History of Shows and Major Events in Television in the 1960s Part 3

About the history of television in the 1960s, major events including Robert Kennedy assassination, Neil Armstrong walks on the moon, the Chicago Riots and the shows, Batman, Laugh-In and the Smothers Brothers.


1967--Hal Holbrook brought Samuel Clemens to life in "Mark Twain Tonight," one of the most highly praised specials of the year.

--Chet Huntley and David Brinkley, an inseparable news team since 1956, parted for 2 weeks when Brinkley refused to cross a picket line of striking TV performers. The ratings of their nightly NBC news show dropped during Brinkley's absence.

--"Batman" reigned as one of the top-rated shows in the U.S., and capes became an "in" fashion item.

1968--"Laugh-In," a comedy show starring Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, became the nation's most popular series just weeks after its debut. These hour-long shows, each featuring about 350 zany sight gags and rapid-fire jokes, made popular such phrases as "Sock it to me!"

--TV cameras had been broadcasting election night returns of the California primary live from the Ambassador Hotel in Los Angeles. Suddenly TV watchers were told that Sen. Robert Kennedy had been shot off camera. As coverage of the tragic event continued through the night, NBC newsman John Chancellor said, "I don't know about the rest of you, but in the last few hours I seem to have lost part of my self-respect."

--Television audiences witnessed the violence on the streets of Chicago during the 1968 Democratic presidential nominating convention. Student demonstrators as well as newsmen were beaten by Chicago police in the shocking melee.

1969--William O. Johnson, Jr., in his book Super Spectator and the Electric Lilliputians, estimated that the average American human being will spend 9 years of his or her life watching television between the ages of 2 and 65.

--U.S. Vice-President Spiro Agnew denounced TV network news as biased and unfair. He urged the public to "register their complaints on bias through mail to the networks and phone calls to local stations." Although the subsequent letter writing and telephone campaign supported Agnew, the press itself criticized the Vice-President for trying to intimidate a medium dependent upon government licensing.

--"The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour," designed to appeal to young adults, was canceled by CBS. The show had enjoyed high ratings but CBS was disturbed by the program's controversial subject material. The network finally scratched the show when the Smothers Brothers satirized U.S. senator John Pastore, who was investigating TV programming, and when guest comedian David Steinberg performed a skit about Jonah and the whale. The show's cancellation sparked numerous censorship debates. Four years later, the Smothers Brothers won a $766,300 settlement from CBS for breach of contract.

--An estimated 600 million people in 49 nations watched the live telecast of astronaut Neil Armstrong taking man's 1st step on the moon. The worldwide linkup cost $55 billion and involved about 40,000 TV technicians and other personnel.

--A hook-nosed, long-haired, ukulele-playing singer named Tiny Tim was married "live" on "The Tonight Show" before one of the largest late-night TV audiences ever. His bride, Miss Vicki, wore a $2,500 Victorian wedding gown, and Tiny Tim paraded down the aisle swinging a hand-carved walking stick. They were divorced in January, 1974.

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