The 1970s are known as the “Silver Age” or the network age of television. The three major networks, CBS, NBC, and ABC, were predominantly airing the majority of programming. The decade that introduced classics like Maude, Happy Days, and The Bob Newhart Show has also delivered some awful television series. Here is a look back at the worst television the 1970s had to offer.
1. Hello, Larry
Despite finding success and fan popularity on MASH, McLean Stevenson couldn't replicate that magic with his own NBC show Hello, Larry, which was about a divorced dad who worked as a radio talk show host. It's been reported that the writing on the show was so bad even Johnny Carson regularly made fun of its misfortune on The Tonight Show. Hello, Larry only lasted for two seasons before being axed by the network.
2. The Swiss Family Robinson
The television adaptation of Johann David Wyss's novel aired for one season on ABC from 1975 to 1976. The story about a family of four stranded on a deserted island didn't fare well against more robust television programming from NBC and CBS.
3. The Bob Crane Show
After his starring role in the hit comedy series Hogan's Heroes ended in 1971, four years later, Crane tried to strike comedic gold again with a self-titled NBC show about a middle-aged man who left his career in insurance sales to return to medical school, with his wife becoming the family breadwinner. The show's low ratings led to its cancelation after 13 episodes.
4. Adam's Rib
Loosely based on a 1949 film with the same name, Adam's Rib was about the relationship dynamics between a young married couple working on opposite sides of the legal system: he was an assistant district attorney, and she was an idealistic defense lawyer. The series only lasted for 13 episodes before ABC canceled the series in late 1973.
5. The Brady Bunch Hour
Unlike the highly successful Brady Bunch show, The Brady Bunch Hour wasn't popular with television audiences. The pilot episode of the variety show did well, but the remaining episodes fell flat. The show within a show format may have turned viewers off. ABC canceled it after only nine episodes and is consistently named by TV Guide as one of the worst television shows ever created.
6. Mrs. Columbo
The detective drama Columbo was very popular with viewers. NBC hoped to capitalize on its popularity by creating the series Mrs. Columbo, starring Kate Mulgrew as the title character. The show couldn't recreate the magic of Columbo, and the spin-off was pulled after 13 episodes.
7. The Sonny Comedy Revue
Sonny and Cher enjoyed a massively popular variety show that started in 1971. After their marriage ended in 1974, Sonny Bono and Cher launched their separate television shows. Cher's was a rating success, while Sonny's show failed to meet expectations and was pulled off the air after three months.
8. David Cassidy: Man Undercover
The Partridge Family made David Cassidy one of the biggest television and music celebrities in the 1970s. Four years after that series ended, he went on to a starring role in David Cassidy: Man Undercover, where he played a youthful-looking police officer sent undercover at a high school to investigate and infiltrate a drug ring. Cassidy's earlier popularity did little to help the show's ratings, and it was canceled after ten episodes.
9. Hee Haw Honeys
This spin-off to the fan-favorite Hee Haw only lasted a single season, from 1978 until 1979. Starring Kathie Lee Gifford (known then as Kathie Lee Johnson), the show featured the Honey family and the truck stop they operated in the original series.
10. Three's a Crowd
One of the most bizarre 1970s spin-offs was from 1979 with the game show Three's a Crowd, inspired by the sitcom Three's Company. The game's premise was that a man would appear on the show with his wife and secretary, and he would have to figure out who knew him best.
For obvious reasons, the show proved to be too problematic and was canceled after a few episodes. This show isn't to be confused with the short-lived 1980s Three's Company spin-off of the same name.
Sanford and Son was a rating powerhouse for NBC; its spin-off Grady, not so much. The character of Grady Wilson, one of Fred and Lamont Sanford's neighbors, was the series' star and was popular on Sanford and Son. Still, it never found its footing with the original series fans.
12. The Ropers
Another unsuccessful spin-off of a popular television program was The Ropers, derived from the show Three's Company. Despite being on air with ABC for two seasons, it never gained traction with television audiences and was canceled.
Freelance Writer and Technical Writer
- Areas of expertise: Technology, user experience, pop culture, and entertainment.
- Education: West Chester University of Pennsylvania and Kutztown University of Pennsylvania
Her articles have appeared in publications such as Wealth of Geeks, MSN (US), MSN Ireland, Flipboard, The Facts, The Cents of Money, A Dime Saved, The Times (Frankfort), Invested Wallet, Chronicle-Tribune, Mama of Five Blog, Lafourche Gazette, The Herald-Press, Kinda Frugal, Peru Tribune, and Financially Well Off. Stephanie Allen got her start in writing by teaching college writing and technical writing courses. She transitioned to working as a contract technical writer specializing in information technology. Her love for writing on various subjects led her to Wealth of Geeks.