For over a hundred years some of the greatest video treasures of all time have been produced. Some have been lost in the sands of time and others, soon to be rediscovered, will become fan favorites for a whole new generation.
Each week we will feature just one of the many hidden gems that you can see on ATVN with insights and commentaries on classic television shows and legendary cinematic performances.
One of the classic television shows “new to ATVN” this fall is one of the first successful drama programs of the medium, The Loretta Young Show.
Building on Loretta’s blockbuster success in films, including her late 1940’s hits like The Farmer’s Daughter and Come To The Stable, NBC decided to try a brand new idea to initiate an anthology dramatic series with Young as the host/star. (She was nominated for Oscars for both of those films and won for the former movie. We’ll have more on Young’s lengthy and tremendously successful cinematic accomplishments coming up in a future “Showplace” blog entry).
The initial name for her program was called Letters To Loretta. The original premise for the show started with Young speaking directly to the audience. She began the show by reading her “fan mail,” which included a question addressed to her. In answering the “fan’s” question, it started that episode’s story for the evening.
Not only did this unique start to every episode resonate well with audiences, but Young’s lavish clothing and styles were all-the-rage for audiences, as they would tune in to see what stylish outfits and new hairstyles she would showcase each week.
Young would then often star in most episodes of the program, portraying a different character, only to return at the end of the show – as “herself” – to “wrap up” the program and wish the audience a good night.
Halfway through the program’s first season, the show’s name was changed to The Loretta Young Show, even though the practice of each program’s letter kickstarting a new storyline lasted through the show’s first five years.
Young used her star power and cinematic influences to entice well-established movie stars onto her show (it was extremely rare for major film stars to guest star on 1950’s television). Additionally, the show attracted young stars who would go on to become major personalities in their own right.
Just a sample of the featured performers on this program include: Van Johnson, Ellen Burnstyn, Claude Akins, Eddie Albert, Ethel Merman, Mike Connors, Chuck Connors, Mae Clarke, Jackie Coogan, William Frawley, Dennis Hopper, Charles Bronson and many others!
The program was also well-received by viewers and critics alike (it was ranked as the third-best dramatic TV series in the mid-1950s by “Billboard” magazine), but it also received strong financial support. The show’s main sponsors were Procter and Gamble and Listerine (both companies still exist today) and the cigarette juggernaut, Phillip Morris, who, during their heyday, also backed other hit shows of the time period like I Love Lucy.
The Loretta Young Show ran successfully for eight years and was always popular in the ratings throughout the show’s run. However, for its final season, the show was opposite the wildly popular CBS comedy, the original Candid Camera, and Young’s show was beaten soundly in the head-to-head Nielsen share numbers. Despite finishing with a very respectable amount of viewers, NBC summarily canceled the “Young” after that eighth season wrapped up in 1961.
The show immediately went into syndication and was also popular with 1960’s television viewers. However, Young ordered that the original introductions and “wrap-ups” be removed because she was afraid that her mid-1950s hair and wardrobe styles would date the show and hurt the re-runs’ success. Thankfully those original introductions and wrap-arounds, once thought lost, now can be seen with the corresponding drama and the programs shown in their initial entirety on the Astound TV Network this fall.
Be sure to tune in (and set your DVRs) for The Loretta Young Show, Wednesdays at 12:30 pm and Fridays at 1:30 pm, as well as other TV classics on the Astound TV Network.
To view the complete rundown of classic programming on ATVN, check out the weekly listings here.
The views expressed in this blog are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the official policy or position of Astound Broadband or any other agency, organization, employer or company.