Television Obscurities Keeping Obscure TV From Fading Away Forever Sat, 22 Nov 2014 22:16:08 +0000 en-US hourly 1 A Year in TV Guide: November 21st, 1964 Fri, 21 Nov 2014 13:00:10 +0000 TV Guide magazine. This week's issue included articles about NFL games on CBS, actor Jim Nabors, and actor Edward Andrews. Continue Reading →]]> A Year in TV Guide explores the 1964-1965 television season through the pages of TV Guide magazine. Each week, I’ll examine the issue of TV Guide published exactly 50 years earlier. The intent is not simply to examine what was on television each week but rather what was being written about television.

Week #10
November 21st, 1964
Vol. 12, No. 47, Issue #608
Western New England Edition

On the Cover: Jim Nabors of Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. on CBS (photograph by Gene Trindl).

The Magazine

The national section this week is relatively underwhelming. There’s no mention of the anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination whatsoever, which surprised me. Instead, the As We See It editorial discussed complaints from the broadcasting industry about Howard H. Bell, the man in charge of enforcing the Radio and Television Code of the National Association of Broadcasters. He announced that he would start publishing a monthly list of stations that broke ran afoul of the code (by airing too many commercials, for example).

Previously, stations that broke the code were kicked out and not allowed to display the Seal of Good Practice. Apparently, some in the broadcasting world were of the opinion that publicly shaming stations was too much. Not TV Guide, which ended its editorial by writing “Give ‘em hell, Bell.”

Front Cover
Front Cover – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.

There are four articles this week. “CBS Calls the Signals” by Arnold Hano is another article about sports on television but one that I actually found interesting. In it, Hano explores how CBS has forced the National Football League, players, coaches, and broadcasters to make changes so games will be more exciting on television. The network paid $28.2 million dollars in January 1964 to air NFL games for two years. In September, CBS gathered NFL broadcasters and production crews from the 14 NFL cities and laid down the law. Announcers were told not to talk when quarterbacks gave instruction on the scrimmage line. Announcers were also told that CBS preferred they switch off every half hour rather than every quarter hour.

When the season kicked off, CBS had two play-by-play announcers in the broadcast booth and two color commentators on the sidelines, rather than one of each in the booth. The network hoped the sideline announcers would gather interesting tidbits from players and coaches and relay that information to viewers. It didn’t work. There were often technical difficulties that led to dead air. CBS then wanted game officials to explain their rulings during time outs, which the NFL didn’t like. CBS insisted. CBS also wanted the scoreboard clock to be considered official so viewers could always know how much time was left in the game. The NFL said it wasn’t accurate enough but according to Hano, CBS would probably get its way. These days the networks will do anything and pay anything for the opportunity to air football games.

(Does anyone remember watching some of these CBS games? How did they come across to viewers at home? And did CBS get its way about the scoreboard clock?)

“Dear Frayands” by Les Raddatz is a bizarre article about Jim Nabors, described as an open letter to his friends back home in Sylacauga, Alabama. Raddatz attempted to write with a Southern drawl, which makes for rather painful reading. Here’s an excerpt:

Jim hat on the Marine’s unyform he warrs on the TV, but septin fer thayut, he’s jayust the same ole boy he useter be down home–frenly an smilin an full o’ fun. Why, to show how frenly he is, they was this lil ole lady–Hedder Hopper?–at the porty, an Jim treated her jayust as nahse as any o’ the purty gals theyer, dogged if he ditten!

The most interesting thing to come out of this was the revelation that Nabors had a sandwich named after him at the studio commissary, as did Danny Thomas, Andy Griffith, and Dick Van Dyke. But the Jim Nabors sandwich — which included corn beef, pastrami, coleslaw, and Thousand Island dressing — used to be a sandwich named for someone from I’m Dickens, He’s Fenster (so either John Astin or Marty Ingels).

“TV’s Button-Down Actor” is a profile of actor Edward Andrews, co-star of ABC’s Broadside, whose career in television started in the late 1940s when television was live. He felt television had changed since those days and some of the fun had gone out of it. He also revealed he was a big fan of books and boats and the sea.

Finally, there’s “The Great Ghost Hunt of ’64” by Robert Musel, an article about Margaret Rutherford and the NBC special “The Stately Ghosts of England” which she hosted. In it, she explores three homes in England said to be haunted: Longleat, Beaulieu, and Salisbury Hall. There were all sorts of mysterious accidents and incidents, ranging from lights falling over or exploding to a cameraman suddenly losing his hearing while in a particular room only to get it back when he walked out of it. [The color special aired on Monday, January 25th, 1965 from 10-11PM.]

Unlike last week’s review of Slattery’s People, Cleveland Amory’s review of 90 Bristol Court this week was anything but effusively positive:

…the plain fact is that running three none-too-original and all-too-similar half-hour shows into one hour-and-a-half total not only doesn’t make a good three-act comedy, it doesn’t even let you fully appreciate the occasional half hour that is good. None of the three shows is, by itself, terrible; but, with the exception of the middle one–Harris Against the World, which can be very funny–neither are they, on the average, strong enough to do anything more than grin and bore you.

However, Amory praised Jack Klugman’s performance in Harris Against the World, which was the only one of the three sitcoms he could recommend.

Rounding out the national section was a crossword puzzle, another fashion spread, this one featuring actress Viveca Lindfors wearing clothes designed by Eric Lund, and a picture feature showcasing the newspaper “city room” set from The Reporters, featuring $50,000-$70,000 worth of furniture from the actual offices of the defunct New York Mirror.

Again there were only two news reports in the “For the Record” column this week, one very lengthy and the second just two paragraphs:

  • California’s pay-TV saga continues. Dana Andrews, president of the Screen Actors Guild and president of the Fair Trial for Pay-TV Council, supported Pat Weaver’s Subscription Television Inc. in its fight for survival in California. He felt commercial television could not support the artistic standards of the acting profession and pay-TV could. On Election Day, voters approved a proposition banning pay-TV in the state. Andrews, however, continued to rail against commercial television at every opportunity.
  • The first cancellation of the 1964-1965 season is NBC’s The Bill Dana Show, which drew low ratings and will be replaced on January 24th, 1965 by Branded, a half-hour Western starring Chuck Connors.

Lots of great tidbits in the Hollywood and New York TV Teletype columns this issue:

  • A series based on Irving Wallace’s 1960 novel The Chapman Report is in the early planning stages.
  • Herbert Hirschman’s CBS series The Quest has received a 26-episode order.
  • Bert Lahr has signed to play the title role in “Thompson’s Ghost,” a sitcom pilot about a married couple (Robert Rockwell and Phyllis Coates) who buy a house and learn it is haunted (by Lahr). James Sheldon will direct.
  • Bob Crane will leave The Donna Reed Show at the end of the 1964-1965 season, possibly for his own series.
  • Phillis Avery’s role on Mr. Novak will be phased out due to her character never reaching “its expected importance.”
  • Raquel Welch and Barbara Perkins will be featured on ABC’s “Deb Star Ball” on January 2nd, 1965.
  • Peter Jennings was recently added to ABC’s news staff, the second Canadian to do so after Baden Langton.
  • NBC is planning a musical series called Hullaballoo as a mid-season replacement should it need to pull once of shows in January.

