1996 in American television

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The following is a list of events affecting American television during 1996. Events listed include television show debuts, finales, cancellations, and channel initiations, closures and rebrandings, as well as information about controversies and disputes.


Date Event
January 1 Speedvision, a cable channel devoted to motor sports, commences programming. The network would be rechristened Speed Channel in 2002, then Speed in 2005.
January 20 Fox introduces its FoxTrax "glowing puck" during its telecast of the 46th National Hockey League All-Star Game.
January 28 Chris Isaak and Brooke Shields make guest appearances on a post-Super Bowl episode of Friends.
March 1 More than 1 billion households worldwide now own television sets.
March 4 DISH Network, a Direct Broadcast Satellite service, begin broadcasting in the United States by the company EchoStar.
April 29 TV Land, an offshoot of the series Nick at Nite devoted to round-the-clock broadcasts of classic television shows, debuts.
May 16 More than 12 million Americans watch the final episode of Murder, She Wrote on CBS, "Death By Demographics". Then through its 12-year run, the series becomes the longest-running American Murder Mystery Drama.
May 19 Sundance Channel debuts.
June 1 Major League Baseball broadcasts for the first time on Fox, which it retains to this day.
June 3 Zenith introduces the first HDTV-compatible front projection TV in the U.S.
June 19 WRAL-TV in Raleigh, NC is awarded the first experimental high-definition television license in the United States.
June 30 After 33 years of public broadcasting in New York, WNYC-TV, broadcasts for the final time.
July 6 When it becomes evident that Anna Stuart will be next to die in a serial killer storyline on Another World, many fans start letter-writing campaigns to save the actress; the NBC studios in New York City also report a great number of switchboard telephone calls regarding Stuart's imminent demise. Executive producer Jill Farren Phelps decides that actress Alice Barrett will be killed off the show instead.
New World Communications sold off 2 NBC affiliates; KNSD-TV (channel 39) in San Diego, California and WVTM-TV (channel 13) in Birmingham, Alabama; the latter were sold subsequently to NBC (and WVTM before subsequently sold to current owner, Media General). And one of the last such acquisitions prior to New World sold to Fox outright.
July 15 The talk-oriented cable network America's Talking ceases broadcasting and is replaced by MSNBC, an all-news joint venture between NBC (AT's owner) and Microsoft.
August 2 MTV's affiliate channel, M2 (now known as MTV2), debuts.
August 23 The series The Price is Right celebrates its 25th Anniversary Special and it was broadcast by CBS.
September 8 The 48th Primetime Emmy Awards are given by ABC.
Longtime ABC affiliate WBRC-TV (channel 8) in Birmingham, Alabama was also sold directly to Fox (originally which New World Communications purchased the station from Citicasters, along with WGHP-TV and the latter due to ownership conflicts) and taking becoming a Fox-owned station. As a result, the ABC affiliation eventually settling the trimulcast of WBMA-LP/WCFT/WJSU (channels 58, 33 and 40) after former Fox affiliate WTTO-TV (channel 21) turned the affiliation offer down; which channel 21 would taking The WB affiliation.
September 13 The dubbed version of the Japanese series Dragonball Z premieres in the U.S.
September 15 The children's programming sequence USA Cartoon Express was shown for the last time by USA Network.
September 16 The Jackpot wedge debuts on Wheel of Fortune.
September 17 The O.J. Simpson civil trial begins.
October 1 Animal Planet (known as Discovery's Animal Planet), debuts.
Discovery Civilization debuts
October 2 Seven newscasters were dismissed by WCBS-TV (channel 2) in New York.
October 4 Discovery Science debuts.
October 7 News Corporation gets into the cable news fray with the debut of the Fox News Channel.
November 1 ESPNNEWS, a sports news channel from ESPN, debuts.
November 2 The original cartoon series of Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles broadcasts its final episode, "Divide and Conquer".
November 11 Discovery Kids debuts.
December 1 The 25 Days of Christmas Special started on The Family Channel, starting one of the longest running Christmas Specials.
December 12 Sports publisher Sports Illustrated and CNN debuted as a 24-hour sporting news channel CNN/SI.
December 15 Five years after its series finale, a movie version of Dallas, entitled Dallas: J.R. Returns, is broadcast by CBS.
December 17 TBS resumed using its Superstation name, after 6 years when it was no longer used.

