December 14, 1969
1969 TV shows on DVD here!
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The war in Vietnam, the Manson murders, Woodstock, men on the moon, the Chicago Eight trial, the My Lai massacre, protest marches - America was in turmoil as the decade hurtled to a close.
1969 was a year of transition for TV viewers. Broadcasters were seeking a younger audience without, hopefully, alienating the old folks.
Gone were the caped superfreaks and space aliens, television was becoming more reflective of society, more 'relevant' and 'realistic.'
NBC saw the nature of television changing and promised 100 specials for primetime in 1969-70. The network envisioned the future as, "a series of specials rather than series interrupted by specials." They also felt confident that a new drama based loosely on Easy Rider, Then Came Bronson, would be a monster hit for them.
With so many dramas and specials on the schedule, pundits began to wonder - is the sitcom dead? Top ten stalwarts like The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres and Bewitched were in ratings freefall.
The musical comedy format was in full flower - Rowan & Martin's Laugh-in was number one and there were seven variety hours crowding the top twenty in 1969.
What Batman was to 1966, Laugh-in was to 1969 - a year that saw the release of Laugh-in books, LPs, toys, games and there was even a Laugh-in magazine.
On The New People, a planeload of young people crash land on an abandoned tropical island that had been set up as a nuclear test site. Conveniently, there was an ample stock of food, cars and homes built in anticipation of a test blast that never happened.
Tension came about as the survivors set out to create their own progressive, liberal, anti-establishmentarian society. In a typical episode, island rebel Stanley campaigns against building a water line for the girls' showers fearing "an emerging power structure." In another, electing an armed peace officer causes the New People to debate "law and order, gun control and the role of police in society."
Developed for TV by Rod Serling (The Twilight Zone), the show was cancelled on January 12, 1970. There was a comic book version of The New People published by Dell that hit the stands, ironically, right after the show left the air. That lasted two issues.
Everything old is new again - the current ABC series Lost is loosely based (purposely or not) on this one season wonder.
Starring Bill Bixby as single dad Tom Corbett and Brandon Cruz as his son Eddie. Miyoshi Umeki played Mrs. Livingston, the housekeeper and James Komack was Tom's boss Norman Tinker. Jodie Foster was also seen in several episodes.
"I think I've got more than most kids," Eddie tells his housekeeper in episode four. "Most kids just have a father father. I have a father who's my best friend." Awwwww.
Komack was the producer of this show and several hit shows in the seventies like Welcome Back Kotter.
This was one of many programs with widowed dads this year including: Family Affair, Mayberry RFD, Beverly Hillbillies, Nanny and the Professor, My Three Sons, To Rome with Love and Governor and JJ.
Shows centered around widowed women with children included: Here's Lucy, Doris Day Show, Julia and Ghost and Mrs. Muir.
'Traditional' two parent families were a rarity on TV in 1969 but there was no such thing as a show about a divorced person - nor had there ever been.
DID YOU KNOW:
Characters from My Three Sons (in its ninth year) and To Rome With Love (in its first year) could be seen occasionally crossing over to each other's shows.
My World and
Welcome To It
1969 - 1970
Combining live-action and animation had been attempted only once in primetime (The New Adventures of Huck Finn in 1968) and only rarely in motion pictures when My World and Welcome To It was launched on NBC, September 15, 1969.
Smartly-written with a superb cast of familiar faces, My World and Welcome To It was sitcom life enhanced by the writings and scribblings of New Yorker humorist James Thurber (who died eight years before this show aired).
In this dark (for TV) comedy, John Monroe (William Windom), cartoonist for Manhattanite magazine, escapes his dull reality through the power of his daydreams; acting out, in his mind, bizarre notions and fantastic what-could-have-beens.
NBC had so much faith in this series they slotted My World to kick off Monday nights at 7:30, preceding the number-one show in the nation, Laugh-in. Competition on the other networks consisted of a reinvigorated Gunsmoke on CBS and The Music Scene on ABC.
Ratings were light but the series developed a strong fan base and lots of critical acclaim; My World won the 1970 Emmy Award for Best Comedy while William Windom was named Best Actor in a Comedy.
Acclaimed or not, production was halted after a single season of 26 episodes.
This ninety-minute syndicated gabfest was taped at the KTTV-11 (now FOX-11) studios, located in the recently defunct Metromedia Square.
Perched on a set awash in cigarette smoke, Joe Pyne hosted a wide assortment of colorful visitors, anyone who had a weird story (like being abducted by aliens or having encountered Bigfoot) or possessing an extreme point of view (for instance, against the war or for Women's Lib).
Pyne would often start out an interview with an insult to get his targets off-guard and flustered. One of the most famous tales about The Joe Pyne Show involved the wooden leg he earned from service in WWII.
exchange between Joe Pyne and musician Frank Zappa went like this:
Guests in 1969-70 included Christine Jorgensen who famously underwent a sex change operation in 1952 and author Gabriel Longo.
In January of 1969, with Playboy magazine sales topping 5.5 million a month, Hugh Hefner (then 42) once again entered the television arena with Playboy After Dark, a 26-week color version of his earlier series, Playboy's Penthouse (1959-1963).
The party format was carried over to good effect, with an elaborate $35,000 penthouse set built for the series on a CBS Hollywood soundstage, complete with sunken living room and curvaceous bar.
20 girls and 19 guys (guess who got TWO girls) provided the atmosphere and served to mingle with the guest stars.
