Saturday, September 19, 2015

What Might've Been: The New People (1969)

In the 60's, Rod Serling made two attempts to venture away from the sci-fi/horror/fantasy milieu that he had mined with The Twilight Zone. The first, The Loner, failed to survive the Christmas holidays in 1965, but introduced viewers to producer William Dozier, and we've documented his series history.

Four years later, Serling, fresh off adapting Pierre Boulle's Planet of the Apes into a feature film, returned to television, and to a network other than CBS for the first time. Serling developed The New People for producers Aaron Spelling and Danny Thomas, whose Mod Squad was entering its 2nd season, and ABC, which rolled the dice with the idea that a 45 minute program such as New People and Music Scene, its lead-in, would ensure that viewers wouldn't flip the dial to NBC's popular Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In. It didn't achieve its desired effect. Instead, New People was cancelled after 17 episodes.

In a way, you can't fault ABC's thinking. Network television had evolved from 15 minute programs to 30 to hour-long dramas, such as Mod Squad, and variety shows, like Laugh-In. They felt they'd skipped a step in the tele-evolutionary process, moving to a 45 minute format. It turned out the step wasn't skipped. No, it wasn't needed at all.

Following is a short promo, narrated by Ernie Anderson.

35 years later, ABC went to the well again with Lost, which actually managed a healthy run. NBC & Discovery Kids (now Discovery Family) countered with a Saturday morning show, Flight 29 Down, which didn't go very far, the next year.

One benefit to New People was the theme song being performed by Kenny Rogers and the First Edition, and we all know that Rogers, after the demise of the First Edition, embarked on a lengthy, successful solo career.

No rating.


SaturdayMorningFan said...

I bet Rod Serling would have handled this series far better than Lost was handled, had he been allowed to complete it.

hobbyfan said...

Hard to say. Serling would bounce back, of course, with Night Gallery the next year, and back in his familiar milieu.

magicdog said...

It's obvious TPTB were looking to challenge the hippie generation to practice what they preached. Sort of crossing them with the situation from "Lord of the Flies": if you got to be on your own island and remake society, how would you begin?

It would have been amusing if it turned out that the show premise was indeed a test organized by some group who wanted to find out about human nature in the ultimate science lab - with the kids as guinea pigs.

hobbyfan said...

One wonders if that was what Serling intended, but we'll never know. Some have claimed that "Lost", which came along 35 years later, was a "rip-off", or a remake. One wonders if JJ Abrams secretly wanted to finish the story Serling wanted to tell......