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A lot can happen in 48 Hours … not to mention 25 years. A tribute to one of television’s most celebrated newsmagazines
In the 1980s, when audiences’ attention spans were being challenged by music videos, big hair and bad fashions, 48 Hours took a groundbreaking concept and made it an instant classic: Take a group of correspondents, camera crews and producers and shoot one important story for 48 hours straight. Since then, the broadcast has evolved with its focus now on crime and justice. It’s a favorite with viewers as well as being an award-winning television mainstay. In honor of its 25th anniversary, Watch! takes a look at 48 things you might not know about this television icon.
1 48 Hours began as a two-hour groundbreaking documentary in September 1986 titled 48 Hours on Crack Street.
2 48 Hours was launched as a regular series in January 1988.
3 The show gets its name from the original concept of shooting one subject straight for 48 hours.
4 48 Hours is the third longest running primetime show on television.
5 48 Hours has had 15 different time slots over 25 years.
6 48 Hours’ most-watched episode, “Get Rich Quick,” aired Jan. 26, 1992, and attracted 24.82 million viewers.
7 48 Hours has been Saturday’s No. 1 primetime (nonsports) program for the past six seasons.
8 48 Hours aired 79 episodes in one season alone (1998-1999).
9 48 Hours has won numerous awards since its premiere, including three Peabodys, an Alfred duPont award, 17 news Emmys, five Edward R. Murrow awards and five Overseas Press Club Awards.
10 Most number of shows on one case: Six separate hours on Marty Tankleff, a teenager convicted of murdering his parents. His sentence: two consecutive 25-year-to-life terms. An appellate court overturned his conviction 17 years after he had gone to prison. Tankleff, 41, is now in law school.
11 While working on a story in Palm Springs, Calif., correspondent PETER VAN SANT received a note reading, “You have seconds, perhaps a minute, before you are in extreme pain. I suggest that you leave.” When he saw heavy wiring running from giant batteries to a steel plate under his feet, he left.
12 An hour after watching correspondent MAUREEN MAHER’s report, “The Boy Next Door,” about the 18-year-old mystery surrounding the murder of Tricia Pacaccio, a viewer came forward with the identity of the killer, Michael Gargiulo. He was revealed to have killed two more women and attempted to kill a third. After 20 years, Gargiulo was finally indicted for Pacaccio’s murder.
13 Most hours on a celebrity: Michael Jackson, five shows.
14 Most days on the road in one year: Erin Moriarty, 150.
15 Prosecutor who has appeared the most on 48 Hours: Texas lawyer Kelly Siegler, 11 times.
16 Longest number of years following a story: 20. Correspondent ERIN MORIARTY began reporting on the brutal murder of four Austin, Texas, teenagers in 1992. Two suspects were eventually tried, convicted and later exonerated because of DNA. The case has never been solved.
17 While working on a story about Hustler magnate Larry Flynt, senior coordinating producer Suzanne Allen met the publisher, starting a 15-year friendship.
18 48 Hours’ youngest killer: Christopher Pittman, age 12, who was sentenced to 30 years when the jury rejected his claim that an antidepressant made him shoot his grandparents.
19 There are 11 current staff members who have been with 48 Hours since its beginning.
20 There are six regular on-air correspondents for 48 Hours: Maureen Maher, Erin Moriarty, Troy Roberts, Richard Schlesinger, Susan Spencer and Peter Van Sant, and contributor Tracy Smith.
21 There have been 67 guest correspondents on 48 Hours since its debut, including Walter Cronkite and Mike Wallace.
22 Most unusual 48 Hours story title: “Two Wigs, a Gun and a Murder,” told the story of a wife who killed her professor husband. The twist was-did her sister help her cover up the crime?
23 48 Hours helped solve the murder of racing legend Mickey Thompson and his wife, Trudy, who were killed in 1988. Nineteen years later, Thompson’ s business partner Michael Goodwin was convicted of their murder.
24 48 Hours has helped exonerate seven people after they were falsely convicted of crimes.
