The Television Revolution

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  • Topic: The Ed Sullivan Show, Television, Ed Sullivan
  • Pages : 5 (1430 words )
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  • Published : April 9, 2011
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Assignment 1

Entertainment since 1945

Television revolutionised the way our society looks at the world. Television quickly replaced newspapers and radio as the main source of information and is now a permanent fixture in all our homes. It was not only a new way to entertain with sitcoms, movies and music, but it enticed people to buy new products through effective advertisements. Television was important for the music industry by providing a performance opportunity for upcoming musicians, and it has continued to develop innovative ways to market music. Variety shows quickly became one of the main television programs that provided opportunities for performers to gain attention and create large followings for their music, style and fashion. Programs like ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ and ‘The Nat King Cole Show’ pioneered the way for music shows including Countdown and Rage that used increasingly sophisticated graphics to hold audience’s attention. They also brought new sounds and faces in our homes through television. This series of ‘pop culture’ variety shows contributed significantly to major shifts within entertainment history by promoting emerging forms of music. This saw change from jazz to rock ‘n’ roll, from punk to pop. This changed our society as a whole because the music brought to light a new way of thinking about important issues that needed to be changed within our world.

The Ed Sullivan Show

Formally known as the ‘Toast of the Town’ until it was renamed after its host in 1955, ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ ,aired from 1948 to 1971, and was the longest running variety show in television’s history (Bio., undated). Over 23 years, the show introduced more than 10,000 performers to the United States of America. Sullivan’s strong belief was that the TV audience should be exposed to all forms of entertainment ranging from juggling to opera (Simon, 2010). Big names that first performed on the ‘Ed Sullivan Show’ include Dean Martin, Elvis Priestly, Woody Allen, Alan King, Barbra Streisand, The Rolling Stones, The Doors and many more (Spadoni, 2001; Simon 2010). It launched the Beatles to America starting the Beatlemania era in the USA (Marck, undated). But the impact of the show moved beyond entertainment to social issues with Ed Sullivan openly supporting civil rights for African- Americans by promoting black performers at a time when most national sponsors refused to allow them stage appearances (This Day in History, 1996). Ed Sullivan unashamedly embraced black entertainers including Louis Armstrong, Nat ‘King’ Cole, Ethel Water and Diana Ross. It might have been only a small act in the eyes of the civil rights movement, but it still influenced the viewing audience to listen to black performers and buy their records (Simon, 2010).

The Nat King Cole Show

Perhaps due to Ed Sullivan’s influence, NBC launched ‘The Nat King Cole Show’ in 1956 as the first successful variety show hosted by an African-American performer (Davidson, 2005). The program began as a 15 minute time-slot but soon expanded to 30 minutes. However, despite the show’s success NBC and Cole could not attract a national sponsor and many of Cole’s industry companions including Ella Fitzgerald, Peggy Lee, Sammy Davis and Pearl Bailey performed for free to help boost ratings (Watson, 2010). Although a lack of national sponsorship led to the axing of the show, it put civil rights firmly on the American political agenda. Years after its demise, Eartha Kitt, a singer/actress who appeared on show commented that Cole's sophisticated image and elegant interaction with white performers was dangerous and provided stark contrast in an era when the only blacks appearing on television regularly were those on other variety shows hosted by white people. "I think it was too early," Kitt said, "to show ourselves off as intelligent people." (Watson, 2010). In Nat King Cole’s own words “I was the pioneer, the test case… I didn’t plan it that way, but… I was the only...
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