11 brilliant TV shows from the 1970s that only lasted one season

Kolchak, Cylons and Mel Brooks deserved more episodes.

Even TV shows that last a mere 13 episodes can become classics. We're talking about the days long before "prestige television." In the Seventies, you had M*A*S*H, The Waltons, Happy Days and Gunsmoke pumping out hundreds of episodes.

The following titles never got that chance, mostly due to scheduling. Monday Night Football blocked as many acting careers as field goals that decade. But some of these shows shut down due to medical reasons… or actors simply quitting. They are all worthy of revisiting. Heck, we've aired some.

Let's take a look.

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1. Battlestar Galactica

Released in the wake of Star Wars, Battlestar Galactica brought similar space action to the small screen. Some might argue that the Syfy remake from the 2000s is superior, but the original Cylons are infinitely cooler. Just look at them. Okay, in some way, Battlestar got a second season, if you count Galactica 1980. But that earthbound sequel is so different, it classifies as a spin-off.

Image: The Everett Collection

2. Dan August

Burt Reynolds, before the mustache. Perhaps the 'stache gave him his Seventies mojo. This homicide mystery should have been a smash. Norman Fell, future Mr. Roper, played the grizzled partner. Check the rest of the cast. Harrison Ford and Billy Dee Williams! Yeah, Han and Lando! Plus: John Ritter, Mickey Rooney, Ricardo Montalbán, Carolyn Jones, Lee Meriwether, Martin Sheen, Dabney Coleman, Joan Van Ark, Jan-Michael Vincent… phew, that's a lot of star power for one season and only the half of it.

Image: The Everett Collection

3. Funny Face

Sandy Duncan is an adored legend of stage and screen. Filling Audrey Hepburn's shoes is no enviable task, but Duncan charmed audiences and critics in this TV adaptation of the 1957 musical-comedy Funny Face. The sitcom ranked No. 8 in the Nielsen ratings for the 1971–72 season. The reason it lasted just 13 episodes is wild. Duncan suffered headaches on the set and a tumor was discovered behind her left eye. After powering through the first half of the season, she underwent surgery as production was halted. CBS gave her time to recover, but the following year, the network heavily retooled and retitled the series, dubbing it The Sandy Duncan Show. New cast, new writers, new filming format.

Image: The Everett Collection

4. Get Christie Love!

Teresa Graves was the first African-American woman to star in her own hour-long drama series. Released at the height of the Blaxploitation cinema craze, Christie Love was based on a real cop, Olga Ford. She joined the New York City police department in 1958, becoming one of 35 African-American women on the force. In 1970, she began practicing Buddhism. "Several Christie Love episodes are based on Olga Ford's more exciting cases," Graves told Jet Magazine in November 1974.

Image: The Everett Collection

5. Kolchak: The Night Stalker

In Kolchak's debut, the intrepid investigator of the arcane was hunting a vampire in seedy Las Vegas. The Night Stalker TV movie aired in January of 1972, drawing a massive 33.2 rating / 54 share by Nielsen's measurement. That's just a massive audience. When the series launched, it was simply called The Night Stalker. Weeks into its inaugural season, the show took a month-long hiatus. When it returned, with "The Werewolf," the series was branded Kolchak: The Night Stalker. The Monster of the Week format set the mold for future series like The X-Files and Fringe. But perhaps the wildest fantasy on the show was the Cubs winning the '74 World Series in Kolchak's fictional Chicago.

Image: The Everett Collection

6. The Magician

When it premiered in the fall of 1973, The Magician was Harry Houdini meets James Bond. Here was a master escape artist who drove a growling sports car and lived inside a jumbo jet. ("It's like any other mobile home, only faster.") The title character was played by rising star Bill Bixby, who was hot off The Courtship of Eddie's Father and the earlier hit My Favorite Martian. Bixby learned magic to perform tricks on camera. This short-lived spectacular had a big influence on budding creators. Remember in The X-Files how young Mulder is watching The Magician when his sister is abducted?

Image: The Everett Collection

7. Toma

The network thought he was bluffing. Tony Musante said he only wanted to do one season of this gritty cop series. Producers figured it was a negotiating tactic. It was not. Musante bailed and the show recast and retooled into the more traditional action hour Baretta. Toma had more of a Serpico vibe, based on the career of a real detective, Dave Toma, who made cameos throughout the series. Toma splashed violence across the screen and dealt with heavy urban issues. Some complained. But it was ahead of its time.

Image: The Everett Collection

8. Van Dyke and Company

Dick Van Dyke and Andy Kaufman? What a genius comedy pairing. Kaufman became a regular player on this 1976 sketch and variety showcase, honing a lot of his act for television. His "foreign man" character, which blossomed into Latka Gravas on Taxi, lost a "Fonzie lookalike" contest to a black man in a particularly hilarious bit. 

Image: The Everett Collection

9. What Really Happened to the Class of '65?

This anthology drama checked back in with Boomers a decade after leaving high school. The casting agent deserved a trophy — Kim Cattrall, Jessica Walter, Jane Curtain, Larry Hagman, Dana Plato, Linda Purl, and many more booked the show early in their careers. Don Johnson, who played a Vietnam vet, perhaps sticks most in the memory of those who caught the show.

