TV has evolved a tremendous amount over the past 75 years. Instead of looking at the shows that helped define and shape the medium, Vox takes a deeper look at the specific episodes that played a part in that evolution. Not all of them may be good, but they made a lasting impact.
Lucy Ricardo's pregnancy. Ned Stark's beheading. Ellen's coming out.— Vox (@voxdotcom) June 17, 2019
These are the episodes of TV that changed American television forever. https://t.co/QTJ9n3sI8c
THE TEXACO STAR THEATER -- PREMIERE -- JUNE 8, 1948
Only 500,000 television sets were sold each year when Milton Berle's variety series moved from radio to tv in 1948. By the time the show ended in 1956, that number jumped to 30 million. Berle was one of tv's first megastars and during Neilson's first season of measuring ratings, over 60% of households tuned in to the program. His impact! (The episode above in from 1949.)
EAST SIDE/WEST SIDE -- "WHO DO YOU KILL?" -- NOVEMBER 4, 1963
East Side/West Side was a short-lived series on CBS primarily focused on topics relevant to inner city life at the time and starred George C Scott and Cicely Tyson (who made history for being the first black woman as a series regular on TV). The episode, which you can watch above, deals with the fallout of a black couple's childs dying. The episode lead to protests from sponsors and local tv stations and resulted in many programs halting any major tackling of social issues for the rest of the decade.
M*A*S*H* -- "ABYSSINIA, HENRY" -- MARCH 18, 1975
Lieutenant Colonel Henry Blake has been honorably dischanged and is heading home. Except he never makes it. Before this, characters weren't killed off unless real-life events forced them. Now it's common practice. Fans were pissed. Even CBS cut the final scene out of a rerun over their unhappiness but later put it back in for syndication.
ST ELSEWHERE -- "THE LAST ONE" -- MAY 28, 1988
Turns out everything that happened on this medical drama wasn't real and all happening in the mind of an autistic boy with a hospital snowglobe. This fiction-within-fiction finale was the first time a show pulled a major twist to end itself, something that left fans pissed and other shows would try to one-up.
THE GOOD PLACE -- "MICHAEL'S GAMBIT" -- JANUARY 19, 2017
A comedy set in the afterlife, the shows season one finale delivered one of the biggest plot twists in the modern era, completing pulling the show is a brand-new direction. Sure, it's fairly recent, but it primed to have a major influence going forward.