Welcome to a new Wildcard Wednesday! This week, I’m flashing back 55 years ago and paying tribute to the start of the 1964-’65 TV season, which is a vintage comedy lover’s dream.
Now, I’m a little pickier than most when deciding what to consider a sitcom (as far as the ’60s are concerned, I only count shows that are half-hour, live-action, and not nominated for Emmys in a dramatic category), yet I tally, personally, a total of 37 separate shows here, 20 of which are new. (You may have a different number, if you have different parameters.) However, even with wiggle room on either side of these figures, this data is extraordinary.
37 is the highest total number of network comedies in a single season in the Big Three network era (i.e. Pre-FOX)… at least, with regard to THE START of a new season. That is, while from 1976 and beyond, along with the rare 1954-’55 season, there may have been more total comedies, a good portion of this number is nevertheless due both to midseason replacements and first-run summer shows. The 1964-’65 season is superior in that 37(!) comedies were scheduled in primetime right from the start (if you allow for Mister Ed, originally broadcast by CBS in a 6:30 slot) — 20 of which were new… And again, never before in the Big Three network era, was there such a big NEW comedy offensive at the top of a season either.
TV Guide recognized this comedic takeover in its annual Fall Preview edition, select scans of which I’m featuring below throughout the rest of this post…
We start with Saturday. New comedies included Gilligan’s Island and Kentucky Jones. (I don’t count Magoo or Flipper — both children’s shows; one animated, one adventure.)
On Sunday, new comedies included Broadside and My Living Doll, and they joined returning series Mister Ed, My Favorite Martian, The Bill Dana Show, and The Joey Bishop Show.
Monday offered newbies Karen; Tom, Dick, And Mary; Harris Against The World (all part of 90 BRISTOL COURT); No Time For Sergeants; Wendy And Me; The Bing Crosby Show; and Many Happy Returns. They joined classics The Andy Griffith Show and The Lucy Show.
Tuesday had one new sitcom in The Tycoon, joining both McHale’s Navy and Petticoat Junction.
Wednesday’s new comedies were Mickey and The Cara Williams Show, and they joined stalwarts The Adventures Of Ozzie And Harriet, The Patty Duke Show, The Beverly Hillbillies, and The Dick Van Dyke Show.
Thursday offered The Munsters, Bewitched, and The Baileys Of Balboa, which joined The Donna Reed Show, My Three Sons, and Hazel.
And Friday saw the launches of The Addams Family; Valentine’s Day; Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C., all joining The Farmer’s Daughter and the network-hopping The Jack Benny Program.
Of the 37 comedies on the air in ’64-’65 (all of which were scheduled that fall), 17 have this current season released on R1 DVD (see the bolded). Of the remaining 20, I have the season premieres of over half. So, for subscribers who comment below to alert me of their interest, I will send you access to FIVE of my favorites: the debuts of single-year comedies Wendy And Me (ABC), Many Happy Returns (CBS), and The Cara Williams Show (CBS), along with the second season premieres of The Bill Dana Show (NBC) and The Farmer’s Daughter (ABC), clip below.
Come back next week for another Wildcard post! And stay tuned Tuesday for more fun!