The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show

George and Gracie got their start on the vaudeville stage, where they met performing in separate acts, and were eventually married. They ran a radio show all through the 30s and 40s, before eventually making the transition to television. Their TV show was a live, bi-weekly affair, sponsored aggressively by Carnation Evaporated Milk. It’s adorable.

George and Gracie in their younger years

By the time the first episode aired in 1950, they had been performing together for nearly 30 years. Often performing daily, or at least weekly, and always live. Here you see two masters of the stage at the peak of their powers, literally inventing the modern sitcom before your eyes.

Watch closely, you will learn something.

Since the show was a live broadcast, the only remaining copies are kinescopes. The kinescope process can produce very watchable footage, but it will only ever be as good as the television from which it was filmed, and then it will be limited by the quality of the telecine transfer used to convert it back to video. Many episodes of the George Burns and Gracie Allen show, especially the earliest Public Domain Episodes, are only available in fairly low quality transfers, from fairly rough kinescropes. If it feels like you’re watching a low contrast VHS, you might be!