Docs First TV

Doc Brown's main television set in his 1955 mansion, showing the Howdy Doody title card.

" "Do you have a television set?" Lorraine asked, looking at Marty warmly. / "Yes," he replied. "Two." / "Wow! You must be rich!" Milton gushed. / "They're in color, too," Marty added, before realizing that was not too smart a thing to say to a 1955 family. / Milton's eyes widened. / "Bull," Sam Baines scoffed. / Stella smiled condescendingly. "He's teasing you, Milton," she said. "Nobody has two television sets... in color, yet." / She looked to Marty for confirmation. / "Yeah, that's right," he nodded. "I was just pulling your leg, Miltie." "
—From Back to the Future by George Gipe (quote, pages 107 and 108)

A television, or a TV, is a device for mass communication that was popular during the mid and late 20th century and early 21st century, which had a video screen that displayed moving images with synchronized sound.


Docs Second TV

In 1955, Marty hooks the JVC camcorder to Doc's second television set in the garage, enabling them to watch the tape of the events at Twin Pines Mall — albeit in black-and-white.

The first television sets were small cathode ray tubes that displayed only a black-and-white picture. In the late 1950s, color televisions began to replace black-and-white sets. Nearly all shows were broadcast live, except for special programs temporarily saved on film for broadcast in different time zones; reruns of shows that had previously premiered began to be reshown by the early 1960s. By 1985, color television sets were dominant, since all new programs were broadcast in color, although they continued to show reruns of early black-and-white shows.

By the 21st century, televisions were routed through video telephone lines and were capable of video conferencing and displaying multiple screens. Television could also be displayed with a flat screen hung on a wall, and in video glasses.

By 2015, video units were everywhere, and people were accustomed to following several different programs at the same time. At the Cafe 80's, twenty sets were in operation on one wall alone, simultaneously displaying shows from the 1980s such as Taxi and Family Ties. Marty McFly, Jr. watched six channels at the same time, although his video glasses only accommodated two channels. A window shade in the McFly living room was a scene screen which showed images from The Scenery Channel 24 hours a day, although the screen was broken, and Marty Sr. had thrown out a repairman for calling him "chicken". The image could be changed with a remote control, although Grandma Lorraine switched it off when the screen filled completely with static.

Besides showing television, video units in 2015 had other functions, such as allowing people to see each other while talking on the video telephone and waiting on restaurant tables at premises such as the Cafe 80s, with computer-generated images of Ronald Reagan, the Ayatollah Khomeini and Michael Jackson interacting with customers.

In 1986G, George McFly used many television monitors for surveillance of Hill Valley to observe how the people felt about the rules implemented by Citizen Brown and his wife Edna. Marty made use of one of the monitors to discover that Biff Tannen mugged George.

Programs in 1955[]

Sam Baines moves new TV

"And now we can watch Jackie Gleason while we eat!"


Original run of The Honeymooners in 1955.

Sam Baines bought his family's first television set on November 5, 1955, and the first program that the family watched was The Honeymooners while they ate dinner.

Dr. Emmett Brown had a television set at his garage, and Marty was able to hook a 1985 JVC camcorder to the set to play back the tape of the events at Twin Pines Mall (in black-and-white, naturally). Doc had a second television set in his mansion, so this apparently proves that he is rich, according to Milton Baines's statement about people who have two television sets, although his mother didn't believe anyone had two sets.[1] In 1955, the price of even a portable television set, like the one that Sam had bought for his family of seven, along with a rolling stand to place the set upon, was about $140.[2] When adjusted for inflation, this would be the equivalent of $563.76 in 1985 and $1,654.36 in 2024. (see http://www.westegg.com/inflation/ "The Inflation Calculator" and http://www.officialdata.org/).

George McFly regularly watched Science Fiction Theatre, his favorite program, on his family's television, every Saturday night, and did not want to miss a show for the Enchantment Under the Sea dance.

On the morning of November 13, the Howdy Doody show was the first program broadcast on Sunday morning.

