In the 1970s, the sitcom got real — or at least a little more real than the whimsical prime-time fare networks served audiences in the earlier decades (see our posts on sitcoms dogs of the 1950s and the 1960s). Out went the Jeannies and the Jetsons; in came the Bunkers and Barney Miller. With a few notable exceptions (the nostalgia-based Happy Days and its spin-off Laverne and Shirley, say; or the wacky throwback Mork & Mindy), television comedy of the Me Decade was notably somber in relation to what preceded it.
All of which meant dogs were relegated to sidelines on sitcoms throughout most the era. With shows clamoring to take on the more relevant social issues, a plot revolving around a neighbor’s noisy dog didn’t quite cut it anymore. Our favorite companions were still thrown the occasional bone by television writers and producers. We’re happy to present several highlights from the era.
1. All in the Family
When All in the Family took up the subject of our love of pets, it did so with nuance and pathos, true to its reputation as darker sitcom than was typical for its time. Here Archie and Edith visit a veterinary clinic after Archie backed over a neighbor’s dog with his car.
2. Happy Days
Introducing the Fonz’s dog, Spunky. This episode really is too adorable!
In this episode, the task falls on Maude’s shoulders to tell Vivian that her dog, Chuck, has died.
4. Barney Miller
Dogfighting rings, estranged wives, and vanished husbands: It’s just another merry time had by all on the downbeat police sitcom, Barney Miller.
5. The Odd Couple
In this episode, Felix flexes his animal rights vigilante spirit … and it lands him in court.
6. The Brady Bunch
Tiger was the name of the Bradys’ pup. He only appeared in the first season of the series, having been written out by the start of the second. But his most prominent role came in this episode, where the he runs away from home to care for a litter of puppies he fathered.
7. Fawlty Towers
A pampered Shih Tzu is just one of the many forces that seem to conspire against the pretentious hotelier, Basil Fawlty.