December 8, 2023

The 70s 80s 90s Blog

Three Decades of History with TV historian Tony McMahon

Saturday morning TV in the 1970s

2 min read
Saturday morning TV in the 1970s

School was over for another week. In the 1970s, you would have woken up on a Saturday morning, showered with Lifebuoy soap, put on your flared jeans and Harlem Globetrotters T-shirt (yes, I did own such things) and go downstairs to watch the telly.

PlanetAside from the BBC and ITV’s kids’ programmes – like Swap Shop and Tiswas – there was a slew of American TV series. For example, an adaptation of the movie Planet of the Apes, of Little House on the Prairie and if that wasn’t saccharine enough for you, then there was The Waltons.

And do we all remember the mawkish nonsense that was Mork and Mindy.  What I love about the opening credits of M and M and other similar series was that they rushed to tell an establishing story in under a minute.  So you see Mork waving goodbye to his fellow aliens, heading in an egg shaped spacecraft to Earth and then going to live in Boulder – Mork and Mindy put that town firmly on the map.

There’s some terrible US shows that have been completely forgotten.  Makin’ It was a disco based series that cashed in on the Saturday Night Fever craze and starred Ellen Travolta, older sister of the man with the same surname who was the star of SNF.

Pam Dawber and Robin WilliamsEllen also played the mother of Chachi Arcola (Scott Baio) in Happy Days – which turned out to the be the happiest days of Scott Baio’s life – can’t say he made a huge impact afterwards with such turkey spin-offs as Joanie Loves Chachi and Charles in Charge.

Many of these shows were made – churned out – by Lorimar Productions, founded by Irwin Molasky.  It’s interesting to me to see how many Italian American and Jewish characters there were – but hardly a black face and certain no hispanics to be seen.

In all honesty, I didn’t  notice this at the time but a black friend of mine who is the same age as me said he found it pretty dispiriting back in 1979 to have no role models on mainstream TV to look up to.


1 thought on “Saturday morning TV in the 1970s

  1. In the 70’s you had several Black sitcoms: The Jeffersons, What’s Happening, Goodtimes, Sanford and Son, and then there was Different Strokes and Benson. These are the ones I watched. There were more. However, Hispanics were and still are pretty absent in sitcoms. In the 70’s I remember Chico and The Man, Que Pasa USA? and a few Puerto Ricans on Barney Miller. Eventually there was the short lived Pablo in the 80’s. Today, George Lopez had been going strong, I guess. Seems Hispanics sort of dapple the market a bit more than just walk-ons and featured extras. None of these were under Lorimar though.

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