The letters page was a mixed bag, with three writers criticizing A.C. Nielsen’s November 7th article defending his company’s Nielsen ratings. One of them noted the irony of the issue also featuring an article about actor Michael Burns, whose series It’s a Man’s World was cancelled due to low ratings. There were also four letters reacting to network election coverage:

A pat on the back for all three networks for the superb election coverage. We switched from one to another and they were all excellent.
Mrs. C. Sebley
Iowa City, Iowa

I was completely disgusted with the NBC coverage of election returns. With only 2 percent of the popular vote in, and half the country still voting, the projected votes of the RCA computers had the election over and definitely decided.
(Name withheld)
St. Clairsville, Ohio

I was pleased to see good old Walter Cronkite back at the helm.
Jane Allen
Oakland, Cal.

Congratulations to ABC–it kept track of all the details.
Anna Smalls Jr.
Bronx, N.Y.

The final letter was from another reader who, after admitting to being a 1942 Sinatra fan, wondered why “poor talentless eye-rolling Beatle-type groups” need to appear on television in prime time.

The TV Listings

Although TV Guide didn’t mark the 1st anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination, the networks did. CBS, which on November 18th had broadcast an hour-long news special about the late president, aired another hour-long special on Sunday, November 22nd from 11:30AM-12:30PM. “Four Dark Days” was a review of the four days following the assassination, including films of public reactions, Kennedy’s funeral, and his burial. ABC and NBC both scheduled their hour-long specials from 6:30-7:30PM. ABC’s “John F. Kennedy: His Two Worlds” featured a mix of Kennedy family films and films of the President at work. NBC’s “John F. Kennedy Remembered” was a review of Kennedy’s time in the White House, with NBC correspondents recalling the high points of his Presidential career. The Ed Sullivan Show on CBS also included a tribute to Kennedy: Irish singers from County Wexford singing “The Boys of Wexford” and “kelly, the Boy from Killane.”

There were many other Kennedy tributes and specials airing on the networks and local stations. On Saturday, November 21st WNHC-TV (Channel 8) aired an hour-long special hosted by Stelio Salmona called “Four Days in November,” featuring film of Kennedy in Connecticut. That same day WHDH-TV (Channel 5) aired a half-hour film called “A Thousand Days” that was produced for the 1964 Democratic National Convention, with Richard Basehart narrating. On Sunday there were specials all over the place: a memorial mass live from the Cathedral of the Holy Cross in Boston on WNAC-TV (Channel 7) at 10AM; an installment of Comments and People on WNHC-TV (Channel 8) with guest Peter Phillippse, who painted Kennedy’s portrait, at 12PM; a local tribute on WHDH-TV (Channel 5) at 1PM; an episode of ABC’s Directions ’65 featuring recorded words of Kennedy at 1PM; “The Last Full Measure of Devotion,” an hour-long tribute to Abraham Lincoln, Franklin D. Roosevelt, and John F. Kennedy, on WNHC-TV (Channel 8) at 2:30PM; a special featuring interview excerpts on WHYN-TV (Channel 40) at 2:30PM; and NBC’s Sunday at 4PM, with host Frank Blair, was dedicated to Kennedy.

The week was filled with other specials. ABC aired another installment of The Jo Stafford Show on Saturday, November 21st at 9:30PM, with guest Peter Lawford. NBC had a Thanksgiving show on The Bell Telephone Hour live in color on Tuesday, November 24th, with Andre Previn, Earl Wrightson, Lois Hunt, and others. Both CBS and NBC had parade coverage on Thanksgiving. NBC also had “Your All-Time Favorite Songs” at 7:30PM on Thanksgiving, with Dean martin, Eydie Gorme, and Al Hirt, and “NBC Follies of 1965″ on Friday, November 27th at 10PM, with host Steve Lawrence.

There were also two syndicated specials. Three stations aired an hour-long documentary on the Battle of Britain during the week: WJAR-TV (Channel 10) at 10PM on Monday, November 23rd; WHDH-TV (Channel 5) at 7:30PM on Wednesday, November 25th; and WHYN-TV (Channel 40) at 8:30PM, also on Wednesday, November 25th. A more elaborate special — “France: The Faces of Love” starring Claude Dauphin — aired on three stations. An installment of Esso World Theatre, it aired on WNHC-TV (Channel 8) on Saturday, November 21st at 7:30PM; on WNAC-TV (Channel 7) on Sunday, November 22nd at 2:30PM; and on WHCT-TV (Channel 18) at 6PM on Sunday, November 22nd.

Advertisement for Esso World Theatre - Frace: The Faces of Love on WNHC-TV (Channel 8)
Advertisement for Esso World Theatre – Frace: The Faces of Love on WNHC-TV (Channel 8) – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.

Here are the TV Guide close-ups for the week:

  • Tributes to John F. Kennedy (ABC/NBC, Saturday at 6:30PM)
  • Slattery’s People – “Question: What is Honor…What is Death” (CBS, Monday at 10PM)
  • Thanksgiving Parades (CBS/NBC, Thursday at 10AM)
  • Pro Football (CBS, Thursday at 12:15PM)
  • College Football (NBC, Thursday at 2:45PM)
  • Special: Your All-Time Favorite Songs (NBC, Friday at 7:30PM)
  • 12 O’Clock High – “Interlude” (ABC, Friday at 9:30PM)
  • Special: NBC Follies of 1965 (NBC, Friday at 10PM)

Here are some of the programs available for purchase by subscribers to Zenith Radio Company’s Phonevision pay television experiment on Connecticut’s WHCT-TV (Channel 18):

  • Movie: The Thin Red Line (Saturday at 8:30PM, $1.00)
  • Movie: Stage to Thunder Rock (Sunday at 7PM, $1.00
  • Music: The Isaac Stern Trio (Sunday at 8:30PM, $1.50)
  • Movie: The Visit (Monday at 9PM, $1.50)
  • Pro Hockey: Toronto Maple Leafs vs. New York Rangers (Live, Wednesday at 7:30PM, $1.25)
  • Movie: Where Love Has Gone (Thursday at 9PM, $1.50)
  • Movie: Behold a Pale Horse (Friday at 8PM, $1.50)

With this issue, TV Guide started publishing descriptions for Dateline Boston, the local series Boston’s WHDH-TV (Channel 5) aired live and in color from 6-6:25PM Monday through Friday. Here are the summaries for this week:

Monday, November 23rd, 1964
Captain Bob gives an art lesson from the basic outline to the finished sketch.

