1970s TV Shows: What Did People Watch?

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Television in the 1970s pushed what was considered acceptable to new limits. Many of the shows that came out challenged bigotry by making fun of it.

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However, if you weren’t from the time, they just seem plain offensive at times.

Because of this offensiveness, the FCC received a record number of complaints from viewers. They pressured the government to do something. Not only did they ban cigarette ads (which is a good thing), but it also made new restrictions for violence.

Television entered a new age of candor. Its bold programming of ethnic humor and taboo “adult” themes finally began to mirror the increasing permissiveness of society, although it was only a pale reflection of the anything-goes spirit of movies.

The trend was pioneered by “All in the Family,” a situation-comedy series that spoofs bigotry and dares to be funny about such touchy topics as homosexuality, impotence, and menopause.

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It was 1972’s top-rated show, was watched by more than 50 million people each week and won six Emmys. It ended up being one of the most popular sitcoms of all time, ranking #1 from 1971 to 1975.

The “Family” format was successfully adapted by three new comedies that were in the top 10. They were “Sanford and Son,” starring Redd Foxx as a bigoted black junkyard man; “Maude,” with Beatrice Arthur as a phony radical chic liberal; and “Bridget Loves Bernie,” which involved a “mixed” marriage and Jewish-Catholic in-laws.

One old favorite was scheduled to go off the air. Causing the broken hearts of many, NBC announced in November that “Bonanza” would go off the air in January, 1973.

Movies, aired in prime network time seven nights a week, were bigger than ever. Love Story, with most of its sexy footage intact, chalked up a 42.3 Nielsen rating on October 1st, making it (at the time) the highest-rated movie on TV ever.

Keep reading below for detail on each year, from 1970-1979, listing the most popular 1970s-era television shows.

Top 10 1970s TV Shows

What were the most popular TV shows in the 1970s?

The most-watched television shows, from 1970 to 1979, were:

  • Marcus Welby, M.D. (1970)
  • All in the Family (1971)
  • All in the Family (1972)
  • All in the Family (1973)
  • All in the Family (1974)
  • All in the Family (1975)
  • Happy Days (1976)
  • Laverne & Shirley (1977)
  • Laverne & Shirley (1978)
  • 60 Minutes (1979)

TV Shows in 1970

What were the most popular TV shows in 1970?

The Top Ten television shows in 1970 were:

  1. Marcus Welby, M.D. (ABC)
  2. The Flip Wilson Show (NBC)
  3. Here’s Lucy (CBS)
  4. Ironside (NBC)
  5. Gunsmoke (CBS)
  6. ABC Movie of the Week (ABC)
  7. Hawaii Five-O (CBS)
  8. Medical Center (CBS)
  9. Bonanza (NBC)
  10. The F.B.I. (ABC)

TV Shows in 1971

What were the most popular TV shows in 1971?

The Top Ten television shows in 1971 were:

  1. All in the Family (CBS)
  2. The Flip Wilson Show (NBC)
  3. Marcus Welby, M.D. (ABC)
  4. Gunsmoke (CBS)
  5. ABC Movie of the Week (ABC)
  6. Sanford and Son (NBC)
  7. Mannix (CBS)
  8. Funny Face (CBS)
  9. Adam 12 (NBC)
  10. The Mary Tyler Moore Show (CBS)

TV Shows in 1972

What were the most popular TV shows in 1972?

The Top Ten television shows in 1972 were:

  1. All in the Family (CBS)
  2. Sanford and Son (NBC)
  3. Hawaii Five-O (CBS)
  4. Maude (CBS)
  5. Bridget Loves Bernie (CBS)
  6. The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie (NBC)
  7. The Mary Tyler Moore Show (CBS)
  8. Gunsmoke (CBS)
  9. The Wonderful World of Disney (NBC)
  10. Ironside (NBC)

TV Shows in 1973

What were the most popular TV shows in 1973?

