Holes in the commercial TV schedule


How_to_Marry_a_MillionaireWith all the cable and streaming services out there, I’m nevertheless still fascinated by the programming choices on the three commercial TV networks I grew up with, ABC, CBS, and NBC. Most recently I noticed that Raiders of the Lost Ark was one of five movies filling the CBS Sunday night lineup in the month of May 2020.

Once upon a time, showing movies on prime time commercial television was de rigeur. According to my TV bible, How To Marry a Millionaire, starring Marilyn Monroe, Lauren Bacall, and Betty Grable, was the first, airing on NBC on September 23, 1961. Gone With The Wind aired in two parts in early November 1976 and received at least a 47 rating/66 share of the market, comparable with Super Bowl broadcasts, percentage-wise.

Of course, the Wizard of Oz was shown on CBS for years. I watched it several times. But it wasn’t until I finally saw it in color in 1970 that I finally GOT it. The 1964 and 1965 airings were in the top 20 of the most viewed films on television. It’s why so much of the dialogue pops into my conversation: “What have you LEARNED, Dorothy?”

Now, I’m talking about theatrical releases. there were also a ton of made-for-TV movies, such as The Day After (1983), Helter Skelter (1976), and The Burning Bed (1984), all of which I watched at the time. There was also Little Ladies of the Night (1977), which I never even heard of, but was #2 on the list, at least as of 2009.


The schedule for CBS seems to have been most impacted by the coronavirus because their schedule has been most dependent on sports. Instead of showing the March Madness of college basketball, they’ve shown reruns of previous games. The Masters golf tournament in April provides the opportunity to see last year’s final round AGAIN, but with Tiger Woods doing the commentary. Nah.

As John Green pointed out, a lot of the thrill of watching a sporting event is NOT knowing the outcome. Back in the day – i.e., last year – I would DVR the World Series games and watch them in the early morning, being sure not to look at my email, the Internet generally, or live TV.

John Green found himself watching the 2012 Italian rugby finals because who knows who won the 2012 Italian rugby finals? I’ll admit I viewed the bottom of the ninth inning of Game 6 of the 1986 World Series recently. Instead of that, maybe I should watch cricket, which I haven’t seen since my honeymoon in 1999. Or Australian rules football. Hey, they’re playing baseball in Taiwan; I’d watch that!

WNBF-TV: one channel, four networks

I seem to recall the ABC show Lawrence Welk on Saturday night at 6 or 6:30; it nationally aired at 9 pm that night.

When I went to college in New Paltz in 1971, most of my classmates were from New York City or Long Island. They were shocked that we in upstate Binghamton did not have the array of television stations they had.

In fact, when WNBF-TV, channel 12, signed-on December 1, 1949 it “carried programs from all four American television networks at the time -CBS, DuMont, NBC, and ABC.

DuMont collapsed in 1956. The first new UHF station arrived in Binghamton on November 1, 1957 with WINR-TV, channel 40, an NBC affiliate. So when I was a kid, Channel 12 had both CBS and ABC shows.

Here are TV listings from Wednesday, Nov. 11, 1959. Left-hand column is WNBF-TV 12, right-hand is WINR-TV 40. The listings start at 6:00 pm and every line usually represents 15 minutes.


Bourbon Street Beat was an ABC show, airing most places on Monday, 8:30-9:30. GE Theater was a CBS show, airing in NYC Sunday a 9 pm. Tightrope was pegged by CBS for Tuesday at 9 pm. At least I’ve Got a Secret was a CBS show on at the right time.

Similar listings of the next day, Thursday, Nov. 12, 1959. (Ch. 12 on left, Ch. 40 on right).


The Donna Reed Show, The Real McCoys, and Pat Boone were Thursday night ABC shows in 1959 at the same time slots as indicated; the Real McCoys became a CBS show near the end of its run. I wonder if The Betty Hutton Show, Johnny Ringo, and Dick Powell’s Zane Grey Theater showed up in another time slot.

While the Wikipedia said Channel 40 also carried ABC shows, these listings were consistent with the national NBC lineup. Except one: The Lawless Years was bumped for a syndicated show called Colonel Flack.

I seem to recall the ABC show Lawrence Welk on Saturday night at 6 or 6:30; it nationally aired at 9 pm that night. Did Channel 12 record to broadcast a week later? How did this work?

