Teleplay

A teleplay is a play for television, a comedy or drama written or adapted for television. The term surfaced during the 1950s with wide usage to distinguish television plays from stage plays for the theater and screenplays written for films. All three have different formats, conventions and constraints.

On the hour-long TV anthology drama shows of the Golden Age of Television, such as The United States Steel Hour, The Philco Television Playhouse and Studio One, productions often were telecast live from studios with limited scenery and other constraints similar to theatrical presentations. These constraints made a teleplay quite different from a screenplay.

However, television dramatists, such as Paddy Chayefsky, JP Miller and Tad Mosel, turned such limitations to their advantage by writing television plays with intimate situations and family conflicts characterized by naturalistic, slice of life dialogue. When seen live, such productions had a real-time quality not found in films (shot out of sequence), yet they employed tight close-ups, low-key acting and other elements not found in stage productions. For many viewers, this was equivalent to seeing live theater in their living rooms, an effect enhanced when television plays expanded from 60-minute time slots to a 90-minute series with the introduction of Playhouse 90 in the late 1950s.

Notable examples:

  • The Comedian (1957)
  • Days of Wine and Roses (1958)
  • Playhouse 90 (1956-1961)

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