01x01 - Television Gets Real

Episode transcripts for the TV show "The Seventies". Aired: June 2015 to August 2015.*
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"The Seventies" is a documentary series that looks back on this remarkable and controversial decade. The Vietnam w*r, Watergate scandal, music industry, Iran Hostage Crisis, and the rise of foreign and domestic terrorism are just some of the events this series covers.
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01x01 - Television Gets Real

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Tonight, television takes a look at itself.

What's on the idiot box?

It's only an idiot box if an idiot is watching.

I'll tell you about the golden age of television.

This period of time will be looked upon as the platinum age.

Our obligation is to entertain.

And if we've left something to think about, so much the better.

Kunta. Kunta Kinte.

Television should not just be entertainment.

Charges were leveled at the commercial television networks.

Congress has no right to interfere with the media.

Well, excuse me!

You have a responsibility to give the aud*ence what it tuned in to see.

The years of the '60s, which end in a few hours, have a bad reputation that is not entirely justified.

Some things got worse, obviously.

But TV and other news coverage is better, not worse.

We simply developed more demanding standards.

When I think of TV, I think of the '70s.

What is this world coming to?

The American public was hungry for more.

More was allowed that hadn't been before.

It was the last decade where it was a campfire television, where there was one in the living room.

I want to watch an all black show for a change.

Where're you going to find one?

Here's one.

The Los Angeles Lakers against the Milwaukee Bucks.

Young people were interested in relevant things.

And so television began to reflect that.

This is CBS.

Really it was very simple. You had three channels plus PBS.

When the decade turned over into the '70s, television was very rural.

Hee haw! The Beverly Hillbillies.

CBS had Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres.

Petticoat Junction and these kind of rural fantasies of Mayberry-ism.

The hillbilly shows were everywhere, and then they weren't.

Fred Silverman, who was running programming at CBS, said we're going to get rid of the shows that are the most highly rated and replace them with shows that they thought would be more appealing to that younger aud*ence.

It changed the face of television.

My name is Norman Lear.

Until 1971, he was a very successful, if largely unheralded, producer/writer in Hollywood.

But then he burst upon the public consciousness when he took on big*try with his All in the Family.

Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin created absolutely iconic shows.

They revolutionized not only CBS, but all of American television.

Our world is coming crumbling down. The g**ns are coming!

To use language like that on TV was just unheard of, but it really captured a certain moment.

Archie, 12% of the population is black.

There should be a lot of black families living out here.

Yeah, this is only a beginning but I think it's wonderful.

Well let's see how wonderful it is when the watermelon rinds come flying out the window!

It scared me when I first saw All in the Family, a little bit.

I thought, "they better be careful."

There was no doubt in my mind the American people were going to accept it.

Do you have a quick answer for the people who say the show reinforces big*try?

That charge started from the beginning...

Yes. My quick answer is no.

Everybody was going to see something they knew damn well was going on.

Nothing that surprising.

Edith, I'm out of toilet paper.

No, we're not. I bought some yesterday.

It's in the closet in the kitchen.

I ain't in the kitchen.


Hearing a toilet flush for the first time was a big deal and made headlines.

What's the country coming to anyhow?

What is it, Archie, bad news?

What else?

We get out of Vietnam or something?

Don't be a wise guy, huh.

I wasn't going to play around with Mom dented the car, how are we going to keep Dad from finding out about it?

Not when I see everything that's going around in our country.

Just because a guy is sensitive and he's an intellectual and he wears glasses, you make him out a qu*er.

I never said a guy who wears glasses is a qu*er.

A guy who wears glasses is a f*ur-eyes.

A guy who's a f*g is a qu*er.

All in the Family did something really new for television.

It put before the American public Archie's friend who was very masculine and who happened to be g*y.

How long you known me?

10, 12 years?


In all that time, did I ever mention a woman?

Oh, come on, Steve.

Nixon objecting to the show...

Uh, that was a badge of honor.

And it was really culturally on point. Every time.

For a sitcom, that was unheard of.

