Seventy-two years ago today, on Wednesday, August 27th, 1941, NBC’s commercial television station in New York City premiered Thrills and Chills Everywhere (aka Thrills and Chills, aka Thrills and Chills with Doug Allen). Airing from 9-9:30PM on WNBT, the first episode featured guest Faustin Wirkus, a former Marine who in the 1920s was proclaimed King Faustin II of Gonave Island in Haiti.
(Coincidentally, just yesterday I posted the WNBT schedule for the week of August 24th, which included the debut of Thrills and Chills.)
Next to nothing is known about the series, other than what host Doug Allen wrote in his 1946 book How to Write for Television. Here’s how he recalled the creation of the show:
Perhaps this idea might better be illustrated by my own initiation into television. I first presented an idea which I had previously written for a book called “One Minute to Live.” Each program was to be the dramatization of some hair-raising experience of an explorer or adventurer I had interviewed on radio or for publications. Such stories would naturally take the audience in fancy to the corners of the earth, and NBC didn’t seem to have that much space in their admittedly large studios.
Tom Hutchinson, who was then program direction of NBC’s television studio, told me I had a marvelous idea, but that it would take a Hollywood studio with its huge sets to produce it. After some careful thought, I decided that since we could not present the program as a live dramatic show, the most logical alternative was to interview the explorers and adventurers about their death-defying encounters, and then fade into a showing of motion pictures which they had taken on their expeditions. To this I later added the more intimate touch of putting the television spectator into our picture by explaining at the outset of the program, following the opening, that “tonight we are to set out on a safari into the dark jungles of French Equatorial Africa,” or to some other remote spot on the globe, and that our guide on this safari would be our distinguished guest of the evening.
The series aired sporadically on WNBT until 1942 when it moved to the experimental DuMont station in New York City. It was on the air at least through 1944 and potentially as late as 1946. Aired live in the days before the invention of the kinescope, there was no way to record the broadcasts and thus there are no existing episodes of Thrills and Chills. The series made heavy use of film footage, some of which could presumably exist.