The Roaring 60’s: Top 20 Greatest and Most Influential Sixties Television Shows.
Normally when we discuss the golden ages of television the decades that come to mind are the 1950's(television’s real start with iconic shows that influenced television for the rest of history such as I Love Lucy, The Honeymooners etc) the 1970’s, the 1980’s, and the early 1990’s. A lot of people will throw in the 2010’s as the “true” golden age of television though just as many people will argue that point. But the decade of television I feel is overlooked constantly is the 1960’s which has had just as many iconic shows as any other golden era if not even more influential in some respects. Sure the 1960’s had their ridiculous and frankly stupid batch of tv shows too like My Mother The Car for example; but the 1960’s produced so many classic tv shows that had a hand in pushing television into true greatness.
I’ll admit I myself as a kid never watched that much tv from the era besides a few exceptions but recently I have found myself getting more and more hooked into the vibes of that swingin’ psychadelic sixties cool. These 20 are all what I feel were the best and most influential television shows the decade had to offer as well as some of the best television ever made period. Some of them have become some of my personal favorite tv shows as well.
20. Mannix. 1967–1975.
Mannix played by Mike Connors was about affable private investigator Joe Mannix who was assisted first by Lew Wickersham played by Joe Campanella and later gorgeous and efficient secretary Peggy Faire played by Gail Fisher. The character of Joe Mannix paved the way for regular guy and relatable Tv detectives like Jim Rockford and Thomas Magnum. It was also one of the first tv shows to feature a black actor in a major role on a network series not to mention a black woman. Gail Fisher won an Emmy and two Golden Globes for the role of Peggy.
19. Bewitched. 1964–1972.
I have fond memories of watching reruns of this classic sitcom on Tv Land as a kid. It was one of the rare shows of its era that held my attention. A fantasy sitcom blending witchcraft and magic with domestic sitcom hijinx made for a successful and endearing sitcom. The first Darrin will always be the best Darrin, period!
18. Julia. 1968–1971.
A pioneer for both black women and black leads on sitcoms, Julia was a show that shot Diahann Carroll to stardom and helped influence television shows featuring African Americans. Although it’s mostly overlooked today, no denying that this charming, funny and heartwarming sitcom deserves the credit its due.
17. Hawaii Five 0. 1968–1980.
Before there was Hill Street Blues, CHiPs, Adam 12, Homicide Life on The Street, The Wire and all the Law & Orders there was Hawaii Five-0. A cop show with a unique location and did more for the state of Hawaii than any tourist attraction or brochure ever has. It also boasted one of television’s most ambitious and greatest theme songs in history as seen above. The show was the epitome of cool and so was the main character Steve MacGarret played by the irreplaceable Jack Lord.
16. Get Smart. 1965–1970.
A spoof of the super popular spy genre created by Buck Henry and the iconic Mel Brooks. Another Tv Land treasure I watched regularly as a youngin’. The show’s witty humor and unique gadgets like the cone of silence, shoe phone etc. helped it endure in popularity for decades. You can see Get Smart’s influence in many shows of its genre after it and it even spawned a 2008 movie adaptation with Steve Carrell, Ann Hathaway, Alan Arkin and Dwayne The Rock Johnson.
15. Jonny Quest. 1964–1965.
At a time when cartoons were just seen as kid fare, Hanna-Barbera released Jonny Quest. A action\adventure animated series that had enough action and adventure to please the kids and enough real life violence and complex storylines to keep the parents interested. The show was inspired by the James Bond Spy movie craze that was booming in the sixties and the show was one of the best entries of the genre. It only lasted this one season but the popularity of the show was so great that It came back in new forms in the 1980’s and 1990’s but the original is still the most beloved and memorable.
14. Leave It To Beaver. 1957–1963.
Perhaps the ultimate family show of all time as well as the first sitcom to be from the perspective of a kid. While tv shows starring kids have evolved with The Wonder Years, Malcolm In The Middle and Everybody Hates Chris etc, Leave it to Beaver set the standard for wholesome family comedies with hints of wit and also gave us Eddie Haskell one of the greatest television characters of all time.
13. The Dick Van Dyke Show. 1961–1966.
The classic sitcom that introduced the world to Dick Van Dyke and Mary Tyler Moore and also gave us Carl Reiner’s brilliant character Alan Brady. It was a unique sitcom for that time. For starters most sitcoms in the sixties were shot on film and had laugh tracks but The Dick Van Dyke show like I Love Lucy and The Honeymooners utilized multi cameras and a live studio audience. The show had produced many iconic episodes in tv history and this scene from the classic episode “Coast-to-Coast Big Mouth” was so hilarious and iconic that it was ranked number 8 on Tv Guide’s 100 Greatest Episodes of All Time List.
12. The Flintstones. 1960–1966.
The first primetime animated family in prehistory. The Flintstones birthed The Jetsons, The Simpsons and basically all the primetime animated sitcoms that has come after it. But The Flintstones is still king as far as animated comedies go and is just as fondly remembered by its fans now as it was then. One of the truly first cartoons aimed at kids and adults and it worked wonders.
11. Mission: Impossible. 1967–1973.
You may have heard of the Tom Cruise franchise but it all started with this inventive and original television series. The show is so memorable and iconic for many reasons like it’s iconic theme song which is up there with one of the very best ever made, the image of the hand lighting the fuse, “This message with self destruct” etc. have made their way into the pop culture. Then there’s the ingenius innovation of the techniques and gadgets used as well as the fantastic cast that boasted the likes of Peter Graves, Leonard Nimoy, Martin Landau, Barbara Bain, Greg Morris, Peter Lupus and Leslie Ann Warren. This was a series that has inspired many action\adventure shows and movies after it. Mission accomplished.
