ArtsAutosBooksBusinessEducationEntertainmentFamilyFashionFoodGamesGenderHealthHolidaysHomeHubPagesPersonal FinancePetsPoliticsReligionSportsTechnologyTravel
  • »
  • Education and Science»
  • History & Archaeology

The Wacky and Far Out World of 1970s TV

Updated on October 28, 2014

All About 70's TV

The 1970s brought some interesting changes to television. Sitcoms were prevalent but in many instances they stepped well beyond the somewhat mindless hilarity that was common in earlier shows. Social issues of the day began to emerge and to be addressed in prime time programming in a way it never had before.

Cops and detectives as well as doctors and paramedics filled TV screens. Of course, that's not to say that there weren't some very frivolous topics filling the airwaves. Stick around and re-live some of the 70's TV that left it's mark on our lives and on television today. Don't forget to take our test to see if you really know your stuff!

Images below are available for sale as posters/prints. Click on images for more.


One of the shows that received critical acclaim from 70's TV was Norman Lear's "All in the Family". Although it was a sitcom, it covered some controversial topics and highlighted some talented actors. Carroll O'Connor starred as Archie Bunker and Jean Stapleton as his wife Edith. Also living with them was Gloria (Sally Struthers) their daughter and her husband, Mike (Rob Reiner). The conflicting philosophies between the generations and even between neighbors of different ethnic backgrounds provided a fertile ground for debates on politics, religion, racial stereotypes, and much more.

Ethnic diversity seemed to expand in the 1970s. Shows like "Good Times" and "Sanford and Son" presented a point of view from one segement of the African American population, the urban poor. "Good Times" followed a poor family living in a Chicago housing project and struggling to get by. Esther Rolle was Florida, the mother, James Amos played her husband, and JJ Walker played the eldest son JJ. A very young Janet Jackson even had a role on the show in later seasons as Penny, the daughter of a neighbor. "Sanford and Son" on the other hand, was set in LA and focused on the relationship between the Fred Sanford (Redd Foxx) and his adult son, Lamont (Desmond Wilson). Fred was an outspoken, crochety old man who ran a junk business with Lamont. Unfortunately, Lamont carried most of the burden of running the business and suffering with the results of Fred's antics in his endless battles with other friends, neighbors, and family members.

On "Chico and the Man", Jack Albertson played an aging white man who runs a small business in a neighborhood that has grown increasingly diverse. He's very uncomfortable with this and distrusting of his neighbors until a young Chicano manages to get a job with him and becomes a friend. Although the show was popular for a couple of years, it faded away after Freddie Prinze committed suicide just two years into it's run.


Women also began to take on stronger roles in the 1970s. Even in shows such as "Mary Tyler Moore", a change was occurring. For the first time, the female lead lived on her own, had a satisfying life, and her focus wasn't a husband, children, or even a boyfriend. She wasn't just a secretary or Girl Friday, she was a professional. In shows like "One Day at a Time", families were also recognized as changing. With this show, a divorced woman was the single head of household raising two teenage daughters. Bonnie Tyler played the mother and her daughters were acted by MacKenzie Phillips and Valerie Bertinelli.

In addition to changing lifestyles though were other issues surrounding the events of the time. "MASH" was a show that focused on the lives of the surgeons, nurses, and staff of a field hospital in Korea during the Korean War. Humor was a tool used by the characters to cope with the horrors of war. Although certainly a comedy, it did present a somewhat realistic view of what war is really like. From death, disability, and even mental illness, it addressed the effects not only upon the soldiers but upon those serving behind the lines and civilians as well. Despite it's setting in Korea, it is generally believed to be a commentary on US participation in the Vietnam conflict.


Despite some of the more serious messages in sitcoms, some of the more traditional shows were still popular on 70's TV. The "Brady Bunch" which started it's run in 1969 was still popular. "Happy Days" came along in 1974 and starred Ron Howard (Richie Cunningham), Tom Bosley (Mr. Cunningham), Marion Ross (Mrs. Cunningham), and Henry Winkler (Fonzi) among others. It was a nostaligic show set in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, that took a look back at family life in the 1950s and early 1960s. Much of the show featured the activities of the kids at Arnold's drive in and for much of it's run, saw the high school drop out, Fonzi, as the central character.

Springing from "Happy Days" was "Laverne and Shirley" with Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams with their friends Lenny and Squiggy. "Mork and Mindy" was popular for a couple of years and introduced Robin Williams to his first real taste of fame. He was an alien from the planet Ork who came to earth to study and better understand humans. Luckily, he quickly encountered Pam Dawber (Mindy) who befriended him.

