Television in the 50s

By: Nina Stoneham

The 1950s were commonly known as "The Golden age of Television" but, as the 1950s began, many people were still listening to the radio and using it as their main source of entertainment. On the radio was news and once in a while a Soap Opera. These were short melodramas that were sponsored by soap companies. They had everything, from the damsel in distress to the evil villain. However, as television moved in, a lot of the soap companies or sponsors of these soap operas realized that they could get more advertisement if they switched to television. In 1954 there were 7 soap operas on the television, and they kept growing and eventually outnumbered their radio counterparts. People realized that the radio soaps were gradually dying out and by 1960 no more radio soaps were produced.

Apart from soap operas, there were other good shows on the television as well. “I Love Lucy”, “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet”, “Leave it to Beaver” and “The Lone Ranger” were classic American television shows. For instance, “I Love Lucy” was about a New York housewife named Lucy Ricardo and her husband Ricky, a bandleader. During the show, Lucy and her neighbor Ethel Mertz are always frustrating their husbands with their crazy schemes. The show “The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet” originally started out as a radio show, with just Ozzie Nelson and his wife Harriet. Then, it moved to television where it also starred David Nelson and Ricky Nelson the couples’ sons. The Nelsons portrayed fictional characters of themselves in living a “normal” American life. They sort of set the norm for American life then.

The television show “Leave it to Beaver” was another show where normal life seemed to be the focus, that is until Theodore or “the Beaver” always seemed to get into some trouble one way or another. In most of the situations, the kid who was really creating all of the trouble was Eddie Haskell. He is older than Theodore and always manages to avoid getting caught, but instead Theodore does. Unlike in real life where the kid causing the trouble would most likely receive a punishment for his misdeeds, Theodore gets off with only a few reprimands from his parents. This classic television show was also made into a movie in 1997. Besides all of these shows the news also played a major part in television too. “The Today Show”, CBS, NBC and ABC are just a few of the news programs that were around in the 50s and are still around today.

Although some people took a disregard to television news casting, most people thought it was a great source of information. It was looked upon as a form of entertainment and not serious professional news. One reason for this was the fact that television news was seen by many Americans as third generation news, the first generation being print journalism, second being the radio. When the radio was invented, the print news sources were seen as lower and inferior to radio. The same thing happened with T.V.  When that was invented the radio was seen as the lowest source of news. In fact, it was not until the early 1960s that television began to show its importance as a reliable news source. It accomplished this by broadcasting the Nixon-Kennedy debates in 1960 and the Kennedy assassination in 1963.

Television will always be the best news source and it is still today. Back in the 50s people used television as an escape from their day and to learn about the major news events that had happened here in America and across the world. It offered people a variety of shows and rapidly became the dominant mass media as more and more people invested in TVs. Children laughed at the silly afternoon cartoons and adults cried at the dramatic soap operas. In the evening the whole family would be captivated in the news and watching the late shows. Television has definitely become a part of American history and an American icon.

Information From:

Tompkins, Vinceint. “Television News.” American Decades. Vol. 6. Detroit: Gale, 2001. 315-317. 22 July 2008 http://find.galegroup.com.

’I Love Lucy.’” American Decades. Vol. 6. Detriot: Gale, 2001. 303-304. 17 July 2008 http://find.galegroup.com.

“The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet.” Internet Movie Database. 1990-2008. Amazon.com.  22 July 2008 http://www.idmb.com.

“Leave it To Beaver.” Internet Movie Database. 1990-2008. Amazon.com.  22 July 2008 http://www.idmb.com.

Casconi, Chris. The Classic TV Database. 1995.  22 July 2008 http://www.classic-tv.com.