TV in the 50s and 60s Throughout the 1950s television fought to become the top form of mass communication, and became a cultural force in good and bad ways by the 60s. Before the end of the 1960s over three national networks began were broadcasting programs that were alternately earth shaking, sublime and ridiculous. During 1940s, the three major networks consisted of: NBC, CBS and ABC were "networks" by name only. All programming show originated, live, in New York. The only possible way to dispense these programs across the country was to point a camera at the television screen and turn that into film. 6mm films known as kinescopes were then copied and shipped to the few joined stations for later broadcast. By necessity, most programming on these stations was local and took up most of the day. (Pruit, C. A. ) (Kinescope) These networks began on the path that has lead them to what they are today because of AT&T laying a system of Coaxial cable across the nation. Coax, the now common cables that run from wall cable TV outlets to today's Televisions, has enough bandwidth or electrical carrying capacity, to transmit hundreds or even thousands of telephone calls as well as television signals. Coaxial) For the first time in 1952, the republican and democratic national conventions were able to be broadcasted from Philadelphia to the rest of the nation. The significance of this event for rural America went beyond who was running against each other that year. The TV signals that were sent out could reach into the most remote corners of the U. S. took down the remainder of isolation in America. The visual and hearing experience together that television created (especially after the arrival to color TV in early 60s) meant that regional cultural differences were ironed out.
A more generalized "American" culture designated regional subcultures. Television familiarized country residents with other regions making relocation even more appealing. Between 1949 and 1969, the number of households in the U. S. with at least one TV set rose from less than a million to 44 million. The number of commercial TV stations rose from 69 to 566. The amount advertisers paid these TV stations and the networks rose from $58 million to $1. 5 billion. Between 1959 and 1970, the percentage of households in the U. S. with at least one TV went from 88 percent to 96 percent.
By 1970, there were around 700 UHF and VHF television stations; today there are 1,300. By 1970, TV stations and networks raked in $3. 6 billion in ad revenues; today, that figure is over $60 billion. (tvhistory) Television programming has had a huge impact on American and world culture. Many have named the 1950s as the Golden Age of Television. TV sets were expensive and so the audience was generally wealthy. As the households with TVs multiplied and spread to other parts of society, more varied programming was introduced.
Comedies and variety shows were ideas that were borrowed from radio. Former entertainment stars like Milton Berle, Sid Caesar and Jackie Gleason found stardom after years of being on the stages. Ernie Kovacs was one of the first comedians to really understand and use the technology of television. (Early Visual Media) Quiz shows in the 50s became popular until a scandal erupted. For three years, producers of "The $64,000 Question" supplied an appealing contestant with the answers to tough trivia questions to heighten the drama. IMDB) Many of the genres that today's audiences are familiar with were developed during this time: westerns, kids' shows, situation comedies, sketch comedies, game shows, dramas, news and sports programming. Television news produced perhaps some of its finest performances in In the 1950s and 60s. “Edward R. Murrow exposed the tactics of innuendo and unsubstantiated charges that Sen. Joseph McCarthy used to exploit the country's fear of Communism. ” Televised debates between Nixon and Kennedy were accredited to giving JFK a slim victory in the election.
Coverage of the civil rights movement and live reporting of Martin Luther King's March on Washington brought these issues to attention. When President Kennedy was assassinated on Friday, November 22, 1963, immediately, most Americans turned on televisions to get the news. The networks devoted multiple days of coverage to the disaster, the funeral, and the aftershock. Many Americans were watching live news feed on Sunday morning November 24; when they witnessed Jack Ruby kill the alleged assassin who killed the president… Lee Harvey Oswald. History of TV News) Coverage of the Vietnam War was credited with bringing war into the homes of citizens for the first time. When Walter Cronkite, a CBS News anchorman openly protested against the war, President Johnson stated, "If I've lost Cronkite, I've lost the country. " After also learning he had lost the support of key supporters on Wall Street, Johnson decided not attempt re-election. (Biography of Walter Cronkite) This was also a time of abundant diversion on television. Producers added science fiction to the mix of enres of programs on TV, perhaps this was in response to the creation of the NASA space program. This era produced some of the most long lasting eras in television history. The CBS program "Star Trek" is the prime example. In 1960, the "Andy Griffith Show" with its small town sheriff, his son, his deputy and a cast of stereotypical rural characters, was the fourth most popular show on television. It stayed in the top ten every year until it reached number one in 1967. Then came the "Beverly Hillbillies" in 1962. The idea was simple. Farmer Jeb Clampett discovers oil on his worthless land while hunting.
He then packs up daughter Elly May, nephew Jethro, Granny, all their belongings and millions of dollars and moves to California. In a scene that was weirdly significant of photographs of Depression-era hillbillies moving to California. The show was an inspired piece of ridiculousness, produced by Paul Henning, a Midwesterner from Missouri who spent 30 years in Hollywood mining his rural roots. The "Beverly Hillbillies" shot up to number one in the ratings the first two years it was on the air, and stayed in the top fifteen for the rest of the decade.
Critics have called the show, "equal parts Steinbeck and absurdism, the nouveau riche-out-of-water. " (The Beverly Hillbillies) The same producer, followed that up with "Petticoat Junction" from 1963-70 and "Green Acres" from 1965-71. Both shows proved to be almost as popular. The petticoats in the first show belonged to the blonde, brunet and redheaded daughters (Billie Jo, Bobbie Jo and Betty Jo) of Kate Bradley, the proprietress of the Shady Grove Hotel. The daughters gave the writers ample opportunity for the farmer's daughters jokes while the hotel's isolation created a rural setting that didn't exist in reality anymore. Green Acres" went much further into ridiculousness. One fan web site, "Memorable TV," calls the show, "a flat-out assault on Cartesian logic, Newtonian physics, and Harvard-centrist positivism. Lawyer Oliver Wendell Douglas (Eddie Albert) and his socialite wife Lisa (Eva Gabor) come to Hooterville in search of the greening of America and lofty Jeffersonian idealism. What they discover instead is a virtual parallel universe of unfettered surrealism, rife with gifted pigs, square chicken eggs, and abiogenetic hotcakes – a universe which Lisa intuits immediately, and by which Oliver is constantly bewildered. "(memorable TV)