1950's Television

1950s Television.mp4

1950's Television

In the 1950's, television was still coming into it's own and was still figuring out what American viewers wanted to see.  Much of early television were spin offs of popular shows that aired on the radio.  They also usually promoted American values and perspectives - most shows showcase a traditional home life, successful career and traditional gender roles.  As television viewership expands and TV begins to come into its own we see much of this change relatively quickly.

The 1950's also was a time when the magic of television turned real life with the opening of Disneyland in Anaheim, California in 1954.  The park was the brainchild of the creator of Mickey Mouse and other iconic figures who wanted people to experience entertainment in a different kind of way.  This transition is a great symbol for change for America and it's relationship with entertainment.


Task 1: Watch the Introductory Video to this Unit (5 minutes)

Task 2: Review the provided images and attached links for television during the 1950's (15 minutes)

Task 3: Television in the 1950's (5 minutes)

Task 4: Go to GOOGLE CLASSROOM and Respond to the Posted Discussion Prompt (25 minutes)

Respond to prompts using complete sentences and appropriate punctuation and grammar

Situational Comedy

Societal changes are often mirrored in the subject and placement of situation comedies. In the 1940s and ’50s, most half-hour comedies centered around a married couple or couples. As the fabric of American society began to morph, however, so did our entertainment. (https://www.pbs.org/wnet/pioneers-of-television/pioneering-programs/sitcoms/ 0

Leave it to Beaver

Original Release   October 4, 1957 –  June 20, 1963

No. of Seasons 6

No. of Episodes 234

Stars Hugh Beaumont, Barbara Billingsley, Tony Dow, Jerry Mathers

Network CBS (1957–58) ABC (1958–63)

"The misadventures of a suburban boy, family and friends." - IMDB

I Love Lucy

Original Release October 15, 1951 – May 6, 1957

No. of Seasons 6

No. of Episodes 180

Stars Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, Vivian Vance, William Frawley, Richard Keith

Network CBS

"The wife of a band leader constantly tries to become a star - in spite of her having no talent, and gets herself (along with her best friend) into the funniest predicaments. " - IMDB

Ozzie and Harriet

Original Release October 3, 1952 – April 23, 1966

No. of Seasons 14

No. of Episodes 435

Stars Ozzie Nelson, Harriet Nelson, David Nelson, Ricky Nelson

Network ABC

"Ozzie and Harriet Nelson raise their two sons Ricky and David. As the sons age, they experience teenage dating problems, marriage and careers." - IMDB

Game Shows

Americans began listening to game shows on the radio and were immediately hooked on the excitement and thrill of competition. As television came of age in the 1940s and ’50s, game shows made a natural transition to the new medium. There’s something about watching contestants match wits onscreen: We love to play along, shouting answers at the television.

“We play games at home, we play games at parties, we go to clubs and play games. Americans love games,” says Bob Barker. (https://www.pbs.org/wnet/pioneers-of-television/pioneering-programs/game-shows/ )

$64,000 Question

Original Release June 7, 1955 – November 2, 1958 

No. of Seasons 6

Stars Hal March(4 Seasons) , Sonny Fox (2 Seasons)

Network CBS

""The $64,000 Question" was largely inspired by the earlier CBS and NBC radio program Take It or Leave It, which ran on CBS radio from 1940 to 1947, and then on NBC radio from 1947 to 1952. After 1950, the show was renamed The $64,000 Question. The format of the show remained largely the same through its 12-year run; a contestant was asked a series of progressively more difficult questions which began at $1 and ended at a top prize of $64,000."  - IMDB

20 Questions

Original Release November 2, 1949 – May 3, 1955 

No. of Seasons 6

Stars Bill Slater (1949–1952), Jay Jackson (1952–1955)

Network WOR (1949), NBC (1949), ABC (1950–1951, 1954–1955), DuMont (1951–1954) 

