The 1980s were a golden age of television. Cable was an emerging industry, and TV sets were cheaper than ever before, which meant homes could have more than one set. Shows like Roseanne challenged the concept that family-centered sitcoms had to feature flawless characters living the American dream. And Newhart, M*A*S*H and St. Elsewhere showed us that a series finale done right could dominate talk around the proverbial water cooler the next morning.
For decades, there were only three networks for Americans to watch: ABC, CBS, and NBC. But the 1980s saw the introduction of the Fox Network and its irreverent, contemporary approach to television. Although cable television had been available to some since the 1940s, it exploded in popularity during the 80s, bringing HBO, CNN, ESPN, MTV and other popular channels into living rooms across America. All these options gave writers and producers more outlets to test their creativity and push boundaries.
Did you know MTV was launched on August 1st, 1981? It's short for Music Television, and although these days, the programming features more reality shows than music videos, that's all the network aired originally. Ironically, the very first video broadcast on MTV was the Buggles' song, Video Killed The Radio Star.
The video for Michael Jackson's Thriller revolutionized music and entertainment earlier in the 80s. Featuring dancing zombies and a grinning werewolf, the video proved that television could offer products that were as impactful as anything previously seen in movie theaters. Many consider it one of the greatest music videos of all time. One of the two red jackets Jackson wore in the video was eventually auctioned off for $1.8 million in 2011.
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