For the American TV schedule, see: 1981-82 American network television schedule.
1981 in television involved some significant events. Below is a list of television-related events during 1981.
Comedian Andy Kaufman disrupts sketches and starts a brawl while broadcasting during ABC's sketch series . Fridays
After a 19-year run,
Walter Cronkite resigns as main anchorman of and is succeeded the next Monday by The CBS Evening News Dan Rather.
assassination attempt against President Ronald Reagan in Washington, D.C., in which the President and several other people were wounded, interrupted programming on the three major networks and CNN at 2:42 PM. Millions of viewers worldwide witnessed footage of the shooting and the chaos that followed. ABC News was flooded with unconfirmed reports, which pestered the chief anchor Frank Reynolds, one of which falsely stated that the President's press secretary James Brady had died in the shooting. This was also reported by CBS News and ABC News. Coverage of the assassination attempt continued for hours on the big three networks, and for two days on CNN. As a result, the Academy Awards were postponed for a day.
Berlinda Tolbert and Michael Jonas Evans made their final appearance as Lionel and Jenny Willis Jefferson in . The Jeffersons
Van Halen's main guitarist Eddie Van Halen marries One Day at a Time actress Valerie Bertinelli.
Alpha Repertory Television Service (also known as ARTS) launches right after the Nickelodeon time period.
"Weird Al" Yankovic makes his first television appearance on
The Tomorrow Show with Tom Snyder.
The season four finale of
, entitled "Ewing-Gate" aired. Dallas
Fred Silverman is dismissed as president of NBC, after failing to improve that network's third-place rating, and is replaced by Grant Tinker.
Showtime ends its part-time status and inaugurates a 24/7 schedule.
MTV network debuts on cable television, playing music videos 24 hours a day. " Video Killed the Radio Star" by The Buggles was the first video broadcast on the network.
During the course of the year, all
soap operas produced by Procter & Gamble change title sequences and theme songs. , Another World , Guiding Light , and Search for Tomorrow all have new title sequences. The Edge of Night
CBS Cable is initiated.
The NBC soap opera
broadcasts its 5,000th episode. The Doctors
debuted a new opening sequence and As the World Turns theme song for the first time in its 25-year history.
ESPN televises its first live flag-to-flag NASCAR race, the Atlanta Journal 500.
The cast and crew of
were delivered a surprise: despite maintaining good ratings, The Incredible Hulk The Incredible Hulk was to be canceled immediately (Executive producer Kenneth Johnson tried to convince the network to buy six additional episodes so that CBS could fill season five, but it was refused.)
Luke and Laura's wedding for series becomes one of the most watched weddings in American television history, second only to the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer. General Hospital
HBO begins broadcasting 24 hours a day full-time.
Chuck Woolery hosted his last episode of after a salary dispute with series producer and creator Wheel of Fortune Merv Griffin. The next Monday, December 28, Pat Sajak began hosting.
Programs [ edit ]
(1968–present) 60 Minutes
(1970–present) All My Children
(1952–1989) American Bandstand
(1964–1999) Another World
(1979–1983) Archie Bunker's Place
(1956–2010) As the World Turns
(1975–1982) Barney Miller
(1978–1985) Battle of the Planets
(1948–present) Candid Camera
(1955–1984) Captain Kangaroo
(1976–1981) Charlie's Angels
(1965–present) Days of Our Lives
(1978–1986) Diff'rent Strokes
(1979–1981) Disney's Wonderful World
(1954–present) Face the Nation
(1976–1985, 1988–1995, 1999–present) Family Feud
(1977–1984) Fantasy Island
(1972–1984) Fat Albert and the Cosby Kids
(1963–present) General Hospital
(1975–present) Good Morning America
(1952–2009) Guiding Light
(1951–present) Hallmark Hall of Fame
(1974–1984) Happy Days
(1969–1993) Hee Haw
(1977–1982) In Search of...
(1980–1982, 1985–1989) It's a Living
(1979–1993) Knots Landing
(1976–1983) Laverne & Shirley
(1974–1983) Little House on the Prairie
(1977–1982) Lou Grant
(1980–1988) Magnum, P.I.
