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Television in 1958

The total number of television sets in use by Americans exceeded 46 million in 1958.


CBS executives operate television cameras during a strike of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in April.
CBS executives operate cameras

Peabody Awards

National News -- ABC, John Daly and staff, Prologue '58
Local News -- WGBH (Boston, Massachusetts), Louis M. Lyons,
Musical Entertainment -- NBC, Dinah Shore Show
Non-Musical Entertainment -- NBC, Hallmark Hall of Fame
Education -- WQED (Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania), Heritage series
National Youth and Children's Program -- CBS, Captain Kangaroo
Local Youth and Children's Program -- KING-TV (Seattle, Washington), Wunda Wunda
National Public Service -- CBS, The Last Word
Local Public Service -- KLZ-TV (Denver, Colorado), Panorama
Contribution to International Understanding -- NBC, Bob Hope

Emmy Awards
(presented April 15, 1958)

Single Program -- "The Comedian," Playhouse 90, CBS
Single Performance by an Actress -- Polly Bergen, "The Helen Morgan Story," Playhouse 90
Single Performance by an Actor -- Peter Ustinov, "Life of Samuel Johnson," Omnibus, ABC and NBC
Comedy Series -- Phil Silvers Show, CBS
Dramatic Series With Continuing Characters -- Gunsmoke, CBS
Dramatic Anthology Series -- Playhouse 90
Continuing Performance -- Dinah Shore, The Dinah Shore Show, NBC
Variety Show -- The Dinah Shore Show
Teleplay Writing (Hour or More) -- Rod Serling, "The Comedian"
Teleplay Writing (Half-Hour or Less) -- Paul Monash, "The Lonely Wizard," Schlitz Playhouse, CBS
Direction (Hour or More) -- Bob Banner, The Dinah Shore Show
Direction (Half-Hour or Less) -- Robert Stevens, The Glass Eye, CBS
Public Service Program or Series -- Omnibus
News Commentary -- Edward R. Murrow, CBS

Winners of Emmy Awards included Peter Ustinov (left) and Polly Bergen for Best Acting and Phil Silvers for Comedy Series.
Emmy winners

Alfred I. du Pont Awards

KRON-TV, San Francisco, California
KARD-TV, Wichita, Kansas
Clifton Utley, NBC

Robert E. Sherwood TV Awards

"The Open Mind," WRCA-TV, New York, New York
"Let Freedom Ring," WBZ-TV, Boston, Massachusetts
"The Lady from Philadelphia" on See It Now, CBS
"The Trophy," ABC in co-operation with the American Jewish Committee
"Light in the Southern Sky" on Frontiers of Faith, NBC
"Freedom," WCBS-TV, New York, New York, presented by Metropolitan Educational TV Association
"Migrants in Chicago" on Outlook, NBC


Westerns occupied four out of the top five places in the Nielsen ratings in 1958, with a total of 23 being shown by the three networks between 7:30 and 11:00 p.m. Gunsmoke was the most popular of all programs on television. Zorro replaced Davy Crockett as the children's favorite. Variety shows also enjoyed great popularity.

TV western stars of 1957-1958 included, from left, Will Hutchins (Sugarfoot), Jim Garner (Maverick), Wayde Preston (Colt .45), and Clint Walker (Cheyenne).
western stars of 1957-1958

The Emmy-winning Gunsmoke featured (left to right) Milburn Stone, Dennis Weaver, Amanda Blake, and James Arness.

Maverick, with Jack Kelly (left) and James Garner, continued as one of the most popular of the westerns.

Quiz Shows

The biggest television story of 1958 was the cancellation of most of the big-money quiz shows following charges that many of them were fixed. At the height of their popularity in the summer of 1958 there were 78 half-hours of quiz show each week on television. That number was drastically reduced after it was revealed that contestants on some of the most popular quiz shows had been supplied answers in advance and coached on how to give them.

Master of ceremonies Ralph Storey of the $64,000 Challenge indicates the record winnings of contestant Teddy Nader.
Ralph Storey

Elfrida von Nardroff ponders a question on Twenty One, a quiz show on which she won $220,500 in 1958. The program went off the air later in the year.
Elfrida von Nardroff


"Spectaculars" -- specially scheduled large-budget shows -- were popular in 1958. Among the most noteworthy shown in the fall were The Plot to Kill Stalin, Harvey, The Winslow Boy, Wonderful Town, Gift of the Magi, and An Evening with Fred Astaire.

A scene from "The Plot to Kill Stalin," a dramatic production of the Playhouse 90 series. The program drew a protest by the U.S.S.R. after it aired on September 25.
The Plot to Kill Stalin


George Burns and Gracie Allen make their farewell appearance as a team in May. Allen retired after 36 years with Burns in vaudeville, radio, and television. Burns planned on continuing his career, however.
George Burns and Gracie Allen

A birthday party for Jack Benny (seated), who "admitted" to being 40 after many years of using his age as 39 as a running gag in his radio and television shows. His wife, Mary Livingston, is standing to his left.
Jack Benny

Singing, dancing, comedy sketches, and commercials on The Dinah Shore Show were colorcast each week, but most people watched the show on black-and-white tv's.
Dinah Shore

Clement Attlee and Harry Truman joined Edward R. Murrow in an intercontinental televised chat on Small World, November 30.
Small World

Shirley Temple rehearses with Jules Munshin for her first appearance in "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow" on her Storybook television series, which premiered on January 12.
Shirley Remple and Jules Munshin

Following a rehearsal for the NBC-TV Tonight show, host Jack Paar rests his cheek on the forehead of regular guest singer Geneviève, as pianist José Melis smiles.
Jack Paar

Ella Maxwell's visits to Jack Paar's Tonight were one of the program's most popular -- and controversial -- features.
Ella Maxwell

In the Year 1958
Milburn Stone
Harry Truman
Bob Hope
Shirley Temple

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The Robinson Library >> Broadcasting

This page was last updated on 11/01/2018.