I began noticing all of the television programs on the oldies channels and cable, and how many of them are from the mid 1960s. It is amazing the number of programs that more than 50 years old are still popular.
Did you have to be alive in 1965 to be enjoying these series today? Baby boomers are a big part of the audience, but without younger viewers, these shows would be replaced by other fare. Were the programs airing then better than programming in other decades? That is a conversation starter. Generally, we might tend to favor programs we grew up with, but is that a question of quality?
Search the dial and you can find many of these programs from 1965 somewhere: over the air, cable or streaming. Even though a few of these shows lasted just one or two seasons, they are still in demand. What makes Gidget or My Mother the Car popular even though they ran just one season? A familiar property or a star, or both, in the case of Gidget (feature films and young Sally Field).
In 1965, there were Westerns and action shows, medical shows and situation comedies. I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, My Favorite Martian, Gilligan’s Island, The Man From U.N.C.L.E. and The Munsters. Escapist comedy to be sure. And silly shows, F-Troop, Get Smart, Gomer Pyle, Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, Hogan’s Heroes, McHale’s Navy and Petticoat Junction.
The paranoia of the 1950s was replaced by optimism and full-speed consumerism in the early 1960s. As the decade grew more serious, and the reality of social fractures, war and politics gained entry by way of the evening news, escapist programming helped to dull the harshness seeping in through the television set.
I picked 1965 only because so many of the television program that aired then are still around. I could have gone with a different year, but interestingly, this was the year that television seemed to shift from black and white, to color. Filming in color was a big deal. Networks were broadcasting in color and even established shows made the shift. I don’t know what the cost differential was from between black and white, and color, but there was one, and that impacted the show’s budget. Producers understood this out of pocket cost, yet they also understood the future syndication value, particularly by getting to five years or 100 episodes, the standard for a profitable asset.
In 1965, my family did not yet have a color television set, but soon we would. “In Living Color” would have value, and networks cashed in. Granted, these were pre-cable television days, so a roof antenna or rabbit ears did not guarantee great reception. Fuzzy pictures, ghosts, static and rolling frames negated some of the “wow factor” of color.
There were three commercial over the air network channels and public television. Not a lot to pick from, but it was still easy to find entertainment.
Programs airing during the 1965-1966 season, and my observations on these series:
Ben Casey (1961–1966) Vince Edwards as the neurosurgeon and Sam Jaffe as the wise Dr. Zorba. “Man, woman, birth, death, infinity.” This show and Dr. Kildare were the forerunner of the modern medical show. A caring young doctor, the disease of the week, and the patient drama.
Bewitched (1964–1972) Samantha and her twitching nose, the two Darrens, Endora, Dr. Bombay and nosy Gladys Kravitz. This show has never been off of television. Airs everywhere.
Bonanza (1959–1973) Ben Cartwright and his three boys, each from a different wife, all who died. Women wised up to Ben, who was the kiss of death, so to speak. The show ran an impressive 431 episodes.
Branded (1965-1966) Chuck Connors as the disgraced Army officer McCord in the post-Civil War period. McCord wondered the West each episode encountering people who did not believe his innocence. Connors, very popular after The Rifleman, struggled to find another long-term series, but he was a television favorite.
Combat! (1962–1967) Sgt. Saunders and Lt. Hanley led their squad across the battlefields of Europe during WWII. Each show had the expected firefight with the Germans, but the show was much more existential with deeply psychologically themed stories. One of the best dramatic shows of the decade.
Daniel Boone (1964–1970) Fess Parker played frontiersman Boone. The show revolved around family man Boone, more the leader of Boonesborough than an explorer or adventurer. The show was famous for supporting roles for Jimmy Dean, Ed Ames and Rosie Grier. I never found much believability in this show.
Dr. Kildare (1961-1966) In the 1965-1966 season, the show went to color film. Kildare was a young resident who often got into the lives of his patients. The show also included medical conditions and diseases not usually the subject of television.
Flipper (1964–1967) The television adaption of the film, it was the story of park ranger and his two sons. Flipper aided in rescues and tracking down criminals. One of many animal-themed shows of the decade (Gentle Ben, Lassie, Daktari, Cowboy in Africa).
F-Troop (1965-1967) Capt. Parmenter is sent to Fort Courage to keep the peace with the local Native American tribe. A bumbler, Parmenter presides over the fort of misfits and con men. A silly show that actually used parody of historical events. This was Sgt. Bilko in the Wild West.