One, two, three!

I wanted to do an episode where somebody could give Archie what he'd earned.

Shut up all of you!

We created a character that could really let him have it.


I'm only here because of Edith.

The fact that you happen to be here with her is beyond my control.

Like any other freak of nature.

Before that show was off the air, Fred Silverman was on the telephone with me saying, "there's a show in that woman."


No, this is not Mr. Findlay, it's Mrs. Findlay.

Yeah, Mr. Findlay has a much higher voice.

Now get your coat and come on!

What makes you think you can order me around like that, Henry?

You're my wife. That gives me the right!

When he says "wife," he means "possession."

So what, Maude? You told me a hundred times you want to feel possessed.

Walter Findlay, I never said that standing up, and you know it.

Norman Lear and Bud Yorkin really turned the spinoff series into an artform.

Norman Lear hates to hear it called the "Lear Factory."

All his series come out of this building, allowing Lear to move from show to show like a dervish.

Good Times was like, "Holy smokes! There's black people on TV!"

There'd never been a complete black family on TV before, with a father.

What made it so unique and universal is that we had the same problems in our household, and we do not live in the projects in Chicago.


You want to worry your head about nothing, go on and do it.

We got $32 in the shoe box and I got another $6 right here in my pocket.

You worked all night and all they paid you was $6?

There were a lot of folks who were not happy with the show.

The Black Panthers were very upset.

When Huey Newton came to see me, the big complaint was "why can't we see a black man that's doing better than that?"

The Jeffersons had started as neighbors of Archie Bunker.

Don't call me "h*nky"!

Why're you so sensitive of of a sudden?

How would you like it if I called you "n*gg*r"?

He called me "n*gg*r"!

That's no worse than "h*nky."

You're right.

Nothing's worse than "h*nky" except being married to one.

Norman Lear set the stage for other shows in the '70s that just brought gravitas to television.

What're you staring at?

I was just thinking I ought to bring my neighbor's kids over here.

This place is better than the zoo.

On Saturday nights, the CBS lineup in the early '70s was amazing.

8:00, All in the Family. 8:30, M*A*S*H.

9:00, The Mary Tyler Moore Show. You had The Bob Newhart Show...

And it ended with The Carol Burnett Variety Show at 10:00

They used to call it m*rder*r's row.

People had no DVRs, they had no VHS, they had nothing with initials, so people would stay home on Saturday nights.

They wouldn't go to the movie. They wouldn't go to restaurants.

That may be the best night of television in all of television history.

Mary Tyler Moore was a single woman working as an associate producer on a nightly TV show.

You know what? You've got spunk.


I hate spunk!

There were a lot of young women entering the workplace then.

And for some of them, Mary Tyler Moore was like a port of entry.

I'm doing as good a job as he did.



And I'm being paid less than he was because...?

You're a woman.

The television female could be a hero.

She could be the main event.

Read it?

All right.

Out loud!

The first script written by Allan Burns and Jim Brooks had Mary coming to Minneapolis divorced.

And well, very quickly CBS said, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no.

At the beginning of the decade, divorce was considered somewhat scandalous.


She went on dates with a lot of guys.

But the guys weren't really important.

We seem to be hitting it off, and I just thought...

You just thought!

She's not obsessed with finding a husband.

Don't forget to take your pill.

I won't.

This was about people coping with one another, and the workplace was like a family.

I told Ted to close with the copy for Sue Ann.

Oh my God!

What's wrong?

I told the projectionist it was the other way around!

Oh my God!

Local pig farmers served notice today that rising corn prices are forcing them to find other means to feed their stock.

Here's one pig.

Just look at her gobble up that slop.

Starting tomorrow, we'll be presenting a new feature on WJM.

Dining Out with Sue Ann Nivens.

Once Jim Brooks said to me, "I know there's a world of comedy in my wife's purse.

"I just can't access it.

We've got to find some female writers for this show."

Did you crash the men's room?

Of course not.

I went as somebody's guest.

Why do you think it's such a winner?

I think because of the casting.

