Top Television Stars of the 70s


Not many people are aware that the 70s era gave birth to several successful celebrities. Although you do not get to see many of these stars today but their work speaks volumes. While some celebrities only last for a couple of years in-terms of fame and popularity, these stars continue to be remembered. Most of these stars are still famous for the work they did decades ago. Let us revisit history and remember what made the 70s so special. 

Alan Alda


Alan Alda was not new to show business. His father Robert Alda was a successful actor at the time who performed in hit movies like Rhapsody in Blue. However, when Alan was young, his father was doing burlesque shows and took his family along while putting young Alan in the spotlight whenever it served him the best. It could be said that Robert Alda wished his son to follow the same route. Perhaps that explained the reason why young Alda at the time could be seen present in every show along with his family. 

It was not that Robert Alda dragged young Alda and his family to shows but he saw Alan Alad’s interest in all of it as well. As a result, Alan Alda followed in his father’s footsteps and entered the entertainment industry as soon as possible. 

He was shooting at the Utah State Prison when the script of his M*A*S*H pilot came his way. The show completely changed television. Before Alan entered the scene, the show had a balance of both comedy and tragedy delivered with compassion, intelligence, and wit. 

When Alan was hired to perform in the show, he quickly became a star and soon became writing and directing some of the most important episodes of the show. 

Alan Alda became the first person in TV history to win an Emmy for writing, acting, and directing the same series. He also co-wrote and directed the show’s final episode ‘Goodbye Farewell’, which broke the record of the highest number of viewers. 

Alan’s popularity increased during the 70s when his stance against male violence and attitude towards women was highlighted. He was quite blatant while expressing his views about how males tend to treat women. In other words, he became the voice of feminism. In addition to that, he also became the face of Ms. Magazine and coined the term “Testosterone poisoning”. 

In addition to being a famous TV star in the 70s, Alan Alda was still popular in the 80s. Find out more about him and other actors and actresses in our post about the top television stars of the 80s.

Mary Tyler Moore

Mary Tyler Moore was a naturally talented star waiting to get her break and she did when the creator of The Dick Van Dyke Show heard her read the very first line of the script during her audition. It was the moment when the creator signaled that he had fought the right actress. 

She was marched into the producer’s office by the creator while resting his hand on her head. She was termed “Grace Kelly” of comedians and went on to become a star.

In 1970, when The Mary Tyler Moore Show was launched, the character Mary Richards was supposed to be divorced. However, the network was worried that the viewers would believe that she was divorced from Rob Petrie. As a result, they changed the storyline. Now, the story was about Mary Richards ending a relationship and leading her life on her own. 

Mary Richard’s performance was simply matchless. She was the only one who could do justice to the role at the time. Meanwhile, behind the scenes, the public was not aware that the show kept on breaking other boundaries. 

For instance, the show had more female writers than any other television show. The show also talked about issues, which were not highlighted in other shows such as racism, birth control, and sexism. One needs to remember that this was also the era when the entertainment industry was male-dominated and racism was at its peak. 

The show was destined to be a success and for two great reasons. Richards was a powerful actress who knew her way around the role while Moore had the star power along with the personal appeal to pull it off. 

The show won 39 Emmys and it was all due to the great chemistry between the cast and crew members. The show was funny and unique in the sense that it transitioned from showcasing a woman trying to move up in her career while making bad decisions during the process but eventually evolved interms of both personality and character. 

Farrah Fawcett

Farrah Fawcett

Farrah Fawcett was a natural beauty who initiated her career in the entertainment industry by performing in commercials and showcasing her dazzling smile. At the time, those who saw Farrah did not want to look at any other female star. She was perfect from head to toe with her wild hair, traffic-stopping looks, and splendid personality. She was just everywhere. 

As she continued her journey, she made guest appearances on TV shows like, ‘The Flying Nun’, ‘I Dream of Jeannie’ along with four appearances on ‘The Six Million Dollar Man’, which also starred Lee Majors who was her husband at the time. 

However, what came, to everyone’s surprise, was that it wasn’t the guest appearances that made her go wild but infact a pin-up poster. Those who belong to the 70s era must be well-familiar with Farrah Fawcett’s poster where she looks right into the camera, wearing a red bathing suit, covering her modestly. 

