40 Worst TV Shows of the 1970s
The ‘70s gave us plenty of fantastic, memorable television shows. From Happy Days to The Jeffersons to M*A*S*H, the decade was a great time for fans of TV. In fact, watching TV was one of the best things to do with the family after a long day at work and school. These great shows taught us lessons and had us tearing up when something dramatic happened – although that was only for the shows that can be considered good.
Despite the string of mega hits on the small screen during the 1970s, there were plenty of not-so-hot shows that somehow made it to air, too. It felt like the flops were coming out just as quickly as the stars (if not more). From the ridiculous to the downright awful, these are TV shows that hardly anyone remembers fondly. They turned up noses and left networks scrambling to cancel them. Hey, the good news was that we ended up getting another good show in its place…at least sometimes.
People may still watch Mork and Mindy, but no one is clamoring to see these shows. Here is our rundown of the 40 TV shows of the 1970s that are, sadly, the absolute worst of the decade.
The P.T.L Club
The P.T.L. Club, also known as The Jim and Tammy Show, was a Christian TV program. “PTL” stood for “Praise The Lord” or “People That Love.” Obviously, the name wasn’t that important. It followed a talk-show format, but what they discussed wasn’t the important part.
We're putting it on the list because the show was just about money. Later, it released that the whole thing was merely a scam to steal from people. They banked millions of dollars, but that was just one of the many scandals that surrounded the two hosts.
A Year at the Top
A Year at the Top was about two musicians that were struggling to make a living. Their solution? A deal with the devil. It starred Nedra Volz, Pricilla Morrill, Gabriel Dell, and Julie Cobb, although Mickey Rooney appeared in the pilot.
The whole deal-with-the-devil idea didn't make it too far. The show made it through five episodes before CBS shut down production in 1977. Audiences didn’t tune in, so the network decided to tune it out.
The American Girls
Often seen as CBS trying to replicate ABC’s “jiggle TV” model, The American Girls was basically about two girls who were sent on investigative missions that led them into all sorts of adventures. Sort of pre-Charlie's Angels, except the plots were boring.
As you can tell, this didn’t really attract audiences. The show’s first season was slated for 11 episodes, but it only made it through six before CBS decided to cut it. Honestly, we’re not sure if it was the lack of chemistry between actors or the poor writing that ended this show.
This show was about a guy who was booted from Yale and decided to move to Gibbsville, a small mining town, to be a reporter for the Gibbsville Courier. It was based on the real-life town of Pottsville and the writings of John O'Hara.
The show started off on a bad foot when there were several delays with getting it on air. It eventually took the place of Gemini Man, but it only had a brief six-episode run. Seven other episodes were never aired because NBC didn't think it was worth keeping.
Hee Haw Honeys
Hee Haw was never a hit with critics, but it always maintained a large audience. However, this scantily-clad spin-off remains one of the worst TV shows ever created according to TV Guide and lasted only a few episodes.
While the show itself wasn't horrible, it just paled in comparison to the original. The actresses weren't terrible. In fact, one of the actresses was Kathie Lee Gifford. It just didn’t seem like they put as much effort into Hee Haw Honeys as the original Hee Haw.
Based on a 1949 film, Adam’s Rib featured a DA husband who crossed paths with his lawyer wife in the courtroom. The show didn’t connect with audiences, and it only made it to December after a fall premiere.
There's no denying that Adam's Rib was an unqualified flop. Fun fact: the show starred a young Blythe Danner, who would go on to have later successes in projects like Meet the Parents and Will and Grace. At least something came out of Adam’s Rib.
Bearcats! was a western TV show on CBS. It was about two guys who were troubleshooters before America entered into WWI. When people hear "western," it isn't exactly 1914, so maybe that's part of the reason this series didn't last.
The show received a ton of promotion, so it wasn’t like people didn’t know about it. It also had a small, loyal fan base, but it wasn't enough. Other shows were doing better, especially traditional westerns. So, NBC canceled it mid-season after 13 episodes.
Doc Elliot followed the titular character as he made house calls in the rural areas on Southern California. Those calls were typically made via plane or off-road vehicle, but that wasn’t interesting enough to draw in viewers.
The first season managed to play through all 14 episodes, but audiences weren't really there. ABC decided it wasn't worth keeping so they nixed it before talks of a second season could even begin. Bye bye, Doc Elliot.
