Significant events in the history of television
1947: Kinescopes are used to film TV broadcasts for later use.
Gene Autry produces his own show.
Harry S. Truman is the first U.S. president to address the public on TV.
“Kraft Television Theatre” presents the first commercial TV dramas.
NBC airs “Meet the Press” from Washington.
The first World Series is televised.
1948: Allen Funt introduces “Candid Camera.”
Douglas Edwards anchors “CBS-TV News,” with first nightly news show.
Milton Berle stars in “Texaco Star Theater.”
On “Meet the Press,” Whitaker Chambers calls Alger Hiss a communist.
1949: Bob Hope makes his television debut.
Jackie Gleason makes his television debut in “The Life of Riley.”
“Kukla, Fran and Ollie” is the first regular network show in color.
Lucille Ball makes her television debut.
1950: “Broadway Open House,” the first latenight variety talkshow, premieres.
“The Arthur Murray Dance Party” debuts on the DuMont Network.
“The Adventures of Superman” premieres in syndication.
1951: “I Love Lucy” debuts on CBS; it ranks No. 1 in the ratings for four of its first six seasons.
Edward R. Murrow’s “See It Now” (CBS), American TV’s first news documentary, showcases the first live, coast-to-coast broadcast using a split screen to telecast simultaneously the Brooklyn and Golden Gate bridges.
1952: Jerry Lewis survives his first telethon.
Premiere of “The Chevy Show” with Dina Shore.
Premieres of CBS’ “Our Miss Brooks” and “The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet.”
Television airs Richard Nixon’s Checkers speech.
All networks offer the first TV coverage of both Democratic and Republican national conventions.
“The Today Show,” the first and longest-running early morning network show, premieres with host Dave Garroway.
Ralph Edwards hosts “This Is Your Life” on NBC, while “The Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet” begins a 14-year run on ABC.
1953: “Dragnet” replaces “I Love Lucy” as the top-rated show of the season.
Color broadcasting officially arrives in the U.S., when the Federal Communications Commission approves modified version of an RCA
The coronation of Queen Elizabeth II is telecast on both CBS and NBC.
1954: ABC and the DuMont web air the Army-Joseph McCarthy hearings.
“Father Knows Best” debuts on CBS. The Robert Young starrer would last only a season on the Eye web; NBC picked it up in 1955 due to public demand.
Edward R. Murrow discredits Sen. McCarthy on “See It Now.”
The Academy Awards appear on television for the first time but are cut off at the end because it runs long.
NBC launches “The Tonight Show,” featuring host Steve Allen, in September. Two years later, Ernie Kovacs would take over hosting duties on the live show.
1955: The Emmys are telecast coast to coast for the first time, on NBC.
Premiere of CBS sitcom “The Honeymooners.”
“The $64,000 Question” premieres.
“The Lawrence Welk Show” bows.
The Lennon Sisters make their television debut.
1956: Elvis Presley makes his second appearance on “The Ed Sullivan Show” and is framed so he’s only visible from the waist up, sparing audiences the site of his swivelling pelvis.
1957: ABC’s Philadelphia-based, Dick Clark-hosted “American Bandstand” premieres.
CBS introduces the Cleaver family to America on “Leave It to Beaver.”
TV covers the Senate Rackets Committee hearings.
1958: The gameshow “Twenty One” is taken off the air after a scandal involving feeding questions in advance to contestant Charles Van Doren.
1959: A TV clip highlights the Nixon and Kruschev Kitchen Debate.
“Bonanza” is television’s first Western in color; it would go on to run 14 seasons and be the next decade’s highest-rated program.
Premieres of “The Untouchables” (ABC) and Rod Serling’s sci-fi anthology “The Twilight Zone.” (CBS).
1960: Jack Paar walks off “The Tonight Show.”
Television carries the Kennedy-Nixon debates.
“The Flintstones” is the first made-for-TV animated series and the first cartoon skein to occupy a primetime berth.
1961: ABC’s “Wide World of Sports” debuts.
FCC Chairman Newton Minow calls television “a vast wasteland,” while the same day Vice President Hubert H. Humphrey calls it “the greatest single achievement in communication that anybody … has ever known.”
“The Dick Van Dyke Show” premieres on CBS.
TV broadcasts its first live presidential press conference (Kennedy) in January.
1962: The networks cover astronaut John Glenn’s historic orbit around the Earth.
Eighty million Americans tour the White House with Jackie Kennedy.
Johnny Carson becomes host of “The Tonight Show.”
“The Virginian” becomes the first regular 90-minute series.
1963: Networks cancel all programming to cover the Kennedy assassination.
