Whoa there. Let's not allow those synthetic '70s to slip completely away before ambling nimbly through some REAL milestones from a daft and decaffeinated decade of Television-Without-Mercy.
In June 1978, a Charleston, W. Va., man was arrested for throwing his TV set out the window. He told police television had made him crazy and driven him to drink.
In December 1971, NBC inadvertently aired a commercial for Borden's mincemeat in which Joe Garagiola loudly and repeatedly cursed himself for fluffing his lines. Joe taped a sheepish apology to be shown later that week.
In 1979, the CBS Television Network, which had earlier won zippy ratings with a film about the Manson gang, announced plans for a TV movie based on the mass suicides in Guyana in which more than 900 people died.
In May 1978, West German Chancellor Helmut Schmidt proposed that his country observe one television-free day each week because "we are not talking enough with each other." He was ignored.
In September 1972, Ronald Reagan was among the guest stars welcoming Sonny and Cher back for another season on CBS. Later they were canceled and divorced.
During the '70s, TV commercials introduced viewers to three new products that were to make life incomparably more wonderful: deodorant for rugs, deodoranat for refrigerators, and diet food for dogs.
In 1975, the FTC ordered Lambert Pharmaceutical Co. to spend $10 million in advertising that would tell viewers Listerine mouthwash "will not prevent colds or lessen their severity," contrary to previous ads. The first FTC decision criticizing the firm was handed down in 1974; the first complaint about Listerine's claims was logged 30 years earlier.
In 1978, magazine ads offered a recording of Sammy Davis Jr. singing "Plop Plop Fizz Fizz" for $2.50 plus an Alka-Seltzer box top.
In 1979, commercials for Toni home permanant's "all-by-myself, give-your-self-a-perm" product, in which a woman sang "Goodbye, Mr. Francis" to her hairdresser, conceded in small type that the hair of the model in the ad had been "professionally styled."
In November 1977, NBC issued a press release stating that the title of the kiddie show "Thunder" would henceforth be changed to "Super Horse Starring Thunder." But the nag was in the glue factory by Easter anyway.
One June 6, 1978, NBC News illuminated the decade with the hilariously disastrous premiere of its magazine show "20/20,) replete with Flip Wilson's sniffles and Geraldo Rivera's thriller on rabbits being mauled by greyhounds. Squirmed ABC News president Roone Arledge later: "It's not fair to say the worst parts of '20/20' were ordered by me."
in August 1977, then-ABC Entertainment president Fred Silverman said TV should "illuminate the problems of society." On Sept. 6, ABC aired a 15-minute promotional film called "Television Grows Up." And on Sept. 19, ABC premiered one of its big new shows of the year: "The San Pedro Beach Bums."
On May 9, 1978, CBS Broadcast Group president Gene F. Jankowski told affiliates, "We want to be back where we belong -- Number One. And we will be there again -- even sooner than some people expect." A fall campaign keyed to the sleazy slogan "Turn us on, we'll turn you on," failed to turn anybody on, and a $1-million prize giveaway was a flop. CBS left the decade in second place.
On June 3, 1978, WMAR-TV in Balimore promoted a newscast with the tease. "Father kills child! Details 11."
In 1975, Los Angeles' KTLA-TV ballyhooed a newscast with, "We'll show you the violence that broke out when Queen Elizabeth visited Ireland" over shots of a soldier being beaten to the ground and kicked in the head. KTLA repeated the footage twice more within the next 15 minutes.
In 1976, ABC TV Network president James E. Duffy said complaints about violence on TV were "overblown."
Two years later, a Belleville, Ill., judge convicted a young mother of murder, charging she had been "too busy watching television" to prevent a boyfriend from beating her daughther to death.
On Sept. 6, 1978, ABC News promised viewers a "gory but grisly view" of newly acquired JFK assassination footage but noted, "Some viewers may find it objectionable."
In 1977, London TV viewers were shocked by a documentary that included secretly taped footage of a 60-year-old woman urging her 87-year-old Mum to commit suicide so the daughter could inherit $70,000. The plot failed, the mother died later of natural causes, and TV producers paid the daughter $700 to be interviewed on the air.
In July 1978, after filming 400 commercials for an undisclosed sum, Morris the Cat, 17, keeled over and died of "cardiac complications related to old age." A spokesman for 9-Lives Cat Food said a replacement for Morris was waiting in the wings, that the ads would resume after a respectful suspension, and that hundreds of persons had telephoned asking where to send flowers.
In 1978, writer Dan Wakefield walked off the NBC series "James at 15" because NBC censors insisted that if James were to lose his virginity on the program, he would have to "suffer" for it, and Wakefield had wanted the big event to be "beautiful."
Later that year, host Bob McAllister walked off what ABC had promised would be "an innovative, informational, variety program" for children, "Kids Are People Too," because the network insisted the program's innovative information include Superman and Pink Panther cartoons.
In 1978, Time Inc.'s pay-cable network Home Box Office, which is advertised as "something else" and an "alternative" to regular TV, hastily withdrew the critically acclaimed French comedy "Going Places" because a few viewers complained about its treatment of sex.
In 1978, public TV station WTTW in Chicago found a way to promote three classical music programs: "Symphony Night Fever . . . with the Chicago Symphony Orchestra."
In June 1975, columnist Irv Kupcinet opened his talk show, syndicated to some public TV stations, with a clip of Ernest Borgnine weeping about the fact that his father was "dying of c ancer," followed by Kupcinet telling viewers, "That's an example of the lively art of conversation" to be found on his show.
In July 1978, the FCC decided it did not have the power to keep a candidate for governor of Georgia from using the word "nigger" in his TV commercials. But earlier the same month, the FCC got the Supreme Court to agree that it did have the power to keep naughty sex words and profanity off the air.
In April 1977, Los Angeles police heroically cornered and apprehended the gun-toting occupants of a speeding car before learning that they had just interrupted a chase scene being filmed for an NBC cop show.
In 1978, the general manager of a Duluth, Minn., TV station delayed ABC,s "Afterschool Special" titled "My Mom's Having a Baby" until 10:30 p.m. because he thought it was dirty.
In 1979, talk-show host Johnny Carson, after 17 years on "The Tonight Show," finally realized that he had been consistently and frequently mispronouncing the word "puberty" (as "poo-berty") on the air. He learned of his error in a letter from a viewer; apparently no one on his staff had ever felt brave enough to tell him.
In 1979 a decade of feminine hygiene, suppository and pregnancy test commercials ended with the most tasteless ad yet, a commercial for a bathroom cleanser in which a housewife trills, "I just committed germicide!" -- thus marking TV's first playful pun on the word "genocide" in the interests of selling a product.
And, where there is darkness. . . more darkness. . .
On Feb. 26, 1979, ABC News superimposed the words "ABC News, Live Coverage, Total Eclipse of the Sun Over Goldendale, Wash." upon a screen that was otherwise totally black.