The Golden Age of network television occurred early in its existence, the 1950s, when executives still believed it had a mission to elevate as well as entertain and the creatives believed they could produce anything, not just endless variations on lowest-common-denominator formulas. They could even do live drama as well as the theatre could, they thought.
Thus was born Studio One, which broadcast teleplays — classic and original work — on CBS from 1948-1958. Many became instant “water-cooler” sensations, none more so than Reginald Rose’s original drama Twelve Angry Men, which took audiences inside an argumentative, frustrated jury.
It’s taken until now for the Archive of American Television to restore and release them, and it is a treasure trove. There’s a 1953 adaptation of George Orwell’s 1984, starring Eddie Albert as Winston Smith; a 1954 Rod Sterling original drama about a doomed Korean War patrol, The Strike; a 1950 adaptation of Wuthering Heights with a young Charlton Heston as Heathcliff; Gore Vidal’s 1956 Summer Pavilion, about the faded, jaded aristocracy of New Orleans; and much more — including Twelve Angry Men. Especially powerful is Sal Mineo’s explosively angry turn as a violent, 17year-old delinquent in Rose’s 1956 Dino.
Must-see TV then; must-see TV now. Grade: A