I remember that other ABC shows, Maverick, The Rifleman, Ozzie and Harriet, and 77 Sunset Strip were on when I was a kid. Did they preempt the CBS shows? Were they on in time slots before prime time, or on Saturday or Sunday afternoons? Sports didn’t dominate the schedule then. Or maybe even at 11:30 pm.

Here’s a video of the Thursday night lineup in the fall of 1959.

I realize this sounds pretty obsessive, and it is. Next time I’m in Binghamton, I want to look at some microfilm showing the rosters of shows on Channel 12 in September 1962, then in November 1962, when WBJA, Channel 34, became the official ABC affiliate. Not incidentally, all of the call letters have changed, some more than once.

I’d be just as curious about the same phenomenon in Albany/Schenectady if I had grown up there. In fact, one of the very first blog posts I wrote was about the Plattsburgh, NY/Burlington, VT television market in 2005.

I used for the season’s daily charts The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh (2007).

Thanks to folks on a couple Facebook lists, especially Keith Nelson, who provided the graphics. I also greatly appreciated the kind words people said about McKinley Green, my grandfather, who was a custodian at WNBF for many years.

Hope & Fury: MLK, The Movement and The Media

Not only is the promised land he glimpsed still over that mountaintop, the mountain is much higher than any of us could have imagined.

There are uncomfortable parallels between the deaths of Emmett Till and Philando Castile, as the special “Hope & Fury: MLK, The Movement, and The Media” pointed out. The special was broadcast on NBC-TV March 24, but I didn’t get a chance to watch it until a week and a half later.

Emmett Till, who narrator Lester Holt suggested every black person in America knows about – is that true? – was a 14-year-old black youth from Chicago who was visiting his uncle in rural Mississippi. He was lynched on August 28, 1955, after a white woman said that she was offended by him in her family’s grocery store. She has only recently recanted that tale.

Philando Castile was shot and killed by a local Minnesota police officer after the car was pulled over on July 6, 2016, with his girlfriend and her four-year-old daughter in the vehicle.

In the Till case, it was the decision of Emmett’s mother Mamie to allow, nay, insist on photographers to take pictures of her now-misshapen son. In the Castile case, girlfriend Diamond Reynolds had the wherewithal to livestream ten minutes of video via Facebook.

The MLK special also noted the fickle nature of the mainstream press. It was only the black press that covered some of the seminal stories of the civil rights movement, such as the Montgomery bus boycott of 1955/56.

“When MLK’s peaceful protests aren’t covered by the national media in Albany, Georgia, he organized a children’s march in Birmingham, Alabama, making for some of the most powerful, iconic imagery of the civil rights movement.”

In general, the MSM was attracted if the action included white people – the freedom riders, e.g., or they can establish a clear good guy/bad guy narrative, as in the children’s march, when dogs and fire hoses were unleashed.

“Hope & Fury” pointed out the parallels between the bloody Selma march of March 7, 1965, and the demonstrations occurring after some young black children and men, with the social media-savvy demonstrators willing to challenge the accepted narrative in the latter case.

As Arthur noted: “The USA has so very far to go before achieving Dr. King’s dream. Not only is the promised land he glimpsed still over that mountaintop, the mountain is much higher than any of us could have imagined.”

S is for a story about the South in the ’60s -Booker Wright

What was the mystery surrounding Booker Wright’s courageous life and untimely death?

bookerwrightBack in 1966, NBC News aired an hour-long documentary called Mississippi: A Self Portrait, hosted by Frank McGee and filmed by Frank De Felitta the previous year, which you can see here or here, and a transcript here.

The documentary showed a relatively short piece about a black waiter named Booker Wright which you can watch here. After extolling the menu of the food at Lusco’s from memory, Wright noted:

Now that’s what my customers, I say my customers, be expecting of me. When I come in this is how they want me to be dressed. “Booker, tell my people what to do with that.” Some people are nice, some is not. Some call me Booker, some call me John, some call me Jim. Some call me [expletive]. All that hurts, but you have to smile. If you don’t, “What’s wrong with you? Why are you not smiling? Get over there and get me so and so and so and so.” …

Then I got some old people who come in real nice. “How you do, waiter? What’s your name?” Then I take care of some not so good, and I keep that smile. Always learn to smile. The meaner the man be, the more you smile, although you’re crying on the inside. Are you wondering what else can I do? Sometimes he’ll tip you, sometimes he’ll say, “I’m not going to tip that [expletive], he don’t look for no tip.” “Yes, sir, thank you.” “What did you say?” Come back, “Glad I could take care of you.”…

I’m trying to make a living. Why? I got three children. I want to give them an education. A lot of us never get the education. But I want them to get it. And they are doing good. Night after night, I lay down and I dream about what I had to go through with. I don’t want my children to have to go through with this. I want them to be able to get the job that they would be qualified. That’s what I’m struggling for.

