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  • I like to comment on obscure or somewhat forgotten t.v. shows. This is no exception, judging by the dearth of comments on this particular show.

    Jack Palance as leading man and not villain. Who'da thunk? But, he was a good one in this show. Palance plays Johnny Slate, Circus Director for the Barnum and Bailey Circus.

    The show focused on individuals in the circus and the drama that surrounded their lives.

    Slate was ever-ready to jump in and help, kibitz, guide, etc., while running the circus. I seem to remember a lot about Slate supervising putting up the tents and taking them down. Also, loading up the train and moving on to the next town.

    Mostly, I remember enjoying the acts that were featured - lion-taming acts, trapeze acts, etc.

    It was a good enough series but short lived. It introduced Jack Palance to t.v. audiences as a likable character - in deference to most people's recall of the actor, the evil Jack Wilson, gunslinger baddie from Shane.
  • "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).
  • Director Ralph Senensky mentions a directing assignment to this series on Senensky.com under The Nurses "Interne Syndrome" episode - Ralph does not state which episode of The Greatest Show On Earth he directed but noted that for the first few days he was forced to shoot scenes without Jack Palance as Jack was out doing publicity for the show - the scenes were filmed w/a stand-in for Jack and Jack's coverage later shot and edited in. Ralph Senesky's website is a primer on television directing - the full description of his The Greatest Show On Earth episode has not been written, it possibly might not have been a good experience for him. It is a shame as I recall seeing this series on television when I was a kid and have never seen re-runs.
  • Desilu produced The Greatest Show on Earth shown on ABC and starring Jack Palance. This show was produced in color, ( most shows of that era were still done in black and white), In order to jump the ratings, Lucille Ball even guest starred in the series in a rare dramatic performance. However the show was not renewed for a 2nd year much to Ms. Ball's dismay. Lucille Ball even promised the sponsor of the show, Kaiser, that she would take her own successful Lucy Show off the air on CBS so she could devote all of her time to The Greatest Show On Earth. Lucille Ball, CEO of Desilu, was quoted as saying "Jack Palance will never work here again and you may quote me"