10 of our favourite TV Shows from the 1960s
Do you remember when lighthearted soap operas and sitcoms dominated our television screens? The adrenaline rush of running to the bathroom in a single advertisement break, with your sibling’s beckoning call “It’s ONNNN”, sending you hurdling from one piece of furniture to another to get back in time. That was before the invention of the remote control. And the Netflix era kids will never understand.
Ah, the 1960s, the birth of a new era of television programming before broadcasts had transitioned from black and white to colour (colour TV not arriving until 1975). Back then, watching TV was a family affair, with everyone gathered around the television to watch their favourite shows every night. Add to that the classic theme songs that added to the whimsy of the most memorable shows.
While many of the faces on our screens were still predominantly imported, Australian identity began to emerge in television, with shows such as Homicide and Skippy The Bush Kangaroo making their mark on Australian pop culture.
Let’s take a trip down memory lane with our list of the top 10 TV shows from the 1960s.
1. Skippy the Bush Kangaroo (1968-1970)
Skippy the Bush Kangaroo was one of Australia’s most heavily exported programs. Created by Australian actor John McCallum, Lionel (Bob) Austin, and Lee Robinson, it was about the adventures of a young boy and his highly intelligent kangaroo, Skippy, in Waratah National Park. It captured the country’s imagination and showcased Australia to the world. We’re not going to lie; this show was probably responsible for many kids believing that Kangaroos were much friendlier than they actually are.
2. The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971)
The Beverly Hillbillies was an American television sitcom that follows the story of the Clampetts, a poor, backwoods family from the Ozarks who moved to posh Beverly Hills, California, after discovering oil on their land.
This was one of the most popular TV shows in Australia back in the day, and it was quite critically successful too, receiving seven Emmy nominations during its run.
3. The Brady Bunch (1969-1974)
We can't talk about 1960s and 1970s TV shows without mentioning The Brady Bunch. The show is centred on a large blended family with six children. Back in the day, this was one of the most wonderful TV shows to watch as a kid because they were the epitome of the wholesome family, and even when the kids did something wrong, it resulted in teachable moments.
This American television series aired from 26 September 1969 to 8 March 1974. It became popular, particularly among children and adolescent viewers, and spawned several reunion films and spin-off series.
Credits: Capital Cities/ABC
4. Gomer Pyle USMC (1964-1969)
This was an American sitcom that originally aired on CBS from 25 September 1964 to 2 May 1969. It was a spin-off of The Andy Griffith Show, and the pilot episode aired on 18 May 1964, as the season finale of the fourth season of its parent series.
The plot revolves around Gomer Pyle, a naive but good-natured petrol station attendant played by Jim Nabors, who enlists in the United States Marine Corps. He was as sweet and honest as Forest Gump but as thick as a brick. He's the man behind the famous line ‘Surprise! Surprise!’ The show was a huge success, never finishing lower than tenth in the Nielsen ratings.
5. The Flintstones (1960-1966)
Yabba Dabba Doo! Anyone who was a child in the 1960s onwards probably remembers The Flintstones. It was the first animated series to air during prime time on television and was the direct forerunner of the golden age of adult-oriented animation that we now enjoy.
The show takes place in a Stone Age setting and follows the activities of the titular family, the Flintstones, and their next-door neighbours, the Rubbles.
It first aired on the American ABC network on 30 September 1960, at 8:30 pm, after most children had gone to bed. Amid the gags, serious and sometimes dark topics were explored in the show. It was actually the first TV show to depict married couples sharing a bed, which was unusual for television at the time.
6. The Munsters (1964-1966)
The Munsters portrayed the life of a monster family led by Herman, played by Fred Gwynne, who bore a striking resemblance to Frankenstein's monster. His wife Lily (Yvonne DeCarlo) and her father, Sam Dracula (Al Lewis), were both vampires.
The show was a satire of suburban life and classic monster movies. It outperformed the similarly macabre-themed Addams Family in the Nielsen ratings.
If you watched this show back in the day, you'd remember that the first few episodes were darker and scarier, but as the show progressed, the comedic element took centre stage, and the show became less scary.
7. Gilligan's Island (1964-1967)
Gilligan's Island is still regarded as one of television's all-time classics. It tells the story of seven people who set out on an ill-fated three-hour cruise and ended up stranded on a remote island. The story of the castaways' attempts to survive on an island has remained popular over the years.
Even though Gilligan's Island only lasted three seasons, it left a lasting impression. Endless reruns were made, and the cast members gave a series of encore performances. The show's ensemble cast includes Bob Denver, Alan Hale Jr., Tina Louise, and others. It gained popularity, particularly in the 1970s and 1980s, when many markets aired the show in the late afternoon.
Credits: Warner Bros Television
8. Homicide (1964-1977)
Homicide was Australia’s first police drama series and premiered in Melbourne on 20 October 1964. Produced by Crawford Productions, the series focused on murder cases handled by detectives from the Victorian Police Force's homicide squad.
The show ran for 12 years and consistently received high ratings on the Seven Network, making its regular cast members into household names. It won several awards, including the Logie for Best Drama Series.
9. Bewitched (1964-1972)
Bewitched sparked a trend for supernatural sitcoms in the 1960s. The show was so well received by the audience that Elizabeth Montgomery became a household name. She portrayed Samantha, a lovely young witch who decided to be an ordinary housewife in Connecticut suburbia. It aired for eight seasons and starred Dick York as Samantha's husband and Agnes Moorehead as Samantha's mother, Endora.
In 2002, Bewitched was ranked No. 50 on TV Guide's list of the 50 Greatest TV Shows of All Time. Because of its success in the United States and Australia, it spawned a slew of spin-offs, crossovers, and remakes.
10. Mister Ed (1961-1966)
If the 1960s had intelligent Kangaroo (Skippy the Bush Kangaroo), seven stranded castaways (Gilligan’s Island), witches marrying mortals (Bewitched), why not throw in a talking horse in the form of Mister Ed?
The show’s title character is a talking horse (Mister Ed) which belonged to Wilbur Post, played by Allan Young, a young architect who had decided to leave the city to be closer to nature. The show was genuinely funny and crazy because how do you prove to other people that you're not insane if the horse refuses to speak to anyone but you?
Did you watch any of these shows? What was your favourite on the list? Did we miss any great shows back in the day? Share your thoughts in the comments section below.