you remember when networks actually had
preview weeks and didn't introduce new shows at almost any
time of year?
would often be heart-rending when a show you simply had to see was
opposite something you knew your parents always watched (we only
had one TV in those days! and it used to be that kids' preferences
were second to parents) - or fights would break out when you wanted
one show and your sister wanted another, totally frivolous show.
like to think that my family wasn't the only one as obsessed with
their viewing schedule." -
the sixties and early-seventies, the networks presented hour-long
looks at their new fall schedule to tantalize viewers and encourage
the new shows (that all premiered in early September) had no footage
ready when the preview specials were set to air in August. These
series were announced with all-out endorsements from the show's
stars. Other times, what little raw footage the producers had was
crudely spliced together with hastily added sound effects and voice-overs.
Special material was then filmed to bridge the clips.
is a look at one of the most unusual fall preview shows, the 1966
ABC network preview - '7 Nights
was the biggest hit for ABC in the network's twenty-some year history
and 'Bat-mania' was a raging national phenomenon in the summer of
1966. Had Batman and Bewitched not come along when
they did, some people believe ABC (on a long losing streak) would
not have survived into the seventies.
alphabet net wisely took advantage of their stroke of Bat-luck and
made Batman and Robin the framing device for an hour special hyping
their new 1966-67 programs.
the situation that sets up the ridiculously flimsy premise of this
special - The Dynamic Duo are called into duty when one of the shows
on the network's schedule is stolen. Below is ABC's fall schedule
for '66. Can you guess which show is missing and where it belongs?
course you can't, but the answer lies at the end of the page.)
- Iron Horse
This was a horse opera with a difference - it's a train the show's
about. Starred Dale Robertson as a guy who wins a railroad in a
Made it into a second season.
- Rat Patrol
This World War II action series set in North Africa was one of only
three ABC shows to hit the top 25 in 1966-67.
Jeeps with attached machine guns roar over desert dunes in search
of Rommel's army. Starring Christopher George, Rat Patrol ran for
two years. Get
The Rat Patrol on DVD now!
- Felony Squad The
title was changed from Men Against Evil after this preview
special was broadcast. This action drama ran for three years and
starred Howard Duff.
- Peyton Place
The third of five years on the air for this popular half-hour soap
opera, on two nights a week in 1966-67 (down from THREE the year
- Big Valley
Western melodrama in the second of four years. Starring Barbara
Stanwyck, Richard Long, Linda Evans, Peter Breck, and Lee Majors.
This show was the Dynasty of it's day. Get
The Big Valley on DVD now!
The longest running TV show about WWII - lasted even longer than
the war. 1966-67 was the last of a five-year run.
look for a Combat reunion show. Star Vic Morrow was killed
in a helicopter crash in 1982 on the set of "Twilight Zone: The
Movie." Another cast member, Dick Peabody (who played the "gentle
giant" Littlejohn on the series) died of prostate cancer in December
1999. Rick Jason, who starred as tough infantry officer Lieutenant
Gil Hanley, committed suicide on October 18th, 2000.
- The Rounders
Chill Wills doing his best Walter Brennan imitation in this Dukes
of Hazzard sitcom predecessor based
on a 1965 movie (also starring Wills) about a couple of randy small
town boys, the girls they chase, and the old codger that constantly
tries to rip them off. Story of my life...
- The Pruitts of Southampton
ABC had high hopes that Phyllis Diller (star of many
popular mid-sixties movie comedies) could be the network's Lucy.
And they should have been right.
played a rich, spoiled heiress who loses all of her money but must
pretend to still be rich for tax reasons. The
show flopped unexpectedly (even after a mid-season retooling) but
was still one of the funniest programs on the air in 1966.
- Love on a Rooftop
Peter Duel, Judy Carne and Rich Little. Critically
acclaimed, this program lasted one year - but was brought back in
reruns as a summer replacement series in 1971 to capitalize on Judy
Carne's popularity on Laugh-In.
- The Fugitive
The last episode of this series in spring, 1967 had 72% of all TVs
in the nation tuned in. The one-armed man did it.
