×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

CNN’s ‘The Seventies’ Looks Back at Seeds Of Media Revolution

The success of CNN’s “The Sixties” inevitably begat “The Seventies,” which kicks off June 11 with an hour devoted to the TV of the decade, subtitled “Television Gets Real.” Yet what at first blush looks like a demographic pander actually offers a rather timely reminder of how many of the seeds of the modern media revolution were planted during those years.

Indeed, if the ’60s birthed an antiwar movement and sexual revolution that live on in the culture wars and ongoing struggles involving gay marriage and women’s equality, the ’70s unleashed a wave of TV innovations that have mushroomed beyond anyone’s dreams.

Not surprisingly, the special devotes much of its time to the programming itself, to Norman Lear’s enormous impact on the culture with “All in the Family” and its various spinoffs, as well as the battle that ensued over the so-called family hour, a term that often remains misunderstood and abused to this day. There’s also some discussion of the birth of the miniseries – which has additional resonance, given the resurgence of the “limited series” format in its stead – with appropriate nods to “I, Claudius,” “Rich Man, Poor Man” and of course “Roots.”

Less flashy but equally important, however, were the business wrinkles that arose in those years, among them the development of cable TV and the birth of HBO and ESPN. There is, in fact, a hilarious clip of a “60 Minutes” piece in which Mike Wallace frets about the possible unintended consequences, basically, of letting the cable genie out of the bottle.

Another huge moment came with the introduction of “Monday Night Football,” which, with its success as a primetime showcase, paved the way not only for the explosive growth of the National Football League but the escalating rights deals and reliance on sports as a major engine of the TV ecosystem, with the excesses all that free-flowing cash has helped foster.

“Monday Night” also advanced the notion of sports as entertainment, with the sitcom-style pairing of Don Meredith and Howard Cosell. Don Ohlmeyer – who cut his teeth as a producer at ABC Sports – notes in the program that ABC in essence took devoted football fans for granted, setting their sights on marketing the game to everyone else, which helps explain many of the anything-but-the-game innovations on display today.

It took years for all these breakthroughs to mature into the forces they have become, with the value of ESPN alone eclipsing by a factor of nearly three the $19 billion that Disney agreed to pay to acquire the network as a part of Capital Cities/ABC in 1995. And while the cable distribution model that grew around those channels is currently besieged by new technology and alternatives, it’s frankly remarkable how durable it’s been amid the talk of cutting its chords and unwinding its bundles.

Like “The Sixties,” this Tom Hanks-produced series promises to be a sort-of once-over-lightly look at history, with Vietnam, Watergate and the Iran Hostage Crisis among the other chapters. Yet many of the nascent steps that began the march into TV’s future did happen during that decade as well. That might not be particularly easy to condense into a network promo, but for those interested in media, it’s a lot more significant, frankly, than run-of-the-mill nostalgia about “Happy Days” or “Charlie’s Angels.”

 

More TV

  • Smithsonian subscription VOD

    Smithsonian Networks Launches New Subscription VOD Service, Folding in Smithsonian Earth

    Smithsonian Networks has expanded its push to reach cord-cutters with the launch of Smithsonian Channel Plus, promising subscribers 1,000-plus hours of streaming nonfiction programming for $5 per month. The new subscription VOD service incorporates and supersedes Smithsonian Earth, the company’s $3.99-monthly SVOD service that launched three years ago, which had been geared around nature and wildlife. [...]

  • 'My Brilliant Friend' Scores Brilliant Ratings

    'My Brilliant Friend' Scores Brilliant Ratings at Home

    With its international rollout well underway, the critically acclaimed TV series “My Brilliant Friend,” based on the first of Italian author Elena Ferrante’s bestselling “Neapolitan Novels,” is scoring strong ratings at home in Italy, and is also playing well in the U.S. and U.K. The show, which explores the bounds of female friendship, is being [...]

  • Himesh Patel, Ewen Leslie Join BBC

    Himesh Patel, Ewen Leslie Join BBC Adaptation of Man Booker Prize Winner ‘The Luminaries’ (EXCLUSIVE)

    Himesh Patel and Ewen Leslie have joined “The Luminaries,” with production now underway on the highly anticipated series adaptation of Eleanor Catton’s Man Booker Prize-winning novel. The pair join Eve Hewson (“The Knick”), Eva Green (“Penny Dreadful”) and Marton Csokas (“Into the Badlands”) in the period piece. The high-end drama is being produced by Working [...]

  • Ryan KadroPaleyLive NY: The News Is

    ‘CBS This Morning’ Executive Producer in Potential Exit Talks

    Ryan Kadro, the executive producer of “CBS This Morning” and one of the architects of the A.M. program, is currently in contract discussions that could lead to his exit from the show, according to three people familiar with the matter. Kadro’s contract is slated to run out at the end of the year, and he [...]

  • NBC's California O&Os to Launch 'California

    NBC's California O&Os to Launch 'California Live' Daily Daytime Series

    NBC’s three California O&Os are set to launch a live daily lifestyle series dubbed “California Live.” The series will air at 11:30 a.m. Monday through Friday across KNBC-TV Los Angeles, KNTV-TV San Francisco and KNSD San Diego. The show will have some modular segments that will be customized for each market, with an emphasis on [...]

  • TV Roundup: Netflix Sets 'Tidying Up

    TV News Roundup: Steven Yeun Joins 'Twilight Zone' at CBS All Access

    In Wednesday’s roundup, Netflix reveals the premiere date for “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo,” and Steven Yeun joins Jordan Peele’s “Twilight Zone” reboot. FIRST LOOKS  Variety has an exclusive behind-the-scenes first look at Season 2 of Showtime’s “SMILF,” featuring creator and star, Frankie Shaw. The new season, which premieres Sunday, Jan. 20 at 10:30 p.m. ET/PT, finds Bridgette trying to move [...]

  • Charlie Rose Sexual Harassment

    CBS News Settles Suit Alleging Harassment by Charlie Rose

    CBS News settled a lawsuit filed by three women who alleged they were harassed by former “CBS This Morning” co-anchor Charlie Rose, and claimed CBS did not act despite being aware of the situation. The amount awarded to the women was not disclosed at their request, according to a CBS News spokesperson. “The matter has [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content