Kukla, Fran and Ollie Pulls A 72 Household Rating, 60 Years Ago
Note the second paragraph in particular. I can’t verify that claim, but if 72% of TV households really were watching the show regularly, we may have to rename The Gunsmoke Rule (hah, a pitiful 40 rating!) to The Kukla, Fran And Ollie Rule“.
via press release:
‘Kukla, Fran and Ollie’ Celebrates 60 Years on TV
An All-Time Television Record, a Commemorative Stamp, and Shows on DVD For the First Time Celebrate The Popular Family Series
LOS ANGELES, Dec. 16 /PRNewswire/ — When the NBC network debuted ‘Kukla, Fran and Ollie’ January 12, 1949, no one expected a very long run. Who would watch a pretty blonde girl with a mischievous smile talk and sing with a wooden doll, a dragon with just one tooth, a witch who couldn’t remember spells, a diva who’d seen better days, and a rabbit who starched his ears? The contract called for five half-hour shows every week in primetime at 7pm. NBC had never had such a series on the network, nor a schedule like that.
Two months later, 72% of all households were watching ‘Kukla, Fran and Ollie’ five nights a week, every week. A one-year test turned into a three year hit.
It is the only series in the entire history of all television to run five nights a week in the same time period. It set a record that has lasted 60 years.
In Chicago, where the series originated, bars would stop serving liquor at 7:00pm so parents with no TV set could bring their kids and sit them at the bar with a Coke to watch the show. The kids were the first Baby Boomers arriving and the first kids to grow up with TV. They are still fans of the show.
‘Kukla, Fran and Ollie’ had a remarkable and popular success. They were seldom out of the public’s eye. They created 720 shows in black and white, first for NBC and then ABC. Burr Tillstrom, manipulator and voice for all the puppets, improvised every show with Fran Allison, the only person seen on the show. Live and with only one camera, it meant no mistakes.
‘Kukla, Fran and Ollie’ was part of TV history again in August, 1953. NBC proudly announced its first color special. It would be the first to air coast-to-coast. NBC chose ‘Kukla, Fran and Ollie’ to perform its popular operetta, “St. George and the Dragon.” The Boston Pops was the orchestra, with the renowned Arthur Fiedler conducting. Most people still had black and white sets, but color was here to stay.
In 1970, ‘Kukla, Fran and Ollie’ had a two year run on PBS and produced 26 new shows, their first in color. Martin Tahse, the producer of more After School Specials than any other producer, always loved this unique series. He bought the shows and produced 13 more shows. They became the last 13 shows of the series, when Burr died a few years later, followed shortly after by Fran. A three-year run on Starz, the cable channel, followed, 1966 through 1968.
The United States Postal Service created a Kukla, Fran and Ollie Commemorative Stamp. It was issued this year, part of the 60th Anniversary.
Adding to the 60th celebration, Tahse is releasing ‘Kukla, Fran and Ollie’ for the first time on DVD. Five individual shows are in a boxed set. A free poster is included. Boxed sets are available on the “Kukla, Fran and Ollie DVD Website” – kuklafranandollie.com. There is also a toll free number 800-393-0462.