This Was Television On September 21

1970Monday Night Football kicks off

The New York Jets visited the Cleveland Browns in the first National Football League contest televised on ABC’s primetime showcase. The weekly national broadcast, usually scheduled to highlight especially competitive or notable match-ups each season, helped the NFL extend its brand and entrench itself as the most popular league sport in America. Monday Night Football aired on ABC until 2005, moving to sister channel ESPN for the 2006-07 season. At 42 years and counting, it remains one of the longest-tenured programs in TV history.

In the booth for Monday Night Football‘s first telecast were Keith Jackson, Don Meredith, and Howard Cosell. Cosell in particular intertwined his often-acerbic persona with the MNF brand during his 13 years as a color commentator. He frequently sparred with Meredith on the air, and on more than one occasion, leapt from the announcer’s box down to the field and challenged offensive linemen to bare-knuckle brawls for the hell of it.  -A.D.

Also on September 21:

1968Adam-12, a policier following two Los Angeles beat cops, begins a seven-season run on NBC. The show was co-created by Jack Webb, and like his more famous offering, Dragnet, it sought to portray the life and procedures of of a patrol cop as realistically as possible.

1976: SCTV goes on the air. The outre Canadian sketch comedy show, which ran for six seasons, was performed by veterans of Toronto’s branch of The Second City troupe, including John Candy, Joe Flaherty, Eugene Levy, Rick Moranis, Catherine O’Hara, Harold Ramis, and Martin Short.

1985: George Clooney makes his first appearance on The Facts of Life. Recurring as a handyman named George over the span of three seasons, Clooney was a relative unknown at the time; prior to this his most notable work was on a series about life at a Chicago hospital called E/R—a sitcom which ran on CBS from 1984–5.

1993: Co-created by two of TV’s heaviest hitters, Steven Bochco and David Milch, NYPD Blue premieres on ABC. The cop drama ran for 12 seasons and was notorious for pushing the limits of coarse language, violence, and nudity allowable on primetime network TV.

Today’s Birthdays: Dave Coulier, cutting it out (53); David James Elliot, naval attorney (52); Chuck Jones, looney tunesmith (d. 2002); Henry Gibson, laughing-in (d. 2009); Maggie Grace, Islander (29); Larry Hagman, oil baron (81); Cheryl Hines, enthusiasm curbed (47); Marta Kauffman, good at making Friends (56); Bill Kurtis, newsman (72); Rob Morrow, Alaskan transplant (50); Bill Murray, not ready for prime time (62); Autumn Reeser, OCvian (32); Alfonso Ribeiro, Carlton dance creator (41); Nancy Travis, duck-sister-in-law (51); Luke Wilson, enlightening (41).

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