The world of TV was such a different place in the 1970s. There was no cable, internet, and certainly no Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Video. You got what you got and you liked it–and you probably didn’t know any better because–well, there weren’t a lot of channels on your dial and some didn’t even come in over the air unless your rabbit ears antenna was pointed in just the right direction. Even so, millions of people fondly remember “classic” 70s TV shows from their childhood whether they watched it as it aired or more than likely in decades of reruns over the air and now streaming over the internet. With literally thousands of choices of shows, series, movies and YouTube channels for any enthusiast group you can imagine, it’s hard to believe there was a time you had to turn on your TV, let it warm up and make sure you started watching at the top of the hour or you’d miss your favorite show forever!
Putting aside the technology of the day, society was a vastly different place too. Much of what we saw on TV in the 1960s and 1970s just wouldn’t pass the cultural smell test today. Issues of race, politics, gender, and other shifting sensibilities would prevent a number of these shows from ever making it to the air or even past the first pitch meeting at a TV network. As you’ll see, there are a lot of shows that were more or less based on a lot of social stereotypes a lot of us just wouldn’t find acceptable now. What was once seen as laugh-out-loud (before LOL) hysterically funny is now viewed as insensitive at best and offensive at worst.
Others might say a lot of these old TV shows harken back to a simpler, more innocent time when the TV viewing public was entertained by makeup wearing monsters, genies coming out of a bottle and shipwrecked people on an island who made everything out of coconuts except a boat. So here are some of the 70s TV shows that would never make it to the air today. But in the 70s, these controversial, improbable and downright dumb shows did manage to make it to the air before stream on demand.
Police Woman (1974–1978)
In this gritty hour-long drama, Angie Dickinson stars as Sgt. “Pepper” Anderson, an undercover cop working for the Criminal Conspiracy Unit of the LAPD.
Police Woman broke new ground as the first successful hour-long drama series in American primetime television history to feature a woman in the starring role. In various episodes, the character goes undercover as a prostitute, nurse, teacher, flight attendant, prison inmate, dancer and waitress among other roles. Angie Dickinson won a Golden Globe for her role on the show and became a household name as a result.
The show’s eighth episode titled, “Flowers of Evil” drew protests from gay and lesbian groups in 1974. In it, Sgt. Anderson investigates a trio of lesbians who run a retirement home while robbing and murdering the elderly residents.
The show ran for 4 seasons, produced and produced 91 episodes before its last airing on March 29, 1978.
I Dream Of Genie (1965-1970)
A hunky astronaut splashes down after a blast into space, lands on a sandy beach and finds a bottle–a genie in a bottle. The beautiful, scantily clad Jeannie falls in love with co-star the astronaut and he takes his genie in a bottle home–where she’s kept until she’s summoned.
Jeannie, the iconic character played by Barbara Eden for 5 years on the show, referred to her astronaut boyfriend played by Larry Hagman as, “Master.” This seems like something that probably wouldn’t go over too well with viewers today!
I Dream of Jeannie produced 139 episodes until its final airing on May 26, 1970.
Battle of the Network Stars (1976 -1988) – 70s TV Shows That Would Never Make It to The Air Today
First aired on ABC in November, 1976 this show featured TV stars from the then three networks, ABC, NBC and CBS in bathing suits and other athletic wear to find out which network could win in events such as tug-of-war, dunk tank and swimming. 19 of these competitions were held between 1976 and 1988. The show was presented by famed boxing announcer, Howard Cosell. The show was revived as recently as 2017 on ABC.
Flying High (1978-1979)
Flying High only lasted for one season at the tail end of the 1970s for good reason. The show was pretty cheesy even for the standards of the day. Three sexy “stewardesses” facing lecherous pilots, handsome senators and mysterious newspaper reporters during their eventful flights on the fictional Sunwest Airlines. The show was a failed attempt to recreate the success of the ABC hit, Charlie’s Angels.
Donnie & Marie (1976-1979)
Brother and sister team Donnie and Marie Osmond were just 18 and 16 respectively when their hour-long variety show first aired. That made them the youngest hosts to ever host such a show at that time. The entertainment was squeaky clean featuring song and dance, comedy and even ice skating dancers deemed “Ice Angels.” The show’s ratings began to decline when it was revealed that teen hartthrob, Donny was dating someone, thereby crushing the hopes and dreams of teenage girls around the country who stopped tuning in.
Donnie & Marie produced 78 episodes during their nearly four year run on ABC before its last airing on January 19, 1979. It’s unlikely the wholesome show would succeed with today’s YouTube and Snapchat generation, but on Friday nights in the late 1970s, Donnie & Marie was the best thing available.
Charlie’s Angels (1976-1981) – 70s TV Shows That Would Never Make It to The Air Today
Three recent female recruits from the Police Academy, unsatisfied with their first assignments as meter maids and crossing guards, instead go to work for the Charles Townsend Agency’ as private investigators.
Their boss, Charlie, (who only ever see from the back) nicknames them “Angels”, and the rest is television history. Charlie’s Angels lasted five seasons, producing 110 episodes until its final airing on June 24, 1981.
The original cast of Angels were Kate Jackson, Farrah Fawcett and Jaclyn Smith.
