TV In The '60s: Three Channels, So Many Classic Shows

Entertainment | September 23, 2018

In the 1960s, you didn't have the deluxe package of premium channels and six ESPNs and on-demand everything -- you had three channels and programming happened on a schedule. You didn't have DVR -- hell, the VCR wasn't even a consumer product yet. And even so -- the television was amazing. There's a reason so many '60s shows continued as re-runs for decades afterward. This was sharply-written, well conceived programming. Twilight Zone might stand as the best collection of writing in TV history, while Get Smart was satirizing popular cinema in real time. And was there a single character on Addams Family who wasn't portrayed perfectly? '60s television shows set a high bar for the entertainment that has followed since. Here's one fan's attempt at a shortlist -- what shows would you pick?

Ever heard of a talking horse? 

Mister Ed

There was one from 1961-1966 known as "Mister Ed” with Wilbur (played by Alan Young) as his owner. Quite a humorous sitcom about a man and his “talking” horse but, of course, Wilbur was the only one who could hear him talk. Whenever anyone else came around, he was just any other horse and would keep his mouth shut. The only time he would talk to someone else was on the phone or behind closed doors so they would not know it was a horse talking. Interesting to note though, how did Mister Ed dial the phone to call someone? Conveniently, that part was left out of the show and for the viewers to speculate on. Mister Ed would always have to get Wilber out of a situation that usually was originally caused by Mister Ed; but, of course, he was more than happy to oblige.

My Favorite Martian

A Sci-fi sitcom that was aired from 1963 until 1966, My Favorite Martian was about a martian, played by Ray Walston. Tim O’Hara, played by Bill Bixby, was a reporter for the Los Angeles Sun who came across a spaceship that crashed. Out of the spaceship came the martian, who came to be known as “Uncle Martin” in order to ward off nosy neighbors and such who became too inquisitive. This was after they became friends of course. The only thing that would give him away would be his antennae that would stick out of his head from time to time.  

The Twilight Zone

Created by Rod Sterling, The Twilight Zone was a sci-fi series that came out from 1959 until 1964. Episodes consisted of science fiction, suspense, horror, fantasy, and a lot of times would end with some kind of a twist. The episodes would whet the appetite of those who enjoyed science fiction or horror flicks.  

The Dick Van Dyke Show

The Dick Van Dyke Show was a comedy that kept the viewers in stitches from 1961 until 1966 starring Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore. On the show, Dick Van Dyke and his coworkers were comedy writers always trying to come up with new skits for their boss. The idea for the show came from Carl Reiner’s own experiences. Carl Reiner played their boss on the show as Alan Brady. 

Get Smart

Don Adams of "Get Smart"

Get Smart aired from 1965-1970 that was a comedy series about a bumbling secret agent starring Don Adams and Barbara Feldon. Don Adams, as Maxwell Smart, was actually not usually very smart. His beautiful sidekick, Agent 99, was played by Barbara Feldon, and usually helped him out of the pickles that he got himself into. He would use all kinds of gadgets that the chief would provide for him to try to capture the KAOS agents that he was after. Even though he fumbled a lot, he always got them in the end.

The Addams Family

The Addams Family

“They’re creepy and they’re kooky; mysterious and spooky; They’re altogether ooky, The Addams Family. . .” 

This was part of their theme song that opened up every show from 1964 to 1966. It was quite clear that the Addams Family was not your ordinary family. Gomez was the head of the house and appeared to be well-refined. Morticia was the beautiful but eerie wife and refined lady of the house. The children, Wednesday and Pugsley, were somewhat weird and strange. The grandmother was a witch who was always trying to cast a spell on someone.

Then, of course, there was Uncle Fester, who was always causing trouble. They lived in a haunted mansion that was feared by their neighbors. Visitors would be greeted by their butler, Lurch, who was seven-foot tall and would always greet people with “You rang?” If that wasn’t strange enough, there was cousin Itt and Thing, who was just a “hand” who was always willing to lend a “hand.” 

The Fugitive

Airing from 1963 to 1967, The Fugitive was a dramatic series that kept you anticipating the next show hoping that somehow Dr. Richard Kimble (David Janssen) would find that one-armed man who killed his wife. The one-armed man broke into their home and murdered his wife while he was away and it was blamed on him. Thus starts him on his quest to find the one-armed man to prove his innocence. Running from the law after he broke out of jail, he had to disguise himself as someone else as he entered a new town. In some of the episodes, it would appear he was getting close to finding him only to lose him again, definitely keeping you on your toes.

The 1960s brought us many television shows that entertained us in many ways: some were comical to keep us laughing while others were full of drama and suspense.  

Tags: Get Smart | Mr. Ed | My Favorite Martian | Popular Lists Of Everything From The Groovy Era | The 1960s | The Dick Van Dyke Show | TV In The 1960s

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Terry Claypoole


Terry is a lover of the beach, history, politics and has a passion for social media and technology. In her spare time, you can find her at the beach (of course) enjoying the sand and sun and listening to music from the groovy era.