Sunday, 4 March 2018

Moving From Maverick

“Sunday Night at 7” has become a wistful part of the nostalgia of Jack Benny but there was a good portion of Benny’s career when he was not heard at that time. For example, on radio through most of the ‘40s until the show ended in 1955, Jack was only heard at that time in the Eastern time zone; in the West, his show aired at 4 p.m. and 9:30 p.m.

When Benny went to television on a somewhat regular basis, his show aired immediately after his radio show, that is from 7:30 to 8 p.m. And he stayed there until the 1959-60 season when he was put on the air on Sunday nights at 10 o’clock.

The previous year, Benny got pounced on by ABC’s Maverick, which finished the season in sixth place overall. News stories during the year talked about the ratings battle. Benny seemed to get testy discussing it. Eventually, he simply dismissed the whole idea of ratings. It’s funny how no one ever complains about good ratings, but when they’re bad, they’re inaccurate or there are extenuating circumstances or some such thing.

Here’s Jack putting a good face on CBS moving him away from Maverick to his new time slot. This story was first published September 30, 1959.
Moving Day For Benny

(UPI Hollywood Correspondent)
HOLLYWOOD (UPI)—Jack Benny is emigrating from his familiar Sunday night time slot (CBS 7:30 p.m.) for the first time in his 25 years on the air.
The blue-eyed 39-year-old, like Steve Allen, found the going too rough against "Maverick," and moved to the 10 p.m. hour. Allen bugged out entirely, switching to Monday nights, leaving Ed Sullivan to battle it out with the popular Western series.
Benny, a genuine expert on the viewing and listening habits of American audiences, believes the change will be for the better.
“I’ll find out Oct. 4 when our first show goes on the air,” he said. “Actually I've wanted the change for five years.
“We may find an entirely new audience people who never saw me at the earlier hours. We'll lose some of the youngsters, but they were watching ‘Maverick’ anyhow. “Sure, we will lose some viewers who don't stay up late, but at least our audience won't be in the middle of eating dinner.”
Jack said Sunday and Monday nights are the best TV times available, explaining that most people stay home on Monday as evidenced by poor theater and restaurant business.
“Sunday is a good day because of its importance. It affords a definite break in the living pattern of the public,” he said.
Benny refused to comment on ratings saying, “I never pan the ratings unless I'm first or second on the list. If a performer is any lower than that everyone thinks it's sour grapes. I don't think they're accurate because viewers may have their sets on and not be watching.”
The new time slot will not affect the content of Jack's regular half-hour shows.
“I've always tried to keep the show sophisticated,” he said. “Probably the studio audience will be of a higher caliber, but the show won't be any dirtier just because it goes on after most kids are in bed.”
The comedian refutes the notion of over-exposure and lack of material. He maintains his program would be easier if he were on every week instead of bi-weekly. “The more often you do a show the simpler it becomes. You get into a groove. And if over-exposure hurts comedians I wouldn’t be on the air at all.
Benny was moved again in the 1962-63 season to Tuesday nights at 9:30 p.m. (for Jell-O, his old radio sponsor), but what really irked him was what happened the following season. His show stayed where it was but CBS’ president Jim Aubrey moved Red Skelton back a half hour and installed Petticoat Junction as Benny’s lead-in. Jack made his displeasure known publicly and not long afterward announced that he would be on NBC the following season.


  1. Aubrey was a weasel. But he was right on both the move and the decision a year later to turn the Benny show into a weekly program, because the alternate-week pattern (with Bachelor Father in the 1958-59 season and with George Gobel in 1959-60) meant if another network programmed a strong show against you, that became weekly appointment viewing. People who might like Jack but were 'meh' on Gobel or John Forsythe would switch over the James Garner on those alternate weeks, and if they liked Brett Maverick, then forget to switch back the weeks when Jack's show was on.

  2. But Jim Aubrey, who declared he didn't want to schedule any more alternate week programming, could NOT tell United States Steel {'THE UNITED STATES STEEL HOUR"} and Armstrong Cork {'ARMSTRONG CIRCLE THEATRE"} to end THEIR bi-weekly dramatic anthologies on Wednesday nights simply because they were TWO powerful advertisers (CBS needed the prestige of those programs AND their business). The "weasel" had to wait until 1963, when U.S. Steel ended their program, and convinced Armstrong to co-sponsor "THE DANNY KAYE SHOW" instead.

  3. Hindsight being what it is, I suppose Jack should have stayed on CBS, even with PETTICOAT JUNCTION as a lead-in. For the 1963-64 season, overall, his series placed as #12 in the top twenty. (PETTICOAT JUNCTION was #4.) At NBC in 1964-65, he didn't even break the top fifty, while GOMER PYLE, his competition on CBS, was #3 for the season.