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 Popular Seventies TV Shows - A-G

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FIRST TELECAST: September 21, 1969

The acceptance of made-for-television films in the second half of the 1960s, which had originally been dropped into series that were made up primarily of theatrically released films, resulted in the first series of made-for-television films only, The ABC Movie of the Week, in the fall of 1969. The attraction was that every week would be a "world premiere" of a new motion picure. Over the years, a number of series relying on these new films have appeared under such titles as World Premiere Movie and Movie of the Week, with recent trends tending to minimize the distinction between theatrical and made-for-TV films. In fact, by the 1976-1979 season, with the available supply of theatrical films dwindling while demand for motion pictures on network television remained strong, a milestone was reached. Fifteen years after the first made-for-TV film aired on network television, See How They Run on NBC in 1964, there were more of these aired during an entire season than there were theatrical features. In later seasons, as cable television airings eroded the ability of theatrical films to generate large audiences when they were eventually run on the networks, all three networks became more dependent on made-for-TV films to fill their movie time slots. By the 1986-1987 season the shift had reached the point that the networks aired barely more than 100 theatrical features and almost 300 made-for TV films. ABC later incorporated a large number of made-for-television films in ABC Late Night beginning in 1973. Some of the highest rated made-for-televisions films of the 1970's include Little Ladies of the Night (1977), Helter Skelter (1976), and The Night Stalker (1972).

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Police Drama
FIRST TELECAST: September 21, 1968
LAST TELECAST: May 20, 1975

videos bullet iconProduced by Jack Webb, whose realistic portrayal of police work had scored a major hit in Dragnet, Adam 12 dealt with the day-to-day working world of two uniformed policemen assigned to patrol-car duty. Like Dragnet before it, it was based on real life cases, with the names changed to protect the innocent. Officer Pete Malloy (Martin Milner) was a senior officer who at the start of the series was teamed with a probationary rookie cop, Jim Reed (Kent McCord). Sgt. MacDonald (William Boyett) was their low-key but authoritarian sergeant. As members of the Los Angeles Police Department, they encountered a wide range of cases in each episode, some serious, some trivial, some amusing, and some tragic. Running as it did for seven seasons, Adam 12 saw changes in the status of the officers as the years passed. During the 1970-1971 season Jim Reed was promoted from rookie to officer, and in the following year Officer Malloy was upped to Policeman 3, one notch below the rank of sergeant. A very routine remake of Adam 12 was produced in 1989-1991 for syndication; nothing much had changed except for the faces and the police cars (which were newer). Both versions of Adam 12 had one bachelor and one married officer as its two leads. The number of sergeants in the remake series was upped to two, a male in the first season and a female in the second. Buy this series on DVD at

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Situation Comedy
FIRST TELECAST: August 31, 1976
LAST TELECAST: July 2, 1985
THEME: "There's a New Girl in Town" by Alan and Marilyn Bergman and David Shire, sung over the opening credits by Linda Lavin.

videos bullet iconWhen this comedy premiered in 1976, it was the story of a recently widowed aspiring singer with a very precocious 12-year-old son. Alice Hyatt (Linda Lavin) had moved from her home in New Jersey to look for work in Phoenix. While attempting to find a singing job, she kept her household together and supported son Tommy (Philip McKeon) by working as a waitress at Mel's Diner. The two other waitresses at Mel's provided quite a contrast. Flo (Polly Holliday), the old hand, was lusty, outspoken, and crude (her favorite expression was "Kiss my grits"), but had difficulty hiding a soft heart. Vera (Beth Howland), on the other hand, was young, impressionable, and rather quiet. Mel Sharples (Vic Tayback), the owner of the diner, was also its cook and the creator of Mel's Famous Chili, which was so popular in the area that it (along with fun-loving Flo) attracted a loyal and regular clientele. The series was based on the movie Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, the title role of which was played by Ellen Burstyn, who received an Academy Award for her performance. The only member of the movie cast to make the transition to the TV series was Vic Tayback, re-creating his role as the crusty owner of Mel's Diner. He was joined in the spring of 1980 by Diane Ladd, who had played Flo in the movie but turned up as Belle in the TV series. Belle was hired by Mel as a waitress when Flo moved to Houston to run her own restaurant (the basis of her own 1980-81 spinoff series, Flo).

In the last original episode of the series, (March 19, 1985) Mel sold the diner and, despite his reputation for cheapness over the years, gave each of his waitresses a $5,000 farewell bonus. All worked out for the best, however, since waitress Jolene Hunnicutt (Celia Weston) was planning to quit to open a beauty shop, Vera had become pregnant and was looking to become a fulltime mother, and Alice, after all the years at the diner, was moving to Nashville as lead singer with a band.

CBS ran reruns of Alice on weekday mornings from June 1980 to September 1982. Buy Alice (Television Favorites Compilation) on DVD at

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Situation Comedy
FIRST TELECAST: January 12, 1971
LAST TELECAST: April 8, 1979
THEME: "Those Were the Days," by Strouse and Adams, sung at the opening of each show by Archie and Edith through the 1978-1979 season, replaced by an instrumental version after that.
PRODUCER: Norman Lear

videos bullet iconAll in the Family changed the course of television comedy. Based on the British series Till Death Us Do Part, it brought a sense of harsh reality to a TV world which previously had been populated largely by homogenized, inoffensive characters and stories that seemed to have been laundered before they ever got on the air. Its chief character, Archie Bunker (Carroll O'Connor), was anything but bland. A typical working-class Joe, he was uneducated, prejudiced and blatantly outspoken. He was constantly lambasting virtually every minority group in existence. His views on blacks (or, as he often called them, "jungle bunnies," or "spades"), Puerto Ricans ("spics"), Chinese ("chinks") and any other racial or religious group not his own, were clear and consistent. Archie believed in every negative racial and ethnic stereotype he had ever heard.

Unfortunately, he could never get away from the people he despised. Archie was a dock foreman for the Prendergast Tool and Die Company, and he had to work with a racially mixed group of people. Next door to his small house at 704 Houser Street, in the Corona section of Queens, New York, lived a black family, the Jeffersons. His daughter Gloria (Sally Struthers) had married a Pole. On top of it all, Archie the bigoted arch-conservative, even had to share his house with his "meathead" son-in-law, Mike Stivic (Rob Reiner). (Mike was studying for his degree in sociology, and so was unemployed.) Completing the Bunker household was Archie's slow-witted but honest and unprejudiced wife, Edith (Jean Stapleton).

Over the years changes took place. Edith's cousin Maude Findlay (Bea Arthur), appeared in several episodes, provoking Archie with her loud, liberal opinions. She got her own show, Maude, in 1972. The Jeffersons (Sherman Hensley, Isabel Stanford and Mike Evans), Archie's African-American next door neighbors, moved away to Manhattan and into their own show, The Jeffersons, early in 1975, whereupon Mike, who had finally graduated from college, moved into the old house. This allowed Mike to continue to torment Archie, but as a next door neighbor. Then Gloria became pregnant; the baby, Joey, was born in December 1975. The Lorenzos, an Italian couple, moved in as neighbors for a while. Frank Lorenzo (Vincent Gardenia) loved to clean and cook (woman's work, according to Archie) while his wife Irene (Betty Garrett) was an accomplished fixer of anything mechanical. Irene also possessed a sarcastic wit, with which she put down Archie regularly. When Archie was temporarily laid off from his job in October 1976, the Bunkers were forced to take in a Puerto Rican border, Teresa Betancourt (Liz Torres), which provided still another source of irritation.

The 1977-78 season included episodes with some very adult themes, including one in which an intruder attempted to rape Edith. Then at the end of the season Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers announced that they were leaving All in the Family for ventures of their own. The final episode of the season saw Mike, Gloria and little Joey (played by twins Jason and Justin Draeger) moving to California where Mike was to take a teaching position. The episode was a tearful and sentimental farewell, leaving Archie and Edith with an "empty nest." Temporarily, as it turned out, for in the fall of 1978, Archie and Edith were joined by little Stephanie Mills (Danielle Brisebois), a niece who had been abandoned by her father.

Throughout all of these changes All in the Family remained one of the top hits on television. It did not begin that way, however. It took 1971 audiences several months to adjust to the blunt, outrageous humor of the show. There was considerable publicity about Archie's railings against "spics and spades," and it seemed possible that the show might be canceled. But by the summer of 1971 All in the Family had become a controversial hit, and the number-one program on television -- a position it retained for five years. Part of its appeal was based on the fact that it could be interpreted in several different ways. Liberals and intellectuals could cite it as an example of the absurdity of prejudice, while another large segment of the viewing audience could agree with Archie's attitudes and enjoy him as their kind of guy. Like The Honeymooners' Ralph Kramden in the 1950s, the loud-mouthed yet vulnerable Archie Bunker was a man for all audiences.

CBS telecast reruns of All in the Family weekdays from December 1975 to September 1979 and in prime time during the summer of 1991, in the latter instance paired with Norman Lear's new (and decidedly less successful) series Sunday Dinner. Buy this series on DVD at

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FIRST TELECAST: April 5, 1978
LAST TELECAST: May 3, 1978

videos bullet iconSpider-Man, the Marvel comic creation of Stan Lee, was brought to life for this limited run CBS series. Peter Parker (Nicholas Hammand) was a young college science major and a part-time news photographer for the Daily Bugle. When he was accidently bitten by a radioactive spider, he suddenly found himself endowed with superhuman abilities. He could sense the presence of danger and possessed strength far superior to that of ordinary men; he could scale sheer walls without ropes and had a magic web concealed in a wrist band that helped him to "fly" and to subdue attackers. But the transformation of Spider-Man was a mixed blessing for young Peter. He was, by nature, a rather simple, nonviolent man who found himself forced to lead a double life, possessing powers he didn't quite understand and didn't really want. Peter's boss at the Daily Bugle was publisher J. Jonah Jameson (Robert F. Simon). Jameson's secretary, Rita (Chip Fields), was Peter's good friend and protector.

Spider-Man returned to the air in the fall of 1978, but as a number of specials rather than as a regular series. For these seven new episodes, the last of which aired on July 6, 1979, Ellen Bry was added to the cast as free-lance photographer Julie Mason.

An animated Spider-Man series ran on ABC's Saturday morning lineup from September 1967 to August 1969, and on its Sunday morning lineup from March to September 1970. Spider-Man then resurfaced in animation as part of NBC's Saturday morning lineup for five seasons beginning in September 1981. Buy The Amazing Spider-Man pilot movie at

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Situation Comedy
FIRST TELECAST: February 8, 1979
LAST TELECAST: October 2, 1980
THEME: "Different Worlds" by Gimbel and Fox, sung by Maureen McGovern

videos bullet iconCinderella-story comedy about a pert young waitress (Donna Pescow) who finds her handsome -- and rich -- young prince. When Brad Benson (Robert Hays) first walked into the Liberty Coffee Shop, Angie thought he was poor and began slipping him pastries. It turned out he was not only a pediatrician from the medical building across the street, but scion of one of Philadelphia's richest families. They fell in love and were married, much to the dismay of Brad's overbearing big sister, Joyce (Sharon Spelman), and stuffy father, Randall (John Randolph), and to the bemusement of Angie's down-to-earth mama, Theresa (Doris Roberts). Mr. Falco had walked out 19 years earlier -- "He went to get the paper" -- but Theresa still kept a place at the table for him. She had raised Angie and younger sister Marie (Debralee Scott) by running a newstand. The Bensons had a different set of problems. Snobbish Joyce was three times divorced and undergoing therapy with a psychiatrist who hated her. DiDi (Diane Robin) was Angie's big-hearted, big-mouthed best friend at the coffee shop, and Phipps (Emory Bass) was the butler.

