The Beginning

1950s

Television became available nationwide in the early 1950s and during these formative years it addressed family issues in this era of economic prosperity and political paranoia. Americans believed in the integrity of government and left them the task of hunting “pinkos” and “commies.” Countless Americans moved to the suburbs and “planned communities” which were built immediately after the war. By the beginning of the decade, suburban life complete with house, trimmed lawn, bread-winning father, homemaker mother and family of three was the American ideal. In due time, however, the Cold War was to loom, and the country was on the brink of a new era.


Family-based comedies like Ozzie and Harriet, The Honeymooners, and I Love Lucy found humor in what we accepted as the typical family dynamic: father came home from work, greeted his stay-at-home wife and discussed the daily crises. Shows such as Lassie presented small-town family life in the form of a children’s adventure series starring the brave and loyal collie. One of the very first sitcoms, The Burns and Allen Show, featured George in the dual role of on-screen narrator and straight man to Gracie’s scatter-brained antics. Burns and Allen were headliners in vaudeville in the 1920s, on radio in the 1930s and 1940s and ruled evening television once a week during the 1950s. While George and Gracie brought there brand of vaudeville to primetime TV, other programs with a similar theatrical feel popped up in the 1950s; and Saturday nights brought Imogene Coca, Sid Caesar & Carl Reiner into our living rooms in Your Show of Shows. Variety shows such as The Ed Sullivan Show showcased the talents of promising performer, comedians and musicians; and all subsequent sketch-comedy, variety and talk shows grew out of this brave and innovative programming.


In the mid-1950s, television production moved from the small, indoor studios of New York to the wide expanse of Hollywood with its advanced production technology and glorious weather, and outdoor action-packed shows thrived. The genre of choice became the Western as America was infatuated with its wild individualistic past and the myth that in America good always triumphs over evil. This sentiment was clearly reflected in the early action shows such as Gunsmoke and The Lone Ranger. As TV moved into the next decade, the airwaves were still jam-packed with the Western action series, and the Cartwrights and Daniel Boone were always fighting on the side of justice, while Bret Maverick and James West lived by there own morality.

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