The Golden Years of Radio 1945-1946
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The Seasons
GOld Time Radio chronicles each of the 21 broadcast seasons, (September through June), from Network Radio’s Golden Age, 1932 to 1953.  The lengthy and informative profiles of each season are concluded with an exclusive review of their Top 50 Prime Time Programs, as determined by Crossly, Hooper or Nielsen rating services.
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1945-1946 Season
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THE 1945-46 SEASON
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It was no secret: Bob Hope scored another season with Network Radio's most popular program as World War II ended. Hope, Fibber McGee and Red Skelton were NBC's 1-2-3 punch on Tuesday nights.

The biggest news story since Pearl Harbor broke in mid-August, 1945, and NBC had it first.  Neutral Switzerland brokered the surrender negotiations between the Allies and Japan, so all communications between the combatants went through Geneva.  Once again - as he was in Munich at the war’s start - NBC’s Max Jordan was on the spot at its finish ... NBC interrupted soap opera Stella Dallas at 4:18 p.m. on August 14th for Jordan’s report that the Japanese message accepting surrender terms had been received in Geneva.  Jordan’s scoop was an exclusive for two hours and forty-five minutes until United Press cleared its bulletin that World War II was over.  

Ironically, the outstanding war reporter became a man of peace.  Max Jordan retired from NBC in 1947 at the age of 52.  A PhD in religious philosophy, he become a Benedictine priest - a position in which he served for the remaining 31 years of his life.

The networks were sold-out as the nation transitioned to peacetime.  A record 232 sponsored programs were rated in the season’s prime time Hooperatings - the all-time high between 6:00 and 11:00 p.m.  In the five years since the beginning of World War II, total annual radio revenues had doubled and the networks were approaching the $200 Million mark in sales. Industry trade journal Broadcasting reported that the four networks  received 60% of their 1945 revenue from advertising foods, beverages, soaps, patent medicines and toiletries ...The total number of network affiliated stations jumped 25.9% - a record high.  Ninety-five percent of America’s commercial AM radio stations were linked to one of the four networks.  Mutual remained the largest network by adding by 139 new outlets in 1945 for a total of  384 affiliates, followed by ABC’s 195 stations, NBC’s 150 and CBS’s 145.

CBS boss Bill Paley, returned from two years of Army service and  found that  NBC had registered over twice the number of programs in the annual Top 50 than CBS for two consecutive seasons.  Worse yet, CBS billings were on the verge of dropping over $5.0 Million behind NBC.  Paley was determined to end the losing situation, telling the press that CBS  would counter NBC’s powerful comedy shows - eleven of the season’s Top 15 programs - by concentrating on, “... News, drama, public service programming and music.”   He had yet to discover some clever tax manipulation which led to talent raids on NBC and made CBS the most popular network by the end of the decade. 

Jack Benny’s ratings had slowly slipped 35% since 1941.   Nevertheless, Benny’s Sunday show had never fallen below a 20 rating and he wanted to keep it that way. To reverse the trend, Benny pulled a switch in character on his November 25th program: The world’s cheapest man announced that he would remove $10,000 from his vault and award U.S. Savings Bonds to listeners who best completed the statement, “I can’t stand Jack Benny because...” in 50 words or less.  The six week contest drew over 275,000 entries vying for the $2,500 top prize.  More importantly, the stunt got heavy publicity and helped reverse Benny’s slide in popularity. 

After four seasons on CBS, Fred Allen returned from a year’s sabbatical to a prime spot on the NBC schedule.  Standard Brands signed Allen for its half hour immediately following Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy.  His  21.1 season average was his highest rating in eleven years and the first of three consecutive seasons in the Annual Top Ten.  Along for the comedian’s high ratings ride were his wife, Portland Hoffa, and his most memorable Allen’s Alley cast - Minerva Pious in her twelfth season with Allen as Mrs. Pansy Neusbaum, Peter Donald as Irishman Ajax Cassidy, Parker Fennelly as New Englander Titus Moody and Kenny Delmar as Senator Beauregard Claghorn.

