Top 75 Most Impactful Television Moments

In celebration of the Emmy Awards' 75th Anniversary, we invited Television Academy members to review several hundred programs and news moments submitted by our Peer Group Executive Committees, and to then vote on those they felt have had the greatest impact on the viewing public over the past 75 years.

The Top 75 Most Impactful Television Moments is an exciting look at the television experiences that have shaped our culture and society, selected by members of the Television Academy -- and a first for our organization to present this type of recognition.

We invite you to enjoy a walk down memory lane as you review the information below – Happy 75 years, Emmy!


The List

 Rank Decade Program Description
11960sNews ItemAfter Apollo 11 landed on the moon, astronaut Neil Armstrong proclaims "One small step for man, one giant leap for mankind.
22000sNews ItemLive coverage of the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center on 9/11/2001.
31960sThe Ed Sullivan ShowThe Beatles performance.
41970sRoots"Part I" Premiere episode where we see the newborn Kunta Kinte being held aloft by his father, an image of freedom and possibility.
51960sNews ItemWalter Cronkite announces the death of President John F. Kennedy.
61960sNews ItemMartin Luther King, Jr. delivers his iconic "I have a dream" speech at the March on Washington.
71960sMister Rogers' Neighborhood"Episode 1065" Mister Rogers (Fred Rogers) invites Officer Clemmons (Francois Clemmons) to share a wading pool on a hot day.
81980sM*A*S*H"Goodbye, Farewell and Amen" B.J. (Mike Farrell) gives Hawkeye (Alan Alda) a ride to his chopper, saying he left a note this time. As the helicopter takes off, Hawkeye sees the word "goodbye" spelled out with rocks.
91980sMTVFirst music video airs, "Video Killed the Radio Star," by The Buggles
101970sSaturday Night LivePremiere, hosted by George Carlin.
111950sThe Ed Sullivan ShowElvis performance.
121980sNews ItemCNN covers the Space Shuttle Challenger launch and subsequent explosion live.
131990sEllen"The Puppy Episode" Ellen (Ellen Degeneres) tells Susan (Laura Dern) she's gay, inadvertently broadcasting the announcement over the airport's public address system.
141960sA Charlie Brown ChristmasLinus tells Charlie Brown the true meaning of Christmas.
151970sThe Carol Burnett ShowEpisode 10.8: Starlett (Carol Burnett) makes a dress out of the curtains (and curtain rod) of her plantation, Terra, in the sketch "Went with the Wind!
161990sNews ItemLive coverage across every network of the slow-speed car chase of O.J. Simpson and his white Ford Bronco.
171950sI Love Lucy"Lucy Does a TV Commercial" Lucy (Lucille Ball) becomes intoxicated while rehearsing for a television commercial by downing spoonfuls of Vitameatavegamin, an alcohol-laced vitamin elixir.
181960sNews ItemFirst Kennedy-Nixon Presidential debate.
191970sAll in the Family"Sammy's Visit" While picking up a briefcase he left in Archie's (Carroll O'Connor) car, Sammy Davis, Jr. kisses Archie on the cheek just as a picture is being taken.
202020sNews ItemRelease of the video of George Floyd’s murder.
211980sDallas"A House Divided" J.R. (Larry Hagman) steps into his outer office to pour himself a drink. He steps outside his door to investigate a noise and is gunned down by an unknown assailant.
221970sThe Mary Tyler Moore Show"Chuckles Bites the Dust" After admonishing her friends to treat the death of Chuckles more somberly, Mary (Mary Tyler Moore) begins to giggle uncontrollably during the funeral.
232020sNews ItemLive coverage of Congress counting electoral votes captures the January 6 insurrection.
241970sM*A*S*H"Abyssinia, Henry" Radar (Gary Burghoff) enters the operating room to announce that Colonel Blake's plane was shot down, and there were no survivors.
251960sSesame Street"Gordon Introduces Sally to Sesame Street" Premiere episode where Gordon (Matt Robinson) welcomes a girl named Sally to Sesame Street.
261990sNewhart"The Last Newhart" Series finale where Bob awakens Emily to tell her about the strange dream he just had where he was an innkeeper in a small Vermont town.
271990sSeinfeld"The Soup Nazi" Elaine gets rejected from the soup kitchen when she offends the "Soup Nazi.
282000sNews ItemPresident-Elect Obama's Election Night speech in which he proclaimed "Change has come to America."
291960s60 MinutesDebut episode hosted by Mike Wallace and Harry Reasoner, featured coverage of the Nixon and Humphrey presidential campaigns.
301950sI Love Lucy"Lucy Goes to the Hospital" Lucy (Lucille Ball) gives birth to Little Ricky.
312000sBreaking Bad"Pilot" Walter (Bryan Cranston), fleeing from sirens, drives his RV into a ditch. He stumbles out in his underwear and records a video message to his family.
321970sAll in the Family"Meet the Bunkers" Premiere episode where Mike (Rob Reiner) and Gloria (Sally Struthers) plan a surprise party to celebrate Archie (Carroll O'Connor) and Edith's (Jean Stapleton) 22nd anniversary.
332020sAcademy Awards - 2022Will Smith slaps Chris Rock.
341990sNews ItemRelease of video recorded by George Holiday of four police officers beating Rodney King.
351970sSchoolhouse Rock!"Conjunction Junction" Animated short explaining the main function of conjunctions.
362000sThe Sopranos"Made In America" The Sopranos meet at a diner and sit down together. The bell of the diner door rings, and as Tony (James Gandolfini) looks up, the screen cuts to black.
