Classic Television Thursday #001 – Studio One: Twelve Angry Men (1954)

121After spending quite a bit of time delving into what is known as the Golden Age of Radio, I finally decided it was time to take a break from that, which left this Thursday posting slot open. (I do like having certain regular features here on the blog to intersperse with the other things going on, if for no other reason than a) it gives me at least a self-imposed deadline to get a couple of things written each week, and b) it gives you, as regular readers something you can consistently expect.)

So then the big question came: if I wasn’t going to do classic radio for awhile, (and don’t worry OTR fans, I’m sure, with my love for the genre, you haven’t seen the last of it here, it just, for now at least, won’t be a regular weekly feature) what was I going to replace it with? Well, how about with the medium that eventually replaced the radio in living rooms across the country?

Of course, calling something “classic” television does open up a bit of a quandary: what exactly does the phrase mean? Is classic just another word for old? For that matter how old is “old”? For someone like my 14 year old daughter Hannah, anything that aired before 2000 is before her lifetime, and could be considered “old”. For others, shows from oh, say the 70s or even 80s could be considered “old”. Of course, for folks who are more my age who grew up in the mid 60s to 70s, you might have to go back a bit further, but you get the idea. “Old” depends a lot on your perspective, and therefore probably isn’t the best definition for the word “classic in this context.

So does “classic” maybe mean shows that were originally broadcast in black and white? Well, I suppose that could be a viable option, and we’ll certainly be exploring a number of those here, but at the same time, there are many, many fine shows that many would perceive as “classic” that came after the switchover to color, so no, I don’t think that really works either.

124Hmmm… perhaps we should go with programs that feature certain stars or writers or directors. Maybe those who were either just starting their careers or perhaps finishing them up by turning to a different medium? Certainly that could be an option.

In the end, however, I decided to leave the definition of what I’m calling “classic television” rather open. I suppose you could say I’m just going to make up a definition as we go along and explore some of these shows. Do I expect all of you to agree with the shows I pick to feature? No, probably not. But hey, that’s part of the fun, isn’t t? The discussion of what may or may not be a classic. And I certainly invite all of you to join in on the discussion both in the comments below, and on the Durnmoose Movie Musings Facebook page.

Okay, so with all of that out of the way, let’s begin, shall we?

For this first post, I’ve decided to actually go with a show that fits all three of the above criteria: The Studio One production of “Twelve Angry Men”, which was first broadcast in 1954. Let’s see: Old? Yeah I’d say 1954 probably qualifies. First shown in black and white? Check. How about star power? Well, considering you have a jury with names on it such as Norman Fell, John Beal, Robert Cummings, and Edward Arnold, I’d say it qualifies. Plus, the show was directed by Franklin Schaffner, who also directed such feature films as Planet of the Apes, Patton, Papillon, and The Boys from Brazil.

122Studio One, the television show, was an anthology series which actually had its beginnings in radio, but began airing on the CBS television network in 1948 and had a ten year run, airing its final show in 1958. From 1950 until its demise, it was consistently nominated for various Emmy Awards, and it’s production of Twelve Angry Men actually took home three Emmys: one for Best Written Dramatic Material, one for Best Direction, and Robert Cummings won for Best Actor in a Single Performance.

I don’t really think there’s much need for me to recap the plot of the show, since it was remade in 1957 by director Sidney Lumet in a feature film version that went on to garner awards and critical acclaim of its own. Instead, I think I’ll just invite you to sit back and enjoy with me a show that I think definitely qualifies as “Classic television”.

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