1970's Classic Television Memories
Classic Series, Commercials, TV Movies and More
This page takes a brief look back at 70s prime-time television entertainment. The 70s had a lot of great (and not so great, admittedly) series, commercials, movies and more. Using videos, vintage photos and ads and offering up very brief plot lines, cast lists, trivia and whatever else seems to fit, I will attempt to walk you down memory lane.
There are a lot of shows, movies, performers, etc that would fit on a page like this, but sadly, there is only so much space available. I do hope that what I have provided brings back some pleasant memories for you.
Farrah Fawcett Before the Poster and Working for Charlie
Farrah Fawcett made a variety of television commercials before hitting it big as Jill Munroe on the classic series Charlie's Angels.
A quick look on Youtube and you will be able to see her advertising shaving cream, toothpaste, shampoo, and hair styling products.
Many of her commercials are from the early to middle 70s, so if you want to see a lovely lady before she hit the big time, this is one fun way to do it! Of course, you can also look for her work in episodic TV, too. She had roles in I Dream of Jeannie, The Partridge Family, Marcus Welby, M.D., to just name a few.
John Travolta as The Boy in the Plastic Bubble
On November 12, 1976, ABC premiered the movie The Boy in the Plastic Bubble starring John Travolta as Tod Lubitch, a young man who was born with deficient immune system and who had to live in an totally sterile environment. When he would go outside, he wore what looked like a space suit. The film was based on the true story of David Vetter who suffered from severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) and who died at age 12 in 1984.
The film co starred Glynnis O'Connor, Robert Reed and Diana Hyland. Travolta and Hyland (who was 18 years older than Travolta) began a relationship that lasted until her death on March 27, 1977.
John Astin as Evil Roy Slade
Former Addams Family star, John Astin, starred in this comical Western spoof, Evil Roy Slade. He was the "meanest villain in the West". This 1972 television movie was actually a remake of Sheriff Who? a failed 1966 television pilot using the same character. The basic plot of that potential series was that each weeek, a different guest star would be the sheriff and who would give up in disgust because of their lack of success at reforming good old, Evil Roy.
In this film, Mickey Rooney co starred as Nelson L. Stool, a railroad tycoon who wants to bring Roy to justice and believes the only person capable of doing so is retired singing Sheriff Bing Bell (Dick Shawn).
Of course what Western would be complete without at least one pretty woman, and that comes in the form of Betsy (Pamela Austin) who is the nicest girl in the West who falls head over heels for Roy... can her love tame him?
This movie was written and produced by Jerry Belson and Garry Marshall.
Richard Lynch as Prince Anton Voyte in Vampire
This television movie aired on ABC on October 7, 1979 and starred Richard Lynch, one of Hollywood's best character actors as Prince Anton Voyte a vampire who is accidentally released from his forty year slumber in his underground tomb, by a construction company breaking ground for a new church.
Retired San Francisco police officer, Harry Kilcoyne (E.G. Marshall) attends the ground breaking ceremony and is distressed to notice that where the shadow of the newly installed cross falls, the ground is scorched. Some time later, when mysterious deaths begin to plaque the city, he realizes he is dealing with a vampire. Teaming with the architect who drew the plans for the church and whose wife was one of the murder victims, the two hunt down Voyte and try to stop his murderous reign of terror.
This was a pilot for a proposed television series, but it was never picked up.
Susan Anton and Michael Nouri in Cliffhangers!
In 1978, NBC tried to bring back the concept of the movie serial, only in television format. Each hour long show has three stories broken down into 20 minutes each.
- Stop Susan Williams starred lovely Susan Anton as Susan Williams, an investigative reporter who wass seeking information about her brother's murder. What she found was an international conspiracy.
- The Secret Empire starred handsome Geoffrey Scott as a U.S. Marshall in the Old West who discovers a secret city that is inhabited by space aliens.
- The Curse of Dracula starring handsome Michael Nouri as Count Dracula who was working as a college professor in San Francisco.
The series aired for only 10 episodes and only The Curse of Dracula managed to complete it's story line . Stop Susan Williams was edited into the TV movie of The Girl Who Saved The World and The Curse of Dracula was edited into a TV movie as well.
The series was expensive to produce as three different sets had to be used and three different story lines had to be written. The thought was that if the show was successful enough then each story line could be spun off into a stand alone series.
