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“The Seventies” premieres tonight on CNN

An eight part documentary about what shaped the decade
An eight-part documentary about what shaped that decade.

“The Seventies,” an eight-part documentary series examining the individuals and events that influenced and shaped the decade, premieres at 6 p.m. tonight on CNN.

The premiere episode, “Television Gets Real,” explores a groundbreaking decade for the medium, thanks to such comedies as “All in the Family,” “The Mary Tyler Moore Show” and “M.A.S.H.” that were unlike anything previously seen; the birth of the made-for-television movie and miniseries; and the debuts of two of the most successful franchises in television history, “Monday Night Football” and “Saturday Night Live.”

“Television has been around since the late ’40s, but television got real, and became a tastemaker for future television in the ’70s,” Mark Herzog, executive producer of “The Seventies,”  told City News Service. “The groundwork for exceptional television today was laid in the 70s.”

The episode includes interviews with producers Norman Lear and Garry Marshall, and actors Ed Asner, LeVar Burton, Tom Hanks, Valerie Harper and Bob Newhart.

Tonight’s episode will be rerun at 9 p.m.

Other episodes will be on the Vietnam War, Watergate, diversity of music following The Beatles’ breakup, the Iran hostage crisis, crime, the sexual revolution and terrorism.

CNN is airing “The Seventies” because of the ratings and critical success of last year’s documentary series, “The Sixties,” which included an Emmy nomination for outstanding documentary or nonfiction special, and there was more of a story to tell, according to Herzog and Amy Entelis, executive vice president of CNN Original Series.

“We learned from ‘The Sixties’ that history, politics and social movements and pop culture, approached with great archival footage and perspective is the sweet spot for our CNN audience,” Entelis said. “Our audience really responded to ‘The Sixties” so we wanted to keep it going.”

Said Herzog: “After we produced ‘The Sixties,’ we knew we were not done telling the story. Social, cultural and political movements don’t necessarily adhere to decades. Most of the social movements that had begun in the ’60s found their momentum in the ’70s.”

“The Seventies” was produced by the same producing team as “The Sixties” — Hanks and his producing partner, Gary Goetzman, and Herzog, best known for producing “making of” documentaries about movies and television series..

To Herzog, the 1960s and 1970s were “very different decades, yet oddly related to each other.

“The profound events of the ’70s would never have happened without the monumental change of the ’60s,” Herzog said.

“The end to the Vietnam War for the U.S. in early 1973 would never have happened without the burgeoning antiwar movement of the mid-’60s, which itself came out of the civil rights movement of the early ’60s.

“The Equal Rights Amendment would never have passed both houses of Congress without the impetus of the women’s liberation movement, which got its start in 1966 with the formation of the National Organization for Women.”

CNN will continue its decade-by-decade look at the latter part of the 20th century next year with “The Eighties.”

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