In the age of streaming, new TV shows seem to come and go in a flash. With so many streaming services, few shows are capable of capturing the attention of popular culture as a whole. In 1972, however, most viewers tuned into one of the three major networks and could easily wonder which shows were among the best.
Fifty years later, these shows share a lingering cultural significance. Even though most modern viewers haven’t sat down and watched any of these shows, chances are they will have at least heard of them. And half a century later, one of those shows is still airing new episodes to this day.
The streets of San Fransisco
The streets of San Fransisco features Karl Malden and Michael Douglas as Lt. Mike Stone and Detective Steve Keller of the San Francisco Police Homicide Division. Cases often become personal for the couple, and their investigations usually reveal a vast web of complex vendettas among victims and perpetrators.
Airing for five seasons and totaling over a hundred episodes, this crime drama helped elevate the genre to a new standard of storytelling and maturity. Malden and Douglas make a prototypical duo of “veteran cop paired with inexperienced cop” and their outstanding performances keep this combination from feeling clichéd.
Maud features Beatrice Arthur and Bill Macy as outspoken liberal housewife Maude and her shop owner husband, Walter. Maude’s direct delivery of her beliefs on social issues often lands her in hot water in her suburban community, but that doesn’t stop her from speaking out about ethical injustices.
A spin-off of the popular sitcom All in the family, this six-season show was ahead of its time in promoting values of equality that continue to stand the test of time. But more impressively, it presented these issues with nuance, humor and relatability, and Bea Authur’s performance is among many that contributed to its storied legacy.
The Bob Newhart Show
The Bob Newhart Show features Bob Newhart and Suzanne Pleshette as a psychologist, Dr. Robert Hartley and his wife, a teacher named Emily. Newhart’s dry, measured demeanor helps her handle issues with patients, friends, and family.
Airing for six seasons, this hilarious show helped immortalize stand-up comedian Bob Newhart and his unique style. Comedy usually gets old quickly, and shows rarely stay fun for younger generations. However, it’s still easy to see why this show is considered one of the best sitcoms of the 1970s.
Emergency! features Randolph Mantooth and Kevin Tighe as firefighters, John Gage and Roy DeSoto. All manner of patients are airlifted to Rampart General Hospital where they receive additional attention under the direction of the Chief of Emergency Medicine.
Premiering with a two-hour pilot movie, the show aired for six seasons, combining the best elements of medical drama and action genres. Famous television actor Robert Fuller delivers perhaps his greatest performance as the head of the hospital and the basics of shows like Grey’s Anatomy and Emergency room is easy to see.
The Waltons features Ralph Waite and Richard Thomas as family patriarch John Walton Sr. and eldest son, “John-Boy” Walton Jr. The Great Depression and World War II loom large in this rural Virginia community from the 1960s. 1930, but the love between family members continues high spirit.
Airing for nine seasons, The Walton Family is the prototype of America’s nuclear family. While their optimistic attitudes may seem dated in an age of anti-heroes and “imperfect protagonists,” it’s nice to see a show about a group of people who love and care for each other. They are easily one of the best TV families of the 70s and 80s.
ABC Extracurricular Special
ABC Extracurricular Special is an anthology episode series that dramatically presented issues important to children and young adults. The episodes ranged from hunting for endangered species, sexism, the human body, birth and death.
Airing for a staggering 25 seasons and winning more than 50 Daytime Emmy awards, this show has helped direct the moral compasses of generations of viewers. Many actors who have appeared on the show have become celebrities like Ben Affleck, Meg Ryan, and Rob Lowe.
Are you Being Served?
Are you Being Served? features John Inman and Mollie Sugden as business assistants Mr Wilberforce Claybourne Humphries and Mrs Betty Slocombe in the Grace Brothers department store. The combination of sexual innuendo and mischievous co-workers often results in a hilarious comedy of errors.
Airing for ten seasons, this British sitcom was hailed not only for the laughs it brought to audiences, but also for its biggest impact on gay culture, with Inman’s portrayal of “camp” Mr Humphries. His hilarious antics are frequent in the funniest episodes of Are you Being Served?.
The price is right
The price is right features contestants competing for a variety of prizes, usually by trying to guess the retail price of various purchasable items. Although the series premiered in 1956, it was canceled and then revitalized in 1972 with host Bob Barker, and has been hosted since 2007 by Drew Carey.
While all of the shows on this list turn 50 this year, only one has aired during that entire time. Hitting its 9000th episode in 2019, there doesn’t seem to be an end in sight for the flagship franchise. Even die-hard fans of the show should definitely check out the ten weirdest facts about The price is right.
Sanford and sons
Sanford and sons features “Redd Foxx” John Elroy Sanford as second-hand dealer Fred G. Sanford and Desmond Wilson as his adult son, Lamont Sanford. Although they own an equal share of the family business, they often find themselves faced with the division of labor, among other things.
Based on the British sitcom Steptoe and son, this American version aired for six seasons and was one of the most popular shows on television throughout its run. The father-son duo is as heartwarming as it is hilarious, though parts of Sanford and sons have not aged well.
MASH POTATOES* features Alan Alda and Loretta Swit as Benjamin Frankin “Hawkeye” Pierce and Margaret “Hot Lips” Hoolihan. Set in a mobile army surgical hospital during the Korean War, rebellious Hawkeye clashes with the Hot Lips, who are on the books but flirtatious.
Airing for 11 seasons, this quintessential ’70s series garnered dozens of Emmy and Golden Globe nominations and wins, and even today many are familiar with the show even if they’ve never seen one. episode. While it’s common these days to see shows that combine comedy and drama, it’s one of the things that made it one of the most influential shows of the 70s.
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