The newlyweds moved into Brad's mansion, but the palatial surroundings were too much so they later bought a smaller house, where Brad set up his practice on the first floor. At first Angie bought the coffee shop, to keep herself busy, but later she traded it for a beauty parlor, where Gianni (Tim Thomerson) was the pleasure-seeking hairstylist.

ABC aired reruns of Angie on weekday mornings from June-September 1985.

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General Drama
FIRST TELECAST: February 10, 1974
LAST TELECAST: January 12, 1975

videos bullet iconThis drama, produced by The Waltons creator Earl Hamner, Jr., concerned the successful architect George Apple (Ronny Cox), who decided to leave the rat race of big-city life and return with his wife Barbara (Lee McCain) and their four children Paul (Vincent Van Patten), Cathy (Patti Cohoon), Patricia (Franny Michel, later replaced by Kristy McNichol) and Steven (Eric Olsen) to his home town of Appleton, Iowa. This small rural community, which had been founded by George's ancestors, was a far cry from Los Angeles. It provided even more adjustment problems for George's city-bred children than for his wife and himself, but in time the entire family came to appreciate their new surroundings. George was an idealist, with compassion for his fellow man and strong religious convictions, and he found himself getting involved in numerous causes, sometimes being looked upon by the townspeople as a kook.

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Situation Comedy
FIRST TELECAST: September 1979
LAST TELECAST: September 1983

videos bullet iconThe 1977-1978 season brought a major change to All in the Family. In the opening three-part story, Archie (Carroll O'Connor) gave up his job to pursue the American dream of owning his own business. Along with bartender Harry Snowden (Jason Wingreen), he purchased Kelsey's Bar from an ailing Tommy Kelsey (Brendon Dillon), and reopened it as Archie's Place. During the 1979-80 season All in the Family grew even further away from its original format, as the action shifted to Archie's bar, and the name of the series was changed to Archie Bunker's Place. Archie's wife Edith was seen only infrequently -- Jean Stapleton, feeling that she had exhausted the potential of her character, wished to be phased out of the series. New regulars were introduced at the bar, as Archie expanded it to include a short-order restaurant and took on a Jewish partner named Murray Klein (Martin Balsam). Murray's liberal intellectual background was in sharp contrast to, and sometimes in sharp conflict with, Archie's views. The ethnic mix of Archie's Place included Veronica Rooney (Anne Meara), the sardonic Irish cook, Jose (Abraham Alvarez), the Puerto Rican busboy, and a wide variety of customers.

In the premiere episode of the 1980-81 season Archie and little Stephanie Mills (Danielle Brisebois) -- who had joined the original All in the Family series in the fall of 1978 and whom the Bunkers had adopted -- were seen grieving over the unexpected death of Edith, who had died suddenly of a stroke. Life did go on, however, and Archie hired a black housekeeper, Ellen Canby (Barbara Meek), to help look after his niece. Mrs. Canby was the sister-in-law of one of his neighbors, Polly Swanson (Janet MacLachlan). With Edith gone, Archie gingerly moved into the dating scene, for the first time in more than 25 years. Buy this series on DVD at

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War Drama
FIRST TELECAST: September 21, 1976
LAST TELECAST: September 1, 1978
TECHNICAL ADVISOR: Gregory Boyington

videos bullet iconBased loosely on the book Baa Baa Black Sheep, by the World War II Marine Corps flying ace Gregory Boyington, this series was the story of a squadron of misfit flyers in the South Pacific. Squadron 214 was composed of men who had been on the verge of court martial before Boyington provided them with reprieves. They had been charged with everything from fighting with officers, to stealing booze, to being general nuisances and nonconformists. Maj. Gregory "Pappy" Boyington (Robert Conrad) was so named because at age 35 he was the "old man" by the standards of his men. He maintained almost no discipline, ignored military regulations, and did not care what his men did when they weren't on missions. As long as they could fly and do the job when necessary, nothing else mattered. Given this personal code, Pappy was completely at home with his men, whether they were chasing women, getting into brawls, conning the military hierarchy or civilian populations, or -- in a more serious vein -- intercepting the Japanese.

Baa Baa Black Sheep was dropped from the NBC lineup at the end of the 1976-1977 season, only to be revived in December 1977 when most of the new 1977-1978 series failed and the network ran short of programming. It was retitled Black Sheep Squadron, and Capt. Dottie Dixon (Katherine Cannon) was added to the cast. She was in charge of the nursing force on Vella La Cava, the island where Pappy and his men were based, and her young charges were seemingly always available for fun and games with the men of the 214th Squadron. Four of the girls became regular cast members in early 1978. They were christened "Pappy's Lambs," perhaps a parody of ABC's popular Charlie's Angels, who were scheduled opposite Black Sheep Squadron. One of the lambs, Nurse Nancy (Nancy Conrad), was played by the daughter of Robert Conrad. Buy this series on DVD at

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Police Drama
FIRST TELECAST: January 17, 1975
LAST TELECAST: June 1, 1978
THEME: "Keep Your Eye on the Sparrow," sung by Sammy Davis, Jr.

videos bullet iconBaretta was half-a-spinoff from another detective show. Robert Blake had originally been scheduled to take over the lead role in Toma after Tony Musante left that series. But Toma had not been a big hit, and rather than risk being tied to an unsuccessful series the title was changed and alterations were made in the local and other details. In essence, Toma became Baretta, moved to California.

Tony Baretta (Robert Blake) was, like Toma, an unconventional cop. He was streetwise, single, with a decidedly funky lifestyle: he holed up in a run-down old hotel when he wasn't on the job, which was seldom. He was usually seen in T-shirt and jeans, with his trademark cap pulled down over his forehead. The orphaned son of poor Italian immigrants, Tony knew the city inside out. He was a master of disguise, and because of his rough appearance was able to infiltrate such groups as motorcycle gangs and even "the Mob." Needless to say, he refused to have a partner and always worked alone. Inspector Shiller (Dana Elcar) was his original boss, later succeeded by Lt. Brubaker (Edward Grover). Billy Truman (Tom Ewell) was a retired cop who was a combined manager and house detective at the hotel where Baretta lived.

There was plenty of hard action in this series, despite Blake's public protestations that he opposed wanton violence on TV. The show had a "with-it" light sense of humor; comic relief was provided by Tony's fancy-dude informant-friend Rooster (Michael D. Roberts) and by Fred, Tony's pet cockatoo. Blake's real-life wife Sondra Blake was an occasional guest star. Buy this series on DVD at

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Detective Drama
FIRST TELECAST: January 28, 1973
LAST TELECAST: September 4, 1980

videos bullet iconAfter a long successful career as a private investigator, Barnaby Jones (Buddy Ebsen) had retired, leaving the business to his son Hal. When Hal was murdered while on a case, Barnaby came out of retirement to help track down his son's killer. Hal's widow, Betty (Lee Meriweather), worked with her father-in-law to solve the case and remained with him, as his assistant, when he decided to keep his Los Angeles-based firm in operation. His keen analytic skills were often masked by a homespun exterior, drawing guilty parties into a false sense of security that led to their downfall. Until Cannon -- another Los Angeles detective series -- went off the air in the fall of 1975, there was occasional interplay between it and Barnaby Jones.

In the fall of 1976 Barnaby's young cousin J.R. (Mark Shera) joined the firm, initially to track down the murderer of his father, but eventually as a permanent partner. One of the things that most fascinated him was Barnaby's home crime laboratory, something rarely seen in other detective series. It was in the lab that various clues were analyzed and possible bits of evidence evaluated. J.R., in addition to his work with Barnaby, was also studying to pass the bar exam and become a lawyer. Buy this series on DVD at

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Situation Comedy
FIRST TELECAST: January 23, 1975
LAST TELECAST: September 9, 1982

videos bullet iconBarney Miller grew out of a rejected comedy pilot called "The Life and Times of Captain Barney Miller," which aired as part of an ABC summer anthology called Just for Laughs in 1974. In that pilot the action revolved equally around Barney's problems at the police precinct house and his home life, with his wife Elizabeth and kids prominently featured. But when Barney Miller made it to the regular ABC schedule the following January, the family played a much smaller role (eventually they were written out) and the locale became the Greenwich Village station house where Barney and his motley crew spent their day.

Three actors besides Hal Linden came over from the pilot to the series: Barney's two kids, David (Michael Tessier) and Rachael (Anne Wyndham), who soon disappeared, and a broken-down old cop named Fish (Abe Vigoda). Fish was the hit of the show. Not only did he look incredible, he sounded and acted like every breath might be his last. Fish was always on the verge of retirement, and his worst day was when the station house toilet broke down. He was constantly complaining about everything, especially his seldom-seen wife Bernice (Florence Stanley).

There were ironies in Abe Vigoda's portrayal of Fish. The fiftysomething Vigoda was in real life an active athlete (he jogged and played handball), and the role for which he was previously best known was quite different indeed -- that of the ruthless Mafia leader Tessio, in The Godfather. Vigoda became so popular that he eventually got his own series, Fish, though he also continued on Barney Miller for a time. He left the series ("retiring" from the police force) in September 1977.

Others around the 12th Precinct station house were Det. Amenguale (Gregory Sierra), the Puerto Rican; Wojo (Maxwell Gail), the naive, trusting one; Yemana (Jack Soo), the philosophical one who made coffee for them all; and Harris (Ron Glass), the wise-cracking, ambitious black. Seen occasionally were Inspector Lugor (James Gregory), the sometimes incoherent superior; Levitt (Ron Carey), the 5'3" uniformed officer who wanted to be a detective, but was "too short"; Lt. Scanlon (George Murdock) of Internal Affairs; and female officers Wentworth (Linda Lavin) and Baptista (June Gable). A continuous parade of crazies, crooks, conmen, hookers, juvenile muggers and other street denizens passed through.

Among the notable events of later seasons were Harris's emergence as a published author, with a lurid novel about police work called Blood on the Badge; and, in January of 1979, the death of actor Jack Soo. Soo was last seen as Yemana in October of 1978, but was so loved that a special episode was devoted to him the following May, with clips from past shows and remeniscences by the cast. At the end they all raised their coffee cups in a poignant farewell toast. Buy this series on DVD at

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Science Fiction
FIRST TELECAST: September 17, 1978
LAST TELECAST: August 17, 1980
MUSIC: The Los Angeles Philharmonic Orchestra

videos bullet iconBattlestar Galactica was the most highly publicized new series of the fall 1978 schedule. Reported to have cost one million dollars per hour to produce -- the highest budget ever for a regular series -- it used spectacular special effects to depict a mighty life and death struggle between the forces of good and evil in outer space, thousands of years in the future. Lasers flashed, majestic spaceships lumbered through deep space, and dashing, caped heroes fought half-human, half-robot villians for no less than the survival of mankind.

If this sounds like a copy of the movie Star Wars, it was. Battlestar Galactica was such a literal imitation of Star Wars that the producers of the movie sued ABC for "stealing" their film. Part of the similarity lay in the special effects, such as laser battles and closeups of the spacecraft, which were created by John Dykstra, the same man who worked on Star Wars.

The setting was the seventh millennium, A.D. Galactica was the only surviving battlestar after a surprise attack by the evil Cylons, aided by the treacherous Count Baltar (John Colicos), had shattered the interplanetary peace and wiped out most of humankind. Now the Cylons were pursuing Galactica and her attendant fleet of 220 smaller spacecraft as they sped through space toward a last refuge, a distant, unknown planet called Earth.

Commanding the mile-wide Galactica was the stoic, silver haired Adama (Lorne Greene). His son Capt. Apollo (Richard Hatch) led Galactica's fighter squadron (another son was killed off by the Cylons in the premiere). Lt. Starbuck (Dirk Benedict) was his ace pilot, as well as a smooth-talking con artist and ladies' man. Muffit was the mechanical canine daggit. Many other characters came and went from the large cast, including the singing Anroid Sisters, who entertained with two sets of mouths apiece, in a surrealistic outer-space bar peopled by oddly shaped creatures from other civilizations (remember that scene from Star Wars?).

