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Bewildering Stories

The First “Hell” on TV

Gerard Garland

I had long thought that the 1967 Star Trek episode “The City on the Edge of Forever” was the first to use the word “hell” on network TV. And that is what’s reported in Christopher Stires’ “Firsts in Television,” in issue 259:

1967: Star Trek is the first series in which the word “hell” is uttered. (Captain Kirk (William Shatner) says, “Let’s get the hell out of here” at the conclusion of the “City on the Edge of Forever” episode.)

I just happened to be watching a rebroadcast of the Dragnet episode “Kidnapping” and caught the word. Bank manager to Friday: “Sergeant, that’s a hell of a lot of money” (approx 13:43 into the story).

I did some investigation. The Dragnet episode aired on January 26, 1967. The Star Trek episode aired on April 6, 1967.

I don’t know if the word occurs earlier elsewhere on TV.

Gerard Garland

Copyright © 2011 by Gerard Garland

Thank you for the research, Gerard! Star Trek is famous for bringing out the latent historian in its fans. The series was groundbreaking in many ways, but apparently Dragnet got to “hell” first.

Now I wonder if some combination of the two dates multiplied by a mysterious, occult constant will yield the number 666. No fractions or rounding allowed, of course. As one of our mottoes says, “Activate all talismans of good fortune at your disposal. Voodoo optional.”


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