20 August 2007 | spfxu4ea
This is one terrific series!
This show is largely unknown due to the fact that it hasn't aired in the USA since August of 1960, and hasn't aired ANYWHERE in the world since it aired on Armed Forces Pacific Television in early 1965. It was aired in Australia and Japan (and possibly other foreign countries) in the early sixties. The Pilot was shot in late January 1958, and the show was in full production from mid July 1958 until the office closed at the end of May 1959.
There were 34 half hour episodes produced and broadcast originally in prime time on NBC. 14 of these were repeated by NBC during the summer of 1959. ABC ran 20 episodes during the summer of 1960. Altogether there were 10 episodes that were never ever repeated on American television after their premiere on NBC.
Dean Fredericks was hand picked to star by Canyon's artist/writer/creator Milton Caniff after the cartoonist spotted him on the NBC series COURT OF LAST RESORT. Fredericks, a sergeant in the army who was badly wounded in the invasion of Leyte in 1944, had later made a name for himself playing mostly heavies, and as a regular on the RIN TIN TIN and JUNGLE JIM TV series'. Fredericks was credible as Canyon, and was identified with the character for many years after the series ended, doing personal appearances at the behest of Milton Caniff. He retired from acting in 1965 after a string of mostly two-dimensional heavy roles. Starring in Steve Canyon was a tough act to follow.
STEVE CANYON was the most expensive show on television during the 1958/59 season, with each show costing $48,000. It was filmed at Universal Studios in Hollywood, utilizing the vast array of talent and hardware available there, with backing by Chesterfield Cigarettes and full cooperation of the US Air Force. They had the best of everything. Gleaming rocket planes and an open checkbook. So why did it only last one season?
Well, the show was exciting
actually a bit too exciting for the Air Force and for the aircraft industry, who wanted the public to have faith in their men and machines respectively. "Perfect men flying perfect machines"
this credo was the downfall of the show. It wasn't long after the series premiered that the difficulties started, with Pegasus Productions (the production company) on one side of the fence, and the USAF and the Advertising Agency on the other. The shows basic premise of Canyon being a globe-hopping troubleshooter for the Air Force, with planes falling and exploding in all directions, had to go.
Exactly half way into the production schedule, Pegasus gave in to the pressure and retooled the series, firmly planting Canyon safely behind a desk at the fictitious Big Thunder Air Base. They also moved the show from Saturday to Tuesday night, which would further alienate their audience along with the format change. The old adage of "too many cooks" broke the back of both the show and the production company, and that simply was that.
Nearing the end of the run (when they knew the show wasn't going to be renewed), several episodes that had been shelved due to "controversy" were dusted off and completed and put into the broadcast rotation as a "last act of defiance" by the Producers (David Haft and Mike Meshekoff). Among these are OPERATION U.F.O., OPERATION FIREBEE, and the episode TIME Magazine called "a neat exercise in airborne shock", OPERATION INTERCEPT, which follows a few of the same themes as the film FAIL SAFE a few years later.
Make no mistake, this is an interesting series, one that bears re-examination. From its premiere to this day there have always been detractors, who would dismiss it with little regard, often citing it as "hardware oriented" or an extended cigarette commercial. I most often describe it as "you never know what you'll get" when you watch an episode. There isn't a formula or pattern to the series, each show has it's own approach and I find that refreshing.
As of this writing, I've recently viewed all but one episode, so I'm not basing this on memories of broadcasts from nearly 50 years ago. I'm looking forward to seeing that missing show as well as repeat viewings of all of the rest in the near future...
I should mention here that I am the producer of the restoration of the Steve Canyon series and that it will be available as an official release on DVD sometime in 2008, which will be the 50th anniversary of the series. So I may be a wee bit biased, but I sincerely love this show, and my words here are coming from my affection for this great series.
Thank you for your time!