has always been been near the top of the list. I’ve only seen the first episode, which is the only one circulating among private collectors. Unfortunately, like so many other obscure shows, it’s unlikely that The New People will ever see the light of day. Thankfully, UCLA’s Film & Television Archive has 16mm prints of all 17 episodes as well as a copy of the original version of the pilot when it was still planned as a traditional 60-minute series. Maybe one day I can get out there to watch some.