Creating the First Decade
Here are 11 individuals whose television roots reach back to the medium's earliest years. Some started off in radio, before television became a national medium. For example, Grant Tinker, David Levy, and Lee Rich each started in advertising. Much early television, like radio, was produced and controlled directly by the sponsors and their advertising agencies.
Like radio, television needed to attract large audiences and get them to return regularly. And like radio, the new medium found its early successes having the same likable and familiar personalities appear predictably at specific times each week. Because many of television's earliest successful shows were built around great comedic talents—Gleason, Berle, Caesar, Skelton, Allen, Burns, Benny, and Ball—one could argue that television was, in its earliest days, an actor's (or a comedian's) medium and that these individuals were the first auteurs of television.
The interview with Bob Schiller and Bob Weiskopf, who wrote I Love Lucy, speaks to this phenomenon. In this interview you'll read the thoughts and opinions of the oldest television comedy writing team in history, one that worked on The Jimmy Durante Show, December Bride, Make Room for Daddy, Our Miss Brooks, Pete and Gladys, and later, Maude, and All in the Family.
Sid Caesar's Your Show of Shows and Caesar's Hour helped define early television comedy. Caesar's only rivals in those years were Jackie Gleason and Milton Berle. Gleason started in 1950 and Berle launched his first show in June of 1948. Caesar followed six months later in January of 1949 with the Admiral Broadway Revue and then Your Show of Shows in 1950. From Caesar one gets a sense of what it was like to perform live on television before the largest audiences in history. Caesar also tells us why he believes increased corporate and commercial influences have affected television negatively in the years since.
Leonard Stern's experience in the medium goes back to writing for Milton Berle, Phil Silvers, and Jackie Gleason. It was his idea to turn