Building NBC’s 1966-1967 Schedule


An awful lot of work went into building NBC’s 1966-1967 schedule and this article covers it all. Early planning began during the first months of the 1965-1966 season, when NBC swapped out failing programs and inserted fresh replacements. The network then began looking through its pilots for concepts with possibility. A rough schedule was released and then revised before being finalized. The network then began its promotional blitz before finally unveiling its new and returning programs in September 1966.

Wrapping Up The 1965-1966 Season

During the fall of 1965 the three networks introduces some thirty new television programs, including Run for Your Life, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, I Spy, Mona McCluskey, I Dream of Jeannie, Honey West and The F.B.I.. By mid-November, each of the networks had a pretty good picture of which programs were doing well in the Nielsen ratings and which programs — either those that debuted in September of 1965 or were carried over from the previous season — needed to be replaced.

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For the most part, these changes took place in January, when traditional “mid-season” replacements are rolled out and low-rated shows were taken off the air. ABC made the most significant modifications to its schedule, due to its status as the lowest-rated network, dropping (among others) Shindig I, Shindig II and Amos Burke, Secret Agent and adding such programs as Batman I, Batman II, The Baron and The Blue Light.

The other networks made fewer alterations. NBC only cancelled one series, Convoy, and replaced it with The Sammy Davis Show. CBS got rid of The Steve Lawrence Show, Rawhide and Slattery’s People. The Trials of O’Brien was moved into the time slot formerly held by Slattery’s People and summer replacement Secret Agent filled time slot left open by The Trials of O’Brien. The Steve Lawrence Show was replaced by Art Linkletter’s Hollywood Talent Scouts and Rawhide by Daktari.

Pilots, Pilots Everywhere

Once the substitutions were completed, the networks turned to the future and began sifting through pilots for the 1966-1967 season. Of course, given the cyclical nature of broadcast television, the networks were already looking ahead to the 1966-1967 season even as they were putting the finishing touches on their 1965-1966 schedules. When promotion for new and returning began during the summer of 1965, the networks were holding meetings and taking pitches from producers and writers. And when the 1965-1966 season began in September 1965, production on pilots for the following season was already underway.

Still, it was not until the 1965-1966 season was, for all intents and purposes, finished in early 1966 (with the final mid-season replacements slotted in) that the networks could turn their attention to the following season. Completed pilots were screened for network executives, hopeful producers did everything in their power to sell their new shows for the coming season and worried producers did everything in their power to ensure their existing shows were renewed for another year.

Broadcasting reported in early January of 1966 that the three networks combined would look through roughly 75 pilots by February; NBC had 30, CBS 25 and ABC 20 [1]. All the big production companies in Hollywood — Warner Brothers, Universal Television, M-G-M, 20th Century-Fox Television — were busily cranking out pilots. In some cases, the pilots were made with specific networks in mind (or as co-productions with a specific network), while others would be pitched to all the networks.

For NBC, Universal Television was working on an hour-long drama pilot called Stranded starring Richard Egan. The project had gone before the cameras in late December, a shared project between Willrich Productions (Egan’s company), Universal Television and NBC-TV [2]. Stranded told the story of the survivors of a plane crash in the middle of the jungle. M-G-M had The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. and Reckoning for NBC, the latter an hour-long serial that could be cut into two half-hour weekly installments if desired [3].

According to Broadcasting, by early February, NBC had slashed its list of potential programs from 30 to 14, although some pilots were yet to be finished [4]. Reportedly, the 14 included such pilots as Tarzan, The Monkees, The Cops and the Heroes, My Fifteen Blocks, The Unpardonables, The Road West and Three For Danger [5].

The New York Times reported on February 18th that The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. had been tentatively added to NBC’s 1966-1967 schedule, set for Tuesdays from 7:30-8:30PM [6]. The following day, the paper stated that NBC had ordered two half-hour sitcoms to replace Dr. Kildare I on Mondays and Dr. Kildare II on Tuesdays; Hey, Landlord! was given the Monday slot and Occasional Wife the Tuesday slot [7]. The Monkees was added to the list of pilots officially picked up a few days later [8].

