Today, 7th January, marks the 51st Anniversary of the debut of The Sammy Davis, Jr. Show. Hosting his own show was to be a career highlight for Sammy Davis, Jr. – he loved television, and over the course of his career he made hundreds of appearances in variety shows, dramas and sitcoms (often playing a fictionalised version of himself due to his instant recognisability) across the world.
Four pages have now been completed on the four small-screen TV series that were specifically created as a vehicle for Sammy – none of which were overly successful, but all of which struggled for fascinatingly different reasons…
The fact that ABC shot a 30-minute sitcom pilot starring Sammy in 1954 is little-known today, but it was a barrier-breaking achievement for an African American in its day. Advertisers in the South, however, meant the show would never see the light of day.
The Sammy Davis, Jr. Show in 1966 would see Sammy become the first African American host of an hour-long network TV series. But the show was dealt a cruel blow due to a contract dispute between rival networks ABC and NBC, which ultimately led to one of the oddest opening four episodes of a TV series ever, and crippled the show’s chance for success.
1973’s Sammy Davis Starring In NBC Follies put Sammy firmly in the spotlight … but just as the traditional variety entertainment TV show was dying. Ironically, Sammy’s mid-1970s talk show Sammy & Company (which aired for three seasons) was the most successful TV venture of his career, yet probably did the most damage in cementing an unfortunate caricature of him as a showbiz phoney in the consciousness of America.
Enjoy reading the curious histories of these television milestones in Sammy’s career!