The 11th Emmys Evaluated (1959)
Welcome to “Emmys Evaluated,” a series that looks at the nominations and wins in the television industry’s foremost awards ceremony and performs some revisionist history to retroactively pick the winners from the categories and nominees the The Television Academy selected.
As the Emmy Awards entered its second decade, it continued to mix up categories on a yearly basis. For its 11th ceremony, held on May 6 at the Moulin Rouge Nightclub in Hollywood, a clear change in the television landscape was the introduction of the Best Western Series category. Meta jokes had been flying (even in the previous year) around the industry and its resulting programs for the bonanza of westerns, which were bumping older comedies especially for more and more airtime. But otherwise, the 11th Emmy Awards still prized the things that had been prized for years already; the same sitcom format, variety specials, and anthology dramas. But that isn’t to say that those kinds of programs weren’t still quality, as The Golden Age of Television was coming towards the end of its run.
The 11th Emmys were hosted by Raymond Burr, the newly minted star of PERRY MASON. No record of his hosting abilities seem to be readily accessible, but a few clips from the 1959 event, recognizing the best of television in 1958, are out there on the internet. Mike Nichols and Elaine May had notable presenting gigs, and from what I can glean, the format of the show was getting closer to what we recognize today. In spite of the limited record of the 11th Emmys, the “major” categories that are essentially represented today guide the selection for this piece, omitting the technical considerations that had been introduced a few years prior. This makes up 29 categories, nine more than the previous year.
From that 29, PLAYHOUSE 90 continued its celebration with 14 nominations, but the critically acclaimed AN EVENING WITH FRED ASTAIRE was the winningest program with five awards. FATHER KNOWS BEST was also the first show to be nominated in every major category (series, writing, directing, and the four acting ones), which is…interesting to me. A major snub in my eyes was THE LUCY-DESI COMEDY HOUR, a series of specials that continued the adventures of the Ricardos; although it was not as good as the heyday of I LOVE LUCY, it still had the structure that should have had some recognition at the Emmys. LEAVE IT TO THE BEAVER, after being recognized the previous year, also didn’t show up at the 11th Emmys, although that’s a lesser snub in my eyes.
Now, though, I’ll mark with an * the actual winner, bold my pick at the top of the list, and rank in order of my enjoyment from there. I’ve denoted shows or episodes that I couldn’t really track down online (specifically for the year for which they were eligible for this ceremony) with a ~.
Best Comedy Series
- THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW
- THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM*
- THE DANNY THOMAS SHOW
- FATHER KNOWS BEST
- THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW
- THE RED SKELTON SHOW
THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW continued its consistent, funny quality as it entered its final year. The plots the writing team came up with for Silvers’ Bilko to run schemes within became even crazier than before, but they didn’t fully feel like “jumping the shark” moments. It’s marginally better than THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM’s appeal, which also traded on the strength of the delivery of its titular star. The appeal of THE DANNY THOMAS SHOW’s titular star is definitely a step down; I think Danny Thomas was a talented entertainer, but the character on his show is so aggressive it’s often not terribly funny. FATHER KNOWS BEST still plays like the typical 1950s family sitcom, with its mild humor and important morals. But it is a better experience than THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW’s more gag-based comedy, while THE RED SKELTON SHOW returned after years out of the Emmys spotlight with sketches that just fell flat to me.
Best Dramatic Series Less than One Hour
- ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS
- NAKED CITY
- PETER GUNN
- ALCOA-GOODYEAR THEATRE*
- THE LORETTA YOUNG SHOW
- GENERAL ELECTRIC THEATRE~
As I’ve written before, ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS was the best dramatic television show the medium had produced up to this point. The anthology program delivered great, thrilling episodes that are still compelling today. But NAKED CITY is actually a close second, as the semi-anthology program’s first season was perhaps its strongest. Its much more cinematic style (as opposed to many other contemporary TV shows, not AHP) lent itself to a sense of humanism in its crime stories. PETER GUNN was also shot with a depth that much of TV had lacked, echoing the noir of the previous decade with decent private detective/mystery plots. Winner ALCOA-GOODYEAR THEATRE was nearly the weakest of the shows nominated here, but it did run a great sci-fi episode with a twist that foreshadowed the high concept goodness of THE TWILIGHT ZONE. Loretta Young still did admirably on her anthology show, but it just didn’t match the excitement of the newer shows it was up against.