For millions of young girls though, shows like "The Partridge Family" were even more memorable. The show was basically the story of a family which formed a pop group, including their mother. Shirley Jones was mother to characters played by David Cassidy (the teenage heart-throb), Susan Dey, Danny Bonaduce, Suzanne Crough, and Brian Forster. Several popular songs sprang from the show including "I Think I Love You!", "I Can Feel Your Heartbeat", and "I Woke Up in Love This Morning".

"Taxi" came along late in the decade and gave viewers a look into the lives of a group of cab drivers. Judd Hirsh, Marilu Henner, and Danny DeVito among others starred. "Three's Company" was among the sillier offerings, with three young people rooming together in a somewhat unusual situation. With Jack (John Ritter) as the only male in the trilogy of roommates, he had to pretend to be gay to avoid eviction by the landlord. Suzanne Somers and Joyce DeWitt were the female part of the trio. "Welcome Back Kotter", with Gabe Kaplan was a humorous look at a teacher who returned to his old neighborhood to work with some tough kids who needed some extra help. The "sweat hogs" included a new to the scene John Travolta.


Family dramas were popular and some of the most watched were period pieces like "Little House on the Prairie" and "The Walton's" (set in the depression era). Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert played primary characters on Little House while Richard Thomas found popularity on the Waltons.

"Love Boat", "Fantasy Island", and "Love American Style" were popular among those searching for romance.

Law Enforcement was a common theme on 70's TV as well. Some of the shows were based on fantasy and super hero's such as Wonder Woman (Lyndia Carter), The Six Million Dollar Man (Lee Majors; Farrah Fawcett's husband at the time), and the Bionic Woman (Lindsay Wagner).

Also on a fairly light note, was the popular series "Charlie's Angels". The show ran for several years beginning in 1976. There were numerous cast changes but Farrah Fawcett, Jaclyn Smith, Kate Jackson, Cheryl Ladd and David Doyle figured prominently.


Police and detective shows in general filled the programming schedule on 70's TV. Shows such as "Columbo" with Peter Falk as a very shrewd but outwardly bumbling detective, "McCloud", with Dennis Weaver as a cowboy who comes to the big city to show the cops how detective work really gets done, and "McMillan and Wife" were Sunday night favorites.

"Banacek" with George Peppard, "Kojak" with Telly Savalas, and "Cannon" with William Conrad were other offerings.

"Adam 12" with Martin Milner and Kent McCord took viewers on the beat with patrol officers in LA, while "CHiPS" took us along with Erik Estrada and Larry Wilcox on the California Highway Patrol. "Barney Miller" was a comedy set in police headquaters with Hal Linden at the helm.


With a 12 year run, "Hawaii Five-O" was one of the most successful shows in the cops/detective genre. Jack Lord played the lead as Steve McGarrett who was in charge of a state police force based in Honolulu Hawaii.

Another hit 70's TV show was "The Rockford Files" which followed sometimes employed detective Jim Rockford (James Garner) in his efforts to catch the bad guys without getting into any violent situations.

Shows with a focus on the medical profession also did well on the television screens in the 70's. "Emergency!" followed paramedics, including Randolph Mantooth, on their runs, "Marcus Welby, M.D." (Robert Young) in the office of his family practice, and "Medical Center" (Chad Everett) in a large university hospital setting.


"The Muppet Show" sprung onto screens in 1975. If featured the famous Kermit the Frog as leader of a troupe of acting puppets which included, among others, Miss Piggy.

Also debuting that year, was "Saturday Night Live" which still runs today. The original cast of "not ready for prime time players" included Dan Akroyd, John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase, Jane Curtain, Laraine Newman, Garrett Morris, and later Bill Murray as well as a claymation character named "Mr. Bill". Coneheads and Land Sharks were among the popular skits and Roseanna Roseannadanna was a hit for Gilda Radner.

Variety shows were still around to some extent. "Hee Haw" was a popular, long running country version while "Donny and Marie" (Osmond) and "Sonny and Cher" were also around.

70's TV Shows and Theme Songs

More 70's TV Shows and Theme Songs

Some Classic 70's TV Shows

The Test - Think you know 70's TV? Find out here!

See answers at the bottom of the page.

#1 In real life, Shirley Jones was David Cassidy's:

See results

#2 Which 70's TV private investigator had been in prison?

See results

#3 Which two Angels were sisters on the show Charlie's Angels?

See results

#4 Who was Mary's neighbor on the Mary Tyler Moore Show?

See results

#5 Which 70's law enforcer was famous for saying "Who Loves Ya' Baby"?

See results

#6 Which character was a manager/friend to the Partridge family?

See results

#7 What was the name of the eldest son on Happy Days?

See results

#8 What kind of car did Jim Rockford drive?

See results

#9 On MASH, what was Hawkeye's hometown in Maine?

