Sunday, May 1, 2022

My Journey Through 1970s TV: Mondays in 1970


Recently I began a quest to watch at least one episode of every prime time network television series to air in the 1970s. I began my journey with the Sunday night schedule from 1970, and happily discovered that every show that aired that night can be added to the “saw it” list.


Next up – Monday in 1970. Two nights appear to be slam-dunks, but the ABC schedule could prove problematic. Let’s look at the easier ones first.




Here’s Lucy

Mayberry RFD

The Doris Day Show

The Carol Burnett Show



All of these fine, family-friendly shows can be found on my DVD shelves. In our memories we recall The Carol Burnett Show as a Saturday night staple that anchored several lineups of classic shows, from All in the Family to The Mary Tyler Moore Show. But CBS did not move the series to Saturdays until its seventh season, where it would remain for five years.


Gunsmoke was in the 16th season of its remarkable 20-year run. Here’s Lucy was the third consecutive hit series for Lucille Ball, ranking #3 for the season, a remarkable illustration of audience loyalty to one of the medium’s first stars. Mayberry RFD is too often dismissed as an inferior spinoff of The Andy Griffith Show, but it was also a top-10 hit in its day, and I always thought Ken Berry and Arlene Golonka made a most appealing couple. 



This was year three for The Doris Day Show, in which she finally ditched her country home for an apartment in San Francisco. She still had the two kids and the dog, though - they wouldn’t disappear until the following season. 




The Red Skelton Show

Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In

The NBC Monday Night Movie


I’d be curious to know how many viewers of The Red Skelton Show, an old-school variety series in its 20th and final season, stuck around for the faster-paced, iconoclastic, and risqué humor featured on Laugh-In.  


 I’ve watched them both and I prefer Laugh-In, hit-and-miss as its gags could be, but it makes me sad that Red Skelton has likely joined Bob Hope and Sid Caesar in the ranks of once-iconic comedians now virtually unknown to later generations. Nobody with that much talent should ever be forgotten.



The Young Lawyers

The Silent Force

The ABC Monday Night Movie


ABC introduced two new series on this night in an attempt to pull viewers away from Lucy, Marshal Dillon, and Red Skelton. It didn’t work.


I understand the strategy of trying to attract a youth audience by counter-programing aging shows and aging stars. They followed up The Young Rebels on Sunday night with The Young Lawyers here. As we go through the rest of the week I look forward to sampling The Young Librarians, The Young Lab Technicians and The Young Short Order Cooks.


Thanks to TV Land (back when it was worth watching) I was able to check out several episodes of this Boston-set series, starring Lee J. Cobb at the mentor of a trio of law students who take on a wide range of cases. It’s a good but not great show, and not as anti-authority as you might expect given the times and the title. 



Aaron Silverman, the idealistic attorney featured in most of the episodes I watched, was played by Zalman King, who went on to have a more provocative career as the producer of the soft-core cable series Red Shoe Diaries. But to me he’ll always be Harry Owens, the psychotic disc jockey in the Charlie’s Angels episode “Disco Angels.” His performance is so over-the-top it must be seen to be believed. 



And what of The Silent Force? There were just 15 episodes but one – “The Octopus” – has found its way to YouTube. The show is about a team of government agents assigned to take down organized crime – or, as team leader Ward Fuller (Ed Nelson) puts it – “The five of us against 30,000 of them.”


Where’s Han Solo to reply, “Never tell me the odds!”


The blueprint here was clearly Mission: Impossible. But if “The Octopus” is any indication it’s not surprising it didn’t last, despite the casting of reliable character actors like Percy Rodrigues and Norman Alden. Lone female team member Amelia Cole was played by Lynda Day, who joined the Mission: Impossible cast one year later billed as Lynda Day George.



Two nights in and still batting .1000. What will Tuesday bring? Stay tuned.


  1. Some things you ought to know about The Silent Force:
    I looked at the pilot on YouTube (and that's what it was: the 43 minute length gives that away).
    That's the point: The Silent Force was supposed to be an hour-long series.
    When ABC bought the show, they only had a half-hour, so Aaron Spelling compressed: Norman Alden and Richard VanVleet were dropped, and the scripts all seemed to start at Act II.
    Also, Ed Nelson no longer narrated: they brought over Bob Johnson (the Tape Guy from Mission: Impossible) to do the set-ups.
    Whether an hour show would have had a shot - who knows?
    Fact is, ABC on Mondays was entirely dependent on the football game; anything they put on that night was a placeholder, nothing more.
    Remember: on the West Coast, the early shows all aired after the game, which definitely hurt their chances at catching on.
    Anyway, the CBS and NBC juggernauts were too well established.
    Nelson no longer narrated

    1. Great information - thank you. I thought Nelson was the weakest link in what appeared to be a borderline series.