[Portrayal of families in television]

Monday, November 30, 1953

This episode is from the WNYC archives. It may contain language which is no longer politically or socially appropriate.

Seldes discusses the complex subject of "what life is like in the 49th state." By "49th state" he means in the television screen. He talks about family comedies and how they describe Americans living together. He reads a portion of a letter from a listener who identifies the typical roles of the bumbling father and all-knowing mother. He points out that Clarence Day's "Life with Father" has been made into a television program, which has had negative reviews. He brings up the television version of Pride and Prejudice, and the disappointing "dumbing down" of characters.

He reads a portion of an advertisement (paid for by "the friends of the motion picture industry") called "The Big Squeeze and the Little Woman." The advertisement is aimed towards men. The ad recommends that men avoid all the stresses that accompany the big squeeze by heading out to the movies. He talks of the importance of "escaping" to a movie once a week.

Seldes goes on to discuss cooking shows - and the difficulties the mind has following instructions without visual aids.

Violence in television is also reported on, as are stereotypes of professionals.

Audio courtesy of the NYC Municipal Archives WNYC Collection

WNYC archives id: 71510
Municipal archives id: LT3080

Hosted by:

Gilbert Seldes


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About Lively Arts, The

Legendary critic and author of The Seven Lively Arts Gilbert Seldes discusses big-thinking issues in art and life from his characteristically populist perspective.

Simultaneously a timely and visionary program, Gilbert Seldes's The Lively Arts (1953-1956) examines contemporary issues of 1950s television, radio, and theater, as well as current events and the intellectual arts. Seldes, who was the first Director for Television at CBS News and the founding Dean of the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania, was also a renowned critic, author, playwright, and editor. As a major social critic and observer, Seldes viewed theater, television, and radio with a prescient eye to the future based on a well-informed understanding of the past. 

These programs feature commentary and discussion on a wide range of topics — from sex and censorship in the movies to progressive education to juvenile delinquency to political campaigning on television — many of which are still hotly debated today. Serving as a precursor to Seldes's television programs and providing an audio context for his seminal books, this show is key to understanding today's cultural commentary.


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