A Look Back To A Little Bit Of What TV Was Like In The Early 1970s

Herbie J Pilato

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For many, the early 1970s was a great time, at least when it came to television.

Now classic TV shows premiered including All In The Family, M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and many more.

But there were also obscure developments. Although CBS managed to remake the hit 1970 movie version of M*A*S*H for the small screen, the network failed in its attempt to re-do its original Perry Mason attorney TV series. That show starred the great Raymond Burr in the lead, with the stunning Barbara Hale as Mason's girl-Friday, Della Street.

The new edition featured Monte Markham as the new Perry and Sharon Acker as the new Della.

Both of these actors were terrific in their parts, but it just wasn't the same, and The New Perry Mason didn't make it past the first half of its first and only season.

Meanwhile, ABC was attempting to remake Adam's Rib, the classic and also-legal-based big-screen movie comedy starring Spencer Tracy and Katharine Hepburn with a small-screen edition starring Ken Howard and Blyth Danner.

Interestingly, Howard would later star on CBS in the hit show, The White Shadow, which was created by Bruce Paltrow, who was married to Danner, and together they have birth to Gweneth Paltrow.

Over at NBC, that network was giving birth and making strides in 1971 with its new NBC Mystery Movie wheel series, which rotated an alternate group of shows that began with McMillan & Wife, Columbo, and McCloud.

And certainly, NBC found massive success for years to come by igniting Saturday Night Live for late-night in 1975.

But then there was the Tomorrow show NBC's then-new post-night entry following its Today and Tonight Show title sequence. Tomorrow starred Tom Snyder and debuted on October 14, 1973. This one-hour series followed The Tonight Show starring Johnny Carson, Monday through Thursday nights. According to TV Guide, Synder promised to host individuals who had never made TV appearances before. "Don't ask me who they are," he said, "...but there must be somebody besides the celebrities we've all seen."

Around this same time, Herb Schlosser was then newly-appointed president of NBC. As TV Guide also documented, Schlosser said, the network would now be "pushing comedy."

"We felt there was too much drama," he explained. "People are ready to laugh."

The ABC TV network felt the same way, as they were looking for ways to keep shows like The Partridge Family alive in 1973, as it moved into its fourth season. The series had made a superstar of David Cassidy but was faltering in the ratings. But there were rumblings that Cassidy wanted to leave the series, and ABC was looking to inject new blood into the show with actors like four-year-old singer Rick Seagul, and comedian Alak Bursky.

But neither actor could save The Partridge Family, which ABC canceled at the close of the 1973-194 season.

That same year, ABC also ended The Brady Bunch, Room 222, and Love American, Style, all of which had joined The Partridge Family for years on a Friday (though Partridge had moved to Saturday nights in its final season).

The Odd Couple was another ABC Friday night staple, but that show (a TV version of the 1968 movie, but with new stars) stayed around for one more year.

Though over at CBS on Monday nights, Here's Lucy, Mayberry RFD, and The Doris Day Show were no more.

But either way, any day of the week, during the day or at night, be it on ABC, NBC, or CBS, then the only three networks on the air, television was never the same again.

And it was also just a lot more fun to watch.

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Herbie J Pilato is the author of several books about pop culture including THE 12 BEST SECRETS OF CHRISTMAS: A TREASURE HOUSE OF DECEMBER MEMORIES REVEALED, MARY: THE MARY TYLER MOORE STORY, TWITCH UPON A STAR, GLAMOUR, GIDGETS AND THE GIRL NEXT DOOR, DASHING, DARING AND DEBONAIR, and NBC & ME: MY LIFE AS A PAGE IN A BOOK, among others. He's also a TV writer/producer, and has worked for Reelz, Bravo, E!, TLC, and hosted THEN AGAIN WITH HERBIE J PILATO, the hit classic TV talk show (which premiered on Amazon Prime in 2019).

Los Angeles, CA
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