The Best TV Shows of the 1940s

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.

list ordered by
  • 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 replaced ...more
  • Slapstick comedy from Larry, Moe, Curly and occasionally Shemp.
  • The Lone Ranger and Tonto avenge wrongs throughout the Old West.
  • 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
  • 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 moved ...more
  • 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
  • A loner travels with his horse companion chasing villains across the frontier.
  • Kraft Television Theater
    8

    Kraft Television Theater

  • 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. The ...more
  • 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 Bowes, the ...more
  • 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 September 24, ...more
  • 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
  • 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
  • Ted Mack Amateur Hour
    15

    Ted Mack Amateur Hour

  • 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.
  • 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
  • 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 show ...more
  • Uncle Mistletoe
    19

    Uncle Mistletoe

  • Interviews with public figures and those making news and setting the political agenda.
  • Hollywood Screen Test is an American talent show which aired on ABC from 1948 to 1953.
  • 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 "The ...more
  • Mary Kay and Johnny is an American situation comedy starring real-life married couple Mary Kay and Johnny Stearns. It was the first sitcom broadcast on a network television in the United States. Mary ...more
  • Last Year's Nest
    24

    Last Year's Nest

  • 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 30, ...more