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 to contact us.

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MAY 3, 1948: The CBS-TV News begins airing at 7:30ET/6:30CT. This fifteen-minute program, the forerunner of The CBS Evening News, becomes the first-ever regularly scheduled nightly news program. Douglas Edwards served as the anchor for the next fifteen years, the program at one point changing its name to Douglas Edwards with the News. In 1951 it would become the first news program to be broadcast on both coasts and five years later the first series to use videotape.

Do you remember Douglas Edwards? Who is your favorite newscaster? Discuss…


Learn about Douglas Edwards's remarkable career in broadcasting. Come to the Paley Center in NY or LA to watch our collection of CBS News.

MAY 2, 1999: Rosa Parks, who fueled the Civil Rights movement when she refused to give up her seat on a bus in 1955 to make room for a white passenger, makes her only appearance on a weekly television series when she shows up to play herself on the Touched by an Angel episode “Black Like Monica.” This installment of the fantasy series involved a racially motivated murder that disrupts a gathering to celebrate Civil Rights Day and took the bold step of turning lead angel (Roma Downey) black in order to confront her own racism.

Did you see this episode? What did you think? What are your favorite Jack Paar moments? Discuss…


A clip of President Obama speaking at Rosa Parks's funeral in 2005. Come to the Paley Center in NY or LA to watch programs featuring Rosa Parks in our collection.

MAY 1, 1969: Jack Paar returns to NBC with his documentary Jack Paar in Africa, a chronicle of his family's trip through the continent, which aired, coincidentally, on his fifty-first birthday. Paar had pretty much set the standard for talk show hosts, becoming a major name in the late 1950s for his five-year stint as the host of The Tonight Show. Always outspoken and often emotional, Paar famously walked off the series in a dispute with the network.

What are your favorite Jack Paar moments? Discuss…


A clip of Jack Paar speaking at PaleyFest in 1991. Come to the Paley Center in NY or LA to explore our extensive collection of Jack Paar programs.

APRIL 30, 1997: Television took a giant step forward with “The Puppy Episode” of ABC’s situation comedy Ellen, so titled as a nose-thumbing gesture towards one Disney executive’s feeble suggestion that a dog might boost the show’s ratings. After star Ellen DeGeneres finally came clean about her own lesbianism early in the year, she made the bold move to have the character she played on the show, Ellen Morgan, come out as well. All the build-up to this groundbreaking event (including a Time magazine cover) was justified as the program delivered one of the best-written hours of the season and opened the doors for the inclusion of further gay characters in the medium. “The Puppy Episode” won the Emmy Award for DeGeneres and her cowriters as Outstanding Writing in a Comedy Series and Ellen entered the history books for having the very first gay series regular in a leading role.

Did you see "The Puppy Episode"? What did you think? Discuss…


A clip from Ellen's famous "The Puppy Episode." Come to the Paley Center in NY or LA to watch DeGeneres programs in our collection.

APRIL 29, 1961: The medium's enduring "athletic anthology" series ABC Wide World of Sports makes its debut. Hosted by Jim McKay, the premiere spotlighted the Drake Relays from Des Moines and the Penn Relays from Philadelphia. Created by Edgar J. Sherick and produced by Roone Arledge, the series would bring attention to a variety of sporting events from jai alai to badminton for the next thirty-seven years. A phrase from its opening narration, "the thrill of victory…and the agony of defeat," became firmly engrained in the public consciousness. The title continues to be used for ABC weekend sports programming.

What are your favorite Wide World of Sports memories? Discuss…


A clip from the premiere of ABC Wide World of Sports. Come to the Paley Center in NY or LA to watch classic sports programs in our collection.

APRIL 28, 1965: Singer Barbra Streisand stars in her first television special, My Name Is Barbra, broadcast on CBS. Following her recording breakthrough in 1963 and her starring role on Broadway in Funny Girl, the performer had become famous enough to rate a Time magazine cover in 1964. That same year CBS signed her to a $5-million, ten-year contract to continue delivering specials, which would include Color Me Barbra and A Happening in Central Park. My Name is Barbra is a rating hit, and goes on to win two Emmys and a Peabody Award.

