LES CRANE SHOW, THE
Rudy Vallee, Jack E. Leonard, Milt Kamen, Les Crane, Joyce Davidson
Les Crane hosts this live 1:00 AM late night phone-in talk show with guests Milt Kamen, Jack E. Leonard and Joyce Davidson. Rudy Vallee phones the show and talks to the guests.
He especially criticizes Leonard for using incorrect grammar when speaking on the show.
Debut of program was September 16, 1963. For the first month the title of the telecast was NIGHT LINE...LES CRANE. Beginning on October 18, 1963 the title was changed to THE LES CRANE SHOW.
These late night LIVE broadcasts were aired Monday thru Friday. on local station WABC New York. Beginning December 6, 1963 late night broadcasts aired Tuesday thru Saturday. Also, another time slot opened for Crane with a similar format airing on WABC in the afternoon...a one hour version broadcast from 1:30-2:30pm, five days a week, and again returning to late night broadcasting usually 1am to 2:00am after the WABC late movie, THE BEST OF BROADWAY. This TALK SHOW / PHONE IN version of The Les Crane Show concluded its final broadcast on July 31, 1964.
On August 3, 4, 5, 6, & 8, 1964 THE NEW LES CRANE SHOW premiered...a five program trial rivaling Johnny Carson's TONIGHT SHOW. It was Nationally televised and it is considered the FIRST network talk show program to compete with THE TONIGHT SHOW STARRING JOHNNY CARSON. On November 9, 1964 THE LES CRANE SHOW premiered and aired regularly weeknights on the ABC network, opposite Johnny Carson's TONIGHT SHOW.
After 14 weeks, and low ratings, this series ended with its last telecast airing on February 26, 1965. Les Crane's late night network career was over, and never to be resumed Nationally.
ABC renamed their late night time slot NIGHTLIFE, premiering on February 29, 1965.This one hour forty five minute weekly late night talk series showcased guest hosts. This series run lasted four months, the last broadcast airing on June 25, 1965. Guest hosts included: Shelley Berman, Pat Boone, Jack Carter, Allan Sherman, Dave Garroway, Bill Cullen, William B. Williams (announcer of this series run), Eddy Arnold, Dale Robetson, Dick Shawn, Louis Nye, & Jan Murray.
Form June 28 to October 22, 1965 Les Crane returned to this time slot...the series title remaining, NIGHTLIFE. Les Crane no longer was a solo host. He co-hosted with Dave Garroway, and Nippsy Russell.
Two years later, Les Crane returned to local late night television appearing for eight months on WNEW channel 5 in New York 11:15pm - 12:15am from January 15, 1968 changing time slots on July 8, 1968, 11:45pm - 12:45pm. Final show aired on September 6, 1968, and it was the last time Les Crane would host a late night television talk show.
NOTE: A two hour radio broadcast profiling Les Crane, including TV Audio Air Check Crane highlights from the ATA archive can be listend to in its entirety. It appears on the ATA website under the link TV CONFIDENTIAL. The segment (SOUNDS OF LOST TELEVISION) was recorded in Pasadena California and aired in 2014 with host Ed Roberton, and guest Phil Gries.
NOTE: Most all of Les Crane's cumulative 26 months of broadcasting as a talk show host is today non-existent. Tapes were destroyed, erased and whereabouts unknown. The 25 television air checks archived in the Archival Television Audio, Inc. library is the most known Les Crane broadcast records to exist in the country.
Extant examples existing elsewhere include two broadcast kinescopes archived by The Paley Center for Media (one from 1967, and the other, a broadcast from January 31, 1968 titled "Rich Jews." There is archived at UCLA FILM & TV ARCHIVE four extant examples related to Les Crane, including a 45 minute compilation demo/presentation reel with clips from the New Les Crane Show trial run (Aug. 1964).
NOTE: The Les Crane Show late night talk program on ABC during the 1964-65 television season pioneered a format of television later embraced by icon Phil Donahue, Crane fell to NBC’s The Tonight Show, a national brand with a decade of broadcasting tenure, proved its dominance. Donahue began his legendary career in Dayton in 1967, evolving into a daytime programming staple for nearly 30 years.
Les Crane’s daughter Caprice points out that her father used journalism to cover topics and people that others feared to explore. “He created the shotgun mike,” says Crane of her dad, who passed away in 2008. “He had guests who did not provide the typical fluff, for example, Malcolm X, Bob Dylan, and the mother of Lee Harvey Oswald. He had the first publicly gay man on his show. He was also an amazing listener who helped create a new television format that demanded more information for the listener.
The Les Crane Show didn’t last long because the person who tries the new thing always gets penalized. People are afraid of the unknown until it becomes mainstream.”
A renaissance media man for the second half of the 20th century, Crane held interests and influences beyond journalism. “My dad gave The Mamas and the Papas group its name,” reminds Caprice Crane. “Casey Kasem credited him with inventing the Top 40 radio format at KRLA. He also got into the computer business before it was big. His company was Software Tool Works, which produced the Chess Master computer program. He was always before his time.”
Crane’s innovative format allowed one of baseball’s biggest heroes, Jackie Robinson, to debate one of conservatism’s biggest allies, William F. Buckley. Nowhere on television in the mid-1960s could audiences see this type of television fodder. Unfortunately, The Les Crane Show fell victim to a common policy of television networks destroying tapes because of the shortsighted view that future generations would not be interested. How wrong they were.
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