The Greatest Show on Earth (1963–1964)

TV Series   |    |  Drama, Family


Episode Guide
The Greatest Show on Earth (1963) Poster

Johnny Slate is the big boss who successfully keeps the circus running as it moves from town to town. He manages to deal with the unexpected frequently and uses Otto King, the accountant, as a sounding board.

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30 December 2010 | rcj5365
8
| Drama under the big top in the first Desilu produced series in color for ABC
"The Greatest Show On Earth" was based on the 1952 Oscar winning movie that was directed by the great Cecil B. DeMille and starred Charlton Heston,Cornel Wilde,along with James Stewart that became one of the highest grossing films of that year.

Fast forward to 1963.

The television series "The Greatest Show On Earth" was one of the lost and somewhat forgotten shows of the 1960's,and for good reason. This series was big on budget,big on cast and was in full color for ABC-TV. The series within itself also marked Desilu Productions' first-ever series to be produced,and filmed in color for a major television network long before "Star Trek",and "Mission:Impossible" made the jump to color some four years later. Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz made a wise investment with this series when they made the sales pitch to network executives at ABC-TV which made it work. Before this series,Desilu's shows(which were comedies and dramas)were mostly seen in black and white before this series came along. Color was the selling point of this short-lived series that lasted no more than one season at ABC-TV from its premiere episode on September 17, 1963 until the final episode of the series on April 28, 1964. Only 30 episodes were produced.

Produced by Desilu in cooperation with the assistance of the Ringling Brothers and Barnum Bailey Circus,"The Greatest Show On Earth" gave audiences an inside look at the goings on within the day-to-day operations of a big time circus. Jack Palance(in his first-ever television role)played Johnny Slate who was the director and manager of the circus who became involved in all the drama and excitement that surrounded him,his personal assistant,Otto King(Stuart Erwin),and all of the other performers of the circus. Slate was ready to jump in and help in anyway he could while running the circus whenever possible.

Some episodes had some high drama and intense excitement that included some acts that were the feature highlight of the show including "lion taming acts","trapeze acts",and "acts of darring-do",and whatever else that was included. Toward the end of the episode,the manager and all of the performers would move from town to town in just about every episode with all the drama and excitement they could muster. Jack Palance was basically known for playing villains mostly as the gunslinger baddie in several theatrical films("Shane"),but within his first television starring role here he became a likable character.

"The Greatest Show On Earth" during its first season faced competition during the 1963-1964 season from two situation comedy programs that were on CBS: "Petticoat Junction",the burgeoning spin-off of "The Beverly Hillbillies",and the long-running "The Jack Benny Show". It was also up against NBC's dramatic series "The Richard Boone Show". The series was canceled after one season. Some of the guest stars that appeared on "The Greatest Show On Earth" included Harry Guardino, Dwayne Hickman,Tuesday Weld,Tony Dow,Annette Funicello,Russell Johnson, Bradford Dillman,Arthur O'Connell,Yvonne De Carlo,Jack Lord,Bruce Dern, Ricardo Montalban,James Coburn,Agnes Moorehead,Edgar Bergen,Dabbs Greer,Julie Newmar,Ellen Burstyn all the way to Fabian to name a few.

Even Lucille Ball appeared in the episode "Lady In Limbo"(12-10-1963) with special guest star Robert F. Simon. The final episode of the series featured Joan Blondell along with Joe E. Brown,and the great Buster Keaton in the episode "You're All Right Ivy"(4-28-1964).

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