And I think because of the writing.

They've don't sacrifice the character for the sake of a good joke.

That effort to keep the female sensibility is what made it authentic and good.

People would say "you're just like me and my girlfriends."

How can you gorge yourself like that and stay so skinny?

I'm going crazy with hunger.

Well eat something.

I can't.

I've got to lose 10 pounds by 8:30.

Freddy Silverman, head of the network at the time, said "Valerie, listen. I'm going to spin you off."

And I thought, "oh my God, I'm fired."

Because "spinoff" is a term that was originated in the '70s.

If we're going to start living together, we've got to tell each other everything.

Okay, Joe, I want to be married.

Rhoda and Joe's wedding became a huge national event.

52 million people tuned in to see that.

Suddenly Rhoda is in a happy relationship and they didn't know what to do with that.

And then they had to have her get divorced to try to reboot the show.

Why did you marry me? Just answer me that. Why did you marry me?

You made me marry you.

I feel so funny.

Oh, come on.

It's just a matter of trust.

Oh, she's not going to do it.

Doctor, where does that leave us, and where do we go from here?

That we'll have to discuss in future sessions.

The '70s also had this therapeutic overlay.

Hi, Bob.

Oh, hi, Bob.

Hi, Bob.


We decided to make him a psychologist.

We seem to have run out of things to say.

Why don't we pray?

Yeah, let's pray for the end of this session.

I didn't know anything about therapy prior to that.

I'm from the planet Blothar.

It's in the Galoo galaxy.

How long are you going to be in town?

I didn't want to do a show where we had children.

I didn't want to be the dumb dad.

Sit, boy.

How*rd, I don't care where we go. I just don't want to make any more decisions.

People'd say, "gee, my dad and I used to watch the show."

And it was great.

And you realize you're part of people's lives.

The '70s was the era where a certain artistry developed.

M*A*S*H really changed many people's perception of what a sitcom can be.

A sitcom could be cinematic.

M*A*S*H was sh*t like a movie.

And M*A*S*H was maybe the single most unique situation comedy ever.

I have a headache. A tremendous headache.

It goes all the way down to my waist.

The television series M*A*S*H had one thing the movie, in my estimation, did not, which was heart.

There are certain rules about a w*r.

And rule #1 is young men d*e.

Rule #2 is doctors can't change rule #1.

It was about Korea, but we were talking about it doing things that had to do with Vietnam, and everybody knew it.

Rolling. Action.

w*r isn't hell. w*r is w*r and hell is hell.

And of the two, w*r is a lot worse.

We had 30 million people a week watching M*A*S*H.

Have you ever really considered the foot?

Yeah, but I prefer girls.

Better not bump into Henry and that general.

I intend only to bump into Nurse Baker. Repeatedly, if possible.

Programming practices. These were the people who'd go through the scripts and say, "you can't use this word."

We felt like we were in the midst of a battle.

This is freedom of speech.

At the Senate hearings on television v*olence today, strong charges were leveled at the commercial television networks.

The broadcasting industry now stands charged with having molested the minds of our nation's children to serve the cause of corporate profit.

The family hour was established by the three networks and the Federal Communications Commission in response to complaints of too much sex and v*olence on early evening television.

The family hour. The two hours from 7:00 to 9:00 PM, during which parents and children are supposed to be able to watch television without being made to feel uncomfortable.

It's complicated.

So it just seemed altogether unfair.

And we sued.

Family hour is under att*ck from some producers, unions and others in the television industry.

They have filed a lawsuit to have it abolished.

As those scheduled to testify arrive, like Grant Tinker and Allan Burns of Mary Tyler Moore enterprises, they pass through a picket line protesting the hearing.

Congress has no right whatsoever to interfere in the content of the media.

If you can censor a joke today, then tomorrow you can censor the expression of any thought, If you can censor a joke, it just becomes easier the next day.

A federal judge in Los Angeles ruled the so-called family hour on television from 7:00 to 9:00 was unconstitutional.

A violation of the first amendment guarantee of free speech.

