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Monday, December 17, 2018

A Ray Bradbury Christmas!

( Watch Steve Canyon "The Gift" early-early morning Wednesday December 19th 2018 on DECADES TV! )

Dean Fredericks as Steve Canyon.
Saturday December 20th 1958 marked the only Christmas network airing of Ray Bradbury's Steve Canyon teleplay THE GIFT. In fact it was the ONLY airing of this episode in the US until Decades TV ran it this past June 7th.  Early morning Wednesday December 19th Decades TV will air it once again for the first holiday airing of this Christmas episode in nearly 60 years to the day. As promised, here's some background on this unique story.

Ray Bradbury.
Ray Bradbury's THE GIFT began life as a science fiction short story that appeared in the December 1952 issue of ESQUIRE Magazine. It has been reprinted many times over the years since, most notably in the Bradbury anthology R IS FOR ROCKET (1st printing by Doubleday 1960), and has been translated into French, Italian, German, Romanian and Dutch.

Steve Canyon Story Editor Sidney Carroll.
Bradbury told me in 2006 that he did it as a favor for his friend, Sidney Carroll (Steve Canyon Story Editor), who thought it could be adapted for the TV series as their "Christmas episode".

Cover of the first printing of Bradbury's anthology in 1952 with Carroll's short story.
Carroll had written short story called "None Before Me" which which impressed Ray Bradbury so much he included in his 1952 anthology "Timeless Stories for Today and Tomorrow". It describes a lonely miser who becomes fascinated by a lavish dollhouse. Bradbury's book is an anthology of fantasy stories, and it is only in the last sentence that Carroll's story turns to fantasy, with rather startling result.

Cover of Bradbury's script with the "1968" typo.
Carroll wrote an outline for Bradbury adapting "The Gift" short story to fit the Steve Canyon TV series format, and Bradbury turned in a 35 page teleplay on September 26, 1958 (mis-typed on the cover by the Steve Canyon typist/secretary as September 26, 1968). This was too long for a half-hour show, and although Bradbury probably performed a shorter second draft, the final shooting script was undoubtedly polished by Sid Carroll and turned in on October 23rd, 1958...nearly a week before shooting commenced on Wednesday October 29th.

First page of the revised shooting script for THE GIFT.
Most of the Steve Canyon episodes had only one day of rehearsal, which was customary for half-hour network shows, but curiously The Gift had two. It appears that something wasn't working out that day (Monday, October 27th) with the child-actress that had been cast, as the daily production report page notes (besides the "Child Welfare Worker" and "School from 9am to 12pm") that, "Above child-actress was re-cast as of this date."

Barbara Beaird and Dean Fredericks in a publicity shot from THE GIFT.
Barbara Beaird was then cast as "Lisa Serenko", and following that rehearsal day (with Director Don Taylor and cast members Dean Fredericks, Sean McClory, Celia Lovsky, Trudi Ziskind, Wendy Stuart, Frank Nehez, Lillian Adams and William Bryant) began filming the next day, Wednesday October 29, for 3 days, ending on Friday October 31st. Shooting that had been every week since Monday July 14 would stop for two weeks to "re-tool the series" and not begin again until Friday November 14th (with the 17th episode "Operation Big Thunder").

Exterior scene from THE GIFT, shot Thursday October 30, 1958, Universal Studios. Left to right, Sean McClory, Celia Lovsky, Barbara Beaird and Dean Fredericks.
Not long after, Producer David Haft commented in a letter to Canyon-creator Milton Caniff that he had a funny feeling that at some point during the season the Air Force, advertising agency and the show's sponsor got together, and said "Let's teach Haft the television business", and had apparently done so. The remaining half of the series' shows would be very different in content (in an attempt to make it more like Caniff's comic strip and to not upset the aerospace industry, test pilots. etc). More about this in a future post.

Producer David Haft with Steve Canyon creator Milton Caniff during Caniff's visit to Universal Studios at the end of June 1958, about 2 weeks before shooting commenced on the TV series on July 14th.
Barbara Beaird apparently impressed sufficiently to warrant returning for a sequel episode (along with Celia Lovsky), "Iron Curtain", though not written by Bradbury. Beaird was later the voice of "Rolly" in "One Hundred And One Dalmatians" (1961, and Lovsky appeared as "T'Pau", the ruler of the planet Vulcan on Star Trek in 1967. William Bryant returned to Steve Canyon as "Kirby" (with a promotion to Captain) a few months later in the episode "Strike Force". More about that particular "peculiar" episode in a later post.