25 When 48 Hours correspondent Troy Roberts asked a prisoner why he committed murder, he replied, “I was bored.”
26 48 Hours producer Paul LaRosa has written four true crime books and a memoir.
27 While working on a story in Russia, 48 Hours correspondent TROY ROBERTS was arrested by undercover police in a rural town outside Moscow, thrown into the back of an unmarked car with a gun pointed at him by two officers who smelled of alcohol, and taken to the police station, where he sat in a Russian cell for hours. It was a shakedown for cash.
28 48 Hours senior executive producer SUSAN ZIRINSKY was the inspiration for Holly Hunter’s character as a television news producer in the Oscar-nominated film Broadcast News.
29 The man convicted of killing motivational speaker Jeffrey Locker told 48 Hours correspondent Richard Schlesinger, “I knew it wasn’t murder. I just happened to be the building he jumped off.”
30 A prison official once offered to keep an inmate in jail a few more days to accommodate 48 Hours producer Gail Zimmerman’s schedule. She said no thank you.
31 48 Hours has investigated 12 cases of murder where the victim’s body was not found.
32 48 Hours helped solve a cold case of a murdered 16-year-old Jane Doe after forensic artist Gloria Nusse reconstructed her skull from clay. Jane Doe was identified and her killer was brought to justice.
33 The most unusual gift: After interviewing a killer, correspondent SUSAN SPENCER was leaving the Indiana prison when officials thanked her for coming and gave her a Wabash Valley Correctional Facility tote bag.
34 Six minutes into shooting a 48 Hours story on California bank robberies, a bank robber led cops and 48 Hours on a freeway chase that ended at the Mexico border.
35 While covering an unrelated story in St. Louis, 48 Hours producer Shoshanah Wolfson witnessed a detective confront a car full of suspects at gunpoint.
36 An accused murderer once said on the witness stand, “I’m not stupid. I know that cellphones can be tracked. I watch 48 Hours.” The cellphone evidence helped convict him.
37 A 48 Hours producer accidentally left a bag of tools inside the dormitory of a maximum-security jail for sex offenders.
38 During an interview with 48 Hours correspondent Richard Schlesinger, an attorney and friend of a wealthy perpetrator actually said, on camera, “If you want the hoochie, you gotta buy the Gucci.”
39 Twenty years after an 18-year-old girl was murdered, correspondent Erin Moriarty interviewed Joe Ture, the man police always believed had killed her. After the story aired, dozens of women came forward saying Ture had attacked them, too. Police were finally able to convict him of the young girl’s murder and later tied him to the murder of a mother and her two children from a nearby town.
40 Former St. Louis firefighter Nick Koenig was shot three times in a 2009 home invasion. A bullet lodged near his spine was left in, too dangerous to remove. After an interview with 48 Hours, he called to say he’d been in a car accident; he was fine but he coughed up the bullet. The crew went back to reinterview him and see the bullet.
41 Before hebecame famous, Oscar-nominated director Darren Aronofsky was profiled on a 48 Hours show called “Making It,” which followed him at the Sundance Film Festival.
42 A defense attorney once based his plea for a pardon on a 48 Hours broadcast. It worked.
43 A corrections official, whose prison killed convicts by electric chair, told correspondent RICHARD SCHLESINGER, “We want to provide a smooth delivery of service.”
44 48 Hours staff members have included children of a U.S. senator, a world-famous Broadway composer, a legendary broadcaster, a noted presidential biographer and the grandson of actress Angela Lansbury, a CBS icon with her long-running series, Murder, She Wrote.
45 48 Hours producer Judy Tygard once leaned out of a truck going 60 miles per hour on the L.A. freeway to hand her crew videotape.
46 48 Hours marriages: Whether meeting in the office, on a story or in the field, there have been 16 unions.
47 48 Hours is watched in 36 countries.
48 After 40 years with CBS News and 20 years with 48 Hours, correspondent HAROLD DOW was doing what he loved most, reporting at 48 Hours. He left work one night and died of an asthma attack on his way home.Back to top