Faraway Hill was the first soap opera broadcast on an American television network, airing on the DuMont Television Network on Wednesday nights at 9:00 PM between October 2 and December 18, 1946.
|Country of origin||United States|
|Producer(s)||David P. Lewis|
|Original network||DuMont Television Network|
|Original release||October 2 –|
December 18, 1946
A widowed New York City resident, Karen St. John (played by Flora Campbell), moved to a small town to be near relatives. There she met a man who had been adopted by her family, and with whom she fell in love. However, he was already engaged to another woman. In addition, the sophisticated St. John clashed with her rural relatives.
Jim Von Schilling, in his book, The Magic Window: American Television, 1939-1953, wrote, "Soap operas were popular on radio during the 1930s and 1940s; Faraway Hill simply brought the genre to television, where real arms were embraced, real tears shed, and where a card reading 'Continued Next Week' was held before the camera at each episode's climax."
The series ran from October 2, 1946, to December 18, 1946. David P. Lewis, the writer and director, had a budget of around $300 an episode. The first episode originated from the basement of the Greenwich Village Wanamaker's department store.
Other actors included Mel Brandt, Eve McVeagh, and Julie Christy (not to be confused with actress Julie Christie).
The half-hour show was broadcast live, although filmed excerpts were interspersed, and slides of scenes from previous shows were included in later episodes to bring viewers up to date with regard to plot elements which had previously transpired. A narrator gave Karen's thoughts as bridges between scenes.
In 1992, Lewis's obituary in the Los Angeles Times explained the program's short lifespan: "Lewis declared at the time that it was only an experiment. It never made a cent and had no commercials. ... He wanted, he said years later, not a successful series but to 'test the mind of the viewer.'"
In popular culture
In Sharon Travers' novel Stranger in Our Midst (part of The Oak Grove Chronicles series), character Melba reflects on watching Faraway Hill:
In a dither of confusion, she also wondered about watching Faraway Hill with Trudy yesterday. It all seemed so real when you actually watched it on television, much more so than listening to it on the radio. They were both caught up in the story, thinking what a sorry mess Karen had gotten herself into.
On February 28, 2006, Faraway Hill was featured in a clue on the television game show Jeopardy!. The $200 clue in the category "'S'-ential Knowledge" was "Broadcast on the Dumont Network in 1946, Faraway Hill is considered the first TV show in this daytime genre", with the answer being "a soap opera".
No footage from the series has survived (methods to record television, such as kinescopes, did not exist until 1947). The original scripts are owned by the Lewis family.
- "First television soap opera". Guinness World Records 2017. Archived from the original on 20 August 2017. Retrieved 20 August 2017.
- "TV Listings: Past & Present: October 2, 1946". TV Tango. Retrieved 23 June 2015.
- Brooks, Tim & Marsh, Earle (1964). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows (3rd ed.). New York: Ballantine. ISBN 0-345-31864-1
- Schilling, Jim Von (2013). The Magic Window: American Television ,1939-1953. Routledge. p. 81. ISBN 9781136398605. Retrieved 20 August 2017.
- Folkart, Burt A. (October 30, 1992). "David P. Lewis; Creator of First TV Soap Opera". Los Angeles Times. Archived from the original on 20 August 2017. Retrieved 20 August 2017.
- Travers, Sharon (2010). Stranger in Our Midst. Tate Publishing. p. 25. ISBN 9781615667925. Retrieved 20 August 2017.
- "Show #4947 - Tuesday, February 28, 2006". J! Archive. Archived from the original on 20 August 2017. Retrieved 20 August 2017.
- David Weinstein, The Forgotten Network: DuMont and the Birth of American Television (Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2004) ISBN 1-59213-245-6
- Alex McNeil, Total Television, Fourth edition (New York: Penguin Books, 1980) ISBN 0-14-024916-8
- Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh, The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows, Third edition (New York: Ballantine Books, 1964) ISBN 0-345-31864-1