The 1960s was filled with great leaps in technological, societal, and cultural changes and progress. In addition to these steps forward, many also desired to hold onto traditional American values. When it comes to television of the time, the most popular and influential shows were very much a reflection of evolutional ideas and conventional ideals. In the post-WWII and Korean War eras, audiences sought shows that were comforting and moral while they also began to reflect on societal changes.
Whether it be comedies, dramas, fantasy, westerns, or variety shows, the 1960s were varied, exciting, and filled with series after series that helped shape society and television in significant ways. As a result, each television genre showcased the best of both worlds. And we then see how much the shows of the 1960s influenced what was to come. Exploring each genre and its highly rated, acclaimed, and groundbreaking shows is fun and fascinating.
The Addams Family (1964-1966)
This creepy and kooky family sitcom may have only run for two seasons, but it remains one of the most well-known sitcoms ever. The series followed a family that consisted of the amorous couple Gomez and Morticia, their excessively morbid daughter Wednesday, and their stoic son Pugsley.
There was also wild Uncle Fester and Grandmama, seven-foot-tall butler Lurch, their hairy cousin It, and Thing, who is merely a sentient hand. The situations are outlandish, but The Addams Family is blissfully unaware that their lifestyle is out of the ordinary. Their family was unconventional but loving, and the show was hilarious.
The series (and the original comic panels it was based on) inspired two films from the 1990s, two animated films from 2019 and 2021, and an upcoming Netflix series centering on Wednesday, cementing how evergreen love for The Addams Family remains.
The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968)
The Andy Griffith Show represented the desire for a slow-paced life where problems are quickly resolved. For eight seasons, the gentle storytelling of Sheriff Andy Taylor, his precocious son Opie, loving Aunt Bee, and bumbling Deputy Barney Fife in the small rural town of Mayberry captured the hearts of audiences who longed for a simple, sweet-natured life.
Andy and Barney's police work is minimal, and the stories are mostly set around the eccentric townsfolk, romance, and, most especially, the kindly wisdom Andy tries to instill in his son Opie.
This show is filled with traditional values but also showcases a shift in depicting a family that is less so with a single father. The series was the top-rated sitcom of the decade, remaining in the top 10 throughout its entire run, with its final season becoming the number-one show for that year.
The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971)
One of the best and first sitcoms that feature a fish-out-of-water scenario, The Beverly Hillbillies, centered on the mountain Clampett family who strikes oil and decides to move to Beverley Hills, California, with their newfound wealth. Jed Clampett, Grandma, Ellie May, and Jethro are simple folk who don't always fit in with their affluent new community's glamorous and often snobbish people.
But through it all, they remain content and even influence those around them to think about life more wholesomely. The situations were always wacky, and audiences loved every minute of it.
The Beverly Hillbillies was one of the most-watched shows of the decade and rose to number one faster than any other show in history. It also spawned two other rural-themed spin-off shows that were immensely popular: Petticoat Junction and Green Acres.
Despite their great popularity, all three shows were canceled in short succession in what became known as the “Rural Purge.” Despite the abrupt cancellation, The Beverly Hillbillies and its catchy theme song cemented their place in TV history.
This sweet and hilarious family sitcom began with what was called a typical American man and woman meeting and falling in love. Except, on their wedding night, Samantha tells her husband, Darrin, her secret. She is anything but ordinary. She is a witch.
For eight seasons, audiences delighted in the misadventures of Samantha, Darrin (and other Darrin), their magical children Tabitha and Adam, and the meddling mother, Endora. This revolutionary and traditional series focused on an average nuclear family who was not typical.
The magical situations were comical, and the themes were heartfelt, while the show also showcased subtle but effective looks at discrimination and feminism. The show was very popular in its day and remains one of the most beloved and recognizable of all time. With a wiggle of her nose, Samantha and Bewitched flew into the hearts and history of television swiftly and eternally.
The Brady Bunch (1969-1974)
Although The Brady Bunch is mainly considered a show from the 1970s, it debuted in 1969. It established the sitcom blueprint that focused on wholesome family hijinks with a different kind of family, influencing many similar shows in the years to come.
