Initially, it should be noted that except for two stand-alone specials, Showcase's output was in an art form which has largely disappeared: The dramatic anthology series. In that format, each program was separate from the others in the series, connected only by the packager's personnel, its artistic vision, and the sponsorship. There were different casts, writers, and directors. The individual programs could be dramas, variety programs, re-stagings of Broadway musicals or plays, original productions of musicals or plays, "tribute" programs, and so on. While most people think they have seen similar programs from the "Golden Age of Television," in fact, it was not until the pioneering video release in 2009 of a package of Playhouse 90 programs, that more than a handful of programs in this genre have been commercially re-released, largely because of the complexity of clearance and copyright considerations, discussed elsewhere in this site, and the significant technical limitations of the kinescopes on which they were preserved for archival purposes.
The budgets for live color programming vastly surpassed budgets for black and white programming of similar duration and quality; the budgets for Showcase, across the board, were so enormous, that there was first-rate talent involved at every step of every production; the production cost gap between the 60-minute programs and the 90-minute and 120-minute programs that were part of the PRODUCERS' SHOWCASE series, with one exception, was even greater. (THE STINGIEST MAN IN TOWN, released as an Alcoa program, was reliably reported to have cost a staggering $1,000,000 in 1956!.) Even though technical capabilities of the day were primitive compared to today, no expense was spared for the PRODUCERS' SHOWCASE programs, and as a result, they are very watchable even today. Directors such as Arthur Penn, Sidney Lumet, Kirk Browning, and Clark Jones knew even then how to create visually interesting television; the world-class authors who were adapted by writers at the top of the talent ladder, and the successful writers who created programs specifically for this series, all knew how to create an interesting story, with excellent plotting and character development; the actors were literally the best that there ever were, frequently drawn from Hollywood's "A" List, and their performances are first-rate by any standard; the legendary performing artists outdid themselves to dazzle the world's largest audiences; the composers and lyricists who created music and songs were already hugely successful. As just one illustration of the quality of these programs, James van Heusen and Sammy Cahn wrote the classic "Love and Marriage" specifically for the musical version of "OUR TOWN" from this series. Overall, these programs still have the power to entertain and even stun an audience.
Past Ratings as a Guide to Present Audience Potential
The programs were broadcast "live" and have with the few exceptions of those released on video through Showcase's joint ventures with Video Artists International, not been seen since their original broadcasts. Even making allowance for the limited number of programming choices available to audiences at the time, PRODUCERS' SHOWCASE earned phenomenal "Nielsen" ratings -- the 23 programs for which we have records, averaged a 36.5% audience share. The very highest ratings were garnered by the March 7, 1955 broadcast of "PETER PAN (68.3 share, estimated at a total audience of between 65,000,000 and 75,000,000 people), the March 30, 1955 broadcast of "THE PETRIFIED FOREST" (50.6 share), and the January 9, 1956 repeat of "PETER PAN" (54.9 share). The "Trendex" ratings were even higher, with, respectively, shares of 69.2 for the first "PETER PAN" and of 51.2 for "THE PETRIFIED FOREST." It should be remembered that this success was generally achieved in head-to-head combat with the most consistently popular program in TV history, "I LOVE LUCY," running on CBS.
A clue to the enduring popularity of these productions, lies in the unexpected commercial success of Showcase's video joint ventures with Video Artists International; sales of "AMAHL AND THE NIGHT VISITORS" have exceeded 12,000 units during the first two years of release. (We note that not a single copy of this or of any of the other joint venture video releases, has been returned because of disappointment with the technical quality, even though there has been a notable improvement in Showcase's kinescope mastering and restoration capability since the first releases, in April 2003, and the October 2007 release of AMAHL.) While this programming is by definition "niche" programming, the niche seems too large to be accounted for solely by the aging members of the original television broadcast audiences. We feel that talent is talent, and that these programs stand on their own, independently of modern technical capabilities -- after all, if kinescopes of Shakespeare's Globe Theatre performances were available, the lack of special effects, or of multiple digital cameras, would not detract from the importance and fascination of the performances themselves. We believe that the PRODUCERS' SHOWCASE programs and the other Showcase-produced programs are in a class by themselves, in that virtually all of them would be considered to be "locomotives" in lesser libraries. The Showcase library -- consistuting a unique example of the best of a uniquely American art form -- deserves our slogan that it is "Pure Platinum From The Golden Age of Television."