PBS - Pioneers of Television: Series 2 (2011) 720p HDTV x264-MVGroup
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Nearly 100 stars from TVs formative years bring their stories to PBS in season two of the Emmy nominated documentary series PIONEERS OF TELEVISION. Narrated by Kelsey Grammer, each episode melds compelling new interviews with irresistible archival clips to offer a fresh take on TVs founding celebrities. This season's four new episodes profile science fiction, crime dramas, local kids' shows, and westerns.
Part 1: Science Fiction
This episode looks at the development of the science fiction genre on US television in the 1950's and 1960's. Gene Roddenberry had long been working as writer in television but realized that the industry was not prepared to deal with major social issues such as race relations, drug addiction and war. By setting his stories in a fictional future, he was able to do that and thus Star Trek (1966) was born. Somewhat surprisingly, its greatest competition came from Lost in Space (1965) produced by Irwin Allen who was also responsible for The Time Tunnel (1966) and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964). The classic series The Twilight Zone (1959) set a very high bar that the others had to follow.
Part 2: Westerns
This episode reviews various contributions to the western genre on early US television. Maverick (1957), starring 'James Garner' was an early success and noted for its humor. The Rifleman (1958) was created by Sam Peckinpah, later noted for his more violent take on westerns. It starred Chuck Connors as a single parent raising his young son. Bonanza (1959) with Lorne Greene as a rich rancher with three grown sons was noted for never having a permanent female character. The Big Valley (1965) on the other hand was noted for its strong female characters played by Barbara Stanwyck and Linda Evans. The Wild Wild West (1965) starring Robert Conrad was noted for it's sometimes bizarre story lines and although still very popular, was cancelled in 1969 when the US government began a campaign against violence on TV. The High Chaparral (1967) had several Latino actors in key roles and Daniel Boone (1964) included many African-American actors when few were to be found on US television. Gunsmoke (1955), perhaps the granddaddy of them all, featured James Arness as a US Marshall who rarely used his gun at all.
Part 3: Crime Dramas
This episode deals with police and crime show on early American television. Dragnet (1951) started on radio and it seemed a natural to take to TV. Producer and star Jack Webb demanded a flat, emotionless delivery of all dialogue that became the show's trademark. The Untouchables (1959) was a huge success but was among the first shows to raise public concern about violence on the small screen. Mannix (1967) featured a caring private eye while Mission: Impossible (1966) had intricate Descriptions. I Spy (1965) was the first show to have an African-American in a leading role. Hawaii Five-O (1968) also featured a largely ethnic cast, another first. Women were well represented in the genre with the The Girl from U.N.C.L.E. (1966), "Honey West" (1965) and Police Woman (1974) all featuring female protagonists. "Columbo" (1971) and the The Rockford Files (1974) had their own take on crime and were hugely successful.
Part 4: Local Kids TV
In the early years of U.S. television, virtually every local station had a locally produced program aimed at children. For the most part, they had several things in common: they were broadcast live, operated on a shoestring budget, had a central character (often a clown), included puppets and a live studio audience made up of local children. Shows such as Bozo the Clown (1959) and The Wallace and Ladmo Show (1954) (also known as the Wallace and Ladmo Show) made celebrities of Chuck McCann, Pat McMahon and Willard Scott. By the 1960s, Jim Henson had his own take on puppets, which he called Muppets, which became nationally known with the advent of Sesame Street (1969). One major innovation was to franchise a children's show for local production. Perhaps the most successful program of this type was Romper Room and Friends (1953) which at its peak was being produced in over 100 locations. For Bill Cosby, his Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids (1972) was the first platform for African-American kids.