From Netflix to DSTV, Showmax and even cinemas, movie production has grown so much that we now have a range of options we can choose from whenever we want to enjoy some screen time. Time and technology has brought about countless shows we now enjoy in the comfort of our homes, but do you know what the first TV show to be made was?
In September 1928, TV viewers had only one option when it came to watching TV shows, and this option was titled “The Queen’s Messenger.”
The Queen’s Messenger was aired by the WGY Television, which was at the time, a General Electric’s experimental station based in Schenectady, New York. WGY Television is now known as WRGB.
The WGY television station before broadcasting this first TV show had earlier carried out its first successful broadcast to the personal screens of four General Executives in Schenectady. They had also done a successful broadcast to Los Angeles all the way from their station, and The Queen’s Messenger was a part of their 48 line television system.
While The Queen’s Messenger was the first, proper TV showed to be aired, before the TV show was broadcasted, there was a variety of weather and farming reports which were regularly broadcasted twice a day and three times a week.
As of July 1928, the Federal Radio Commission had already approved a scheduled television broadcast, and a station in New York already showed silent images alongside their radio programs.
The first TV show, The Queen’s Messenger was a 40 minutes long silent melodrama that was based on the one-act play by J. Hartley Manners, a Jewish playwright. The drama was about a mysterious woman who tried to obtain some secret documents carried by a British Diplomat.
The actors in the drama were not famous, as Miss Isetta Jewell played the heroine, while Maurice Randall played the hero. And there were two assistant actors who displayed their hands in front of a third camera when the scene called for it, but Mortimer Stewart was a popular radio director at the time.
Unlike present times where we have Plasma TVs with very wide viewing screens, television screens were quite small in those days as they came in only about 3 inches by 3-inch screens. The actors’ gestures and faces had to be captured by three different cameras. Two of the cameras were used to shoot the faces of the actors, while one camera captured other images and props. It was the director, Mortimer Stewart, who used a small control box to cut and fade the images to make them suitable for viewing.
More technicians were required to shoot the drama than actors because there were a lot of technical limitations in existence at the time.
The New York Herald Tribune had reported in an article that the Director stood between the two cameras that shot the actors, and he had a television receiver in front of him in which he could see the images that were being transmitted. Then he edited the images accordingly using the small control box.
The show got a lukewarm reception from the general public. The New York Herald Tribune in its review stated that:
“Whether the present system can be brought to commercial practicability and public usefulness remains a question.”
But the show paved the way for screen entertainment which we now enjoy so much today.
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