Confession (TV series)
|Genre||Crime/Drama Reality show|
|Country of origin||USA|
|No. of seasons||1|
|No. of episodes||ca. 30|
|Location(s)||Dallas, Texas at WFAA-TV studios|
|Cinematography||Black and white|
|Running time||30 minutes|
|Original run||June 19, 1958 – January 13, 1959|
|Preceded by||Naked City (9:30 p.m. Eastern)|
|Followed by||John Daly and the News (10:30 Eastern)|
Confession is a short-lived ABC crime/police documentary which aired from June 19, 1958, to January 13, 1959, with interviewer Jack Wyatt questioning criminals from assorted backgrounds. The program was carried by videotape from WFAA-TV, the network affiliate in Dallas, Texas, the first station to report the assassination of U.S. President John F. Kennedy.
Episode about the transvestite
Criminals contacted included prostitutes, drug abusers, sex offenders, and murderers. A 22-year-old transvestite named Darrell Wayne Kahler was interviewed late in 1957, when the program was local in scope, ran late on Sunday evenings on WFAA, and had not yet joined the ABC schedule. According to a news article in Time magazine, on December 30, 1957, Kahler was supplied to Confession by the police, who had arrested him as a drunken woman being molested by three men. The officers did not discover his sex until he reached the station house. The police permitted Kahler to get into a cocktail dress for a filmed re-enactment of his arrest. Wyatt used the film and then placed the camera on Kahler in a jail uniform behind bars.
In a contralto voice, Kahler said that he earned his living as a nightclub B girl. Kahler said that he had never known his father and that his mother had "a lot of marriages." He said that schoolmates had long taunted him and that he was a chain smoker who used large quantities of alcohol in despair. The program was shocking by the television standards of the 1950s.
Methodist minister Walter Underwood joined the program to say that his denomination does not condemn transvestites but offers "its sympathy, its help, its counsel." A psychiatrist, John C. Montgomery, said that Kahler's conditions "can be helped if it can be gotten to soon enough. He's been trying to be like his mother all his life. Physically, organically, there's no reason in the world why this should be. He has all the attributes of the male—except for the fact that he doesn't want to be." Montgomery said that the "problem can be laid at the parents' doorstep."
As Kahler returned to jail on a vagrancy conviction, calls flooded the WFAA switchboard. One caller declared the transvestite episode a "disgrace," but 80 percent of the callers favored keeping Confession on the air. The case became public enough to make ABC pick the program nationally late in the spring of 1958.
After each interview, as with Kahler, Wyatt (1917–2008) discussed each case with a clergyman, psychiatrist or psychologist, an attorney, and a sociologist or a penologist. The program attempted to determine the root causes of crime and to recommend remediation for the offenders. At times, Wyatt said that the "authorities tell me that we've actually helped criminals change their ways."
Before he relocated to Dallas in 1954, Wyatt had been an advertising executive on Madison Avenue in New York City. A native of Kansas City, Missouri, Wyatt was reared in Forest Hills in the borough of Queens, New York. At the age of fifty, Wyatt began studying for the Episcopalian priesthood. He died of cancer at the age of ninety at his home in the resort city of Rockport in Aransas County on the Texas Gulf Coast.
Confession began as a summer replacement series for The West Point Story and was retained by ABC during the first half of the 1958-1959 schedule. It aired on Tuesday evenings opposite the first season of the revamped The Garry Moore Show on CBS and the second season of the drama series with a western setting, The Californians. Confession also appeared at times as a filler program on Thursday evenings opposite You Bet Your Life, hosted by Groucho Marx. Confession was replaced at mid-season by a paranormal anthology series, Alcoa Presents: One Step Beyond. Confession followed the half-hour version of the Naked City police drama on ABC and preceded John Daly and the News.
- Alex McNeil, Total Television (New York: Penguin Books, 1996), p. 178
- Hal Erickson, Encyclopedia of Television Law Shows: Factual and Fictional Series about Judges, Lawyers and the Courtroom, 1948-2008. Jefferson, North Carolina: McFarland and Company, Inc., 2009. Retrieved December 5, 2010.
- "Television: Confession, December 30, 1957". Time. December 30, 1957. Retrieved December 7, 2010.
- "The Rev. John "Jack" Francis Minford Wyatt, Adman Hosted Local TV's 'Confession' Prior to Priesthood". dentonrc.com. Retrieved December 8, 2010.
- McNeil, Total Television, appendix