18 April: A tale of two satirists

Allen (right, with Minerva Pious) has a cheerful roast of a literary radio offering . . . (Photo: NBC.)

Allen (right, with Minerva Pious) has a cheerful roast of a literary radio offering (aided and abetted by a former Postmaster General) . . . (Photo: NBC.)

When network radio exercisers satirise their own medium’s choice offerings, the effect for 21st Century listeners may well depend on how much they know of the targets, but sometimes it may not. Tonight we offer two classic such exercises from a pair of gentlemen to whom satire was mother’s milk.

 

The Fred Allen Show: The Author Meets His Match (NBC, 1948)

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17 April: You know who’s on first . . .

Abbott & Costello, still swinging for the fences. (Photo: NBC.)

Abbott & Costello, still swinging for the fences. (Photo: NBC.)

Abbott & Costello’s NBC contract reputedly requires the pair to perform “Who’s on First” at least once a season. With Joe DiMaggio missing early season time due to an injury, tonight comes a perfect way to hook the requirement . . . and, concurrently, produce a routine that damn near rivals “Who’s on First” for comic virtuosity, even if it won’t be “Feller Pitching” that eventually plays on a loop at baseball’s Hall of Fame.

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16 April: Conrad’s credo

“There were a lot of actors,” William Conrad once said retrospectively of his colleagues in network radio, “who were glib and superficial no matter what they did. But the good actors were just as good as any actors in any medium.”

And tonight he performs a guest shot that proves he could have included himself in that company. The company of the good actors, that is . . .

TUNE IN TONIGHT:

Night Beat: A World All His Own (NBC, 1950)

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15 April: A presidential farewell and an exposition of horror

FDR's radio friendliness is repaid abundantly upon his death and interment. (Photo: The National Archives.)

FDR’s radio friendliness is repaid abundantly upon his death and interment. (Photo: The National Archives.)

Until Franklin D. Roosevelt, network broadcasting has yet to address the death of a sitting President of the United States. As Edward R. Murrow would say of the United States a decade later, radio comes into its full inheritance at a tender age as it is, but World War II and the death of FDR have combined to tax that inheritance powerfully. It’s to radio’s credit that it has responded to both as powerfully, as effectively, and as memorably as few might have expected when network radio began taking its full shape a decade earlier.

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14 April: Up and down with The Aldrich Family

Ezra Stone (right) and Mary Rolfe (who played sister Mary at one time) of The Aldrich Family. (Photo: NBC.)

Ezra Stone (right) and Mary Rolfe (who played sister Mary at one time) of The Aldrich Family. (Photo: NBC.)

When Kate Smith swatted Rudy Vallee out of 1938-39′s seasonal top ten, it was Vallee’s first such ratings tumble ever in his radio life. The Kate Smith Hour bagged fourth place (14.5 Hooper rating) on the night, pushing her just ahead of Vallee’s 14.4 on a night that was dominated on the season by hour-long variety offerings.

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