The Jerry Lewis Show

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The Jerry Lewis Show
Jerry Lewis Judy Carne Jerrry Lewis Show 1968.JPG
GenreVariety, talk, comedy
Created byElton Rule (original version)
Bob Finkel (NBC version)
Directed byJohn Dorsey
Jack Shea
Arthur Forrest
StarringJerry Lewis
Narrated byDel Moore
Charlie Callas (1984)
Theme music composerCharlie Chaplin
Opening theme"Smile"
Ending theme"Smile"
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of episodes13 (ABC version)
45 (NBC version)
5 (1984 version)
63 (total)
Executive producer(s)Ernest D. Glucksman
Producer(s)Perry Cross
Production location(s)ABC Vine Street Theatre
Running time120 minutes (ABC version)
60 minutes (NBC version)
60 minutes (syndicated version)
Original networkABC (1963)
NBC (1967-1969)
Syndication (1984)
Original releaseFirst Version
September 21, 1963 (1963-09-21) – December 21, 1963 (1963-12-21)
Second Version
September 12, 1967 (1967-09-12) – May 27, 1969 (1969-05-27)
Third Version
June 11, 1984 (1984-06-11) –
June 15, 1984 (1984-06-15)

The Jerry Lewis Show was the name of several separate but similar American variety, talk and comedy programs starring comedian Jerry Lewis that aired non-consecutively between September 21, 1963 – 1984. The original version of the series aired on ABC from September 21, 1963–December 21, 1963.[1][2] A second series of the same name aired on NBC from September 12, 1967–May 27, 1969.[3][4] A final version also of the same name aired in first-run syndication for one week in June 1984.

Show origins[edit]

Martin and Lewis[edit]

Before The Jerry Lewis Show premiered in 1963, Lewis made several films and television appearances, notably as host on The Colgate Comedy Hour, with vocalist Dean Martin as the duo of "Martin and Lewis", first formed in July 1946. In 1956, after 17 films, a radio series , 29 Colgate shows and many night club appearances, they parted ways bitterly.[5] Both Martin and Lewis continued as successful, but separate superstars. Between 1957 and 1962, Lewis headlined several well received solo specials for the NBC and ABC networks. "The Jerry Lewis Show" was the comedian's first foray into weekly television. Lewis had been a substitute host of The Tonight Show for two weeks after Jack Paar quit the show and before Johnny Carson took over, in 1962. Lewis' stint was successful, garnering huge ratings for the time period and a bidding war between the networks for his services as a talk show host. ABC gave him everything he asked for, including two hours live every Saturday night.

Renovation of the El Capitan[edit]

In 1963, the American Broadcasting Company, (ABC), purchased the Hollywood and Vine Street Theatre, also known as the El Capitan Theatre (not to be confused with the present-day El Capitan Theatre). The theater had been used in previous years for broadcast radio shows for the Mutual Broadcasting System. ABC decided to renovate the theater so to be used for several ABC television shows. The entire theater was renovated at a cost of $400,000.[6][7]

Promotion of Elton Rule[edit]

The same year of the renovation, ABC decided to promote Elton Rule to head of the network. Rule had previously worked as general manager of programming for ABC's Los Angeles affiliate KABC. Rule and other executives at ABC hired comedian Jerry Lewis to do a show for the network and videotape it at the newly renovated theater.[8]

ABC version[edit]

The first version of The Jerry Lewis Show premiered on Saturday September 21, 1963 on ABC. Before the series premiere, ABC gave Lewis $4.5 million to renovate the stage even after the $400,000 renovation done to the whole theater just months before. That was also part of the contract used to get Lewis to do the show. The other, main part of the contract, had Lewis agree to film 40 episodes for the network in exchange for $8 million, making Lewis, at the time, the highest paid television actor in history.[8] The first episode, broadcast live, became a disaster as most of the new equipment failed, making a shambles of the proceedings. The opening night served as an omen; Lewis remained unable to find his footing as a 2-hour live talk show host during the ensuing weeks.

