The Reading Room: Mike Dann Sets CBS’ 1969 Schedule

Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! This week, I’m sharing a treat for my fellow TV nerds. Here’s a series of three articles that ran in TVGuide during July 1969. It followed Mike Dann on three days in February and March of that year (with a post-script from April), as he went about his business and prepared the CBS schedule for the upcoming season.

Other topics include the snagging of Get Smart and the decision to replace the ousted The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour with The Leslie Uggams Show. (The second article literally covers the meeting where the execs set the tentative version of the schedule — which took place 50 years ago this week!) So, without further adieu, here’s a spotlight on Mike Dann…





Come back next week for another Wildcard post! And stay tuned Monday for this week’s Musical Theatre rarity!

4 thoughts on “The Reading Room: Mike Dann Sets CBS’ 1969 Schedule

  1. Thanks for posting this. Though I have all 3 issues in my collection, I can only recall reading the 2nd article where Dann set the CBS schedule. It was funny reading here how Bob Denver actually preferred the 1-camera laugh-track filming method for THE GOOD GUYS, as it’s been said that the switch to this format is what killed the show. Dann had such enthusiasm for CBS Friday nights, but THE GOOD GUYS was dropped in January 1970, the GET SMART transplant from NBC only lasted a year, and HOGAN’S HEROES was moved after this season to the pre-Sullivan time slot for the last season for both those shows.

    I looked up William Holden on IMDB to pinpoint the date of the start of the last part, and since it aired on 3/26/69, the meeting, where Ike was mentioned, happened on 3/27, the day before Ike died. That was quite a collection of CBS talent in Dann’s NYC office. I notice though that Sebastian Cabol seems to be substituting for Brian Keith as the star of FAMILY AFFAIR, but then it was a TVG profile of Mr. Cabot in 1967 which pointed out that he loved publicity much more than Mr. Keith. This may also be a reason why during FAMILY AFFAIR, Mr. Cabot appeared on 4 TVG covers while Mr. Keith only appeared on 1. Mr. Dann was smart to seat himself between the 2 lovely ladies. I also noticed that since Ken Berry’s passing late last year, Carol Burnett is the only person in that picture who’s still living today.

    Mr. Dann himself passed away just a few years ago, well into his 90s, so he survived the stress of that job pretty well. I think you’ve mentioned in the past Dann’s “Operation 100”, which he used to push CBS to #1 at the end of the 1969-70 season. It was a huge effort on his part, and ultimately it didn’t save his job. I’d love to read his book about his experiences someday.

    • Hi, Jon! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      I recommend Dann’s autobiography, but his account of Operation 100 is 98% lifted from Les Brown’s iconic 1971 book, TELEVI$ION: THE BUSINESS BEHIND THE BOX, which offers a much more comprehensive history of the era and of Dann’s famous programming offensive. It served as one of my primary inspirations for this post here. If O-100 is your chief interest, that’s where to start.

  2. Jackson, A interesting comments on what I have read from the article. One was how the change of Family Affair to Thursday’s helped solve the nights problem but only for a year (the show finished #5 however the next year fell out of the top 30 as Flip Wilson became a huge hit for NBC and the show was part of the purge at end of ’71). The other was to see the direct influence over a show when mentioning changes in the Doris Day show; A nod to making the show more contemporary and that the decisions would be made outside of Day and the show runners. Also this showed a preface to next years Mary Tyler Moore show and women in more cosmopolitan working plot lines (the Monday move put Doris at #10 that season) and last interesting to see how many rural programs that were givens including the Hillbillies that would off the schedule in 2 seasons

    • Hi, Bob! Thanks for reading and commenting.

      Yes, TV seemingly changed very quickly between, say, 1968 and 1972. But there were signs. For more on this era, revisit my post on The Rural Purge, here.

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