The John Forsythe Show

John Forsythe starred in this 1965-1966 NBC sitcom as a bachelor who discovers he has inherited an all-girls school. Halfway through the season, the format changed to focus on spies and secret agents.

From 1957 to 1962, John Forsythe starred in Bachelor Father on CBS as Bentley Gregg, a bachelor living in Beverly Hills, raising his niece Kelly (played by Noreen Corcoran), and looking for love. Following Bachelor Father‘s cancellation, Forsythe guest-starred on a number of television shows, starred in See How They Run, the first made-for-TV movie, and appeared alongside Ann-Margret in Kitten with a Whip on the big screen.

He would return to television during the 1965-1966 season in another sitcom: The John Forsythe Show. It was originally titled The Mister and the Misses [1]. Forsythe played, once again, a bachelor, a retired Air Force major named John Foster who inherited a school in California from his aunt. Imagine his surprise when he showed up and learned it was an elite all-girls school. Elsa Lanchester co-starred as Miss Culver, the school’s principal, and Ann B. Davis appeared as Miss Wilson, a gym teacher. Helping Foster run Miss Foster’s School for Girls, was an old Air Force buddy, Sgt. Ed Robbins (played by Guy Marks).

The John Forsthye Show premiered on Monday, September 13th, 1965 on NBC. It aired from 8-8:30PM opposite I’ve Got a Secret on CBS and the second half of Twelve O’Clock High on ABC. Two of the students were played by Forsthye’s own daughters, Page and Brook; according to The Chicago Tribune he only allowed them to film during the summer) [2].

Critical reaction was mostly negative. Hal Humphrey of The Los Angeles Times called it “a newly dressed version of Forsthye’s old Bachelor Father series plus a dash of vintage Bob Cummings” and noted that “even the living color couldn’t cover up the cliche dialogue in the opening episodes” [3]. Jack O’Brian, writing in the New York Journal-American called it a “cavalcade of nubile nonsense” [4]. It was “milksoppy” according to Rex Polier in the Philadelphia Evening Bulletin and “pure frivolity with a sprinkling of sentimentality” according to John Marshall Cuno in the Christian Science Monitor [5].

There were a few positive voices, however. Henry Mitchell of the Memphis Commercial Appeal stated that “it’s going to be a winner” [6]. And Larry Wolters of The Chicago Tribune suggested that “a lot of kids and parents, too, will enjoy this one if it can keep up its snappy pace” [7]. Either way, viewers didn’t tune in. From October to December the series averaged a 15.5 Nielsen rating, ranking 73rd out of 99 programs. Its competition did better: ABC’s Twelve O’Clock High tied for 53rd with a 18.2 rating and I’ve Got a Secret on CBS tied for 23rd with a 21.4 [8].

Beginning with the January 31st, 1966 episode, The John Forsthye Show switched formats somewhat. The adventures at Miss Foster’s School for Girls were de-emphasized while Major Foster and Sgt. Robbins went off on spy missions. The series was cancelled in March of 1966 [9].

Works Cited:
1 Adams, Val. “Telsun Puts Off Three U.N. Shows.” New York Times. 11 Feb. 1965: 79.
2 Lyon, Herb. “Tower Ticker.” Chicago Tribune. 13 Sep. 1965: 26.
3 Humphrey, Hal. “TV Reviews.” Los Angeles Times. 14 Sep. 1965: C12.
4 Quoted in “How the Critics See the New Season,” Broadcasting, 20 Sept. 1965, 33-39.
5 Ibid.
6 Ibid.
7 Wolters, Larry. “TV’s Wildest Week Ever is Under Way.” Chicago Tribune. 13 Sep. 1965: C10.
8 “The Season in Three Parts: How It Turned Out Vs. How Gray Called It.” Television Magazine. Mar. 1966: 40-41.
9 Smith, Bob. “Networks Roll Out Hopefuls for Fall.” Los Angeles Times. 4 Mar. 1966: C23.

Originally Published April 8th, 2009
Last updated May 17th, 2018

9 Replies to “The John Forsythe Show”

  1. It’s truly is one of the dumbest openings ever!!!! Surely a waste for a chimp to walk on for no reason!!!

  2. I think that when the show switched formats, they used clips from each weeks episode for the opening credits. I have one episode from each of the two formats.

  3. If that is the case, then the above opening credits must be from the February 21st, 1966 episodes called “Funny, You Don’t Look Like a Spy.” Here’s the summary from The Los Angeles times:

    A perturbed space chimpanzee, it’s expectant mate and a trainload of spies complicate Maj. Foster’s life tonight.

  4. “THE JOHN FORSYTHE SHOW” was another deal between him and MCA that was supposed to make money for both of them (as did ‘BACHELOR FATHER”). John “co-owned” the series and production company, and co-produced it with MCA/Universal, who sold it to NBC as part of their continuing arrangement to “sell in bulk”; that is, several blocks of the network’s 1965-’66 prime-time schedule were filled with MCA series {“RUN FOR YOUR LIFE”, “THE VIRGINIAN”, “BOB HOPE PRESENTS THE CHRYSLER THEATER”, “LAREDO” and “CONVOY”}, as well as most of the movies seen on “NBC TUESDAY/SATURDAY NIGHT AT THE MOVIES” [ironic today, now that NBC and Universal are one company].

    The primary sponsor of the series was Colgate-Palmolive, who probably “bought” it because of John Forsythe’s “track record” on “BACHELOR FATHER”. When they saw they weren’t getting THAT “Forsythe” (and the ratings that were supposed to go with him), they replaced him with the second season of “I DREAM OF JEANNIE” {the first in color} when it moved to Monday nights in the fall of 1966.

  5. I’ve never seen a full episode of this show. I do think the opening tune is catchy though, and I love that Ann B. Davis & Elsa Lanchester were included in the cast.

    John Forsythe himself apparently hated this show so much that he forgot key details about it. First of all, he remembered it as being set at a boys’ school, not a girls’ school. A bit later the interviewer for Archive of American TV mentioned that it was a girls’ school, with which Forsythe did not disagree, then he mentioned the show’s change in format at mid-season which made the character a spy, and Forsythe laughs about that and says that never happened. I feel sorry for the interviewer, who then apologizes to being wrong about that detail, when he was right. This mistake may be attributed either to Forsythe’s age at the time (past 80) or his having blocked that aspect of his sitcom out of his memory. You can look for those parts of his interview here:

  6. I myself was never into The John Forsythe Show, but I still wouldn’t mind getting it on DVD to give to a friend in Germany who’s a devout John Forsythe fan. Likewise for John’s equally short lived To Rome With Love TV series (1969-70).

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