Tuesday, November 24th, 1964
“Readers Choice” takes a look at the latest developments in the publishing field.

Wednesday, November 25th, 1964
Host John Fitch explores the world of science.

Thursday, November 26th, 1964
Dr. Edwin P. Booth interprets the meaning of Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 27th, 1964
The Massachusetts Department of Public Health reports on its Day-Car Services.

WTIC-TV (Channel 3) aired a half-hour discussion program called “This is UConn,” about the University of Connecticut, on Saturday, November 21st from 1-1:30PM. The same station pre-empted The Beverly Hillbillies on Wednesday, November 25th for a half-hour program called “What’s Ahead.”

Here’s a nice advertisement for Springfield’s WWLP (Channel 22) and its 11PM newscast Monday through Friday

Advertisement for The Big News on WWLP (Channel 22)
Advertisement for The Big News on WWLP (Channel 22) – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.

That’s it for this week. Hit the comments with your thoughts.

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Revised: History of the Fall Preview Special Thu, 20 Nov 2014 02:30:50 +0000 History of the Fall Preview Special article, now with more information about the earliest fall preview specials and Saturday morning fall previews. Continue Reading →]]> Longtime readers probably know I’m a fan of fall preview specials. A few days ago I finally finished revising my History of the Fall Preview Special article, which was originally published in March 2004 and had last been updated in May 2009. It is now much more than just a list of fall preview specials from the 1960s through the 2000s. I’ve added information about closed circuit previews fed directly to affiliates in the 1950s and expanded the section on the earliest fall preview specials from the Big Three networks that aired in the early 1960s.

The article also now makes a clearer distinction between fall previews that aired on television (either network or affiliate specials) and the promotional films the networks screened at affiliate or promotional meetings, like ABC’s “7 Nights to Remember” with Batman and Robin from the 1966-1967 season. Finally, it covers the first fall previews for FOX, UPN, The WB, The CW, and MyNetworkTV and includes a brief discussion of Saturday morning fall preview specials.

There’s only so much to be learned about fall preview specials from looking through old television listings and industry magazines like Broadcasting. Whenever possible, I cross-checked listings to confirm that a given special actually aired nationally on a network rather than locally on individual affiliates.

You can read the revised article here.

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A Year in TV Guide: November 14th, 1964 Fri, 14 Nov 2014 12:00:11 +0000 TV Guide magazine. This week's issue included articles about actress Cara Williams, actor Tony Franciosa, and sportscaster Paul Christman. Continue Reading →]]> A Year in TV Guide explores the 1964-1965 television season through the pages of TV Guide magazine. Each week, I’ll examine the issue of TV Guide published exactly 50 years earlier. The intent is not simply to examine what was on television each week but rather what was being written about television.

Week #9
November 14th, 1964
Vol. 12, No. 46, Issue #607
Western New England Edition

On the Cover: Cara Williams of The Cara Williams Show on CBS.

The Magazine

Of particular interest in this week’s national section is the As We See It editorial which notes that the networks are taking a hard look at their schedules and preparing to drop the ax on struggling shows. It urges interested viewers to write letters in support of their favorite shows, to try to help keep them on the air.

The 1964-1965 season started on September 14th so when this issue of TV Guide was published, it was eight weeks old. That seems like a long time for the networks to wait before deciding what to renew and what to cancel. Recall, however, that in 1964 the networks relied on national two-week Nielsen reports which were released a week or two after the two-week period in question. By this point, the three reports covering the first six weeks of the season had been released.

To help viewers writing letters, TV Guide operated a Viewer Service department that would deliver letters to the appropriate network executives. “Now is the time to write,” declared the editorial, “when option time is upon us and your favorite shows perhaps are in danger. We will see that your letter or card is forwarded to where it will do the most good.”

Front Cover
Front Cover – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.

There are five articles in this issue. Arnold Hano’s “Mr. Franciosa Changes His Spots” is a profile of actor Anthony “Tony” Franciosa, who several years prior to starring in of ABC’s new sitcom Valentine’s Day declared he would never do series television. What changed his mind? The chance to “discipline” his acting style on television, a lack of available work in movies, and a general mellowing of his personality thanks to his third wife Judy Balaban.

Melvin Durslag’s article titled “‘Okay, blabbermouth, let’s see you try'” examines the unusual style of ABC sportscaster Paul Christman, who analyze American Football League (AFL) games for the network. I don’t know anything about football analysis but apparently Christman was quite unconventional although I can’t say I understand exactly why. Apparently he refused to prepare because he wanted to come to games fresh. Audiences seemed to like it.

I’m not very familiar with the life of Cara Williams, star of the new CBS sitcom The Cara Williams Show. Leslie Raddatz’s article “The Lady Was a Poker Player” makes her sound like quite the character, with a wild temper and a bad mouth. Her feminine comedy style — as opposed to the “masculine mannerisms” of Carol Burnett and Martha Raye — drew comparisons to Lucille Ball, comparisons she refused to acknowledge.

The most interesting article in the issue is “The Man Women Love to Hate” by Robert De Roos, a profile of Count Marco, a television personality appearing on KGO-TV in San Fransisco and KABC-TV in Los Angeles. I can’t tell from the article whether it was all an act or not but the good Count was apparently reviled by women who thought he was serious on television and in print through his weekly column.

He opposed the Girl Scouts (“Girls should be taught to bake cookies, not sell them. The only thing a girl can learn from selling cookies is how to solicit on street corners”), told women how to undress in front of their husbands (“Do you crawl out of your girdle like some old sea cow coming up out of a manhole for air, or do you slip seductively out and over it like the nymph in September Morn?”), and tried to sell fanny paddles with which people could smack fat women on the fanny. If any footage from his morning shows exist, I’d be very curious to see it.

The fifth and final article is a bizarre list of potential television concept from comedian Bill Dana, ranging from “Peter the Piano Tuner” to “Adequateman.” The national section also included two picture features: one looked at NBC’s upcoming special about the Louvre while the other documented how a bull was made up to look like a buffalo for an episode of The Beverly Hillbillies.

To call Cleveland Amory’s review of Slattery’s People in this issue positive would be an understatement. Amory was effusive with his praise for the series and quoted Representative James Corman, who cited the series in the Congressional Record. Sadly, Amory noted that few viewers were tuning in to Slattery’s People every week, a situation he blamed on the show’s “uncompromising unconformity” and the unusual titles of the episodes. He urged CBS to keep the series on the air.

