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1969: Dick Cavett Moves to Prime Time (Then Late Night)
May 26, 2012  | By Christy Slewinski  | 13 comments
On this day in 1969, ABC debuted The Dick Cavett Show. More specifically, the prime time Dick Cavett Show. It was the second incarnation of Cavett's talker, which originally premiered as a daytime show in March, 1968.

The prime-time version aired at 10 p.m. three days a week — Monday, Tuesday and Friday — through September, then disappeared from ABC until its December, 1969 return in the late-night spot (11:30 p.m.-1 a.m.) previously occupied by The Joey Bishop Show, and opposite NBC's The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson and CBS's The Merv Griffin Show.

Like Carson, Cavett interviewed his share of contemporary entertainers, but Cavett also frequently hosted authors, scholars, politicians and other non-entertainment personalities. Unlike Carson, Cavett would sometimes dedicate his entire show to a single guest. Anthony Quinn, Fred Astaire, Charlton Heston, Groucho Marx, Bette Davis, Orson Welles, Laurence Olivier, Alfred Hitchcock, Lucille Ball and Woody Allen were among those who appeared solo — sometimes more than once — on a Cavett show.

Although Cavett's show was a critical hit, it was not drawing high enough ratings to please ABC. In April, 1972, the network announced that the Cavett show would be cancelled by summer unless ratings improved. Loyal viewers flooded ABC with letters of support. Celebrities, public figures and the media also weighed in. ABC briefly wavered, and allowed the show to continue through the end of the year. But, in 1973 the late-night show was gone, with Cavett making occasional appearances on ABC Wide World of Entertainment.

Below is a clip of a September 19, 1969 appearance by Woody Allen:

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