Despite the hype, the audience for Galactica declined sharply, until eventually only the kids were left watching. It left the air after a single season, then returned in early 1980 retitled Galactica 1980. Buy this series on DVD at

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FIRST TELECAST: August 25, 1975
LAST TELECAST: November 24, 1975

Hoping to capitalize on the success that public television had with the British import Upstairs, Downstairs, CBS launched this lavish, period soap in prime time in the fall of 1975. Beacon Hill was set in Boston in the early 1920s. The various continuing storylines revolved around the lives of the wealthy Lassiter family and the members of their household staff, led by Mr. Hacker (George Rose), the Lassiters' head butler. The cast was huge (and included Roy Cooper as Trevor Bullock, and David Dukes, Stephen Elliott, Edward Hermann and Nancy Marchand as other members of the Lassiter family), the sets and and production values the best, and a special two-hour advance premiere on August 2 received top ratings. But after that the audience shrank with each succeeding episode. CBS, which had hoped to parlay a successful British program into a new trend in American television (as it had done with All in the Family), was forced to cancel the program after 13 episodes.

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FIRST TELECAST: September 26, 1976
LAST TELECAST: September 27, 1981

The Big Event was NBC's regular weekly showcase for special programming. Many of the specials lumped under this generic title were two hours in length, and some were even longer, "The First Fifty Years," a retrospective of NBC's half-century in broadcasting, occupied an entire evening of November 21, 1976. Major theatrical motion pictures were aired as Big Events; Earthquake, 2001: A Space Odyssey, and Gone With The Wind made their network television debuts here. In addition several major original television films were produced for the show (Sybil, The Moneychangers, Holocaust, and Jesus of Nazareth -- the latter having previously aired in Europe) as well as more standard specials ("An Evening with Diana Ross," "The Father Knows Best Reunion," "The Story of Princess Grace").

The Big Event concept soon spread to other nights of the week as NBC, which was suffering from a shortage of hit series at the time, sought to boost its ratings with short-run but spectacular programming. A number of two- and three- part series such as "Harvest Home" and "The Godfather Saga" (an amalgam of the two Godfather theatrical films plus unused footage left over from the making of the films), ran partly or entirely under the Big Event title, usually extending from Saturday through Monday or Tuesday nights. A second regular Big Event night was added on Tuesday from 1978 to 1979.

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Situation Comedy
FIRST TELECAST: February 26, 1979
LAST TELECAST: April 28, 1979

videos bullet iconThere were many ways of looking at 19-year-old Billy Fisher (Steve Guttenberg). His mother, Alice (Peggy Pope), thought he had a vivid imagination; his father, George (James Gallery), was sure he was a compulsive liar; and his grandmother (Paula Trueman) put it more succinctly than either of his parents -- as far as she was concerned, Billy was just "nuts." Billy's real world revolved around his menial job as an assistant mortician's clerk at the funeral home of Shadrack and Shadrack. In his fantasy life, however, he was everything from a famous surgeon, to rock-music superstar appearing on The Merv Griffin Show, to the world's most irresistible bachelor. In Billy's daydreams, at least two of which were shown in each episode of this short-lived series, appeared such personalities as Don Adams, Suzanne Somers, and football star Larry Czonka -- all playing themselves.

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FIRST TELECAST: January 14, 1976
LAST TELECAST: September 2, 1978

videos bullet iconThe Bionic Woman was one of a wave of comic-book-style superheroes brought to TV in the wake of the enormous success of The Six Million Dollar Man. The Bionic Woman was in fact a spinoff from, and closely linked to, that program. Jaime Sommers (Lindsay Wagner) was originally introduced on The Six Million Dollar Man as Steve Austin's (Lee Majors) one-time fiancée. The couple had drifted apart when Steve became an astronaut, while Jaime went to college and then became a successful tennis pro. Then Jaime was nearly killed in a sky-diving accident, and the doctors who had reconstructed Steve bionically after his accident decided to try again with Jaime. Steve and Jaime renewed their romance, but too late it seemed, for when the four-part story ended in early 1975 Jaime was in a coma and apparently near death.

Unbeknownst to Steve, Jaime recovered and began a new life as a schoolteacher on an army base near her home town of Ojai, California. Her bionic operation had given her superhuman abilities -- two legs for great speed, a right arm of great strength, and an ear for acute, long-distance hearing. Grateful for having been saved, she, like Steve, undertook dangerous underground missions for the government's Office of Scientific Information (OSI), fighting international spies, smugglers, kidnappers, and an occasional extraterrestrial being. Among her disguises were those of a nun, a roller-derby queen, and a lady wrestler.

When Steve Austin learned of all this he rushed to her, but Jaime's problems had left her with a partial memory loss, and she had forgotten her love for Steve. So for the time being there was no bionic marriage. They sometimes were seen jointly on missions, however, and Jaime for a time lived in an apartment over the coach house at the farm of Steve's mother and stepfather, the Elgins (Ford Rainey and Martha Scott), in Ojai.

When The Bionic Woman moved to NBC another regular character was added to the cast in the person of Max, the bionic dog, a German Shepherd that became Jaime's loyal pet. Toward the end of the NBC season, with the popularity of science fiction movies on theater screens, more and more episodes of The Bionic Woman found Jaime encountering visitors from other planets.

The series was based on the novel Cyborg, by Martin Caidin. Buy this series on DVD at

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Situation Comedy
FIRST TELECAST: September 16, 1972
LAST TELECAST: August 26, 1978

videos bullet iconRobert (Bob) Hartley (Bob Newhart) was a successful Chicago psychologist who lived in a high-rise apartment with his wife Emily (Suzanne Pleshette), an elementary schoolteacher. Bob shared the services of his receptionist Carol (Marica Wallace) with a bachelor dentist, Jerry Robinson (Peter Bonerz). Carol was a brash, nutty individual who could dish it out pretty well to both her bosses. In the fall of 1975, she married Larry Bondurant (Will Mackenzie), a travel agent, after a whirlwind courtship. Originally two of the Hartley's neighbors were seen on a regular basis: Howard Borden (Bill Daily), a divorced commercial airline pilot who had an annoying habit of barging into their apartment without knocking; and Margaret Hoover (Patricia Smith), friend of Emily's. For a period Bob's sister Ellen (Pat Finley) lived with him and Emily, and at one point almost married Howard, but that passed.

Bob was a very low-key fellow, which was handy at the office but did not always prove effective in dealings with his wife and friends. He had a number of regular patients, including Elliot Carlin (Jack Riley), Mrs. Bakerman (Florida Friebus), Mr. Peterson (John Fiedler), Miss Larson (Penny Marshall), Michelle Nordo (Renee Lippin), and Mr. Vickers (Lucien Scott). Bob's patients had problems ranging from ordinary, everyday neuroses to homosexuality to extreme paranoia. They were all trying to find themselves. The character who appeared most regularly -- and the one with the biggest problems -- was Elliot, without doubt one of the most neurotic individuals ever seen on television. He was completely lacking in self-confidence, had a persecution complex, and was forever putting himself down.

In addition to treating his patients individually, Bob was a firm believer in group therapy, and his patients interacted in various groups in hilarious fashion. Buy this series on DVD at

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FIRST TELECAST: September 12, 1959
LAST TELECAST: January 16, 1973
THEME: "Bonanza," by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans

videos bullet iconSet in the vicinity of Virginia City, Nevada, during the years of the Civil War, soon after the discover of the fabulous Comstock Silver Lode, Bonanza was the story of a prosperous family of ranchers. Widower Ben Cartwright (Lorne Greene) was the patriarch of the all-male clan and owner of the thousand-square-mile Ponderosa Ranch. Each of his three sons had been borne by a different wife, none of whom were still alive. Adam (Pernell Roberts), the oldest of the half-brothers, was the most serious and introspective, the likely successor to his father as the controlling force behind the sprawling Cartwright holdings. Hoss (Dan Blocker), the middle son, was a mountain of a man who was as gentle as he was huge, at times naive, and not particularly bright. Little Joe (Michael Landon) was the youngest, most impulsive, and most romantic of the Cartwright offspring. The adventures of these men, individually and collectively, their dealings with the mining interests and the ranching interests, and the people whose paths crossed theirs made up the stories on Bonanza.

The program was not a traditional shoot-em-up Western; it relied more on the relationships between the principals and the stories of the characters played by weekly guest stars than it did on violence. Many of the episodes explored serious dramatic themes.

There were cast changes over the years. Pernell Roberts left the series at the end of the 1964-1965 season and his role was written out of the show. At the start of the 1967-1968 season a wanderer named Candy (David Canary) was hired as a ranch hand for he Cartwrights and practically became one of the family. Three years later, when Candy left the series (he later returned), two other new cast members, Dusty Rhoades (Lou Frizzell) and Jamie Hunter (Mitch Vogel), arrived to join the Ponderosa household. Prior to the start of production for the 1972-1973 season Dan Blocker died unexpectedly. His loss, coupled with a move to a new day and time, after 11 years on Sunday night, may have contributed to the poor rating performance that resulted in Bonanza's cancellation in the middle of its 14th season.

For most of the 1960s Bonanza ranked as one of the highest-rated programs on television, placing number one for three seasons between 1964-1967. Its driving theme song, written by Hollywood songsmiths Jay Livingston and Ray Evans who had written many top movie hits of the 1940s and 1950s, even reached No. 19 on the hit parade in 1961. Bonanza finished second only to Gunsmoke as the longest-running, most successful Western in the history of television.

During the summer of 1972, while Bonanza was still being aired on Sundays, reruns from the 1967-1970 period were shown on Tuesdays at 7:30 P.M. under the title Ponderosa. Bonanza itself moved to Tuesdays that September. Buy this series on DVD at

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Situation Comedy
FIRST TELECAST: September 26, 1969
LAST TELECAST: August 30, 1974

videos bullet iconThe Brady Bunch was one of the last of the old-style fun-around-the-house situation comedies, full of well-scrubbed children, trivial adventures, and relentlessly middle-class parents. The premise here was a kind of conglomerate family, formed by a widow named Carol (Florence Henderson) with three daughters (played by Maureen McCormick, Eve Plumb and Susan Olson) who married a widower named Mike Brady (Robert Reed) with three sons (played by Barry Williams, Christopher Knight and Mike Lookinland); a nutty housekeeper, Alice (Ann B. Davis), thrown in to act as referee; plus, of couse, the family cat and a shaggy dog, Tiger.

All of these smiling faces lived in a four-bedroom, two-bathroom house in the Los Angeles suburbs, from which Dad pursued his nice, clean profession as a designer and architect. Typical stories revolved around the children going steady, family camping trips, competition for the family telephone (at one point Dad installed a pay phone), and of course war in the bathroom.

The children ranged in age from 7 to 14 at the series' start, and the oldest son, Greg, played by Barry Williams, soon became something of a teenage idol; he was receiving 6,500 fan letters per week during 1971. Barry and several of the others tried to parlay their TV success into recording careers in the early 1970s, but without notable success.

