Television: Boom or Bubble? – TV’s First Moral Panics

In the early days of TV, there were concerns about, well, everything.

A young boy and a television host stare at a duck during a live studio recording.

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People have raised moral concerns over entertainment from the time of Shakespeare — people complained about the base and crude nature of his plays — to the 1980s, when conservative movements lumped heavy metal music, Dungeons & Dragons, and a spate of (later debunked) books about growing up in devil-worshiping cults into the broader “Satanic Panic.”

In 1946, the first moral panics about television were already starting to form. In the second part of Alva Johnson’s three-part “Television: Boom or Bubble?” series, questions were being raised about suitable language and attire. There was also the male game-show contestant who drew hundreds of complaint letters for removing his suit jacket and shirt under hot studio lights. And don’t get them started on bathing suits. At the time, there was even some suggestion that everything on TV had be fine for the youngest potential viewer (which would, of course, disallowed many of the great dramas and comedies to follow). You can read the original story below (and Part One here).

The first page for the second part of the article "Television: Boom or Bubble" as it appeared in The Saturday Evening Post. This image links to the full article in our online archives.
Read “Television: Boom or Bubble (Part 2)” by Alva Johnston from the March 16, 1946, issue of the Post. Subscribe to the magazine for more art, inspiring stories, fiction, humor, and features from our archives.

Featured image: Harry Saltzman / SEPS

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