22 thoughts on “Top 5 Shows Set in the 1970s and 1980s

  1. No. Just no.
    The 1970s are at the top of my ranking for ugliest clothing era in human history. That, and memories of horrible outfits in junior high school are like revisiting the worst years of my wardrobe’s life.
    I beg of you–no 1970s, AARP notwithstanding.

    1. Oh yes I feel you! I remember during the 1970s themselves being annoyed that my teenage and young twenties coincided with the most awful fashions in human history! Fabrics, colors, styles, hairstyles – I could go on and on. I would look at pictures of my mother in the 1940s and wonder why it all went so wrong!!

    2. I have pointed out to friends and family that there’s very little nostalgia for 70’s fashion and interior design. We all love Saturday Night Fever, but that’s it. Notice modern audiences love how people dress in movies from the 40’s, 50’s, 60’s. “They look so glamorous!” 80’s nostalgia is a huge thing now. We skipped the 70’s.

      Of the small handful of people who are nostalgic for hair that looks like conditioner was never invented, tan brick building, tan carpets, tan linoleum, and wood paneling: we all know who they are and they belong on a government list.

      1. There may not be very much nostalgia for the ’70s currently, but there was a good deal of it back in the ’90s and running into the ’00s. 

        THAT ’70S SHOW ran eight seasons on FOX from 1998-2006, picking up 16 Primetime Emmy nominations along the way and one win in 1999 for Melina Root for Outstanding Costume Design.

        There were also a number of ’70s-era theatrical films that did quite well in the ’90s, such as DAZED AND CONFUSED (1993), BOOGIE NIGHTS (1997), VELVET GOLDMINE (1998), 54 (1998), among others.

        Ironically, during the ’70s, “nostalgia” was a HUGE thing, not only in films (THE GREAT GATSBY, PAPER MOON, THE STING and many others, as well as classic films shown in “revival houses”)  but in music (Bette Midler, the Pointer Sisters), clothing (actual vintage finds were big, in addition to modern knockoffs and ankle-strap platform heels) and decor and graphic design (Art Deco went through a revival).

        It wasn’t all polyester double-knit. leisure suits, Earth Shoes, earth tones and hideous prints– though there was certainly plenty of that everywhere you looked.

        1. I’m well aware of those but I actually think throwback films/shows is not the same paradigm and I’ll explain. There were 70’s throwbacks, but just as many 90’s films set in the 30’s and 40’s. In the 80’s and 90’s there was a whole subgenre of subverting 1950’s Americana. And the brief 90’s revival of swing and noir. All sorts of subgenres then – the 70’s held no particular reign.

          Is it nostalgia or do people just respond to quality? When I enjoy Dazed and Confused and Boogies Nights, it’s absolutely neither nostalgia nor anemoia, but, “Hey, good movie.” People liked That 70’s Show because they want a light sitcom with likeable characters – but you didn’t see a revival of Kitty’s haircut, did you? Also, Velvet Goldmine, decent movie that it was, was total box office flop.

          What I do mean, and I would go to the mattresses on this, is people responding to the genuine article – looking at their real pictures and seeing the real houses and furniture. Not enjoying a movie set then, but looking at their own wedding photos, for example. I have Kodachromes from the late 1960’s and people in both my and my parents’ generation react the same way: “Damn people looked good back then. Why don’t we still dress like this?” Same for the 40’s and 50’s. (No one’s asking to live in those times again, we don’t literally want Vietnam War: Round 2.) But they visually aged so well.

          I have plenty of family photos from the 1970’s and never, in my life, have I ever heard the phrase uttered, “Why don’t we still dress like that?” No exaggeration: never heard it. Across the board, they regret those styles.

          And I much vested interest in this. The house I live in was built in the 1970’s. Thankfully most of it has been updated, but the kitchen is almost entirely original – floors, cabinets, tiling. 1970’s aesthetics. Whoever designed my kitchen should answer for their crimes in front of a war tribunal. My friends had a 1970’s basement (vomit-colored carpet and wood paneling) and it was so goddamn ugly they couldn’t sell that house until they updated it.

          So with respect, I think there’s a major difference between enjoying highly visually sanitized throwback films, and people enjoying the real aesthetics of their actual photos from the time.

          1. Yes, there’s actual nostalgia– which is a reaction to something you actually lived through and remember well– and pseudo-“nostalgia” in the form of appreciation for a period you didn’t actually live through or that you can barely remember.

            Obviously, people are going to have different feelings about an era they lived through. And some are going to look back at it with extreme distaste, as you clearly do.

