Fall 1954 marked a big change for television when ABC announced a network deal with a Hollywood production company. Previously, Hollywood production companies had avoided television, but ABC had contracted with Walt Disney to produce a new series called Disneyland (as part of the deal, the network provided funding towards the construction of Walt's amusement park of the same name, opening in July 1955). The series was an instant hit, and marked the beginning of the networks allowing Hollywood programs into their schedules.
ABC president Leonard Goldenson decided in early 1954 that a television network was not the place for religious programs; as a result, Billy Graham's religious series, Hour of Decision, did not appear on ABC's fall 1954 schedule. Goldenson told Graham that the series was canceled because the poor ratings the series received were hurting the "flow" of ABC's entertainment programs. However, later critics, such as R.D. Heldenfels (1994), reject the stated reason for the cancellation. According to Heldenfels, since Hour of Decision was the last program that ABC aired on Sunday nights (at 10:30), "flow would not have been an issue"; ABC did not air anything in place of the canceled series and gave the slot back to its local affiliates. Heldenfels believes Goldenson "simply felt uncomfortable about organized religion". Another 1953–1954 ABC religious series, This Is the Life, also failed to make the 1954–1955 ABC schedule.
DuMont's 1954–1955 schedule would be the last year the failing television network planned a seven night program schedule, and even this schedule was full of holes. Heldenfels states that the 1954 DuMont schedule "was a checkerboard of programs and empty spaces for [local] stations to fill". DuMont did not bother to schedule anything against ABC's Disneyland, NBC's new series Caesar's Hour, or either of CBS's Arthur Godfrey programs, conceding those slots (and others) to the bigger networks. However, DuMont continued to air Bishop Fulton Sheen's program Life Is Worth Living against NBC's popular The Buick-Berle Show. DuMont's counter-programming strategy, scheduling a religious program against Milton Berle's bawdy show, had met with success in previous years. The rivalry between the programs had caused Berle to joke, "He uses old material, too." Sheen, for his part, once introduced himself as "Uncle Fultie". Still, DuMont's limited success counter-programming a few slots would not be enough to save the network; Heldenfels states that the DuMont network's programs "resemble the grasping of program straws as much or more as they look like a strategic plan." DuMont would cancel Life Is Worth Living in April 1955, along with most of its remaining programs. However, despite ABC's attitude towards religious programming in prime-time, Bishop Sheen and his program moved to that network shortly after the final DuMont telecast. With DuMont's exit from prime-time, there would only be three major television networks in the United States, until Fox Broadcasting Company (Fox) entered prime-time broadcasting on April 5, 1987.
New fall series are highlighted in bold. The highest-rated show for the year is colored in gold, the second-highest appears in silver, and the third-highest in bronze. Each of the 30 highest-rated shows is listed with its (rank/rating) as determined by Nielsen Media Research.
|ABC||You Asked For It||The Pepsi-Cola Playhouse||Flight No. 7||The Big Picture||9:00 The Walter Winchell Show / 9:15 The Martha Wright Show||Soldier Parade||Break the Bank||Local|
|CBS||Lassie||The Jack Benny Program (7/38.3) / Private Secretary (19/32.2)||Toast of the Town (5/39.6)||General Electric Theater (17/32.6)||Honestly, Celeste!||Father Knows Best||What's My Line?|
|NBC||People Are Funny||Mr. Peepers||The Colgate Comedy Hour (27/28.0)||The Philco Television Playhouse/Goodyear Television Playhouse||The Loretta Young Show (28/27.7)||The Hunter|
|DMN||Local||Opera Cameos||Local||Rocky King, Inside Detective||Life Begins at Eighty||The Music Show||Local|
- On NBC, The Roy Rogers Show (30/26.9) aired 6:30–7 p.m., and the Sunday edition of Max Liebman Presents made its debut as a monthly series, airing 7:30–9 p.m. On CBS, beginning this season, The Jack Benny Program alternated with Private Secretary as a bi-weekly series.
- Appointment with Adventure, an anthology series, appeared for the first of fifty-three episodes on the CBS 1954–1955 Sunday schedule at 10 p.m. EST, beginning April 3, 1955.
|ABC||7:00 Kukla, Fran and Ollie / 7:15 John Daly and the News||The Name's the Same||Come Closer||The Voice of Firestone||College Press Conference||Boxing from Eastern Parkway|
|CBS||Local||7:30 Douglas Edwards with the News / 7:45 The Perry Como Show||The George Burns and Gracie Allen Show (26/29.0)||Arthur Godfrey's Talent Scouts (18/32.5)||I Love Lucy (1/49.3)||December Bride (10/34.7)||Studio One|
|NBC||Local||7:30 The Tony Martin Show / 7:45 Camel News Caravan||Caesar's Hour||Medic||Robert Montgomery Presents||Local|
|DMN||7:00 Captain Video / 7:15 DuMont Evening News||Local||The Ilona Massey Show||Local||Boxing from St. Nicholas Arena|
Note: On NBC, Producers' Showcase made its debut as a monthly series, airing 8–9:30 p.m.
