What TV Shows From the 1960s Taught Me and Why It's Important To Watch Them Today
I was born in 1962. One of my earliest memories of watching TV is watching "Batman" (1966-1968) starring Adam West, Burt Ward, Burgess Meredith, Frank Gorshin, Caesar Romero, and the rest. It was just so much fun singing along with the Batman theme song (pretty easy for a four year old), and trying to say the silly "Holy Hairdo" and "Holy Alter Ego Batman!" sayings by Robin. What a great, silly show!
And then I remember sitting in Daddy's lap and watching "The Andy Griffith Show" (1960-1968), "The Dick Van Dyke Show" (1961-1966), "Petticoat Junction" (1963-1970), "Hogan's Heroes" (1965-1971), "Gunsmoke" (1955-1975) (Mama liked "Bonanza"), "Walt Disney's Wonderful World of Color" (1954-1991), and "Gomer Pyle USMC" (1964-1969). I barely remember watching "The Outer Limits" (1963-1965) and "The Twilight Zone" (1959-1964), and cowering under an end table. We also loved watching "The Ed Sullivan Show" (1948-1971), and yes my sisters screamed and squealed with the rest of teenage America when the Beatles appeared.
Man, that was entertainment. And the whole family could sit around the TV and watch it without any fear of being embarrassed.
Today my family uses Netflix or DVDs we buy in the store to watch many of these shows and laugh ourselves silly (pretty hard to do since we're pretty silly much of the time anyway), or scare ourselves to death (watching "The Twilight Zone"). Or maybe we just want some good drama so we have watched David Janssen in "The Fugitive" (1963-1967).
So, what did I learn from watching these shows?
1. Humor can be clean.
You can make people laugh hysterically until their sides ache, without being dirty, without cutting people down, without using seventh-grade bathroom humor. My family LOVES watching "Hogan's Heroes" and "The Dick Van Dyke Show" over and over again. Who can forget the song to "Green Acres" and its almost neurotic humor?
Just watch the old "Andy Griffith Show" with Don Knotts in the episodes (I think the show went downhill after "Barney Fife" left the show). As a child I barely remember watching a few of these episodes, but later as an older kid I saw them on re-runs. "The Andy Griffith Show" is the gold standard for humor.
There was never anything dirty in the humor. No one was constantly cutting other people down in order to get laughs. Whether it is the episode where Aunt Bea makes her atrocious un-edible pickles, or where Gomer attempts his "citizens arrest," or where Ernest T. Bass does his maniacal antics, or it's just the lovable character of Otis, you and your family will be treated to real, honest-to-goodness classic humor. It's classic because you can watch it over and over again ... you know the next line that is coming ... and you never get tired of it.
Click "Load More" to see some of these classic scenes of old-fashioned humor.
Gomer's "citizen's arrest":
Ernest T. Bass learns table manners:
Here is my favorite character from the 1960's ... Sergeant Schultz from "Hogan's Heroes" with his most famous line:
2. There are moral absolutes.
I did not grow up in a household that took its faith seriously. We "sort of" went to church. Although I deeply loved (and miss) my parents, we had quite a dysfunctional family. But the shows I watched taught me morals, values that I still use today.
Sheriff Andy Taylor was a strong, caring, compassionate, hard-working man. When Opie kills a bird, Andy deals with it firmly and compassionately. His friends may be goofy (like Barney and Gomer and Otis), but he overlooks their shortcomings and thinks the best of them.
Marshall Matt Dillon (James Arness) always told the truth and upheld the law. Daniel Boone (Fess Parker) was a fair man and a peacemaker. Looking back, I like the way Daniel Boone, Pa Cartwright, and Matt Dillon dealt with the issues of slavery and injustice to the Indians. Yes, I know full well that the TV shows were fiction and the real Boone had plenty of faults like all men. But the shows taught a fixed set of good, life-building morals that were much needed in my home.
As a little boy, I looked to Sheriff Taylor and Marshall Dillon for what it meant to be a man. I saw in Gomer Pyle a man who, though terribly naive, always looked for the good in people and was patriotic, hard-working, honest, forgiving, and happy. Their lessons were not lost on me.
I watched "Combat!" (1962-1967), starring Rick Jason and Vic Morrow, every week. Yes, I was just a little boy, but I loved watching our soldiers defeat the evil Nazis. It was clear to me that there was good and evil in this world; the Nazis were evil and America was good. So, every week I would go out in the woods near my house and fight the Nazis just like they did on TV.
Of course, I would always win. And I had a real helmet from my Uncle Henry (who was a WW II vet) and a pretend M1-Garand rifle!
Shows like "Bonanza", "The Virginian" (1962-1971), "Dragnet" (1967-1970), "The Man From U.N.C.L.E." (1964-1968) and "Gunsmoke" taught me that it is good and right to stand up to evil.
Evil cannot be accomodated. Injustice must be fought, and it takes courage and conviction. We have the rule of law in this country, and although politicians, organized crime, and criminal governments may want to overthrow it, we have to have the courage to fight.
As I look back now on what I watched some 50-odd years ago, I marvel at the creativity of those shows. Just think about the original "Star Trek" TV series (1966-1969). Nobody saw that show as a success originally. But man did it blow us away in our household!!
I waited with baited breath for the very first scene when the Starship Enterprise raced across the screen in a split second! The music, the characters (everybody thought Spock was cool), the storylines ... in my humble opinion were great and are still great. Remember that there were NO computer graphics back then. (Yes, some of the scenes were pretty lame with the costumes/makeup, but they made up for it with the stories.) As far as I am concerned, Star Wars can't hold a lightsaber to "Star Trek." I have been a lifetime Trekkie since I was a little boy.
"Outer Limits?" "Twilight Zone?" Want to be super creeped out? I still remember the eerie feeling that would come over me when I saw/heard the opening scenes of "Outer Limits." And no one, to this day, can beat the creativity of "The Twilight Zone." Do you remember the episode where Bill Mummy is a child with almost god-like powers who can banish people "to the cornfield?" Remember that final scene when he turns that guy into a Jack-in-the-box???
And there were NO computer graphics! That scene is still one of the creepiest things ever filmed for TV. Those shows really curled your hair and made you think. Spoiler alert: here's the ending of that episode:
I know not every episode of every show I mentioned was great. Some were pretty hokey. And there were plenty of TV shows that were just plain dumb (I never did like "Lost in Space"). But it was an era in which the whole family could sit around the tube for an hour or two and watch really great programming, have good values taught or affirmed, and laugh. I miss it. Thank God for DVDs and Netflix.