11 brilliant TV shows from the 1970s that only lasted one season

Kolchak, Cylons and Mel Brooks deserved more episodes.

Even TV shows that last a mere 13 episodes can become classics. We're talking about the days long before "prestige television." In the Seventies, you had M*A*S*H, The Waltons, Happy Days and Gunsmoke pumping out hundreds of episodes.

The following titles never got that chance, mostly due to scheduling. Monday Night Football blocked as many acting careers as field goals that decade. But some of these shows shut down due to medical reasons… or actors simply quitting. They are all worthy of revisiting. Heck, we've aired some.

Let's take a look.

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1. Battlestar Galactica

Released in the wake of Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica brought similar space action to the small screen. Some might argue that the Syfy remake from the 2000s is superior, but the original Cylons are infinitely cooler. Just look at them. Okay, in some way, Battlestar got a second season, if you count Galactica 1980. But that earthbound sequel is so different, it classifies as a spin-off.

Image: The Everett Collection

2. Dan August

Burt Reynolds, before the mustache. Perhaps the 'stache gave him his Seventies mojo. This homicide mystery should have been a smash. Norman Fell, future Mr. Roper, played the grizzled partner. Check the rest of the cast. Harrison Ford and Billy Dee Williams! Yeah, Han and Lando! Plus: John Ritter, Mickey Rooney, Ricardo Montalbán, Carolyn Jones, Lee Meriwether, Martin Sheen, Dabney Coleman, Joan Van Ark, Jan-Michael Vincent… phew, that's a lot of star power for one season and only the half of it.

Image: The Everett Collection

3. Funny Face

Sandy Duncan is an adored legend of stage and screen. Filling Audrey Hepburn's shoes is no enviable task, but Duncan charmed audiences and critics in this TV adaptation of the 1957 musical-comedy Funny Face. The sitcom ranked No. 8 in the Nielsen ratings for the 1971–72 season. The reason it lasted just 13 episodes is wild. Duncan suffered headaches on the set and a tumor was discovered behind her left eye. After powering through the first half of the season, she underwent surgery as production was halted. CBS gave her time to recover, but the following year, the network heavily retooled and retitled the series, dubbing it The Sandy Duncan Show. New cast, new writers, new filming format.

Image: The Everett Collection

4. Get Christie Love!

Teresa Graves was the first African-American woman to star in her own hour-long drama series. Released at the height of the Blaxploitation cinema craze, Christie Love was based on a real cop, Olga Ford. She joined the New York City police department in 1958, becoming one of 35 African-American women on the force. In 1970, she began practicing Buddhism. "Several Christie Love episodes are based on Olga Ford's more exciting cases," Graves told Jet Magazine in November 1974.

Image: The Everett Collection

5. Kolchak: The Night Stalker

In Kolchak's debut, the intrepid investigator of the arcane was hunting a vampire in seedy Las Vegas. The Night Stalker TV movie aired in January of 1972, drawing a massive 33.2 rating / 54 share by Nielsen's measurement. That's just a massive audience. When the series launched, it was simply called The Night Stalker. Weeks into its inaugural season, the show took a month-long hiatus. When it returned, with "The Werewolf," the series was branded Kolchak: The Night Stalker. The Monster of the Week format set the mold for future series like The X-Files and Fringe. But perhaps the wildest fantasy on the show was the Cubs winning the '74 World Series in Kolchak's fictional Chicago.

Image: The Everett Collection

6. The Magician

When it premiered in the fall of 1973, The Magician was Harry Houdini meets James Bond. Here was a master escape artist who drove a growling sports car and lived inside a jumbo jet. ("It's like any other mobile home, only faster.") The title character was played by rising star Bill Bixby, who was hot off The Courtship of Eddie's Father and the earlier hit My Favorite Martian. Bixby learned magic to perform tricks on camera. This short-lived spectacular had a big influence on budding creators. Remember in The X-Files how young Mulder is watching The Magician when his sister is abducted?

Image: The Everett Collection

7. Toma

The network thought he was bluffing. Tony Musante said he only wanted to do one season of this gritty cop series. Producers figured it was a negotiating tactic. It was not. Musante bailed and the show recast and retooled into the more traditional action hour Baretta. Toma had more of a Serpico vibe, based on the career of a real detective, Dave Toma, who made cameos throughout the series. Toma splashed violence across the screen and dealt with heavy urban issues. Some complained. But it was ahead of its time.

Image: The Everett Collection

8. Van Dyke and Company

Dick Van Dyke and Andy Kaufman? What a genius comedy pairing. Kaufman became a regular player on this 1976 sketch and variety showcase, honing a lot of his act for television. His "foreign man" character, which blossomed into Latka Gravas on Taxi, lost a "Fonzie lookalike" contest to a black man in a particularly hilarious bit. 

Image: The Everett Collection

9. What Really Happened to the Class of '65?

This anthology drama checked back in with Boomers a decade after leaving high school. The casting agent deserved a trophy — Kim Cattrall, Jessica Walter, Jane Curtain, Larry Hagman, Dana Plato, Linda Purl, and many more booked the show early in their careers. Don Johnson, who played a Vietnam vet, perhaps sticks most in the memory of those who caught the show.

Image: The Everett Collection

10. When Things Were Rotten

In the spring of 1975, the British comedy ensemble Monty Python released its first complete narrative film, the cult classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Mel Brooks had released his campy western satire Blazing Saddles the prior year. It was a shift in the style of comedic filmmaking, to more sketch-based, sarcastic, and satirical lampoons — movies like Airplane and Spinal Tap. When Things Were Rotten just doesn't exactly grab you from the TV Guide page. Mel Brooks' Robin Hood could have clicked better, or even the concept's eventual film title, Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Dick Gautier (Hymie on Get Smart) and Dick Van Patten starred as Robin and Friar Tuck. Mel Brooks movies are cult comedy classics. His TV show should also be remembered.

