One of the oldest and most successful genres in the history of television came to a crushing halt with the arrival of the 21st century. Actually, it had already been dying before then, but there’s no doubt that a comparison of TV shows of the 2000s to those that populated the airwaves in the 1950s reveals that the Golden Age of the Anthology has passed. But farther away we get from a golden age is also the closer we are getting to a Renaissance. So that must mean we are getting closer to seeing contemporary grandchildren to these examples from the Golden Age of the Anthology TV Series.
The Mail Story
The 1954 series “The Mail Story” is a perfect example of what TV audiences were given during the Golden Age of the Anthology TV Series. “The Mail Story” was featured two different type of stories in their anthology. Some of them were documentary-style presentations of how the Postal Service worked and others were fictional half-hour dramas that served to illustrate what could potentially happen to those who dared to break postal laws or misuse the service.
The Great Adventure
So what exactly are modern TV audiences missing that those who were alive during the Golden Age of the Anthology TV Series were treated to? Big stars playing big characters from history. Actors of the caliber of Joseph Cotten, Ricardo Montalban and Carroll O’Connor recreated famous great historical adventures involving figures like Harriet Tubman, Wild Bill Hickok and Sitting Bull.
Airing from 1950 to 1957, “The Web” reveals how anthology TV series during the genre’s golden age was already delivering on the promise of narrowcasting that the 500 cable universe had made a cruel lie. “The Web” was an anthology made up exclusively of teleplays written by members of the Mystery Writers of America. These mysteries were acted out by rising young stars like Paul Newman and old Hollywood veterans like Chester Morris.
Once Upon a Time
Yeah, that’s right, there was a “Once Upon a Time” before the current “Once Upon a Time.” And it was an anthology show. A bit more unusual than most, true, but still an example of the Golden Age of Anthology TV Series. This “Once Upon a Time” aired on the long-defunct Dumont Network briefly in 1951 and took on the considerable task of mounting an hour-long musical based on some work in the public domain or a hit show show running on Broadway at the time.
Assignment Foreign Legion
Seriously, man, these shows during the Golden Age of Anthology TV Series could be ridiculously narrowed down to special interests. “Assignment Foreign Legion” was another anthology that only lasted a season, but while it was on viewers were treated to stories members of the French Foreign Legion. Each episode was introduced by movie star Merle Oberon acting in the role of international reporter covering the region along the African Sahara. Occasionally, Oberon would even enter the drama as her reporter character.
Great Ghost Tales
The truth is that most the shows that aired during the Golden Age of Anthology TV Series which achieved lasted longest and are remembered today delivered stories of the supernatural, strange, horrific and ironic. “The Twilight Zone” and “Outer LImits” and “Alfred Hitchcock Presents” were only a sampling of the anthologies that sought to send a shiver up the spine of viewers, however. “Great Ghost Tales” aired during the summer of 1961 and featured “Twilight Zone” alumni like Robert Duvall in tales based on stories of Edgar Allan Poe and Conrad Aiken. What really set “Great Ghost Tales” apart from other supernatural anthology series, however, was that it was performed live.