Best 70s TV Shows: A Nostalgic Journey into Classic Television

Step back in time and immerse yourself in the golden era of television with this nostalgic trip down memory lane. We're taking you back to the groovy 70s, where rockin' tunes and bell-bottoms dominated the scene. Get ready to uncover the best 70s TV shows that captivated audiences across America. From heartwarming family dramas to side-splitting comedies, these iconic series left an indelible mark on television history. So, grab a can of Tab, put on some disco beats, and join us as we explore the shows that defined a generation.

Mannix (CBS) - 1967-75

Mannix, a CBS series that ran for eight seasons, became a staple on the network. The show follows Los Angeles Detective Joe Mannix, played by Mike Connors, who starts off as an employee at a prestigious detective firm in the first season and eventually opens his own shop in the second season. Throughout the series, Mannix faces numerous violent encounters, with each episode presenting him with a new challenge. The show also tackles relevant social issues such as racism and gambling.

Did You Know?

Robert Reed, known for his role in The Brady Bunch, also had a recurring role on Mannix as Lt. Adam Tobias, an LAPD cop who occasionally worked with Joe Mannix.

How to Watch Mannix Today: You can watch Mannix on MeTV or purchase the DVD collection from Amazon.

The Carol Burnett Show (CBS): 1967-78

We all have our favorite moments from The Carol Burnett Show. Whether it's the hilarious "Went With the Wind" sketch, the soap opera parody "As the Stomach Turns," Tim Conway's ability to crack up Harvey Korman in their sketches, or Carol's delightful opening Q&A, this variety show never failed to entertain. The show featured a wide range of guest stars and memorable characters, including the beloved "Family" sketches.

Did You Know?

Vicki Lawrence, known for her role as Thelma Harper on Mama's Family, transitioned into her spin-off sitcom after The Carol Burnett Show. But before Mama's Family, there was a TV movie called Eunice, featuring Carol Burnett, Vicki Lawrence, Harvey Korman, Ken Berry, and Betty White.

How to Watch The Carol Burnett Show Today: You can stream the show on Prime Video, watch it on MeTV, or purchase the DVD collection from Amazon.

Room 222 (ABC): 1969-74

Room 222, a half-hour comedy-drama set in a fictional high school in Los Angeles called Walt Whitman High School, was a part of the original ABC TGIF lineup. The show skillfully combined humor with serious themes, often reflecting the political climate of the time. The main characters included Pete Dixon, a compassionate teacher, Liz McIntyre, an understanding guidance counselor, Seymour Kaufman, the school principal, and Alice Johnson, a young student teacher.

Did You Know?

Although Room 222 had low ratings in its first season, the show received five Emmy Award nominations and won three, including Outstanding New Series. These accolades saved the show from cancellation.

How to Watch Room 222 Today: You can watch Room 222 on Aspire TV or purchase the DVD collection from Amazon.

The Brady Bunch (ABC): 1969-74

The Brady Bunch, a show about a picture-perfect blended family, may have been pure fiction, but it provided a much-needed escape from reality. The show revolved around a groovy house with two loving and understanding parents, six ideal children, and a fun-loving housekeeper named Alice. Although the show never ranked in the top 30 of all primetime shows during its five-season run, it gained popularity in off-network syndication.

Did You Know?

The Brady Bunch spawned numerous spin-offs, but it wasn't until the show entered syndication that it truly captivated audiences. The spin-offs included Maude and The Jeffersons, which were developed from characters introduced on The Brady Bunch.

How to Watch The Brady Bunch Today: You can stream the show on Prime Video, CBS All Access, Hulu, watch it on MeTV, or purchase the DVD collection from Amazon.