Best Dramatic Series One Hour or Longer
- PLAYHOUSE 90*
- THE UNITED STATES STEEL HOUR~
PLAYHOUSE 90 has to win by default here, but as the home of writer of Rod Serling and director John Frankenheimer, I have a feeling it would still be my favorite regardless. That’s especially on the strength of the incredible “A Town Has Turned to Dust,” an antiracist story with great performances, direction, and of course, writing. I’ll get to each of those components in short order, I suppose.
Best Musical or Variety Series
- THE STEVE ALLEN SHOW
- THE DINAH SHORE CHEVY SHOW*
- THE PERRY COMO SHOW
Not much of THE STEVE ALLEN SHOW seems to exist from 1958, but from what I can tell from it and previous years, its focus on comedy over musical performances speaks to me more than the musical focus of THE DINAH SHORE CHEVY SHOW and THE PERRY COMO SHOW. Both of the latter are entertaining, however, and the guest stars make many episodes great little historical relics.
Best Public Service Program or Series
- THE TWENTIETH CENTURY
- BOLD JOURNEY
- NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC: YOUNG PEOPLE’S CONCERTS
- MEET THE PRESS~
- SMALL WORLD~
OMNIBUS is a great, in-depth program that was an attempt to promote fine arts on TV. One 1958 episode featured Gene Kelly, who gave insightful explanations of the mechanics of dancing, comparing his movements to those top-tier athletes. But the show also featured Nichols & May, Bert Lahr, and other variety acts, making it a more well-rounded experience. Docuseries THE TWENTIETH CENTURY, hosted by Walter Cronkite, is also an entertaining retrospective of key moments of 1900s history, and even more interesting from the viewpoint of those living just over halfway through that century. BOLD JOURNEY is an ethnographic travel show, a bit exotic-ist as may be expected for 1950s American television, but revealing in its very nature nevertheless. And while I have legitimately learned a lot from Leonard Bernstein’s musical explanations, NEW YORK PHILHARMONIC: YOUNG PEOPLE’S CONCERTS (which he hosted), is a bit too dry against its competitors here.
Best Western Series
- THE RIFLEMAN
- HAVE GUN — WILL TRAVEL
- WAGON TRAIN
I like Westerns. TV Westerns, less so. They weren’t able to capture some of the beauty and nuance from the greatest examples of the genre in film, and they were a bit more limited in terms of what was deemed acceptable for a television audience. Nevertheless, they provided some entertainment. Chief among these nominees in that department is MAVERICK, with its semi-comedic tone bringing appreciative levity to its situations. THE RIFLEMAN, with its father-son dynamic, is sentimental in a way that resonated slightly. GUNSMOKE was its “gritty” self that it had established over the past few years, marginally better than the gentleman gambler premise of HAVE GUN — WILL TRAVEL and the semi-anthology approach that WAGON TRAIN took.
Best Panel, Quiz or Audience Participation Series
- YOU BET YOUR LIFE
- WHAT’S MY LINE?*
- I’VE GOT A SECRET
- THIS IS YOUR LIFE
- THE PRICE IS RIGHT
- KEEP TALKING~
The game show category came back after an absence at the Emmys, but it’s not exactly that welcome. YOU BET YOUR LIFE, the Groucho Marx vehicle, was still as entertaining as ever with his quips and bits, but the remaining shows were the same ol’, same ol’. WHAT’S MY LINE? benefits from its celebrity guests, but the relatively bland questioning rankles after a bit, and same goes for I’VE GOT A SECRET (although a 1958 episode dedicated to teen prodigies was interesting). THIS IS YOUR LIFE isn’t a game show, and its sentimental retrospective of surprised celebrity guests’ lives is hit-or-miss. Finally, the original incarnation of THE PRICE IS RIGHT is much more static and visually lacking than the versions we know today.
