The year 1981 in television
involved some significant events.
Below is a list of television
-related events in 1981
For the American TV schedule, see: 1981-82 American network television schedule.
- January 13 - Colour television was introduced in Israel.
- February 20 - Comedian Andy Kaufman ruins sketches and starts a brawl live on the air during ABC's Fridays.
- March 6 - After a 19-year run, Walter Cronkite resigns as head anchor of The CBS Evening News and is succeeded the following Monday by Dan Rather.
- March 21 - After an unprecedented seven years starring in Doctor Who, Tom Baker makes his final appearance as the Fourth Doctor in Part 4 of Logopolis. Peter Davison makes his first appearance as the Fifth Doctor at the conclusion of that story.
- April 11 - Van Halen's lead guitarist Eddie Van Halen marries One Day at a Time actress Valerie Bertinelli.
- July 27 - In a specially timed event by the show's writers, Ken Barlow marries Deirdre Langton on Coronation Street, just two days before the real-life wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer. The wedding of Ken and Deirdre is watched by over 24 million viewers in Britain, beating the Royal wedding in the ratings.
- August 1 - The MTV network debuts on cable television, playing music videos 24 hours a day.
- November - The Doctors airs its milestone 5000th episode.
- November 2 - American soap opera As the World Turns debuts a new opening sequence and theme song for the first time in its 25-year history.
- November 16 and November 17 - Luke and Laura's wedding on General Hospital becomes one of the most watched weddings in American television history, second only to the wedding of Charles, Prince of Wales and Lady Diana Spencer.
- December 25 - Chuck Woolery hosts his last episode of Wheel of Fortune after a salary dispute with show producer and creator Merv Griffin. Pat Sajak takes over as host the next Monday, the 28th. He hosts the daytime Wheel till 1989.; Sajak hosts the nighttime Wheel to this day.
- June 30 - Fred Silverman is fired as president of NBC, after failing to improve that network's third-place standing, and is replaced by Grant Tinker.
- Berlinda Tolbert and Michael Jonas Evans makes their final appearance as Lionel and Jenny Willis Jefferson in the seventh (1980-1981) year, of The Jeffersons, also departing with Tolbert and Evans, Paul Benedict makes his final appearance as the British neighbor of George and Louise, Harry Bentley, Benedict returns to the series in 1983.
- November 9 - CBS cancels The Incredible Hulk, permanently.
- July 4 - Showtime ends its part-time status and inaugurates a 24/7 schedule.
- December 31 - Colour television is introduced Turkey, it will go full-time in 1984.
- During the course of the year, all soap operas produced by Proctor and Gamble change title sequences and theme songs. Another World, The Guiding Light, Search for Tomorrow, andThe Edge of Night all have new title sequences.
Ending this year
Changes of network affiliation
- January 22 - Beverley Mitchell, actress 7th Heaven
- January 31 - Justin Timberlake, singer and actor
- February 8 - Ralf Little, Actor
- February 10 - Holly Willoughby, British television presenter.
- February 17 - Paris Hilton heiress and television personality in the United States.
- April 28 - Jessica Alba, US actress.
- May 5 - Danielle Fishel, actress. Boy Meets World
- June 25 - Sheridan Smith, UK actress.
- August 7 - Dan Griffin, television producer.
- August 25 - Rachel Bilson, actress
- September 3 - Fearne Cotton, British television presenter.
- September 5 - Elize Du Toit, British actress.
- September 8 - Jonathan Taylor Thomas, US actor.
- November 8 - Azura Skye, US actress.
- December 2 - Britney Spears, singer, originally appeared on a version of the Mickey Mouse Club in the US.