Reruns of The Brady Bunch were aired as part of ABC's weekday daytime lineup from July 1973 to August 1975, and an animated spinoff titled The Brady Kids ran Saturday mornings on ABC from September 1972 to August 1974. Buy this series on DVD at

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Situation Comedy
FIRST TELECAST: September 16, 1972
LAST TELECAST: September 8, 1973

videos bullet iconThis show was part of a wave of "ethnic" comedies in the early 1970s that followed on the success of All in the Family and Sanford and Son. Bernie (David Birney) was Jewish, a struggling young writer who supplemented his income by driving a cab. Bridget (Meredith Baxter), his young bride, was an elementary schoolteacher whose parents (Audra Lindley and David Doyle) were wealthy Irish Catholics. The couple shared a small apartment above a New York City delicatessen owned by Bernie's parents (Harold J. Stone and Bibi Osterwald). The widely divergent ethnic, cultural, and social backgrounds of the Steinberg and Fitzgerald families, and their attempts to reconcile for the sake of the young couple, provided most of the plot situations. Any resemblance to the vintage Broadway play Abie's Irish Rose was hardly coincidental.

Despite reasonably good ratings, Bridget Loves Bernie was canceled at the end of its first season. One contributing factor may have been the furor created by the unhappiness of religious groups, primarily Jewish, over the show's condoning and publicizing mixed marriages. An interesting sidelight is that the two stars of the series, David Birney and Meredith Baxter, later married each other in real life.

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FIRST TELECAST: September 25, 1979
LAST TELECAST: December 11, 1979

This is what middle-aged network executives think is meant by the term "youth appeal." Vince Butler (Jimmy McNichol), Ross Whitman (Marc McClure), and Laurie Newman (Michele Tobin) were three high school students living the carefree life in suburban Los Angeles. With a background of disco music, surfing, souped-up cars, and cruising the Sunset Strip, this series followed the adventures of Vince and Ross. Vince was into music, and ran an underground radio station from the back room of Rick's, the local hangout that served snacks and rented roller skates. Ross was the mechanic supreme, and drove a personally customized monstrosity that he had named "The Grossmobile." Together they sought fun and excitement in the sun-drenched, fad-oriented environment of Southern California. Like the fads, however, California Fever didn't have much staying power and was canceled on December 11.

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Detective Drama
FIRST TELECAST: September 14, 1971
LAST TELECAST: September 19, 1976

videos bullet iconBalding, middle-aged and portly, detective Frank Cannon (William Conrad) represented quite a change from the traditional suave, handsome private detectives TV had brought to its viewers. He occasionally let his conscience dictate his choice of cases, but more often his wallet took precedence. To most clients he charged a high fee, in order to provide himself with the money to indulge in personal luxuries such as an expensive convertible and fine cuisine. Cannon rarely fired a shot, was in no condition to beat up his adversaries, and was generally seen driving around Los Angeles in his big shiny Continental. The car took more physical abuse than Cannon did, often getting dented, scraped, and mangled during chase sequences.

William Conrad, the only regular in the series, had previously been more familiar to the ears than to the eyes of Americans. During the 1950s he had been the voice of Matt Dillon in the radio version of Gunsmoke, but was manifestly unsuited to portray the tough Western marshal when the series moved to television -- so young James Arness got the role, in what became the longest-runing dramatic series in TV history. Buy this series on DVD at

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Musical Variety
FIRST TELECAST: September 20, 1976
LAST TELECAST: March 14, 1977
THEME: "Love Will Keep Us Together"

videos bullet iconThis youth-oriented hour was built around the "soft rock" husband-and-wife team of Daryl Dragon and Toni Tennille, who had several big record hits in 1975-1976 and who, ABC hoped, might become another Sonny and Cher on TV. They didn't.

Toni was a pretty but somewhat antiseptic version of Cher, while Daryl ("The Captain," after his ever-present captain's hat) was decidedly quieter than Sonny. In fact, he scarcely said a word, and much of the comedy was built around his extremely taciturn nature. He also had a chance to show off his musical wizardry -- he was a master of all sorts of keyboard instruments. Daryl came from a background of music, if not comedy, being the son of a the well-known concert conductor Carmen Dragon.

Among the featured segments on the show were "The Charcoal House," with Daryl and Toni as two struggling young performers, and "Masterjoke Theater." The only other regulars on the show were the Dragons' two English bulldogs, Elizabeth and Broderick.

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Comedy Variety
FIRST TELECAST: September 11, 1967
LAST TELECAST: September 8, 1979
THEME: "Carol's Theme," by Joe Hamilton

videos bullet iconIn an era in which variety shows were rapidly disappearing from television, The Carol Burnett Show survived for more than a decade. The life span for other variety series in the 1970s rarely exceeded two seasons, and their total number had dwindled substantially from the heyday of variety shows in the 1950s. Only Carol managed to remain popular and successful. The small nucleus of her regular cast remained constant for several years, with none of her original supporting troups leaving until 1974. Their chemistry helped hold the show together. The binding force, however, was Carol, one of television's most versatile variety performers, who could sing, dance, act, clown, and mime with equal facility.

Over the years certain basic aspects of the show remained the same. There was one point in each telecast, usually at the beginning, when Carol and the evening's guest star would answer questions from the studio audience. There were comedy sketches that spoofed TV series, popular movies, or other forms of mass entertainment. Among Carol's extensive repertoire of comic characterizations were a few recurring sketches that persisted for years. In "The Old Folks" she and Harvey Korman portrayed two elderly people rocking on the porch and contemplating what might have been had they made other decisions early in life. In "The Family" she and Korman were an uptight married couple who fought all the time and had problems with Eunice's mother, played by Vicki Lawrence (who, disconcertingly, looked very much like Carol). "Mr. Tudball and Mrs. Wiggins" was Carol and Tim Conway in an office, and "As the Stomach Turns" was a continuing soap-opera satire.

Jim Nabors, one of Carol's close friends, was her good-luck charm and always appeared as the guest star on the opening telecast of each season. Tim Conway, who had been a frequent guest in The Carol Burnett Show's early years, joined the regular cast in the fall of 1975. Harvey Korman decided to leave the series in the spring of 1977, a loss that was felt deeply by Carol, who had worked so well with him for so long. The resulting need for a strong lead actor-comic was met by Dick Van Dyke, who was signed to be Carol's co-star that fall.

The chemistry that had existed between Carol and Harvey Korman was not present with her new co-star and Dick Van Dyke left the show only three months after he had arrived. For the first time in years, Carol's ratings faltered, forcing the move to Sunday nights in December of 1977. Semi-regular guests stars Ken Berry and Steve Lawrence tried to help fill the void caused by the lack of a strong male lead, but by the following spring, after eleven years on the air, Carol decided to give up the weekly grind. In a special two-hour finale, on March 29, 1978, highlights from past shows were intermixed with new material.

This was not quite the end, however. Reruns were aired during the summer of 1978, and during the summer of 1979 four new episodes were produced for ABC featuring two new regulars, and aired under the title Carol Burnett & Company. Also in 1979, the comedy sketches (only) from the original CBS programs were edited into a series of half-hour shows and syndicated to local stations to be rerun under the title Carol Burnett and Friends. Buy The Carol Burnett Show - Show Stoppers on DVD at

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Detective Drama
FIRST TELECAST: September 22, 1976
LAST TELECAST: August 19, 1981

videos bullet iconSex, pure and simple, seemed to be the principal ingredient in the considerable success of this detective show. Denunciations of "massage parlor television" and "voyeurism" only brought more viewers to the screen, to see what the controversy was about. Often they were rather disappointed, as a lot more seemed to be promised than delivered, but Charlie's Angels nevertheless ended its first season as one of the top hits on television.

The plot involved three sexy police-trained detectives working for and unseen boss named Charlie (the voice of John Forsythe), who relayed assignments by telephone. Charlie's assistant, Bosley (David Doyle), was on hand to help the girls and fret about costs, but he hardly seemed likely to make a pass at any of them. Most of the cases involved health spas, Las Vegas night spots, or other places where the girls could appear in bikinis or other scanty attire.

Sabrina (Kate Jackson) was the cool, multilingual leader, Jill (Farrah Fawcett-Majors) the athletic type, and Kelly (Jaclyn Smith) the former showgirl who had "been around." Usually they worked as an undercover team. When they investigated a killing in the army, Jill and Kelly became recruits and Sabrina a base nurse; when it was the death of a roller-derby queen, Sabrina posed as an insurance investigator, Kelly as a magazine writer, and Jill as a derby competitor.

Farrah Fawcett-Majors was the last of the angels to be cast (the show needed a blonde) and was little known compared to the lead, Kate Jackson, when the series began. Farrah quickly became the object of a tremendous fad, based partially on her gorgeous flowing blonde hair, and partially on some cheesecake publicity photos, including one now-famous swimsuit pose which showed the fine points of her anatomy in marvelous detail. Farrah Fawcett-Majors dolls were marketed, as were T-shirts with her picture and dozens of other gimmicks. Heady with all the sudden adulation, she walked out of the series, with the intention of launching a career in feature films. This started a series of lawsuits, which ended when she finally agreed to make a limited number of guest appearances on the show during the next three seasons. Thereafter, the introduction of a new "Angel" became an almost annual occurrence. First, Jill was replaced by by her spunky sister Kris (Cheryl Ladd) in 1977; two years later, Sabrina left and was replaced by Tiffany Welles (Shelly Hack), daughter of a Connecticut police chief; a year after that, Tiffany was out, replaced by street-smart Julie Rogers (Tanya Roberts). Buy this series on DVD at

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Musical Variety
FIRST TELECAST: February 16, 1975
LAST TELECAST: January 4, 1976

videos bullet iconFollowing their divorce in 1974, pop singers Sonny and Cher Bono, who had formerly starred together on The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour, each hosted a series of their own. His was a short-lived variety series on ABC in the fall of 1974, and hers was Cher, a musical variety hour with guest stars that premiered the following February. Steve Martin, Terri Garr, and Sonny and Cher's daughter Chastity were frequent guest stars during Cher's solo period.

The magic Sonny and Cher had had together did not survive the transition to singles. Cher's solo venture limped along on CBC for almost a year, with a new dance group and orchestra in the fall of 1975, by which time she and Sonny decided to try it again as a team, at least professionally. One month after Cher left the air, The Sonny and Cher Show reappeared in the time period that had been vacated.

1970-1979 TV DVDs at

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Situation Comedy
FIRST TELECAST: September 13, 1974
LAST TELECAST: July 21, 1978
THEME: "Chico and the Man," Written and performed by José Feliciano

videos bullet iconSet in the barrio of East Los Angeles, Chico and the Man was the story of two men from radically different cultural backgrounds who grew to respect each other. Chico (Freddie Prinze), the enterprising young Chicano, determined to go into partnership with cranky, sarcastic, cynical Ed Brown (Jack Albertson). Ed operated a small run-down garage and spent most of his time complaining and alienating people. A lonely widower, he at first fought Chico's determined efforts to help him make the business work, but underneath it all he was both flattered and touched to have someone show genuine interest in him. Chico cleaned the place up, moved into a beat-up old truck in the garage, and brought in business. As often as Ed complained about Chico, and as often as he made token efforts to get rid of him, he felt an attachment that he would never publicly admit.

Regularly seen were Louie (Scatman Crothers) the garbageman, Mabel (Bonnie Boland) the mailwoman, and Chico's friend Mando (Isaac Ruiz). Della Rogers (Della Reese) was was added to the cast in the fall of 1976 as the civic-minded owner of the diner across the street from Ed's Garage, who also happened to be the new owner of the property on which the garage was located. She was more than capable of dishing out as much as she took from Ed.

When Freddie Prinze took his own life early in 1977, prior to the completion of the season's episodes, there was serious consideration given to cancellation of the series. That was not done, however, as a new "Chico" was added to the cast for the following fall.

