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The history of American television is finally written. The shows your grandparents chose as their favorites during the dawn of network television inspired the series of today. The genesis of genres began with The Laytons; Barney Blake, Police Reporter; Off the Record; The Dennis James Carnival; Meet the Press; The Original Amateur Hour; Texaco Star Theater; Toast of the Town ; Candid Camera; Kukla, Fran and Ollie;  Arthur Godfrey’s Talent Scouts; Hopalong Cassidy; Mama; The Lone Ranger; The Life of Riley. 

Arthur Godfrey, Milton Berle, Ed Sullivan, Jack Carter, Jackie Gleason, Gertrude Berg, Jack Lemmon, Boris Karloff, Mike Wallace, and Perry Como stand out among the stars of groundbreaking series that premiered in the 1940s. Each are categorized along with descriptions of most episodes of the Top 300 comedies, dramas, variety shows, and game shows.


Classic television series. The roots of today’s reboots. 


Index. Illustrated.


About the author: Richard Irvin’s other works include Forgotten Laughs: An Episode Guide to 150 TV Sitcoms You Probably Never Saw, and Spinning Laughter: Profiles of 111 Proposed Spin-offs and Sequels that Never Became a Series.

"This is an amazing work of television search and scholarship, tracking shows from the dark ages of television that few people have seen or ever heard of. Irvin is the consumate researcher and goes into astonishing detail on each show. But this is far from a dry, boring reference's hours of fascinating reading, it's also a time capsule offering a glimpse into the cultural, historical, technological issues of the day...and an intriguing foreshadow of what was to come in television's future. It's full of cool trivia -- for example, in the sitcom Mama (1949-1956), Dick Van Patten played the eldest son, but when he had to miss a few episodes James Dean stepped in to play the character in his place. And guest stars in the sitcom included Paul Newman and Jack Lemmon. One of my favorite discoveries in the book is a series called Off The Record, which ran for two episodes in September 1948. It starred Zero Mostel as a millionaire DJ broadcasting a radio show from his lavish Manhattan penthouse apartment. Mostel walked off the show when the producer failed to deliver a promised live audience to fill the theater where the sitcom was filmed.  Another intriguing show is the dark drama anthology Mr. Black, which aired for a just few weeks in the fall of 1949, and was written entirely by novelist and prolific television writer Bill Ballinger. Mr. Black was the Devil's emissary on earth and he took particular delight in pitting people against one another and seeing just how much death and misery he could cause. So little is known about the show that there's some dispute over who actually starred in it. I know I say this a lot, especially about Irvin's books, but this is a must-have for any television reference collection."
- Lee Goldberg


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