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Sunday, October 30, 2011

WEEKEND REWIND: Top 9 Shows of the 1970s

Two weeks ago, I counted down my Top 10 Shows of the 1960s. Now it's time for the 1970s. While I was making this list, I realized there are far fewer shows I like from the 1970s than the 1960s therefore there will be no close calls and only a Top 9. Once again, for a show to qualify, it must have had the majority of its episodes during the 1970s.

9. M*A*S*H (1972-1983)
I'm not as big a fan of this show as many are but it is still a classic from the era. I also haven't seen as many of the later episodes, but from what I can tell, the early years with Hawkeye and Trapper John McIntyre and Henry Blake are far superior as the show started to take itself too seriously when it became "The Alan Alda Show." Those early episodes are really strong though and the friendship between Hawkeye and McIntyre plays like a very genuine friendship. Sometimes it's hard for me to believe this was as big a hit as it was, but it's still a well-written, well-acted show.
Episodes you should see: #12 "Dear Dad" (12/17/72), #23 "Ceasefire" (3/18/73), #29 "Dr. Pierce and Mr. Hyde" (10/18/73), #53 "O.R." (10/8/74), #72 "Abyssinia Henry" (3/18/75)

8. The Jeffersons (1975-1985)
This technically should be on the 80s list since a slightly higher number of episodes aired in that decade, but all the good ones were in the 70s as this show was at its strongest in its first several years, so I'll put it here. You will not see me put its parent show All in the Family on this list because I think that show is one of the most overrated shows of all time. The Jeffersons isn't great either but it doesn't try to be groundbreaking like Family, it's just fun. Sherman Hemsley is so over the top as George Jefferson, he can be quite funny and the show is very broad. But some shows should be appreciated for not being anything too serious or deep and that is the case here. Plus, how often is a spinoff better than its parent series? Hardly ever.
Episodes you should see: #5 "Mr. Piano Man" (2/15/75), #21 "Movin' on Down" (11/1/75), #38 "George and the President" (9/25/76), #76 "984 W. 124th Street, Apt 5C" (12/24/77), #115/116 "Now You See It, Now You Don't" (10/21-28/79)

7. The Odd Couple (1970-1975)
The Odd Couple is an underrated show from the 1970s. It wasn't a huge hit at the time and hasn't been a huge hit in syndication but it has some really good moments. The dynamic between Tony Randall's Felix and Jack Klugman's Oscar was the heart of this show and it  has been imitated on sitcoms ever since (including this year's short-lived How to Be a Gentleman). When the show premiered, there were still a lot of silly 1960s sitcoms on the air but this show had a feeling of sophistication to it with its adult characters and urban setting. And the comedy has held up well. I think the thing is that there's nothing amazing about this show but there's still a lot to like.
Episodes you should see: #27 "Hospital Mates" (10/1/71), #33 "Fat Farm" (11/12/71), #58 "Password" (12/1/72), #93 "The Rain in Spain" (9/12/74), #100 "The Subway Story" (10/31/74)

6. Laverne & Shirley (1976-1983)
Another buddy comedy from the 1970s - Laverne & Shirley was a spinoff from Happy Days and played broader and sillier than the parent series. Much like I Dream of Jeannie in the 1960s, it has to be appreciated for what it is - a funny, slapstick comedy. The writing isn't great, the acting isn't great, yet it was immensely popular in its heyday and has been loved for many years by its fans. Penny Marshall is a scene stealer who carries the show as Laverne even when the others don't carry their weight. It's still fun though... and it has a great theme song.
Episodes you should see: #1 "The Society Party" (1/27/76), #19 "Excuse Me, May I Cut In?" (10/26/76), #31 "Steppin' Out" (2/8/77), #54 "The Second Almost Annual Shotz Talent Show" (1/31/78), #79 "Supermarket Sweep" (2/6/79)

