Monday, June 10, 2019

A bit of television history...New York City, 10 January 1961, and the need for DVRs a half-century early...

On Tuesday, 10 Jan '61, New Yorkers were offered the following on their slew of VHF stations (the New York Daily News, my source for this information, didn't bother to list the UHF stations in those days, which seems more than a little high-handed, perhaps in part since they owned one of the VHF stations, WPIX-11). "Primetime" began at 7:30pm on most networks and the independent stations in those years (except, as still is true, on Sundays). This was a fairly typical night on CBS and WOR (it would be nice to know what the To Be Announced film was on WOR), very unsurprisingly a western series-dominated night on ABC, and a mostly unimpressive lineup on WPIX, though this isn't Too surprising, either...WPIX did do its part for the angels and tax breaks by running classroom/educational programming, provided by META, the not terribly "meta" Metropolitan Educational Television Association, weekday mornings and early afternoons, as there was no NET station in NYC in those pre-PBS usurpation of  National Educational Television days. 

But where things start getting crazily impressive to me is in the shank of primetime, when we have at 8p the Metromedia station, WNEW, importing the BBC hit An Age of Kings, some months before NET managed to wrangle rights for national distribution to public stations, then at 8:30p nothing that can be considered worse than somewhat interesting, and while I'd definitely watch the staging of the Graham Greene play on the NTA network's The Play of the Week series, I'd probably flip over to both Hitchcock Presents and An Age of Kings during commercials. And then to AHP:'s  NBC follow-up during the next hour's commercials, the anthology Thriller, hosted by Boris Karloff and occasionally featuring him as an actor, though this early in that series' first season, they hadn't started presenting the horror episodes that really made the series, being more an imitation Hitchcock show at first. 

WCBS-2 Tallahassee 7000 As CBS wasn't programming 7:30pm ET/PT on Tuesdays in 1960-61, WCBS opted for this original syndication series from Columbia/Screen Gems, starring Walter Matthau as a Florida-based investigator.
WRCA-4 Laramie (the NBC station, RCA having been the parent corporation of NBC till then and for some time to come; renamed WNBC later in 1960)
WNEW-5 Tightrope! (syndicated repeat: A series that had a single season on CBS in 1959-60 [and a shortlived fiction magazine tie-in in '60], highly rated against stiff competition but strangled in an argument between its sponsors and famously obnoxious CBS executive James Aubrey. WNEW had been WABD when one of the two founding stations of the Dumont Network, defunct 1956, and would soon become WNYW, which it still would be when a founding station of the FBC/Fox network, and remains today.)
WABC-7 The Bugs Bunny Show (the first iteration of The BB Show.)
WOR-9 I Remember Mama the film (the independent station best remembered in its early decades for its commitment to notable film programming)
WPIX-11 New York News and Weather (continuing from 7:10pm)
WNTA-13 Stagecoach to Fury, a film (continuing from 6:30pm) (WNTA was the founding station of the NTA [National Telefilm Associates] Film Network, a good shot at a fourth commercial network in the US that began operations in 1956, as Dumont and the Paramount Television Network were both winding down, which left a number of their affiliates in larger cities without a network to affiliate with...NTA hoped to fill that hole, and did so with limited success till shutting down itself in 1962, becoming solely a syndicator and selling WNTA-13 to the NET interests in the city, who first tagged it WNDT ["New Dimensions in Television"], and then renamed it WNET in 1970, when NET the network/production facility was basically forced to merge with WNDT to survive at all, as the Ford Foundation and government-backed Corporation for Public Broadcasting funding interests forced the newly-created PBS into the national network role in place of the somewhat left-leaning and more independent-minded NET.)

WCBS Father Knows Best The series was done in Spring 1960, but CBS offered repeats in the '60-'61 season... presumably as a convenience for those stations which wanted to run a local or syndicated hour starting at 7:30pm, as well as to those who only wanted the first half-hour to themselves.
WNEW An Age of Kings episode 1 "Richard II: The Hollow Crown" (the US premiere of a clangorous 1960 BBC series that would be a huge success also when offered nationwide in the US by NET in the Autumn of 1961, as the first Standard Oil-sponsored programming on NET). It's probably no accident that WNEW decided to slot their prestigious, dramatic import against the NTA series The Play of the Week, in an attempt to divide audiences for that rather popular series on Channel 13 (and well-regarded around the country).
WPIX Divorce Court (an hourlong program, apparently--this first version of the series ran for an hour at a time)
WNTA The Mike Wallace Interview Mai Britt and Sammy Davis, Jr., a "controversially" married couple at the time making their first public announcement of their wedding (this series began on ABC in 1957, after Wallace had gained a following for his 1956 Dumont but NYC-only series Night Beat; Wallace and ABC had an almost Smothers Brothers/CBS-level tempestuous relation, and The Mike Wallace Interview left ABC in 1959...and continued on the NTA Film Network in 1960-61; the link to the video archive on the series' name above includes episodes from both the ABC and NTA versions of the series).

