This Was Television On January 23

1977: Roots begins

Based on Alex Haley’s novel Roots: The Saga of an American Family, published the previous year, the story of an 18th-century African slave and his descendants became one of the most popular miniseries in TV history. The eight-episode miniseries aired over eight consecutive nights on ABC to an estimated 130 million–140 million total viewers; its finale, on Jan. 30, 1977, remains one of the highest-rated programs on record. LeVar Burton starred as Kunta Kinte, a Gambian warrior who is captured and sold into slavery in colonial America, setting off a multi-generational story that spanned through the Civil War. The prolific cast also included Cicely Tyson, Ben Vereen, Vic Morrow, John Amos, Ed Asner, Louis Gossett, Jr., Richard Roundtree, and Lloyd Bridges. -A.D.

Today’s Birthdays: Richard Dean Anderson, troubleshooter (63); Dan Duryea, soldier of fortune (d. 1968); Gil Gerard, spaceman (70); Arlene Golonka, character actress (74); Mariska Hargitay, detective (49); Ernie Kovacs, comedian (d. 1962); Patrick Levis, big brother (31); Gail O’Grady, police administrative aide (50); Tiffani Thiessen, Baysider (39).

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