fun fact: Sid Caesar was television’s killer app

Or one of them, anyway. From Neil Genzlinger at The New York Times:

Television owes a lot to people like Sid Caesar, who died on Wednesday at 91. I’m not talking about television the entertainment medium, although that, too, owes a lot to Mr. Caesar. I’m talking about television the appliance.

His influence on subsequent comics and shows has been duly noted in the last few days, but it’s also interesting to pause and contemplate the role he and his contemporaries played in simply turning television into a ubiquitous feature of our lives. They were part of an equation that included technological innovation, salesmanship and more, all of it combining to make possible the blossoming of programming in the 1960s and beyond, and to change modern life, much the way the Internet has in more recent times.

When “Your Show of Shows” came on the air, Saturday nights on NBC, few American households had televisions: 10 percent or less, studies show. By a decade or so later, the ratio had flipped; only 10 percent of households did not have a TV. Although today, we think of product dispersion in terms of months — “Have you bought the new iPhone yet?” — the spread of television ownership was relatively rapid for the time. And it required a convergence of forces, with people like Mr. Caesar only the most visible component.

In short: If you didn’t want to be left out of what everyone else was talking about — like Caesar’s show — you had to have a TV.

Go read the whole thing— it’s chock full of fascinating tidbits about early TV (including something that was like the first cable subscriptions, which I’d never heard about before).

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Sat, Feb 15, 2014 2:47pm

of course, the result of the switch in percentages was that television got dumber. by the time 90% of households had tv, he was off the air, as were shows like Playhouse 90 and other programs that brought original dramas and more intellectual viewing to television. and milton berle and ed sullivan were the kings of television.