Studios can be underwhelming when the cameras aren’t rolling. Perhaps one of the most unassuming is Meet the Press’ Studio A in Washington, DC, but television magic is made there each and every week. And there’s a history of magic in that room which has not only been the home of the longest running television program ever since 1947 but has also launched an iconic American entertainer, hosted a heated presidential debate, and tested future leaders in their teenage years. This Sunday will mark yet another list-worthy moment in the studio as Chuck Todd takes the reins as moderator of Meet the Press. In honor of Chuck’s inaugural show, here are five memories from Studio A:
1. Sam and Friends
Sam and Friends debut May 9, 1955 on WRC-TV, the local Washington D.C. station. The five-minute show highlighted the talent of two young puppeteers whose names will be familiar to you, Jim and Jane Henson. It also was the premiere of the Muppets and an early version of Kermit, who was milky blue and hadn’t yet taken his famous amphibian form.
2. It’s Academic
It’s Academic is recognized by The Guinness Book of World Records as the longest-running television quiz show, celebrating its 51st anniversary in Studio A this year. High school students from the local area face off, answering questions ranging from history to science to mythology while their peers cheer them on. Studio A hosted a young Sen. Angus King as well as Sandra Bullock who came with her cheerleading squad to root for her school’s team. (Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Sen. Chuck Schumer are also alumni of the versions of the show from other cities.)
3. Second Kennedy-Nixon Debate
The second Kennedy-Nixon debate marked the second televised presidential debate in American history. While not as infamous as their first meeting, which also aired on NBC, the October 7, 1960 debate covered the rise of communism in Cuba, the cold war and civil rights.
4. Early Meet the Press episode
The first two televised episode of Meet the Press aired November 6, 1947 from a nearby hotel studio and was only available to NBC’s New York station. By the third episode, Meet the Press was elevated to network status and was filmed from Studio A. Strangely enough, NBC does not have all of our old episodes. This interview with Sen. Baldwin in 1949 is the earliest Meet the Press video we have in our system.
5. 50th anniversary of Meet the Press
Most interviews with sitting presidents occur on location or in the White House, but on November 9, 1997, President Bill Clinton made an exception for the 50th anniversary of Meet the Press. He spoke candidly about his concerns on Iraq, campaign ads and his legacy.