A Failed Fourth Network and The Las Vegas Show in 1967
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Las Vegas Legends

A Failed Fourth Network and The Las Vegas Show in 1967
One of the Biggest Flops You Never Heard of!

by Billy Ingram

The Las Vegas Show HostComedian Bill DanaIn May of 1967, an ambitious late night program debuted that held the possibility of launching a potential fourth network television operation. The fledgling United Network’s first, and only, offering was The Las Vegas Show, a production as ambitious as it was a failure.

But then, when in Vegas, you go big or go home, right?

This 2-hour extravaganza, originating at the Hotel Hacienda on The Strip, was hosted by Bill Dana (Jose Jimenez) with regulars Joanne Worley (before Laugh-In), hip comic Pete Barbutti, Danny Meahan, along with others, joined by orchestra leader, none other than the great, Jack Sheldon. Man, I’d watch that show!

Offered in syndication to local outlets around the country, The Las Vegas Show especially appealed to CBS affiliates because the network didn’t have an after-primetime presence to compete with NBC’s powerhouse Tonight show with Johnny Carson or ABC’s late night talker starring Joey Bishop.

United Network president Oliver Treyz’ sales pitch was that the last time a network was launched was decades ago, it was time for innovation, “Here is an opportunity for new companies with new products,” Treyz’ said in an interview. “To take advantage of new, extremely low advertising rates.” It was a hard sell even at $6,000 a minute, compared with $18,000 for NBC’s Tonight.

Comedian Bill DanaThe program debuted on May 1, 1967, just as the big three networks were sliding into rerun season, which seems like a strong strategy until you consider this was also the period when advertisers’ budgets were largely spent until the end of the fiscal year.

103 stations signed up for the 11:00pm weeknight feed, though some affiliates chose to delay airing The Las Vegas Show until 11:30. That was true of WFMY 2 in Greensboro, a CBS affiliate that, like many others, broadcast a live, half-hour newscast before the late night program.

Guests included Marty Allen, Pat Henry, Milton Berle, Mel Carter, Ruth Buzzi, and lots of B-level Vegas lounge acts. Critics across the nation were recommending the program 8 to 1 in favor of watching but The Las Vegas Show earned a mere fraction of a point in the ratings.

Underfunding, unsold ad time, coupled with a general lack of enthusiasm from local stations, doomed this very expensive production. After a single month, 23 episodes of The Las Vegas Show, the United Network folded. Bill Dana, through a spokesman stated, “I’m sorry to see it happen.” Dana was a remarkable funny guy, it’s a shame there are no clips.

In an AP interview with producer David Sontag before the final episode aired he said, “This has been an adventure in television, besides setting up the fourth network, just coming to Las Vegas, which has never been tapped. It should have been tapped long ago.” Sontag was right.

Because TV Guide had a week’s lead time before publication, there were still announcements for The Las Vegas Show episodes that were never filmed. On Monday June 5th, Telly Savalas was scheduled as a guest with Dennis Day appearing on Thursday night of that not-to-be week.

It was announced that the failed network’s 13-week commitments made to various hotels and casinos in Las Vegas would be honored and, given who owned and ran those operations in 1967, I’ll just bet they were!

One of Bill Dana's best known nightclub routines...

 

Here’s what the Las Vegas Strip looked like in 1967:

 

 

 

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newspaper ad for 1967's The Las Vegas Show

In the 1960s, every program - not on film - was fed at a certain hour to stations via transmition lines but that does not mean it was a live show, The Las Vegas Show wasn’t, the station just had to 'upload' the feed at the designated time.

Stuff you might not find at other web sites - Vegas Legends collects obscure stories about the greatest entertainers of all time! With rare performances from the casino showrooms and from the world of Television.

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