Every Saturday, The Savvy Screener’s Boomer Box is counting down “The 50 Greatest Television Episodes of the 1960s,” in reverse chronological order, as researched and written by Todd M. Pence. (This series ran originally in the Classic 1960’s TV Facebook group.)
One of the most exemplary of the fine crop of television programs which made their debuts in the fall of 1963 was NBC’s Mr. Novak, a high school-centered drama starring James Franciscus as an idealistic young English teacher. Although it never got the ratings to keep it on the air for more than two seasons the show gained recognition both among television critics and real-life professional educators for its realism.
During its run, Mr. Novak dealt uncompromisingly with hotbed issues such as drug use, teen pregnancy, racial strife, and student-teacher relationships. Decades after Mr. Novak went off the air, teen dramas were taking credit for being the first to deal with themes that this program had already pioneered.
One of the most notable of many excellent episodes aired early in the show’s second season, on September 29, 1964. “With a Hammer in His Hand, Lord, Lord!” featured Simon Oakland as a strict shop teacher who comes into conflict with a headstrong student (Tim McIntire). The confrontation leads to a violent attack upon the teacher.
Gene Roddenberry was so impressed with this episode that he sought out its writer, John D.F. Black, and convinced him to be the story editor for the new science fiction series he was putting together. The segment also has another connection with Star Trek: one of the guest stars was a young Walter Koenig, later to play the role of Ensign Chekov.
Mr. Novak, although almost never rerun in the decades since its initial run, nonetheless continues to be fondly remembered, as a recent book about the series [Mr. Novak: An Acclaimed Television Series by Chuck Harter, 2017] was published and the first season was released on DVD. Sadly, it does not appear that a season two DVD will ever see the light of day.
(Top photo: James Franciscus and Dean Jagger in ‘Mr. Novak.’ Source: Wikimedia Commons)
- ‘Mr. Novak’: 1960s’ #28 - July 17, 2021
- James Drury’s ‘Virginian’ - July 10, 2021
- Peter Fonda’s 1964 ’High’ - July 3, 2021
- #31: ‘The Outer Limits’ - June 26, 2021
- The Fugitive’s ‘Survivors’ - June 19, 2021
- Slattery’s People ‘Unborn’ - June 12, 2021
- Rod Serling’s ‘The Loner’ - June 5, 2021
- 1960s’ #36: ‘Combat!’ - May 22, 2021
- ‘60s #37: ‘The Time Tunnel’ - May 15, 2021
- #38: ‘Mission: Impossible’ - May 8, 2021