30 big things that happened in pop culture 40 years ago

1978 gave us Lego people, Van Halen, the LaserDisc, Garfield, Reese's Pieces and so much more.

1978 was a massive year for pop culture. From the superhero movies to disco hits, entertainment delivered. There were new candies and cool new school supplies at every turn.

Let's take a look back. What was your favorite thing about 1978?

1. 'Grease' was the word. And the hottest movie in the world.


John Travolta was suddenly Hollywood's leading leading-man thanks to the smash movie musical. His duets with Olivia Newton-John dominated pop radio, too. The biggest numbers from the soundtrack — "You're the One That I Want" and "Hopelessly Devoted to You" — were written specifically for the film.

2. Garfield the cat made his debut in newspaper comic strips.


Made his debut in 41 papers around the country on June 19, 1978.

Image: Paws, Inc. / Universal Press Syndicate

3. The Star Wars Holiday Special nearly ruined a pop culture phenomenon.


The infamous stinker introduced Jefferson Starship, Art Carney, Bea Arthur and a Wookie named Itchy to the Star Wars universe.

4. Reese's Pieces first popped into candy aisles.


The peanut-butter bites did not fully take off until E.T. nibbled on them in 1982.

Image: The Hershey Company

5. The Speak & Spell made learning fun.


Speaking of E.T., the alien's favorite toy made its debut in 1978. That computerized voice was essentially the Siri of our youth.

6. 'WKRP in Cincinnati,' 'Diff'rent Strokes,' 'Taxi' and 'Battlestar Galactica' all made their debuts.


You can watch them all today on MeTV or MeTV.com. These TV classics first hit screens that year. Happy 40th!

7. 'The Incredible Hulk,' 'Dallas' and 'Fantasy Island' kicked off, too.


Yeah, it was a pretty great year for TV. Despite all these debuts, Laverne & Shirley remained the top show on television.

8. The Blues Brothers made their debut on SNL.


Dan Aykroyd and John Belushi put on their sharp suits for the first time in a Saturday Night Live sketch that aired on January 17, 1976. Hit albums and blockbuster movies followed.

Image: Atlantic Records

9. Audiences said goodbye to 'The Carol Burnett Show.'


After 11 side-splitting seasons, the sketch comedy institution ended its run with episode No. 279 on March 29, 1978.

10. Atari's Breakout was the peak of video gaming.


The cartridge sold more than one million units, making it the first hit for the Atari 2600 system. It would go on to rank as the 11th best-selling game for the console overall.

Image: Atari

11. The little yellow Lego man was born.


The iconic Lego minifigure brought some personality to the toy bricks in 1978. That same year, Lego launched its incredible castle set for the first time, too.

12. Stephen King published his 823-page opus 'The Stand.'


When it was first published, the post-apocalyptic tale took place in 1980. When it was reprinted a few years later, the setting shifted to 1985. The timeline jumped yet again in a later edition, to 1990. Weird!

13. Superman ushered in the era of the superhero movie.


Comic book movies are nothing new. The trend truly kicked off four decades ago, when Christopher Reeve first slipped into his red trunks for Superman. The movie hit theaters during the holiday season and raked in an insane $300 million dollars. That's $1.1 billion in today's cash. One could argue it's still the greatest superhero movie.

14. The first primetime Super Bowl was played.


Speaking of "Super," the Super Bowl played its first evening game when the championship hit New Orleans for the XII edition. That same year, the NFL also expanded its season from 14 games to 16 games.

Image: Writing as a Profession

15. J.R.R. Tolkein was hot back then, too.


Fantasy geeks and prog-music lovers snatched up newly published The Silmarillion in early 1978. The sort-of prequel to The Lord of the Rings was the best-selling novel in the land from January to March. Amazon recently plopped down a billion bucks to turn some of this material into a TV show.

16. Elton John introduced his shocking new "No Glasses" look.


The pop pianist was hard to recognize without flamboyant spectacles. He took off his glasses for the cover of a January issue of People, and tried to rock the look for a while.

Image: People Magazine

17. Van Halen released its debut.


Air guitaring was never the same again.

18. Earth Kitt narrated a strange TV commercial for Steely Dan.


"Welcome to the land of Steely Dan," the former Catwoman purred. It was a place she called "a continent of the mind." The band itself had no involvement in the ad. Check it out on YouTube.

19. Students stuffed notes into the very first Trapper Keepers.


Mead's designer binder quickly became the must-have school supply when it first hit stores in 1978.

Image: Mead

20. Kenny Rogers taught us when to fold 'em.


The country king dropped his classic album The Gambler. Kenny would go on to star in five TV movies based on the album, song and character between 1980 and 1994. Five! After that, he knew when to walk away.

21. Andy Gibb had the No. 1 song in the land.


"Shadow Dancing" was Billboard's top tune of the year. The Gibbs dominated pop music that year, as the Bee Gees scored hit after hit, too.

22. But the Bee Gees had a bomb, too.


Not everything the Bee Gees touched turned to gold. Their movie version of Sgt. Pepper's Lonely Hearts Club Band became the turkey of the year when it hit theaters on July 21.

