25. Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-75)
We kick off our ’70s list with the spooky show Kolchak: The Night Stalker. It’s one of those cult classics similar to Freaks and Geeks — where it lasted only one season despite garnering both critical acclaim and love from the audience. Veteran actor Darren McGavin (A Christmas Story) is a journalist who seeks to find the truth behind some strange and unusual events. Using the elements of suspense and science fiction, this show set the stage for many to follow. While Kolchak isn’t a household name, it certainly has more of an influence than many would care to realize.
Image Source: Closer Weekly
24. Hawaii Five-O (1968-80)
Prior to the long-running installment on CBS in recent times, Hawaii Five-O had a prior stint first starting in 1968. The meat of this series occurred in the 70s despite it beginning in two different decades. For those who’ve never seen the ocean — or have longed for a tropical paradise — the setting of Hawaii paired wonderfully with the adventurous storylines. It’s nearly a slam dunk when you have a cop-centric crime narrative. Adding this sort of setting only aided the mystique surrounding the likes of Jack Lord, Kam Fong, Richard Denning, and James MacArthur.
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23. The Odd Couple (1970-75)
The Odd Couple was originally a Broadway play written by famed creator Neil Simon. We’ve since seen a number of iterations — whether in film or on television (primarily with the late Jack Lemmon/Walter Matthau). However, Garry Marshall decided to transition this play into a series, which lasted five years. The duo of Jack Klugman and Tony Randall brought many of the dynamics shown in the play. The two had wonderful chemistry with one another, and it left the audience truly believing that there was some sort of real-life disdain for one another. In total, the series lasted a whopping 114 episodes.
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22. The Partridge Family (1970-74)
During this run, every teenage girl became absolutely enthralled with David Cassidy. The lead actor/musician of the show, Cassidy was one of Hollywood’s biggest stars during this time. The show itself proved to be a big hit within the suburbs. Picture a white version of The Jackson 5 living in a Northern California suburb, and you’ve got The Partridge Family. It wasn’t as popular as The Brady Bunch — though it had its own niche within the sitcom realm all the same (primarily stemming from Cassidy).
Image Source: The Hollywood Reporter
21. Donny & Marie (1975-79)
The musical family out of Utah splintered from their group The Osmonds in order to form a series on ABC. Of course, Donny and Marie were the headliners from their family’s band — which at one time were one of the biggest musical groups on the entire planet. This Friday night show capitalized on the popularity of the aforementioned duo. You saw musical performances — as well as comedic sketches. The guest stars who appeared on the show was truly a list of A-List entertainers at the top of their respective fields. Some of those included Sonny & Cher, Jerry Lewis, Little Richard, Loretta Lynn, Desi Arnaz, Bob Hope, Tom Jones, Raquel Welch, Dick Van Dyke, and Billy Crystal (among others).
Image Source: Closer Weekly
20. Mannix (1967-75)
For eight seasons, detective Joe Mannix (played by Mike Connors) played by his own rules when it came to solving crimes. Someone who hated being told what to do, Mannix routinely operated in atypical fashion when needing to crack a case. The show resonated with many, as the titular character had traits many could relate to (former soldier in the Army). Aside from the actual character itself, Mannix was exhilarating — as he often faced violent challenges by the opposition in the way of physical punishment and weapons. Interestingly enough, this series was produced by the Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz’s company.
Image Source: Variety
19. The Jeffersons (1975-85)
A spin-off from All in the Family, The Jeffersons was a very transcendent show for its time. Rarely did network television include a series with an African-American family as the basis of the show. It wasn’t a difficult decision — as the hilarity between Isabel Sanford and Sherman Hemsley leapt off the screen. The two were so natural together, one would’ve thought they were actually married in real life. As was the case with more progressive shows, The Jeffersons tackled a number of significant issues. Some were portrayed in humorous ways — while others were more serious in nature.
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18. Happy Days (1974-84)
Whenever the word “heeeeeey” is uttered, you know it’s likely a reference to Happy Days. The hilarious sitcom was a fan favorite for 255 episodes (over 11 seasons). Of course, we all know the big-time actors who cut their teeth on the show. This includes Ron Howard as Richie, Scott Baio as Chachi, the late Erin Moran as Joanie, and Henry Winkler as Arthur ‘Fonzie’ Fonzarelli. Using the template of other successful shows, Garry Marshall crafted a series which took place in the 1950s — a time which many consider to be the golden age of true Americana. Along with the aforementioned performers, Happy Days featured a number of veteran actors — including Pat Morita, Al Molinaro, Anson Williams, Marion Ross and Tom Bosley.
