The Seventies were a tumultuous time in America. The Vietnam War finally came to an end, the Women’s Liberation Movement and Civil Rights Movement both changed the fabric of American society and TV reflected these transitions and changes.
All in the Family was on from 1971 to 1979. It was a controversial show and the writers and producers did not shy away from the highly charged social topics of the day such as racism, abortion and women’s rights. Carroll O’ Connor as the “loveable bigot”, Archie Bunker, was the focus of the show as that character tried to deal with all the changes society was undergoing.
Maude ran from 1972 to 1978 and was another breakout show from Norman Lear, the same producer of All in the Family. Maude was a spin-off show of All in the Family. Maude was the liberal cousin of the long suffering Edith Bunker. Maude was the flipside of All in the Family dealing with many of the same issues, but from the middle-class, liberal point of view.
Stanford and Son was one of the first Black (African-American) comedies. Running from 1972 to 1977 Stanford and Son featured Redd Foxx, a fine comic performer, as well as many other talented African American actors getting the chance for the first time to really work on TV. Like many of the comedies from the early 70s, Stanford and Son dealt with real issues, such as aging, race and economics.
The Mary Tyler Moore Show was on from 1970 to 1977. Mary Tyler Moore who played Laura Petrie on the Dick Van Dyke Show did a great job as Mary Richards. Mary Richards was a single woman in her late 20s looking to make her own way in the world. It was created by the team of producers, James L. Brooks and Allen Burns, who dominated late 70s TV in the same way that Lear dominated the early 70s.
Happy Days ran for ten years from 1974 to 1984 and represents the other side of TV during that time. Instead of dealing with serious social issues, it played on the nostalgia of a supposedly simpler time: the 1950s. Happy Days was always light, fun and funny.
M*A*S*H ran for over eleven years from 1972. No other show demonstrates the translational nature of TV in the 70’s. Starting out as a satiric commentary on the war in Vietnam, it grew and changed as the characters changed. It finally ended as more of a situation and ensemble comedy than a dark satire.