Mar 13, 2014

Mary and Rhoda and Gordie the Weatherman: 1970s Hip Sitcoms

During the 1970s, the success of All in the Family led to a fad for sitcoms with hip, relevant, "mature" themes.  Most were set in "real places,"  not New York or L.A., and juxtaposed the work and home lives of young adult professionals (if they were white) or poor families (if they were African-American).

All of the adults watched, but kids were leery, unless there were teenagers in the cast (Alice, One Day at a Time).  

But who wanted to watch The Mary Tyler Moore Show (1970-77), with the former star of The Dick Van Dyke Show as a Minneapolis tv writer, when the other channel had The Most Deadly Game, with gay actor George Maharis (left) as a crime-fighting criminologist?

Or The Bob Newhart Show (1972-78), about a psychologist with wacky patients, when the other channel had The Streets of San Francisco, with the hunky Michael Douglas as a detective?

Or Rhoda, Phyllis, Maud, Good Times, That's My Mama, MASH, Sanford and Son, Chico and the Man, Archie Bunker's Place....

So I didn't begin watching until 1974, when I was in ninth grade and trying to fit in with a hipster crowd, and then only occasionally, when I had nothing else to do.  I found some gay content.

1. Beefcake.  Not a lot, but occasional bulges or hints of hairy chests. Paul Sand had a hot older brother.  Joe (David Groh), the contractor who married Rhoda, deserved special attention.










As did John Amos, who played Gordie the Weatherman on Mary Tyler Moore before scoring his own sitcom, Good Times.  He also starred as the older Kunta Kinte on Roots (1977).















2. Bonding.  I missed the overt homoromantic bond between Mary and Rhoda on Mary Tyler Moore (left), but what about Hawkeye and Trapper John on MASH, or odd couple Chico and Ed on Chico and the Man?








3. Gay-vague characters. Not a lot, but I wondered about Howard Borden (Bill Daily, right), the next-door  neighbor who dropped in every five seconds on The Bob Newhart Show.  Bill Daily also played Tony Nelson's best friend on I Dream of Jeannie, and Leif Garrett's boyfriend on an episode of Chips..

4. The first gay characters on television.