THE MILTON BERLE SHOW: Uncle Milton Bows Out With a BANG, June 6, 1956

Written By: Greg Howell - Jun• 28•17


After an amazing run in television, Milton Berle had persevered in several formats over 8 seasons and 336 hour long episodes. In 1956,  no other show nor star had enjoyed a longer television run. The broadcast of June 6, 1956 was significant for several reasons. For one, it was the final broadcast of The Milton Berle Show, which began way back in 1948 and was credited for generating mass excitement about the new television medium; the purchasing of television sets ensued.

But on June 6, 1956, an even greater event occurred that shook the television audience AND the entire nation to its core. Elvis Presley was making his second appearance. The first one generated enough buzz to increase the ratings. The first was telecast live from a naval ship to an audience of sailors. By the second appearance the following week, local teen hangouts in towns across America were hosting viewing events for the color broadcast. Teenagers were also gathering in their friends homes to watch the anticipated show. Some parents, left home alone, wondering what the fuss and excitement was about, tuned in as well. It was a perfect storm brewing when Elvis Presley took the stage to perform </span><em style=”font-size: 16px;”>Hound Dog</em><span style=”font-size: 16px;”>. Elvis gyrated in hip-swaying suggestion of sexual ecstasy – such a shocking display had never been witnessed on television. It was not acceptable by any standard!

Even viewing this grainy black and white kinescope in the 21st Century can elicit stunned, wide-eyed viewer silence and “oh-my!” gasps at the performance. The nation’s parents watched in horror as their teenage daughters screamed and moaned with equal sexual ecstasy on living room floors across the United States. The event was so explosive and significant, RCA rushed Elvis into the studios to record Hound Dog for rush-release, and the single stormed up the record charts to #1. Elvis was immediately labeled a degenerate, a hood, and a number of other prejudicial remarks as well. The following day, The New York Times‘ Jack Gould stated Elvis’ music sounded like “a beginner’s aria in a bathtub.” Gould referred to Elvis as a “virtuoso of the hootchy-kootchy” and declared “he was an assignment for a sociologist.” The Philadelphia Inquirer, the following day, denounced Presley as “the personification of juvenile delinquency, which may explain part of his allure for rebellious teenagers.” The Press Democrat raged, “that display of bad taste reached a new depth for T.V. Young Presley, who lacks everything so far as personality, good looks, and expression is concerned, went through motions so suggestive that even the most cloistered viewer must have found his suggestive meaning with little or no trouble.” These type of reviews for Berle’s season finale echoed similarly all across the nation.; and, not just the following day, but for the next several months, newspapers railed against Berle and Elvis Presley’s performance! Elvis was threatening to take their children down a road of debauchery with him.
While this episode catapulted Elvis to superstardom, poor Milton Berle wasn’t as lucky. The network officially canceled his show immediately following the episode. Despite the show’s ratings success with Elvis, NBC believed Berle had run out of steam. Closer examination, however, indicates Berle already knew the show was ending. Mr. Television himself was bowing out with a bang, not a whimper! The end result was everyone involved in television put on kid gloves to avoid another firestorm like the one from the final episode of the The Milton Berle Show.
Meanwhile, Elvis and Colonel Parker, his manager, understood the ramifications of Milton Berle’s shows. And thanked him with this advertisement.

You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed. Both comments and pings are currently closed.