Get Smart (1965–1970) Maxwell Smart and Agent 99 were up against KAOS, lampooning secret agent films. From the minds of Mel Brooks and Buck Henry. Don Adams was perfect in the role, but the show ran out of gas early.
Gidget (1965–1966) Sally Field’s first series, which adds to it’s popularity. Despite low ratings it had a great production team and cast. It captures the fun and quirkiness of 1960s teenagers, and still holds its charm.
Gilligan’s Island (1964–1967) Three-hour tour? Why did the Howells pack so much luggage. If I’m every marooned, I want the professor for ingenuity, and Mary Ann, for companionship. This show has never left the air. A goldmine for co-owner Phil Silvers estate. I’m seen these shows hundreds of times, but I’m a sucker to keep watching.
Gomer Pyle, U.S.M.C. (1964–1970) Of course a spin-off of The Andy Griffith Show. Ran for five seasons and was always in the top ten. Good-hearted Gomer seemed to always get Sgt. Carter in trouble. Jim Nabors ended the show after five years to host a variety show.
Green Acres (1965–1971) A cousin of Petticoat Junction, this has to be the silliest of 1960s sitcoms. The show has a topical humor and then a much deeper satiric humor that seems to break the fourth wall. Many people just labeled the series as dumb, and it’s comedy is broad, but watch closely to see the undercurrent of satire. Poor befuddled Eddie Albert.
Gunsmoke (1955–1975) A total of 635 episodes aired over 20 seasons. Ironically, the 1965-1966 season was their lowest rated until it’s last season, and the last episodes filmed in black and white. In the late 1960s, this show was fading on the chopping block but saved by the cancellation of Gilligan’s Island.
Hogan’s Heroes (1965-1971) Somehow this series survived for six seasons. Col. Hogan and his team of prisoners outsmart the Germans. I liked this series as a kid. Produced by Bing Crosby and very slickly made. Interesting, the two actors that played Klink an Schultz were both Jewish.
Honey West (1965-1966) Anne Francis. Need I say more? One of the first female private detectives, a spin-off of Burke’s Law. This series is harder to find. One season in black & white. Anne Francis is great.
I Dream Of Jeannie (1965–1970) Major Nelson’s space capsule lands on Jeannie’s island where he rescues her from her bottle and she rescues him from the island. Back at NASA, he discovers she has accompanied him home. Producers were not allowed to show her belly button. Barbara Eden’s popularity was equal to Elizabeth Montgomery’s Bewitched. Both are cornerstones of 1960s television.
I Spy (1965-1968) Debuting in 1965, the show ran for three seasons. Intelligence officers traveled the tennis circuit to gain valuable information and on the trail of spies.
Jonny Quest (1964–1965) One season of the original animated series. Great fun, but recent owners of the series have edited some of the original dialogue that today is deemed culturally offensive. Tim Matheson was the voice of Jonny.
Laredo (1965-1967) Three Texas Rangers get into various adventures and misadventures. While a drama show, it frequently veered into light comedy. The second season was ruined by the inclusion of Robert Wolders and other various characters.
Lassie (1954-1973) Quite a television run. Most of the series revolved around Lassie with her humans Jeff or Timmy, in later years with the Rangers, and then the Holden Ranch for orphaned boys.
Lost in Space (1965–1968) Danger Will Robinson! I watched this series as a kid but never quite understood it. It’s cartoonish and kitsch. Moral of the story, never believe Dr. Smith.
McHale’s Navy (1962-1966) Lt. Commander McHale of the PT-73, inhabit an island in the South Pacific, occasionally fighting the Japanese, but usually finding ways to make money and have a good time. Mostly it was escapist fare, how could you be serious around Tim Conway.
Mister Ed (1961–1966) A talking horse, who is usually more logical than his human. Silly? Yes. Fun? Yes.
My Favorite Martian (1963-1966) A Martian crash lands on Earth and is taken in by a newspaper reporter, Tim O’Hara, and becomes his uncle. Martin O’Hara wants to repair his space craft to go home, but spends a lot of his time trying to keep from being discovered and Tim out of trouble. One of my favorites.
