The 75 most important moments in TV history

For three-quarters of a century, TV has amused, delighted, provoked, shocked and horrified all of us who have sat in front of its electronic glow. Here's a look at each year's most memorable TV moment, a journey that begins in Brooklyn and ends in Manhattan.

  • 52. 1991 (Jan. 16)

    CNN makes its mark with its Gulf War coverage, featuring live reporting from Baghdad

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    53. 1992 – Seinfeld's "The contest"

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    54. 1993 - "Long Island Lolita"

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    55. 1994 – Madonna on Letterman

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    56. 1995 – OJ Simpson murder trial

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    57. 1996- MSNBC and Fox News Channel debut

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    58. 1997- Ellen Degeneres comes out

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    59. 1998- "Sex and the City" debuts

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    60. 1999 – The Sopranos

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    61. 2000 – Survivor

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    62. 2001 – 9/11 attacks

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    63. 2002 (June 11)

    Based on a British show, "American Idol" debuts, foisting the tactless Simon Cowell on the American public.

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    64. 2003 (March 19) TV correspondents are embedded with U.S. troops as the invasion of Iraq begins.

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    65. 2004 (Feb. 1) Janet Jackson has her infamous "wardrobe malfunction" during the halftime show of Super Bowl XXXVIII.

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    66. 2005 (March 24)

    The Office, adapted from the same-named British comedy, features its characters talking to the camera, a plot device that would become the hallmark of many 21st century sitcoms.

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    67. 2006 (Sept. 5) Katie Couric becomes the first solo female anchor of "The CBS Evening News."

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    68. 2007 (June 10)

    The final moment of "The Sopranos" -- a fade to black with no conclusion to its story line -- enrages and confounds many viewers.

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    69. 2008 (Sept. 13)

    You betcha! Tina Fey does her impression of VP candidate Sarah Palin for the first time on "Saturday Night Live."

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    70. 2009 (Dec. 3)

    Jersey Shore debuts and turns a gnome with a beehive hairdo into a pop culture phenomenon.

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    71. 2010 (March 1)

    After being replaced as "Tonight Show" host by Conan O'Brien and given a 10 p.m. weeknight show that bombed, Jay Leno returns to "Tonight."

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    72. 2011 (May 25)

    After 25 years, Oprah Winfrey ends her daily talk show to start her own cable network.

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    73. 2012 (April 15)

    HBO's "Girls" -- the vision of its star and creator Lena Dunham -- is the younger-skewing, down-market "Sex and the City."

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    74. 2013 (Feb. 1)

    House of Cards begins streaming its entire first season on Netflix.

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    75. 2014 (Feb. 17)

    Jimmy Fallon takes over "The Tonight Show," which moves back to Manhattan from California

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  • 26. 1966 (Sept. 8)

    "Star Trek" debuts, only to last three seasons.

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    27. 1967 (Aug. 29)

    The finale of "The Fugitive," in which Dr. Richard Kimble (David Janssen) confronts his wife's killer, becomes TV's highest-rated episode to date.

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    28. 1968 (Sept. 24)

    The "60 Minutes" stopwatch begins ticking.

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    29. 1969 (July 21)

    Live from the moon: Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong takes his giant leap for mankind.

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    30. 1970 (Sept. 21)

    "Monday Night Football" successfully brings gridiron action to a new night and unleashes Howard Cosell in prime time.

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    31. 1970 (Sept. 19) 

    Mary Tyler Moore: Finally, a single woman who was very much OK with being single. 

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    32. 1971 (Jan. 12)

    The sitcom grows up -- fast -- with "All in the Family," the topical story of a "lovable bigot."

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    33. 1972 (Nov. 14, 21)

    Two-part "Maude" episode tackles the controversial issue of abortion.

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    34. 1973 (May 17)

    The hearings of a special Senate committee investigating the Watergate break-in become riveting viewing as the Nixon administration unravels.

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    35. 1974 (Jan. 15)

    "Happy Days" taps into nostalgia for the 1950s.

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    36. 1975 (Oct. 11)

    "Saturday Night Live" -- "Your Show of Shows" for baby boomers -- offers a 90-minute live sketch show that brings the counterculture's humor into the mainstream.

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    37. 1976 (Oct. 4)

    Barbara Walters becomes the first female co-anchor of any network evening news, with Harry Reasoner on "ABC Evening News."

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    38. 1977 (Jan 23-30)

    "Roots," a 12-hour ABC miniseries based on Alex Haley's bestseller, becomes a ratings sensation and spurs a national conversation on the legacy of slavery.

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    39. 1978 (April 16-19)

    James Woods, Michael Moriarty and Meryl Streep star in "Holocaust," a controversial 9 1 / 2-hour miniseries about the persecution and extermination of European Jewry.

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    40. 1979 (Sept. 7)

    ESPN (and its signature show, "Sports Center") launches.

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    41. 1980 (Nov. 21)

    The resolution of the "Who shot JR?" story line on "Dallas" attracts 83 million viewers, replacing "The Fugitive" finale as TV's most-watched episode.

