TBT 1958: The Unspeakable Horror Of Television’s “Queen For A Day”

If you can watch all 43 minutes of this late 1950’s television show straight through without slipping into a mildly dissociated and traumatized state requiring the attention of a mental health professional, bully for you. You probably are a big fan of Un Chien Andalou and Eraserhead as well. The subtly disturbing pacing, host Jack Bailey’s confident yet bumbleheaded demeanor, the tragic and frail charm of the contestants – combined with the weird 50’s style “native advertising” and general “When America Was Great” tone – all conspire to create an over-arching feeling of creepiness that is further compounded by the host’s seedy pornographic gaze, and the guests’ withering mannerisms. They have the presence of someone who’s just been beaten by an abusive spouse, and is praying for the “honeymoon phase”, only to find some guy crowding their space as he stares in the general direction of their breasts, while intimating that wonderful gifts await them. Queen for a Day ran on radio and TV for over a decade, and was probably one of the earliest examples of a “reality show” based on exploiting others’ misfortune as entertainment.

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