Debuted in midseason (early 1966) and quickly occupied TWO spots
on the top ten. Batman
was the first midseason hit show ever. From 1966 forward, the networks
began seriously programming a second season.
to youngsters at an early age that life isn't fair, Batman
was on opposite Lost in Space on CBS.
- The Monroes
The title was changed from Wild Country before the show debuted;
it's the story of five orphaned kids in the 1880s heading West to
the promised land. Along the way they take on an Indian companion
and then battle a ruthless land baron for their own property. Starring
a young Barbara Hershey and western movie stalwart Ben Johnson,
this show lasted one season.
- The Man Who Never Was
Considered one of the most preposterous premises ever. A guy forgets
who he is, and he's being chased. This show was filmed all over
Europe, cost a fortune, starred Robert Lansing and lasted only half
a season. Same basic concept as 'The Bourne Identity' with Matt
Damon so it could have been effective...
- Peyton Place
In 1964-65, Peyton Place was number 9 and number
20 for the season, but slipped out of the top 25 the next year.
today, a community (or office) with a lot of shady dealings going
on is referred to as a "Peyton Place".
- Stage 67
With no regular host, 'Stage 67' was an ambitious and expensive
weekly musical or dramatic presentation with top writers and producers.
This attempt to revive the anthology format lasted only one season.
Hottest show of early 1966, ratings started to slide as Bat-mania
(and the show's quality) wore off.
the 1967-68 season, Batgirl was added to the cast of regulars and
the show went to one night a week. A year later, Batman was
gone and That Girl moved into this timeslot for a long run.
pioneered the idea of shows broadcasting more than one night a week
- Shindig, Batman and Peyton Place are examples from the 60s.
They did it again a few years ago with 'Who Wants
To Be A Millionaire'.
- F Troop
The last of a two year run. If only it had died there...
- The Tammy Grimes Show
Dick Sargent costarred in this super-flop that
lasted only four weeks. Coincidentally (three years later), Sargent
took over the role of Darin on the show that followed this one.
The third of eight years. 'Bewitched' was the only show ABC could
count on for top ten ratings week after week, year after year -
and it continued to run strong for the next three years.
- That Girl
The first of five years. The sixth year would have had Donald and
Ann-Marie marry, but the show ended and they only got as far as
Don's bachelor party.
The second series for Burt Reynolds. The second failure as well.
Here he was supposed to be a full-blooded Native American detective
on the streets of New York.
- Green Hornet
With Batman the hottest show on TV, ABC rolls out a favorite masked
hero from radio's golden age. This was a more serious approach to
super heroes that failed to pick up the Batman audience, lasting
only one season. Starring Van Williams and Bruce
Lee as Kato.
- Time Tunnel
The most expensive show ever produced before 1966.
ran out just a year later for this Irwin Allen spectacular. The
hour long sci-fi show won an Emmy Award for incredible special effects,
the only show on ABC Friday nights in 1966 to ever crack the top
ten (and did it only once).
- 12 O'Clock High
The last of three seasons, this World
War II air action drama was ultimately shot down by friendly fire
'Green Hornet' and 'Time Tunnel' failed to live up to very high
expectations, what should have been a winning night went down in
David Carradine headed this one season western (based on the hit
movie), a precursor to Carradine's more successful western show
westerns and weirdoes was the order of the day on all three networks
- Lawrence Welk
This music program for the old folks show went for sixteen years
on ABC, and eleven more in syndication. Big ratings winner.
The second of six years, this musical-variety program had a different
guest host each week. Very much like the 'Ed Sullivan Show', which
was a hit on CBS.
- ABC Scope
Documentaries produced by ABC news, this was year two of four.
- The FBI
Debuted in 1965, lasted until 1974 - never a top ten hit, but a
solid, consistent player.
sponsored the show and provided all of the cars, despite the fact
that the feds were using Chevys.
The FBI started using Fords a few years later...
- ABC Sunday Night Movie
Listen to this montage of films that ran on this series during the
1966-67 season. How many can you recognize? This movie package was
another expensive ratings bomb for ABC in 1966.