"A television version of the radio quiz show "Twenty Questions". Panelists had to guess in twenty questions the identity of an item selected by the audience members. The television show started in November 1949 as a local show in New York state, broadcast by WOR-TV. It then was picked up as a program by the network NBC, for the last month of 1949. ABC broadcast the show from 1950 to 1951, and the DuMont Television Network broadcast it from 1951 to 1954. The show returned to ABC from 1954 to 1955, but was then canceled permanently. There were pilot episodes for attempted revivals of the show in 1975 and 1989, but neither pilot attracted much interest." - IMDB

Beat the Clock

Original Release March 23, 1950 - January 27, 1961 

No. of Seasons 10

Stars Bud Collyer, Jack Narz, Gene Wood, Monty Hall, Gary Kroeger, Paul Costabile 

Network CBS (1950–1958), ABC (1958–1961) 

"Classic game show where couples (and sometimes families) competed to win prizes by completing stunts within a time limit."  - IMDB

Soap Operas

The soap opera began in the early 1930s with 15-minute daytime radio episodes and was inherited by television in the early 1950s and expanded to 30 minutes. By the mid-1950s soap operas dominated late morning and early afternoon weekday television programming as they had dominated a similar time frame in radio programming during the previous decade.  (https://www.britannica.com/art/soap-opera )

Guiding Light

Original Release June 30, 1952 – September 18, 2009 

No. of Seasons 57 

No. of Episodes 15,762 

Stars Helen Wagner, Susan Douglas Rubeš, James Lipton, Christopher Walken, Elizabeth Hubbard, John Boruff

Network CBS

"This show took place in the fictional Midwestern town of Springfield. In its early years, the stories centered on the middle class Bauer family, but later the wealthy Spauldings, Chamberlains, and Lewises, along with the working class Reardons and others, took their own places of prominence, though the Bauers remained the heart of the show." - IMDB

As the World Turns

Original Release April 2, 1956 – September 17, 2010 

No. of Seasons 54

No. of Episodes 13,858

Stars William Lee, Hal Studer, Anne Burr McDermott, Rosemary Prinz, William Johnstone, Les Damon, Laurence Hugo

Network CBS

"The focus in on the upper class Hughes and Stewart families plus their tribulations in Midwest Oakdale. The Stewarts fade away eventually to be replaced by the rural Snyders and wealthy Lucinda Walsh with her many intrigues. " - IMDB

General Hospital

Original Release April 1, 1963 – Present 

No. of Seasons 70 (and counting)

No. of Episodes 15,000 (and counting)

Stars Carolyn Craig, Emily McLaughlin, Roy Thinnes, Jana Taylor, Ralph Manza, Simon Scott

Network ABC

"Families, friends, enemies, and lovers experience life-changing events in the large upstate city of Port Charles, New York, which has a busy hospital, upscale hotel, cozy diner, and dangerous waterfront frequented by the criminal underworld. " - IMDB


The classic cartoon series in the 1950s were entertaining and ahead of their time. Even if some people think that cartoons are only for kids, the stories and plots of these cartoon series and their characters attracted audiences from all ages. The colorful visuals and crazy antics caught children’s attention, the cartoon’s dialogue was often filled with humor that only adults could understand.  (https://mentalitch.com/top-cartoons-of-the-50s/ )

Yogi Bear

Original Release January 30, 1961 – January 6, 1962 

No. of Seasons 2

No. of Episodes 33

Stars Daws Butler, Don Messick, Julie Bennett, Jimmy Weldon, Vance Colvig, Doug Young

Network "Syndicated" (Played in local networks)

"Yogi, a smooth, talkative forest bear looks to raid park goers' picnic baskets, while Park Ranger Smith tries to stop him. " - IMDB


Original Release November 19, 1959 – June 27, 1964 

No. of Seasons 5

No. of Episodes 163

Stars June Foray, Bill Scott, Paul Frees, Daws Butler, Edward Everett Horton, Walter Tetley, Charlie Ruggles, Hans Conried, Hal Smith

Network ABC (1959–61), NBC (1961–64)

"Rocky, a plucky flying squirrel and Bullwinkle, a bumbling but lovable moose, have a series of ongoing adventures. " - IMDB

Looney Tunes

Born in the 1930's the Looney Toons become a flagship piece of early cartoons on television and print media

Original Release 1930– Present 

No. of Seasons 93 years (and counting)

No. of Episodes Ongoing

Stars Walt Disney and Co.