Image: The Everett Collection

11. The Young Rebels

The Mod Squad meets Ben Franklin? That was essentially the concept of this Revolutionary War drama that tapped into the Boomer wave in 1970. Louis Gossett Jr. was the big name here — although hardly big at the time — playing one of the guerrillas sticking it to the British. The show did strive for some historical accuracy, set in a time that somehow, oddly rarely gets covered on television.

Image: The Everett Collection

 
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SheriHeffner 10 days ago
I barely remember Funny Face and none of the other programs here.
davidr 11 days ago
Anyone else out there who remembers SEARCH, which aired on NBC during 1972-73? The cast included Burgess Meredith, Hugh O'Brian, and Doug McClure among others. I would say it was influenced by The Man from UNCLE and Mission: Impossible.
Also:
The Man from Atlantis
Logan's Run (based on the 1976 film)
Sierra (a lot like Emergency!)
Moverfan davidr 11 days ago
I remember Logan's Run being on and The Man From Atlantis (we will now pause to remember Patrick Duffy in the nice little bathing suit...okay, I'm back). I've heard of SEARCH, but not sure if I ever saw it. And Sierra...I kind of recall something with that in the title, but it may not be what you're talking about.
Klink 12 days ago
Need to broadcast the Night Stalker movies, fantastic
JamesForti 13 days ago
I find it really interesting that so many of these ‘old’ series are unavailable for viewing outside of channels like MeTV….no surprise that a series that lasted for only one year—with sub 100 episodes—had no syndication rights and subsequently no re run potential. Toma was a great series, and Tony Musante had the charisma and depth of acting to make it a believable character.
woohardin 13 days ago
Not Mark Hamill in The Young Rebels, that guy was Rick, later Richard, Ely. He was featured in Tiger Beat a lot back in the day. I enjoyed Dan August, too, but Burt had to go on to bigger and better things. It would be nice to see Dan August again, maybe a weekend marathon?
Meghan63 15 days ago
I didn't watch any of these shows except maybe Dan August. Can't remember. Must have been better things on other channels. I think I would have liked "Young Rebels". Are you sure that's not Mark Hamill?
TamiKeller1 15 days ago
Bill Bixby was a dear family friend. A wonderful and kind person, he was really proud of "The Magician" and it broke his heart that it never went past one season. He used to tell me that there were many more Tony Blake stories to tell.
FLETCH 16 days ago
MeTV should get the rights to Dan August and The Magician. I would enjoy seeing those shows.

I've seen Battlestar Galactica before but would enjoy seeing that again.

Also, Kolchak: The Night Stalker is a very entertaining show.
Lpenney 16 days ago
Funny Face was not an adaptation of the Audrey Hepburn movie. There was no connection at all except for the same name.
BrianSkii 16 days ago
Read the Jeff Rice's novel 'The Night Stalker' that introduced Carl Kolchak to the world.
Early 1970s classic.
JohnBarton 16 days ago
It's only fair to mention that The Magician was ultimately done-in by the Writer's Guild strike that took place around the middle of the season. I can attest to the fact that there was a significant crop of future magicians that sprung from the exciting swashbuckling action shown on their television screens in 1973- 74 (speaking as one of them). While it didn't make it to a second season, it's legacy lived on in a couple of magic TV series specials that featured Bixby as host, as well as the resurgence of television magic specials that followed shortly after, featuring Doug Henning, David Copperfield, Blackstone Jr, and others.
MichaelPowers 16 days ago
Have to respectfully disagree and say that Battlestar Galactica was not a brilliant SF TV show. True, it had lavish production values and a likable cast, but they were saddled with inferior scripting. The reboot of BG was excellent and vastly superior to the original series.

The Night Stalker was fun, at first, but it lost steam with its repetitive monster-of-the-week formula. The two Night Stalker 90-minute TV movies were marvelous but the concept should not have become a weekly series. A couple of TV movie a year would have been better.

Watching When Things Were Rotten on Youtube showed me that even the wonderful Mel Brooks can produce a turkey.
Runeshaper 16 days ago
WOW! So many of these shows seem GREAT as in they should have had more than 1 season.
Pacificsun 17 days ago
Would be respectful to get a notice out there about the death of Bob Saget, beloved dad of Full House.

https://www.cnn.com/2022/01/09/entertainment/bob-saget-death-full-house/index.html
Greenhornet 17 days ago
I remember What Really Happened to the Class of '65? very good series! I wish it were available on DVD.
vinman63 17 days ago
When Things Were Rotten was the only one I watched.
ncadams27 vinman63 16 days ago
I remember a show called Apple Pie with Rue McClanahan, Dabney Coleman, and Jack Gilford. Norman Lear created it - was set in the Depression and involved a woman (McClanahan) who wanted a family and advertised for people in newspaper ads. Seemed like it could be funny (I remember one episode), but it wasn’t. Canceled after 8 episodes.
Michael 17 days ago
I was watching Clambake yesterday (it has very little to do with baking clams) and a blonde Bill Bixby is there, playing a rich tycoon who races boats.

Shelley Fabares is in it too, with very dark hair.
Susan00100 17 days ago
The trouble with Sandy Duncan's program was that it was too similar to THE MARY TYLER MOORE SHOW
But Sandy did succeed with THE HOGAN FAMILY.
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