TV debut on 'The Hollywood Palace'
October 14, 1969: Introduced by Diana Ross, The Jackson Five made their television debut on variety show The Hollywood Palace. Other performers on the episode included Sammy Davis, Jr., Laugh In funnyman Alan Sues and ventriloquist act Willie Tyler and Lester.
'The Ed Sullivan Show'
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December 14, 1969: The Jackson 5 made their first appearance on the highly rated CBS variety show, and would appear one more time, the following year.
'The Jackson 5' Saturday morning cartoon
Classic Media/Classic Media
September 11, 1971: A co-production of Rankin-Bass animation studios and Motown Records, this animated series ran for two seasons. Due to scheduling conflicts, none of the Jacksons had any involvement in the show whatsoever, other than singing the Jackson 5 tunes that were used in the show.
Michael on 'The Dating Game'
June 30, 1972: 14-year-old Michael Jackson appeared on a special junior edition of Chuck Barris's The Dating Game, and wound up taking 10-year-old Latonya Simmons out to dinner. In a 1977 Interview Magazine chat with artist Andy Warhol, Jackson remarked that, "I’ve never been on a date — outside of The Dating Game. And that was work."
'The Jacksons' variety show
TV Party/TV Party
June 16, 1976: As he did onstage, Michael Jackson stole the show during this 30-minute CBS variety show that featured The Jackson 5 minus Marlon (who was still signed to Motown while the rest of the group, now renamed The Jacksons, were signed to CBS Records). The Jacksons started off as a summer replacement in 1976, and returned the following January for 12 more episodes before it was cancelled. Guest stars included Muhammad Ali, Ed McMahon, Carroll O'Connor and an up-and-coming stand-up comic named David Letterman, who appeared twice.
The moonwalk debuts on 'Motown 25' special
May 16, 1983: Michael Jackson's incendiary performance of "Billie Jean" during the anniversary special Motown 25: Yesterday, Today, Forever is regarded as a true watershed moment that sent him into the stratosphere. Jackson's debut of a stunning new dance move called 'the moonwalk' along with his signature sequined style and single white glove laid the foundation for the superstardom to come.
Thriller debuts on MTV
Sony Music/Sony Music
December 2, 1983: Thanks to this spectacularly spooky short film (directed by John "Animal House" Landis), music videos ceased being promotional vehicles to sell records and became standalone works of art. Featuring the voice of Vincent Price and a small army of dancing zombies, the "Thriller" video raised the bar for MTV music videos, and remains iconic in its own right.
'We Are the World'
March 7, 1985: An American response to Bob Geldof's charity anthem "Do They Know It's Christmas," Jackson teamed up with Lionel Richie to write their own anthem, enlisting some of the music industry's biggest names to participate, ranging from Tina Turner to Bob Dylan to Bruce Springsteen. The song wound up becoming the fastest-selling single in the history of pop music, and has raised more than US$50 million for African relief efforts.
Matt Groening/Fox/Matt Groening/Fox
January 30, 1992: Michael Jackson was a huge fan of The Simpsons, and called series creator Matt Groening to offer himself up for a guest spot. As a result, the episode "Stark Raving Dad" was written specifically for the King of Pop, who provided the voice of psychiatric patient Leon Kompowsky, a burly Caucasian man who believes he's Michael Jackson. Jackson also wrote the song "Happy Birthday Lisa," but doesn't actually sing it; as a joke, he insisted that Michael Jackson impersonator Kipp Lennon do the singing. For contractual reasons, Jackson isn't credited on the episode, and is identified as "John Jay Smith".
Super Bowl halftime show
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January 31, 1993: Unlike previous Super Bowl halftime shows that featured multiple performers, Michael Jackson was the sole artist in the 1993 halftime show. Thanks to Jackson's performance, this was the first time that ratings for the game dramatically increased during the halftime show.
Jacko meets Oprah
Harpo Productions/Harpo Productions
February 10, 1993: Oprah Winfrey landed Michael Jackson's first interview in 14 years, and the result was a bona fide TV event that captured a worldwide audience of 90 million viewers. "It was the most exciting interview I had ever done," Winfrey reflected 25 years later. This was the first time Jackson had publicly addressed the increasing paleness of his skin, which he attributed to a skin condition called vitiligo.
Addressing sex abuse allegations
December 22, 1993: After Jackson was accused of sexually abusing a 13-year-old boy, he responded in a televised statement via satellite from Neverland Ranch. "These statements about me are totally false," Jackson said. "I ask all of you to wait and hear the truth before you label or condemn me. Don't treat me like a criminal, because I am innocent. I have been forced to submit to a dehumanizing and humiliating examination...It was the most humiliating ordeal of my life...but if this is what I have to endure to prove my innocence, my complete innocence, so be it."
'Primetime Live' interview with Diane Sawyer
Everett Collection/Everett Collection
June 14, 1995: More than 60 million viewers tuned in to see Diane Sawyer interview newlyweds Michael Jackson and Lisa Marie Presley. When Sawyer brought up rumours that the union was a marriage of convenience meant to quell sexual abuse allegations against Jackson, Presley said that was "the most ridiculous thing I've ever heard." The interview was also notable for the couple's extremely awkward on-camera kiss and the way they danced around the question of whether they actually had sex. The following January, Presley filed for divorce.
The infamous baby-dangling incident
November 19, 2002: After years in seclusion, Jackson was now a single father of three when he decided to show off his youngest child, Blanket, to fans outside a Berlin hotel by dangling the kid over the railing of his room's balcony as the baby squirmed frantically, a blanket covering his head. When footage of this stunt aired on TV, outrage ensued, with many questioning Jackson's mental state. He subsequently admitted it was a "terrible mistake."
'Living With Michael Jackson' TV special
February 6, 2003: In an effort to repair his deeply damaged public image, Jackson allowed British journalist Martin Bashir unprecedented access, with Bashir spending time with Jackson and interviewing him over the course of eight months. Unfortunately, the ensuing TV special did far more damage than it repaired, with footage of Jackson participating in a deranged Las Vegas shopping spree and admitting that "many children" have slept in his bed with him over the years. Jackson felt betrayed by Bashir, and claimed that the journalist only used footage that made him look bad, and subsequently released his own "rebuttal" special, Take Two: The Footage You Were Never Meant to See.
'The World Music Awards'
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November 15, 2006: What was meant to be a triumphant comeback became a notorious fiasco thanks to a performance (backed by a choir of children) that critics described as "embarrassing," "a shambles" and "enough to make you cry. And not in a good way." Jackson also received an award, but it was later revealed that he was paid US$400,000 to appear on the show. This was to be Jackson's final televised performance.
TV news coverage of his death
June 25, 2009: When Jackson was rushed to the hospital after reportedly overdosing on a surgical anesthetic called propofol, cable news networks quickly launched into full coverage, following the story as it transformed from medical crisis to the death of a superstar.
The memorial service
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July 7, 2009: 12 days after Jackson's death, L.A.'s Staples Centre hosted a massive memorial service attended by celebrities including Mariah Carey, Stevie Wonder, Lionel Richie, Jennifer Hudson and Usher. Some news services estimate the service had a worldwide TV audience of 2.5 billion, although this is impossible to verify. If true, that would make Jackson's memorial service the most-watched live TV event in history. In addition, the service remains the most-watched event in the history of online streaming.