David Soul and Lance Kerwin in Salem's Lot
This classic television mini-series aired on CBS November 17 and November 14, 1979. Based on the 1975 novel of the same name by Stephen King.
Ben Mears (David Soul) has come back home to Salem's Lot, Maine with the intention of writing a book about the abandoned Martsen house that sits atop a high hill over looking the town. Wanting to rent the house, he is disappointed to discover that the mysterious stranger Richard Straker (James Mason), has beaten him to it. Straker has opened an antique shop in town and runs it with his silent partner, Kurt Barlow (Reggie Nalder) who of course, eventually is discovered to be a vampire when a series of strange deaths begin to occur.
Salem's Lot was filmed in Northern California in an area that resembled New England. An old house was found and a super structure was built over it to make it look more impressive and foreboding.
Charlie's Angels: Eye-Popping Crime Stopping Trio!
What look back at 70s television would be complete without talking about three lovely ladies who went to the police academy and were assigned very hazzardous duties?
On September 22, 1976, television viewers were introduced to three beautiful angels who worked for Charlie Townsend (John Forsythe) Detective Agency. Charlie was an unseen employer who handed out their assignments via a speaker phone with help from his right hand man, John Bosely (David Doyle). His lovely Angles were Sabrina Duncan (Kate Jackson), Jill Munroe (Farrah Fawcett-Majors) and Kelly Garrett (Jaclyn Smith) who were three graduates of the Los Angeles Police Academy and assigned very "hazardous" duties with Sabrina as a meter maid, Jill as an office worker, and Kelly as a crossing guard. Charlie happened to believe they had more potential and hired them away from the police force and made them into intrepid private detectives and turned the series into a huge hit in the ratings that catapulted Farrah Fawcett-Majors into an overnight sensation.
The series ran for five seasons with a cast change in season two with Farrah departing. Lovely Cheryl Ladd was brought in as Chris Munroe, Jill's little sister, also a former police officer. Kate left the series at the end of season three and was replaced by lovely Shelley Hack as Tiffany Welles, a former police officer from Boston. Shelley's character wasn't well received and she left at the end of season four. Tanya Roberts was then cast as Julie Rogers for the last season and her character was a former model.
The ladies were credited with creating "jiggle" television, shows that emphasized beautiful women and their bodies over any kind of real solid content. But, audiences loved it and other shows that fit into that "genre" also became popular hits, too.
Muhammad Ali in Freedom Road
This television movie, based on the 1944 book by Howard Fast, aired on NBC October 29, 1979 and starred boxer turned actor Muhammad Ali.
Set during the time after Lincoln's Emancipation Proclamation, and Ali is is Gideon Jackson, a former slave who returns to the plantation where he was once a slave which is now abandoned. He rallies a few former slaves as well as some white settlers to put together their savings and to purchase the place. As time passes, Gideon rises to become a very successful and respected member of society and he eventually is elected to the U.S. Senate.
It co-starred Kris Kristofferson, Ron O'Neal, and Ossie Davies as the narrator. Director Ján Kadár, died four months before it aired on NBC. This movie was given a limited theatrical release in Europe.
Darren McGavin in The Night Stalker
On January 11, 1972, ABC aired The Night Stalker, the first of two television movies that would star Darren McGavin as newspaper reporter Carl Kolchak. In this film Carl found himself tracking down a vampire who was loose in Las Vegas. The TV movie was a huge ratings success with an estimated 51.5 million people tuning in. With such a huge hit on their hands, ABC felt it needed a sequel which came on January 16, 1973 under the title of The Night Strangler. The tale of a an 144 year old alchemist who was killing women for their blood from which he made the elixir that kept him alive.
A third television movie was considered, but instead ABC decided to go with a television series. The short-lived, but much loved and now classic 70s series, Kolchak: The Night Stalker began September 13, 1974 and Kolchak now worked for a Chicago newspaper investigating strange and unusual crimes. The series ran for one season (74-75) with 20 episodes (and two television movies) to its credit.
Noteable Guest Stars for the Series: Cathy Lee Crosby, Phil Silvers, Wally Cox, Larry Linville, Tom Bosley, Larry Storch, William Daniels, Tom Skerritt.
