Running time 30 minutes
Announcer Don Wilson
Country United States
First episode date 28 October 1950
Networks CBS, NBC
|Other names The Jack Benny ShowThe Canada Dry ProgramThe Chevrolet ProgramThe General Tire RevueThe Jell-O ProgramThe Grape Nuts Flakes ProgramThe Lucky Strike Program|
Home station NBC (Blue) (05/02/32-10/26/32)CBS (10/30/32-1/26/33)NBC (Red) (03/03/33-09/28/34)NBC (Blue) (10/14/34-06/21/36)NBC (Red) (10/04/36-12/26/48)CBS (01/02/49-05/22/55)
Cast Jack Benny, Eddie "Rochester" Anderson, Don Wilson, Mel Blanc, Dennis Day
Jack benny program 15 nov 59 mr and mrs jimmy stewart show
The Jack Benny Program, starring Jack Benny, is a radio-TV comedy series that ran for more than three decades and is generally regarded as a high-water mark in 20th-century American comedy.
- Jack benny program 15 nov 59 mr and mrs jimmy stewart show
- Syndication and DVDs
- Racial attitudes
Other cast members include:
Jack Benny first appeared on radio as a guest of Ed Sullivan in 1932. He was then given his own show later that year, with Canada Dry Ginger Ale as a sponsor —The Canada Dry Ginger Ale Program, beginning May 2, 1932, on the NBC Blue Network and continuing there for six months until October 26, moving the show to CBS on October 30. With Ted Weems leading the band, Benny stayed on CBS until January 26, 1933.
Arriving at NBC on March 17, Benny did The Chevrolet Program until April 1, 1934 with Frank Black leading the band. He continued with The General Tire Revue for the rest of that season, and in the fall of 1934, for General Foods as The Jell-O Program Starring Jack Benny (1934–42) and, when sales of Jell-O were affected by sugar rationing during World War II, The Grape Nuts Flakes Program Starring Jack Benny (Later the Grape Nuts and Grape Nuts Flakes Program) (1942–44). On October 1, 1944, the show became The Lucky Strike Program Starring Jack Benny, when American Tobacco's Lucky Strike cigarettes took over as his radio sponsor, through the mid-1950s. By that time, the practice of using the sponsor's name as the title began to fade.
The show returned to CBS on January 2, 1949, as part of CBS president William S. Paley's notorious "raid" of NBC talent in 1948-49. There it stayed for the remainder of its radio run, which ended on May 22, 1955. CBS aired repeats of previous 1953-55 radio episodes from 1956 to 1958 as The Best of Benny for State Farm Insurance, who later sponsored his television program from 1960 through 1965.
Jack Benny made his TV debut in 1949 with a local appearance on Los Angeles station KTTV, then a CBS affiliate. In October 1950, he made his full network debut over CBS Television. Benny's television shows were occasional broadcasts in his early seasons on TV, as he was still firmly dedicated to radio. The regular and continuing Jack Benny Program was telecast on CBS from October 28, 1950, to September 15, 1964 (finally becoming a weekly show in the 1960-1961 season), and on NBC from September 25, 1964, to September 10, 1965. 343 episodes were produced. His TV sponsors included American Tobacco's Lucky Strike (1950–59), Lever Brothers' Lux (1959–60), State Farm Insurance (1960–65), Lipton Tea (1960–62), General Foods' Jell-O (1962–64), and Miles Laboratories (1964–65).
The television show was a seamless continuation of Benny's radio program, employing many of the same players, the same approach to situation comedy and some of the same scripts. The suffix "Program" instead of "Show" was also a carryover from radio, where "program" rather than "show" was used frequently for presentations in the non-visual medium. Occasionally, in several live episodes, the title card read The Jack Benny Show.
The Jack Benny Program appeared infrequently during its first two years on CBS-TV. Benny moved into television slowly: in his first season (1950–1951), he only performed on four shows, but by the 1951-1952 season, he was ready to do one show approximately every six weeks. In the third season (1952–1953), the show was broadcast every four weeks. During the 1953-1954 season, The Jack Benny Program aired every three weeks. From 1954 to 1960, the program aired every other week, rotating with such shows as Private Secretary and Bachelor Father. Beginning in the 1960-1961 season, The Jack Benny Program began airing every week. It is also worth noting that the show moved from CBS to NBC prior to the 1964-65 season. During the 1953-54 season, a handful of episodes were filmed during the summer and the others were live, a schedule which allowed Benny to continue doing his radio show. In the 1953-1954 season, Dennis Day had his own short-lived comedy and variety show on NBC, The Dennis Day Show.
Live episodes (and later live on tape episodes) of The Jack Benny Program were broadcast from CBS Television City with live audiences. Early filmed episodes were shot by McCadden Productions at Hollywood Center Studios and later by Desilu Productions at Red Studios Hollywood with an audience brought in to watch the finished film for live responses. Benny's opening and closing monologues were filmed in front of a live audience. However, from the late 1950s until the last season on NBC, a laugh track was utilized to augment audience responses. By this time, all shows were filmed at Universal Television.
