The 1970s were a tumultuous time in America. History books have detailed many of the historical events of the era, like the Watergate Scandal and Vietnam War protests, but nowhere are they portrayed better than on screen.
Over the past couple of years, numerous TV shows have explored life in the ‘70s and examined both controversial and celebrated historical figures. From scandalous true stories to wholesome sitcoms and exciting series about the music industry, several shows accurately represent life in the ’70s.
10. The Serpent (2021)
Stream On Netflix
The Serpent focuses on the true story of con artist and serial killer, Charles “the Serpent” Sobhraj. Instead of chronicling his entire life, the British crime show only covers Sobhraj’s killing spree in Thailand from 1975 to 1976, which allows the show to stay streamlined.
The Serpent sidesteps the recent trend of glorifying criminals. Sobhraj’s victims have lengthy and emotional background stories to drive home how evil Sobhraj was. Furthermore, there is a likable protagonist (Herman Knippenberg) whose relentlessness and sixth sense eventually led to Sobhraj’s downfall.
9. That ‘70s Show (1998 – 2006)
Stream On Peacock
Released in 1998, That ‘70s Show focuses on a group of friends in the 1970s. The show uses the typical sitcom formula and revolves around relationships and coming-of-age, but That ’70s Show manages to keep things interesting with solid humor and colorful characters.
The characters’ dialogue addresses various social issues of the ‘70s, and their haircuts, outfits, and pop culture references are all period-accurate. The evolution of technology in the entertainment industry, drug use, fashion trends, and public mistrust of the government are also discussed in That ’70s Show.
8. Gaslit (2022)
Stream On Hulu
The Watergate Scandal is a huge part of American history, but many people are only familiar with Richard Nixon’s side. Gaslit offers a refreshing take by mostly focusing on other lesser-known players, rather than Nixon.
With great costume design and a talented cast that includes Sean Penn, Julia Roberts, and Betty Gilpin, Gaslit has become one of the most entertaining political dramas. Beginning in 1972, Gaslit tells the unbelievable true story of Roberts’ Martha Mitchell and her husband, Penn’s John Mitchell.
7. Vinyl (2016)
Stream HBO Max
Vinyl follows the life of record producer Richie Finestra. With Martin Scorsese and The Rolling Stones’ Mick Jagger behind the scenes, the drama tells an interesting story about the music industry in the 1970s that’s filled with accurate details.
Like every other Scorsese flick, Vinyl is rich in both style and substance. The characters are all fleshed out, and Bobby Cannavale gives a powerhouse performance as the cynical Richie, who’s desperately trying to save his record label. Music legends like John Lennon, Bob Marley, Elvis Presley, and David Bowie are also depicted.
6. A Very English Scandal (2018)
Stream On HBO Max
A Very English Scandal is one of the few shows where viewers don’t know whether to sympathize with the villain or condemn them. Touching on the stigma that wraps members of the LGBTQ+ community, the series focuses on the 1976-1979 “Thorpe Scandal,” which involved a rising British politician who was trying to cover up his affair with a young man.
Jeremy Thorpe oozes desperation and panic as he attempts to prevent his former lover from exposing him. It’s easy for viewers to pity him but when he resorts to murder, he becomes irredeemable. A Very English Scandal boats impeccable casting, as Hugh Grant expertly channeled Thorpe’s malice.
5. The Offer (2022)
Stream On Paramount+
The Godfather is widely credited for being one of the best gangster movies of all time, but making it wasn’t easy. The Offer explores the behind-the-scenes disputes that almost led to recasts and put the studio in a conflict with the real-life Cosa Nostra.
By including mafia members as supporting characters, The Offer feels like a spin-off of the movie it’s examining rather than a tale about its production. The Offer is a Hollywood story at heart, so viewers get to learn about the frustrations that come with pitching an idea and creating the final product.
4. Black Dynamite (2012)
Stream On Amazon Prime Video
Blaxploitation cinema was at its peak five decades ago, and the parodic animated series Black Dynamite takes viewers back to the period. The show shines because of its profanity and violence. There are no boundaries when it comes to serious topics either, and subjects such as racism and sex work are joked about with ease.
Furthermore, Black Dynamite makes a bold move by having the protagonist face off against Richard Nixon. The use of actual historical figures and celebrities doesn’t end there. Characters such as Elvis Presley, Michael Jackson, and Bob Marley are also part of the proceedings.
3. Mrs. America (2020)
Stream On Hulu
The Equal Rights Amendment has been one of the most polarizing issues, given both the hope that it will empower women and fears that it would put them at a disadvantage. Mrs. America gives concrete arguments for both sides through its characters, who are played by a strong ensemble cast.
Cate Blancett, Sarah Paulson, and Uzo Aduba help bring the feminist heroes to life and showcase both their genius and shortcomings. Having achieved widespread critical acclaim, Mrs. America was nominated for 10 Emmys in 2020, winning one.
2. The Deuce (2016 – 2019)
Stream On HBO Max
The Deuce explores three things that defined the 1970s: adult films, the mafia, and drug use. The Deuce placed plenty of emphasis on character development, which came to life through impressive performances from Maggie Gyllenhaal and James Franco.
The Deuce dissects all the complexities of urban life in a slow-burn manner, taking fans deep into a world that is only ever surveyed by those with no fear of being shamed. The Deuce boasts an interesting social commentary on the political and cultural aspects of the ’70s.
1. Quarry (2016 – 2017)
Stream On Hulu
Many movies and TV shows have shown how difficult life can be for war veterans, but few do it better than Quarry. In 1972, a Marine from the Vietnam War comes home and is met with hostility from his loved ones. Shortly after, Mac is drawn into a corruption and murder conspiracy.
Quarry highlights the government’s neglect of veterans, as Mac must do undesirable jobs in order to make ends meet. Personal struggles revolving around infidelity and backstabbing also take center stage, and Quarry has all the necessary period details to bring fans in to Mac’s world.