Fall 1974: CBS

CBS introduced just five new shows in the fall of 1974. With hits like All in the Family, The Waltons, M*A*S*H, and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, the network had little need for new programming. Planet of the Apes proved a costly failure; a spin-off of The Mary Tyler Moore Show proved popular with viewers and returned the following season.

NOTE: No new Tuesday, Thursday or Sunday programming was introduced by CBS during the fall of 1974.

Monday Evening

On Mondays, CBS added Rhoda, a spin-off of the highly successful The Mary Tyler Moore Show with Valerie Harper starring as Rhoda Morgenstern. At the start of the series, Rhoda moved from Minneapolis to New York City where she moved in with her overweight sister Brenda (Julie Kavner), met Joe Gerard (David Groh) and was constantly pestered by her mother Ida (Nancy Walker).

The series premiere on Monday, September 9th, 1974 pulled a powerful 28.2/42 in the ratings, ranking first for the week, the first time in television history a new fall series ranked first in its first week [1]. It was also a hit with critics. Percy Shain of the Boston Globe wrote that the premiere had “a joy of life and a brightness that is infectious” while the Philadelphia Bulletin‘s Rex Polier suggested that “continued good scripts and development of relationships will give CBS a Monday night winner to replace Lucille Ball” [2].

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Rhoda, like The Mary Tyler Moore Show, was produced by MTM Enterprises. Airing from 9:30-10PM, the series was sandwiched between hit Maude and Medical Center, a solid performer. It competed with NBC Monday Night at the Movies and, initially, ABC Monday Night Football. Starting in January 1975 its ABC competition was S.W.A.T.. During the much-hyped October 28th, 1974 episode, Rhoda and Joe were married. The episode drew a 51% share of the audience, easily surpassing the premiere [3]. For the 1974-1975 season, Rhoda ranked sixth, ahead of both The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Maude.

After two successful seasons, the producers of Rhoda decided things had gotten stale. In the Season Three premiere Rhoda and Joe seperated; David Groh was written out of the series in January 1977. Ratings fell during the 1976-1977 season, recovered somewhat during the 1977-1978 season, and fell again at the start of the 1978-1979 season, leading CBS to cancel Rhoda partway through its fifth season. The final episode aired on December 9th, 1978 (only nine were broadcast during the 1978-1979 season; an additional four episodes were left unaired).

Wednesday Evening

CBS premiered two new hour-long dramas on Wednesdays. The first, Sons and Daughters, aired from 8-9PM opposite That’s My Mama and the first half-hour of The Wednesday Movie of the Week on ABC and Little House on the Prairie on NBC. A made-for-TV movie called Senior Year (broadcast on March 22nd, 1974) served as a pilot for the series.

Set during the 1950s, Sons and Daughters explored the lives and relationships of a group of high school seniors attending Southwest High in Stockton, California. Gary Frank and Glynnis O’Connor starred as sweethearts Jeff Reed and Anita Cramer. Jeff’s father had recently passed away and Anita’s mother had left her father for another man. Their shared family turbulence drew the two together.

The series premiered on September 11th. Critics were split, with some feeling it had potential and others warning viewers to stay away. John J. O’Connor of The New York Times took a more middle-of-the-road stance in his review, writing that “the cast and production are generally attractive, and the series should give younger viewers a reasonable alternative to those interminable car chases on the action-adventure series” [4]. Sons and Daughters fared poorly in the ratings and was off the air after just nine episodes, the last of which aired on November 6th.

The second new CBS Wednesday drama was The Manhunter, an action/adventure series produced by Quinn Martin. Set in 1930s Idaho, it starred Ken Howard as Dave Barrett, a crime-fighting farmer. A pilot telefilm for the series had aired on February 26th, 1974. Dave lived with his parents and sister on the family farm. After his best friend was killed by bank robbers, he decided to moonlight as a detective. Heavily armed, each week Dave would track down another wanted man (or men).

Ken Howard as Dave Barrett

Ken Howard as Dave Barrett

Co-starring were Hilary Thompson as Dave’s sister Lizabeth, Ford Rainey as his father James, Claudia Bryar as his mother Mary and Robert Hogan as Sheriff Paul Tate, his boss. Like Sons and Daughters, some critics felt the series showed promise. Others, like Dick Adler of The Los Angeles Times, thought it was trash. Adler blasted the series, arguing that the series “has nothing whatsoever to separate it from the shows ahead of and to either side of it on the new schedule. Quinn Martin and producer Sam Rolfe have succeeded in wasting film and filling time — or vice versa” [5].

