Dragnet was perhaps the most famous and influential police procedural drama in media history. The series gave millions of audience members a feel for the boredom and drudgery, as well as the danger and heroism, of real-life police work. Dragnet earned praise for improving the public opinion of police officers.
Actor and producer Jack Webb's aims in Dragnet were for realism and unpretentious acting. He achieved both goals, and Dragnet remains a key influence on subsequent police dramas in many media.
The show's cultural impact is such that even after five decades, elements of Dragnet are known to those who have never seen or heard the program:
The ominous, four-note introduction to the brass and tympani theme music (titled "Danger Ahead") is instantly recognizable (though its origins date back to Miklós Rózsa's score for the 1946 film version of The Killers).
Another Dragnet trademark is the show's opening narration: "Ladies and gentlemen: the story you are about to hear is true. Only the names have been changed to protect the innocent." This underwent minor revisions over time. The "only" and "ladies and gentlemen" were dropped at some point, and for the television version "hear" was changed to "see". Variations on this narration have been featured in many subsequent crime dramas, and in satires of these dramas (e.g. "Only the facts have been changed to protect the innocent").
The original Dragnet starring Jack Webb as Sgt. Friday ran on radio from June 3, 1949, to February 26, 1957, and on television from December 16, 1951, to August 23, 1959, and from January 12, 1967, to April 16, 1970. NBC's radio and television networks carried all three series. There were three Dragnet feature films, a straight adaptation starring Webb in 1954; a TV movie produced in 1966; and a comedy spoof in 1987. After Jack Webb's death, two Dragnet revivals were attempted; one was for weekly syndication in 1989 and the other was for ABC in 2003. A newspaper comic strip version of Dragnet, written by Jack Webb and Joe Scheiber, ran in newspapers from about 1952 to 1955.
Duffy's Tavern was a popular American radio situation comedy which ran for a decade on several networks (CBS, 1941–1942; NBC-Blue Network, 1942–1944; NBC, 1944–1951), concluding with the December 28, 1951 broadcast.
The program often featured celebrity guest stars but always hooked them around the misadventures, get-rich-quick schemes and romantic missteps of the title establishment's malaprop-prone, metaphor-mixing manager, Archie, portrayed by Ed Gardner, the writer/actor who co-created the series. Gardner had performed the character of Archie, talking about Duffy's Tavern, as early as November 9, 1939, when he appeared on NBC's Good News of 1940.
Jack Benny was widely recognized as one of the leading American entertainers of the 20th century, Benny played the role of the comic penny-pinching miser, insisting on remaining 39 years old on stage despite his actual age, and often playing the violin badly.
Benny was known for his comic timing and his ability to get laughs with either a pregnant pause or a single expression, such as his signature exasperated "Well!" His radio and television programs, tremendously popular from the 1930s to the 1960s, were a foundational influence on the situation comedy genre. Dean Martin, on the celebrity roast for Johnny Carson in November 1973, introduced Benny as "the Satchel Paige of the world of comedy."
My Favorite Husband
My Favorite Husband began on CBS Radio with Lucille Ball and Richard Denning as Liz and George Cugat. After a few early episodes, confusion with bandleader Xavier Cugat prompted a name change to Liz and George Cooper. The cheerful couple lived at 321 Bundy Drive in the fictitious city of Sheridan Falls and were billed as "two people who live together and like it." The main sponsor was General Foods' Jell-O, and an average of three "plugs" for Jell-O were made in each episode, including Lucille Ball's usual sign-on, "Jell-O, everybody!"
The program, which aired 124 episodes from July 23, 1948 through March 31, 1951, initially portrayed the couple as being a well-to-do banker and his socially prominent wife, but three new writers — Bob Carroll, Jr., Madelyn Pugh and Jess Oppenheimer — took over the writing, changed the couple's name to Cooper and remade them into a middle-class couple, which they thought average listeners would find more accessible.
Gunsmoke is an American radio and television Western drama series created by director Norman MacDonnell and writer John Meston. The stories take place in and around Dodge City, Kansas, during the settlement of the American West.
In the late 1940s, CBS chairman William S. Paley, a fan of The Adventures of Philip Marlowe radio serial, asked his programming chief, Hubell Robinson, to develop a hardboiled Western series, a show about a "Philip Marlowe of the Old West." Robinson instructed his West Coast CBS Vice-President, Harry Ackerman, who had developed the Philip Marlowe series, to take on the task.
The radio version ran from 1952 to 1961, and John Dunning writes that among radio drama enthusiasts "Gunsmoke is routinely placed among the best shows of any kind and any time." The television version ran for 20 seasons from 1955 to 1975, and was the United States' longest-running prime time, live-action drama with 635 episodes until it was surpassed in 2010 by Law & Order (with 20 seasons, 456 episodes). At the end of its run in 1975, Los Angeles Times columnist Cecil Smith wrote "Gunsmoke was the dramatization of the American epic legend of the west. Our own Iliad and Odyssey, created from standard elements of the dime novel and the pulp western as romanticized by Buntline, Harte, and Twain. It was ever the stuff of legend."
Amos 'n' Andy
Amos 'n' Andy is a situation comedy based on stock sketch comedy characters but set in the African-American community. It was very popular in the United States from the 1920s through the 1950s on both radio and television.
Amos and Andy began as one of the first radio comedy series, written and voiced by Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll and originating from station WMAQ in Chicago. After the program was first broadcast in 1928, it grew to become a huge influence on radio series that followed. The show ran as a nightly radio serial from 1928 until 1943, as a weekly situation comedy from 1943 until 1955, and as a nightly disc-jockey program from 1954 until 1960.
Box 13 was a syndicated radio series about the escapades of newspaperman-turned-mystery novelist Dan Holliday, played by film star Alan Ladd. Created by Ladd's company, Mayfair Productions, Box 13 premiered in 1947. In New York City, it first aired December 31, 1947, on Mutual's New York flagship, WOR.
To seek out new ideas for his fiction, Holliday ran a classified ad in the Star-Times newspaper where he formerly worked: "Adventure wanted, will go anywhere, do anything -- write Box 13, Star-Times." The stories followed Holliday's adventures when he responded to the letters sent to him by such people as a psycho killer and various victims.
Sylvia Picker appeared as Holliday's scatterbrained secretary, Suzy, while Edmund MacDonald played police Lt. Kling. Supporting cast members included Betty Lou Gerson, Frank Lovejoy, Lurene Tuttle, Alan Reed, Luis Van Rooten and John Beal. Vern Carstensen, who directed Box 13 for producer Richard Sanville, was also the show's announcer.
Among the 52 episodes in the series were such mystery adventures as "The Sad Night," "Hot Box," "Last Will And Nursery Rhyme," "Hare And Hounds," "Hunt And Peck," "Death Is A Doll," "Tempest In a Casserole" and "Mexican Maze." The dramas featured music by Rudy Schrager. Russell Hughes, who had previously hired Ladd as a radio actor in 1935 at a $19 weekly salary, wrote most of the scripts, sometimes in collaboration with Ladd. The partners in Mayfair Productions were Ladd and Bernie Joslin, who had previously run the chain of Mayfair Restaurants.
The Creaking Door
The Creaking Door was South African Radio's attempt to create a compelling program of highly suspenseful, dramatic thrillers with a supernatural bent for their sponsor, State Express Cigarettes. Some commentators insist it was conceived as a spin-off of the already successful Inner Sanctum episodes that had been syndicated for broadcast in Australia and South Africa during the 1950s. Given the format, one can see the inference, but in fact The Creaking Door stands on its own as a unique, well-produced, engaging supernatural thriller series on its own merit.