Divorcée Carol (though never said on-screen) and widower Mike marry in the first episode of the series and blend their two families. Carol's three girls, Marcia, Jan, and Cindy, and Mike's three boys, Greg, Peter, and Bobby, are mostly the focus of this sunny show, but some storylines also center on the parents, their sweet-natured maid Alice, as well as the family as a whole.
With a five-year run, this series became one of the most popular and influential of all time, inspiring feature films, spin-off variety, animated shows, and multiple made-for-television movies. Seeing a blended family on television was definitely a new thing, and despite this not being mentioned much as the series progresses, The Brady Bunch's debut in the last year of the 1960s demonstrated a reverence for past family values in a different kind of family unit.
The Brady Bunch was also the first show to feature filmed on-location family vacation episodes to the Grand Canyon, Hawaii, and King's Island, influencing sitcoms that followed in the 1980s and 1990s to do the same. Everyone knows the theme song and catchphrases, making the popularity of The Brady Bunch everlasting.
The Flintstones (1960-1966)
Following two couples in the Stone Age town of Bedrock, this animated series is loosely based on the 1950s sitcom The Honeymooners and was the first ever primetime cartoon series to air on television. Funny, warm-hearted, and clever, we follow couples Fred and Wilma and their best friends Barney and Betty and their misadventures through prehistoric yet modern life.
Running for six seasons, we see both couples have children (Pebbles and Bamm Bamm), with Bamm Bamm being an adopted child, something not often seen, especially in anything animated.
The Flintstones was influential in many ways, but most significantly, this series opened the door for shows like The Simpsons to exist and be successful in primetime. The series was very popular and inspired spin-offs as well as theatrical films. But nothing can compare to the original's humor and catchy theme song.
Get Smart (1965-1970)
If James Bond films were zany and hilarious comedies, they would resemble this series created by Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. The series follows bumbling agent Maxwell Smart of CONTROL, his beautiful and clever partner Agent 99, their long-suffering boss, The Chief, and the leader of the rival evil organization KAOS, Siegfried. Endlessly imaginative and filled with amusing gadgets, audiences relished the spy spoof comedy in this.
Every mission was dangerous, but the results were always a riot, with some episodes paying homage to the likes of Murder on the Orient Express, The Maltese Falcon, and more.
This Emmy winner ran for five seasons and was influential in its tone and style, with modern spoof comedies needing to give a tremendous thank you to Get Smart's existence. A film based on the series was made in 2008, but the original reigns supreme.
Gilligan's Island (1964-1967)
Just sit right back, and you'll hear a tale of an outlandishly funny series about the passengers of the SS Minnow whose three-hour tour shipwrecked them on a Pacific island.
Through 99 episodes, we followed sweet and hapless first mate Gilligan, the kindly but short-tempered Skipper, glamorous movie star Ginger, the girl next door Mary Ann, snooty couple Lovey and Thurston Howell III, and intelligent Professor. Always trying to find a way off the island, they never succeed, but the audience never cared. Half the fun was seeing all of the wacky adventures of these affable castaways.
The series spawned multiple animated spin-off shows and movies, the latter still including most of the original cast. Although the series never ranked higher than 18th, it was very popular and especially found great success in syndication. Consequently, Gilligan's Island remains beloved and well-liked today.
Hogan's Heroes (1965-1971)
One may not think that a show that involves a German prisoner of War of Camp during WWII would be apt for a goofy comedy series, but that is precisely what Hogan's Heroes was.
A comedic off-shoot of films like Stalag 17 and Von Ryan's Express, the series followed Colonel Hogan and his fellow prisoners as they engaged in espionage, escapes, or undermining their captors, especially the clueless Colonel Klink and Sergeant Schultz.
The situations these characters are in are serious on the surface, but the show is anything but somber. It was a silly comedy that represented a form of escapist entertainment.
Its popularity can be easily explained. Real-life prisoners were in dire situations, so imagining them getting the best of the enemy every week was comforting in the post-war era. And Hogan's Heroes gave us a brand of making a serious concept lighter and adding humor, which MASH achieved to extraordinary levels.