Colgate rescued Penny Singleton and Arthur Lake's Blondie after the sitcom’s disastrous 1944-45 season opposite Edgar Bergen.  All it took was moving the series back half an hour to 7:30 p.m. on the CBS Sunday schedule. Against NBC’s Fitch Bandwagon, Blondie’s ratings increased 20% and the show scored the first of three consecutive Top 50 seasons, all of them as one of Sunday’s Top Ten programs. 

Marlin Hurt created a character that outlived him.   After a strong introductory 18 months as Fibber McGee & Molly’s housekeeper, Hurt’s black, falsetto voiced Beulah was considered prime spinoff material.  FM&M writer Phil Lewis was charged with creating the series scheduled for a fall debut.  Unfortunately, The Marlin Hurt & Beulah Show was doomed from the start.  Sponsor Tums scheduled Beulah on CBS Sundays at 8:00 p.m. directly opposite Edgar Bergen & Charlie McCarthy on NBC.  Sunday’s Number One program trampled Beulah’s ratings by a three to one margin.  But Hurt’s happy housekeeper left the air suddenly in March for a reason far more compelling than low ratings.  Marlin Hurt dropped dead of a heart attack at the age of 41.  

Red Skelton returned from military duty and was back on NBC in December. His 18 month absence from radio cost 20% of his audience, but his 23.1 rating remained the season’s third best behind his Tuesday teammates, Bob Hope, (27.7), and Jim & Marian Jordan's Fibber McGee & Molly, (27.1) … NBC’s Tuesday comedy lineup got still another lift when Lever Brothers moved the resurgent Amos & Andy from Friday into the 9:00 p.m. Tuesday timeslot before Fibber McGee & Molly.  Freeman Gosden & Charles Correll’s familiar characters gave NBC two solid hours of Tuesday dominance on their climb back to popularity.  Amos & Andy would be among the annual Top Ten by the following season.  

True to Bill Paley’s prediction, CBS was building audience with drama - he just didn’t say what kind of drama.  He certainly didn’t mean Shakespeare. Thursday’s CBS inroads were led by Suspense and The FBI In Peace & War, both newcomers to the seasons’ list of Top 50 programs.  Both stayed there for eight years. CBS would continue to develop its relatively inexpensive studio dramas opposite NBC’s aging variety shows and claim most of Thursday’s Top Ten programs in just two years. 

NBC’s greatest concern on Thursday was Bing Crosby’s  walkout from Kraft Music Hall at 9:00.  Crosby, 1945's Oscar winning actor for Going My Way, quit Music Hall in a dispute over his demand to pre-record his shows. Neither the sponsor nor NBC would allow it, so the star simply didn’t report for work in October. Kraft sued Crosby for breach of contract and turned to Frank Morgan who was without a Thursday night radio job for the first time seven years.  While the Crosby-Kraft battle dragged on in the courts, Morgan kept Music Hall open through January with guest stars and Eddie Duchin’s orchestra.  The show’s ratings drifted down from the 20's into the mid-teens. 

The all-time high Hooperating for a commercial broadcast was set on Wednesday, June 19, 1946, when Joe Louis and Billy Conn fought for the Heavyweight Championship in Yankee Stadium. It was a rematch of their fierce 1941 bout won by Louis in 13 rounds.  The second fight had been delayed for five years by the fighters’ service in World War II.  It was the first championship bout ever televised - but television was still a few years away from nationwide network coverage ... Most of America - registering a whopping 67.2 Hooperating and a 93.8 share of audience - was tuned to ABC’s hookup of 224 stations for Don Dunphy’s piercing machine gun call of the fight and commentary by Bill Corum as Louis knocked out Conn in the eighth round.

NBC again monopolized the 1945-46 ratings winning 33 spots in the Annual Top 50 rankings, including 16 of the Top 20.  CBS hung back with 16 of the Top 50 and the newly christened ABC, (fka Blue),  was reduced to one Top 50 entry.