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What are the 3 greatest TV lineups of all time?

As television networks start debuting their new seasons, a look back at the best TV lineups of all time - from groundbreaking to groovy. Do you agree with my list?

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The CBS Saturday Night Lineup in 1973 is considered one of the strongest programming blocks in history. What is your favorite?
Contributed / TV Guide archives
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Our kids will never quite understand what life was like for us in the old days, right? How we mastered cursive writing, rotary phones, and Pong, all while taking care of our Pet Rocks and not smashing our fingers with Clackers. And that was just the 1970s.

Then there was how we watched TV.

Kids born in the 21st century, those accustomed to countless sources of streaming entertainment, will never understand what it was like to have just four television stations.

I, for one, couldn’t wait to get my sticky little Jolly Ranchered fingers on the extra-thick “TV Guide Fall Preview” issue each year. It was full of schedules for the new season and blurbs about the new shows. What shows would I watch? When would I turn from one channel to the next? What would I do if two favorite shows went up against each other? Oh, the horror of the pre-VHS days!

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Every fall, the TV Guide Fall Preview helped TV fans figure out what to watch every night.
Contributed / TV Guide

So many possibilities! Of course, most new shows failed. But some TV shows became monster hits and when paired with other monster hits, created the most epic, legendary lineups of all-time.


Without further ado, here are my choices (in no particular order) for the three best TV lineups of all time. I've also included an honorable mention, mostly because of my enduring love of a certain 1970s TV cop.

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As networks kick off their new seasons, a look back at some of the best TV lineups from the past. Friday night on ABC appealed to young fans.
Contributed / TV Guide archives

The Sentimental Favorite

ABC - Friday Night - 1971-72

I know this first one will not be everyone’s cup of tea, but to 8-year-old me, ABC on Friday night was nirvana.

“The Brady Bunch,” “The Partridge Family,” “Room 222,” “The Odd Couple,” and “Love, American Style.”

Here in the Central Time Zone, we’d kick off our Friday night with "The Brady Bunch" at 7 p.m. (perhaps eating a dinner of pork chops and applesauce.) Then at 7:30, ‘C'mon get happy! It was time for “The Partridge Family.”

The shows in the 8 p.m. hour skewed a little older than the bubble gum bliss of the earlier hour, with the school-based comedy “Room 222” and Neil Simon’s “The Odd Couple” starring Jack Klugman and Tony Randall.

If we were lucky Mom and Dad (or the babysitter) would let up stay up to watch the slightly risque “Love, American Style,” where every joke went over my Cindy Brady-esque-pig-tailed head.


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"All in the Family" kicked off one of the most popular nights of television in history - CBS Saturday Night 1973.
Contributed / "All in the Family" publicity photo - CBS/Columbia Pictures Television/1972

The Gold Standard

CBS - Saturday 1973-74

The shows that filled CBS’s lineup on Saturday night in the early ‘70s, are, on their own, considered some of the greatest programs in television history. Put them together and it’s almost hard to imagine this kind of quality was scheduled back to back to back to back on a weekend night.

“All in the Family,” “M*A*S*H,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “The Bob Newhart Show,” and “The Carol Burnett Show.”

Read more "Back Then with Tracy Briggs" columns here

Not only were these shows groundbreaking in their treatment of issues like racism and women's rights, but they were also just plain hilarious.

Sammy Davis, Jr. kissing Archie Bunker and the demise of Chuckles the Clown. Need I say more?

"Cheers" helped make NBC's mid-80's Thursday "Must See TV."
"Cheers" helped make NBC's mid-80's Thursday "Must See TV." Pictured: (l-r) Shelley Long as Diane Chambers, Nicholas Colasanto as Ernie 'Coach' Pantusso, John Ratzenberger as Cliff Clavin, Ted Danson as Sam Malone, George Wendt as Norm Peterson, Rhea Perlman as Carla Tortelli (Photo by Herb Ball/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank via Getty Images)
Contributed / NBC via Getty Images

Must See Magnificence

NBC - Thursday 1984 - 1985


By the ‘80s, when dramas like "Dallas" and "Dynasty" were kings and queens of the little screen, sitcoms, it seemed, couldn't quite measure up.

That changed in 1984, when NBC stacked its Thursday night with such quality writing, acting and directing, that they eventually often outperformed the soapy dramas (except maybe when Krystal and Alexis Carrington duked it out in the fountain. How does one compete against that?)

The lineup featuring “The Cosby Show,” “Family Ties,” “Cheers,” “Night Court,” and “Hill Street Blues,” was often compared to the CBS Saturday lineup from a decade before. According to ME-TV, it also helped define the weeknight pattern, going forward, of programming four sitcoms earlier in the evening capped off by a "gritty" drama.

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The 'Happy Days' Cast. Pictured, top row, left: Henry WInkler (Fonzie), Tom Bosley (Howard), Anson Williams (Potsie), Marion Ross (Marion); bottom row, left: Donny Most (Ralph), Erin Moran (Joanie), Ron Howard (Richie).<br/>
Contributed / ABC Photo Archives/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

“Aaaaayyyy” Honorable Mention

ABC - Tuesday 1978 - 1979

“Happy Days,” “Laverne & Shirley,” “Three's Company,” “Taxi,” “Starsky and Hutch.”

The first four shows deserve honorable mentions for their theme songs alone. The last makes the cut because 44 years later I still have a crush on Starsky.

I know I’ve missed many favorites. Given my age, I know the ‘70s and ‘80s are heavily featured here. Did I miss some westerns from the ‘50s and ‘60s or some animated classics of the ‘90s and ‘00s?

Let me know your favorites!

Most importantly, happy viewing!

Tracy Briggs Back Then with Tracy Briggs online column sig.jpg
Tracy Briggs, "Back Then with Tracy Briggs" columnist.
The Forum

Tracy Briggs is a News, Lifestyle and History reporter with Forum Communications with more than 30 years of experience.
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