Best Special Musical or Variety Program — One Hour or Longer
- ART CARNEY MEETS PETER AND THE WOLF
- AN EVENING WITH FRED ASTAIRE*
Honestly, this was kind of a difficult decision, because AN EVENING WITH FRED ASTAIRE, with its color cinematography, impressionistic sets, and of course dancing talents of its titular star, is a pleasure. But ART CARNEY MEETS PETER AND THE WOLF is a more pleasurable narrative with great work from Bill Baird and his Marionettes. Extended sequences focused exclusively on the puppets are especially fun and beautiful, and the whole vibe appeals to my nostalgia for children’s programming in the vein of something like MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD (1968–2001). Both of these specials are worth watching, but for these reasons, ART CARNEY MEETS PETER AND THE WOLF feels all the more special.
Most Outstanding Single Program of the Year
- AN EVENING WITH FRED ASTAIRE*
- “Little Moon of Alban” — HALLMARK HALL OF FAME~
- “Child of Our Time” — PLAYHOUSE 90~
- “Old Man” — PLAYHOUSE 90~
But in this case, I have to give it to AN EVENING WITH FRED ASTAIRE. And I’m happy to do it. As mentioned, many aspects of the special are entertaining and admirable. It’s understandable that this revived Astaire’s career, which had been lagging after meteoric success in earlier decades, and led to a series of further specials starring the multi-hyphenate.
Best Performance by an Actor (Continuing Character) in a Musical or Variety Series
- Steve Allen — THE STEVE ALLEN SHOW
- Perry Como — THE PERRY COMO SHOW*
- Jack Paar — TONIGHT STARRING JACK PAAR~
This is an interesting category because it is essentially a “hosting” one, but it is not referred to as such. Steve Allen’s roles in his show’s comedy sketches are preferable to Perry Como’s admittedly fine musical acts, but mostly, I just regret that Jack Paar’s years of hosting THE TONIGHT SHOW are almost entirely lost.
Best Performance by an Actress (Continuing Character) in a Musical or Variety Series
- Dinah Shore — THE DINAH SHORE CHEVY SHOW*
- Patti Page — THE PATTI PAGE OLDSMOBILE SHOW
The same goes here for the nature of this female-centric category in comparison to the preceding male-centric one. Dinah Shore’s show was not only generally better than Patti Page’s, with more interesting guest stars, sets, musical numbers, and comedy bits, but I also think Shore’s banter with guests and her singing ability were superior.
Best Actor in a Leading Role (Continuing Character) in a Comedy Series
- Phil Silvers — THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW
- Jack Benny — THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM*
- Danny Thomas — THE DANNY THOMAS SHOW
- Robert Young — FATHER KNOWS BEST
- Bob Cummings — THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW
- Walter Brennan — THE REAL MCCOYS
I’ve covered the ground of almost all of these shows in general, and since so many of them are focused on their titular stars, much of their success comes from them. Silvers has great, scheming delivery, something about Benny’s self-effacement endears me to him, Thomas can be funny but is mostly annoyingly angry, Young is a typical patriarch, and Cummings is just too smug. The only newcomer here is Walter Brennan, an accomplished character who nevertheless does not appeal to me in the role of Grandpa McCoy on “displaced hillbilly” show (you know the genre) THE REAL MCCOYS.
Best Actress in a Leading Role (Continuing Character) in a Comedy Series
- Gracie Allen — THE GEORGE BURNS AND GRACIE ALLEN SHOW
- Ann Sothern — THE ANN SOTHERN SHOW
- Donna Reed — THE DONNA REED SHOW
- Jane Wyatt — FATHER KNOWS BEST*
- Ida Lupino — MR. ADAMS AND EVE~
- Spring Byington — DECEMBER BRIDE~
THE GEORGE BURNS AND GRACIE ALLEN SHOW ended in 1958, bringing the eight-year program, as well as Allen’s career, to a halt. But she went out being one of the greatest comedians on television, with her ditzy shtick somehow never growing old. Ann Sothern is interesting as a “strong female character” (for the time) in a position as the assistant manager of an upscale hotel. Her character, Katy O’Connor, is resourceful and sarcastic, and while the writing of the show isn’t exceptional, Sothern does well. THE DONNA REED SHOW may have been the rare family sitcom that revolved around the mother rather than the father, but it operates in much the same mold as FATHER KNOWS BEST. But since Reed seems to have more to do than Wyatt, they fall into their respective spaces.