The first amendment was upheld in a most important decision.

And it's really, truly a victory for everybody.

The Rookies will not be seen tonight so that we may bring you the following special program.

Tonight, television takes a look at itself.

We are looking at what you watch most of the time.

Entertainment programming on the three commercial networks.

What are you looking at? And is it good for you?

Somewhere around the middle or late '70s, it's like people got tired of talking about real stuff.

Well, if the good Lord provided us with berries, then I think we ought to eat them.

There was a longing for a simpler time, when it didn't seem like there was so much anger and contentiousness.

When people weren't so mad at each other.

During last season, the Waltons caught on.

Good night, John boy.

Good night.

This year there'll be more nostalgia and wholesome family drama.

Now that dinner's over, let's try out the piano.


I am taking requests.

♪ Sunday, Monday, happy days... ♪

I created Happy Days not where where a family really was.

I thought it would be good if there were some families that didn't get divorced.

You guys are really... Wow!

It wasn't by accident everybody on Happy Days hugged each other.

It wasn't by accident everybody in the family ate at the same time at the same table.

It was a sweet tender show in the vein of American graffiti.

Looking back on the era of the '50s with a certain affection.


ABC wanted Fonzie's "eh!" to compete directly with Jimmie J. J. Walker's "dynomite!"

'Cause I'm the Fonz! Eh!

Catch phrases would be...

Sit on it, Marvin!

Sit on it, How*rd.

Does anyone say, "thank you, Arnold"? No.

You know what they say?

Sit on it, Arnold.

That's what they say.

You watch Fonzie and you just want to be Fonzie.

Hey, girls, knock yourselves out. I'm really sorry.

It was a slip of the fingers.

It's a fantasy of what teen life could be.

Hey, De Fazio! They're here.

All right.


Laverne! This is Laverne De Fazio. She's mine.

And this is Shirley Feeney. She's yours, as you can see.

Nice to meet you, Richie.

My pleasure.

When Laverne and Shirley made a guest appearance, one of the cameramen said, "look at this two-sh*t. That's a series."

Schlemiel! Schlimazel! Hasenpfeffer Incorporated!

Tuesday night between 8:00 and 9:00 is called "the d*ath spot." d*ath to any program that dares to go head-on against against ABC's Happy Days and Laverne and Shirley.

Laverne and Shirley is one of the few sitcoms that ever debuted as #1.

The absolute top #1 show this season is Laverne and Shirley.

A seemingly harmless but essentially brainless exercise in adolescent silliness.

You have to go all the way back to I Love Lucy to get the same sort of slapstick and physical comedy.

I mean, we never thought about its importance except that, you know, it was two girls trying, and the value of friendship.

It must have something going for it.

I don't vo-dee-o-dodo.

You vo-dee-o-dodo!

I don't vo-dee-o-dodo!

They couldn't say "sex," so they said "vo-dee-o-do."

You vo-dee-o.

Everybody knew what we were talking about.


My son didn't watch Laverne and Shirley or Happy Days.

I said, "you don't like?"

He said, "I like it." "But what's missing?"

"Space men." Because we were getting into space.

And so that's when I created...

A space man.

Wait a minute, who are you?

I am Mork from Ork.

The writers all rolled their eyes. "An alien, he wants an alien."

I had to make up a story. "Fonzie's running out of adversaries."

That's right. Fonzie's never lost a Holo-tacker yet.

And we've got the home planet advantage.

Then we got him on his own show and Mork and Mindy was the hip show of the '70s.



The aud*ence... Talk about a willing suspension of disbelief... is willing to buy the premise...

Mind if I do?

Just so they can watch Robin Williams.

Nanu, nanu!

Well excuse me!

That was an interesting part of the balance, I think, of the television d*et.

There was an attempt to explore deeper into the psyche of what makes us tick, but there was also, you know, a need to escape.

I'm going to a beach barbecue.

Uh-huh. I can see what's going to heat up the coals.

If there's any single phenomenon that has tilted the rating books in CBS's direction, it's T and A.

