In the 1970s, the world was caught up in a moral panic over the perceived rampant spread of pornography. In response to this, NBC executive, Paul Klein, coined the phrase ‘Jiggle Television’ to describe the way that many female television stars featured on the rival network ABC’s shows were directed to move around suggestively wearing loose clothing or in their underwear so that their breasts or buttocks could be seen shaking or ‘jiggling’.
This marketing strategy Klein was criticizing was the brainchild of ABC television producer and executive Fred Silverman, best known for his work on shows like Charlie’s Angels, All in the Family, The Waltons, and Scooby-Doo Where are you.
The crude yet effective neologism “Jiggle TV” was often used in the media to describe shows like Wonder Woman, Three’s Company, and perhaps most famously, Charlie’s Angels. These programs were meant to appeal to young male viewers. Shows like these often featured plots that were blatantly sexist, full of innuendo and suggestive dialogue, and entirely unrealistic in nature. It became evident that exploiting female sexuality was the network’s primary aim, and judging by how successful these shows were, Jiggle TV proved to be a very effective marketing approach.
Around this time, ABC’s target audience was viewers between the ages of 18 to 35. Another apt name that Jiggle TV received was “T&A TV”. In the 70s, the amount of sex depicted on television drastically increased – as did the ratings.
Since a large portion of the US population were religious conservatives, the response to this sudden influx of sex on TV was naturally quite intense. Controversy and consequences abounded, but as the old saying goes, any publicity is good publicity.
Jiggle TV was taken to new extremes in the late 80s well into the early 2000s with shows such as She Spies, Baywatch, and countless offerings from the USA Network.
Love it or hate it, in this video, we’re going to be taking a look back at some of the most infamous examples of Jiggle TV. Facts Verse Presents: Jiggle Television Shows Where Actresses Did Not Wear Bras.
Farrah Fawcett-Majors once said of Charlie’s Angels that when the show was number three in the ratings, she figured that it was because of the cast’s acting. When it reached number one, she decided that it could only be because she and her costars didn’t wear bras.
While Silverstone is often associated with the rise of Jiggle TV, it could also be argued that Aaron Spelling was the mastermind behind the genre. Of all of the shows that he helped create, none came under more fire than Charlie’s Angels. But if you actually take the time to go back and watch a few older episodes, you’ll discover that it wasn’t nearly as bad as the media made it out to be.
From the way critics attacked it, you would think that the show was something akin to hardcore pornography, but in all actuality, the series wasn’t nearly as gratuitous as the public was made to believe. Sure, Spelling exploited the Angel’s ‘assets’, but compared to what we’re used to seeing on modern-day network and streaming shows, it was quite tame in comparison.
Every now and then, the program would find an excuse to show off the Angels wearing skimpy little outfits or bikinis, but most of the time, they were seen wearing the long dresses and pants that were in style back in the late 1970s.
Even though the Angels could often be seen wearing items like turtlenecks and polyester pants, as Farrah’s aforementioned quote makes note of, the set of Charlie’s Angels was a “Bra-Free Zone”. Because of this, Charlie’s Angels easily earns it’s place in the list of top Jiggle TV shows of all time.
This sitcom is yet another excellent example of how the Jiggle TV label was often over exaggerated by the media. Of all the series that were on the air at the time, no other show came under as much fire from the scathing, blood-thirsty critics. But that being said, as many critics would freely admit, it wasn’t really all that sexy. Sure the ladies were attractive, but Three’s Company, in our opinion, really didn’t deserve to be labeled in such a drogatory way. It could be argued that shows like Gilligan’s Island and the Beverly Hillbillies flaunted their female stars just as much as it did.
The real reason why Three’s Company received the Jiggle TV label had to do with it’s marketing. ABC’s promos made the show out to be some kind of softcore sex-fest. In reality, however, the show rarely ever featured anything overtly offensive. It’s true that Suzanne Somers had a few moments when her chest was the focal point of the camera, but these scenes weren’t that common.
So, while Three’s Company will forever be linked to the phrase Jiggle TV, there are many other shows that are for more deserving of the branding. Simply put, the amount of Jiggle seen onscreen wasn’t enough to get all worked up about.
Heather Menzies’s barely-there miniskirt on Logan’s Run was one of the most notable examples of a revealing wardrobe item being prominently featured on the TV screen. That skirt was about as short as they come. Frequently it took center stage, and in just about every episode it could be seen flying upwards, giving the viewer an eyeful of what Menzies was working with. Not surprisingly, it was a much-discussed topic at the time. Even though the Jiggle TV phenomenon was at it’s peak, it still managed to create a stir.
