September 14, 2019

This week in TV Guide: September 14, 1963

Funny thing about the TV Guide's Fall Preview: although I now have a fairly respectable library of back issues, I have relatively few of these, and the ones I do have seem to be from when I was a subscriber in the '70s and '80s, eras I find less interesting to write about. In other words, I kept them for one reason or another, as opposed to buying them later on, after the fact. Those Fall Previews tend to be prized issues, treasured by collectors, and hence the resale values are higher than for ordinary issues. I don't remember where I came up with this one, though I know I didn't pay much above the norm for it; I'm glad I did, though, because although we might not have known it at the time, there are some pretty great shows starting in the fall of 1963.

ABC, for one, can't wait. Reads their double-page ad, "On Sunday night, September 15, 1963, at 6:30, a new television network will be born." Oh, it may go by the same first three letters of the alphabet, but rest assured that it is the new ABC. "These won't be just any shows," the ad promises. "They will be television programs of conspicuous excellence." The new ABC presents 14 new series for 1963, and if we set aside the fact that the high number of new shows is due to the low ratings of the old ones, it's quite a promise. And in fact, although not all of these shows were ratings bonanzas (if you'll pardon the expression, NBC), several of them have cemented their place as fond favorites among classic TV fans.

There's The Outer Limits, for example. The description from the preview section is succinct: "Wild, man." The opening title sequence (you know, "We are controlling transmission . . .") is so spectacular it "makes you want to run and call the TV repairman." The promise is that of a bold series presenting things we haven't seen before, and for a series that ran only a season-and-a-half, it's well-remembered and well-loved. I probably would have given it a shot. Monday, 6:30 p.m. CT, ABC

Mr. Novak is decidedly less dramatic (although there are those who would cite teenagers as alien life forms), but that doesn't mean it doesn't have drama. It features "production slickness; intelligent, sharp writing; and a fine cast, including the veteran Dean Jagger as the high school principal and James Franciscus as Mr. Novak, the beleaguered English teacher"  The show deals with real issues, and it does so without "a lot of cheap rhetoric." "Everyone who has a teenager, is one or knows one, will be able to identify with this." Tuesday, 6:30 p.m., NBC

Then there's the show that's Les Miserables in modern dress, The Fugitive. "Richard Kimble is a doctor convicted of killing his wife. He is innocent. On the way to his execution he escapes after a train wreck. Shifting his identity as he drifts from place to place, he sets out to find his wife's killer, a one-armed man he had seen clearly on the night of the murder. At the same time, he is pursued relentlessly by Gerard, who catches up only now and then, and not long enough to stop the series in mid-track." That about says it, doesn't it? Based on this synopsis, attracted by the idea of an innocent man pursued by the police, I definitely would have tuned in. Tuesday, 9:00 p.m., ABC

Petticoat Junction, from the creator of last year's top show, The Beverly Hillbillies, will have crossover with its kissin' kin, in hopes that "two successes can be made to grow where only one grew before" Bea Benaderet, Cousin Pearl on Hillbillies, is the star, and along with Edgar Buchanan, Smiley Burnett, and Rufe Davis, provide the comedy; "Her shapely daughters provide the action—and what action!" It doesn't do anything for me, but I wouldn't have bet against it. Tuesday, 8:00 p.m., CBS

"Broadway's darling," Patty Duke, is the star of The Patty Duke Show, in the dual role of "a teen-ager who is the daughter of a managing editor of a New York newspaper, and a ditto who is her visiting cousin, daughter of her dad's brother." You can see where this is going, can't you? "Nobody, of course, can tell them apart, and therein lies the tale—the mistaken identity bit is played to the hilt." Would I have been able to get past the eye-roll to appreciate the charisma of the leading lady? Wednesday, 7:00 p.m., ABC

The Danny Kaye Show brings us back to a time when major movie stars were still resistant to television. For years Kaye had been a holdout, content with the occasional (and well-received) appearance, but now that his movie career is diminished, he's decided the time is ripe. "I know all the pitfalls," he says. "If I'm on television every week, I don't know if I can come back to the Ziegfeld Theater and be a sellout." TV Guide thinks the irrepressible Kaye will manage, and so do I. Wednesday, 9:00 p.m., CBS

