Top 75 Most Impactful Television Moments

Top 75 Most Impactful Television Moments, as chosen by Television Academy members

January 12, 2024
Awards News

Top 75 Most Impactful Television Moments

"One Small Step For Man, One Giant Leap For Mankind" Leads 74 Other Selections That Touched Humankind


As part of celebrating the world's most powerful medium, the Television Academy's industry members, along with a select group of academic professionals, spent much of 2023 scouring eight decades of television in search of the moments that have made the most impact on viewers, the industry and culture.

A list of more than 300 events that were telecast on the news and via dramatic, comedic and documentary programs over all dayparts were compiled with input from the Academy's 31 Peer Groups, professionals working in all aspects of television. Academy members and academics were then invited to review and judge this list.

With the postponement of September's Emmy ceremonies and telecast until January, the tabulated votes and the resulting 75 Most Impactful TV Moments were kept secret – just as the votes for the Emmy Awards – and are now being revealed just before the January 15 telecast.

Chosen were classic moments (from the late 1940s until the 2020s) of TV's most beloved programs, as well as news events that brought the U.S. and the world together to watch them in real time. Many of the selected televised events influenced politics and shifted the common wisdom about race, LGTBQ+ representation and more.

Top 20 selections include the Apollo 11 moon landing, The Beatles' first performance on The Ed Sullivan Show, Roots' premiere episode with the newborn Kunta Kinte being held aloft by his father in a display of freedom and possibility, Hawkeye's (Alan Alda) goodbye from B.J. (Mike Farrell) spelled out with rocks on the final episode of M*A*S*H, Saturday Night Live's premiere hosted by George Carlin, Ellen (Ellen DeGeneres) telling Susan (Laura Dern) that she's gay inadvertently over an airport's public address system, Linus telling Charlie Brown the true meaning of Christmas, Sammy Davis Jr. kissing Archie (Carroll O'Connor) on the cheek and Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) getting rejected from the soup kitchen when she offends the Soup Nazi.

Other television shows that yielded moments on the list include The Sopranos, The Twilight Zone, Maude, American Idol, The Golden Girls, The Oprah Winfrey Show, Star Trek, Game of Thrones, The Day After, The Last of Us, The Nat King Cole Show, General Hospital, Julia, Will & Grace, Meet the Press, The Tonight Show, Lost, Six Feet Under, The Simpsons, I Love Lucy, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Dallas, The Carol Burnett Show, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Newhart, as well as television's coverage of such historic events as the first Kennedy-Nixon debate, Martin Luther King's "I Have A Dream" speech, 1985's Live Aid benefit concert, bystander video footage of George Floyd's murder, the funeral of Princess Diana and the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center. Also included are unique pop culture moments such as the debut of MTV with the cable net's airing of the Buggles' "Video Killed the Radio Star" and Bette Midler serenading Johnny Carson on his penultimate night hosting The Tonight Show.

Outgoing Television Academy Chair Frank Scherma said, "There is no greater medium than television to influence our culture. These 75 incredible moments demonstrate how television has shaped conversations, broadened our perspectives and motivated social change over the past eight decades. As we celebrate 75 years of the Emmy Awards, we also celebrate television's powerful impact."

The complete list in the order in which they were named the "Top 75 Most Impactful Television Moments" is available HERE, together with a clip reel showcasing many of these moments, as well as a photo collage representing all of the Top 75 Most Impactful TV Moments. The video, the list itself and photo collage are available to download HERE.

(Note: Cris Abrego, the incoming Chair of the Television Academy, assumes his duties after the delayed Emmys Telecast airs on January 15.)


Jim Yeager
Cell: 818.264.6812

breakwhitelight for the Television Academy

For the complete press release, click here.

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