1950's Television

By: Suzi Seaton

The Impact of Television on Americans

In the 1950's, television sets cost about $400, which was a huge amount back then. Despite the price, many people were enthusiastic about them and bought them. As said by the Newsweek Magazine, "TV was catching on like a case of high-toned scarlet fever." Everyone was buying TV sets, and if they weren't, they were standing outside of an appliance store that sold them and watching. There was a craze for TV. People called it, "Radios with pictures." It was a new technology that impacted society for generations to come.

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1950's TV

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Black & White to Color TV

The transition of TV from black and white to color was a remarkable change. Americans could not believe what they saw. Ever since TV's were invented, it had always been black and white. When color was introduced, people loved it. They felt like they were actually at the show.
Late 1950's NBC Peacock Color Logo

The "Perfect" 1950's Family Life on TV

Television in the 1950's was nothing like it is today. Back then, TV shows idealized the "perfect" American family. 1950's television's idea of a perfect family was a briefcase-toting professional father who left daily for work, and a pearls-wearing, nurturing housewife who raised their ornery boys and "perfect" girls. Also, the "perfect" family was always white. Television shows like Leave it to Beaver, The Donna Reed Show, and Father Knows Best were ones with the "perfect" family life. Television created an idyllic view of what a perfect American family life should look like, though few actual families could live up to the ideal. The only exception to this "perfect" family life was the show I Love Lucy because the husband in the show was Cuban.

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Top 3 Shows each Year in the 50s


1. Texaco Star Theatre (NBC)

2. Fireside Theatre (NBC)
3. Philco TV Playhouse (NBC)


1. Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts (CBS)
2. Texaco Star Theater (NBC)
3. I Love Lucy (CBS)


1. I Love Lucy (CBS)
2. Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts (CBS)
3. Arthur Godfrey and His Friends (CBS)


1. I Love Lucy (CBS)
2. Dragnet (NBC)
3. Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts (CBS)


1. I Love Lucy (CBS)
2. The Jackie Gleason Show (CBS)
3. Dragnet (NBC)


1. The $64,000 Question (CBS)
2. I Love Lucy (CBS)
3. The Ed Sullivan Show (CBS)


1. I Love Lucy (CBS)
2. The Ed Sullivan Show (CBS)
3. General Electric Theatre (CBS)


1.) Gunsmoke (CBS)
2.) The Danny Thomas Show (CBS)
3.) Tales of Wells Fargo (NBC)


1. Gunsmoke (CBS)
2. Wagon Train (NBC)
3. Have Gun Will Travel (CBS)


1. Gunsmoke (CBS)
2. Wagon Train (NBC)
3. Have Gun Will Travel (CBS)

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Type of TV Shows in the 1950s

The top three kind of shows in the 50s were family oriented, westerns, and variety shows.

1. Shows like I Love Lucy, Leave it to Beaver, and Father Knows Best are examples of family oriented shows. These shows focused on families with the husband going to work daily and the wife being around the house and taking care of the children. These shows were very cliché and exemplified the "perfect" families.

2. Shows like Bonanza, Gunsmoke, and The Rifleman are examples of popular westerns that began in the 1950s. In Westerns, they would show the toughness of men and their battles with each episode ending happily.

3. Shows like The Ed Sullivan Show, The Jackie Gleason Show , and The Red Skeleton Show are exampled of variety shows. These shows captivated America with celebrity guest stars and skits throughout each episode. Many Americans enjoyed these shows to have a good laugh.

Comparing Then to Now

1950's TV shows were completely different to what they are now. In the 1950s, there was a limit on what shows could actually say and do. Now, almost everything goes. In I Love Lucy, in their bedroom, they had separate single beds. Also, at the end of one show, Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz had a kiss that lasted too long, so CBS cut it short because it was called, "Too Inappropriate." Each separate show was not free to do what they wanted. Each station wanted to make sure that everything was appropriate enough to go on air. Now, TV is a lot more diverse. Everything goes because there are so many different types of people now than there was in the 1950s. There is nothing similar to the shows in the 1950s to now. TV has now evolved into its own and it will never be gone for generations to come.


1. Allen, Steve. "Television in the United States." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, 2016. Web. Jan. 2016.


2. "Facts-Stats." Facts-Stats. Web. Jan. 2016. <http://www.tvhistory.tv/facts-stats.htm>.

3. Phipps, Paul. "TV Shows in the 1950s." RetroWaste. Aug. 2013. Web. Jan. 2016. <http://www.retrowaste.com/1950s/tv-shows-in-the-1950s/>.

4. "Land of Television." Ushistory.org. Independence Hall Association, 2014. Web. Jan. 2016. <http://www.ushistory.org/us/53c.asp>.