On Friday, April 3, 1953, a new fifteen cent magazine, TV Guide, was first published. Its inaugural cover featured a small photograph of Lucille Ball, and a larger photo of her newborn son, Desiderio Alberto Arnaz IV, soon to be called Desi Arnaz, Jr., along with the headline: “Lucy’s $50,000,000 baby.”
For the next fifteen months, TV Guide published its weekly schedule from Friday through Thursday, and then it switched to a Saturday through Friday format on July 17, 1954. The magazine’s launch was almost instantly successful, and by 1960, TV Guide was the most circulated and read magazine in the United States. In 1974, twenty-one years after its launch, TV Guide became the first magazine ever to sell a billion copies.
Initially, TV Guide posted listings for only the three major networks, listed in alphabetic order … ABC, CBS and NBC. The magazine’s programming started at 6:30 pm and ended at 11:00 with shows listed in half-hour increments. The earlier timeslots were generally listed as “local,” with no programs actually named. If you look at the screenshots from the years 1953, 1954 and 1955, you’ll notice some shows that are today’s “classics.” Remember Jackie Gleason, Ted Mack’s Original Amateur Hour, George Burns and Gracie Allen, Milton Berle, Arthur Godfrey and Friends or Dragnet, just to name a few.
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