The series premiered on September 11th and ranked nineteenth for the week [6]. Airing from 10-11PM, The Manhunter competed with Get Christie Love! on ABC and Petrocelli on NBC. Although it managed to hang on for the entire 1974-1975 season, the series was not renewed. A total of twenty-two episodes were broadcast, with the last original installment airing on March 5th, 1975. Repeats were shown until April.

Friday Evening

The only new CBS series on Fridays was Planet of the Apes, based on the film franchise that started in 1968 with Planet of the Apes and ended in 1973 with Battle for the Planet of the Apes. The success of the original Planet of the Apes movie in its television debut on CBS in September 1973 led the network to order a weekly series for the 1974-1975 season.

Ron Harper and James Naughton starred as Alan Virdon and Pete Burke, astronauts flung a thousand years into the future to a world where apes rule the Earth. Roddy McDowell, who appeared in four of the original five Planet of the Apes films, played a friendly chimpanzee named Galen in the television series. Hunted by gorilla military leader General Urko (played by Mark lenard), each week Virdon, Burke and Galen traveled from ape settlement to ape settlement, helping humans and apes in need. Booth Coleman rounded out the cast as Zaius, an orangutan leader.

Planet of the Apes aired from 8-9PM on Fridays, competing with Sanford and Son and Chico and the Man (a new series) on NBC and Kodiak (a new series) and the first half of The Six Million Dollar Man on ABC. For the 1974-1975 season as a whole, Sanford and Son ranked second, Chico and the Man third. With that much of the viewing audience tuned into NBC, there were only so many viewers left for ABC and CBS.

The series ultimately fell victim to high production costs and low ratings. Its final broadcast was on December 27th. Thirteen of the fourteen produced episodes were aired; the unaired episodes was later seen in cable syndication and released on DVD.

Saturday Evening

Officially titled Paul Sand in Friends & Lovers, this sitcom was the only CBS offering on Saturdays, airing from 8:30-9PM. Like The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda, MTM Enterprises produced Friends & Lovers, which was scheduled between All In The Family at 8PM and The Mary Tyler Moore Show at 9PM. It was perhaps the best timeslot on television for a new series.

Paul Sand starred in the series as Robert Dreyfuss, a bass violinist in the Boston Symphony Orchestra. Michael Pataki appeared as Robert’s brother, Charlie Dreyfuss, and Penny Marshall played Charlie’s wife, Janice. The couple was constantly fighting, leaving Robert stuck in the middle, while at the same time trying to get his own relationships to last longer than a few days. Steve Landesberg portrayed Fred Meyerbach, Robert’s German friend and fellow violinist, who had a strained relationship with his father.

Paul Sand as Robert Dreyfuss

Paul Sand as Robert Dreyfuss

Dick Wesson played Jack Riordan, the antagonistic manager of the orchestra and Craig Richard Nelson played Mason Woodruf, its young manager. Henry Winkler guest-starred in the first episode while Teri Garr appeared in the October 4th episode. The series premiered on September 14th and ranked fourteenth for the week [8]. But critics were underwhelmed. Anthony La Camera of the Boston Herald American called the series “a downright disappointment” while The Boston Globe‘s Percy Shain wrote that it was “mundane and average, with few laughs” [9].

Although the ratings were good, they weren’t as good as the programs that surrounded the series. For example, in early October, Friends & Lovers pulled a 36 percent share of the audience, while lead-in All In The Family had a 51 share and lead-out The Mary Tyler Moore Show had a 39 share [9]. Unable to retain All in the Family‘s ratings and hurting the ratings for The Mary Tyler Moore Show, CBS canned the series in early January, replacing it with The Jeffersons, which was much more compatible with the CBS lineup. For the 1974-1975 season as a whole, Friends & Lovers ranked 25th while The Jeffersons ranked 4th.

