It’s hard to believe how different TV used to be!
Though some have speculated that the kiss between William Shatner and Nichelle Nichols was not the first interracial kiss on TV, we argue that it had the most impact. The scene was originally filmed with a kiss and without because NBC was worried about audiences in the South. William Shatner ruined the only good take without the kiss and they had to use the takes with the kiss in. The famous smooch aired on TV in 1968.
All during the 1950s and 1960s, scenes with toilets or mentions of them were censored so as to avoid the slightest hint of vulgarity. The first show to break this taboo was All In the Family in 1973 when we hear (but don’t see) Carroll O’Connor’s character, Archie Bunker, flushing a toilet. This is the first flush on primetime TV, though an episode of Leave It To Beaver once brazenly showed a toilet tank.
Mary Tyler Moore’s character, Laura Petrie, was written to wear skirts and do the housework in high heels on The Dick Van Dyke Show. Moore protested, stating that a young mother would have been wearing practical clothing to do her many chores in, like capri pants and flats. The network had to be convinced, but she got her way. Her elegant ensembles never failed to wow us, but she usually is only wearing a skirt when they have company or some kind of social event. Most schools and businesses at this time had strict rules about women only wearing skirts and dresses, so this was quite a big deal.
The Wicked Witch
How may of us grew up watching Wizard of Oz every time it aired on TV? It was one of the few things that nearly everyone in the household could agree on! When the actress who played The Wicked Witch of the West, Margaret Hamilton, guest-starred on Sesame Street in 1976, the show received numerous complaints. The episode, viewers claimed, was “terrifying” to children. It’s funny to think that same character in two different mediums could garner such different responses. The episode was never aired again.
Can you conceive of any of these issues being a problem for today’s audiences or sponsors? These days TV shows push most boundaries, especially cable. Of course, cable didn’t exist back then! But, these minor items seem so harmless to us now. What a different world it was back then! We doubt the belly button on a grown woman would cause any kind of stir on most stations these days.