The Best TV Show From the Year You Were Born
We’re currently said to be in the golden age of TV. But who doesn’t miss the programs they grew up with? Some of the most influential series came in the ’60s, ‘70s, and ‘80s, and we want to honor the best of them.
Whether you’re a late baby boomer or an early millennial, we’ve got you covered. Here’s a list of the top series that premiered each year from 1962–1985, according to Nielsen Ratings.
1962: The Beverly Hillbillies
In September of 1962, CBS sitcom The Beverly Hillbillies premiered. The rags-to-riches story of a family who moves to Los Angeles after striking it rich was on the air for nine seasons and was the highest-rated series its first season.
Originally shot in black-and-white, the single-camera series transitioned to color in the later years and spawned two semi-spinoffs.
1963: Petticoat Junction
From Paul Henning, the creator of The Beverly Hillbillies, came Petticoat Junction the very next year. Though it premiered at an admirable No. 4 in the ratings, the similarly rural series never achieved the fame of its predecessor and continued to decline in popularity over the years.
A direct spinoff, Green Acres, came about in 1965. But by 1971, all three shows had been canceled.
Beginning with a freshman season ranked No. 2, the ABC sitcom about a witch who married a mortal and tries to live as a housewife delighted fans for eight seasons. In fact, the supernatural theme was so successful that a rival series, I Dream of Jeannie, premiered the next year.
However, like many other programs, Bewitched only declined in ratings until its cancellation in 1972.
1965: Hogan’s Heroes
Several veteran series beat out Hogan’s Heroes in the ratings during its first season. Nevertheless, the World War II-era sitcom was a staple of popular culture throughout its six-season run.
With over 150 episodes in total, the Emmy-winning program is still the only one of its kind.
A bit of a deviation from the other series on this list, Daktari was a family-friendly, animal-focused program that aired for four seasons on CBS.
Ranking at No. 7 in its freshman year, the unique show starred two real animal actors: Clarence the lion and Judy the chimpanzee. The show also featured then-child star, the late Erin Moran, in the final season.
1967: The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
All veteran shows were at the top of the Nielsen ratings this year, but The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour did crack the top 20 during its brief three-season run. The eponymous siblings, Tom and Dick, performed folk songs together while cracking jokes.
Interestingly, the originally family-friendly material soon became politically critical, and CBS swiftly canceled the show.
1968: Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In
The No. 1 most-watched program during the 1968-1969 TV season was a new sketch comedy show, Rowan & Martin’s Laugh-In. Starring comedians Dan Rowan and Dick Martin, the series won numerous Emmys and helped to launch the careers of major stars, like Lily Tomlin and Goldie Hawn.
Additionally, Laugh-In has been credited as one reason why Nixon became president, as he appeared on the show just before the 1968 election.
1969: Marcus Welby, M.D.
In 1969, the No. 7 show was a new medical drama on ABC, titled Marcus Welby, M.D. For seven seasons, Robert Young starred as the title character alongside a young James Brolin, who played another doctor who often disagreed with Welby.
The series was among the first to consult real medical professionals in order to keep the cases accurate.
1970: The Flip Wilson Show
The success of Laugh-In allowed for one of its regulars, Flip Wilson, to receive his own variety hour. Among the first to feature a black star in the title role, the program won two Emmys for its first season.
Musical acts like The Jackson 5 made early career appearances on the show.
1971: All in the Family
A brand-new series, All in the Family, became the No. 1 TV show of 1971. The working class sitcom was the first of the Norman Lear-era, starring Carroll O’Connor as “lovable bigot” Archie Bunker.
Running for nine seasons, the show was so successful, it spawned five spinoffs and became a staple of American pop culture.
1972: Sanford and Son
The monumental success of All in the Family led to another Norman Lear-developed project, Sanford and Son. Redd Foxx and Demond Wilson starred as the eponymous father and son, who got into crazy antics while making their way in the Watts neighborhood of South Central Los Angeles.
The program spawned two spinoffs.
Crime drama Kojak centers around the titular character, a lieutenant in the NYPD. Telly Savalas’ notable role as a tough cop lasted for five seasons on CBS, but went on to have a larger cultural impact.
