Classic 1970s TV: The shows that made the family tune in
Imagine a family, all sitting around the TV, possibly the only TV in the house. Dad is holding the remote control, which everyone refers to as “the clicker.” The remote has only two functions. One of the functions turns the TV off and on. The other changes the channels, all 7 or 8 of them, with a click of a button. Now try to imagine what that family is watching. Are you imagining them watching one of the classic TV shows from the 1970’s?
In the 1970s most families had one, maybe two televisions in the house, and the second television was usually stashed away in mom and dad’s room where they could watch the classic shows that the kids couldn’t watch yet like Maude or Soap. The televisions in the house might have even shown the programs in black and white.
What kept families glued to these televisions that had only a handful of channels, an ancient clicker, and frequently no color? The classic TV shows from the 1970s, of course. There were so many family-friendly shows in a variety of genres.
For families that enjoyed comedies, the 1970s had some of the most memorable sitcoms. The families in the ‘70’s learned all about families in the 1950’s by watching the wildly popular Happy Days and its equally popular spin off Laverne and Shirley. Happy Days also launched the career of comedian Robin Williams who went on to star in another spin off of the show – Mork and Mindy.
Other family friendly classic television shows of the 1970’s include The Partridge Family (with teen hearth throb David Cassidy), the show that introduced us to John Travolta, Welcome Back Kotter, One Day at a Time, Chico and the Man, The Odd Couple, Good Times, WKRP in Cincinnati, What’s Happening, Three’s Company and The Jeffersons.
Families with older children enjoyed comedies with a social conscience like All in the Family, Maude, Barney Miller or Mash. These classic 1970s sitcoms dealt with the social issues of the day in poignant yet comedic way.
Families also had several variety shows to choose from for their viewing pleasure. Classic variety shows such as The Donny and Marie Show and The Sonny and Cher Show had music, comedy sketches and popular guest stars each week. The Carol Burnett Show brought together some of the 1970’s funniest comedians each week and The Muppet Show combined the genius of Jim Henson’s fantastic creations with musical and comedy guest stars sharing the stage with Kermit, Miss Piggy and Animal.
There were plenty of one hour family dramas, too. Eight is Enough, Little House on the Prairie, and The Waltons were just a few of the classic television dramas that brought families together in front of the television each week.
There was also room for crime fighting and action heroes in the classic 1970s TV shows. The world learned what bionics was in The Six Million Dollar Man and its spin off The Bionic Woman. Each week families would tune in to see how Lee Majors and Jamie Sommers would use their bionic eyes and ears. CHiPs gave us a glimpse into the life of California Highway Patrol officers. Starsky and Hutch chased bad buys in their hot rod and BJ and the Bear tracked down bad guys in an 18 wheeler.
Two other classic television shows from that era that can’t be defined by any of these other genres were The Love Boat and Fantasy Island. These shows were the place for the stars of yesteryear and the stars of the current era to make guest appearances, several at a time. For years, families stayed home on Saturday nights just to see who would get off the plane onto the island or turn up Julie the Cruise Director’s guest list.
In today’s modern times, there are hundreds of channels on each of the four or more TV sets in most homes. Yet, there seems to never be anything to watch, especially something that the whole family can enjoy together. Many of these classic TV shows from the 1970’s are now on DVD and can be bought or rented either online or at a store. Why not consider getting a classic TV DVD for your family this Friday night instead of the usually family movie?
~Ben Anton, 2007