The Paley Center’s Countdown to the 70th Anniversary of Television:

TV Facts You Will Want to Know! 


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Despite its importance in the history of television, July 1, 1941, is an unheralded date. Did you know that it’s TV’s own birthday! It was on July 1, 1941, that commercial television became a reality when the first two transmitters were licensed in New York. W2XBS changed its call to WNBT (which became WNBC-TV) while the CBS station became WCBW (and later WCBS-TV), each offering four hours of programming for those few able to see it.*

 

TV is looking pretty good for 70 years young. To celebrate its birthday, our Curatorial team has unearthed a dizzying array of firsts, oddities, strange coincidences, and thought-provoking tidbits across all genres going back 70 years to 1941. Come back each day to learn something new, see some interesting clips, and join in the conversation with the curators on Twitter #TV70.

And come to the Paley Center in New York or Los Angeles on July 1 for some birthday cake.

*Were You Watching? The Paley Center is looking for anyone who was watching TV on that historic July 1, 1941 day. Our curators would love to talk to him or her. Help us get the word out to friends and family. Or if you have a family story from someone who watched, we want to hear from you too. Email TV70@paleycenter.org to contact us.



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JUNE 22, 1976: CBS Reports: The Politics of Cancer, produced by Judy Crichton and reported by Leslie Stahl, examined how effectively the government was safeguarding the public against exposure to cancer-causing chemicals. The hour-long program focused on three Federal regulatory agencies: the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Among the issues raised were pesticide control (reported to be inadequate in several cases), the labor unions' charges that stronger health standards were needed in the workplace, and the need for tighter regulation by the FDA of carcinogenic chemicals.
Watch a recent CBS News report on cancer.

How can the media help the political process? Discuss…

 

A clip from this program.
Come to the Paley Center in NY & LA to watch more investigative reports by Leslie Stahl.




JUNE 21, 1948: NBC's radio and television coverage of the Republican National Convention in Philadelphia was, at the time, the most elaborate and thorough reporting job ever devoted to one event by a single news organization. NBC gave more than fifty-four hours of television time to the GOP conclave—transferring more than two-hundred staff members from New York to Philly for the week of operations. (The Democratic convention the following month received, in comparison, only forty-one hours of TV time.) Ultimately Dewey didn't do it—the Republican candidate Thomas E. Dewey was defeated by Democrat Harry Truman.

How do you think the media coverage affected the election? Discuss…

 

Footage from the 1948 convention.
Come to the Paley Center in NY & LA to watch coverage of past national Presidential conventions.




JUNE 20, 2001: The South Park episode "It Hits the Fan" mocked both the FCC's confusing standards on indecency and network television's evolving policies on censorship. Creators Matt Stone and Trey Parker had Cartman and the gang say the word "sh-t" some 160 times. Stony and Parker said that Comedy Central at first wouldn't agree to air the episode uncensored but later threw their hands up in the air and relented when the number of utterances was well over 100. (If they had bleeped each utterance of the word more than half of the episode would have been bleeped!) The network relented, and the you-know-what hit the fan again and again as the word was repeated ad nauseam.

What's your favorite South Park episode? Discuss…

 

A compilation of obscenities from this South Park episode.
Come to Paley Center in NY & LA to watch our South Park panel with Trey and Matt from PaleyFest2000!




JUNE 19, 1946: The long anticipated Joe Louis–Billy Conn heavyweight championship fight at Yankee Stadium was televised by NBC and seen by some 146,000 people. Louis was able to retain the crown by a knockout in the eighth round. The Washington Post had this to say the following day: "Television looked good for a 1000-year run."

Was Joe Louis the greatest boxer of his time? Discuss…

 

The famous Louis-Conn bout.
Come to Paley Center in NY & LA to watch or listen to classic Joe Louis fights from the 1930s and '40s!




JUNE 18, 1987: Question: What if The Mary Tyler Moore Show had been made in the eighties and Mary was divorced and floated from job to job (and boyfriend to boyfriend) and wrote odd poetry and had rambling conversations with the elevator guy in her apartment building? Answer: She'd be the title character in The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd, a midseason replacement that had its premiere on NBC in May 1987, starring the appealingly quirky Blair Brown. This "dramedy," created by Jay Tarses (who occasionally appeared on the series as a garbage man), was a rather risky, sometimes unsettling show that pointed out the messiness of life and relationships—and surprised the naysayers with ratings in the top 10 in its early weeks. The Days and Nights of Molly Dodd ran for two seasons on NBC, with new episodes later airing on Lifetime. It still has a cult following—many a Baby Boomer has been heard to utter the phrase, "I'm having a Molly Dodd moment." This June 18 episode finds Molly enjoying a romantic dinner at a restaurant when she suddenly spots her father (Richard Venture) with a woman who is most definitely not her mother.

Do you think this was a groundbreaking show? Discuss…

 

A clip from Molly Dodd.
Come to the Paley Center in NY & LA to watch episodes of Molly Dodd.




JUNE 17, 1994: The ultimate celebrity reality-TV moment occurred when football legend O.J. Simpson led police on a dramatic car chase immediately after he was charged with the double murder of his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson, and her friend Ronald Goldman. Upon learning that he would be arrested, Simpson and his longtime friend and former teammate Al Cowlings took off in Simpson's white Ford Bronco, traveling towards Los Angeles at only 35 miles per hour. Millions of Americans watched the bizarre scene unfold live on television. The chase ended when the White Bronco (with Cowlings at the wheel) pulled into Simpson's home driveway. Simpson was subsequently acquitted of murder in criminal court—although a civil jury held him liable for the deaths and ordered him to pay $33.50 million to the families of Brown and Goldman.
Read a New York Times article on the Simpson case.

