1997 in American television

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The following is a list of events affecting American television during 1997. 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 The U.S. television networks adopt ratings systems for their programming, similar to those used for motion pictures.
WWOR-TV's EMI Service is officially discontinued, re-uplinked into a local version a month later.
The Emergency Broadcast System is replaced by the Emergency Alert System.
January 3 NBC's The Today Show's Bryant Gumbel anchors his last show.
January 12 Animated series King of the Hill premieres.
January 22 All of the New World Communications television stations are acquired by Fox Television Stations.
January 26 Fox makes its first Super Bowl telecast, making it one of the big four Super Bowl networks yet to be broadcast in the United States.
February 9 With the episode The Itchy and Scratchy and Poochie Show, The Simpsons surpasses The Flintstones as the longest-running prime-time cartoon series in terms of episodes aired.
February 21 For the game series Wheel of Fortune, the old trilon-style puzzle board is used for the last time after 22 years. The next Monday, February 24, a new digital puzzle board debuts, which allows Vanna White to reveal letters with the simple touch of a button.
March 17 Toonami debuts on Cartoon Network.
The first 24-hour Spanish news channel, CNN en Español is first broadcast live.
April 1 The full-fledged CBS cable network, CBS Eye on People later known as Discovery People, debuts.
April 20 A cartoon version of World Wrestling Federation (WWF) wrestler Bret Hart appears on The Simpsons.
April 30 The Puppy Episode of the series Ellen (TV series) broadcasts, showing for the first time the revelation of a main character as a homosexual.
May 7 Disney Channel initiates the preschool morning time sequence, Playhouse Disney.
CBS begins airing the two-part Knots Landing reunion miniseries Knots Landing: Back to the Cul-de-Sac, airing on two non-consecutive nights, on May 7 and May 9.
June 6 Actress Farrah Fawcett makes a bizarre appearance on the Late Show with David Letterman. Fawcett tells long, rambling stories without a purpose, fails to understand simple questions, and gets easily distracted by things like blinking lights on the set.
June 21 ABC Sports's Professional Bowlers Tour ends after 36 years.
June 30 KIRO-TV (CBS) and KSTW (UPN) reverted affiliations in Seattle.
July 9 After 4 years of sports programming, the series NewSport ends.
July 15 A tribute episode is broadcast for the series Another World in honor of cast member Victoria Wyndham's 25 years with the program.
August 13 South Park is broadcast for the first time on Comedy Central.
August 25 The series Rugrats returns with new regular episodes on Nickelodeon after being cancelled during 1994 and getting a reprieve for its fourth season in 1995. Note: four special episodes were broadcast during the hiatus between cancellation and revival, but are not counted as part of the series's normal run.
September 1 Disney Channel ends a 14-year run of subscription television. The channel continues free of charge.
September 6 Various networks broadcast the Princess Diana funeral; 2.7 million viewers at home watched this special.
September 13 ABC revamps the whole Saturday morning time period, and adds more new series from Disney to become Disney's One Saturday Morning. This, along with many other programming, was delayed one week from its originally planned debut as a result of the aforementioned Princess Diana funeral. Think CBS Kids debuts.
September 14 The 49th Primetime Emmy Awards are given by CBS.
September 19 After several years of being major parts of ABC's successful "TGIF" Friday night situation comedy programming sequence, series Family Matters and Step by Step switch networks to CBS. Both series, which were in their waning years (and would be canceled during 1998), become part of CBS's new Friday night lineup of family-oriented programming.
October 1 Both channels, PRISM and SportsChannel Philadelphia, ceased broadcasting in Philadelphia.
October 31 Detroit regional sports network PASS Sports ceased broadcasting.
November 2 A third production of Richard Rodgers and Oscar Hammerstein II's version of Cinderella is broadcast by ABC. This version, featuring Brandy Norwood and Whitney Houston, is produced by The Walt Disney Company, which made its own version of the story as an animated movie during 1950.
November 6 Meet the Press celebrates its 50th anniversary.
November 9 Wrestler Bret Hart lost his last match in the WWF (now WWE) via submission to Shawn Michaels.
November 28 The series Beavis and Butt-head is broadcast by MTV for the last time until new episodes were briefly resumed during 2011.
December 23 Trio, a channel devoted to CBC programs, is initiated in United States.

