As everyone knows, “Star Trek” premiered on NBC on September 8th, 1966. One might assume that the show debuted on stations from coast to coast. However, as I recently discovered, that was not the case… at least in my current city of residence, Knoxville, Tennessee.
Above are portions of an article that appeared in the Knoxville News-Sentinel on August 28, 1966. The article was looking ahead to the new NBC shows on WATE-TV 6, at the time Knoxville’s NBC affiliate. As you see above, the station’s program director at the time, John Reese, passed on “Star Trek” for the Knoxville market. The Sentinel’s writer, Frank Weirich, didn’t think much of the show either, calling it a “far-out space thing.” As you can also see, WATE also passed on “a bit of nonsense” called “The Monkees.” (Davy Jones and gang finally did appear on Knoxville screens starting on February 6th, 1967 for the final 8 shows of their first season.)
In hindsight it’s easy to see why both of these programming decisions could be lauded as terrible. However, when you look at the demographics of Knoxville at that time, you can see why the decision was made. To further prove that point, here is what they aired instead:
Instead, they aired the popular western series “Rawhide,” which aired on CBS from September 1959 to December 1965. Westerns were very popular with TV audiences, and I can gather from this decision that Reese felt more confident that Rawhide would do better against the other programs, “My Three Sons” and the first 30 minutes of the Thursday Night Movie on WBIR (CBS) and “The Tammy Grimes Show” (which was cancelled after four weeks) and “Bewitched” on WTVK (ABC).
Things would change for the fate of “Star Trek” on Knoxville TV screens. That story, however, is for another day.