The McCann Time Capsule: Ushering in Live Daytime TV 70 Years Ago
The perils of live broadcasts were amply demonstrated in last week’s dramatic finale to the Academy Awards ceremony. Nonetheless, the non-taped programming format has a long broadcasting history and was a much more common practice in the early days of TV. Other than news and sports, one of the major long-enduring live programming formats is the daytime talk show, a format where McCann played a pioneering role in the late 1940s.
According to Newsweek magazine in a short item headlined “Television Milestones” published 70 years ago:
“Nov. 7, 1947, was an important date in the television industry: At 1 p.m. EST on that date over the fledgling NBC networks between New York, Philadelphia, Schenectady, and Washington the Swift Home Service Club with Tex McCrary and his wife, Jinx Falkenburg, became the first regularly scheduled sponsored television program. Previous network telecasts have been confined to special events like the World Series and Presidential speeches. The Swift show followed the usual Tex and Jinx pattern—a fashion show, household hints—plus a pictorial feature. It was not exciting, but it was a start for commercial network television.”
The TV show was the handiwork of McCann, which had received the go-ahead from its Swift & Co. client in early April. Tex and Jinx were well-known. McCrary, a journalist and publicist, and Falkenburg, an actress also considered to have been one of the first fashion supermodels, had already pioneered the talk radio program format a year earlier.
While the new TV show was intended from the start as a daytime program, it began airing on Friday night, May 2nd, running from 8:15 to 8:45 PM because . . . there were no facilities available yet for it to run daytime. As a McCann newsletter said at the time, “For the present, there will be no facilities for a studio audience. However, as soon as facilities are available, spectators will be welcomed.”
It’s hard to imagine anything in today’s big business world of TV seeming as quaint as waiting half a year for a studio large enough to fit a live audience. But then again, the show’s content would also seem pretty dated in today’s world as well. As a McCann bulletin announced, “Guest star on the first telecast will be Walter Florell, one of the outstanding designers of women’s hats.”
But what doesn’t seem dated is that the program also seemed to signal the birth of cooking shows. One of the regularly scheduled guests was the Swift Home Economics expert Martha Logan “giving demonstrations of the cooking principles, preparation and serving of different foods.”