Television Programs[edit]

Programs debuting during 1996[edit]

Date Show Network
January 6 Campus Cops USA Network
January 9 3rd Rock from the Sun NBC
January 21 Savannah The WB
January 22 Bzzz! Syndication
January 23 Moesha UPN
January 24 Tracey Takes On... HBO
January 28 Katie and Orbie PBS
February 6 Street Signs CNBC
C Bear and Jamal Fox Kids
February 20 VH1 Storytellers VH1
March 1 Gold Fever Outdoor Channel
March 2 Pacific Blue USA Network
March 20 The Sentinel UPN
March 29 Nash Bridges CBS
April 8 Profit Fox
April 20 Power Rangers: Zeo Fox Kids
April 21 Forensic Files TLC
Poltergeist: The Legacy Showtime
April 28 Dexter's Laboratory Cartoon Network
Fox News Sunday Fox
May 13 Buzzkill MTV
June 1 The American Athlete ABC
June 2 Big Bag Cartoon Network
June 3 Debt Lifetime
Kratts' Creatures PBS
June 10 Caryl & Marilyn: Real Friends ABC
The Rosie O'Donnell Show Syndication
A Wedding Story TLC
July 15 Kenan and Kel Nickelodeon
The News with Brian Williams MSNBC
The Site
Time and Again
July 22 The Daily Show Comedy Central
August 10 Arliss HBO
August 11 The Big Easy USA Network
August 25 The Steve Harvey Show The WB
August 26 7th Heaven
Goode Behavior UPN
Malcolm & Eddie
In The House
August 27 Homeboys in Outer Space
August 28 The Jamie Foxx Show The WB
Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher
August 31 Women: Stories of Passion Showtime
September Power Lunch CNBC
September 1 Big Deal Fox
September 2 Adventures from the Book of Virtues PBS
September 3 The Burning Zone UPN
Quack Pack UPN Kids
Imus in the Morning MSNBC
September 6 The Mighty Ducks ABC
Superman: The Animated Series Kids' WB
September 7 Road Rovers
Big Bad Beetleborgs Fox Kids
September 8 Blue's Clues Nick Jr.
Bureau of Alien Detectors UPN Kids
The Incredible Hulk
The Mouse and the Monster
Fox After Breakfast Fox
September 9 Lush Life
Party Girl
Grill Me USA Network
Access Hollywood Syndication
The Cape
Real TV
September 13 Dragonball Z
Everybody Loves Raymond CBS
September 14 Bailey Kipper's P.O.V.
Project G.e.e.K.e.R.
September 16 Cosby
Beast Wars: Transformers Syndication
Judge Judy
Pearl CBS
September 17 Promised Land
Spin City ABC
September 18 Townies
Men Behaving Badly NBC
September 19 The Pretender
Suddenly Susan
Moloney CBS
September 20 Mr. & Mrs. Smith
Clueless ABC
September 21 Dark Skies NBC
WWF LiveWire USA Network
September 24 Relativity ABC
September 27 Sabrina, the Teenage Witch
September 29 Profiler NBC
September 30 Pappyland TLC
Shopping Spree The Family Channel
Small Talk
Wait 'til You Have Kids
Dangerous Minds ABC
October 5 Jungle Cubs
October 7 Hannity & Colmes Fox News Channel
The O'Reilly Factor
Your World with Neil Cavuto
Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego? PBS
Theodore Tugboat
Hey Arnold! Nickelodeon
October 11 KaBlam!
October 12 The RuPaul Show VH1
October 13 The Wubbulous World of Dr. Seuss Nick Jr.
October 19 Waynehead Kids' WB
October 21 Ink CBS
October 25 Millennium Fox
Remember This? MSNBC
October 27 Pop-Up Video VH1
EZ Streets CBS
October 30 Public Morals
December 9 Idiot Savants MTV
December 24 Edgewise MSNBC
December 28 E! True Hollywood Story E!
For Your Home PBS
Gardening by the Yard HGTV
Naughty Amateur Home Videos Playboy TV