10. The Addams Family. 1964–1966.
They’re creepy and they’re kooky, mysterious and ooky… but all together they’re one of Tv’s most lovable families. The Addams Family was akin to Green Acres with bizarre humor and surreal elements making it a totally new type of sitcom for that time. You could tell that the writers had as much fun writing the show as the audience did watching. The show also got a lot of praise for it’s beautiful depiction of a marriage in Gomez and Morticia. Actual psychiatrist actually called the Addams couple the most realistic and healthiest married couples on television. Off the wall humor and high brow wit blended together created one of Television’s greatest sitcoms ever.
9. The Munsters.
Another classic weird family has entered this list. The Munsters, like The Addams family were a loving family although odd and creepy, though this family actually has monsters in it. The wholesome Leave it to Beaver humor and interactions coming from literal monsters is genuinely funny and it’s no wonder that this series and its characters are still so popular today.
8. The Twilight Zone. 1959–1964.
That opening tune is as haunting as it is classic. This anthology series was something unlike anything before and has influenced television anthology or not since. With different stories every week that ranged from complex and creepy to sociological and moralistic.
7. Green Acres. 1965–1971.
Absurd, goofy, wild and totally hicktastic! Green Acres certainly was and still is the place to be. At time this series was unlike anything ever done before. Utilizing breaking the fourth wall type humor and eccentric characters, Green Acres became tv’s first surreal sitcom way before Night Court, Newsradio and plenty of sitcoms today being made were.
6. Hogan’s Heroes. 1965–1971.
Set during World War 2, Hogan’s Heroes had the audacity and the irreverence enough to do a comedy about a POW camp and goofy nazis. The show was comedic brilliance and its best and the ensemble cast were of top notch quality.
5. I Spy. 1965–1968.
Before there was Crockett and Tubbs and Riggs and Murtaugh there was Kelly and Scotty. I Spy was maybe the very best out of all the sixties spy craze shows. The chemistry between Cosby and Culp was off the charts and palpable. It’s not shock that the two were best friends offscreen and it made the show all the more believable and enjoyable to watch. I Spy gets the credit of being the first television show to have a black actor not only as a co lead but also a true equal to the white co star. The show was also groundbreaking for actually going to real exotic locations instead of the backlot sets every other series was doing as well as the killer opening credits showing a montage of clips from that episode a few years before Mission: Impossible did it. Culp and Cosby made Kelly and Scotty the coolest, baddest and most sharply dressed duo on television. And despite what’s come to light since then Bill Cosby during this time represented the cool, smooth, well dressed and spoken, dashing black man and paved the way for other ones on the small and big screen like Billy Dee Williams, Sidney Portier, Philip Michael Thomas, Eddie Murphy, Denzel Washington, Samuel L. Jackson, Idris Elba etc. The three top things that made I Spy a true masterpiece were 1. The writing, which Robert Culp did much of himself. 2. The banter that Cosby and Culp improvised for their characters in every episode and 3. The genuine and charming partnership\friendship between the two leads.
4. Star Trek.
“Space… The Final Frontier.” This was more than just a sci-fi tv show. Its legacy is too monumental to list but it all started here with the original series where this little space show pushed forward the idea of diversity and innovation on television like never before. The trio of Kirk, Spock and Dr. McCoy was stuff of legends. I may not be necessarily a “Trekkie” though I have grown to enjoy the shows and movies, but the impact of this series not just on television but also real life inventions and technology as well as fan participation and even languages is unsurpassed.
3. Perry Mason. 1957–1966.
The first real crime procedural and courtroom drama on television, Perry Mason was a triumph for all involved, including creator and author of the Perry Mason mystery novels Earle Stanley Gardner who had a hand in the crafting of the series. Perry Mason is also one of the best syndicated shows in history, having always been on somewhere at any time on any given day and that’s not surprising with its iconic theme song, amazing cast with chemistry to die for and intriguing, addictive mysteries that absorb its audience like a lazy sloth to beer. Perry Mason created a whole new genre when it premiered and its influence can still be seen today on any law or crime show.
2. The Fugitive. 1963–1967.
This series held the record for the most watched television series finale and most watched television episode of all time for years before MASH and Dallas but more than that its legacy is that The Fugitive is considered to be one of the all time best dramas ever made and I concur. The true power in the premise of a innocent man on the run and still finding the time to help people in need is something that we can relate to as well as admire. The series has been a bit overshadowed by the 1993 movie with Harrison Ford and Tommy Lee Jones and has been rebooted two more times on television but there’s nothing like the original and this series is truly one of the greatest and most consistently thrilling tv shows from the 1960’s that can compete with any drama on tv now.
- The Andy Griffith Show. 1960–1968.
Number 1 for me could be no other series than The Andy Griffith Show. With so many memorable and classic episodes that to this day are some of the greatest stories ever told on television as well as some of the funniest, TAGS was cream of the crop of sixties goodness. The show also has an insanely timeless staying power and has not ever been off the air in 60 plus years since it first premiered. The show was also very popular on Netflix and now CBS Access and it’s no surprise when you watch it. There are too many perfect moments from this show to talk about so I’ll just let the show speak for itself.
Thanks for reading! I hope if you haven’t had the ultimate pleasure in viewing some of these groovy shows then I hope this made you absolutely have to find them and devour them. Trust me, you’ll finally realize what a hidden gem the 1960’s really was for television.