|ABC||7:00 Kukla, Fran and Ollie / 7:15 John Daly and the News||Cavalcade of America||Local||Twenty Questions||Make Room for Daddy||The United States Steel Hour/The Elgin TV Hour||Stop the Music|
|CBS||Local||7:30 Douglas Edwards with the News / 7:45 The Jo Stafford Show||The Red Skelton Show||The Halls of Ivy||Meet Millie||Danger||Life with Father||See It Now|
|NBC||Local||7:30 The Dinah Shore Show / 7:45 Plymouth News Caravan||The Buick-Berle Show (11/34.6)/The Bob Hope Show/The Martha Raye Show||Fireside Theater (20/31.1)||Armstrong Circle Theatre||Truth or Consequences||It's a Great Life|
|DMN||7:00 Captain Video / 7:15 DuMont Evening News||Local||Life Is Worth Living||Studio 57||One Minute Please||Local|
Note: Beginning this season, Chrysler's Plymouth division alternated with R.J. Reynolds as sponsor of Camel News Caravan on Tuesdays and Thursdays. The Bob Hope Show and The Martha Raye Show each appeared monthly.
|ABC||7:00 Kukla, Fran and Ollie / 7:15 John Daly and the News||Disneyland (6/39.1)||The Stu Erwin Show||Masquerade Party||Enterprise||Local|
|CBS||Local||7:30 Douglas Edwards with the News / 7:45 The Perry Como Show||Arthur Godfrey and His Friends (22/29.8)||Strike It Rich||I've Got a Secret (13/34.0)||10:00 Pabst Blue Ribbon Bouts (25/29.1) / 10:45 Sports Spot/10–11:00 The Best of Broadway (once a month)|
|NBC||Local||7:30 Coke Time with Eddie Fisher / 7:45 Camel News Caravan||I Married Joan||My Little Margie (29/27.1)||Kraft Television Theater||This Is Your Life (12/34.5)||Big Town|
|DMN||7:00 Captain Video / 7:15 DuMont Evening News||Local|| Concert Tonight|
|Down You Go||Local|
Note: On CBS, The Millionaire (16/33.0) premiered in January, 9–9:30 p.m.
|ABC||7:00 Kukla, Fran and Ollie / 7:15 John Daly and the News||The Lone Ranger||The Mail Story||Treasury Men in Action||So You Want to Lead a Band||Kraft Television Theater||Local|
|CBS||Local||7:30 Douglas Edwards with the News / 7:45 The Jane Froman Show||The Ray Milland Show*||Climax!/Shower of Stars (once a month)||Four Star Playhouse||The Public Defender||Name That Tune|
|NBC||Local||7:30 The Dinah Shore Show / 7:45 Plymouth News Caravan||You Bet Your Life (4/41.0)||Justice||Dragnet (3/42.1)||Ford Theater (9/34.9)||Lux Video Theatre|
|DMN||7:00 Captain Video / 7:15 DuMont Evening News||Local||They Stand Accused||What's the Story||Local|
* formerly Meet Mr. McNutley
|ABC||7:00 Kukla, Fran and Ollie / 7:15 John Daly and the News||The Adventures of Rin Tin Tin (23/29.5)||The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet||The Ray Bolger Show*||Dollar a Second||The Vise||Local|
|CBS||Local||7:30 Douglas Edwards with the News / 7:45 The Perry Como Show||Mama||Topper (24/29.4)||Schlitz Playhouse of Stars||Our Miss Brooks||The Lineup||Person to Person|
|NBC||Local||7:30 Coke Time with Eddie Fisher / 7:45 Camel News Caravan||The Red Buttons Show/The Jack Carson Show (once a month)||The Life of Riley (21/30.9)||The Big Story||Dear Phoebe||10:00 Gillette Cavalcade of Sports / 10:45 The Greatest Moments in Sports|
|DMN||7:00 Captain Video / 7:15 DuMont Evening News||Local||The Stranger||Local||Chance of a Lifetime||Time Will Tell|
* formerly Where's Raymond?
|ABC||Local||Compass||The Dotty Mack Show||9:00 The Saturday Night Fights / 9:45 Fight Talk||The Stork Club||Local|
|CBS||The Gene Autry Show||Beat the Clock||The Jackie Gleason Show (2/42.4)||Two for the Money (14/33.9)||My Favorite Husband||That's My Boy||Willy|
|NBC||Watch Mr. Wizard||Ethel and Albert||The Mickey Rooney Show: Hey, Mulligan||Place the Face||The Imogene Coca Show||Texaco Star Theater: The Jimmy Durante Show/The Donald O'Connor Show||The George Gobel Show (8/35.2)||Your Hit Parade (15/33.6)|
|DMN||Local||National Football League Professional Football|
- ↑ Heldenfels, R. D. (1994). Television's Greatest Year: 1954. New York: Continuum, pg 79–80. ISBN 0-8264-0675-0.
- ↑ Heldenfels, pg 24.
- ↑ Pride of Peoria. AmericanCatholic.com
- ↑ Heldenfels, pg 194.
- ↑ Brooks, Tim & Marsh, Earle (1984). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows (3rd ed.). New York: Ballantine. ISBN 0-345-31864-1.
- ↑ Highest-rated series is based on the annual top-rated programs list compiled by Nielsen Media Research and reported in: Brooks, Tim & Marsh, Earle (2007). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows (9th ed.). New York: Ballantine. ISBN 978-0-345-49773-4.
- ↑ http://www.classictvhits.com/tvratings/1954.htm
- McNeil, Alex. (1996). Total Television: The Comprehensive Guide to Programming from 1948 to the Present. Fourth edition. New York: Penguin Books. ISBN 0-14-024916-8.
- Brooks, Tim & Marsh, Earle (1984). The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows (3rd ed.). New York: Ballantine. ISBN 0-345-31864-1.
- Heldenfels, R(ichard) D. (1994). Television's Greatest Year: 1954. New York: Continuum. ISBN 0-8264-0675-0.