The first half of the 1970s saw television abandoning the light and fluffy sitcom (I Dream of Jeannie, The Beverly Hillbillies, etc.) in favor of a more real approach (All in the Family, Maude, and other Normal Lear productions). The new wave of heavy-handed material lasted into the 1980s, with sitcoms like Diff’rent Strokes still dealing with some uncomfortable taboo issues.
Thankfully, there was a breath of fresh air in the latter half of the 70s – or, more correctly, a breast of fresh air. A new brand of television was born amid the wasteland of self-important Emmy winning programs – Jiggle TV.
The term itself was coined by whiny-baby NBC exec, Paul Klein, slamming the T&A strategy over at ABC. He was probably just jealous, because NBC wasn’t doing too well, and ABC’s newly termed Jiggle TV was raking in the audiences like mad. It was a formula that worked, no matter what the jealous competitors said. And it kept jiggling well into the 80s, when it began to taper off. I suppose this sort of gratuitous T&A for ratings was too much for the conservative minded Reagan era. Yes, shows like Baywatch kept the flame alive (becoming the most popular show on the planet, quite literally), but the heyday of Jiggle TV had sadly passed.
So, in the name of broadcast history research (our motives are purely academic), let’s explore the top 5 Jiggle TV programs of the 1970s (and early 80s). Enjoy!
5. Charlie’s Angels
“When the show was number three, I figured it was our acting. When it got to be number one, I decided it could only be because none of us wears a bra.”
– Farrah Fawcett-Majors on Charlie’s Angels
You could argue that Aaron Spelling was the mastermind behind all this jiggle television – he’s a sort-of the anti-Norman Lear. Of all his shows, none came under fire more than Charlie’s Angels. Yet, if you take a moment to check out some old episodes, you’ll find it’s not as bad as the media portrayed it to be. You would think the show was hardcore pornography from the way the critics described it. But, in reality, Spelling flaunted the Angels’ assets, but was not near as gratuitous as the public was led to believe.
Every so often, the show would find an excuse to put the Angels in bikinis or other skimpy attire. However, long dresses and pants were the style in the late 70s. Thus, more often than not, Farrah, Kate, and Jaclyn were in wool turtlenecks and polyester slacks.
But, as Farrah’s quote makes clear (as do the pictures above), Charlie’s Angels truly was a “Bra Free Zone” and that makes it an easy candidate for the top five Jiggle TV entries.
4. Three’s Company
Here is another example of how the Jiggle TV label was perhaps over-exaggerated. No show took more heat from critics than Three’s Company, yet (as many critics would admit) it wasn’t really that sexy. Yes, the girls were good looking – but does that warrant a derogatory label? You could argue Star Trek and Gilligan’s Island flaunted their female actresses just as much.
What it came down to was the promotion. The ABC promos made the shows look like softcore sleaze-fests, when in fact, they were fairly T&A free. Yes, Suzanne Somers had her moments where the boobs were so prominent, male audiences got dry eyeballs from a complete lack of blinking. However, they were relatively few and far between.
So, Three’s Company earns its place on the list because it is forever inseparably linked with the term “Jiggle TV”. Yet, an honest evaluation of the show would prove there many others more deserving of the brand.
3. Logan’s Run
Heather Menzies’ miniskirt on Logan’s Run is the high water mark in the history of revealing outfits on television. No skirt was shorter, more center-stage, or more prone to flying upwards. Indeed, it was the topic of much discussion at the time. Even smack in the middle of the Jiggle TV phenomenon, it still raised eyebrows.
“They have to be careful with the camera with this costume… When I bend over they’re in trouble” – Heather Menzies (from a 1977 article shown below)
As mentioned in the article, the skirt kept getting shorter and skimpier as the series progressed…
“Whadya think, Logan? Do you like it?” I’m betting Gregory Harrison had to keep a cool rag on hand on the set. Probably lots of lotions in the ol’ trailer as well.
But it wasn’t just the outfit, it was the…. well, it was the jiggle. The show had Heather jumping, and bouncing around, rolling in the sand, getting soaking wet, her dress torn to ribbons,… I think you get the picture. All the while, the camera made sure audiences got a perfect view of all the Heather action.
Take for instance…
This scene is truly remarkable. There’s an inexplicable cave-in down this hallway (?) and Jessica must be carried away from this pointless danger by her robot friend, Rem. The camera leers up her skirt as the pair travels the length of, not one, but two corridors. There is simply no other reason for this scene to exist other than for male audiences to get a clear view of Heather’s underwear.
Men are such pigs.
In this scene, Jessica is drugged by aliens, and the side effects apparently involve lots orgasmic groaning and squirming. For young audiences going through puberty, this scene also had its side effects: an embarrassing amount of sweating and swelling.
2. Wonder Woman
While Charlie’s Angels’ jiggle could be surprisingly subtle, Wonder Woman was all-out gratuitous exercising every opportunity to “sell the sizzle”. We’re all familiar with the costume, which on its own guaranteed high ratings. But, even out of her superhero duds, Diana (Linda Carter) was a winner with male audiences. Of particular note is the episode “The Bermuda Triangle Crisis” (1975). In this episode, Steve and Diana crash land on a desert island… and, somehow during the crash, Diana’s respectable length attire is transformed into tattered Daisy Dukes. Don’t you hate it when that happens?
Another tactic was to really make the most out of Wonder Woman’s smoking hot getup. That meant having conveniently revealing camera angles at every possible turn. Take for instance “The Pied Piper” (1977) episode where Wonder Woman is, for the millionth time, in bondage…
The producers milked the outfit for all it was worth, and made damn sure cameras captured every curve. I picture the Wonder Woman cameramen as a bunch of horny, slobbering middle-aged men…. basically, just like the target audience.
1. The Love Boat
(L) Kirstie Alley in the episode “Don’t Take My Wife, Please” and (R) Judy Landers and Sonny Bono in the episode “Oh, My Aching Brother”.
While there are plenty of other shows from the 1970s and early 1980s that can rightfully claim to be “Jiggle Television” (Dukes of Hazzard, Vega$, Too Close for Comfort, Bosom Buddies, etc.), we’re only listing the top five – and The Love Boat stands atop them all.
(L) Heather Locklear in the episode “Youth Takes a Holiday” and (R) Morgan Fairchild in the episode “Three in a Bed”.
Yes, the show was famous for featuring past-their-prime actors and actresses, but they weren’t all Morey Amsterdam. Nearly every show had 1-2 smoking hot actresses which they’d inevitably parade in a bikini, lingerie, or revealing dresses…. often all of the above. It was like Benny Hill, but with a flimsy story to hold it together. In other words, the content was pretty light and family-friendly, but audience’s eyeballs were in constantly blinded by boobs.
(L) Ron Palillo (Horshack from Welcome Back, Kotter) in the episode “The Switch”. Take note of the eye candy in the background. The Pacific Princess’ pool was always well stocked with bikinis.
(R) Jill St. John in the episode “Cyrano de Bricker” and cleavage so gratuitous, it is worthy to send us off into the sunset.