We’ve reached 1972 in my quest to watch at least one episode from every 1970s prime time series. Let’s start as we did in 1971 with a look back at the first two nights of that season, as numerous shows were carried over (and already discussed) from the previous year.
The ABC Sunday Night Movie
Once again The FBI anchors ABC’s Sunday lineup, as it has every year since 1965. It was still a top 30 series, as viewers gladly returned for another 26 installments.
The Wonderful World of Disney
The NBC Sunday Mystery Movie
Another evening of shows we’ve covered in previous pieces. The only change is the addition of Hec Ramsey to the rotating slate of NBC Mystery features that included Columbo, McCloud and McMillan and Wife. For me it was certainly the one I’d have switched channels on most frequently. I liked Richard Boone in Have Gun, Will Travel, and thought he was well-cast as the dapper and refined gentleman gunfighter Paladin. As Ramsey he is scruffier and less sophisticated, and nowhere near as compelling. A shame – mysteries set in the old West was a novel concept.
Anna and the King
The Sandy Duncan Show
The New Dick Van Dyke Show
I actually have a memory of watching Anna and the King first-run, even though I was only eight years old at the time. Twenty years after Yul Brynner first played the King of Siam on Broadway, he returned to the role that won him an Oscar, opposite Samantha Eggar as the British teacher Anna Leonowens.
The show didn’t last, but Brynner would continue to play the King for another decade on stages around the world. The best part of the series for me was the wonderful opening theme by Jerry Goldsmith.
MASH was not an immediate hit when it debuted this year, but it would prove durable enough to survive several timeslot moves and the kind of cast turnover that would cripple most shows. I may be in the minority but I always preferred the later seasons with Hawkeye, BJ and Winchester to those with Hawkeye, Trapper and Frank. I liked Harry Morgan’s Col. Potter more than McLean Stevenson’s Henry Blake as well, and found Margaret more interesting when she became less of a caricature than she was in the show’s early years.
CBS moved the Sandy Duncan and Dick Van Dyke sitcoms to Sundays from their Saturday schedule, but neither show fared any better. Duncan’s series got the extreme makeover treatment with a new title (so long, Funny Face) and a new supporting cast, including Tom Bosley as her gruff but kindly boss. It wasn’t enough to keep it around beyond this season.
Monday Night Football
The Rookies was a first-year hit and the first official Aaron Spelling-Leonard Goldberg production. Spelling carried over his preference for trios of lead characters, which also worked well on The Mod Squad, in this show that followed the careers and personal lives of three rookie cops in southern California. It was well cast with George Stanford Brown (Terry Webster), Michael Ontkean (Willie Gillis) and Sam Melville (Mike Danko) as the officers, but most of the fan mail went to Kate Jackson, who played Officer Danko’s wife, Jill.
When the show ended ABC and Spelling/Goldberg knew they wanted to capitalize on her audience appeal in another series, which led to the story of three little girls who went to the police academy – we’ll meet them later in our journey through the 1970s.
Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In
The NBC Monday Night Movie
This was the final year for the groundbreaking Laugh-In, which by then had already lost several of its top stars. You don’t replace Goldie Hawn with Barbara Sharma and expect viewers not to notice.
The Doris Day Show
The New Bill Cosby Show
CBS programmed Mondays with three popular returning hits, followed by a new variety series starring Bill Cosby. That show helped launch Lola Falana to Vegas headliner status, but it didn’t do much for its host. That same year, however, CBS introduced a hit Saturday morning series, also hosted by Cosby, featuring a group of friends in Philadelphia known as the Junkyard Gang, famously led by Fat Albert. I know there are those who won’t go near anything by Cosby now, but give Fat Albert and The Cosby Kids its due: the show lasted for a decade, combined education and entertainment with the grace of a PBS series, and represented a significant advancement in multiculturalism in children’s television.
Two nights into 1972 and no shows added to the “Missed” list! We’re off to a good start. Let’s see what Tuesday brings..
The Don Knotts Show (1970)
San Francisco International Airport (1970)
The Headmaster (1970)
The Man and the City (1971)
The Chicago Teddy Bears (1971)