Works Cited:
1 Davidson, Bill. “Rhoda alone, married.” New York Times. 20 Oct. 1974: 287.
2 Excerpted in the September 16th, 1974 issue of Broadcasting (“Prime-time-viewing: the critics’ choices,” Page 18).
3 “Poseidon Audience.” Hartford Courant. 24 Nov. 1974: 23R.
4 “Prime-time-viewing: the critics’ choices.” Broadcasting.
5 Ibid.
6 Cyclops. “‘Tis the Season to be Cutesy, Fa, la, la, la, and So Forth.” New York Times. 29 Sep. 1974: 133.
7 Ibid.
8 Excerpted in the September 23rd, 1974 issue of Broadcasting (“Critics comment, cont.,” Page 25).
9 Connor, Michael J. “NBC Is Surprise Challenger to CBS Lead in TV Ratings Race.” Wall Street Journal. 10 Oct. 1974: 20.

Originally Published August 20th, 2003
Last Updated April 20th, 2018

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11 Replies to “Fall 1974: CBS”

  1. It was CBS’ super-programmer Fred Silverman who insisted Rhoda and Joe become man and wife, despite objections from everyone involved with “RHODA” (naturally, the cast of “THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW” turned up as well, after talking about the event for a few weeks before the episode, another Silverman “trademark”). After the wedding, the show’s ratings started to slide a bit (even though it was the sixth highest rated network series in 1974-’75), and accelerated when the series moved to 8pm(et) in season two, losing some of its “sophisticated bite”, and decreased to the point where Rhoda and Joe separated, then divorced within the following two seasons. Fred Silverman, then at ABC, later admitted, “I made a mistake in getting them married” [the same apology NBC executive Mort Werner gave after he forced producer Sidney Sheldon to marry Jeannie and Tony off {“Either they get married, or there ain’t gonna BE a fifth season”} during the final season of “I DREAM OF JEANNIE”].

  2. Episode #122 of The Mary Tyler Moore Show: “Mary Richards, Producer” aired on January 4th, 1975 (a very funny episode); the last episode of Paul Sand’s, Friends and Lovers aired on that same date and Saturday night. Having an original audio recording made at home that night I have the funny sound effects of the MTM kitty meowing, then the sound of a sprung spring going: bo-yo-ying! That was used on the last episode of Friends and Lovers. That audio recording I made so many years ago is now a cherished cassette containing an original broadcast of MTM and Friends and Lovers and The Bob Newhart Show. Boy, oh boy! Did CBS sure had a terrific line up back then. I sure miss great TV shows. MTM was just about the best. Love ya’ Mary!

  3. The Rhoda show went through a lot of events, but nothing about those changes was a mistake. It is the best sitcom in television history, and everything worked out by chance. And remember, the series was always centered as a show about two sisters, Rhoda and Brenda, so it never became unhinged or lost its point of view.

  4. For CBS, the ’74-’75 season was about “staying the course”; for NBC ‘ it was about trying to build an audience (which the network would not accomplish for another ten years) and for ABC it was a whole new image. So Cousin Oliver did not “kill” the Brady Bunch; ABC “purged” them off.

  5. “Stopped by a fishing town today,
    People in Maine mean what they say
    They say, the best, is CBS
    Eighteen years in a row the best
    Eighteen years it’s CBS
    Comedy sports and drama too
    Who’s the best? CBS
    Thank you, all…
    For watching, CBS”

    Approximate lyrics for the CBS promo clown when he stopped by a Maine backdrop for the 1974-75 summer promo series.

    Anyone have CBS clown promo series?

    1. Joe B.. Glad to know someone else remembers this and I’m not imagining it. He was dressed up like one of the cast members of the movie Godspell and playing an acoustic guitar. The only vivid memory I have is at the end of the promo where he was on a water tower singing the “Who’s the best? CBS” part. Sorry, but I don’t have a video link for it, wish I did :(

      1. I felt the same way. I thought that I alone knew about this. I’d love to see some of these promos.

  6. While other CBS personnel penciled in other shows, Barbara Paley pencilled in Gunsmoke for the Monday night 8-9 p.m. time period.

  7. I’m looking for the CBS Fall 75 Campaign, “Catch the Brightest Star on CBS”. I want the full sung jingle. Thanks, Dave

  8. CBS got a little too serious though with some AITF & MASH episodes. Still great TV but I think a lot of people were just looking for laughs back then. Which IMO is why ABC started taking off. I remember hearing Garry Marshall say in an interview “people would tune in to CBS and after watching Norman Lear’s interpretations of prejudice, miscarriages, gun control, homosexuality, etc., they’d tune in to ABC to laugh.”

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