November 20, 2008
The week of November 15 through 22, 1968 was an eventful one for television and the arts.
On November 17, 1968, the Jets and the Raiders played a much anticipated match-up football game with an unexpected TV ending. Football fans across the US eagerly awaited the game that posed the tough, top-of-the-league Raiders against the emerging powerhouse Jets. Televised on NBC, the game exceeded its 3 hour time slot due to 19 called penalties. At the 3 hour mark, the game was still going strong, with the Jets leading 32 to 29. At this point, NBC cut to a commercial break, and instead of returning to the game, it began to broadcast the regularly scheduled programming, Heidi starring Shirley Temple. Needless to say, riled up football fans threw a fit while watching Heidi tend to her goats in the Swiss Alps. The Raiders won the game, and NBC announced the score 20 minutes into the movie. Fans were irate, forcing NBC to issue an apology. But this game would go down in broadcast football history. The “Heidi game”, as it became known, forced the NFL to insert language into its TV contracts promising that sports games would be broadcast in their entirety to local markets.
A few days after the football fiasco, on November 21, 1968, President Johnson appointed Duke Ellington to the US National Council on the Arts. The Council was created through the National Arts and Cultural Development Act of 1964, a full year before the federal agency was created by Congressional legislation. The first members included arts and entertainment icons such as Marian Anderson, Leonard Bernstein, Agnes de Mille, Richard Diebenkorn, Duke Ellington, Helen Hayes, Charlton Heston, Harper Lee, Gregory Peck, Sidney Poitier, Richard Rodgers, Rosalind Russell, David Smith, John Steinbeck and Isaac Stern. To this day, the council advises the Chairman of the National Endowment for the Arts on policy and funding matters. Today, poet Dana Gioia serves as Chairman of the NEA. Mr. Gioia will be joining LACO on February 12 to introduce our new Westside Connections series!
In a breakthrough television movement, the first interracial kiss on American network TV occurred on November 22, 1968 on the show which professed “to boldly go where no man has gone before“ Star Trek. The episode was entitled “Plato’s Stepchildren” and featured a smooch between Captain Kirk (William Shatner) and Lietenant Uhura (Nichelle Nichols). Many Southern states refused to broadcast the episode and England banned it for nearly 25 years. The ironic part of the whole scene is that it wasn’t intended as a romantic moment; space aliens were using mind control to force the characters to lock lips! Nonetheless, it was technically the first interracial television kiss, marking an important moment in popular culture’s portrayal of race relations.