My Favorite Obscurities: The 1970s

Television Obscurities celebrated its 12th birthday earlier this year (on June 11th, to be exact). That’s not a milestone anniversary so I didn’t mark the occasion but in recognition of one dozen years online I decided to start examining my personal favorite TV obscurities. Once a month I’ll be writing about my 12 favorite obscurities from each decade starting with the 1940s in June and ending with the 2000s in December. Many of these shows I’ve written about over the past 12 years but not all of them. This month I’m tackling the 1970s. So here, in chronological order, are my favorite obscurities from the 1970s:

Nancy (NBC)
September 17th, 1970 – January 7th, 1971

I think my interest in Nancy was piqued while flipping through the 1970 TV Guide Fall Preview issue and seeing the cast photo with Celeste Holme, John Fink, and Renne Jarrett standing in front of the U.S. flag. That was all it took. The series celebrated its 45th anniversary a few weeks ago. I’ve only seen one episode, which I enjoyed, and I have a copy of the script for another episode.

My article on Nancy can be found here.

The Headmaster (CBS)
September 18th, 1970 – January 1st, 1971

The Headmaster also recently celebrated its 45th anniversary. I haven’t seen any episodes of this sitcom, which is frustrating but perhaps for the best considering nobody seems to think it was very good. Of course I would still jump at the chance to see any episodes. I know exactly why this is one of my favorite obscurities from the 1970s: the theme song. It was one of dozens recorded using a reel-to-reel deck in the late 1960s and early 1970s and I used to listen to the themes over and over again. Linda Ronstadt’s theme to The Headmaster was of my favorites.

My article on The Headmaster can be found here.

The Good Life (NBC)
September 18th, 1971 – January 8th, 1972

The theme song to The Good Life was also on that reel-to-reel tape, although the quality was pretty bad. Luckily someone was able to provide me with a better quality version of the theme. I’ve seen one episode and would like to see more. I also have copies of two scripts.

My article on The Good Life can be found here.

Sons and Daughters (CBS)
September 11th, 1974 – November 6th, 1974

Alex McNeil’s Total Television (the 1996 4th edition, to be exact) is to blame for my obsession with Sons and Daughters which is also my greatest success story. The entry for this short-lived drama in Total Television is little more than a list of the cast but for whatever reason it stuck with me and the hunt was one. First I tracked down a copy of the 1974 CBS fall preview special which included a lengthy segment on Sons and Daughters. Then I acquired a copy of the pilot telefilm and both of the compilation telefilms edited together after the series was cancelled. Eventually, after years of searching, I was able to get my hands on all nine episodes. I’ve only watched the series all the way through once but will certainly be rewatching it at some point.

My article on Sons and Daughters can be found here.

Lucas Tanner (NBC)
September 11th, 1974 – April 9th, 1975

When I wrote my article about Fall 1974, Lucas Tanner was one of numerous short-lived TV shows I wrote about and it took some time for it to become a favorite. I do hope to one day write a full article about the drama, which premiered well in the Nielsen ratings but sank soon after yet managed to hang on for a full season. I’ve seen one episode and read one of the tie-in novels, which was a novelization of the pilot telefilm.

Planet of the Apes (CBS)
September 20th, 1974 – December 20th, 1974

I am a huge fan of the Planet of the Apes franchise (with the exception of the 2001 film version) and the 1974 CBS TV series was, I believe, the first TV series I ever got on DVD way back in 2001. I’ve watched the entire series at least three times. I also own three of the four tie-in novels, which were novelizations. Yes, the plots are repetitive and the Ron Harper’s character is ridiculously knowledgeable about way too many things, but it doesn’t matter to me. I love it.

The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams (CBS)
February 9th, 1977 – May 12th, 1978

This is another show I probably wouldn’t write about if I were launching Television Obscurities today. And not just because both seasons of The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams are available on DVD. Even before then, this was a very popular obscurity, repeated on FX in the 1990s and fondly remembered by millions and millions of viewers. I used to watch it on Sunday mornings on FX. I don’t know how many episodes I’ve seen. I own both seasons on DVD but haven’t watched them all the way through yet. I have seen the 1974 feature film but not the 1982 telefilm that served as a series finale.

My article on The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams can be found here.

