TV List

7 Best TV Series of the 1960s

Updated August 11, 2019
8 min read

Television during the 1960s had completed the revolution that it started in the earlier decade and became the most important form of mass media, overtaking the radio and newspapers by miles. When the 60s began, there were already 52 million television sets in operation throughout the United States. This decade was witness to some major events which shaped the country, like the Vietnam War, the moon landing, Kennedy assassination, the civil rights movement and so on. During this period, television became the major source from which everyone received news of all such mega events.

The 1960s has always been regarded as the decade of experimentation, and television during the decade would be no different. Science fiction, children‘s animated shows, and fantasy shows started becoming quite popular during this time, as did the habit of watching old movies during primetime on different television networks. There was one major event during this time which immediately proved to people that television is going to be the most powerful weapon for politicians to spread their messages to the voter: the first-ever presidential debate held between Kennedy and Nixon. With all that said now, here’s the list of top 1960s TV shows. You can watch several of these 60s shows on Netflix, Hulu or Amazon Prime.

7. The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968)

Situation comedies, or sitcoms, have been a staple of American television since the 1950s, and as the genre started gaining immense popularity, new creators and writers would also throw their hats into the ring to try and make a name for themselves in the booming market. In the 1960s, one of the most popular sitcoms which made America sit down in front of the television set was ‘The Andy Griffith Show’. Griffith stars in the series as Andy Taylor, sheriff of the town Mayberry in North Carolina, who does not have much work to do since the crime rate in the town is pretty low. The story focuses on Taylor’s domestic life, his relationship with his son Opie, his aunt Bee, and the other residents of Mayberry.

Although it’s a product of the turbulent 60s, ‘The Andy Griffith Show’ generally avoided controversial topics of its time and instead focuses more on personal relationships and the philosophical side of the leading character. However, despite being of this mild nature, the series constantly ranks among the greatest sitcoms of all time.

6. Star Trek: The Original Series (1966-1969)

The release of ‘Star Trek’ on NBC in 1966 can be easily classified as a watershed moment in television history. Never before was it believed that a large-scale science fiction show could be made for the television. But Gene Roddenberry, the man behind this influential series, proved to the world that nothing is impossible if you have the right vision and pragmatism to follow your dreams through. ‘Star Trek’ tells the story of the spaceship called USS Enterprise, which has been sent from the earth to make contact with other forms of life across the Milky Way.

William Shatner plays the leading character, Captain James T. Kirk, who constantly engages and involves every member of his team to chalk out their new plans of exploration. Spock and Dr. McCoy are two other high-ranking members of the crew (played by Leonard Nimoy and DeForest Kelley), working as the Science Officer and Chief Medical Officer respectively. Unfortunately, ‘Star Trek’ did not become that popular during its initial run and thus NBC had to cancel the series after three seasons. It was only through syndication later on that the series developed a cult following. The influence ‘Star Trek’ has had on both science fiction movies and shows simply cannot be overstated. It threw open new doors for others to experiment in the genre, which saw a number of similar shows being produced in the later years.

5. Bewitched (1964-1971)

With the release of ‘Bewitched’ in 1964, American audiences were for the first time introduced to a sitcom which incorporated elements from the world of fantasy. Never before had sitcoms used any supernatural aspects in the narrative, but when ABC came out with ‘Bewitched’, it became clear to the viewers that there is a lot of scope for experimentation in the genre. The story of ‘Bewitched’ centers around the lives of Samantha and Darrin. Darrin is a pretty regular guy while Samantha belongs to a family of witches who are very secretive about their identities and never display their powers publicly.

However, Samantha falls in love with Darrin and starts living a normal life as a housewife. Her family is not that happy with the marriage and they constantly try to cause problems for Darrin by putting him under a spell. Darrin’s struggles with these spells and with his weird in-laws become the major focus point of the series. Despite its supernatural elements, what makes ‘Bewitched’ so beloved is its brilliantly written characters, humor, and the stunning performance by Elizabeth Montgomery as Samantha.

4. The Flinstones (1960-1966)

‘The Flinstones’ is hands down the pioneer of all animated shows, being the first of its format to receive a prime-time slot. The series is set in the Stone Age and follows the lives of two families – the Flinstones, comprising of Fred, Wilma, and Pebbles, and the Rubbles comprising of Barney, Betty, and Bamm-Bamm. In this world, humans and dinosaurs co-exist along with other ancient creatures like saber-toothed cats, and woolly mammoths. Although it is set in prehistoric times, the series mostly explores themes usually associated with qualms of modern existence. One aspect of the show which definitely needs to be applauded is its attention to detail. Each of the appliances that we see in the Flinstones’ house has been beautifully re-imagined to be operated by animals from their modern counterparts. ‘The Flinstones’ is one of the most influential animated shows of all time, and it has given birth to numerous films and spin-off shows. The series continues to enjoy its popularity among young audiences to this day.

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3. The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971)

Before ‘The Beverly Hillbillies’ premiered, American television did not see many stories about the poorer sections of society. The TV shows, especially sitcoms, were always made in order to appeal to middle and upper-middle-class populace who were and still are the largest consumers of television. Thus with the release of this CBS series, audiences were exposed to the lives of fellow citizens they earlier had no idea about.

The focus of the series is on the Clampett family, who are a poor family hailing from the rural mountainous who suddenly become millionaires when it is discovered that their house is upon a rich oil field. With the $25 million that they earn, the Clampett’s buy a massive mansion at Beverly Hills in California and shift to the posh neighborhood almost immediately. This naturally causes disdain to the already rich people dwelling there as they just can’t seem to accept the fact that a bunch of hillbillies have now started residing in their prized neighborhood. The snobbery of the upper classes is one of the most important aspects of the series. Most of the humor is derived from the disproportionate habits of the Clampetts in comparison to their neighbors.

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2. The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966)

If you have watched shows like Tina Fey’s ’30 Rock’ and marveled at how inside stories from the world of showbiz can become the stuff of TV shows, you should remember that this had happened for the first time with the legendary sitcom ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’. Van Dyke here plays the character of Rob Petrie, who is the head writer of a comedy show called ‘The Alan Brady Show’. It is Petrie’s various interactions within the entertainment world and in his family that become the major focus of the series. It was a very fresh and unique idea to introduce the inner workings of the entertainment world to the American audiences in the 1960s, as before the release of this series, the world of television production was shadowed in a mystery. ‘The Dick Van Dyke Show’ helped bring the audiences much closer to this glamorous world.

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1. The Addams Family (1964-1968)

One of the creepiest families in television history, the Addams indulge in the supernatural and its many manifestations in their daily lives. Entities which work for the family include a Frankenstein-like butler, and a severed hand. Gomez Addams is the patriarch of the family, who lives in their sprawling but creepy house along with his wife Morticia, her uncle Fester, and their two children Pugsley and Wednesday. They lead a macabre lifestyle, but are otherwise quite friendly and welcoming. ‘The Addams Family’ is a very unique sitcom which set a new trend in television. The black humor used in the series was quite refreshing for its time, and the way the Addams treat their natural spooky surroundings as normal is simply fascinating.

Read More: Best TV Shows of the 50s

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