In the Beginning
Though created by famed producer Norman Lear (of All in the Family and The Jeffersons fame), In the Beginning was a semi-update of the film Going My Way. It starred conservative Father Cleary and liberal Sister Agnes as they ran a mission in Baltimore.
The series was originally slated for nine episodes, but they only made it through five before CBS canceled it. Ratings were beyond poor and the creators bailed soon after the pilot due to network conflicts.
Dog and Cat
The most interesting thing about Dog and Cat is that it's noted as Kim Basinger's first lead role after her stint as a model. The series is about two cops, one being a veteran detective while the other is a "sexy younger female partner," as per the IMDb description.
The show was immediately panned when it released. The New York Times described it as "particularly repulsive." Audiences also hated it, and the series got awful ratings. It lasted a total of six episodes.
This sitcom about a group calling themselves “The Fungos” followed high school grads as they tried to manage life in the Flatbush area of Brooklyn. When we say audiences really, really hated it, we mean people demanded that it would be canceled.
Brooklyn Borough President Howard Golden publicly demanded that the show would be pulled due to the offensive stereotypes. Flatbush aired three out of six episodes before it was pulled from the airwaves.
Flying High had an obviously great premise of "following the lives of three sexy flight attendance." Can you tell our sarcasm? That description isn't a great sign. Naturally, audiences weren’t interested in a show that sounds more like an adult film.
The writing was beyond stereotypical and received poor reviews. It was obvious the show was trying to create something Charlie's Angels-esque, but it was just awful. Somehow, it lasted 15 episodes, but there were three others that weren’t aired.
The Andros Targets
The Andros Targets was a series about a newspaper reporter who discovers deep-seated corruption in New York City. Naturally, he had to investigate. It starred James Sutorius, Pamela Reed, Roy Poole, Alan Mixon, Ted Beniades, and Jordan Charney.
The show started in January and was gone by May. In all fairness, it had 13 episodes to pick up, which is more than some shows get. The writing was a huge issue, and the main character, Andros, was pretty humorless. It was a breakaway from the stereotypical (at the time), but it was just too tense and boring at times.
Get Christie Love!
Get Christie Love! was a crime drama about an African-American female police detective. It starred Teresa Graves, who was the second African-American female lead in a United States network drama (only after Diahann Carroll in Julia).
The show, however, was handicapped by blaxploitation stereotypes and was canceled after 23 episodes. It isn’t all bad, however. The series gave Louise Smith, the first black woman to serve in a State Police force in the United States, motivation to continue with her chosen career while facing discrimination on all fronts.
Holmes and Yoyo
Holmes and Yoyo was a comedy about Detective Holmes and his android partner, Yoyo. Holmes teaches Yoyo what it's like to be human and Yoyo help Holmes during his adventures. Quirky, right? Definitely, but it wasn't good.
TV Guide lists Holmes and Yoyo as one of the worst shows ever made. It only lasted 13 episodes, but ABC wasn't going to be defeated. The network green-lit more shows with a similar theme, including Future Cop and RoboCop, so at least something came of Holmes and Yoyo.
Me and the Chimp
Me and the Chimp was a sitcom that starred a dentist who lived with his family – his wife, his two kids, and a chimp named Buttons. Buttons was a washout from the space program. It could have had potential. It had soon-to-be producers, but they didn’t have much under their belts at the time.
Super producers Garry Marshall and Thomas Miller would have better success later in the decade (Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley), but Me and the Chimp was one of their first tries. It aired only 13 episodes before being canceled.
All you need is the title to guess how disastrous Co-Ed Fever was. The show was a sitcom that tried to capitalize on the success of Animal House by rolling with the "frat house" theme. It obviously didn't receive the same reaction, but how could it when John Belushi wasn't in it?
Co-Ed Fever ended up producing six episodes, but only one of them made it to the air in the United States. After that, the show was promptly cancelled by the network after an overwhelmingly negative reception.
Columbo was a great series, so the network wanted to create a spin-off. Even though Mrs. Columbo had a high production value, the characters just didn't feel right. It was to the point where it felt miscast.
As if that weren’t enough to go wrong with the show, the writing felt forced. The final nail in the coffin was the pace, which was so dull that it felt formulaic. It was nothing the original was, and that’s why audiences bailed after 13 episodes.
Part of the NBC Sunday Mystery Movie series, Lanigan’s Rabbi was a series of 90-minute television films about a rabbi who helped police solve crimes. Only four ever aired.
