Television, which had been around for some time in concept,
was shown to the public for the first time at the wonderfully
futuristic 1939 World's Fair in New York. There were four TV
networks (which had their roots in radio): CBS, NBC, ABC and
DuMont. NBC televised President Franklin D. Roosevelt opening
the fair, though there were few sets in use and the signal was
weak. But it was a beginning. World War II delayed the brand new broadcast
medium, and the country still relied on their radios for war news.
CBS and NBC were the pioneers and leaders in the beginning and
would dominate television well into the 1950s. News and
comedy shows were popular. ABC brought professional baseball
to TV and DuMont broadcast pro football. Anthology dramas began in
1953 and would be popular for years to come thanks to the high quality
of shows such as Studio One, Playhouse 90, Texaco Star Theatre, Alcoa
Presents and many others. 45% of homes had television in 1953
and that would rise to 64% in 1955.
Jack L. Warner hated television so much, he banned the use of a
television in the film sets of any living room. But he was a sharp
man and Warner Bros. became the first of the Hollywood studios
to use its films as the basis of television shows. In a shakeup of
new regulations and a fight for business, the DuMont network went
off the air and ABC was struggling. The "alphabet network" turned
to Warner Bros. for programming.
Two popular Warner bigscreen properties were developed into
TV series, Casablanca and King's Row. An original
western, Cheyenne, was added and the three shows rotated
every three weeks, beginning with the first episode of King's Row,
"Lady in Fear" broadcast on ABC from 7:30 to 8:30 p.m. on
September 13, 1955. Gig Young hosted the series. Jack Kelly,
who would go on to co-star in the Warner Bros. Maverick,
starred in the series as Dr. Parris Mitchell, a character played by
Robert Cummings in the 1942 film.
Cheyenne premiered the next week, starring Clint Walker and
L. Q. Jones, with a story, "Mountain Fortress," which featured
another soon-to-be-Maverick, James Garner. "Who Holds Tomorrow?"
was the first episode of Casablanca, which starred Charles McGraw
as the owner of the Café Americain, Rick Jason (changed from
Rick Blaine, played by Humphrey Bogart in the film), and Marcel Dallo
as Captain Renaud.
The two shows based on film, King's Row and Casablanca, were failures
while the only original one, Cheyenne, was a success.
The last episode of Kings Row aired January 15, 1956,
and Casablanca ended April 24, 1956. Cheyenne would
run the next season in rotation with an anthology
show, Conflict, and then with Sugarfoot for the
1958 season, then another four seasons on its own.
Roy Huggins wrote several novels and he used one as the basis for
Maverick and after a trial as an episode of Conflict, 77 Sunset Strip
was born, also using a Huggins novel. Cannily, by using properties from other media, Warner Bros.
was spared from paying anyone "created by" fees for its early series. 77 Sunset
Strip begat Hawaiian Eye, Bourbon Street Beat,
SurfSide 6, Alaska and The Roaring Twenties.
Maverick and the general popularity of westerns helped create
Sugarfoot and Bronco. Through these and other shows in
the 1950s, Warner Bros. helped ABC survive into profitability.