I Dream of Jeannie (1965-1970)
This light-hearted, madcap comedy centers around astronaut Tony Nelson and the woman who turns his life upside down. After crashing onto an island, he finds a bottle on the beach, only for the beautiful Jeannie to appear before him and say that he is now her master and can grant him any wish he pleases.
What follows are zany misadventures as Tony, despite being her “master,” discovers that Jeannie is really the one in control. She constantly puts him in crazy situations that lead to misunderstandings and trouble at NASA, especially with his best friend, fellow Astronaut Roger, and the ever-suspicious Doctor Bellows.
With many similarities and comparisons to Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie shares something else with that show. Both are equally heartfelt, with wacky situations played to full comedic effect.
Though star Barbara Eden was not allowed to show her navel due to censor issues, the show was revolutionary in that it portrayed an unmarried man and woman residing in the same house, as well as rather attractive attire for Jeannie. Magic and mayhem were all the rage in the 1960s, and audiences adored the series. It remains well-loved today.
The Monkees (1966-1968)
Hey, hey, it's the silly, surreal, and light-hearted series about a struggling pop group who engages in slapstick antics and spreads music and happiness everywhere they go. The music group, The Monkees, was created for this series, and the four members played fictional versions of themselves.
They sang many catchy pop songs for the show, but the recordings featured studio musicians. Consequently, there was tension and backlash amongst producers and fans. However, the show was quite the sensation and revolutionary in its creative and unique style – even inspiring a cast addition to Star Trek (appearing later in this list).
The four members, Micky, Mike, Peter, and Davy, became superstars, and both the group and series were adored then and now. Despite not playing on the recordings, they truly were excellent musicians and toured for many years after the series ended.
The Munsters (1964-1966)
A traditional, silly family sitcom with an unconventional family, The Munsters shared many similarities to its rival, The Addams Family. But both shows have their own strengths. In The Munsters, we see a loving family who are completely confident in who they are and their family.
But they are not like other families. Each family member is inspired by the classic characters Frankenstein's Monster (father & husband Herman), his Bride (mother and wife Lily), Dracula (Grandpa), and the Wolf-Man (son Eddie).
What makes The Munsters refreshing is that they never understand why people react oddly to their appearance or their macabre home on 1313 Mockingbird Lane. In fact, to them, their beautiful cousin Marilyn who stays with them, is the black sheep of the family. The series only ran for two seasons but found cult success in syndication and spawned multiple theatrical spin-off movies and a new film coming in September to Netflix from Rob Zombie.
My Three Sons (1960-1972)
One of the longest-running, most enduring, and endearing shows of all time, My Three Sons dominated the 1960s, with most of its run airing during the decade. The story follows widower Steve Douglas raising his three boys with the help of their grandfather and, in later seasons, their uncle.
Like other similar sitcoms, My Three Sons was wholesome and heartwarming entertainment with gentle stories that primarily involved the boys getting into trouble and their father doing his best to impart wisdom and good morals and show them unconditional love.
At one point, the eldest son was written out of the series, and Steve adopted another son. As the series progressed, the family grew and grew as Steve and his sons married and had children. The show was conventional but very popular amongst audiences who loved heartfelt stories. Similar shows from the 1980s and 1990s owe much to this second-longest-running sitcom ever.
That Girl (1966-1971)
Bright, effervescent, and sweet, That Girl was a series that reflected women who had an independent and free spirit and dreamed of successful careers. Previously, women in television comedies were mainly regulated to the role of housewife, even if some had jobs.
But That Girl's protagonist Ann Marie is a single woman who moves to New York City with the hopes of becoming an actress, taking small jobs and bit parts in the meantime. Along the way, she meets and falls in love with a magazine writer named Donald Hollinger and must always contend with the fears of her loving but over-protective father.