My introduction to the Muppets came from The Jimmy Dean Show, and Rowlf the Dog, but Dean has a lot more going for him than that. Dean was one of the substitutes on The Tonight Show between the reigns of Jack Paar and Johnny Carson, and "[h]e drew the second highest rating" of the dozen or so guest hosts (behind only Jerry Lewis), which made a weekly variety show a good bet. ABC is hoping that a country music variety show will stand out from the myriad options out there. Thursday, 8:00 p.m., ABC

Kraft Suspense Theatre signals a move for the sponsor away from its longtime variety show, as Perry Como moves from a weekly series to occasional specials (also sponsored by Kraft in this time spot). Back in the days when anthology series were viable and popular on TV, Suspense Theatre featured well-known stars and often tense stories, and I remember it fondly. Thursday, 9:00 p.m., NBC

Less remembered, perhaps, but highly praised at the time, is The Bob Hope Show, known better as Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre. It, too, is a weekly anthology series, punctuated with six Hope comedy specials sprinkled through the year. As for the anthology element, a mix of comedy, mystery and drama, Hope will appear in them "now and then," but mostly he'll act as host. You'd think the Hope name will be enough to carry the series. Friday, 7:30 p.m., NBC

I've written before that I didn't get Burke's Law when I first saw it in reruns, but today it's one of my favorites. Gene Barry plays the role with the perfect combination of comedy and drama, and every episode features a bevy of glamorous female guest stars. "But girls isn't all—there's also a smidgen of action, some crisp dialog and good camera work." Add a very good supporting cast, and this would seem to be just right for an entertaining hour. Friday, 7:30 p.m., ABC

The Farmer's Daughter, based on the Oscar-winning movie of the same name, stars Inger Stevens as Katie Holstrom, "fresh off the Minnesota farm," who goes to work as governess for widowed congressman William Windom. It's so old-fashioned that you actually root for the congressman to get the girl, instead of getting sent to the slammer. Even as a kid I probably would have thought this hokey, but it survived for three seasons, making it into the color era, and it's still fondly remembered today. Friday, 8:30 p.m., ABC

It has been said that CBS originally offered Danny Kaye the 8:00 p.m. slot on Sunday, right after The Ed Sullivan Show. That time period, however, belonged to Bonanza on NBC, and Kaye refused it. That's how Kaye wound up on Wednesday nights, with the Sunday night spot going to another legend making a long-awaited television debut: Judy Garland.

The plan is for Judy to front an hour-long variety show featuring "some of Hollywood's biggest stars" (including old pal Mickey Rooney), and one star who's "not so big perhaps, but very important: Liza Minelli, Judy's daughter." Just wait a few years, and Liza will be a very, very big star. Yes, Judy was troubled, but CBS never really figured out what to do with this show. It's unfortunate, because the last few shows, which featured Garland (with occasional guests) simply singing, were the best.  Sunday, 8:00 p.m., CBS

My Favorite Martian will probably be your favorite one, too, with Ray Walston, fondly remembered for Damn Yankees, as the titular Martian (complete with antennae), and Bill Bixby as his earthly foil. "It's simply amazing, the way he can become invisible and read minds," says the reviewer, who sounds an awful lot like Cleveland Amory, and viewers found it amazing enough to keep it on the air for three successful seasons. I remember it approvingly. Sunday, 6:30 p.m., CBS

More than half of these shows are available on DVD, either commercially or through the grey market, which might be responsible in part for the perception that the new season contained memorable programs of high quality. There's a reason why these shows made it to DVD, though, and that's because people responded to them. Sometimes it was because of repeated airings in syndication; other times the show's reputation created the demand, with people curious to see programs that they either remembered themselves, or had read about. It is, nevertheless, quite a season, one of several from the early and mid 1960s that simply sparkles. I can't say that it would dominate the ratings today, because viewing habits and tastes have changed so dramatically. I can, however, assert that as far as quality goes, I'll take it against any old year.

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That's not to say, of course, that every show introduced in the fall of 1963 is a hit. The biggest bomb of the season, in fact one of the most infamous disappointments of any television season, is The Jerry Lewis Show, airing Saturday nights at 8:30 p.m. on ABC. The network, in its "New ABC" ad, plugs the show with typical modesty and reserve, referring to the "live, spontaneous two-hour show" as "perhaps the most electrifying two hours in television history." As is often the case, the show wasn't as bad as its reputation, but it did leave a huge crater after the end of its 13-week run.