Did you see this special? "People" or "Happy Days Are Here Again"? Discuss…


A clip from My Name Is Barbra. Watch Streisand's early TV specials at the Paley Center in NY & LA.

APRIL 27, 1949: Leave It to the Girls, television's first panel discussion show presided over by women, makes the transition from radio to television. Produced by Martha Rountree (pictured right) and hosted by Maggi McNellis, the series presented topics from a woman's point of view with a sole male guest on hand to give the men's perspective. The show ran off and on for the next fourteen years.

Did you know that Martha Rountree was a cocreator of Meet the Press? Discuss…


Martha Rountree moderates a discussion with Senator Robert Taft in 1952 on Meet the Press. Come to the Paley Center in NY or LA to watch these groundbreaking Martha Rountree programs in our collection.

APRIL 26, 1989: Lucille Ball dies of ruptured aorta at Cedars-Sinai Medical Center in Los Angeles. The huge degree of mourning from the public and within the industry is a testament to her position as one of the most beloved figures in the history of television. For four decades she was perhaps the most revered woman in comedy, earning four Emmys, induction into the Television Academy Hall of Fame, the Kennedy Center Honors, and lasting immortality through her seminal sitcom I Love Lucy.

What is your favorite episode of I Love Lucy? Discuss…


Lucille Ball talks at the Paley Center about the correct way to get mad at Lucy. Come to the Paley Center in NY or LA to watch this event and the many other Lucy clips in our collection.

APRIL 25, 1992: Fans of ABC’s action adventure series MacGyver got to experience their resilient, globe-trotting hero for what they were told would be the very last episode after seven seasons on the air. What had made this crime-fighter different from all the rest was the oddball ingenuity with which he solved problems, using everything from hairspray cans to paper clips to chocolate bars to thwart evil. What’s more, he abhorred handguns, something that incensed the National Rifle Association, much to delight of the series's star, Richard Dean Anderson. On this particular episode, MacGyver took on the illegal importing of goods manufactured in Chinese labor camps. Giving viewers something unexpected to cap off the series’s run, MacGyver also discovered he had a long lost son (played by Dalton James). After garnering the expected high ratings, the network surprised everyone by dropping one more unaired episode into the schedule, a few weeks down the line. 

Did you see the series finale? What was MacGyver's greatest contraption? Discuss…


Richard Dean Anderson and John Rich tell a funny MacGyver story at PaleyFest 1998. Come to the Paley Center in NY or LA to watch the entire event.

APRIL 24, 1967: Television’s fabricated pop group, the Monkees, made a big splash on their eponymous sitcom during its first season on the air. Davy Jones, Michael Nesmith, Micky Dolenz, and Peter Tork cavorted in a freewheeling manner through some deliberately silly plotlines, punctuated by songs, some of which were done in a visually inventively manner that made them the precursors of music videos. The four performers, however, wanted to prove that there was musical talent behind the fakery and set out on a concert tour. For the final episode of the season they presented something quite out of the ordinary, a mini-documentary of their live show ("The Monkees on Tour"), with onstage performances of songs (mostly drowned out by the sound of screaming fans), like "Last Train to Clarksville," and backstage footage. A few weeks later the show took home the Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series. 

Did you see this "on tour" episode? "Last Train to Clarksville" or "I'm a Believer?" Discuss…



April 23, 1989: One of the medium’s seminal sand and surf series, Baywatch, made its debut on this day in the form of a two-hour NBC TV movie. Entitled Baywatch: Panic at Malibu Pier, it introduced the characters of Los Angeles County lifeguards Mitch Bucannon (David Hasselhoff), Craig Pomeroy (Parker Stevenson), and Jill Riley (Shawn Weatherly), among others. The multiple subplots included the rescue of an emotionally disturbed teen girl who then begins threatening Craig’s wife. The movie scored well enough for NBC to turn it into a weekly series in September of that year. It would only last one season on the network, but found a new life when it went into syndication in the fall of 1991. The critics dismissed it as little more than pretty people cavorting in skimpy bathing suits, but it developed such a devoted following that by 1996 the Guinness World Records reported that it was the most widely watched program in the world, with 1.1 billion viewers.

Did you see the pilot? Pamela Anderson, Yasmine Bleeth, or Carmen Electra? Discuss…


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