I was sitting with my grandpa watching a re-run of an old show, 'I Love Lucy'. Grandpa started reminiscing about the "good ol' days" when television shows were pure entertainment and catered to a variety of audience. He said there was an essence of innocence and charm about them. Grandpa went on to say that most of the shows today are glamorous, yet lack the luster of the of the yesteryears. Today, they have soap operas, game shows, talent hunts and reality TV, but lack the charm of the old shows.
The little trip down the memory lane by grandpa encouraged me to know more about the various shows mentioned by him. I wanted to know what it felt like to be there in the 1950s and watch the revolutionary invention of television that has become an inseparable part of our daily lives. I am sure some of you readers may be on a journey to the past, trying to capture the sweet smell of the bygone days. Or you may be someone like me, who wants to get to know past a bit more clearly.
The Colgate Comedy Hour
This NBC series is a 60 minute musical and comedy series. It had a unique format of rotating hosts that included Eddie Cantor, Abbott & Costello, Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis, Ed Wynn, Donald O'Connor, Ethel Merman, and Frank Sinatra. If the host list is so impressing, just imagine the show must be on fire. The Colgate Comedy Hour was nominated for Emmys in 1952, 1953, and 1954. Christopher Walkins met Jerry Lewis on this show. Walkins was encouraged by Jerry Lewis to pursue a career in the entertainment industry, who went on to carve a famed career for himself. A few other stars who hosted a few episodes were Bob Hope, Tony Martin, Judy Canova, Jack Carson, Jimmy Durante and Fred Allen.
Your Show of Shows
This was a live sketch comedy with a huge cast of musical and dance performers. It also had top guest stars that made the viewers Saturday night most enjoyable. It was a 90 minute show on NBC with live performances. In 1952 and 1953, 'Your Show of Shows' won the Emmy for "Best Variety Program" consecutively.
I Love Lucy
Perhaps one of the most loved comedy series ever on television was I Love Lucy. This 30 minute series in CBS was about a Cuban bandleader 'Ricky' and his American wife 'Lucy' the wacky, redhead. Ricky was almost a star at Tropicana Club, where he performed and loved Lucy a lot. He just wished Lucy would be satisfied being a wife and mother. But, though she loved her husband very dearly, she had an enormous talent and craved to become a star like her husband. One of the episodes of I Love Lucy, now in its fourth series, Lucy, Ricky and their friends travel to California as Ricky was offered a movie contract. This became one of the most watched episodes, as people wanted to take in all the sights of California. This show was the first to be recorded on a film rather than Kinetoscope and the first to use '3 camera' process, where scenes could be filmed from different angles. It is said, Desi Arnaz was the father of this idea, that became an industry standard!
You Bet Your Life
This actually was two programs in one. In the first program, two contestants were interviewed by Groucho Marx with questions related to their lives. Groucho could actually find something hilarious in every answer they gave and made a joke out of it. Then, in the second part of the show, the contestants were quizzed and the right answers would win them money. The pair that won the most money could enter the bonus round.
The detective drama series that captured every detail involving the procedures of investigation of a crime. The police detectives would analyze crimes and bring the culprit to book. This show gave the audience the actual feel of the work involved in police work, from tracing the criminal, to capturing him and filing the paperwork.
Texaco Star Theater
This comedy show was one of the most successful examples of all the television shows of the 1950s. It gave Milton Berle his nickname of 'Mr. Television'. Texaco made sure that all of its employees were featured in throughout the hour. They normally appeared smiling as 'guardian angels'. They would be performing good deeds. The Texaco Star Theater opened with a new full season with TV ratings as high as 80.
The Amazing Race
This 30 minute musical variety series was aired on NBC. The multi-talented Tennessee Ernie Ford was the singer comedian of the show, but his star appeal that made him look one of the common folk. His stories were those that the audience identified with and his talks like "Bless Your Pea-Pickin Hearts" made a mark in the hearts of his viewers.
Dennis the Menace
The story of a little boy who would constantly end up bringing trouble to his next door neighbor Mr. Wilson. Thus, Dennis was given the nickname 'Menace'. This comedy series was aired for 30 minutes on CBS.
Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet
This show was about the adventurous life of Ozzie and Harriet Nelson and their sons Ricky and David. This 30 minute family drama was aired on ABC. This popular television show of the 1950s, went on for 14 years and the audience actually saw the boys 'grow up' on national television!
Father Knows Best
An interpersonal relationship comedy series that showed the relationship between the loving parents and their children. All the episodes have a message like, "What's more important ..... career or family?" or "How to let your children choose a life partner, that you don't approve?". Parents and kids did make mistakes and at the end of every episode, but love prevailed and family bonds were more secure.
The Three Stooges
This is my favorite television show of the 1950s that began in the music halls of the early 1930s. It was a comedy act that specialized in slapstick comedy. The three stooges became a hit even with the new generation of 1950s.
I can go on and on about the various popular television shows. One cannot miss to mention the Adventures of Superman, Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Colt 45, 'Have Gun, Will Travel', I Married Joan, The Lone Ranger, etc. The 1950s was truly a decade of television. Grandpa was right, the shows on air today are no match for the shows of the 1950s. In the end, To Tell The Truth, the shows of old times were truly an Appointment With Adventure.