Barbara Beaird reprises her role as Lisa Serenko in a publicity photo taken during the filming of the 25th episode of Steve canyon, "Iron Curtain", on the Universal Studios "European Street" backlot on Thursday January 15, 1959.
Two and a half weeks after the episode aired on NBC, Ray Bradbury wrote a letter to Sid Carroll. In it he mentions "I'm sorry the stars didn't work out at the end". What that means is they didn't have the budget (or technical ability at the time) to create a shot that we would take for granted today. Here is the snippet of his script for you to compare to the end of the filmed episode:

Last page of the September 26th draft of Bradbury's script.
Here's Bradbury's letter to Sid Carroll, courtesy of my pal Matt Tauber, and be sure to visit his EXCELLENT Caniff/Comics blog at

Ray Bradbury's January 8th 1959 letter to Steve Canyon Story Editor Sid Carroll.
I previously reported that this episode played on NBC exactly 60 years ago to the day of this screening...well, I apologize for my "senior moment, I was one day off, it was on December 20th bad.

Art by Ren Wicks that appeared in the December 1952 Esquire magazine
illustrating the first printing of Ray Bradbury's "The Gift".
You can read Ray Bradbury's entire short story "The Gift" online here and here.

I had intended to post this yesterday (Sunday) but health issues intervened. I hope you get to watch Steve Canyon "The Gift" early Wednesday December 19th 2018 at 4am Eastern time (1am Pacific time) on Decades TV. Alternately "The Gift" can be seen uncut on our The Complete Steve Canyon On TV Volume 2 DVD available from us on our web-store here and via these links on eBay and Amazon.

Watch the Steve Canyon Christmas episode "The Gift" Wednesday December 19th at 4am Eastern time (1am Pacific time) on Decades TV's LOST TV.
Finally, though I knew Ray and Maggie Bradbury a bit, and had dinner with several them times and attended a social event with them years ago, my dear friend Patricia Rogers was also a dear friend to Ray and Maggie, and this post is dedicated to her.

Ray Bradbury and Patricia Rogers

John R. Ellis
Hollywood, CA

Sunday, December 02, 2018

Steve Canyon Returns to TV...Reminder!

Just a reminder to remember to set your DVR's...

For DECADES TV tomorrow, Tuesday December 4th at 4am eastern (or 1am pacific time if you are on the left coast) to record Steve's 2nd modern-day return to American Television, the second time since reruns ended this last July 7th 2018!

Dean Fredericks as Steve Canyon in OPERATION TOWLINE, the first episode aired (and the original "pilot" film) on NBC on September 13, 1968, which will be on DECADES TV this coming Tuesday.

Steve Canyon's 34 episodes will run (in this time slot) 5 days a week from Tuesday through Saturday for 7 weeks, presumably ending Friday January 18 2019. They will be run in their original 1958/1959 original broadcast order…if you want to watch them in the order they were originally made (and intended to be seen) that is the way they are presented on our 3 volume DVDs.

I'm glad some of you get DECADES and can watch, and am sorry for those who don't have it in their area in the US and in foreign countries. I urge you to write to you local cable providers and local stations urging them to add DECADES, and to write or comment to DECADES about Steve Canyon on their Twitter account and their Facebook page.

So I hope you all enjoy seeing Colonel Canyon on broadcast television again!
(with closed-captioning for the hearing impaired)

Decades is a sister network to Me-TV.

John Ellis
Hollywood, California

Sunday, November 04, 2018

Steve Canyon Returns! month from this coming early Tuesday morning, on December 4th, Steve Canyon returns to DECADES Television for it's second complete modern rerun on american broadcast television!

ALL 34 episodes only ran ONCE in it's initial run on NBC primetime in the 1958-1959 season. NBC only repeated 14 episodes in 1959, and ABC then only repeated 20 episodes in 1960. 11 episodes were NEVER rerun in the US until earlier this summer on Decades. So set your DVRs accordingly!

Barbara Beaird and Dean Fredericks

Here's another heads-up: The Christmas episode, "The Gift", written by Ray Bradbury, was one of those never rerun until June 7th of this year. "The Gift" will be seen early Thursday December 20th, which is pretty neat that it will be played just before Christmas!

Stay tuned for more details (and never before revealed lore) about Ray Bradbury's Steve Canyon episode right here on our blog before it airs on December 20th.

John Ellis
Hollywood, CA

Saturday, July 07, 2018

Operation Firebee Ends Reruns Tonight

In about 2 hours the final episode of Steve Canyon airs on Decades TV, "Operation Firebee", with guest star Martin Milner. In it's place the hour long 1974 truck driver series MOVIN' ON starts next Tuesday morning, starring Claude Akins (who was a guest star in one of the last Steve Canyon shows, "The Sergeant", so I guess that's kind of fitting).

