I was an 80s teen, a feral Gen X child. And there were some iconic TV moments in those days, so here we go!
1. MTV went live.
Date: 1 August 1981.
I was just 11 days shy of 11 years old. Like every other kid, I sat on my couch, channel 16 on my TV, and waited for it to go live. The first video was, ironically, “Video Killed the Radio Star” by The Buggles.
2. Geraldo Rivera and the white supremacists.
Date: 3 November 1988
I watched this episode as it aired. It got heated as activist Roy Innis faced off against a crew of white supremacists, and Rivera took a chair to the nose, and the audience and panel alike devolved into utter chaos. The show kept on going with Rivera bleeding. It was intense. I’m not sharing the clip here because I can’t find one without the white supremacist casting vitriol. And I don’t want that on my blog.
3. The Challenger exploded on live TV.
Date: 28 January 1986
I remember watching this on TV at school during my junior year. We all sat watching, transfixed, only to be horrified when we realized what was happening. The clip played over and over again, all that was on any channel.
4. The age of the “video jukebox” begins.
Date: 17 January 1984
On this day, the Supreme Court ruled that people taping in their own homes for their own purposes did not violate copyright laws. That meant that VCR producers would no longer be liable to studios for royalties. While the tech had been around as long as 1975, it wasn’t until this decision that it became truly popular. Companies rushed their products to stores, and prices fell.
5. The moonwalk is revealed to the world.
During the Motown 25 special on NBC, Michael Jackson did his iconic dance move for the first time during a performance of “Billie Jean.”
6. JR Ewing is shot.
Darte: 21 March 1980
I remember this like it was yesterday. I watched it with my grandmother, who was glued to the TV. It was the second season’s finale, and for months, the same question was asked on TV, in magazines, on T-shirts, on bumper stickers. Who shot JR?
7. The Mircale on Ice
Date: 22 February 1980
This was the day the US men’s hockey team beat the Soviet team, who was favored to win, in the first game of the medal round. I was at that game, living in northern NY not far from Lake Placid. It was an amazing game, an amazing moment. The win came after Mike Eruzione made a sweet, buzzer-beater wrist shot, taking the score from 3-3 to 4-3. The whistle blew for the goal with just one second on the clock. I will never forget it. Sportscaster Al Michaels ended the broadcast with his usual “Do you believe in miracles?” and followed it with “YES!” That day, we all did.
Two days later, the US team won gold after beating Finland, while the Soviets took silver by beating Sweden.
8. Thriller debuts on MTV.
Date: 2 December 1983
I don’t know many of my fellow feral children who weren’t glued to the TV to watch this air on MTV. It was more of a mini movie, costing roughly $500K to make. Because of it, ahead of the premiere, the Jehovah’s Witness organization threatened MJ with excommunication because they believed the video promoted demonology. In response, MJ ordered the negatives to be destroyed. Instead, production agreed to protect the negatives and secure them. He even went so far as to try to block any further distribution/promotion of the video. He also included a disclaimer at the beginning of the video.
9. Prince Charles married Lady Diana.
Date: 29 July 1981
I watched this with my mom, mesmerized by the pagentry and too young to understand much else about British royalty. To me, at just shy of 11, it was a fairytale in real life.
10. President Ronald Reagan was shot.
Date: 30 March 1981
I remember watching this on TV, when John Hinckley, Jr. attempted to assassinate the president. Just as iconic was Reagan’s words to his wife… “Sorry, honey. I forgot to duck.” Hinckley was found not guilty by reason of insanity, the crime motivated by his desire to impress actress Jodie Foster. He was released in 2016.
11. The “1984” Apple Macintosh ad aired.
Date: 22 January 1984.
The only national airing of the commercial came during the third quarter of Super Bowl XVIII. It alluded to George Orwell’s 1984, and was directed by Ridley Scott. Not once in the ad was the computer itself seen. Some have interpreted the commercial as representing the Macintosh coming to save humanity from conformity.
The commercial aired only one other time, previously. It aired at the last possible break before midnight on 31 December 1983, allowing it to be qualified for the 1984 Clio Awards
12. Luke and Laura get married.
Date: 17 November 1981
I didn’t even watch General Hospital, but I watched this. It was HUGE. It is still the highest rated soap opera episode in American daytime history. Elizabeth Taylor made a cameo, and even Princess Di sent champagne.
13. The M*A*S*H finale airs.
Date: 28 February 1983
This is a show that I have watched for years. I’ve seen every episode at least a dozen times, own the complete series. And this show is one of the ones that gets me every time.
The final goodbyes…