For almost as long as there has been broadcasting, there has been commercial sponsorship. But from the 1930s through the 1960s, sponsors had an unusual amount of power because, through advertising agencies, they owned entire blocks of time on the program schedule and produced their own shows. In this episode we look at a few examples of sponsor power run amok, resulting in complications that were sometimes dangerous, sometimes just silly. Along the way we will sample clips from “The Jack Benny Program,” “The Flintstones,” “I Love Lucy,” “Playhouse 90,” “The $64,000 Question” and “30 Rock,” among others.
When Raymond Burr died in 1993, he was eulogized around the world as the star of "Perry Mason" and "Ironside." But the obituaries were notable for what they didn't say as much as for what they did say. None of them mentioned that Burr was gay -- he had been closeted all his life. And most of them mentioned commonly-accepted facts about Burr -- that he was twice widowed, that he lost a son to leukemia and that he fought in World War II. None of that was true, but it was part of the complicated biography Burr had built for himself.
Hiding in Plain Sight: The Secret Life of Raymond Burr, by Michael Seth Starr
In 1948, Ed Sullivan began hosting a weekly variety series on CBS-TV. His background as a newspaper columnist served him well — he had an unerring instinct for what people wanted to see, and he used his unique power to become an influential American gatekeeper for most of the 1950s and ’60s. We take a look a Sullivan’s influence, including “blessing” Elvis Presley and the Beatles by praising them on the air and reassuring anxious parents of teenagers. We also review his feuds with the likes of Steve Allen, Jackie Mason and Buddy Holly.