Q & A: Why Was Ensign O’Toole Cancelled; Diagnosis Unknown

I get a lot of e-mails from people asking me about television shows, made-for-TV movies, or miniseries they remember from years or even decades past. I try to answer each question as best I can. Every now and then I like to pull out a few e-mails to answer here at Television Obscurities for everyone to enjoy. Keep reading for today’s questions and answers.

Wondering if you write up anything about this show. I have been watching this on Get TV. It seems to be a very good show with a good cast. It only ran one season but ABC must of had so intrest in it since they ran the reruns from March to September of 1964. Was the show that bad in the ratings or did something else cause the show to run only one season.

One season wonder Ensign O’Toole starred Dean Jones as the title character, a U.S. Navy ensign assigned to the fictional USS Appleby. Jay C. Flippen, Jack Mullaney, Jack Albertson, and Harvey Lembeck co-starred. The sitcom ran for 32 episodes on NBC during the 1962-1963 season. It aired from 7-7:30PM ET on Sunday evenings, opposite Lassie on CBS and repeats of Father Knows Best on ABC.

Here are the opening credits:

Why did NBC cancel the show after a single season? I don’t know for sure but the decision to axe Ensign O’Toole likely came down to ratings. Lassie beat Ensign O’Toole in the Nielsen ratings, helped by a stronger lead-in. Also, sponsors Chesterfield and Ford apparently weren’t happy with the show airing Sundays at 7PM ET. They wanted the show to move to a later time slot, likely in the hopes of drawing an older audience rather than just children. NBC either wouldn’t or couldn’t find a new home for the show.

So, it likely came down to a combination of unhappy sponsors and unsatisfactory ratings.

As for why ABC purchased repeats of Ensign O’Toole to air in 1964, it must have been cheaper for the network to purchase the rights to a cancelled NBC show than pay for an entirely new show.

I recall a “Dr. Coffey” who solved mysteries using his scientific lab for proof. The show would have been on one of the three networks late 1950’s or very early 1960’s. It wouldn’t have been a long series at all. Can you come up with a title and air time?

I believe the show Gregory remembers is Diagnosis: Unknown. The medical drama aired on CBS from July to September 1960. Patrick O’Neal starred as Dr. Daniel Coffee, a pathologist who worked with the police to solve crimes. Chester Morris co-starred as Detective Max Ritter with Phyllis Newman as Doris Hudson, Dr. Coffey’s lab technician.

An excerpt from one episode can be viewed on YouTube:

Diagnosis: Unknown lasted just ten episodes. As far as I know, it never aired in syndication following its brief run on CBS.

Did you watch Ensign O’Toole on NBC during the 1962-1963 season? Do you remember Diagnosis: Unknown from 1960? Hit the comments with your memories and thoughts.


Griffin, John David. “Time Change Sought for ‘Ensign O’Toole’.” Albany Times-Union. Hearst Headline Service. 25 Nov. 1962: H-3.
“Hindsight 62/63.” Television Magazine. Mar. 1963: 70.

Nielsen Bottom 10, September 24th-30th, 1973

Week 3 of the 1973-1974 season started on Monday, September 24th, 1973 and ended on Sunday, September 30th, 1973. The highest-rated program was All in the Family on CBS with a 30.2/52 Nielsen rating/share. Here are the 10 lowest-rated programs:

## Program Network Rating
55 NBC Sat. Movie (“Dollars”) NBC 15.0/28
56 Brady Bunch ABC 14.6/25
57 NBC Follies NBC 14.6/25
58 Perry Mason CBS 14.6/25
59 Diana NBC 14.6/21
60 Adam’s Rib ABC 13.4/23
61 Love, American Style ABC 13.3/25
62 Partridge Family ABC 13.1/23
63 Bob, Carol, Ted, Alice ABC 10.2/17
64 Calucci’s Department CBS   9.5/17

“All in the Family Back in Top Nielsen Spot.” Los Angeles Times. 15 Oct. 1973: D18.

Colorized I Love Lucy and Dick Van Dyke Show Specials to Air December 14 on CBS

CBS will broadcast two hour-long specials featuring colorized episodes of I Love Lucy and The Dick Van Dyke Show next month. The specials will air back-to-back from 8-10PM ET on Friday, December 14th. As always, both specials “seamlessly combine” the opening and closing credits for the episodes included.

CBS started airing colorized specials back in December 2013 with two I Love Lucy episodes. The network then colorized The Andy Griffith Show episodes in December 2015. The Dick Van Dyke Show became the third classic CBS sitcom colorized for modern viewers in December 2016.