That Girl was most assuredly influential and revolutionary in depicting a single and self-sufficient woman. Refreshingly, her independent nature does not deter her from desiring love. Ann never compromises her dreams and does so with a fabulous, albeit unrealistic, wardrobe. Influencing many a series that came after, shows like The Mary Tyler Moore Show and New Girl found success thanks to the foundation led by That Girl.
Dr. Kildare (1961-1966)
Nowadays, medical shows are a staple on the airwaves, with shows like E.R. and Grey's Anatomy dominating and enduring for several seasons. However, these shows may not have been possible without the first medical series dramas that had great success.
Based on the B-Movies of the 1940s, Dr. Kildare was one of the first of its kind and was extremely popular during its six-year run. The show followed the kind and sensitive Dr. Kildare, his friend and mentor, Dr. Gillespie, and the many patients and loves he encountered during his internship and residency.
Beginning at the same time and lasting the same amount of seasons, the rival medical show Ben Casey was also well-liked. But Dr. Kildare remained more popular with audiences.
The Fugitive (1963-1967)
This compelling and engaging drama will be familiar to modern audiences through the successful 1993 film starring Harrison Ford. But before that film was this series which followed the same storyline. Dr. Richard Kimble is wrongfully accused and convicted of murdering his wife but escapes custody.
He spends the entirety of the series evading the relentless pursuit of police Lieutenant Gerard with the help of people he meets, all while pursuing the real killer, the infamous “one-armed man.”
Despite fluctuating series ratings throughout its four-season run, The Fugitive was a big hit with audiences in the United States and internationally. And no doubt, many similar dramas that came after were heavily influenced. The series finale held the record for the most-watched episode at the time, with over 25 million viewers.
Mission: Impossible (1966-1973)
Long before the highly successful film franchise starring Tom Cruise, Mission: Impossible was an equally popular television series. The concept remains the same: the secret organization I.M.F sends agents on the most impossible missions with dangers at every turn. Their mission is offered on a tape recorder that would self-destruct in five seconds.
Led mainly by the handsome and charismatic Peter Graves, the array of thrilling spy missions and its rousing and memorable musical score made this series so gripping. One of many spy-themed series of the 1960s, including The Man From U.N.C.L.E., The Avengers, and Wild Wild West, Mission: Impossible was arguably the best and most inspirational of the bunch.
Perry Mason (1957-1966)
Every courtroom and detective drama that followed suit after Perry Mason owes a debt of gratitude to this engrossing series that ran for an impressive nine seasons. Led by Raymond Burr as the title character, this series was most known for the way Los Angeles lawyer Mason's intelligent reasoning and uncanny ability to break witnesses on the stand would bring criminals to justice on a weekly basis. Amazingly, most of these were before a trial was ever held.
The show became beloved, and the name Perry Mason became synonymous with brilliant lawyers. The formula has been replicated many times with shows such as Law & Order and The Practice, which are undoubtedly inspired by the series, as was the Perry Mason prequel series on HBO Max.
Peyton Place (1964-1969)
Based on the movies of the same name (based on the best-selling novel by Grace Metalious), Peyton Place was a groundbreaking show on many levels. The very first primetime soap opera drama of its kind, the series featured an impressive cast that included Mia Farrow, Dorothy Malone, and Ryan O'Neil, and storylines that were considered scandalous at the time.
The story follows the people's lives in a small and sleepy town in New England. But their lives are anything but boring. Relationship woes, murder, gossip, and outrage rocked the Harrington family and the other residents in ways that were indeed risqué.
While the series only ran for five seasons, its production more closely resembled that of a daytime soap opera, airing two and sometimes three times a week and producing an impressive 514 episodes. The revolutionary content, the star-studded ensemble cast, and its later inclusion of African-American actors and writers make Peyton Place incredibly noteworthy. The drama inspired later shows such as Dallas, Knots Landing, Melrose Place, and Dynasty. Peyton Place deserves to be remembered.
The Untouchables (1959-1963)
This period drama, based on the book by Eliot Ness and Oscar Fraley, followed Agent Eliot Ness in 1930s Chicago, determined to combat the rampant corruption and organized crime of the Prohibition Era. Ness assembles a team of men who can be implicitly trusted to assist him in taking down these crime syndicates, especially the one led by Al Capone.
