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The Best TV Shows of the 1940s

Updated June 14, 2019 3.2k votes 781 voters 59.3k views29 items

List RulesTV shows that aired between 1940 and 1949.

List of the best shows from the 1940s, as ranked by television fans. Although television was invented in the 1920s, it wasn’t until the early 40s that the average person began adding a television to their home. In fact, television was so rare that in 1948, only 10% of Americans claimed to have even seen a TV set with their own eyes, let alone own one. Due to World War II, many television programs and stations shut down, leaving options for TV watchers very limited. Since the television medium was only just beginning, there were only 4 networks, NBC, DuMont, ABC, and CBS. DuMont is the only one that no longer exists, although it was better known for manufacturing television sets.

However, there were a few television programs that entertained the small audience of TV watchers. Many of these shows were variety shows, starring the top comedians and personalities of the time, such as Fred Waring, Ted Mack, and Ed Sullivan. Children’s TV shows were among the most popular programs, with Howdy Doody and Captain Video.

Have you seen any of these 1940s TV shows? If so, which is your favorite? This list includes the top programs of the 1940s, when TV was still a baby.

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  • 1
    221
    41

    The Three Stooges

    Nancy Saunders
    A handful of Three Stooges shorts first aired on television in 1949, on the American...  more

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  • 2
    242
    52

    The Lone Ranger

    Clayton Moore, John Hart
    The Lone Ranger is the central character of an American animated television series that ran 26...  more

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    The Lone Ranger May Have Been A Black Lawman Named Bass Reeves#267 of 340 The Best Kids Cartoons of All Time

  • 3
    161
    33

    The Ed Sullivan Show

    Ed Sullivan, Bern Bennett
    The Ed Sullivan Show was an American TV variety show that ran on CBS from Sunday June 20, 1948...  more

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    #27 of 79 The Best CBS Shows of All Time#151 of 293 The Greatest Sitcoms in Television History

  • 4
    114
    31

    Hopalong Cassidy

    Edgar Buchanan, William Boyd
  • 5
    94
    29
    The Morey Amsterdam Show is an American sitcom which ran from 1948-1949 on CBS Television and...  more
  • 6
    93
    34

    Howdy Doody

    William Shatner, Bob Keeshan
    Howdy Doody is an American children's television program that was created and produced by E....  more
  • 7
    89
    38

    Kukla, Fran and Ollie

    Fran Allison, Burr Tillstrom
    Kukla, Fran and Ollie is an early American television show using puppets, originally created...  more

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  • 8
    69
    25

    Truth or Consequences

    Ralph Edwards, Jack Bailey
    Truth or Consequences is an American television show originally hosted on NBC radio by Ralph...  more
  • 9
    58
    22

    Kraft Television Theater

  • 10
    116
    78

    Candid Camera

    Suzanne Somers, Dom DeLuise
    Candid Camera (ABC, 1948) is an American hidden camera reality television series created by...  more

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  • 11
    28
    6

    Kraft Television Theatre

    James Dean, Maureen Stapleton
    Kraft Television Theatre is an American drama/anthology television series that began May 7,...  more
  • 12
    49
    34

    Ted Mack Amateur Hour

  • 13
    44
    29

    Captain Video and His Video Rangers

    Wright King, Earl Hammond
    Captain Video and His Video Rangers is an American science fiction television series, which...  more
  • 14
    67
    58

    Texaco Star Theater

    Carol Burnett, Milton Berle
    Texaco Star Theatre is an American comedy-variety show, broadcast on radio from 1938 to 1949...  more
  • 15
    36
    26

    Hollywood Screen Test

    Neil Hamilton, Bert Lytell
    Hollywood Screen Test is an American talent show which aired on ABC from 1948 to 1953....  more
  • 16
    The Fred Waring Show is an American television musical variety show that ran from April 17,...  more
  • 17
    They Stand Accused is an American dramatized court show broadcast on the now-defunct DuMont...  more
  • 18
    15
    8

    Meet the Press

    David Gregory
    Meet the Press is a weekly American television news/interview program that is broadcast on...  more

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  • 19
    Let There Be Stars was an early television series which aired on the ABC television network in...  more
  • 20
    The Original Amateur Hour is an American radio and television program. The show was a...  more
  • 21
    9
    7

    The Philco Television Playhouse

    Grace Kelly, James Dean
    The Philco Television Playhouse is an American anthology series that was broadcast live on NBC...  more
  • 22
    44
    78

    Cavalcade of Stars

    Jackie Gleason, Peggy Lee
  • 23
    12
    30

    Faraway Hill

    Mel Brandt
    Faraway Hill was the first soap opera broadcast on an American television network, running on...  more
  • 24
    32
    73

    Last Year's Nest

  • 25
    28
    69

    Mary Kay and Johnny

    Nydia Westman
    Mary Kay and Johnny is an American situation comedy starring real-life married couple Mary Kay...  more