Despite hit filmed programs such as I Love Lucy, both William Paley of CBS and David Sarnoff of NBC were said to be determined to keep most programming on their networks live. Filmed programs were said to be inferior to the spontaneous nature of live television. Thus, NBC and CBS continued to schedule many live programs, including two new 1953 fall NBC series The Dave Garroway Show and Bonino. According to Brooks and Marsh (2007), Garroway's show "was faced with overwhelming competition from Mama and Ozzie & Harriet, which were running opposite on CBS and ABC, and it only lasted a single season". Bonino did not even last the full season. CBS had more luck with new live programs Person to Person and My Favorite Husband (which would later make the switch to film).
ABC, perennially in third or fourth place among the four U.S. television networks, had been on the verge of bankruptcy, but the February 1953 merger of United Paramount Theaters with ABC had given ABC a $30 million cash infusion. ABC revamped its schedule for Fall 1953 with big-budget programs. New ABC programs included Make Room for Daddy, and an ABC version of NBC's popular Kraft Television Theatre; the strategy was designed to "take on CBS and NBC with a strong schedule".
In contrast to ABC's revamped schedule, DuMont's Fall 1953 prime time schedule looked weak, with programs that were "doomed from the start by third-rate scripts and cheap production." The 1953–1954 season would be the last year DuMont was able to schedule nearly 20 hours of programming in prime time. By the 1954–1955 season, DuMont would be forced to cut back its schedule, while the other three networks continued to expand.
During the 1953 season, both DuMont and ABC "made sporadic efforts to compete for the daytime audience, but faced so many problems just filling prime time that they found it much more efficient to focus primarily on weekend sports". DuMont paid $1.3 million in 1953 for the rights to broadcast National Football League games in prime time; starting December 12, DuMont also broadcast a series of NBA basketball games, the first time pro basketball was seen regularly on network TV. Both DuMont and ABC "were especially aggressive in pursuit of sports broadcasts because they were desperately in need of special attractions to bring in viewers".
New fall series are highlighted in bold. The highest-rated show for the year is colored in gold, the second-highest appears in silver, and the third-highest in bronze. (Actually, there were two shows tied for third; hence, the two bronze colors.) Each of the 30 highest-rated shows is listed with its (rank/rating) as determined by Nielsen Media Research.
|ABC||You Asked For It||7:30 The Frank Leahy Show / 7:45 Notre Dame Football||9:00 The Walter Winchell Show / 9:15 The Orchid Award||Jukebox Jury||10:30 Billy Graham's Hour of Decision / 10:45 Local|
|CBS||Quiz Kids||The Jack Benny Program (16/33.3) / Private Secretary (24/30.3)||Toast of the Town (17/33.0)||The Fred Waring Show/The General Electric Theater (27/29.9)||The Man Behind the Badge||The Web||What's My Line? (28/29.6)|
|NBC||The Paul Winchell Show||Mr. Peepers||The Colgate Comedy Hour (10T/36.2) / The Bob Hope Show (once a month)||The Philco Television Playhouse (19/32.5) / Goodyear Television Playhouse (22/31.0)||Letter to Loretta||Man Against Crime|
|DMN||Local||Washington Exclusive||Local||Rocky King, Inside Detective||The Plainclothesman||Dollar a Second||Man Against Crime|
- On CBS, The Jack Benny Program alternated with Private Secretary every third week. As of February 14, 1954, Letter to Loretta on NBC became The Loretta Young Show.
- On April 18, 1954, The Martha Wright Show replaced The Jane Pickens Show, starring vocalist Jane Pickens Langley, at the 9:15 p.m. time slot on Sundays on ABC. Pickens had previously replaced The Orchid Award.
|ABC||7:00 The Walter Winchell Show / 7:15 John Daly and the News||Jamie||Sky King||Of Many Things||Junior Press Conference||The Big Picture||This Is the Life||Local|
|CBS||Local||7:30 Douglas Edwards with the News / 7:45 The Perry Como Show||The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show (20/32.4)||Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts (3T/43.6)||I Love Lucy (1/58.8)||The Red Buttons Show (12/35.3)||Studio One|
|NBC||Local||7:30 The Arthur Murray Party / 7:45 Camel News Caravan||Name That Tune||The Voice of Firestone||The Dennis Day Show||Robert Montgomery Presents||Who Said That?|
|DMN||7:00 Captain Video / 7:15 Marge and Jeff||Local||Twenty Questions||Keep Posted (retitled The Big Issue)||Boxing from Eastern Parkway|
- On April 26, 1954, The Tony Martin Show replaced The Arthur Murray Party on NBC. Both programs were fifteen minutes in length.