David Cassidy: Man Undercover
In his first starring role since The Partridge Family, David Cassidy played an undercover cop who poses as a student to investigate a high school drug ring. It all sounds very 21 Jump Street, but the show was apparently bombed pretty hard.
It was weird off the bat because David Cassidy played this tough guy, which didn't fit him at all. The acting from the other characters is also pretty weak. After 10 episodes, NBC decided that it wasn’t worth continuing.
After Emergency! Became a hit for NBC, there was an abundance of emergency service shows that tried to also connect with audiences. Chopper One was ABC's attempt at an emergency show. It was about the activities of the California police helicopter team and aired just before Firehouse (a show about a Los Angeles fire station).
The show lasted a whopping 13 episodes before ABC gave it the axe. It just couldn’t mimic the success of Emergency! The best way to describe this show is “somewhat enjoyable,” but that doesn’t equate to viewers or a long-lasting series.
Another Day was a series about a family who was struggling to make ends meet. It has the typical tropes you'd expect from the hardworking father, the outgoing daughter, and the complaining mother-in-law. The show aired in 1978, and the ratings were abysmal.
It hardly drew any audience and CBS canceled it after its fourth episode. Apparently, CBS didn't have much hope for the show since there was only four episodes filmed (meaning CBS had it on a night-by-night basis).
Gemini Man had a pretty good premise to go off of. Based on H.G. Wells’ Invisible Man, this series followed a secret agent who could become invisible thanks to his exposure to radiation. So, what happened?
It was just awful. It was so bad that the Mystery Science Theater had an episode about it. No one is really sure whether it was the writing or the actors to blame for its cancelation. Gemini Man had 11 episodes made, but only five were aired.
During the 1970s, Emergency! was one of the most popular shows on television. ABC wanted to mimic NBC's success, so they created Firehouse. The show was about a firehouse in California, but it didn’t have the same vibe as Emergency. Ultimately, it was treated like the cash grab it was.
The writing wasn't great, but we do have to give kudos to the actors for giving it their all. After just 13 short episodes, the show was canceled. The sad part was that the series was based on the best-selling book Report From Engine Co. 82.
All That Glitters
We're not sure how this show lasted 65 episodes, but it was one of the worst TV shows during the '70s. It was a spoof of soap operas and aired five nights a week. One wonders if its premise, that females were the executives and heads-of-households while men were secretaries.
Upon its release, All That Glitters was panned by contemporary critics and a lot of negative reception. Before making it halfway through the series, the show lost half its audience. Thirteen weeks later, the show was canceled.
Supertrain made history, but not in a good way. At the time, it was one of the most expensive TV shows that had ever been produced for American audiences. According to The Guardian, it cost around $5 million just to make the train alone. It turns out that money doesn’t equal a good show.
While heavily promoted by the network, audiences just didn’t turn up in order to make it profitable. It bowed out after nine episodes. The network attempted to cut costs by reworking the cast, but that usually ends in failure, so what was the point?
Everyone who lived in the '70s remembers Dark Shadows. This show was fantastic, and Highcliffe Manor wanted to do something similar. It was a Gothic horror sitcom with many of the same themes. Writers really should have learned that you can't beat the original.
Highcliffe Manor was originally slated to have six episodes, but it only got through four before NBC pulled it. Audiences didn’t enjoy it, and the ratings were far too low to keep it going. Dark Shadows still reigns supreme!
Struck by Lightning
Struck by Lightning was a show about the reimagined tale of Frankenstein's monster. This update of Frankenstein has a descendant of the doctor trying to keep alive his monster while simultaneously keeping his identity secret.
The show was slated for 11 episodes, although they hadn't begun filming. The series barely made it through three before CBS decided it wasn't worth keeping. Guess audiences didn’t find the story that interesting.
Sword of Justice
In this TV series, a playboy by day is a mercenary by night. But this is no Batman tale. To leave messages and warnings for criminals, he would place a “3” card of the four various suits, denoting a specific meaning.
Does this sound a little odd? Yeah, we thought so, too. Apparently, audiences weren’t too enthused on the idea, and no one tuned in. The series aired nine episodes in total before NBC pulled the plug.
Hello, Larry was a sitcom that stared McLean Stevenson. It was supposed to be a hit due to his successful history on M*A*S*H, but it never stood a chance. Poor writing made it extremely unfunny, which made it a regular subject of many jabs on The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson.