Television Programs[edit]

Programs debuting during 1997[edit]

Date Show Network
January 4 Lost on Earth USA Network
January 6 Sunset Beach NBC
January 9 Antiques Roadshow PBS
January 12 King of The Hill Fox
January 13 La Femme Nikita USA Network
January 19 Emeril Live Food Network
March 3 Daria MTV
March 4 Just Shoot Me! NBC
The Practice ABC
March 10 Buffy the Vampire Slayer The WB
March 26 Smart Guy
April 1 Religion & Ethics Newsweekly PBS
Viva Variety Comedy Central
April 5 The Crocodile Hunter Animal Planet
April 14 ¡Despierta América! Univision
April 15 Soul Man ABC
April 19 Nightmare Ned
Angry Beavers Nickelodeon
Power Rangers: Turbo Fox Kids
June 2 Port Charles ABC
July 12 Oz HBO
July 14 Johnny Bravo Cartoon Network
July 15 Cow and Chicken
I Am Weasel
July 27 Stargate SG-1 Showtime
July 28 Win Ben Stein's Money Comedy Central
August 11 The View ABC
August 13 South Park Comedy Central
August 17 Behind the Music VH1
The World's Funniest! Fox
August 25 Good News UPN
August 26 Head over Heels
September 1 Fox News Watch Fox News Channel
Pensacola: Wings of Gold USA Network
101 Dalmatians: The Series Disney's One Saturday Morning
September 6 City Guys NBC
Click Syndication
September 7 Alright Already The WB
The Tom Show
September 8 Ally McBeal Fox
September 11 413 Hope St.
Between Brothers
September 12 Ninja Turtles: The Next Mutation Fox Kids
September 13 Pepper Ann Disney's One Saturday Morning
Science Court
The Crayon Box Syndication
The Legend of Calamity Jane Kids' WB
The New Batman/Superman Adventures
Wheel 2000 Think CBS Kids
The Weird Al Show
CBS Saturday Morning CBS
September 14 The New Ghostwriter Mysteries Think CBS Kids
September 15 George & Leo CBS
The Gregory Hines Show
Michael Hayes
September 18 Cracker ABC
Nothing Sacred
September 19 The Visitor Fox
September 22 Timecop ABC
Brooklyn South CBS
September 23 Dellaventura
Dharma & Greg ABC
Hiller and Diller
September 24 The Tony Danza Show
Public Eye with Bryant Gumbel CBS
September 25 Union Square NBC
Veronica's Closet
September 26 Meego CBS
Teen Angel ABC
You Wish
September 27 Total Security
Soldier of Fortune, Inc. Syndication
September 28 Jenny NBC
September 29 The Big Garage TLC
October 1 Amp MTV
Daily News Live CSN Philadelphia
Wimzie's House PTV
October 4 The Adventures of Sam & Max: Freelance Police Fox Kids
Fame L.A. Syndication
October 6 Earth: Final Conflict
Team Knight Rider
The Edge CNBC
October 8 Working NBC
October 11 C-16: FBI ABC
Men in Black: The Series Kids' WB
October 17 Players NBC
October 20 Bear in the Big Blue House Playhouse Disney
October 25 Channel Umptee-3 Kids' WB
November 3 Autoline Detroit WTVS
Cartoon Sushi MTV
Enjoying Everyday Life Syndication
My Classic Car TNN

Programs resuming during 1997[edit]

Show Last Aired Previous Network Retitled as/Same New/Returning/Same Network Returning
Rugrats 1994 Nickelodeon Same Same August 23
The People's Court 1993 Syndication September 8
The Wonderful World of Disney 1996 Disney Channel ABC September 28

Programs ending during 1997[edit]