There were just two news reports in the “For the Record” column this week:

  • NBC won Election Night based on Arbitron national ratings with a 48% share of the audience, followed by CBS with a 37% share, and ABC with a 15% share. The networks spent $5 million preparing for the 1964 Presidential Election and TV Guide felt did a fine job: “Considering the complexity of voting patterns, television turned in a virtuoso performance.” The networks all encouraged voters in the West to vote despite announcing their projections of the winner early.
  • On Election Day, voters in California approved a proposition banning pay-TV in the Sunshine State, effectively kill Pat Weaver’s Subscription Television Inc. Weaver promised to take the fight to anyone who would listen, including higher courts, the FCC, Congress, and the Justice Department. [Although Subscription Television Inc. later won a reversal on appeal, the company went bankrupt.]

The Hollywood and New York TV Teletype columns this issue included information on a number of pilots:

  • Peter Brown, Neville Brand, and Bill Smith will star in an installment of The Virginian called “The Streets of Laredo” that will serve as a pilot for a spin-off under consideration by NBC for the 1965-1966 season. [Laredo ran for two seasons on NBC from September 1965 to April 1967.]
  • NBC’s color special “The Capitol” will feature color footage filmed inside the U.S. Capitol when it airs on January 12th, 1965.
  • Stirling Silliphant has been signed by Universal TV to develop a daytime sees called The Bitter and the Sweet, with production set to begin in April 1965. Silliphant will write the first 65 episodes (13 weeks). Silliphant has also written the script for proposed adventure series called Sinbad.
  • Universal has another new series in development called Indictment starring Robert Ryan. Evan Hunter wrote the pilot.
  • Barry Shear is producing an auto racing series for Screen Gems called “Pit Stop.”
  • Hanna-Barbera has a live-action pilot called “Danger Plus Two” in the works.

Not one, not two, but three letters in this issue were in response to the October 26th, 1964 episode of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (“Turn Back the Clock”) which reused footage from the 1960 film The Lost World (directed by Irwin Allen):

Just watched Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea’s episode “Turn Back the Clock.” They were very clever to insert scenes from “The Lost World” (which David Hedison also conveniently played in) to make up three-quarters of the show. Trouble was Hedison looked about eight years younger in the movie.
Ann Whitley
Cromwell, Texas

Did they have to turn the clock back to an old movie?
Mrs. Ann Lansing
El Paso, Texas

It is too bad that the producers of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea did not realize that “The Lost World” was shown on Monday Night at the movies, Dec. 16, 1963, and also repeated this summer. If this continues it will be a voyage to the bottom of the ratings.
William Leniore
Slate Hill, N.Y.

TV Guide reached out to the associate producer of Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea, Allen Balter, who responded: “Fact is there was a minimum of stock footage from ‘The Lost World,’ no more than you ordinarily find in any film of this sort like 12 O’clock High or Combat! We did use one very spectacular cut in which two monsters fought and fell over a cliff. It would have cost a fortune to redo this.”

Other letters were about teenagers wanting to be treated like adults while fawning over “no-talent groups” like The Beatles, The Animals, and The Rolling Stones; the lack of David Niven on The Rogues; and a response to an October 24th article about Cathleen Nesbitt in which Harry Ackerman apparently insulted Minnesotans.

The TV Listings

The big event in television this week didn’t actually take place. The apparently highly anticipated World Heavyweight Championship boxing match between Cassius Clay and Sonny Liston planned for Monday, November 16th was scrapped after Clay was rushed into surgery days earlier due to a hernia. The bout, which would have been a rematch of their controversial February 25th, 1964 fight, was postponed almost a year before finally being held in May 1965.

WHCT-TV (Channel 18) in Connecticut, the state’s Phonevision pay-TV outlet, was scheduled to carry the fight live from Boston at 10:30PM. The cost to watch the fight on television was $3.00, the highest price for a program on WHCT-TV I’ve yet come across. The station ran an advertisement for the bout:

Advertisement for the Clay-Liston fight on WHCT-TV (Channel 18)
Advertisement for the Clay-Liston fight on WHCT-TV (Channel 18) – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.

What WHCT-TV aired in place of the game is unknown. ABC’s Wide World of Sports was to include analysis of the first Liston-Clay fight by Howard Coswell on Saturday, November 14th. WNAC-TV (Channel 7) out of a Boston planned a half-hour pre-fight report featuring the station’s sports director John Callaghan interviewing both Liston and Clay. It was scheduled to air on Saturday, November 14th from 10:30-11PM but presumably was scrapped when the fight was postponed. I’m guessing all of the stations in Boston planned on discussing the fight during their news programs on Monday, November 16th. The day after the fight, NBC’s Today was scheduled to report on the outcome.

For those who remember 1964, I have to ask: was the Clay-Liston fight really as a big a deal as TV Guide makes it seem?

Aside from the boxing match, the week was pretty quiet. NBC aired the country’s second made-for-TV movie, The Hanged Man, as an installment of its Wednesday Night at the Movies. The telefilm starred Edmond O’Brien, Vera Miles, and Robert Culp. There were specials from Robert Goulet and Bob Hope. The anniversary of President Kennedy’s assassination was approaching, so CBS News aired an hour-long special on Wednesday, November 18th featuring interviews with the likes of Dean Rusk, Adlai E. Stevenson, Senator Hubert Humphrey, and Theodore Sorensen. WEDH-TV (Channel 24), Connecticut’s educational station, aired an hour-long special on Friday, November 20th called “An Essay on Death,” said to be a memorial to Kennedy that combined “a film story and narrative of readings selected from the works of poets and philosophers.”

In the previous issue, ABC ran full-page advertisements for its weeknight line-ups. This issue included ads for the network’s Saturday and Sunday line-ups. There were also plenty of ads for movies on Connecticut stations: twelve for WTIC-TV (Channel 3) and five for WNHC-TV (Channel 8). Some samples:

Advertisement for Mogambo on WNHC-TV (Channel 8)
Advertisement for Mogambo on WNHC-TV (Channel 8) – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.
Advertisement for Screaming Mimi on WTIC-TV (Channel 3)
Advertisement for Screaming Mimi on WTIC-TV (Channel 3) – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.

There was also this amusing ad for The Jack Benny Program on NBC:

Advertisement for The Jack Benny Program on NBC
Advertisement for The Jack Benny Program on NBC – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.

