9 classic TV shows that started out as radio programs

By: H&I Staff    Posted: November 7, 2023, 2:22PM Tags: Tags: radio shows, classic TV

When television became the dominant form of entertainment in the 1950s, networks needed to fill several hours of programming with fresh and original shows that would crush the competition.

Luckily, the networks didn't have to look that far to find inspiration. Some of the biggest radio shows of the day were eager to make the leap from the airwaves to the small screen.

Many of them succeeded, and many grew to become iconic television programs. But let's not forget they were first successful radio shows. Here's a look at some shows you might not realize had radio roots. 

Watch Adventures of Superman on H&I

Saturdays at 9 AM & 10 AM, Sundays at 11 AM & 12 PM Eastern/Pacific


I Love Lucy

Before we knew her as Lucy Ricardo, Lucille Ball was Liz Cooper on the radio show My Favorite Husband. The series was so popular, the network asked Ball to take the show to television. With a few major tweaks, including the addition of real-life husband Desi Arnaz, My Favorite Husband became I Love Lucy in 1951. 


The Adventures of Superman

For 11 years, the 15-minute serial The Adventures of Superman was broadcast over the airwaves. When the program was taken to television in 1952, Clayton Collyer did not reprise the role of Superman because of his age — he was 43 at the time. The opening narration for the TV show was expanded from the original radio show introduction, and cereal maker Kellogg's also continued its sponsorship.



The TV Western Gunsmoke holds the record as the longest-running primetime series of the 20th century, lasting 20 seasons. That record becomes even more impressive when you take into consideration the show was a radio program for nine years before it premiered on television.


The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet

Image credit: Stage Five Productions/ ABC Productions

The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet was a radio show before it turned into a TV program, but the real-life Nelson family was perfecting their craft long before the original program. The couple appeared on various radio broadcasts in the 1930s, and then joined the cast of The Red Skelton Show in 1941. 



Unlike most radio-to-television transitions, the main characters of this radio program reprised their roles for TV. To keep some continuity, Jack Webb and Ben Alexander decided to join the cast of the televised version of Dragnet in 1951. 


The Jack Benny Program

Image credit: J&M Productions/ CBS Television

Jack Benny's show lasted three decades under different names across radio and television. In the 1930s, Benny was given his own show called The Canada Dry Ginger Ale Program (we wonder who the sponsor was...). After different name changes, the network decided to give Benny his own self-titled show in 1950. The show lasted fifteen seasons and 260 episodes. 


Perry Mason

The Perry Mason radio program has the distinction of spawning not only the television show Perry Mason, but also the soap opera The Edge of Night. One of the writers from the radio program created the soap opera's main character as a copy of the famous fictional criminal defense lawyer.


Guiding Light

Image credit: Procter & Gamble Productions (PGP)

Guiding Light had been around in one form or another for over 70 years when the network canceled the television program in 2009 due to low ratings. In 1937, Guiding Light started out as a radio series broadcasting 15-minute episodes every day. The soap opera made the jump to television in 1952, where it remained on air for 57 years. 


The Lone Ranger

Image credit: Wrather Productions

The narrator for the radio series, Fred Foy, decided to become the announcer for the television show when it debuted in 1949. It became one of the first major hits on television.