He was not an adult, though, or even someone whose name was really Chico. In the opening episode of the 1977-1978 season it was established that Chico had left Ed's garage to go into business with his successful father, a character introduced the previous year and played by Cesar Romero. Later, Ed and Louie returned from a fishing trip in Tijuana to discover a 12-year-old stowaway in their car trunk. The boy, Raul (Gabriel Melgar), integrated himself with Ed and became his personal resident alien. At the end of that first episode, when the two of them were preparing to go to bed, Ed inadvertently said "Good night, Chico" to his new friend and, when corrected, simply said, "You're all Chicos to me." Thus a new "Chico" for "The Man." Ed eventually adopted Raul and found himself contending with Raul's protective, and very sexy, Aunt Charo (Charo), an entertainer who had recently arrived from Spain to work in Los Angeles. She spent so much time at Ed's garage with her nephew that she, too, became part of the family.

NBC aired reruns of Chico and the Man from May to December 1977 in its weekday daytime lineup. Buy Chico and the Man (Television Favorites) on DVD at

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Police Drama
FIRST TELECAST: September 15, 1977
LAST TELECAST: July 17, 1983

videos bullet iconCHiPs, an acronym for California Highway Patrol, was the motorcycle equivalent to a previous episodic police series, Adam 12. Jon Baker (Larry Wilcox) and "Ponch" Poncherello (Erik Estrada) were two state motorcycle patrolmen, both young bachelors, whose adventures helping citizens, fighting crime, and leading active social lives were all woven into the series. The two men worked as a team, and spent most of their working time around the vast Los Angeles freeway system. Each episode was a composite of four or five separate incidents, both on the job and off, with violence downplayed in favor of human interest and the humourous element of their work. Jon was rather straight and serious, while "Ponch" was the romantic free spirit, whose happy-go-lucky attitude did not always sit well with their superior, Sgt. Getraer (Robert Pine). Added in 1978 were Harlan (Lou Wagner), a police mechanic who worked on their "choppers," and Sindy (Brianne Leary), a female "Chippie" who worked out of a patrol car. She was replaced, the following fall, by another female "Chippie," Bonnie Clark (Randi Oakes).

NBC aired reruns of CHiPS on weekday afternoons from April 1980-September 1980. Buy this series on DVD at

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Police Drama
FIRST TELECAST: September 15, 1971
LAST TELECAST: August 19, 1990

videos bullet iconAt the beginning of each Columbo episode the audience witnessed a clever murder and saw the ingenious measures the murderer took to prevent detection by the police. Then into the case came Lt. Columbo (he never did have a first name). Lt. Columbo (Peter Falk) drove a beat-up old car, wore a dirty, rumpled trench coat that looked at least ten years old, and acted for all the world like an incompetent bumbler. He was excessively polite to everyone, went out of his way not to offend any of the suspects, and seemed like a hopeless choice to solve any crime, especially a well-conceived murder. But all that was superficial, designed to lull the murderer into a false sense of security. Despite his appearance, Columbo was one of the shrewdest, most resourceful detectives on the Los Angeles police force. Slowly and methodically he pieced together the most minute clues leading to the identity of the killer, who, when his guilt was revealed, was always incredulous that such an unlikely cop had managed to find him out.

Columbo was one of the three original rotating elements of the NBC Sunday Mystery Movie, the other two being McMillan and Wife and McCloud. It was by far the most popular of the elements and would have become a separate series in its own right if actor Peter Falk had permitted it to. But a 60- or 90- minute movie every week was too much for one actor to carry, not to mention the dangers of being typecast in such a distinctive role. Toward the end of the program's run Falk was said to be making more than a quarter of a million dollars per episode, but even at that he refused to do more than a few per year. He continuted to film an occasional new episode after NBC's Mystery Movie series was last telecast, on Sept. 4, 1977. In 1989, more than a decade after the original series ended, Falk returned with some new Columbo films for the ABC Mystery Movie.

An interesting sidelight is that Peter Falk was the producers' second choice to portry Columbo. The first actor approached for the role was Bing Crosby. Crosby, 67 years old and a millionaire many times over, declined, reportedly because it would interfere with his golf game. And so Falk got the part, and stardom. Buy this series on DVD at

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Situation Comedy
FIRST TELECAST: September 17, 1969
LAST TELECAST: June 14, 1972
THEME: "Best Friend," by Harry Nilsson

videos bullet iconMagazine publisher Tom Corbett (Bill Bixby) was one of television's many widowers saddled with the responsibility of running a motherless household. In this case his son (played by Brandon Cruz, who was seven years old when the series began), did most of the plotting. Eddie had a special penchant for getting his father romantically involved with prospective brides, which led to many warm and comic moments. Mrs. Livingston (Miyosi Umeki) was Tom's dependable, philosophical, but sometimes confused housekeeper; Tina Rickles (Kristina Holland) his secretary; and Norman Tinker (James Komack) a mod photographer at the magazine. Although not a regular on the show, young Jodie Foster appeared from time to time as Eddie's friend, Joey Kelly. The series was based on a novel by Mark Toby, also made into a 1963 movie starring Glenn Ford and Ronny Howard, and had a theme song ("Best Friend") written by pop singer Harry Nilsson. Buy this series on DVD at

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FIRST TELECAST: April 2, 1978
LAST TELECAST: May 3, 1991

videos bullet iconSoap operas have always been a staple of daytime television, but ABC's mid-1960s Peyton Place was the last prime-time soap opera to be a major viewer attraction -- until Dallas. It was not a big hit when it premiered in 1978, but Dallas's audience continued to build and, by the 1980-1981 season, it was the runaway most popular series on network television, having spawned one spinoff (Knots Landing) and a host of imitators, including Dynasty, Flamingo Road, and Secrets of Midland Heights.

Dallas had all of the elements that make for a successful soap opera -- characters that were larger than life, conflicts based on the struggle for money and power, and lots and lots of sex. It was appropriate that the series was set in Texas, with its reputation for the excesses of the wealthy. Patriarch of the Ewing clan was Jock Ewing (Jim Davis), who 40 years before had struck it rich as an oil wildcatter and then maneuvered his partner Digger Barnes (David Wayne) out of both his share of their company and his true love, Eleanor "Miss Ellie" Southworth (Barbara Bel Geddes). Jock and Miss Ellie had three sons, J.R. Jr. (Larry Hagman), Bobby (Patrick Duffy), and Gary (David Ackroyd). J.R., the eldest, was the man viewers loved to hate. He was power-hungry, unscrupulous and conniving in his business dealings, and continually unfaithful to his wife, Sue Ellen (Linda Gray) -- even after she bore him a son, J.R. Ewing III (Tyler Banks), in the 1979-1980 season. When J.R. wanted something or someone, he stopped at nothing to attain his goal. Bobby, the youngest brother, had the morals and integrity his older brother lacked, and was a constant thorn in J.R.'s side. Bobby was married to Digger Barnes' sexy young daughter Pamela (Victoria Principal), and seemed to J.R. to represent a continual threat to his control of Ewing Oil. The middle Ewing brother, Gary, was rarely seen in Dallas. Unable to compete with his strong-willed brothers, and suffering from emotional instability, Gary only appeared occasionally to see his daughter Lucy (Charlene Tilton). Lucy also lived at Southfork and spent most of her time seducing every man in sight, a not too difficult task in light of her blonde sexiness. Jock, J.R., Bobby, and their families all lived under one roof, a sprawling ranch owned by the Ewings called Southfork, which was located outside the city in rural Braddock, Texas.

Most of the major conflicts on Dallas centered around J.R., aptly described in Time magazine as "that human oil slick." He had, among other things, sold worthless Asian oil leases to the family banker Vaughn Leland (Dennis Patrick) and a number of other investors, mortgaged Southfork without telling his parents, attempted to get Sue Ellen institutionalized for alcoholism, thwarted the efforts of unscrupulous Alan Beam (Randolph Powell) to marry Lucy and get his hands on part of the Ewing fortune, and left a trail of disillusioned mistresses, his wife's sister Kristin (Mary Crosby), who became the focal point of the major TV story of 1980. In the last original episode of the 1979-1980 season, J.R. was shot by an unknown assailant and rushed to the hospital in critical condition. All summer the question raged -- "Who shot J.R.?" Dallas was by this time a huge international hit, and all over the world viewers were trying to figure out which of the 15 or so characters who had just cause had actually pulled the trigger. Betting parlors took in millions of dollars in wagers. Security was extraordinarily tight at the studio where Dallas was filmed, and even the actors themselves did not know for sure (several alternative endings had been filmed). Finally, on November 21, 1980, the world found out: Kristin had pulled the trigger. Pregnant with J.R.'s child, and about to be framed by him for prostitution because she refused his order to get out of Dallas, she shot him for revenge. The episode in which her guilt was revealed was seen by more people than any program in the history of television up to that time. Nearly 80 percent of all viewers watching television that night were tuned to Dallas.

In true Dallas style, however, J.R. lived and Kristin was never prosecuted, although she did finally leave town. J.R. recovered and waged a new war to unseat his brother Bobby, who had taken over Ewing Oil during his convalescence. Buy this series on DVD at

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Comedy Variety
FIRST TELECAST: September 16, 1965
LAST TELECAST: May 24, 1974

THEME: "Everybody Loves Somebody"

videos bullet iconSinger-comedian Dean Martin was host and star of this long-lived variety hour, which was for most of its run a fixture on the NBC Thursday night lineup. At first Dean had no regular supporting cast other than his accompanist, pianist Ken Lane. Guest stars were featured each week in comedy skits and songs, both alone and with Dean. Some of the young talent appearing during the regular season also starred in Dean's summer replacement series, The Dean Martin Summer Show and later Dean Martin Presents. A bevy of pretty young dancers called The Golddiggers were added as regulars in 1967, and four of these later became The Ding-a-Ling Sisters (1970-1973). Beginning in 1970 a supporting cast of comics and singers (including Kay Medford, Lou Jacobi, Tom Bosley, Dom DeLuise, Nipsey Russell, and Rodney Dangerfield) was gradualy assembled around Dean, some of whom appeared regularly, and others occasionally, including Foster Brooks with his "drunk" routine. The hallmark of the show remained Dean's own easy informality, as he welcomed guests into his cozy living room through the ever-present door, or sang or clowned beside (or on, or under) Ken Lane's grand piano. In fact, a stipulation in Dean's contract helped foster this air of informality by allowing Dean not to show up until the day of the taping each week, when the show would be done with only minimal rehearsal. In 1973 the title and format were changed, as well as the time slot. The new title was The Dean Martin Comedy Hour, and Dean and Ken Lane were once again the only regulars. Two new features were added. The first was a country music spot, with top-name country performers, to hold some of the audience that had been attracted to Dean's summer replacement in 1973, Dean Martin Presents Music Country. The second was the "Man of the Week Celebrity Roast," in which several celebrities seated at a banquet dais tossed comic insults at the guest of honor. This feature proved so popular that after Dean's regular series ended in 1974, the "roasts" continued on NBC as a series of occasional specials. Buy The Best of the Dean Martin Variety Show on DVD at

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Situation Comedy
FIRST TELECAST: November 3, 1978
LAST TELECAST: August 30, 1986

videos bullet iconPint-sized Gary Coleman was one of the comedy discoveries of the late 1970s. Pudgy cheeks, twinkling eyes, and flawless timing made him seem like an old pro packed into the body of a small child -- and he helped turn this improbable comedy into one of the hits of the 1978-1979 season.

Eight-year-old Arnold Jackson (Coleman) and his 12-year-old brother Willis (Todd Bridges) were two black kids from Harlem who found themselves quite suddenly in the lap of luxury. Their dying mother, a housekeeper for wealthy Philip Drummond (Conrad Bain), had extracted from her employer the promise that he would look after her boys. Unlike some of TV's other accidental parents (for example, Family Affair), Drummond didn't mind at all, and welcomed the two into his Park Avenue apartment as his own. No matter that there were endless double takes when the rich, white Drummond, president of the huge conglomerate Trans Allied, Inc. (though he never seemed to work much), introduced the two spunky black kids as his "sons." They didn't care. There was always plenty of love around -- though Willis seemed a bit reserved -- and everybody learned little lessons in Living Right in each episode. Rounding out the household was widower Drummond's 13-year-old daughter, Kimberly (Dana Plato), and the new housekeeper, the scatterbrained Mrs. Edna Garrett (Charlotte Rae).