Here are the TV Guide close-ups for the week:

  • College Football (NBC, Saturday at 1:15PM)
  • Special: Louvre (NBC, Tuesday at 10PM)
  • News Special: The Burden and Glory of John F. Kennedy (CBS, Wednesday at 7:30PM)
  • Robert Goulet Special (CBS, Thursday at 10PM)
  • Bob Hope Special (NBC, Friday at 8:30PM)

Here are some of the programs available for purchase by subscribers to Zenith Radio Company’s Phonevision pay television experiment on Connecticut’s WHCT-TV (Channel 18):

  • Movie: The Night of the Iguana (Saturday at 8:30PM, $1.50)
  • Hockey: Montreal Canadiens vs. Boston Bruins (Live, Sunday at 7:30PM, $1.25)
  • Movie: Fighting Champion – Joe Louis (Monday at 7PM, Free)
  • Boxing: Clay-Liston Fight (Live, Monday at 10:30PM, $3.00) [Postponed]
  • Movie: Man’s Favorite Sport (Wednesday at 7PM, $1.00)
  • Movie: The Visit (Thursday at 8:30PM, $1.50)
  • Movie: Twice Told Tales (Friday at 10PM, $1.00)

Several stations aired local programs on Sunday, November 15th. WBZ-TV (Channel 4) out of Boston had a half-hour program called Focal Point: United Fund from 4-4:30PM about settlement houses and boys’ clubs in Boston, which was followed by a live broadcast of the annual Yankee Infantry Division Show, hosted by Gene Jones from 4:30-5PM. And from 5-5:30PM was another installment of Starring the Editors.

Massachusetts stations WWLP (Channel 22) and WRLP (Channel 32) along with Connecticut stations WHNB-TV (Channel 30) and WHNB-TV (Channel 79) aired a half-hour discussion series called Concern from 3:30-4PM, moderated by Dr. Charles Warrnen Barnes, pastor of Hope Congregational Church in Springfield. The topic this week was “The Population Explosion” with Dr. Stephen Plank. WWLP and WRLP followed that with an hour-long discussion of civil liberties from 4-5PM.

Here’s an ad for WWLP’s Western Massachusetts Highlights, which aired weeknights from 7:15-7:30PM:

Advertisement for Western Massachusetts Highlights on WWLP (Channel 22)
Advertisement for Western Massachusetts Highlights on WWLP (Channel 22) – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.

That’s it for this week. Hit the comments with your thoughts.

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Bookshelf: Radio and Television Mirror (July/September 1948) Thu, 13 Nov 2014 12:15:15 +0000 Radio and Television Magazine, as well as a few earlier issues from 1941 and 1942. The advertisements are of particular interest. Continue Reading →]]> Bookshelf is a monthly column examining printed matter relating to television. While I love watching TV, I also love reading about it, from tie-in novels to TV Guides, from vintage television magazines to old newspaper articles. Bookshelf is published on the second Thursday of each month.

I like to use and reuse material from my television collection as much as possible here at Television Obscurities. That’s why you might see a magazine or book used as a reference in a few articles and also reviewed here in the Bookshelf column. Something I haven’t been able to use much at all are any of the issues of Radio and Television Mirror I own.

The publication was originally called Radio Mirror and stared in November 1933. The title was changed to Radio and Television Mirror in August 1939. You might think that if the magazine was going to go to the trouble of adding “television” to its title it might actually cover television. That doesn’t seem to be the case based on the issues in my collection. The name changed again a few years later to Radio Romance, then back to Radio Mirror a few years after that, then back to Radio and Television Mirror, before finally settling on Radio-TV Mirror in the early 1950s. It remained in print until the late 1970s.

Front cover to the May 1942 issue of Radio and Television Magazine
Front cover to the May 1942 issue of Radio and Television Magazine – Copyright 1942 E.P. MacFadden Publications, Inc.

I have just five issues in my collection. The first two, from May 1941 and May 1942, have nothing ta all to do with television despite the word being in the title. The third, from May 1947, likewise makes no mention of television but at that point the magazine had reverted to Radio Mirror so I wasn’t expecting any television. The last two issues, however, are from 1948 and do include a bit of television material.

It’s obvious after leafing through these issues that Radio and Television Mirror was not a serious magazine documenting the goings-on in the radio industry. There was some news tidbits presented in each issue but they were more gossipy than anything else. The bulk of the issues are filled with short stories, radio serials in narrative form, articles about radio stars, portraits and biographies of characters from various radio programs, and dozens upon dozens of advertisements. Radio and Television Mirror was marketed towards women and the ads reflect that. They’re for products ranging from lipstick to deodorant, face creams to hair nets, soaps to perfumes, as well a wide variety of undergarments and feminine hygiene products.

Advertisement for Cashmere Bouquet Soap, from May 1942
Advertisement for Cashmere Bouquet Soap, from May 1942

Many of the ads are wildly, and hilariously, sexist. They proclaim that all a girl needs is a man and all she needs to get one is their product. It’s often easy for those of us born decades after the 1940s to forget just how much pressure there was on women to conform to certain standards, look a certain way, and find a man and start a family. These ads may seem outrageous today but back then they were par for the course.

Some of the best (or worst, depending on your point of view) ads are from a company called Cashmere Bouquet, which sold soaps and powers. For example, from an ad for Cashmere Bouquet talcum powder:

Keep Fresh! Feel Smooth! Stay Dainty!

KEEP FRESH: First bathe and then sprinkle Cashmere Bouquet Talc into every curve. Like a scent-laden breeze it freshens and cools your skin.

FEEL SMOOTH: Shake Cashmere Bouquet over those chafable places. It gives your skin a satin-smooth sheath of protection…girdles sleep on like magic.

STAY DAINTY: To prolong your bathtub freshness, use Cashmere Bouquet Talc generously and often. It perfumes your person with the fragrance men love.

Paper your person with Cashmere Bouquet Dusting Power. Smartly packaged with a big velour puff.

A handful of the ads feature before and after pictures. Others list do’s and don’ts for girls hoping to find a man.

Thankfully, the two issues from 1948 do actually do have a few pages devoted to television, but only a few. Even in 1948, television was little more than an afterthought for Radio and Television Mirror, which makes sense considering TV was only available in a few cities at the time. Gracing the cover of the July 1948 (Volume 30, Number 2) issue were Don McNeil and his sons Donnie, Tommy, and Bobby. Inside were five or six pages about television.

The two-page “People in Television” section included photographs and biographies of seven television personalities:

  • Mrs. Dione Lucas (“To the Queen’s Test,” WCBS-TV)
  • Dennis James (Sportscaster, Dumont)
  • Adrienne (“Champagne and Orchids,” Dumont)
  • Lanny Ross (“The Swift Show,” NBC-TV)
  • Bill Slater (“Charade Quiz,” WABD-TV)
  • Win Elliot (Sportscaster, WCBS)
  • Roger Forster (“INS-INP Camera Headlines,” WABD)

The “Coast to Coast in Television” section covered developments in television across the country. It ran two pages with a few additional columns of text at the back of the magazine. It included photographs of Howdy Doody, an Easter Parade, DuMont’s Court of Current Issues, and more. The bulk of the section explained how to develop a television concept for NBC and Owen Davis, Jr., NBC’s Director of Program Preparation.

Howdy Doody, from the July 1948 issue
Howdy Doody, from the July 1948 issue- Copyright 1948 E.P. MacFadden Publications, Inc.

