The Chicago School of Television

Curator's Note: The photograph below (shot in studio A) comes as close as a single image can to illustrating a complex concept---in this case, what the first generation of television critics called, always with affection, the "The Chicago School of Television". It appeared in the March 27th, 1951 edition of Look Magazine with the following caption:

"It's been called relaxed, intimate, friendly, natural, subtle---but the main thing about the "Chicago School" of TV, more widely copied in higher-priced, higher-pressured areas, is this: The viewer doesn't always know what's going to happen next and next and next.

This page will serve as an introduction to the 'Chicago School' and its practitioners. (Perhaps you should first read Arch Oboler's essay 'Windy Kilocycles'. He convincingly argues that Chicago's creative approach to television was a continuation of the city's innovative approach to radio).

Herbuveaux in Studio A
The above photo shows Burr Tillstrom and Fran Allison of Kukla, Fran and Ollie; Beverly Younger, Chet Roble, Studs Terkel and Win Stracke of Stud's Place; Dave Garroway of Garroway at Large; comedian Cliff Norton ( a Garroway regular and, for a time, star of his daily show, The Public Life of Cliff Norton), Walt Durhban (of Walt's Workshop) and (in the overcoat) Clint Youle, the archetype of the television weatherman.

This picture also shows the man---standing, with his left hand resting on the couch--- generally credited with creating the "Chicago School". He is surrounded by the performers (and some of the production people) who exemplified this unique brand television on the air.

Jules Herbuveaux, charged with putting NBC's Chicago owned-and-operated station on the air, was the first general manager of WNBQ (the predecessor call-letters of today's WMAQ-TV). His tasks included the generation of local programming and development of shows for the NBC network which, not long after WNBQ took to the air, was extended west as far as Saint Louis.

Herbuveaux had a remarkable eye for talent appropriate to the new video medium. The personalities he put on the air, and the programs they were part of, defined television as a unique, pure medium of its own. It was not theater. It was not film. It was television, plain and simple.

[Jules Herbuveaux autographed this photo on the occasion of a 1989 interview. Studs Terkel autographed it in October, 1995. Studs and I work in the same building. Studs works for WFMT. I work for WTTW. Stud's latest book is Coming of Age.]

This page will include links to text and graphics document that illustrate the development (and the decline) of the "Chicago School". The curator's resources in this area are vast. So have patience.
Currently available...

Introduction and main index to this site
WMAQ radio history | "Amos 'n' Andy" | "Fibber McGee and Mollie" | "The Breakfast Club"
Dick Kay | Television at the Merchandise Mart | 1970 television facilities tour | Channel 5 turns 20
The "Chicago School" of television | "Kukla, Fran and Ollie" | Dave Garroway | Mary Hartline
"Lights Out" | Sound effects | 1930 studio tour | WLS | "Empire Builders" | Barry Bernson
Floyd Kalber | The Queen of Love and Beauty | "Today's Children" | Staff announcers | Carol Marin
Ron Magers | Studs Terkel l "Chicago Tonight" | Channel 5 News scrapbooks |Roger Miller recalls
Zoo Parade | Clifton and Frayne Utley | Val Press | Len O'Connor | Johnny Erp | Bill Ray | Daddy-O
Experimental Television: 1930-1933 | Bob Deservi | Kermit Slobb | Ding Dong School | Quiz Kids
Bob Lemon | The Korshak Chronicles | KYW: The Chicago Years | WENR | O.B. Hanson | Renzo
Jack Eigen | Ed Grennan | The World's Best Cup of Coffee | Glenn Webster | Mr. Piano | Hawkins Falls
Chicago Television for Kids |
Radio Hall of Fame |The NBC News Night Report: 23 February, 1967
Audio and video downloads
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