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101 Classic (and Not-So-Classic) TV Shows From the 1970s

When looking back at Classic TV shows of the 1970s, there is one name that, love him or hate him, has to be looked as a key player in that decade of television: Fred Silverman. He was the former programming chief of all three broadcast networks (ABC, CBS and NBC) who, it must be said, genuinely changed the face of television — much of the results of which will be seen below.

In 1970, Silverman took charge at CBS and the result was nothing less than a programming revolution. Trying to change the network’s viewership, he initiated the so-called “rural purge,” which saw the cancelation of such still high-rated shows as The Andy Griffith Show‘s spin-off, Mayberry RFD; The Beverly HillbilliesHogan’s HeroesThe Ed Sullivan Show and The Jackie Gleason Show. While heartbreaking to many, what followed was truly amazing as he attempted to usher in the age of more “relevant” TV.


Moving away from sitcoms with laugh tracks, he emphasized those shot in front of a studio audience in the way classics like I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners were, and brought in new dramas to appeal to upscale baby boomers. The result were comedies like All in the Family and The Mary Tyler Moore Show (plus their numerous spin-offs), as well as M*A*S*H, The Bob Newhart Show, The Waltons and The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour. And then, his job seemingly done there, he was hired away by ABC in 1975.

Once there, it was obvious that Silverman had decided to exercise another part of his brain, shifting from relevant programming to escapism. The result? Turning Happy Days into a ratings juggernaut and launching its spin-off Laverne & Shirley and these classics of the 1970s: The Bionic Woman, Charlie’s Angels, Eight Is Enough, Donny & Marie, The Love Boat, Three’s Company and Fantasy Island. And if you’re looking for pure escapism on a whole different level, he also gave us The Brady Bunch Hour.

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Towards the end of the decade he shifted to NBC, though his efforts there in the 1970s aren’t worth talking about (Supertrain anyone?), it taking a few years into the 1980s before he really left his mark there. But we’re not here to talk about the ’80s. At least not yet.

From 1970 to 1979 there was a wide variety of programming on all three networks, and what follows is our guide — as the headline says — to 101 classic (and not-so-classic) examples of them.

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