1986 in American television

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For the American network television schedule, please see 1986-87 American network television schedule.

The year 1986 in television involved some significant events. This is a list of notable events in the United States.


Date Event
January 6 A Vicks Formula 44 cough medicine advertisement premieres, featuring Peter Bergman from All My Children, in which he told the viewing audience "I'm not a doctor, but I play one on TV". This phrase, first used during the early 1970s by actor Robert Young of the series Marcus Welby, M.D. fame, was subsequently parodied by many popular culture references.
A revival of Card Sharks premieres on CBS. In order to make room for the show (which aired at 10:30 AM), CBS moves Press Your Luck to the 4:00 PM timeslot.
January 25 HBO's scrambling service begins.
January 28 NASA's Space Shuttle Challenger spacecraft disintegrates live on CNN.
February 9 Helen Martin joins the cast of the series 227, after appearing every episode in the 1985–86 season, replacing Kia Goodwin, who was dismissed from the cast after the first season, who portrayed Rose's (Alaina Reed) daughter, Tiffany, before written off the show initially during 1988.
February 11 Culture Club's main singer Boy George appears on an episode of the program The A-Team.
February 14 Frank Zappa appears on an episode of the popular television series Miami Vice. Zappa plays a crime boss named "Mr. Frankie".
February 22 In honor of the 20th anniversary of the first episode of the television series The Monkees, MTV broadcasts "Pleasant Valley Sunday", a 22-hour marathon of Monkees episodes.
March 9 On the soap opera Search for Tomorrow, the entire town of Henderson is washed away in a flood. Main character Joanne Tourneur's motel is the only structure in town left standing.
March 20 After four seasons, NBC cancels Remington Steele. This announcement results in Pierce Brosnan being named the newest portrayer of James Bond. As a result of the media frenzy concerning Brosnan's appointment, as well as the corresponding increase of Steele's ratings, NBC reverses its decision and announces Steele will return midway through the 1986–87 season. This results in Bond movie producers withdrawing their offer to Brosnan, though he would take on the role of Bond in 1995.
April 3 Merv Griffin sells his company, Merv Griffin Enterprises, to The Coca-Cola Company for $250,000,000.
April 21 Geraldo Rivera hosts a live two-hour syndicated special The Mystery of Al Capone's Vault, famously coming up empty-handed.
April 27 A man calling himself Captain Midnight jams HBO's signal to protest its monthly fee of $12.95.
May 10 Tommy Lee of rock group Mötley Crüe marries actress Heather Locklear.
May 12 NBC unveils its new Peacock logo during its 60th anniversary special.
May 16 Bobby Ewing is revealed to be alive and showering in his ex-wife Pam's bathroom in the season finale of the series Dallas; in the September 26 season premiere, it was shown that the entire 1985–86 season was a dream of hers the night after they agreed to remarry.
May 22 Cher calls David Letterman an "asshole" during a taping of Late Night with David Letterman.
July 18 A tornado is broadcast live by KARE-TV in Minneapolis when the station's helicopter pilot makes a chance encounter.
August 15 Rod Roddy becomes permanent announcer of the long-running CBS daytime game series The Price Is Right, replacing the deceased Johnny Olsen.
September 1 For one week, CBS Evening News anchorman Dan Rather attempts to initiate the use of the word "Courage" as a slogan. The attempt is a failure, and is noticed by other members of the press.
Disney Channel, at the time a premium cable network, begins broadcasting a 24-hour-a-day schedule.
September 8 Oprah Winfrey's Chicago-based talk show goes national.
September 17 ABC becomes the second American network to discontinue use of chime intonations at the beginning of telecasts, switching to satellite feed activation.
September 27 On The Facts of Life, Charlotte Rae quits the role of Mrs. Garrett (who marries her old friend Bruce Gaines, played by Robert Mandan), and is replaced by Cloris Leachman, who played Beverly Ann Stickle, Mrs. Garrett's sister.
September 28 CBS returns the 4:00 PM timeslot to its affiliates following the cancellation of Press Your Luck a month earlier.
October 9 The Fox Broadcasting Company launches as the United States' fourth commercial broadcast television network, the first to do since 1967.
November 8 Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman and Kevin Nealon join Saturday Night Live.
November 30 The Disney Channel signs off for the last time. From 7 a.m. on December 1, 1986, the channel broadcasts 24 hours a day.



Date Show Network
January 5 Blacke's Magic NBC
January 6 Bruce Forsyth's Hot Streak ABC
January 18 The Redd Foxx Show
January 22 Planet Earth PBS
February 16 Sidekicks ABC
February 24 You Again? NBC
March 1 The Hogan Family
March 5 Fast Times CBS
March 25 Perfect Strangers ABC
March 28 Mr. Sunshine
May 28 The Canned Film Festival Syndication
September 6 WWF Superstars of Wrestling
The Flintstone Kids ABC
September 8 Ghostbusters Syndication
The Oprah Winfrey Show
Superior Court
September 9 The Wizard CBS
September 10 It's Garry Shandling's Show Showtime
September 11 Our House NBC
September 13 Easy Street
The Real Ghostbusters ABC
Pee-wee's Playhouse CBS
Teen Wolf
At the Movies Syndication
September 15 Rambo: The Force of Freedom
September 17 Head of the Class ABC
September 18 Crime Story NBC
L.A. Law
September 19 Starman ABC
September 20 The Ellen Burstyn Show
Heart of the City
Life With Lucy
September 22 Dennis the Menace Syndication
Zoobilee Zoo
Together We Stand CBS
September 23 Matlock
Sledge Hammer! ABC
September 25 Our World
September 26 Kay O'Brien CBS
September 27 The New Mike Hammer
Amen NBC
September 28 WWF Wrestling Challenge Syndication
September 29 Designing Women CBS
October 1 Better Days
October 6 My Sister Sam
Double Dare Nickelodeon
October 9 The Late Show with Joan Rivers Fox
December 1 The Cavanaughs CBS
December 5 Gung Ho ABC