In 1977, Menzies told a newspaper that the production team had to be very careful because whenever she bent over in her costume, they were in trouble. As the series progressed, Menzie’s skirt kept getting shorter and shorter. By the end of the show’s run, it’s a wonder that she wasn’t just hopping around in the nude!
But it wasn’t just the short skirt that caused controversy. The show often had Menzies jumping around, rolling in the sand, getting soaking wet, and having her dress torn to shreds. As you can see, it very clearly embraced it’s Jiggle TV branding.
If you go back and watch an episode or two of Logan’s Run, you’ll be blown away by just how often – and how shamelessly – the camera got an upskirt glimpse of Menzies undies. It’s not like these scenes were accidental. Clearly the only reason why they existed was to give male audiences something to drool over.
Wonder Woman made no attempt to hold back when dialing up the sex appeal. The producers of that show took every opportunity they could to ‘sell the sizzle’ with an extra heaping portion of jiggle.
Diana, played by Linda Carter, was a hit with male audiences. When she donned that iconic costume and became the titular Wonder Woman, she was essentially an unstoppable force. Not only did the baddies not stand a chance against her, but young viewers just entering puberty also seemed to meet their match.
One particularly notable episode, “The Bermuda Triangle Crisis”, began with Diana and Steve crash-landing on a desert island. Somehow during that crash sequence, Diana’s relatively modest attire got shredded into something that more so resembled Daisy Dukes.
In another episode, ‘The Pied Piper’, Wonder Woman is depicted in bondage. This wasn’t the first nor the last time that she would be put into such a compromising position. To make the most out of Wonder Woman’s sizzling getup, cameras were frequently placed at revealing angles just around every turn. The show’s producers milked Carter’s sex appeal and her smoking hot outfit for everything that it was worth.
Battle Of The Network Stars
Even if sports aren’t really your cup of tea, Battle of the Network stars was an entirely different kind of beast. Not only did audiences get the chance to see some of their favorite TV stars duking it out in Olympic-inspired games that put their skills to the test, but the program was also a prime example of the Jiggle TV phenomenon in full force. Let’s be real here, the main reason why people tuned in every week to watch Battle of the Network Stars was to see hot girls in tight clothing bouncing around their TV screens.
This wasn’t just some kind of unintended byproduct, either. There’s no way that the show’s producers weren’t fully aware of what they were creating when they pitched the show’s concept to the network brass over at ABC.
The Love Boat
While there were countless shows from the 70s and 80s, such as Dukes of Hazzard, Bosom Buddies, and Vega$ that can justifiably receive the Jiggle TV label, The Love Boat is the one that we believe stands atop all the rest.
The show was famous for featuring actors and actresses who were past their prime, but even so, they made sure that in just about every episode, at least one or two hot actresses could be seen parading around in bikinis, lingerie, or skimpy little skirts.
The content was packaged as being family-friendly and light hearted, but audiences eyes were constantly being directed to a bombardment of boobs and butts. It’s almost like the show was more of a vehicle for showcasing “T&A” than it was for actually telling any kind of meaningful story. The plot took the backseat while front and center was nothing but Jiggly eye candy. While younger viewers probably weren’t complaining, it’s a wonder that the show managed to air for as long as it did, because beyond all the skin, the scripts were pretty lackluster.
The Jiggle TV controversy pretty much died out by the early 1980s, but really the concept has never really gone anywhere. As progressive as Hollywood likes to depict itself as today, it’s obvious that they haven’t forgotten just how effective dialing up the sex appeal can be when promoting a new TV show or film. The times are a’changing, but sex still sells. The misogyny might have been rolled back a bit, but there’s still a ton of skin featured in the popular shows of today. The only real difference between the shows of of the 2020s and those of the 1970s is that audiences are far more desensitized these days.
Anyway, we’re just about out of time, so we’ll go ahead and wrap things up. But before you go, be sure to hop in the comments to let us know what you think about the Jiggle TV phenomenon that took the world by storm in the last quarter of the 20th Century. Which classic TV show do you think was the most blatantly exploitative in terms of how it depicted it’s female stars, and do you think shows like Charlie’s Angels and Three’s Company deserved the kind of backlash they received from critics?