The Golden Age of Television The Golden Age of Television

The Golden Age of Television

The Golden Age of Television (Criterion DVD)


3 Discs

SRP: $49.95

Criterion Store price:$39.96

  • United States
  • 485 minutes
  • Black and White
  • 1.33:1
  • English
  • Spine #495

The hugely popular live American television plays of the 1950s have become the stuff of legend. Combining elements of theater, radio, and filmmaking, they were produced at a moment when TV technology was growing more mobile and art was being made accessible to a newly suburban postwar demographic. These astonishingly choreographed, brilliantly acted, and socially progressive “teleplays” constituted an artistic high for the medium, bringing Broadway-quality drama to all of America. The award-winning programs included in this box set—originally curated for PBS in the early 1980s as the series The Golden Age of Television, featuring recollections from key cast and crew members—were conceived by such up-and-comers as Rod Serling and John Frankenheimer and star the likes of Paul Newman, Mickey Rooney, Rod Steiger, Julie Harris, and Piper Laurie.

Renowned dramatist Paddy Chayefsky’s poignant and touching character study of a lonely, middle-aged butcher (Rod Steiger) looking for love helped usher in the naturalistic style of television drama in the 1950s. Marty, directed by Delbert Mann, remains an enduring classic of the age of live television.

Nothing less than a milestone in television drama, writer Rod Serling’s Patterns examines a power struggle between a corporate boss (Everett Sloane), a washed-up company man (Ed Begley), and the young executive groomed to take his place (Richard Kiley). A huge hit when first broadcast, the production was re-aired the following week, which was unprecedented at the time.

No Time for Sergeants
Andy Griffith makes his first television appearance as Will Stockdale, a bumptious Air Force draftee who manages to drive his sergeant (Harry King) and the jokers who share his barracks crazy. No Time for Sergeants is a riotous military comedy and launched newcomer Griffith to stardom.

A Wind from the South
Julie Harris stars as Shivawn, an Irish country innkeeper who finds new meaning in her life when she finally experiences her first love, with a troubled tourist (Donald Woods). Written by playwright James Costigan, A Wind from the South features a typically marvelous performance from Harris and a surprising turn from Merv Griffin, who sings the show’s theme song.

Requiem for a Heavyweight
A punch-drunk prizefighter (Jack Palance) is forced to face life outside the ring in Rod Serling’s searing indictment of the professional boxing underworld. Costarring father and son Ed and Keenan Wynn, the former in his dramatic debut, and directed by Ralph Nelson, the Emmy Award–winning Requiem for a Heavyweight is a moving portrait of a would-be champion.

Bang the Drum Slowly
Paul Newman is the star pitcher of a professional baseball team who helps a terminally ill country bumpkin catcher (Albert Salmi) live out one last season on the diamond. A touching and honest tale of friendship, Bang the Drum Slowly is also considered one of the finest baseball stories of all time.

The Comedian
Mickey Rooney stars as a raging, tyrannical TV star stepping on anyone on his way to the top, including his browbeaten brother (Mel Tormé), despairing wife (Kim Hunter), and washed-up scriptwriter (Edmond O’Brien). Powerfully directed by John Frankenheimer from a script adapted for the screen by Rod Serling, The Comedian is a volatile glimpse behind the showbiz curtain.

Days of Wine and Roses
A young married couple falls into a downward spiral of alcoholism and self-destruction in writer JP Miller’s devastating Days of Wine and Roses. Masterfully directed by John Frankenheimer, this acclaimed production features riveting performances from Piper Laurie, Cliff Robertson, and Charles Bickford.


Marty directed byDelbert Mann
Television play byPaddy Chayefsky

Patterns directed by
Fielder Cook
Written byRod Serling

No Time for Sergeants directed by
Alex Segal
Based on the novel byMac Hyman
Written for television byIra Levin

A Wind from the South directed by
Daniel Petrie
and written byJames Costigan

Requiem for a Heavyweight directed by
Ralph Nelson
Teleplay byRod Serling

Bang the Drum Slowly directed by
Daniel Petrie
Adapted byArnold Schulman
From the book byMark Harris

The Comedian directed by
John Frankenheimer
TeleplayRod Serling
From a novelette byErnest Lehman

Days of Wine and Roses directed by
John Frankenheimer
WriterJP Miller

Disc Features


  • Kinescopes of the live broadcasts of Marty (1953), Patterns (1955), No Time for Sergeants (1955), A Wind from the South (1955), Bang the Drum Slowly (1956), Requiem for a Heavyweight (1956), The Comedian (1957), and Days of Wine and Roses (1958)
  • Audio commentaries by directors John Frankenheimer, Delbert Mann, Ralph Nelson, and Daniel Petrie
  • Interviews with Frankenheimer; actors Andy Griffith, Julie Harris, Kim Hunter, Richard Kiley, Piper Laurie, Nancy Marchand, Jack Palance, Cliff Robertson, Mickey Rooney, Rod Steiger, and Mel Tormé; and Carol Serling, Rod Serling’s widow
  • PLUS: A booklet featuring an essay by curator Ron Simon and his extensive liner notes on each program

    New cover by F. Ron Miller

Film Essays

The Golden Age of Television, Act III

By Ron Simon November 24, 2009

For twenty years, the remains of television’s self-proclaimed golden age lay dormant in the vaults of the commercial networks. I remember traveling, as a young researcher for NBC, to Englewood . . . Read more »



TV on the Radio

December 18, 2009

Ron Simon, the curator of television and radio at the Paley Center for Media and the writer of the liner notes for our current best-selling DVD set The Golden Age of Television, stopped by WNYC’ . . . Read more »

Press Notes

Press Notes: The Golden Age of Television

December 02, 2009

Let the Los Angeles TimesSusan King start the praise: “In the early 1980s, PBS presented a series, The Golden Age of Television, which offered eight renowned productions from the early age of . . . Read more »

Film Essays

The Golden Age of Television, Act III

By Ron Simon November 24, 2009

For twenty years, the remains of television’s self-proclaimed golden age lay dormant in the vaults of the commercial networks. I remember traveling, as a young researcher for NBC, to Englewood . . . Read more »


Supplemental Spines

by Brett Silbaugh

Updated 09/03/2017


American Cinema (PBS)

by Sean Ramsdell

Updated 12/28/2017



by Kika

Updated 04/06/2017


Dale Johnson

Updated 02/14/2018



Updated 10/27/2017

Craig Waldrip

Updated 02/25/2018



Updated 03/20/2018



Updated 02/22/2018


Updated 05/27/2017


Nathan Harber

Updated 02/23/2018



Updated 12/16/2017



Updated 10/23/2017


M. R. Turnage

Updated 03/01/2017


Log in to your account