Friday, July 31, 2020

No Fall TV Season This Year? Rerun the 1970 Fall Season Instead

In the Comfort TV era, this was the time of year when television networks began to ramp up the promotion of their September fall schedules. 

For television lovers it was always a late summer full of hope and promise. TV Guide’s voluminous Fall Preview issue would be arriving soon, and CBS, NBC and ABC would roll out musical extravaganzas featuring the stars from our favorite shows urging us to not miss a minute of all the excitement on the way.

We’re a long way from that era now, and this year will be worse than most – just as it has been in many other aspects of our lives. Many new and returning programs this fall will at best be delayed months because COVID is determined to not allow any of us to enjoy ourselves ever again. 

What should the networks do until these programs are ready? I have an idea.

It wasn’t that long ago that CBS aired an episode of The Dick Van Dyke Show in prime time, as a way to honor Carl Reiner. The episode easily won its time slot. Previous revivals of shows like I Love Lucy also scored well in the ratings. So if these isolated exercises in nostalgia found an audience, why not go all the way?

Let’s replace the 2020 fall season with the 1970 fall season, just as originally broadcast 50 years ago. Why 1970? Why not? Fifty years is a nice round number, and then as now audiences were excited about what a new decade might bring, and hopeful that it would be more peaceful and calm than the turbulence of recent years.

What was television like then? If networks were to rebroadcast their 1970 programming slate, here are some of the shows you could look forward to this fall.

CBS had the best overall schedule, with the stalwart Gunsmoke leading off the night, followed by Here’s Lucy, the underrated Mayberry R.F.D., The Doris Day Show and The Carol Burnett Show

Not a loser in the bunch, though watching Carol Burnett on Monday might seem odd to those of us who recall watching her for years on Saturdays. Her variety series would not anchor that network lineup until 1973.

Great as that evening was it may have struggled back in 1970, as part of it was up against ABC’s Monday Night Football. Who knows if that will be back this year?

If you like your comedies country-fied, you’ll be sticking with CBS for a second night, and enjoying The Beverly Hillbillies, followed by Green Acres and Hee Haw. This was the last season for these shows, which the Tiffany Network canceled en masse after deciding they wanted to attract a more sophisticated urban audience.

One show they thought that audience would like is To Rome With Love, which followed Hee Haw and starred John Forsythe as a college professor who moves his family to Rome to take a teaching position. That show bombed while Hee Haw went into syndication and ran 25 years.

ABC offered up The Mod Squad and Marcus Welby, M.D. that night, with a movie of the week in between. NBC also featured a movie, along with its groundbreaking sitcom Julia, starring Diahann Carroll. When was the last time in recent years that the three networks gave you that many tempting program options?

I’d probably favor ABC this night, and enjoy The Courtship of Eddie’s Father, followed by Make Room for Granddaddy (Danny Thomas’s revival of his popular 1950s show), the outstanding Room 222, The Johnny Cash Show and Dan August, a police drama starring Burt Reynolds.

The getTV network is running Cash’s variety series now, and if the Man in Black isn’t enough of a draw it’s worth watching just for the stellar lineups of guest artists he featured over the years. 

Over on CBS, viewers could watch Medical Center, followed by Hawaii Five-O. And NBC gave viewers an even bigger quandary in the pre-VCR era by airing the Kraft Music Hall opposite Cash on ABC and Medical Center on NBC.

This time you’re going to have to do some flipping around for a full evening of great TV. I’d start with Family Affair at 7:30 on CBS, then flip over to the second half of The Flip Wilson Show on NBC. At 8:30 you take your pick – Bewitched on ABC or Ironside on NBC. But when the clock strikes ten, it’s back to NBC for The Dean Martin Show

I love the ABC Friday night lineup – The Brady Bunch, Nanny and the Professor, The Partridge Family, That Girl and Love, American Style. If you’d rather opt for more serious fare, NBC offers a great western in The High Chaparral, followed by The Name of the Game, one of television’s more unique anthology series and a show that really should have been released on DVD by now. 

While 1970 was a couple of years before CBS locked in one of the best programming lineups in TV history, they were already outclassing the competition here with Mission: Impossible, followed by My Three Sons, Arnie, The Mary Tyler Moore Show, and Mannix. Only one show in that group has not stood the test of time, and if you’d rather not check it out you could always switch over to ABC for a half-hour of champagne music with Lawrence Welk. 

There are a number of great options here. With NBC you can start the night with Marlin Perkins on Wild Kingdom, followed by what would likely be an enjoyable family feature from The Wonderful World of Disney. Next, you could watch The Bill Cosby Show, though I’d understand if you chose otherwise. After that, NBC wraps up the night with Bonanza and The Bold Ones.

Or you’ve got CBS, which starts with Lassie, then Hogan’s Heroes and The Ed Sullivan Show. Over on ABC The Young Rebels never found an audience, but how many prime-time shows have been set during the Revolutionary War? I’d certainly watch it, especially as the cast included Lou Gossett and Hilaire Thompson. And then I’d stay tuned for Efrem Zimbalist Jr.’s iconic portrayal of federal agent Lewis Erskine on The F.B.I.


Of course I don’t expect any network to take this proposal seriously. But isn’t it amazing to look back and see how many of these shows from 50 years ago are still airing on television now, and are still remembered fondly by those who watched them over the decades. Will we be able to say the same 50 years from now? Television ain’t what it used to be.


  1. My god, I’d love a replay of the 1970 season! I’m almost 60 years old, I admit I watched a lot of tv growing up, but aside from 3 shows (Arnie, To Rome with Love, The Young Rebels) I easily remember all these other great shows!

    Y’know, I was just telling my 15 year old niece a couple weeks ago (when she complained there was nothing good on) that when I was her age we had THREE channels to pick from, and I don’t recall ever saying there wasn’t anything good to watch on tv! This sure as heck proves it. :-)

  2. By Jan. 1971, CBS moved TO ROME WITH LOVE to Wed. nights, cancelling THE GOVERNOR & J.J., and replaced it w/ ALL IN THE FAMILY. Oddly enough Carroll O'Connor appeared in the pilot of "Governor" (and possibly other episodes) as an advisor to the governor.
    At the end of your comments about Wednesday, you mentioned that MEDICAL CENTER was on NBC, but as you pointed out earlier in the same paragraph, it was on CBS. MEDICAL CENTER was on CBS for the same 7 seasons that MARCUS WELBY, M.D. was on ABC.
    On ABC Friday nights this season, LOVE AMERICAN STYLE was cut to just 1/2 hour and followed by THIS IS TOM JONES. Jones' show was cancelled by January, LAS expanded back to a full hour, and THE ODD COUPLE moved to Friday night for the rest of its run.

  3. I don't think I ever saw a Dan August episode, but I KNEW within the first six seconds that it was a Quinn Martin production. He always had the best openings with the best music spoiled, I thought, by the voice over. I always looked for the themes on records.

    I totally agree with you, the alphabet networks are sitting on gold and silver and if they can't give us anything new then bring back some classics and roll out some good shows that just were never given a chance in the "three episodes or you are out" world TV became in the 1970s. You also have shelves of shows that had 13 episodes shot but were never aired. Give those a try.