While Omnibus is all of the things mentioned in previous nodes, it was also the name of a television show that aired fifteen years before the creation of public television and is considered by many the role model for the creation of the Corporation for Public Television in 1967
. Or, television as it should be?
What’s so important ‘bout that?
Well, the year is 1952
. Color TV isn’t around yet and America tunes in their black and whites to a show hosted by Alistair Cooke
. In the show opening he claims that the show will have “something for everybody.”
An hour an a half later America had been treated to pieces of Gilbert & Sullivan
’s The Mikado
, an original play by William Saroyan
titled “The Bad Men, which featured a young Sidney Poitier
, Witch Doctor
, a Haitian dance accompanied by drums, and, “The Trial of Anne Boleyn
, a play featuring Rex Harrison
and Lilli Palmer. Interspersed were also short pieces on x-ray
s and a mini film honoring Veterans Day
. Quite the eclectic
mix of you ask me.
Omnibus ran for a total of eight seasons and had the distinction of being aired on all three of the major networks. Four years on CBS
, one on ABC
, and the final three years on NBC
. Viewing audience ranged between 4 million at the shows inception and about 5.7 million at its finale. By the time Omnibus run had ended it garnished 65 awards, among them were included 7 Emmys
Views never knew what to expect. The show might present a single work such as an opera or a play, or might be broken down into as many as five segments. Regardless of the format, the goal of the show was to provide entertainment that educated.
Inspired by a grant from the Ford Foundation
, it was the first show of its kind and corporate sponsors, eager to link there names to quality broadcasting (unlike today) soon got on board. Some of the better known companies included Union Carbide
, Scott Paper
, and Remington
Here’s a short list of the various talented individuals who either appeared or made contributions to the show
and Jessica Tandy
–his first TV appearance btw
George Bernard Shaw
Harriet Beecher Stowe
Frank Lloyd Wright
Unfortunately, after it fifth year, the Ford Foundation terminated its funding for the show. Omnibus managed to carry on for three more years through corporate funding but the end was drawing near. Due to the networks increasing demands for bigger audiences and higher revenues, coupled with no real underwriter
for the show and the shift of television from New York City
, sadly the end was now at hand.
Commentary – I wish I was around for that kind of network programming. For all the good shows the networks give us (at least here in the states), there’s an endless litany of “reality” based tv, game shows, quiz show, talk shows, and brainless sit- coms.
Of course Omnibus could never approach the programming genius of Fox TV
’s “When Buildings Fall Down!” or “When Animals Attack!” but that’s another subject…