Thursday, January 2, 2003
Channel 11 Loads Its Schedule With Syndicated Shows
By ROGER M. GRACE
During the second half of the 1950s, though half-hour filmed series were no longer being supplied to it by the Du Mont network, KTTV, Channel 11, was quite able to maintain the quality of its programming. There were plenty of first-run syndicated shows on the market, and Channel 11 had some of the best of them—such as…
•“Science Fiction Theater,” a fascinating anthology series hosted by Truman Bradley (who had been an announcer on the Burns and Allen radio show). Each week, starting on April 19, 1955, Bradley, in a laboratory setting, would demonstrate some scientific principle relating to the fictional story about to be offered.
•“How to Marry a Millionaire,” with Barbara Eden (later to become the genie in “I Dream of Jeannie”) playing the role of “Loco Jones.” That was the part that belonged to Marilyn Monroe in the 1953 movie on which the TV series was based. The plot entailed three young women sharing a penthouse, all angling to hook a millionaire as a husband. The $64,000 Question was a popular network offering at the time, and (in the first of two seasons) one of the roommates, played by Lori Nelson, worked as the model who escorted contestants in and out of the isolation booth on a big-money quiz show. Three local personalities—Tom Frandsen, who hosted movies on Channel 4, Morey Amsterdam (later a regular on the Dick Van Dyke Show), who had a late-night show on Channel 5, and Tom Duggan, a late-night interviewer/commentator on Channel 13—each had a role in a respective episodes of that series.
•“I Led Three Lives,” starring Richard Carlson as Herbert Philbrick, the real-life author of a book bearing the same title as the series. According to the announcer, Philbrick “for nine frightening years did lead three lives: citizen, communist—and counterspy for the Federal Bureau of Investigation.” Those sweet little old ladies who lived in the house on the corner were, it turned out, evil-doing reds; the elevator operator was a Commie, too; so were the butcher, the baker, and the candlestick maker. If the percentage of Communists to the total population had actually been as high as portrayed on that series, the Communists could have elected the president and held a majority in Congress. Nonetheless, it was a well-acted and tightly written series. Gene Roddenberry, who later fathered “Star Trek,” was the author.
•“Highway Patrol,” featuring Broderick Crawford as Chief Dan Matthews, head of a law enforcement outfit — impliedly the California Highway Patrol since actors portraying officers wore CHP uniforms. Crawford was constantly barking “Ten-Four” (code for “OK”) into a car microphone. Segments with Crawford couldn’t be filmed on public streets after the actor’s driver’s license was suspended based on his drunk driving convictions. In the introduction, announcer Art Gilmore intoned: “Whenever the laws of any state are broken, a duly authorized organization swings into action. It may be called the State Police, State Troopers, Militia, the Rangers or the Highway Patrol. These are the stories of the men whose training, skill and courage have enforced and preserved our state laws.”
•“Code 3,” depicting actual police cases in Los Angeles County. Yes, it was another show inspired by “Dragnet.” Sheriff Eugene Biscailuz appeared at the end of the episodes to offer some comments.
•“Parole,” an “actuality series” (before that term came into usage). Actual parole hearings were aired. Those were the days of indeterminate sentences (e.g., a term of 1 to 25 years), and it was up to board members to decide when a convict was ready for release (or, under naïve theories of the time, had been rehabilitated and “cured.”) The prisoner, his or her back to the camera, would tell why freedom should be granted, and would be questioned by a panel of three who would, after the convict exited, discuss the application and come up with a decision. (I recall one man sobbing, begging for release, who was turned down.)
Other syndicated series on KTTV naturally included westerns, the latter half of the 1950s being a period of TV obsession with the Wild West era. Shows included “Frontier Doctor” (starring movie cowboy Rex Allen as a doc in Tombstone), “MacKenzie’s Raiders” (with Richard Carlson, now portraying a Cavalry commander under secret orders from President Grant to thwart the activities of Mexican bandits—even if it meant illegally crossing the border) “Annie Oakley” (featuring Gail Davis as the legendary sharpshooter, in a Gene Autry-produced offering), and “Man Without a Gun” (with Rex Reason as a newspaperman in the Dakota Territory). And there was a “southern”: “The Grey Ghost,” the protagonist being a lawyer who became a major in the Confederate Army, portrayed by Tod Andrews. Resembling a western in its plots—but set in 17th-century France—was “The Three Musketeers.”
Crime shows included “Decoy,” with Beverly Garland as a policewoman (17 years before Angie Dickinson’s portrayal of one); “Dial 999,” a British version of “Highway Patrol”; and “Martin Kane” (new episodes of a series previously broadcast on NBC).
Copyright 2003, Metropolitan News Company
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