History of Shows and Major Events in Television in the 1960s Part 1

About the history of television in the 1960s, major events including the Kennedy Nixon debates, Khruschev on tv, Alan Shepherd in space, first presidential press conferneces televised


1960--The Leonard Bernstein concerts on CBS turned the flamboyant conductor of the New York Philharmonic into a TV celebrity. His dashing podium gestures were his most striking trait.

--TV crews filmed Nikita Khrushchev and Fidel Castro embracing each other and walking along New York's streets. Both world leaders were in the U.S. for a UN meeting.

--David Susskind, whose "Open End" interview show originated from WNTA in New York, talked with Nikita Khrushchev in an unprecedented American TV interview with the Russian Premier.

--Three years after taking over as host of "The Tonight Show," Jack Paar walked off the program after explaining to his audience that NBC censors had "unfairly" deleted one of his better jokes the previous night. Said Paar, "There must be a better way to make a living than this." Paar, however, returned 5 weeks later.

--Possibly the most dramatic political confrontations in TV history were the debates between presidential candidates John Kennedy and Richard Nixon. In the 1st of 4 debates, Nixon looked like a heavy because of poor makeup and also lost ground by refusing to argue with Kennedy. Some political experts consider that 1st debate the turning point in the close election.

1961--The largest daytime TV audience in history watched astronaut Alan B. Shepard, Jr., soar into space for his 15-minute ride in a rocket-powered capsule. All 3 networks covered the event, beginning early in the morning in preparation for the 9:34 A.M. (EST) blast-off.

--President John Kennedy instituted the 1st live televised presidential press conferences. He displayed a keen wit and an impressive command of information.

--Jackie Gleason hosted his own quiz show, "You're in the Picture." The show's debut was so bad that the embarrassed comedian spent the entire 2nd show apologizing for the 1st one.

--Jack Paar taped 3 episodes of "The Tonight Show" in West Berlin near the East-West border, where he interviewed many soldiers of the U.S. 6th Infantry. Paar attracted high ratings as well as anger from congressmen who felt he was using the Berlin crisis for his own gain. One magazine accused Paar of nearly turning the Cold War into a hot one by endangering the delicate situation in Berlin.

1962--Jacqueline Kennedy took the nation on a personally guided tour of the White House in a 60-minute special produced by CBS and aired on all 3 networks. An estimated 80 million people saw the show.

--Johnny Carson assumed the hosting duties of "The Tonight Show" on NBC. Groucho Marx flew to New York from California to introduce Carson on his 1st show. The guests that night were Joan Crawford, Rudy Vallee, Tony Bennett, and Mel Brooks. One of Carson's early monologue jokes was, "Thank you--I'd blow you a kiss but I heard about an entertainer who did that and fell in love with his hand."

--"The Virginian," a Western based on Owen Wister's novel, debuted on NBC as the 1st 90-minute regular series.

--ABC found itself the target of considerable criticism after airing the news special "The Political Obituary of Richard Nixon." The show included an interview with Alger Hiss, who had been convicted of perjury. Some sponsors tried to cancel their contracts with the network after the show was telecast.

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