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The Best TV Shows of the 1940s  

Ranker TV
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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
1
The Three Stooges is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
slaft added Larry Fine, Moe Howard, Curly Howard
2
The Lone Ranger is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Jay Silverheels, Clayton Moore, John Hart
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
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
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
4
Hopalong Cassidy is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Edgar Buchanan, William Boyd
5
Candid Camera is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Suzanne Somers, Dom DeLuise, Arthur Godfrey
Candid Camera is an American hidden camera/practical joke reality television series created and produced by Allen Funt, which initially began on radio as The Candid Microphone June 28, 1947. ...more
6
Howdy Doody is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
William Shatner, Bob Keeshan, Bill McCutcheon
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
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
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
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
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
11
Ted Mack Amateur Hour is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Ted Mack Amateur Hour
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
13
Captain Video and His Video Ra... is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Wright King, Earl Hammond, Al Hodge
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
Kraft Television Theatre is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
James Dean, Maureen Stapleton, Ed Begley
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
15
The Morey Amsterdam Show is listed (or ranked) 15 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Morey Amsterdam
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.
16
The Original Amateur Hour is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
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
Meet the Press is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
David Gregory
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
18
The Philco Television Playhous... is listed (or ranked) 18 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Grace Kelly, James Dean, Bert Lytell
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
Man Against Crime is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Ralph Bellamy, Robert Preston, Frank Lovejoy
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
20
The Fred Waring Show is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
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
21
Private Eyes is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Alvaro Orlando, Mike Dusi, James Scott
22
Uncle Mistletoe is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Uncle Mistletoe
23
They Stand Accused is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
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
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
Hollywood Screen Test is an American talent show which aired on ABC from 1948 to 1953.
25
A Woman to Remember is listed (or ranked) 25 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
Frankie Thomas, Ruth McDevitt
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