“The Seventies” premieres Thursday at 9 p.m. ET/PT on CNN.
When we completed “The Sixties,” we realized we hadn’t really told the entire story.
At the end of the decade, Richard Nixon was the newly elected President, there was still a war in Vietnam, and the Beatles remained the biggest rock & roll band in the world.
So much of what began in the 1960s only fully developed in the 1970s. The seeds may have been planted but they didn’t truly begin to bear fruit until the subsequent decade.
We knew we would have to continue the story.
In each decade, there are events and individuals unique to the time that beg further exploration.
Who doesn’t want to understand the why as well as the what of the Watergate scandal?
What was it about America in the 1970’s that led to an unprecedented wave of violent crime including a string of infamous serial murders?
How in the world did disco and punk music begin and why were they so popular?
Did people really get into fistfights while waiting in long lines just to fill their cars with gas?
And as the biggest political question of our bicentennial year asked, “Who is Jimmy Carter?”
To tackle these and a host of other topics, we broke “The Seventies” into eight episodes:
Television Gets Real – It was in the 1970’s that television matured into the medium we know today. “All in the Family,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” “Monday Night Football,” “Saturday Night Live” and “Roots” are just a few of the programs we explore, and we talk with Norman Lear, Ed Asner, LeVar Burton and Vince Gilligan, among many others.
The United States vs. Nixon – How did a “third-rate burglary” lead to the only presidential resignation in American history? We trace the story of Watergate with, among others, John Dean, Pat Buchanan, Elizabeth Drew and Dan Rather.
“Peace with Honor” – The Vietnam War is one of the defining events of recent American history. It still exerts enormous influence on our military and foreign policy. Why did it end the way it did? Interviewees include: Neil Sheehan, Evan Thomas, Karl Marlantes, and Winston Lord.
Cults and Crimes – America suffered through one of its most violent decades as crime rates soared and Charles Manson, Ted Bundy, the Son of Sam and the Jim Jones made headlines. We hear from Vincent Bugliosi, Lawrence Wright, and James Wolcott.
“The State of the Union is Not Good” – That unlikely phrase is taken from President Gerald Ford’s 1975 State of the Union address and reflects an America that careened from crisis to crisis in the second half of the decade. Richard Reeves, Lesley Stahl, Douglas Brinkley, and Rick Perlstein help us understand why.
Battle of the Sexes – Sex was everywhere in the 1970s. No decade in our history witnessed such a seismic shift in sexual mores, customs and gender roles. Hear stories from the front lines from Gail Collins, Gloria Steinem, Gay Talese, and Billie Jean King.
Terrorism at Home and Abroad – From the massacre of athletes at the Munich Olympics to the seizure of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, Iran, the 1970s gave birth to the modern face of terrorism. Interviewees include: Robert Baer, Robin Wright, Brian Jenkins, and Peter Bergen.
What’s Goin’ On – After the breakup of the Beatles, popular music exploded into a variety of new formats and genres as artists including Bruce Springsteen, David Bowie, Donna Summer, The Jackson Five, Stevie Wonder, The Talking Heads and hosts of others reshaped the art form. Hear from Mick Fleetwood, Questlove, Nelson George, and Giorgio Moroder.
If we learned one thing in making “The Seventies” it’s this: the 1970s made up an era that is still widely misunderstood. The decade was filled with diverse, sometimes contradictory trends, making it much harder to define than the 1960s.
But in the end, we discovered that it was the diversity and contradictions that made it such a compelling time — Archie Bunker but also Kunte Kinte, Donna Summer as well as Sid Vicious, the Munich Massacre but in addition, the Camp David Peace Accords.
Please stay tuned.