The New People
In the fall of 1969, in an attempt to draw viewers away from Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In on NBC, ABC introduced a brand new Monday night lineup, including two forty-five minute programs scheduled back-to-back from 7:30-9PM. The second of these programs was a drama called The New People, about a group of college students trying to build their own society after being stranded on an island. Cancelled after only seventeen episodes, the series nevertheless left a lasting impression on those who watched it. Some 35 years later, when ABC premiered Lost in 2004, The New People saw a small surge in popularity due to similarities between the two shows.
When ABC announced its 1969-1970 schedule in early March of 1969, its entire Monday line-up had been canceled. Gone were The Avengers (an import from Britain), Peyton Place (which had been cut back to one half-hour episode a week in February of 1969), The Outcasts and The Big Valley. In their place were four new programs: The Music Scene, The New People, The Survivors and Love, American Style.
Both The Music Scene and The New People were forty-five minutes in length, which ABC hoped would prevent viewers from switching over to other networks . In total, ABC added 12 new shows to its schedule, in place of 12 shows that it cancelled. The network, which had ended the 1968-1969 season in third place with an average 15.6 Nielsen rating, had high hopes for its new programming, its Monday line-up, and the 1969-1970 season as a whole .
The Music Scene was a musical-variety show with a rotating stable of hosts that showcased contemporary rock and pop acts. The Survivors (its full title was Harold Robbins’ The Survivors) was an ambitious novel-for-television starring Lana Turner and George Hamilton, based on a concept written by novelist Harold Robbins. Love, American Style was an anthology series focusing on romance stories.
And The New People? An ABC press release proclaimed:
“It is today, this time, this decade. But for a stranded group of young people on a remote island in the South Pacific, it is the Year One. Theirs, by a sudden thrust of circumstance, is a New World. Can they create a better one?” 
All four programs were part of ABC’s “program balance” that combined shows catered to younger audiences with “older” skewing programs like The Lawrence Welk Show . The network was actively courting “the 16 to 35 [or] 40-year-old market,” according to American Broadcast Companies, Inc. president Leonard H. Goldenson, who explained that “most of these people are young parents, most of them are large families .
During an ABC affiliates convention in May 1969, Elton Rule, president of ABC-TV, stated that the network was looking to win time periods “one by one, day by day, time period by time period” . Stressing its prospects for Monday, the network explained the unusual 45-minute running lengths of The Music Scene and The New People as an attempt to counter the “almost automatic inclination” of viewers to watch NBC’s Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In from 8-9PM on Monday nights .
The Music Scene, running from 7:30-8:15PM, would be followed by a three-second station break and then a “powerful action tease” for The New People that would transition viewers from one show to the other, bypassing entirely Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In . Or so ABC hoped.
Broadcasting magazine called ABC’s Monday line-up the network’s “crap shoot, the big gamble, the go-for-broke night,” with everything resting on The Survivors . Both The Music Scene and The New People were, for all intents and purposes, written off in the face of NBC’s Laugh-In and CBS’s Here’s Lucy. Love, American Style was likewise given little chance of succeeding.
Copyright © TV Guide, 1969 
All four programs were originally scheduled to premiere on Monday, September 22nd, 1969. In late August, however, ABC decided to hold The Survivors and Love, American Style until the following week due to increased competition from NBC . The network didn’t want to risk diluting the premieres of The Survivors and Love, American Style.
Obviously, ABC was expecting a lot from its Monday programs, which were expensive to produce but also relatively expensive for advertisers. The per-minute price for advertisements in The New People was $43,000, tied with Love, American Style, while The Music Scene was at a slightly lower $42,000 and The Survivors a higher $49,000 . By comparison, ABC’s returning Mod Squad rose from $38,000 to $46,000, an indication of its ratings strength. The highest price seen for fall 1969 was $65,000 — for NBC’s Laugh-In, CBS’s Mission: Impossible and Mayberry RFD, also on CBS.
The premise of The New People was a simple one. A group of roughly forty American college students were on a cultural exchange tour in Southeast Asia, sponsored by the State Department. The tour was cancelled because the students were too radical and outspoken and the State Department ordered them back to the United States. While flying home, their plane met encountered a severe storm and crashed on an island somewhere in the South Pacific. The following day, the “new people” began to explore.
The survivors soon learned the name of the island: Bomano, an unused Atomic Energy Commission (AEC) testing site. An entire town had been built on the island, complete with food, weapons and other supplies. There were, however, no people (aside from creepy test dummies) and chances of rescue were slim. The plane’s radio had been destroyed in the crash and, more importantly, nobody had any idea where they were — let alone how to contact help.
