Friday, January 26, 2007

The Best TV Shows of the 1950s

Well, I figured that I should go ahead and do TV after movies. Next, we’ll get poll results and then start 1960. This one was kinda hard to put together, because I really was working with a pretty small pool. TV was in its infancy in the 1950s and while there was some great stuff, I’ve never had the opportunity to see a good deal of it. Normally, I would be doing top tens, but I’m just running top fives here. If anyone has any opinions on this one that they would like to share, I would really love to hear it.

The Five Best Dramas

5. Bonanza (9/12/59-1/16/73)

I’ve seen a few episodes of this series and I found the characters to be very likable, especially Hoss. I’m not terribly familiar with it, but the few episodes I’ve seen inched the show into the number five spot on this list ahead of a few other shows that I lack much familiarity with.

4. Perry Mason (9/21/57-5/22/66)

Back in the early nineties, I worked at a small television station as a control room operator. For a while there, we were running syndicated episodes of Perry Mason and I really enjoyed the show. If you like the Law & Order franchise or any modern lawyer show, you should check out some of those old Perry Mason episodes. Raymond Burr was very impressive and the stories were all quite good.

3. Dragnet (12/16/51-8/23/59)

I’m mostly familiar with the episodes from the sixties, which could be quite trippy at times, but I’ve seen a few of the fifties-era episodes and I really enjoyed them. I don’t think there has been a single cop show on television that hasn’t taken at least some inspiration from this series. Jack Webb had such a distinctive delivery. This was a great show.

2. Alfred Hitchcock Presents (10/2/55-6/26/65)

We finally get to a series where I’ve seen lots of episodes. Although this is an anthology series as opposed to a drama with recurring characters and a continuing plotline, it still counts as a TV drama. Of course the number one pick is an anthology as well. Hitchcock was a genius and while he only directed seventeen of the nearly 300 episodes himself, his stamp was certainly evident throughout the series. The stories and acting were all top-notch for the entire run.

1. The Twilight Zone (10/2/59-6/19/64)

Now this one was really something special. An anthology, like the Hitchcock show, but the stories were far greater than any that had been seen on television before. There are more classic episodes than I can list and many of them have been the subjects of countless parodies and tributes in their own right. This was the best TV Drama of the fifties.

The Five Best Sitcoms

5. Leave It to Beaver (10/4/57-9/12/63)

I’ve seen several episodes of this one in syndication. It’s a pretty enjoyable show. Today, it is very representative of what people who didn’t live in the fifties think that the fifties were really like, but I don’t think life was ever quite so perfect. I get a kick out of that Eddie Haskell kid.

4. The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis (9/29/59-9/18/63)

I used to catch this one on Nick at Nite and I really loved it. Tuesday Weld was really hot. Bob Denver as Maynard G. Krebs was hilarious. Dobie’s dad was pretty damn funny. Dobie himself was very easy for a teenager to relate to. This is one of the all-time great teen-themed sitcoms.

3. The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show (10/12/50-9/22/58)

Gracie Allen was an absolute comedic genius. Her repartee, filled with malaprops and misunderstandings, was side-splitting. The show itself was groundbreaking, particularly by being the first television program to break the fourth wall. I’ve seen several episodes on DVD and it was just tremendously funny.

2. The Honeymooners (10/1/55-9/22/56)

This was a true sitcom classic. The Kramdens and the Nortons inspired so many of the sitcom characters that came after them. Jackie Gleason and Art Carney were both masters of their art. There were so many great routines and classic moments in this series. It really is one of the greatest TV shows ever.

1. I Love Lucy (10/15/51-5/6/57)

It was a very difficult decision between The Honeymooners and I Love Lucy for the number one spot. I finally decided that Lucy held a slight edge. Lucille Ball was an incredibly talented comedienne who would go to any length to deliver the funny. Desi Arnaz was probably the coolest man on TV in the fifties. I mean Desi was just awesome. Fred and Ethel were wonderful comic foils. This show was pure genius.

Next up we’ll have poll results and 1960.

Comments and opinions are encouraged and appreciated.


Anonymous said...

What? No "Jack Benny Show?" That EASILY kicks "Leave It To Beaver" in class, style, comedy, and wit.

Anonymous said...

I agree with above poster. Jack Benny easily beats Beaver

Anonymous said...

One of the best shows EVER was One Step Beyond. It was the inspiration for Twilight Zone. It debuted about year before Twilight Zone and (I thought)it came out in 1960? Anyway, One Step Beyond reenacted true cases psychic phenomena... that were beyond explanation. Many of these stories were better than the fictional ones on Twilight Zone!

Another worthy '50's show was Racket Squad. A "Dragnet" type show which dealt in true stories of bunko artists, in various cities around the country. Excellent show!

Anonymous said...

This list is nothing without the Jack Benny show. When I was a little kid I just LOVED this show. Jack Benny's facial mannerisms when reacting to situations were a scream.

It should be up there next to "I Love Lucy," by the way!!!

Anonymous said...

Beaver over Benny? DING! Sorry, that means you don't know what you are talking about.

BTW shows that debut in '59 and run through the 1960s are not considered "50s shows".

Anonymous said...

No Sgt Bilko? Oh my.........