Famous TV Firsts
TV is an important part of our culture, and its most groundbreaking moments are worth remembering. Although there are many firsts in television history, some stand out more than others. Here is a select list of some key firsts in television history:
• First TV Broadcast of All Time (1926) — The first television broadcast of all time occurred in 1926, but it was not very exciting. History was made when a weather map was broadcast via television from Arlington, Virginia, to Washington, D.C.
• First TV Broadcast of the Olympics — The 1936 Berlin Olympics were the first Olympic Games to be broadcast on television. Three years later, orders from Berlin initiated the Second World War.
• First Sitting President to Appear on Television (1939) — Franklin D. Roosevelt was the first (and only) U.S. president to serve more than two terms in office. He was also the first sitting president to appear on television when his opening speech to the 1939 World’s Fair was broadcast.
• Regular TV Programming (1946) — Although a few people in the United States had owned televisions for some time, TV ownership was still relatively rare up until 1946. That year, regular television programming began across the nation in all major media markets.
• First Couple to Sleep in the Same Bed (1948) — Surprisingly, television in its earliest years was reluctant to show two married characters sleeping in the same bed. The television show Mary Kay and Johnny was the first to feature this rather common element of married life, but it would take almost two more decades for another show to show married people sleeping in the same bed.
• First Birth of a Baby to a TV Character (1953) — I Love Lucy broke new ground in 1953 when it became the first television show to feature the birth of a baby to one of its characters. More people watched the birth of Little Ricky to Lucy that year than watched the inauguration of President Eisenhower.
• First Television Show with Only Color Episodes (1954) — Several television shows had recorded several episodes in black and white before switching over to color recording as well prior to 1954. However, The Marriage, which was released that year, was the very first television program to have no episodes previously recorded in black and white.
• First Prime-Time Animated Series (1960) — The Flintstones, which premiered in 1960, holds the distinction of being the first animated series produced for and broadcast during the prime-time television hours.
• First Televised Presidential Debate (1960) — Now a staple of U.S. presidential elections, televised debates between the candidates were not broadcast before 1960. Interestingly, the debate between Richard Nixon and Jack Kennedy was evaluated differently depending on whether one saw it on television or listened to it on the radio. TV viewers gave the win to Kennedy while radio listeners gave it to Nixon.
• First Television Show to Star an African-American Actor (1965) — Bill Cosby became the first African-American to star in a television show when I Spy premiered in 1965.
• First Televised Superbowl (1967) — It is hard to believe, but the Superbowl, which is now the program with the most television viewers annually, was not broadcast on TV until 1967.
• First Kiss Between Two People of Different Races (1968) — Gene Roddenberry’s Star Trek promised to take viewers where no man had ever gone before, and this came true in regards to television when Captain Kirk and Lt. Uhura shared the first interracial kiss in television history.
• First Sitcom Taped Before a Live Studio Audience (1971) — All in the Family was a trendsetter in many ways, not the least of which is the fact that it was the first sitcom that was taped in front of a live studio audience.
• First Network to Broadcast Over Satellite (1975) — In 1975, HBO made the first network TV broadcast over satellite. The broadcast was a boxing match between Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier.
• First TV Miniseries (1976) — The first self-contained television miniseries was Rich Man, Poor Man, which aired in 1976.
• First TV Commercials Featuring Women in Bras and Underwear — Before Playtex aired real women in bras and underwear for their commercials in 1987, all lingerie advertisements featured mannequins.