Marcus Welby M.D. (ABC) - 1969-76

Robert Young, known for his role as Jim Anderson on Father Knows Best, took on the role of Dr. Marcus Welby in this beloved medical drama. Alongside James Brolin as Dr. Steven Kiley, Dr. Welby and his partner run a private practice in Santa Monica. Unlike modern medical dramas, Marcus Welby M.D. always ended on a positive note, delivering happy endings to its viewers. The warmth and compassion displayed by Dr. Marcus Welby made him a beloved TV dad.

Did You Know?

Marcus Welby, M.D. made television history by becoming the first ABC series to finish a season ranked first overall in primetime. This achievement occurred during the 1970-71 season.

How to Watch Marcus Welby, M.D. Today: You can stream the show on Prime Video or purchase the DVD collection from Amazon.

The Partridge Family (ABC): 1970-74

If you were a fan of The Brady Bunch, chances are you also watched The Partridge Family when it aired alongside it on ABC. David Cassidy became a teen heartthrob with his role as Keith Partridge, and Susan Dey (pre-L.A. Law) played his sister Laurie. The show followed the Partridge siblings as they traveled on tour and dealt with the challenges of being a musical family. The combination of music and lighthearted family-themed comedy made The Partridge Family appealing to kids and teens.

Did You Know?

The Partridge Family was created as a counter-programming strategy against the popular show All in the Family, which aired on Saturdays. Despite its initial success, The Partridge Family was canceled after just one season when it moved to compete with All in the Family.

How to Watch The Partridge Family Today: You can purchase the DVD collection from Amazon or stream it on Crackle.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show (CBS): 1970-77

The Mary Tyler Moore Show follows the life of Mary Richards, a single woman in her thirties who moves to Minneapolis to start a new life after a breakup. The show strikes a balance between Mary's personal and professional life, featuring a cast of well-developed characters and genuine situations. Mary Tyler Moore's portrayal of an independent woman resonated with viewers and ushered in a new era for TV sitcoms.

Did You Know?

Originally, Mary was planned to be a divorced woman, but network executives were concerned that audiences would not accept Mary after knowing her as the happily married Laura Petrie on The Dick Van Dyke Show. In the first season, Mary wore a wig to avoid confusion with her previous character.

How to Watch Mary Tyler Moore Today: You can watch the show on Decades, stream it on Prime Video, or purchase the DVD collection from Amazon.

All in the Family (CBS): 1970-79

All in the Family was a groundbreaking series that tackled contemporary issues at a time when television was undergoing significant changes. The show, created by Norman Lear, was part of CBS's shift towards grittier comedies that addressed social issues. The show follows the lives of the controversial and outspoken Archie Bunker and his family as they navigate through the changing times. All in the Family became a top-rated series and spawned multiple spin-offs.

Did You Know?

All in the Family spun off five comedies, including Maude, The Jeffersons, Archie Bunker's Place, Gloria, and 704 Hauser. These spin-offs expanded on the characters introduced in All in the Family.

How to Watch All in the Family Today: You can watch the show on Get TV, stream it on Crackle, or purchase the DVD collection from Amazon.

Rhoda (CBS): 1974-78

Rhoda Morgenstern, played by Valerie Harper, first appeared as a character on The Mary Tyler Moore Show. Her popularity led to the spin-off show Rhoda, which focused on her life after finally finding love with Joe Gerard, played by David Groh. However, the show struggled to find humor in Rhoda's newfound stability, leading to her separation and ultimately divorce from Joe. As a result, the show lost its charm and viewership declined.

Did You Know?

Rhoda's insecure younger sister Brenda, portrayed by Julie Kavner (pre-Marge Simpson), became a popular character. The wedding of Rhoda's sister Debbie was also featured in an episode of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, with mention of another brother named Arnold.

How to Watch Rhoda Today: You can purchase the DVD collection from Amazon.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker (ABC) - 1974-75

Kolchak: The Night Stalker, featuring Darren McGavin as crime reporter Carl Kolchak, delves into the world of supernatural mysteries. The show follows Kolchak as he investigates crimes with unusual causes, encountering vampires, werewolves, zombies, mummies, and other eerie phenomena. Though the show only aired for one season and 20 episodes, it left a lasting impact, inspiring future series such as The X-Files and gaining a devoted fan base.

