With so many technological advancements in the past couple of decades, our television experience has also evolved. Many millennials and the generations before them still remember watching their favorite shows on a regular TV set that was more like a box than anything else. While these sets might be more inconvenient and space-consuming than the sleek screen we have nowadays, the experience is still something to remember fondly.
Of course, the television content is also a major part of those memories. Some of the earliest shows in classic television might not even be available to watch now, but some senior citizens may still remember them. One of these shows is ABC Television Players, a live TV show that aired on ABC Television Network in 1949. The show itself was short-lived, only running from January to the October of that year.
In fact, even in this short run, the name of the show was changed quite a few times. Its original name was ABC Television Players, then ABC Tele-Players in April, and finally ABC Penthouse Players. The latter was the final name of the show, given at the start of August.
The content of this show ran about 30 minutes, which was the industry standard. It mostly showed viewers live dramatic presentations from actors that weren’t very well known. Donald Gallaher was the narrator, and is still listed as the only cast member on screen from this show. Some misspell his name as ‘Gallagher’, so we must be careful not to make that mistake. The broadcast was live straight from Chicago.
Since this show was produced in the very earliest television days and broadcast live, it’s not surprising that there are no recordings of it today. This means that we can’t revisit the content on sites like Netflix, YouTube, etc. It isn’t even available in the form of DVD’s or CD’s.
Not having this show available anymore might be a sad loss, as it broadcasted several short stage plays. Little-known actors that were usually local-based made up the temporary casts for each episode. It might have been worth seeing how they played out in front of the camera with almost no room to make mistakes.
Unfortunately, there aren’t even any recordings of ABC Television Players in personal collections of the studio archives. The reason for this is simple; there were never any recordings in the first place. It wasn’t usual for the very first television shows to simply be broadcast live as they happened. In fact, early broadcasting in most genres on television was initially live and even performed more than once (instead of the network simply airing reruns).
The means to record broadcasted shows was either not available at the time, or considered too expensive to use on every single show. Plus, it also depended on whether the network executives thought that the content might have historical or monetary value. Some of the most popular late night shows might have managed to make the list; ABC Television Players obviously did not.
From a historical perspective, it seems like the means to record shows was not available until at least 1939. In 1947, there was a viable way of recording through Kinescope films. Even though ABC Television Players started in 1949, the recording status was usually sporadic at best. There might also have been an actors’ union in place at the time, which prevented networks from cashing in too much on recorded performances.
Until the 1970s, it’s speculated that television programming was more or less disposable. Only the content that was viable to do for reruns might have been preserved before that. In the seventies, however, the home video industry was on the rise and recording became a household concept. With home videos becoming more available, archivers and TV producers also used the same technology to save whatever programming they deemed fit. With ABC Television players being part of the late 1940s, though, we might only be able to revisit it in the form of a modern reboot.
While it’s unfortunate that we can’t catch some episodes of ABC Television Players today, this doesn’t mean that its effect is lost forever. Most of the first television shows had a strong influence on what came later. Little-known actors might have tried their luck on the small screen with this early television show, and they probably went on to larger projects as well. Perhaps it’s high time that this show got a reboot, so that fledging actors and actresses today could get their own platform. They can then showcase their talents and be snapped up by the television networks. Netflix has discovered many great stars fairly recently, so there’s no telling what a show similar to ABC Television Players might accomplish.