CNN: THE BOMBING OF BAGHDAD
Jan 17, 1991
It was the first war to get the Super Bowl treatment: on-site color commentary, state-of-the-art graphics, even instant replay (of so-called ''smart bombs'' hitting targets). In the booth which in this case was Baghdad's al-Rashid Hotel were Bernard Shaw, John Holliman, and Peter Arnett, the CNN correspondents who single-handedly legitimized the ''all news'' outlet with their alarming play-by-play. ''It was a great thing for us,'' recalls Bob Furnad, then senior exec producer. ''At one point I looked at the monitors that broadcast ABC, CBS, and NBC, and they were all carrying CNN's [footage].'' Rank 44
THE ARSENIO HALL SHOW: BILL CLINTON GUESTS
June 3, 1992
Just as Nixon taught us what not to do on TV, Clinton the first President to come of age with the medium showed us how to use it to galvanize this thing called the MTV generation. Visits to the music channel and Arsenio, the early-'90s king of 18-to-34-year-old late-night, cemented Clinton's politics-as-entertainment appeal. The shades-wearing presidential candidate played ''Heartbreak Hotel'' on his sax, then sat for an interview along with wife Hillary. ''He was incredibly gentlemanly around her,'' Hall recalls. ''Now it's like 'Wow, I guess he treated her nice because he felt guilty.''' Rank 71
ESPN'S SPORTSCENTER: OLBERMANN AND PATRICK TEAM UP
April 5, 1992
Jordan and Pippen. Montana and Rice. Olbermann and Patrick? Indeed, the pantheon of great sports combos welcomed two new members after ESPN paired the snarky, eyebrow-twitching Keith Olbermann with the disarmingly dry-as-a-Tucson-summer Dan Patrick to anchor its nightly SportsCenter. Suddenly, game-losing fumbles proved more guffaw inducing than a Moliere farce, slam dunks had all the resonance of a Shakespearean sonnet, and the sports highlight show was elevated to glib new heights. ''It was a unique thing that happens once in a career,'' says ESPN exec John Walsh, who helped forge the partnership. ''Now there are [sportscasters] trying to be Olbermann and Patrick instead of themselves.'' Rank 53
SEINFELD: ''THE PITCH''
Sept. 16, 1992
Seinfeld was the most masturbatory of all shows and not just because of that inspired ''master of the domain'' business. The meta-sitcom was the ultimate in '90s self-referentiality, and no moment summed that up better than Jerry and George pitching NBC execs a ''show about nothing.'' Not only brilliant, but quite close to reality. Says former NBC Entertainment president Warren Littlefield: ''Their actual pitch was pretty unimpressive. It was basically 'Well, it's gonna be about our friends and hanging out and the stuff we do.''' The stuff they did that inane, petty New York stuff earned NBC a mint and in the process reinvented the sitcom genre. Rank 16
RON POPEIL INFOMERCIAL: GREAT-LOOKING HAIR
Bored with those pesky sitcoms that keep interrupting commercials? Ron Popeil to the rescue. Since the 1950s, the granddaddy of the infomercial those hyper half-hour pitches has been hectoring us to buy Pocket Fishermen, Veg-O-Matics, and other stuff we never knew we needed. But most fantastic, incredible, and hilariously tacky of all was Popeil's spiel for his spray-on toupee (comes in nine colors!). ''I always use it!'' he gushes. Really? ''I use it more than 50 percent of the time.'' Popeil left a stain all over TV, too: His exuberant style pervades the fast-growing home-shopping biz. And without him, Cher would never have had a second bizarre career. Rank 66
BEAVIS AND BUTT-HEAD: ''FROG BASEBALL''
Consider the B-boys' many accomplishments over the years: They chain-sawed a grasshopper, farted a lot, set fires, spray-painted a dog, and watched plenty of Motley Crue videos. But their very first exploit on MTV's Liquid Television when they smacked an innocent amphibian with a Louisville slugger says it all: The bar had officially been lowered, and the stage set for an era of gross-out TV comedy like South Park. Teens thought the sadistic metalheads cool, but many adults believed they sucked so badly, they were signs of the apocalypse. Not so, counters their creator: ''During the years Beavis and Butt-head was on, the crime rate went down and the economy got better,'' says Mike Judge. ''So the country lived through it.'' Rank 86