Skip to main content
Smithsonian Associates - Entertaining, Informative, Eclectic, Insightful

American TV in the 1950s: A Medium's "Golden Age"

Daytime Program on Zoom

Wednesday, March 17, 2021 - 12:00 p.m. to 1:15 p.m. ET
Code: 1J0078


Although its launch was interrupted by the start of World War II, American television emerged as a national medium by the end of the 1940s. Audiences tuned in as NBC and CBS began broadcasting to their East Coast affiliates a wide variety of programs: situation comedies, vaudeville-style revues, and most impressively, live dramatic programming presented on anthology shows.

Within a few years, these shows, including “Kraft Television Theater,” “Playhouse 90,” and “Goodyear Television Playhouse,” launched the careers of soon-to-be famous directors like Arthur Penn and John Frankenheimer, actors like Paul Newman and James Dean, and playwrights like Paddy Chayevsky and Rod Serling. But by the end of the 1950s, the era of live TV “theater” was over. So, too, was New York City as a center of TV production.

Brian Rose, professor emeritus at Fordham University, explores the forces that made this golden age such an intriguing chapter in TV history and the reasons it was so short-lived, including brief examinations of blacklisting and the TV quiz show scandals.


  • If you register multiple individuals, you will be asked to supply individual names and email addresses so they can receive a Zoom link email. Please note that if there is a change in program schedule or a cancellation, we will notify you via email, and it will be your responsibility to notify other registrants in your group.
  • Unless otherwise noted, registration for streaming programs typically closes two hours prior to the start time on the date of the program.
  • Once registered, patrons should receive an automatic email confirmation from
  • Separate Zoom link information will be emailed closer to the date of the program. If you do not receive your Zoom link information 24 hours prior to the start of the program, please email Customer Service for assistance.
  • View Common FAQs about our Streaming Programs on Zoom.
This program is part of our
Smithsonian Associates Streaming series.