In Depth

Early 'Recipe' Reveals TV’s Darker Side

Sponsor Meddling Among Complaints

TV shows from the late 1940s and the early 1950s, when the programs were produced by advertising agencies on behalf of their clients and were broadcast live, make up a large portion of what has been referred to as the “Golden Age of Television.” Lest we forget, however, not every program was a gem.

That reality was clearly top of mind for Mrs. A. Scott Bullitt, president of King Broadcasting Co. in Seattle, when she delivered this “recipe for an average TV program” before a group of educators and TV industry managers in 1952 (as reported in J. Fred MacDonald’s 1990 book “One Nation Under Television”):

Recipe for an Average TV Program
1 cup of Sponsor’s Requirements—sift gently

2 tablespoons of Agency Ideas, carefully chilled

Add ½-dozen Staff Suggestions, well-beaten. However fresh and flavorful, they will curdle when combined with Agency Ideas, so they must be beaten until stiff.

Stir together in a smoke-filled room and sprinkle generously with Salesmen’s Gimmicks.

Cover the mixture with a tight lid so that no Imagination can get in and no Gimmicks can get out, and let stand while the costs increase.

1 jigger of Talent, domestic will do.

Flavor with:

Production Problems

A pinch of Doubt

And, if you have any, a dash of Hope

Fold ingredients carefully together so they can get into a small studio. This requires a very light touch as the slightest jolt will sour the results.

Line the pan with Union Regulations—otherwise the mixture will stick.

Place in oven with your fingers crossed.

Sometimes it comes out a tasty delicacy, and, sometimes, it’s just cooked.