Bicentennial Minutes

From Academic Kids

Bicentennial Minutes was the name of a series of short public-service American television segments commemorating the 1976 United States Bicentennial. The segments were produced by the network CBS and broadcast nightly from July 4, 1974 until 1976. Sources differ as to whether the final telecast was on July 4 of that year or on December 31.

The series was created by Ethel Winant and Louis Friedman of CBS, who had to fight to get approval from network executives who considered it to be a mere commercial. The producer of the series was Paul Waigner, the executive producer was Bob Markell. and the executive story editor and writer was Jerome Alden. In 1976, the series received an Emmy Award in the category of Special Classification of Outstanding Program and Individual Achievement. It also won a Special Christopher Award in 1976.

The videotaped segments were one minute long and were broadcast each night after the network news and before the start of the prime time hours. The format of the segments did not change, although each segment featured a different narrator, often a CBS network television star. The narrator, after introducing himself or herself, would state "This is a Bicentennial Minute," followed by the phrase "Two hundred years ago today..." and a description a historical event or personnage prominent on that particular date two hundred years ago during the American Revolution.

The Bicentennial Minute achieved a high cultural profile during its run and was widely referenced and parodied. For example, on the episode of All in the Family originally broadcast on February 2, 1976, the character Mike Stivic responded to a typically closed-minded and less-than-accurate monologue by Archie Bunker about the history of American immigration and the meaning of the Statue of Liberty with the sarcastic comment: "This has been Archie Bunker's Bicentennial Minute." Also in early 1976, in a sketch on The Sonny and Cher Show, guest star Jim Nabors portrayed British King George III and offered a comic rebuttal to the always pro-American Revolution Bicentennial Minutes. Indeed, the phrase "Bicentennial Minute" has entered into the American cultural vocabulary, although the original series of segments has been largely forgotten.

The Bicentennial Minute on July 3, 1976 was narrated by Vice President Nelson Rockefeller. The Bicentennial Minute, broadcast on July 4, 1976 (the actual date of the bicentennial of the adoption of the Declaration of Independence), was narrated by President Gerald Ford.


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