Best Actor in a Leading Role (Continuing Character) in a Dramatic Series
- Raymond Burr — PERRY MASON*
- Craig Stevens — PETER GUNN
- James Garner — MAVERICK
- Richard Boone — HAVE GUN — WILL TRAVEL
- James Arness — GUNSMOKE
- Efrem Zimbalist Jr. — 77 SUNSET STRIP~
Now, I don’t know how exceptional any of these performances are, if I’m being honest. But Raymond Burr’s consistency as a dogged pursuer of justice on PERRY MASON does carry a compelling weight, while Craig Stevens’ “cool private detective” persona is enjoyed on PETER GUNN. James Garner is good as a self-assured, wisecracking scoundrel with a heart of gold on MAVERICK, Richard Boone as a gentleman gambler on HAVE GUN — WILL TRAVEL is as well, and James Arness as the marshal on GUNSMOKE is archetypal. All of these actors, in fact, performed within typical leading man roles, which are generally less interesting to me than character actor-ish parts.
Best Actress in a Leading Role (Continuing Character) in a Dramatic Series
- Loretta Young — THE LORETTA YOUNG SHOW*
- Phyllis Kirk — THE THIN MAN
- June Lockhart — LASSIE
- Jane Wyman — FIRESIDE THEATRE~
Although it may have seemed like I maligned THE LORETTA YOUNG SHOW earlier, I think it and Young herself are of average quality for anthology shows of the era. She is given more interesting parts, and she performs them more impressively, than Phyllis Kirk as Nora on THE THIN MAN TV series and June Lockhart as part of the new human cast on LASSIE.
Best Supporting Actor (Continuing Character) in a Comedy Series
- Maurice Gosfield — THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW
- Tom Poston — THE STEVE ALLEN SHOW*
- Paul Ford — THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW
- Richard Crenna — THE REAL MCCOYS
- Billy Gray — FATHER KNOWS BEST
- Harry Morgan — DECEMBER BRIDE~
Although I expressed that I appreciate character actors more than leading men typically, this year’s category doesn’t provide even the best TV had to offer at the time. Nevertheless, Maurice Gosfield is delightful (and it’s fitting that he provided a voice on the PHIL SILVERS SHOW-modeled Hanna Barbera cartoon TOP CAT [1961–62]). Tom Poston is a good support in the minimal sketches I’ve seen from THE STEVE ALLEN SHOW’s 1958 episodes, and makes more of an impression in spite of Paul Ford’s decent authority figure on THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW. Richard Crenna, the younger McCoy on THE REAL MCCOYS, is just a bit better of an actor than teenager Billy Gray on FATHER KNOWS BEST.
Best Supporting Actress (Continuing Character) in a Comedy Series
- Ann B. Davis — THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW*
- Rosemary DeCamp — THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW
- Kathleen Nolan — THE REAL MCCOYS
- Elinor Donahue — FATHER KNOWS BEST
- Zasu Pitts — THE GALE STORM SHOW
- Verna Felton — DECEMBER BRIDE~
Honestly, the female influences on THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW are the best parts of the middling sitcom, so Ann B. Davis and Rosemary DeCamp are not terrible picks here. Davis places ahead because of her secretary character’s schemes against Cummings’ character’s womanizing, while DeCamp, as the sister, is a good combative force. Kathleen Nolan is totally neutral in the role of the McCoy wife, as is Elinor Donahue as the oldest child on FATHER KNOWS BEST. I’m most disappointed, though, by the lack of interest I had in Zasu Pitts on THE GALE STORM SHOW; I’m a big fan of her silent era work in film, especially Erich von Stroheim’s GREED (1924).
