Studs's Place as Cheers---without alcohol (for most
of its run), without a laugh track and without a script (the cast
improvised on an outline; there was no written dialogue). The show,
during most of its brief life, was set in a joint one step up from
a greasy spoon. Studs Terkel was the proprietor. Beverly Younger
was the waitress. The remaining characters were clientele.
Given the absence of a written script---which meant that there was
no way to predict the order in which actors would speak or where
they would move on the set---Studs's Place must have been
a challenge to direct. From the point of view of those in the control
room, it was more like dealing with a sporting event than a dramatic
And the improvisational nature of the show made it, in a way, a
dramatic equivalent of jazz (perhaps it was no coincidence that
two of the regulars on Studs's Place, Chet Roble and Win
Stracke, were accomplished musicians.)
Jazz has often been difficult to sell commercially. Studs's Place
was impossible to sell to sponsors, at least while the show was
produced in the Merchandise Mart studios.
Studs's Place first aired during November and December of
1949 as a segment of a larger variety show called Saturday Night
Square. Its original setting was a tavern. The show returned
in April of 1950---free-standing and set in a restaurant---and ran
through the following August.
In 1951, Studs's Place returned to the air on ABC (through
the Civic Theater facilities of WENR-TV. ABC offered the show on
a co-op basis---which meant that, in the absence of a national sponsor,
affiliates could sell the commercial spots locally (in Chicago the
sponsor was Manor House coffee). Alas, this final incarnation of
Studs's Place was short-lived.