First Thoughts on “Star Trek: Discovery”

It’s an exciting time of year if you’re a TV fan.  It’s what is called Upfronts.  What that means is that the networks, broadcast, cable and these days, streaming services as well, present their upcoming shows to woo advertisers to buy ads on their platforms in the coming season.  To me and many other persons across the vast audience, we get our first look at the shows that are coming up next season.  It’s the first chance to see something and say, “Oooo, I can’t wait for that!”

This season is exciting for one very big reason.  It’s the long awaited return of Star Trek to where it began:  television.  The first full fledged trailer for Star Trek: Discovery was put online this week.  You can watch it on YouTube:

Just in case you don’t know, the premiere of this show will air on CBS.  The rest of the 15 shows will be released weekly on CBS’ digital platform, CBS All Access.  It’s unusual for a highly sought after franchise like Trek to be distributed in such a manner.  Keep in mind it’s the brain trust of a major media conglomerate making what they believe is a smart move.  “Let’s use a very dependable name to further a venture that we have complete control over and can make the most money for ourselves on!”

Now, about that trailer itself.  It looks exciting!  When I was talking about this trailer with Greg, I was mentioning that I’m trying not to let Discovery fall into the trap of not looking like the original show did in the 1960s, even though it’s supposed to be set after the events of “The Cage” but before Kirk was in command of the Enterprise.  I guess we are supposed to believe that if we were to go forward 10 years from this (which is where this series is set) that the Enterprise would be the ship we saw in the 2009 Abrams film, just we won’t have all of the Kelvin timeline stuff.  At least, that’s what my suspension of disbelief will tell me.

OK, now that you’re properly confused…

I am so excited to see this show.  I couldn’t get into Enterprise when it debuted.  I tried to watch the premiere in 2001, and just couldn’t get into it.  I hope that doesn’t happen again.  I want to like a new Trek show so bad, but I’m trying not to put my ambitions and desires so far up that I will be disappointed easily.  It’s a common fan trap.

Of course, I’ll review each and every episode of Star Trek: Discovery here on my blog.

Easter Movie Tradition

Last night was the yearly tradition of ABC screening the epic Cecil B. DeMille film “The Ten Commandments” starring Charlton Heston.  The film has been broadcast annually by ABC since February 18, 1973.  Check out this ad from the premiere telecast:

This was back in a time when movies on television were a very big event.  It was of course the days before cable and home video pretty much ruined that epic feeling you might have gotten when a great movie was on that you just had to watch.

I thought to myself as this movie was on last night, “You know, this movie has nothing to do with Easter directly.”  True, but people love it more for it being inspirational.  Of course, this movie would be more identified with Passover instead of strictly Easter, so don’t write in or comment that I don’t know my religious holidays, because I do know.

I guess people just love this movie so much and people still turn out to watch it once a year, even though you can readily watch the movie on any number of home video formats that it has been released on over the years.

While “The Ten Commandments” is not my favorite biblical epic, I got to thinking about when my two favorites appeared for the first time on television.

“The Robe” premiered on ABC on Easter Sunday, March 26, 1967.

My favorite film of all time, “Ben-Hur”, premiered on CBS Sunday, February 14, 1971 and was watched by over 85 million people (a record for a movie on TV at the time).

Excuse me, I need to go get my sword and sandals.


Aww Man, My Show’s Not On!?

Back before there were a gazillion TV channels, I’m sure you remember the scenario of sitting down to watch your favorite program and being greeted with an announcement like this:

You probably reacted with some form of sadness and despair: “Aww man, my show’s not on!? What am I going to watch now?”  Then you start flipping channels to find out what you would watch.  50 years ago tonight, Star Trek was preempted for the second time in the first season, the program replacing it was highlights of the 1967 show of the Ringling Bros. & Barnum and Bailey Circus.  As you have probably heard, that circus is shutting down this year after 146 years in operation.  Here is an ad for the airing of that show on WNBC in New York:

The interesting thing is that, while the Thursday 8:30-9:30pm time period was preempted by WATE for the Rawhide repeats, the powers that be decided not to do that and instead air this program!  Guess they like lions and tigers and bears but not Vulcans! (Oh my!)

The 3/16/1967 TV Schedule

Now, I never really was a circus fan, so I probably would have flipped over to another network and watched something else.

