The 1970s ushered in a new era of television shows that built upon the successes and preferences of the previous decade. With just three major broadcasting networks dominating the airwaves, TV formats like sitcoms, animated series, dramas, and news programs continued to captivate the audience’s attention. Despite the simplicity of the broadcasting landscape, these shows played a pivotal role in shaping the cultural fabric of the time.
MAS*H brilliantly blended comedy and drama, telling the story of a group of military medics stationed in South Korea during the Korean War. The series not only captured the humor and camaraderie of the medical team but also delved into the complexities of war, making it a standout show of the era. Its record-breaking viewership, including a historic television broadcast, attested to its status as a timeless classic.
19. Three’s Company
Three’s Company brought lighthearted humor and situational comedy to the forefront. The sitcom revolved around three roommates living together, navigating misunderstandings, quirky situations, and laugh-out-loud moments. With endearing characters and clever writing, the show captured the essence of friendships and relationships in a way that resonated with audiences.
Dallas emerged as an epic drama that centered on the powerful Ewing family in Texas. Led by the enigmatic J.R. Ewing, the show captivated viewers with its intricate plotlines, family dynamics, and suspenseful mysteries. The infamous “Who shot J.R.?” episode became a cultural phenomenon, highlighting the show’s ability to keep audiences hooked and engaged.
17. Laverne & Shirley
Laverne & Shirley charmed audiences with its portrayal of two working-class women navigating life in Milwaukee. The sitcom showcased the enduring friendship between the titular characters, Laverne DeFazio and Shirley Feeney, while delivering comedic escapades and relatable moments. Set against the backdrop of the ’50s, the show resonated with viewers through its heartwarming camaraderie and memorable catchphrases.
16. Mork & Mindy
Mork & Mindy introduced an imaginative twist to sitcoms with its extraterrestrial premise. The show followed Mork, an alien from the planet Ork, who lands on Earth and befriends Mindy, an earthling. Robin Williams’ early comedic brilliance shone through as he portrayed Mork’s quirky interactions and attempts to understand human behavior. The show’s unique premise and Williams’ comedic genius left an indelible mark on television.
15. Little House on the Prairie
Little House on the Prairie transported viewers to the late 1800s, where the Ingalls family navigated life on the American frontier. The Western drama combined heartwarming family moments with thought-provoking themes, addressing social issues of the time. Through its relatable characters and poignant storytelling, the show left an enduring legacy as a family favorite that touched hearts across generations.
14. Sanford and Son
Sanford and Son introduced audiences to the comedic world of Fred Sanford, an old man with an unending quest for quick riches. Redd Foxx’s portrayal of Fred’s antics and clashes with his son Lamont created a humorous dynamic that resonated with viewers. The show’s exploration of African American humor and family dynamics reflected the evolving television landscape of the era.
Taxi navigated the night shift adventures of New York City taxi drivers, infusing comedic energy into their interactions with their dispatcher. The show’s simplicity was elevated by its stellar ensemble cast, including Jeff Conaway, Danny DeVito, Judd Hirsch, Carol Kane, Andy Kaufman, and Christopher Lloyd. Taxi’s comedic prowess and character-driven storytelling set it apart as a memorable and engaging sitcom.
12. The Muppet Show
The Muppet Show defied traditional categorization, seamlessly blending sketches, variety, and puppetry to create a one-of-a-kind entertainment experience. Jim Henson’s imaginative creation introduced a whimsical world where guest stars interacted with beloved Muppet characters. The show’s innovative approach to television, coupled with its enduring appeal, left an indelible mark on the landscape of entertainment.
11. Wonder Woman
Wonder Woman brought the iconic superheroine to life on the small screen, captivating audiences with tales of Diana Prince’s battles against villains during World War II. Lynda Carter’s portrayal of Wonder Woman exuded strength, compassion, and empowerment, making her a role model for generations. The show’s impactful storytelling and powerful representation laid the groundwork for future female-led superhero narratives.
10. The Mary Tyler Moore Show
The Mary Tyler Moore Show stood out as a trailblazing sitcom that followed the independent Mary Richards as she navigated her role as a producer in a newsroom. The show defied conventions with its witty writing and compelling characters, addressing social issues and workplace dynamics with a refreshing perspective. Mary Tyler Moore’s portrayal of a strong, confident woman resonated with audiences, making the show a timeless classic.
9. All in the Family
All in the Family pushed boundaries by addressing societal issues through the lens of the Bunker family. Archie Bunker’s controversial viewpoints were juxtaposed with poignant discussions, highlighting the show’s commitment to tackling important subjects. The sitcom’s clever humor and thought-provoking narratives made it both impactful and entertaining, leaving a lasting impression on television history.
8. The Brady Bunch
The Brady Bunch followed the everyday adventures of the blended Brady family, navigating the challenges and joys of their unique situation. Through relatable family dynamics, the show captured the essence of family life while offering humorous insights into the intricacies of living under one roof. The Brady Bunch’s endearing characters and relatable stories resonated with viewers, cementing its status as a beloved family sitcom.
7. The Six Million Dollar Man
The Six Million Dollar Man introduced audiences to Steve Austin, a pilot who becomes a super-powered agent after a groundbreaking surgery. The show’s fusion of action and drama epitomized the dramatic style of the ’70s. Through Austin’s missions and superhuman abilities, the series provided an exciting and engaging narrative that captured the spirit of the era.
6. Welcome Back, Kotter
Welcome Back, Kotter followed teacher Gabe Kotter as he returned to his high school alma mater to teach a group of misfit students known as the Sweathogs. The sitcom’s witty humor and relatable scenarios resonated with audiences, offering a fresh take on the school setting. Through Gabe’s efforts to guide his students, the show blended comedy and heartwarming moments that left a lasting impact.
5. The Incredible Hulk
The Incredible Hulk brought the iconic Marvel character to life in a compelling TV adaptation. Bruce Banner’s struggles with his alter ego and his quest for a cure formed the core of the show’s narrative. The series masterfully balanced action with drama, delving into themes of identity, isolation, and redemption. As Banner sought control over his powers, the show explored his emotional journey, resonating with viewers on a profound level.
4. Happy Days
Happy Days captured the essence of the ’50s and ’60s with its nostalgic portrayal of the Cunningham family and their friends. The show’s endearing characters and relatable stories painted a vivid picture of life during that era. The introduction of the iconic Fonzie, portrayed by Henry Winkler, propelled the show to new heights, making it a cultural touchstone and symbol of retro Americana.
Columbo revolutionized the crime drama genre with its unconventional detective, Lieutenant Columbo, portrayed by Peter Falk. The show deviated from the traditional detective archetype, showcasing Columbo’s unassuming appearance and brilliant investigative methods. The series’ unique format, featuring episodes that focused on solving cases within an hour, captivated audiences with its blend of wit, suspense, and character-driven storytelling.
2. The Jeffersons
The Jeffersons, a spin-off of All in the Family, took viewers on a comedic journey with the irrepressible George and Louise Jefferson. The show humorously explored their upward mobility as they moved to Manhattan’s East Side. The Jeffersons’ witty humor, relatable situations, and social commentary resonated with audiences, creating a legacy that endures to this day.
1. Charlie’s Angels
Charlie’s Angels followed the adventures of three women working as private detectives for an enigmatic boss named Charlie. The show’s premise of empowered women taking on dangerous missions captivated audiences and paved the way for female-led action series. With a mix of action, intrigue, and camaraderie, Charlie’s Angels became an iconic show that celebrated strong, independent women in a way that left an indelible mark on television history.