5. Rhoda (1974-1978)
One of the most successful sitcoms of all time - Rhoda allowed one of the best second bananas in TV history the chance to shine on her own show. And it started great. The first two years of Rhoda are a lot of fun as Rhoda has found love in NYC and interacts with her mopey sister Brenda and nosy mother Ida. But then the writers decided they weren't finding interesting enough stories for Rhoda and divorced her from husband Joe. While the divorce process produced some good episodes, the result was a show that was a shell of its former self. This show was headed in the right direction and then it lost its way, but through it all, how can you not love Rhoda the character? Valerie Harper is a thrill to watch no matter what.
Episodes you should see: #8/9 "Rhoda's Wedding" (10/28/74), #25 "Along Comes Mary" (3/10/75), #37 "Friends and Mothers" (11/24/75), #50 "The Separation" (9/20/76), #55 "Two Little Words: Marriage Counselor" (10/25/76)

4. The Brady Bunch (1969-1974)
One of the iconic 1970s shows, The Brady Bunch is very much a product of its time. It's cheesy beyond belief and yet there's something relaxing and calming about watching it. It's not how the early 1970s were yet it makes you feel that way. It's one of those shows that's easy to mock for its campy-ness but yet deep down, you still love to watch it. It was maybe the last sitcom that really wrapped everything up in a neat little package with a bowtie by the end of the episode, a staple of 1950s sitcoms. It was squeaky clean and super cheesy but it was real fun, and of course, groovy.
Episodes you should see: #34 "The Not-So Ugly Duckling" (11/20/70), #61 "Getting Davy Jones" (12/10/71), #65 "Dough Re Mi" (1/14/72), #73 "Hawaii Bound" (9/22/72), #88 "Amateur Nite" (1/26/73)

3. The Bob Newhart Show (1972-1978)
A wonderful yet underrated sitcom from the decade, The Bob Newhart Show never got the accolades it deserved. Unlike nearly all of its contemporaries or the shows that came before it, it focused on an urban couple with... no kids! Bob Newhart didn't want there to be kids on the show and it gave the show a tone that most didn't have. Couple that with the unique profession of Newhart's character - a psychiatrist - and it managed to have some absurd moments with a great cast in a grounded world. But above it all was Newhart's deadpan comedic delivery. He was the king of subtle comedy and it stood tall on this great sitcom.
Episodes you should see: #1 "Fly the Unfriendly Skies" (9/16/72), #25 "Last TV Show" (9/15/73), #39 "I'm Dreaming of a Slight Christmas" (12/22/73), #81 "Who is Mr. X?" (11/8/75), #83 "Over the River and Through the Woods" (11/22/75)

2. Happy Days (1974-1984)
A classic for all decades, Happy Days was in many ways a 1970s classic and a 1950s classic. Happy Days is pure nostalgia for two different eras. From its midwest setting to the malt shops, leather jackets, poodle skirts, and motorcycles, it's all things 50s in a love letter to the decade. Sometimes the writing and acting was over the top and of course, this show created the term "jumped the shark" but in its early days, it was such an authentic look at the 1950s. And in its heyday, it was a great vehicle for a classic character - Henry Winkler's The Fonz. With more catchphrases than you can count and a great soundtrack, Happy Days is a slice of Americana from the era it was made in and the era it is set in.
Episodes you should see: #22 "Haunted" (10/29/74), #27 "Guess Who's Coming to Christmas?" (12/17/74), #49 "A Date with Fonzie" (11/11/75), #71 "They Shoot Fonzies, Don't They" (11/16/76), #110 "My Favorite Orkan" (2/28/78)

1. The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-1977)
But the best sitcom of the decade (and it's not even close) is the all time classic The Mary Tyler Moore Show. When looking back at all the sitcoms in the history of television, is there a show with a better mix of writing, acting, directing, and character development? Every single character on this show is beloved and with good reason. Mary Tyler Moore, Ed Asner, Valerie Harper, Gavin McLeod, Ted Knight, Cloris Leachman, Georgia Engel, and Betty White joined forces to create the ultimate TV sitcom. The show never focused on the jokes, it focused on the characters and the story. Because of that, these characters felt like real people and we cared about what happened to them. Like any show, there are some down episodes, but there is nothing, I mean nothing that I don't love about this show. Mary Tyler Moore certainly made it after all.
Episodes you should see: #1 "Love is All Around" (9/19/70), #6 "Support Your Local Mother" (10/24/70), #71 "Put on a Happy Face" (2/24/73), #73 "The Lars Affair" (9/15/73), #168 "The Last Show" (3/19/77)

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