Herb Jacobs, at the CBS affiliates meeting, he explained to us how these T and A shows are concocted.

Now they take their clothes off three times, they get ideas.

And then they want them to run two or three times, and they jiggle.

And all are well endowed, of course.

And then they say, "now let's get three undressed scenes, and three jiggles, and write a script around it."

Well, there are some who'll tell you that T and A has peaked and it's on its way out.

But ABC has shows like The Love Boat and Three's Company.

"Jiggle TV" referred to the fact that these were women who were, you know, who were... You know.

Good morning, angels.

Good morning, Charlie.

Charlie's Angels became a very enduring trademark out of the '70s.

I've already made arrangements for you three to go to prison.

Open your towel.

I'll be standing as erect as ever.

Good luck, angels.

Battle of the Network Stars.

Oh, God. I did Battle of the Network Stars a couple of times.

And I hated it.

I think I made up some pretty good time on Billy Crystal.

Networks would loan out their TV stars to compete in a series of quasi-Olympic-type events.

She's leaning so far over the boat, it seems to be wobbling a great deal.

Erin Gray with that lithe, supple body.

She's got a great set of legs. What the heck.

I think that we have a lot to apologize for, with the worst of television.

My only defense was, "it was the '70's."

Did I jiggle much?

Uh. Live and learn.

Public television has been expected to do a great deal.

Almost half of noncommercial program hours are aimed at children.

And it has come to be so many things to so many people.

The PBS children's programming in the '70s became the platinum standard on the planet for how you use this medium to educate kids.

♪ Would you be my, could you be my, ♪
♪ won't you be my neighbor? ♪

It was Fred Rogers who made it okay to speak to an aud*ence of kids like they were human beings.

There are some things that are very difficult to understand in a newspaper.

Every now and then I think back to Mister Rogers

I think he would say, "don't be scared. Life is good. Life is special."

Well, everybody is so special because everybody is different.

Just go and do the thing that you love. And that always stuck with me.

See you tomorrow.

♪ Can you tell me how to get, how to get to Sesame Street. ♪

Sesame Street introduced my children to interaction with people of different backgrounds.

♪ It's not that easy being green. ♪

Count this penny.

Count that penny?

Yeah, count it.


Count One.

Sesame Street was aggressive in terms of learning not only concepts of reading, but concepts of interacting.

I may be small...

I may be small...

But I am...

But I am...



Sesame Street was as big as it got in terms of celebrity.

Everybody wanted to hang with the Muppets.

Aren't you Johnny Trash?


Cash, Cash.

Educational children's television really matured in the '70s.

I'm leaving.

I love you.

I love you too.

Oh, thanks.

An now for something completely different.

When I was 13, this show from England came on PBS, which before that, was only the realm of my parents.


What do you mean, "bleh"?

I don't like spam!

And suddenly they're doing the most outlandish, racy, non-sequitur type of humor, and k*lling me, the 13-year-old.

It's extraordinary what you can't do on American television.

I think you can do it on PBS, that's why I hope you all watch it.

Come at me with that lower angle.

att*ck me with it.


Once you have this generation of comedy nerds who don't even know that they're comedy nerds.

This parrot is no more!

It has ceased to be.

Monty Python turned out to break so many rules.

I mean, it changes everything.

Just like with the Beatles you can say, "oh, they came after the Beatles."

You look at Saturday Night Live, you look at SCTV, "oh, after Monty Python."

Beginning October 11, Saturday Night will open up a whole new live venture from New York City.

We just happen to have the producer of the program, members of his company.

What should we look for on the program?


Lorne Michaels, this Canadian comedy producer, was given free rein.

Hi, I'm Lorne Michaels, producer of Saturday Night.

And he ultimately winds up hiring a bunch of improv comics.

Rehearsal w*rm-up... Do 20 face-slaps.

Come on. Slappa-dappa. Come on. Make it hurt.

George Carlin was the first host, and wanted to be a permanent host.

Nice to see you. Welcome and thanks for joining us live.

