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10 Defining TV Shows Of The 60s

July 21, 2017

Previously we talked about the songs that defined the decade of the 1960s. It is a time that many boomers remember quite well and these classic songs are a gateway to a lot of nostalgia. Today, we look at another significant medium and how it looked in that era of the 1960s.

By the time the ‘60s hit, television had grown to be one of the most popular mediums in North America. There weren’t too many houses without their own television set and families would gather around it to watch their favourite programs. It was out of this era that shows aimed at those family viewings and instilling family values can about. And yet, as the decade went on, you could see some programs begin to push the boundaries of the medium and try something new.

While not all these TV shows debuted in the ‘60s, they nonetheless helped to define the decade and left a lasting legacy.

Leave It To Beaver

The ‘60s is when advertiser really started to grab hold of the television phenomenon and see the immense value behind it. Then television became a strategy of how you could make a program that appealed to everyone. Leave it to Beaver epitomized that era of television. It was a show that anyone could relate to and the first time we had seen a show through the eyes of a child. Each of the family members and other characters in the show reminded us of people we knew, and it was able to capture the hearts of viewers through its charm, humour and warmth.

Gilligan’s Island

The ‘60s was an era of some very strange television concepts. Gilligan’s Island is a scenario that is probably a bit too ridiculous to look past in today’s golden age of television, but in this era it was the perfect bit of escapism. It was silly, it was light and it featured a cast of lovable characters. Yes, it was a show you needed to suspend disbelief in order to enjoy, but it made for a classic of the time.

The Carol Burnett Show

It seems like everyone and their mother had a variety show in the ‘60s, but Carol Burnett’s attempt at the genre was not only ground-breaking but it looked at as the funniest show of its kind to come out of this time. This was largely a man’s field at the time but Burnett showed that audiences are really only interested in the talent behind the program. Burnett, along with her fantastic co-stars created a loose, fun comedy show that made us all feel like we were in on the joke.

The Andy Griffith Show

Best remembered for that infectious whistling theme song, The Andy Griffith Show was the perfect example of how ‘60s television aimed for the wholesome storytelling. Set in the quaint town of Mayberry, where every single viewer wished they could grow up, the show introduced an unorthodox depiction of a family, with the widowed sheriff as the main character, his good-natured son and his bumbling deputy. It was a feel-good atmosphere for viewers to escape to.


The history of Batman leading up to his live-action debut on ‘60s television was a dark one. The comic book vigilante was always a character synonymous with the dark, brooding nature of crime fighting. However, this incarnation was very much of its time, opting to represent the Caped Crusader and his sidekick Robin as morally upstanding goofballs. The show had a comedic sensibility that is so charming and it introduced a whole generation to a new depiction of Batman and his rogues gallery of memorable villains.

The Dick Van Dyke Show

The family comedy has always been aa mainstay of the television environment, but the Dick Van Dyke Show really seemed like a breath of fresh air in this era. In the world of television that was populated with high concept farces with flying nuns and genies, this was a show about people viewers could relate to. It leaned into the slapstick comedy often, but always came back to the charm and humour between its real-life characters.

The Tonight Show

Johnny Carson did not start the Tonight Show but he changed it forever, and the talk show format along with it. What Carson did when he took over the show was cultivate a atmosphere that appeared to be a like a party of television. He had on his friends and was the perfect hot; funny, insightful and in charge. He also ushered in a new era of comedians all of whom knew that if you got Johnny’s seal of approval, you made it.

The Flintstones

One of the most successful animated shows of all-time actually owes a lot to live-action TV shows. The Flintstones borrows more than a little from the classic ‘50s show, The Honeymooners, but at the same time, it became a cultural phenomenon in its own right. In truth, transplanting the married sitcom format into a cartoon prehistoric setting was a brilliant way to get both children and adults interested in the show. No wonder it had such staying power over the years.

The Twilight Zone

This is when people started to realise they could really do some interesting things with television. The wholesome, cookie-cutter shows had their time and there are still some that enjoy that kind of entertainment, but it was obvious that in an era of such strong opinions, a show would emerge that had something to say. This ground-breaking anthology series explored alternate dimensions where bizarre and unsettling stories would unfold. Often times these stories would carry a deeper moral lesson with them and dealt with subjects like fascism, racism and acceptance. It was a bold step forward in television storytelling.

Star Trek

Star Trek deserves the top spot on this list for the pure cultural relevancy it has inspired over the years. Despite not being a smash hit with viewers at the time, the sci-fi series has grown to be one of the most celebrated and popular pop culture properties of all time. The ‘60s series went on to produce films and television projects that continue on to this day. However, beyond that, the show was a unique look at the future that people of this era too comfort in. A time when race and prejudice are seeming gone from mind and this eclectic group can work together despite difference.

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