My Mother the Car (1965–1966) Yes, the show is as bad as you remember. Jerry Van Dyke tried, but there was nothing to work with, the concept had no potential.
My Three Sons (1960–1972) The dean of situation comedies, Fred McMurray had four songs, a father-in-law and an uncle, a wife, a step-daughter, and three grandchildren over the course of the series. McMurray only worked 65 days a year, his schedule shot a variety of scenes for different episodes while the other actors worked when he wasn’t there. I liked the early, black and white episodes. After Tim Considine (son #1) left, the show lost appeal.
Petticoat Junction (1963–1970) The Shady Rest Hotel was located near Hooterville. Kate Bradley ran the hotel with the “help” of her brother Uncle Joe, and her daughters. Some of the daughters changed during the show and the actress playing Kate died toward the end of the run. The early seasons featured gentle homespun humor that gave way in later seasons to sappy fare suitable as a lead-in for Lawrence Welk. The 1965-1966 season was the first in color. The early seasons were the best.
Perry Mason (1957-1966) The 1965-1966 season was the last for the series and one episode was filmed in color, anticipating the series continuing, but it wasn’t, as the show slipped to No. 69 in the ratings. The show has been in syndication ever since and is as popular as it ever was. Hard to beat this show for complex drama.
Peyton Place (1964–1969) A prime-time soap you don’t see anymore. Running several episodes a week, a total of 514 episodes aired. A springboard for Ryan O’Neal and Mia Farrow. Never paid much attention to this series.
Please Don’t Eat the Daisies (1965–1967) I loved this series, but it has disappeared. Not even available on DVD. It had been a book and a film, the TV series kept the same concept and was funny and had charm. The lovely Patrica Crowley starred. Would love to see this show again.
Rawhide (1959-1965) Clint Eastwood and cows. They encounter adventure on each cattle drive. Westerns were the bread and butter of early television. Never too interested in this show.
Run for Your Life (1965-1968) Ben Gazzara is Paul Bryant, uber successful lawyer, told he as no more than two year to live. He travels the world trying to cram 30 years into two, meeting unusual people and situations each week. This show doesn’t air much. Like Route 66 in style.
The Addams Family (1964–1966) The oddball Addams family see themselves (like the Munsters) as normal where the rest of the world is strange. The show only ran for two seasons but instantly became a part of the American culture with television shows, several live action films and animated features have kept the family alive.
The Adventures of Ozzie and Harriet (1952–1966) This show seemed really corny, even though Ozzie Nelson featured a lot of his sons in the story lines, which launched Rick Nelson’s musical career. A total of 435 episodes aired, basically written and directed by Ozzie. The 1965-1966 season was filmed in color. Ozzie tried to modernize the show, seeing that ratings were dipping and the show seemed caught in a time-warp from the 1950s. Never interested in this series.
The Andy Griffith Show (1960–1968) One of the tent-poles of television comedies, homespun humor but not corny. It was an excellent marriage of characters and stories. When Ted Turner build WTBS into his Superstation, this reruns of this show was the foundation. Andy, Barney, Opie, Thelma Lou, Floyd, Gomer, Goober and Aunt Bea are part of American folklore. I still love this show.
The Avengers (UK) (1961–1969) Although Steed has several female partners, Mrs. Peel was the most iconic. Delightedly British, the show had a charm and sense of humor that sometimes befuddled American audiences. The show’s genre was espionage, but unlike the way Americans do it, the stories had fantasy and science fiction elements. This was spy stuff with a flair. In 1965, Mrs. Peel joined the series, and we all gushed.
The Beverly Hillbillies (1962–1971) Another of the foundational comedies of the decade, this show melded the clash of backwoods attitudes and values with the modern cultural idioms, into 274 episodes. Jed, Granny, Jethro, Ellie Mae, Jane Hathaway and Milburn Drysdale are television and cultural icons. The banjo and guitar theme is much less scary than the Deliverance theme. I enjoyed this show when it ran but can’t stand it now.
The Big Valley (1965–1969) The Barkleys of Stockton, California, are wealthy and often drawn into fights and drama in the wild but civilization of the region. Miss Barbara Stanwick (as her credit was shown) is the matriarch, tough and determined. She has three sons and a daughter. Lee Majors played one of the sons, fathered out of marriage, but accepted as a Barkley. Big production values but Westerns were fading by the end of the decade. I liked the show.