NBC, which had few comedies on its schedule at the time, tried to use Diff'rent Strokes to get some others started, to little avail. First Mrs. Garrett left to become a house mother of the prestigious Eastland School for Girls, which Kimberly was attending, in a series called The Facts of Life. Then up popped the remarkable coincidence that Drummond was an old army buddy of Larry Adler, principal character on Hello, Larry, and had just bought the Portland, Oregon, radio station where Larry worked. All of this provided excuses for Arnold & Co. to visit these other shows, but they only seemed to be helped when he was actually on them. After all, it wasn't Diff'rent Strokes that was the hit, it was Gary Coleman.

Coleman was 10 when this series began. He was born with a congenital kidney problem and received a kidney transplant at the age of five, which resulted in his being smaller than normal for his age (a condition that would continue throughout his life). An uncommonly bright and articulate youngster, he seemed quite happy to be alive, and became a frequent and popular guest on talk shows and other series.

NBC aired reruns of Diff'rent Strokes on weekdays from April 1982 to December 1983 and from July to September 1984. Buy this series on DVD at

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Musical Variety
FIRST TELECAST: January 16, 1976
LAST TELECAST: May 6, 1979

videos bullet iconSid and Marty Krofft of animated cartoon fame originally produced this teenage variety hour. Eighteen-year-old Donny and his 16-year-old sister Marie were co-hosts of the show, which also featured other members of the popular musical family, ranging in age from Jimmy (12) to Alan (26). Despite his youth, Donny was a show-business veteran by the time the program premiered, having made his TV debut at the age of four singing "You Are My Sunshine" on The Andy Williams Show. In order to keep up the clan's youthful appearance, Merrill introduced another Osmond -- his six month old son Travis -- to the cast on an early telecast.

The format was the usual mixture of comedy and songs, with a liberal sprinkling of the Osmonds' teenybopper hits. The comedy often made fun of Donny's toothy, super-wholesome appearance, as when his brothers ganged up and dumped him into a gigantic nine-foot whipped cream pie in one 1976 broadcast. "I think I finally made a big splash on television," Donny said. Although not credited as a regular, Paul Lynde appeared as a guest star on many of the Donny and Marie episodes.

The second season brought changes, as a new production team took over in an attempt to give the show a more "adult" look. Much was made of Marie's stunning new wardrobe, designed by Bob Mackie (Cher's former designer), and her eighteenth birthday party was telecast in October. However Donny and Marie remained, at heart, a homey affair. Tired of the tinsel and glitter of Hollywood, the entire Osmond clan packed up and moved back to their hometown of Orem, Utah, in late 1977; all subsequent telecasts originated from the elaborate studio facility built there by the Osmonds at a cost of $2.5 million, to house their various TV and film activities. The first episode taped in Orem was the 1977 Christmas show, which starred Paul Lynde, the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and 28 members of the Osmond family.

Midway through the final season, Donny turned 21 (and to prove it had his wife Debbie on the show!). In January 1979 the series was moved to Sunday night and was retitled The Osmond Family Show.

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Situation Comedy
FIRST TELECAST: September 24, 1968
LAST TELECAST: September 10, 1973

videos bullet iconWhen The Doris Day Show premiered in the fall of 1968, Miss Day was cast as a widow with two young sons who had decided to move back to the family ranch after spending most of her life in big cities. The adjustments to rural living provided much of the comedy. The ranch was run by her father Buck Webb (Denver Pyle), their hired hand Leroy B. Simpson (James Hampton) and the housekeeper Aggie Thompson (Fran Ryan), who was replaced in December by a new housekeeper, Juanita (Naomi Stevens).

At the start of the second season Doris became a commuter. She got a job as a secretary at Today's World magazine in San Francisco and commuted daily from the farm. Mr. Nicholson (McLean Stevenson), the editor of the magazine, was her boss, and Myrna Gibbons (Rose Marie) was her secretary with whom she became friendly. At the start of the third season Doris, her two boys, and their huge dog Lord Nelson left the farm and moved into a San Francisco apartment owned by the Paluccis (Kaye Ballard and Bernie Kopell), who ran an Italian restaurant on the ground floor. Doris's activities expanded from merely being Mr. Nicholson's secretary to include some writing for the magazine, on assignment from the assistant editor, Ron Harvey (Paul Smith).

Still another major change was made at the start of the fourth season, in the fall of 1971, as the show edged still closer to the urban-career-girl format popularized by Mary Tyler Moore. Doris continued to work for Today's World, but she suddenly became a carefree, single staff writer; the children, the dog, and the entire cast from the previous seasons disappeared. Her new boss was Cy Bennett (John Dehner), and the only other regular was his secretary Jackie Parker (Jackie Joseph).

At the end of the fifth season the entire show disappeared. Buy this series on DVD at

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Comedy Adventure
FIRST TELECAST: January 26, 1979
LAST TELECAST: August 16, 1985
THEME: "The Dukes of Hazzard," written and sung by Waylon Jennings

videos bullet iconRural comedies such as The Beverly Hillbillies had been a staple of the CBS lineup in the 1960s. The Dukes of Hazzard signaled a revival of the "good old boy" comedy, nearly a decade later. Luke (Tom Wopat) and Bo (John Schneider) Duke were cousins and buddies in Hazzard County, located "east of the Mississippi and south of the Ohio" (no mention of the state, but there is a real Hazard, Kentucky -- a city not a county). Their nemesis was Boss Hogg (Sorrell Booke), a fat, blustery, and thoroughly corrupt local politician always seen in a white flannel suit. The Dukes easily managed to avoid capture by dimwitted Sheriff Coltrane (James Best), Boss Hogg's brother-in-law, while acting as Robin Hoods of the county. The boys hot-rodded all over Hazzard County in their souped-up Dodge Charger, "General Lee," occasionally pausing for some sage advice from their wise old Uncle Jesse (Denver Pyle). Moonshine, wild car chases and crashes, and lots of scantily clad young women, including the Duke's gorgeous cousin Daisy (Catherine Bach), populated the series. Country star Waylon Jennings served as offscreen narrator, to the accompaniment of fast-paced banjo music.

The series also took its toll in real automobiles, as a result of all those chases and crashes. Although onscreen the General Lee never seemd to have a scratch, almost 300 look-alikes were wrecked during filming. A regular stable of identically painted Dodge Chargers was kept on hand during production of each episode, so as not to hold things up.

The considerable success of Dukes spawned several imitations, including Lobo, Harper Valley P.T.A., and a spinoff from Dukes itself starring Sheriff Coltrane's grinning deputy Enos (Sonny Schroyer). When Enos departed the series he was replaced by a new deputy, Cletus (Rick Hurst).

The theme song from this series, sung by Waylon Jennings, was on the charts during 1980. An animated version of the show, titled The Dukes, aired on CBS' Saturday morning lineup from February to November 1983 with the series' regulars providing the voices. Buy this series on DVD at

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FIRST TELECAST: March 15, 1977
LAST TELECAST: August 29, 1981

videos bullet iconThis comedy-drama focused on a family with eight very independent children, aged 8 to 23. When the series began, Tom (Dick Van Patten), the father, was a newspaper columnist for the Sacramento, California Register, and Joan (Diana Hyland) was his wife of 25 years. The death of actress Diana Hyland during production of the spring 1977 episodes of Eight Is Enough forced major changes, however. Hyland had completed only four shows and was written out of the remainder as being "away." When the series returned with new episodes that fall, Tom Bradford had become a widower, his wife having died, at least in the storyline, about "a year ago." With the help of his best friend Doc Maxwell (Michael Thoma), Tom set about keeping order among his large brood while re-entering, in middle age, the singles world. He soon found romance in the person of Abby (Betty Buckley), pretty schoolteacher who came to the Bradford home to tutor one of the youngsters. Their romance blossomed, and on a special two hour telecast on November 9, 1977, Tom and Abby were married.

As the series continued, Abby pursued and got her Ph.D. in Education and began counseling work at Memorial High (as well as at home!). The Bradford kids all became involved with various friends and romances as they grew, and in a special episode in September 1979 David (Grant Goodeve) and Susan (Susan Richardson) each got married, in a double wedding -- David to attorney Janet (Joan Prather) and Susan to pro baseball pitcher Merle "The Pearl" Stockwell (Brian Patrick Clarke). David then went to work for a construction firm, while Susan set about producing the first Bradford grandchild -- Sandra Sue, born in October of 1980. Meanwhile Joannie (Laurie Walters) got a job at a television station, and became engaged to Jeffrey Trout (Nicholas Pryor). The other four Bradford kids were Mary (Lani O'Grady), Nancy (Dianne Kay), Tommy (Willie Aames), and little Nicholas (Adam Rich).

The series was based on the book Eight Is Enough by Thomas Braden. Buy this series on DVD at

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General Drama
FIRST TELECAST: January 22, 1972
LAST TELECAST: September 3, 1977

videos bullet iconDone in the semi-documentary style for which Jack Webb had become famous with Dragnet and Adam-12, Emergency! followed the efforts of Squad 51 of the Los Angeles County Fire Department's Paramedical Rescue Service. Paramedics Roy DeSoto (Kevin Tighe) and John Gage (Randolph Mantooth) were usually at the center of the action, while the emergency staff of Rampart Hospital provided backup assistance. Each telecast depicted several interwoven incidents, some humorous, some touching, others tragic. A typical shift's work might have the paramedics called on to help an overweight woman who was having trouble breathing because her girdle was too tight, or aiding a maintenance worker who had broken his back in a 100-foot fall from a smokestack he was painting. One of the specialties of the paramedics seemed to be saving "danglers" -- people trapped in precarious positions because of faulty rigging, collapsing scaffolding, or the like.

Former bandleader Bobby Troup, who played neurosurgeon Joe Early, was in real life married to Julie London, who played Rampart's head nurse. (She had previously been married to producer Jack Webb.) Squad 51's mascot was a dog named Boots.

Although Emergency! ended its run as a series in 1977, special two-hour movie versions, newly filmed, were periodically aired from fall 1977 through 1979.

An animated Saturday morning spinoff of this series, titled Emergency! + 4 aired on NBC from September 1973 to September 1976. Buy this series on DVD at

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FIRST TELECAST: August 24, 1979
LAST TELECAST: September 10, 1988
MUSICAL THEME: "The Facts of Life," by Alan Thicke, Gloria Loring and Al Burton, sung by Gloria Loring

videos bullet iconThis spin-off from the popular NBC comedy Diff'rent Strokes originally focused on Mrs. Edna Garrett (Charlotte Rae), who had been the Drummonds' housekeeper prior to taking a job as housemother at the prestigious Eastland school for young women. Mrs. Garrett was kind and understanding, serving as both confidante and surrogate parent to the girls in her charge, who at the start of the series ranged in age from 11 to 15. Blair Warner (Lisa Whelchel), was wealthy, attractive, and spoiled; Nancy Olson (Felice Schacter) was well-rounded; Sue Ann Weaver (Julie Piekarski) was cute and boy-crazy; Dorothy "Tootie" Ramsey (Kim Fields) was the resident gossip; and Natalie Green (Mindy Cohn), the other principal student, was plump and impressionable. The headmaster at Eastland was Mr. Steven Bradly (John Lawlor) and Miss Emily Mahoney (Jenny O'Hara) was a teacher seen only during the tryout run of The Facts of Life in the summer of 1978.

