Seems kinda amusing that after sharing the premiere of Jersey Shore, I would then feel compelled to share news about Criterion’s recent The Golden Age of Television three-DVD set (released on November 14). Live television is the only television worth watching when its scheduled, as far as I’m concerned. That’s why I still watch Saturday Night Live. That’s why sporting events and awards shows are sometimes hard to DVR. It’s because the idea of a live broadcast, to me, is what keeps television worthwhile. This new Criterion set features some of the great teleplays of the 1950s, many of which would go on to be legendary feature films, such as Marty and Days of Wine and Roses. Or, you have something like Requiem for a Heavyweight, which is Rod Serling’s famous pre-Twilight Zone portrait of a broken boxer (Jack Palance stars in a role that inspired everything from Raging Bull to The Wrestler).
These original broadcasts, though, are theater… and in some ways more vital and electric. As described by Criterion, “The hugely popular live American television plays of the 1950s have become the stuff of legend. Combining elements of theater, radio, and filmmaking, they were produced at a moment when TV technology was advancing and making art accessible to a newly suburban postwar demographic. These astonishingly choreographed, brilliantly acted, and socially progressive ‘teleplays’ constituted an artistic high for the medium, bringing Broadway-quality drama to homes across the country.” At around $40 on Amazon, this collection of seven teleplays is a bargain, worth adding to a few holiday shopping lists.