371980sLive AidMulti-venue benefit concert raising money for relief of the famine in Ethiopia.
381990sNews ItemNews coverage of the O.J. Simpson trial verdict.
391980sThe Simpsons"Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire" Premiere episode in which Bart and Homer get Santa's Little Helper for Christmas.
401950sThe Twilight Zone"Time Enough at Last" After a nuclear catastrophe, loner Henry Bemis (Burgess Meredith) is left with all the time in the world to read his beloved books, only to shatter his glasses, leaving him virtually blind.
411980sCNNAfter an introduction by Ted Turner, David Walker and Lois Hart anchor CNN's first newscast.
422000sSix Feet Under"Everyone's Waiting" In flash-forwards, we see milestone events in the main characters' lives, and ultimately their deaths.
431970sMaude"Maude's Dilemma" Maude (Bea Arthur) and Walter (Bill Macy) admit that neither one of them particularly wants a child and that abortion is the right choice at this stage of their lives.
442000sAmerican Idol"American Idol Season 1 Finale" Kelly Clarkson wins the first season of American Idol.
451970sRoots"Part II" Kunta Kinte (Levar Burton) is whipped repeatedly while being asked his name, with the whipping only ceasing when he capitulates and names himself Toby.
461950sMerry Melodies"What's Opera, Doc?" Elmer Fudd (as Siegfried) tearfully carries off the seemingly dead Bugs Bunny (as Brunhilde) to Valhalla.
471980sThe Golden Girls"The Engagement" Premiere episode in which Dorothy's (Bea Arthur) mother, Sophia (Estelle Getty), unexpectedly moves in with her and her roommates Rose (Betty White) and Blanche (Rue McClanahan).
481980sMTVDebut of "Thriller" video, from Michael Jackson.
492000sThe Oprah Winfrey ShowOprah gives everyone in her audience a car.
501960sStar Trek"Plato's Stepchildren" Kirk (William Shatner) and Uhura (Nichelle Nichols) kiss.
512010sGame of Thrones"The Rains of Castamere" At Robb's (Richard Madden) wedding, Catelyn (Michelle Fairley) reveals chain mail under Bolton's (Michael McElhatton) clothes just as Robb's wife is murdered, Robb is shot with arrows, and his men's throats are cut.
521970sThe Mary Tyler Moore Show"The Last Show" The group gathers in the newsroom to say goodbye to each other, culminating in a group hug that shuffles en masse toward a box of tissues. After everyone else exits, Mary (Mary Tyler Moore) smiles before turning off the lights and closing the door.
531950sThe Twilight Zone"Where is Everybody?" Premiere episode featuring a man seemingly all alone in a small town.
541980sSesame Street"Farewell, Mr. Hooper" Big Bird's friends have to remind him that Mr. Hooper has died, and must explain what death is.
551980sThe Day AfterTelevision Movie: Aware that he is dying from radiation exposure after a nuclear war, Dr. Oakes (Jason Robards) returns to bombed-out Kansas City. He finds squatters there who offer him food, as he collapses and weeps.
562020sThe Last of Us"Long, Long Time" Bill (Nick Offerman) places a lethal dose of sleeping tablets in Frank's (Murray Bartlett) wine and reveals he poisoned his own drink as well.
571950sThe Nat King Cole ShowPremiere episode featuring The Boataneers and Gordon Jenkins and His Orchestra.
581990sNews ItemWorldwide live television broadcast of Princess Diana's funeral.
591950sNews ItemCoronation of Queen Elizabeth II.
602000sLost"Pilot, Part 1" Following a horrific plane crash, 48 survivors find themselves on an uncharted tropical island full of secrets.
612000sSuper Bowl XXXVIII Halftime ShowJustin Timberlake accidentally pulls off part of Janet Jackson's costume, exposing her right breast.
621980sGeneral HospitalEpisode 1.4757: Luke (Anthony Geary) and Laura (Genie Francis) get married.
631990sNews ItemNews coverage of the Los Angeles riots, following the verdict in the beating of Rodney King.
642010sGame of Thrones"Winter is Coming" Premiere episode opens with men of the Night's Watch encountering a White Walker.
651990sSuper Bowl XXV PregameWhitney Houston performs the "Star Spangled Banner.
661960sThe French ChefPremiere episode where Julia Child makes boeuf bourguignon.
671990sThe Real WorldPremiere introduces Julie, an aspiring dancer, to her new roommates, six twentysomethings with diverse backgrounds.
682000sFriends"The Last One" The six friends all leave their keys to the apartment on the kitchen counter and decide to go for one last cup of coffee together, to which Chandler (Matthew Perry) quips "Where?
691960sJulia"Mama's Man" Premiere episode introducing widowed single mother Julia Baker (Diahann Carroll).
701990sWill & Grace"Pilot" Will (Eric McCormack) puts their friendship at risk when he tells Grace (Debra Messing) she's making a mistake getting married.
711950sPeter PanPeter Pan (Mary Martin) teaches the Darling children how to fly.
721940sMeet the PressFirst episode featuring guest James Farley, former Postmaster General and Democratic National Committee Chairman.
731990sCheers"One for the Road" Series finale where Sam (Ted Danson) looks around the empty bar at the end and says "I'm the luckiest son of a bitch on earth.
741950sWalt Disney's Disneyland"The Disneyland Story" Premiere episode in which Walt Disney gives a preview of his upcoming park called Disneyland.
751990sThe Tonight ShowS30.E120: Bette Midler sings "One More for My Baby" to say farewell to Johnny Carson.

  updated 1.12.24


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