Tuesday, June 16, 2009
The Late Show - WCBS-TV Channel 2
Though I was too young to remember the famous "Syncopated Clock" opening for THE LATE SHOW on New York's WCBS-TV Channel 2, the opening posted above is the one I remember and that resonates most with me. So, to that end, let's kick off what this blog is really about by remembering the first of many vintage movie showcase programs from the NY Metro Area, THE LATE SHOW.
WCBS-TV's LATE SHOW was a long running, very popular movie showcase program. Though it's exact start date is unknown to me, I would assume it started sometime back in the early-to-mid 1950's as Gleason and Carney talk about it on an episode of THE HONEYMOONERS. By the mid-70's it was one of the country's longest running movie showcase programs. Though I don't have access to exact numbers, from what I have read and heard, it was a ratings winner for Channel 2 and more than held it's own against Johnny Carson. That being said, in August of 1969, CBS had it's affiliates shelve their late night programming, ie, channel 2 it's LATE SHOW, in order to air The Merv Griffin Show which CBS hoped could compete with Carson and steal some of his late night thunder. That didn't work out so well. Griffin was dumped in early 1972 and WCBS went back to it's old reliable LATE SHOW movies. The fact was, those late night movies did quite well in the ratings, better then Griffin did so it has to be looked on as a failed experiement.
As a matter of fact, ratings for those late night films did so well for WCBS, as well as other stations, that many theatrical films were purchased with the sole intention of debuting them on THE LATE SHOW. Now, think about that for just a minute. Normally one would think that if a TV station is going to plunk down big bucks to acquire a major theatrical film for TV broadcast that they would debut it when the audience and advertising dollars were generally at it's peak, ie, prime time. But ratings were so good for late night movies that WCBS-TV, and others, would shell out the big money for theatrical films and debut them on THE LATE SHOW at 11:30PM!! That fact continues to blow my mind to this day. Not only are you debuting the film at 11:30PM but also up against Carson!! And, it worked!! Plus, stations spared no expense at advertising the films in TV Guide, many times taking out full page ads and making it known that such and such film was making it's "NY TV Debut" or "World TV Debut". I'll post such a full page ad later.
Personally speaking, I loved THE LATE SHOW. The opening, as posted here, was very well done I thought. Pretty cool animation for the time with a breezey opening theme that really set the tone. One of the things that really made THE LATE SHOW worth staying up for was it's unrivaled variety. Comedies, dramas, westerns, horrors, science fiction, you name it and it played on THE LATE SHOW. As the later 70's came upon us, sometimes you would get a theme week. For example, I clearly remember a full week of Jerry Lewis films. When all is said and done, THE LATE SHOW may be the finest movie showcase program in history. It is remembered and it is revered and it worked hard to obtain that status. Some films I clearly remember seeing on THE LATE SHOW include: 23 PACES TO BAKER STREET, WALK EAST ON BEACON, DR. TERRORS HOUSE OF HORRORS, APPOINTMENT WITH DANGER, THE WORLD IN HIS ARMS, SATURDAY'S HERO, BATTLE HYMM and many more. It has given me a huge, wonderful vault of memories and I hope it has for you also. Let me know what your memories are of THE LATE SHOW because I'd love to read about them.