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Programs of the 1950s. Top Most FamousTelevision Shows

Updated on October 12, 2012

Groucho Marx in, You Bet Your Life

The 1950s

The 1950s was a decade that is remembered fondly by Americans, whether they are old enough to have lived during the golden age of television or they are just now being introduced to the 1950s through time capsules such as I Love Lucy, Twilight Zone and the Honeymooners, the 50s hold a unique charm.

It seems that the 50s holds a special place in the hearts of Americans because it represents a time of family values, innocents, unforgettable 50s fashions, and the birth of television. Looking at the old 50s television shows holds my interest because as television has evolved and has now been around for several decades, the programs have a "canned" and predictable quality of following a standard formula. The modern sitcoms all look the same to me because they all tend to follow the format of a living room set and two or tree other main sets where all the action takes place. The "reality" shows have taken over where real talent and interesting drama once held a place on television.

It is a lot of fun finding early 50s shows that often have a fresh quality and do not seem at all contrived or predictable. And while there are a goldmine of 50s classics that have been forgotten, most of the 50s shows mentioned here, are among the group of classics that have managed to gain new audiences over the decades, leading new generations of viewers to discover the 1950s.

The Cast of Leave it to Beaver

The Best Shows of the 1950s

I Love Lucy- is not just a funny show these days, but a wonderful fashion show of the 1950s on parade as Lucy and Ethel are seen wearing exquisite hats, and gowns of the era. The comedy is reminiscent of slapstick comedies and radio dramas of the 1930s. Lucy gets into similar types of trouble as Laurel & Hardy often did, and she attempted to satisfy her desire for fancy clothes and fine living. Modern sit com heroines tend to be unnaturally "good." More than just another classic- I Love Lucy was well directed and filmed as well as professionally written. The quality of the show holds today as a superior sit com that is not to be outdone. Besides the show being funny as far as the story lines go, the clarity of the 35mm film, and the likability of the cast are still holding strong today. Many television programs had switched to video tape during the 50s. which does not age well and gives the actors a distorted, wide, and flat appearance.

Playhouse 90- An excellent program that ran from 1956-1960 and was virtually never seen in syndication, but can now be seen on Youtube. This dramatic series launched some classic movies such as, Marty, starring Ernest Borgnine. The original Playhouse 90 version featured Rod Steiger in the title role. Requiem For A Heavyweight was one of the most memorable episodes. It featured Jack Palance as the has been prize fighter. In 1962 Requiem For a Heavyweight was so successful that it was made into a full length movie starring Anthony Quinn as the prize fighter and Jackie Gleason as the manager. As with any series there are some forgettable Playhouse 90 shows, but there are numerous gems hidden in this series. Playhouse 90 featured an entirely new cast and different storyline each week. They were all 90 minute dramas.

Leaver It to Beaver-The classic family show that generations still continue to watch during their wonder years. The relationship between the boys, Wally and Beaver, is timeless, as are the naive situations they find themselves. Mrs. Cleaver never had to have a job, and she looked 1950s elegant all the time. It was a world of PTA meetings, raising children, and baking for moms, and business during the day, and family at night for dads. The ideal image that despite modern resentments toward tradition, seems to hold a special and nostalgic place in our hearts.

Twilight Zone- Even though the show started at the end of the 50s it is regarded to this day as a classic a 1950s program due to the sophisticated style and drama it held. Some of the episodes have reached their own independent appreciation for being memorable, scary, or intriguing. Such as the vary first episode, Where is Everybody, and Eye Of The Beholder. Alfred Hitchcock Presents was one of the top television shows during the 1950s. It featured Alfred Hitchcock at his creepy and funny best, as he introduced his half hour stories that featured Hitchcock's favorite subject; murder- with a twist at the end. The Twilight Zone followed the same theme as Alfred Hitchcock Presents in that they featured a different story with an entire different cast and set each week. The stories were taken a little further than the traditional film noir murder plot and often included a supernatural storyline, and twist. This show has been imitated unsuccessfully over the decades, and a series by the same name came out in the 1980s. The New Twilight Zone tried to cash in on the success of the original show by featuring similar, thriller type episodes. There were some new stories mixed in with re-workings of stories from the original show. The series is virtually forgotten today.

The Honeymooners- Funny characters, and Jackie Gleason, and Art Carney make this show a masterpiece. The wives of Ralph and Ed are more like props in this show, and Jackie Gleason is clearly the star with Art Carney being his unforgettable side kick. Although this show does not hold as well as I Love Lucy does as far as film quality, the characters are timeless. Jackie Gleason is intense and believable as a struggling bus driver trying to get ahead, and his wife played by Audrey Meadows, is admirable and often quite touching as the over worked housewife. This show was played in reruns throughout the 70s, but is not easy to find on television anymore. Perhaps its because the show appears to be much older than I Love Lucy, due to the simple camera angles, and the use of video tape,and the less diverse and professional looking sets. However, the stories are as funny as ever, and the characters seem to get even better with time.

You Bet Your Life- Groucho Marx is brilliant and when watching him perform this television show one can see that there is no doubt about it; Groucho is truly quick on his feet. Groucho would interview his contestants and ad-lib banter with the contestants, resulting in scenes that were every bit as hilarious as scenes from the Marx Brothers movies. You Bet Your Life was a quiz show that was originally a radio program in the mid 1940s, and in 1950 it became a television program. In 1960 the show was renamed The Groucho Show.


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    • justateacher profile image

      LaDena Campbell 5 years ago from Somewhere Over The Rainbow - Near Oz...

      Love the shows you mention and have gladly watched the reruns as often as I can. I often tease my oldest daughter that she is the June Cleaver of today - a happy, mostly stay-at-home mom (I say mostly because she works seasonally) and wonderful wife. Although, her husband also helps around the house and with child care.

      Thanks for bringing back some memories.

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      Kathleen Kerswig 5 years ago

      I Love Lucy was and still is my favorite show of all time. I have seen every episode hundreds of times and they still make me laugh. Thank you for this walk down memory lane. Voted up!

    • fpherj48 profile image

      Paula 5 years ago from Beautiful Upstate New York

      Another walkdown Memory Lane of the '50's. As a proud Boomer, I am always drawn to hubs that feature anything at all from this ear....IMO, the most wonderful ERA of all. These TV programs are all so of Lucy are still on everyday.

      Oh, the beatings poor "June Cleaver" has taken over the years for her portrait of the "everyday American housewife and mother of that time!" I don't know, she seemed pretty darn happy back then, tending to her "specific female duties of little woman and Mom" Just that phrase, by itself, today could start of RIOT!!! LOL Up ++ and shared.

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      Old Poolman 5 years ago

      Gosh, this hub made me homesick for the 50's, but they haven't invented time travel yet to my knowledge. I think my favorite was the Honeymooners, and I always remember the one where Jackie Gleason slipped, fell, and broke his leg during the show.

      Thanks for the trip to the past to enjoy with my morning cup of coffee.