“SHUT UP I WILL HEAR NO MORE!!!”
Today’s episode of Dark Shadows did not air on July 21st, 1969, because over the weekend, a couple of crazy kids from the Kennedy Space Center went and landed a rocket ship on the entire moon. This amazing stunt was picked up by the press somehow — I guess they had viral videos back then — and there was continuous commercial-free coverage of the event on all three networks for 34 straight hours.
The Eagle landed on the moon on Sunday afternoon Eastern time, and on Sunday night, Neil Armstrong was the first person to step onto the surface of the moon. Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin left the moon on Monday afternoon, and at the time that Dark Shadows would have been on the air, the Eagle was approaching Command Module Columbia to prepare for the return trip to Earth.
ABC got hammered, by the way. All three networks were showing basically the same thing, but CBS had Walter Cronkite, who was that most elusive of creatures, a respected television news anchor. They also had a scale model of the lunar module, and a seven foot long conveyer belt so they could simulate what it would look like for the astronauts orbiting the moon. But mostly they had Cronkite, for 32 of the 34 hours of coverage. Apparently his keepers at CBS wouldn’t let him sleep.
So CBS got a 45 share of the viewing public, NBC got a 34 share, and ABC had a 14 share. Each network invested 1.5 million dollars to broadcast the mission, and they couldn’t run commercials in case something blew up or they found a moon monster. So ABC lost a lot of money, and everybody was watching Cronkite anyway. They might as well have showed Dark Shadows.
I wonder, on that sunny Monday afternoon, if there were any kids staring at the scale models pretending to dock with each other, and thinking, Come onnnnnn! They just ripped off Count Petofi’s hand on Friday! Enough already with the moon! I probably would have thought that, but I’m bad at priorities.