Production difficulties beset the series almost from the beginning. The series would see three different producers in the course of its 26 episodes and would go through a number of other key personnel changes. With the change in producers would also come changes to the format of the show, which started as comedy/variety but would switch to an almost purely concert format.
While Garland herself was popular with critics, the initial variety format and her co-star, Jerry Van Dyke, were not. The show was up against Bonanza, then the most popular program on television, and consistently performed poorly in the ratings in comparison. Although fans rallied in an attempt to save the series, CBS announced its cancellation after a single season.
The first of two specials under this new relationship aired in 1962 and was entitled The Judy Garland Show. This special, guest starring Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, was nominated for four Emmy awards. Garland signed the deal for the weekly series in December 1962. Garland's final special was the awkwardly-titled Judy Garland and Her Guests Phil Silvers and Robert Goulet. Alternately promoted as a preview and a pilot for Garland's upcoming regular series, this special too was nominated for an Emmy.
The Judy Garland Show was initially slated to be taped in New York City. The network initially offered the producer's job to Bob Banner, who was at the time producing a series for Garry Moore. Although he was interested, he declined to relocate from the West Coast. Bob Finkel, whose credits included shows for Dinah Shore and Andy Williams, was next approached but similarly refused to relocate. Veteran producer and director Bill Hobin, then heading up Sing Along with Mitch, was approached to produce and direct the program. Already based in the East, Hobin eagerly accepted. Unbeknownst to Hobin, George Schlatter had been lobbying on the West Coast for the producer job and was signed to produce. Ultimately Hobin bowed out of the producer slot and Schlatter became the producer while Hobin was retained to direct.
With the producer question settled, Schlatter set about assembling the crew for the series. Mort Lindsey was hired to conduct the show's orchestra. Gary Smith, who had designed the earlier Sinatra/Martin special, was signed as art director. Multiple Academy Award-winner Edith Head was engaged to design Garland's costumes while Ray Agyahan, who Schlatter knew from their work together with Dinah Shore, was hired to costume Garland's guests. Mel Tormé was brought on as musical arranger and to write special musical material and would also appear as a guest on the program. Choreography duties were taken by Danny Daniels. Comedian Jerry Van Dyke was engaged as a series regular.
In addition to musical performances from Garland and the week's guest stars, the series' initial format included the recurring segments "Born in a Trunk" (the name taken from a number in A Star is Born) in which Garland would tell stories of her show business career and sing a related song, and "Tea for Two" which would feature her chatting with a surprise guest. Van Dyke would perform comedy sketches, sometimes with Garland or the guests. Garland would close each episode by singing the song "Maybe I'll Come Back." The obscure novelty song, selected by Garland and Schlatter over CBS's objections (the network wanted a few bars of Over the Rainbow), included the line "And President Coolidge is a cousin of mine." Garland as a running gag would substitute a different name for Coolidge's each week.
Although initially planned for an East Coast shoot, The Judy Garland Show was taped at CBS Television City in Los Angeles. The network had gone to great expense to prepare the studio, including an estimated $100,000 to raise the stage and install a separate revolving stage. Garland's dressing room was a 110'x40' trailer which had been decorated as a replica of her newly purchased Brentwood home. The corridor that led from her dressing room to the stage was painted to resemble the Yellow Brick Road from The Wizard of Oz.
On August 2, after six weeks of taping and five completed shows, Schlatter was fired as producer by James Aubrey, Jr., president of CBS. Also fired were several of the writing staff and choreographer Danny Daniels. Replacing Schlatter as executive producer was Norman Jewison, who shared a vision for the series that was closer to that of Aubrey's. That vision was that Garland was too glamorous for television and that she needed her series to present her in a more conventional light. Jewison, who had agreed to serve as producer through the thirteenth episode, implemented changes designed to "make the sacred cow less sacred," including subjecting Garland to Van Dyke's jokes that denigrated her issues with her weight, her reputation for unreliability and her career highs and lows. Jewison also introduced a new recurring feature, "Be My Guest," with Tormé's writing tailored material for the week's guest to perform with Garland near the top of each show. Production was suspended for five weeks.
After Jewison, Bill Colleran joined the show as Garland's selection for its third executive producer. Colleran revamped the format yet again, doing away with the insulting humor and focusing the show back on Garland and her singing, including several "Judy Garland in concert" episodes. It was during Colleran's time with the show, following show 22 specifically, that Tormé was fired, replaced by Bobby Cole, a musician Garland had met recently in New York. Tormé would later file suit for breach of contract and write a tell-all book about the series, The Other Side of the Rainbow: With Judy Garland on the Dawn Patrol.
CBS announced the cancellation of The Judy Garland Show on January 22, 1964. Officially, it was reported that it was Garland who exited the series, as explained in a letter released by CBS, supposedly from Garland to Aubrey advising him that she wanted to spend more time caring for her children.