            But a quick Google search shows that over the last couple of years, there’s actually been a revival of interest in ’70s fashion, makeup and interior design, to the extent that some sources even label it “the hottest new trend.” 

            Here are three recent issues of VOGUE AUSTRALIA, IN STYLE and HOUSE BEAUTIFUL:




            I’m not sure how widespread this all is, but it looks like you’re going to need a bigger “war tribunal.”

  2. I loved the 1970s because I could wear jeans and pants to high school, as well as normal gym clothes (shorts and a T-shirt, not those stupid bloomer/romper things). So I associate the 70s with FREEDOM.

    1. Yes! Also, although there were a lot of really ugly clothes, this is also the era in which Gunne Sax dresses were invented. I wish I still had mine (and that they fit, of course).

  3. As someone who can remember the national freakout when Helen Gurley Brown did the groundbreaking Burt Reynolds COSMO centerfold as a gag in early 1972, followed by the unexpected overnight success of PLAYGIRL in mid-1973 and a flood of short-lived (about 5 issues each) knockoffs hitting the market around 1974, the show MINX is particularly interesting, and I’m surprised it hasn’t been done before now.

    One quibble, though: while the two photos show a really good job on the women and on the clothes overall, that main guy’s facial hair seems to be wrong for the period.

    In the photos, it looks like he has a modern close-cropped “heavy stubble” beard, possibly combined with a ‘stache, which wasn’t done then. The guys in the background of the group shot nail the various prevailing looks for men, though.

    Ironically, PLAYGIRL only featured two models with beards during the ’70s; it really wasn’t that popular a look by that point. Most of their ’70s models were either clean-shaven, or had ‘staches and/or long sideburns. And no manscaping.

    1. Since I don’t have cable, I haven’t seen MINX– just this posting– and I wish I’d gone to IMDb before typing the above. 

      Even though the two shots above strangely make his facial hair look anachronistically groomed, in the trailer on IMDb, his beard appears to be fuller and accurate for the period. 

      And evidently, he’s not a model, as I had thought. The quick flashes of modeling sessions and covers in the trailer accurately capture the look, and some even appear to be based on actual models of the period.

      Why can’t everything period be done this well?

      1. Probably because it would require effort, budget AND interest – it’s generally possible to have at least two, but getting all three?


        (Even more so if you include ‘time’ which I probably should have).

        1. There’s also a fifth factor in play: becoming convinced “it has to be relatable to modern tastes.”

          No matter how much budget and time you’ve been given, no matter how much interest you have or how much effort you’re willing to expend, if you give in to that one (or have it forced on you), it’s all pretty much doomed to failure.

  4. Minx was a super fun show, and the costuming took me right back to my childhood and old family photos from the 70s. It also made me realize how my parents’ very preppy-and-Brooks-Brothers fashion tastes influenced me as a child and how much of that has stuck with me, including prejudices that I had against certain kinds of prints and styles. (I’m better now. Bring on the Pucci!)

  5. As someone who has seen TRUST and WHITE HOUSE PLUMBERS, I can say that the latter is definitely more entertaining than the former (Credit to Mr Justin Theroux, who turns in one of the most gleefully bizarre comic performances I can think of, having been completely off my radar before this show).

    Once again Ms. Judy Greer proves that she keeps being given not enough to do because she’s so very good at doing so well with so little.

    I’d absolutely love to see what she could do with a whole TV show to call her own, because I’m desperate to find out whether she gets stuck with supporting parts because she’s really good at them or if she sticks with these parts because she’s good with them.

  6. As for the 1970s and 1980s, I feel that (as with any era of fashion) you take the good along with the bad: fashions from both eras can be done well, can turn out really badly and can be deeply, deeply hilarious (Especially with the benefit of hindsight).

  7. Daisy Jones and The Six just ignored how ugly the 1970s could be! Very glam/modern looking!

  8. Minx! Not a day doesn’t go by that I don’t think about Joyce in her astounding black gown with coiled serpents.

  9. Of the shows featured here I was only aware of Fargo and The White House Plumbers, though I’ve seen neither. Re the picture from Winning Time: Is it just me or does the man in the middle with the flat top look like a Black Ron Perlman? Re the 70s on film, I thought the film American Hustle did a good job. Re the 80s, I think Stranger Things knocks it out of the park.

  10. Re Donald Sutherland: In my opinion, he’s highly underrated as actor. I hadn’t seen or heard of Trust, but it’s a show I’d be willing to watch based on his involvement alone.

  11. My millennial daughter watches reruns of 70s game shows on the Buzzr network. She says, “They have such great costumes!” I said, “We called them our clothes.”

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