Saturday, July 10, 2010

You're in the Picture with Jackie Gleason (1961)

You're in the Picture is one of the most famous tales in failed TV history. Rather than recount the story of this program that has been told several times before in books galore, I reproduce's take on the notorious events of the show:

You're in the Picture was added to the CBS schedule on January 20, 1961, to replace the poorly performing sitcom 'Mr. Garland', Friday nights at 9:30. You're in the Picture was a poorly conceived game show that went over like a lead balloon. How's this for a premise - celebrity contestants stick their heads into a painted scene, and they have to guess what the scene is, or what historical figure they represent by asking the emcee questions.

Jackie Gleason was the host of this live broadcast, (he even helped develop the show) and the celebrity contestants for that first (and only broadcast) episode included Jan Sterling, Keenan Wynn, Aurthur Treacher, and Pat Carroll.
After the embarrassingly bad show aired, Gleason convinced CBS to let him go on the next week and apologize to the home audience. This would give the production a chance to re-tool, it was reasoned, and get 'You're in the Picture' back on in a new and improved format.

Gleason went on the air the next week live and apologized all right - "Honesty is the best policy. We had a show last week that laid the biggest bomb! I've seen bombs in my day, but this one made the H-bomb look like a two-inch salute." He filled the half-hour with extemporaneous stories, explaining in detail his mistake in ever letting the show reach the air, all the while distancing himself from the fiasco. At the end of the show, Gleason promised to return the next week, "I don't know what we'll do, but I'll be back".

The critics flipped for the half-hour public apology, praising the comedian's breazy, spontaneous wit, and the audience loved the idea of a big star admitting he had made a mistake.

In truth, Gleason had no intention of doing the game show ever again, instead he decided on a one on one talk show format. This was something the network was dead set against, but they were forced to let Gleason have his way since he made his statements on live television.

For the next eight weeks, Jackie Gleason played host to stars like Bobby Darin, Jayne Mansfield, and his comic partner Art Carney, in a talk show format under the title 'The Jackie Gleason Show'.

An angry and embarrassed CBS pulled the plug on the series after eight weeks. One reason they were angry - the network wanted to salvage the game show concept. There was another episode of 'You're in the Picture' shot on tape (very expensive in those days) to use during the re-run season, but it had to be scrapped after Gleason so thoroughly trashed the concept on that second show.

Now see it for yourself...