Studs's Place

Right: Phil Lord, Win Stracke and Studs Terkel on the set of Studs's Place Phil Lord, Win Stracke and Studs Terkel

Curator's Note: You can now view streaming video of a complete "Studs's Place" broadcast from 8 June, 1950.

Imagine Studs's Place as Cheers---without alcohol (for most of its run), without a laugh track and without a script (the cast improvised on an outline; there was no written dialogue). The show, during most of its brief life, was set in a joint one step up from a greasy spoon. Studs Terkel was the proprietor. Beverly Younger was the waitress. The remaining characters were clientele.

Given the absence of a written script---which meant that there was no way to predict the order in which actors would speak or where they would move on the set---Studs's Place must have been a challenge to direct. From the point of view of those in the control room, it was more like dealing with a sporting event than a dramatic show.

And the improvisational nature of the show made it, in a way, a dramatic equivalent of jazz (perhaps it was no coincidence that two of the regulars on Studs's Place, Chet Roble and Win Stracke, were accomplished musicians.)

Jazz has often been difficult to sell commercially. Studs's Place was impossible to sell to sponsors, at least while the show was produced in the Merchandise Mart studios.

Studs's Place first aired during November and December of 1949 as a segment of a larger variety show called Saturday Night Square. Its original setting was a tavern. The show returned in April of 1950---free-standing and set in a restaurant---and ran through the following August.

In 1951, Studs's Place returned to the air on ABC (through the Civic Theater facilities of WENR-TV. ABC offered the show on a co-op basis---which meant that, in the absence of a national sponsor, affiliates could sell the commercial spots locally (in Chicago the sponsor was Manor House coffee). Alas, this final incarnation of Studs's Place was short-lived.

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