Image Source: Biography
17. The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour (1971-74)
Variety shows were all the rage during the 70s. While they haven’t exactly been evergreen in the new generation, there was something nice about watching a show which featured all sorts of elements — including humor, music, comedy, sketches, and monologues. Of course, Sonny Bono and Cher were two of Hollywood’s absolute darlings during this period. Though the show was only slated to be aired during the dreaded summer period, it stuck around for four seasons — largely due to the popularity of the famed couple. We’ll forever remember the theme “I Got You Babe” from this comedy show.
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16. The Bob Newhart Show (1972-78)
Over the last 60 years, we’d be remiss if we didn’t include Bob Newhart among the best comedians in the history of professional humor artists. Newhart’s timing was terrific — as was his quick-witted delivery when prompted. The Bob Newhart Show gave him the platform to showcase his full repertoire of skills. He played a psychologist who often dealt with all of the most important people in his life. The late Suzanne Pleshette was a tremendous foil as Newhart’s school teacher wife. The show lasted 142 episodes before ending in April of 1978.
Image Source: New York Post
15. Taxi (1978-83)
Ensemble casts really became popular when Taxi entered the mix. Beginning in 1978, this story based upon cab drivers in New York featured a ridiculously loaded group of young actors. Judd Hirsch was certainly established at that point. However, audiences then became aware of future A-List performers in Tony Danza, Rhea Pearlman, Christopher Lloyd, Danny DeVito, Marilu Henner, and Jeff Conaway. The enigmatic yet bizarre comedian Andy Kaufman was even a part of the show (as Latka Gravas). With the amount of talent constantly on screen, the audience really was treated with comedic gold — particularly when Kauffman went on his soliloquys in the form of multiple impressions.
Image Source: Hollywood Reporter
14. Laverne & Shirley (1976-83)
During this time, it was quite common for spin-off shows to come from already established brands. Laverne & Shirley was one of those programs — coming originally from Happy Days. Garry Marshall used his sister, Penny, as one of the primary leads of this show (alongside Cindy Williams). The show itself was quite successful. It lasted 178 episodes over eight seasons. It also continues to be constantly mentioned in pop culture today. Despite being best friends on the show, Williams and Marshall did not like one another in real life. A number of allegations have been thrown around in recent years. Some even insist that Marshall was trying to get Williams booted from the show.
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13. One Day at a Time (1975-84)
Norman Lear was a genius when it came to coming up with ideas for television programs. One Day at a Time was one of these said projects. It primarily focused on a divorced mother (Bonnie Franklin) of two young girls (Valerie Bertinelli, Mackenzie Phillips). The premise for this show wasn’t exactly common for sitcoms of the 1970s. While the show did have its cheery, heartfelt moments, it did also tackle a number of issues that weren’t uniform in terms of humor. The fact Lear was progressive enough to create a show centering around a single mother speaks to his foresight as someone who understands what many families have dealt with/continue to deal with.
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12. The White Shadow (1978-81)
Created by Bruce Paltrow (father of Gwyneth), this three-season series focuses on a former NBA player (played by Ken Reeves) who gets the job as a high school coach in an impoverished area of Los Angeles. Of course, the show presented many racially-motivated themes — especially since a Caucasian head coach was presiding over a group of predominantly African-American and Hispanic players. This show was far from a comedy. It took somewhat controversial content head-on — whether it spoke about drug use, neighborhood danger, or violence). Whether indirectly or not, The White Shadow was a precursor to many of the future films (Boyz n the Hood, Juice) which aimed a bright light to the struggle many disenfranchised youths face when beset by a difficult surrounding environment.
Image Source: New York Post
11. Eight is Enough (1977-81)
Eight is Enough was a television show based on a newspaper columnist who wrote a book chronicling his life with eight children. Of course, as the title of the show states, this was essentially the old school version of a show if you mixed together This is Us along with Shameless. Dick Van Patten was a tremendous leading man. Audiences everywhere appreciated the energy he brought to this show as the patriarch of the family. Willie Aames and Adam Rich garnered tremendous amounts of popularity playing two of the children on the show.
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10. Little House on the Prairie (1974-83)
Based on the novels from Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie is about as wholesome a show as one could find. A period piece taking place in the late 1800s, it follows the everyday life of a small town in Minnesota. Michael Landon — a juggernaut of an actor — was the show’s main protagonist alongside the upstart starlet Melissa Gilbert. The series featured a number of young actors who eventually blossomed into household names (such as Jason Bateman). It offers a wonderful look to the past — whilst also providing the audience with entertainment. A show full of nostalgia, it continues to have a cult following via re-runs on television to this day.