There were a lot of names band*ed about in terms of permanent hosts.

That's one of those TV rules that you must break, until you do and then you realize why don't you have a different host every week?

But it was the cast that finally won people's hearts.

Come on, who is this?


Oh no!

You cut your own steaks. We give you the sauce.

I'm Barbara Wawa.

Thank you, thank you very much. You're beautiful. Thank you.

You were drawn to the TV set because you knew something insane might happen.


Live from New York.

Partly because it was live, partly because you knew television was now in the hands of the television generation.

♪ NBC's smart as a peacock! ♪

And these were "kids" who just might do anything.

Yes, having sex with women! The president! Within these very walls!

That never happened when d*ck Nixon was in the White House!

It was counter-television.

That's partly what made it attractive.

No problem.

Every one of their episodes became worthy of Talmudic study, if that's the word.

When I hosted, Lorne called me into his office and said, "you realize that the kids are the stars."

The host wasn't nearly as impactful.

That's not quite it.

Because the thing was all the rage.

They called themselves the "Not-Ready-for-Primetime Players."

Not because they felt they weren't good enough, but because they felt they were too good.

Good evening, I'm Chevy Chase, and you're not.

Chevy Chase became an instant star.

Our top story tonight...

Our top story tonight.

Boy are his arms tired.

And boy are his arms tired!

Chevy Chase was on the show for one year.

Are you sorry you left Saturday Night Live?

I'm deeply, deeply sorry.

Chevy decided that he was too big for the show, and so he left.

In some ways, Chevy leaving after the first year was a blessing, because it showed that Saturday Night Live was going to do much more than survive.

♪ There are some things that just aren't explainable... ♪

Hello, I'm Bill Murray. You can call me Billy, but around here everybody just calls me "the new guy."

When Chevy Chase leaves, Bill Murray comes in.

Come on, Pop!

Cut, cut! Makeup, can we get in here, please?

Sorry, fellas.

And that just opened up other doors, and Saturday Night Live was just kind of taking off.

Two wild and crazy guys!

Super Vas-o-matic 76! You'll never hade to steal, cut, or gut again!

b*at it, Roseanne, Roseanne-Dan.

Cheeseburger, cheeseburger here!

Where do we come from?


It was the show for us, it was the show about us.

You wanted to be a part of it.

It was inextricably linked with the times.

Good afternoon.

Good night.

Good night. Pleasant tomorrow.

Monday, Monday, Monday's the greatest day of the week!

Throughout high school there was one show that was religious broadcasting, that you had to watch, 'cause if you didn't see it, you wouldn't have anything to talk about for all of Tuesday and most of Wednesday and a big part of Thursday.

Why? Because Monday night is NFL football night.

That's why!

Monday Night Football got its start on September 21st, 1970, with the Cleveland Browns hosting the New York Jets.

Welcome to ABC's Monday night primetime National Football League television series.

And this game is underway on ABC.

Frank was there to do play-by-play.

Don was there to do replays and provide some humor to the telecast.

And How*rd was there to be the straw that stirred the drink.

Let's handle it, come on!

Let's go! Let's go!

The pairing of How*rd Cosell with Don Meredith is a classic sitcom odd couple kind of pairing.

You couldn't help but be swept up by what those guys were saying.

The booth itself was almost like a variety show.

We have our extra here with us this evening.

I've called it a traveling freak show and it really was.

The head freak was How*rd, there ain't no question about that.

The tension between the two of them made for the kind of thing you just wanted to see every week.

Professional football is rapidly growing into a very big business.

You understand football here... Our football, not the football in Europe.

I like to watch, but I don't understand too much.

Would you like to learn more about it?

We were on a mission that took us very close to saying "screw the football fan, 'cause he's going to come anyway."

What we needed to do was appeal to women.

We needed to appeal to the casual football fan.

That's why we started telling stories that humanized the players.

Joe Namath, one of the greatest of all time.

Unfortunately his legs do not go with that arm.

The things that people associate with.

Recognize this fellow?

