These 9 summer replacement TV series were good reason to stay inside in the 1960s
Who needs the Summer of Love when you can watch British spies and Rat Pack comedy?
Upper right image: CBS
New television shows pop up all the time these days. In the past, this was not so. A fresh crop of series would arrive in the fall, and a few midseason replacements would fill in for the duds. Some classics like Batman and Mr. Ed kicked off in January during the 1960s.
Summer replacements were far more rare. It was a season for reruns. However, the hot months were a good time for the networks to try out some variety shows and British imports. Here are some summer fill-ins from the 1960s.
1. The Lucy-Desi Comedy Hour
The series, the last work the couple would star in together before their divorce, dates back to the tail end of the 1950s. Lucy and Desi, however, were the geniuses behind the concept of the rerun, and the old episodes of Comedy Hour continued to lure eyeballs for another decade. In fact, the black-and-white comedy proved to be so popular that in 1967, ten years after its premiere, it was run a final time, despite all primetime television having gone color that season.
2. Great Ghost Tales
Sadly, nothing remains of this horror anthology, for it was the final television series broadcast live. Though it seems these chilling stagings of classic horror fiction continue to haunt those who watched it as children. A young Robert Duvall starred in the first episode, an adaptation of an Edgar Allen Poe tale. "The Monkey's Paw" and "Mr. Arculus" kept audiences up at night in the early 1960s.
3. Our Private World
The success of Peyton Place led to more evening soaps, such as this, the first primetime spin-off of a daytime soap. Starting in As the World Turns, the story centered around a woman (Eileen Fulton) who works at a Chicago hospital. Only 38 episodes were produced, and characters were folded back into As the World Turns.
Image: ABC / welovesoaps
4. The John Gary Show
Nominated for the 1964 Grammy for Best New Artist, Gary was a popular singer with an impressive voice. Two years later, he was filling in for Danny Kaye as a summer replacement with his short-lived variety show, which featured Tim Conway, Frank Gorshin, Leslie Uggams, Liberace and more.
5. The Dean Martin Summer Show
The funny, swingin' Rat Pack crooner was so popular that NBC wanted to keep the mojo from his Thursday night variety show going into the summer. In fact, Martin was so popular, he didn't need to really host his Summer Show. The first year, Dan Rowan and Dick Martin hosted, which led to the duo's Laugh-In. Vic Damone took over the following summer. In 1968, Martin took an interesting detour into the past with a 1930s theme, recruiting a group of showgirls called the Golddiggers as featured stars.
6. The Saint
Before Roger Moore slurped his shaken martinis as James Bond, he was another dapper secret agent, Simon Templar. The adventures were based on the Templar novels originally written by Leslie Charteris in the 1920s and '30s. In the early black-and-white episodes, Moore breaks the fourth wall and addresses the audience, though the gimmick was given up when the series went color. You can watch The Saint right here on MeTV.com.
7. Coronet Blue
"Who am I? Why do they want to kill me? Can't remember anything except two words… Coronet Blue," our hero proclaims at the opening, pulling himself out of a river. The groovy theme song kicks in, sung by Lenny Welch. The series starred Frank Converse as an amnesiac who — half-century old spoiler alert — turns out to be a Russian spy.
8. Man in a Suitcase
When Patrick McGoohan jumped from Danger Man (a.k.a. Secret Agent) to The Prisoner, much of the British Danger Man crew shifted to this espionage thriller. Like another U.K. production, The Baron, Man in a Suitcase featured an American actor in the lead. Unlike the other jet-setting spies of the era, this show's hero, McGill, was pushed into the shadows. He was a disgraced CIA agent forced to resign and take work where he could find it. Premiering in England in the fall of 1967, it hit the States in the summer of '68.
Image: ABC / Wikipedia
9. Hee Haw
The origins of Hee Haw lie in the Deep South… of Canada. CBS's summer replacement for The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour, Hee Haw came from Toronto-born creators and featured Canadian performers, despite being set in the fictional "Kornfield Kounty." Nevertheless, the rural humor clicked with Americans, as the country variety show ran for a quarter century.
10. The Johnny Cash Show
Summer is not known as the best season for wearing black, yet Johnny Cash was in demand, thanks to two best-selling live albums recorded in prisons, At Folsom Prison and At San Quentin. Taped at the Grand Ole Opry in Nashville, this series was lighter in tone than those outlaw country classics, but still offered a killer lineup of guest such as Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Lorne Greene, Bob Hope and more.