The Rise of Television Drama

(Critical Edition of Dramatic Literature)

In the late 1940’s, television was a technology in search of content. Yet radio, its closest relative, could provide only limited inspiration because of the key difference between the two mediums. Despite early predictions, television was not simply “radio with pictures.” Actual radio with pictures would have offered the sight of actors speaking lines into a microphone while technicians supplied sound effects and music to one side. What television required of its content was that it provide the visual imagery that radio left to the listener’s imagination. What had taken place in the mind of the radio listener would now take place on the screen of the television viewer.

With New York City as their headquarters, it was not surprising that the networks turned to the legitimate theater for programming ideas. The alliance between live theater and television was established early, when NBC in its experimental stages offered New York viewers a production of Rachel Crothers’s play Susan and God (pr. 1937), with actress Gertrude Lawrence. DuMont, lobbying hard to prove its worthiness for a broadcasting license, offered the first regularly scheduled live dramatic series, Television Workshop, to a limited audience during the early 1940’s. NBC followed suit with NBC Television Theatre in 1945 and later with Kraft Television Theatre in 1947, a show that would prove to be among the most important in shaping the face of...

(The entire section is 561 words.)