The 1958–59 United States network television schedule was for the period that began in September 1958 and ran through March 1959.
According to television historians Castleman and Podrazik (1982), the networks' schedules were thrown "into complete chaos" by the quiz show scandals that erupted during fall 1958. At first only one series, Dotto, was implicated in the game-fixing charges. Ed Hilgemeier, a contestant on the program, filed a complaint with the show's sponsor, Colgate-Palmolive. Colgate withdrew its sponsorship of the Tuesday evening (on NBC) and daytime (on CBS) versions of Dotto, and the show did not appear on either network's fall 1958 schedule.
The $64,000 Challenge (on CBS) similarly did not appear that fall, and by November, The $64,000 Question (CBS) and Twenty One (NBC) were also removed from the network schedules, amidst accusations of game rigging. According to Castleman and Podrazik, "NBC and CBS were adamant in their own statements of innocence" since they only aired, and did not produce, the rigged series. They also claimed the cancellations were due to low ratings, not because of game-fixing accusations. ABC had few game shows on its 1958–59 schedule, and "eagerly pointed out" its innocence in the quiz show mess. The network affirmed its commitment to Westerns, which could not be rigged.
Western TV series continued to be very popular with audiences, and for the first time, the three highest-rated programs on television, CBS's Gunsmoke, NBC's Wagon Train, and CBS's Have Gun – Will Travel, were all Westerns. ABC's new series, The Rifleman even hit #4, quite a feat for a network which had had no series in the top 30 five years earlier.
Although ABC, CBS, and NBC remained the largest television networks in the United States, they were not the only companies operating television networks during this era. In May 1958, Ely Landau, president of the NTA Film Network, announced an NTA Film Network schedule for the 1958–59 season. The schedule consisted of three and a half hours of programs on Friday nights: Man Without a Gun at 7:30, followed by This is Alice at 8:00, then How to Marry a Millionaire at 8:30, and Premiere Performance from 9:00 to 11:00. Although the NTA Film Network had over 100 affiliate stations, only 17 agreed to air the Friday night schedule "in pattern" (during the scheduled time). Other NTA Network affiliates carried the network's programs whenever they had available slots, and outside of Gun, Alice, Millionaire and Performance, NTA's programs were aired whenever the local stations preferred. National Educational Television (NET), the predecessor to PBS founded in 1952, also allowed its affiliate stations to air programs out of pattern.
All times are Eastern and Pacific. New fall series are highlighted in bold.
Richard Diamond, Private Detective, starring David Janssen, returned after a seven-month absence for a third season, the episodes of which aired on the CBS Sunday schedule from February 15 to June 21, 1959, at 10 p.m. Eastern in the former time slot for The $64,000 Question, which was suddenly cancelled in November 1958 at the height of the quiz show scandals.
^ abCastleman, Harry; Walter J. Podrazik (1982). Watching TV: Four Decades of American Television. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 124–129. ISBN0-07-010269-4.
^ abHighest-rated series is based on the annual top-rated programs list compiled by Nielsen Media Research and reported in: Brooks, Tim & Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows (9th ed.). New York: Ballantine. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4.
^Kleiner, Dick (1958-05-03). "Thin Man Mystery Show May Add Baby to Cast". The Lima News. p. 19.
McNeil, Alex. Total Television. Fourth edition. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-024916-8.
Brooks, Tim & Marsh, Earle (1964). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows (3rd ed.). New York: Ballantine. ISBN 0-345-31864-1.