What were you watching when the Bronco coverage broke in? Discuss…

 

CNN's coverage of the famous car chase.
Come to the Paley Center in NY & LA to watch coverage and commentary of the O.J. Simpson case.




JUNE 16, 1948 and 1992: Today we celebrate the anniversaries of two seminal events in the nexus between television and politics, occurring forty-four years apart: in 1948, the national political conventions (both occurring in Philadelphia, located at the center point of the Boston-to-Richmond coaxial cable, then the main carrier of live TV to the nation) are fully covered for the first time, as the networks carry the proceedings to thirteen eastern-seaboard states. Some misguided reporter for The New York Times predicts that TV coverage would inspire politicians to "pare away the bombast and high jinks associated up to now" with political conventions. Not! On this day in 1992, Democratic presidential candidate Bill Clinton appears on Choose or Lose: Facing the Future with Bill Clinton, MTV's first-ever presidential forum, hosted by Tabitha Soren and Catherine Crier. Clinton fielded questions from an audience of two hundred people, most of them eighteen to twenty-four, such as "How did it feel growing up in an alcoholic family?" and—most famously—"If you had to do it over again, would you inhale?" ("Sure, if I could," Clinton replied. "I tried before.") The special, originally scheduled to run for an hour, went so swimmingly that it was expanded to ninety minutes halfway through the taping, and established MTV as a legitimate player in presidential politics ("I think everyone here knows that MTV had a lot to do with the Clinton/Gore victory," Clinton would later say).
Read Politico's essay on Clinton and MTV.

Did Clinton's 1992 appearance on MTV change American politics forever? Discuss…

 

A short doc about the 1948 Democratic and Republican national conventions.

A clip of Bill Clinton on MTV.
Come to the Paley Center in NY & LA to watch coverage of national Presidential conventions from the last six decades.




JUNE 15, 2004: Four months after ending its celebrated six-season run on HBO, Sex and the City comes to basic cable in 2004, as TBS begins airing a "sanitized" version of the racy series starring Sarah Jessica Parker, Kim Cattrall, Kristin Davis, and Cynthia Nixon as four sophisticated, sexually active New Yorkers on the prowl for a few good men. As it turned out, the producers of the series had filmed alternate versions of some scenes and recorded alternate dialogue in anticipation of an eventual syndicated run (and also to accommodate sales to tamer overseas markets), although editing was required and cast members did rerecord dialogue specifically for TBS, using euphemisms to replace raunchier words (like "sex buddy" to replace another, more colorful phrase that served as the title of the fourteenth episode of the second season).
Read Candace Bushnell on the real-life girls of Sex and the City.

Does the TBS version of the show still work? Discuss…

 

A promo for TBS's SATC.
Buy our 2004 Sex and the City panel featuring all four stars of the show on DVD!




JUNE 14, 1946: R.I.P. John Logie Baird, who passed away on this day in 1946 at the too-young age of 57. John Logie who? Though widely forgotten in the U.S., the Scotsman was one of the most remarkable inventors in the early history of television, widely credited with staging the first successful public demonstration of TV and making the earliest trans-Atlantic broadcast of a television signal (though these things are notoriously difficult to prove). Unfortunately for Baird, his early experiments utilized the mechanical system of scanning, which was notoriously cumbersome and eventually eclipsed by the electronic model pioneered by the likes of Philo T. Farnsworth and RCA's Vladimir K. Zworykin, which remains the basis of modern video technology today.
Read this biography of Baird.

Have you heard of John Logie Baird's work before? Discuss…

 

A clip from Television Comes to London, about the creation of the first television studio in England.
Come to the Paley Center in NY & LA to watch some programs about the history of early television.




JUNE 13, 1981: Before Dave or Conan came Tom Snyder, who pioneered late, late-night talk with The Tomorrow Show, which premiered in 1973 and aired its most famous program on June 13, 1981, featuring Snyder's contentious prison interview with convicted killer Charles Manson. Anticipating (and surely relishing) controversy over the program, Snyder opens on the defensive: "Some people might ask, 'Why run the Charles Manson interview?' Well, television is supposed to make all of us look at ourselves, and that responsibility goes beyond picturing all of us as normal and rational people who are suddenly shocked when the time bomb of insanity goes off in our midst. To not run the Charles Manson interview now would be to ignore his perversity, and that of others, which now and again disrupts our lives. To ignore it, to pass the interview by, would mean accepting wickedness and insanity in place of dealing with its problems." The highlight of the interview comes when Snyder—puffing away on his omnipresent cigarette—pushes Manson on whether he was guilty as charged of having entered the L.A. residence of Leno and Rosemary LaBianca in August 1969, tying them up, assuring them they wouldn't be hurt, and then instructing his minions to kill them. When Manson slides off his stool and starts pacing, Snyder tells him: "Chair's getting hot, huh? Get mad, get angry, come over here and hit me if you'd like, but why don't you answer the question?" Manson never did.
Read this blog about Snyder's legacy.

What are your favorite Tom Snyder programs? Discuss…

 

A riveting clip of Snyder interviewing Manson.
Come to the Paley Center in NY & LA to watch our collection of Tom Snyder programs.




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