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The Best TV Shows of the 1940s 

Ranker TV
Updated June 14, 2019 2.7k votes 739 voters 55.1k views 29 items

List Rules TV 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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list ordered by
1
The Lone Ranger is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Jay Silverheels, Clayton Moore, John Hart

Premiered: 1966

Genres (Tv): Western, Action/Adventure

The Lone Ranger is the central character of an American animated television series that ran 26 episodes on CBS from September 10, 1966, to September 6, 1969. The series was produced by Herb ...more

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2
The Three Stooges is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
slaft added Larry Fine, Moe Howard, Curly Howard

Premiered: 1930

Genres (Tv): Comedy

A handful of Three Stooges shorts first aired on television in 1949, on the American Broadcasting Company (ABC) network. It was not until 1958 that Screen Gems packaged 78 shorts for national ...more

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3
The Ed Sullivan Show is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Ed Sullivan, Bern Bennett, Ralph Paul

Premiered: 1948

Genres (Tv): Sketch comedy, Variety show, Comedy, Family Film, Reality television

The Ed Sullivan Show was an American TV variety show that ran on CBS from Sunday June 20, 1948 to Sunday June 6, 1971, and was hosted by New York entertainment columnist Ed Sullivan. It was ...more

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4
Candid Camera is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Suzanne Somers, Dom DeLuise, Arthur Godfrey

Premiered: 1948

Genres (Tv): Comedy, Reality television

Candid Camera (ABC, 1948) is an American hidden camera reality television series created by Allen Funt. The show involves concealed cameras filming ordinary people being confronted with unusual ...more

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When The Host Of Candid Camera’s Plane Got Hijacked, Everyone Thought It Was A Joke... But It Wasn't #153 of 458 The Funniest TV Shows of All Time #35 of 249 The Very Best Shows That Aired in the 1960s

5
Hopalong Cassidy is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Edgar Buchanan, William Boyd

Premiered: 1952

Genres (Tv): Western, Action/Adventure

6
Howdy Doody is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
William Shatner, Bob Keeshan, Bill McCutcheon

Premiered: 1947

Genres (Tv): Children's television series, Puppet

Howdy Doody is an American children's television program that was created and produced by E. Roger Muir and telecast on the NBC network in the United States from December 27, 1947 until ...more
7
Kukla, Fran and Ollie is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Fran Allison, Burr Tillstrom

Premiered: 1947

Genres (Tv): Children's television series, Comedy, Family Film, Puppet

Kukla, Fran and Ollie is an early American television show using puppets, originally created for children but soon watched by more adults than children. It did not have a script and was entirely ...more

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8
Texaco Star Theater is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Carol Burnett, Milton Berle, Red Skelton

Premiered: 1948

Genres (Tv): Variety show, Comedy

Texaco Star Theatre is an American comedy-variety show, broadcast on radio from 1938 to 1949 and telecast from 1948 to 1956. It was one of the first successful examples of American television ...more
9
Truth or Consequences is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Ralph Edwards, Jack Bailey

Premiered: 1940

Genres (Tv): Game show

Truth or Consequences is an American television show originally hosted on NBC radio by Ralph Edwards and later on television by Edwards, Jack Bailey, Bob Barker, Bob Hilton and Larry Anderson. ...more
10
Kraft Television Theater... is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Kraft Television Theater

Premiered: 1947

11
Ted Mack Amateur Hour is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Ted Mack Amateur Hour

Premiered: 1948

12
Cavalcade of Stars is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Jackie Gleason, Peggy Lee, Elaine Stritch

Premiered: 1949

13
Captain Video and His Vi... is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Wright King, Earl Hammond, Al Hodge

Premiered: 1949

Genres (Tv): Children's television series, Science Fiction

Captain Video and His Video Rangers is an American science fiction television series, which was aired on the DuMont Television Network, and was the first series of its kind on American ...more
14
The Morey Amsterdam Show... is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Morey Amsterdam

Premiered: 1948

Genres (Tv): Sitcom

The Morey Amsterdam Show is an American sitcom which ran from 1948-1949 on CBS Television and 1949-1950 on the DuMont Television Network, for a total of 71 episodes.
15
Kraft Television Theatre... is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
James Dean, Maureen Stapleton, Ed Begley

Premiered: 1947

Genres (Tv): Anthology, Anthology series, Drama

Kraft Television Theatre is an American drama/anthology television series that began May 7, 1947 on NBC, airing at 7:30pm on Wednesday evenings until December of that year. In January 1948, it ...more
16
The Original Amateur Hou... is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s

Premiered: 1948

Genres (Tv): Variety show

The Original Amateur Hour is an American radio and television program. The show was a continuation of Major Bowes Amateur Hour which had been a radio staple from 1934 to 1945. Major Edward ...more
17
Man Against Crime is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Ralph Bellamy, Robert Preston, Frank Lovejoy

Premiered: 1949

Genres (Tv): Police procedural

Man Against Crime starring Ralph Bellamy, one of the first television programs about private eyes, ran on CBS, the DuMont Television Network and NBC from October 7, 1949 to June 27, 1954. The ...more
18
The Philco Television Pl... is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Grace Kelly, James Dean, Bert Lytell

Premiered: 1948

Genres (Tv): Anthology, Anthology series, Drama

The Philco Television Playhouse is an American anthology series that was broadcast live on NBC from 1948 to 1955. Produced by Fred Coe, the series was sponsored by Philco. It was one of the most ...more
19
Meet the Press is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
David Gregory

Premiered: 1947

Genres (Tv): News, Public affairs

Meet the Press is a weekly American television news/interview program that is broadcast on NBC. It is the longest-running program in American television history, though its current format bears ...more
20
Uncle Mistletoe is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Uncle Mistletoe

Premiered: 1948

21
The Fred Waring Show is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s

Premiered: 1949

Genres (Tv): Variety show

The Fred Waring Show is an American television musical variety show that ran from April 17, 1949 to May 30, 1954 on CBS. The show was hosted by Fred Waring and featured his choral group ...more
22
A Woman to Remember is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Frankie Thomas, Ruth McDevitt

Premiered: 1949

Genres (Tv): Soap opera

A Woman to Remember is a soap opera which ran on the DuMont Television Network from February 21, 1949 to July 15, 1949. The show began on February 21 as a daytime series at 3pm ET. However, ...more
23
Private Eyes is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Alvaro Orlando, Mike Dusi, James Scott

Premiered: 1945

Genres (Tv): Comedy

24
Hollywood Screen Test is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Neil Hamilton, Bert Lytell, Robert Quarry

Premiered: 1948

Genres (Tv): Talent show, News

Hollywood Screen Test is an American talent show which aired on ABC from 1948 to 1953.
25
They Stand Accused is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s

Premiered: 1949

Genres (Tv): Crime Fiction, Police procedural

They Stand Accused is an American dramatized court show broadcast on the now-defunct DuMont Television Network from September 11, 1949 to October 5, 1952 and again from September 9 to December ...more