1970s TV Quarantine House

Which entertainers of TVs greatest era will live with you? Choose carefully!

During this crazy moment, a lot of folks have been using their newly-freed-up time to give some thought to the great question of whom they would like to be locked up with for a year or so.

Specifically, what collection from what group of people would you like to be locked up with?  This group of dead authors or this mix of 90s pop stars.

Which group you choose from what category like a Buzzfeed quiz of yore, says, of course, everything about you as a person.

The game is a more life-or -eath stakes version of the eternal questionnaire line: who living or dead would you invite to a dinner party?  Except the quarantine version takes it to another level. Noel Coward may be delightfully droll over dinner, but on Week 7 his bon mots about toilet paper rationing would send most fellow quarantinees for the meat cleaver. A meal with Vincent Van Gogh would be fascinating; three to six months with him ranting and raving under the same roof and you’d be making plans for his other ear.

As for the historical greats–Napoleon, Joan of Arc–if anyone could’ve lived under a roof with them, they’d still be running France today.

When it comes to quarantining there’s really only one group that any sane person would want to be locked away with: television stars of the 1970s.

All American culture, nay, all world culture springs out of 1970s television. It was the great hinge point of history where things never before conceived were suddenly possible, while the glory that was Rome still stood proud.

We talk about the new Golden Age of television now, but there is nothing happening on Netflix that wasn’t on ABC prime time in 1978. Everything since, including the great streaming war, is a pale reflection of the pioneering choices made in those times.

What makes 1970s TV compelling and makes its stars great potential housemates is how it took the basic tropes of mid-century classic entertainment, and suddenly just made them a little weird, a little off, a little dangerous and exciting.

Not so weird that it was making a spectacle of itself. Just weird enough that you knew something different was happening.

If you were a youth in the 1970s (as you should’ve been if you had any sense) watching primetime TV was suddenly a glimpse into an exciting forbidden world, with all kinds of characters and situations that made not a bit of sense but hinted at dark hidden depths.

Detectives were still hard-boiled, but suddenly there were bald and sucking lollypops, or living in trailer on the beach, or were a team of women in jump suits. Game shows were played for keeps but suddenly featured panels of drunken celebrities dueling with sexual double entendres. Families under one roof got bigger and bigger in the 1970s. Eight wasn’t nearly enough!  And they formed rock groups with their mom. The shady hoodlum from the diner parking lot now lived in the guest room over the garage. Families, it turned out, didn’t have to be made up only of white people.

Seventies TV paired Borscht-belt comedians with two non-English speaking Japanese pop starlets to host a variety show. Suddenly if it was a Message you were looking for, there were comedies about doctors making martinis in a tent in the middle of a war, and about how to put up with your racist father-in-law.  There were sprawling mini-series that went on for weeks without anything ever happening.

A cruise ship filled with different stars of the 1930s every week! An island where the great actors of our day could go to become pirates or baseball players for a week lorded over by a suave and sinister Latin host. A mime duo had an hour of primetime TV. There was a mystery series called Lanigan’s Rabbi!  What more do you want?

All in leisure suits with giant sideburns! And, as Aaron Spelling promised, eight costume changes in every hour.

And it all really mattered. Everyone watched everything and knew everything that had happened.

Urbane and ribald, zany and self-serious all at once. This was entertainment and these are the people who will make your lockdown so memorable, you’ll be begging for it to go on forever.

But not all 1970s stars are alike. From the WJM newsroom to the Regal Beagle to The Swamp to the Match Game’s Lazy Susan, there were many tribes. Which one will you make your plague home with?  Choose carefully: there’s no going back.


Loretta Swit
Larry Linville
Jean Stapleton
Conrad Bain
Marla Gibbs
Rue McClanahan
Redd Foxx
Jack Soo


Marilu Henner
Polly Holliday
Ted Knight
Marcia Wallace
Jack Riley
Donna Pescow
Jan Smithers
Robert Guillaume


Marcia Strassman
Richard Kline
Penny Marshall
Suzi Quattro
Eddie Mekka
Anson Williams
Pam Dawber
Pat Harrington, Jr.


Florence Henderson
Eve Plumb
Esther Rolle
McLean Stevenson
Kim Richards
Allison Arngrim
Susan Richardson
Quinn Cummings


Richard Chamberlain
Susan Blakely
Peter Strauss
Levar Burton
Larry Hagman
Linda Grey
Connie Sellecca
Richard Crenna


Telly Salvalas
Peter Falk
James Garner
Kate Jackson
David Soul
James MacArthur
Angie Dickinson
Susan St. James


Love Boat
Jeff Altman
Skip Stevenson
Sarah Purcell
Herve Villechaize
Lauren Tewes
Bernie Kopell
Jaye P Morgan
Flip Wilson
Phil Donahue


Paul Lynde
Charles Nelson Reilly
Brett Somers
Nipsey Russell
Richard Dawson
Joyce Bulifant
Wayland Flowers and Madame
Avery Schreiber


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Richard Rushfield

Richard Rushfield is the editor of The Ankler, a subscription newsletter about the entertainment industry.

One thought on “1970s TV Quarantine House

  • April 13, 2020 at 8:46 pm

    Variety House FOR SURE – I still fantasize about being on the Love Boat!


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