Pioneers of “B” Television

Independent Producers, Series and Pilots of the 1950s


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About the Book

As television grew more enticing for both viewers and filmmakers in the 1950s, several independent film producers with knowledge of making low-cost films and radio shows transferred their skills to producing shows for the small screen. Rather than funding live programs that were popular at the time, these producers saw the value in pre-taped shows, which created large financial returns through episode reruns. This low-cost, high-yield production model resulted in what are known and beloved as “B” television shows.
Part historical account and part filmography, this book documents the careers of over a dozen “B” television producers. It chronicles the rise of situation comedies and crime dramas and explores the minds behind popular shows like My Little Margie, The Lone Ranger, Lassie, Highway Patrol and Sea Hunt. Divided into 14 chapters of producer profiles, this work is rich in both trivia and critical assessments of the first years of television. A chapter detailing the work of early female television producers rounds out the text.

About the Author(s)

Richard Irvin is a self-described documentarian of television history. He lives in Camp Hill, Pennsylvania.

Bibliographic Details

Richard Irvin
Format: softcover (6 x 9)
Pages: 223
Bibliographic Info: 20 photos, notes, bibliography, index
Copyright Date: 2022
pISBN: 978-1-4766-8996-8
eISBN: 978-1-4766-4770-8
Imprint: McFarland

Table of Contents

Acknowledgments v
Preface 1
Introduction 3
1. Hal Roach Sr. and Jr.: From Movie Shorts to B TV Series 11
2. Roland Reed Productions: A Producer of Almost All Genres 42
3. Jack Chertok: From Iconic Heroes to Fantasy Comedies 53
4. Jerry Fairbanks: The Art of ­Low-Cost Production 67
5. Bernard J. Prockter: Turning ­Real-Life Stories into TV Series 82
6. Martin Stone: From Series Featuring Critics to Kids’ Shows 92
7. William F. Broidy: One Hit, Several Misses 102
8. Frederick W. Ziv: Mastering the Art of Location Filming 108
9. Edward Lewis: A Pioneer of ­Back-Door Pilots 138
10. Albert Gannaway: Early Country and Western TV Producer 150
11. Leon Fromkess: The Master of the Adventure Genre 157
12. Walter Wanger: From Films to TV and Back to Films 171
13. Movie Star Production Companies of B TV: Some More Successful Than Others 177
14. Early Female TV Producers Who Sought to Make B TV Shows 197
Notes 205
Bibliography 209
Index 211

Book Reviews & Awards

“Take a serious and fascinating look at the independent producers, series and pilots of the 1950s…For a captivating and fascinating examination of early TV this book delivers on all counts.”—Boyce McClain’s Consumers’ Collectors’ Corner