It seems to be an inescapable tragedy of life that those who break new ground and truly innovate the world as we know it are destined to be forgotten. Some of the most groundbreaking and precedent-setting moments in TV history were made not by the legendary shows we all know and some of us love, but by shows that have long since been forgotten. Quality seems to matter more than getting their first. And maybe, in the end, that’s not the worst thing in the world.
“The Marriage” premiered on NBC on July 8, 1954 and managed to stay on the air for barely six weeks. The show starred real-life married couple Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy, but that’s not why this situation comedy holds a unique distinction in American TV history. “The Marriage” was the very first network show to be regularly broadcast in color . Never mind that most people who owned a TV at all certainly didn’t own a color TV. Never mind that the novelty of always being available in color did little to help the show find an audience. TV history was made by “The Marriage” and can never be taken away.
“The Mask” was a 1954 mystery drama that added very little if anything to what had already existed before. What you had in “The Mask” were two brothers who were partners in a law firm. So, there was the slight novelty of having lawyers solve crimes, but not much more than that. So how did “The Mask” represent a significant and long-lasting transformation in the genre of hour-long mystery dramas? Because the 1950s was the Golden Age of Anthology Shows. Every hour long mystery drama series before “The Mask” was done in the style of a completely new and unrelated tale with completely new and unseen characters. “The Mask” set the stage for every mystery show to come in its by introducing the mystery crew in the first episode and having them solve every crime in every subsequent story. This made “The Mask” the very first mystery hour show in American TV history to feature regular cast of characters who returned each weeks .
The Hank McCune Show
The year was 1950 and TV was in its infancy. As with YouTube and viral videos today, t wasn’t so much a question of what was on to watch as the fact that anything at all was available to watch. “The Hank McCune Show” was filled with silly slapstick physical comedy. The really weird part of “The Hank McCune Show” was that there was the quite audible sound of studio audience laughter punctuating those crazy hijinks. Such a sound would not be strange at all to contemporary audiences, of course. But in 1950 such a thing was quite literally unheard-of. What is the place in TV history occupied by “The Hank McCune Show” then? This was the very first television series to ever use a laugh track . And before you go thinking that this means someone should go back in time and kill Hank McCune, I suggest you watch a sitcom you love that is equipped with a laugh track with the track removed. You just might be surprised to find out how effective a laugh track really is at stimulating you to laugh at things that are not funny.