TV in the Fifties

Playing a Kate Smith song on a Victrola seemed to be a perfect way to introduce today’s post. The Kate Smith show was a variety show – a staple of television for a long time – that moved from radio to television as smoothly as Kate could croon a tune.

However, when television was new, we had many programs that would be laughed out of existence today. Many shows came over from radio and the stars thought they could simply continue to talk into a microphone while entertaining a studio audience. One of the biggest stars was a fellow by the name of Arthur Godfrey. Of course, he was a bit ahead of his time because he was doing the first simulcasts. Arthur was the king of TV until he made one fatal mistake.

Until I viewed that video, I never considered Julius La Rosa to be a teenage idol. Then again, I was a few years away from becoming a teen when he was canned.

Prior to his downward spiral, Godfrey appeared on a show called “What’s My Line”.

If you listened carefully to the questions and answers you might find yourself asking, “What did Arthur Godfrey do that made him a big star?” We could probably ask the same question about Regis Philbin today. I guess some people simply find themselves at the right place at the right time while those of us who are really talented go without being discovered.

As television caught on, many of the radio shows with story lines began moving to the new media. However, the shows that had been cheaply produced for radio – all they needed was a few microphones and some good sound-effects men – now required elaborate sets, changes of costumes, and numerous scenes filmed outside of the main studio.

It wasn’t long before we had a complete lineup of shows like “Father Knows Best”, “Ozzie and Harriet”, and “December Bride”. Of course, we can’t mention the Nelson family without turning the spot light on a teen idol who became an idol when I was a teen – none other than Ricky Nelson!

The “Ozzie and Harriet” show may have been losing its popularity before they let Ricky introduce his songs on the show, but I’m sure his singing kept the show on the air for a few more years… and what a great way to sell records!

Milton Berle led a cavalcade of comedians and variety shows, but the queen of early television had to be Lucille Ball. I’ll end today’s post with one of my favorite “I Love Lucy” segments of all time. Try not to laugh too loudly if you’re reading this at the office.

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