Sixties Television

Sixties television gave us an ever expanding view of our world and everything in it---the good things as well as the bad things. On the one hand, we were thrilled and entertained as new technology gave us higher resolution pictures, color

JFK assassination headline

images, and even instant replay, to watch our favorite sit-coms, westerns, comedy variety, who-dun-it shows and sporting events, all with greater clarity. But on the other hand, we also watched such horrific events as the assassination of a sitting president, a presidential candidate, and a civil rights leader; an increasingly bloody civil war in southeast Asia; campus violence and urban racial strife. Sixties television changed not only the way that we saw our world at the time many of us were becoming teenagers, but gave us some pretty indelible images that we still remember today.

But perhaps most of us remember sixties television as an entertainment source for the whole family. Remember gathering around the set on Sunday nights to watch Disney's Wonderful World of Color---even before your family had a color set? Or maybe it was Bonanza or the Ed Sullivan Show? And how about the many shows featuring

Leave It To Beaver cast photo

family values and relationships that we identified with, such as Andy Griffith, Father Knows Best, The Danny Thomas Show, Donna Reed, Dick Van Dyke, My Three Sons, and Leave It To Beaver? All of it came to us over three networks for free--no cable and no satellite dishes, just an antennae on the roof or some rabbit ears on top of the TV!

Highlights of Sixties Television

  • By 1960, 87% of all households in the US had a TV set (up from only 9% in 1950).
  • New technology brought us the remote control (1960), ultimately replacing us children as the channel changers (remotes were fully authorized by the FCC in 1963).
  • Newsman Edward R. Murrow brought the practice of investigative journalism to television news (1960), ironically on his last program when "Harvest of Shame" (the plight of Florida migrant workers) was aired.
  • The Andy Griffith Show began its eight year run (1960), making Don Knotts and Ron Howard big stars.
  • Andy Griffith show cast photo

  • The Flintstones (1960-66) became the first cartoon show in prime time, and two years later became one of the first series to begin broadcasting in color.
  • Color television first became popular (1961), when "The Wonderful World of Disney" changed its name to "The Wonderful World of Color". But it would be another five years before network TV began broadcasting all color in prime time.
  • FCC Chairman Newton Minow (1961) called television in America "a vast wasteland" in a speech urging stronger regulations. That same day, Vice President Hubert Humphrey called TV "the greatest single achievement in communication that anybody or any area of the world has ever known." Minow's "wasteland" comment was ridiculed by the TV industry at the time, and even prompted the sunken travel ship on Gilligan's Island to be named
    Gilligans Island Show cast photo

    after him---the "SS Minnow".

  • The Dick Van Dyke show began a six-year run (1961),
    Dick Van Dyke show pic

    despite being canceled by CBS after its very first year (re-instated after the producer secured his own sponsors). Other new shows that year included Ben Casey (1961-66) and Hazel (1961-66).

  • Jack Paar hosted his final The Tonight Show (1961), before Johnny Carson began a thirty-year run as host the following year (1962-92).
  • The CBS Evening News replaced anchorman Douglas Edwards with Walter Cronkite (1962), and a year later expanded the show from 15 to 30 minutes (NBC and ABC News followed shortly thereafter).
  • Millions watched televised coverage of Martin Luther King deliver his "I Have A Dream" speech (1963).
  • Network television news covered the events surrounding the assassination of President Kennedy and subsequent funeral (1963), followed days later by a live broadcast on NBC when Jack Ruby fatally shot assassin Lee Harvey Oswald during transport by lawmen in Dallas.
  • A national poll (1963) found that more Americans preferred television news (36%) over newspapers (24%) as a reliable source of information.
  • Instant replay came to televised sports (1963) when first featured in an Army-Navy football game, and was standard practice the following year.
  • Ozzie and Harriet photo

  • Several new shows began multi-year runs (1963), including Let's Make A Deal (1963-76), The Fugitive (1963-87), and Mutual Of Omaha's Wild Kingdom (1963-88).
  • Bewitched became an instant hit (1964), starting an eight year run. Other long running shows were renewed that same year, including Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color after its 11th year, Ozzie and Harriet as well as I've Got A Secret after their 13th years, Red Skelton after its 14th year, and Ed Sullivan after its 17th year.
  • Nearly a million homes in the US were wired for cable TV (1964), prompting the FCC to begin regulating it.
  • Some 73 million viewers watched the beginning of the British invasion
    Beatles performing on Ed Sullivan Show

    on national television (1964) - the Beatles performing on The Ed Sullivan Show.

