vote on everything
Watchworthy
748 voters

The Best TV Shows of the 1940s

Updated June 14, 2019 2.6k votes 748 voters 56.6k 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.

...more
  • 1
    The Three Stooges is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
    231
    41

    The Three Stooges

    Larry Fine, Moe Howard

    Premiered1930

    Genres (Tv)Comedy

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

    More The Three Stooges 

    #10 of 91 The Best Trios Of All Time#29 of 437 The Funniest TV Shows of All Time

  • 2
    The Lone Ranger is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
    253
    54

    The Lone Ranger

    Jay Silverheels, Clayton Moore

    Premiered1966

    Genres (Tv)Western, Action/Adventure

    The Lone Ranger is the central character of an American animated television series that ran 26... more on Wikipedia

    More The Lone Ranger 

    The Lone Ranger May Have Been A Black Lawman Named Bass Reeves#268 of 360 The Best Kids Cartoons of All Time

  • 3
    The Ed Sullivan Show is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
    172
    34

    The Ed Sullivan Show

    Ed Sullivan, Bern Bennett

    Premiered1948

    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... more on Wikipedia

    More The Ed Sullivan Show 

    #145 of 297 The Greatest Sitcoms in Television History#38 of 43 The Best TV Shows That Lasted 10+ Seasons

  • 4
    Hopalong Cassidy is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
    119
    30

    Hopalong Cassidy

    Edgar Buchanan, William Boyd

    Premiered1952

    Genres (Tv)Western, Action/Adventure

  • 5
    Candid Camera is listed (or ranked) 5 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
    122
    32

    Candid Camera

    Suzanne Somers, Dom DeLuise

    Premiered1948

    Genres (Tv)Comedy, Reality television

    Candid Camera (ABC, 1948) is an American hidden camera reality television series created by... more on Wikipedia
  • 6
    Howdy Doody is listed (or ranked) 6 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
    98
    34

    Howdy Doody

    William Shatner, Bob Keeshan

    Premiered1947

    Genres (Tv)Children's television series, Puppet

    Howdy Doody is an American children's television program that was created and produced by E.... more on Wikipedia
  • 7
    Kukla, Fran and Ollie is listed (or ranked) 7 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
    95
    39

    Kukla, Fran and Ollie

    Fran Allison, Burr Tillstrom

    Premiered1947

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

    Kukla, Fran and Ollie is an early American television show using puppets, originally created... more on Wikipedia

    More Kukla, Fran and Ollie 

    #163 of 190 The Very Best Shows That Aired in the 1960s#20 of 76 The Best Puppet TV Shows

  • 8
    Kraft Television Theater is listed (or ranked) 8 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
    64
    23

    Kraft Television Theater

  • 9
    Ted Mack Amateur Hour is listed (or ranked) 9 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
    53
    34

    Ted Mack Amateur Hour

  • 10
    Captain Video and His Video Ra is listed (or ranked) 10 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
    47
    28

    Captain Video and His Video Rangers

    Wright King, Earl Hammond

    Premiered1949

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

    Captain Video and His Video Rangers is an American science fiction television series, which... more on Wikipedia
  • 11
    Cavalcade of Stars is listed (or ranked) 11 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
    47
    32

    Cavalcade of Stars

    Jackie Gleason, Peggy Lee

    Premiered1949

  • 12
    Texaco Star Theater is listed (or ranked) 12 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
    70
    58

    Texaco Star Theater

    Carol Burnett, Milton Berle

    Premiered1948

    Genres (Tv)Variety show, Comedy

    Texaco Star Theatre is an American comedy-variety show, broadcast on radio from 1938 to 1949... more on Wikipedia
  • 13
    Truth or Consequences is listed (or ranked) 13 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
    70
    61

    Truth or Consequences

    Ralph Edwards, Jack Bailey

    Premiered1940

    Genres (Tv)Game show

    Truth or Consequences is an American television show originally hosted on NBC radio by Ralph... more on Wikipedia
  • 14
    Private Eyes is listed (or ranked) 14 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
    40
    29

    Private Eyes

    Alvaro Orlando, Mike Dusi

    Premiered1945

    Genres (Tv)Comedy

  • 15
    The Fred Waring Show is listed (or ranked) 15 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,... more on Wikipedia
  • 16
    The Morey Amsterdam Show is listed (or ranked) 16 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
    39
    30

    Premiered1948

    Genres (Tv)Sitcom

    The Morey Amsterdam Show is an American sitcom which ran from 1948-1949 on CBS Television and... more on Wikipedia
  • 17
    Kraft Television Theatre is listed (or ranked) 17 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
    14
    5

    Kraft Television Theatre

    James Dean, Maureen Stapleton

    Premiered1947

    Genres (Tv)Anthology, Anthology series, Drama

    Kraft Television Theatre is an American drama/anthology television series that began May 7,... more on Wikipedia
  • 18
    The Original Amateur Hour is listed (or ranked) 18 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... more on Wikipedia
  • 19
    Man Against Crime is listed (or ranked) 19 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
    28
    29

    Man Against Crime

    Ralph Bellamy, Robert Preston

    Premiered1949

    Genres (Tv)Police procedural

    Man Against Crime starring Ralph Bellamy, one of the first television programs about private... more on Wikipedia
  • 20
    The Philco Television Playhous is listed (or ranked) 20 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
    9
    6

    The Philco Television Playhouse

    Grace Kelly, James Dean

    Premiered1948

    Genres (Tv)Anthology, Anthology series, Drama

    The Philco Television Playhouse is an American anthology series that was broadcast live on NBC... more on Wikipedia
  • 21
    Meet the Press is listed (or ranked) 21 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
    7
    8

    Meet the Press

    David Gregory

    Premiered1947

    Genres (Tv)News, Public affairs

    Meet the Press is a weekly American television news/interview program that is broadcast on... more on Wikipedia
  • 22
    A Woman to Remember is listed (or ranked) 22 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
    16
    26

    A Woman to Remember

    Frankie Thomas, Ruth McDevitt

    Premiered1949

    Genres (Tv)Soap opera

    A Woman to Remember is a soap opera which ran on the DuMont Television Network from February... more on Wikipedia
  • 23
    Uncle Mistletoe is listed (or ranked) 23 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
    18
    31

    Uncle Mistletoe

  • 24
    Hollywood Screen Test is listed (or ranked) 24 on the list The Best TV Shows of the 1940s
    15
    27

    Hollywood Screen Test

    Neil Hamilton, Bert Lytell

    Premiered1948

    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
    They Stand Accused is an American dramatized court show broadcast on the now-defunct DuMont... more on Wikipedia
TV ProgramsTVEntertainmentpolltop 25