(1971–present) Masterpiece Theatre
(1962–1969, 1973–1984, 1990–1991, 1998–1999) Match Game
(1947–present) Meet the Press
(1970–present) Monday Night Football
(1978–1982) Mork & Mindy
One Day at a Time (1975–1984)
(1968–present) One Life to Live
(1976–1983) Quincy, M.E.
(1979–1984) Real People
(1975–1989) Ryan's Hope
(1975–present) Saturday Night Live
(1973–1986) Schoolhouse Rock!
(1951–1986) Search for Tomorrow
(1969–present) Sesame Street
(1980–1988) Solid Gold
(1971–present) Soul Train
(1980–1984) That's Incredible!
(1974–1984) The Dean Martin Celebrity Roast
The Doctors (1963–1982)
(1979–1985) The Dukes of Hazzard
(1956–1984) The Edge of Night
(1979–1988) The Facts of Life
(1975–1985) The Jeffersons
(1955–1982) The Lawrence Welk Show
(1977–1986) The Love Boat
(1961–1981) The Mike Douglas Show
(1976–1987) The P.T.L. Club
(1972–present) The Price Is Right
(1952–present) The Today Show
(1973–1982) The Tomorrow Show
(1954–present; full title has generally included the host's name) The Tonight Show
(1972–1981) The Waltons
(1973–present) The Young and the Restless
(1979–present) This Old House
(1977–1998, 2000–present) This Week in Baseball
(1977–1984) Three's Company
(1980–1986) Too Close for Comfort
(1979–1986) Trapper John, M.D.
(1950–1988) Truth or Consequences
Wheel of Fortune (1975–present)
(1978–1982) WKRP in Cincinnati
Ending this year [ edit ]
Changes of network affiliation [ edit ]
Made-for-TV movies and miniseries [ edit ]
Beverley Mitchell Actress (
) 7th Heaven
Elijah Wood Actor (
) Tron: Uprising
Justin Timberlake Singer and actor (
) The Mickey Mouse Club
Emily Rose Actress (
Alison Haislip Actress and TV personality (
, Attack of the Show! , The Morning After ) Battleground
Joseph Gordon-Levitt Actor (
Tommy Solomon on ) 3rd Rock from the Sun
Paris Hilton Heiress and TV personality (
) The Simple Life
Bryce Dallas Howard Actress (
) HitRecord on TV
Ellen Muth Actress (
) Dead Like Me
Julia Stiles Actress (
Bethany Joy Lenz Actress (
, Guiding Light ) and singer One Tree Hill
Eliza Coupe Actress (
, Scrubs , Happy Endings ) Benched
Courtney Peldon Actress (
, Harry and the Hendersons ) Boston Public
Jessica Alba Actress (
) Dark Angel
Danielle Fishel Actress (
) Boy Meets World
Jamie-Lynn Sigler Actress (
) The Sopranos
Amy Schumer Actress and comedienne (
) Inside Amy Schumer
Larisa Oleynik Actress (
, The Secret World of Alex Mack ) Winx Club
Natalie Portman Actress (
host in 2006) Saturday Night Live
Vanessa Ray Actress (
, As the World Turns ) Blue Bloods
Summer Glau Actress (
, Firefly , Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles ) Sequestered
Amanda Congdon Actress and video blogger (
Abigail Spencer Actress (
, All My Children , Burning Love ) Rectify
Erin Kelly Actress (
) Beyond the Break
Rachel Bilson Actress (
) The O.C.
Beyoncé Singer and actress
Jonathan Taylor Thomas Actor (
) Home Improvement
Julie Gonzalo Argentine-American actress (
, Veronica Mars , Eli Stone ) Dallas
Alexis Bledel Actress (
) Gilmore Girls
Jennifer Tisdale Actress
Zachery Ty Bryan Actor (
) Home Improvement
Caterina Scorsone Actress (
, Missing , Grey's Anatomy ) Private Practice
Azura Skye Actress (
) Zoe, Duncan, Jack and Jane
Scottie Thompson Actress (
, NCIS ) Trauma
Britney Spears Singer (
) The Mickey Mouse Club
Krysten Ritter Actress (
) Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23
Emilie de Ravin Actress (
, Roswell , Lost ) Once Upon a Time