As the seasons passed, the series evolved. By 1980 Mrs. Garrett had taken on the additional responsibilities of dietician at Eastland, and there were two new cast members: Jo Polniaczek (Nancy McKeon), a 16-year-old street kid from the Bronx who maintained a tough exterior to hide her insecurities; and Howard (Hugh Gillin), the cook at Eastland. Mr. Bradley was succeeded as headmaster by the seldom-seen Mr. Harris (Kenneth Mars) and then by Mr. Parker (Roger Perry). It was Parker's callousness toward Mrs. Garrett that led to a major change in 1983. Frustrated at having been underpaid and taken for granted for so long, Edna vented her frustration to her beloved son Raymond, an accountant who stunned her by offering to buy a run-down store in the nearby town of Peekskill, New York, and letting her reopen it as a gourmet food shop. Thus was born Edna's Edibles. Blair and Jo (who were now attending nearby Langley College) and Tootie and Natalie (still at Eastland) moved in, and their good times continued.

The stories on The Facts of Life were funny, but also often touching. The girls faced problems with their parents, including lack of communication, divorce, and death; they also experienced growing pains in a realistic way (it seemd as if teenager Tootsie's braces would never come off). Blair's 23-year-old cousin Gerri Warner, who was determined to become a comedienne despite the handicap of cerebral palsy, was occasionally seen (played by Geri Jewell, a real-life CP victim). Also seen infrequently were Blair's divorced parents, David and Monica Warner (played by Nicolas Coster and Marj Dusay), and Jo's folks Charlie and Rose Polniaczek (Alex Rocco, Claire Malis).

NBC aired reruns of The Facts of Life on weekdays from December 1982 until June 1985. Buy this series on DVD at

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Police Drama
FIRST TELECAST: September 19, 1965
LAST TELECAST: September 8, 1974
MUSICAL THEME: "F.B.I. Theme," by Bronislaw Kaper

videos bullet iconThe Federal Bureau of Investigation has been the subject of several highly popular radio and TV shows (including The F.B.I. in Peace and War), but none portrayed the cool, professional operation of the agency so thoroughly as this long-running series starring Efrem Zimbalist, Jr., as Inspector Lewis Erskine. Zimbalist personified the calm, business-suited government agent who always tracked his quarry down, scientifically and methodically, and with virtually no emotion whatever.

The cases were supposedly based on real FBI files. They ranged across the United States and involved counterfeiters, extortionists, organized crime, Communist spies, and radical bombings (during the era of Vietnam dissent). Arthur Ward (Philip Abbott) was the assistant to the FBI director and the man to whom Inspector Erskine reported, while several agents served as Erskine's sidekick over the years. Barbara Erksine (Lynn Loring), his daughter, appeared only during the first season, later being written out apparently because there was no room for anything so fallible as family ties in The F.B.I.

The program always portrayed the agency in a favorable light. It won the commendation of real-life FBI Director J. Edgar Hoover, who gave the show full government cooperation and even allowed filming of some background scenes at the FBI in Washington. Bringing the program even closer to real life, many telecasts closed with a short segment asking the audience for information on the FBI's most-wanted men (including, in April 1968, the fugitive James Earl Ray).

Associated with the program as sponsor throughout its run was the Ford Motor Company, which accounted for the fact that those agents were always seen driving Ford cars. Buy this series on DVD at

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FIRST TELECAST: March 9, 1976
LAST TELECAST: June 25, 1980

videos bullet iconFamily was a prime-time soap opera that followed the travails of the middle-class Lawrence family in Pasedena, California. Doug (James Broderick) was the father, a highly independent lawyer, and Kate (Sada Thompson) his quiet, steadfast wife. The series opened with daughter Nancy (Elayne Heilveil, later replaced by Meredith Baxter-Birney) discovering that her husband Jeff (John Rubinstein) was untrue (she walked in on him making love to another woman!) and it was all downhill from there. Nancy had a baby named Timmy (Michael David Schackelford), divorced Jeff, then began having affairs of her own. Later she went to work in a law firm, which seemed more interested in her body than in her brains. Brother Willie (Gary Frank), age 17, vulnerable and idealistic, was confronted with his first love, an unwed mother named Selina (Season Hubley), then married a girl with a terminal illness named Lizzy. Little sister Buddy, age 13, feeling unwanted, ran away from home. Before Kate could worry about that, she discovered that she had breast cancer, after which Doug was temporarily blinded in an automobile accident. An 11-year-old waif named Annie (Quinn Cummings) joined the household, only to reject everyone's affections. Then there was the dying grandmother, Doug's alcoholic sister, and so on, and on, and on... Buy this series on DVD at

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Romantic Drama
FIRST TELECAST: January 28, 1978
LAST TELECAST: August 18, 1984

videos bullet iconWhen ABC realized it had a major hit with The Love Boat, it immediately began developing a second program using a similar theme. That program was Fantasy Island, and, scheduled right after Love Boat on Saturday night, it soon became an equally big hit.

Both programs were episodic, consisting of several different stories each week played out against a common background. The backdrop of Fantasy Island was romantic indeed; a remote island resort, where each visitor could have one lifelong dream come true. A homely young man wanted to become, during his stay, a sex symbol to beautiful girls (bikini-clad beauties abounded on Fantasy Island); a frustrated salesman whose career was going nowhere wanted to score the business coup of his life; a henpecked family man wanted a weekend of respect from his clan. Many of the stories involved glamour and excitement for ordinary people whose lives normally had none, and ABC obviously felt that viewers would relate this to their own lives. There was sometimes an element of danger, or a twist of fate, but everything always worked out for the best.

Overseeing the two or three little dramas each week was the island's owner, the suave and slightly mysterious Mr. Roarke (Ricardo Montalban), and his midget-helper Tatoo (Herve Villechaize). In later seasons, Roarke became increasingly mysterious, in fact, dispensing magic spells and potions, calling up events from the past and future, and even doing battle with the devil. The plots got ever more fanciful. Visitors on the island continued to be played by a variety of guest stars, among them Henry Gibson, Georgia Engel, Christopher George, Marcia Strassman, and Dennis James.

Fantasy Island was originally filmed at a real tropical paradise, a public park call the Arboretum, 25 miles from Los Angeles. Buy this series on DVD at

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Situation Comedy
FIRST TELECAST: February 5, 1977
LAST TELECAST: June 8, 1978

videos bullet iconDetective Phil Fish (Abe Vigoda), the dilapidated cop in the hit series Barney Miller, got his own show in 1977. It was unusual in that he not only remained in character, but for several months continued to appear in Barney Miller as well. Fish simply presented the domestic side of his life.

Fish and his wife Bernice (Florence Stanley) had decided to move out of their New York apartment and into a run-down house, in order to become foster parents to five P.I.N.S. -- the social workers' term for "Persons in Need of Supervision." The term was an understatement, for the five racially mixed street kids were constantly causing problems. Loomis (Todd Bridges) was the cut-up of the lot, the pre-teen hipster who befriended the dead cat in Fish's basement. Mike (Lenny Bari) was the oldest, charming but streetwise. Victor (John Cassisi) was the blustery tough guy, Jilly (Denise Miller) the angelic con artist, and Diane (Sarah Natoli) the young TV addict. Psychologist Charlie Harrison (Barry Gordon, a one-time child star) tended to be too impractical to help very much, leaving huffing, puffing Fish and chattering Bernice to quell each uproar and reestablish normalcy.

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Situation Comedy
FIRST TELECAST: February 26, 1979
LAST TELECAST: March 12, 1979

The exploits of five recent high school graduates living in a middle-class Italian neighborhood in the Flatbush district of Brooklyn, New York. Presto Prestopopolos (Joseph Cali) was a cab driver, Socks Palerno (Adrian Zmed) worked in a local clothing store and was the fashion plate of the group, Figgy Figuero (Sandy Helberg) worked at a supermarket delivering groceries on his bike, Joey Dee (Randy Stumpf) was an apprentice plumber studying at night to become a lawyer, and Turtle Romero (Vincent Bufano) worked in his family's restaurant. Together, as the Flatbush Fungos, their local club/gang, they wandered the neighborhood in search of innocent fun and excitement. The ethnic stereotypes that appeared in this series so offended the real-life Brooklyn Borough President that he publicly demanded the series be taken off the air, before it gave Brooklyn a bad name. CBS beat him to it and canceled it after three episodes, before it gave them a bad name.

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Comedy Variety
FIRST TELECAST: September 17, 1970
LAST TELECAST: June 27, 1974

videos bullet iconComic Flip Wilson was the first black performer to achieve major popularity as host of his own variety hour. The Flip Wilson Show was an enormous hit, placing number two among all programs on television during its first two seasons. Although music and guests were an important part of the format, Flip's comedy was the real focal point of the series. In various skits he played a collection of stock characters, which included: Geraldine Jones, sassy, swinging, liberated woman with a very jealous boyfriend named "Killer"; Reverend LeRoy of the Church of What's Happening Now, a gospel preacher who seemed to be slightly less than honest and just a touch lecherous; Danny Danger, private detective; and Herbie, the Good Time Ice Cream Man. Flip's best known expression was a wide-eyed "The Devil made me do it!" Buy The Best of the Flip Wilson Show on DVD at

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Situation Comedy
FIRST TELECAST: March 24, 1980
LAST TELECAST: July 21, 1981

videos bullet iconAfter four seasons as the feisty, hot-blooded waitress at Mel's Diner on Alice, Flo "Kiss My Grits" Castleberry (Polly Holliday) got her own place to run. While passing through her home town of Cowtown, Texas, on her way to a hostess job in Houston, Flo impulsively bought a run-down old roadhouse she remembered from her rambunctious youth, and determined to make it a viable business. Not used to being the boss, Flo had her troubles running the place, renamed Flo's Yellow Rose, Earl (Geoffrey Lewis), the bartender, hated the idea of working for a woman, and Farley (Jim B. Baker) was the obnoxious skinflint who held the mortgage. Les (Stephen Keep) was the resident piano player and Randy (Leo Burmester) the mechanic who worked at the garage located next door. Being back home meant spending time with Mama (Sudie Bond), in whose raucous image Flo was molded, and with an introverted, clutzy sister, Fran (Lucy Lee Flippin); and long-lost best friend Miriam (Joyce Bulifant). Wendell Tubbs (Terry Wills) was Fran's fiancé, the owner of a feed supply business, and Chester (Mickey Jones) was a regular customer at the Yellow Rose.

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Situation Comedy
FIRST TELECAST: September 18, 1971
LAST TELECAST: December 11, 1971

Sandy Duncan was considered one of the most promising new stars in television when this comedy series was launched in the fall of 1971. She was cast as Sandy Stockton, a pert young UCLA student majoring in education who made ends meet by working part-time as an actress in TV commercials. The big-city life of Los Angeles was a constant challenge for Sandy, who hailed from the small town of Taylorville, Illinois. Helping her cope were her next-door neighbor and best friend, Alice McRaven (Valorie Armstrong), and Mr. and Mrs. Harwell (Henry Beckman and Kathleen Freeman), the nosy landlords. Funny Face did not make the grade, but the character of Sandy Stockton was to return the following season in a similar venture called The Sandy Duncan Show.

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Police Drama
FIRST TELECAST: September 11, 1974
LAST TELECAST: July 18, 1975

Action series with black, sexy Teresa Graves as supercop Christie Love of the Special Investigations Division, Los Angeles Police Department. Most of Christie's assignments were undercover jobs, givng her plenty of latitude for her slick, "with-it," rule-breaking style. Her hard-nosed boss was Lt. Matt Reardon (Charles Cioffi), later replaced by Capt. Arthur P. Ryan (Jack Kelly), and her sidekick was Sgt. Pete Gallagher (Michael Pataki).