|ABC||7:00 Local / 7:15 John Daly and the News||Cavalcade of America||Local||Make Room for Daddy||The United States Steel Hour||The Name's the Same|
|CBS||Local||7:30 Douglas Edwards with the News / 7:45 The Jane Froman Show||The Gene Autry Show||The Red Skelton Show||This Is Show Business||Suspense||Danger||See It Now|
|NBC||Local||7:30 The Dinah Shore Show / 7:45 Camel News Caravan||The Buick-Berle Show* (5/40.2)||Fireside Theater (9/36.4)||Armstrong Circle Theater||Judge for Yourself||10:30 On the Line with Considine / 10:45 It Happened in Sports|
|DMN||7:00 Captain Video / 7:15 Marge and Jeff||Local||Life Is Worth Living||Pantomime Quiz||Local|
- Formerly Texaco Star Theater
|ABC||7:00 Local / 7:15 John Daly and the News||Inspector Mark Saber – Homicide Squad||8:00 At Issue / 8:15 Through the Curtain||Answers for Americans||Take It from Me||Dr. I.Q.||Wrestling from the Marigold in Chicago|
|CBS||Local||7:30 Douglas Edwards with the News / 7:45 The Perry Como Show||Arthur Godfrey and His Friends (6/38.9)||Strike It Rich||I've Got a Secret||10:00 Pabst Blue Ribbon Bouts (23/30.9) / 10:45 Sports Spot|
|NBC||Local||7:30 Those Two / 7:45 Camel News Caravan||I Married Joan (25T/30.2)||My Little Margie||Kraft Television Theater (21/31.3)||This Is Your Life (10T/36.2)||Local|
|DMN||7:00 Captain Video / 7:15 Marge and Jeff||Local||The Johns Hopkins Science Review||Joseph Schildkraut Presents||Colonel Humphrey Flack||On Your Way||Stars on Parade||The Music Show|
|ABC||7:00 Local / 7:15 John Daly and the News||The Lone Ranger||Quick As a Flash||Where's Raymond?||Back That Fact||Kraft Television Theater||Local|
|CBS||Local||7:30 Douglas Edwards with the News / 7:45 Jane Froman’s U.S.A. Canteen||Meet Mr. McNutley||Four Star Playhouse||Lux Video Theatre||Big Town||Philip Morris Playhouse/ starting March 11: The Public Defender||Place the Face|
|NBC||Local||7:30 The Dinah Shore Show / 7:45 Camel News Caravan||You Bet Your Life (3T/43.6)||Treasury Men in Action (15/33.9)||Dragnet (2/53.2)||Ford Theater (7/38.8)||Martin Kane, Private Eye||Local|
|DMN||7:00 Captain Video / 7:15 Marge and Jeff||Local||Football Highlights||Broadway to Hollywood – Headline Clues||What's the Story||Local|
|ABC||7:00 Local / 7:15 John Daly and the News||The Stu Erwin Show (aka Trouble With Father)||The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet||The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse||The Pride of the Family||The Comeback Story||Showcase Theater||Local|
|CBS||Local||7:30 Douglas Edwards with the News / 7:45 The Perry Como Show||Mama (25T/30.2)||Topper||Schlitz Playhouse of Stars||Our Miss Brooks (14/34.2)||My Friend Irma||Person to Person|
|NBC||Local||7:30 Coke Time with Eddie Fisher / 7:45 Camel News Caravan||The Dave Garroway Show||The Life of Riley (13/35.0)||The Big Story (29T/29.5)||Campbell Soundstage||10:00 Gillette Cavalcade of Sports (18/32.7) / 10:45 Greatest Fights of the Century|
|DMN||7:00 Captain Video / 7:15 Marge and Jeff||Local||Front Page Detective||Melody Street||Life Begins at Eighty||Nine Thirty Curtain||Chance of a Lifetime||Down You Go|
|ABC||Paul Whiteman's TV Teen Club||Leave It to the Girls||Talent Patrol||Music at the Meadowbrook||9:00 The Saturday Night Fights / 9:45 Fight Talk||Madison Square Garden Highlights||Local|
|CBS||Meet Millie||Beat the Clock||The Jackie Gleason Show (8/38.1)||Two for the Money||My Favorite Husband||Medallion Theater||Revlon Mirror Theater|
|NBC||Watch Mr. Wizard||Ethel and Albert||Bonino||The Original Amateur Hour||Your Show of Shows/The Martha Raye Show (once a month)||Your Hit Parade (29T/29.5)|
|DMN||Local||National Football League Professional Football|
- ↑ Boddy, William (1993). Fifties Television: The Industry And Its Critics. Urbana: The University of Illinois Press. ISBN 0-252-06299-X
- ↑ 2.0 2.1 Brooks, Tim & Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows (9th ed.). New York: Ballantine. pp 517–518, 1576-1577. ISBN 0-345-31864-1.
- ↑ 3.0 3.1 3.2 Castleman, H. and Podrazik, W. (1984) The TV Schedule Book: Four Decades of Network Programming from Sign-on to Sign-off. McGraw-Hill. pg 45-46. ISBN 0-07-010277-5
- ↑ Castleman, Harry; Walter J. Podrazik (1982). Watching TV: Four Decades of American Television. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 87. ISBN 0-07-010269-4.
- ↑ Highest-rated series is based on the annual top-rated programs list compiled by Nielsen Media Research and reported in: Brooks, Tim & Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows (9th ed.). New York: Ballantine. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4.
- ↑ http://www.classictvhits.com/tvratings/1953.htm
- McNeil, Alex. Total Television. Fourth edition. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-024916-8.
- Brooks, Tim & Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network and Cable TV Shows (9th ed.). New York: Ballantine. ISBN 0-345-31864-1.