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THE 1950S THE INFANT CALLED TELEVISION TRIES TO TRANSLATE RADIO INTO A VISUAL MEDIUM WITH SOMETIMES CONFUSING RESULTS, BUT CABLE, COLOR AND LUCY BREAK OUT IN WHAT BECOMES MOST POPULAR AD FORM

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1950

In January, Arthur Godfrey and Faye Emerson are named most pleasing personalities in Look's TV awards show on CBS.

National sponsors exit radio for TV at record rates, moving Variety to describe the exodus as "the greatest exhibition of mass hysteria in showbiz annals."

TV Guide selects Lucky Strike's popular "Be Happy, Go Lucky" spot as commercial of the year. In it, cheerleaders sing "Yes, Luckies get our loudest cheers on campus and on dates. With college gals and college guys a Lucky really rates."

1951

"Omnibus," one of commercial TV's most honored cultural series, debuts. Hosted by Alistair Cooke, the program takes in $5.5 million in advertising revenues during five years on the air, against $8.5 million in costs.

"I Love Lucy," a half-hour filmed TV sitcom, is born. The show, unlike the live TV productions typical of the time, ranks No. 1 in the nation for four of its first six full seasons. It is sponsored by Philip Morris.

CBS broadcasts the first color program on June 21, but only 25 receivers can accommodate mechanical color. Viewers of 12 million existing b&w sets see only a blank screen.

"Hallmark Hall of Fame" series launches in December with "Amahl and the Night Visitors."

1952

National Association of Radio & Television Broadcasters ratifies a new Television Code establishing guidelines for content and addressing the concerns of social critics. Nearly half the code is devoted to advertising.

In response to protests about program content, a House subcommittee investigates "offensive" and "immoral" TV programs and touches on wide range of topics-from beer spots to dramas depicting suicide.

Bob Hope takes his comedy from radio to TV when "The Bob Hope Show" debuts in October.

Borden's Elsie the Cow beats out actor Van Johnson and U.S. Sen. Robert Taft in recognition polls as one of America's most familiar faces.

NBC's "Today" show, first and longest-running early-morning network show, bows with host Dave Garroway and chimpanzee sidekick J. Fred Muggs.

By year's end, the number of TV households grows to 20 million, up 33% from previous year. U.S. advertisers spend a record $288 million on TV time, an increase of 38.8% from 1951.

1953

Color broadcasting officially arrives in the U.S. on Dec. 17, when FCC approves modified version of an RCA system.

1954

"Captain Kangaroo," the first network kids' show, begins on CBS.

The Hamm's bear is introduced in a TV spot that initially runs as a sequel to a 1953 Hamm's commercial that featured beavers beating on tom-toms. The beer spot's tagline, "From the land of sky blue waters," and distinctive soundtrack remain with the Campbell-Mithun campaign for many years.

The first color commercial televised in a local show was commissioned in March by Castro Decorators, New York, in a contract with WNBT. It was first telecast on Aug. 6.

In April, groundwork is laid for the Television Advertising Bureau. For the first time, television is the leading medium for national advertising.

1955

Immensely popular daytime radio show "Queen For A Day" shifts to TV in January. Between radio and TV, the show had a run of nearly 20 years, although widely criticized as an exploitation of human misery, wrapped in commercial plugs. At the peak of popularity, NBC increased the show's length from 30 to 45 minutes to gain time to sell at the premium ad rate of $4,000 per minute.

Future U.S. President Ronald Reagan becomes host of "General Electric Theater," long-running anthology series on CBS (1953-61) in which many top Hollywood film stars appeared.

One of NBC's perennial specials-"Peter Pan" with Mary Martin and Cyril Richard-first telecast in March as a live production. It's billed as the first network presentation of a full Broadway production. Videotape later makes it possible to present the show annually for several years.

The classic Western series "Gunsmoke" begins its 20-year run on CBS.

"The $64,000 Question," sponsored by Revlon, premieres in June on CBS, igniting a U.S. game show craze.

1956

Videotape is introduced by Ampex Corp. at a CBS-TV affiliates' session. Most TV shows at the time are produced by the kinescope process.

The 1939 movie "Wizard of Oz" debuts in November on CBS's "Ford Star Jubilee." After more than three decades of exposure, the feature is considered one of the most successful single programs in TV history and the longest continually sponsored theatrical movie on TV.

1957

Variety reports in May that during a typical week, viewers encounter 420 commercials totaling 5 hours, 8 minutes.

Host Jack Paar revives NBC-TV's "Tonight" show beginning on July 29.

By August, for the first time, more countries worldwide allow TV advertising than forbid it.

In an October report in the Journal of the American Medical Association, Dr. Meyer Naide identifies "television legs," blood clots that result from watching TV too long.

CBS's "Ed Sullivan" show is the year's most-watched network program, with a 50.4 average audience rating.

1958

There are 525 cable TV systems serving 450,000 subscribers in the U.S. In February, CBS takes out a two-page ad in TV Guide in which it warns the public: "Free television as we know it cannot survive alongside pay television."

Advertising Age reports "videotape seems to be catching on like wildfire." By October, 61 TV stations in the U.S. use tape.

By the end of the TV season, there are 22 network quiz shows; 18% of NBC's programming alone consists of quizzes. In August, contestant Herbert Stempel charges "Twenty-One" is rigged, triggering a congressional investigation.

In December, Edward R. Murrow writes in TV Guide that viewers must recognize "television in the main is being used to distract, delude, amuse and insulate us."

By year's end, ad expenditures in radio and TV cross the $2 billion mark.

1959

The cartoon ad character Mister Magoo becomes the nearsighted spokesman for General Electric bulbs.

NBC's Sunday night hit "Bonanza" makes its debut. It becomes the highest-rated program of the 1960s and is on the air 14 years.

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