Man from Atlantis (NBC)
September 22nd, 1977 – June 6th, 1978

Would you believe that I’ve only seen the first of the four telefilms that preceded the short-lived Man from Atlantis TV series? It’s true. Despite the fact that all of the telefilms and the weekly series have been available on DVD since 2011, I’ve yet to pick them up. I’m not sure why. I think I’m afraid it won’t live up to my expectations. I’ve read all four telefilm novelizations and all seven issues of the Marvel tie-in comic series. I suppose I’m concerned that I won’t like the actual TV show as much as I liked its tie-ins.

What Really Happened to the Class of ’65? (NBC)
December 8th, 1977 – May 25th, 1978

I haven’t seen any episodes of this anthology series but I really, really want to. It was based on a 1976 non-fiction book of the same name by Michael Medved and David Wallechinsky. The list of guest stars is impressive: Annette O’Toole, Jane Curtin, Kim Cattrall, Linda Purl, Jessica Walter, Larry Hagman, Meredith Baxter, Richard Hatch, Don Johnson. Each episode focused on the current life of one or two students of the graduating class of Bret Harte High School. The only regular character, who served as narrator, was played by Tony Bill.

Cliffhangers (NBC)
February 27th, 1979 – May 1st, 1979

I can’t say I’ve seen every episode of this series, which each week featured new, exciting installments of three separate 20-minute serials: Stop Susan Williams, The Secret Empire, and The Curse of Dracula. I have seen the compilation telefilms for Stop Susan Williams and The Curse of Dracula, however. I’d have to say Stop Susan Williams is probably my favorite serial, followed by The Secret Empire. I really don’t like The Curse of Dracula.

My article on Cliffhangers can be found here.

Turnabout (NBC)
January 26th, 1979 – March 30th, 1979

I’ve only seen the first episode of this short-lived sitcom (only seven episodes were aired) and unfortunately the quality was terrible. Really, really terrible. Almost unwatchable. John Schuck and Sharon Gless starred as a married couple who switch bodies. Hijinks ensue. It was based on a 1931 novel by Thorne Smith, which had already been turned into a feature film in 1940.

Married: The First Year (CBS)
February 28th, 1979 – March 21st, 1979

Only four episodes of this drama about two newlyweds had the misfortune of airing opposite Supertrain on NBC and Eight is Enough on ABC. Leigh McCloskey and Cindy Grover. I honestly don’t know why I’m so intrigued by it, other than the obvious fact that it was very, very short-lived. I first read about it years ago while researching my article on Mid-Season 1979 and ever since it has been one of those shows I’d love to see.

Hit the comments with your thoughts on these shows and any favorite TV obscurities you may have from the 1970s. Check back next month for my 12 favorite obscurities from the 1980s.


10 Comments

  • Patrick McNamara says:

    I liked the short-lived Fantastic Journey and Logan’s Run TV shows. Fantastic Journey suffered from constant cast changes to the point where they practically had an entirely different cast than the one they started with. All within the span of a few episodes. Many of the production crew went on to work on Logan’s Run.

    The Man From Atlantis TV series was decent, although the films were better. Most of the episodes dealt with Mr. Shubert as the villain, although once the series got rid of him the episodes got better.

  • SHEILA ROGERS says:

    I have been looking for the series GRIFF and CODE RED starring Lorne Greene. Is it available for.purchase or is it airing anywhere. GRIFF ran in Earl 70’s and CODE RED ran in early 80’s. I am also looking for the TV movies DESTINY OF A SPY and HARNESS. Thank you for any help I can get.

  • michael s says:

    You can find episodes of CODE RED and FANTASTIC JOURNEY on YouTube. An example of each:

    CODE RED
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sYGGkcLHvwA

    FANTASY ISLAND
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tY6EzhJwvkU

  • michael s says:

    My 12 favorite obscurities from the 70s

    DELPHI BUREAU – ABC (72-73) Part of THE MEN (with Assignment Vienna and Jigsaw). Laurence Luckinbill stars as a government agent woth a photographic memory. TV Movie pilot is on DVD but none of the series episodes are.
    WEEKEND – NBC (74-79) This unusual TV news magazine featured Lloyd Dobyns and Linda Ellerbee. It aired once a month filling in Saturday Night Live time slot.
    EDDIE CAPRA MYSTERIES – NBC (78-79) Lawyer (Vincent Baggetta) solves crimes. From Peter S Fischer (Ellery Queen, Murder She Wrote) who used some of the left over scripts and the gimmick from the brilliant NBC series Ellery Queen.
    KINGSTON CONFIDENTIAL – NBC (76-77) Raymond Burr plays a communications mogul who solves crimes with the help of his assistants.
    MONTY NASH – SYNDICATED (71-72) Harry Guardino played a government agent in a thirty minute drama. Based on a series of books by Richard Telfair.
    SIROTA’S COURT – NBC (76-77) Before there was NIGHT COURT there was this very similar comedy featuring the Judge and co-workers in a big city night court.
    KHAN! – CBS (75) Chinese American PI in San Francisco solves crimes with help of his young adult children. Starred Khigh Dheigh (Wo Fat in original Hawaii Five-O).
    TEXAS WHEELERS – ABC – (74-75) If remembered it is for its cast of Jack Elam, Gary Busey and Mark Hamill this funny rural comedy was one of MTM Production first ratings failures.
    DEAR DETECTIVE – CBS (79) Brenda Vaccaro starred in this cozy mystery as a single mother and police detective. During this time the networks would use mini-series as pilots (Dallas began that way), this lasted one TV Movie and three hour episodes.
    ARCHER – NBC (75) Not the cartoon but a series based on Ross Macdonald’s influential PI books. Brian Keith played Lew Archer for the short lived series.
    CARIBE – ABC (75) Miami police unit that covers the Caribbean. But instead of Don Johnson and Michael Mann this one has Stacey Keach and Quinn Martin.
    HOT L BALTIMORE (ABC) – (75) Based on the controversial play by Lanford Wilson, and was one of Norman Lear’s biggest failures.

  • Don Smith says:

    How interesting to see the Planet of the Apes and Grizzly Adams listed as obscurities. To children in elementary school these shows were incredibly huge hits. POTA appeared at the apex of the interest in the characters- toned down for a children’s audience I can say with certainty that every one of my friends watched every episode of the series.
    Grizzly Adams was similarly a massive hit- it was the height of “back to nature” camping, the Waltons, Little House, etc and Grizzly Adams was right there in the middle of the week. I believe the show was on opposite the Bionic Woman and while that played off new technologies and ideas, Grizzly Adams counterprogrammed more conservative (I guess) masculine stuff. I also considered that a massive hit and the boys in my class were MUCH more likely to have watched Grizzly Adams than Bionic Woman… now… that year we didn’t watch Good Times, but I became a big fan more like 1978-79.

  • Mike Smith says:

    If you are afraid to not like Man from Atantis, you ought to read this feature about it:

    http://www.avclub.com/article/star-trek-seas-man-atlantis-floundered-215920

  • stevie g says:

    i have a lot favorite 70s obscurities as that was the decade i grew up in. A couple of the one’s you have mentioned, Planet of The Apes which I wasn’t allowed to watch and The Man from Atlantis which I loved. Other obscurities are:
    The Funky Phantom, which was a Hanna Barbera cartoon, similar to Scooby Doo.
    Pebble and Bamm, which featured the Flinstone kids as hip teenagers.
    Blanskys Beaties starring Nancy Walker, from the makers of Happy Days. It featured the only other appearance of Pinky Tuscedero, who never returned to Happy Days after her original stint.
    The Brady Bunch Variety Hour, with the Brady’s doing song and dance numbers. Very colourful in that 70s way and so bad it’s good.
    Tabitha, which featured the little girl from Bewitched as an adult.
    Vegas starring Robert Urich, Shazam!, The Secrets of Isis
    All these shows would love to see again.

    • Mike Johnson says:

      Decades TV had a weekend “Vegas” marathon a few weeks ago, “Tabitha”(Which also starred Robert Urich) is available on DVD at the Bewitched-Elizabeth Montgomery website (along with all other eight seasons of “Bewitched”) and the “Brady Bunch Hour” iis all over You Tube!

      • stevie g says:

        I don’t get decades tv in Australia. theres only one retro channel that dosn’t show much variety.

  • Angela says:

    I’m looking for Sammy Davis Jr.’s “Sammy and Company” (syndicated by Syndi-cast) Season 1 Episode # 9, 1975. I’ve tried all over the internet and UCLA Archives of Film and Television. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

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