Typically, if I write about things of a nostalgic nature, I focus on the 1970's because that is the time period in which I graduated from grade school, junior high, and high school. It is the time period I remember best. But clearly, life existed before this time and as a youngster the things I remember aren't necessarily the front page news of the day, but rather, the things that would engage any child under the age of ten at that time. I have a vague recollection of the assasination of Robert Kennedy, the Apollo moon landing, and nightly new stories covering the war in Vietnam, but I was a child and these aren't the memories that I carried forward in the greatest detail.
It's embarrassing to say now, but it's the games, the clothing, the TV shows, and so forth that I recall. Before 1970's TV brought in all of the social issues of the day, TV was simple fun for a kid. I don't remember my parents having to forbid any shows. Tough topics, controversy, and so forth may have been on the news but few shows took a close look at drug use, teenage pregnancy, divorce, or racial relations. While I appreciate much of the increased diversity and reality of today's TV, 1960's TV still holds a special place in my memories.
The shows that I might choose today as favorites would clearly be different than what I would have selected then, but from a child's perspective some of the best TV available in the 1960's would have included some of the following:
1. Dark Shadows
You can call it fantasy, horror, or even Sci-Fi I suppose, but as a kid, this show was totally engrossing. Probably, it had already been running a year or two when I picked it up in the third grade. I can remember rushing home to catch it before my parents arrived home. It focused on a wealthy family with members who had a mysterious past and many secrets. There were witches, vampires, and slowly unfolding tales about parallel time and other concepts that captivated the imagination. The past, the present, and the future would sometimes meld. It was dark and brooding at times, but there was certainly nothing else like it in the 1960's when tales of Middle Earth were to be found only in books and Harry Potter had not yet been conceived.
2. & 3. Bewitched and I Dream of Jeannie
I loved Bewitched as a kid. Samantha Stevens as the not-so-everyday housewife was someone I longed to be. To have the ability to snap my fingers, swirl my hands, or twitch my nose to make nearly anything imaginable appear, disappear, or happen was my most fervent longing. Maybe it was because I was a girl, but this show was so much better than say, the goofiness of Batman. POW! BAM! Holy Moly Batman! Sorry, that wasn't my cup of tea. Having an evil, meddling mother-in-law, a nosy neighbor, and, a host of crazy relatives like Sabrina, Uncle Arthur, and hair-brained Aunt Clara was infinitely more watchable for me.
I will admit however, that the original Darin bothered me even as a kid. He was cranky and anxious; even then I couldn't figure out why Samatha would have married him.
Jeannie of course, was gorgeous, men lusted for her and little girls just wanted to be her. And, there was the magic once again, along with that cute little pink harem outfit of hers. It was simply an adorable show.
4. Star Trek
It wasn't Captain Kirk I was impressed with, it was Spock. Even as a kid, I knew Kirk was a womanizer even though I didn't know that term at the time. The adventure and the intriguing/sticky situations they encountered were habit forming.
5. The Bugs Bunny Show
I was your average kid afterall. My Saturday mornings were often spent watching cartoons, and Bugs often finished off my morning. When they added The Road Runner I was in heaven. I'm just certain that watching Wiley Coyote fail week after week taught me a great deal about thinking through my ideas before I tried to implement them.
6. & 7. The Outer Limits and the Twilight Zone
I may recall these mostly as reruns but either way, I loved to be confused or just a little bit uncomfortable. In my eyes, the black and white filming of these shows added a great deal to the effectiveness of them. The simple visual and sound effects are rather hilarious now, but they really are part of the attraction. Whether about the future, the past, a paranormal or other-worldly experience, these shows would often leave you guessing until the end. With the frequent plot twists, the game of trying to figure it out first was half the fun.
Sentimental favoites include Gunsmoke and other westerns simply because I would watch them with my Dad. Bonanza however was probably my favorite. This is likely where I was first introduced to the American West, the towering pines, big skies, and sweeping landscapes. I wanted Little Joe's spotted horse and lovable Hoss as my big brother.
9. Gilligan's Island and the Beverly Hillbillies
I couldn't pick just one, they were both goofy and innocent with songs you had to sing. In one you had a group of people stranded on a strange desert island and in the other, you had a strange group of people (and critters) stranded in a Beverly Hills mansion.
10. The Wild, Wild West
This was a very different type of western. It was really more of a spy thriller, complete with secret agents trying to out fox the bad guys and using all manner of homemade gadgets. It was odd, funny, intriguing, and action packed all at the same time. The main characters, James West and Artemus Gordon, called a train their home and operated from that base throughout the show.