An Army-Navy football game features TV sports’ first use of instant replay.
Television captures Martin Luther King Jr.’s “I Have a Dream” speech.
1964: Political mudslinging hits a new low in the form of Lyndon Johnson’s “Daisy” spot, which attacks the prospect of a Barry Goldwater presidency by featuring a mushroom cloud.
Seventy-three million viewers watch the Beatles’ American TV debut on “The Ed Sullivan Show.”
1965: “The Smothers Brothers Show” debuts on CBS.
“I Spy” features the first African-American hero on a television series; Bill Cosby plays the character.
1966: Tepid ratings greet the first season of “Star Trek,” but a loyal following makes the show a hit in syndication.
1967: Producers of “The Ed Sullivan Show” ask Doors lead singer Jim Morrison to change a lyric in “Light My Fire” pre-broadcast (“Girl we couldn’t get much higher”). He initially agrees, but goes with the original lyric during the show.
CBS’ “The Fugitive” ends with the beleaguered Dr. Richard Kimble in his final confrontation with the one-armed man.
“The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour” bows, but is canceled two years later because of its tipping of sacred cows. One of the more infamous incidents of network censorship occurs in 1968, when the Eye web edits out Pete Seeger’s performance of his anti-Vietnam War song “Waist Deep in the Big Muddy.”
1968: Newsmagazine “60 Minutes” premieres on CBS; its 32 years on the air (and counting) marks a record for primetime longevity.
NBC launches “Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In,” a topical sketch show that helps launch the careers of Lily Tomlin and Goldie Hawn.
Television cameras record the violent clashes between protesters and police outside the Democratic National Convention in Chicago.
1969: Tobacco companies, the FCC and Congress debate the issue of cigarette ads on TV. In 1971, a TV and radio ban on tobacco product commercials goes into effect.
PBS bows and in its first year launches one of its signature shows, “Sesame Street.”
Neil Armstrong’s moon walk is covered by all networks live in July.
“Hee Haw” debuts on CBS but moves to syndication two years later. The rural sketch show, which would go off the air in 1993, holds the record for the longest-running weekly first-run syndie program.
1970: “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” which features a single career woman, debuts on CBS.
With “Julia,” Diahann Carroll is the first African-American in the title role of a sitcom; Flip Wilson becomes the first black entertainer to host a top-rated program (variety hour “The Flip Wilson Show”).
Phil Donahue’s daytime talker debuts nationally; it would last 26 seasons.
1971: Norman Lear’s bold and uncompromising comedy “All in the Family” premieres on CBS. It would be the ’70s’ highest-rated series.
“The Ed Sullivan Show” ends after 23 seasons.
1972: CBS’ down-home drama “The Waltons” debuts. The Eye web also unveils a pair of successful series, the Korean War-set comedy “MASH” and “The Bob Newhart Show.”
1973: America watches the Senate Watergate hearings. The three major webs offer nearly 300 hours of rotated coverage.
In the PBS documentary “An American Family,” TV viewers watch a suburban clan’s lives.
Bea Arthur’s Maude has an abortion that outrages the Catholic church.
1974: Richard Nixon resigns live on TV.
1975: NBC’s “Saturday Night Live” bows, with original Not Ready for Primetime Players Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi and Gilda Radner, among others.
Jacob Bronowski’s “The Ascent of Man” is broadcast in 13 parts.
“Wheel of Fortune” debuts on the Peacock web’s daytime sked with host Chuck Woolery. It is syndicated for evenings, with Pat Sajak, beginning in 1983.
The cable television boom begins, marked by the launch of Time Inc.’s Home Box Office, which offers the Thriller from Manila bout (Joe Frazier-Muhammad Ali) to subscribers in September.
1976: Atlanta’s WTCG (later WTBS) begins satellite transmission on its way to cable “superstation” status.
Syndicated smash “The Muppet Show” debuts.
1977: “La Boheme” is featured in the first live simulcast from the Met.
Mississippi Rev. Donald Wildmon’s Turn the TV Off Week flops.
“Roots” appears for 12 hours over eight nights on ABC. It remains network TV’s highest-rated miniseries..
ABC’s satiric comedy “Soap” debuts amid tremendous protest over its adult content; some affils refused to air it or slotted it late at night.
1978: “20/20” fires its hosts (Harold Hayes and Robert Hughes) after the first show.
A nighttime Super Bowl is telecast for the first time.
Viacom launches an HBO competitor, Showtime.
“James Michener’s Centennial” is broadcast over 25 hours.
1979: ESPN, an all-sports cable network, debuts.
Cable’s C-SPAN begins comprehensive coverage of the House of Representatives.
