The Golden Age of network television occurred early in its existence, the 1950s, when executives still believed it had a mission to elevate as well as entertain and the creatives believed they could produce anything, not just endless variations on lowest-common-denominator formulas. They could even do live drama as well as the theatre could, they thought.
Thus was born Studio One, which broadcast teleplays — classic and original work — on CBS from 1948-1958. Many became instant “water-cooler” sensations, none more so than Reginald Rose’s original drama Twelve Angry Men, which took audiences inside an argumentative, frustrated jury.
Much of Golden Age television has been lost; the only reason some have been saved is because limited numbers of kinescopes — film shot from the television screen — were made for delayed broadcasts or for participants. In 1997, kinescopes of the 17 Studio One teleplays featured on this six-disc set were located in a warehouse in Mansfield, Ohio.
It’s taken until now for the Archive of American Television to restore and release them, and it is a treasure trove. There’s a 1953 adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984, starring Eddie Albert as Winston Smith; a 1954 Rod Sterling original drama about a doomed Korean War patrol, The Strike; a 1950 adaptation of Wuthering Heights with a young Charlton Heston as Heathcliff; Gore Vidal’s 1956 Summer Pavilion, about the faded, jaded aristocracy of New Orleans; and much more — including Twelve Angry Men. Especially powerful is Sal Mineo’s explosively angry turn as a violent, 17year-old delinquent in Rose’s 1956 Dino.
Must-see TV then; must-see TV now. Grade: A