Best Supporting Actor (Continuing Character) in a Dramatic Series
- William Hopper — PERRY MASON
- Dennis Weaver — GUNSMOKE*
- Herschel Bernardi — PETER GUNN
- Johnny Crawford — THE RIFLEMAN
William Hopper, as Perry Mason’s private investigator, plays a competent supporting type the likes of which are always good in procedurals. From there, it gets a little less interesting, as marshal sidekick Dennis Weaver assists admirably and Herschel Bernardi is a friendly police ally on PETER GUNN. Of note in this category, though, is the nomination of child actor Johnny Crawford, who is good as kid actors from the era go, but who doesn’t compete with the adults for lack of good writing for child characters or some other quality.
Best Supporting Actress (Continuing Character) in a Dramatic Series
- Hope Emerson — PETER GUNN
- Lola Albright — PETER GUNN
- Barbara Hale — PERRY MASON*
- Amanda Blake — GUNSMOKE
The two female costars on PETER GUNN are the best supporting roles on the show. Hope Emerson is great as “Mother,” an old speakeasy operator, and Lola Albright is positively attractive as a lounge singer and Peter’s girlfriend. They flesh out the noir aspects of the detective show in all the good tropey ways, while winner Barbara Hale is kind of overshadowed by her costar. Amanda Blake is impressionable as the saloon proprietor on GUNSMOKE, but since I’ve watched it the least of these shows, I must admit it wasn’t as big of an impression.
Best Single Performance by an Actor
- Rod Steiger — “A Town Has Turned to Dust” (PLAYHOUSE 90)
- Fred Astaire — AN EVENING WITH FRED ASTAIRE*
- Robert Crawford Jr. — “Child of Our Time” (PLAYHOUSE 90)~
- Paul Muni — “Last Clear Chance” (PLAYHOUSE 90)~
- Christopher Plummer — “Little Moon of Alban” (HALLMARK HALL OF FAME)~
- Mickey Rooney — “Eddie” (ALCOA-GOODYEAR THEATRE)~
A lot is missing from the anthology shows from this category and year of the Emmys, but thankfully, “A Town Has Turned to Dust” is still here. Rod Steiger is a great character actor, as I’ve repeatedly praised in this piece, and his regretful sheriff is a great philosophical foil to William Shatner’s virulent racist. In “A Town Has Turned to Dust,” a small Western town in the 1870s has turned to lynching a young Mexican man after he spoke “inappropriately” to a white woman. The man is dragged out of Steiger’s jail and killed before his eyes, and the degradation of his spirit is something to watch (although of course his suffering is nothing compared to the suffering of the young man and his family, as the teleplay points out). Fred Astaire certainly gives a great song-and-dance performance in his special, but the emotional weight Steiger communicates through the role is wonderful.
Best Single Performance by an Actress
- Julie Harris — “Little Moon of Alban” (HALLMARK HALL OF FAME)*~
- Judith Anderson — “The Bridge of San Luis Rey” (THE DUPONT SHOW OF THE MONTH)~
- Helen Hayes — “One Red Rose for Christmas” (THE UNITED STATES STEEL HOUR)~
- Piper Laurie — “Days of Wine and Roses” (PLAYHOUSE 90)~
- Geraldine Page — “Old Man” (PLAYHOUSE 90)~
- Maureen Stapleton — “All the King’s Men” (KRAFT TELEVISION THEATRE)~
Well, I’ll take a free “alignment” with history here, but I should also point out that one of the nominees, PLAYHOUSE 90’s “Days of Wine and Roses,” is out there…but I could only find it with terribly synced sound. I just could not watch it.
Best Direction of a Single Musical or Variety Program
- Bud Yorkin — AN EVENING WITH FRED ASTAIRE*
- Clark Jones — KRAFT MUSIC HALL
- Joseph Cates, Gower Champion — PONTIAC STAR PARADE~
KRAFT MUSIC HALL was a new Milton Berle gig, and while I’m a big Berle fan, his comedic abilities don’t really answer for exceptional direction. The artfulness of Bud Yorkin’s direction on AN EVENING WITH FRED ASTAIRE, on the other hand, is not entirely invisible, and it glides along with its star to great effect.