Did You Know?

Richard Kiel, famous for his role as Jaws in the James Bond films, guest-starred in two episodes of Kolchak: The Night Stalker as the monster. Additionally, David Chase, the creator of The Sopranos, worked on the series as a story editor.

How to Watch Kolchak Today: You can stream the show on Prime Video or purchase the DVD collection from Amazon.

Little House on the Prairie (NBC): 1974-83

Based on the Little House book series by Laura Ingalls Wilder, Little House on the Prairie depicts the life of the Ingalls family in the town of Walnut Grove. Set during the time of the Great Depression, the show captures the challenges faced by the family and their determination to overcome adversity. The character of Nellie Oleson, played by Alison Arngrim, provided a counterbalance to the show's sweetness and added an element of conflict.

Did You Know?

In the final season, the show's title was changed to Little House: A New Beginning to reflect the shift in focus to Laura and her husband Almanzo. Shannen Doherty also joined the show as the couple's niece, Jenny Wilder, during that season.

How to Watch Little House Today: You can stream the show on Prime Video, watch it on COZI TV or UP TV, or purchase the DVD collection from Amazon.

Good Times (CBS): 1974-80

Good Times, a spin-off from the show Maude, centers around the Evans family living in an inner-city Chicago housing project. The show initially aimed to portray a struggling family handling serious issues through comedy. However, Jimmie Walker's character, J.J., became the breakout star and took over the focus of the show. With the departure of John Amos and Esther Rolle, the show lost its original spark.

Did You Know?

When Esther Rolle left the series, her character, Florida Evans, was written off as moving to Arizona with her new TV husband Carl Dixon. After Rolle's return for the final season, her character, Florida Dixon, went back to being Florida Evans with only a brief reference to Carl.

How to Watch Good Times Today: You can stream the show on Hulu, TV One, or Get TV. You can also watch it on Prime Video/Starz or purchase the DVD collection from Amazon.

The Waltons (CBS): 1972-81

The Waltons, a heartfelt family drama set during the Depression, depicts the lives of the Walton family as they navigate through challenging times together. Despite initially low expectations, the show gained popularity and became the second highest-rated series in its second season. The Waltons continued to captivate viewers for nine seasons and is remembered fondly by its fan base.

Did You Know?

The first choice for the role of John Walton was Henry Fonda, who had previously starred in the theatrical film Spencer's Mountain, based on a novel by Earl Hamner, Jr. However, Fonda declined due to his belief that the show should focus on Richard Thomas as John Walton.

How to Watch The Waltons Today: You can stream the show on Prime Video, watch it on INSP, or purchase the DVD collection from Amazon.

The Jeffersons (CBS) - 1975-85

The Jeffersons, one of the most successful spin-off sitcoms in television history, aired on CBS for 11 seasons. It reached its peak primetime ranking at No. 3 overall in 1981-82.

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Isabel Sanford portrayed “Weezie” (aka Louise Jefferson), the faithful but long-suffering wife of Sherman Hemsley's loudmouth character, George Jefferson. Franklin Cover and Roxie Roker played Tom and Helen Willis, the first interracial couple featured on a television series.

Another important character was Marla Gibbs as Florence, the no-nonsense maid. She was even given her own spin-off sitcom called Checking In in 1981, but it quickly returned after its failure. Like Hazel, the classic TV maid before her, Florence always seemed to know best!

Did You Know?

When The Jeffersons began, Isabel Sanford was 57 years old in real life, while Sherman Hemsley was a mere 36. By doing the math, George Jefferson would have been about 14 at the time of his son Lionel’s birth. No wonder why “Mother” Jefferson (Zara Cully) disliked her!