The Top Ten television shows in 1973 were:

  1. All in the Family (CBS)
  2. The Waltons (CBS)
  3. Sanford and Son (NBC)
  4. M*A*S*H (CBS)
  5. Hawaii Five-O (CBS)
  6. Maude (CBS)
  7. Kojak (CBS)
  8. The Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour (CBS)
  9. The Mary Tyler Moore Show (CBS)
  10. Cannon (CBS)

TV Shows in 1974

What were the most popular TV shows in 1974?

The Top Ten television shows in 1974 were:

  1. All in the Family (CBS)
  2. Sanford and Son (NBC)
  3. Chico and The Man (NBC)
  4. The Jeffersons (CBS)
  5. M*A*S*H (CBS)
  6. Rhoda (CBS)
  7. Good Times (CBS)
  8. The Waltons (CBS)
  9. Maude (CBS)
  10. Hawaii Five-O (CBS)

TV Shows in 1975

What were the most popular TV shows in 1975?

The Top Ten television shows in 1975 were:

  1. All in the Family (CBS)
  2. Rich Man, Poor Man (ABC)
  3. Laverne & Shirley (ABC)
  4. Maude (CBS)
  5. The Bionic Woman (ABC)
  6. Phyllis (CBS)
  7. Sanford and Son (NBC)
  8. Rhoda (CBS)
  9. The Six Million Dollar Man (ABC)
  10. ABC Monday Night Movie (ABC)

TV Shows in 1976

What were the most popular TV shows in 1976?

The Top Ten television shows in 1976 were:

  1. Happy Days (ABC)
  2. Laverne & Shirley (ABC)
  3. ABC Monday Night Movie (ABC)
  4. M*A*S*H (CBS)
  5. Charlie’s Angels (ABC)
  6. The Big Event (NBC)
  7. The Six Million Dollar Man (ABC)
  8. ABC Sunday Night Movie (ABC)
  9. Baretta (ABC)
  10. One Day at a Time (CBS)
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TV Shows in 1977

What were the most popular TV shows in 1977?

The Top Ten television shows in 1977 were:

  1. Laverne & Shirley (ABC)
  2. Happy Days (ABC)
  3. Three’s Company (ABC)
  4. 60 Minutes (CBS)
  5. Charlie’s Angels (ABC)
  6. All in the Family (CBS)
  7. Little House on the Prairie (NBC)
  8. Alice (CBS)
  9. M*A*S*H (CBS)
  10. One Day at a Time (CBS)

TV Shows in 1978

What were the most popular TV shows in 1978?

The Top Ten television shows in 1978 were:

  1. Laverne & Shirley (ABC)
  2. Three’s Company (ABC)
  3. Mork & Mindy (ABC)
  4. Happy Days (ABC)
  5. Angie (ABC)
  6. 60 Minutes (CBS)
  7. M*A*S*H (CBS)
  8. The Ropers (ABC)
  9. All in the Family (CBS)
  10. Taxi (ABC)

TV Shows in 1979

What were the most popular TV shows in 1979?

The Top Ten television shows in 1979 were:

  1. 60 Minutes (CBS)
  2. Three’s Company (ABC)
  3. That’s Incredible (ABC)
  4. Alice (CBS)
  5. M*A*S*H (CBS)
  6. Dallas (CBS)
  7. Flo (CBS)
  8. The Jeffersons (CBS)
  9. The Dukes of Hazzard (CBS)
  10. One Day at a Time (CBS)
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4 thoughts on “1970s TV Shows: What Did People Watch?

  1. karen white

    I would like to see these again: December Bride, Restless Gun, Marcus Welby, Medical Center, Chico and the Man, Barretta, Alice… great old shows!

    Reply
  2. Brendan

    There was a USA TV series about a reporter on a Metropolitan newspaper that lasted a couple of seasons. I think it was about the same time as the Lou Grant TV show but obviously wasn’t as successful. I am guessing it was the late 70’s and the newspaper TV series followed on from the Watergate scandal – “the reporters” rings a distant bell

    Reply

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