The management wanted Farrah to wear a bikini but she did own one at the time. Therefore, the red bathing suit was her own and she did her own makeup while squeezing a bit of lemon on her hair to make them shine. And on top of that, she managed to do all that without a mirror and completely owned and controlled the way she looked. She was also the one who chose the shot that would make it one of the best-selling posters of all time. 

Jimmie Walker

Jimmie Walker

Jimmie Walker introduced himself to the world when he cast in the Maude spin-off ‘Good Times’. The show was based on Esther Rolle and John Amos as Florida and James Evans trying to raise their family in Chicago. The show highlighted the struggle of working three jobs to pay the bills and keeping the kids safe while living in the projects. Jimmie Walker was hired to play the oldest brother JJ. It wouldn’t take long for him to become a star. 

Meanwhile, Amos and Rolle insisted that the serious storylines needed a break, the producers capitalized on Walker’s appeal and gave him more screen time. When John Rich the director of the show coined the catchphrase “Dyn-o-mite!”, he insisted that JJ should say it atleast once in every episode despite the producer’s skepticism. As a result, it became a hit. 

Perhaps the biggest advantage Jimmie Walker had was that he knew how to seize the moment. He was smart and was already doing stand-up comedy shows whenever his schedule allowed him with future stars like David Letterman and Jay Leno lined up as a team of writers. Walker outlasted both Amos and Rolle and continued to be rising during the 70s and 80s. 

Telly Savalas

Telly Savalas

Although Telly Savalas was not the most preferred choice for a pin-up back in 1974 but his shirtless cover of People was a huge hit. It was the first time that the magazine was able to sell a million copies on the newsstand. The craze was such that the women wrote personal letters to Peoples to show the bottom half of the photo as well. 

However, Telly was not an actor at the time. His acting career started in his late 30s. He worked in movies like Cape Fear and did four movies with Burt Lancaster. Then, in 1965 he played Pontius Pilate in The Greatest Story Ever Told. He had to shave his head for the movie and kept the look since he looked more successful amongst women that way. 

 Personally, Savalas wasn’t just another actor looking for a break. He was a professional golfer, a world-class poker and had a degree in psychology. However, it was his acting role as a lieutenant Theo Kojak that made him famous. The famous scene where he puts a magnet-attached light on his vehicle and joins a high-speed chase is one of the most memorable scenes in television history. In 1974, the show won an Emmy. 

Sonny and Cher

Sonny and Cher

Before Sonny and Cher entered the world of acting, they were singers. Back in the 60s, they were working for producer Phil Spector as backup R&B singers. The duo released several hits in the 60s. Their hit “I Got You Babe” was such a success that it topped the Billboard Hot 100 and is still considered one of the greatest duets of all time by Rolling Stone and Billboard. 

Their transition from movies to television made them an even bigger star. First, they brought the attitudes of the 70s and then the fashion sense. In 1971, the Sonny and Cher Comedy Hour premiered, which earned 15 Emmy nominations and remained in the Top 10 for four years. Their daughter Chastity also made frequent appearances highlighting the fact the duo also led a strong family life. 

However, to everyone’s surprise, the couple during their divorce ended the show in 1974 and departed on their separate journeys. At the time, Bono also came up with a show, which lasted only two weeks. Meanwhile, Cher’s was a hit as it featured famous guests like Elton John, Bette Midler, and Flip Wilson. 

The year 1976 saw the ex-duo returning to their The Sonny & Cher show. Even though the stars reconciled on camera by shaking each other’s hands but the bitterness over the years was too much. As a result, the show ended after just two seasons despite the good ratings. 

But that did not stop them from achieving additional milestones in life. Cher would become an Oscar winner and a best-selling artist while Bono became the elected mayor of Palm Springs. After a few years, he became a congressman in 1885. Unfortunately, Bono passed away in a skiing accident in 1998. The very same year, Sonny and Cher received their star at the Hollywood Walk of Fame, cementing their contribution to the 70s era of television. 

Final Word

Even though the 70s witnessed the rise of many other stars but the ones highlighted above were the biggest. It was an era made special by powerful performances, charming personalities, and evergreen memories. Even after decades, their roles and contributions continue to remain relevant while the entertainment industry is buzzing with young talents. If it wasn’t for them, the 70s era would hardly be remembered. 

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