A time of apple pie and Elvis and for the first time, ignoring one another completely over TV dinners to the swishing of the untamed blade of Zorro!

But what was on the tube in the 50s might surprise you. Divorce Court (yes, that Divorce Court) premiered in 1957. As did The Price Is Right! More familiar names include I Love Lucy which spent four seasons (three of them in a row) as the most popular show of that year.

With fewer choices – and fewer televisions – than today, the 1950s started out slowly. But the decade rapidly picked up steam, delivering some of the most classic television shows that still run in syndication today. The 1950s saw TV sales skyrocket (thanks in part to Mr. Television) and new production techniques developed (which are still in use today). 1950 was also the decade when the Nielson Ratings system was introduced to TV, ensuring television station employees everywhere would have their vacation times set by the whims of “the book.”

Performers had to be more on their toes as well. With many programs shown live (and in some cases, not even recorded), TV could be like theater. A flubbed line or a missed cue had to be covered and the show must go on. Occasionally less polished, but arguably far more classy than modern shows, the 1950s was a golden age for the small screen.

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