Fireside Theatre, a.k.a. Jane Wyman Presents, is an American anthology drama series that ran on NBC from 1949 to 1958, and was the first successful filmed series on American television. Stories were low budget and often based on public domain stories or written by freelance writers such as Rod Serling. While it was panned by critics, it remained in the top ten most popular shows for most of its run. It predated the other major pioneer of filmed TV in America, I Love Lucy, by two years.
Fireside Theatre Logo
|Also known as||''Jane Wyman Presents
The Jane Wyman Show''
|Written by||Rod Serling
|Directed by||Fred Coe
Robert Stevenson (director)
|Presented by||Frank Wisbar (1952-1953)
Gene Raymond (1953-1955)
Jane Wyman (1955-1958)
|Country of origin||United States|
|No. of seasons||7|
|No. of episodes||268 (list of episodes)|
|Running time||48 mins.|
General Television Enterprises
|Original release||April 5, 1949– May 22, 1958|
From 1952 to 1958, the program was presented by a host. This role was first filled by Frank Wisbar (1952–1953), then by Gene Raymond (1953–1955), and finally by the person most associated with the series in the public mind, Jane Wyman (1955–1958). When episodes of this program were rerun on ABC during the summer of 1963, it was under the title Jane Wyman Presents; during the period first-run episodes were hosted by Wyman it was sometimes known as The Jane Wyman Show.
One of Fireside Theatre's most notable offerings was a 1951 condensed version of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, featuring Ralph Richardson as Ebenezer Scrooge for the first and only time on American television. He later recreated the role on a spoken word Caedmon Records LP album, with Paul Scofield as narrator. It has since been released on CD.
Fireside Theatre became a hit for NBC, always in the Top 30 shows at the end of each TV season. In the 1956-1957 season, its ratings slumped and decreased in the ratings. It was not in the Top 30 Ratings in the 1956-1957 TV season and never again regained its top spot.
Billboard magazine praised an episode titled "The Lottery", saying that the cast "all turned in taut, exciting performances to make Lottery a real winner". Unlike most episodes of the series, this episode aired live.
In 1954, Billboard voted it fourth-best filmed network drama series, ahead of the more fondly remembered General Electric Theater; however, Billboard's list excluded "mystery" shows (which was a separate list topped by Dragnet).
Seasonal rankings (based on average total viewers per episode) of Fireside Theatre on NBC (Each U.S. network television season starts in late September and ends in late May, which coincides with the completion of May sweeps).
|Season||TV season||Ranking||Viewers (in millions)|
- Brooks, Tim and Marsh, Earle, The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows