Nielsen Top 10, September 11th – 24th, 1955

Here are the top ten programs for the two-week period running Sunday, September 11th through Saturday, September 24th, 1955. The first table lists the top ten by households and the second by rating.

I can’t say with certainty this was the first official week of the 1955-1956 season. Contemporary newspaper articles in September 1955 refer generically to the start of a new television season but do not mention a hard start date.

Unfortunately, the report does not indicate which programs were only seen during one of the two weeks covered. NBC’s Color Spread, for example, was a series of occasional Sunday spectaculars, one of which — a live, color adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s “The Skin of Our Teeth” — aired on Sunday, September 11th. Another NBC series, The Martha Raye Show, aired every three weeks.

Number of TV Homes Reached
## Program Network Homes
1. $64,000 Question CBS 19,302,000
2. Ford Star Jubilee CBS 15,667,000
3. Toast of the Town CBS 12,764,000
4. Disneyland ABC 12,363,000
5. Colgate Variety Hour NBC 12,190,000
6. Martha Raye Show NBC 11,687,000
7. Producers Showcase NBC 11,193,000
8. Climax CBS 11,001,000
9. Those Whiting Girls CBS 10,906,000
10. Color Spread NBC 10,847,000

Percent of TV Homes Reached
## Program Network Rating (%)
1. $64,000 Question CBS 60.3
2. Ford Star Jubilee CBS 48.7
3. Toast of the Town CBS 39.7
4. Martha Raye Show NBC 38.7
5. Disneyland ABC 38.3
6. Colgate Variety Hour NBC 37.3
7. Robert Montgomery Presents NBC 35.8
8. Producers Showcase NBC 35.6
9. Climax CBS 35.5
10. Perry Como Show NBC 34.3

Copyright 1955 by A. C. Nielsen Co.

Note: Prior to July 1960, Nielsen ratings were not based on the total number of television households in the United States. From 1950 to 1953, ratings were a percentage of households in cities/markets in which the program was broadcast. From 1953 to 1960, ratings were a percentage of households capable of viewing a program.

“Latest Ratings: Nielsen.” Broadcasting*Telecasting. 24 Oct. 1955: Page 60.

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4 Replies to “Nielsen Top 10, September 11th – 24th, 1955”

