Picketing workers watch TV in a tent outside the gates of a U.S. Steel plant in Gary, Indiana, during a strike in 1959.
Television gets a bad rap. As early as 1961, President Kennedy’s FCC chairman, Newton Minow, famously characterized most programming as a “vast wasteland.” Today, everyone from pediatricians to self-designated protectors of public morals point to TV as a cause of … well, you name it: childhood obesity, political apathy, high murder rates, low literacy rates. It sometimes seems that every societal ill is (or can be) in some way tied to the tube.
Be that as it may, we like television. In fact, we like it a lot. And here, on the anniversary of two utterly unrelated but nevertheless rather significant TV-related events — the first color television sets using a new national analog standard going on sale to the American public (1954), and the anniversary of basketball being televised for the very first time in the U.S. (Fordham vs. Pittsburgh at Madison Square Garden in 1940) — LIFE.com offers a photo gallery that unapologetically celebrates what is arguably America’s true national pastime: namely, watching TV.
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