Television is a big part of our lives. Most people spend a few hours a night sitting in front of their idiot box, and it's easy to recall your favorite shows throughout major periods of your life. However, most folks don't remember much from their time spent as an infant, so you might not have ever asked yourself what was the biggest TV show the year you were born?
It might surprise you to find out the biggest TV show of your birth year, even if the show persisted well into your childhood. This knowledge can offer some insight into what actors your parents enjoyed before you came along and forced them to watch Big Bird and Elmo. Not many of these series are still on television, but every one of them is remembered among the most successful TV shows of their time.
Saturday Night Live first premiered on October 11, 1975 though it was originally titled NBC's Saturday Night. Since its inception, the series's format has remained the same: there's a cold opening, a guest monologue, and a series of sketches which have yielded numerous memorable characters and more than 10 feature films.
While the series has had its ups and downs in terms of ratings, it is generally regarded as a staple of Saturday evening programming. The original cast included some of the biggest names in comedy — Dan Aykroyd, John Belushi, and Chevy Chase — and the show has been run by Lorne Michaels for most of its broadcast history.
- Actors: Aidy Bryant, Michael Che, Pete Davidson, Mikey Day, Chloe Fineman
- Premiered: October 11, 1975
Happy Days didn't premiere in 1976, but that was the year that the show really hit its stride. The show first entered the airwaves in January of 1974, and went on to air 255 30-minute episodes about life in the '50s and early '60s.
Happy Days stars Ron Howard as Richie Cunningham, but the show quickly shifts focus to its most popular character, Arthur "The Fonz" Fonzarelli (Henry Winkler). In its day, Happy Days was so popular that it spawned seven spin-off series including Mork & Mindy and Joanie Loves Chachi.
- Actors: Ron Howard, Henry Winkler, Tom Bosley, Marion Ross, Anson Williams
- Premiered: January 15, 1974
Laverne & Shirley first premiered in 1976, and is one of the most successful spin-off series produced by Happy Days; the two characters were previously introduced on the original show as friends of the Fonz. In their own series, the pair are roommates in Milwaukee who both work as bottle-cappers at the local brewery.
The success of the show continued for eight seasons, totaling 178 episodes and a spin-off animated series called Laverne & Shirley in the Army. At its height, Laverne & Shirley exceeded Happy Days in popularity, making it one of the most successful spin-offs in television history.
- Actors: Penny Marshall, Cindy Williams, Eddie Mekka, Phil Foster, David L. Lander
- Premiered: January 27, 1976
Mork & Mindy is a spin-off of Happy Days, and is inspired by the appearance of Robin Williams — who was at the time an unknown actor and comedian — in an episode of Happy Days that turns out to be a dream. The introduction of an alien in an otherwise grounded series was an attempt to capitalize on the success of Star Wars, but Williams's comedic take onMork worked so well that a new series was green-lit. Mork & Mindy aired a total of 95 episodes across four seasons from 1978-1981.
- Actors: Robin Williams, Pam Dawber, Jonathan Winters, Robert Donner, Conrad Janis
- Premiered: September 14, 1978