Talk Show Troubles, 1963

The Late Night Wars have given us plenty to read about, but this sort of thing has been going on for decades. You probably don't know the story of the biggest network talk show bomb ever, The Jerry Lewis Show. It only lasted for thirteen episodes and would have been cut sooner if the network hadn't been contractually obligated to air thirteen shows.
"I'd like to say welcome to all you nice..." before being lambasted with screeching feedback. "I realize two hours is an unusual amount of time but I want to answer the big question ... after all let's face it, movies are a lot longer than two hours, you know. Have you ever heard anyone say 'What can Liz and Dick do for two hours?'" Lewis tapped the boom mike and said, "This is on isn't it, sweetheart?" The mugging, the schmaltzy song, the unbelievable feedback and the 'Is this thing on' murmur made it feel like the world's most overwrought screenplay. But it was the real deal. See for yourself here. Jerry continued with a nervous monologue, "Next week, September the 28th, God willing we're still on, September the 28th, I will operate on my own appendix." Three and a half minutes into the highly anticipated production and Jerry was already predicting his own demise.

The article has links to several episodes. Link -via Metafilter

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I've read a bunch of Kliph Nesteroff's long articles on the WFMU blog. They are always exhaustively researched, enlightening, and full of surprises. This was another one, and it put a lot of the stuff I *kind of* knew about those early years of late night TV into a cohesive, and revelatory, perspective.
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Rick, the show ran from 9/21/63 to 12/21/63-- which would have amounted to fourteen shows; but, the same week that the show was cancelled by ABC, JFK was killed in Dallas. Thus, all scheduled network programming that weekend, including Saturday night's scheduled episode of "The Jerry Lewis Show" on ABC, was preempted. So, the total broadcasts over those three months and two hours was, indeed, an unlucky thirteen!
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Actually, "The Jerry Lewis Show, LIVE!" ran 14 episodes. By the time the series ended, it was doing quite well in the ratings, and was very entertaining. But there was no turning back by the network. They bought The Jerry Lewis Theater from Jerry, renamed it The Hollywood Palace, and replaced Jerry's show with the long running variety series, The Hollywood Palace. My uncle, Ernie Glucksman, was the producer of the 1963 Jerry Lewis Show, and he and others were very unhappy at Jerry's insistence to have his hand in every part of the production. That included a desk from which Jerry could override the director in the booth in selecting camera shots.

Rick Saphire
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