Janet Nolan and Dack Rambo in Dirty Sally
Dirty Sally was a spin off from the Western series, Gunsmoke. Sally Fergus (Jeannette Nolan) was a tough talking, tobacco chewing, hard drinking cantankerous 63 year old soul who had a heart of gold. She had nursed back to health young outlaw Cyrus Pike (Dack Rambo) and together they were heading to California. Of course, Sally had a habit of getting mixed up in the affairs of others and this always managed to keep them off of their schedule.
The series began its run on January 11, 1974 and managed to stay afloat until April 5, 1974 with just 14 episodes to its credit. Nolan received a Prime Time Emmy nomination for Best Lead Actress in a Drama Series for her work on the show.
Notable Guest Stars: Vincent Van Patten, Denver Pyle, Ken Swafford, Jackie Coogan, Bernard Fox, Harold Gould, Nicholas Hammond, Mills Watson.
The Paul Lynde Halloween Special
Paul Lynde was very popular during the 70s because of his work in the game show Hollywood Squares and maybe that is why he was able to have his own Halloween special that aired October 29, 1976 on ABC, or maybe it was the fact that he had played Uncle Arthur on the classic sitcom Bewitched? Who knows as it doesn't matter the reasoning behind it.
The special had Paul being given three wishes by the Wicked Witch of the West (Margaret Hamilton from The Wizard of Oz) and her sister, Witchiepoo (Billie Heyes from H.R. Pufnstuf). His first wish is to become a trucker who competes with guest Tim Conway for the affections of a waitress played by Roz Kelly. The second wish has Paul as a sheik trying to woo Florence Henderson who finds himself interrupted by Tim Conway. The third wish takes him to a disco where Henderson sings a disco version of the old stand That Old Black Magic and he helps Roz Kelly sing Disco Lady.
What makes this special stand out is that this is one of the earliest television appearances of the rock group KISS. They perform three songs, Beth, Detroit Rock City and King of the Nighttime World.
Also appearing on this special were Betty White, Donny and Marie, and Billy Barty
Cathy Lee Crosby as Wonder Woman
Airing on ABC on March 12, 1974 was the pilot movie for the series Wonder Woman. Cathy Lee Crosby was cast as Wonder Woman and behaved more like a spy then a superhero. Gone were Wonder Woman's special abilities, her familiar costume and of course, she was blond.
The plot was that Abner Smith, (one of the worst names for a villain I have ever heard, especially for an actor as handsome and suave as Ricardo Montalban) had stolen a set of books that had in them the names and locations of every spy who worked for the US Government.
Cathy did fine with the material she was given to work with. I watched this movie, as a kid, and loved it, in spite of the fact it wasn't the Wonder Woman that I had admired from the comic books.
After seeing the finished 1974 pilot for the potential Wonder Woman series, ABC wasn't happy and wanted a total revamp and they got it. Wonder Woman became more of a wonder again by getting back all of the superhero qualities we expected to see!
Sasquatch and Fembots!
Both Jamie Sommers, The Bionic Woman and Steve Austin, The Six Million Dollar Man had to deal with Sasquatch or better known as Bigfoot.
February 1, 1976: The Six Million Dollar Man two part episode: The Secret of Bigfoot. Andre the Giant wearing the Bigfoot costume.
September 9, 1976: The Return of Bigfoot: The Six Million Dollar Man (Part 1)
with part two airing on the Bionic Woman. Ted Cassidy wearing the costume.
October 3, 1977: The Six Million Dollar Man: Bigfoot V. Ted Cassidy once again wearing the Bigfoot costume.
The word "fembot" was introduced to the world in The Bionic Woman three part episode Kill Oscar.
Created by Dr. Franklin (John Houseman) a former OSI scientist who wanted to help the Russians get their hands on a new weather control device. Steve Austin, The Six Million Dollar Man is brought in to help Jamie battle the bots.
Jaimie finds herself fighting the fembots once more in the third season two part episode, Fembots in Las Vegas. Dr. Franklin's son reactivates the bots because he seeks revenge against the OSI and wants control of a satellite energy ray weapon.
Teresa Graves in Get Christie Love!
Get Christie Love aired as an ABC Movie of the Week on January 22, 1974. Love (Teresa Graves) was a beautiful sassy, tough, smart undercover cop who worked for the Los Angeles Police Department. She uttered the cute catch phrase, "You're under arrest, Sugar" (with sugar pronounced "shoogah") every time she arrested a criminal. The movie inspired a series of the same name that aired from September 11, 1974 to April 4, 1975.
