BY: MELISSA TANAKA
Television has become one of the media’s most influential mediums in the past 75 years, reaching families in households across America. However, it hasn’t always been how it is today. Here’s a look back at some of TV’s biggest milestones and how they helped influence what we see on-screen today. "I LOVE LUCY" - INTERRACIAL COUPLES Network executives were initially hesitant to green light “I Love Lucy” because of actress Lucille Ball’s insistence on having the executives cast her real life husband, Desi Arnaz.
However, executives eventually agreed, and in 1951, “I Love Lucy” became the first series to showcase an interracial couple, Ricky and Lucy Ricardo. For many viewers, it was their first exposure to someone of Cuban descent, aside from the stock characters of bandits or laborers. In more recent times, interracial couples can be seen in everything from “Boy Meets World” to “Scandal,” providing representation for viewers of all ages.
"MAKE ROOM FOR DADDY" - THE REIMAGINING OF THE NUCLEAR FAMILY The notion of blended families on television began in 1953 with “Make Room for Daddy.” In those times, divorce was still somewhat of a taboo subject, however, when arguments between Danny Williams and Jean Hagen, the two leading actors, led to Hagen leaving, the studio decided to write her off and set Williams’ character to re-marry.
Although audiences took to the story, it wasn’t until 1969 with “The Brady Bunch” that television began to break away from the idea of nuclear families. Shows like “Full House” or “Drake & Josh” carried this into the present, and embraced the idea that family is more than just the group you’re born into.
"I SPY" - MINORITIES IN LEADING ROLES While he is best known for his loud sweaters, Bill Cosby is also an important part of television history. In 1965, Cosby was cast as Alexander Scott in “I Spy” and became a part of the first network sitcom to cast a minority actor in a leading role.
The show also provided roles for other African-American performers, placing them in nontraditional parts and prompting viewers to reconsider racial attitudes. There was, however, backlash, and a few stations in the South refused to televise the show. While there is still a lack of leading roles for actors of color, there have been great strides since 1965. A few modern examples are “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air” and “The Mindy Project,” both of which help challenge various racial stereotypes and positively showcase different people of different ethnicities.
"STAR TREK" - PROFANITY POWER Although the most remembered phrase of the “Star Trek” series may be “live long and prosper,” the television show was the first to use profanity in 1967. The use of “hell” in the episode “The City on the Edge of Forever” set off a chain of letter writing and phone calling.
Such protests are a thing of the past nowadays, as shows such as “South Park” or “Dexter” often utilize profanity to the highest of their abilities.
"ALL IN THE FAMILY" - LGBT REPRESENTATION In 1971, the sitcom “All in the Family” became the first show with openly gay characters. By having Roger, an effeminate and fashionconscious young man, and Steve, an exfootballer and pub regular, the sitcom portrayed the wide spectrum of characters that defied stereotypes in various ways.
Thus, “All in the Family” helped to portray gay characters in a positive light and paved the way for things such as the lesbian wedding on “Friends” or the gay sex scene in “One Life to Live.