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11 influential TV shows turning 70 years old in 2022

In 1952, the were merely 16,939,100 television sets in use in the United States, just one unit for every ten Americans. More than half of those TVs could be found in just 10 major cities. 

So, television had not quite become the dominant form of entertainment in the country. That did not stop the four major networks (ABC, CBS, NBC and… DuMont) from piling on the new programming. It was a banner year for the budding medium, with groundbreaking sitcoms, soaps, superheroes, morning shows, and musical shindigs. Let's take a look.


The Abbott and Costello Show

The comedic duo of Bud Abbott and Lou Costello had made people laugh on radio and the silver screen. They had faced Frankenstein and asked, "Who's on first?" They had hosted The Colgate Comedy Hour, one of the earliest variety shows in TV history. The pair was a natural pick for a sitcom, which cast them as struggling actors sharing an apartment in L.A. It also happened to be syndicated.

Image: The Everett Collection


The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet

The Nelson clan were the first family of early television, as the youngest son, Ricky, became a heartthrob to adolescent Boomers. The sitcom would air for a staggering 14 seasons. Ricky started as a 12-year-old kid and finished the series as 26-year-old "Rick." Talk about growing up in the public eye.

Image: The Everett Collection


Adventures of Superman

An entirely different kind of "Adventures" could be found in syndication. Adventures in the more traditional sense. The comic book superhero sensation that so dominates pop culture began here. George Reeves, born George Brewer in the heart of the Midwest, was perfectly cast as Clark Kent and the Man of Steel. He would infamously die of mysterious circumstances in 1959.

Image: The Everett Collection


American Bandstand

When it kicked off on local Philadelphia television, it was known simply as "Bandstand." Deejay Bob Horn was the original host. Dick Clark would take over in 1956 and the "American" was added a year later, as the show spread nationwide. Nevertheless, Clark would host 30th and 40th anniversaries in 1982 and 1992. Everyone from Bill Haley and Chuck Berry to the Beastie Boys and "Weird Al" Yankovic appeared on the series, as generations of teens danced.

Image: The Everett Collection


Biff Baker, U.S.A.

Before he was The Skipper, Alan Hale Jr. played "importer" and spy Biff Baker in this espionage thriller. The show gave young actors like Charles Bronson and Lee Marvin exposure, too. The show would continue to air in reruns for most of the decade.

Image: The Everett Collection


Death Valley Days

Gunsmoke and Bonanza garner all the attention and acclaim for their longevity, but Death Valley Days saddled up for a stunning 18 seasons. The Western goes overlooked as it ran in syndication — and it was an anthology series with no regular cast. Stanley "The Old Ranger" Andrews hosted the cowboy show for the first 12 years. You've probably heard of his successor — Ronald Reagan.

Image: The Everett Collection


I Married Joan

Another Gilligan's Island castaway got his early break in 1952, as Jim Backus landed his first TV role in this sitcom heavily indebted to I Love Lucy, which had premiered the prior year. Backus was mostly known as the voice of Mr. Magoo at that point. Which is why Joan Davis got top billing playing the scatterbrained, slapstick wife. 

Image: The Everett Collection


Life With Elizabeth

Two words: Betty White. The American icon booked her first regular TV role as Elizabeth, alongside her hubby, Alvin (Del Moore). No last names were given. It was not your typical sitcom. Episodes were broken down into vignettes — short, stand-alone segments that could often just be the couple doing dialogue.

Image: The Everett Collection


Mister Peepers

Bespectacled Wally Cox, "Mister Peepers" himself, was the first adorable nerd on television. The teacher character may have been the titular lead, but the scene-stealer was Tony Randall, playing ladies man Harvey Weskit. Randall was not intended to be a regular but clicked immediately. Everything about this show screaming "underdog," but it became a massive hit, 

Image: The Everett Collection


Our Miss Brooks

Like many shows of the era, Our Miss Brooks was adapted from a radio program, giving star Eve Arden a chance to showcase her charm and physical comedy skills. As an unmarried English teacher, Arden was a pioneering single woman on television, a true rarity in 1952. It was also one of the first TV shows to spawn a big-screen movie, as the movie Our Miss Brooks hit theaters in 1956.

Image: The Everett Collection


The Today Show

Before Willard Scott, Barbara Walters and Gene Shalit, there was J. Fred Muggs. J. Fred Muggs was a chimpanzee. Yeah, an ape was the unlikely star of this NBC institution in its early days. Okay, technically, Dave Garroway, pictured here with the chimp, was the host. Garroway picked "Sentimental Journey" as the wake-up program's theme and held court for the first nine years. It brought a lighthearted touch to news, which of course would become the norm.

Image: The Everett Collection

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