  1. To understand WHY these shows were in the “Top Ten”, you have to understand what was IN them that made viewers want to watch- titles alone don’t tell the story….
    1) ‘”THE $64,000 QUESTION” [Tuesdays, 10pm(et)] quickly became THE #1 show on TV, because it was the first of the “big money” quiz programs that became so common during the mid and late ’50s (the same success that “WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE” attracted, years ago). Hal March, actor/comedian, was the emcee. Contestants, after answering a progressive number of questions pertaining to a category they selected {“The Wild West”, “Royalty”, “Boxing”, “Baseball”, et. al.}- with increased amounts of money for each question ($64, $128, $256, $512, $1000, and so on) – were ushered into an “isolation booth” after winning $8,000, and had to answer increasingly more difficult questions- sometimes in “parts”- and if they succeeded, they had the option of leaving with their winnings, or returning the following week to answer the next question. If they lost, their consolation prize [after the $4000 level] was a new Cadillac. IF they went “all the way” and answered the final question, they won $64,000.
    Now, on this particular show [September 13, 1955], Richard S. McCutchen, a Marine, became the FIRST contestant to win $64,000- his category, “Cooking”- by correctly describing a unique menu the King and Queen of England were served during their visit to the U.S. in the summer of 1939. “Marine answers $64,000 Question!” was the headline most newspapers published the following day. More people watched that “QUESTION” than anything else on TV that evening….
    2) ‘FORD STAR JUBILEE” was a series of monthly 90 minute “prestiege” specials the Ford Motor Company sponsored on CBS during the 1955-’56 season [Saturdays, 9:30-11pm(et)]- and the one that kicked off the series, on September 24th, was “The Judy Garland Special”- her first on network television. And she was a SMASH!!! A believe a kinescope is on deposit at the Paley Center For Media….
    3) “TOAST OF THE TOWN”- actually, this edition, on September 11th, was the last to be telecast under that title. The following week, it became “THE ED SULLIVAN SHOW”. And what did “Mr. Really Big Shew” offer that evening? Jane Russell & Jeannie Crain (“currently”co-starring in the movie “Gentlemen Marry Brunettes”); cast members of the “upcoming” CBS comedy series “YOU’LL NEVER GET RICH”, premiering September 20th (soon to become “THE PHIL SILVERS SHOW”)- Phil Silvers, Harvey Lembeck, Paul Ford, and Herbie Faye- presenting a live “preview” of their show {what IS Sgt. Bilko up to now??}, and The Ames Brothers…..on September 18th, Julius LaRosa was one of Ed’s guests.
    4) “DISNEYLAND” [Wednesdays, 7:30pm(et)]. What most families looked forward to on Wednesday nights in the mid-’50s. And on September 14th {the start of the series’ second season}, Walt Disney presented 1941’s “Dumbo” (a slightly edited version) for the first time on television…in black and white, as ABC did not have color broadcasting facilities until September 1962!
    5) “THE COLGATE VARIETY HOUR”- this HAD been “THE COLGATE COMEDY HOUR”- until July 1955, when the title was altered to reflect the fact that only ONE of the series’ original monthly comedy attractions were still a part of the program…Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis. Their editions of the show usually gave Ed Sullivan a run for his Nielsens…and on September 18th, their first show of the season opened with a wild satire on “THE $64,000 QUESTION”. Dean, as “Hal April”, emcee of ‘THE $64,000,000 QUESTION’, introduces Jerry as contestant “Morty M.M. Morton”, whom he eventually shoves into a glass water tank, pushing his head in while reading the impossibly long question he’s supposed to answer. Apparently, Dean is enjoying this TOO much, as Jerry manages to gasp, “Haven’t you heard? THE FEUD IS OVER!!” (refrerring to the differences that eventually broke up “the act” in July 1956).

    {more to come}

  2. 6) “THE MARTHA RAYE SHOW”- most people have forgotten her, but her series of monthly specials on NBC [Tuesdays, 8pm(et), alternating with “THE MILTON BERLE SHOW” and Bob Hope’s monthly specials], co-starring Rocky Graziano as “her boyfriend”, were actually “book musicals”, in which popular songs were interpolated into an hour-long “musical comedy”. On September 20th (her first special of the season), the evening’s plot concerned Martha trying to become a contestant on a “big money quiz show”, getting help from Gloria Lockerman [a 12 year old girl who won $16,000 on “THE $64,000 QUESTION” that summer, in her chosen category of “Spelling Bee”]…and a VERY cynical fairy (Tallulah Bankhead!!). I’ve read the script in a paperback of “Best TV Comedy Shows, 1955-’56”, and it’s quite charming {I’d love to hear Martha and Tallulah’s duet of “Let’s Be Buddies”!}. DOES that kinescope exist?
    7) “PRODUCERS’ SHOWCASE”- NBC’s monthly “spectacular” of original dramas, comedies, musicals, and adaptations of same [Mondays, 8-9:30pm(et)]. On September 19th, one of their most popular presentations [outside of “Peter Pan”, presented the previous season] was shown- a LIVE musical version of Thornton Wilder’s “Our Town”- starring Frank Sinatra as “The Stage Manager”, Eva Marie Saint as “Emily Webb”, and Paul Newman as “George Gibbs”. The original songs were by Frank’s cronies, Sammy Cahn and Jimmy Van Heusen: one of them, “Love and Marriage”, became a BIG hit for Sinatra…and, ironically, also became the theme for “MARRIED WITH CHILDREN”.
    8) “CLIMAX!” [Thursdays, 8:30pm(et)]. Chrysler’s “big TV show” (as often noted at the end of “YOU BET YOUR LIFE”, also sponsored by Chrysler’s DeSoto-Plymouth division), presenting live adaptations of famous stories, and some new ones. I believe the epsiode that was listed in the Nielsen ratings was the September 22nd telecast, “Night of Execution”- adapted from a Faith Baldwin story, and starring Vincent Price, Nina Foch, Peter Votrain, and Dick Foran. A very chilling story of a rotten, sadistic father [Price], trying to lead his son [Peter Votrain] into the same kind of mind-frame…until his wife [Foch] dares to try to stop him….

