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First Prime-Time TV Show You Loved
April 10, 2008  | By David Bianculli  | 6 comments

What was the first prime-time TV series you made a point of watching each week - and what do you remember about how and why you watched it? With whom did you watch? Did the viewing involve any favorite foods or rituals? What did you enjoy most?

The Bullwinkle Show
1961-63, NBC

Jay Ward's The Bullwinkle Show, a prime-time follow-up to his Rocky and His Friends on ABC, grabbed me when I was young, and never let go. I still live bad puns because of this show (one memorable episode title: "Avalanche is better than none"). And at the time, I remember wondering why my dad, who watched with me, was laughing so hard at certain points. Now I know - but I was in my twenties before I realized that the show's Cold War villain, Boris Badenov, was a play on the Russian leader Boris Godunov, who also inspired an opera by Modest Mussorgsky.

That's my first prime-time TV love. What's yours?


Tom said:

It had to be "The Millionaire." Talk shows, with their surprise giveaways
and dreams come true, still are duplicating what front man Michael Anthony did
weekly. It was new then, and even more exciting (and it was TAX-FREE).

Bill Chapman said:

I was born in November 1947, and my parents bought our first TV in 1954,
I believe. It was an Admiral in a blond wood case. As I recall, I would get up early
every morning to watch the test pattern, much like the one that you use on weekends.
Then came the morning weather report for farmers at about 6 am.

As for series, there was Howdy Doody with Buffalo Bob Smith. But what I remember
most was Sunday nights - the Jack Benny Program and Jackie Gleason. As for more
traditional series, I believe that my first favorite would have been the Adventures
of Superman with George Reeves.

Bill Kelly said:

The first prime time TV show I loved: The Man From U.N.C.L.E. (That's
harder to type that it should be!)

Thinking back, I could not tell you a single plot, villain, or specific detail. For
a kid sitting at home, all you needed was the cool of Robert Vaughn and David
McCallum. Perhaps most importantly, since many of us were too young to go to the
'sexy' Bond movies, this was our connection to the spy-mania of the time. This was
so much hipper than cowboys and indians!

It says something too, that perhaps a second choice would be "Get Smart." Combining
MAD Magazine with "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." What could be better!!

Phil Crabb said:

My First Prime-Time shows I can remember were actually Saturday Morning
and Weekday afternoon shows, as I wasn't allowed to stay up after 7pm until I was
about 6 years old. I remember I had to go to bed after Claude Kirchner's Circus

So my first "prime-time" shows were Crusader Rabbit...that probably came on around
6:30am here in the NYC area...just after the test-pattern went off..and maybe just
after Modern Farmer.

The other faintest memories I had was of 'Beachcomber Bill' on during the
afternoons...maybe 3:30pm-ish?

If I'm not mistaken, he showed Popeye cartoons before Captain Jack McCarthy came on
the scene.

And, of course, Officer Joe Bolton with the Three Stooges.

I seem to remember the Flinstones premiering on Friday nights in Prime-time...and
Johnny Quest as well.

Those were the days. I remember when you couldn't wait to get the "Fall Premeire"
edition of TV Guide. Of course, that's when there was just channels 2,4,5,7,9,11 &
13 (if you could see through the static).

I think a lot of 'station-loyalty' on any given night was bred out of the fact you
had to get up to change the channels...

Gregg B said:

Most of the shows I remember were the kids shows that were shown during the day. My favorite was "Winchell Mahoney Time" which starred Paul Winchell and his dummies Jerry Mahoney and Knucklehead Smith. Also the local shows - Officer Joe Bolton with Little Rascal shorts and Captain Jack McCarthy with Popeye cartoons. I grew up on a steady diet of reruns - Flintstones, Mr. Ed, The Munsters, Addams Family and old Bugs Bunny Cartoons. I came home for lunch in early elementary school and I'd watch Jeopardy and Dick Van Dyke.

First Primetime shows - Laugh-In, Red Skelton, Ed Sullivan and Wonderful World of Color (Disney) - but in Black and White on my TV.

I still refer to times when I can't get to sleep on Sunday nights (then school, now work) as Ed Sullivan-itis.

