Tuesday, August 14, 2018

“Mr. Ed”: Of Course, Of Course

Having figured out a way to bring a talking horse to television without attracting the ire of Universal Pictures, Arthur Lubin began taking his George Burns produced Mister Ed pilot to the networks. Would they be as optimistic about the show’s viability as he was?

Of course, they would not. Mr. Lubin had put so much effort behind this show that he wasn’t willing to take no for an answer. Taking some of the notes he had received from the networks, he re-cast Wilbur and reshot the pilot with new new actor: Alan Young. This time, he teamed up with Filmways Productions and sought to produce the show in syndication.

A syndicated television show has to be sold town to town, which can be quite a daunting challenge. A network show only has to be sold once - to the television network - which then requires its affiliates to air the show. With no such backing, Filmways had to find enough stations across the country that would be willing to carry the show to make its production worthwhile. Arthur Lubin personally took on this challenge, selling Mister Ed to local stations himself. The gambit worked and Mister Ed premiered in 1961.

The show was a huge success, proving Arthur Lubin correct. The show’s seemingly instant success prompted CBS to make a rare decision- it was picking up Mister Ed’s second season. Most of the time, shows go from network television to syndication. This amazing horse would do the opposite- a huge sign of its initial success.