The First Rough Schedule

On February 28th, Broadcasting reported an early schedule the networks had shown to advertising agencies the previous week [9]. NBC’s schedule looked like this:

Sunday
7:30PM – The Wonderful World of Disney (returning)
8:30PM – Branded (returning)
9:00PM – Bonanza (returning)
10:00PM – The Andy Williams Show (returning)

Monday
7:30PM – The Monkees (new)
8:00PM – I Dream of Jeannie (returning)
8:30PM – Hey, Landlord! (new)
9:00PM – The Road West (new)
10:00PM – Run for Your Life (returning)

Tuesday
7:30PM – The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. (new)
8:30PM – Occasional Wife (new)
9:00PM – The NBC Tuesday Night Movie (returning)

Wednesday
7:30PM – The Virginian (returning)
9:00PM – Chrysler Theatre (returning)
10:00PM – I Spy (returning)

Thursday
7:30PM – Daniel Boone (returning)
8:30PM – Laredo (returning)
9:30PM – The Hero (new)
10:00PM – The Dean Martin Show (returning)

Friday
7:30PM – Tarzan (new)
8:30PM – The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (returning)
9:30PM – T.H.E. Cat (new)
10:00PM – Star Trek (new)

Saturday
7:30PM – Flipper (returning)
8:00PM – My Fifteen Blocks (new)
8:30PM – Get Smart (returning)
9:00PM – The NBC Saturday Night Movie (returning)

A week earlier The New York Times had printed a schedule for NBC that was almost identical to the one later seen in Broadcasting [10]. One difference was new drama Three For Danger in place of Laredo from 8:30-9:30PM on Thursdays; the network must have made a last-minute decision to continue Laredo for another year and dropped Three For Danger. Additionally, The Road West was scheduled in the 10-11PM Sunday time slot only if The Andy Williams Show didn’t return. It did, and The Road West moved to Mondays, as reflected in Broadcasting‘s schedule.

The Story Of My Fifteen Blocks

Perhaps the most interesting aspect of NBC’s 1966-1967 schedule was My Fifteen Blocks. The half-hour sitcom was announced in July of 1965, months before the 1965-1966 season had begun and more than a year before the 1966-1967 season would get underway [11]. The series, produced by Danny Thomas and Sheldon Leonard, would star Dean Jones as a beat cop in Chicago. Reportedly, exterior scenes would be filmed in Chicago and the first episodes would be filmed in the fall of 1965.

Dean Jones told Hedda Hopper in December of 1965 that filming had begun and, because the series would not premiere until the fall of 1966, he was able to appear in films alongside production of My Fifteen Blocks [12]. He explained that the series was “about a policeman on a beat ranging from slums to penthouses,” with Mickey Shaughnessy co-starring and Jay C. Flippen being approached for a role.

When NBC’s early schedule was announced in February of 1966, My Fifteen Blocks had been given the 8-8:30PM time slot on Saturdays, between Flipper and Get Smart. Everything looked good for a September premiere and, potentially, a long run on the network. On March 1st, however, Danny Thomas pulled the series because he wasn’t comfortable with the time slot [13].

He told Broadcasting he didn’t want the show seen Saturdays because of Saturday’s “limited youth audience” and the fact that teenagers wouldn’t be home to watch it [14]. Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, which had been set for cancellation at the end of the 1965-1966 season, was instead renewed and given the Saturday time slot that would have been held by My Fifteen Blocks.

The Final NBC Schedule

In addition to dropping My Fifteen Blocks and renewing Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, NBC made other changes to its schedule in March [15]. Branded, set to continue on was cancelled and Hey, Landlord! was moved from Monday at 8:30PM to Sunday at 8:30PM. To fill the Monday time slot, The Roger Miller Show was added. Returning series Laredo was shifted to Fridays at 10:00PM and Star Trek was given the 8:30-9:30PM slot on Thursdays.

