Buckle up, because we’re taking another trip back in TV time following our tribute to CBS’ Saturday 1973 line-up. This time the year is 1971, when ABC had an awesome string of shows that helped turn TV Land into the pop culture sensation it became.
ABC 1971 Promo
Join us as we reacquaint ourselves with the bunch called Brady, David Cassidy’s now more-special-than-ever The Partridge Family, Oscar Madison and Felix Unger from The Odd Couple, the classroom of Mr. Dickson on Room 222, and romance in all its forms on Love American Style.
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8:00-8:30 The Brady Bunch
On the surface, there is no reason that this show should have had the afterlife that it did, but it always defied expectations. The premise is that widower Mike Brady falls in love with Carol Ann Tyler Martin (we’re never told what happened to her first husband — divorce? Death? Murder? Careful, Mike!) and they marry, bringing their six kids (his three boys, her three girls) into the mix. Obviously this group must somehow form a family, and that’s the way they all became the Brady Bunch (and you know that song is going to be stuck in our heads all night now).
The cast includes Robert Reed (Mike), Florence Henderson (Carol), Barry Williams (Greg), Maureen McCormick (Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!), Christopher Knight (Peter), Eve Plumb (Jan), Mike Lookinland (Bobby), Susan Oliver (Cindy), and Ann B. Davis (Alice, the maid). We’d tell you who played Cousin Oliver, but nobody likes Cousin Oliver.
For sure, this show is pure saccharine in its humor and its “drama," but it’s the earnestness of it all that’s so endearing, along with the little life lessons — which are also beautifully captured in a movie version that's considered a spoof of the show, but really manages to sweetly tap into both the good and the bad of it.
The Brady Bunch ran from 1969 to 1974.
What an amazing way to kick off a Friday night back in the day!
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8:30-9:00 The Partridge Family
In the ABC musical sitcom, the late David Cassidy played Keith Partridge, one of a family of singers who traveled the country on their tour bus (formerly a school bus) to entertain people everywhere. His mom on the show — also a member of the band — was played by real-life stepmom Shirley Jones, with other cast members including Susan Dey and Danny Bonaduce. The show turned Cassidy into an instant superstar, though there was one particular challenge: Initially, he wasn't allowed to sing Keith's vocals until he proved to producers that he was up to the task. There was also the perception in the media and with the public that he was a lightweight, bubblegum singer, when his heart was actually in rock and roll. That perception would plague him the rest of his life.
Their hit songs include "C'mon, Get Happy," "I Think I Love You," "I Woke Up in Love This Morning," and "Point Me in the Direction of Albuquerque."
The series ran from 1970 to 1974.
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9:00-9:30 The Odd Couple
Can two divorced men share an apartment without driving each other crazy? For five glorious years the answer to that question was a decided no, and the audience was all the better for it. Jack Klugman is sportswriter Oscar Madison and Tony Randal is photographer ("Portraits a specialty") Felix Unger. Oscar's a slob, Felix a neatnik. Both are divorced from their wives and decide to live together, but what they find is that they're still fighting for the same reasons their marriages fell apart. Sounds sad, but it's really funny and the show a TV classic.
Created by Neil Simon in 1965 for the Broadway stage, The Odd Couple originally starred Walter Matthau and Art Carney as Oscar and Felix. The 1968 movie featured Matthau and Jack Lemmon, there was the Klugman/Randall series, followed in 1982 by The New Odd Couple starring Demond Wilson and Ron Glass — and, most recently, a CBS version starring Matthew Perry and Thomas Lennon.
The show ran from 1970 to 1975.
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9:30-10:00 Room 222
One of TV's first dramedies, the setting was Walt Whitman High School — a racially diverse school — and the focus on the classroom of Pete Dixon (Lloyd Haynes), an African-American history teacher who connects with his students in a way that most other teachers don't. In addition to the classroom, the show would also look at the home lives of both students and faculty. In addition to dealing with timeless plots regarding kids maturing into adults, issues of the day were also addressed by the writers, ranging from the Vietnam War to women's rights and even the Watergate scandal.
Other cast members include Denise Nicholas as Liz McIntyre, guidance counselor and Pete's girlfriend; Michael Constantine as principal Seymour Kaufman, and Karen Valentine as student teacher (eventually hired as a teacher) Alice Johnson.
Room 222 ran from 1969 to 1974.
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10:00-11:00 Love American Style
The fireworks literally flew during the opening credits of this anthology series that looked at love and romance through a couple of short stories accompanied by really short comic vignettes. Think of it as an early version of The Love Boat or Fantasy Island where the celebrities of the day would appear and deal with their romantic life in one form or another. It's all fluff, but the nostalgia factor makes it so much fun. A nice, more adult way to bookend those Friday nights with The Brady Bunch.
Interestingly, two unsuccessful TV pilots aired during the run of the show that ended up being sampled by a large enough audience that they were spun off into shows of their own. The first was "Love and the Old-Fashioned Father," which spawned the syndicated animated series Wait Till Your Father Gets Home. And the other was Love and the Happy Days, which, obviously, gave birth to the network's blockbuster hit Happy Days.
Love American Style ran from 1969 to 1974.