1980: Ted Turner’s Cable News Networks begins the first 24-hour TV news service.
“Dallas” viewers ask “Who shot J.R.?” and find out in November; nearly 80% of all TV viewers that night were tuned to the sudser.
“Mystery!” premieres on PBS.
NBC loses millions in advertising revenue when the U.S. boycotts the Moscow Summer Olympics.
After 19 years of “And that’s the way it is,” Walter Cronkite steps down from anchoring CBS’ “Evening News”; he is replaced with Dan Rather.
1981: MTV is launched and the first clip is, appropriately, “Video Killed the Radio Star” by the Buggles.
TV captures John Hinckley Jr.’s assassination attempt on President Reagan.
The networks cover the royal wedding of Prince Charles and Lady Diana.
1982: “Late Night With David Letterman” premieres on NBC.
The Home Shopping Network opens its doors.
1983: An estimated 125 million viewers say good-bye to “MASH”; it draws the largest audience for a single program in TV history.
ABC’s “The Day After,” a telefilm about the aftermath of nuclear holocaust, scares some advertisers but wins the ratings race.
Viewer demand saves the cop drama “Cagney & Lacey” from cancellation.
1984: NBC’s “The Cosby Show” begins an eight-season run as the decade’s top family sitcom.
Syndie hit “Jeopardy!,” from “Wheel of Fortune” producer Merv Griffin bows, 20 years after its original incarnation.
1985: News Corp.’s Australian chieftain Rupert Murdoch starts the Fox network.
Capital Cities Inc. purchases ABC for $3.5 billion.
MTV’s more adult sister, VH1, debuts.
1986: Geraldo Rivera finds Al Capone’s vault empty as live audiences are underwhelmed.
The Challenger space shuttle explodes on live TV.
“The Oprah Winfrey Show” is syndicated nationally.
For the first time, NBC wins the primetime ratings race.
The Spanish-language web Telemundo begins transmission.
1987: The Iran-Contra hearings are televised in rotation on the major networks.
The boorish “Married … With Children” arrives and propels Fox’s ratings and lasts 10 seasons.
1988: “America’s Most Wanted,” in which viewers are asked to keep an eye out for criminals on the lam, premieres on Fox. A year later, the same web bows “Cops,” in which camera crews shadow police on duty.
Standup comedian Roseanne Barr toplines her own lower-middle-class family sitcom.
1989: TV news covers the demolition of the Berlin Wall.
Television carries live coverage of the Loma Prieta Earthquake in Northern California.
1990: Ken Burns’ 11-hour documentary “The Civil War” is shown on PBS.
“The Simpsons” premieres on Fox while “Seinfeld” makes its first appearance on NBC.
David Lynch’s aggressively bizarre “Twin Peaks” bows on ABC.
1991: Court TV begins broadcasting.
The networks suspend regular programming to cover the Gulf War.
1992: Johnny Carson leaves “The Tonight Show” on May 22; for the entire show he sits on a stool and addresses the audience; Jay Leno takes over the gig.
“The Larry Sanders Show,” a satire of latenight talk TV starring Garry Shandling, bows.
MTV’s “The Real World,” throwing young folks into one house and leaving the cameras on, is a success.
1993: The final episode of NBC’s “Cheers,” leaving the air after 11 seasons, attracts more than 93 million viewers in May.
David Letterman, upset at being snubbed for the “Tonight Show” job, moves to CBS.
MTV’s animated hit “Beavis and Butt-head” hits the airwaves, while another cult hit, “The X Files,” debuts on Fox.
1994: The murder trial of former football star O.J. Simpson dominates the airwaves.
Digital satellite carrier DirecTV begins operation.
NBC cements its Must See TV, introducing sitcom “Friends” to the lineup while plumping for its medical drama “ER.”
1995: Netlets UPN and the WB debut.
1996: After the early ’80s success of “Family Ties,” Michael J. Fox returns to TV in “Spin City.”
1997: “South Park” debuts on Comedy Central.
Ellen DeGeneres comes out in real life and as a character on her ABC sitcom “Ellen.”
The WB’s “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” earns a fervent following.
1998: NBC’s “Will & Grace,” featuring a gay man as a lead character, is a hit.
1999: HBO’s original series “The Sopranos” takes audiences hostage.
ABC revives the primetime gameshow to phenomenal results with “Who Wants to Be a Millionaire?”
2000: Reality TV comes to a head with CBS’ “Survivor” and “Big Brother”
Sources: Madison Online, “TV Mania: A Timeline of Television” by Edith Pavese and Judith Henry, Topeka (Kan.) Capital-Journal article “TV: The Defining Medium of the 20th Century” by Jan Landon