Thursday, October 17, 2002
Channel 11: Power-Packed From the Start
By ROGER M. GRACE
KTTV, in its early days, billed itself as “that good looking Channel 11.” It did have attractive programming.
The station was born on the first day of January, 1949. Its first show was coverage of the Rose Parade.
KTTV was 51 percent owned by Times-Mirror, with the other 49 percent held by CBS. It was L.A.’s CBS outlet. In the Times’ TV listings, KTTV shows were always listed first and in bold face, while listings for competing stations were in light face.
An Emmy awards ceremony was held Jan. 27, 1950. That ceremony was, back then, a local event, with Los Angeles shows competing against national programs aired here. The spotlight was on KTTV; the station, its programs and performers received the lion’s share of Emmy nominations — 10. Given that there were only seven awards, KTTV obviously received multiple nominations in some categories. It garnered the 1949 Emmy for “Best Live Show,” that being the “Ed Wynn Show.” (It was up against “Mike Stokey’s Pantomime Quiz,” which KTTV also broadcast, and “Your Witness,” aired by KECA-TV, then the call letters of ABC’s Channel 7.) Wynn was voted “Most Outstanding Live Personality” (pitted against Tom Harmon, Bill Welsh, and Mike Stokey). KTTV shared the award for “Best Public Service, Cultural or Educational Program” with KECA; both presented a documentary comprised of World War II combat shots, “Crusade in Europe.”
Jan. 1, 1951 marked the second anniversary of the station’s launching and its first day as a wholly owned subsidiary of Times Mirror. CBS had wanted its own station, and bought KTSL, renaming it KNXT.
While KTTV lost its CBS line-up as of the start of the 1951 fall season, it began beaming Du Mont programs. Over the next three seasons, the shows included “Cavalcade of Stars” with Jackie Gleason, Bishop Fulton J. Sheen on “Life Is Worth Living,” “Dollar a Second,” hosted by Jan Murray, “Life Begins at 80” with Jack Barry, “The Goldbergs,” starring Gertrude Berg, “You Asked for It,” hosted by Art Baker, commentaries by Drew Pearson, “Twenty Questions,” “Front Page Detective,” “Rocky King,” and “Adventures of Ellery Queen.”
In Du Mont’s “The Plainclothesman,” aired on KTTV on Sundays from 9:30-10:30 p.m., the voice of star Ken Lynch was heard, but his face was not seen; the story was supposedly viewed through his eyes. If he sneezed, for example, a handkerchief was stuck in front of the camera.
KTTV was also able to snag the rights to air “Life of Riley,” starring William Bendix, an NBC show.
Channel 11 also aired syndicated shows such as “Superman” (snatched from KABC after that station enraged kiddies by putting the show on summer hiatus), “Death Valley Days,” “Ramar of the Jungle,” “Abbott & Costello,” “Hopalong Cassidy,” “Favorite Story” (hosted by Adolphe Menjou) and “Heart of the City” (re-runs of “Big Town”).
And, significantly, it had a bevy of local shows such as “Chef Milani,” “Norma Gilchrist Show” (beauty tips), “Jalopy Derby” (150 minutes of old cars bashing into each other on Sundays), “Pet Exchange” (offering free pets), “Welsh at the Airport” (Bill Welsh interviewing people arriving at the pre-LAX airport on Century Boulevard east of Sepulveda), and “Star Shoppers” (with Welsh traveling each weekday to the parking lot of a different supermarket, sticking canned and packaged goods in the shopping bags of winning housewives as he plugged the brands). There were movies and re-runs of filmed TV shows hosted by the likes of Ed Reimers (later to do the national “You’re in good hands with All State” and “Look, Mommy, only one cavity” commercials), Bill Leyden, Jackson Wheeler, and Steve Martin.
And, of course, none of us growing up in that era could forget the genial Sheriff John (Rovick), who went on the air in 1952 as host of the early evening “Cartoon Express.” (The original host was sacked after a week because kids found him scary.) Sheriff John soon added the noontime “Lunch Brigade” to his schedule, as well as “Sheriff John’s Clubhouse” at night. He showed old cartoons and delivered commercial spiels. Do you remember his cheery opening jingle? Sing along…
“Laugh and be happy, with a merry melody.
“A song will make a hat rack look like a Christmas tree.
“Get rid of worry,
“In a hurry,
“Chase the blues away.
“Just laugh and be happy all the live long day.”
Were you singing — if only by mouthing the words? If so, you’re in the swing of it. Gather everybody in your office together who’s over 37 (a person of that age would have been 5 when the sheriff went off the air in 1970), and go to it, booming out Sheriff John’s theme song in unison. Then, how about the birthday polka? (“Put another candle on the birthday cake, the birthday cake, the birthday cake; put another candle on the birthday cake, you’re another year old today.”)
Syndicated and local programming were soon to become what Channel 11 was left to rely on, with its disengagement from the Du Mont network in 1954.
Copyright 2002, Metropolitan News Company
MetNews Main Page Reminiscing Columns