Mel T said:

My earliest favorite shows were "The A-Team" and "The Greatest American Hero". I can still sing the theme song to either and I haven't seen them in over 20 years! I just found the A-Team on nbc.com and have introduced my 8 year-old son to it. And since he is the exact same age I was when it was a must-see, he loves it!

(Ah, the glories of the Internet. You must love it when a plan comes together -- David B.)

Harry said:

Showing my age, I remember "Mama" and "December Bride", "Captain Video" and plenty more. But the one show that has stuck in my head was a summer replacement - circa 1960. It was a Space Ship that cruised the stars retrieving garbage. The Crew included both Richard Benjamin and Paula Prentiss.

It was very high concept farce - I remember one character named Ficus - who was supposed to be a humanized plant. It is amazing what is sticks in the mind.

Anohter was a crime drama with Roscoe Karns. It ran for a number of years and one of the gimmicks was that he talked to his wife all the time but you never actually saw or heard her. Mid to late fifties.

(I can jog your memory here, in both cases. The garbage-scow sci-fi series is "Quark," a comedy from 1977. Dick Benjamin starred, but if his wife Paula Prentiss ever appeared in it, which I don't recall, it was as a guest star. They did co-star, though, in the fabulous sitcom "He & She." As for the Roscoe Karns show, he played Rocky King in "Inside Detective" from 1950-54 -- and called his wife Mabel at the end of each show to say the case was solved and he was heading home. -- David B.)

Kevin Butler said:

Dear Phil Crabb,

"Beachcomber Bill"Biery never screened"Popeye"

cartoons on his WPIX TV Ch.11 NYC kids tv show.

He screened Hanna/Barbera's"Wally Gator","Touche'

Turtle" and"Lippy The Lion"tv cartoons.

"Capt.Allen"Swift and "Capt.Ray"Heatherton were

the firsts to screen"The Popeye"movie cartoons weekday

evenings and weekend evenings on Ch.11.

Before "Capt.Jack"McCarthy screened the films on

"The Popeye Show"weekday evenings and afternoons into

the 1970's.

Kevin Butler said:

"Crusader Rabbit" was first seen on"Children's

Theater!" on Saturday mornings on WNBT/WRCA/

WNBC TV Ch.4 in NYC from 1949 to June,1961.

The cartoons were also seen on"The Merry Mailman!"

weekday evenings on WOR TV Ch.9 in NYC from 1951

to 1956 and later on "Kartoon Klub"/"Shari & Her Friends!"

with Ms.Shari Lewis monday -saturday evenings on WPIX

TV Ch.11 in NYC from 1953 to 1956.

The last NYC based kids tv show to screen the

films was"Chuck McCann's Laurel & Hardy Show"

weekday afternoons on WNEW TV Ch.5 in NYC

from 1966 to 1967.

The films were also seen without a host on

WNBC TV Ch.4 in NYC saturday mornings from

1961 to 1966.

Sam Tomaino said:

I'll answer this as "first prime-time network show", as there was a lot of local & early in the day kids shows I watched.

The first show I can remember going absolutely ga-ga over was "Zorro" with Guy Williams!

I've got it on DVD now and still love it!

George Squire said:

I was born in 1953 and recall that "Topper" with Leo G Carroll my favorite. Mr Carroll also incidentally was the Chief on "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." in the next decade. I must have been watching some reruns, as the show ran from 1953-56. I was madly in love with the ghost Marian Kirby, and had constant heartache knowing that she was so beautiful, yet so dead.

Patricia Gandolfini said:

As a young mother in need of a break, my mother used to sit me in a swing which hung from the door to the kitchen. She turned on American Bandstand and I would squirm and swing from side to side with the music and when the commercials came on, she says, I would just hang there lifelessly.

But consciously probably Howdy Doody and Mickey Mouse Club.

Late: Lassie, Disney's Wonder World of Something Color?, Petticoat Junction, I Spy, Star Trek, Get Smart, the Fugitive, Man from UNCLE - all appointment tv for me, I did't want to talk on the phone to my friends if they called.