The Dean Martin Show (1965-1974) Dino signed on to do a weekly series provided he only had to show up on the day of taping. He unpreparedness became part of the appeal and swagger of the show. Music, comedy skits and Martin’s personality kept this show high in the ratings. Summer variety shows aired in his time slot. This show was both hip and old Hollywood at the same time. He got the biggest entertainment and what he did each week was unpredictable and must-see-TV. I liked variety shows and this one always seemed like an inside joke.
The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961–1966) The dean of modern sitcoms. The writing was smart and witty. Laura Petrie in capri pants! This show was worn-out in reruns through the years. It is almost too smart for today’s audience. Grew up watching the reruns.
The Donna Reed Show (1958–1966) A sitcom told from the mother character. Middle class family with two children. Ran longer than most sitcoms during the era. Oh yeah, there was this “Johnny Angel” song. Never dug this show.
The Flintstones (1960–1966) The first prime-time animated series. The Honeymooners as a cartoon. The original series is now back on television. Welcome back, Fred. Still watch this show.
The F.B.I. (1965–1974) Long-running program, 241 episodes, based on actual FBI cases, with some involvement by J. Edgar Hoover. The longest running Quinn Martin produced show. I found this show rather dry and melodramatic, but audiences tuned in.
The Fugitive (1963–67) We all know the premise, Dr. Richard Kimble, convicted of a crime he did not commit, searching for the one-armed man. The final episode was viewed by 78 million people, nearly half of all homes with a television set. There were some great episodes and you could feel Kimball’s loneliness.
The Jack Benny Program (1950-1965) Beginning in radio in 1934, Benny took his show to the infancy of the television medium. His filmed shows were shown to a live audience, where he performed the opening and closing bookends for each program. Benny cancelled his own show at the end of the 1965 season. The shows were very creative and wrapped their stories around Benny’s tightwad behavior and befuddled look. I still watch this show when I get a chance.
The Lucy Show (1962–1968) Her follow-up show to I Love Lucy. Single mom Lucy Carmichael and best friend Viv (Vivian Vance) who shared a house and got into hilarious situations. In the 1965 season, Viv left, replaced by an increased role for Gale Gordon. Lucy had taken over the helm of Desilu Productions, the producer of her show. In 1965, Lucy was broadcast in color, even though she had started filming it in color two seasons earlier, knowing the syndication value would be much greater. Her best show.
The Man from U.N.C.L.E. (1964–1968) A two-man intelligence team, and American and a Russian, traveled the globe fighting THRUSH from plots to take over the world. Spy films and television scripts were a big deal after James Bond. The series combined action and romance, every kid wanted part of this action.
The Munsters (1964–1966) A family of monsters seem like every other sitcom family, wacky relatives, kids with typical growing-up problems, and parents dealing with working class issues. The Munsters think they are normal and other people are odd. Various spin-off films and television shows through the years attest to the popularity of the Munsters concept.
The Patty Duke Show (1963–1966) Patty Duke plays two roles, an American teenager (Patty) and her Scottish cousin (Cathy). Patty is the typical, fun-loving teen, while Cathy is more serious and brainy. One of the few remaining shows shot in black and white. This show had some coolness to it.
The Saint (UK) (1962–1969) Roger Moore as Simon Templar as the mysterious do-gooder who is sought out to solve problems and make things right. Templar often looked at the camera and talked to the audience. After 1965, the format shifted to color. The early shows are fun.
The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson (1962–1992) Yes, Johnny’s episodes (those available) now air in syndication. The 90 minute episodes from the 1970s are the best.
The Wild Wild West (1965–1969) James Bond on horseback it was called. James West and Artimus Gordon used science and science fiction to thwart villains from crimes. Popular in reruns, it usually contains an element of danger, fantasy, action and romance. Suspend belief and it’s fun.
Tom and Jerry (1965–1972, 1975–1977, 1980–1982) The long-running feud between a cat and mouse. A creation of the Hanna-Barbara animation company.
Twelve O’Clock High (1964-1967) The flights and lives of a B-17 group in Europe, the show was adapted from the Gregory Peck film. The show used realism as a basis for the series but never quite found an audience. Once in awhile you can find it in syndication.
Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea (1964-1968) Another Irwin Allen produced series. The first season was science and espionage related, like the film. The last three seasons was the “monster of the week.”