23. The Sex Pistols ripped through an America tour — and broke up.


The punks came to the States for an American tour in January 1978, starting, intentionally, with belligerent crowds in the South. After making headlines, causing fights and getting ill, the band split after its gig in San Francisco.

Image: AP Photo

24. 'Annie Hall' cleaned up at the 50th Annual Oscars.


The 1977 release was the big winner on April 3, 1978, when it took home Academy Awards for Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actress and Best Screenplay. Star Wars fared better in the technical awards, of course.

25. Cinnamon Life poured into our bowls.


After being told for a few years that "Mickey likes it," we cereal lovers finally got a new lease on Life when Quaker launched its Cinnamon Life in 1978.

26. The Whatchamacallit candy bar came out.


It was the most fun to ask for at the counter.

Image: Hershey

27. Cabbage Patch Kids dolls first sprouted.


Xavier Roberts made his first batch of the Patch Kids in 1978, though back then they were called "The Little People." The name change came four years later, when Roberts licensed the doll to Coleco.

Image: AP Photo/Elise Amendola

28. Ben & Jerry's opened its first ice cream shop.


The hippie dessert duo opened the door to their first ice cream parlor in downtown Burlington, Vermont, in a refurbished gas station.

Image: AP Photo/Toby Talbot

29. Nike redefined the running shoe.


It was a big year for joggers. The Nike Tailwind hit sneaker shops in 1978, introducing air pockets. The blossoming shoe giant also launched its LDV long-distance running shoe that year. They're still in style.

Image: Nike

30. LaserDisc players hit stores.


Of course, the first commercial LaserDisc player was called the MCA DiscoVision. It was 1978, after all.

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Joanaisabel003 16 months ago
I wasn't even born but i love old things, me and my friends always talk about the 60s and 70s mostly, we love vintage things!!! 😽
ll675i 27 months ago
#6....not only is Battlestar Galatic NOT on MeTV, when I click on youre MeTV.com link I get a pertty litle message with your logo that says page not found. Even if the show was on MeTV....it would be like all the rest of the shows you have, butchered to make room for more commercials. I'll just buy the DVDs.
BigE ll675i 19 months ago
Then why get on the website?
Auntiekk 27 months ago
It's funny that the Bee Gees Sgt. Pepper's movie bombed @ the box office. I love that 'lousy' movie & have it on VHS. Lol !!!
MarshaStapleton 27 months ago
Richard Hatch on Battlestar Galactica -- the most beautiful man in any universe.
DeniseC061612 31 months ago
My favorite thing in 1978 was my high school graduation. Okay, and Van Halen! 😁
Amalthea 35 months ago
I turned 14 in 1978, and I enjoyed most of the things on this list. Heck, I admit to loving the movie "Sgt. Pepper"...but realize that I was a tween girl heavily crushing on Barry Gibb and Peter Frampton, so what's not to love? :) I couldn't have cared less about the Stupid Bowl, and I despised the Cabbage Patch dolls, as I worked in retail the first year they were mass produced & sold in 1983. To this day I can't stand the sight of them (although my husband made a little extra Christmas money walking people to their cars with their dolls for safety).
TonyClifton 35 months ago
The loss of my virginity. That was the best thing about 1978!
Joanaisabel003 TonyClifton 16 months ago
Lmao what? that's funny 😭
Randall 37 months ago
I remember GARY COLEMAN doing a commercial for the WHATCHMACALIT (sorry about spelling) maybe someone could find that commercial?
moax429 53 months ago
1978 was a *crappy* year in my life. I was then 16 and I had to leave my friends in Lansing, Michigan when my father had the brilliant (sarcastically speaking) idea to take a job in Chicago. I broke out in hives for three months.

But, to be sure "Grease," "Shadow Dancing," and "WKRP" were the three saving graces during that black period of my life. You also might remember "Star Wars, Episode IV: A New Hope" had its first rerelease that summer, and that's *always* welcome in my book!
WilliamJorns moax429 28 months ago
It was a bad summer for me. I had dropped out of one college that spring, and ended up working in a bread bakery on the northwest side of Chicago (nights and weekends) to save money to resume my studies at another school. Among other films I saw that summer, the "Star Wars" rerelease helped me keep my sanity during those crazy months. Not to mention the songs I heard on the radio then: The aforementioned "Shadow Dancing;" Bob Seger's "Night Moves," Little River Band's "Reminiscing," Gerry Rafferty's "Baker Street," Exile's sultry "Kiss You All Over." (just to name a few!) Every time I hear one of those tunes takes me back to that hectic time in my life. As much as I hated what I was doing then, I now look back on that summer and laugh.
Damn, that's wild
Mukusthebadd1 53 months ago
RedSamRackham 55 months ago
* Heathcliff is the cat version of Snoopy seen by youngsters as 1 of the gang BUT Garfield more like a real life pet kitty getting into same kinds of mischief. ☺
Runeshaper 57 months ago
Man, a lot went on in '78! That alien was pretty cool in the Reese's ad. I had to look him up after seeing that he wasn't E.T. LOL Good for Carol Burnett with her 279 episodes! Sad to see the show end, but that's impressive. Also looks like many other BIG hits started up that year. Was neat to see the 1st Garfield. I rather didn't know or forgot that Jon was a cartoonist. Grease is still the word.
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