The 25 Most Memorable Moments in TV History

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.