Only 325 people received the first HBO broadcast, on November 8, 1972, the same day Gretchen Mol was born, which probably explains why she’s still on Boardwalk Empire. Anyway, badass shows like The Sopranos, The Wire, and Game of Thrones were unthinkable 40 years ago — literally; if a human tried to make sense of a blonde woman being the mother of the dragons, their head would explode — so rather than something F*CK YEAH, those 325 lucky souls in Wilkes-Barre, PA, were treated to a screening of the Academy Award-nominated Sometimes a Great Notion, starring Paul Newman and Henry Fonda. Who needs Kenny Powers when you’ve got lake houses?
NBC’s once-successful history actually dates back to 1926, when RCA, General Electric, and Westinghouse broke up the National Broadcasting Company into percentages. But that’s the radio, man: get with the times. The kids today, they’re all about Meet the Wife, the Peacock’s first TV broadcast in 1950. The signal originated from Rockefeller Center, and was zapped all the way upstate to Schenectady, the Detroit of the northeast.
Before there was Nickelodeon, there was Pinwheel, a short-lived network that first aired on December 9, 1977, thanks to the Columbus, Ohio-based cable television system QUBE. The hell is a QUBE? Well: it was a 36-channel system that “for the first time…enabled true, two-way communications over coaxial cable.” It’s widely considered to be the technological development that introduced viewers to pay-per-view and special-interest networks. Naturally, it was a colossal money-loser, and out went all of its networks, including children’s programming haven Pinwheel. Two years later, however, on April 1, 1979, Pinwheel morphed into Nickelodeon, but Pinwheel the show remained. It’s about creepy puppets hanging out with humans in a Victorian house. Gothic Sesame Street, basically.
The Sci-Fi Channel’s debut was perfect, both in the sense that the network was dedicated to Dr. Isaac Asimov and Gene Roddenberry and that the first presentation was Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope. The touchy, irritable nerds of today would explode if Rodenberry’s legacy was associated with Star Wars (actually, they kind of already did). Thank Captain Kirk almighty that Twitter wasn’t around on September 24, 1992.
While HBO launched with an Oscar-nominated film starring Paul Newman, Showtime began on July 1, 1976 with Celebration, a concert special with Rod Stewart, Pink Floyd, and ABBA. To this day, Showtime is still trying to catch up to its big brother, except for in the “strong female” department. They’re the king (queen) of that category.
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