Excuse the CBS pun, but the limos were lined up as far as the Eye could see Sunday, Nov. 2 outside New York's Manhattan Center auditorium, where the network staged its live three-hour prime time special, CBS at 75. The place was jam-packed with celebrities, executives, agents and other industry folk on hand to celebrate the network's glorious past.
Naturally, the network's aim was to accentuate the positive, which it did in fine fashion. The network didn't put this show on to talk about miscues like The Reagans, which the network pulled from its November sweeps schedule two days later (see story, page 1). But it did feature an acknowledgement of one wrongdoing: its 1969 cancellation of The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
because the comedians aired anti-Vietnam war sketches at a time when the nation was brutally divided on the conflict. Tom and Dick Smothers appeared, and it was as if both the network and the performers were there to bury the hatchet.
Stars from six decades of programming were represented at the gala, including Jon Provost from the 1950s Lassie; Martin Landau from the 1960s Mission Impossible; Carol Burnett from the 1970s Carol Burnett Show; John Schneider and Tom Wopat (who did a well-received medley of CBS show theme songs) from the 1980s Dukes of Hazard; Jane Seymour from the 1990s Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman; and Ray Romano and Kevin James from current series Everybody Loves Raymond and King of Queens, respectively.
Bob Newhart and Suzanne Pleshette (The Bob Newhart Show) were on hand, featured in the show doing a bit on stage and (of course) in bed.
The special was first in its time period, drawing an average 18.2 million viewers tuning in over the three hours. It was also first among the network's target demographic, 25-54. Artist Peter Max designed an original graphic for the show.
The studio crowd gave two standing ovations during the program, and it was the newsies who got them. The first came when CBS Evening News anchor Dan Rather and predecessor Walter Cronkite took center stage to say a few words. The second came a short time later when the entire gang of CBS news talent went on stage to take a bow.