Killed in the plane crash were the pilots and several of the students. The only surviving adult was Mr. Hannichek (played by Richard Kiley) a mortally wounded State Department official who did his best to maintain order. During the first episode, a racist student gleefully smothers a signal fire just as a rescue plan is flying over in order to trap an African-American student on the island forever, not realizing he is also stranding himself and everyone else. That rescue plane would report the island clear and no additional planes would be sent out.
Hannichek uses what little strength he has left to stop a mob from killing the racist student and then dies. His death leaves the students alone on the island, forced to fend for themselves without the experience and advice of adults, yet eager to create a society free of the problems that had plagued the one they left behind.
Of the forty students who took part in the exchange tour, only six were regularly featured. Among them were Stanley Gabriel (played by Dennis Olivieri), Ginny Loomis (played by Jill Jaress) and George Potter (played by Peter Ratray), who was once a ruthless marine, now a pacifist and the unofficial and sometimes protested leader of the new people. Rounding out the main cast were Susan Bradley (played by Tiffany Bolling), the disenfranchised daughter of a senator, Gene “Bones” Washington (David Moses) a man of color unable to foresee a better world for himself, and Robert “Bob” Lee (Zooey Hall), a loner and a Southerner.
Several other supporting characters were featured in numerous episodes, including Jack, Laura and Sally (played by Clive Clerk, Elizabeth Berger and Elaine Princi). For the most part, the characters were stereotypical: there was the brainless football player, the outspoken female, the African-American sick of being treated unfairly, and the stoic Marine with feelings, the only level head of the group.
Throughout the series, the “new people” attempted to set up, and keep going, their new and hopefully better, civilization. They dealt with death, pregnancy, sexism, racism, drugs and violence. Episodes ranged fighting about building a shower for the women to a murder casting a shadow over the new society.
A two-part episode aired in late November and early December involved power dynamics between the sexes: while one woman tries to keep a domineering man from forcing her to marry her, another accuses one of the men of rape. Problems with racism and sexism continually plagued the survivors — and brought up questions of law and societal respect again and again.
Television critics were split in their reviews of The New People, either hating it or suggesting that it needed work to succeed. Kay Gardella of The New York Daily News fell into the first camp, calling the series “preachy,” while Paul Molloy of The Chicago Sun-Times wrote that he “found the premiere a total bore” . Morton Moss of The Los Angeles Herald-Examiner suggested the series “was loaded with slogans and abstractions masquerading as flesh-and-blood,” while The San Francisco Examiner‘s Dwight Newton wrote that “the series seems to be as stranded as its young people.”
On the other hand, Terrence O’Flaherty of The San Francisco Chronicle called The New People the “most fascinating program idea of the new season” but warned that the “characters will need to display more humor and honor.” Likewise, Jack Gould of The New York Times noted that series “began with many cliche contrivances but has an interesting potential” . Russ Marabito of Family Today predicted that “if future episode match it [the pilot] ABC will have a winner,” and Percy Shain of The Boston Globe wrote that the show had “a viewing momentum that should make it popular, particularly among the young.”
The Chicago Tribune‘s Clarence Peterson, after opining that Richard Kiley gave “what must have been the longest death scene in television history,” summed up his feelings on the future of the series:
“So there they are–the spectrum of youth in America–all alone with plenty of food and shelter and even a piano, and presumably they’ll find some guitars around somewhere, and in the weeks to come they will find out what a society run by and for the younger generation will actually be like. That is, they will find out that script writers are very clever, very much in tune with what the younger generation thinks and feels, and, of course, clairvoyant.” 
In a survey of the new television season in early October, Jack Gould seemed to agree with Petersen’s contention that the series was perhaps trying to hard to reflect the reality of contemporary youth. He noted, after seeing the second episode, that The New People “has yet to sort itself out; it could be genuine drama but has the earmarks of older people trying to think the way the young think” .
Due to their unusual run lengths, preliminary ratings breakdowns for both The New People and The Music Scene combined the last fifteen minutes of The Music Scene (from 8-8:15PM) with the first fifteen minutes of The New People (from 8:15-8:30PM). Thus, the best measure upon which to base comparisons between The New People and its competition was the last half-hour of the show, aired from 8:30-9PM.
