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Hey, hey, hey! Kim here. Today I’m starting what I’m hoping will be a new show. It’s fun to deep dive into individual series; however, it only paints so much of a picture of television history as a whole. A full look at a lineup tells a story that tells so much more. There are always hits and misses; however, it’s suddenly easier to see just why we remember certain shows and not others– often for reasons completely unrelated to a show’s quality.
Let’s start with the Monday night line-up during the 1965 TV season.
The night opens up with an interesting and quite varied choice of programs. CBS starts strong with To Tell the Truth. The popular series was in the middle of its initial run– which would continue for another few years with host Bud Collyer. The series featured a panel of recurring celebrity guests who would attempt to guess which of three players was telling the truth about their identity.
Meanwhile, NBC ran the musical variety series Hullabaloo. After all, this was the peak of the British invasion, and music — and culture for that matter– was changing at a blinding pace and there was plenty to appeal to teens.
Finally, ABC was the only network to bring a fictional offering with the second season of 12 O’Clock High. The military drama followed a bombardment group in the U.S. Airforce. The drama was changing a bit at this point. Paul Burke joined the show in a leading role at the beginning of the second season, replacing Robert Lansing. Sources report the change happened for several reasons. However, the move was not loved by audiences.
While ABC ran the second half-hour of 12 O’Clock High, CBS continued with their game show line up with I’ve Got a Secret. The series underwent a big change in the previous season when Steve Allen joined the show replacing long-time original host Gary Moore. The show featured a celebrity panel that would try and guess “the secret” of the contestant.
Meanwhile, over on NBC the first (and only) season of The John Forsythe Show. The series co-starred the legendary Elsa Lanchester and Ann B Davis. The series followed Forsythe as an Air Force officer who inherited a girls boarding school. It’s easy to guess the hilarity which follows. After midseason, the series reportedly underwent a format change, making Forsythe’s character into an international man of mystery. The change didn’t help…
Going into the next half hour block, we see one of those examples where a show just didn’t stand a chance. ABC ran with the premiere of the single season western The Legend of Jesse James. The series starred Christopher Jones in the title role and ran for 34 episodes. Granted westerns were slowly on their way out, but this show had its work cut out for it.
Over on NBC, the network ran with the final season of medical drama Dr. Kildare starring Richard Chamberlain. The show saw a bit of a change this season, going from an hour to 30 minutes. However, as it was entering its fifth season, it was well established by this point.
Finally, CBS brought out the big guns with The Lucy Show. Lucille Ball with a television establishment by herself by this point, and the follow-up to I Love Lucy was smack dab in the middle of its run in 1965. This is one of the shows on this list which has lived on, either on syndication, on DVD or at least in memory.
In the next half hour, we see a pattern forming… CBS stomping its competition. In this timeslot the network aired perennial classic The Andy Griffith Show. This season would be a test for the rural comedy, as it was the first since the departure of Don Knotts as Barney Fife. However, the show would continue until 1968.
Meanwhile, NBC stepped away from fiction to drift back to variety with The Andy Williams Show. Williams was a variety staple by this point and the show would remain in the lineup until 1971.
So, figuring all this together, the second half of ABC’s western block A Man Called Shenandoah seems set up to fail. The single season western starred Robert Horton in a return to regular TV after departing Wagon Train in 1962. The actor had spent much of 1963 and 1964 on stage in 110 in the Shade. The show, despite a fascinating premise following a man with amnesia wandering the west go discover his identity, lasted only 34 episodes.
While Andy Williams finished its second half hour on NBC, CBS continued with their long-running lineup with the fifth and final season of Hazel, which starred Shirley Booth as a sassy live in maid. The show had underwent a facelift. It had aired on NBC until its 1964 cancellation. The show was rescued by CBS and brought back for another season, with only Booth and Bobby Buntrock returning. Series regulars Don DeFore and Whitney Blake didn’t return, so the series saw maid Hazel and youngster Harold moving in with the boys uncle and his family (Ray Fulmer, Lynn Bornden and Julia Benjamin).
Over on ABC, the network changed pace with the third and final season of The Farmers Daughter which starred Inger Stevens and the lovable William Windom. In what seems to be a pattern this year, the series was going through a bit of a transition as it entered this final season. Steven’s and Windom’s characters were married relatively early in the year, but by the end of the year, The Farmer’s Daughter was shifted to a new timeslot before its eventual cancellation. As is often repeated in television, I guess happy couples don’t sell.
By the autumn, ABC tagged in Peyton Place to take over The Farmer’s Daughter’s timeslot. The wildly popular primetime soap opera was going into its second season and during this year, aired three times a week.
Rounding out the night, each of the networks went with hour long content. In a bit of a change of pace, ABC had the long-running favorite with Ben Casey. The Vince Edwards medical drama was going into its fifth season, and was equally as established as NBC counterpart Dr. Kildare.
After Ben Casey came to an end in March of 1966, British import The Avengers took over its time slot.
Meanwhile, CBS and NBC both brought newcomers to the line up. CBS aired The Steve Lawrence Show, a variety series hosted by singer (and one half of duo Steve and Eydie) Steve Lawrence. A quick look over period sources of the time show that the series was unfortunately a victim of poor ratings and was cancelled by November. The show was replaced at midseason by Art Linkletter’s Hollywood Talent Scouts.
Finally, NBC aired the first season of Run for Your Life, which starred Ben Gazzara as a lawyer who receives a terminal health diagnosis and decides to live his life his way. NBC had a hit with the young series, which would go on to run for three seasons.
This is just one night of seven, but even with a superficial going over, it really seems like CBS is the winner on Mondays with titans in particular like Lucille Ball and Andy Griffith. In fact, Mondays are kind of a quiet night. Few of these fictional series –that didn’t involve Lucy or Andy– continued beyond this season.The variety shows and game shows are a different animal. Of the series to start on the line-up in the fall, as mentioned Run for Your Life would continue for two seasons beyond 1965, while 12 O’Clock High received a half season in 1966. It’s interesting to see the hardest hit shows are those airing opposite The Lucy Show and The Andy Griffith Show. These are the names we still remember. Television is a harsh business and all it takes is a turn of the dial between a hit and a flop. It really makes you think.
Stay tuned for more here at Female Gaze Productions as we look at classic popular culture through a historical and feminist lens. My name is Kim, you can find us on Twitter at kpierce624. Facebook person? I give me like or a follow at Kimberly C. Pierce. I also have lots of additional classic entertainment content posted at Journeys in Classic Fim dot com. As always, if you like what you’re seeing, please like and subscribe.
Podcaster, film historian, and general lover of all things classic film and television. Studying the contributions of women behind the camera in classic television.
You can find me on Twitter @kpierce624!