CBS publicly responded to the critiques by issuing a statement through talent chief Michael Dann. "We have decided that [Judy] should never appear in sketches and never play any character but herself. And she'll be singing more songs, more medleys, more standards. Songs are her babies. We told her what we think and she's listening. She's far too insecure about television to exercise her own judgment. She knows what's good for her.
Behind the scenes, however, the network continued to tinker with the show. In addition to the replacement of key production staff and constantly revising the format, Garland was also summoned to New York to receive such bits of information as she was touching her guests too much and was instructed to stop.
The revised format with its Garland-deprecating humor continued to attract criticism rather than viewers. Saturday Evening Post reviewer Richard Warren Lewis wrote, "The absurd notion of debasing Judy's reputation as a legendary figure and molding her show into an imitation of other prosaic variety shows has been a disaster where it hurts most, in the audience-rating polls. Indeed, Garland's show was averaging an 18 rating, about half of the audience represented by Bonanza and its 35 rating. With the departure of Jewison as producer and of Jerry Van Dyke (lauded as "a marvelous idea but it came too late") the focus of the show changed yet again to emphasize Garland's performances, singly and with guests. This format, including several "Judy Garland in Concert" solo episodes, would remain more or less intact for the remainder of the series. Despite continuing positive critical comment, the ratings remained flat. Fans of the show formed a "Save The Judy Garland Show committee" and organized an early letter-writing campaign on behalf of the series but their efforts were not enough to spare the show from cancellation. The final Judy Garland Show, another concert episode, was broadcast on March 29, 1964.
|Number||Taping date||U.S. air date||Guests||Notes|
|1||June 24, 1963||December 8, 1963||Mickey Rooney, Jerry Van Dyke|
|2||July 7, 1963||November 10, 1963||Count Basie, Mel Tormé, Judy Henske, Jerry Van Dyke|
|3||July 16, 1963||November 17, 1963||Liza Minnelli, Soupy Sales, The Brothers Castro, Jerry Van Dyke|
|4||July 23, 1963||October 13, 1963||Lena Horne, Terry-Thomas, Jerry Van Dyke|
|5||July 30, 1963||December 15, 1963||Tony Bennett, Dick Shawn, Jerry Van Dyke||George Schlatter's final episode as producer.|
|5A||August 2, 1963 (scheduled)||N/A||Nat "King" Cole, Jack Carter, Jerry Van Dyke||This episode was scripted but never taped.|
|6||September 13, 1963||October 27, 1963||Steve Lawrence, June Allyson, Jerry Van Dyke|
|7||September 20, 1963||September 29, 1963||Donald O'Connor, Jerry Van Dyke|
|8||September 27, 1963||October 20, 1963||George Maharis, Jack Carter, The Dillards, Leo Durocher, Jerry Van Dyke|
|9||October 4, 1963||October 6, 1963||Barbra Streisand, Ethel Merman, Smothers Brothers, Jerry Van Dyke||Streisand was nominated for an Emmy award for her guest appearance.|
|10||October 11, 1963||March 1, 1964||Ray Bolger, Jane Powell, Jerry Van Dyke||Jerry Van Dyke's final episode.|
|11||October 18, 1963||January 5, 1964||Steve Allen, Mel Tormé, Jayne Meadows|
|12||November 1, 1963||November 3, 1963||Vic Damone, Zina Bethune|
|13||November 8, 1963||December 1, 1963||Peggy Lee, Jack Carter, Carl Reiner||Norman Jewison's final episode as producer.|
|14||November 30, 1963||December 29, 1963||Bobby Darin, Bob Newhart|
|15||December 6, 1963||December 22, 1963||Jack Jones, Liza Minnelli, Lorna Luft, Joey Luft, Mel Tormé, Tracy Everitt||The Christmas Special episode.|
|16||December 13, 1963||January 2, 1964||Ethel Merman, Shelley Berman, Peter Gennaro|
|17||December 20, 1963||January 9, 1964||Vic Damone, Chita Rivera, Louis Nye, Ken Murray|
|18||January 14, 1964||January 26, 1964||Martha Raye, Peter Lawford, Rich Little, Ken Murray|
|19||January 17, 1964||February 2, 1964||Louis Jourdan, Kirby Stone Four, Ken Murray|
|20||January 24, 1964||February 9, 1964||N/A||"Judy Garland in Concert"|
|21||January 31, 1964||February 16, 1964||Diahann Carroll, Mel Tormé|
|22||February 14, 1964||February 23, 1964||Jack Jones, Ken Murray|
|23||February 21, 1964||March 8, 1964||N/A||"Judy Garland in Concert: Music From the Movies"|
|24||February 23, 1964||March 15, 1964||Vic Damone|
|25||March 6, 1964||March 22, 1964||Bobby Cole|
|26||March 13, 1964||March 29, 1964||N/A||"Judy Garland in Concert"|