Martha and Sherman Peabody had wanted their father to buy the family a television set, but Otis said they would get one when they could afford it and not before. Bearing in mind that Mr. Peabody ended up being sent to the County Asylum after the police had considered him insane for reporting a hostile craft from outer space that crashed into his barn and destroyed one of his pine trees, it remains unclear as to whether the Peabodys ever got their television set. Martha and Sherman cited shows that would be good to see such as Ed Sullivan, The Mickey Mouse Club, Colgate Variety Hour, The Cisco Kid & Ozzie and Harriet. The former also brings up how some school reports couldn't be done through reading the newspaper such as a paper Edward R. Murrow.[3]

Programs in 1985/1985-A[]

In 1985, Marty did not seem to watch much television, although his family liked The Honeymooners. On October 25, 1985, the McFly family watched a rerun of the show while eating supper. Marty would later see the same episode — "The Man from Space" — when he had supper with the Baines family in 1955, only the episode was new. The McFly family had three televisions, two in the living room (they were stacked as seen in the family dinner scene), and a portable TV that was in Marty's bedroom.[4] Doc had a television set in his garage, along with a timer which was set to turn the set on at 8:00 a.m. every morning. Marty had apparently seen movies like A Fistful of Dollars on television, as well as shows like Star Trek, and made reference to those shows in 1885 and 1955, respectively.

Biff was watching A Fistful of Dollars on television on October 27, 1985A, in a hot tub while flanked by two women — neither of whom was Lorraine Baines McFly, his wife at the time in that ABC timeline. (Whether the film was on videocassette or a television screening is unclear.) Marty turned the TV off, threw the remote control into the water and mentioned the Grays Sports Almanac, ending Biff's reverie.

Programs in 2015[]

TV Channels-2015

Marty Jr. watches six television channels at once. Bottoms Up's breast implants commercial can be seen in the top right-hand corner of the multi-channel video screen.

"Art off! Okay, I want channels 18, 24, 63, 109, 87, and The Weather Channel!"
—Marty McFly, Jr.

Jennifer Parker was only able to glimpse 2015 television programming for a few seconds, but watched her future son from a distance as he tuned in, and paid attention to, six channels at once. Among the scenes were a mushroom cloud (on 109), a parachutist (on 24), cartoons on 18 and 87. On channel 63 was a commercial for Bottoms Up, a plastic surgery store of that era, advertising breast implants such as "the Super Inflatable 'TIT', for that last minute adjustment," and "the Headlight 'TIT'" 2 for 1 sale". The weather was on channel 247, and had a commercial for USAir service to Vietnam. Channel 87 had a woman robot (extracted from a TV commercial titled Brilliance, for the Canned Food Information Council[5]) and, after, a bald man yelling "Money! Give me big money!" (extracted from the 1984 Ridley Scott Macintosh commercial Behind the scenes[6]).

When Marty Jr. joined the family for dinner, he put on a set of JVC video glasses that, to his disappointment, allowed him to watch only two channels. He was watching channel 57 on his left lens, and remarked that he was seeing "The Atrocity Channel". According to the novelization, he was watching the "Bears-Spacers" game on his glasses as well, seeing the Chicago Bears playing American football (the Bears had a very good season in 1985 and were having their "best season in 30 years" in 2015).


See also[]


  1. According to The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 1956, page 791, 70% of homes in the U.S. had television in 1955, while 3.5% of homes had two or more sets.
  2. "2 Sets Can Eliminate Problems", from The Chronicle-Telegram (Elyria, Ohio), September 21, 1955, p26; retrieved from newspaperarchive.com, July 9, 2008
  3. Back to the Future Page 69-70
  4. According to The World Almanac and Book of Facts, 1986, 98% of homes had at least one television in 1985, 91% had color television, and 57% had two or more sets.
  5. Brilliance (1985), on Youtube.com
  6. Apple's 1984 Commercial - Behind the Scenes (at 2:25), on Youtube.com

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