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The Mike Douglas Show was an American daytime television talk show that was hosted by Mike Douglas. It began as a local program in Cleveland before being carried on other stations owned by Westinghouse Broadcasting. The show went into national syndication and was moved to Philadelphia in 1965. The program remained on television until 1981. It was distributed by Westinghouse Broadcasting, and for much of its run, originated from studios at two of the company’s TV stations in Cleveland and Philadelphia.
The Mike Douglas Show premiered on KYW-TV in Cleveland on December 11, 1961, and featured a mix of light banter with guests and musical performances, along with more serious interviews with prominent newsmakers. Local entertainment shows were popular in the early days of television. Joining Douglas as part of the everyday lineup was the Ellie Frankel Trio, a local jazz group. Instead of an opening comedic monologue (as was the case with The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, for example), Douglas, given his vocalist background, would begin each show by singing a popular song for the audience. Each week would have a different co-host who would appear every day with Douglas.
The inevitable growing pains of a new program were evident during the first week of shows, when the scheduled co-host, Irish singer Carmel Quinn, missed the first two shows due to a scheduling conflict in New York. In addition, faulty microphones on the inaugural broadcast were coupled with equally problematic chairs that caused a pair of guests to fall off stage.
Some moments of controversy developed in the opening months, including a guest’s satirical look at First Lady Jacqueline Kennedy’s televised tour of the White House that was criticized for bad taste, and a look at censorship that was to involve the reading of selections from books such as Lady Chatterley’s Lover and Tropic of Cancer. The show was postponed until a representative for banning such books could be found.
In February 1963, singer Barbra Streisand was the show’s co-host. During that week, she was performing in a local strip club, and was asked by the club owner to promote her appearances on The Mike Douglas Show each day. The reason given was that Cleveland newspapers were in the midst of a lengthy labor strike, preventing any consistent advertising. Douglas later said that the station erased the videotapes of Streisand’s appearance, as most early television programs did, in order to re-use them for station editorials.
Just a few months later, Douglas had atheist Madalyn Murray as a guest, three days after the U.S. Supreme Court had ruled in her favor in the Abington School District v. Schempp case, which banned mandatory Bible reading in public schools.
In September 1963, The Mike Douglas Show was syndicated to four other television stations owned by Westinghouse: KDKA-TV in Pittsburgh, WBZ-TV in Boston, WJZ-TV in Baltimore and KPIX in San Francisco. Less than one year later, the show had expanded to a total of 27 cities.
On November 22, 1963, Douglas was speaking with Federal Housing Administrator Robert C. Weaver, when station newscaster John Dancy interrupted the live broadcast by walking through the audience in order to give the first reports of the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. The show soon ended as NBC began its four-day coverage of the tragedy.
On July 23, 1964, comedian Henry Morgan made a brief appearance at the start of the show, but later walked out when Douglas was interviewing Dr. Sam Sheppard, who had been released from prison one week earlier.
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