‘Midnight Special’ Musical Variety Series Getting Documentary

Network Entertainment is teaming with Burt Sugarman on a documentary about the musical variety television series “The Midnight Special.”

Sugarman produced the series, which ran for 450 episodes between 1972 and 1981, and featured performances by James Brown, The Jackson 5, Van Morrison, Marvin Gaye, Rod Stewart, Ike & Tina Turner, Fleetwood Mac, Aerosmith, AC/DC, David Bowie, Aretha Franklin, Helen Reddy, Linda Ronstadt, The Beach Boys, Tanya Tucker, Billy Joel, Loretta Lynn, Emmylou Harris, Prince, Diana Ross, and the Bee Gees. Stand-up comedians Steve Martin, Richard Pryor, and George Carlin also appeared.

The show typically featured guest hosts, and Helen Reddy served as the regular host for parts of 1975 and 1976. Wolfman Jack was the announcer and frequent guest host.

The pilot for the series aired in 1972 as a 90-minute special encouraging young people to vote in the upcoming presidential election. It premiered as a weekly series in 1973 in the 1 a.m. to 2:30 a.m. slot, then was moved up to 12:30 a.m., when Johnny Carson cut his own show from 90 to 60 minutes. The series established the viability of programming in the post-midnight hours at a time when the networks usually signed off at 1 a.m.

Sugarman and Mary Hart will executive producer along with Network Entertainment’s Derik Murray, Frank Anderson, Paul Gertz, and Brian Gersh.

Network Entertainment, producers of the documentaries “Facing Ali,” “Johnny Cash: American Rebel,” and “I Am Heath Ledger,” will document the show’s cultural significance. The producers have full access to “The Midnight Special” archives, and will feature original footage and music in the documentary, blended with interviews with artists who performed on the show and current artists who were inspired by the series.

“I’m excited to be working with Network Entertainment’s award-winning team to produce this important retrospective on ‘The Midnight Special,’” Sugarman said. “In addition to appealing to those who were fans back in the day, this is a wonderful opportunity to introduce new generations to the remarkable artists whose music left an indelible mark that continues to influence the musical landscape of today.”

Network Entertainment is repped by UTA.

Hart said, “Not only will the documentary provide an incredible window into the music and artists of the period, it will also be a fitting tribute to Burt, whose original thinking and perseverance turned a broadcaster’s ‘Not Interested’ into a revolutionary television series and cultural phenomenon that ran for nearly a decade.”