Special Report

The Most Popular TV Episodes From the 1970s

The 1960s has the reputation of being the decade for dramatic social change in America, but for television content, it was the 1970s that saw a sea change. That was the decade that saw such envelope-pushing sitcoms “All in the Family,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “The Jeffersons,” and “M*A*S*H.” As well, the decade provided opportunities for British entertainment to cross the pond and find audiences here. (For those interested in longer form entertainment, these are the most successful movies of the 1970s.)

To determine the best TV episodes of the 1970s, 24/7 Tempo reviewed audience rating data from IMDb, an online movie and TV database owned by Amazon. Television episodes that aired between 1970 and 1979 were ranked based on IMDb user rating as of mid-February 2023. Only TV episodes with at least 1,000 user ratings were considered. In the case of a tie, the episode with the greater number of user votes was ranked higher.

Two shows absolutely dominate the list – the long-running British fantasy series “Doctor Who” and the hit Korean War-set dramedy “M*A*S*H.” 

“Doctor Who” ran from 1963 to 1989 and was resurrected in 2005. The series depicts the adventures of a time-traveling extraterrestrial in human form who combats villains, saves civilizations, and helps those in need. Thirteen different actors have played the title character, and the series is a significant part of contemporary British culture. 

Episodes of the British comedies “Fawlty Towers” and “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” also earned places on the list. (Neither, though, makes the list of the most popular TV comedies according to IMDb.)

Click here to see the best TV episodes of the 1970s

M*A*S*H” broke barriers by addressing issues such as PTSD and homosexuality. It ran for 11 years starting in 1972 and won 14 Emmys. The show’s finale aired 40 years ago this month and was watched by 77% of the television viewing audience, the largest percentage ever to watch a single TV show up to that time.

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