Kojak’s ever-present Tootsie Pop is specifically remembered, as is his trademark bald head.
1974: Chico and the Man
This NBC sitcom, created by James Komack, was apparently derived from the experiences of comedy act Cheech & Chong. Starring Jack Albertson and Freddie Prinze, the series depicted a white man and the young Latino who worked in his garage.
After four seasons, the show was canceled, due to falling ratings following Prinze’s tragic suicide in 1977.
The second spinoff of landmark comedy The Mary Tyler Moore Show was Phyllis. Following Cloris Leachman’s eponymous character, the show depicted a widower who moves with her daughter into her in-law’s home and attempts to make her way in the working world.
Though it only lasted two seasons, it was one of the early notable roles for Leachman, whose career is still prosperous at the age of 91.
1976: Laverne & Shirley
During the 1976-1977 TV season, both of the top two most-watched shows came from Garry Marshall. Brand-new series Laverne & Shirley, technically a spinoff of the acclaimed Happy Days, followed two working-class roommates and their slapstick antics.
The program lasted for eight successful seasons on ABC.
1977: Three’s Company
While Marshall’s shows continued to prevail in 1977, new ABC sitcom Three’s Company became a breakout hit. The farcical series about three roommates also lasted for eight seasons and launched the careers of stars Suzanne Somers and the late John Ritter.
Despite numerous cast changes, the program and its memorable theme song are still a part of popular culture to this day.
1978: Mork & Mindy
Yet another Happy Days spinoff, Mork & Mindy, also had a popular start. The series followed an alien who befriends an Earth girl and goes on a series of misadventures.
The program is credited with launching the career of the late Robin Williams, despite only running for four seasons.
1979: The Dukes of Hazzard
The scheming Duke Boys of Hazzard County, Georgia zoomed onto TV screens in the late ‘70s, where they stayed for seven seasons. Merchandise, made-for-TV movies, and several very recognizable vehicles were what the series became known for in the years after its cancellation.
The program (and the term “Daisy Dukes”) made its way back into popular culture in the early ‘00s for a brief moment, with two feature films starring the same characters.
1980: Magnum, P.I.
Though usurped in its freshman season, crime drama Magnum, P.I. was a steady network hit for a few years, peaking at No. 4 in its third season. The series is credited with launching the career of Tom Selleck, who starred as the eponymous investigator and became the emblem of cool for the 1980s.
Selleck took home both an Emmy and a Golden Globe for his lead role during his tenure on the program.
1981: Falcon Crest
Unlike most of the programs on this list, Falcon Crest was a prime-time soap opera. Airing for nine total seasons, the series followed two competing families who work in the wine industry. Falcon Crest has been described as the middle ground between the down and dirty dramatics of Dallas and the outlandish wealth of Dynasty, two other popular soaps of the time.
Coming in at No. 12 is sitcom Newhart, which 1982 brought about. The series was a vehicle for comedian Bob Newhart and depicted him as an average inn owner and talk show host, who is constantly perplexed by the wacky rural townspeople surrounding him.
The finale episode, in which everything is revealed to be a dream, is among the most memorable in TV history.
1983: The A-Team
The A-Team featured four ex-military men fighting as mercenaries, painted as the good guys who were wrongly accused. The episodic action series launched the career of Mr. T, who starred as B.A. Baracus, the team’s “muscle.”
The comically violent program was canceled during its fifth season after ratings plummeted.
1984: Murder, She Wrote
The massively successful first season of crime drama Murder, She Wrote was just the beginning. The series went on to become one of the longest-running in prime time, ending after 12 seasons on the air.
Oscar winner Angela Lansbury played Jessica Fletcher, a mystery writer who solves helps to solve cases in her Maine home. Lansbury famously never won an Emmy for the show, despite being nominated every season.
1985: The Golden Girls
The historically significant sitcom, The Golden Girls, premiered in 1985 to critical and commercial acclaim. The series united three prominent actresses of the time, Bea Arthur, Betty White, and Rue McClanahan, as middle-aged women living together in a home with one of their elderly mothers.
The groundbreaking comedy came to an end after seven seasons when Arthur decided to leave the show. It resulted in three spinoffs, an unsuccessful off-Broadway play, and numerous foreign adaptations.
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