Network Warner Brothers

" Classic series of shorts featuring a large variety of humorous characters. "- IMDB


Before television, the nation saw westerns at movie theaters and listened to them over the radio. When westerns started appearing on TV, viewers avidly waited for their favorites. In any one week, westerns often received the highest viewer ratings. Viewers were able to escape their humdrum lives to watch their favorite heroes overcome all adversaries. It was good vs. bad, hero vs. villain, in the old nineteenth-century west. 

Early TV western series helped define America as a nation. Westerns sought to teach the good values of honesty and integrity, of hard work, of racial tolerance, of determination to succeed, and of justice for all. They were, in a sense, modern morality plays where heroes, strong, reliable, clear-headed and decent, fought their adversaries in the name of justice. At the show's end, moral lessons had been taught and learned.  (https://www.nypl.org/blog/2012/12/01/tv-westerns-1950s-and-60s )


Original Release September 12, 1959 – January 16, 1973 

No. of Seasons 14

No. of Episodes 431

Stars Lorne Greene, Pernell Roberts, Dan Blocker, Michael Landon, Guy Williams, Victor Sen Yung, David Canary, Mitch Vogel, Ray Teal, Bing Russell, Tim Matheson, Lou Frizzell

Network NBC

"The Wild West adventures of Ben Cartwright and his sons as they run and defend their Nevada ranch while helping the surrounding community. " - IMDB


Original Release September 10, 1955 – March 31, 1975 

No. of Seasons 14

No. of Episodes 402

Stars James Arness, Milburn Stone, Amanda Blake, Dennis Weaver, Burt Reynolds, Ken Curtis, Roger Ewing, Buck Taylor

Network CBS

"Marshal Matt Dillon keeps the peace in rough-and-tumble Dodge City. " - IMDB


Original Release September 15, 1959 – May 21, 1963 

No. of Seasons 4

No. of Episodes 124

Stars John Smith, Robert Fuller, Hoagy Carmichael, Stuart Randall, Eddy Waller, Robert Crawford, Jr., Dennis Holmes, Spring Byington

Network NBC

"In the 1870s Wyoming Territory, Slim Sherman and his 14-year-old brother Andy try to hang on to their ranch after their father's death. " - IMDB


Originally named “The Mickey Mouse Park,” and then “Disneylandia” before settling on “Disneyland,” Disney purchased 160 acres for the park in Anaheim and started construction in 1954. Disneyland opened on July 17th, 1955 with 18 rides and attractions. Just one year after Disneyland opened its door, 5 million people had visited the park. As of 2019, more than 700 million people have visited Disneyland.

The history of Disneyland is more than six decades-long, and in that time, the park has grown and evolved with the times but has managed to hold on to the magic that beckons people of all ages to visit, and dream of visiting, year after year. Fans of the park will tell you there’s just something about it—something special—that makes it a place unlike any other.

Upon entering the gates of the park, visitors pass through a tunnel and under the famous plaque that reads: HERE YOU LEAVE TODAY, AND ENTER THE WORLD. OF YESTERDAY, TOMORROW, AND FANTASY (https://www.adayinlatours.com/the-history-of-disneyland/ )

Disneyland Opens

Disneyland, Walt Disney’s metropolis of nostalgia, fantasy, and futurism, opens on July 17, 1955. The $17 million theme park was built on 160 acres of former orange groves in Anaheim, California, and soon brought in staggering profits. Today, Disneyland hosts more than 14 million visitors a year, who spend close to $3 billion.

Walt Disney, born in Chicago in 1901, worked as a commercial artist before setting up a small studio in Los Angeles to produce animated cartoons. In 1928, his short film Steamboat Willy, starring the character “Mickey Mouse,” was a national sensation. It was the first animated film to use sound, and Disney provided the voice for Mickey. From there on, Disney cartoons were in heavy demand, but the company struggled financially because of Disney’s insistence on ever-improving artistic and technical quality. His first feature-length cartoon, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1938), took three years to complete and was a great commercial success. (https://www.history.com/this-day-in-history/disneyland-opens )