Best Direction of a Single Program of a Comedy Series
- Seymour Berns — “Gary Cooper” (THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM)
- Peter Tewksbury — “Medal for Margaret” (FATHER KNOWS BEST)*
- Hy Averback — “Kate’s Career” (THE REAL MCCOYS)
- Richard Kinon — “The Interview” (MR. ADAMS AND EVE)~
- Sheldon Leonard — “Pardon My Accent” (THE DANNY THOMAS SHOW)~
I don’t think the direction on most any sitcom of this era would be something I’d single out as the reason it was good. So then, this category is a bit difficult for me. But ultimately, the “Gary Cooper” episode of THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM was the most enjoyable, and so credit must go to Seymour Berns for that. FATHER KNOWS BEST was able to get some better shots than the typical three-camera setup, so that’s appreciated, but “Medal for Margaret” is a decent sentimental piece regardless. “Kate’s Career,” of THE REAL MCCOYS, has faux-progressive commentary on the role of women in the household and their potential careers, so it doesn’t get many points from me, besides the fact that I don’t think THE REAL MCCOYS is very good anyways.
Best Direction of a Single Program of a Dramatic Series Less Than One Hour
- Alfred Hitchcock — “Lamb to the Slaughter” (ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS)
- Blake Edwards — “The Kill” (PETER GUNN)
- Jack Smight — “Eddie” (ALCOA-GOODYEAR THEATRE)*~
- Herschel Daugherty — “One Is a Wanderer” (GENERAL ELECTRIC THEATRE)~
- James Neilson — “Kid at the Stick” (GENERAL ELECTRIC THEATRE)~
“Lamb to the Slaughter” is one of the most fucked up ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS episodes period, and since I don’t want to spoil it, I will say that Hitchcock’s direction is one part of the reason why. How he didn’t get the win here I don’t understand (no, really, since I couldn’t watch “Eddie”), but as the opening episode to PETER GUNN, “The Kill” is also pretty thrilling. It just doesn’t match the tight, thrilling appeal of the AHP episode nominated here.
Best Direction of a Single Dramatic Program — One Hour or Longer
- John Frankenheimer — “A Town Has Turned to Dust” (PLAYHOUSE 90)
- George Schaefer — “Little Moon of Alban” (HALLMARK HALL OF FAME)*~
- George Roy Hill — “Child of Our Time” (PLAYHOUSE 90)~
Once again, I have to go with a sole surviving nominee, but “A Town Has Turned to Dust,” as mentioned, is incredible. Frankenheimer directs the teleplay with effective light and shadow, not to mention whatever work he did to bring out the performances he did from his cast. Every moment, big and small, has heft that few 90-minute TV episodes from the era did. And as the orchestrator of the show’s disparate parts, Frankenheimer deserves much credit for that.
Best Writing of a Single Musical or Variety Program
- Herbert Baker, Bud Yorkin — AN EVENING WITH FRED ASTAIRE*
- A.J. Russell — ART CARNEY MEETS PETER AND THE WOLF
- Goodman Ace, Mort Green, George Foster, Jay Burton — KRAFT MUSIC HALL
- Leonard Stern, Stan Burns, Herbert Sargent, Bill Dana, Don Hinkley, Hal Goodman, Larry Klein — THE STEVE ALLEN SHOW
- Larry Gelbart, Woody Allen — THE SID CAESAR SHOW~
The “writing” behind AN EVENING WITH FRED ASTAIRE is a little difficult to judge. There is a monologue, there are other bits and scenes, but ultimately, the win is afforded to Herbert Baker and Bud Yorkin because the overall pacing and structure of the special is good fun. It just narrowly edges out ART CARNEY MEETS PETER AND THE WOLF because, in spite of my reversing of the two earlier, the writing of the Carney special isn’t entirely what makes it pleasurable; much of that comes from just the puppet work. But these efforts are more significant than the admittedly funny monologue and sketch writing for Milton Berle and KRAFT MUSIC HALL. If THE STEVE ALLEN SHOW is lacking, it may only be because a lot of existing material from 1958 is lacking.
