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Television Of The Boomer Generation

March 29, 2018

The boomer generation is the first generation to grow up with television. Because of this, they experienced some of the biggest, most significant changes of the medium over their formative years. What was popular once, became outdated. New fresh ideas took hold of the cultural consciousness. And all of it helped to shape how television is viewed today. Let’s have a look back on some of the most impactful shows of the boomer era.

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.

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.

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 to 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.

All in the Family

Nowadays, a mix of political beliefs and standings within a household is par for the course but in the 70s that was a bit of a novel idea. It also proved to be the perfect setting for one of the most popular sitcoms of the time. The lead character of Archie Bunker was an amusing but fairly prejudice character who constantly bumped up against the changing of the times. While the lead character was a bigot, the show used his points of view to explore such subjects as racism and homophobia long before other shows.

Saturday Night Live

Come the 70s, it seemed that young boomers were ready for something a bit rebellious in their television watching – but who knew it would be a Canadian who would give it to them. Lorne Michaels, after building a successful career in Canada with sketch comedy shows came to NBC with an idea for a weekly sketch program hosted each week by a new celebrity guest, featuring a musical performance, a fake news segment and it would all be live. So became what is still a television institution with a cast of the so-called “Not Ready For Primetime Players”, which in the early years featured such amazing talents as John Belushi, Gilda Radner, Chevy Chase and Bill Murray. It was the comedy version of rock n’ roll.

Mary Tyler Moore Show

Strange to imagine a time when a show about a career woman would be a fresh idea but the truth is that this show was ground-breaking. Mary Tyler Moore was known to most television viewers as the housewife show the Dick Van Dyke Show and the contrast with that character to one with her own agency and life was a fantastic leap forward. Not that the show relied solely on the idea of Moore being a career-minded female but was actually made better by how normal her independence was depicted.


In today’s oversaturated television world, it’s incredibly difficult for a show to reach the kind of cultural awareness where everyone obsessively watches each episode, not daring to miss a moment. So was the case with this primetime soap opera about oil baron and his family was so full of twists and back-stabbings that it seemed to rule the world when it aired each week.


Come the late 80s and early 90s, boomers seemed to have moved away from being the main target for most television programs so the inclusion of a show from that particular era must mean it’s something special. Jerry Seinfeld was a very successful comedian before landing his own sitcom, but this made him a comedy icon and the show changed television forever. What younger viewers of this show might not realize is that sitcoms did not sound like how Seinfeld sounded before it came along. The conversations about mundane, everyday things, the lack of emotional growth among characters and the interconnected storylines were ground-breaking. The show starring four unpleasant New Yorkers talking about nothing was new and fresh and unlike anything boomers had seen before.

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