Fireside Theatre

Fireside Theatre, a.k.a. Jane Wyman Presents, is an American anthology drama series that ran on NBC from 1949 to 1958, and was the first successful filmed series on American television. Productions were low budget and often based on public domain stories or written by freelance writers such as Rod Serling. While it was panned by critics, it remained in the top ten most popular shows for most of its run. It predated the other major pioneer of filmed TV in America, I Love Lucy, by two years. Jacques Tourneur has directed in 1956 three episodes, A Hero Return, Kirsti, and The Mirror.

Fireside Theatre
Fireside Theatre Logo
Also known as''Jane Wyman Presents
The Jane Wyman Show''
GenreAnthology drama
Written byRod Serling
Blake Edwards
Ray Bradbury
Gene Roddenberry
Cornell Woolrich
Aaron Spelling
Directed byFred Coe
Blake Edwards
Gordon Duff
Robert Florey
John Ford
Sidney Lanfield
Ozzie Nelson
Robert Stevenson (director)
Jacques Tourneur
Presented byFrank Wisbar (1952-1953)
Gene Raymond (1953-1955)
Jane Wyman (1955-1958)
Country of originUnited States
Original language(s)English
No. of seasons7
No. of episodes268 (list of episodes)
Producer(s)Jack Bernhard
John Houseman
John Reinhardt
Frank Wisbar
Camera setupSingle-camera
Running time48 mins.
Production company(s)General Television Enterprises
Hal Roach Studios Lewman Productions/Revue Studios (1955-58)
Original networkNBC
Picture formatBlack-and-white
Audio formatMonaural
Original releaseApril 5, 1949 (1949-04-05) 
May 22, 1958 (1958-05-22)


From 1952 to 1958, the program was presented by a host. This role was first filled by Frank Wisbar (1952–1953), then by Gene Raymond (1953–1955), and finally by the person most associated with the series in the public mind, Jane Wyman (1955–1958). When episodes of this program were rerun on ABC during the summer of 1963, it was under the title Jane Wyman Presents; during the period first-run episodes were hosted by Wyman it was sometimes known as The Jane Wyman Show.

One of Fireside Theatre's most notable offerings was a 1951 condensed version of Charles Dickens's A Christmas Carol, featuring Ralph Richardson as Ebenezer Scrooge for the first and only time on American television.[1] He later recreated the role on a spoken word Caedmon Records LP album, with Paul Scofield as narrator. It has since been released on CD.[2]

The otherwise-unrelated comedy troupe The Firesign Theatre based their name on this series. The Doubleday Book Club also ran a playscripts club called The Fireside Theatre.


Guest stars


Fireside Theatre became a hit for NBC, always in the Top 30 shows at the end of each TV season. In the 1956-1957 season, its ratings slumped and decreased in the ratings. It was not in the Top 30 Ratings in the 1956-1957 TV season and never again regained its top spot.

Billboard magazine praised an episode titled "The Lottery", saying that the cast "all turned in taut, exciting performances to make Lottery a real winner".[3] Unlike most episodes of the series, this episode aired live.

In 1954, Billboard voted it fourth-best filmed network drama series, ahead of the more fondly remembered General Electric Theater; however, Billboard's list excluded "mystery" shows (which was a separate list topped by Dragnet).[4]


Seasonal rankings (based on average total viewers per episode) of Fireside Theatre on NBC (Each U.S. network television season starts in late September and ends in late May, which coincides with the completion of May sweeps).

Season TV season Ranking Viewers (in millions)
2nd 1950–1951 #2 5.365
3rd 1951–1952 #7 6.594
4th 1952–1953 #10 8.282
5th 1953–1954 #9 9.464
6th 1954–1955 #20 9.547
7th 1955–1956 #24 10.121


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