What’s Worth Watching: TV’s Roots Are Showing

CNN: The Seventies
CNN: The Seventies

The Seventies, “Television Gets Real” (Thursday, June 11, 9/8c, CNN)

What a difference a decade made. As the introductory segment of executive producer Tom Hanks’s eight-part documentary series about The Seventies reminds us, TV truly began to come of age during this turbulent decade of war and social revolution. Producer Norman Lear upended the conventions of domestic sitcomedy with the groundbreaking All in the Family, which reflected the polarizing schisms of a generation gap embodied by the heated debates of Archie Bunker and his “meathead” son-in-law Mike. This influential and oh-so-relevant comedy became the cornerstone of a now-legendary Saturday night CBS lineup—remember when Saturday night TV was still a thing?—that included M*A*S*H, The Mary Tyler Moore Show (with its daring-for-the-time single female heroine and her workplace family), The Bob Newhart Show and The Carol Burnett Show.

TV in the ’70s also saw the arrival of Saturday Night Live and its fearless first troupe of Not-Ready-For-Prime-Time players (followed by the British invasion of Monty Python’s Flying Circus), the creation of the miniseries—which reached its apex with the phenomenon of Roots—and the early stirrings of future cable powerhouses HBO and ESPN. As Archie and Edith used to sing, “Those were the days”—and to some extent, still are.