…”Hey, tell that [expletive] to hurry up with that coffee.” “I’m on my way.” Now that’s what you have to go through with. But remember, you have to keep that smile.

From the Grio: “The repercussions for Booker Wright’s courageous candidness were extreme. He lost his job and was beaten and ostracized by those who considered him ‘one of their own.’ Almost fifty years after Booker Wright’s television appearance, his granddaughter Yvette Johnson, and Frank De Felitta’s son, director Raymond De Felitta, journey into the Mississippi Delta in search of answers: Who exactly was Booker Wright? What was the mystery surrounding his courageous life and untimely murder?”

Watch the Democracy Now interview about the 2012 documentary Booker’s Place, which tells the story of that black Mississippi waiter who lost his life by speaking out. Also, see the 2012 NBC News Dateline story about both documentaries, made nearly a half-century apart.

Yvette Johnson has created The Booker Wright Project. It was designed “to help move the conversation along. By conversation, I mean discussion on race, class, gender, sexuality, age, religion, and more. The topics that tend to divide us. These issues are like fault lines running through our nation, threatening not only to further divide us but to destroy us. In spite of all we have in common, in light of all we’ve overcome, there are several areas in which Americans are consistently, undeniably divided.

“We don’t have to agree on everything. But we have to respect one another enough to not let our individual preferences lead to violence, hate, a lack of empathy, or turning our backs to the challenges of others.”

abc 17 (1)
ABC Wednesday – Round 17

Joe Kubert, and the Olympics (again!)

Fortunately, America, some of the Olympics items you missed can be seen here.

Joe Kubert, a comic legend best known for his DC war comics, died Sunday morning at the age of 85. Read this piece by Christopher Allen with links to other articles. Here’s a piece by Mark Evanier, plus ADD’s controversial take.

Steve Bissette, who was a student at the Kubert School, writes To Joe, With Love: A Sad Farewell to the Man Who Opened All the Doors. He also wrote on Facebook:
“If you want to do something to express your feelings or help, donations can be made to the Multiple Myeloma Foundation in Joe Kubert’s name; sympathy cards or notices can be sent to the Kubert family c/o the Kubert School, 37 Myrtle Avenue, Dover, NJ 07801. In all ways, be kind.”

This story depressed me thoroughly: Father performs “Let it Be” to raise funds for his 11-month-old’s cancer bills.
“No parent should have to bare their grief to the world, no matter how beautifully, to beg for money to cover the life-saving medical treatment their baby needs. As you see the beauty, be mindful of the injustice in our health care system this represents.”

Fact-checking the Romney-Ryan “60 Minutes” interview. On the other hand, someone (I forget who, fortunately) noted that they have really nice hair, best hair since the Johns Kerry and Edwards in 2004.

Helen Gurley Brown, longtime editor of Cosmopolitan magazine and author of Sex and the Single Girl died at the age of 90. She had as much to do with the sexual revolution of the 1960s, however you think about that, as anyone aside from the makers of The Pill.

I’m not a Boston Red Sox fan, but I always liked Johnny Pesky, who was a great team ambassador for the baseball team for a lot of years.
I thought I was through mentioning the Olympics, I really did, though you might want to read the pieces by Shooting Parrots, the last of which is HERE. Now, Jay Smooth did provide a sarcastic tribute to NBC’s coverage, and that was BEFORE the Closing Ceremonies, which NBC royally screwed up:
“In addition to editing out selected portions and allowing the insipid Ryan Seacrest to host, they broke away before the big finale and the Who to show the pilot of a new sitcom where the big joke was a monkey in a lab coat. There’s a reason NBC is the last network. Even in those rare (once every four years) instances when they get viewers, they manage to royally piss them off. Don’t they realize that interrupting the Closing Ceremonies with a sitcom is the same as flashing a half-hour pop-up ad?”
Fortunately, in America, some of the Olympics items you missed can be seen HERE.

A non-NBC piece about a recent piece criticizing American Olympic silver medalist Leo Manzano for waving his native Mexican flag alongside the U.S. flag following his performance in the men’s 1500-meter finals.
PSY – GANGNAM STYLE (강남스타일) for your own aerobic exercise.

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