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Talk Shows


Since the earliest days of television talk shows have been a popular genre, and like some of the other genres they are sometimes hard to classify.  There are talk shows that deal primarily with discussions of current events that could be considered news programs; there are talk shows that deal with celebrities and include comedy routines or other live performances and they could be considered variety shows; and there are talk shows that include contests that could be considered game shows.

There are three basic types of talk shows: news or public affairs programs that focus on a single topic; entertainment-based talk shows that deal mainly with celebrity interviews; and talk shows that contain elements of both public interest and entertainment.  The viewing slot for talk shows generally depends on the type.  Talk shows with news or public affairs topics are usually aired in prime time, programs based on entertainment personalities are usually reserved for late night viewing, and the combination style shows are most likely to be seen in the morning or afternoon.

Talk shows require two basic elements.  The first is the host, the person that will introduce the guest or guests that will be interviewed and will lead the discussions that follow.  The second is the guest or guests, experts on the subject being discussed in the case of the news-style talk show or celebrities in the case of the entertainment-style program.

“The Joe Franklin Show” is credited as being the first television talk show.  Hosted by Joe Franklin (who also had a radio talk show), the program aired from 1951 to 1993 and featured interviews with celebrities from the fields of entertainment, sports, and politics.

One of the first politically-based talk shows on television was hosted by Edward R. Murrow.  His program, “Small World”, was broadcast from 1958 to 1959.

The Tonight Show” is the longest running entertainment program in the United States.  Beginning in 1954, the program was originally hosted by Steve Allen.  His innovations of the opening monologue, interviews with celebrities, and interaction with the audience set the pattern for most late-night talk shows that have followed.  Allen hosted the show until 1957, and other memorable hosts since then have been Jack Paar from 1957 to 1962, Johnny Carson from 1962 to 1992, and Jay Leno beginning in 1992. 

From 1950 to 1953 “The Tim McCoy Show” was broadcast on television.  With a long career in Western films behind him, he hosted the program which featured him relating history lessons about the Old West, and sometimes including some of his movies.

One of those programs that blur the line between genres, “You Bet Your Life” aired from 1950 to 1961, hosted by the irrepressible Groucho Marx.  The program was a game show, but can also be considered a talk show because the greater part of the program was centered on Groucho’s interviews with the day’s contestants and interaction with the studio audience.

Following her successes as a radio program hostess, Maggie McNellis hosted “The Maggie McNellis Show” in 1952.  The show, primarily for a female audience, included celebrity interviews, human interest stories, reviews of nightclubs, previews of the latest fashions, and gossip.

This Is Your Life” was a popular radio program from 1948 to 1952, and in 1952 it was brought to television.  Airing from 1952 to 1961, the program was hosted by Ralph EdwardsThe show featured Edwards surprising a celebrity with the news that he or she was the guest, whisking them back to the studio, and proceeding to tell their life story, often reuniting them with family and friends they had not seen for years.  Guests on the program included Mack Sennett, Carl Reiner, Eddie Cantor, Andy Devine, Bobby Darin, Boris Karloff, Buster Keaton, Danny Thomas, Dick Clark, Dinah Shore, Ed Wynn, Eddie Albert, Gloria Swanson, James Garner, Jayne Mansfield, Jesse Owens, Kirk Douglas, Lawrence Welk, Nat King Cole, Pat O'Brien, Rock Hudson, Roy Rogers, Tennessee Ernie Ford, Van Heflin, Victor McLaglen, Walter Brennan, and many others.

The Joey Bishop Show”, airing for two seasons with 64 episodes, was broadcast from 1967 to 1969.  The program was hosted by Joey Bishop, with Regis Philbin as his announcer.  Celebrities appearing on the show include Carol Channing, Sammy Davis Jr., John Cassavetes, Ben Gazzara, Peggy Lee, Jimmy Dean, and Nipsey Russell.

These programs are entertaining and offer a glimpse of how things were ‘way back when’.  You’re invited to browse them all and sit back and enjoy seeing these early glimpses of ‘the good old days’.

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