In 2003, The Guinness Book of World Records declared Univision’s Sabado Gigante the longest-running variety show in television history. Today, on October 27, 2012, the program turns 50, and host Mario Kreutzberger, perhaps better known as “Don Francisco”, has been there for every one of those fifty years.
Kreutzberger on what the show’s milestone means to him:
Congratulations/Felicidades to everyone at Sabado Gigante! Learn more about the program and Mario Kreutzberger in his full Archive interview.
It could be argued that Letterman’s “Stupid Human Tricks”, sketches with Rupert from the deli across from The Late Show studio, and Leno’s “Jaywalking” segment can all be traced back to Mr. Steve Allen. Allen was, after all, the original host of The Tonight Show, the nationally-networked show born out of the locally-produced Steve Allen Show that Allen started in 1953. The Tonight Show, or Tonight! as it was originally titled, was America’s first foray into national, late-night programming, and Steve Allen’s gift for ad-libbing and performing were perfectly matched for the setting and the time period.
Allen left The Tonight Show in 1957 to concentrate on his prime-time program, again called The Steve Allen Show, which he had hosted since 1956 (that’s the show on which Elvis performed “Hound Dog”). In 1961 the show went from NBC to ABC, retitled as The New Steve Allen Show, and lasted one final season. He then hosted a syndicated program that aired in late-night, The Steve Allen Westinghouse Show, which was a particular favorite of a young David Letterman during his college years. The program ran from 1962-64, and was by Allen’s account, “the wildest talk show ever done.” It was on The Steve Allen Westinghouse Show that Allen’s pranks and sketches, some of which he developed on his earlier programs, really blossomed.
In his 1997 Archive Interview, Allen recalls the origins of The Steve Allen Westinghouse Show:
Describes a memorable elephant tug-of-war sketch:
Discusses the giant tea-tank bit (later recreated by David Letterman):
And details how he began his prank/funny phone calls:
Late-night today is infused with the legacy of Allen’s sketches. Who’s got a “Stupid Pet Trick” to show off?
April 16, 1962: Walter Cronkite succeeds Douglas Edwards as anchor of CBS Evening News. The original 15-minute broadcast was titled Walter Cronkite with the News and was renamed and expanded to 30 minutes in 1963. Cronkite served as both managing editor and anchor of the program until 1981 and reported on countless historical moments over the years, including Apollo 11’s Moon Landing, JFK’s assassination, the escalating war in Vietnam, and Watergate.
Cronkite on becoming anchor of CBS Evening News and JFK’s appearance on the first half-hour broadcast:
Footage of Cronkite announcing the death of President Kennedy:
Cronkite on reporting JFK’s death:
Cronkite on his signature sign-off, “That’s the way it is:”
Somewhere in your memory there’s likely an image of Bugs Bunny and Daffy Duck donning hats and canes, singing “This is It.” That was the intro to The Bugs Bunny Show, which debuted on Saturday mornings on April 7, 1962 and became the longest, continuously-running morning children’s program in network TV history.
The Bugs Bunny Show actually premiered in primetime 2 years earlier, on October 11, 1960, and ran through September 25, 1962 on ABC ’s Tuesday nights from 7:30-8:00pm. (1960 was a big year for primetime cartoons -The Filnstones premiered that same season.) The program was developed for television after ABC President Ollie Treyz learned that WGN Chicago enjoyed ratings success by airing Bugs Bunny cartoons in primetime. ABC promptly purchased all Warner Brothers theatrical cartoons that had not yet been released for TV and packaged them into a half-hour program with new introductions and transitions by the Warner Brothers characters. While still airing in primetime, an A.M. version began airing on ABC on April 7, 1962 – the program generations of children would come to equate with Saturday mornings.
The shorts within the show were never intended to solely appeal to kids. The Warner Brothers cartoons were created for theatrical release as entertainment before the main film began, not as sketches for a children’s television program. Kids and adults have been loving them for decades now.
The Saturday morning show employed several names over the years (The Bugs Bunny Show, The Bugs Bunny-Roadrunner Show, The Bugs Bunny/Looney Tunes Comedy Hour, The Bugs Bunny & Tweety Show) and ran on ABC from 1962-68 (on Sunday mornings during the final year), on CBS from 1968-73, back on ABC from 1973-75, again on CBS from 1975-85, and once more on ABC from 1985-2000. Mel Blanc did all of the original voices, and Archive interviewee Chuck Jones animated and created several of the legendary Warner Brothers characters.
Chuck Jones on creating Bugs Bunny:
And on putting together shorts for The Bugs Bunny Show:
Bugs got an afternoon show on the WB from 1996-98 (Bugs ‘n’ Daffy), but is no longer a part of the Saturday morning cartoon block on network television. Cartoon Network now owns the rights to the Looney Toons/Merrie Melodies library and Bugs and friends can still be seen there.
After a pilot episode aired on The Danny Thomas Show (“Danny Meets Andy Griffith,” airdate: 2/15/60), The Andy Griffith Show landed on CBS’ following fall schedule, debuting on October 3, 1960. It led to a group of successful “rural-themed” sitcoms (The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres) that populated the CBS schedule through the ’60s. Nominated for several Emmy Awards, it brought five consecutive Emmys to ensemble player Don Knotts (as “Barney Fife”), but surprisingly Andy Griffith never saw a nomination. Perhaps this resulted from Griffith’s own realization early on that his character, Sheriff Andy Taylor, should not be played for laughs, but remain the voice of reason among the off-center denizens of Mayberry. Mayberry itself became the center of the show and landed in the pop culture annuls— leading audiences to believe it was a real town (as noted in The Musuem of Broadcast Communications’ Encyclopedia of Television, “over the years the writers fleshed out the geography and character of the town with a degree of detail unusual for series television.”) The Andy Griffith Show was followed by two spin-offs (Gomer Pyle U.S.M.C. and Mayberry R.F.D.) and a highly-rated reunion TV movie Return to Mayberry (1986). Andy Griffith was later seen on Matlock, Don Knotts on Three’s Company, and little Ronny Howard was just getting started when he starred in follow-ups The Smith Family and Happy Days. Andy Griffith, now 84 years old, has recently appeared in such feature films as Waitress (2007) and Play the Game (2008).
“I knew that Don should be the comic and I should play straight for him. And that made all the difference. All the difference. Then Mayberry became a living town.” — Andy Griffith
“Mayberry was a little town of yesterday… where everybody knew everybody, and it was full of these funny characters.” — Don Knotts
“Andy used to say that even though we’re making the show in the ’60s, Mayberry is really the town I grew up in the ’40s. So there was something nostalgic about it already. It wasn’t trying to be current. It more reflected his memory of the south that he grew up in.” — Ron Howard
The Archive of American Television interviewed many of the talents behind The Andy Griffith Show, including a rare interview with executive producer Sheldon Leonard (1907-97) in 1996. Among the many others featured on the Archive’s The Andy Griffith Show show page, include: Andy Griffith, Don Knotts, Ron Howard, Howard Morris, Elinor Donahue, producer Aaron Ruben, writer Everett Greenbaum, composer Earle Hagen (who not only composed the theme, but whistled it, too!), and director Richard Crenna.