Somehow, the series managed to last two seasons. We’re not sure how it’s humanly possible, but maybe it was one of those things where the train wreck was too awful to look away. At least Johnny Carson had plenty of material.
Ernest Angley Hour
Ernest Angley was a televangelist, who started a popular show in the ‘70s. He didn't claim to be a faith healer, but his trademark was to put his palm on someone's forehead and yell "be healed!" To us, that sounds pretty sketchy.
One of his most egregious claims included that Jesus could heal HIV, AIDs, and various other diseases. Ernest Angley has recently been accused of operating a cult, threatening members, and inappropriately touching people.
Three for the Road
After his wife dies, Pete Karras sells his house and packs up his two sons, aged 12 and 17, to travel the United States in an RV. Along the way, they help people and solve their problems. We have to admit that this premise sounds pretty boring.
The series had a total of 13 episodes filmed and ready to go, but the network decided to cancel Three for the Road after airing 11. Most TVs on at the time were more lighthearted, so it could have been the heavy content that also caused it to be canceled.
The Brady Bunch Hour
The Brandy Bunch went down in history as being one of the best TV shows ever made. So, to cash in on that success, ABC started The Brady Bunch Hour. It was a variety show that featured skits and songs performed by the original cast members (except the original Jan). It didn’t turn out well.
TV Guide consistently ranks The Brady Bunch Hour as one of the top five worst TV shows of all time. Though the pilot was a ratings success, the show-within-a-show storyline was a flop and later episodes (9 in total) were produced sporadically.
The Texas Wheelers
This one is pretty interesting, namely because it starred young Mark Hamill, who is now a huge movie star and household name. The Texas Wheelers was about Zack Wheeler who returns after years and years to raise his children in rural Texas following their mother's death.
Despite having talent, the show wasn't successful. Some critics claim that it failed because it was competing with The Rockford Files. Regardless, eight episodes were filmed, but only four originally made it to the air. The last four were aired the following year.
Who's Watching the Kids?
Producer Garry Marshall, for some reason, kept going back to an idea of Vegas showgirls. This one was about two young Las Vegas showgirls working together while watching their younger siblings. That's it. Them sharing their lives together. Riveting plot idea, right?
The original pilot did well, but the rest of the series did not, and the following episodes failed to garner sufficient viewership. Who's Watching the Kids was set to have 15 episodes, but they made it through nine before NBC canceled it.
Mr. T and Tina
Mr. T and Tina was NBC's attempt to create a spin-off from a character that appeared in a single episode of Welcome Back, Kotter. Instead of humorous, it came off as shockingly stereotypical and pushed gags that were extremely bigoted – even for the 70s.
It was canceled after five episodes. Later, the actors and actresses came out to criticize how awful the writing was. One writer for Kotter reported that ABC had already decided to cancel Mr. T and Tina before the pilot had even aired.
Three's Company was a huge hit, so ABC created a spin-off called The Ropers. It attempted to capitalize on the enormous success of the original but failed to realize one thing: the Ropers weren’t likable enough for people to watch it.
The characters weren't funny or interesting, so audiences stopped watching. The show did have two seasons, which consisted of 28 episodes. In the late '80s, a spin-off for the spin-off was pitched, but it was pulled because there were too many sitcoms at the time.
Grady was a spin-off of Sanford and Son, after Redd Foxx left the show. Foxx wanted to develop Grady and make it into a great show, but there was one problem. Grady was never a well-developed character, and the show didn't help much.
The show flopped pretty quickly, and audiences completely forgot about it a few years later. The problem was that the show couldn’t get solid viewership. There were ten episodes before NBC nixed it from the air.
Dusty’s Trail was doomed to fail before it even made it to the network floor. It got off to a bad start because every network had declined the show almost immediately. Somehow, it managed to air, but it bombed pretty bad.
Dusty’s Trail show is a carbon copy of Gilligan's Island set in the old west. None of the cast had chemistry, which made each interaction more awkward than the last. The show got through 26 episodes before it was canceled.
Three’s a Crowd
Don’t mistake this show with Three’s Company or the ‘80s Three’s a Crowd tv show. This ‘70s disaster is something completely different. This was a sleazy game show where a guy would see who knew him best: his wife or his secretary.
Unlike other shows that bring people together, this one was destined to tear marriages apart. Nothing like watching marriages dissolve right before your eyes. The scary thing was that the show came back in 1999 on the Game Show Network, although this one focused on girlfriends and best friends. It also bombed.