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    42. 1981 (Aug. 1)

    MTV launches (with the Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star"), and the music business will never be the same.
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    43. 1982 (Feb. 1)

    "Late Night With David Letterman" debuts, bringing a new, offbeat sensibility to post-midnight TV.

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    44. 1983 (Feb. 28)

    The 2 1 / 2-hour "M*A*S*H" finale, "Goodbye, Farewell and Amen," offers closure to the show's fans -- and remains the most-watched, non-sports show of all time.

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    45. 1984 (Sept. 20)
    "The Cosby Show" spectacularly revives the family sitcom (and NBC's fortunes).

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    46. 1985 (May 15)

    One of TV's most memorable season-finale cliffhangers: the "Moldavian Massacre" on "Dynasty" in which the entire wedding party of Amanda Carrington (Catherine Oxenberg) and Prince Michael of Moldavia (Michael Praed) were shot by terrorists.

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    47. 1986 (Jan. 28)

    Horrified viewers watch live as the space shuttle Challenger explodes 73 seconds into its flight.

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    48. 1987 (April 5)

    The upstart Fox network premieres, challenging -- successfully as it turned out -- the dominance of the Big Three.

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    49. 1988 (Oct. 18)

    Comedian Roseanne Barr's blue-collar attitude shapes one of TV's most popular sitcoms, "Roseanne".

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    50. 1989 (Dec. 17)

    "The Simpsons," Matt Groening's dysfunctional cartoon clan debuts (and is still going strong a quarter-century later.)

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    51. 1990 (April 8)

    Filmmaker David Lynch brings his off-center world view to the small screen with his Northwest-set murder mystery "Twin Peaks."

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  • 1. 1939 (Aug. 26)

    The first televised Major League Baseball game: The Brooklyn Dodgers vs. Cincinnati Reds from Ebbets Field on W2XBS (now WNBC/4).

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    2. 1940 World Series



    3. 1940 (June 24-28)

    The Republican National Convention is broadcast from Philadelphia on that city's W3XE (now KYW-TV) and New York's W2XBS.

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    4. 1941 (July 1)

    The first TV commercial airs -- a 10-second spot for Bulova watches ("America runs on Bulova time").

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    5. 1942-45

    TV production halted for World War II.

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    6. 1946 (June 19)

    The first televised heavyweight boxing title fight: Joe Louis vs. Billy Conn from Yankee Stadium.

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    7. 1947 (Dec. 27)

    The kids' classic "Howdy Doody" debuts on NBC.

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    8. 1948 (June 8)

    Milton Berle becomes TV's first true star with his slapsticky variety show "Texaco Star Theater."

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    9. 1949 (Jan. 20)

    President Harry Truman's inauguration is the first to be televised.

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    10. 1950 (Feb. 25)

    "Your Show of Shows," a 90-minute live comedy-variety show featuring the talents of Sid Caesar and Imogene Coca, keeps Americans home on Saturday nights.

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    11. 1951 (June 28)

    "Amos 'n' Andy," one of radio's most popular shows, moves to TV. Instead of being voiced by its white creators, the title characters are played by black actors.
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    12. 1952 (Jan. 14)

    TV's first and longest-running morning show, "Today," launches on NBC, hosted by Chicago TV personality Dave Garroway.

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    13. 1953 (Jan. 19)

    Little Ricky is born to Lucy and Ricky Ricardo on "I Love Lucy" (the same day Desi Arnaz Jr. is born to Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz).

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    14. 1954 (March 9)

    On "See It Now," CBS News' Edward R. Murrow chastises Sen. Joseph McCarthy, hastening the downfall of the fear-mongering Wisconsin senator.
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    15. 1955 (Oct. 1)

    The first of the classic 39 "Honeymooners" episodes airs.

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    16. 1956 (Sept. 9)

    Elvis Presley's first appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

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    17. 1957 (Aug. 5)

    After five years as a Philadelphia-only show, Dick Clark's "American Bandstand" goes national, broadcasting five afternoons a week on ABC.

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    18. 1958 (Oct. 17)

    "Twenty One," the most popular quiz show on TV, is abruptly canceled when it was revealed its results were rigged.

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    19. 1959 (Oct. 2)

    "The Twilight Zone," Rod Serling's brilliant sci-fi anthology, debuts.

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    20. 1960 (Sept. 26)

    The first Kennedy-Nixon debate demonstrates the power TV ultimately will exert on politics.

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    21. 1961 (May 5)

    The suborbital flight of Alan B. Shepard, the first U.S. astronaut in space, is watched by 45 million viewers.

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    22. 1962 (Oct. 1)

    Johnny Carson begins his 30-year run as host of "The Tonight Show."

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    23. 1963 (Nov. 22-25)

    Network TV news comes of age with the assassination of President John F. Kennedy and its aftermath.

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    24. 1964 (Feb. 9)

    The Beatles' first appearance on "The Ed Sullivan Show."

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    25.. 1965 (Sept. 15)

    "I Spy" becomes the first dramatic series to star a black actor -- Bill Cosby as undercover agent Alexander Scott.

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