After Fawcett’s departure following season 1, Cheryl Ladd occupied the third angel slot in the cast playing Fawcett’s cousin, Kris Munroe. Later in the show Shelley Hack and Tanya Roberts joined the cast.
Three’s Company (1977 – 1984) – 70s TV Shows That Would Never Make It to The Air Today
So, the premise of this show is that a single guy moves in with two women single in Santa Monica, CA. The catch is, the guy, Jack Tripper, has to pretend he’s gay so that Mr. Roper will be reassured there won’t be any “hanky panky” going on upstairs. Part of ABC’s “Jiggle TV” lineup the show peaked at no 2 in the Nielsen ratings for the years 1978 and 1979.
Three’s Company ran for 8 seasons and produced 172 episodes before its last airing on September 18, 1984. Sadly the show’s co-star, John Ritter passed away at the age of 54 on September 11, 2003. Norman Fell, who played fan favorite Mr. Roper, died December 14, 1998.
The Love Boat (1977-1986) – 1984)
Love Boat was a staple of ABCs Saturday nights for 9 seasons along with Fantasy Island which followed the show. The one hour sitcom almost always took place on the then active Pacific Princess cruise ship owned by Princess Cruise lines. Each episode revolved around the ship’s captain, played by Gavin MacLeod and his main crew members which included the ships, doctor, cruise director and bartender.
Each episode featured guest stars seeking love and adventure and involved 2-3 different storylines which were each neatly resolved within every episode.
The show featured hundreds of guest stars during its run including Jamie Lee Curtis, Billy Crystal, a young Janet Jackson and of course Charo.
All in the Family (1971-1979) – 70s TV Shows That Would Never Make It to The Air Today
Perhaps the most controversial show of the early 1970s, All in the Family was not afraid to tackle the tough issues of the day. From racism to politics to sex and more, the show’s main character and patriarch Archie Bunker managed to offend just about everyone he came into contact with on the show and a lot of viewers around the country. It’s hard to imagine the show making it to the air today.
In spite of the controversy, the show lasted for 9 seasons and produced 205 episodes until its final show on April 8, 1979.
Bowling for Dollars (1970s)
A bowling game show where the better you bowled, the more dollars you won–with a jackpot sometimes reaching $500.
Bowling for Dollars was a unique show in the 1970s in that shows were produced at various local TV stations around the U.S. and Canada. So, the host in each market would be different and the contestants/bowlers would be chosen from the local community.
Bowling was a bit of a craze in the 1970s and the show was very inexpensive to produce. The show most often aired 5 days a week in the afternoon on local TV stations.
The Tonight Show, Starring Johnny Carson (1962-1992)
For anyone who watched Johnny Carson in his heyday, it’s inconceivable that Carson couldn’t cut it today. But the pacing of the Tonight Show during the 70s was markedly slower during the second half of the show. Carson also liked taking a lot of vacations so guests hosts often filled in for weeks at a time during the year.
Dukes of Hazard (1979-1985) – 70s TV Shows That Would Never Make It to The Air Today
Set in the fictional Hazard County, Georgia, cousins Bo and Luke Duke are on probation for distributing their Uncle Jesse’s moonshine in their souped-up customized 1969 Dodge Charger stock car, dubbed (The) General Lee. The boys race around the country in various adventures and try to get one over on the corrupt county commissioner, Boss Hogg.
Because they’re on probation, the Duke boys have agreed not to carry firearms. But that doesn’t stop them from using a compound bow, sometimes tipped with dynamite, to get them out of various tangles with the local Sheriff, Rosco P. Coltrane.
The Duke’s cousin, Daisy works as a waitress at the Boar’s Nest, the local bar and pub owned by Boss Hogg. Catherine Bach, the actress who played Daisy Duke caused a bit of a stir with network execs at the time who feared her famous legs and short shorts (the look became famously known as “Daisy Dukes”) would be too much for prime time viewers to handle. They came to a compromise with Bach who ended up wearing pantyhose under the shorts.
The show aired for a total of 147 episodes spanning seven seasons.
Hogan’s Heroes (1965-1971)
A 30 minute sitcom set in a German prison camp during WWII? It really happened and people watched. The show lasted longer than the war itself and featured POW Colonel Robert E. Hogan, coordinating an international crew of Allied prisoners running a Special Operations group from the camp.
Every week, Hogan and his fellow POWs conduct a covert operation for the resistance under the nose of the bumbling, incompetent Nazi officers Colonel Wilhelm Klink and Sergeant Hans Schultz.
Hogan’s Heroes ran for 6 seasons and produced 168 episodes until March 28, 1971.
Bewitched (1964-1972) – 70s TV Shows That Would Never Make It to The Air Today
You know the premise by now, a beautiful witch named Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) meets and marries a mortal named Darrin Stephens (originally Dick York, later Dick Sargent).
You may not recall the conflict however: Darrin wants Sam to become a normal suburban housewife. The problem is, Sam’s family doesn’t approve of the “mixed marriage” and constantly interferes in their life. Each episode, Sam is forced to use her magical abilities to get her out of trouble.
The show had a long 8 season run producing 254 episodes. The show began in black and white in 1964 and made the transition to color (for those that had color TVs) in 1966.