The series was gripping and the most realistic look at the era seen on television to that date. It ushered in a new generation of grittier television, with the series becoming known for its violence. An equally captivating film based on the same story was made in 1987, starred Kevin Costner, and was directed by Brian De Palma.
Though many may not be aware, the series The Untouchables helped pave the way for shows that depicted law enforcement and criminals in more authentic and gruesome ways, such as The Wire and The Sopranos.
One of the most beloved and popular westerns of all time, chances are when you think of the genre, this show is one of the first that comes to mind. In Virginia City, Nevada, the Cartwright family of the Ponderosa tackled life and love in the 1890s.
Led by Ben Cartwright, a widower three times over, with a son from each dearly departed woman. Over fourteen seasons and 430 episodes, ranchers Ben and his sons Hoss, Joe, and Adam are good, respected, diligent, and moral men. And these likable characters were the actual draw for audiences throughout its long run.
There is also the widely known joke that the women involved with the Cartwright men were given the “kiss of death” as so many of those involved with them died during the series.
For its time, the production values were magnificent. And although the accuracy was lacking, the masses who watched did not care. Westerns were one of the most popular genres of the 1960s, and Bonanza was one of the most successful. Though its ratings were initially mediocre, a change in time slot helped the series rise to the top of the ratings.
It was the number-one watched show in the country for three seasons, and for nine seasons was in the top five. The second longest-running western of all time, Bonanza, its characters, and its theme song entered the zeitgeist of pop culture long ago.
Gunsmoke was the only other Western of the 1960s that could rival Bonanza. A true Western in every sense in terms of tone, style, and characters, Gunsmoke stands out in its more mature storytelling. Marshall Matt Dillion runs the town of Dodge City with integrity and courage as he deals with a barrage of problems, from shootouts and fist fights to the everyday issues of ranch life. Through it all, Dillion remains true to his role as Marshall, always standing up to those showing little respect for the law and others.
Gunsmoke was one of the first instances of “must-see” television, and its immense popularity helped the series run for an impressive 20 years and 635 episodes. During its time in the 1960s, it spent the first year as the number one show and the subsequent years amongst the top 20 and 30 most-watched shows. As the longest-running Western in history, the legacy of Gunsmoke is paramount.
Have Gun Will Travel (1957-1963)
Though perhaps not as popular as the other long-running Westerns of the 1960s, Have Gun Will Travel was still successful in its own right. The series followed a former Civil War soldier named Paladin, a man who considered himself “a knight without armor in a savage land.”
Paladin is a gunfighter for hire and carries a business card that reads, “Have gun, will travel.” Throughout six seasons and over 200 episodes, the sophisticated, well-dressed, and articulate Paladin engaged in dangerous shootouts when he deemed necessary.
It is a compelling series that mixes a more refined character with the harshness of the old West.
Though many may think of Clint Eastwood's westerns as strictly such films as A Fistful of Dollars and The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly, Eastwood also starred in this television series. In the same years as those famous films, Eastwood played Rowdy Gains, a member of a cattle drive that traveled across the Midwest and encountered many dangerous escapades along the way.
During its six-year run, it remained in the top 30, ranking as high as number six in 1961. Above all, this show will be remembered as the series that helped launch Clint Eastwood not only into the Western genre but into superstardom.
Wagon Train (1957-1965)
The perilous journeys of a wagon train from Missouri to California after the Civil War was the backdrop for this absorbing Western series. The cast would change and evolve over eight seasons and 284 episodes, but the storytelling remained so gripping that audiences loved it.
Perhaps not as well known today as others, one thing that should be noted is the amount of noteworthy guest stars from classic Hollywood that Wagon Train bolstered. These include Barbara Stanwyck, Bette Davis, Vera Miles, Ronald Reagan, Mickey Rooney, Robert Vaughn, Lon Cheney Jr., Jane Wyman, Lee Marvin, Joseph Cotton, Ernest Borgnine, Ann Blyth, and Dean Stockwell.
