Today in ’60: The Tab Hunter Show Debuts

Wednesday, September 18, 2019
This Day in Music

59 years ago today, The Tab Hunter Show made its debut as part of NBC’s new fall lineup for the 1960-1961 TV season, and if you’re wondering why this is relevant enough to warrant a post on, well, you clearly aren’t aware of his brief stint as a recording artist!

But we’ll get to that. First, let’s talk about Tab on TV!

Produced and directed by Norman Tokar, who would go onto his greatest fame as a director of live-action Disney films in the ‘60s and ‘70s (he helmed such classic kid flicks as The Ugly Dachshund, The Apple Dumpling Gang, and The Cat from Outer Space), The Tab Hunter Show was an odd move for Hunter, who’d forged a career as a matinee idol in the late ‘50s, an era when moving from movies to TV was seen as a step backwards. In Hunter’s eyes, however, it was an opportunity to actually get a chance to act, since the series found him playing a cartoonist whose comic strip echoed the goings-on in his real life.

“To a motion picture studio you’re just a commodity,” Hunter explained to the Herald Tribune News Service in June 1960. “They have gardens of such and so there and great looking tomatoes there, and so forth. But you have no identity as a person. Television gave me an opportunity to act. I worked hard, not asking audiences to like my work. All I want is for them to say, ‘By Heavens, the kid’s improved.’ If they keep watching long enough, and I keep improving, I may make it.”

Maybe the 33rd episode would’ve made the difference, but as history reveals, The Tab Hunter Show got the axe after its 32-episode first season. Even more unfortunately, Hunter’s music career was also on the skids by then, but at least he was able to look back at the success he’d had on the charts in the late ‘50s, including three top-40 hits: “(I’ll Be with You) In Apple Blossom Time” (#31), “Ninety-Nine Ways” (#11), and his chart-topping smash, “Young Love.”

We’ve put together a playlist which features the three albums Hunter recorded for Warner Brothers back in the day, so you can see what all the fuss was about, and if you’re curious about The Tab Hunter Show, you’re in luck: someone was kind enough to upload an episode of the show for your viewing enjoyment.