(Photo source: JustWatch)
Next Wednesday, October 28, will mark the 70th anniversary of the premiere of The Jack Benny Program. To celebrate, free over-the-air channel Antenna TV will host a 70-episode, 35-hour marathon, from 10 am ET tomorrow to 9 pm ET Sunday.
The comedy/variety series ran for 260 half-hour episodes over 15 seasons, the first 14 on CBS, the last on NBC. It picked up several Emmy Awards along the way for both Benny and the show as a whole.
Benny was a brilliant comedian, almost always playing himself as a perpetually 39-year-old tightwad. He was known for his impeccable timing and pregnant pauses, as heard in this audio of his most famous bit:
With Benny always on his game, his guest stars may well be the reason to watch particular episodes.
Here are some of particular interest this weekend, and beyond:
7:30 pm ET: George Burns introduces Ann-Margret to a national television audience. (original air date: 4/2/61)
10:30 pm: Benny dreams that Raymond Burr (Perry Mason) is his lawyer. (11/5/61)
4:30 am: Benny and Carol Burnett play Tarzan and Jane. (11/13/62)
8:30 am: Sex symbol Jayne Mansfield takes a cruise with Benny (11/26/63).
Not airing this weekend is the season four opener (9/13/1953), where Marilyn Monroe, in her first TV appearance, is on a cruise with Jack. But you can watch it here:
9:30 am: Johnny Carson sings, dances and does magic (10/22/63)
11 am: Another lawyer episode, this time with Ed Sullivan and Benny playing opposing attorneys (11/5/63)
For fans of folk music trios: Peter, Paul and Mary at 1 pm and The Kingston Trio at 7 pm (1/14/64, 1/29/65)
For fans of folk music comedian duos: The Smothers Brothers at 7:30 pm (4/16/65)
For fans of other comedy royalty: Bob Hope visits at 5 pm, following by Lucille Ball at 5:30 pm (10/23/64, 10/2/64)
For fans of great actors, we present a very funny episode with Humphrey Bogart, from 10/25/63, not airing this weekend:
For fans of great singers: Bobby Darin at 2 pm, followed by Nat King Cole at 2:30, in his last TV appearance before his untimely death (1/28/64, 1/21/64)
You can see the complete Antenna TV marathon schedule at antenna.tv.
And here, also not on Antenna TV’s weekend schedule, from 70 years ago, March 28, 1950, is the very first episode of what was then called The Jack Benny Show (warning: it starts with a three-minute, semi-musical, somewhat-Halloween-themed, cigarette commercial)
Many other episodes of The Jack Benny Program, especially those from the ‘50s, are also in the public domain and thus easily streamable for free via YouTube or a Google video search.
Antenna TV normally airs The Jack Benny Program Saturdays at 2 am. To find Antenna TV’s channel number in your area – either over-the-air or on cable — visit the Antenna TV Channel Finder.
Once Benny’s series ended, he turned to hour-long specials in color. Here’s a segment from the first one, The Jack Benny Hour (NBC, 11/3/65), featuring Bob Hope and The Beach Boys:
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