Programs resuming during 1996[edit]

Show Last Aired Previous Network Retitled as New Network Returned
Doug 1994 Nickelodeon Disney's Doug ABC September 7
Shop 'til You Drop Lifetime The New Shop 'til You Drop The Family Channel September 30

Programs ending during 1996[edit]

Date Show Debut
January 9 Live Shot 1995
January 11 The Commish 1991
February 3 Are You Afraid of the Dark?
Dumb and Dumber 1995
February 17 Mighty Morphin Power Rangers 1993
February 23 Strange Luck 1995
February 24 Biker Mice From Mars 1993
Iron Man 1994
March 1 The Head
March 27 Dream On 1990
March 29 George & Alana 1995
April 1 Partners
May 4 Sisters 1991
May 16 Murder, She Wrote 1984
May 20 The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air 1990
Nowhere Man 1995
June 2 Space: Above and Beyond
June 9 seaQuest DSV 1993
June 28 Central Park West 1995
July 19 Tales from the Crypt 1989
September 15 USA Cartoon Express 1982
November 2 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles 1987
November 14 The Ren and Stimpy Show 1991
November 24 Rocko's Modern Life 1993
November 27 Power Rangers: Zeo 1996
December 14 California Dreams 1992

Made for TV movies and miniseries[edit]

Premiere Date Title Channel
April 9 Face of Evil CBS
April 28 The Beast NBC
May 14 Doctor Who Fox
September 24 After Jimmy CBS
November 15 Dallas: J.R. Returns
November 17 Titanic

Changes of Network Affiliation[edit]

Show Moved from Moved to
Brotherly Love NBC The WB
In the House UPN
Doug Nickelodeon ABC
Mystery Science Theater 3000 Comedy Central Sci Fi Channel


Date Name Cinematic Notability
April 14 Abigail Breslin actress


Date Name Age Cinematic Credibility
February 3 Audrey Meadows 70 actress (Alice Kramden on The Honeymooners)
February 13 Martin Balsam 77 actor (Murray on Archie Bunker's Place)
February 15 McLean Stevenson 67 actor (Lt. Col. Henry Blake on M*A*S*H)
Tommy Rettig 55 former child actor (Jeff on Lassie)
March 4 Minnie Pearl 84 comedian
March 5 Whit Bissell 87 character actor
March 9 George Burns 100 comedian
March 11 Vince Edwards 68 actor (Ben Casey)
April 21 Jimmy "The Greek" Snyder 77 sports commentator
May 20 Jon Pertwee 76 former star of Doctor Who.
June 2 Ray Combs 40 former host of Family Feud, (suicide)
June 5 Vito Scotti 78 American character actor, Gilligan's Island
June 16 Mel Allen 83 sports commentator
July 21 Herb Edelman 63 actor (Stanley Zbornak on The Golden Girls)
August 27 Greg Morris actor (Mission: Impossible)
September 13 Tupac Shakur 25 actor/songwriter.
September 29 Leslie Crowther 63 British TV comedian & game show host
October 6 Ted Bessell 61 actor (That Girl)
October 13 Beryl Reid 63 actress
October 27 Morey Amsterdam 88 actor and comedian (Buddy on The Dick Van Dyke Show)
December 8 Howard E. Rollins, Jr. 46 actor (Tibbs on the TV version of In the Heat of the Night)
December 11 Willie Rushton 59 comedian, actor, and performer.
December 12 Larry Gates 81 soap opera actor (Guiding Light)
December 14 Edward K. Milkis 65 producer