Best Writing of a Single Program of a Comedy Series
- George Balzer, Hal Goldman, Sam Perrin, Al Gordon — THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM*
- Billy Friedberg, Arnie Rosen, Coleman Jacoby — “Bilko’s Vampire” (THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW)
- Roswell Rogers — “Medal for Margaret” (FATHER KNOWS BEST)
- Bill Manhoff — “Once There Was a Traveling Saleswoman” (THE REAL MCCOYS)
- Paul Henning, Dick Wesson — “Grandpa Clobbers the Air Force” (THE BOB CUMMINGS SHOW)~
Although this category is meant to single out “single programs,” THE JACK BENNY PROGRAM appears to have been nominated as a whole. In that case, the general approach to Benny’s monologues and the program’s sketches have to stand above the specificity of even THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW. “Bilko’s Vampire” is an episode I mentioned that kind of approached a “jumping the shark” moment, but ultimately, it makes good fun of sensationalist movies, hypochondria, and more. As mentioned earlier, “Medal for Margaret” is a bit sappy but enjoyable; Jane Wyatt’s mother character, unlike every other member of her family, has never won an award of any kind, so her family conspires to help her do so. Finally, the “Once There Was a Traveling Saleswoman” episode of THE REAL MCCOYS is better than “Kate’s Career,” but the bumbling of Richard Crenna’s character is almost more annoying than it is funny.
Best Writing of a Single Program of a Dramatic Series Less Than One Hour
- Roald Dahl — “Lamb to the Slaughter” (ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS)
- Blake Edwards — “The Kill” (PETER GUNN)
- Alfred Brenner, Ken Hughes — “Eddie” (ALCOA-GOODYEAR THEATRE)*~
- Christopher Knopf — “The Loudmouth” (ALCOA-GOODYEAR THEATRE)~
- Samuel A. Taylor — “One Is a Wanderer” (GENERAL ELECTRIC THEATRE)~
And here we are again, with ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS overtaking PETER GUNN. The reasons are much the same as they are for the directing category, but of note is celebrated children’s author Roald Dahl’s adaptation of his own messed up short story.
Best Writing of a Single Dramatic Program One Hour or Longer
- Rod Serling — “A Town Has Turned to Dust” (PLAYHOUSE 90)
- James Costigan — “Little Moon of Alban” (HALLMARK HALL OF FAME)*~
- Horton Foote — “Old Man” (PLAYHOUSE 90)~
- J.P. Miller — “Days of Wine and Roses” (PLAYHOUSE 90)~
- Irving G. Neiman — “Child of Our Time” (PLAYHOUSE 90)~
And here, I can address the environment in which “A Town Has Turned to Dust” was written. Originally, it was scripted by Rod Serling as an indictment of the Emmett Till murder, and was set in a contemporary Southern town about a black boy being lynched for daring to speak to a white woman. But due to objections from sponsors, the idea kept becoming less and less immediately relevant. The setting was moved to the Southwest; then the black boy was changed to a Mexican man (a young one, but still a man); then it was moved back to, presumably, a more “barbaric” time, the years of the Wild West. It is maybe more incredible, then, that the spirit of Serling’s original intent is still present in the version of “A Town Has Turned to Dust” that was produced, even if one doesn’t know this background information. This episode of PLAYHOUSE 90 is as fine a piece of television drama as had been produced up to this point, and Serling of course had his hand in that.
The 11th Emmys were a bit more of a slog to get through, I must admit, but there were still standouts. As TV was becoming more diverse, it was of course more likely that The Television Academy would make those “baffling” decisions that awards show watchers love to criticize. Speaking of that Academy: I agreed with their choices 12 out of 29 times, a 41 percent “alignment.” I found the biggest winner of the year to be PLAYHOUSE 90, with four awards, just the exact same as last year. Once again, Rod Serling was the best example of why this era was called The Golden Age of Television.