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Situation Comedy
FIRST TELECAST: September 18, 1971
LAST TELECAST: January 8, 1972
THEME: "Getting Together," by Helen Miller and Roger Atkins

Recording star Bobby Sherman played a young songwriter struggling to make it in the popular music business in this youth-oriented comedy. Bobby Conway had the melodies, and his tone-deaf, offbeat friend Lionel Poindexter (Wes Stern) wrote the lyrics. Bobby's mod-rock world was not without responsibilities, however, as he was legal guardian of his freckle-faced, 12-year-old sister Jennifer (Susan Neher). The three of them, Bobby, Lionel and Jennifer, lived in an antique shop (it was cheap -- but occasionally the furniture got sold out from underneath them) while Bobby worked as a recording engineer, and the boys tried to peddle their songs. Rita Simon (Pat Carroll) was their motherly landlady, and Rudy Colcheck (Jack Burns) her policeman-boyfriend.

Getting Together would seem to have been a perfect vehicle for Sherman to use in launching new hits, but in fact his real-life recording career went into something of a slump when the series went on the air. He did have one moderately popular disc derived from the program, however -- titled "Jennifer" -- and an album named after the show.

Getting Together was previewed on a March 1971 telecast of The Partridge Family, in which the Partridges introduced Bobby and Lionel to each other.

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Musical Variety
FIRST TELECAST: January 29, 1969
LAST TELECAST: June 13, 1972
THEME: "Gentle on My Mind," by John Hartford

videos bullet iconCountry-popular singer Glen Campbell looked like a potential successor to Perry Como when this weekly variety hour was launched in 1969. He had a long string of enormously successful records in the late 1960s (including his theme, "Gentle on My Mind"), was popular with both teenagers and adults, and had an easy, ingratiating style which had won him a wide TV following during his frequent appearances on The Smothers Brothers Show. His own show was reminiscent of Como's, too, in a contemporary way -- relaxed, informal, and down-home friendly. In addition to hosting, he sang many of his hits (two of which, "Wichita Lineman" and "Galveston" were on the charts about the time this series began) and did instrumental solos (he was a first-rate guitarist). Guests on the show tended to be Country singers and sketch comedians. Although not usually credited as a regular, comedian Dom DeLuise appeared in more than half the show's telecasts during the final season. Composer-singer John Hartford, who had written Glen's theme song and was a close personal friend, was likewise not a regular but made frequent guest appearances throughout the show's run. Buy Glen Campbell - Good Times Again on DVD at

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Comedy/Audience Participation
Syndicated and network daytime
30 minutes
Produced: 1976-1980, 1988-1989
Released: Fall 1976

videos bullet iconPossibly the most bizarre program to air on American television in the 1970s and 1980s, The Gong Show was a wild and sometimes raunchy parody on amateur programs. It consisted, simply enough, of a succession of amateurs demonstrating their dubious talents. Anyone could audition, but sometimes it seemed that only certifiable crazies need apply. Typical of the acts was a girl who whistled through her nose, a dentist who played "Stars and Stripes Forever" on his drill, a man who played lighted bulbs that blinked on and off, a dancer with four arms, a musician who played trumpet through his navel, and someone who broke eggs on his head while making faces through a distorting glass.

Looking on during all this insanity, and sometimes joining in, was a rowdy panel of three celebrities who were supposed to rate each act on a scale of one to ten, or, if it was bad enough, gong it off the stage. (Some acts were gonged so fast there was eventually a minimum time limit imposed.) The act with the highest score got a prize of $712.05 ($516.32 on the daytime version), and a golden gong. About one-third of the acts were gonged, and on some shows they all were, leaving no winners at all.

There were also interludes with regulars, such as Gene-Gene the Dancing Machine (a big, black stagehand who came on dancing frantically, and was usually pelted with assorted objects thrown by the panel, and the Unknown Comic, who wore a paper bag over his head, the better to avoid resposibility for his corny jokes (he was later unmasked -- or debagged -- on Real People as one Murray Langston). It was, as once of the writers put it, "a cuckoo's nest without walls."

Jaye P. Morgan and Jamie Farr were virtually regular panelists, joined frequently by Arte Johnson, Rex Reed, Rip Taylor, Steve Garvey, Phyllis Diller, and others at home with this kind of mayhem. The show was created by Chris Bearde and Chuck Barris, and premiered on the NBC daytime lineup in June 1976. Curly-headed Chuck "Chuckie Baby" Barris, one of the most successful game-show producers in Hollywood (The Dating Game, The Newlywed Game), was the host of the daytime version throughout its run, and replaced by Gary Owens on the syndicated version after its first year. When The Gong Show was revived in 1988, Don Bleu was the new host.

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Situation Comedy
FIRST TELECAST: March 8, 1976
LAST TELECAST: June 26, 1976

Gentle comedy starring Carl Reiner as a warm and witty business-suited angel who descended to earth to bestow one wish on a different mortal each week -- any wish except money. Thanks to Mr. Angel, and to themselves, a sporting-goods salesman go this long-dreamt-of tryout in the big leagues; a young woman who couldn't decide between two suitors got a new beau who combined the best qualities of each; and an unsuccessful author got an adventure to which everyone wanted the literary rights.

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Situation Comedy
FIRST TELECAST: February 1, 1974
LAST TELECAST: August 1, 1979
PRODUCER: Norman Lear

videos bullet iconGood Times was a spinoff from Maude, which in turn was a spinoff from All in the Family. Florida Evans (Esther Rolle) was originally Maude Findlay's maid until, in the spring of 1974, she got a show of her own. Florida and James (John Amos) Evans were lower-middle-class blacks living with their three children in a high-rise ghetto on the South Side of Chicago. J.J. (Jimmie Walker) was the oldest (17 when the series started), Thelma (BernNadette Stanis) was a year younger than him, and Michael (Ralph Carter) was 10. Trying to make ends meet on the erratic income provided by James, who was always in and out of jobs, made life difficult, but there was plenty of love in the family. J.J. was an accomplished painter who, though going to trade school, was always looking for some get-rich-quick scheme that would help get him and his family out of the ghetto. He formed a rock group, managed a young comic, and tried various other money making ideas after he got out of school. He did manage to earn money with his painting and was quite popular with the girls, something his mother viewed with mixed emotions. His catch-phrase "Dy-No-Mite" became very popular in the mid-1970s. Florida's neighbor and best friend was Willona Woods (Ja'net DuBois).

At the start of the 1976-1977 season there was a major change in the cast. James had found a job working as a partner in a garage in Mississippi when he was killed in an auto accident. The entire family, which had been planning to move to their new home and start a new life, was now fatherless. J.J. became the man of the house and was even more determined to find a way out of the ghetto for his family, whether by means that were entirely legal or not. Some of his schemes became decidedly shady. Meanwhile Florida found a new man in her life in the spring of 1977, in the person of Carl Dixon (Moses Gunn), the owner of a small appliance repair shop. They were married during the summer of 1977 (though the wedding was not seen), and in the fall were referred to on the show as being "on their honeymoon."

With falling ratings, Good Times was pulled from the CBS schedule in December 1978. It returned in the spring and, in the last original episode (there were no reruns aired in the last season) everything worked out for the series principals. Football star Keith Anderson (Ben Powers), who had married Thelma the previous season, got a big contract as a running back and the couple moved into a place of their own to start a family. J.J. sold a comic strip he had developed to a syndicate for a healthy advance, and neighbor Willona, who was introduced in the 1977-78 season, got promoted to head buyer at the clothing boutique where she worked. Buy this series on DVD at

TV bullet

FIRST TELECAST: September 10, 1955
LAST TELECAST: September 1, 1975
MUSICAL THEME: "Gunsmoke Trails," by Rex Koury

videos bullet iconGunsmoke had its genesis on CBS radio in the spring of 1952, with William Conrad in the role of the resolute, determined Marshal Matt Dillon. Conrad, who later became TV's Cannon in the 1970s, remained the radio voice of Matt Dillon for a total of nine years, but when CBS decided to add a video version of the series the first choice for the role was John Wayne. Wayne did not want to commit to the rigors of a weekly television series and suggested James Arness, a young, relatively unknown actor friend of his. Arness, six feet seven inches in height, was even bigger physically than John Wayne, and he proved to be perfect casting for the role of the heroic marshal.

Gunsmoke was set in Dodge City, Kansas, around 1880. Crusty old Doc Adams (Milburn Stone), the only cast member besides Arness to stay with the show for its entire run, was the town's kindly, sympathetic physician. Doc spent most of his spare time, as did may of Dodge City's residents, at the Longbranch Saloon, which was owned and operated by Kitty Russell (Amanda Blake). Kitty was extremely soft-hearted, beneath what could be a very businesslike exterior, and would have willingly become romantically involved with Matt. In the radio version the implication was that she was a prostitute, but on TV Matt and Kitty exchanged no more than smiles. Matt's loyal, well-meaning deputy was Chester Goode (Dennis Weaver), who walked with a pronounced limp, talked with a twang ("Misster Dillon!"), and "brewed a mean pot of coffee" -- which was often seen behind the closing credits.

Over the years there were changes in the supporting cast. Chester left in 1964 to be replaced by Festus Haggen (Ken Curtis), the scruffy hillbilly deputy for the rest of the run. Half-breed Indian Quint Asper (Burt Reynolds) was featured for a while as the town blacksmith, as were gunsmith Newly O'Brien (Buck Taylor) and Matt's friend Thad Greenwood (Roger Ewing).

In addition to the principal cast members, there was an extensive supporting cast of Dodge City residents who appeared from time to time. Miss Hannah (Fran Ryan) ran the Long Branch Saloon after Kitty's departure in the final season. Jones (Dabbs Greer) and Lathrop (Woody Chamblis) were storekeepers; Halligan (Charles Wagenheim) and O'Connor (Tom Brown), local ranchers; Louie (James Nusser), the town drunk; Barney (Charles Seel), the telegraph agent; Howie (Howard Culver), the hotel clerk; Percy (John Harper), the Dodge City undertaker; Hank (Hank Patterson), the stableman; Nathan (Ted Jordan), the freight agent; Mr. Bodkin (Roy Roberts), the banker; and Ma Smalley (Sarah Selby), the boardinghouse owner.

As the years passed, less and less was seen of Matt. Stories often revolved around other members of the cast while he was out of town, and, to some extent, Gunsmoke frequently resembled an anthology as stories often came to center on guest stars, using Dodge City simply as a background. "Hard" social issues of the 1960s, such as the rights of minorities, social protest, and crimes such as rape, began to be tackled in stories adapted to the Dodge City setting.

Matt Dillon set the tone of the show throughout its long life, however, standing for justice, sincerity, and truth. The opening of the show (during its early seasons) said it all. There was Matt in a fast-draw showdown in the main street of Dodge City. There was Matt in a fast-draw showdown in the main street of Dodge City. The other man fired a fraction of a second faster, but missed completely, while Matt's aim was true. Matt could be beaten up, shot, and ambushed, but that indomitable will would never be defeated.

Gunsmoke was the top-rated program in all of TV during the years 1957 to 1961, but it went into a considerable decline in the mid 1960s, after being expanded to an hour, and was about to leave the air when CBS gave it one more chance, moving it to Monday night in 1967. The result was a stunning comeback that put the show in the top ten once again, where it stayed well into the 1970s. It is ironic that when it finally did leave the air in 1975, it was the last Western left on network television at that time. In all, Gunsmoke ran for 20 years, longer than any other series with continuing characters in the history of the medium. Buy The Gunsmoke Movie Collection on DVD at

- excerpted from The Complete Directory to Prime Time Network TV Shows - Fifth Edition by Tim Brooks and Earle Marsh (New York: Ballantine Books, 1992).

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Thank God for the station METV, so I can watch all the shows I grew up with!

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