The series also impressively garnered high ratings and praise, reaching number one in the 1960-61 season.
Before film versions depicted the Caped Crusader as dark and brooding came this 1960s series that was colorful, over-the-top, zany, and completely unique. Batman/Bruce Wayne and his crime-fighting partner Robin/D. Grayson fights crime in Gotham City with assistance from clever gadgets, the Batmobile, their friend Batgirl/Barbara Gordon, and Alfred the Butler. They must battle the likes of The Joker, The Riddler, Cat Woman, and The Penguin, and all played to gleefully villainous delight.
The show was undeniably campy and fun, punctuated by Robin's constant use of the phrase “Holy something” and the screen bubbles that said “Pow,” “Boff,” and whatnot during each fight. These were a clear homage to the look and feel of the comic books the series was based on. Batman only lasted two seasons, but its popularity soon soared, spawning a feature film and paving the way for the incarnations of the character we have seen ever since.
Lost in Space (1965-1968)
Decidedly a science-fiction story of its era, Lost in Space is set in the then future, with a mid-century modern sci-fi style but traditional storytelling and themes. The Robinson family is sent to space to find another planet to colonize due to overpopulation on Earth. But the evil Dr. Smith stows away and sabotages their plans, leaving them all hopelessly lost in space, struggling to find a way back home throughout the series.
Even those unfamiliar with this show have undoubtedly heard the series catchphrase “Danger, Will Robinson! Danger! Danger!” uttered by the family's Robot companion. Unfortunately, the ratings were not as high, nor the legacy as expansive. But Lost in Space set a standard for family-friendly science-fiction that would inspire future television and films.
Star Trek (1966-1969)
Shepherded by the great Lucille Ball, the original Star Trek series was groundbreaking in many ways, leading to an immeasurable legacy. Space, the final frontier, was the series's destination that featured Captain Kirk, Spock, Dr. McCoy, Lieutenant Ahura, Scotty, Checkov, and Sulu aboard the U.S.S. Enterprise.
Through three seasons and 80 episodes, the crew explores the far reaches of space, fights many battles, and seeks new life with creative and unique stories unlike any audiences have seen before.
The popularity and inspiration created by the original Star Trek series cannot be denied, as the show reached the stratosphere legacy-wise. The series inspired massive amounts of merchandising, fan conventions, and multiple spin-off shows and films.
The series also broke new ground when the first interracial kiss (between Kirk and Uhura) aired in 1969. Thus one of the most successful franchises was created, and not just for science-fiction fans.
The Twilight Zone (1959-1964)
The black-and-white anthology series created and hosted by Rod Serling was a mix of horror, science-fiction, and drama and was one of the most unique and influential shows of all time. Each episode told a different tale ranging from unsetting to spine-chilling to cautionary, with some genuinely terrifying viewers.
Exploring the fifth dimension, the eerie and atmospheric series had stories about living dolls, the end of the world, and a Cyclops, as well as more abstract and existential entries that explored themes such as vanity, loneliness, fear of the unknown, and racism.
Although Alfred Hitchcock deserves the label “Master of Suspense” with his films and series Alfred Hitchcock Presents, you cannot deny the quality and influence of The Twilight Zone. This series took things beyond mere suspense and showcased the abstraction of fear in ways that could be recognized on screen.
It was dark, chilling, and undeniably inspirational. Almost every horror or suspense film that followed sits on the shoulders of The Twilight Zone.
The Andy Williams Show (1962-1971)
Today, most will recognize Andy Williams as the singer of Christmas carols like “It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year” and the theme song to Breakfast at Tiffany – “Moon River.”
But for nine years, most of which took place in the 1960s, Andy Williams hosted and entertained audiences with his own musical variety show. Although it had a few incarnations, they all fell under the same title.
The format and the type of guests featured would change and evolve over the years. But a few things always remained the same: the immense charm of the crooner and the array of notable guests that would appear on the show.
These included Julie Andrews, Bing Crosby, Johnny Cash, The Beach Boys, Aretha Franklin, and Judy Garland. The Christmas specials were top-rated and often included members of the Williams family.