I Love Lucy Christmas Special

The sixth annual colorized “I Love Lucy Christmas Special” will include “The Christmas Episode” (aka “The I Love Lucy Christmas Show”) from December 1956 and the newly-colorized “Pioneer Women” from March 1952. An official press release can be found here.

Here’s a look at every colorized I Love Lucy episode since 2013:

Colorized I Love Lucy Episodes, 2013-Present

December 2013
“The Christmas Episode”
“Lucy’s Italian Movie”

December 2014
“The Christmas Episode”
“Job Switching”

May 2015
“L.A. At Last!”
“Lucy and Superman”

December 2015
“The Christmas Episode”
“Lucy Does a TV Commercial”

May 2016
“Lucy Visits Grauman’s”
“Lucy and John Wayne”

December 2016
“The Christmas Episode”
“Lucy Gets in Pictures”

May 2017
“Dancing Star”
“Harpo Marx”

December 2017
“The Christmas Episode”
“The Fashion Show”

December 2018
“The Christmas Episode”
“Pioneer Women”

“The Christmas Episode” and “Lucy’s Italian Movie” were released on DVD in November 2013 alongside a third episode (“Lucy Goes to Scotland”) colorized in 2007 for the I Love Lucy complete series DVD box set. The episodes aired in May 2015 and May 2016 have also been released on DVD.

The Dick Van Dyke Show – Now In Living Color!

This year’s special offers viewers the chance to view “Where Did I Come From” (from January 1961 1962) and “Never Bathe on Saturday” (from March 1965) in color. Carl Reiner, who created and co-starred in The Dick Van Dyke Show, personally picked these episodes to showcase Dick Van Dyke’s physical comedy. Reiner is also serving as an executive producer for the special. An official press release for “The Dick Van Dyke Show – Now In Living Color!” can be found here.

And here’s a look at all of the colorized episodes of The Dick Van Dyke Show CBS has aired since 2016:

Colorized The Dick Van Dyke Show Episodes, 2016-Present

December 2016
“That’s My Boy”
“Coast to Coast Big Mouth”

December 2017
“My Blonde-Haired Brunette”
“October Eve”

December 2018
“Where Did I Come From”
“Never Bathe on a Saturday”

The 2016 edition of “The Dick Van Dyke Show – Now in Living Color!” is available on DVD and Blu-ray.

To Color or Not to Color

You might be wondering why I’ve been keeping track of the CBS colorized specials since 2013. I Love Lucy and The Dick Van Dyke Show aren’t obscure TV shows. Nor were they short-lived TV shows. Truthfully, I think it’s because I want to support CBS for its willingness to air episodes of TV shows from the 1950s and 1960s–even if they are in color.

As a general rule, I don’t support colorization. I think black-and-white TV shows (and movies) should always be seen in their original monochrome glory. However, the only reason CBS keeps airing these specials is because they’re in color. If watching colorized episodes of I Love Lucy or The Dick Van Dyke Show means a few younger viewers become interested in classic TV, I won’t complain.

Hit the comments with your thoughts. Will you be watching either of these specials next month? Do you support colorizing classic TV shows?

Q & A: Herbie the Love Bug; Wrong Number

I get a lot of e-mails from people asking me about television shows, made-for-TV movies, or miniseries they remember from years or even decades past. I try to answer each question as best I can. Every now and then I like to pull out a few e-mails to answer here at Television Obscurities for everyone to enjoy. Keep reading for today’s questions and answers.

I’m curious for more information on the short-lived Herbie the Love Bug series on CBS. I know it ran for only a handful (5 or 6) episodes, and was unusual in that it was an hour-long comedy; it definitely skewed toward a family audience. I believe all the episodes are available on YouTube, and judging from the screen bugs on those videos, it was rerun on the Disney Channel at least once.

Herbie the Love Bug was one of three limited-run shows CBS introduced in March 1982. The network overhauled its Tuesday and Wednesday lineups, hoping to attract more viewers. The other shows were sitcom Baker’s Dozen and drama Q.E.D., both of which ran for six weeks. Herbie ran for just five. Walt Disney Productions produced Herbie the Love Bug, which explains why it later aired on the Disney Channel.

Dean Jones, who starred in the original 1968 film The Love Bug (and one of its sequels, 1977’s Herbie Goes to Monte Carlo), returned to the role of race car driver Jim Douglas. Now retired, Jim runs a driving school with his friend Bo Phillips (played by Richard Paul). When Herbie and Jim stop a back robbery, Jim meets divorced mother of three Susan MacLane (played by Patricia Harty) and the two fall in love. Her three children were payed by Claudia Wells, Douglas Emerson, and Nicky Katt. Larry Linville played Susan’s ex-husband, Randy.

