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This Week in Chicago Entertainment History: Kukla, Fran & Ollie

This week we visit a show that is very unique in the world of television for entertainment that aired from 1947-1957.  Kukla, Fran & Ollie was a television show created by Burr Tillstrom which incorporated the use of puppets. Producers thought  it would secure the undivided attention of children all over America.  However this show soon became a phenomenon where more adults tuned in than children (paving the way for the Simpsons some 40 years later).

What is so very special about this show is that it was produced locally via WBKB right here in Chicago. When the show began it was titled Junior Jamboree but the title was later changed to Kukla, Fran & Ollie.  Not long after the show began  WBKB was acquired by NBC and when the transition was complete the show was aired nationwide. This clip below combines the show with product placement and sponsorship.

An interesting fact about the show: all but two were improvised! Astonishing as it may seem it’s not too far from what we see on television today. During the ten years the show was on television they were nominated for a total of six Emmy’s for Best Children’s Program however they only took home one win in 1952. Amazingly enough the cast (most of which were puppets aside from Fran the hostess & Burr Tillstrom the puppeteer) received 15,000 fan letters a day!  FonduTV salutes a show that took a simple formula and turned it into a producers dream with 10 years on television.

*Special thanks to museum.tv


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