  • NBC started calling itself "the full color network" (1965), as nearly all of its prime time schedule was broadcast in color.
  • The Peanuts comic strip by Charles Schulz was animated for the first time (1965), when A Charlie Brown Christmas was aired and received a 50 share that evening.
  • Star Trek: The Original Series (1966-69) began a short-lived run, falling victim to low ratings, poor funding, and a Friday night "death slot" in its third and final year.
  • The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour (1967-69) best epitomized the counter-culture movement of the sixties, dealing with drugs, Viet Nam, politics and other topics, as the brothers and even some of their guests continually battled CBS censors. For example, Pete Seeger was barred from performing his anti-war song "The Big Muddy" (1967), although the censors did allow it a year later. The show brought stardom to Steve Martin, Rob Reiner and Sally Struthers (later Mike and Gloria on All In The Family), Pat Paulsen, and Don Novello (Father Guido Sarducci), among others.
  • President Johnson signed a bill authorizing the corporation for public broadcasting (1967). First known as National Education TV (NET) with 70 stations nationwide, it was replaced two years later by the Public Broadcasting System (PBS), but its federal funding remained an annual topic of discussion in Congress.
  • Mr. Rogers (1967-2001) began its long run starting on the NET,
    Mr Rogers neighborhood

    featuring the soft spoken Presbyterian minister Fred McFeely Rogers. Sesame Street launched two years later (1969) and became one of the most influential children's shows ever.

  • The Phil Donahue Show (1967-1996) began its long run, premiering first on the Crosley Broadcast Network in Dayton, Ohio before gaining national syndication (1970) and moving to Chicago (1974).
  • The National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) sponsored a public opinion survey in which 63% of the participants expressed a preference for television without commercials (1967).
  • The NAB increased its scrutiny of violence in television shows (1968) following the assassinations of Robert F. Kennedy and Martin Luther King Jr.
  • Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In (1968-73) was an instant hit with its fast paced humor, slapstick, and iconic one-liners. The show brought stardom to many of the cast members, including Flip Wilson, Goldie Hawn, Judy Carne, Lily Tomlin, Arte Johnson, Henry Gibson, and others.
  • Sixty Minutes (1968) began its run as now the longest running prime
    60 Minutes

    time show in TV history---now over forty years.

  • The Brady Bunch (1969-74) began its run as the show considered most opposite from the counter-culture movement of the sixties.
  • Hee Haw (1969-93) made a twenty year run in syndication, appealing to an older and less progressive demographic of the country.
  • Love American Style (1969-74) was considered a collection of mostly failed sitcom pilots, but did spawn the seventies TV hit Happy Days.
  • Millions watched Neil Armstrong take "one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind" on live television when he became the first man to walk on the moon (1969).
  • The FCC banned cigarette ads from television and radio (1969), after it was determined that smoking was indeed hazardous to one's health. Tobacco companies agree to the prohibition for fear of greater restrictions that Congress could have imposed.