How to Watch The Jeffersons Today: You can stream it on Prime Video/Starz, MeTV, or purchase it on DVD.

One Day at a Time (CBS): 1975-84

Another successful show from the Norman Lear wheelhouse, the original version of One Day at a Time focused on the comical and dramatic trials and tribulations of a young divorced woman named Ann Romano and her two teenage daughters, Julie and Barbara.

Pat Harrington, Jr. portrayed Dwayne Schneider, the smarmy building handyman who served as a surrogate father figure. While Julie was the central character in the early seasons, ongoing personal issues and the blossoming character of Barbara shifted the focus in later seasons.

Did You Know?

CBS considered renewing One Day at a Time for two more seasons in the spring of 1984, which would have taken the comedy through 11 seasons. However, Bonnie Franklin and Valerie Bertinelli declined the offer, and the network then explored a potential spin-off series featuring Pat Harrington, Jr. as Schneider. This spin-off concept involved Schneider moving to Florida to care for his newly orphaned niece and nephew, but it never made it to series.

How to Watch One Day at a Time Today: You can stream it on Prime Video, Crackle, or purchase it on DVD.

Laverne & Shirley (ABC) - 1976-83

Penny Marshall once remarked that "The TV critics always hated us," but the viewers had a different opinion. Happy Days spin-off Laverne & Shirley premiered on Jan. 27, 1976, as the top-rated series on television.

By the second and third seasons, this sitcom about two best friends and roommates, Laverne and Shirley, who worked as bottle-cappers at the fictitious Shotz Brewery in Milwaukee, even out-rated its parent series. Despite a decline in quality after the move to Burbank in season six, these beloved characters always had our support.

Did You Know?

Ron Palillo, best known for his role in Welcome Back, Kotter, lent his voice to the animated spin-off Laverne & Shirley in the Army, which aired on ABC during the 1981-82 TV season.

How to Watch Laverne & Shirley Today: You can stream it on CBS All Access, Logo, or purchase it on DVD.

Alice (CBS): 1976-85

Legend has it that Alice star Linda Lavin wasn't too pleased when initial co-star Polly Holliday, who played sassy waitress Flo, received all the laughs and Emmy nominations. Thus, Holliday left after four seasons to star in the short-lived sitcom Flo. Diane Ladd joined the cast in season five as Belle, and Celia Weston joined in season six as Jolene.

Alice wasn't anything special without Flo, but with that party gal from Cowtown, Texas, the series was full of energy and laughter. Linda Lavin's character certainly knew how to make quite the remark!

Did You Know?

Philip McKeon portrayed Alice's son Tommy Hyatt throughout the nine seasons of Alice. However, the pilot episode featured Alfred Lutter, the actor who played Tommy in the 1974 theatrical film Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, which the series was based on.

How to Watch Alice Today: You can stream it on Prime Video or purchase it on DVD.

The Odd Couple (ABC): 1970-75

Based on the hit Broadway play and the 1968 film, Neil Simon’s The Odd Couple made its transition to the small screen in 1970. Jack Klugman portrayed Oscar, taking over the role played by Walter Matthau in the movie, while Tony Randall replaced Jack Lemmon as Felix.

The premise revolved around two divorced men who decide to live together. The series started as a single-camera show with a laugh track in season one before switching to the more traditional three-camera format with an audience in season two. The chemistry between the two actors was flawless and resulted in three Emmy Award victories for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.

Did You Know? 

Two remakes of The Odd Couple have aired to date: The New Odd Couple with Demond Wilson and Ron Glass on ABC in 1982-83, and The Odd Couple with Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon on CBS from 2015-17. There was also an animated spin-off called The Oddball Couple in 1975, which featured the misadventures of a dog named Fleabag and a cat named Spiffy who lived together under the same roof.

How to Watch The Odd Couple Today: You can stream it on CBS All Access, Hulu, or purchase it on DVD.

