9. Roots (1977)
The power of the medium to both educate and entertain has seldom been as well employed as in 1977, when Alex Haley’s book-length exploration of slavery and his own family tree was adapted into the 12-hour TV movie Roots. Aired over consecutive nights and giving birth to the “mini-series,” Roots was a gamble for ABC, which aired it in the week before “sweeps” to prevent their experiment from damaging ratings. Quite the contrary; Roots sparked a national debate on this less-inspiring portion of American history (in the bicentennial year, no less) and attracted, over the course of its run, 85% of all television viewers.