Top Rated Shows

Sixties Television/October 1960 - April 1961 season:

  1. Gunsmoke
  2. Rawhide cast photo

  3. Wagon Train
  4. Have Gun Will Travel
  5. The Andy Griffith Show
  6. The Real McCoys
  7. Rawhide
  8. Candid Camera
  9. The Untouchables
  10. The Price is Right
  11. The Jack Benny Show
  12. Dennis the Menace
  13. The Danny Thomas Show
  14. My Three Sons
  15. 77 Sunset Strip
  16. The Ed Sullivan Show
  17. Perry Mason
  18. Bonanza
  19. The Flintstones
  20. The Red Skelton Show
  21. Alfred Hitchcock Presents
  22. Celebrity Talent Scouts
  23. General Electric Theatre
  24. Checkmate
  25. What's My Line
  26. The Many Lives of Dobie Gillis

Sixties Television/October 1961 - April 1962 season:

    Hazel photo

  1. Wagon Train
  2. Bonanza
  3. Gunsmoke
  4. Hazel
  5. Perry Mason
  6. The Red Skelton Show
  7. The Andy Griffith Show
  8. The Danny Thomas Show
  9. Dr. Kildare
  10. Candid Camera
  11. My Three Sons
  12. The Garry Moore Show
  13. Lassie Show cast photo

  14. Rawhide
  15. The Real McCoys
  16. Lassie
  17. Sing Along With Mitch
  18. Dennis the Menace
  19. Gunsmoke
  20. Ben Casey
  21. The Ed Sullivan Show
  22. Car 54, Where Are You
  23. The Flintstones
  24. The Many Lives of Dobie Gillis
  25. Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color
  26. The Joey Bishop Show

Sixties Television/October 1962 - April 1963 season:

    Beverly Hillbillies Show cast photo

  1. The Beverly Hillbillies
  2. Candid Camera
  3. The Red Skelton Show
  4. Bonanza
  5. The Lucy Show
  6. The Andy Griffith Show
  7. Ben Casey
  8. The Danny Thomas Show
  9. The Dick Van Dyke Show
  10. Gunsmoke
  11. Dr. Kildare
  12. The Jack Benny Show
  13. What's My Line
  14. Dr Killdare photo

  15. The Ed Sullivan Show
  16. Hazel
  17. I've Got a Secret
  18. The Jackie Gleason Show
  19. The Defenders
  20. The Garry Moore Show
  21. To Tell the Truth
  22. Lassie
  23. Rawhide
  24. Perry Mason
  25. Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color
  26. Wagon Train

Sixties Television/October 1963 - April 1964 season:

    Bonanza Show photo

  1. The Beverly Hillbillies
  2. Bonanza
  3. The Dick Van Dyke Show
  4. Petticoat Junction
  5. The Andy Griffith Show
  6. The Lucy Show
  7. Candid Camera
  8. The Ed Sullivan Show
  9. The Danny Thomas Show
  10. My Favorite Martian
  11. The Red Skelton Show
  12. I've Got a Secret
  13. Lassie
  14. Dick Van Dyke Show photo

  15. The Jack Benny Show
  16. The Jackie Gleason Show
  17. The Donna Reed Show
  18. The Virginian
  19. The Patty Duke Show
  20. Dr. Kildare
  21. Gunsmoke
  22. Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color
  23. Hazel
  24. McHale's Navy
  25. To Tell the Truth
  26. What's My Line

Sixties Television/October 1964 - April 1965 season:

    Red Skelton photo

  1. Bonanza
  2. Bewitched
  3. Gomer Pyle USMC
  4. The Andy Griffith Show
  5. The Fugitive
  6. The Red Skelton Hour
  7. The Dick Van Dyke Show
  8. The Lucy Show
  9. Peyton Place II
  10. Combat
  11. Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color
  12. The Beverly Hillbillies
  13. My Three Sons
  14. Addams Family Show cast photo

  15. Branded
  16. Petticoat Junction
  17. The Ed Sullivan Show
  18. Lassie
  19. The Munsters
  20. Gilligan's Island
  21. Peyton Place I
  22. The Jackie Gleason Show
  23. The Virginian
  24. The Addams Family
  25. My Favorite Martian
  26. Flipper

Sixties television/October 1965 - April 1966 season:

  1. Bonanza
  2. Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C.
  3. Man From UNCLE Show cast photo

  4. The Lucy Show
  5. The Red Skelton Hour
  6. Batman (Thurs)
  7. The Andy Griffith Show
  8. Bewitched
  9. The Beverly Hillbillies
  10. Hogan's Heroes
  11. Batman (Wed)
  12. Green Acres
  13. Get Smart
  14. The Man From UNCLE
  15. Daktari
  16. My Three Sons
  17. The Dick Van Dyke Show
  18. Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color
  19. The Ed Sullivan Show
  20. The Lawrence Show
  21. I've Got a Secret
  22. Petticoat Junction
  23. Gilligan's Island
  24. Wild, Wild West
  25. The Jackie Gleason Show
  26. The Virginian

Sixties Television/October 1966 - April 1967 season:

    Dean Martin photo

  1. Bonanza
  2. The Red Skelton Hour
  3. The Andy Griffith Show
  4. The Lucy Show
  5. The Jackie Gleason Show
  6. Green Acres
  7. Daktari
  8. Bewitched
  9. The Beverly Hillbillies
  10. Gomer Pyle, USMC
  11. The Virginian
  12. The Lawrence Welk Show
  13. The Ed Sullivan Show
  14. Smothers Brothers Show photo

  15. The Dean Martin Show
  16. Family Affair
  17. The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour
  18. Friday Night Movies
  19. Hogan's Heroes
  20. Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color
  21. Saturday Night at the Movies
  22. Dragnet
  23. Get Smart
  24. Petticoat Junction
  25. Rat Patrol
  26. Daniel Boone

Sixties Television/October 1967 - April 1968 season:

    Gunsmoke Show photo

  1. The Andy Griffith Show
  2. The Lucy Show
  3. Gomer Pyle, USMC
  4. Gunsmoke
  5. Family Affair
  6. Bonanza
  7. The Red Skelton Show
  8. The Dean Martin Show
  9. The Jackie Gleason Show
  10. Saturday Night at the Movies
  11. Bewitched
  12. The Beverly Hillbillies
  13. The Ed Sullivan Show
  14. Family Affair Show photo

  15. The Virginian
  16. Friday Night Movie
  17. Green Acres
  18. The Lawrence Welk Show
  19. The Smothers Brothers' Comedy Hour
  20. Gentle Ben
  21. Tuesday Night at the Movies
  22. Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In
  23. The FBI
  24. Thursday Night Movie
  25. My Three Sons
  26. Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color

Sixties Television/October 1968 - April 1969 season:

    Laugh In Show photo

  1. Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In
  2. Gomer Pyle, USMC
  3. Bonanza
  4. Mayberry RFD
  5. Family Affair
  6. Gunsmoke
  7. Julia
  8. The Dean Martin Show
  9. Here's Lucy
  10. The Beverly Hillbillies
  11. Mission: Impossible
  12. Bewitched
  13. The Red Skelton Hour
  14. My Three Sons
  15. The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour
  16. Bewitched Show photo

  17. Ironside
  18. The Virginian
  19. The FBI
  20. Green Acres
  21. Dragnet
  22. Daniel Boone
  23. Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color
  24. The Ed Sullivan Show
  25. The Carol Burnett Show
  26. The Jackie Gleason Show

Sixties Television/October 1969 - April 1970 season:

    Carol Burnett Show photo

  1. Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In
  2. Gunsmoke
  3. Bonanza
  4. Mayberry RFD
  5. Family Affair
  6. Here's Lucy
  7. The Red Skelton Hour
  8. Marcus Welby MD
  9. Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color
  10. The Doris Day Show
  11. The Bill Cosby Show
  12. The Jim Nabors Hour
  13. Mod Squad Show cast photo

  14. The Carol Burnett Show
  15. The Dean Martin Show
  16. My Three Sons
  17. Ironside
  18. The Johhny Cash Show
  19. The Beverly Hillbillies
  20. Hawaii Five-O
  21. The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour
  22. Hee Haw
  23. Movie of the Week
  24. The Mod Squad
  25. Saturday Night Movie
  26. Bewitched

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