Ben Grauer, the host of Eye Witness
The Eye Witness TV show was a 30 minute documentary series on NBC that explained every aspect of the television industry from the development and manufacture of a TV set to the final production of a television program.
Eye Witness Cast
Ben Grauer .... Host
Eye Witness Trivia
While this documentary series might seem like it was be boring to today's audiences, you must remember that television was almost like magic to people in 1948. For the first time ever, the average person could flip a switch and be entertained and informed like never before! The stars that people had only previously seen on movie screens were all of a sudden performing in your living room! And how exactly this was possible was totally incomprehensible to most people.
The Eye Witness series main purpose was to convince the public to accept the new medium. Some people believed that the devil must be involved in something so magical in its operation. Many people feared that their television would explode, killing their family. This author can remember his great-grandmother in the mid-1950s who would not watch television until she first dressed up in her finest clothing and put on makeup! She thought that the people on TV could see her too! So understanding how television actually worked demistified it and made it acceptable to the public.
Of course, very few people had TV sets in 1948. Fewer than 3 million sets had been sold in the U.S. by the time of these brodcasts with a population of over 146 million. It's not known exactly how many stations carried the broadcast of the Eye Witness episodes. We do know that it aired in Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia.
The only recorded broadcast known to have survived is the February 26th episode about the history of television. It is in the video archive collection at UCLA.
We have listed 13 episodes of Eye Witness below but old New York Times TV listings show that 15 episodes were broadcast, however, Garry Simpson who wrote and directed the series has stated that only 13 episodes were produced.
Many people don't realize that the first televisions (and I use that term loosely) were developed in the early 1930s. They were half electronic and half mechanical and produced a picture less than two square inches in size! The picture wasn't just small, it also was reddish-orange in color and blurred. Better TVs were developed after that but were mostly experimental in to the 1940s. The only TV broadcasts up to the mid 1940s were for Nazi propaganda purposes and originated from the top of the Eifel Tower in Paris, France. Of course, the number of people who saw them was very small. TV set sales to the public took off in a big way in 1948 with millions of American GIs who had suffered years of combat in World War II and now expected a bit of the good life! The 1950s saw a further explosion of television fans as the price of TV sets came way down and due to the development of color television. In that decade, sales also exploded in the United Kingdom and then to the rest of the western world.
Further developments have continued to improve television with remote controls, VCRs, bigger screens, lighter weight, Dvds, high definition, hundreds of channels of programming, etc. Currently 3D televisions are hitting the market, continuing the options for viewing enjoyment. There's every reason to expect this trend to continue. Virtual reality TV anyone?
Episodes List With Original Air Dates
The First And Only Season
- How Television Transmitters Operate (11/6/1947)
- How A Television Studio Works (11/13/1947)
- How A Mobile TV Units Operate (11/20/1947)
- How TV Shows are Produced (12/4/1947)
- Television Receiver Operation (12/11/1947)
- How Television Receiver Manufacturing (1/15/1948)
- How Television Works (1/29/1948)
- Acting and Camera Techniques (2/5/1948)
- Backstage: Rehearsals and Filming the Show (2/12/1948)
- The Manufacture of TV Tubes (2/19/1948)
- Historical Development of Television (2/26/1948)
- Tour of WNBW and Sample Shows (3/4/1948)
- What are TV Networks and How Do They Operate (4/13/1948)
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