In the early days of television as radio remained the dominant medium and television looked to make its foothold, several early shows were done as simulcasts on both mediums. We, the People was the first (on June 1, 1948) followed soon thereafter by such top radio radio shows as Arthur Godfrey Time. As described in Arthur J. Singer’s Arthur Godfrey: The Adventures of an American Broadcaster, Godfrey said at the top of his first simulcast (November 23, 1948): “This morning, we’ve got lights all around this place… and they’re driving us crazy. They said, ‘We’ll come in, Arthur, and you won’t even know we’re there.’ [He makes a face, thumbs his nose at the camera. The audience laughs. Then he addresses the radio audience.] For a penny postcard I’ll explain that laugh to you folks.”
We, the People began as a radio show in the 1930s known for its unusual testimonials of real people. When the show made its historic “first” as a radio-television simulcast, Variety, noted that the broadcast was preceded by a ten-minute ceremony in which CBS President Frank Stanton and reps from the advertising agencies that sponsored the show, cited the historic first of the simulcast. But, Variety griped: “In terms of depicting for home viewers how a radio show is run off, it could probably be classed as a success. But to call it a television show is a complete misnomer. With the single exception of a visual commercial midway in the program, no attempt was made at all to give the radio show a much needed TV Look.”
Archive interviewee James Sheldon talks about directing We, the People (six minutes into part two of his interview). He describes how he staged the radio show and Ralph Levy directed the television portion and how, eager to make the show better for television, Levy taught Sheldon how to stage a show for TV.
Sheldon spoke about breaking into the business as an NBC page, and after a few years in advertising, turning his attentions to directing for television. He described his work on several shows from the 1950s including such diverse fare as: sitcom Mr. Peepers, daytime variety series The Eddie Albert Show, military anthology West Point Story, and drama The Millionaire. He also spoke in great detail about working with then-budding actor James Dean in two “live” television productions of Armstrong Circle Theater and Robert Montgomery Presents. He discussed his work on the anthology series The Twilight Zone, for which he directed such classic episodes as “It’s A Good Life” starring Billy Mumy. Other series he discussed included Family Affair and My Three Sons.
Incidentally, Carl Reiner talks about how We, the People inspired the “2,000 Year Old Man” sketch on Your Show of Shows (at the end of part three of his Archive interview)!