Doug S said:

Mine was "Lost In Space." I loved this series as a child, and fought for it. Here in Northeast Ohio, throughout the '70s and early '80s, it only played during the summers, beginning the week school let out and ending the week before school started back up. Therefore, they only had time to play out seasons one and two. After several summers of this, I wrote the station manager one spring, and he actually replied that he would remedy the situation. That summer, after season one played out, the station (WUAB-TV in Cleveland) jumped right to the third season. As an 11-year-old, I felt a profound sense of accomplishment.

Beth Ingalls said:

Laugh-In. January 1968-May 1973; Mondays at 8:00 p.m. Hands down. Even though I was just a little tidbit of six when it began, I knew there was so much going on in that show on so many levels. The psychedelic oranges and reds, the rampant sexual inuendos, the double-entendres. I guess I also knew intuitively that as a young suburban girl of conservative parents in Columbus, Ohio, that show was as close as I was would ever get to the drug induced craziness and political turmoil raging around me. And I absolutely loved it.

Mac said:

I remember my Dad telling us kids at dinner that a show started a few weeks before about a little boy nick-named Beaver (as many will know,his name was really Theodore). TV was filled with family sitcoms, like"Ozzie & Harriett" and Father Knows Best". but "Leave It to Beaver" was a series that told the story through the eyes of young Theodore, not the parents. I now know that star Jerry Mathers was three years older than I was, but he looked and played a child closer to my age. Grown ups were allowed to watch,but the emphasis was on the kid, not Mom & Dad (June& Ward). And he looked exactly like the kid that moved next door. Honest. Well, maybe not the most exciting half-hour, until Beaver's voice cracked (or croaked ,as he probably would have said, trying to sound hip), but sometimes the situations that weren't so far-fetched proved to have a long lasting appeal. Adolescence was the shark-jumping moment for the kid and the show.

Amy Taylor said:

The Boing-Boing show, w/ Gerald McBoingBoing. It was a cartoon character but the show did neat things, not sure I remember--unless that was the one they did so you could draw on the screen w/ them. My whole family watched BoingBoing and came away delighted, and sad when it went off the air, pretty quickly, as I remembered (as probably a 3-4 year old.

Mark said:

Emergency starring Randolph Mantooth & Kevin Tigh as well as that, hot for her time Julie London

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This one is the best article that I have ever read.
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Jan 3, 2023   |  Reply
FALCON CREST was my go-to show each Friday night from 1981 through 1990. Jane Wyman was the evil and ruthless matriarch, Angela Channing, who always schemed and connived to better her wine empire. FALCON CREST is a true classic and the first 3 seasons are now on DVD through the WB website. A great theme song, beautiful background score music, incredible acting, and amazing guest stars; Cliff Robertson, Gina Lollobrigida, Lana Turner, Leslie Caron, Eddie Albert, Theodore Bikel, Ursula Andress, and many more. It's worth uncorking this vintage to see again. Like a fine wine, it held up some thirty-four years after its debut on CBS.
Oct 28, 2015   |  Reply
Of course I watched Disney's Wonderful World of Color (on a black and white TV) and Howdy Doody with Summer, Fall, Winter, Spring. But the first adult show I remember watching was Wagon Train staring Ward Bond.
Jan 23, 2015   |  Reply
Harry Y
I remember fighting with my older sister on whether we would watch "Lost in Space" vs. "Batman". I loved Lost in Space until Dr. Smith's cousin dropped in to visit.
Jan 25, 2014   |  Reply
Harry Y
I remember fighting with my older sister on whether we would watch "Lost in Space" vs. "Batman". I loved Lost in Space until Dr. Smith's cousin dropped in to visit.
Jan 25, 2014   |  Reply
Yes used to watch alot.
Feb 17, 2024
Mark N
firstly, Amy, the show you are refering to where you would put this plastic sheet over the TV screen and draw was Winky-Dink. Its actually touted as the first interactive television show....For me I have to admit to actually being a member of the Peanut Gallery on The Howdy Doody Show which I watched religously...and also attended The Merry Mailman...but most influential was Flash Gordon 1954-55 ...live action and terrible effects...loved it to death at age 5
Feb 1, 2013   |  Reply
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