The Humor Mill

On This Day In Comedy… In 1968 ‘Julia’ Premiered On NBC!



On this day in comedy on September 17, 1968 Julia premiered on NBC!

This oatmeal bland sitcom lacked a lot of things.    It didn’t have a laugh track (that was added once it went into syndication).   It didn’t have a stereotypical Black female lead (Julia was nurse, not a servant).   It didn’t have a Black male lead to go along with its female (Julia was a widow whose husband died in the Vietnam War) and it didn’t have much Blackness; even though Julia was a Black woman in the late 1960s, there was no mention of riots, overwhelming social injustices or an extremely prevalent Civil Rights Movement.   In other words, Julia was an acceptable (for the masses), middle-of-the-road slice of entertainment.

What Julia did have was Diahann Carroll.   The talented actress / singer sold the concept of a politically passive Black woman living in a swanky high-rise apartment building with her only son, Corey (Marc Copage).   She had non-Black neighbors, the Waggedorns (father, mother and two sons, one being Corey’s contemporary and playmate).   She had a non-Black boss, (the doctor played by Lloyd Nolan), who also had another nurse (non-Black, Lurene Tuttle) working in his aerospace office.   Julia also had a couple of suiters (Black Fred Williamson and equally Black Paul Winfield), but neither relationship seemed too serious.   The program also co-starred Betty Beaird, Ned Glass, Mary Wickes, Don Marshall and Michael Link.

Created by Hal Kantor, Julia was never a critics darling or a show championed by the Black press, who almost unanimously stated it was an unrealistic white fantasy of a “Negro”.   The end result was that this initially touted sitcom that was going to break ground (because the Black lead was not a servant) suffered from declining ratings and death threats were made upon its star.   Thus the show was cancelled and its last episode aired March 23, 1971.

During its abbreviated run Julia received numerous nominations for editing, acting and producing.   It went on to win a Golden Globe for Diahann Carroll in 1969 and in 2003 (32 years after the show was cancelled) cable station TV-Land honored Julia and its star with its “Groundbreaking Show” award.

By Darryl “D’Militant” Littleton

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