Image: The Everett Collection

10. When Things Were Rotten

In the spring of 1975, the British comedy ensemble Monty Python released its first complete narrative film, the cult classic Monty Python and the Holy Grail. Mel Brooks had released his campy western satire Blazing Saddles the prior year. It was a shift in the style of comedic filmmaking, to more sketch-based, sarcastic, and satirical lampoons — movies like Airplane and Spinal Tap. When Things Were Rotten just doesn't exactly grab you from the TV Guide page. Mel Brooks' Robin Hood could have clicked better, or even the concept's eventual film title, Robin Hood: Men in Tights. Dick Gautier (Hymie on Get Smart) and Dick Van Patten starred as Robin and Friar Tuck. Mel Brooks movies are cult comedy classics. His TV show should also be remembered.

Image: The Everett Collection

11. The Young Rebels

The Mod Squad meets Ben Franklin? That was essentially the concept of this Revolutionary War drama that tapped into the Boomer wave in 1970. Louis Gossett Jr. was the big name here — although hardly big at the time — playing one of the guerrillas sticking it to the British. The show did strive for some historical accuracy, set in a time that somehow, oddly rarely gets covered on television.

Image: The Everett Collection

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MarkSpeck 11 months ago
Harrison Ford and Billy Dee Williams appeared in the same Dan August episode, "The Manufactured Man", but they unfortunately don't have any scenes together. Ford, who's a suspect in the murder, does get attacked in the police station by David Soul, however.
Cityrk 14 months ago
What Really Happened to the Class of '65 is one series I would love to see again. I have searched for this to be on DVD for years. I thought the show had excellent story lines and it was an inspiration to me in many ways during my early high school days when it was shown in 1977-78. If VCRs were affordable back then, I definitely would have taped the series. I can't understand why this isn't on DVD or hasn't been shown again on TV.
George57 15 months ago
I would stay up late and watch Kolchak without my parents knowing. That was until I was having nightmares and then they figured it out. I was doing so well keeping quiet too. Oh well.
DeborahRoberts 17 months ago
I watched several of these in my tweens. Finally bought "Dan August" and "The Magician" on DVD after giving up on ever catching these one-season wonders in syndication.
Keith 18 months ago
I loved Toma, I was upset when it was cancelled but I never knew why. I was very young when the show premiered on ABC. I wasn't really a fan of Baretta but watched a few episodes.
bukhrn 18 months ago
We always watched Kolchak, never watched any of the others, and never even heard of many of them.
RPalumbo 18 months ago
Rember Quark with Richard Benjamin, or The Starlost? How about Fantastic Journey? I wish like all of the many shows were released on DVD so we can enjoy these shows over again.
ncadams27 20 months ago
Unlike today, shows back then had to compete for an audience against the shows airing on the opposite networks and the total audience viewing TV at that time. Some time slots were not heavily viewed or viewed by the wrong age group (e.g., dramas airing at 8 PM or family shows on Friday when many family members are out). Many shows from the 50s and 60s were canceled due to lack of sponsorship and low rated shows remained on the air because the sponsor was willing to pay (e.g., Voice of Firestone).
Nala92129 20 months ago
Sandy Duncan was adorable.
TheDavBow3 Nala92129 20 months ago
There for a short while, she was super famous!
elizabethfh 20 months ago
Jeepers, how I loved the young rebels.
20 months ago
I barely remember Funny Face and none of the other programs here.
davidr 20 months ago
Anyone else out there who remembers SEARCH, which aired on NBC during 1972-73? The cast included Burgess Meredith, Hugh O'Brian, and Doug McClure among others. I would say it was influenced by The Man from UNCLE and Mission: Impossible.
The Man from Atlantis
Logan's Run (based on the 1976 film)
Sierra (a lot like Emergency!)
Moverfan davidr 20 months ago
I remember Logan's Run being on and The Man From Atlantis (we will now pause to remember Patrick Duffy in the nice little bathing suit...okay, I'm back). I've heard of SEARCH, but not sure if I ever saw it. And Sierra...I kind of recall something with that in the title, but it may not be what you're talking about.
Klink 20 months ago
Need to broadcast the Night Stalker movies, fantastic
JamesForti 20 months ago
I find it really interesting that so many of these ‘old’ series are unavailable for viewing outside of channels like MeTV….no surprise that a series that lasted for only one year—with sub 100 episodes—had no syndication rights and subsequently no re run potential. Toma was a great series, and Tony Musante had the charisma and depth of acting to make it a believable character.
woohardin 20 months ago
Not Mark Hamill in The Young Rebels, that guy was Rick, later Richard, Ely. He was featured in Tiger Beat a lot back in the day. I enjoyed Dan August, too, but Burt had to go on to bigger and better things. It would be nice to see Dan August again, maybe a weekend marathon?
Meghan63 20 months ago
I didn't watch any of these shows except maybe Dan August. Can't remember. Must have been better things on other channels. I think I would have liked "Young Rebels". Are you sure that's not Mark Hamill?
TamiKeller1 20 months ago
Bill Bixby was a dear family friend. A wonderful and kind person, he was really proud of "The Magician" and it broke his heart that it never went past one season. He used to tell me that there were many more Tony Blake stories to tell.
Angelface77 TamiKeller1 15 months ago
I loved Bill Bixby from My Favorite Martian. I watch everyday now. Wish I could have seen The Magician. He was so handsome and seemed like a truly awesome person!
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