Despite entrenching itself in pop culture lore with programs like The Secret Diary of Desmond Pfeiffer and Homeboys in Outer Space, financial success simply wasn’t in the cards for the United Paramount Network, which dissolved on this date. Born in 1995, it struggled to find a ratings foothold against the Big Four networks—struggles that were compounded by competing against another upstart net, The WB. With both would-be fifth networks in dire straits, they merged operations and became The CW at the beginning of the 2006-07 TV season.
To learn more about the collapse of UPN and its quasi-resurgence as a component of The CW, check out This Was Television’s ongoing book club discussion of Season Finale: The Unexpected Rise and Fall of The WB and UPN, or consult your local library. -A.D.
Also on September 15:
1964: Peyton Place, an ABC soap inspired by a novel and a film of the same name, begins a unique run. During its five seasons, from 1964–1969, Peyton Place aired two to three episodes a week without repeats, hiatuses, or summer breaks—standard operating procedure for most daytime soaps, but something not attempted before or since in primetime.
1965: I Spy, a Cold War classic blending action and comedy, debuts on NBC. Before becoming a sitcom legend as Dr. Cliff Huxtable, Bill Cosby was the first African-American lead actor on an American primetime drama. I Spy starred Cosby and Robert Culp as tennis players-cum-secret agents and ran for three seasons.
1965: “Space Family Robinson” gets Lost in Space. The CBS sci-fi comedy, which ran for three seasons, is famous for Jonathan Harris’s campily mincing performance as Dr. Smith and for a loyal robot companion spouting the catchphrase, “DANGER, WILL ROBINSON.”
1981: Philo Farnsworth, one of the primary inventors of television technology, is honored with a plaque at his former laboratory on Green Street in San Francisco.
2004: Ken Jennings becomes the most famous American quiz show contestant since Charles Van Doren with his 46th consecutive win on Jeopardy!. During that run, Jennings amassed over $1.5 million in prize money. His streak would eventually reach 74 episodes and his total winnings would eclipse $3 million.
Today’s Birthdays: Dave Annable, brother (33); Josh Charles, legal eagle (41); Forest Compton, USMC (87); Amy Davidson, rule-bound daughter (33); Heidi Montag, hill-dweller (26); Nipsey Russell, poet (d. 2005).