Other topics included DuMont’s talent auditions, 60,000 requests for Howdy Doody buttons, KTLA broadcasting images of wanted criminals and missing persons, ABC’s station WENR-TV, TV’s in hotel rooms, televising an operation, and NBC’s you-are-being-televised disclaimer.

The September 1948 issue (Volume 30, Number 4) featured Tex McCrary and Jinx Falkenburg along with their son Paddy. Inside was a two page article about the possibility that Tex and Jinx might venture into television. Tex felt that daytime television wasn’t fully developed outside of some live events and sports. But it would be soon and the 8-9AM hour would become very important.

Another brief feature focused on Rudy Valee and his Vallee-Video production company, working on 25 half-hour comedy-dramas for television. Two had been completed and the third was in production. The third and final bit of television was about Radio and Television Mirror‘s Television Editor, Joan Murphy Lloyd, participating in DuMont’s Doorway to Fame program, broadcast Mondays at 7PM.

Joan Murphy Lloyd on DuMont's Doorway to Fame
Joan Murphy Lloyd on DuMont’s Doorway to Fame – Copyright 1948 E.P. MacFadden Publications, Inc.

Obviously, these issues of are not great resources for television. If you were to go through every issue from 1948 you’d probably get a general idea of what was going on in television in the late 1940s or at least what the editors of Radio and Television Mirror thought was interesting enough to cover in their magazine. The ads are bizarre and amusing at times but that’s about it.

The American Radio History website has 20 years worth of Radio Mirror/Radio and Television Mirror scanned and available online. Many of the same issues are also available at the Internet Archive via the Library of Congress.

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A Year in TV Guide: November 7th, 1964 Fri, 07 Nov 2014 12:00:32 +0000 TV Guide magazine. This week's issue included articles about Nielsen ratings, actor Michael Burns, TV casting departments, and more. Continue Reading →]]> A Year in TV Guide explores the 1964-1965 television season through the pages of TV Guide magazine. Each week, I’ll examine the issue of TV Guide published exactly 50 years earlier. The intent is not simply to examine what was on television each week but rather what was being written about television.

Week #8
November 7th, 1964
Vol. 12, No. 45, Issue #606
Western New England Edition

On the Cover: Daniela Bianchi and Richard Chamberlain from NBC’s Dr. Kildare

The Magazine

With the 1964 Presidential Election over, TV Guide was able to get back to talking about television. There’s something for everyone in this issue: an article about Nielsen ratings co-written by none other than A.C. Nielsen, Jr. himself; a picture feature focusing on actress Leslie Caron; a brief look at a closed-circuit TV system used by the housemother at a college dorm for girls; a peek behind the scenes of Dr. Kildare‘s not-so-Italian trilogy; and even a recipe for cioppino (whatever that is).

“Nielsen Defends His Ratings” is unfortunately not as insightful as I had hoped. The article is little more than a puff piece yet it remains just as mildly relevant today as it was fifty years ago. Consider the follow passage:

Those who would castigate commercial television, incidentally, should remember that it is wholly supported by advertising revenues. Advertising can be effective only if it reaches people. That is why sponsors want programs that attract the largest audiences containing the kinds of people who might buy their products. Whether we like it or not, weighty cultural, educational or artistic shows seldom attract large audiences.

Household ratings and overall audience shares were the most important back in 1964. Today, TV shows live and die by demographics. A huge audience doesn’t mean anything if most of the viewers watching are outside the adults 18-40 demo. But the general theme remains true today: advertisers want specific types of viewers and as many of them as they can get.

Nielsen and co-author Theodore Berland give a general defense of statistical sampling, describe how the Nielsen Audimeter device works, and try to explain why 1,100 homes are sufficient to represent the 52 million television households in the country. They admit that ratings could be more accurate but insist that their clients would never pay the huge costs associated with increasing the sample size four times to cut the error rate in half. “TV ratings are a tool designed for a specific job,” concludes Nielsen. “With their limitations kept firmly in mind, their users get from them valuable and highly useful information otherwise unavailable.”

Front Cover
Front Cover – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.

There are three other articles in this issue. “A Boy Who’s Doing A Man’s Job” looks at 16-year-old Wagon Train co-star Michael Burns, said to be one of the most mature and professional youngsters in the business. Of particular interest to me is the brief discussion of It’s a Man’s World, the short-lived NBC series Burns co-starred in prior to Wagon Train. He was furious when It’s a Man’s World was cancelled and didn’t understand why his mother wouldn’t let him join co-stars Ted Bessell and Randy Boone as they drove across country to rally support for the series but eventually came to terms with his disappointment.

“She’s the Sweetheart of Banks, Bakeries and Paint Plants” is a two-page article about jingle singer Laura Greene, who left her job at a telephone company to sing for commercials full-time. She reportedly made $50,000 a year singing for banks, utility companies, the Yellow Pages, and cosmetics companies. None are identified by name, however. “Wanted: 100 Skinny Indians” examines the role of casting departments in the television industry. Any sort of role called for in a script can be filled. An unnamed actor claims to have played 250 sheriffs on television. Another actor, missing a leg, has made a living as a stuntman who can realistically portray a character getting his leg torn off.

There are three picture features in this article. My favorite examines the closed-circuit TV system installed in the new dormitory for girls at Monmouth College in New Jersey. The housemother had a massive piece of equipment in her apartment connected to a camera in the lobby. Whenever a coed buzzed in, the housemother could see if she was alone and ensure that no boys got inside. The camera had to be mounted to the wall to keep the boys from moving it or fiddling with the focus and it took some time for the coeds to get used to the camera and stop crowding into the housemother’s apartment to watch one another on screen. Gosh, the 1960s must have been so much fun.

Closed Circuit TV for Coeds
Closed Circuit TV for Coeds – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.

Another picture feature highlights Leslie Caron’s various roles in “An Hour with Robert Goulet,” a CBS special to air November 19th. The third is a behind-the-scenes look at “Rome Will Never Leave You,” the three-part Dr. Kildare trilogy to air later in November. Because Richard Chamberlin was filming Joy to the Morning he wasn’t available to travel to Rome. So, Rome was built at the MGM Studios in Culver City using sets from Romeo and Juliet (1936) and The Swan (1956), among others. The trilogy co-starred Italian actress Daniela Bianchi, who played a Bond girl in 1963’s From Russia with Love. She spoke very little English in 1964, hated Los Angeles driving, and thought Americans weren’t nearly as friendly as they seemed.

This issue’s “As We See It” editorial tied into the Nielsen article, with the editors explaining that they too had questioned how Nielsen’s sample size of just 1,100 households could be accurate. But after the FCC’s investigation and a similar House Subcommittee investigation, Nielsen replaced its entire sample in two years and the television industry joined together to create a ratings council. That seemed to placate TV Guide to some degree: “It is remarkable how promptly and efficiently the broadcasting industry acted to improve and protect ratings. It would, however, be of more value to viewers if the industry could organize as promptly and efficiently to improve programming.”