Image Source: The Telegraph
9. Good Times (1974-80)
All in the Family (more on that later) had such a resonance with people, that it’s had spin-offs have their own spin-offs. Good Times is this type of example (which came from Maude via All in the Family). The leading duo of John Amos and Esther Rolle were simply fantastic. The Chicago-based family not only brought humor and hilarity to the screen, but also a real sense of love, compassion, and togetherness. It’s why the show at its height became one of America’s most-watched programs.
Image Source: Primetimer
8. Dallas (1978-91)
A hybrid drama/soap opera, Dallas ran for a whopping 357 episodes (over 14 seasons). We love any familial turmoil in a series — which is what Dallas had. Families hated each other, family members schemed against one another, and money was thrown around like it was going out of style. We couldn’t have a hit show without some proper star power at the top. On-screen brothers Patrick Duffy and Larry Hagman were brilliant as a brother dichotomy in virtually all forms. The “Who shot J.R.?” episode still remains one of the most-watched single episodes in television history.
Image Source: Rolling Stone
7. Three’s Company (1976-84)
“Come and knock on our door…We’ve been waiting for you…” The familiar theme song of the hit show Three’s Company always had those watching the show humming along. The sitcom was the coming out party for both John Ritter and Suzanne Somers. We’ve seen this format played over and over again over the last 40 years. Three roommates trying to cohabitate with one another. However, Three’s Company really did it the best — and it isn’t even close. The show had such pop, that the iconic Don Knotts joined for the last five seasons of its run. The show finally stopped in 1984 after eight seasons and 172 episodes. Ritter then went on to star in a number of films.
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6. M*A*S*H (1972-83)
You’ve probably seen an episode of M*A*S*H — whether live during its run or on re-run. The show seemingly is like a cockroach…it never dies. You could probably turn on your television and find an episode of the series playing on some channel. The 11-year run was buoyed by prevalent storylines of the time (war/combat), clever writing, and a very strong ensemble cast (led by Alan Alda and Loretta Swit). M*A*S*H was refreshing from the standpoint that it wasn’t a slapstick comedy. It had real, true elements of drama. In order to pull off this delicate tight rope between being a drama and a comedy, the show needed real acting chops. Fortunately, it had that in droves.
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5. The Waltons (1972-81)
Viewers are comforted by what they know. The Waltons was a show which spoke about life during the depression in rural Virginia. Of course, the Depression Era was not fun for anyone. However, millions watching from home could relate to the storylines — largely because they lived through it. The show was wildly popular, running for nine seasons (221 episodes). It even included a number of tv movies in its later years to piece together parts of the narrative. When viewing this story through a generational prism, one can see why it had many enthralled.
Image Source: Entertainment Weekly
4. The Carol Burnett Show (1967-78)
Sketch comedy was all the rage during the 1970s. Using the stage as her playground, Carol Burnett showcased her immense comedic versatility in her own show. Speaking of success, the show won an astounding 25 Emmy Awards. It ran for 11 seasons — and even had a short spell in the 90s. Aside from Burnett and her zany genius, she was joined by fellow stars in Harvey Korman, Vicki Lawrence, and Tim Conway. Along with Mary Tyler Moore, Burnett paved the way for future female comedians to rightfully have a role in this field.
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3. All in the Family (1970-79)
Carroll O’Connor was an absolute powerhouse. He stole the proverbial thunder anytime he was in a scene. As such, he still is widely regarded as one of the best leads of any sitcom in television history. There’s a subtle nuance within All in the Family — as well as a complexity many don’t see on the surface. This show was quite progressive with its content. It wasn’t bashful in grappling with what many deemed as controversial issues. O’Connor’s character was perfectly complemented by on-screen wife Jean Stapleton. Duly, this Norman Lear-led project featured Sally Struthers and future director Rob Reiner.
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2. The Brady Bunch (1969-74)
America’s favorite blended family. The Brady Bunch represented what all of us looked for in the ideal family. It featured two supportive, wise parents, a plethora of siblings to play with, a wise-cracking housekeeper, and the normal hijinks any family would get into during this time (whether it be a football to the face or the jealousy emanating from a middle child). Interestingly enough, the show garnered much of its popularity after it aired on television. If one were to make a complete list of the most influential American television shows, The Brady Bunch would certainly be on it.
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1. The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-77)
Without question, the top of the 1970s television mountain belongs to Mary Tyler Moore. Like Burnett, Moore broke ignorant and old fashioned stereotypes as a fierce yet assured woman who wouldn’t rely upon a man for anything. This alone made the show ‘fresh’ for its time. When you further factor in brilliant writing, tremendous comedic construct, and a cast of exceptionally good actors, you’ve hit gold. There are countless shows piggybacking off what this program accomplished. Understandably so, it still stands as one of television’s very best sitcoms.
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