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Susan Saint James,
The experiences of a young, tough-minded, idealistic high school English teacher on his first job provided the stories in this series. John Novak begins at Jefferson High School in Los Angeles under Principal Albert Vane, who doesn't always agree with Novak's approach, but admires his dedication to teaching. Eventually, Vane is elected to state superintendent and Martin Woodridge becomes the new principal. Stories centered on the life of Novak, student-teacher relationships, and the struggles of other young teachers. Written by
This was the best "teacher" show ever on TV. It was intelligent, thoughtful presented real problems facing high school students and their teachers and concentrate don education and it's role in people's lives. Later shows tended to idealize the attitudes of students, showing them getting involved in political campaigns and the like. Here, as in reality, they are more concerned with their own lives.
James Franciscus was the first choice to play Dr. Kildare but had to bow out due to a scheduling conflict. this was his consolation prize. the show is basically Kildare in a high school instead of a hospital, with Dean Jagger playing principal Albert Vane, who mentors Novak the way Gillespie mentors Kildare. Franciscus, who looked enough like Richard Chamberlain to have been his older brother, is like Chamberlain, a thoughtful, restrained actor who is easy for the audience to identify with. Jagger's manor is totally different from the imperious Gillespie but he is just as impressive in his own way, as his surface nervousness resolves itself into a steely moral rectitude. Also impressive is Jeanne Bal, who plays a businesslike but knowing assistant principal. She is not only a talented actress but ask yourself if you have ever seen a more beautiful woman.
Like Kildare, Novak is a symbol of the earnest optimism of the early 60's and his handsomeness and youthful idealism suggest President Kennedy, at least as we chose to remember him. Kennedy was assassinated during the first year of this show and Mr. Novak did a show that was an obvious tribute to him, called "Death of a Teacher". A popular teacher dies suddenly at school and each character has to deal with sudden grief in their own way, as we were all having to do at that time. It's an especially touching episode of a special show.
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