Recently, my thirty-something daughter stayed somewhere overnight with—gasp–no cable TV. She was reduced to watching a few stations picked up by an antenna, a device we baby boomers remember all too well. This story has a happy ending: she found a channel that played classic television, you know, programs like Mama’s Family and The Andy Griffith Show.
Good wholesome TV. In Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder, set in 1979-1980, I’ve had fun referring to those oldie but goodie programs that were popular in the late 1970s. For example, here’s a scene where Dee Ann learns that the treasurer of the Narrow Creek Junior Woman’s Club has embezzled the club’s money, a scene that’s interrupted by a couple of references to cop shows watched by viewers of the time.
“I’m betting she made herself a temporary loan with the money,” Gloria replied, “thinking she would pay it back before the money was missed. Then whatever she was counting on to use to replace our money didn’t happen. I’ve heard embezzlers often rob Peter to pay Paul. I saw a very similar case on The Rockford Files just the other night. I absolutely love James Garner on that show, don’t you?”
“I’m a Columbo fan myself, but my husband likes The Rockford Files,” I answered automatically. Why was I allowing myself to get sidetracked discussing television cop shows?”
Stuck at home with a baby in a new town where she doesn’t know anybody, Dee Ann’s one bright spot each weekend is watching the wealthy but dysfunctional Ewings in Dallas on Sunday nights. What could be more late 1970s than the country’s fascination with J.R. Ewing as he delivered lines like, “Sue Ellen, you’re a drunk, a tramp, and an unfit mother”?
Part of this quote could be applied to one of the characters in Ms. Dee Ann Meets Murder. You’ll have to read the book one day to learn which one.
I loved Masterpiece Theater back in the late ’70’s. Upstairs- Downstairs and the original Poldark were two classics that got me hooked on PBS. I have been a fan ever since and I loved the host, Sir Alastair Cooke. I thought he was so distinguished, but he had such a dry wit and sense of humor. UNC-TV was our fourth channel along with ABC, NBC and CBS. The UNC network was so weak back then, that we had to hope and pray that the weather would cooperate so we could watch the shows without a “snowstorm” on the screen. The rabbit ears on my portable TV had to be in just the right position too or I would lose the signal entirely, usually right at a pivotal moment in the story. It was always so frustrating and there was no VCR or replays back then. I actually bought the Upstairs-Downstairs DVD collection, a few years ago, just so I could watch some of the episodes that had been “snowed out” so I could see what I had missed all those years ago. It was the forerunner to Downton Abbey.
We also watched Dallas, Dynasty and Falcon Crest. I can’t believe they are actually coming out with a new Dynasty series soon. I guess someone decided that if Dallas had had a “second coming” than Dynasty should be given a second chance at revival too. Not sure that is such a great idea, but back in the late ’70’s we did not have too many choices. I can’t think of the name of the other popular series that was a spin off from Dallas. I never got into that one.
Tony Orlando and Dawn, The Smothers Brothers, Sonny and Cher all had variety shows and The Carol Burnett Show was a big hit. There was a show called The White Shadow about a high school basketball coach we all loved to watch for a few seasons and of course MASH could not be missed on Monday nights. The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Rhoda were my “role models” for modern women trying to navigate the world on their own. They had “spunk” and most men hated spunk. LOL The Waltons always made me homesick for the mountains and nostalgic for simpler childhood times too.
It seems like there were a lot of medical dramas back then as well, like Medical Center, Marcus Welby, M.D. and Trapper John, M.D. So many of us never wanted to miss those dramas either, since they were our “health education” instruction classes on rare medical conditions and diseases.
Oh my gosh, Barbara, you know your 70s TV. Many of these shows were certainly a part of our lives, weren’t they? I can remember the final episode of the Mary Tyler Moore show, for example, when everyone gets fired except the bumbling Ted Baxter.