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Emmys to pay tribute to 50th anniversary of fall of JFK, rise of The Beatles

Sunday’s Primetime Emmy Awards on CBS will pay tribute not only to those making television today but to the 50th anniversary of two momentous events in television history.

Six-time Emmy nominee Don Cheadle (“House of Lies”) will voice the segment about TV’s role in the assassination coverage of President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 22, 1963 and connect that tragedy to another event that captivated the nation for entirely different reasons: the performance of the Beatles on “The Ed Sullivan Show” some 80 days later on Feb. 9, 1964.

“These are two incredible events that tie together all of us and they tie us together because of telelvision,” executive producer Ken Ehrlich said Wednesday on a conference call with reporters. He’s produced five previous Emmy Awards shows and multiple Grammys telecasts.

“That Feb. 9 date was, to a very real extent, the beginning of a time when we could begin to celebrate again,” said Ehrlich, who was in college when both milestones unfolded on TV. “I remember sitting in a fraternity house and watching ‘The Ed Sullivan Show’ and I remember thinking, ‘God, music will never be the same after this hour.’”

Country music star Carrie Underwood will perform as part of The Beatles tribute. Ehrlich said Underwood was chosen because, like The Beatles, television helped make her a music star. She won the fourth season of “American Idol.”

1963 marked the first year that more people got their news from television than from newspapers, Ehrlich said. Network newscasts were expanded from 15 minutes to a half hour, and the FCC approved the use of the remote control for home viewing.

The 65th installment of the Emmys, hosted by Neil Patrick Harris, will air at 7 p.m. Sunday on WBBM-Channel 2.