Date Show Debut
January 1 Kung Fu: The Legend Continues 1993
January 3 Small Talk 1996
January 31 Wait 'til You Have Kids
February 22 Road Rovers
March 15 Dangerous Minds
March 28 The City 1995
April 2 EZ Streets 1996
April 14 Relativity
May 1 Martin 1992
May 7 The Disney Afternoon 1990
May 13 Homeboys in Outer Space 1996
May 14 Coach 1989
May 17 Waynehead 1996
May 19 The Cape
May 20 The Burning Zone
Roseanne 1988
May 22 Moloney 1996
May 30 Caryl & Marilyn: Real Friends
May 31 Dark Skies
June 1 Freakazoid! 1995
June 9 Married... with Children 1987
June 14 Lois & Clark: The New Adventures of Superman 1993
June 25 Pearl 1996
July 18 Dave's World 1993
August 18 The Site 1996
August 30 Ultraman Tiga
Hangin' with Mr. Cooper 1992
September 5 The Gordon Elliott Show 1994
September 6 Duckman
CBS Kidz 1996
September 22 X-Men 1992
September 26 Lamb Chop's Play-Along
October 12 The Big Easy 1996
November 24 Power Rangers: Turbo 1997
November 28 Beavis and Butt-head (returned in 2011) 1993
December 7 AAAHH!!! Real Monsters 1994
December 12 The Magic School Bus
Where in Time Is Carmen Sandiego? 1996
December 15 Johnny Bravo (returned in 1999) 1997
December 17 Men Behaving Badly 1996

Made-for-TV movies and miniseries[edit]

Knots Landing: Back to the Cul-de-Sac
The Last Don
Lexx: The Dark Zone Stories


Title Last aired Previous network New/same network Date of return
Muppets Tonight 1996 ABC The Disney Channel September 13

Changes of network affiliation[edit]

Show Moved from Moved to
Unsolved Mysteries NBC CBS
Family Matters ABC
Step by Step
Clueless UPN
The Naked Truth NBC
Politically Incorrect Comedy Central ABC
Sliders Fox Sci Fi Channel
Comedown Fox Kids Kid's WB
Batman: The Animated Series
Madeline The Family Channel Playhouse Disney
Katie and Orbie PTV


Date Name Age Cinematic Credibility
January 16 Ennis Cosby 27 Bill Cosby's son (murdered)
February 6 Ernie Anderson 74 voice actor and announcer (lung cancer)
February 26 David Doyle 67 actor (Bosley on Charlie's Angels)
March 15 Gail Davis 71 actress (Annie on Annie Oakley)
April 15 Donald Bexley 87 actor (Bubba on Sanford and Son)
May 4 Alvy Moore 75 actor (Hank Kimball on Green Acres)
May 11 Howard Morton 71 character actor (Officer Ralph Simpson on Gimme a Break!)
May 24 Edward Mulhare 74 actor (Captain Gregg on The Ghost & Mrs. Muir and Miles on Knight Rider)
June 8 Reid Shelton 72 actor
June 14 Richard Jaeckel 70 actor (Baywatch, Spenser for Hire, more)
June 24 Brian Keith 75 actor (Uncle Bill on Family Affair) (suicide)
June 25 Jacques-Yves Cousteau 87 maker of marine documentaries
July 4 Charles Kuralt 63 journalist for CBS
August 27 Brandon Tartikoff 48 president of NBC
September 9 Burgess Meredith 88 actor (The Penguin on Batman)
September 17 Red Skelton 84 comedian (The Red Skelton Show)
October 9 Arch Johnson 75 character actor
October 16 Audra Lindley 79 actress (Mrs. Roper on Three's Company)
October 24 Don Messick 71 voice actor (voiced Scooby-Doo and others)
October 30 Sydney Newman 80 producer
November 25 Charles Hallahan 54 actor
December 18 Chris Farley 33 comedian (Saturday Night Live) (drug overdose)
December 25 Denver Pyle 77 actor (Uncle Jesse on The Dukes of Hazzard)