The Quick Report

The 20 Best TV Shows from the 1970s

The 1970s launched some of the longest-running original television shows and greatest spin-offs ever. Many of these are still in syndication today. Some of Hollywood’s biggest stars rose to fame thanks to these amazing shows. So join us as we celebrate the 20 best shows of the ’70s!

20. Laverne & Shirley

Laverne & Shirley - Wikipedia
Wikipedia

Laverne & Shirley spun off from Happy Days. The sitcom starred Penny Marshall and Cindy Williams. Michael McKean (SNL & Spinal Tap) and David Lander were hilarious costars. Set in the 1950s, it followed the lives of two working-class women who worked in a Milwaukee brewery. It ran for eight seasons and received numerous Golden Globe and Emmy nominations.

19. Welcome Back, Kotter

Welcome Back, Kotter - Wikipedia
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Welcome Back, Kotter is set around a remedial education class called the “Sweathogs.” Standup comedian Gabe Kaplan plays the wisecracking teacher, alongside students played by John Travolta, and Ron Palillo as the hilarious Horshack. This schoolroom comedy was a huge hit with kids back in the day and remains funny now.

18. M*A*S*H

M*A*S*H - Wikipedia
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Based on the novel and film of the same name, M*A*S*H is a comedy-drama series that ran for 11 seasons and has run in syndication ever since. It follows a Mobile Army Surgical Hospital during the Korean War. The ensemble cast included Alan Alda, Wayne Rogers, Loretta Swit, McLean Stevenson, Larry Linville, Gary Berghoff, Jamie Farr, and later Mike Farrell, Harry Morgan, and David Ogden Stiers.

17. The Mary Tyler Moore Show

The Mary Tyler Moore Show - Wikipedia
Wikipedia

The Mary Tyler Moore Show follows an independent-minded female producer of a news show and was ahead of its time. The characters’ interactions were constantly comical. Stand-out costars were Ted Knight and Betty White. Thrice Emmy-winning Costar Valerie Harper got a spinoff show, Rhoda, from her character. The show’s running gag was Mary’s inability to throw a problem-free party.

16. All in the Family

All in the Family - Wikipedia
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All in the Family centered on bigot Archie Bunker and didn’t hold back touching on numerous hot-button issues. It used clever comedy to discuss racism, sexuality, women’s liberation, abortion, the Vietnam War, infidelity, impotence, and more. Although it may trigger those with delicate sensitivities, this show about a working man is still funny today.

15. The Jeffersons 

The Jeffersons
CBS

The Jeffersons were African-American neighbors of the Bunkers in All in the Family, which spun off into its own series that ran for 11 seasons. It’s still in syndication today and one of the longest-running sitcoms in history. George and Louise Jefferson moved to Manhattan after his business became successful. Although mostly focused on comedy, it occasionally touched on serious issues.

14. Taxi 

Taxi
NBC

Taxi followed the lives of New York City cab drivers. The show had a stellar cast who all became huge stars, including Danny DeVito, Christopher Lloyd, Andy Kaufman, Judd Hirsch, Jeff Conaway, Tony Danza, Marilu Henner, and Carole Kane. The series ran for five seasons and won 18 out of 34 Emmy nominations. It’s still in syndication today.

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13. Mork & Mindy

Mork & MIndy
ABC

A spinoff from a single highly successful Happy Days episode, Mork & Mindy put comedian Robin Williams on a rocket toward superstardom. He stars as space alien Mork from the planet Ork. The extraterrestrial character allowed Williams to showcase his hilarious range of comedic talents. Pam Dauber costars as his human friend, roommate, and eventual love interest, Mindy.

12. Wonder Woman

Wonder Woman - Wikipedia
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Stunning former Miss World 1972 Linda Carter starred as the DC Comics superhero Wonder Woman. The first season was set in the 1940s, while the next two were set in the 1970s. Superheroes were just as popular then as they are now, and fans loved seeing the character Diana Prince fighting Nazis and other numerous bad guys.

11. The Six Million Dollar Man

The Six Million Dollar Man
ABC

The Six Million Dollar Man is a science-fiction series based on the 1972 novel Cyborg. Starring Lee Majors, the show centers on an astronaut injured in a test flight and is rebuilt with bionic implants, giving him superhuman strength, speed, and vision. He then battles every kind of threat imaginable. It launched a spinoff series, The Bionic Woman.