See results

#10 Which show was a spin off of All In The Family?

See results

How Did You Do?

#1: Step mother

#2: Rockford

#3: Cheryl Ladd and Farrah Fawcett's characters

#4: Rhoda Morgenstern (played by Valerie Harper)

#5: Kojak

#6: Reuben Kincaid

#7: Chuck Cunningham (seldom seen)

#8: Pontiac Fierbird

#9: Crabapple Cove

#10: The Jefferson's

Photo Credit

Introduction: Zeusandhera.

Let us know you stopped by!

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    • profile image

      anonymous 4 years ago

      Great site, loved seeing so many things, people, and shows I remember from "back when", and some that I'd just about forgotten about, too!

    • Alana-r profile image

      Alana-r 4 years ago

      Great lens, enjoyed the quiz too!

    • justDawn1 profile image

      justDawn1 5 years ago

      The good old days of TV ! :) Thanks!

    • profile image

      grnidlady 5 years ago

      thank you for the trip down memory lane!

    • profile image

      anonymous 5 years ago

      Thanks for the walk down memory lane. The 70's shows had some really good theme songs. Nice to hear them again.

    • profile image

      kelli320 5 years ago

      Cool! Loved the quiz at the end.

    • christopherwell profile image

      christopherwell 6 years ago

      Great lens! Totally makes me want to track down and re-watch so much more of '70s TV. If you get a chance, check out my lens dedicated to Great Mystery/Crime TV Shows.

    • EditPhotos profile image

      Edit Photos 6 years ago from Earth

      Great walk down memory lane

    • raegal75 profile image

      raegal75 6 years ago

      Great memories! Blessed by a Squid Angel

    • pompom210 profile image

      pompom210 6 years ago

      Hey Mulberry,

      Cool memories!

      I was a big fan of THE COURTSHIP OF EDDIE'S FATHER. :O)

      Sunshine & Blessings,

      Giovani

    • junecampbell profile image

      June Campbell 7 years ago from North Vancouver, BC, Canada

      Fascinating lens. I clicked through from your Qondio page. Great use of the posters.

    • profile image

      julieannbrady 7 years ago

      Well, I'm identifying hugely with The Muppet Show today! ;)

    • EditPhotos profile image

      Edit Photos 7 years ago from Earth

      Great lens - full of memories. Love the quiz!

    • SusannaDuffy profile image

      Susanna Duffy 8 years ago from Melbourne Australia

      Blessed by an Angel today (squidoo.com/more-angel-blessings) P.S. Thanks for the trip down Memory Lane

    • morganna lm profile image

      morganna lm 8 years ago

      I'm a kid from this era. Love your lens. I reminisce about those days more and more. Must be my age creeping up on me. Thanks for the memories.

    • jolou profile image

      jolou 8 years ago

      What a great lens. Loved the quiz at the end. Some of the best TV shows were from the 70s.

    • Wendy L Henderson profile image

      Wendy Henderson 8 years ago from PA

      I love it. I'm lensrolling to my 70's lenses, All in the family, Charlies Angels, and Little House on the Prairie. 5 stars.

    • profile image

      CleanerLife 8 years ago

      Columbo & The Rockford Files remain two of my all-time favorite shows. Many others you've listed belong in the "often imitated, never duplicated" category!

    • ElizabethJeanAl profile image

      ElizabethJeanAl 8 years ago

      Welcome to the Totally Awesome Lenses Group.

      Lizzy

    • profile image

      QueSea 8 years ago

      Very cool! You had me waxing nostalgic (smile).

    • Rich-H profile image

      Rich 8 years ago from Surrey, United Kingdom

      Great lens - some of these shows were among my favorites of the time. Lensrolled to my 'The 100 Best Television Lenses' and 'The Greatest TV Intros Ever' lenses. 5*s.

    • ArtByLinda profile image

      Linda Hoxie 8 years ago from Idaho

      This was a lot of fun, the test...I probably only got 70 percent! lol...thanks for the fun! Linda

    • TonyPayne profile image

      Tony Payne 8 years ago from Southampton, UK

      Great lens, 5***** well deserved. I loved this. Funny how some things don't change. Just like now, so many shows are copies of English ones. All In The Family was a clone of Til Death Us Do Part, and Sandford And Son was a copy of Steptoe And Son. There were some really good shows in the 70's - and some bad ones too.

    • profile image

      Vacation-In-My-Head 8 years ago

      Great lens. I loved watching all of these shows. 5*'s

    • rebeccahiatt profile image

      rebeccahiatt 8 years ago

      That was fun, brought back some memories

    • profile image

      anonymous 8 years ago

      I truly enjoyed this lens.The 70s were the good ole days.