In case you were curious what those programs were:


8:30pm –  My Three Sons – “Charley O’ The Seven Seas” (not seen in Knoxville on WBIR – instead it would be the final 30 minutes of Theater 10 – “The Gift of Love”)
9:00pm –  Beginning of the CBS Thursday Night Movie – “Major Dundee”


8:30pm – Bewitched – “The Crone of Cawdor”
9:00pm – That Girl – “The Honeymoon Apartment”

If I were somewhere else, I probably would go with My Three Sons. If I had to choose in Knoxville, it would be “Bewitched.”

By the way, have I ever told you how much I used to love that CBS Special Presentation intro of yesteryear?

I know I’m not the only one that loved that intro!

When “Gunsmoke” Almost Bit the Dust

The saga of network television and the people that make the programming decisions can be a perilous one at times.  Particularly when you decide to put a long running show out to pasture.  “Gunsmoke” starring James Arness was a tried and true success on CBS, first on radio (from 1952-1961) and then on television starting in 1955.  In those 12 seasons, the western enjoyed great success and was really popular among viewers.  But then, the bean counters at CBS looked at the ratings, and made a rather surprising decision:  to cancel the show!  Look at this article from February 1967 in The New York Times.

You will note that “Gilligan’s Island” got renewed at this point.  Here is where the story gets interesting.  CBS reconsidered that move, and in March they reversed that decision.  A network changing their minds was not very common.  Once a decision was made, that was it.  However, since the beginnign of TV that hasn’t been a concrete rule.  In this article on TV Obscurities, several campaigns saved shows before, but they were few and far between.  As a matter of fact, another one was going on at the exact same time.  NBC was mulling over the fate of “Star Trek” as well, but thanks to viewers inundating the network with a deluge of fan mail, that show was renewed.  Much the case here as well.

In addition to that, a Kansas broadcast owner, Thad Sandstrom, harnessed the energy of fan backlash in that state (which is where the mythical Dodge City of Gunsmoke is), that the House of Representatives even urged CBS to think again about what they did.  Read all about this strange development in this March 20th, 1967 article in Broadcasting magazine.

But wait! It gets even better!  Sherwood Schwartz, creator of “Gilligan’s Island”, has told a slightly different tale about how the “Gunsmoke” was renewed.  The following clip is taken from the E! True Hollywood Story of “Gilligan’s Island,” produced in 2000.

I find it amazing that nobody working on the fall schedule had any idea what the President of the network they were working for actually in fact liked!  That to me is NEED TO KNOW information!  I definitely, wholeheartedly, 100% would not want to have been on the receiving end of what happened when he got back from his vacation.

To add one more piece of perspective on this, a few days later, Milburn Stone, who played Doc on “Gunsmoke,” talked about what it was like when the show wrapped filming of its 12th season.  Then a very low key “wrap party” happened.  I couldn’t imagine being in that precarious scenario of suddenly having to admit it was all over so suddenly.

In summary, it is so amazing to me that this situation even happened in the first place.  It would have been just another footnote in history that “Gilligan’s Island” ended its run after three seasons, than to be renewed then be cancelled in spectacular fashion.  At least that’s what I call it anyway.

No Trek for Knoxville

As everyone knows, “Star Trek” premiered on NBC on September 8th, 1966. One might assume that the show debuted on stations from coast to coast. However, as I recently discovered, that was not the case… at least in my current city of residence, Knoxville, Tennessee.

Above are portions of an article that appeared in the Knoxville News-Sentinel on August 28, 1966. The article was looking ahead to the new NBC shows on WATE-TV 6, at the time Knoxville’s NBC affiliate. As you see above, the station’s program director at the time, John Reese, passed on “Star Trek” for the Knoxville market.  The Sentinel’s writer, Frank Weirich, didn’t think much of the show either, calling it a “far-out space thing.”   As you can also see, WATE also passed on “a bit of nonsense” called “The Monkees.”  (Davy Jones and gang finally did appear on Knoxville screens starting on February 6th, 1967 for the final 8 shows of their first season.)

In hindsight it’s easy to see why both of these programming decisions could be lauded as terrible.  However, when you look at the demographics of Knoxville at that time, you can see why the decision was made.  To further prove that point, here is what they aired instead:

Instead, they aired the popular western series “Rawhide,” which aired on CBS from September 1959 to December 1965.  Westerns were very popular with TV audiences, and I can gather from this decision that Reese felt more confident that Rawhide would do better against the other programs, “My Three Sons” and the first 30 minutes of the Thursday Night Movie on WBIR (CBS) and “The Tammy Grimes Show” (which was cancelled after four weeks) and “Bewitched” on WTVK (ABC).

Things would change for the fate of “Star Trek” on Knoxville TV screens.  That story, however, is for another day.