What’s on TV?: Wednesday Nights (Fall 1965)
*A transcript of the video is below*
Hey! Hey! Hey! Kim here. Over the past few I installments, I’ve been diving into the network primetime lineup in the fall of 1965. Over two nights, we’ve seen a drastically different picture presented with strong — and ultimately classic– line-ups all around. While Monday nights presented a line-up largely built around one network, Tuesdays were a lot more open with fun and memorable shows spread around the entire night.
So, continuing with this examination of 1965 in TV, let’s turn our attention to Wednesday.
Diving right on in for the night, as a classic film fan everything feels immediately familiar. CBS opened the night with the debut of the– now legendary– family drama, Lost in Space. The show followed the Robinson family, a group of space columnist fleeing problems on earth in 1997, when they become ‘Lost in Space’ due to sabotage on the way to their new planet. The series starred Guy Williams, June Lockhart, Angela Cartwright, Bill Mumy, Marta Kristen, Mark Goddard and Jonathan Harris. The series is still very well known in popular culture, having had a feature film remake and a Netflix remake over the last two decades. It would run on the network for three seasons.
Meanwhile, ABC brought the final season of the ultra long-running situation comedy The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet. The series had been a tough and lingering part of the network since 1952. The show starred Ozzie and Harriet Nelson, as well as their sons Ricky and David who grew up on the small screen in front of the American public. The series was a domestic comedy following the real life family as they dealt with relatively real world problems… except that Ricky Nelson was never an awkward teenager. The series would remain in this timeslot until mid-season when it would move to Saturdays to round out its run.
The network neatly slid the debut season of Batman into the Wednesday night slot beginning in January of 1966. The now legendary series would go on to run three years.
NBC were the outliers in the timeslot, presenting the fourth season of The Virginian. The James Drury led series is well-known as one of the longest running westerns on television just behind the grandaddy of them all, Gunsmoke and Bonanza. At this point, The Virginian was smack dab in the middle of its run, and would go onto run for nine seasons on the network.
While The Virginian continued on NBC and CBS played the second half hour of Lost in Space, ABC had a clear path to run what would be the final season of The Patty Duke Show. The series followed identical cousins Patty and Cathy Lane — played by Patty Duke in dual roles– as they negotiated the trials and tribulations of living as teenagers in Brooklyn Heights. The series also starred Jean Byron, William Schallert, Eddie Applegate and Paul O’Keefe. This season was a big transitional period. Patty Duke had turned 18 as the season started, and the creative team was released from the constraints of having a minor in a leading role. The show relocated to Los Angeles, and while the general plot remained the same, there were some definite stylistic and mild thematic changes to this season.
Over on NBC, The Virginian was still finishing. So, ABC and NBC filled this half hour with a head to head match-up that’s just… painful.
CBS ran the fourth season of The Beverly Hillbillies. The comedy is one of those that we still remember today thanks to years of strong syndication airings of its nine seasons worth of episodes. The series starred Buddy Ebsen, Irene Ryan, Donna Douglas and Max Baer Jr as a family who… Heck I’ll just let the theme song tell it.
Considering The Beverly Hillbillies was… The Beverly Hillbillies, ABC’s decision to run the debut season of Gidget against the comedy titan is just… Sad. The series was based on the already well trodden story of Gidget, a teenage girl surfer. By this point, the Frederick Kohner novel had previously been adapted into three feature films. The half hour situation comedy starred Sally Field as the titular character and Don Porter as her father. There was a definite trend this year of women (more specifically young women) top lining shows. Perhaps relatively tired subject matter can be blamed on the Gidget’s single season run, but it definitely had its work cut out for it.
Gidget was moved out of this timeslot at midseason and replaced by a show called Blue Light. Unfortunately, this one didn’t fare any better than Gidget in the timeslot. The WWII spy thriller starred Robert Goulet and Christine Carere and followed an American double agent in Nazi Germany during the war. The series half hour format is an interesting one, considering the subject matter and audiences clearly weren’t there for the show. It was canceled after a half season.
As the clock turned to the next hour, the networks presented three brand new shows.
Over on NBC aired they aired Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theater. The series was a recurring presence on the network as far back as 1963. The anthology show often featured star-studded casts in narratives introduced by Hope– who was a comedy legend by this point in his career. The show would go on to run on NBC another two years.
Over on ABC, they changed up the pace with the debut season of the western series The Big Valley. The show followed the Barkley family in post-civil war California. It starred Barbara Stanwyck, Richard Long, Peter Breck, Lee Majors and Linda Evans. The show would go on to run four more seasons on the network.
Meanwhile, CBS ran another fondly remembered sitcom which has spanned the test of time. I’ll let the theme song speak for itself…
Green Acres starred Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor as a couple who renounces their wealthy city life for a simple existence in “Hooterville”. While 1965 was only its debut season, the popular comedy would go onto run 6 seasons and very much survive into DVD releases and syndication.
As 9:30 rolled around, Bob Hope and The Big Valley were wrapping up their second half hours, leaving CBS the only network offering new content.
And with that being said, it was definitely a biggie (pause). The Dick Van Dyke Show was going into its final season in 1965. The show had been a part of the CBS line up since its premiere in 1961 and had not only been a solid ratings performer, but also received a large amount of critical and awards praise. While there have been a number of shows we’ve talked about as surviving the passage of time, The Dick Van Dyke show is one which runs alongside I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners as the true icons of television.
The night came to a close with a crowded, but almost lack luster line-up. Though, this potential makes sense with how packed the earlier part of the night proved to be.
NBC dropped what is probably the best remembered of the block with the debut of spy series I Spy. Younger viewers will potentially be familiar with the name thanks to its 2002 feature film remake starring Eddie Murphy and Owen Wilson. The series starred Robert Culp and Bill Cosby in the role that very much propelled him into the mainstream. The show, which followed the leads traveling the world as an undercover tennis pro and his coach is one of the earliest examples of a black actor leading a Hollywood television series.
Meanwhile, ABC aired the final season of Burke’s Law, starring Gene Barry. The show went through a substantial transition in this final season. The show was renamed Amos Burke, Secret Agent, a majority of the cast was let go and Barry’s millionaire detective was turned into a secret agent. This is not the first time I’ve heard of a show making this very specific plot change late in a run, and I’m not sure it ever worked. The show was canceled at mid-season.
After midseason, the network ran the first and only season of The Long, Hot Summer. The show starred Edmond O’Brien, Roy Thinnes and Nancy Malone as is described as character examination set in the deep south. The show only received a half season.
Finally, CBS had the long running mainstay of the timeslot with The Danny Kaye Show. The variety show had been a staple of the line-up since 1963 and was still going strong at this point– it would remain on the air with CBS until 1967. The show is significant as an early role of Harvey Korman before he joined The Carol Burnett Show in 1967.
Bringing things to a close, while Tuesday was a bit more even across the networks, CBS roared back with a vengeance on Wednesday. Four out of the five shows the network brought on the night are still well-remembered mainstays. While Gidget is the only real example of a fall show getting crushed under the weight of it’s competition, a large chunk of ABC’s line-up on the night didn’t live long enough to see 1966. Only The Big Valley and midseason replacement Batman lived to see another day.
Now, NBC wasn’t hit quite as hard. However, there schedule looks completely different than the other two networks. Could they have just found their niche and their audience? Would the Virginian audience have ever tuned into watch The Patty Duke Show? That’s a tough call.
We’re already at Wednesday, but there’s a surprising amount of TV still left to talk about. I mean, there was so much great television going throughout the 1960s, but 1965 is providing to be formidable. How could you even decide what to watch? So, come on back next as we turn our attention to Thursday.
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.
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