Skip to content. | Skip to navigation

Personal tools
Sections

Commentaries on this Media!

TV History: The Adventures of Superman

by Christine Becker

This clip was uploaded for an assignment in Prof. Christine Becker's FTT 30461: History of Television class at the University of Notre Dame in Spring 2017. Check the commentary dropdown menu for a student's analysis of the clip.

The Adventures of Superman’s Success as a Syndicated Program

by Justin Brent

When looking at Whitney Ellsworth’s The Adventures of Superman (Ellsworth 1952), it is essential to understand the series in a historical and analytical context.The Adventures of Superman made its mark on American television history by being a successful rerun show for decades. But why was this? One could argue due to its change from black and white to colored television, its ability to provide another escape for comic book fans, and its casting change to Lois Lane, The Adventures of Superman was able to be extremely triumphant in its debut as a syndicated program.
The Adventures of Superman originated from a producer named Robert L. Lippert and his hour long feature named Superman and the Mole Men (Lippert 1951), which starred George Reeves as Superman and Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane. The film opened doors for the first television season to go into production in August of the same year, but unfortunately the show would go unaired until Kellog’s agreed to sponsor the show in September of 1952. This is around the same time that Whitney Ellsworth, the shows uncredited associate producer and story editor, became the full time producer and would remain so for the duration of the series. The show did not become what it is today until the beginning of 1954 when “producer Whitney Ellsworth ordered that the show be shot in color, even though its first-run broadcasts were still being transmitted in black and white” (Murray). By the time a large number of households had owned colored television sets, The Adventures Of Superman had already debuted 52 episodes out of 104. In Nick Browne’s essay “The Political Economy of Television (Super) Text”, there is a section about how economic motivation drives everything (106). Where the goal has always been to get audiences to follow from one show to another. One could argue that the addition of colored television also helped accomplish this goal. There was this attraction to a man wearing a bright red-and-blue suit who could fly over buildings and fight off villains. A guy everybody had already fell in love with due to the Golden Age of Comic Books. Colored television played a key role in The Adventures of Superman’s success as a syndicated program, always bringing audiences back for more.
The Golden Age of Comic Books describes an era of American comic books from the late 1930’s to the 1950’s. During this time, comic books were first being published and gained a tremendous amount of popularity. Many well-known superhero characters were being introduced and this sparked comics to be sold in the millions back then. “Fans of those comics didn’t have many other places to turn for those kinds of stories and characters” (Murray). Superhero fans would rely on their television sets to bring them back into that comic book world. The same scenario exists and can be associated with the success of the many blockbuster superhero movies created today. Besides a video game and maybe Halloween, a comic book and television/movie screen are the only places to locate “the most famous and popular superhero of all time” (Murray). This allowed The Adventures of Superman to become a highly successful program for years to come.
The success of The Adventures of Superman can also be somewhat credited to the casting change which took place after the first season. For the first season, Phyllis Coates played Lois Lane, the Daily Planet reporter who works alongside Superman in his secret identity as Clark Kent. “Coates had help set the tone for the early Adventures of Superman episodes, which showed confidence and bustle, like the better B-movies of the era” (Murray). But because the complete first Superman season was finished long before the producers knew whether there’d be a second, Coates found other work. Then Noel Neill took over as Lois for the remainder of the series, “bringing with her an energy that was shriller and even a bit snappish” (Murray). This naturally caused Jack Larson’s portrayal of reporter Jimmy Olsen to become more comedic, causing the show as a whole to grow more “slapdash and silly”. This can be blamed on the producers who’d put so much money into shooting in color that they didn’t have much left over for actors, writers, or retakes. This surprisingly turned out to work for the best as the show Adventures Of Superman then lived on in repeats for decades.
Learning about The Adventures of Superman and its specific backstory provides us a tremendous insight on American television history and a program’s rise to triumph. Whether one believes The Adventures of Superman simply got lucky or that the show obtained significant entertainment value, it is to be included that because of colored television, a comic book espace, and a casting change, The Adventures of Superman has remained successful as a syndicated program for many years.


Works Cited
Browne, Nick. "The political economy of the television (super) text." Quarterly Review of Film Studies 9.3 (1984): 82-174.
Murray, Noel. "Barely a superhero show, Adventures Of Superman was a surprise success." The A.V. Club. N.p., 10 June 2013. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.