Also in the national section this week was Cleveland Amory’s review of Kentucky Jones starring Dennis Weaver. He wasn’t enthusiastic about the new NBC series in which Weaver played a widowed horse trainer raising a 10-year-old Chinese orphan named Dwight Eisenhower Wong (played by Rickey Der). Amory thought Ike, as the youngster was known, was best in small doses. “Mr. Weaver is a fine actor,” declared Amory, “and this could be a fine show; but so far, apparently because of its scriptwriters’ love for heavy symbolism, it has not lived up to its high promise.”

There were a lot of good tidbits in the Hollywood and New York TV Teletype columns this issue:

  • Impressed with the success of Peyton Place, 20th Century-Fox has Buck Houghton working on a new serial called The Long, Hot Summer based on William Faulkner’s works. [The series was picked up for the 1965-1966 season but not as a serial.]
  • Filmways is hoping to have a fifth series on the air in 1965 if it can turn its pilot “My Boy Goggle” starring Jerry Van Dyke into a mid-season replacement. [It didn’t.]
  • Bob Hope’s annual trip to soldiers overseas will take him to South Vietnam, Korea, Guam, the Philippines, and Thailand from December 17th through December 31st, with the likes of Jill St. John, John Bubbles, Anita Bryant, Jerry Colonna, and others in tow.
  • NBC will air an hour-long color documentary called “Grand Canyon: A Journey with Joseph Wood Krutch” in June 1965.
  • Patty Duke will portray a third identical cousin in an episode of The Patty Duke Show called “The Perfect Hostess.” [The episode aired on January 13th,1965.]

This week’s “For the Record” column includes four reports:

  • The latest Nielsen report for the two weeks ending October 11th put ABC first with a 20.0 rating, CBS a close second with a 19.0 rating, and NBC a bit behind with a 17.7 rating. Bonanza was the highest-rated program of the week. Surprisingly, The Beverly Hillbillies was 22nd.
  • The Emmy Awards have been overhauled. Gone are the 27 categories. Instead there will be just four: outstanding programs in entertainment; outstanding individuals in entertainment; outstanding programs in news/documentaries/information/sports; and outstanding individuals in news/documentaries/information/sports. Any number of awards may be given in each category.
  • The Senate Subcommittee to Investigate Juvenile Delinquency, headed by Thomas J. Dodd from Connecticut, has finally released its report. Crime and violence on television are excessive and too often aired during periods when large numbers of children will be watching. The industry has to take steps to improve its programming and the committee’s probe will continue.
  • Air Force hospitals in Texas and Washington saw 30 children complaining of chronic fatigue, loss of appetite, headache and vomiting. Doctors eventually determined they were suffering from watching too much television: three to six hours on weekdays and six to ten on Saturdays and Sundays. The cure to “tired-child syndrome?” No more TV.

The letters page this issue saw to readers writing in to criticize Cleveland Amory for saying Bewitched was based on Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit (from his October 24th review). One insisted the sitcom was based on a Veronica Lake movie called I Married a Witch (itself loosely based on a Thorne Smith novel called The Passionate Witch. The other letter claimed the series was based on John Dickson Carr’s novel Burn, Fire, Burn, which had been adapted for television by The Kraft Mystery Theatre with Barbara Bel Geddes. Here’s the TV Guide response:

According to Screen Gems, the show’s producer, Bewitched is based on an original idea by studio executives Harry Ackerman and William Dozier. The studio disclaims any derivation from any previous play, movie or TV series.

Two letters were critical of the new direction taken by Lassie at the start of the 1964-1965 season, chronicled in the October 17th issue of TV Guide. Another praised an episode of The Hallmark Hall of Fame (“The Fantastiks,” aired October 18th) while others called The Man from U.N.L.C.E. and My Living Doll the best new shows of the season.

The TV Listings

The first thing I noticed about the listings section in this issue is that it is chock full of advertisements, both local and national. Nearly every other page has an advertisement of some sort. A few have two ads. There are lots of local ads for movies. There are half-page ads, quarter-page ads, even some eighth-page ads. ABC bought five full-page ads for its weeknight line-ups. There’s also a full-page ad for NBC’s Bell Telephone Hour tribute to Oscar Hammerstein II hosted by Henry Fonda. There’s even an ad for Connecticut’s WHCT-TV (Channel 18) and its subscription TV presentation of The Night of the Iguana.

Ad for ABC's Tuesday Line-up
Ad for ABC’s Tuesday Line-up – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.

I also noticed that quite a few network shows were pre-empted this week for local programming. Actually, after looking at a few earlier issues, it looks like WJAR-TV (Channel 10), the NBC affiliate in Providence, RI, regularly pre-empted all three sitcoms that made up 90 Bristol Court on Mondays in order to air movies. The sitcoms aired instead on Saturdays from 6-7:30PM. Connecticut’s CBS affiliate, WTIC-TV (Channel 3), premiered the syndicated documentary series Decision: The Conflicts of Harry S. Truman on Thursday, November 12th at 9:30PM, pre-empting The Baileys of Balboa. As far as I can tell, the sitcom wasn’t aired at a later date, meaning Connecticut viewers could only watch it if they happened to get another CBS station. WTIC-TV also pre-empted Slattery’s People on Mondays at 10PM in order to show repeats of Richard Diamond, Private Detective. Again, it doesn’t look like the series aired at a later date.

WHDHD-TV (Channel 5), the CBS affiliate in Boston, began airing Decision: The Conflicts of Harry S. Truman on Tuesday, November 10th at 7:30PM, pre-empting World War I. It also does not appear to have been aired at a later date. WHDH-TV also pre-empted Gilligan’s Island and Mr. Broadway from 7:30-9PM on Saturday nights in favor of movies. The station did air Gunsmoke at 10PM, however. Episodes of Mr. Broadway were aired the following Saturday at 6PM. Once again,it doesn’t look like the station aired Gilligan’s Island at a later date. I could be wrong, though.

There were two big premieres this week. First, CBS debuted Profiles in Courage at 6:30PM on Sunday, November 8th. The documentary series was based on the late President Kennedy’s book of the same name. The first episode, focusing on Senator Oscar W. Underwood, received a TV Guide close-up. The other premiere was ABC’s late-night The Les Crane Show, which had been given a trial run in August. It aired from 11:15PM to 1AM on many stations but WNHC-TV (Channel 8) aired it from 11:30PM to 1:15AM. Both WNHC-TV and WHYN-TV took out half-page ads for the premiere.

Ad for the Premiere of Profiles in Courage
Ad for the Premiere of Profiles in Courage – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.

Also, an hour-long syndicated documentary called “Yanks are Coming,” which explored the role the United States played in Wold War I, aired three different times on three different stations during the week. Richard Basehart served as narrator.

