The Best '70s Shows to Rewatch in Quarantine
These streaming '70s series are the perfect distraction for these troubled times.
While you're stuck at home and streaming TV shows to your heart's content, you might find yourself hankering for the series of yesteryear. After all, they just don't make them like they used to. While you can find shows from just about every decade, you can't go wrong with a trip down memory lane to the far out '70s. From shows that were reflections of their turbulent times, like All in the Family, to pure escapism, like The Partridge Family, these series will bring you right back to the grooviest decade. Some of these shows you'll have to pay to rent or buy, and others are streaming on services you might already subscribe to, but you can watch all of these streaming '70s shows from the comfort of your home. And for more TV nostalgia, here are The Best '90s Shows to Rewatch in Quarantine.
It's the 1970s in New York's East Village neighborhood, a lint trap of misfits and ne'er-do-wells. Set in the bleak squad room of the city's 12th precinct, we find a motley crew of New York's Finest, led by straight man Captain Barney Miller. It cut against the grain of typical cop shows by depicting the rote, unglamorous, but risible side of police work. The cast standout is Abe Vigoda's dyspeptic Detective Phil Fish, the world-weary, counting-the-days-to-retirement cynical elder. The show ran for eight seasons on the strength of its razor-sharp writing, complex human characters, and deftly interwoven subplots.
Available on: Crackle, Amazon
Based on the 1970 black comedy film, M*A*S*H was a breakout hit about military life while the Vietnam War was still raging. Its brilliant ensemble cast, led by the inimitable Alan Alda, follows the rule-shattering antics of the homesick 4077th Mobile Army Surgical Hospital unit during the Korean War. This groundbreaking series dared to veer from hysterics and pranks one episode to the gravity of war in the next. Its cutting commentary skimmed just below the radar to avoid being targeted as "protest" material, a fine line in those days. The show's racy innuendo and rapid-fire repartee are pure Nixon-era, but they still land. And the show outlasted that president by a wide margin, running 11 seasons from 1972 to 1983. It ranks as one of the highest-rated network programs in television history. And for more long-running series you can stream, discover The 20 TV Shows Streaming on Netflix That Have the Most Episodes.
Available on: Hulu
A paradigm of the crime-doesn't-pay genre, Hawaii Five-O dutifully wraps up each episode with a crisp, memorable "Book 'em, Danno!" The phrase entered the pop culture lexicon upon the show's arrival in 1968. Which, like the theme song, dramatic opening sequence, and Jack Lord's immaculate hair, are forever seared into our collective minds. The opening credits, a kaleidoscope of exotic Hawaii that runs a full two minutes, is worth the price of admission alone.
Available on: CBS All Access
Saturday Night Live
SNL is the spiritual heir to the sketch comedy show Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In, its antecedent from the 1960s. Coincidentally, that's where young Lorne Michaels, SNL's executive producer, cut his teeth as a young Hollywood writer. The rest is history, as anyone that hasn't spent time living in a cave can attest. The cult show debuted in 1975 and quickly grew into a star-making factory. Its guest-host slots and musical appearances have since been the most coveted gigs on TV. Early episodes up to 1980—the year of Michaels' brief departure—are among the best in the show's 45-year run, and feature its most iconic troupe, the Not Ready for Prime Time Players: Chevy Chase, Gilda Radner, John Belushi, Jane Curtin, Garrett Morris, Laraine Newman, and Dan Aykroyd. And for more shows that will keep you laughing, check out these 17 Underappreciated TV Comedies That Are Available to Stream Right Now.
Available on: Hulu
Sanford and Son
A Norman Lear interpretation of the British sitcom Steptoe and Son, Sanford and Son featured crotchety Fred Sanford and his conscientious son Lamont, and was set in their South Los Angeles salvage yard. It was considered a trailblazer for sitcoms centered around the experience of black characters, inspiring legions of shows that followed. And it provided a showcase for the salty nightclub performer Redd Foxx to preen his considerable comedic gifts. The show's overtone is that despite their constant bickering, father and son display genuine loyalty for each other and always came around to an understanding.
