Tuesday, April 21, 2009

This week in Television History: Milestones & Pop Culture.

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As always, the further we go back in Hollywood history, the more that fact and legend become intertwined. It's hard to say where the truth really lies.

I set the Wayback machine to the end of April and found many Television Historical Milestones & Moments in TV Pop Culture.

Television Historical Milestones

April 19, 1938
The National Broadcasting Company launched experimental television broadcasts from the Empire State Building. These experiments aired only five hours a week to very few TV households.

Almost two years to the day prior.

April 24, 1936
A group of firemen responding to an alarm in Camden, New Jersey, is televised. It was the first time an unplanned event was broadcast on television, anticipating the development of live TV news coverage. Fortunately, the event would not inspire anyone to create reality programming.

April 30, 1939
NBC began regular U.S. television broadcasts, with a telecast of President Franklin D. Roosevelt opening the New York World's Fair. Programs were transmitted from the NBC mobile camera trucks to the main transmitter, which was connected to an aerial atop the Empire State Building.
Ten days prior to the Roosevelt speech, David Sarnoff, President of RCA (The Radio Corporation of America and NBC's original parent company) made a dedication speech for the opening of the RCA Pavilion at the New York World's Fair. Staging this event prior to the World's Fair opening ceremonies ensured that RCA would capture its share of the newspaper headlines. The ceremony was televised, and watched by several hundred viewers on TV receivers inside the RCA Pavilion at the fairgrounds, as well as on receivers installed on the 62nd floor of Radio City in Manhattan. Back then, the programs included operas, cartoons, cooking demonstrations, travelogues, fashion shows, and skaters at Rockefeller Center along with numerous live telecasts relayed from within the fair itself.

Moments in TV Pop Culture

April 30, 1992

The final episode of the The Cosby Show aired.
YouTube - Cosby Show Final Moments of Last Episode
The sitcom debuted in 1984 at a time when the sitcom was declared to be dead. Comedian Bill Cosby starred in the nation's top-rated program for four of its eight years and always ranked in the top 20 shows.
The show focused on the Huxtable family, an upper-middle class African-American family living in a brownstone in Brooklyn Heights, New York. The patriarch was Heathcliff "Cliff" Huxtable, an obstetrician. The matriarch was attorney Clair Huxtable. Despite its comedic tone, the show sometimes involved serious subjects, such as son Theo's experiences dealing with dyslexia, inspired by Cosby's child Ennis, who was also dyslexic.
Although the cast and characters were predominantly African-American, the program was unusual in that issues of race were rarely mentioned when compared to other situation comedies of the time, such as The Jeffersons. However, The Cosby Show had African-American themes, such as civil rights marches, and it frequently promoted African-American and African culture represented by artists and musicians such as Jacob Lawrence, Miles Davis, James Brown, Stevie Wonder, Lena Horne, Duke Ellington, Dizzy Gillespie and Miriam Makeba.
On April 30th 1992, the second day of the Los Angeles Riots, KNBC (NBC's Los Angeles affiliate) was covering the historic event nonstop. But that evening the station decided to suspend it’s around the clock riot coverage to air the series finale of The Cosby Show giving viewers a brief Mental Sorbet. Following the broadcast Bill Cosby went on the air and asked Angelinos to pray for peace.

April 30, 1997
In The Puppy Episode of the ABC sitcom Ellen, the character of Ellen Morgan (played by Ellen DeGeneres) announces that she is gay.

The widely publicized episode featured cameos by Oprah Winfrey, k.d. lang, Demi Moore, Billy Bob Thornton, and Dwight Yoakam. An estimated 42 million viewers watched the special hour-long program. Ellen DeGeneres herself had come out earlier that year on The Oprah Winfrey Show and in TIME. Ellen is often credited to be the first primetime sitcom to feature a gay leading character but there was a sitcom titled Love, Sidney (1981 until 1983) staring the late Tony Randall. The first openly gay regular character on a sitcom was Soap's (1977) Jodie Dallas, played by Billy Crystal.
In the spring of 1994, Ellen DeGeneres was cast in a series called These Friends of Mine, but in the fall of 1994, she took center stage and the program was retiled Ellen. The program finished in the top 20 shows for the 1994-1995 season.
The outing ignited a storm of controversy, prompting ABC to place a parental advisory at the beginning of each episode.
Despite her success, and the enormous audience drawn by the coming-out episode, ABC cancelled the series at the end of the 1998 season. Although the network pointed to dwindling ratings, Ellen DeGeneres contended that the network buckled under pressure from conservative groups and stopped promoting the show after the controversial episode.

To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was.”

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa
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