Monochrome Media Worth Watching


Movies and television shows garner much of their impressiveness from the magic of special effects, computer generated images, and intense audio effects. These technological advances have aided the film industry in countless ways, making the effects seen in shows like “The Walking Dead” and movies like “Gravity” possible.

However, hidden behind the flurry of visual, audio, makeup, and costume effects featured in the modern day motion picture industry, lies the quickly disappearing world of monochrome media. Prior to the 1950s, black and white movies and television shows were the norm. Decades of black and white media produced countless classics that have briskly fallen to the wayside as the popularity of special effects rises.

The mid 1900s produced a plethora of black and white television shows that came to be heralded as classics such as I Love Lucy, Leave It to Beaver, and The Patty Duke Show. These shows will be difficult to find while channel surfing, but black and white television programs are still worth watching.

I Love Lucy had a successful six season run from 1951-1957. It featured the comedic actress Lucille Ball as she portrayed a talentless hopeful attempting to make it in the world of entertainment. I Love Lucy’s popularity persists and is visible in the title the show earned from a People Magazine survey that voted it the “Best TV Show of All Time.” Colorized specials and spin off series have garnered wide audiences, proving that the black and white classic has not lost its audience appeal.  

Leave It to Beaver, another iconic black and white TV show, ran from 1957-1963. The comedic show captures the lifestyle of an ideal suburban family living in 1950s America. Time magazine placed Leave It to Beaver on its list of “The 100 Best TV Shows of All-Time.” This show, like I Love Lucy, inspired spinoffs.  Its popularity persisted throughout decades and allowed a spinoff to have a successful four year run.

The Patty Duke Show ran from 1963-1966, a shorter run than other popular TV shows of the era. However, the sitcom utilized visual effects in a time when special effect use was rare on television. It featured the actress Patty Duke, who rose to popularity as the youngest actress to win an Academy Award in 1962, portraying identical cousins. Using one actress to play two characters was viewed as technically ambitious for the time period.

Monochrome media features less explosions, guts, and gore, but maintains a nostalgic quality that is difficult to find in television shows being produced today. Without impressive effects able to be used to draw in an audience, acting was authentic and writing was high quality. The nostalgia of this media permits the viewer to be transported to not just a different world, but a different time period as well.  This authenticity and sentimental quality of black and white films is evident in recent releases such as “The Artist.”