Preliminary Nielsen ratings for New York City gave ABC a third-place ranking for the evening of Monday, September 22nd, when The Music Scene and The New People premiered. During the 7:30-8PM half-hour, The Music Scene drew a 10.4/19 rating, compared to a 14.9/26 rating for Gunsmoke on CBS and a 19.3/34 rating for My World and Welcome to It on NBC . The 8-8:30PM half-hour saw ABC drop to a 10.0/16 rating, while Gunsmoke dipped slightly to a 14.8/23 for CBS and Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In surged to a huge 26.3/41 for NBC .
The last half-hour of The New People rose to a 10.7/15 rating, while CBS fell to an 11.9/17 with Here’s Lucy and NBC grew to a 30.9/43 with Laugh-In . While the New York Nielsens only represented a fraction of the total audience, a poor showing in that city indicated that viewers across the country were not interested in The New People. The following week, the last half-hour of The New People improved to an 11.9/17 rating, although still a distant third behind CBS and NBC .
“Fast” national Nielsens for the week of September 22nd through September 29th saw the premieres of both The Music Scene and The New People rating below a 14.0; NBC, however, saw its entire Monday line-up for that week (Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In and its two specials featuring Bob Hope and Flip Wilson) make the top ten . National ratings for the following week saw The Survivors and Love, American Style premiered to 14.2 and 12.2 ratings, respectively .
All four of ABC’s Monday programs were in the bottom third of the Nielsen ratings for the week October 6th through October 13th (when the third episode of The New People was broadcast) along with six additional ABC shows . In light of these disappointing performances, ABC announced in early November that it was canceling The Music Scene and The New People and moving The Survivors and Love, American Style .
The network would fill its Monday schedule with It Takes a Thief and The ABC Monday Night Movie (formerly The ABC Wednesday Night Movie). The final broadcast of The New People took place on January 12th, 1970. For ABC, the Monday makeover worked: ratings for January 19th saw the network jump almost seven points from the previous week, although it still placed third for the evening .
A total of seventeen episodes of The New People were aired. The final episode did little to conclude the series; it involved the survivors arguing over whether or not they should try to signal a ship sighted on the horizon. An earlier episode had involved several of the students trying to build a raft to escape the island — but they never did.
It’s not clear how involved Rod Serling was in the creation and development of The New People. In a January 1969 article about programs in development for ABC, Broadcasting referred to the series as “Rod Serling’s The New People, being produced by Thomas-Spelling Productions” . Both The New York Times and The Chicago Tribune, writing about ABC’s 1969-1970 schedule, stated that The New People was created by Rod Serling [26, 27].
Clarence Petersen of The Chicago Tribune, in his review of the first episode of the series, stated the first script had been written by Rod Serling . However, writing credit for the first episode as broadcast is given to John Phillips. According to the closing credits The New People was “Developed For Television By” Rod Serling. Which was it? Did Serling develop the concept for television or actually write the pilot script?
In a March 1969 interview with Cecil Smith of The Los Angeles Times, Serling was asked about The New People. “That’s Aaron Spelling’s show,” Serling explained. “He brought me the idea and I wrote the pilot script. Beyond that, I have nothing to do with it. The show is somewhere between Gilligan’s Island and San Francisco State. It may work. But not with me” . Later, in July 1970, Serling spoke with Jerry Buck of The Associated Press, telling him that his pilot script for The New People was “carved up like beef” .
In September 2012, the UCLA Film & Television Archive screened an unaired 51-minute version of the pilot episode as part of a Rod Serling retrospective. This version of the pilot gave Serling written by credit, suggesting that after ABC cut The New People from a 60-minute series to a 45-minute series, in the process “butchering” Serling’s script, he wanted nothing more to do with it .
The memorable theme song to The New People, aptly titled “The New People,” was performed by The First Edition, with words and music by Earle Hagen. Other original music for the series was composed by George Romanis. The only episode of the series circulating among private collectors is the broadcast version of the pilot episode, which doesn’t include any opening credits. However, a fan recorded the opening theme song back in 1969 using a reel-to-reel tape recorder and that recording is presented here:
Listen to the Opening Theme to The New People (Reel to Reel Version)
Opening Theme Song Lyrics
The New People,
Starting out alone.
Far away from home and friends.
They’re young people,
Young but still aware.
Young but old enough to care.
What kind of world will they create?The New People,
Facing the problems of man.
Thousands of years haven’t solved them,
Yet all of them think they can.
Starting from day one.
And for each of them,
Time has just begun.
The New People.
The New People.
There were at least two versions of the closing theme to The New People, nearly identical. One can found at the end of the pilot episode as broadcast; the other was recorded from a different episode in 1969 by the same fan who recorded the opening theme song. Both are presented here:
Listen to the Closing Theme to The New People (Broadcast Pilot Version)
Listen to the Closing Theme to The New People (Reel-to-Reel Version)
Closing Theme Song Lyrics
The New People,
Starting out alone.
