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Top 10 Televised Events of All Time

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Ever since television has been a part of our lives, it has captured some of history’s biggest moments, both good and bad. In this way, we'll never forget when certain events happened. For this list, we’ve chosen memorable moments or events that had an important impact on western television history and history itself. In this video, we count down our picks for the top 10 televised events.

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Thanks to this medium of telecommunication, we’ll never forget when these happened. Welcome to, and today we’re counting down our picks for the top 10 televised events.

For this list, we’ve chosen memorable moments or events that had an important impact on western television history and history itself.

#10 – M.A.S.H. Series Finale (1983)

After 11 seasons, the medical unit of the Mobile Army Surgical Hospital hung up their stethoscopes for the last time with their 251st episode. Over 105 million American viewers tuned in to say “Goodbye, Farewell and Amen,” to the revolutionary anti-war comedy. The 2-and-a-half-hour show became the most-watched television finale in American history and cemented the series’ iconic pop culture status.

#9 – The Royal Wedding between Prince Charles and Princess Diana (1981)

With Lady Diana Spencer emerging from the Glass Coach with a silk taffeta wedding dress and a 25-foot long train to marry Charles in front of 3,500 people, this was truly a fairytale wedding. Over 750 million people worldwide gathered around their TVs for this “wedding of the century.” The Princess became such a beloved public figure that 2 billion watched her funeral in 1997.

#8 – The Beatles on The Ed Sullivan Show (1964)

Teenage girls went wild when the Fab Four brought Beatlemania to North America in 1964. With 73 million viewers, their February 9th appearance gave Sullivan the best ratings of his career and set a U.S. record as one of the highest-rated non-sports shows ever. The Beatles’ performance also sparked the British Invasion and opened the door for other UK acts to break into the U.S.

#7 – Space Shuttle Challenger Disaster (1986)

With teacher Christa McAuliffe on board and hundreds of schoolchildren watching in real-time, the Challenger launch was to be the first of its kind. Though CNN transmitted the sole live broadcast, news of the disaster spread like wildfire through other networks. Because the media focused on the story’s ‘human element’ and tragic moments for dramatic effect, it became a hot topic for several weeks and changed future news reporting.

#6 – The O.J. Simpson Ford Bronco Car Chase (1994)

While the “trial of the century” was televised for 134 days and the verdict announcement attracted over 100 million viewers, it was Simpson’s 1994 slow-speed Bronco escape that really captivated Americans. After being charged with Nicole Brown Simpson’s and Ron Goldman’s murders, The Juice led cops on a 2-hour car chase that was caught on tape by news helicopters. 95 million watched the live broadcast once networks disrupted their TV schedules.

#5 – First Televised Presidential Debate between Republican Vice President Richard Nixon and Senator John F. Kennedy (1960)

One of the most critical moments of the 1960 U.S. presidential campaign was the first debate between Nixon and Kennedy. As the first televised presidential debate, the momentous historical occasion showcased the impact television could have in politics: in contrast to the sickly-looking Nixon, Kennedy appeared healthy and confident on screen, and this allegedly convinced many that he was the debate’s victor.

#4 – Tiananmen Square Protests (1989)

As the Beijing student protests turned into the Tiananmen Square Massacre, the western world witnessed social unrest in a foreign and unreachable location for the first time via their TVs. Though most networks were barred from broadcasting the violent military crackdown, their real-time reporting went on to boost live television coverage of international events. It also influenced Western policymakers to implement economic sanctions and arms restrictions on China.

#3 – The Assassination/Funeral of John F. Kennedy (1963)

The assassination of the 35th President of the United States ushered in the age of TV news by giving people instant access to unfolding developments through moving pictures. Two days after JFK’s death, NBC aired continuous footage of the overnight public viewing. His funeral was then watched by approximately 180 million on television the next day. Millions also witnessed the shooting of sniper Lee Harvey Oswald in a real-time broadcast.

#2 – Apollo 11 Moon Landing (1969)

This “giant leap for mankind” was also a giant leap for the United States: the live television broadcast of astronaut Neil Armstrong’s “small step for man” placed America at the head of the space race. Though he set foot at 10:56pm Eastern Daylight Time, over 500 million people around the world experienced history-in-the-making. Thanks to the magic of television, the recorded footage took less than 1.5 seconds to reach Earth.

#1 – September 11 Attacks (2001)

Everyone remembers where they were, what they were doing and what they felt when they heard news of the shocking al-Qaeda terrorist attacks. Moments after the World Trade Center was hit, media outlets quickly picked up live feeds that glued worldwide audiences to their TV sets. Coverage of the tragedy and its aftermath changed the way western news was reported globally and became the lengthiest continuous news event to be covered in American television.

Ever since television has been a part of our lives, it has captured some of history’s biggest moments, both good and bad. For more top 10s about other important events, be sure to subscribe to

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