40th anniversary: Good Morning America 40th Anniversary

Published: November 19, 2015

40th anniversary: Good Morning America 40th Anniversary, “Good Morning America” celebrated 40 years of waking up ABC viewers by gathering many of the anchors, newsreaders and meteorologists for on-air celebration Thursday.

The network’s Times Square studio was packed with names from GMA’s past, including its first host, David Hartman, and longtime favorites Joan Lunden, Charlie Gibson, Diane Sawyer, Spencer Christian and Sam Champion.

They reminisced about the show’s serious and silly moments over the decades. Gibson and Sawyer recalled being on the air during the 9/11 terrorist attacks in 2001. They also replayed a clip of Gibson cracking up as Lunden held up a Vanna White doll wearing a tiny top that kept falling down.

Such is the nature of morning TV. “GMA” is responsible for expanding the genre after NBC created it with “Today.”

Before “Good Morning America” came along, “Today” owned the bulk of the morning audience since its launch in 1952. CBS offered an hour of straight news and aired children’s program “Captain Kangaroo” in the morning. Cable news networks didn’t exist, and most non-network TV stations did not produce local news.

ABC, led by legendary programming executive Fred Silverman at the time, sensed an opportunity in 1975. The network was dominant in prime time and had hired Barbara Walters away from NBC, where she had been an audience favorite on “Today” for 12 years. After a false start in the morning with a show called “AM America,” the network launched “Good Morning America” on Nov. 3, 1975.

While “Today” was less formal than most news programs in the early years of TV, “Good Morning America” loosened it up even more with the concept of a morning show “family.” The first “GMA” anchors — Hartman and Nancy Dussault — were actors, not journalists. The program’s set was designed to resemble a comfy suburban home. The wide range of contributors in the first year included roaming reporter Geraldo Rivera (“the wild child,” as he recently described himself), gossip maven Rona Barrett, investigative journalist Jack Anderson and humorist Erma Bombeck.


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