Introduction (Critical Survey of Drama, Second Revised Edition)
In the early days of television broadcasting, there was little reason to suspect that the medium viewed by many as a passing novelty would in time become the single most pervasive and influential aspect of popular culture. Certainly, the grainy, problem-prone early broadcasts seemed to pose no real threat to radio, television’s predecessor in American living rooms, and unlike radio and films, the technology of television did not catch on quickly with the public. Indeed, the necessary technical knowledge had existed since the 1920’s, but it was not until the late 1940’s that the medium began to become a real presence in American life.
In its earliest incarnation, television was a local phenomenon, with broadcasts limited to the East Coast of the United States, within easy range of New York City. Slow developments throughout the 1930’s were largely put on hold during World War II. However, in the postwar years, the medium began to grow with a force and speed that surprised many skeptics. Both the National Broadcasting Company (NBC) and the Columbia Broadcasting System (CBS) had received commercial broadcasting licenses in 1941, and by 1946 commercial television had become a reality. Joined by the short-lived DuMont network and later by the American Broadcasting Company (ABC), the networks began searching for programs to fill their expanding schedules. By 1948, the four networks offered almost complete prime-time broadcasts—the hours between seven...
(The entire section is 240 words.)
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