Here are the opening credits, with a theme song sung by Dean Jones:

The series premiered on March 17th, 1982. I found two reviews, both of which were quite negative. Owen McNally, writing for The Hartford Courant, had this to say:

Unfortunately, Herbie is surrounded by a very dull cast of human actors. Herbie is a car with human qualities, but the actors are like humans with the qualities of a car — and very sluggish cards at that.


Perhaps Jones’ bland and somewhat sluggish condition has been brought on by having had to play second banana to a car for all these years. If Jones looks as if he needs his battery recharged or at least some air put in his tires, the plot itself seems in dire need of a major tuneup.

The debut tied for 37th for the week. I don’t know how the other four episodes performed but presumably they didn’t draw a large enough audience to convince CBS to bring the show back during the 1982-1983 season.

My 91-year-old cousin remembers being in a United Artists sponsored pilot with Luther Adler and John Conte. Sometime in the 1950’s filmed in New York. It never may have never aired but they made several episodes. The premise was about people calling wrong numbers. She believes that was the title, Wrong Number. Would love to know if there is information out there.

I found a handful of references to an unsold pilot titled “Wrong Number” that was filmed in New York City in 1955. John Christian produced and directed the half-hour pilot. He was the director of Guerilla Girl, which likely explains how your cousin got the job. Planned as an anthology series, Luther Adler may have been the host. The articles I found aren’t clear. He also apparently starred in the pilot alongside John Conte. The plot involved a murderer accidentally calling his intended target.

I found no connection to United Artist, although that doesn’t mean the company wasn’t involved in producing the pilot. As far as I can tell, only the pilot episode was filmed. It never aired, however, because the show wasn’t picked up.

Did you watch Herbie the Love Bug on CBS in 1982? Do you have any additional information about unsold pilot “Wrong Number”? Hit the comments with your memories and thoughts.


“Big Week for Continuing Series With CBS the Beneficiary.” Associated Press. 23 Mar. 1982.
McNally, Owen. “‘Herbie’ More Human Than the Actors in Love Bug Series’ Return.” Hartford Courant. 17 Mar. 1982. B5.

Share Your Memories of Your First TV

Welcome to the very first installment of Share Your Memories, a new monthly column here at the Television Obscurities blog. I write about obscure and short-lived TV shows because I don’t want them to be forgotten. Likewise, I examine parts of television history that have otherwise faded away over the decades. However, I’m too young to have watched most of the shows I write about. Remember, I was born in the mid-1980s. I wasn’t around for black and white television or the demise of the DuMont Television Network. I didn’t experience the color revolution of the 1960s firsthand.

Watching episodes of obscure TV shows allows me to understand the characters, settings, and plots. With information I’ve gathered from various sources, I do my best to place these shows in the proper historical context. But there’s only so much I can learn from reading contemporary newspaper articles or looking at historical TV schedules. I always ask readers to share their recollections of the TV shows I write about because they may be able to add information I can’t possibly know.

That’s also what I hope to accomplish with Share Your Memories. Every month, I’ll ask readers to share their memories about television. Not just what they watched but how they watched it.

The topic of this inaugural column is simple: Share your memories of your first television. In 1950, less than ten percent of households in the United States had a TV. By the end of the decade, that number jumped to 85%. It grew to 95% by the end of the 1960s. I’m especially interested in hearing from those who remember a time before television, who can recall when their family got their first TV set. The anticipation, the excitement, and potentially the disappointment when it didn’t work or didn’t get very good reception.

I, of course, don’t remember a time before television. My parents bought what became the family TV set before I came along. I don’t remember what it looked like but I know it had knobs. The first TV I do remember was big and black and had five or six buttons along the bottom right edge. For a while, my parents also had a black and white portable TV set that only picked up one or two stations. I can recall twisting the dial in the basement and seeing nothing but snow and occasionally a religious program hosted by a nun.

The first TV I owned personally was a 13-inch Toshiba TV/VCR combo I got in college. I still have it and it still works (for the most part). It’s currently hooked up to my standard definition DVR. I use it to check my over-the-air reception, occasionally record something, and when transferring VHS tapes to DVD.

Do you remember your first TV? Was it black and white? Color? Do you still have it? If you’re old enough to recall the days before television, can you remember when you or your family got a TV? Hit the comments with your recollections and memories.