The saddest thing about contemporary movies and TV shows set in the 1970s is the prevalence of disco. If you judge by some movies and TV shows set in that decade, you would think that disco was far more popular than it was and that it’s life span covered the period from the re-election of Nixon to election of Reagan. Of course, this is not true. But that is not to say that arguably the worst music fad in history did not penetrate deeply into the zeitgeist of late-70s TV like an epidemic of ebola claiming lives in an elementary school.
Disco had invaded the world of TV advertising and, of course, nobody care. Because disco and TV advertising exist on the same plane of creativity. One of the first disco stars to break out that wasn’t a singer or movie actor was David Naughton who became perhaps the first disco advertising superstar with his “I’m a Pepper” commercials. It couldn’t have taken more than two minutes for some network executive to greenlight the idea of a making a TV version of “Saturday Night Fever” without having to pay for the rights while getting the disco cred (such as it was) of David Naughton. The result of “Makin’ It” which was a TV version of “Saturday Night Fever” in everything but name.
Joe and Valerie
What is the worst possible idea you can come up with a fictional TV show? Not talking about so-called Reality TV here where there is no possible correct answer to that question, but fictional episodic TV. One of the answers would be “Joe and Valerie.” It sounds like a bad disco song. They met a disco and fell in love. He worked as a plumber and she sold makeup. Their ugly blue collar day life turned into a glittering neon high-octane love on the disco floor by night. “Joe and Valerie.” One of the most forgettable victims of America’s inexplicable love affair with disco music.
The disco life of California, along with the surfing subculture of California, made for an unusual mix in this half-season wonder that can be taken as the perfect example of what happens when a fad among the youth–like disco–is grabbed hold by network executives out-of-touch in with the youth of America in every sense of the word. “California Fever” sucked. Almost as much as disco sucked. I mean, sure, “California Fever” featured both Jimmy McNichol and Lorenzo Lamas, but disco gave us “I Love the Night Life.” So, as you can see, disco wins in the suck-off.
Starsky and Hutch
“Discomania.” I’m not making that up. “Discomania” was the title of an episode of “Starsky and Hutch.” I mean, yeah, sure, you can imagine “Discomania” being the title of an episode of “Charlie’s Angels.” No problem there. But “Starsky and Hutch” just seems so incredibly wrong. Of course, the idea of a plot about a serial killer stalking young women taken in by the disco lifestyle is not beyond the pale. In a way, a disco almost seems like manna from screenwriting heaven. Any young woman who could be taken in by the disco scene could quite easily be taken in by a serial killer. Even so, would you really send cops like Starsky undercover onto the dance floor to catch a killer? Hutch, maybe, but Starsky?