TV's Greatest ShowsIn the years following World War II, the stars of radio had reason to be complacent. Their shows - many of which had been on the air for over a decade - continued to be popular with listening audiences and sponsors, who always closely monitored the results of their advertising spending, were pleased to see that radio was selling their products at a higher rate than ever before. Times were good; the United States had won the war, won the peace, and the radio industry was now basking in an era of prosperity.But, by 1952, all of the complacency would end. The cause? Television.By 1939, it seemed that network television was here to stay. The undeniable hit of the 1939 New York World's Fair, even President Roosevelt had made a speech that was broadcast to TV screens all over the country -- well, in truth, to a series of high-priced sets placed in wealthy homes and taverns along the eastern seaboard. Still, the technology was nearly perfected and, any day now, Americans could expect to abandon their radios and turn instead to a magical new medium, bringing both sound and pictures directly into their living rooms.Then, in December 1941, Pearl Harbor was bombed. The United States was at war. The technology that was supposed to finally refine television, that would make it a mass medium, was now instead redirected into winning the war. Radio heaved a collective sigh of relief. It had been the dominant public medium for news, sports, music, and entertainment for almost ten years and who needed a heavy, expensive, temperamental, and blurry piece of oversized furniture getting in the way of its success? And so things remained as they had been since the early 1930s. Television stayed a distant dream and, in the meantime, radio continued to be a top revenue source for networks, advertisers, station owners, and performers. By 1948, however, the nation's three radio networks - NBC, CBS, and the fledgling ABC - plus the Mutual Broadcasting System and an independent upstart network co-owned by inventor Allen B. DuMont had decided it was indeed time for television to make its mass-market debut - and the first place they turned for the talent necessary to make it successful was, of course, radio. Earlier that year, CBS President William Paley had scored a coup when, having found a considerable loophole in the tax laws, he bought up the independent production companies owned by such outstanding radio successes as Jack Benny, Edgar Bergen, and "Amos 'n' Andy"'s Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll. It made sense that, with these popular entertainers in his stable, Paley should call upon them to become the new stars of television - and so, with reservations, all began planning what they could do in the new medium.Meantime, over at NBC, a nominally successful radio and nightclub comedian was being offered the chance to bring his weekly radio show for Texaco gasoline to television. There wasn't much money to be had, of course, but the comic would be given pretty much total control over what he put on the air. His name was Milton Berle and, on June 8, 1948, "The Texaco Star Theater" had its debut on NBC Television. It was crude, yes, and more than a little frenetic. With technicians discovering what would (and what would not) work on TV almost at the same time the show was being broadcast live on the air, there were many, many technical difficulties. Microphones dipped into the picture, the scenery shaky, the costumes rented and threadbare. Berle, a mass of raw nerves in the best of times, was known to become so nervous during the show that he would twist the buttons off his suit coats and shirts. But, surprisingly, it was a hit. A massive hit. The sort of hit that not only sold televisions, but that caused people to actually stay home just to watch the madness unfold. It was nothing new, of course - at least, nothing new for anyone who had lived through the era of vaudeville or had attended the cleaner forms of burlesque. Yes, it was raw and rough, but it was undeniably vibrant and entertaining. What's more, like radio, it was free - that is, if you could afford to buy a set or could arrange to drop by the house of someone who owned one.Soon, other networks began to follow suit. CBS hired faded Broadway comedian Ed Wynn to host his own weekly half-hour comedy/variety series, while DuMont hired a little-known nightclub comic named Jackie Gleason to host a weekly comedy fest. Hoping that lightning would strike twice, NBC contracted with producer Max Liebman to create a weekly 90-minute Broadway-style revue with the help of an ex-Coast Guardsman, saxophone player, and Catskills tummler named Sid Caesar and a young dancer/actress named Imogene Coca.Within two years, television was not just the in-thing, it was increasingly the only thing - at least when it came to low-cost entertainment. Advertisers who had formerly devoted the majority of their spending to radio now shifted it to TV. Movie theaters, used to ever-increasing box office revenue during the boom years of World War II, now saw dwindling profits and even more dwindling audiences. Just as the public had stayed home to listen to "Amos 'n' Andy" in 1929 and 1930, now they were staying home to watch Uncle Milty...and "Your Show of Shows", "The Colgate Comedy Hour", and practically anything else that television had to offer them. And, just as rapidly, they were turning away from radio. Radio was still there, of course, and many popular network shows were still being aired, week after week, year after year. But the budgets had grown smaller, the advertising dollars were drying up, and increasingly the shows had to be "sustained" by the networks that aired them. Many of the top names now made the decision to move into TV, and a great many were successful in it: Jack Benny, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Bob Hope...all were doing well, though many not quite as well as they had done in radio. Some chose to bypass the new medium altogether: Jim and Marion Jordan, radio's "Fibber McGee and Molly", agreed to film a "pilot" show in 1953 but, unsatisfied with the result, chose not to pursue television any further. Freeman Gosden and Charles Correll had brought "Amos 'n' Andy" to TV in 1951 with an all-black cast, but initial success eventually led to protests that ultimately led to its cancellation two seasons later. Soap operas, long the mainstay of daytime radio, continued to be both seen and heard in both mediums - but, even here, TV had definitely become dominant.By 1955, radio's hey-day was over and all of the big-time network shows were now on television. A new era had truly begun.