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October 21, 2014

Best '50s TV Shows

by Kim Potts, posted Oct 27th 2009 6:00AM
I Love LucyThe 1950s were, quite simply, the Golden Age of Television. Everything from the biggest rock stars in the world to the top acting and writing talent in Hollywood were represented on the tube, alongside Shakespearean dramas, Broadway shows and operas.

TV schedules in the '50s were also packed with family comedies ('Leave It to Beaver' and 'The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet'), Westerns ('Gunsmoke' and 'The Lone Ranger'), some of the all-time greatest comedians (Groucho on 'You Bet Your Life,' Gleason on 'The Jackie Gleason Show') and, despite the more traditional times, some of the most independent ladies in TV land ('Our Miss Brooks' and, of course, 'I Love Lucy'). In short, though TV was still in its early days in the 1950s, there was plenty to watch, and love, in prime time. -- By Kimberly Potts

The 1950s were, quite simply, the Golden Age of Television. Everything from the biggest rock stars in the world to the top acting and writing talent in Hollywood were represented on the tube, alongside Shakespearean dramas, Broadway shows and operas.

TV schedules in the '50s were also packed with family comedies ('Leave It to Beaver' and 'The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet'), Westerns ('Gunsmoke' and 'The Lone Ranger'), some of the all-time greatest comedians (Groucho on 'You Bet Your Life,' Gleason on 'The Jackie Gleason Show') and, despite the more traditional times, some of the most independent ladies in TV land ('Our Miss Brooks' and, of course, 'I Love Lucy'). In short, though TV was still in its early days in the 1950s, there was plenty to watch, and love, in prime time. -- By Kimberly Potts

The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis40. 'The Many Loves of Dobie Gillis'
(1959-63)
Teen Dobie wanted hot girls, money and to do as little work as possible, egged on by equally work-adverse beatnik pal Maynard (Bob Denver). But Dobie's modest background made that difficult, as did nemeses like golddigger Thalia (Tuesday Weld), the girl Dobie wanted, and handsome rich kid Milton (Warren Beatty), Dobie's rival for Thalia's affections.

I've Got a Secret39. 'I've Got a Secret' (1952-67)
The premise was simple: contestants tried to stump a panel of celebs, who were trying to guess what the contestants' secrets were. The show's charm, and humor, sparked not only from everyday citizens' interactions with the famous folks, but also from guest contestants, like Colonel Sanders (yes, that Colonel Sanders), whose secret was that he started his company with his first Social Security check.

Lassie38. 'Lassie' (1954-74)
The story of a boy and his dog focused on collie Lassie, who stole the show from all her (or his, as the female dog was usually played by male pooches) human co-stars. Whether it was alongside owners Jeff or Timmy or a forest ranger, Lassie was a smart and loyal hero who earned a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame, Emmys, a Peabody Award and an invitation to the White House.

The Lone Ranger37. 'The Lone Ranger' (1949-57)
Clayton Moore and Jay Silverheels were the Long Ranger and his trusted friend Tonto, two heroes who traveled the Old West, helping to avenge those who had been wronged. Popular with kids, who loved the series' action (and parents, who appreciated the show's relative lack of violence), the Western was the first (and initially only) hit for the then-struggling ABC network.

The Nat King Cole36. 'The Nat King Cole Show' (1956-57)
The first major black performer to host a TV variety series, Cole put everything he had into the NBC show, which lost money for the network, despite Cole performances and guest spots by showbiz pals like Sammy Davis Jr., Ella Fitzgerald and Tony Bennett. After a year of struggling to find sponsors and viewers, Cole and the network pulled the plug on the show.

Our Miss Brooks35. 'Our Miss Brooks' (1952-56)
The Emmy-winning comedy was one of the first to focus on a working girl: Eve Arden's Connie Brooks, a young high school teacher. The hit series was considered such an accurate portrayal of teachers' lives that the National Education Association made Arden an honorary member, and, in 1956, the series spawned a big-screen movie, with the TV cast intact.

Playhouse 9034. 'Playhouse 90' (1956-61)
The ambitious anthology series -- the 90-minute stories were presented live -- set the standard for the popular '50s genre, thanks to top writers and talent, from Rod Serling's Peabody and Emmy-winning 'Requiem for a Heavyweight' episode to installments penned by Horton Foote and A.E. Hotchner and starring the likes of Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds and Angela Lansbury.

Peter Gunn33. 'Peter Gunn' (1958-61)
Created and produced by Blake Edwards, Gunn (Craig Stevens) was the super cool private eye who solved cases for a living, but really loved hanging out at Mother's, the jazz club where his girlfriend sang. The show's music was its trademark, in fact, provided by Henry Mancini, whose classic 'Gunn' theme has been repeated everywhere from 'Sixteen Candles' to Monty Python.

Have Gun Will Travel32. 'Have Gun Will Travel' (1957-63)
It spawned a hit radio series and a hit single with its theme song, and was unique in both its immediate favor with viewers and its plotline: Well-educated Paladin (Richard Boone) ate gourmet food and lived at San Francisco's swanky Hotel Carlton, where he operated as a gun for hire. The high-class hitman "advertised" with a calling card that included his name and a paladin.

The Dinah Shore Show31. 'The Dinah Shore Show' (1951-56)
Shore's program entertained viewers twice a week, on Tuesday and Thursday nights, with a 15-minute live show that preceded the evening news on NBC. Shore would sing, chat with guests and share the spotlight with her piano player, before signing off by blowing a kiss to the audience and crooning "See the U.S.A. in your Chevrolet," a nod to her sponsor.

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