Graves was a devout Jehovah's Witnesses and found it increasingly difficult to play a character who had to interact with criminals. The writers did their best to clean up the story lines and to keep her as comfortable as possible, but she eventually tired of the series and asked to be released from her contract. Some sources state that the network simply decided to cancel the series for budget reasons as well as her inability to reconcile her religious beliefs with the "realistic" story lines.
The series has never been released onto DVD (but the pilot movie is available) which is a shame. Not too long ago, one of the major cable networks ran a Get Christie Love marathon and I watched a few episodes. While the writing style is typical 70's cop drama, the story lines were entertaining and Graves certainly had a very nice personality.
Sadly, Graves passed away in 2002 from injuries sustained in a house fire.
Here Comes Leif Garrett TV Special
- Leif Garrett was a popular teen idol during the 70s with work in television series, movies and even a trip or two up the music charts with a few singles.
- In 1979, he was given his first and only television variety special that included guests Bob Hope, Flip Wilson, Brooke Shields, and Marie Osmond. I have to admit that while I did have a mega crush on Leif way back then, I simply don't recall watching this special, but I'm sure I did. Anyone remember this one?
- Garrett wasn't the only popular 70s star to have his own special folks like The Carpenters, John Denver, Cheryl Ladd, Raquel Welch are just a few others! Of course, the 70s also had a long list of variety show TV series as well, with Donny and Marie, Sonny and Cher and The Captain & Tennille as just three examples.
Movin' On and B.J. and the Bear
In the 1970s, truckers were seen as sort of modern day cowboys and rebels. Big screen movies like Convoy, White Line Fever, Smokey and the Bandit just added to their image. Television executives wasted no time in getting in on the craze. They developed two series that were popular with audiences, at least for a little while.
From May 8, 1974 – March 2, 1976, on NBC, Claude Akins was independent trucker, Sonny Pruitt and his co driver was college educated Will Chandler (Frank Converse). Together the two hauled freight and found themselves getting mixed up in the lives of those they met on their journey. Country singer Merle Haggard provided the theme song and had a number one country hit with the song in July of 1975.
BJ and the Bear:
Greg Evigan became a 70s teen idol when he starred for two seasons (79-81) on NBC's comedy drama series, B.J. and the Bear, the story of B.J (Billie Joe) McKay, a freelance independent trucker who travels the countryside, with his pet chimp Bear, taking jobs where ever he can find them. B.J would often find himself in some illegal situation, not of his own making, that usually involved a pretty woman or women who needed his help. Many times, corrupt county sheriff Elroy P. Lobo (Claude Akins) would be harassing him as well, at least until he got his own show, The Misadventures of Sheriff Lobo which would eventually get retooled as simply Lobo.
Joanna Cassidy and Mark Harmon in 240 Robert
240- Robert aired on ABC from August 28, 1979 – March 21, 1981 with a total of 16 episodes and starred John Bennett Perry as Deputy Theodore Roosevelt "Trap" Applegate III, Joanna Cassidy as Deputy Morgan Wainwright and Mark Harmon as Deputy Dwayne "Thib" Thibideaux.
The team was a specialized unit of the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department that used four-wheel drive vehicles and helicopters to perform air, sea and land search and rescue.
Harmon and Cassidy left the series when their contracts expired at the end of the first season. Pamela Hensley joined the cast as Deputy Sandy Harper and Stephen W. Burns joined as Deputy Brett Cueva, but the series suffered from low ratings and was cancelled just three episodes into the second season.
Monte Markham as Barney Hiller The Seven Million Dollar Man
One of Markham's most memorable roles was that of race car driver Barney Miller (later changed to Hiller to prevent confusion with the series Barney Miller that was airing on ABC) in The Seven Million Dollar Man, an episode of the popular The Six Million Dollar Man. Barney suffered a horrible car crash and became bionic like Steve, but yet with some differences. Where Steve lost his limbs and had them replaced, Barney simply had bionic implants that gave him his bionic speed and strength. Sadly, he became seduced by his new found abilities and simply didn't have the necessary mindset to handle his bionics. They were "turned" down and he simply had the ability to use his legs and arms again.
