CBS Radio Mystery Theater

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CBS Radio Mystery Theater - Volume 1 - 1974 Shows Publisher's Summary

In 1974 long-time radio producer Himan Brown convinced CBS to green-light a new anthology of radio dramas, CBS Radio Mystery Theater (CBSRMT). Radio drama had been declared "dead" 12 years before (the last broadcasts of Yours Truly, Johnny Dollar, and Suspense were in Sept. 1962). 

Radio drama after the Golden Age did not really die; it is better to think of it as having been left behind like a child's toy when a shiny new one comes along. Video games haven't killed Tinkertoys, but there is no doubt which is more popular. 

With TV being the shiny cash-cow that it was, it is surprising the producer Himan Brown was able to convince CBS executives to dedicate resources and an hour of air time to a radio project in 1974. The show was pitched as appealing to an audience that had grown up during the Golden Age of Radio Drama, and it was hoped that it would attract younger listeners as well. It is very likely that the green light was given to Radio Mystery Theater in response to the Mutual Network's 1973 Zero Hour featuring Rod Serling. 

Zero Hour had been the lead of a mini-resurgence of radio drama during the '70s, but it probably was as much a part of the nostalgia craze triggered by the George Lucas film American Graffiti. That CBSRMT was able to last for eight years (a more than respectable run by television standards) is as testimony to Himan Brown's production genius, especially in the face of the minimal support that the project received from CBS. 

In comparison with his television brethren, Brown created much more with a fraction of the resources. It can be conjectured that CBSRMT was a side-line for almost everyone involved. Writers were able to command high fees for television work, while a script for CBSRMT went for a flat $350 fee. 

Actors were paid union scale, around $73.92 per show. On production day there would be an initial read-through around 9 a.m. and taping would begin after roles were assigned. The actors were generally done by noon and would have handed their checks, while the afternoon was dedicated to post-production.

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