What's been your view of this American professional football season?

It's an amazing event and sight.

It makes rock concerts look like tea parties.

I'd like to have your job. You know, be a sportscaster.

That show became, week after week, one of the most highly-rated shows in America.

♪ Nothing like a party! ♪

It showed football was an entertainment experience on par with any primetime show you could imagine.

Maybe it was better because you didn't know how it was going to end.

60 Minutes decided to peer into the electronic future to take a look at what may be in store for television viewers in the decade of the '70s.

It is television by cable, a communications revolution that could radically alter our way of life.

Cable, for a quarter of a century, there's nothing distinctive about it.

Just a way for you to get what everybody else can already get.

And that's the way it is up until...

Welcome to Home Box Office subscription television.

HBO debuts November 8, 1972, and it is not an overnight success.

Presenting the Pennsylvania Polka Festival.

And the oft-repeated saying was, "getting people to pay for TV would be like getting them to pay for air."

Saturday mornings they would play band music and you'd see slides of... Nothing, I'd call it.

Nobody knew what you could do. Nobody knew what you couldn't do.

But you were desperately trying not to be commercial television.

How much time have we got?

Lad*es and gentlemen, Robert Klein.

The beauty of it was you didn't have to pack everything quickly.

You could w*rm up and get to know and take the stage, so to speak.

The talk shows are okay, you know. I do The Tonight Show.

Come in, I have to be funny in a hurry. I get so little time.

Six minutes and boom, boom, boom, boom!

It wasn't as contrived. It was a full-throated performance.

This is not regular television!

It's subscription. They can say any sh*t.

Because you're not using public airwaves, the FCC can't regulate your content.

I understand you had two orgasms yesterday.

Can you tell us about them?

HBO gave cable something to sell.

You were getting movies uncut in your home.

All the naughty bits intact.

And then September 1975, we debut coast-to-coast with the "Thrilla in Manila."

One of the all-time classic heavyweight fights. Frazier/Ali.

And that's when HBO explodes.

It's all over. And Muhammad Ali at the end of the 40th round...

Before that, you're counting growth in tens of thousands of subscribers.

After that, you're counting in millions.

That's really day 1 for both businesses, HBO and the cable industry.

If you're a fan, what you'll see in the next minutes to follow may convince you you've gone to sports heaven.

In the mid '70s in the sports world, there were just these three giants... CBS, ABC, NBC.

And then in Connecticut, somebody got ahold of a transponder.

The picture you're watching right now has been taken by a camera, sent through some sophisticated equipment to this earth transmitting station.

This guy, Bill Rasmussen, who had been fired from his job, and just trying to figure out a way to deliver local cable sports.

Then when they found out about the satellite, they said, "so can we cover the whole state?"

And the guy looked at him and said, "no, you don't understand."

For another 25 cents or whatever, you can send this all over the country.

And they went, "oh, gee, why would anyone want to do that?"

They didn't quite know what they had.

And he wound up revolutionizing television sports.

Welcome, everyone, to the ESPN SportsCenter.

From this very desk in the coming weeks and months, we'll be filling you in on the pulse of sporting activity not only around the country, but around the world as well.

They didn't have the money to go out and buy baseball games or NFL games.

What they did do was they took all the leftovers out there.

I'm Joe Boyle, and I'll be handling the play-by-play for tonight's game between the Badgers and the Blue Demons.

That gave birth to arguably the greatest media success story of all time.

At its best, cable television could provide a refreshing relief from the trend tow*rd bigness, tow*rd centralization.

At its worst, cable TV could inv*de our privacy, tranquilize our children, remove us electronically from the flesh-and-blood world.

And we'd have to pay for the privilege.

The question is, indeed, will the miracle be managed?

The best thing PBS did for adults in the '70s was the mini-series, the idea of novels for television.

Good evening. I'm Alistair Cooke, here with the ninth episode of I, Claudius.

We ought to put up a sign.

Discretion is advised.

I was not allowed to watch it because it had nudity in it.

I very much wanted to.