Martin Milner and Dean Fredericks in Operation Firebee.

I hope some of you got to enjoy Steve on Decades, and though I don't know when it'll air again, I'm sure it will and I'll let you know as soon as I do. Be sure to write to Decades (or comment on their Facebook page) and tell them what you think.

Don't miss OPERATION FIREBEE tonight (early morning Tuesday July 7th at 5am eastern time and 2am pacific time on Decades television's "Lost Television"...check your local listings!


Show #12
Production #9214
NBC First Run Tuesday June 2, 1959
Photographed: Sept 25-26-29, 1958
Directed by Don Taylor
Written by Sidney Carroll

Guided missiles are used for target practice by jets. Canyon and another pilot have a contest to see who shoots down the most drones.

Martin Milner, Richard Crane, Patricia Blair, Jane Langley, Don Devlin,
William Kendis, Robert Courtleigh, Roger Pace, James Callahan, Hank Warden, Paul Mantee and John Gallaudet.

“This film is dedicated to the 73rd Air Division (Weapons) Air Defense Command, United States Air Force”

John Ellis
Hollywood, CA

Monday, June 25, 2018


In about 9 hours arguably the best episode of the Steve Canyon TV series will air on american television for the first time in 58 years (since it re-ran on ABC in the summer of 1960).

Counting this episode there are 9 more episodes left to air on Decades TV, this week and next.

Featuring a B-47 crewon a tragic mission...

Ingrid Goude and Jerry Paris co-star. She was Miss Sweden 1956 and he was Rob and Laura Petrie's wacky neighbor on the Dick Van Dyke show.

A bomber crew doesn't respond and sets wheels in motion...

Steve goes up to check out the problem...

What he sees shocks him!

General Connors (Nelson Leigh) has a painful choice to make...

Don't miss OPERATION INTERCEPT tonight (early morning Tuesday June 25th at 5am eastern time and 2am pacific time on Decades television's "Lost Television"...check your local listings!


NOTE: Steve Canyon moved from Thursdays to Tuesday nights with this episode on NBC in 1959.

Show #28
Production #9229
NBC First Run Tuesday March 31, 1959
NBC Rerun Tuesday September 1, 1959
ABC Summer Rerun Thursday April 21, 1960
Photographed: Feb 5-6, 1959
Directed by Arthur Marks
Teleplay by David Haft
Story by Frank Benedict

A freak accident kills the pilot and co-pilot of a B-47 bomber while the plane
is in flight, and the plane heads for the USSR on automatic pilot. Canyon tries
to intercept the plane and determine whether the third crew member is alive or not.


 Jerry Paris, Nelson Leigh, Harlan Warde, Harry Landers, Ingrid Goude, Don Richards, Gil Frye, Jeanne Tatum.

Here's a clip from the episode

“This film is dedicated to the Air Control and Warning Personnel of the United States Air Force”

John Ellis
Hollywood, CA

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Abel & Bobby & Other Things

Early yesterday morning Decades Television aired the Steve Canyon episode OPERATION BIG THUNDER, that introduced Abel Fernandez, Bob Hoy, Ted de Corsia and Jerry Paris in the series.

Lt. Colonel Steve Canyon, Major Williston, Master Sgt. Maconochie,  Sgt. Pete Berger and Airman 1C Abel Featherstone ponder a serious issue at Big Thunder Air Force Base.

So last month Abel Fernandez's 2nd year passing memorial slipped right by me...but better late than never (as Abel would sometimes say). Abel you are missed.

Abel's headstone at Riverside National Cemetary. Big thanks to Barbara Lima for this image!

I should have done something for both Abel and Bobby Hoy for Memorial Day but I'll just have to shoot for next year. Two of the greatest (and funniest) guys around. We had a blast recording their commentaries here! Coffee and sinkers just about blew our budget!

Bob Hoy, me (John Ellis) and Abel Fernandez clowning (after a commentary recording session) in my back yard Friday March 20, 2009. Less than a year later Bob would leave us on Monday February 8, 2010. We miss you, Bobby!

So OPERATION BIG THUNDER is the "change of format" episode to appease the Air Force and the aircraft industry (who felt trivialized by fictionalizing their successes)...the Air Force was just upset in principle and thought they knew how to do it better than the professional filmmakers. They should have just left them alone to make a good show.  What they did do was excellent and if allowed to continue "on their own flight-path", I suspect they would have gone another season or two. 

From left, Ken Lynch, Jerry Paris (seated), Bob Hoy, Dean Fredericks and Abel Fernandez in the 17th Steve Canyon episode produced, OPERATION BIG THUNDER. Lynch and Bob Hoy appeared together in THE DEVIL IN THE DARK episode of the original Star Trek!