The Adventures of Superman’s Success as a Syndicated Program

by Justin Brent

When looking at Whitney Ellsworth’s The Adventures of Superman (Ellsworth 1952), it is essential to understand the series in a historical and analytical context.The Adventures of Superman made its mark on American television history by being a successful rerun show for decades. But why was this? One could argue due to its change from black and white to colored television, its ability to provide another escape for comic book fans, and its casting change to Lois Lane, The Adventures of Superman was able to be extremely triumphant in its debut as a syndicated program.
The Adventures of Superman originated from a producer named Robert L. Lippert and his hour long feature named Superman and the Mole Men (Lippert 1951), which starred George Reeves as Superman and Phyllis Coates as Lois Lane. The film opened doors for the first television season to go into production in August of the same year, but unfortunately the show would go unaired until Kellog’s agreed to sponsor the show in September of 1952. This is around the same time that Whitney Ellsworth, the shows uncredited associate producer and story editor, became the full time producer and would remain so for the duration of the series. The show did not become what it is today until the beginning of 1954 when “producer Whitney Ellsworth ordered that the show be shot in color, even though its first-run broadcasts were still being transmitted in black and white” (Murray). By the time a large number of households had owned colored television sets, The Adventures Of Superman had already debuted 52 episodes out of 104. In Nick Browne’s essay “The Political Economy of Television (Super) Text”, there is a section about how economic motivation drives everything (106). Where the goal has always been to get audiences to follow from one show to another. One could argue that the addition of colored television also helped accomplish this goal. There was this attraction to a man wearing a bright red-and-blue suit who could fly over buildings and fight off villains. A guy everybody had already fell in love with due to the Golden Age of Comic Books. Colored television played a key role in The Adventures of Superman’s success as a syndicated program, always bringing audiences back for more.
The Golden Age of Comic Books describes an era of American comic books from the late 1930’s to the 1950’s. During this time, comic books were first being published and gained a tremendous amount of popularity. Many well-known superhero characters were being introduced and this sparked comics to be sold in the millions back then. “Fans of those comics didn’t have many other places to turn for those kinds of stories and characters” (Murray). Superhero fans would rely on their television sets to bring them back into that comic book world. The same scenario exists and can be associated with the success of the many blockbuster superhero movies created today. Besides a video game and maybe Halloween, a comic book and television/movie screen are the only places to locate “the most famous and popular superhero of all time” (Murray). This allowed The Adventures of Superman to become a highly successful program for years to come.
The success of The Adventures of Superman can also be somewhat credited to the casting change which took place after the first season. For the first season, Phyllis Coates played Lois Lane, the Daily Planet reporter who works alongside Superman in his secret identity as Clark Kent. “Coates had help set the tone for the early Adventures of Superman episodes, which showed confidence and bustle, like the better B-movies of the era” (Murray). But because the complete first Superman season was finished long before the producers knew whether there’d be a second, Coates found other work. Then Noel Neill took over as Lois for the remainder of the series, “bringing with her an energy that was shriller and even a bit snappish” (Murray). This naturally caused Jack Larson’s portrayal of reporter Jimmy Olsen to become more comedic, causing the show as a whole to grow more “slapdash and silly”. This can be blamed on the producers who’d put so much money into shooting in color that they didn’t have much left over for actors, writers, or retakes. This surprisingly turned out to work for the best as the show Adventures Of Superman then lived on in repeats for decades.
Learning about The Adventures of Superman and its specific backstory provides us a tremendous insight on American television history and a program’s rise to triumph. Whether one believes The Adventures of Superman simply got lucky or that the show obtained significant entertainment value, it is to be included that because of colored television, a comic book espace, and a casting change, The Adventures of Superman has remained successful as a syndicated program for many years.


Works Cited
Browne, Nick. "The political economy of the television (super) text." Quarterly Review of Film Studies 9.3 (1984): 82-174.
Murray, Noel. "Barely a superhero show, Adventures Of Superman was a surprise success." The A.V. Club. N.p., 10 June 2013. Web. 01 Mar. 2017.

Snippets of The Adventures of Superman (1952-58)

This clip contains a montage of short clips from The Adventures of Superman, which aired in syndication from 1952-58.

from The Adventures of Superman (1952)
Creator: Created by Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster
Distributor: YouTube
Posted by Christine Becker
Keywords
Genres
Options