We'll Give You Three Characters, You Give Us the '70s TV Show


By: Torrance Grey

6 Min Quiz

Jack, Janet, Chrissy:

"Three's Company" is what people think of when they think of 1970s "jiggle television." Though the show gave John Ritter his breakout role, it was Suzanne Somers, whom the producers like to costume as skimpily as possible, who drew a lot of eyeballs to this '70s hit.


Archie, Edith, "Meathead":

Archie was Archie Bunker, the "lovable" bigot, Edith his sweet, almost childlike wife, and Michael "Meathead" Stivic his liberal son-in-law. Stivic was married to the Bunkers' daughter, Gloria, and the close quarters (Michael and Gloria lived with the Bunkers) provided lots of opportunity for a clash of generations.


George, "Weezy," Florence:

"Weezy" was Louise, married to hardheaded businessman George Jefferson. Florence was their maid. The show's theme song, "Movin' On Up," was based on the premise that the Jeffersons had made it, becoming a prosperous East Side couple. (It was also virtually impossible to get that song out of your head.)


Richie, Potsie, Fonzie:

"Happy Days" was a dose of 1950s nostalgia for Americans struggling with the 1970s oil crisis, stagflation and post-Vietnam malaise. It focused on the Cunningham family, including teenager Richie, but the breakout star was Arthur "Fonzie" Fonzarelli, a hip biker played by Henry Winkler.


Hawkeye, Radar, "Hot Lips":

To this day, this show is considered an example of what television can do at its best. Surgeon Hawkeye Pierce, nurse Margaret Houlihan (the nickname "Hot Lips" didn't stick all that long), and sharp-eared Radar O'Reilly were part of a cast that made poignant commentary on war and its price, all with a great deal of humor and wit.


Jill, Sabrina, Kelly:

"Charlie's Angels" is another example of 70s "jiggle TV," with the three original Angels listed above all being unusually attractive female PIs. However, we can't overlook the seed of feminism planted by the show's intro every week, which depicted the three women's skills going unused by the police department (they are directing traffic and reading parking meters), until Charlie recruits them for investigative work.


Mary, Lou, Rhoda:

Mary was Mary Richards, a single, successful TV journalist. Lou was Lou Grant, her boss, and Rhoda, her friendly neighbor. The show was created by James L. Brooks, also the producer behind "Taxi."


Florida, James, J.J.:

This was TV's first show to depict a black two-parent family - James and Florida. But J.J., played by Jimmie Walker, was America's favorite, thanks partly to his catchphrase, "Dyn-O-Mite!"


Fish, Wojo, Soo:

"Barney Miller" was a comedy about the NYPD, but unlike police dramas, rarely showed life outside the squad room. Fish, Wojo and Soo were all colorful officers who backed up Captain Barney Miller.


Gopher, Isaac, Julie:

"The Love Boat" was a powerhouse show of the 1970s. Captain Stubing was in charge of the massive cruise ship, the Pacific Princess, while Gopher was its purser and Isaac its bartender. Vicki was Stubing's pert, precocious daughter - she was to the Pacific Princess what Wesley Crusher was to the Enterprise on "Star Trek: The Next Generation."


Shirley, Reuben, Danny:

Shirley Jones played the family matriarch, and Danny Bonaduce was her precocious son. Both characters shared first names with the actors. Reuben was the musical family's manager, played by Dave Madden.


John, Olivia, John-Boy:

Surprised? Though set in the Depression and WWII years, "The Waltons" didn't air on TV until 1971. The central character is young John-Boy; John and Olivia are his parents.


Barbarino, Horshak, "Boom Boom":

These were all "sweathogs," or students in a remedial class at James Buchanan High School. Gabe Kotter (Gape Kaplan) is the former remedial student made good, who comes back to teach the "sweathogs." (Fun fact: Barbarino was John Travolta in one of his earliest roles).


Jim, Dennis, Rocky:

Jim Rockford, a PI, was played by James Garner. Rocky was Rockford's father, and Dennis Becker was Jim's friend and source on the LAPD.


Rhoda, Brenda, Joe:

The name was kind of a giveaway, right? This show was a spin-off from "The Mary Tyler Moore Show," in which her neighbor Rhoda Morgenstern goes home to New York City, reconnects with her sister Brenda, and develops a romantic relationship with Joe, a divorced man with a son.


Pete, Jim, "Mac":

This successor to "Dragnet" followed a pair of officers, Pete and Jim, around Los Angeles in their patrol car, 1-Adam-12. Their supervisor was William "Mac" MacDonald.


Robert, Emily, Carlin:

Bob Newhart, straight man extraordinaire, played Robert Hartley, a psychiatrist. Emily was his wife, and Carlin a long-running patient.


Steve, Oscar, Dr. Wells:

Lee Majors played Steve Austin, a bionically-rebuilt astronaut. Oscar was his superior at the fictional "OSI" government agency, and Dr. Wells took care of his newly-enhanced body and its medical issues.


Andy, Herb, Johnny Fever:

Andy Travis came to Cincinnati to revitalize the low-rated radio station. Herb Tarlek was its crass ad salesman, and Johnny Fever was a perpetually tired-looking disc jockey.


Sam, Dr. Asten, Lt. Monahan:

Jack Klugman played Dr. Quincy, the L.A. medical examiner. Sam was his assistant, Dr. Asten his supervisor, and Lt. Monahan the LAPD detective that Quincy frequently disagreed with.


Felix, Oscar, Miriam:

Oscar and Felix, the mismatched roommates, made their debut in a stage play. On the show, Miriam Welby was a long-running love interest for Felix, while "Rhoda," Oscar's goofy girlfriend, was referred to but never seen, much like Niles's wife on "Frasier."


