Flashback: Fall 1960 Primetime

We resume our look back at the Fall 1960 primetime TV schedule with Friday nights.

Although not included in our grids, CBS and NBC aired 15 minute national newscasts Monday-Friday from 715-730PM Eastern.

Fall 1960 Primetime Television: Friday
All Times Eastern

Net 7:30PM 8PM 8:30PM 9PM 9:30PM 10PM 10:30PM
ABC Matty's Sunday Funnies Harrigan and Son The Flintstones 77 Sunset Strip The Detectives The Law and Mr. Jones
CBS Rawhide Route 66 Mr. Garlund The Twilight Zone Eyewitness to History
NBC Dan Raven The Westerner The Bell Telephone Hour/NBC News Specials Michael Shayne

ABC programmed 4 new series on Friday nights in 1960, one of which became a true classic.

Matty’s Sunday Funnies led off the night. As you might guess, this show featured cartoon shorts, including Casper the Friendly Ghost. ABC also aired the show on Sunday afternoons. Another new show followed Sunday Funnies: Harrigan and Son. Film actor Pat O’Brien (Angels with Dirty Faces, Some Like It Hot) starred in this sitcom from Desilu Productions. It was cancelled after a single season.

Up next was another new series called…The Flintstones. This animated sitcom was an instant Top 20 hit and would air for 6 seasons, spawning numerous cartoon sequels and live action movies in the decades to come.

At 9 o’clock Eastern ABC aired another Top 20 show, 77 Sunset Strip. It starred Efrem Zimbalist Jr. and ran for 6 seasons from 1958-64. A year later, Zimbalist would star in The F.B.I. That show was even more successful and aired for 9 seasons.

A pair of half-hour crime dramas rounded out the night: The Detectives Starring Robert Taylor and The Law and Mr. Jones. The Detectives aired on ABC for 2 seasons, then moved to NBC for its final season in 1961-62. The Law and Mr. Jones was a new show that starred James Whitmore. It was cancelled after the season, but brought back for another brief run in the spring of 1962.

CBS introduced 3 new series on Friday nights, including one certifiable hit.

The Eye network’s schedule kicked off with the Clint Eastwood western Rawhide, a Top 10 show. It was followed by a new series from Naked City creator Stirling Silliphant. Route 66 starred Martin Milner (later of Adam-12) and George Maharis. It became a Top 30 hit and ran for 4 seasons.

The 9:30PM Eastern hammock position featured a new drama called Mr. Garlund. It was quickly cancelled after only 6 episodes.

Season 2 of the classic sci-fi anthology series The Twilight Zone aired at 10PM Fridays. The show had new opening theme music and quite an impressive list of guest stars for its sophomore season. That list included Art Carney, John Carradine, Russell Johnson, William Shatner and Inger Stevens.

CBS wrapped up Friday nights with a new public affairs series called Eyewitness to History. It would go on to run for 3 years. The host of the first season was Charles Kuralt, later known for his On The Road segments and CBS News Sunday Morning hosting duties.

NBC struggled on most nights in 1960 and Friday was no exception. The National Broadcast Company programmed 3 new shows on Fridays and all 3 flopped.

The night started out with the crime drama Dan Raven. Although it only aired for 13 episodes, it did feature some memorable guest stars like Paul Anka, Buddy Hackett and Gavin MacLeod.

A new western, appropriately called The Westerner, aired at 8:30PM Eastern. The show starred Brian Keith (later in Family Affair) and veteran character actor John Dehner. It was created by Sam Peckinpah, who would go on to produce such classic films as 1969’s The Wild Bunch. The pilot for The Westerner originally aired as an episode of the CBS western anthology series Zane Grey Theater. Unfortunately, The Westerner was sent out to pasture after just 13 episodes.

NBC’s Friday 9-10PM slot offered The Bell Telephone Hour, alternating with specials from NBC News. The Bell Telephone Hour aired for nearly 2 decades on radio before moving to TV. It was a concert series featuring classical and Broadway music. The Bell Telephone Hour was also one of the few shows that aired exclusively in color.

Fridays on NBC concluded with another new entry, Michael Shayne. This series was based on the classic detective character that previously appeared in movies and on radio. Richard Denning of Mr. and Mrs. North fame starred in title role and would later appear as the governor on Hawaii Five-0. Michael Shayne lasted a single season.

Friday nights in 1960 belonged to ABC and CBS, each scoring a pair of Top 30 shows on the night.

Of the 10 new shows airing on Fridays, 2 became certified hits: The Flintstones (ABC) and Route 66 (CBS). All 3 of NBC’s new Friday nights shows were failures, two of them only lasting 13 episodes (Dan Raven, The Westerner).