Here’s a look at the finished schedule:

Sunday
7:30PM – The Wonderful World of Disney (returning)
8:30PM – Hey, Landlord! (new)
9:00PM – Bonanza (returning)
10:00PM – The Andy Williams Show (returning)

Monday
7:30PM – The Monkees (new)
8:00PM – I Dream of Jeannie (returning)
8:30PM – The Roger Miller Show (new)
9:00PM – The Road West (new)
10:00PM – Run for Your Life (returning)

Tuesday
7:30PM – The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. (new)
8:30PM – Occasional Wife (new)
9:00PM – The NBC Tuesday Night Movie (returning)

Wednesday
7:30PM – The Virginian (returning)
9:00PM – Chrysler Theatre (returning)
10:00PM – I Spy (returning)

Thursday
7:30PM – Daniel Boone (returning)
8:30PM – Star Trek (new)
9:30PM – The Hero (new)
10:00PM – The Dean Martin Show (returning)

Friday
7:30PM – Tarzan (new)
8:30PM – The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (returning)
9:30PM – T.H.E. Cat (new)
10:00PM – Laredo (returning)

Saturday
7:30PM – Flipper (returning)
8:00PM – Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (returning)
8:30PM – Get Smart (returning)
9:00PM – The NBC Saturday Night Movie (returning)

Overall, NBC added ten new shows: five sitcoms (counting The Monkees), four dramas and one musical/variety series (The Roger Miller Show).

The Promotional Push Begins

Once the schedule was set, it was time for promotion. During the summer, NBC began airing promotional spots for its new and returning shows (in color, of course), filling any unsold commercial minutes with its own spots. The slogan for the 1966-1967 season was “NBC Week Is Here,” reflecting the official premiere week running from Sunday, September 11th through Saturday, September 17th.

During the first week of August, NBC began selling promotional posters (in color) of four of its hit shows from the previous season: Bonanza, Get Smart, I Spy, and The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. The posters were priced at $1 and sold quite well. Such posters had been created for every new and returning show but only these four were offered to consumers. The poster for Star Trek was later used as the cover to the first set of novelizations by James Blish.

According to Broadcasting, 400,000 posters were sold within four weeks and it was estimated that by September 5th, the number would be 460,000 [16]. The network also produced a half-hour fall preview special starring Jack Burns and Avery Schreiber called “Two in a Taxi” was broadcast nationally on NBC on Sunday, September 4th from 3-3:30PM and then offered to individual affiliates to repeat.

Additional promotional efforts included advertisements in newspapers and magazines, including lengthy supplemental sections. These advertisements were often produced in conjunction with a local NBC station and a local department store selling color television sets. For example, The Chicago Tribune ran advertisements promoting NBC’s schedule, the local NBC affiliate (WMAQ-TV) and a department chain, Carsons, that sold Magnavox color sets [17].

In the September 6th edition of The New York Times, an advertisement promoted NBC Week, NBC-TV 4 in New York City, Macy’s department store and RCA color televisions. Here is some of the text from that advertisement:

“Next week is a historic week for TV. Because, for the first time, it’s color all the way on NBC. And because the Fall TV season begins next week on NBC WEEK, a festival of color and premieres, a week so filled with excitement, entertainment, news, and sports that you won’t want to leave your TV set for a minute. Ten world premieres of brand-new series, from “The Girl from U.N.C.L.E.” to “Tarzan” to “The Roger Miller Show”. Eighteen new-season premieres of favorite shows…like “Bonanza” and “Flipper” and “The Dean Martin Show”. And that’s only the beginning.” [18]

And on September 11th, the first day of the new season, The New York Times published a 16-page supplement promoting NBC Week and WNBC-TV 4, covering all seven days of the week, plus late night programming, specials, news, public affairs, daytime programming, children’s programming and sports programming [19].

