Cover image for King of the half hour : Nat Hiken and the golden age of TV comedy
King of the half hour : Nat Hiken and the golden age of TV comedy
Everitt, David, 1952-2010.
Personal Author:
First edition.
Publication Information:
Syracuse, N.Y. : Syracuse University Press, 2001.
Physical Description:
xiv, 248 pages ; 24 cm.
Personal Subject:
Format :


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PN1992.4.H55 E84 2001 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

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Regarded by his contemporaries as one of television's premier comedy creators, Nat Hiken was the driving creative force behind the classic 1950s and 1960s series Sgt. Bilko and the hilarious Car 54, Where Are You?
King of the Half Hour, the first biography of Hiken, draws extensively on exclusive first-hand interviews with some of the well-known TV personalities who worked with him, such as Carol Burnett, Fred Gwynne, Alan King, Al Lewis, and Herbert Ross. The book focuses on Hiken's immense talent and remarkable career, from his early days in radio as Fred Allen's head writer to his multiple Emmy-winning years as writer-producer-director on television. In addition to re-establishing Hiken's place in broadcast history, biographer, David Everitt places him in the larger story of early New York broadcasting. Hiken's career paralleled the rise and fall of television's Golden Age. He embodied the era's best qualities-craftsmanship, a commitment to excellence and a distinctive, uproariously funny and quirky sense of humor. At the same time, his uncompromising independence prevented him from surviving the changes in the industry that brought the Golden Age to an end in the 1960s. His experiences bring a fresh and until now unknown perspective to the medium's most extraordinary period.

Author Notes

David Everitt is a free-lance writer who lives in Huntington, New York. He has also contributed to such publications as Entertainment Weekly, Television Quarterly, and the New York Times

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

A television pioneer is revived in David Everitt's King of the Half Hour: Nat Hiken and the Golden Age of TV Comedy. Formerly Fred Allen's radio writer, Hiken moved to TV in 1950 as a head writer for NBC's Four Star Revue and went on to create Sergeant Bilko and Car 54, Where Are You? Working with the likes of Mel Brooks and Woody Allen throughout the '50s and early '60s, Hiken won eight Emmy Awards and wrote material for Milton Berle, Bette Davis, Carol Burnett and Lucille Ball. Everitt (For Reel) portrays Hiken in his New York and, later, Hollywood contexts, sketching the inception and early childhood of television. ( Apr.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

Everitt (Film Tricks: Special Effects in the Movies and for Reel) delves into the early years of TV comedy, here writing a sensitive biography of writer-producer Nat Hiken, who died of a heart attack in 1968 as he was in the process of editing The Love of God. Hiken was the comedic genius behind television's You'll Never Get Rich with Phil Silvers and Car 54, Where Are You? He had a knack for creating hilarious situations and zany characters that had depth and feeling. He worked with the top stars of the day, even managing to turn boxer Rocky Graziano into a comedy star on The Martha Raye Show. Everitt has included anecdotes about stars Hiken wrote for and interviews with people who worked for this innovative Hollywood figure. Photos would have been a nice complement to the text. Still, this well-written biogaphy the first on Hiken nicely blends his professional career with a look at what television was like in the early years. Recommended for all libraries. Rosalind Dayen, Broward Cty. South Regional Lib., FL (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

Everitt seeks to re-establish Nat Hiken as an icon of 1950s television and for that reason presents a work more biographical than critical, a work engaging for that very reason. Any student of television will want to read this book. Taking a journalistic approach (using interviews and popular works on the subject), Everitt spells out the life of the humorist whom TV producer James Burrows called a "founding father of situation comedy." Everitt's subtopic is the end of television's "golden age," as the medium moved into the interchangeable and predictable time-killing programming of the 1960s. Hiken's career lost its momentum during this flight from content. The biography takes readers from Hiken's early years in Milwaukee and the tradition of humor among his forebears, to his "Grouch" column for the University of Wisconsin's student paper, to his two-year nationwide NBC radio show, and finally to writing for Fred Allen and the creation of Sgt. Bilko. All of this is well documented in footnotes and bibliography. This book should be entertaining for general readers and informative for undergraduates and for young faculty who came of age after Hiken's era. A. Hirsh emeritus, Central Connecticut State University

Table of Contents

Acknowledgmentsp. ix
Introductionp. xi
1. Milwaukee Boyp. 1
2. The Grouchmasterp. 11
3. Fred Allen Writes His Own Materialp. 22
4. Not Quite Mr. Televisionp. 44
5. Book Showsp. 61
6. Clown Queenp. 78
7. You'll Never Get Richp. 98
8. Burnoutp. 124
9. Between Engagementsp. 136
10. The Last Standp. 150
11. Content Is Outp. 177
12. Hollywood Boundp. 191
A. The Nat Hiken Showsp. 209
B. Emmy Awards Won by Nat Hikenp. 213
Notesp. 215
Bibliographyp. 233
Indexp. 239