In Jim Bishop's book A Day in the Life of President Kennedy, John F. Kennedy said that he was too busy to watch most television but that he made the time to watch The Jack Benny Program each week.
Outside of North America (being also one of the most popular shows on the CBC), one episode reportedly aired first in the United Kingdom (where one episode was filmed). Benny had also been a familiar figure on Australia since the mid-to-late 1930s with his radio show, and he made a special program for ATN-7 Jack Benny In Australia in March 1964, after a successful tour of Sydney and Melbourne.
James T. Aubrey, the President of CBS Television and a man known for his abrasive and judgmental decision-making style, infamously told Benny in 1963, "you're through." Benny was further incensed when CBS placed an untested new sitcom, the Beverly Hillbillies spin off Petticoat Junction, as his lead in. Benny had a strong ratings surge the previous year when his series was moved to Tuesday nights with the popular Red Skelton Hour in the time slot prior to his. He feared a separation of their two programs might prove fatal. Early that fall he announced his show was moving back to NBC, where he was able to get the network to pick up another season. The surprising turn were the numbers success for Petticoat Junction. It had grown into the most popular new series that fall and Benny's ratings remained strong. In his unpublished autobiography, I Always Had Shoes (portions of which were later incorporated by Benny's daughter, Joan, into her memoir of her parents, Sunday Nights at Seven), Benny said that he made the decision to end his TV series in 1965. He said that while the ratings were still good (he cited a figure of some 18 million viewers per week, although he qualified that figure by saying he never believed the ratings services were doing anything more than guessing), advertisers complained that commercial time on his show was costing nearly twice as much as what they paid for most other shows, and he had grown tired of what was called the "rat race."
Syndication and DVDs
The radio series was one of the most extensively preserved programs of its era, with the archive almost complete from 1936 onward and several episodes existing from before that (including the 1932 premiere). As with the radio shows, most of the television series has lapsed into the public domain, although several episodes (particularly those made from 1961 onward, including the entire NBC-TV run) remain under copyright. During his lone NBC season, CBS aired repeats on weekdays and Sunday afternoons. 104 episodes personally selected by Benny and Irving Fein, Benny's associate since 1947, were placed into syndication in 1965 by Universal/MCA television. Telecasts of the shows in the late evening were running as late as 1966.
Four early 1960s episodes were rerun on CBS during the summer of 1977. Edited 16mm prints ran on the CBN Cable Network in the mid 1980s. Restored versions first appeared on the short lived HA! network in 1990. As of 2011, the series has run on Antenna TV, part of a long term official syndication distribution deal. The public domain television episodes have appeared on numerous stations, including PBS, while the radio series episodes have appeared in radio drama anthology series such as When Radio Was.
Public domain episodes have been available on budget VHS/Beta tapes (and later DVDs) since the late seventies. MCA home video issued a 1960 version of the classic "Christmas Shopping" show in 1982 and a VHS set of ten filmed episodes in 1990. In 2008, 25 public domain episodes of the show, long thought lost, were located in a CBS vault. The Jack Benny Fan Club, with the blessing of the Benny estate, offered to fund the digital preservation and release of these sealed episodes. CBS issued a press statement that any release was unlikely. June 2013 saw the first official release of 18 rare live Benny programs from 1956 to 1964 by Shout Factory. This set, part of Benny's private collection at the UCLA film and television library, included guest shots by Jack Paar, John Wayne, Tony Curtis, Gary Cooper, Dick Van Dyke, Rock Hudson, Natalie Wood, President Harry Truman and the only TV appearance with longtime radio foe Ronald Colman.
1961-62: ? (opposite #2, "Bonanza")
1964-65: ? (opposite #3, "Gomer Pyle")
Whether on television or radio, the format of the Jack Benny Program never wavered. The program utilized a loose show-within-a-show format, wherein the main characters were playing versions of themselves. There was not really a fourth wall, per se. The show would usually open with a song by the orchestra or banter between Benny and Don Wilson. There would then be banter between Benny and the regulars about the news of the day or about one of the running jokes on the program, such as Benny's age, Day's stupidity or Mary's letters from her mother. There would then be a song by the tenor followed by situation comedy involving an event of the week, a mini-play, or a satire of a current movie. Some shows were entire domestic sitcoms revolving around some aspect of Benny's life (spring cleaning, or a violin lesson).
Although Eddie Anderson's Rochester may be considered a stereotype by some, his attitudes were unusually sardonic for such a role, and Benny treats him as an equal, not as a servant. In many routines, Rochester gets the better of Benny, often pricking his boss' ego, or simply outwitting him. The show's portrayal of black characters could be seen as advanced for its time; in a 1956 episode, African-American actor Roy Glenn plays a friend of Rochester, and he is portrayed as a well-educated, articulate man not as the typical "darkie stereotype" seen in many films of the time. Glenn's role was a recurring one on the series, where he was often portrayed as having to support two people on one unemployment check (i.e., himself and Rochester). Black talent was also showcased, with several guest appearances by The Ink Spots and others.