The Star Trek Promotional Booklet

For each of the ten new programs on NBC’s schedule, the network sales planning division of NBC in New York City sent out informational booklets entitled “Advance Information on 1966-1967 Programming” [20]. The booklet for Star Trek is probably the most intriguing of the bunch, because it promotes a series that never truly materialized. As most Star Trek fans know, NBC rejected the first pilot for the series, which starred Jeffrey Hunter as Captain Christopher Pike. A second pilot, this one starring William Shatner as Captain James Kirk, was ordered and that is what sold the network on the show.

TV Guide Advertisement
Advance Information on 1966-67 Programming: Star Trek – 1966
Copyright © NBC, 1966[1]

However, the second pilot, titled “Where No Man Has Gone Before,” bares little resemblance to the Star Trek that would premiere in September of 1966. In addition to aesthetic differences — the uniforms looked different — two of the beloved Star Trek characters were absent. Kirk, Spock, Kirk and Sulu were present, but Uhura and Dr. McCoy were no where to be found. Instead, Paul Fix played Dr. Piper and Lloyd Haynes played Communications Officer Alden.

It was “Where No Man Has Gone Before” that the booklet promoted. Thus, much of the cast information contained in the booklet would be contradicted in September when Star Trek premiered, and much of the technical information and character biographies were changed later in the series. Here is part of the introduction to the series:

“As the Apollo moon shot moves steadily from the drawing board to the launching pad, STAR TREK takes TV viewers beyond our time and solar system to the unexplored interstellar deeps in a full-hour adventure series. Each week the home screen audience will be invited to join the men and women aboard the United Space Ship Enterprise, as this huge star cruiser searches out safe landfalls in space.”

Landfalls? What about the transporter? Obviously, the people responsible for writing the booklet were working only from the sketchy information present in the script for “Where No Man Has Gone Before” and any other production material they had available. It is certainly understandable that the booklet is riddled with inaccuracies. Indeed, the booklet includes the following note: “The program described in this booklet is subject to availability and does not represent a commitment.”

A few choice excerpts: Spock is called a “Vulcanian,” rather than a Vulcan and his home world is said to be “Vulcanis” not Vulcan. Chief Engineer Scott “…is a wizard at repairing … the ship’s huge ‘space warp’ engines,” and the position of captain “…is the most important position a man in the Space Service can hold…”. And Sulu (George Takei) was not the navigator of the Enterprise, but instead the physicist.

The biography of Yeoman Smith (portrayed in “Where No Man Has Gone Before” by Andrea Dromm) included in the booklet is laughably sexist by today’s standards, yet reflected that attitudes prevalent in television during the 1960s — attitudes that Star Trek would both combat and further:

“YEOMAN SMITH, who has drawn the important assignment of secretary to the Captain on her first mission in deep space, is easily the most popular member of Kirk’s staff. A capable secretary and efficient dispense of instant coffee, she also provides a welcome change of scenery for eyes that have spent long hours scanning the vast reaches of space.”

It is the pictures of Spock that give this promotional booklet its real place in history. Unable to force Star Trek‘s creator, Gene Roddenberry, to get rid of the Spock character, NBC instead decided to de-emphasize the “demonic” features that became Spock’s trademark. In two different photos, his ears are airbrushed to remove the pointed tips. In one photo, the tips are simply removed, and the ears retain a somewhat unearthly look; in the other, his ears appear to be identical to a pair found on a human.

According to The Star Trek Compendium, “responsibility for these altered photos was traced back to a minor official in the network’s art department,” however, “it is highly unlucky that such a thing would be done without the permission of someone higher up in the corporate structure” [21]. It is unknown how many of these booklets were published for any of the new NBC shows, who received them, or how many might remain. A complete reproduction of the Star Trek booklet can be found in the now out-of-print Inside Star Trek: The Real Story by Robert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman.

The Season Begins… Early

In an attempt to catch the attention of viewers before they had a chance to sample the ABC or CBS schedules, NBC previewed three of its new programs the week before the 1966-1967 season officially began (ABC also previewed many of its new shows during the week of September 4th through September 10th). On Thursday, September 8th, Tarzan, Star Trek and The Hero were broadcast from 7:30-10PM.