Here are the TV Guide close-ups for the week:

  • College Football (NBC, Saturday at 1:15PM)
  • Profiles in Courage (NBC, Sunday at 6:30PM)
  • Jonathan Winters Special (NBC, Monday at 9PM)
  • The Bell Telephone Hour (NBC, Tuesday at 10PM)
  • Sophia Loren in Rome (ABC, Thursday at 10PM)

Here are some of the programs available for purchase by subscribers to Zenith Radio Company’s Phonevision pay television experiment on Connecticut’s WHCT-TV (Channel 18):

  • Movie: Station Six-Sahara (Saturday 8:30PM, $1.25)
  • Movie: The Golden Arrow / Serial: Roar of the Iron Horse, Chapter 5 (Sunday at 1PM, $0.50)
  • Movie: Tom Jones (Sunday at 7PM, $1.50)
  • Hockey: Detroit Red Wings vs. Boston Bruins (Live, Tuesday at 8PM, $1.25)
  • Movie: The Night of the Iguana (Wednesday at 9PM, $1.50)
  • Movie: Ring of Treason (Thursday at 7PM, $1.00)

I didn’t come across any noteworthy local programs but Springfield’s WWLP (Channel 22) ran an advertisement for its local series At Home with Kitty, aired weekdays at 1PM:

Ad for WWLP's At Home with Kitty Series
Ad for WWLP’s At Home with Kitty Series – Copyright 1964 Triangle Publications, Inc.

That’s it for this week. Hit the comments with your thoughts.

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Earth 2 at 20: A Personal Appreciation Fri, 07 Nov 2014 00:00:03 +0000 Earth 2 premiered 20 years ago tonight. I was a huge fan of the show as a kid. Its cancellation after just one season had powerful impact on my life and played a role in the creation of Television Obscurities. Continue Reading →]]> Musings on Obscurity is a wide-ranging essay series covering topics that don’t easily fit into other categories at the Television Obscurities Blog. Everything is fair game, from the earliest television experiments in the 1920s to recent one season wonders. It is published sporadically as I think of interesting things to write about.

Twenty years ago tonight, NBC premiered a new sci-fi drama called Earth 2 that changed my life. I doubt many people can say that. What better way to kick off my new Musings On Obscurity column than with a look back at a one season wonder from the 1994-1995 season and how its cancellation laid the foundation for Television Obscurities.


Earth 2 debuted with a two-hour pilot movie that ran from 7-9PM on Sunday, November 6th, 1994. I was in elementary school at the time and it was probably the first adult show I watched (rather than shows aimed at kids or older shows like Star Trek or Batman that I watched in repeats). I remember being so excited about it. It was appointment viewing for most of the family. This was back when we only had one TV set so unfortunately if you didn’t want to watch Earth 2 you weren’t watching anything at 7PM on Sundays.

Advertisement for Earth 2, Circa October 1994
Advertisement for Earth 2, Circa October 1994

For those not familiar with the show, Earth 2 was set in 2192 and starred Debrah Farentino as Devon Adair, the leader of a group attempting to colonize a planet 22 light years from Earth called G889. Most of humanity lived in space stations, the Earth’s surface having become nearly inhospitable. Her son, like many children, was sick with a mysterious illness called the Syndrome that was caused by living in space. Devon was convinced that life on G889 would cure him. The government thought otherwise and tried to sabotage the Eden Project, forcing it to launch ahead of schedule.

Upon reaching G889, Devon and a small advance group of colonists crash land on the planet, far from the proposed site of New Pacifica. The show chronicled their adventures as they attempted to reach the colony site. As a kid, I doubt I cared much about the political intrigue, social themes, or romantic subplots. I was more interested in the various creatures and critters native to G889, the robot named Zero, the virtual reality sequences, the cool flashlights, weapons, and all the other sci-fi gadgetry. A few years ago, I contemplated bidding on one of the futuristic rifle props from the series when it popped up on eBay. It’s probably best I didn’t because I would have nowhere to display it.

The Fickle Business of Television

Although it premiered to high ratings, the series had a rough time slot and the late premiere didn’t help. NBC did the series no favors by pre-empting it an astounding nine times between January and May 1995 and occasionally moving its time slot. The season finale aired on May 21st followed by two episodes aired out of order. And that was that.

I loved Earth 2 and its cancellation after just a single season left a lasting impression on me. It introduced me to the cruel reality of television at a very young age, which I’m sure contributed to my interest in short-lived and obscure television. It seemed so unfair that a show I loved so much could just end because not enough other people watched it.

I recorded the theme song to Earth 2 on cassette tape. It was all I had left of the series after it went off the air. I remember being so excited a few years later when I was on vacation with my family and found a copy of the novelization of the pilot in a used bookstore. When I learned that there were also two original novels based on the series, I bought them on eBay. They were like having new episodes to watch, only in novel form.

In January 1998, Sci Fi Channel began airing Earth 2. My family didn’t get Sci Fi Channel at that time but a relative did and taped two episodes for me at some point around 2000. I must watched them over and over again. The complete series was released on DVD in July 2005, less than a decade after it was cancelled. All things considered, ten years wasn’t too long to wait to be able to enjoy Earth 2 again.

Fans Never Forget

I wasn’t aware back in 1994 and 1995 that there was a very active fanbase for Earth 2, one that used the nascent World Wide Web to interact and organize. A Usenet group was launched in January 1995 where fans could discuss episodes, share news, and even distribute a newsletter. A fan club was organized. A group of Earth 2 fans paid to run an advertisement in Daily Variety in support of the series and even flew a banner over the building where the 1995 Emmy Awards were being held to draw attention to their campaign to get it renewed. Fans also organized their own Earth 2 conventions, the first of which (New PacifiCon ’96) drew more than a dozen members of the cast and crew to New Mexico in April 1996. You can read about some of the conventions here.

There used to be a lot of websites dedicated to the series but many have disappeared over the years or stopped updating. One defunct Earth 2 website even had the horrendous presentation video put together by Universal Television to try to sell a second season of the series to UPN. I believe it was first shown at New PacifiCon ’96. Had this proposed second season been made, it would have been a very different show, one most fans wouldn’t have recognized. I think I still have a copy of that video somewhere. Additional information about the abortive second season can be found here.

It’s too bad Earth 2 was cancelled after its first season. But that cancellation taught me a tough lesson about television. Even if I didn’t know it then, that lesson would shape my life both personally and professionally. Earth 2 is one of the reasons Television Obscurities exists. Not everyone watched Earth 2 and not everyone who did loved it as much as I did (and there were plenty of people who loved it even more than me). But everyone has a show like Earth 2 that they were passionate about, that they really missed when it went off the air. I’ll always remember Earth 2 and the memories of watching it with my parents. Luckily it’s on DVD and Netflix, so I can watch it anytime I want.

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