I'd have to think that Grindl, the sitcom starring Imogene Coca as a temp worker who gets into new adventures each week, is a disappointment for NBC, only lasting one season. Her former partner, Sid Caesar, has a similar run with ABC's The Sid Caesar Show, which alternates with Here's Edie [Adams]; they're both gone at the end of the season. Arrest and Trial is ABC's novel 90-minute program that, in part one, features the arrest of a suspect by detective Ben Gazzara, followed by part two, in which defense attorney Chuck Connors tries to get Gazzara's perp off. One of the stars is guaranteed to lose each week, which isn't exactly the measure of a successful show (although I've seen several episodes and liked them). Over on CBS, viewers will decide over the course of the new season that they like the old Phil Silvers show more than The New Phil Silvers Show. And ABC got Jack Palance to do a weekly series, but The Greatest Show on Earth wasn't the greatest show in the ratings.

Then there are series that, if you'll forgive me, are familiar only to those who, like me, watch compilation videos on YouTube. Channing, Glynis, Espionage, 100 Grand, Temple Houston, The Great Adventure, and Harry's Girls are some of the new shows that, well, just don't leave much of a mark.

East Side/West Side, starring George C. Scott, is a gritty, realistic drama about a social worker and the conditions he finds in the city; it's terrific, but too gritty and realistic for viewers who want something a little less downbeat. The Richard Boone Show is the former Paladin's effort to establish a television repertory company Breaking Point, a psychiatric drama with Paul Richards and Eduard Franz, is a personal favorite of mine, and doesn't get a run as long as it should have; Cleveland Amory will report at the end of the year that he got more complaints about this show's cancellation than any other all season.

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Some of the year's hits aren't new at all; they're just back for another go-round. The Beverly Hillbillies, Hazel, Perry Mason, Daniel Boone, The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet, McHale's Navy, To Tell the Truth, Combat!, The Red Skelton Show, The Jack Benny Program, The Donna Reed Show, I've Got a Secret, The Jack Paar Program, and Gunsmoke are just some of the shows that viewers liked yesterday, and keep liking today. The Hollywood Palace, which replaces The Jerry Lewis Show in January, stays on the air until 1970. Meanwhile, other favorites reach the end of the line, including The Danny Thomas Show, The Twilight Zone, Sing Along with Mitch, Route 66, and 77 Sunset Strip.

Sometimes the week's news doesn't come from the new fall lineup at all. College football returns to CBS on Saturday morning (11:45 a.m.), with Florida taking on Georgia Tech in Atlanta. The National Football League kicks off the season on Sunday (the American Football League started the previous weekend) as our hometown Minnesota Vikings go to San Francisco to play the 49ers. Our educational station, KTCA, celebrates its fifth anniversary Sunday afternoon at 4:00 p.m., with a look at "the role of Channel 2 to education here and in the Nation."

On Friday evening, Ingrid Bergman makes a rare television appearance in CBS's drama special Hedda Gabler by Henrik Ibsen, a playwright who makes Ingmar Bergman look like Spike Jones; the all-star cast includes Michael Redgrave, Ralph Richardson and Trevor Howard, and with a cast like that, I don't care how depressing the play is.

Sometimes the news isn't what's happening now, but what's coming up. All three networks promise specials from the World's Fair, which opens in New York this spring. CBS plans an hour of music and dance to celebrate the opening of New York's Lincoln Center in September. Andy Williams has a dozen specials on tap this year for NBC, and Bing Crosby has four scheduled with CBS. There are upcoming specials that we've talked about at this site: Tennessee Ernie Ford's The Story of Christmas and NBC Opera Company's new version of Amahl and the Night Visitors. NBC's Project 20 documentary series looks at patriotism in "The Red, White and Blue," a story you'll be reading here sometime next year. And, of course, there will be things that we during the year that we can't even conceive of in September, 1963.

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I realize this has pretty much been a one-topic issue, with a lot of pictures, and I've enjoyed it immensely, far more than any other Fall Preview I've done. It really is remarkable, when you take the time to look back at it, how influential this new season is, as far as the shows that we carry with us in our memories. I have no doubt that someone out there, someone with a collection of both commercial and grey market DVDs, could replicate an entire evening's worth of television from this season—and that, 56 years later, is something that nobody connected with putting together this issue could ever have imagined. What a story that would have been! TV  


  1. Here's ABC's hour promo from 1963 Fall season courtesy of YouTube. Poor quality with several generations of copying evident but fun nonetheless...

