Broadway Open House

NBC (ended 1951)


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Broadway Open House

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Broadway Open House was network television's first attempt at late night programming. The series is often described as TV's "first late night talk show" but this is incorrect. Celebrities did occasionally drop by to chat, but in actuality it was a very informal variety series featuring comedy bits, music and dance numbers. It might best be described as a show that had an hour of live television to fill each night with anything that came to mind being used. Airing live weeknights from New York, the series was two individual shows with different casts and hosts airing in rotation. On Mondays and Wednesdays, comedian Morey Amsterdam hosted. (He was simultaneously starring in his own primetime series, The Morey Amsterdam Show, on Dumont.) Best remembered, though, was the Tuesday/Thursday/Friday show hosted by brash comedian Jerry Lester. Its claim to fame was a buxom blond Lester had hired to read ridiculous poetry she supposedly had written. Actress Jeannie Lewis, renamed Dagmar, soon became the show's lead attraction. According to show biz legend, Lester became extremely jealous of her popularity, eventually adding another beauty (Agathon) to minimize her role on the show. Finally fed up with being upstaged, Lester left the series in May 1951. (Amsterdam had moved on back in November 1950.) With Lester's departure, the series was cut back to just Tuesday/Thursday/Friday programs hosted by Jack Leonard. NBC would abandon late nights until it added Tonight to the network in September 1954. Steve Allen had been hosting it locally in New York since the summer of 1953.moreless
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  • A mild, unpretentous show, looks very primitive now. Contains low-brow gags, sanitised burlesque, and averegely presented musical numbers. Jerry Lester is a classic old style brash stage comedian, Dagmar is an impressive example of feminine pulchritude.moreless

    Broadway Open House was indeed a history-making venture for network TV, but it would never be used as an example of the finest that video could provide. Star Jerry Lester is forgotten today save for the memory of those who were there in 1950. He looks somewhat disturbingly like Jack Ruby, his style is absolutely manic, grinning madly, blurting out noises and bits of songs as he runs and jumps about like a caffine fiend, constantly mugging and ad libbing. Then there's Dagmar, with a breathtaking physique,(and a few heads taller than Jerry) who is utterly deadpan, humourless and businesslike. She speaks with a monotone hillbilly twang. The rest of the cast, Dave Street, Milton DeLugg, et al, are pretty much ciphers overwhelmed by Jerry. Though he's a one-man commotion, the show is actually very low key. The set is typical of the era, a painted flat showing a penthouse apartment, and the props are junk shop finds. There's no budget, clearly it's running on Jerry's personality alone. Despite it's late-night time slot, it's not especially more adult than an averege daytime talk-variety entry, like The Gary Moore show. The same style of music, the same omnipresent electric guitar-piano combo that seems to be the proscribed ideal for light music on TV. Lester went from DuMont's #1 show, CAVALCADE OF STARS, to the virgin territory of late night.His face appears on all the TV magazines time and time again in 1950-51. He was a mega star of the tiny tube. However, he was a tiny person inside, and his own hubris torpedoed his career when he got jealous of Dagmar, and eventually quit the show, expecting to go on to more starring hit shows. But it was too early in TV history to become a permanent fixture, and who needs a prima donna?moreless