WRCA Alfred Hitchcock Presents: "Summer Shade"
WABC The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp episode "Horse Thief"
WNTA: The Play of the Week, Graham Greene's The Potting Shed, starring Fritz Weaver, Nancy Wickwire and Frank Conroy. NTA's most prestigious series. This might be the soundtrack from The Play of the Week production.

WCBS The Tom Ewell Show "Try It on for Size"
WRCA Thriller episode "The Poisoner" (the next week's would be the interesting, odd John Holbrook aka Jack Vance adaptation "Man in the Cage")

WABC Stagecoach West episode "Come Home Again" (Wayne Rogers's first series)
WOR Film TBA (guess we'll never know...a Dialing for Dollars callers' selection?--no, WNEW apparently did DfD in NYC)
WPIX Flight episode "Texas Fliers"; syndicated docudrama series.

WNEW Wrestling (This seems like odd "flow" from the Shakespeare histories in historical context...but the groundlings would probably dig it.)

WCBS The Red Skelton Show Danny Thomas as substitute host.
WPIX Danger Zone, narrated by "Pappy" Boyington (a documentary series, apparently, featuring the protagonist fictionalized in the 1970s Baa Baa Black Sheep/Black Sheep Squadron series; Danger Zone, probably produced with the assistance of or even by the USAF...I find only a fleeting reference to it online aside from the listing in the DN)

WCBS The Garry Moore Show (an episode featuring Eydie Gorme, Jackie Mason and Frank D'Rone)
WRCA Tribute to a Patriot: A Salute to President Eisenhower (a special presentation featuring the not quite inaugurated JFK, Nixon, UK PM Macmillan, Indian PM Nehru, West German Chancellor Adenauer, White House Press Secretary James Hagerty and others, with James Stewart narration)
WABC Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond episode "The Last Round" with Charles Bronson--so, at least four of the more widely-remembered network drama anthology series were broadcast this Tuesday.
WPIX New York Confidential  (A series commissioned or at least produced in part for ITV in the UK, based on the mostly fictional "scandal"-raking book by Jack Lait and Lee Mortimer, which ran from 1958-59 there and was syndicated in the US, clearly into the next year, at least. Not noted as a repeat.)

WABC The Case of the Dangerous Robin (ABC didn't program Tuesdays 10:30pm ET/PT this season, so WABC opted for the Ziv TV original syndicated series starring Rick Jason as insurance investigator Robin Scott)
WOR I Remember Mama, the film, repeated from earlier.
WPIX San Francisco Beat (the syndicated repeats package title for episodes of CBS's The Lineup, the tv [vs. radio drama] version running 1954-1960)

WNTA Mister 880 a film starring Edmund Gwenn and Burt Lancaster

And, at 11pm, everyone not already in progress with films goes to news and then films, with the exception of WRCA, which has NBC's The Tonight Show with Jack Paar from 11:15pm to 1:05a, then five minutes of news, five minutes of a young Dr. Joyce Brothers, then their 1:15am movie, something unidentified with Anatole Winogradoff, who wasn't the busiest a/v actor in IMDb (he did have a fair amount of stage credits, and some radio drama), so possibly even a kinescope of the WNBC (then WNBT) 1945 production of Maxwell Anderson's Winterset...

The Play of the Week--some of the episodes have been released on home video dvds:


wbhist said...

By 10 January 1961, Channel 4 had already been known as WNBC-TV, having changed to those call letters on 22 May 1960. But other than that, indeed. And this before color became ubiquitous. And NBC, its prime exponent, had it about half-color, give or take.

Todd Mason said...

Thanks...I'll check my data. But the DAILY NEWS at least didn't bother to change its listings, as far as I can tell...or could tell when I had access. This last doesn't surprise me too much, it it's the case.