  2. Huzzah! Huzzah! Huzzah!
    I've actually got this one!

    - Wondering if you ever noticed:
    For several years, starting in the late '50s, TV Guide was able to assemble various stars of fall newcomers in specially posed group shots (on the West Coast, anyway; New York-based stars had to be shot separately).
    !963 was the last year that TVG was able to do that; one season later, they started doing collages of the various stars, which made the logistics a lot easier.
    Take a look at that Sunday grouping; Getting three networks worth of performers in one place for the photo shoot can't have been easy (and make no mistake, they were all there; photoshopping was a couple of generations away), but TV Guide had the pull back then to get it done.
    On the first page of the listing section (at least that's where it is in the Chicago edition), there's a little paragraph with the photo credits for the Hollywood groups and the New York singles (sign of those times: even GE gets a credit for supplying the light bulbs in the backgrounds).

    - Since only ABC is putting anything new on this week, the picking are pretty slim.
    Next week, we'll get to see the box ads for CBS, all by Al Hirschfeld, and the usual braggadocio from NBC.
    Having spent much of that summer seeing the promo campaigns on daytime TV (12 years old back then), I was on tenterhooks waiting for CBS- The Stars Address!, The New ABC!, and whatever NBC's pitch was that season (NBC Week! was a few years down the road).

    - Addendum:
    My faltering memory seems to recall that NBC offered a little picture book, titled STAR TIME!, if you sent them fifty cents in coin to the address. (I'm about 75-90% sure that the voiceover on the pitch spots was Mason Adams; correction welcomed if needed.)
    This proved successful enough that the following year ('64) NBC came out with STAR ALBUM! - of which, as it happens, I have a copy … but that's another story …

    1. You're right about the Startime booklet being offered by NBC, but just for "a quarter" sent to an NBC address in Des Moines. You can see the ad promoting the booklet, as well as ads for NBC's Thursday series TEMPLE HOUSTON, which was premiering the next week on Sept. 19, and DR. KILDARE, whose season premiere was set a week later on Sept. 26. The ad appears at about 26:40 in this link, from CONCENTRATION's Challenge of Champions, which aired 56 years ago last Friday:

      Like Mr. Doran I also have a copy of the 1964 NBC promo booklet. I wasn't around to buy it then, so I bought it off EBay some years ago.

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  4. ABC premiered all their shows in one week (September 15th-21st, 1963), the first network to ever premiere all their fall shows in a single week.

    CBS and NBC would follow suit within a couple of years.

  5. Oh, my gosh, Grindl! I'd forgotten that show (I guess with good reason). I think that filled the NBC Sunday 8:30 slot between Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color and Bonanza that somehow never seemed to work.

  6. Bob Hope was a cheap....well, he was CHEAP. While the "CHRYSLER THEATRE" episodes were filmed in color, his monthly Chrysler "Bob Hope Comedy Specials" continued to be taped in black and white- because he produced those, and didn't want to spend the extra money for color videotape. Finally, in the fall of 1965. NBC insisted he start taping his specials in color (as they had just become "The Full Color Network" by scheduling almost all of their prime-time programs in "Living Color"). His first color special was telecast on December 15, 1965.

  7. "GRINDL" was previously produced by David Swift (and Screen Gems) as a 1960 pilot starring Mary Grace Canfield {later known as "Ralph Monroe" on "GREEN ACRES"}- but no one bought it. Swift then tried making her [and Mary Grace] a part of his 1962 pilot "POOR MR. CAMPBELL", starring Edward Andrews and Agnes Moorehead - again, no takers. Swift refused to give up on the idea; he hired Imogene Coca and filmed a new "GRINDL" pilot- which Procter & Gamble "bought" for its Sunday 8:30pm(et) time period for the fall of 1963. And it lasted one season.

  8. This was always my favorite issue of TV Guide. School was back in season, summer was over, and the new shows and Saturday Morning Cartoons were also going to premier.
    The other thing I remember is when a show was spotlighted in the Fall Preview issue but never shown. Before the days of Entertainment Tonight and the internet you might never know why Bob Denver's new show did not make it form page to screen.


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!