9 popular TV shows turning 40 years old in 2019

Buck, Blair and Svengoolie all made their debut in 1979.

As the Smashing Pumpkins sang on their Top 10 hit, "1979, cool kids never have the time." Well, we call us uncool, because we certainly had the time for television in 1979. Besides, we're here to wax nostalgic about 1970s TV, not 1990s alternative rock.

It was a big year for space heroes, spin-offs and primetime soap operas. A certain MeTV horror host also made his debut.

These nine successful show all turn the big 4-0 in 2019. Let's take a look.

1. The Facts of Life

The Facts of Life just about neatly lines up with the Reagan era. Kicking off in the tail end of 1979, the sitcom captured the shifting pop culture (and hairstyles) of the Eighties, up until its final episode in 1988. The show's fashion, color palette, music and "very special episodes" are all a capsule of the time. Blair, Tootie, Jo and Natalie were relatable to the young audience tuning in each week. Don't forget — the show also gave George Clooney's career a start.

2. Buck Rogers in the 25th Century

Buck Rogers in the 25th Century dazzled anyone who grew up in the late 1970s. We were hungry for more Star Wars, and this colorful television series turned a classic comic strip character into a similar cinematic spectacle. Snarky robots! Weird aliens! Handsome heroes! A guy who looked like a bird! In a way, Buck Rogers was two shows in one. The series changed significantly in its second season, with a new cast and new mission.

3. Svengoolie

Indeed, our very own Svengoolie is celebrating a 40th anniversary in 2019! In June of 1979, Rich Koz first appeared as the horror host on WLFD Chicago (Channel 32), though he was then known as Son of Svengoolie. Jerry G. Bishop had originally played the character on the same station from 1970–73. In 1994, after a few years away, Svengoolie returned — this time known simply as "Svengoolie" — on WCIU Chicago, our sister station. He made the leap to a national broadcast in 2011, joining the MeTV lineup, where you can still catch him every Super Sci-Fi Saturday Night!

4. Knots Landing

It was a year of successful spin-offs. Most of the shows on this list could be considered spin-offs, and Knots Landings was no different, spun out of the hit primetime soap Dallas. Knots Landing was just as successful, as both series ran for a whopping 14 seasons. The setting moved to Los Angeles and the suburban cul-de-sac known as Seaview Circle, which delivered more melodrama than Wisteria Lane.

Image: The Everett Collection

5. The Dukes of Hazzard

It's often forgotten that The Dukes of Hazzard was a movie adaptation, a television reboot of the 1975 film Moonrunners. (Both were created by Gy Waldron and featured the music and narration of Waylon Jennings.) Bo, Luke and the General Lee inspired dozens of toys and video games, not to mention a Hanna-Barbera cartoon (The Dukes) and a spin-off (Enos). But its lasting legacy might just lie in fashion, as the short-shorts became forever known as "Daisy Dukes," thanks to Catherine Bach's wardrobe.

Image: The Everett Collection

6. Benson

Theater veteran Robert Guillame became best known as Benson, the quick-witting, sharp-tongued butler on the sitcom Soap and its spin-off, Benson. Slotted on ABC the same evening as Happy Days and Laverne & Shirley, the boundary-busting Soap surfed through some initial controversy, becoming a hit and a critical darling. For his work, Guillaume took home an Emmy in 1979 for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series. In the fall of '79, Benson joined the network lineup. A family sitcom set in the world of politics, Benson lasted far longer than its parent show, largely thanks to the charm of Guillaume in the lead role. It aired for seven seasons. Heading into its final year, Guillaume at last won the Emmy for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series.

Image: The Everett Collection

7. Hart to Hart

Sidney Sheldon, at one point ranked the seventh best selling fiction writer of all time, has an enviable television career, too. He created both The Patty Duke Show and I Dream of Jeannie. The third time was a charm with Hart to Hart, his lighthearted adventure series about a rich, glamorous couple who solve crimes in their fleet of luxury cars and private jet. Robert Wagner and Stefanie Powers played the Harts for five hit seasons.

Image: The Everett Collection

8. Trapper John, M.D.

Pernell Robert, also known to audiences as Adam Cartwright of Bonanza, entered the world of M*A*S*H for this spin-off, which followed the erstwhile Korean War surgeon in the modern day. Wayne Rogers had originally played the character. It was the rare, fascinating show to see what a popular character might be like three decades later. The onetime prankster had matured and settled down as the Chief of Surgery at San Francisco Memorial Hospital.

Image: The Everett Collection

9. Real People

Forms of reality television had been done in the past on series like Candid Camera and the PBS series An American Family. However, those were basically just a prank show and a long documentary film. Beginning in the spring of 1979, Real People blended profiles of everyday citizens, comedic studio commentary and viewer interaction. Folks at home could send in silly photos or funny newspaper clippings to share on air. In some ways, Real People was the combined prototype of America's Got Talent, the viral video and social media.

Image: The Everett Collection

SEE MORE: 10 beloved TV shows turning 50 years old in 2019

The Brady Bunch, Scooby Doo and Sesame Street all hit the half-century mark. READ MORE

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Amalthea 17 days ago
While I remember them all (I DID turn 15 that year), the only ones I watched were "Buck Rogers", "Benson", and "Real People". My younger brother loved "Dukes".
jholton30062 18 days ago
#3 - WFLD, not WLFD. I realize they're a competitor...
Lucyneenah19701 28 days ago
I liked "The Facts of Life" when I was a teenager. "Benson" was a good show, too. I didn't watch the rest.
JeffTanner 1 month ago
I had forgotten about ''Real People'' until I read it here. I know Sarah Purcell, & I think the black guy is Byron Allen.
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