As I noted last year, Knoxville TV screens did not get to see the adventures of Captain Kirk, Mr. Spock and the USS Enterprise in its maiden voyages on the NBC Television Network. The program director at WATE (then the NBC affiliate) did not think Star Trek would do well on Knoxville TV screens. They opted instead to show reruns of Rawhide, a very popular western. Like a lot of things, times change, and in this case, one year might have made a difference.
It’s well documented that Star Trek barely staved off cancellation in the first place. NBC itself was inundated with letters begging for the show to be renewed. The network made it official on March 2nd, 1967 during the closing credits of “The Devil in the Dark” with a voiceover informing viewers that the show would continue to be seen on NBC, and to stop writing letters. Naturally, viewers wrote more letters thanking the network for renewing their favorite show.
I wonder if anyone wrote letters to WATE asking for the show. I think I can comfortably assume that there might have been some, but not enough to change anything. Certainly there were protests that WATE was not carrying The Monkees, since WATE started carrying that program in February 1967. That is an unsurprising turn of events in regards to that show, given the overall pop culture phenomenon that that group carried.
A surprising thing to point out is that the Rawhide reruns that were shown in place of Trek during 1966-67 were not shelved, but moved to Tuesday night, covering up another show, I Dream of Jeannie. This is interesting, given that the show was very popular with most audiences, it lasted until the conclusion of the 1969-70 season.
Unfortunately, the true answers are lost to time. Nobody thought to ask the local programming executive at any point in time what they thought about Star Trek and why they didn’t think it would work in this market at the time it debuted. One thing is for certain, however, when it debuted, TV in Knoxville would never be the same. I do have evidence to back this claim up, kids. But that story will be for another day. 🙂