''By 1960,'' as broadcast historian J. Fred MacDonald put it, ''television had become a mature and streamlined business, a great 'cash cow.'''60 The focus had shifted from ''invention to convention,'' and the networks' concerns had gone from carving out an acceptable social role for themselves ''to counting the rewards of investment, planning, and monopoly.''61
In this first cycle of television talk shows, none of the founders had originally aspired to be television personalities—television had not even existed when they were growing up. Television was in every case simply a natural extension of radio careers. Some of the founders, like Murrow and Godfrey, continued to work in both television and radio as their national reputations grew. What the hosts of the 1950s had in common was that they were entrepreneurs who controlled their own shows and ran them in ways that were consistent with their broadcasting personalities. Edward R. Murrow, Arthur Godfrey, Dave Garroway, Arlene Francis, and Mike Wallace all formed tight-knit teams that put new combinations of talk on the air. Murrow established first-person news, investigative reporting, celebrity interviews, and trans-oceanic dialogue. Garroway's light touch guided the creation of the morning news/information show. Godfrey established the tone of the boyish and rebellious entertainment host amidst the toys and splendors of a television studio. Arlene Francis established the daytime talk show as an educational public-service forum for discussing home, family, and pub lic issues—focusing on the concerns of women. Mike Wallace honed television as a tool of confrontation, using background research, verbal agility, and charm to reveal aspects of his guests not revealed in formats that favored prepared statements.
By the beginning of the 1960s the era of the founders was over. The strong-minded talk-show hosts of the fifties discovered that, without the leverage of ownership of their own programs and without the backing of powerful individual sponsors or advertising agencies, network packagers called the shots. When the system began to change, they did not change with it. By the time of the Jack Paar retrospective show in 1962, all of the major talk hosts of the 1950s were gone. Arlene Francis left in 1957 when Home was canceled. Arthur Godfrey, who had been an unassailable profit center for CBS through most of the decade, left for health reasons in 1959 and never returned. Dave Garroway's slow breakdown and "retirement" from Today was finalized in May 1961. Edward R. Murrow had been gone from any regular hosting duty on CBS for two years. Mike Wallace, the lone survivor of the founding generation who would reappear to work in the 1970s, 1980s, and 1990s, was also out of network television. He reemerged as a national figure a decade later only after repackaging himself on an established network.
The networks had taken over the shows that had been created or personally managed by the strong-willed hosts of television talk's first generation. Conforming to corporate imperatives and devotion to the bottom line, new managements at CBS, NBC, and ABC supported established talk formulas that did not cause controversy among advertisers or viewers. From this point of view, Jack Paar's "water closet" joke and Edward R. Murrow's hard-hitting investigative reports were the same— they caused "problems." They were the kind of things that gave network executives like William Paley "stomach aches." The first cycle of television talk was over. The second, which was to last through the era of corporate consolidation in network television, was just beginning.
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