10 Forgotten ’70s Shows Worth Rewatching | Pretty Reel

With shows like Stranger Things stoking 1980s nostalgia, fans can’t help but turn their attention to the groovy decade that preceded it and explore all the major media the decade produced. With dozens of TV shows airing in those 10 years, some great programs just disappeared.

Gripping procedural shows like Emergency! to irreverent comedies like WKRP in Cincinnati, the 1970s had much more to offer than recessions and the gas crisis. Even though many shows from the 70s have been forgotten, only the best deserve a modern retelling.

Canon (1971-1976)

Not available for streaming

Although procedurals are all the rage today, it was the 1970s that laid the foundation for the genre. Cannon is the story of a former LAPD officer who trades in his badge to become a private investigator to solve the toughest cases Los Angeles can throw at him.

The cases were always interesting and Cannon was able to solve them using any means at his disposal. Although somewhat dated by today’s standards, Cannon is still one of the best character-driven detective shows of all time.

McCloud (1970-1977)

Stream on Tubi

The cowardly cop who breaks the rules is a cliché today, but in the 70s a few names exemplified this idea, such as McCloud. Cowboy justice comes to the big city when a lawyer from New Mexico is reassigned to New York’s 27th Precinct.

In real life, McCloud would be one of the dirtiest cops in television history, but his offbeat methods worked perfectly for a weekly series. Tough but sensitive, McCloud embodied the stereotype of 70s machismo, aided by actor Dennis Weaver’s stellar performance and rugged good looks.

Welcome Back, Kotter (1975-1979)

Rent on Prime Video, Vudu and Google Play

Although some thought this TV show wouldn’t fly today, Welcome Back, Kotter was a sitcom that wasn’t afraid to tackle important social issues affecting inner-city youth. The series follows a teacher who returns to the high school he graduated from to teach a new generation of troubled youth.

John Travolta’s starring role as Vinnie Barbarino wasn’t the only thing the show had going for it, and it was actually quite funny between its political messages. Thanks to its simple setup, the series was able to fully explore its characters and present a more fleshed-out package than most sitcoms can offer.

Quincy ME (1976-1983)

Not available for streaming

Hollywood legend Jack Klugman has returned to the small screen to direct one of television’s most adventurous crime procedurals to date. Dr. Quincy is a no-nonsense medical examiner who goes above and beyond to investigate cases he deems to be murders.

Shows about detectives and uniformed cops were a dime back then, but Quincy ME gave viewers a glimpse into a whole different side of police work. Science had never been an integral part of a crime show before, and Jack Klugman’s incredible performance added a touch of character to what was already gripping procedural.

Maud (1972-1978)

Stream on Tubi

All in the Family was one of the biggest shows of the decade, but its lesser-known spin-off, Maude, is also worth remembering. Maude Findley is an independent 70s woman trying to make a living in the small town of Tuckahoe, New York.

Years before she was turning heads again in The Golden Girls, Bea Arthur found the role she was born to play as Maude. Snappy and filled with edgy wit, the show put women’s liberation in the context of a realistic, believable character who was also flawed and human. Fans of Arthur’s later work will be delighted with his star turn in Maude.

Emergency! (1972-1979)

Not available for streaming

Most of the best TV medical dramas have appeared in the past few decades, but Emergency! laid the groundwork for what these shows could be. The series follows the men and women of the Los Angeles Fire Department and paramedics who attend major disasters in the city.

Emphasizing thrilling danger, the show was anything but stagnant procedural. The heroes were often in life or death situations which added an abundance of intrigue and tension to the program. No series until then had really illustrated how dangerous a job in the emergency services could be on a daily basis.

WKRP in Cincinnati (1978-1982)

Not available for streaming

Rock ‘n roll was all the rage in the ’70s, and WKRP in Cincinnati was a rare workplace comedy that had its finger on the pulse of the nation at the time. Struggling to compete in a big market, the folks at WKRP in Cincinnati Ohio must find a way to stand out in the top 40 of the saturated Midwestern market.

Unlike most sitcoms of the era that rehashed tired old jokes and were somewhat behind in their social commentary, WKRP was hilarious and on-topic throughout its short run. Many viewers remember the infamous Thanksgiving episode, but there are plenty of memorable moments besides this holiday classic.

Soap (1977-1981)

Stream on Tubi and Fubo

While most ’70s shows were known for being on the nose with their humor, Soap was a surprisingly subversive series for when it aired. Parodying all the soap opera tropes, the series follows the over-the-top exploits of two competing families.

Although soap operas might seem like an easy target, their prevalence in the ’70s meant that Soap’s clever pamphlet was indispensable. As a spoof, it’s top notch, but the show still succeeded by having memorable characters who grew and changed over the course of the run and helped make actors like Billy Crystal stars.

Barney Miller (1975-1982)

Stream on Fubo, Prime Video and Crackle

Although light-hearted crime shows like Brooklyn Nine-Nine are common today, Barney Miller has blazed his own trail by mixing typical crime drama with a healthy dose of humor as well. Housed in the squad room of the NYPD’s 12th District, Captain Barney Miller must deal with his officers’ exaggerated personalities and goofy townspeople.

Barney Miller is amazing because of all he could do with so little space. The show could tell gripping stories that rarely had to leave a single room, and the characters each had enough personality to fill their own shows. Miller was turned into shows like Fish, but none could capture the same energy as its predecessor.

Kolchak: The Night Stalker (1974-1975)

Stream on NBC

Although only one odd season remained, Kolchak: The Night Stalker is still one of the most effective horror shows in television history. Kolchak is a seasoned reporter who always seems to find himself in tune with some of Chicago’s weirdest cases.

From supernatural monsters to sadistic killers, Kolchak was anything but the typical procedural crime spectacle. Even for a show approaching its 50th anniversary, Kolchak has delivered several episodes that are downright chilling, and each outing has always left viewers guessing what kind of out-of-sight terror poor Kolchak would find himself entangled in.

10 Forgotten ’70s Shows Worth Rewatching | Pretty Reel