Dick Cavett Decades
Courtesy of Decades

The wit and wisdom of Dick Cavett will be back on TV starting next month as the CBS-owned digital channel Decades has set a deal for full-length episodes from the long run of “The Dick Cavett Show.”

Decades is a digital multicast network that CBS launched via its O&O stations last May in partnership with Chicago-based Weigel Broadcasting. The channel features vintage TV series, movies and news programming curated to reflect current events, notable anniversaries and pop culture trends.

“Dick Cavett Show” episodes will included in the mix of the six-hour “time capsule” program block that airs each weekday on Decades. Decades programmers will reach into the Cavett vault when there’s a show with a guest or topic that fits the day’s theme.

Resurrecting full episodes of classic yakkers has become a cottage industry for digital multicast networks. Tribune Media’s Antenna TV has made a splash by returning Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” to nightly airings at 11 p.m. as of Jan. 1. Sony TV’s GetTV airs a weekly primetime block featuring episodes of “The Merv Griffin Show.”

The Cavett episodes will begin airing the week of Feb. 1 as part of a Super Bowl-themed week, with episodes featuring NFL greats as guests, including Joe Namath, Don Meredith and Jim Brown.

Cavett episodes will also be featured as part of February’s other major theme saluting Black History Month. The Cavett guest list over the years has included such African-American notables as Sammy Davis Jr., Stevie Wonder, Spike Lee, Diahann Carroll, Harry Belafonte and Sidney Poitier. (The legendary Jimi Hendrix famously made two appearances on Cavett’s program during his short life but the restoration of those episodes won’t be ready in time for next month’s schedule.)

Cavett was a late-night rival of Johnny Carson’s “Tonight Show” on ABC from 1969 to 1974. He was known for his erudite style and for taking a more intellectual and edgy approach to interviews and guest bookings than Carson.

After his ABC run ended, Cavett hosted various other talk shows on PBS, USA Network and CNBC through the late 1990s. Decades’ deal with Shout Factory, which acquired domestic distribution rights to the Cavett library, covers episodes running from 1969-1995. Most of the early episodes run 90 minutes. The later shows on other networks offer a mix of 30- and 60-minute episodes as well.

More recently, Cavett hosted an interview program on Turner Classic Movies in 2006-2007. TCM has also aired select “Dick Cavett Show” episodes in recent years.

“This is very good news to me. I’m thrilled. And it’ll be delightful for all those people who constantly ask me, ‘Is there any way we can ever see those shows again?’ Now they can. And I can,” Cavett said of the Decades pact. “That may sound funny, but many times when I was just too tired or had to go somewhere when the show aired, I missed it. Now I can catch up with myself,” said Cavett.

The Cavett episodes will air in full with the exception of many musical performances. Music clearance issues will likely force them to edit out most musical segments, although the Decades team, lead by Weigel Digital Networks programming chief Ed Johnson, is in the process of sorting out those concerns over the long-term in order to present the episodes in full. Antenna TV execs spent a full year wrangling music clearance rights in preparation for launching “Tonight Show.”

“Adding Dick Cavett’s sophisticated, in-depth interviews to the Decades Network enhances the overall uniqueness of our programming,” said Neal Sabin, vice chairman of Weigel Broadcasting. “Watching Dick interact with Groucho Marx, Lucille Ball, David Bowie and countless others is fascinating television.”

The Decades channel to date has been cleared on CBS O&Os and other stations covering 53% of U.S. TV households.

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