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21 On-screen Firsts That Paved the Way for Today’s TV

Scenes where a couple share a bed and showing a toilet are no big deal now, but back in the day, these could’ve caused controversy. Everything from an on-screen interracial kiss to a televised royal wedding has had its firsts.

Bright Side took a look at some of the earliest scenes to appear on television and is marveling at how far the TV industry has come.

1. First interracial kiss — Star Trek

There are a lot of debates on which scene was the very first interracial kiss on television. In the UK, Hot Summer Night (1959) and You in Your Small Corner (1962) were claimed to be the first. However, the kiss between Captain Kirk and Uhura in 1968 is still considered to be one of the first on-screen interracial kisses in the US.

2. First birth — I Love Lucy

It is believed that I Love Lucy’s episode “Lucy Goes to the Hospital” that aired in 1953 was the first birth on television. About 71.8% of all American homes with television sets (around 44 million viewers) tuned in, making a TV record. On the screen, Little Ricky was born, while in real life, the actress gave birth to Desi Arnaz, Jr.

3. First toilet — Leave It to Beaver

Back then, showing a toilet on TV was frowned upon. After much compromise, the “Captain Jack” episode of Leave It to Beaver in 1957 showed just the toilet tank, but it was still the first to do so.

4. First ad — Bulova

The Bulova watches ad was the first official, paid television advertisement that came out in the United States in 1941.

5. First TV show warning — All In The Family

The first 2 versions of the pilot came with the disclaimer, “Suggested for a mature audience.” But the third version that actually aired in 1971 came with a tongue-in-cheek disclaimer, “The program you are about to see is All In The Family. It seeks to throw a humorous spotlight on our frailties, prejudices, and concerns. By making them a source of laughter, we hope to show — in a mature fashion — just how absurd they are.”

6. First color TV broadcast — Premiere

Premiere was a variety show and was the first color program on TV when it aired in 1951. Though the colors were not totally true to life, it was considered a success.

7. First to use a laugh track — The Hank McCune Show

The canned laughter that you often hear in the background of sitcoms can be traced back to 1950. The Hank McCune Show was the first to introduce a laugh track on TV.

8. First music video on TV — “Stranger in Paradise”

In Tony Bennett’s autobiography, he claimed to have created the first music video that was aired on TV. It was of him walking along the Serpentine in Hyde Park, London in 1956, set to his recording of “Stranger in Paradise.”

9. First national morning news — The Today Show

The Today Show was the first and the longest running national breakfast/morning show on television. It premiered in 1952 on NBC.

10. First evening news show — The Walter Compton News

Although it was short-lived, The Walter Compton News is believed to have been the earliest evening news shown on TV. It was a 15-minute newscast in 1947 with minimal production, where Compton read from a script, and the occasional slide was shown.

11. First TV drama — The Man With the Flower in His Mouth

The Man With the Flower in His Mouth was the first ever piece of drama shown on television. It was watched by British Prime Minister Ramsay McDonald. However, no record of the original 1930 version on BBC survived. In 1967, a technician from Granada Television reproduced it.

12. First live sports broadcast — 1936 Summer Olympics

The 1936 Summer Olympics hosted by Germany in Berlin was the earliest live television coverage of a sporting event in world history.

13. First couple to share a bed — “Mary Kay and Johnny”

In the 60s, married couples were shown to sleep in separate beds. Until Bewitched came out and portrayed a husband and wife sharing a bed. Interestingly, 20 years earlier, Mary Kay and Johnny, who were also married in real life, were shown to have a single bed in their apartment in the show.

14. First reality TV show — Queen for a Day

Queen for a Day was an early example of reality-based television where people were put in unscripted situations. Aired in 1948, contestants on the show shared stories of hard times and though there were winners, the losing contestants also received prizes.

15. First scripted curse word — Chicago Hope

An episode of Chicago Hope in 1999 featured a curse word that was uncensored for the first time in network television history. Swear words are now normalized on television even though in 1961, a comedian was charged for obscenity for swearing during a stand-up comedy set.

16. First talk show — The Joe Franklin Show

The Joe Franklin Show, the earliest television talk show in history, ran from 1951 to 1993.

17. First cartoon on TV — Crusader Rabbit

Crusader Rabbit, released in 1950, was the first animated series and cartoon created for television.

18. First major death — The Danny Thomas Show

Initially titled Make Room For Daddy for its first 3 seasons, The Danny Thomas Show did what had never been done before — it dealt with the main actress leaving the show by killing off her character. It was risky move, but it was thought to be better than to say that the character left because she was getting a divorce, which was more unacceptable at the time.

19. First cooking show — Cook’s Night Out

In 1937, Marcel Boulestin became the first TV chef on the world’s first cooking show on TV.

20. First musical — The Boys From Boise

Being the earliest full-length musical to be written for television, the show went on the New York DuMont station, WABD in 1944.

21. First royal wedding — Princess Margaret and Antony Armstrong-Jones

The only sibling of Queen Elizabeth II, Princess Margaret married Antony Armstrong-Jones in the spring of 1960. Theirs was the first royal wedding to be broadcast on television where more than 20 million viewers tuned in to watch.

Which of these answer any of the nagging questions in the back of your mind that you’ve had when you watch television? Do you know of any other “firsts” that were shown on TV?

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