Airing weekdays at 5:00 for just one year, Theater Five was an unexpected gift: an ambitious, expensive, and sophisticated series launched just when radio drama was dismissed as dead. By the summer of ’64 all the action had moved to television, with radio reduced to tunes and hourly news. Yet ABC saw fit to launch a lavish new series, offering comedy, science fiction, suspense, horror, fantasy, crime, and melodrama to adults of adventurous taste. Some episodes merged two or three genres at once.
Although it wasn’t clear where the latest episode of Theater Five would be headed, it was certain to sound polished, employ excellent actors, and not insult the listener’s intelligence. And since it was intended for an up-to-date mid-60s audience, the subject matter was often closer to contemporary life than content from the ’40s and ’50s. Even Alexander Vlas-Daczenco’s theme music still works: a seedy, seductive swirl of crime-jazz percussion and horns.
Series announcer Fred Foy, appropriately enough, embodied the shift from radio to television. In 1948 his electrifying intro to The Lone Ranger became the best-know, most-imitated slice of prose in American popular culture. But by ’55 he had to trim it for TV syndication, and by ’64 the Theater Five tapings were a change of pace, fitted in-between game shows and TV commercials.
The Last Land Rush
There are 256 complete episodes; running times range from 17:53 to 23:39. The number of episodes necessitates a four-part set … be sure to hear them all:
- Theater Five 1964-65 #1
- Apple iOS: itunes.apple.com/app/theater-five-1964-65-1/id528612796
- Theater Five 1964-65 #2
- Apple iOS: itunes.apple.com/app/theater-five-1964-65-2/id528690080
- Theater Five 1964-65 #3
- Apple iOS: itunes.apple.com/app/theater-five-1964-65-3/id528743848
- Theater Five 1964-65 #4
- Apple iOS: itunes.apple.com/app/theater-five-1964-65-4/id528832510