The 1955–56 United States network television schedule was for the period that began in September 1955 and ran through March 1956.
The $64,000 Question had debuted on CBS during summer 1955 and became the #1 program on U.S. television. The three networks "rushed to copy this latest hit format, quickly filling prime time with similar contests". (It would not be until fall 1959 that it would be confirmed that several of these new quiz shows were rigged.)
For years, ABC had "struggled to cobble together a TV schedule", but following the network's major success with Disney-produced series Disneyland in 1954, other Hollywood film companies began embracing television. MGM assembled clips for MGM Parade on ABC; ABC also hired Warner Bros. for a Tuesday night program called Warner Brothers Presents. The hour-long umbrella series featured TV adaptations of three Warner Brothers movies: Cheyenne, Casablanca, and Kings Row. Of the three new series, only Cheyenne was a hit with viewers, and ABC began contracting with other Hollywood studios for Westerns. Immediately following Warner Brothers Presents, ABC scheduled The Life and Legend of Wyatt Earp. This Western was also produced in conjunction with a Hollywood studio: Desilu Productions.
CBS had its own Western hit with Gunsmoke, which also debuted in fall 1955. Over the next few years, "the rush to Westerns had become a virtual stampede so that, by the fall of 1959, viewers had their choice from a staggering twenty-eight different Western-based prime time series." Around 1955, live drama anthologies, the staple of early television programming, were being phased out by the networks in favor of filmed fare: Westerns, police dramas, quiz shows, and adventure series.
The struggling DuMont Television Network offered little during the 1955–56 television season. DuMont's final program line-up consisted of What's the Story on Wednesday nights at 9:30 and Boxing From St. Nicholas Arena on Monday nights at 9:00. By October What's the Story was off the air. DuMont honored its few remaining network commitments until August 6, 1956, when it ceased operations as a major television network. DuMont hoped to go into independent television production; the company produced CBS's The Honeymooners during the 1955–1956 season. DuMont's loss was ABC's gain, as some of DuMont's most popular programs, including Life Is Worth Living, Chance of a Lifetime, Life Begins at Eighty, and Down You Go, found their way onto ABC's 1955–1956 prime time schedule.
The crumbling and eventual death of the old DuMont Network meant the 1955–1956 television season would be the first year in which the three major remaining U.S. television networks would be the only full-time commercial participants in prime time, a situation that was to remain for the next 30 years until Fox began network operations in October 1986, although Fox would not enter prime time until Sunday, April 5, 1987.
New fall series are highlighted in bold.
Each of the 30 highest-rated shows is listed with its rank and rating as determined by Nielsen Media Research.
- Yellow indicates the programs in the top 10 for the season.
- Cyan indicates the programs in the top 20 for the season.
- Magenta indicates the programs in the top 30 for the season.
* The Ed Sullivan Show was formerly Toast of the Town.
** formerly The Colgate Comedy Hour.
- On NBC, Color Spread aired as a monthly series, 7:30–9 p.m.
- Appointment with Adventure premiered on CBS on April 3, 1955, and ran through September 1955, before starting its regular second season in the same time slot on October 2, 1955. The anthology series had no host.
Note: On NBC, Producers' Showcase aired as a monthly series 8–9:30 p.m. No longer a network operation, DuMont continued airing its Boxing From St. Nicholas Arena on an occasional basis over individual stations until August 6, 1956. On CBS, in most areas, Douglas Edwards With the News aired at 6:45 p.m., while some cities (including New York) aired the 7:15 p.m. edition.
Note: The Martha Raye Show and The Chevy Show appeared monthly. As of November 1, You'll Never Get Rich officially became The Phil Silvers Show, swapping time periods with Navy Log.
Note: On DuMont, What's the Story aired only in September.
* formerly Pabst Blue Ribbon Bouts on CBS.
- On ABC, Grand Ole Opry made its debut as a monthly series, airing 8–9 p.m. from October 15, 1955 to September 26, 1956. On CBS, Ford Star Jubilee made its debut as a monthly series, airing 9:30–11 p.m. On NBC, Max Liebman Presents aired as a monthly series, 9–10:30 p.m.
- High Finance, hosted by Dennis James, debuted on July 7, 1956 at 10:30 on CBS. It ran until December 15, 1956. It replaced The Damon Runyon Theater.
- ^ a b c d e f Castleman, H. and Podrazik, W. (1984). The TV Schedule Book: Four Decades of Network Programming from Sign-on to Sign-off. McGraw-Hill. pg 79–85. ISBN 0-07-010277-5
- ^ Miller, Roger K. (2005-09-16). "TV of 50 Years Ago is Stiff Competition for Today's Shows". Deseret News (Salt Lake City (UT)). Retrieved 2009-09-17.
- ^ Brooks, Tim & Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows (9th ed.). New York: Ballantine. pp. 517–518, 1576–1577. ISBN 0-345-31864-1.
- ^ Highest-rated series is based on the annual top-rated programs list compiled by Nielsen Media Research and reported in: Brooks, Tim & Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows (9th ed.). New York: Ballantine. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4.
- Castleman, H. & Podrazik, W. (1982). Watching TV: Four Decades of American Television. New York: McGraw-Hill. 314 pp.
- McNeil, Alex (1996). Total Television: The Comprehensive Guide to Programming from 1948 to the Present. Fourth edition. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-024916-8.
- Brooks, Tim & Marsh, Earle (1964). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows (3rd ed.). New York: Ballantine. ISBN 0-345-31864-1.