Celebrate the Last 30 Years of TV With These History-Making Moments

To celebrate E!'s 30th anniversary, we're looking back at the last 30 years of TV and revisiting some iconic moments.
By Chris Harnick Jun 27, 2020 2:00 PMTags
TV historyE! Illustration

This June, E! turns 30! To celebrate we're looking back at the most monumental moments in pop culture.

Television, you've come a long way.

Over the last 30 years of TV (1990-until today), which E! has been covering since our debut 30 years ago, there has been no shortage of monumental shifts and history-making moments in programming, especially on broadcast TV. From shows like Scandal and Ellen breaking new ground to reality shows like Real Housewives and Survivor redefining the genre, we've witnessed some huge moments over the last 30 years. But there's still quite a way to go in some respects.

Just look at the cancellation of The Beauty and the Baker. When ABC pulled the plug on the show, it ended the only show on broadcast TV with a primarily Latinx cast.

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"At a time when the public is marching in the streets demanding representation and diversity this is an extremely tone deaf decision," series star Nathalie Kelley said in a statement.

Related: Jennifer Aniston & "Friends" Iconic Moments: E! News Rewind

Below, take a walk down memory lane with some of the biggest history-making moments in the last 30 years of TV. Key word "some."

The gallery below isn't every history-making moment, premiere or casting—that gallery would break our site.

1990: Beverly Hills, 90210

Beverly Hills, 90210 is seen as the first teen drama of its kind, paving the way for others down the road like Dawson's Creek by creating a whole new genre.

1990: Law & Order

The Law & Order franchise, still popular today, premiered in 1990 and changed the game for procedural television—and is credited with shaping America's perception of cops, for better and for worse.

1991: L.A. Law

A ratings stunt, L.A. Law featured the first romantic lesbian kiss on broadcast TV.

1992: One Life to Live

In 1992, Ryan Phillippe played Billy Douglas on One Life to Live, the first gay teen character on daytime TV.

1992: The Real World

MTV's The Real World premiered in 1992 and changed the landscape of TV programming, ushering in a new generation of reality TV shows.

1993: Cheers

The 1993 series finale of Cheers is the third most-watched non-sports TV program with 80.5 million viewers.

1994: The Real World

In 1994, viewers also met Pedro Zamora on The Real World: San Francisco. Pedro, an openly gay man who was HIV-positive, had the first real same-sex commitment ceremony broadcast on national TV. Zamora died shortly after the finale of his Real World season.

1994: All-American Girl

The series starring Margaret Cho was the first primetime sitcom to feature an Asian-American family at the center.

1994: My So-Called Life

Wilson Cruz played primetime's first openly gay teen series regular character came was My So-Called Life's Enrique "Rickie" Vasquez.

 

1997: Ellen

"The Puppy Episode" of Ellen featured the main character, Ellen Morgan (Ellen DeGeneres), coming out as gay. This was the same time DeGeneres came out on the cover of Time magazine, making Ellen the first show to feature an out lesbian actress playing an out lesbian character.

1998: Will & Grace

One of the first shows to feature two gay main characters, Will & Grace is credited by many with helping shift the American public's views on homosexuality.

1999: Dawson's Creek

The WB drama featured the first romantic male gay kiss.

2000: Who Wants to Marry a Multi-Millionaire?

The first reality TV wedding between Rick Rockwell and Darva Conger was a ratings hit and the ensuing controversy surrounding the nuptials made no shortage of headlines.

2000: Survivor

The 2000 premiere of Survivor gripped the nation and redefined reality TV competitions.

2002: American Idol

American Idol became a ratings phenomenon, crushing the competition in its heyday. In 2002, Kelly Clarkson became the show's first winner and arguably the show's biggest success story.

2006: The CW

In 2006, The WB and UPN ceased to be and The CW, a joint venture between Warner Bros. and CBS, was born. A mixture of programming from UPN and The WB made up the majority of the first year of programming and in 2007 Gossip Girl premiered, ushering in a new era of television for the fledgling network.

2006: The Real Housewives

Bravo began The Real Housewives franchise with The Real Housewives of Orange County, a series still on today. It spawned a juggernaut reality TV franchise, defined Bravo, and has left a continuing mark on pop culture.

2007: The Sopranos

The Sopranos series finale had close to 12 million viewers, beating out many broadcast shows, but also igniting endless debate about the cut-to-black ending. Did Tony Soprano and his family survive? Many thought something happened to their TV sets.

2012: Scandal

When Scandal debuted, Kerry Washington became the first Black female lead character of a broadcast show in more than 40 years.

2014: Orange Is the New Black

Orange Is the New Black's Laverne Cox became the first out transgender actor be nominated for an Emmy for her work.

2015: Super Bowl XLIX

The 2015 Super Bowl game had the biggest audience ever according to Nielsen ratings with 114,442,000 viewers.

2015: Fresh Off the Boat

Fresh Off the Boat premiered in 2015 and ran for six seasons, making it longest-running series with an Asian-American main cast.

2016: This Is Us

NBC's trailer for This Is Us, then a new show in 2016, broke streaming records. When views across platforms including Facebook, YouTube, and NBC.com were included, it's estimated that the trailer was viewed between 70 and 80 million times. 

2017: Star Trek: Discovery

Sonequa Martin-Green became the first Black woman lead of a Star Trek series.

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