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1953–54 United States network television schedule

The 1953–54 United States network television schedule began in September of 1953 and ended in the spring of 1954.

Despite hit filmed programs such as I Love Lucy, both William S. Paley of CBS and David Sarnoff of NBC were said to be determined to keep most programming on their networks live.[1] Filmed programs were said to be inferior to the spontaneous nature of live television. Thus, NBC and CBS continued to schedule many live programs, including two new 1953 fall NBC series The Dave Garroway Show and Bonino. According to Brooks and Marsh (2007), Garroway's show "was faced with overwhelming competition from Mama and Ozzie & Harriet, which were running opposite on CBS and ABC, and it only lasted a single season".[2] Bonino did not even last the full season. CBS had more luck with new live programs Person to Person and My Favorite Husband (which would later make the switch to film).

ABC, perennially in third or fourth place among the four U.S. television networks, had been on the verge of bankruptcy, but the February 1953 merger of United Paramount Theaters with ABC had given ABC a $30 million cash infusion. ABC revamped its schedule for Fall 1953 with big-budget programs. New ABC programs included Make Room for Daddy, and an ABC version of NBC's popular Kraft Television Theatre; the strategy was designed to "take on CBS and NBC with a strong schedule".[3]

In contrast to ABC's revamped schedule, DuMont's Fall 1953 prime time schedule looked weak, with programs that were "doomed from the start by third-rate scripts and cheap production."[4] The 1953–54 season would be the last year DuMont was able to schedule nearly 20 hours of programming in prime time. By the 1954–55 season, DuMont would be forced to cut back its schedule,[2] while the other three networks continued to expand.

During the 1953 season, both DuMont and ABC "made sporadic efforts to compete for the daytime audience, but faced so many problems just filling prime time that they found it much more efficient to focus primarily on weekend sports".[3] DuMont paid $1.3 million in 1953 for the rights to broadcast National Football League games in prime time; starting December 12, DuMont also broadcast a series of NBA basketball games, the first time pro basketball was seen regularly on network TV. Both DuMont and ABC "were especially aggressive in pursuit of sports broadcasts because they were desperately in need of special attractions to bring in viewers".[3]

Each of the 30 highest-rated shows is listed with its rank and rating as determined by Nielsen Media Research.[5]

     Yellow indicates the programs in the top 10 for the season.
     Cyan indicates the programs in the top 20 for the season.
     Magenta indicates the programs in the top 30 for the season.



Network 7:00 PM 7:30 PM 8:00 PM 8:30 PM 9:00 PM 9:30 PM 10:00 PM 10:30 PM
ABC You Asked For It 7:30 The Frank Leahy Show / 7:45 Notre Dame Football 9:00 The Walter Winchell Show / 9:15 The Orchid Award Jukebox Jury 10:30 Billy Graham's Hour of Decision / 10:45 Local
CBS Quiz Kids The Jack Benny Show (16/33.3) / Private Secretary (24/30.3) Toast of the Town (17/33.0) The Fred Waring Show / General Electric Theater (27/29.9) The Man Behind the Badge The Web What's My Line? (28/29.6)
NBC The Paul Winchell Show Mister Peepers The Colgate Comedy Hour (10/36.2)
(Tied with This Is Your Life)
/ The Bob Hope Show (once a month)
The Philco Television Playhouse (19/32.5) / Goodyear Television Playhouse (22/31.0) Letter to Loretta Man Against Crime
DMN Local Washington Exclusive Local Rocky King, Inside Detective The Plainclothesman Dollar a Second Man Against Crime


Network 7:00 PM 7:30 PM 8:00 PM 8:30 PM 9:00 PM 9:30 PM 10:00 PM 10:30 PM
ABC 7:00 The Walter Winchell Show / 7:15 John Daly and the News Jamie Sky King Of Many Things Junior Press Conference The Big Picture This Is the Life Local
CBS Local 7:30 Douglas Edwards with the News / 7:45 The Perry Como Show The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show (20/32.4) Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts (3/43.6)
(Tied with You Bet Your Life)
I Love Lucy (1/58.8) The Red Buttons Show (12/35.3) Studio One
NBC Local 7:30 The Arthur Murray Party / 7:45 Camel News Caravan Name That Tune The Voice of Firestone The Dennis Day Show Robert Montgomery Presents Who Said That?
DMN 7:00 Captain Video / 7:15 Marge and Jeff Local Twenty Questions Keep Posted (retitled The Big Issue) Boxing From Eastern Parkway
  • On April 26, 1954, The Tony Martin Show replaced The Arthur Murray Party on NBC. Both programs were fifteen minutes in length.
  • From April 6, 1953, to December 7, 1953, DuMont aired Monodrama Theater Monday through Friday at 11pm ET.







  1. ^ Boddy, William (1993). Fifties Television: The Industry And Its Critics. Urbana: The University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-06299-X
  2. ^ a b Brooks, Tim & Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows (9th ed.). New York: Ballantine. pp 517–518, 1576-1577. ISBN 0-345-31864-1.
  3. ^ a b c Castleman, H. and Podrazik, W. (1984) The TV Schedule Book: Four Decades of Network Programming from Sign-on to Sign-off. McGraw-Hill. pg 45-46. ISBN 0-07-010277-5
  4. ^ Castleman, Harry; Walter J. Podrazik (1982). Watching TV: Four Decades of American Television. New York: McGraw-Hill. p. 87. ISBN 0-07-010269-4. 
  5. ^ Highest-rated series is based on the annual top-rated programs list compiled by Nielsen Media Research and reported in: Brooks, Tim & Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows (9th ed.). New York: Ballantine. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4.
  • McNeil, Alex. Total Television. Fourth edition. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-024916-8.
  • Brooks, Tim & Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows (9th ed.). New York: Ballantine. ISBN 0-345-31864-1.