JFK assassination and cancellation[edit]

On November 22, 1963, President John F. Kennedy was assassinated while riding in a motorcade in Dallas, Texas. Network news coverage of the assassination and the events that followed pre-empted all scheduled programing between the afternoon of the 22nd and the late evening of the 25th. All series, specials and sporting events were delayed, put on hiatus or cancelled. Episodes of competing series on CBS, The New Phil Silvers Show and Gunsmoke were delayed until January and April 1964, respectively. The NBC Saturday Night Movie was also delayed until January 1964. The Jerry Lewis Show scheduled for the 23rd was suspended and did not return until early December. Its final episode, the thirteenth of the promised forty, aired on December 21, 1963.[9][10]

NBC version[edit]

Director and producer Bob Finkel decided to revise The Jerry Lewis Show nearly four years after the original ABC version ended its run.[11] A revision of the series premiered on NBC on September 12, 1967 with guest Barbara Eden.[12]

NBC introduced the show in the Tuesday 8:00 pm time slot. Lewis was given access to the Osmond Brothers, featured musicians on the recently-ended The Andy Williams Show, as regular performers.[13] The 60 minute program continuously lost viewers at the half-hour point to The Red Skelton Show, ranked #7 on CBS and #28 rated It Takes a Thief on ABC. The following September as the series entered its second season, NBC decided to switch time slots with I Dream of Jeannie which starred Eden, but the 7:30 pm time slot was not successful either. Jeannie moved to Mondays and finished #26 in the Nielsen ratings, while Lewis lost his potential viewers to The Mod Squad on ABC. NBC cancelled the program, airing its last episode on May 27, 1969.[14]

Syndicated version[edit]

Alan Thicke created his own late night talk show to compete against NBC's highly rated The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. The series, entitled Thicke of the Night, was syndicated and only ran for one season before being crushed by Carson and cancelled in June 1984. Needing a replacement program, series distributor Metromedia gave Lewis an on-air tryout in Thicke's former slot. During the week of June 11, 1984, Lewis hosted The Jerry Lewis Show, with Charlie Callas as Lewis' announcer/sidekick.[15][16] The show failed to attract audiences, and even with guests including Frank Sinatra, it still was not enough to keep viewers watching beyond its one-week trial run and ended after its June 15 episode.[17]

Broadcast history[edit]

Season Time
1963–64 Saturday at 9:30-11:30 PM on ABC
1967–68 Tuesday at 8:00-9:00 PM on NBC
1968–69 Tuesday at 7:30-8:30 PM on NBC

The syndicated version aired after the 11:00 local news.[18]


Neither the ABC or the NBC version of the series ever made it in the top 30.[19][20][21]


  1. ^ "The Nostalgia Collection: Jerry Lewis - The Jerry Lewis Show". Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  2. ^
  3. ^ "The Jerry Lewis Show". Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  4. ^
  5. ^ Everybody Loves Somebody Sometime (Especially Himself): The Story of Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis by Arthur Marx, New York, NY: Hawthorn Books, 1974, ISBN 9780801524301
  6. ^
  7. ^ "The Jerry Lewis Show Sept 1963 - Dec 1963". Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  8. ^ a b Williams, Gregory Paul (2005). The Story of Hollywood:An Illustrated History. p. 319. ISBN 0977629902. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  9. ^ "What America Didn't Watch – Part Two: Saturday, November 23, 1963". Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  10. ^ "JERRY LEWIS SHOW, THE (1963, ABC)". Archive of American Television. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  11. ^ "JERRY LEWIS SHOW, THE (1967-69, NBC)". Archive of American Television. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  12. ^ "The Jerry Lewis Show Season 1". Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  13. ^ "History". Archived from the original on 2016-03-20. Retrieved 2011-08-07.
  14. ^ "Classic Variety Show Blogathon: The Jerry Lewis Show". Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  15. ^ O'Connor, John J. (June 13, 1984). "TV Review: Jerry Lewis Talk Show". The New York Times. p. C26. Retrieved 2020-05-13.
  16. ^ Timberg, Bernard M.; Erler, Robert J. (January 1, 2010). Television Talk: A History of the TV Talk Show. University of Texas Press. p. 254. ISBN 9780292773660. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  17. ^ The Jerry Lewis Show at
  18. ^ Inman, David M. (November 16, 2005). Television Variety Shows: Histories and Episode Guides to 57 Programs. McFarland. p. 165. ISBN 9781476608778. Retrieved March 29, 2015.
  19. ^ TV Ratings: 1963-1964
  20. ^ TV Ratings: 1967-1968
  21. ^ TV Ratings: 1968-1969

External links[edit]