On Sunday, September 11th, NBC Week kicked off with the premieres of Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color (“Emil and the Detectives”), Hey, Landlord!, Bonanza and The Andy Williams Show. NBC Week concluded on Saturday, September 17th with the premieres of Flipper, Please Don’t Eat the Daisies, Get Smart and The NBC Saturday Night Movie (“Donovan’s Reef”).

All the work that had gone into creating NBC’s 1966-1967 schedule — the meetings, the pitches, the pilots, the juggling, the promotion — it all led up the NBC Week. It was now up to the viewing public to make the schedule a success or failure.

Works Cited:

1 “Hollywood shifts into high gear for ’66-67 TV pilots.” Broadcasting. 10 Jan. 1966: 29.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid.
4 “Networks sift their pilots.” Broadcasting. 7 Feb. 1966: 59-60.
5 Ibid.
6 Adams, Val. “N.B.C. Schedule Next Season Eyes a ‘Girl From U.N.C.L.E.’.” New York Times. 18 Feb. 1966: 67.
7 Gent, George. “Wife Is Not A Wife In New N.B.C. Show.” New York Times. 19 Feb. 1966: 55.
8 “Networks running pilots up flagpole.” Broadcasting. 21 Feb. 1966: 76-77.
9 “Here’s how the network programs shape up for next fall.” Broadcasting. 28 Feb. 1966: 24.
10 Adams, Val. “30 New TV Shows To Appear In Fall.” New York Times. 22 Feb. 1966: 36.
11 “NBC-TV plans ahead.” Broadcasting. 12 Jul. 1965: 73.
12 Hopper, Hedda. “King of the Beasts.” Chicago Tribune. 26 Dec. 1965: J27.
13 Adams, Val. “Scherick Resigns TV Post At A.B.C.” New York Times. 2 Mar. 1966: 83.
14 “Fall line-ups keep changing.” Broadcasting. 7 Mar. 1966: 76.
15 Ibid.
16 “New high in fall show promotion.” Broadcasting. 5 Sep. 1966: 27-30.
17 These advertisements can be found in the September 1st, 6th, 8th and 10th editions of The Chicago Tribune, among others (Pages 20, 20, 20, 15, respectively).
18 “From Sign-On To Sign-Off: It’s Color On NBC-TV 4.” New York Times. 6 Sep. 1966: 7.
19 Included in the Sunday, September 11th, 1966 edition of The New York Times, at the end of Section 12.
20 In The Star Trek Compendium, Allan Asherman states that the booklet for Star Trek was “Prepared by the network sales planning division of NBC in New York.” There is no reason to believe booklets for other new shows were produced elsewhere (Page 25).
21 Asherman, Allan. The Star Trek Compendium. New York: Pocket Books, 1986: 25.

Image Credits:

1 Scanned from an insert in Inside Star Trek: The Real Story by Herbert F. Solow and Robert H. Justman (New York: Pocket Books, 1996).

Originally Published June 11th, 2003
Last Updated January 23rd, 2013

9 Comments

  • vince says:

    I have been trying to locate the Star Trek poster since I was a kid that bought the 4 offered by NBC
    (Man forn U.N.C.L.E. I Spy, Get Smart and Maya)
    I have tried to find the name of the artist and where to get a reproduction.
    Anybody know?
    Help!@#$$#
    It is a long quest.
    Thank you

  • RGJ says:

    I’ve seen copies of the I Spy, Bonanza and The Man from U.N.C.L.E. posters on eBay but never the Star Trek poster. This auction listing gives the artist’s name as James Bama. A biography for Bama can be found here; it mentions the Star Trek poster.

