the late 1940s and early 1950s, broadcast television emanating from
Chicago was noted for its original ideas, inventive production techniques
and significant contributions to the development of the new visual
medium. Paying close attention to the problems of adjusting personal
styles of writing, direction, and performance to television, and
to the more theoretical questions of how television actually worked,
Chicago broadcasters developed a style or technique that came to
be known as the Chicago School of Television.
all Chicago stations contributed to the School, most success with
the distinctive approach to programming is attributed to the NBC
owned and operated station, WNBQ. Under the leadership of station
manager Jules Herbuveaux and program manager Ted Mills, the NBC
outlet went further in developing formats and ideas that would capitalize
on television's idiosyncrasies.
stated, the Chicago School worked at creating inventive programs
different from both New York's theatrical offerings or Hollywood's
screenplay based productions. Utilizing an almost totally scriptless-improvisational
approach reliant on interpretive camera work and creative use of
scenery, costumes, props, and lighting, Chicago School practitioners
produced successful programs in limited spaces with local talent
and small budgets. Herbuveaux provided the freedom for his staff
to create and Mills theorized and experimented with a variety of
ideas including Chinese Opera, commedia dell'arte and Pirandellian
forms of reality in his search for new and effective television
late 1949, Chicago's low-cost television packages were making a
ratings impact with such offerings as NBC's Kukla, Fran and Ollie,
ABC's Super Circus and the piano talents of Dumont's Al Morgan.
By spring, 1950, the major body of Chicago School work focused on
such NBC-WNBQ variety offerings as Garroway at Large, the Wayne
King Show, Hawkins Falls, and Saturday Square. Children's shows
consisted of an extraordinary number of award winning entries including
Zoo Parade, Quiz Kids, Mr. Wizard, Ding Dong School, Pistol Pete
and Jennifer and the highly rated-low budgeted cowboy film
series, Cactus Jim. For comedy and drama there was Studs
Terkel's Studs' Place, Portrait of America, Crisis, and Reported
Missing. Actuality programming featured Walt's Workshop,
The Pet Shop and R.F.D. America. Local news offered the
unique Five Star Final with weatherman Clint Youle, news anchor
Clifton Utley, Dorsey Connors with consumer tips, sportscaster Tom
Duggan and, reflecting Herbuveaux's sense of showmanship, Herbie
Mintz with musical nostalgia.
critically acclaimed as it proved to be, elements of the Chicago
School's decline were seen as early as 1950. Chicago programs were
shortened and/or removed from network schedules. Key personnel left
Chicago to pursue more lucrative careers in New York and Los Angeles
and, in 1953, with the opening of the coast-to-coast network cable,
there was less and less need for Chicago productions. In 1953, thirteen
network programs originated from Chicago. By 1955, no Chicago produced
programs appeared on the DuMont network. CBS and NBC had no Chicago
network originations except occasional newscasts and a network radio
farm program. The Chicago School of Television was becoming just
a fond memory.
"Chi Network Originations," Variety, (Los Angeles and New
York) CXC (May 27, 1953), 35.
Chicago School," Time (New York), LVI (September 11, 1950),
"The Chicago Touch: It May Give You the Show You Need,"
Sponsor, VIII (April 5, 1954), 34-35, 84-86, 88.
J. Hugh E. "Are Chi Network TV Originations Dying?," The Billboard
(New York), LXIV (April 5, 1952), 18, 27.
Bill. "Top TV Town," Collier's (New York), CXXVII (March
17, 1951), 32-33, 77-78, 80-81.
Jules. "Chi TV Parlays a Myth into B.O. Inventiveness," Variety
(Los Angeles and New York), CXC (May 27, 1953), 34.
Irv. "Windy City Nominated as Nation's TV Centre; Home of 'Relaxed'
Video," Variety (Los Angeles and New York), CLXXXI (January
10, 1951), 26, 42.
Jack. "When Chicago TV Was Young, Bright, and Fun." Chicago's
American Magazine (Chicago, Illinois), November 19, 1967, pp.
Martin. "A Philosophy of Educational Television," cited in Koenig,
Allan E. and Hill, Ruane B. (eds.). ETV: The Farther Vision.
(Madison, Wisconsin: University of Wisconsin Press, 1969), pp. 11-31.
Chi Staffers Miffed Over `Orphan' Status; Blame N.Y. Relations,"
Variety (Los Angeles and New York), CLXXX (November 29, 1950),
Ted. "Television: Chicago Style," Journal of Broadcasting,
IX (Fall, 1965), 305-313.
Arch. "Windy Kilocycles," Theatre Arts (New York), XXXV (July,
1951), 46, 89.
John. "The Reward of Being Local, Live, Lively," Broadcasting
(Washington, D.C.), XLVI (May 24, 1954), 108, 110, 114.
Out," Time (New York), LVIII (September 10, 1951), 82-83.
Robert Lewis. "A Deadly Calm in the Windy City," Saturday Review
of Literature (New York), XLII (September 5, 1959), 30.
_______. "Chicago's Local TV Corpse," Saturday Review of Literature
(New York), XLI (October 11, 1958), 32.
_______. Open to Criticism. (Boston, Massachusetts: Beacon
_______. "Toynbee, TV, and Chicago," The Christian Science Monitor
(Boston, Massachusetts), (June 5, 1950), p. 5.
Joel. "Television Town," Chicago History (Chicago, Illinois),
IV (Summer, 1975), 108-117.
Creative Programming Highlights WNBQ (TV) Success," Broadcasting
(Washington, D.C.), XXXVIII (January 9, 1950), 50-51, 60-61.
Studs. "Chi's TV Imagination Vs. Radio City Panjandrums," Variety
(Los Angeles and New York), CXC (May 27, 1953), 34.
Chicago Style," Television Magazine (New York), VIII (March,
1951), 19, 21-23, 26-27.
Horne, Harriet. "The Chicago Touch," Theatre Arts (New York),
XXXV (July, 1951), 36-39.
Larry. "Television News and Views," Chicago Tribune (Chicago,
Illinois), January 4, 1952, p. 16.
at Large; Golden
Age of Television; Kukla,
Fran and Ollie; Tillstrom,