Guests in 1969-70 included Bill Cosby, Bill Medley, Kay Stevens, Rev. Malcolm Boyd, Iron Butterfly, The Blossoms, Cannonball Adderly, Lou Rawls, Jimmy Webb, Bill Dana, Don Adams, The Checkmates, Carla Thomas, Joe Williams, Sammy Davis, Jr., LeRoy Neiman, Tony Bennett among many others.
One of the most progressive and entertaining shows of the decade, Playboy After Dark lasted two seasons. NOW on DVD!
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The Corporation for Public Broadcasting announced the start of the Public Broadcasting System (PBS). Previously it was known as NET - National Educational Television.
Sesame Street debuted in November, 1969. Critics hated it, calling it useless and complaining that it didn't teach effectively. One pundit declared, "in terms of innovation, it stands on par with the dunce cap."
RCA announced the first affordable home video player / recorder - SelectaVision - would be available in stores by 1972.
Jerry Lee Lewis Coke Commercial - [audio] Jerry Lee is known as a raucous rocker who virtually ended his career by marrying his cousin - eventually making his comeback as a country artist. This commercial finds "The Killer" in rock mode for a version of "It's The Real Thing" for Coca-Cola.
: MORE RELEVANCE ON TV:
Lloyd Haynes, Michael Constantine, Denise Nicholas and Karen Valentine starred as the faculty of Walt Whitman High School.
Room 222 changed the nature of television - a hit show that tackled problems relevant to the times. Busing, prejudice and drug abuse were the focus of early episodes.
It wasn't long before network schedules were crowded with 'relevant' program, but none lasted as long or had half the impact of Room 222.
On the opening episode, Pete Dixon discovers his brightest student is registered illegally at Walt Whitman, he had been assigned to the ghetto high school. (In many communities in 1969, busing to achieve school integration was just getting underway.)
Valentine's perky character Alice Johnson (above, bottom right) started out as an inept student teacher that eventually graduated to full teacher status, becoming the central focus of the show by the last season.
None of the regulars found another successful TV series in their future, except Denise Nicholas (left) who appeared on In The Heat Of The Night from 1989-1994.
Exteriors for Room 222 were shot at Los Angeles High School.
The Jackie Gleason Show (8 years), Daniel Boone (6 years), Hollywood Palace (7 years), Petticoat Junction (7 years), Get Smart (5 years), It Takes a Thief (3 years), The Flying Nun (3 years), The Dating Game (4 years), The Good Guys (2 years).
Year 5 for Green Acres.
I Dream of Jeannie leaves the air in 1970 after 5 years following a move to Tuesday nights.
Although Bonanza and Gunsmoke remained at the top of the ratings in 1969-70, Westerns were beginning their fast fade from the TV landscape. Five years earlier there were a dozen horse operas on the schedule, a decade earlier there were twenty-seven.
Come The Brides
ALSO SEEN: Daniel Boone, Lancer, The High Chaparral.
Year two. Robert Wagner was at his best as Alexander Mundy, a retired thief blackmailed into working for the government to catch other slippery characters.
Malachi Throne was seen as SIA Chief Noah Bain and Fred Astaire played Mundy's father in several episodes (he was also a master thief). Often filmed on location in places like the Isle of Capri.
MOVIE OF THE WEEK:
Year one for ABC's Tuesday Night at the Movies, the first regular series of movies made especially for television. It was an enormous gamble and a big hit.
This first season included: Seven in Darkness with Milton Berle and Dina Merrill as blind plane crash survivors; Wake Me When The War is Over with Eva Gabor and Ken Berry; The Immortal with Christopher George; and others. The Immortal was picked up as a series in 1970.
Janet Leigh, Sammy Davis, Jr., Ray Milland, Robert Hooks, Ralph Bellamy also starred in 1969 tele-films.
The first TV program to star an African-American woman since Beulah went off the air in 1953.
Diahann Carroll starred as a widowed nurse raising a young boy (Marc Copage as Corey) while coping with an irascible boss.
Everything you're looking for is here:
The female police dispatcher that punctuated this show was an actual LAPD dispatcher. A producer noted, "We selected her over a professional actress because, regardless of research, no writer can phrase a radio call to a police unit as well as someone who works communications."
This was the second season for the Jack Webb (Dragnet) produced drama which lasted until 1975, starring Martin Milner (Route 66) and Kent McCord (Ozzie and Harriet).
These guys mostly investigated robberies, burglaries, auto thefts and forgeries with the occasional drug bust (concluding with the inevitable monotoned lecture from Joe Friday).
Efrem Zimbalist, Jr (as Agent Lewis Erskine) and Phillip Abbott (as Agent Arthur Ward) were the only two regulars to last the run of the series.
Starred Clarence Williams III, Michael Cole, Peggy Lipton (as the "one Black, one White, one blond") and Tige Andrews (as their gruff boss).
Guest stars during 1969-70 included Ed Asner, Margot Kidder, David Cassidy, Richard Dreyfuss, Sammy Davis Jr., Maurice Evans and other notables.
How much money did a TV star make? Michael Cole was paid $1,500 an episode when Mod Squad debuted in 1968. By 1970 he was earning $5,000 per.
1969 episode: Paris (Leonard Nimoy) impersonates the son of a deposed
freedom fighter from an eastern European dictatorship in order to bust
up a commie youth cult.
Robert Reed was seen both on Mannix and on The Brady Bunch. Created by Richard Levinson and William Link (Columbo).
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