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1972-73 Top 30 -- Unwarranted Religious Controversy Kills The 5th Place Ratings Winner


Written Amazed Boycotts Worked in 1973 by Bridger Cunningham

Notice the only red bullet hole, high on the chart?  That belonged to CBS' freshman sitcom, Bridget Loves Bernie.  So why the sudden axing for CBS' 3rd highest sitcom?  Bomb threats, hateful phone calls to cast and crew's homes, religious protests and boycotts flooded the network.  So what was so controversial?  The premise was a Jewish man (David Birney) and a Catholic lady (Meredith Baxter) tried to make a new marriage work.  How awful!  If this show aired in 2017, it would be labeled 'just another sitcom."

Image result for bridget loves bernie1973 was a tumultuous year as the Vietnam War continued to rage on, Roe Vs. Wade made abortion legal, and the younger generations tackled several social issues.  Was a lighthearted show about an inter-faith marriage right up there with these cultural issues and conflicts?  NO.  If anything, CBS wanted and demanded controversy, deserving backlash for bolder strokes.  1st Place All in the Family's lead star was a shameless bigot, and every episode dealt with the issues of the ever-changing 70's.  3rd Place Maude utilized feminism as its driving force, having the title character get an abortion at 49 years old.  And these were sitcoms!

Further down in 7th Place, Mary Tyler Moore addressed birth control and modern feminism as well, as this was the relevance era CBS fostered when it crafted the rural purge of 1971.  Out with the wholesome indigents, in with the hellacious issues.  This controversy is on CBS, as it wanted to target the younger viewers and felt they could speak to them via educational exploration of issues.  It boasted two appealing, attractive characters as its leads.  Bridget Loves Bernie tackled a relevant issue with inter-faith marriages, a timeless issue.  Such a pity CBS axed this show, as it may have proven to be a strong legacy piece had it been given a second season or more.  Out of this unfortunate loss came some promise.  Baxter and Birney married in 1974 and would remain married for 16 years.  Birney helped launch the first season of St. Elsewhere in 1982, and Baxter-Birney would headline one of the 80's greatest sitcoms in Family Ties as Elise Keaton (another issue-tackling fare about aged hippies raising a modern family).

Image result for sanford and sonThe other networks deserve praise for their achievements this season.  3rd place ABC managed to grab 10 places in the top 30, thanks to 4 successful movie nights, Monday Night Football and a slew of appealing dramas.  NBC incorporated several black characters into their flagship shows, with their leading sitcom, Sanford and Son, being an all-black cast.  In an era which "people of color" seen and not heard, NBC proved change is warranted as Fred Sanford catapulted the scrappy laugher into 2nd place as a business owner of a salvage yard.

The 70's aspired for changes and a fresh new perspective, yet homespun scripted shows remained a demand.  Period piece The Waltons landed in 19th place on CBS, Lucile Ball's sendup to 50's slapstick energized 15th place, and ABC's G-rated laughs on The Partridge cracked into 19th place.  Times were 'a changin' during this season.  Everyone loved to be sad and/or irritated and informed with CBS's social relevance sitcoms, yet a return to simpler television via period pieces and minority characters grabbing the lead comprised another need to just forget what was going on in the world.


Source -- http://fbibler.chez.com/tvstats/by_5_yr_period/top_programs_1970-1975.html