Eight is Enough (ABC): 1977-81

The comedy-drama Eight is Enough was initially based on the life of syndicated newspaper columnist Thomas Braden, a real-life parent of eight children. After the untimely passing of Diana Hyland, who portrayed the wife Joan, the show shifted its focus to Betty Buckley's character, eventual stepmother Abby, and the family's adjustment to their new matriarch. Ralph Macchio joined the cast as Abby's orphaned nephew Jeremy during the show's fifth season.

Did You Know?

Betty Buckley's character, Abby, became the stepmother to the Bradford brood, but Laurie Walters, who portrayed daughter Joanie, was actually six months older than Buckley in real life.

How to Watch Eight Is Enough Today: You can stream it on Prime Video or purchase it on DVD.

Dallas (CBS): 1978-91

The serialized drama Dallas is often associated with the 1980s, but it actually started as a five-part miniseries in 1978. The iconic moment of Larry Hagman being shot as the character J.R. Ewing occurred on March 21, 1980.

Even in the early days, there were signs of the show's addictive nature, and by the 1980-81 TV season, Dallas became the top-rated primetime show. It held this position for three seasons and remained in the Top 10 for a total of seven seasons. Dallas also popularized the concept of season-ending cliffhangers.

Did You Know?

Dallas spin-off Knots Landing featured Donna Mills as villainess Abby Cunningham Ewing Sumner, a female counterpart to Larry Hagman's J.R. Ewing. Hagman and Mills previously worked together on the NBC sitcom The Good Life in the early 1970s.

How to Watch Dallas Today: You can stream it on Prime Video or purchase it on DVD.

The White Shadow (CBS): 1978-81

The White Shadow, starring Ken Howard, was the first dramatic ensemble with a primarily African American cast. It explored subject matters that were new to television, such as drug problems, teenage crime, sexually transmitted diseases, and the challenges of living in a crime-ridden Los Angeles neighborhood.

The show followed the life of a group of students at Carver High School, with one of the basketball players, Curtis Jackson, getting gunned down in a liquor store holdup. The White Shadow was never a huge success in traditional Nielsen ratings, but its realistic portrayal of students trying to thrive amidst difficult circumstances left a lasting impact.

Did You Know?

Unlike other high school dramas where the students never seemed to graduate, The White Shadow actually featured four of the original students graduating at the end of season two. Season three introduced a new set of high school students.

How to Watch The White Shadow Today: You can purchase it on DVD.

Honorable Mention (in alphabetical order):

Apple’s Way (CBS), Barney Miller (ABC), The Bob Newhart Show (CBS), Donny and Marie (ABC), The Doris Day Show (CBS), Happy Days (ABC), Hawaii Five-O (CBS), Julia (NBC), Love, American Style (ABC), Lucas Tanner (NBC), Maude (CBS), My Three Sons (CBS), The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour (CBS), Sons and Daughters (CBS), Taxi (ABC), WKRP in Cincinnati (CBS)

Marc Berman is the founder and Editor-in-Chief for Programming Insider. He also covers the broadcasting landscape, at present, for Forbes.com, Watch!, Newspro and C21 Media in London. His prior pieces have appeared in Campaign US, The New York Daily News, Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, The Los Angeles Times and Emmy Magazine, among other outlets.

Marc Berman•September 11, 2019

In a decade filled with iconic television shows, the 70s undeniably left an indelible mark on the small screen. From the action-packed drama of Mannix to the side-splitting comedic genius of The Carol Burnett Show, these shows captured the hearts and minds of viewers across the nation. Room 222 brought important social issues to the forefront, while The Brady Bunch epitomized the beloved family sitcom. The 70s also introduced us to unforgettable characters like Marcus Welby M.D., the Partridge Family, and the ever-inspiring Mary Tyler Moore. As we look back on this golden era of television, we can't help but be grateful for the entertainment and memories it provided. These shows continue to stand the test of time, reminding us of the unique magic that can be found in 70s television.

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