    {more to come}

  3. 9) “THOSE WHITING GIRLS” [Mondays, 9pm(et)] was the 1955 summer replacement for “I LOVE LUCY” (also produced by Desilu), featuring two VERY talented singers- and sisters- Margaret and Barbara Whiting, in a sitcom loosely based on their real lives {Mabel Albertson played their mother}, with a song featured in every episode. Now, which episode was featured in the “Top Ten”? Was it “The Prodigy” [9/12/55] (Barbara needs a collaborator for a song she wants to compose, finding a teenager who’s a musical genius- played by real-life prodigy Fred Myrow)? Or was it “Barbara Moves Out” [9/19/55] (a disgareement over new wallpaper causes a fight between the sisters, and….)? In any case, the series wasn’t popular enough to warrant a fall renewal, although a new season of summer episodes {again, replacing “LUCY”} was produced in 1957.
    10) “COLOR SPREAD” (aka “SUNDAY SHOWCASE”) was a series of monthly Sunday specials [7:30pm(et)] designed to show off RCA’s “compatible color” system (the better to entice viewers to buy co-sponsor RCA Victor’s color sets). The very first telecast of the series, on September 11, 1955, was a live adaptation of Thornton Wilder’s “The Skin of our Teeth”, starring Mary Martin [as “Lilly Sabina”], legendary Broadway producer- and occasional actor- George Abbott [as “George Antrobus”], Helen Hayes [as “Maggie Antrobus”], Heller Halliday (Mary’s daughter) [as “Gladys Antrobus”] and Don Murray [as “Henry Antrobus”, aka “Cain”]. I believe a kinesscope exists, but ONLY in black and white.

  4. As for the show on the OTHER list:

    7) “ROBERT MONTGOMERY PRESENTS” [Mondays, 9:30pm(et)]- most people {IF they remember him} remember him as “Elizabeth’s father”- but Bob Montgomery was a distinguished actor in his own right- and produced, hosted, and occasionally starred in one of THE most prestigious live dramatic anthologies on TV, often attracting Hollywood stars who normally shunned television [including James Cagney]. Now, WHICH of the two episodes during that period made the other “Top Ten”? Was it “Woman in the Window” [9/12/55], based on a novel that was originally adapted into the 1944 movie of the same name {featuring Edward G. Robinson, Joan Bennett, and Dan Duryea}- co-starring Robert Preston and Maria Riva [Marlene Dietrich’s daughter, who appeared in dozens of live TV dramas at that time]? Or….”Mr. and Mrs. Monroe” [9/19/55], adapted froma James Thurber story, and co-starring Edward Andrews and Augusta Dabney? DO those “kinnies” exist?
    10) “THE PERRY COMO SHOW” [Saturdays, 8pm(et)]. If CBS hadn’t “yanked” the time periods that Perry’s thrice-weekly quarter-hour musical interludes {Mondays/ Wednesdays/Fridays, 7:45pm} were featured in [since 1950], in favor of nightly half-hour series at 7:30pm in the fall of 1955, NBC would never have offered Como the chance to front his own prime-time variety hour. His premiere telecast, on September 17th, pulled out “all the stops”: Perry’s guests included Rosemary Clooney, Frankie Laine, Marion Lorne (formerly of “MISTER PEEPERS”, later “Aunt Clara” on “BEWITCHED”), comedian Dave Barry….AND the cast of “CAESAR’S HOUR” (Sid Caesar, Carl Reiner, Nanette Fabray, Howard Morris)- which was returning for its second season the following Monday- in the show’s finale. No wonder Jackie Gleason soon found himself in ratings trouble when ‘THE HONEYMOONERS” went up against Perry….

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