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    Also seen before “NBC Week” officially began was a special that doubled as a pilot for a potential series, on September 10, 1966 (just before the “Miss America Pagent”)- “CLASS OF ’67”, a variety special briefly mentioned towards the end of the 1966 fall preview special, “Two in A Taxi”. Its host was George Hamilton, with guest stars Nancy Sinatra, Don Adams (from “GET SMART”), Jack Burns & Avery Schreiber [the hosts of the previously mentioned fall preview special], and former “HULLABALOO” dancer Lada Edmund Jr. (best known on that show as “the girl in the cage”), who tried to spark her own career after the show was cancelled, but was unsuccessful….as was the special, which never became a series.

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    “BRANDED” was “on a bubble”, so to speak, as NBC and sponsor Procter & Gamble were deciding its future at the end of February 1966 (it had been losing ground to ABC’s “THE FBI” since the beginning of its second season). Producer Andrew J. Fenady had already made changes in the show’s format in the last handful of episodes seen at the end of the second season: Jason McCord [Chuck Connors] eventually settled down in a small town as a surveyor, no longer a “wanderer”, with his grandfather, Joshua McCord [John Carradine], his girlfriend Ann Williams [Lola Albright], the town’s newspaper publisher, and an orphan girl named Kellie [Suzanne Cupito, who grew up to become "Morgan Brittany"], introduced in the last episode of the season. One big, happily blended “family” surrounding Jason McCord was the plan for season three. But network and sponsor rethought the idea, and decided “BRANDED” was expendable (P&G “bought” “HEY, LANDLORD!” for Sunday nights instead, that fall).

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    …and then there was country singer Roger Miller. Mr. “King Of the Road” headlined a half-hour musical special following a 90 minute Bob Hope “Christmas Show” in January 1966, and he got good reviews as well as good ratings. NBC decided he’d be perfect as a “bridge” between “I DREAM OF JEANNIE” and “THE ROAD WEST” on Monday nights after Procter & Gamble bought “HEY, LANDLORD!” for their Sunday night time period for the fall, and the network wondered what to place on Mondays instead. It should have been a perfect choice- but Roger Miller was actually a shy person that performed best as a guest on someone else’s variety show. When he began his own series in the fall of 1966 (produced by the man previously responsible for “HULLABALOO”), it was evident he didn’t have what it took be a “variety host”, and appeared somewhat awkward with his patter and his attempts at comedy. Of course, when you’re opposite “THE LUCY SHOW”, you’d be a little awkward, too. The network gave up on Miller at the end of December, scheduling Buck Henry’s superhero parody “CAPTAIN NICE” in his time period for January 1967.

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    Oh, yes, “THE UNPARDONABLES” (aka “PLOTKIN PRISON, WE LOVE YOU”) was a Don Rickles vehicle, according to Lee Goldberg’s “Unsold Television Pilots: 1955 through 1988″, about a group of inmates at a correctional facility who have NO desire to leave…even if they have to. It was never “burned off” during the summer…

    Richard Egan’s unaired “STRANDED” pilot was expanded, with additional footage featuring a different supporting cast, and released theatrically in Europe by Universal in the fall of 1967 as “Valley of Mystery” (it was also seen on one of NBC’s movie nights as a “World Premiere Movie”). Eventually, it was reissued on home video as “Disappearance of Flight 603″, which you can currently view on YouTube in 9 parts…

  • Barry I. Grauman says:

    By the way, Disney’s weekly series was still known as “WALT DISNEY’S WONDERFUL WORLD OF COLOR” in 1966 [Walt died that December, and the introductions he'd already filmed were shown through the remainder of the season]. The title change to “THE WONDERFUL WORLD OF DISNEY” took place in September 1969.

  • Toby Flenderson says:

    Hey Vince –

    Star Trek was never offered for sale.

    And the 4th poster was for Bonanza, not Maya.

    I’ve had mine up in every home I have lived in (even today!)

  • Shel Wildes says:

    I was a page at 30 rock at this time and remember the shows well and the ones we did in the studio there and in Brooklyn. I would love to find out if one of the pages with me then he went on to become a director in the exutive ranks named John Feney might be. We both went on to be on the staff at KHON TV in Honolulu thanks for any info

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