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19Nov/100

The Silver Age of Old Time Radio

Some folks refer to the entire period of radio history from 1929-1962 as the "Golden Age of Radio."  The term is a bit inprecise. I'd argue that the Golden Age of Radio actually ended in 1951, and that the Silver Age lasted until 1965 when Theater Five went off the air.

The year 1951 was the first that Television first turned a higher profit than radio. Seismic shifts were beginning to happen between television and radio, that would make TV ascendant. The comedy show. The long-running sitcom, The Life of Riley ended its radio run in 1951 to become a TV mainstay, a years George Burns and Gracie Allen left for television land. It became increasingly hard to launch successful new radio shows. Many shows that would have been hits five years before ended up serial oddities. Many existing franchises hung on for sometime, but by the time shows like Gangbusters, Counterspy, One Man's Family, Amos 'n Andy, and The Great Gildersleeve took their final bows, they'd long since lost the attention of the American people.

Stars and writers began to go where the money was. Thus radio began to lose a lot of its premier talent as grade-A actors became less likely Radio was changing dramatically.

The silver age of radio was different than the Golden one. First of all, most shows produced during this period such as Gunsmoke and Have Gun, Will Travel. really did seem to have an adult audience in mind, rather than a family audience as families were abandonning the radio for new black and white televisions.

Radio also tried to be more Avante-garde with shows like The CBS Radio Workshop. The Silver age contains most of the great Science Fiction of the radio era, with show, X Minus One and Exploring Tomorrow. As well, several anthology shows such as CBS Radio Workshop and Theater Five contains a ton of science fiction stories.

Radio gave way to television and lost audience as golden age radio actors migrated to television. There were some weak scripts that doubtless left some golden age aficionados pining for the good old days when writers like E. Jack Neuman, Gil Doud, and Blake Edwards created great scripts for Grade-A actors like Dick Powell, William Bendix, and Elliot Lewis. Yet, there were some scripts that were written so well that a listener had to smile at a great episode that most of America had missed.

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