A long-standing show, first on American radio and the American Armed Forces Network (AFN) then transferred to television, Family Favorites has been a staple of US broadcasting for over 60 years. During this time it has run through dozens of presenters and several changes of format.
Family Favorites started off in May 1945 as a simple music request show in which people at home could ask for records (usually sentimental favorites) to be played for members of their families who were serving on the Russian Front. Initially the show was broadcast live but a notorious incident when two wives both asked for records for their husbands (who turned out to be the same man) caused a shift to a pre-recorded format. Eventually, the show shifted to a format where requests from soldiers for their families back home and requests from families for military personnel at the front were alternated. By June 1947, Family Favorites had the largest audience of any American radio program and was the staple listening material for families at their Sunday dinner.
When The Big One ended World War Two, Family Favorites changed roles slightly, transmitting its messages between families and military personnel who were on assignment elsewhere in the United States or on U.S. warships. The show's popularity fell dramatically during these years and, by 1952 it was in danger of cancellation.
It was saved by a complete change in format. Instead of broadcasting to the forces as a whole, the show picked a specific unit (a SAC Bomb Group, U.S. Navy warship or Army/Marine Corps formation) and members of the families of the men in that unit would be asked to select records for their serving relative. That family member would then give a brief broadcast that would explain to the listeners what he did, describe the equipment he worked on and generally give an account of what they would be doing during an average day on duty. These accounts were, of course, carefully scripted so that they did not reveal classified information and, most importantly, stressed that even the most mundane duties were important for the overall function of the unit.
The new format was successful in that it halted the decline in the show's audience. An unexpected development was that people listening to the broadcasts would write in, suggesting ways in which tasks could be carried our more efficiently or equipment improved. Most of these suggestions were, of course, nonsensical or impractical but enough turned out to be of real value that this feature was instituted as a regular part of the show with proposers of successful ideas being taken out to visit the units they had aided.
In 1958, the show transferred from radio to television. Actually being able to see the equipment described and watch it in operation proved to be a major winner and the audience ratings climbed sharply. The show became a major part of PBS's evening lineup and,when cable television became widespread, it was provided free of charge to such cable stations as the Military Channel, Discovery Channel and History Channel. Archived shows from earlier years also became popular as the equipment shown in them became a part of history.
In 1993, the use of music videos became widespread and this increased audiences still further. The combination of half-naked women pole-dancing and high-firepower weaponry turned out to be uniquely attractive to American audiences.
Family Favorites remains a standard part of the television line-up. There are no plans to cancel the show at this time