Available on: Hulu (with Starz), Amazon Prime (with Starz)
Welcome Back, Kotter
This is the show that ignited America's enduring love affair with John Travolta. Set in Brooklyn way before it was hip, Welcome Back, Kotter attempted to rise above the morass that was 1970s New York. The high-minded premise centered around an empathetic teacher who returns to his alma mater to mentor a cohort of slackers and pranksters, AKA the Sweathogs. At its launch, the show was a phenomenon. However, by Season 4, it cratered, with both Kaplan and Travolta mostly missing in action in later episodes. If in need of a Vinnie Barbarino fix, stick with the first three seasons. And for more series worth rewatching, revisit these 15 Classic TV Shows You Didn't Know You Could Stream Right Now.
Available on: Amazon, YouTube, iTunes
The premise was simple: Hitmakers from R&B, soul, dance/pop, hip-hop, funk, jazz, and disco performing before a dancing studio audience. The cool, talented kids with apparently lavish wardrobe budgets are a joy to watch. The best part is the Soul Train line, an idea revived from 1950s dance hops. It lined up guys on one side and girls opposite, all groovin' to the music. In turn, each paired couple peels off to show their elaborate moves. Must-see TV for disco devotees, the '70s were a pinnacle for the fabulous Soul Train. Emceed by the ultra-smooth, baritone-voiced Don Cornelius, Soul Train aired continuously for 35 years.
Available on: Tubi
By any measure, Happy Days is about as squeaky-clean as it gets. But it turns out ABC had refused to allow the Fonz to wear a leather jacket. What's a greaser without his leather? Show creator Garry Marshall devised a fiendishly clever workaround. He explained to network suits that the Fonz could get injured if he were to fall off his motorcycle without his leather jacket. Thus persuaded, the higher-ups said that he could wear it, but only in scenes with the bike—which prompted Marshall to instruct his writers to insert the motorcycle into all of Fonzie's scenes, indoors included. And that's why the Fonz rides into diners, as only he can. And for more critically acclaimed hits, here are 23 Emmy-Winning TV Shows You Can Stream Right Now.
Available on: CBS All Access
The Dukes of Hazzard
Slapped together as filler for a temporary gap in CBS' 1979 schedule, longevity for the Dukes, two amiable good ol' boys at odds with the law, was never expected. But the show took off, thanks in large part to the General Lee, an orange 1969 Dodge Charger which amassed the lion's share of fan mail and viewer interest. Daisy Duke, portrayed by Catherine Bach, also contributed mightily to the show's enduring appeal and gave the world the eponymous fashion staple.
Available on: Amazon Prime (with IMDb TV), YouTube, iTunes
The Mary Tyler Moore Show
In 1970, an unmarried, career-oriented woman remained a novel idea for television—but one that had no shortage of real-life adherents. The Mary Tyler Moore Show's realistic plot lines and complex characters added to the appeal, winning over a dedicated following and garnering critical praise with a blizzard of awards. However, Moore was reluctant to assume the role of a divorcée. To the TV public, she was best known as Rob Petrie's wife on The Dick Van Dyke Show, and she was afraid people might think she had divorced him! She was appeased when the premise changed to that of a single woman with a broken engagement.
Available on: Hulu
The Partridge Family
Considering that the Beatles' demise paralleled the rise of the Partridge Family, one could conclude that the '60s went out with a whimper. Say what you will—this clean-cut, velour-clad confection turned its nose up to the counterculture, and viewers loved them for it. The Partridges were nominated for Best TV Show at the Golden Globes two years running. And while the series captured ratings, the fictional group was burning up the charts. Pro tip: name-checking the celebrity cameos in each episode is part of the fun. It appears everyone wanted in on the act. C'mon, get happy!
Available on: Crackle, Amazon Prime (with IMDb TV)