Top TV Shows of 1971 – Comedy, Thrillers, Chat Shows & More

If you thought there was a lot of good TV shows that first aired in 1970, there’s a lot more in 1971 including a few long lasting shows that will be recognisable to many people, if only because of TV re-runs. Here’s a few of the highlights.

The WaltonsThe Waltons – This family drama was set in depression era American (and later, World War 2), in a fictional Virginia town, Walton’s Mountain. It features the Jon-Boy Walton, his six siblings and their parents and grandparents. The series was created by Earl Hamner Jr, and was based on his 1963 book, Spencer’s Mountain. The series only just squeezes into 1971, as the first episode was a TV Movie called The Homecoming: A Christmas Story, and was aired on CBS in America on 19th December 1971. A full series was commissioned after this, and aired in autumn 1972. The series lasted until 1981, and spawned several TV movies. I remember this being shown on Sunday mornings in the UK in the late 1980s and early 1990s, however it was not until much later that I watched it properly. Although I only ended up watching the first couple of seasons, I really enjoyed it and am now thinking of introducing my 8 year old daughter to the series. It has a strong moral undertone and a real feel-good factor to it.

The Waltons Season One – available on DVD from Amazon

The Two Ronnies – This was a comedy sketch show featuring a pair of British comedians, Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett. It lasted from 1971 until 1987, and ran to 93 episodes. Their big break together came in 1970 when they filled in for a few minutes in an award show programme during a technical hitch. They were so good they were invited to have their own series the following year. The humour often centred around complex wordplay and innuendo, with many jokes also about Ronnie Corbett’s short stature. Their most famous sketch is probably the ‘Four Candles’s sketch.

The Best of The Two Ronnies – available on DVD from Amazon

Bless This House – Popular ‘generation gap’ sitcom featuring Sid James (famous for his starring role in most of the Carry On films) as a grumpy working father trying to get on with his wife and teenage children, but often ends up jumping to the wrong conclusions.

Bless This House Complete Series – Available on Amazon

Upstairs Downstairs – Nearly four decades before we had the delights of Downton Abbey, there was another costume drama that was drawing in the viewers and winning awards. Upstairs Downstairs followed the fortunes of the Bellamy family and staff at 165 Eaton Place in London. It ran for five seasons, but spanned the period from 1903 to 1930, covering such events as the sinking of the Titanic, the death of Edward VII and World War 1, much as its 21st century counterpart did.

Parkinson – Probably the longest running talk show in British TV history. The presenter, Michael Parkinson, interviewed just about anyone who was anyone throughout it’s long run between 1971 and 2007, and many people were interviewed several times at different points throughout their careers. In total, 540 episodes of the talk show were produced.

Colombo
Colombo

Colombo – This is a detective series, starring Peter Falk as the titular police Lieutenant, and ran from 1971 to 2003 (although there was also a TV movie several years earlier in 1968). The series turned the detective series on its head by showing a murder at the beginning including who did it and how it was done. Colombo doesn’t tend to show up until a few minutes into the series and the fun of the show is watching Colombo hone in on the guilty party and solve the crime. Over the years, Colombo featured many guest stars including Faye Dunaway, Billy Connolly, William Shatner and many more.

Colombo Season One – Available on DVD from Amazon

The Persuaders – This is an action/adventure/comedy in which Roger Moore and Tony Curtis play rich playboys who team up to solve cases and catch criminals that the police can’t. This series served as a perfect warm up for Roger Moore playing James Bond, which he started the following year.

Get the Persuaders on DVD from Amazon

What I’ve Been Watching

I’ve seen several of the series mentioned above below in the past, so wanted to try something new. I decided to try watching Bless This House, as I’ve always been a fan of the Carry On films, and I always found Sid James the funniest of all of them. He doesn’t disappoint in this series either – not quite as laugh out loud funny as in some of the Carry On films, but then the settings aren’t as ludicrous. I can really see how viewers would grow to really like Sid’s character, as well as the other characters in the program. It feels very of its time and I can really imagine a family in the early 1970s settling down to watch this together. It does come across as quite dated now, hence why I’ve not come across it before – I doubt it gets much airtime these days. I was really glad I watched it though.

I watched Bless This House on Youtube, as quite a few full episodes appear to be on there including the first episode – you can watch it too.

The other series I decided to have a watch of was Colombo. It’s one of those shows that I’ve seen bits of over the years, but I can’t recall much about it. My wife was delighted when I said I wanted to watch Colombo as part of my 1971 TV watch as she’s always really liked the show. I ordered the Series One boxset, as surprisingly I couldn’t find any episodes available on demand on any of the subscription services I’m signed up to, I couldn’t even find any episodes on You Tube. The first episode, Murder By The Book was about one of a writing duo murdering his writing partner after a falling out. As a crime writer, he tried to concoct and carry out the perfect crime. Colombo though, is soon on the trail.

On a side note, I was interested to learn that the first episode which I watched was directed by Steven Spielberg. Before exclaiming in surprise however, its worth pointing out that this was long before he became famous – in fact his first film directoral debut was for Duel, which came out later on in 1971.

Now working our way through the season one boxset of Colombo, on episode 3 so far…

The Persuaders
The Persuaders

Edit: also now watched the first episode of The Persuaders! Really enjoyed this one, it is slick and funny with plenty of action. Tony Curtis and Roger Moore really work well together despite really now liking each other at first. The first episode kicks of the series, as the two of them are chosen by a retired judge who lures them into a fight then threatens then with jail time if he doesn’t help them.