10. Dallas

Dallas
CBS

Dallas was an immensely popular nighttime soap opera. Larry Hagman (I Dream of Jeannie) played the lead character, J.R. Ewing. Its 1980 episode “Who shot J.R.?” was a cultural event, receiving the highest-ever domestic ratings then, with 90 million viewers and 76% of the US TV audience. The 1980 episode “Who Done It” remains the second-highest-rated prime-time telecast ever. The series ran 14 seasons.

9. The Incredible Hulk

The Incredible Hulk - Wikipedia
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The Incredible Hulk is probably one of the best TV shows ever made based on a Marvel Comics character, and surely a difficult adaptation. CGI wasn’t available in those days, so the bulging, real-life muscles of the Hulk belong to bodybuilder Lou Ferrigno. Bill Bixby played his alter ego, Dr. David Banner. The series ran for five seasons.

8. Good Times

Good Times - Wikipedia
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Good Times is a spinoff of Maude, which spun off from All in the Family. It centers on a two-parent, three-child family who live in a poor Black neighborhood of inner-city Chicago. The comic quips alone of standup comic Jimmy Walker, (who plays son J.J.), make the show worth watching. Walker’s catchphrase “Dyn-o-mite!” became ultra-popular in the 70s.

7. Little House on the Prairie

Little House on the Prairie
NBC

Little House on the Prairie is loosely based on the Laura Ingalls Wilder novels of the same name. The series centers on the Ingalls family, who live on a Minnesota farm in the late 1800s. Families loved the show. It ran for nine seasons and is still syndicated today. It starred Michael Landon, Melissa Gilbert, and a large ensemble cast.

6. Three’s Company

Three’s Company - Wikipedia
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Three’s Company, while often derided for being “jiggle TV” had a fantastic cast and was filled with clever innuendo and witty banter. Most of the humor centered around one character not knowing or misinterpreting what was going on. John Ritter constantly rag-dolled himself with physical comedy and put his name in the running for best pratfall comedian. It also spun off the series The Ropers.

5. Sanford and Son

Sanford and Son, Wikipedia
Wikipedia

Comedian Redd Foxx stars as a cantankerous junk dealer aided by Desmond Wilson as his frustrated son. Foxx mostly insults the cast of eccentric co-characters to humorous effect. It’s been hailed for opening the door for other Black sitcoms. The show ran for six seasons, finished in the top ten five times, and won four out of seven Emmy nominations.

4. Happy Days

Happy Days - Wikipedia
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Happy Days reminded America of its fun times and set off a huge ’50s nostalgia craze peaking with the movie Grease. Several ’50s music stars suddenly had hits again. Bill Haley and the Comets had a #36 hit with the show’s theme song, a new recording of “Rock Around the Clock.” Henry Winkler became a star playing the character Fonzie. It ran for 11 seasons.

3. Charlie’s Angels

Charlie’s Angels - Wikipedia
Wikipedia

Charlie’s Angels was ahead of its time with three beautiful and tough female private detectives. The Angels solve crimes for an agency run by Charlie, a guy viewers never get to actually see. Despite its disparagement as jiggle television, the stories were actually good. The series has inspired three films, a 2011 reboot of the series, and international versions. The original ran five seasons.

2. The Brady Bunch

The Brady Bunch - Wikipedia
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The Brady Bunch became more popular in syndication, especially among kids and teens. It follows a man with three boys who marries a woman with three girls and focuses on the comical exploits of the blended family. Every episode presents a dilemma and teaches some good values amid the laughs. The show ran for five years and inspired spinoffs, sequels, and films.

1. Columbo

Columbo - Wikipedia
Wikipedia

Peter Falk played frumpy LAPD homicide detective Columbo, who acted confused but wasn’t. He never failed to irritate and catch suspects off guard with his catchphrase, “Just one more thing,” followed by asking a critical question. Episodes uniquely showed the crime and “whodunit” first, then followed Columbo as he pieced it together. The series ran for ten seasons and remains in syndication.