Flashback: Fall 1960 Primetime

We wrap up our look at the Fall 1960 primetime TV schedule with Saturday nights.

Fall 1960 Primetime Television: Saturday
All Times Eastern

Net 7:30PM 8PM 8:30PM 9PM 9:30PM 10PM 10:30PM
ABC The Roaring 20s Leave It To Beaver The Lawrence Welk Show The Fight of the Week Make That Spare (10:45)
CBS Perry Mason Checkmate Have Gun-Will Travel Gunsmoke LOCAL
NBC Bonanza The Tall Man The Deputy The Nation's Future LOCAL

ABC’s Saturday nights in 1960 started off with a new throwback drama series called The Roaring 20s, starring actress-singer Dorothy Provine. Although up against two Top 20 shows (Bonanza, Perry Mason), The Roaring 20s was renewed for a second season.

Season 4 of the classic family comedy Leave It To Beaver aired next, followed by the champagne bubble-infused Lawrence Welk Show. Welk aired on ABC from 1955 to 1971, then ran another 11 years in first-run syndication.

The 10-11PM hour on ABC was an hour of live sports programming. The first 45 minutes served up boxing (The Fight of the Week), while the last 15 minutes offered bowling. The new 15 minute series Make That Spare featured professional bowlers trying to pick up challenging splits and spares.

Saturday nights were owned by CBS in 1960. The night led off with Season 4 of courtroom drama Perry Mason, which was followed by a new detective series called Checkmate.

Checkmate starred Anthony George (Dark Shadows, One Life to Live), Sebastian Cabot (Family Affair) and Doug McClure (The Virginian). The show finished in the Top 25 in its first season, but that success would be short-lived. CBS moved the show to Wednesdays in 1961, ratings dropped and the show was cancelled after two seasons.

Westerns powered CBS on Saturdays, with two Top 5 shows wrangling up the competition. Season 4 of Richard Boone’s Have Gun-Will Travel (#3) aired at 9:30, followed by the half-hour edition of Gunsmoke (#1) at 10PM. The final half-hour of primetime was programmed locally.

NBC’s Saturday nights kicked off with a two-hour block of westerns, including Season 2 of Bonanza. A new western aired at 8:30 Eastern. The Tall Man featured Barry Sullivan (who previously starred in 1950s shows The Harbormaster and The Man Called X) as Sheriff Pat Garrett and Clu Callagher (The Virginian) as Billy the Kid.

The National Broadcasting Company’s western block wrapped up with the second and final season of The Deputy, starring film legend Henry Fonda. That was followed by The Nation’s Future, a new debate series tackling such issues as censorship and foreign policy. Like CBS, NBC turned over the 10:30PM half-hour to its affiliates.

CBS dominated Saturday nights in 1950, with all four of its shows in the Top 25 including two Top 5 series. This was the final season of the half-hour version of Gunsmoke, which was the number one show of 1960-61.

NBC’s Top 20 western Bonanza would move to Sundays in 1961. The move paid off, as Bonanza became a bonafide Top 10 hit for the next decade.

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