One of the curious aspects of the "primitive" nature of early broadcast television is that its rough or "cool" aspect, in McLuhan's terms, threw the audience back on the story and the words. More than just glorified radio with talking heads, however, early live drama attempted the visual fluidity of movies, with tracking shows and time transitions. These early shows are well worth seeing in their own right, however, for they gathered together many of the best writers and actors who were later to emerge in movies and TV. Now, 17 of the live original dramas aired by the show Studio One, which ran on CBS for 10 years from 1948 to 1958, have now been gathered together in a gratifying set called Studio One Anthology issued by Koch Vision.
Probably the most high profile inclusion is 12 Angry Men, a view into what happens in a jury room during the deliberations on a murder trial. This is the first of the play's three iterations, later as a movie, and then as an HBO special. Though it is not the best technically, it has the rawness of spontaneity that the other two don't, with Robert Cummings and Franchot Tone in the parts later taken by Henry Fonda and Lee J. Cobb, among others. The script is by Reginald Rose, who emerges as the prolific and unsung hero of live television drama, writing several of the sets inclusions, which includes a Shakespeare adaptation, an opera, a version of Wuthering Heights, and an adaptation of Orwell's 1984. Also included are two dramas by Rod Serling, a juvenile delinquent tale staring Sal Mineo. There are also two dramas by Gore Vidal, perhaps the most famous of the integers who came out of live TV drama, here represented by two plays, Summer Pavilion and "Dark Possession." In his essays, Vidal is quite elegiac about his TV days, and here, finally, we can see what it was he was still pining after.
The six-disc set contains not only 17 episodes of Studio One, but a short video that recounts the history of the show and its restorations, a video record of a seminar on Studio One's history, an interview with Paul Nickell, a frequent director of the plays, a compilation of audio interviews, plus a 52-page booklet with cast and crew, original air dates, interviews, and transfer information.
Studio One Anthology hit the streets on Tuesday, November 11th, retailing for $99.98, or available from NetFlix or a video store near you.