Far away from home and friends. [this line only heard in the reel-to-reel version]
What kind of world will they create?
Facing the problems of man.
Thousands of years haven’t solved them,
Yet all of them think they can,
The New People,
Starting from day one,
And for each of them,
Time has just begun.
Despite its brief run on television, The New People produced both a tie-in novel from Tempo Books and two tie-in comic books from Dell Publishing. The tie-in novel was titled The New People: They Came From The Sea and was published in September 1969. Written by prolific TV tie-in novelist William John under the pseudonym Alex Steele, the novel involves the survivors battling a hoard of poisonous crab-like creatures that descend on the island.
The first comic tie-in was published in January 1970; the second in May 1970. Both were likely on newsstands a few months before their cover dates. Each comic contains two original stories. They were later reprinted in Mexico in 1971 through publisher Organización Editorial Novaro as part of the TV Mundial (Worldwide TV) title.
1 “ABC’s fall lineup.” Broadcasting. 3 Mar. 1969: 9-10.
2 For the period September 23rd, 1968 through April 20th, 1969, ABC averaged a 15.6 rating, compared to a 20.3 for CBS and a 20.0 for NBC, according to an article in the May 5th, 1969 issue of Broadcasting magazine (page 9).
3 Cray, Douglas W. “A.B.C., TV’s Question Mark, Pins Much on New Season.” New York Times. 21 Sep. 1969: F1.
6 “A gung-ho ABC pitch to TV affiliates.” Broadcasting. 2 Jun. 1969: 26-27.
9 “Next season’s make-or-break shows.” Broadcasting. 18 Aug. 1969: 38-42.
10 “Staying away from specials.” Broadcasting. 25 Aug. 1969: 9.
11 All figures from “The asking price of network minutes.” Broadcasting. 10 Mar. 1969: 30-34.
12 All review excerpts, except where noted, quoted in “A second look at the new season.” Broadcasting. 29 Sep. 1969: 59-60.
13 Gould, Jack. “TV Review.” New York Times. 23 Sep. 1969: 95.
14 Petersen, Clarence. “TV Today: Bob Hope Special Too Bland to Be Funny.” Chicago Tribune. 23 Sep. 1969: B15.
15 Gould, Jack. “Please, Dear Mets, Don’t Go Away.” New York Times. 5 Oct. 1969: D21.
16 “Ratings race goes into first turn.” Broadcasting. 29 Sep. 1969: 59-60.
19 “Advantage of an early start.” Broadcasting. 6 Oct. 1969: 18-19.
20 “NBC-TV clings to Nielsen lead.” Broadcasting. 13 Oct. 1969: 46-47.
21 “CBS still second in National Nielsens.” Broadcasting. 20 Oct. 1969: 83.
22 “CBS takes lead in fast Nielsens.” Broadcasting. 27 Oct. 1969: 70-71.
23 Ferretti, Fred. “A.B.C.-TV Shuffling Programs in Ratings Bid.” New York Times. 8 Nov. 1969: 67.
24 “New shows help ABC boost ratings.” Broadcasting. 26 Jan. 1970: 83.
25 “ABC whistles ‘no money worries’ tune.” Broadcasting. 20 Jan 1969: 59-60.
26 Gent, George. “A.B.C. Plans to Replace 12 TV Programs in Fall.” New York Times. 1 Mar. 1969: 63.
27 Gowran, Clay. “TV Today: Fall Shows Over ABC Are Told.” Chicago Tribune. 3 Mar. 1969: C13.
28 Petersen, Clarence. “TV Today: Bob Hope Special Too Bland to Be Funny.” Chicago Tribune. 23 Sep. 1969: B15.
29 Smith, Cecil. “Rod Serling: the prolific TV writer has a ‘novel’ idea.” Los Angeles Times. 2 Mar. 1969: R2.
30 Buck, Jerry. “Serling Says He Prefers ‘The Sidelines’ of TV.” Sarasota Journal. Associated Press. 23 Jul. 1970: 12C.
31 The unaired 51-minute version of the pilot was screened on September 8th, 2012 as part of the Rod Serling: Other Dimensions retrospective at the UCLA Film & Television Archive. For more on the unaired pilot, see this September 11th, 2012 post at the Television Obscurities blog.
1 From TV Guide, Eastern New England Edition, September 13th, 1969, Page 34.
Originally Published June 11th, 2003
Last Updated September 21st, 2014