Welcome to 50’s study hall. In this section, I will be publishing a series of lists that will allow readers to use them as a reference for the given topic. Please feel free to message me if any of the info needs correcting, or if you have anything to add. I hope this section will help readers to find lots of Fifties Facts in one single place!
Today we’ll be studying variety television shows of the 1950’s era. This lists also includes entertainment shows, which included music, dancing and/or skits. The 50’s was the decade that TV began to take off. For the first time, practically every household had a television set. From dramas to comedies, to variety shows and westerns, television was apart of the new American dream.
Let’s have a look at the variety programs from the Fabulous Fifties.
Variety TV Shows of the 1950’s
Years aired: 1956-1989 | Starring: Dick Clark, The ABS Teens and Various Guests
An American classic that helped helped usher in Rock N Roll, this long-running show ended in 1989, but began its popular run with Dick Clark in 1956. The early days of American Bandstand featured regular teens being interviewed by Clark, giving opinions on the latest songs. They would also spend a portion of the program dancing to the top tunes. The show also featured Clark unveiling the Top 10 songs on the charts for that week. Most importantly, however, is that American Bandstand featured the hottest stars of the music industry performing their latest hits. You were nobody until you were on Bandstand!
“Dick Clark’s Saturday Night Beechnut Show”
Years aired: 1958-1960 | Starring: Dick Clark and Various Guests
Dick Clark hosted this program which was far shorter-lived than American Bandstand, but still popular. Also known as “The Dick Clark Show” this program aired on Saturday Nights from 7:30-8pm. The sponsor was Beech-Nut Gum, which was unabashedly advertised throughout the program. As with American Bandstand, pretty much all of the hottest artists of the day showed up on the Saturday Night Beechnut show. The show’s audience consisted of a well-behaved, but excited gum-chewing group of teens. Each show was recorded at the Little Theater in downtown Manhattan. At the end of each show, Dick Clark would count down the Top Ten most popular songs of the week.
“The Ed Sullivan Show”
Years aired: 1948-1971 | Starring: Ed Sullivan and Various Guests
A long-running variety show that entertained families for years, “The Ed Sullivan Show” goes down in history for featuring some of the most iconic performances of all time. Sunday nights were a time for families in the 1950’s to gather around the television console and watch Mr. Sullivan introduce a plethora of good, clean entertainment acts. Some of the re-occurring acts that Sullivan featured were plate spinners, jugglers and puppeteers. But what young America liked the very best was ironically, what Mr. Sullivan had the most complications with: Rock n Roll. In the 1950’s, many early Rock n Roll stars got Nation-wide television exposure for the first time on “The Ed Sullivan Show”.
“The Mickey Mouse Club”
Years aired (originally): 1955-1959 | Starring: Jimmie Dodd and The Original Mousketeers
The original “Mickey Mouse Club” made it’s television debut in 1955 with Mouseketeers: Bobby, Annette, Darlene, Cubby, Karen and Doreen. The show was hosted by Jimmie Dodd and featured a variety of singing and dancing acts by the kids. Each Mouseketeer wore sweatshirts with their names on them and, of course, Mickey Mouse ears. “The Mickey Mouse Club” aired daily and each day had a different theme, (for example, Monday was “Fun With Music Day”) This show was the very first well-known Disney show and will always be an original classic.
“The Milton Berle Show”
Years aired: 1948-1956 (brought back in the 60s) | Starring: Milton Berle and Various Guests
You might have heard of Milton Berle also known as “Uncle Miltie” and “Mr. Television”. Milton Berle was a former radio-turned-TV personality who hosted a variety show on NBC. The show was most popular in the early-mid 1950’s. In 1956, Elvis Presley made two of his very first TV appearances ever on “The Milton Berle Show”. As the 1950’s came to an end, so did Milton Berle’s popularity and he went on to do much lesser things. However to this day when people recall the Golden Age of TV, Milton Berle is still center stage.
“The Perry Como Show”
Years aired: 1955-1957 | Starring: Perry Como and Various Guests
“The Perry Como Show” began on NBC in the mid-1950’s, and was one of many endeavors for singer and actor Perry Como. This was a popular variety show for all ages which featured improvised jokes and a lot of singing numbers which were featured in the segment called “Sing to me, Mr. C.” The show also had special guests such as Kirk Douglas, Grace Kelly and Esther Williams. There was also a “letters” segment in which viewers’ mail was read on the air.
“The Red Skelton Show”
Years aired: 1951-1971 | Starring: Red Skelton and Various Guests
Although it changed networks and times during the 1950’s, “The Red Skelton Show” was another important part of television entertainment for 20 years. Hosted by comedian Red Skelton, it featured many comedic stars of the day. This show was known for its skits starring Red Skelton himself as many various characters, such as “San Fernando Red”, “Cauliflower McPugg” and “George Appleby”. Audiences would tune in week after week to see Red’s characters and their funny antics.
“The Steve Allen Show”
Years aired: 1956-1960 | Starring: Steve Allen and Various Guests
Another major variety TV show in the 50’s was, “The Steve Allen Show” aired on ABC and had a very special time slot: Sunday nights, 8PM Eastern– exactly opposite of “The Ed Sullivan Show”! In the end, “The Ed Sullivan Show” ran longer and is better remembered, but that does not negate the then-popularity of Steve Allen. Many stars were keen to be on Steve Allen’s show and some of his most famous guests were: Elvis Presley, Sammy Davis, Jr., Fats Domino and Jerry Lee Lewis who made his very first TV appearance on Allen’s show in 1957. “The Steve Allen Show” is also credited for launching the careers of Don Knotts, Bill Dana and Jim Neighbors to name a few.
“Your Hit Parade”
Years aired: 1950-1959 | Starring: Dorothy Collins, Russell Arms, Snooky Lanson and Gisele MacKensie
This show had four main singers who performed musical numbers of their renditions of the Top Hits. The numbers were performed with costumes on elaborate sets. Funny enough, the show’s success began to fade with the rise of the Rock n Roll Revolution. The Big Band singers couldn’t quite grasp the genre of Rock n Roll, and their performances were shoddy versions of the hits by the top recording stars. Your Hit Parade was sponsored by “Lucky Strike” and featured dancing cigarette boxes to promote the brand.
“Your Show of Shows”
Years aired: 1950-1954 | Starring: Sid Caesar, Imogene Cocoa, Howard Morris, Carl Reiner
This early 1950’s variety show was one of the first of its kind! Starring Sid Caesar and produced by Max Leibman, this was the beginnings for some great TV legends. Well-known writers of the show included: Mel Brooks, Neil Simon, and Selma Diamond to name a few. “Your Show of Shows” was broadcast on NBC and each episode was 90 minutes long. It featured musical and comedy sketches, some of which inspired future projects such as “The Dick Van Dyke Show”.
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