Jaime, Oscar, Dr. Wells:

Yep, "The Six Million Dollar Man" was so successful the network decided to repeat the formula with a woman, Jamie Sommers. Oscar Goldman and Dr. Rudy Wells had the same duties in overseeing her missions and medical care that they did for Steve Austin, the "Six Million Dollar Man." "The Bionic Woman" was briefly rebooted in the late 2000s.


Stavros, Crocker, McNeil:

These were all fellow cops, supporting Telly Savalas's Theo Kojak. Well, technically, McNeil was his superior. Fun fact: Stavros was played by Savalas's brother George.


McGarrett, Williams, Kalakaua:

You might know Williams better as "Danno," as in "Book 'em, Danno!" This was the classic line of series lead Detective McGarrett. Dan WIlliams and Kono Kalakaua were his colleagues.


"Rooster," Shiller, Brubaker:

Tony Baretta was a cop who excelled at undercover work. "Rooster" was one of his informants, while Shiller and Brubaker were his supervisors. Not-so-fun fact: Robert Blake, who played Baretta, was strongly implicated in the death of his second wife. Though he was acquitted in a criminal trial, he was found liable for her wrongful death in a civil suit - the burden of proof is not so great in civil cases as criminal ones.


Pa, Laura, Nellie Oleson:

This family-friendly show was based on memoirs by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Her father was Charles "Pa" Ingalls, and Nellie Oleson was her snobby nemesis, the daughter of the mercantile owner.


David, Kenneth, "Huggy Bear":

David and Kenneth were Starsky and Hutch, respectively. "Huggy Bear" was a typically stereotypical informant. "Starsky & Hutch" was remade as a Ben Stiller/Owen Wilson collaboration in the early 2010s, with Snoop Dogg as Huggy Bear.


Joe, Peggy, Lt. Kramer:

Joe was Joe Mannix, an old-fashioned PI played by Mike Connors. Peggy was his secretary, and Lt. Kramer was his LAPD source. Kramer was played by Larry Linville, perhaps better known as Frank Burns on "M*A*S*H."


Apollo, Starbuck, Boomer:

Confused? The Peabody-winning "Battlestar Galactica" of 2003 was a reboot; it was so fresh and original that some viewers didn't realize they were watching a re-visioning of a 1978 series. In the original, Starbuck and Boomer were both men, and Boomer was 100 percent human, not a Cylon.


Mel, Flo, Vera:

"Alice" was developed from the movie "Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore." In the show, Alice is a widow who goes to work at Mel's Diner, alongside waitresses Flo and Vera.


Billie Joe, Cindy, "Stacks":

This show straddled the turn of the decade, running from 1979 to 1981. Billie Joe was the "B.J." of the title, and Cindy and "Stacks" were two of his truckers. Because of unethical business practices by a rival, B.J. had to hire inexperienced truckers (read: women) instead of experienced ones (men) as drivers. (Also, yes, it was acceptable to call a full-figured woman "Stacks" back then).


Pete, Liz, Principal Kaufman:

"Room 222" was a high-school drama centered on Pete Dixon, an idealistic teacher. "Room 237" is a documentary about the conspiracy theories surrounding "The Shining," while "The Room" is the cult-classic film by Tommy Wiseau.


Stanley, Helen, Jeffrey:

Stanley Roper was the landlord on "Three's Company," and Helen his brassy, clingy wife. Jeffrey was a neighbor played by Jeffrey Tambor. This series barely squeezes into our roundup by virtue of a 1979 airdate, and yet it didn't last until 1981.


Elwood Blues, Roseanne Roseannadanna, Samurai Futaba:

Of course, it's "Saturday Night Live," which premiered in 1975. John Belushi was Samurai Futaba, Dan Aykroyd was Elwood Blues (alongside Belushi's Jake Blues), and Gilda Radner created the character of Roseanne Roseannadanna.


"Marcia, Marcia, Marcia!"

Okay, we're having fun with this one. But the line above - Jan Brady's complaint about her older sister Marcia getting all the attention - is a classic. It has to be said that Maureen "Marcia" McCormick, with her iconically long, straight, blonde '70s hair, did get an awful lot of attention on the show and from the show's male fans.


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About This Quiz

How you feel about 1970s television is going to have a lot to do with your tolerance for camp and/or cheesiness. Let's face it: The 1970s weren't a high point for American television. The "golden age" of stage-style shows hosted by polished Hollywood stars - Dean Martin or Sid Caesar, for example - was over, but American audiences weren't ready for serious, socially-relevant shows (or, at least, networks weren't ready to provide them). Those would have to wait for the 1980s, with the advent of "Hill Street Blues," "St. Elsewhere" and the like. 

What did 1970s audiences get instead? Laugh tracks, scantily-clad women, unrealistic police shows in which cops drove their own muscle cars (on stakeouts, no less), and endlessly-repeated catchphrases like "Dyn-O-Mite!" and "Kiss my grits!" A few shows made shaky first attempts to deal with race and feminism; other social problems like divorce or anorexia were dealt with in "very special episodes." And what was the weird obsession with truckers?

And yet, somehow, people have a great fondness for '70s television. Long-running shows like "Starsky & Hutch" have been lovingly recreated in 2000s movies. Not to mention what Ron Moore and David Eick did, brilliantly, with "Battlestar Galactica." 

If you've got a similar fondness for '70s TV, we've got a quiz for you! We'll give you three characters, and you tell us the TV show. Show off your vintage TV savvy now!

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