Returning this year[edit]

Show Last Aired Previous Network Retitled as/Same New/Returning/Same Network Returning
Card Sharks 1981 NBC Same CBS January 6
Too Close for Comfort 1985 Syndication The Ted Knight Show Same April 21
9 to 5 1983 ABC Same Syndication September 13
Hollywood Squares 1984 NBC September 15
Mama's Family September 26

Ending this year[edit]

Date Show Debut
March 5 Planet Earth 1986
March 7 Diff'rent Strokes 1978
April 4 Bruce Forsyth's Hot Streak 1986
April 8 Foley Square 1985
April 19 Benson 1979
May 2 The Fall Guy 1981
May 23 The Joker's Wild (returned in 1990) 1972
The All-New Let's Make a Deal 1963
Tic Tac Dough (returned in 1990) 1956
May 28 T. J. Hooker 1982
June 6 The Merv Griffin Show 1972
June 18 Bertha 1985
August 8 Knight Rider 1982
August 22 Riptide 1983
September 4 Trapper John, M.D. 1979
September 26 Press Your Luck 1983
December 5 Ghostbusters 1986
December 26 The Canned Film Festival
Rambo: The Force of Freedom
Search for Tomorrow 1951

Changes of network affiliation[edit]

Show Moved from Moved to
Card Sharks NBC CBS
Mama's Family Syndication
Silver Spoons
The Wuzzles CBS ABC

Made-for-TV movies and miniseries[edit]

The Last Frontier
North and South: Book II


Date Name Notability
January 15 Jessy Schram Actress
January 18 Becca Tobin Actress (Glee) and singer
January 24 Mischa Barton Actress (The O.C.)
Ricky Ullman Actor (Phil of the Future)
February 1 Lauren Conrad Actress (Laguna Beach: The Real Orange County, The Hills)
February 2 Gemma Arterton Actress
February 14 Tiffany Thornton Actress (Sonny with a Chance) and singer
March 9 Brittany Snow Actress (American Dreams, Harry's Law)
April 2 Christopher Walberg Voice actor, (Stinky Peterson on Nickelodeon's Hey Arnold!)
April 3 Amanda Bynes Actress (What I Like About You)
April 9 Leighton Meester Actress (Gossip Girl) and singer
April 22 Amber Heard Actress (Hidden Palms)
April 30 Dianna Agron Actress (Glee) and singer
May 9 Grace Gummer Actress (Gigantic, American Horror Story, Extant)
May 12 Emily VanCamp Actress (Everwood, Brothers & Sisters, Revenge)
May 13 Lena Dunham Actress (Girls)
May 17 Tahj Mowry Actor (Smart Guy)
May 24 Mark Ballas Dancer and choreographer (Dancing with the Stars)
June 11 Shia LaBeouf Actor (Even Stevens)
June 13 Kat Dennings Actress (Raising Dad, 2 Broke Girls)
June 20 Dreama Walker Actress (Gossip Girl, Don't Trust the B---- in Apartment 23)
June 27 Drake Bell Actor (Drake & Josh)
July 2 Lindsay Lohan Actress (4-time host of Saturday Night Live)
July 16 Taryn Southern Actress (Sorority Forever) and singer
July 24 Megan Park Actress (The Secret Life of the American Teenager)
August 8 Peyton List Actress (As the World Turns, The Tomorrow People)
September 16 Kyla Pratt Actress (One on One)
September 23 Kaylee DeFer Actress (The War at Home, Gossip Girl)
September 24 Eloise Mumford Actress (The River)
October 23 Briana Evigan Actress
Jessica Stroup Actress (90210)
November 6 Katie Leclerc Actress (Switched at Birth)
November 10 Josh Peck Actor (Drake & Josh)
November 18 Joseph Ashton Voice actor (Otto Rocket on Nickelodeon's Rocket Power)
November 25 Katie Cassidy Actress (Harper's Island, Melrose Place, Arrow)
December 11 Condola Rashad Actress (Steel Magnolias)
December 30 Caity Lotz Actress (Arrow)


Date Name Age Notability
January 14 Donna Reed 64 Actress (The Donna Reed Show, Dallas)
January 24 Gordon MacRae 64 Actor and singer
January 29 Leif Erickson 74 Actor (The High Chaparral)
May 28 Don MacLaughlin 79 Actor (Chris Hughes on As the World Turns)
June 14 Marlin Perkins 81 Zoologist, host of (Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom)
July 15 Florence Halop 63 Actress (Florence on Night Court)
August 26 Ted Knight 62 Actor (Ted Baxter on The Mary Tyler Moore Show)
October 25 Forrest Tucker 67 Actor (F Troop)
November 2 Paul Frees 66 Voice actor (Boris Badenov on The Rocky and Bullwinkle Show, 1st voice for the Pillsbury Doughboy)
December 2 Desi Arnaz 69 Actor and musician (Ricky Ricardo on I Love Lucy)