Rather than try to come up with a show that would run for years and years, it was this idea that here is a limited story.

We're going to tell it in X number of episodes, and let's just do this one self-contained thing.

We all did things during the reign of my mad brother that we might not otherwise have done.

It looks cheap. It was the script and the performances that mattered.

In other words, it could be good for you but it was fun at the same time.

The mini-series was such a huge success for public television, ABC was the network that h*t gold with Rich Man, Poor Man.

How are you going to tell a story that isn't controlled by the clock?

Characters can grow and change and differ.

Hey, listen. I want to talk to you.

About what?

About making an honest man of me.

It's a subject I rarely discuss in the nude.

What we saw in the '70s was that the big event television, if it was done right and if it was compelling, the aud*ence kept on coming back and back.

Here you have topics that start to get serious and important and groundbreaking for television.

There's no life left here and I don't want harm to come to you because of it.

I won't... I won't listen to this.

Though majority reaction to the Holocaust program has been positive, it has not been without debate.

With Holocaust, the heat was "you shouldn't even touch this subject. It's disrespectful."

But finally the thinking was, "no, to not talk about it would be disrespectful."

To not perpetuate the memory for another generation.

So if you're too young to know, here's a depiction.

Not since the w*r have emotions been so high in Germany.

The Hol*caust telecast caused heated discussion.

Its most tangible political effect was shown when the German legislature debated the search for N*zi w*r criminals.

Holocaust made it easier for lawmakers to vote to continue the hunt for N*zis.

Holocaust brought it home.

It made it real, even though it was a Hollywood creation.

Sunday night, Roots begins in eight parts on ABC.

If it sounds like I'm plugging it, I am.

Basically, television will never be the same again.

There was really no bigger television event than Roots.

It was based on the 1976 book by Alex Haley about his family in Africa and coming to America as sl*ves, and what happens to them as the centuries go on.

I will go to my grave believing that Roots is America's story.

Not just black America's story.

We might have come over in the bottom of the ship, but we all came over in ships.

Your name means "stay put." But it don't mean "stay a sl*ve."

As a 19-year-old kid, you know, Roots was my first job.

We're not children. We're very close to being men, Nyo Boto.

What's your name?

Kunta. Kunta Kinte.

The character that I got to portray in Roots, Kunta Kinte the adult, was a dream role.

It was really genius to cast all of America's favorite television dads in the roles of the white sl*ve owners and the villains.

I'll be by to fetch you in the morning, Captain. Sleep well.

It is difficult to explain in today’s culture how unprecedented Roots was.

No one had ever seen the story of sl*very before told from the point of view of the Africans.

It may be the first time that television allowed an embracing of black pride.

Then we's free. We's free, honey.

One of the reasons that Roots was so incredibly popular is not because ABC had so much faith in it, but because ABC didn't.

Earlier mini-series were broadcast in weekly installments, and the ABC executives determined that if Roots were to fail, they could just be done with it in seven or eight nights.

It was high risk, high rew*rd.

If it didn't work, you were out a lot of TV time and not many of people watching.

The television premiere on eight consecutive nights attracted the largest aud*ence in the history of the medium.

There's something about it that seems to touch all human beings.

It transcends age and race.

Entertainment was meeting humanity, and I think that's the primary value...

Is to lead humanity forw*rd.

If there's a legacy of television in the '70s it's that you matter.

While there's a lot going on in the world, television was a reminder of how much little things mean to us. The smallest of situations.

No matter what the subject matter was, it wanted to include you.

You're in the family. Don't make fun of the outsider, include them.

Its legacy is look how long it's lasted.

Those shows, they were about people who were kind and nice.

They were not mean-spirited shows.

There was a certain elegance to that.

I kind of miss it.

Oh, it was so delicious. Five different flavors.

And Archie was sitting at another table with that fellow Jefferson Pratt.

Remember him?

Anyway, Archie was trying to get my attention.

So first he put two straws up his nose, like a walrus.

And then he sh*t...

Tonight, television takes a look at its own.
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