"Jiggle TV" Definition: Scantily Clad Women Jumping Around In 1970s TV

Culture | September 20, 2017

“Jiggle, or "T&A TV," as it has also been called, refers to the marvel of scantily clad women depicted, in television sitcoms, who capitalize on their curvy, physical attributes just jiggling all over the place; pretty self-explanatory, right? Of course, let’s not neglect the fact that the actor is endeavoring to portray a character, and the viewer is (supposedly) required to follow a plot, while all the jiggling is going on, if that’s possible!

During the 1970’s, television viewers, as a likely result of the hippy era, were transitioning away from conservative, wholesome television programing like Leave it to Beaver, My Three Sons and The Dick Van Dyke Show. These, and other similar shows depicted what was thought to be the epitome of the perfect, traditional American family. Writers and producers wanted us to believe that successful husbands and fathers came home happy every day after working hard at their 9 – 5 jobs, while wives wore dresses, pearls and high heel shoes to clean the house. Ideally, Dad would come home and sit down in his favorite chair, cross his legs and unwind by reading the daily newspaper. Mom, if not the housekeeper, would simultaneously be putting some finishing touches on the hot meal just about to come out of the oven. Never mind that nobody ever uttered a cross word, even if their hair was on fire; and the sun never went down on a bad note! June Cleaver was a lovely fictional character, albeit unrealistic, and probably left many wives and mothers feeling inadequate.

Now, I was a kid during this era and I have endless, fond memories of a magical childhood! In my mind, my family was the perfect American family! I will tell you, however, that my father came home hot and sweaty every day after working at the sweltering car manufacturing plant; sometimes getting home long after we were all in bed if he was working 2nd or 3rd shift. Even if he got home before we went to bed, he didn’t want to talk to anyone or eat dinner before showering and sometimes grabbing a beer. Andy Griffith was the only law in Mayberry, besides Barney Fife (enough said) and he never worked nights or broke a sweat… just saying! My mother never cleaned the house in anything but cloths that were on the short-list for the rag bag! In fact, most of the time, we kids were the ones doing the cleaning! If we broke the rules, you can bet there was hell to pay and I’m not talking about a heart-to-heart talk! It also wasn’t uncommon to hear the unsolicited 4-letter word. Still, I thought it was awesome!

The transition to programs like The Brady Bunch, Good Times and The Mary Tyler Moore Show, depicted socially relevant story lines about ordinary people struggling with “real,” ordinary and sometimes, extraordinary issues. While these shows were more relatable to most “everyday people,” many resisted the change. This transition was a slow process, to say the least. This may have been because the new programming portrayed subject matter including things like independent career women (with no aspirations for husbands or families), blended families, single mothers with children that blatantly and disrespectfully disobeyed the rules, and people being fired from their jobs and using drugs! Some viewers were not necessarily ready to admit that they fell into one or more of these categories. Family programming was even starting to insinuate extra-marital affairs! Harriet would have never put up with that, much less the stash of Ozzie’s Playboy Magazines!

Television, in general, was intended to be a source of entertainment. Unfortunately, to many viewers, the new subject matter was either hitting too close to home and/or they didn’t want their children being subjected to such worldly topics. Society was still trying to wrap their collective brains around this fairly new concept, when… BAM! Well, after it arrived, Jiggle TV took off like wildfire!

The term, Jiggle TV, was actually coined by an NBC executive in the height of the “moral panic” of the 1970’s. It was meant as a derogatory critique, and a direct stab at ABC for airing racy programs. It was, by many, likened to the portrayal of soft-pornography and even regular pornography; right there in the living room! The world was going right down the toilet! Body parts were bouncing all over the place and it was said to be sexual exploitation of women. Women were typically, now, being shown in skimpy bikinis, towels with NOTHING underneath (oh dear!), nighties and underwear; not to mention that they were also going bra-less in public! Of course, they were… the target audience was 18 – 25 years old! This demographic included some that had just come out of the counterculture revolution. ABC was airing shows playing up the sex appeal angle and experienced a soar in their ratings; while NBC did not air such shows, and suffered a drop in their ratings (hmmm...).

Sexually provocative shows were popping up left and right, including Charlie’s Angels, Wonder Woman, Three’s Company, Fantasy Island and I Dream of Jeannie. Each of these shows included one or more jiggly characters to keep the viewer’s attention. These shows offended the sensitivities of the conservative public because, at times, very little was left to the imagination. On the other hand, it was also argued, that much like June Cleaver, these portrayals were unrealistic. Well, no kidding! That’s one of the reasons they were so popular! If you’ve got it, flaunt it, baby!

Tags: Charlies Angels | I Dream Of Jeannie | Jiggle TV | Ladies | Remember This?... | Threes Company | TV In The 1970s

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Rebeka Knott


Rebeka grew up in the 1960’s & 1970’s and has always subscribed to the theory that a positive attitude will take you far! She is a wife and mother of 3 with a fun-loving spirit, believing that family and relationships are invaluable.