Barney would then appear once more in season three, episode nine as The Bionic Criminal. As an experiment to see if Barney is now capable of handling his bionics they are reactivated for 48 hours, much to the chagrin of Steve, who feels it's a mistake. But things take a turn for the worse when eager to get back into racing, Barney's hopes are dashed when his sponsor isn't interested. Barney loses his temper and attacks the man and mistakenly believes he has killed him. A former OSI agent knowing the truth, but not telling Barney, instead decides to blackmail him into committing a variety of crimes.
That was the last that was heard of Barney which was sad as the character could have had potential and Monte was certainly handsome, talented and charismatic enough to have continued on with the character. In The Bionic Book written by Herbie J Pilato it is reported that author Martin Caidin whose novel Cyborg, the inspiration for The Six Million Dollar Man series, had originally wanted Markham to star in the series. It is also stated that Caidin suggested him as a replacement for Lee Majors who had considered leaving the show at the end of season four.
- "The Seven Million Dollar Man." The Dispatch [Lexington] 1 Nov. 1974, Vol 93 ed., TV sec.: 3. Print.
Granville Van Dusen as Paul Taylor in The World Beyond
The World of Darkness
- The first episode or pilot movie for this series aired on April 17, 1977 on CBS from (10:00-11:00) EST.
- The basic plot introduces us to Paul Taylor (Granville Van Dusen), a sports writer injured in a motor cycle accident. He died for 2 minutes and 37 seconds before doctors were able to revive him. This created a link to the other side and he was able to talk with the dead. He was asked by a spirit to go to Woodvale, a small town somewhere in New England and meet with a woman named Clara Stanford (Tovah Feldshuh) who, of course, lived in a spooky Victorian house and was surrounded by odd behaving relatives.
- Beatrice Strait played Joanna Stanford, Clara's aunt.
- Gary Merrill was Dr. Thomas Masden, the Sanford family doctor.
The World Beyond
- This second pilot for this potential series aired on CBS January 27, 1978. Again it starred Van Dusen is sometimes (unofficially) called The Mud Monster.
- In this episode Paul Taylor is psychically contacted by the ghost of a young man who needs Paul to protect his sister Marian (JoBeth Williams) from an out of control murderous golem that he created while experimenting with occult secrets.
- The thing that I have always remembered about this episode was the scene where Marian hacks of the golem's arm as it tries to break into the house that she and Paul have taken refuge in. The arm is still alive and attacks Marian before being thrown down into the cellar and locked there and of course it's still alive and just waiting.
- "TV Review." Review. The Hour 16 Apr. 1977: 24.
Star Wars Holiday Special
The Star Wars Holiday Special aired on CBS on November 17, 1978 and was widely panned by both critics and fans alike. It aired once and has never been released on VHS or DVD and it probably never will be.
Han Solo (Harrison Ford) and Chewbacca visits Kashyyyk, Chewie's home planet so that he can celebrate Life Day. The duo is pursued by agents from the Galactic Empire who are searching for the Rebel Alliance on the planet.
It was almost variety show like in it's premise in. A cartoon introduced us for the first time to bounty hunter Boba Fett. Princess Leia (Carrie Fisher) performed the Life Day theme song near the end of the special. Harvey Korman was an incompetent robot, Bea Arthur was a bar tender at the Mos Eisley Cantina and she sang "Good Night, But Not Goodbye". Diahann Carroll was Mermeia created by a virtual reality machine and she performed "This Minute Now".
It's Not Nice to Fool Mother Nature!
Actress Dena Dietrich is probably best remembered for her series of 70s television commercials as Mother Nature who was always confusing Chiffon margarine for butter. Her catchphrase, after being told it was margarine, was "It's not nice to fool Mother Nature." Actor Mason Adams was the narrator for the commercials.
Dietrich for the most part was happy being recognized as "Mother Nature", saying it brought her instant recognition and she even got some roles because of it. But, she also acknowledged that she lost a few parts, too because she was so closely identified as Mother Nature.
She stated in an interview that the audition for the role came after a long day of work. She simply wanted to go home and when she was given a bunch of artificial daises as props, she started dancing around the room, singing "the hills are alive with the sound of music." She was called back some time later and filmed a test commercial that was aired in a few small cities and the response was very positive.
Dietrich was no stranger to commercials having done about 200 of them prior to the Chiffon campaign.
© 2014 Glory Miller