The Carol Burnett Show (1967-1979)
With the debut of this sketch variety show in 1967, Carol Burnett made history. She was the first woman to host a program of this type, making her a groundbreaking figure in television history. But that is not the only reason this series is noteworthy.
Comically gifted Burnett and her slew of equally talented guests and series regulars such as Harvey Korman, Tim Conway, Vickie Lawrence, and Lyle Waggoner made the show what it was.
Taking great inspiration from her friend Lucille Ball, Burnett took comedy down her own road with outrageous and outlandish comedic sketches. Her best-known ones are no doubt her movie spoofs such as Gone With the Wind, “Mama's Family” (which would later become a series), and her portrayal of the dim-witted secretary Mrs. Wiggins.
Although the show only reached as high as 13 in the ratings during its run, it was beloved by both critics and audiences alike. Today, it remains centered in the heart of television history.
The Ed Sullivan Show (1948-1971)
This long-running “really, really big show” was a weekend staple in households for over 20 years, with the 1960s being one of the most significant decades for the series. A true variety show, the somewhat awkward but surprisingly endearing Ed Sullivan would welcome all kinds of guests, including actors, musicians, vaudeville, and specialty acts.
Many can hold The Ed Sullivan Show responsible for catapulting them into superstardom, none more so than The Beatles. On February 9, 1964, the Beatles' appearance was seen by 73 million viewers. And the audiences, both in the studio and at home, were instantly mesmerized.
Thus began the “British Invasion” of the 1960s, a moment in time that is incredibly significant. Also notable is the rare chance for Black artists to be showcased on television, with The Supremes, Sammy Davis Jr., and Ella Fitzgerald amongst them.
To the delight of many, The Muppets also made their debut in this series in 1966, giving Jim Henson's creations a starting point for a very successful set of characters, shows, and films.
Mister Roger's Neighborhood (1968-2001)
Multiple generations grew up with the gentle and kind Mister Fred Rogers, who taught children that it is okay to have feelings and how to deal with them. With his visits from neighborhood friends and his ‘World of Make Believe' that included a miniature trolley and a group of various puppets, children felt seen, heard, and above all, warmly welcomed.
Although the series only spent two years in the 1960s, those years proved incredibly important, influential, and groundbreaking. With his sensitive demeanor and intelligence, Rogers showcased such topics as war and discrimination in ways that all could understand.
Most notably, an episode that aired in 1969 featured African-American Officer Clemmons, whom Rogers shares a small child's pool with to cool their feet. Segregated pools still existed at the time, and this was a way of denouncing and combating racism in a simple but powerful way. This beautiful show is recognized as one of the finest in children's programming and television.
Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In (1968-1973)
Influential and hilarious are the best ways to describe this variety show from the end of the 1960s. Representing that societal shift towards more risqué, off-beat, and even controversial subject matter that would dominate the next decade, Laugh-In led the way for many shows that followed. Famously, President Richard Nixon uttered the show's catchphrase “Sock it to me” in an unforgettable moment in TV history.
The show was vividly colorful visually and subject-wise and filled with a menagerie of running jokes and sight gags, including the “Laugh-In Wall,” which had all the performers opening the door to say one funny thing before disappearing again. The show quickly became popular and was the number-one show from 1968 to 1969. Shows like Saturday Night Live would not have succeeded without the existence of Laugh-In.
Marianne Paluso is a freelance writer and artist and holds a Masters Degree in English and Children’s Literature from San Diego State University. Inspired by her favorite films, television, theme parks and all things pop culture and geek related, she especially loves Disney, classic films, fairy tales, period dramas, musicals, adventures, mysteries, and a good rom-com. She joined Wealth of Geeks in 2021, and has also contributed to The Nerd Machine, Catholic News Agency, Christianity Today, and The La Jolla Light. She writes on her own website TheGirlyNerd.com, creates art that is sold on Redbubble and Etsy, and also partakes in the occasional Disneybound, cosplay, and YouTube video. She resides in San Diego, California.