The roots of this episode were in the Steve Canyon newspaper comic strip in a story from 1956!

Milton Caniff's Steve Canyon daily from Saturday November 17, 1956, story arc titled "The Girl From Little Dogie", which introduced Poteet Canyon AND was also the story which this TV episode was loosely based (which only happened twice during the series run). Alas, we could have used a bit of Poteet in the TV series, don't ya think?


Wow! I just noticed something today that I hadn't before: that the first 4 episodes he's in have Abel's rank being Airman First Class (A/1C):

Abel wore these stripes in his first 4 episodes ...currently these are the stripes designated for "Senior Airman", but back in late 1958 this designated "Airman First Class". They had serious Air Force technical advisors on set (such as Col. Frank P. Ball) who watched goings on like hawks and kept things accurate and crew on their toes! (Ball was an F-102 expert and actually survived being at "ground-zero" during an atomic blast! See this link!

...but apparently he got promoted to Staff Sergeant for the last 3 episodes he was in:

USAF "Staff Sergeant" stripes, then and now (as worn by Abel in his final 3 episodes of STEVE CANYON!

...pretty cool, Abel!

Now, some things about DECADES airing the series. They ARE running them in order, BUT they are running them in the original NBC broadcast order instead of the order they were made, which throws the episodes STRIKE FORCE and IRON CURTAIN out of order once in STRIKE FORCE take place immediately before IRON CURTAIN, but on Decades it will air 5 episodes later. Confusing? You bet.

Also, as is customary they are cutting out 3 minutes of each episode to make room for commercials. They are doing a pretty good job as the cuts are barely noticable (even to me), but if you want to see the shows uncut (and in the proper order and in the highest quality), I refer you to our 3 volume COMPLETE STEVE CANYON ON TV DVDs.

15 episodes have aired so far; 19 more to go. It's exciting seeing them on TV again in the United States for the first time in 58 years...I'm certain that the cast and crew and everyone involved in the series would be proud...and especially Milton Caniff. If you are watching Steve Canyon on Decades we'd like to hear from you, and we'd also like you to let Decades know you are watching and what you think. You can find them on Facebook at:

Monday, May 21, 2018

Reminder! - Steve Canyon Returns To TV!

Remember to set your DVR's...

For DECADES TV tomorrow, Tuesday at 5am eastern (or 2am pacific time if you are on the left coast) to record Steve's return to American Television, the first time since the episode "Iron Curtain" aired on ABC summer reruns on Thursday, September 8, 1960, nearly 58 years ago!

Several people wrote me about the last post and urged me to post this reminder. I enjoyed all the responses last week and enjoyed writing back to everyone that took the time to write.

I'm glad some of you get DECADES and can watch, and am sorry for those who don't have it in their area in the US and in foreign countries. I urge you to write to you local cable providers and local stations urging them to add DECADES, and to write or comment to DECADES about Steve Canyon on their Twitter account and their Facebook page.

So I hope you all enjoy seeing Colonel Canyon on broadcast television again!
(with closed-captioning for the hearing impaired)

Decades is a sister network to Me-TV.

John Ellis
Hollywood, California

Sunday, May 13, 2018



I'm thrilled to announce that in a little over a week, on early Tuesday May 22 during Decades TV's “Lost Television” 2 hour block, Steve Canyon will begin airing on american television for the first time in nearly 58 years…at 2am Pacific time / 5am Eastern time, starting with the very first episode “Operation Towline” and continuing 5 days a week (Tuesday am through Saturday am), in the order they were made in, AND with closed-captioning for the hearing impaired!

I’m really excited as the whole point of the project I started in 2006 was to get it back on TV, the DVDs were a way to fund the restoration and I never planned to handle every aspect of the back-breaking production and sales of them. But things don't always turn out the way we plan. It's been a battle and though it's 10 years later than I wanted, I'm glad to finally see it returning to TV, which Milton Caniff would have wanted.

The last time it aired in the US was on ABC on Thursday September 8, 1960, nearly 58 years it’ll be cool to watch it on TV again, right? Let me know what you think!

Decades is a sister network to Me-TV.

John Ellis
Hollywood, California

Friday, May 04, 2018

Big Mystery...Afoot!

There's somethin' happening here,
What it is ain't exactly clear...

Telegram from David Haft and Mike Meshekoff (the producers of the Steve Canyon TV series) to Milton Caniff, on the morning of September 13, 1958, the day the series premiered on NBC.

Stay tuned for some big news coming next week!

(this is NOT a drill!)