The 5 Most Emotionally Iconic Moments in TV History

John | May 25, 2011

Maybe you’ve haven’t really given it much thought, but television has had a great impact on our lives. It’s the reason why TV Guide came up with a list of the 100 Most Memorable Moments in TV History (that and people like lists of things). Some of these moments marked the culmination of series, other marked unforgettable historical events. All of them had an important impact on the nation as a whole. These iconic moments changed the way we felt about television, brought us together and let us experience intense emotion from the comfort of our homes. No matter if you saw the events live, recorded or online, the connection between image and emotion in these moments remains intact in our cultural consciousness after all these years. What follows are 5 of the most emotionally iconic moments in TV History.

Armstrong Walks On The Moon

Who could ever forget the first landing on the moon when Neil Armstrong uttered those famous words, “One small step for man, and one giant leap for mankind?” At the time, it seemed so remarkable that one could view an event from millions of miles away when Armstrong took his first step on the moon. Americans felt a sense of pride and excitement when they saw live clips of our astronauts raising the American flag on the lunar surface. And even today, the image of a man bouncing around on the moon still evokes a sense of accomplishment.

The Candy Factory Episode of I Love Lucy

No one will ever forget that hilarious episode I Love Lucy where Lucille Ball and Ethel Merman stuff their faces with chocolates as they move along a conveyor belt. Filmed in 1952, the same year as the peace treaty with Japan, the first publication of Ann Frank’s diary and the detonation of the first hydrogen bomb, the scene helped remind us that when we are overwhelmed and don’t know what to do, it’s okay to laugh.

John-John’s Salute at the Funeral Of His Father, JFK

John-John’s salute at John F. Kennedy’s funeral touched our hearts on one of the saddest days many of us have ever experienced. Stepping forward as the coffin left the church, after a reading of Kennedy’s inaugural speech with the famous line, “ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country,” the 3 year old John-John punctuated the solemnity of the moment with a simple childlike salute of understanding, farewell and of hope.

The Beatles Appearance on the Ed Sullivan Show

The Beatles first appearance on the Ed Sullivan show was monumental moment in American pop culture, when the shrieks of the girls in the audience overpowered the musicians’ amplifiers. Despite his efforts, Ed Sullivan was unable to control the crowd. Most of us would be hard pressed to remember which songs were played during that performance, but the seething throng of hysterical young girls is easy to recall. Not only did this performance usher in the British Invasion, but it was also one of the first televised moments of this type of star struck insanity which had never been seen before and that persists today in YouTube videos devoted to a list celebrities. (ex. Leave Britney Alone)

The O.J. Simpson Verdict

Many of us will never forget the overwhelming feelings when O.J. Simpson was found not guilty by a jury of his peers. No matter what side of the trial you were on, after 9 months of seeing the evidence of the prosecution, the rebuttal of the defense, the editorials of news reporters and more, televised in minute and obsessive detail, the final outcome could not have been anything but sensational. Whether you felt relief or disbelief as the juror read the verdict, the look on O.J.’s face as he stood in that courtroom stood for something, and probably still does for you today. This list is based on TV Guide’s Top 100 which came out in 1996. Since then there have been many more iconic moments of televised emotion. What would you add to this list from the last 15 years? Sources: Google Books, BBC


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