While the first Golden Age of Television had officially ended by the late 1950, the 1960s decade ushered in an exciting phase of its own. The early years of the 1960s saw most American households having their own television set. In fact, the roles of both radio and television had changed a lot, with radio being mostly a music medium and television having taped shows with scripted programming.
That being said, it’s not surprising that some of the most classic sitcoms in American aired during the ‘60s, with television properly becoming a part of people’s lives. The situation comedy is an enjoyable way to pass the time, getting some laughs while also being drawn into the world of some well-crafted characters. 1960s sitcoms had entertainment for just about any audience–kids, adults, teens, families, and single folks. Some of these still air on different TV stations, while others have either got their own movies or even a whole reboot in the 21st century.
While the absolute best sitcoms of the 60s might be up for debate, here are some that will probably still be fresh and enjoyable today:
1. Gilligan’s Island
Airing from 1964 to 1967, Gilligan’s Island is probably one of the most parodied and referenced shows on television to date. It follows the adventures of a group who has been shipwrecked on an island. Gilligan is the first mate on the ship, played by Bob Denver. Almost every episode involves the group trying to get off the island, usually with some harebrained scheme that Gilligan comes up with.
This show is quite a lighthearted one, and even those who haven’t seen it will probably have seen or read a spoof of it at some point. The premise has been parodied in comedy skits, other sitcoms, and even the Archie comics. This might also be a good show to watch if you’re interested in the fashion of the 1960s.
The name of this show is probably familiar to many in the millennial generation as well as those who were around in the 1960s. The 2005 movie was not a hit, but the sitcom itself was popular enough to be remembered to this day. The original airing was from 1964 to 1972, with a solid 8 seasons.
The premise here revolves around Samantha Stephens, played by Elizabeth Montgomery. Samantha is a witch with magical powers, but she married a regular mortal man, Darrin. Samantha’s mother is also a witch, and encourages her to use her powers for her ease and convenience. Samantha, on the other hand, is determined to live as a mortal woman for the most part. In several situations, however, she’s tempted to use her magic when the situation is difficult or challenging for her.
3. My Favorite Martian
This is a sitcom from the 1960s that appealed to kids then and might still do so now. It was on air for three seasons, from 1963 to 1966, with over a hundred episodes. As the title suggests, this series was in the science fiction genre. The premise follows a 45-year old anthropologist from Mars, who crashed his spaceship on Earth. Named ‘Uncle Martin’ the alien has several powers including telepathy, becoming invisible, etc. A newspaper reporter named Tom O’Hara takes in the alien while he thinks of ways to repair his spaceship and get back to his home planet.
Unfortunately, while the first reason had decent ratings, the storylines quickly became redundant. While this probably led to the demise of the original show, fans were happy to see it made into a film in 1999. The movie was released under Walt Disney Pictures with Christopher Lloyd playing the Martian. The 1960s also saw the TV series adapted into a somewhat popular comic series as well.
4. Green Acres
Kids growing up in the 1960s loved this show if they saw it back then. It ran from 1965 to 1971, and was a reflection of a simpler time. The premise is funny enough, with a city-bred banker moving his whole family to a rundown farm. He knows next to nothing about farm life, and hilarity ensues.
Most of these episodes might be what we now know as standard sitcom aspects. However, there was an undercurrent of satire, surrealism, and other unique elements. There were also several visual gags, running jokes, and times when the characters broke the fourth wall.
5. The Munsters
This sitcom is about a family of monsters, with the comedic element mainly centring on how they don’t understand why everyone’s afraid of them. They act just like a normal family would; going on trips, caring for each other, and inviting guests over. Most people get scared and run off when they see any of the Munsters.
This classic show might be more appealing to younger audiences, with its silly situations and heart-warming lessons. The storylines are quite interesting, which may increase its appeal with universal audiences.
6. Hogan’s Heroes
This show started airing in 1965 and came to an end in 1971. Its main premise is about Colonel Robert Hagen, who is a prisoner of war along with his staff. Several plots in the show have storylines about spies, defectors, and other elements that will probably be right at home in a television drama.
While this might seem like too serious a premise for a sitcom, the uniqueness of this show lies in how it makes the comedy element work. The show is well-written and also talks about an essential part of American history, making it both memorable and enjoyable.
7. Get Smart
This hilarious show aired from 1965 to 1970, and starred Don Adams in the character of Maxwell Smart. Smart was a spy who had several important missions. His partner, named Agent 99, was usually right by his side. This series was meant to capitalize on the popularity of the James Bond movies; these had just begun in 1962, a few years before the premier of ‘Get Smart’.
While the show remains respectful to the spy genre, it still makes a lot of fun around it. The comedy is of a high quality, which is to be expected with the legendary comedian Mel Brooks as part of the creation team. Overall, it’s a fun and action-packed sitcom that’s suitable for the whole family.
8. The Addams Family
While this show was somewhat short lived—running only from 1964 to 1966, it definitely left its mark on both the television and movie industry. This sitcom revolves around a weird family that loves anything macabre, dark, eerie, creepy, and so on. As a result, they freak out their neighbours and anyone who visits them.
Most of the funny occurrences are about the family’s daily life, which they consider everyday and other people consider to be straight out of a horror movie. The theme song is still among the most recognized tunes for American audiences, while the show itself has given rise to cartoon series and several movies.
Speaking of cartoons, there were also quite a lot of classic cartoon movies released in this decade. You might want to look up some of some of the best Disney movies from the 1960s to revisit that era.
9. The Andy Griffith Show
This series ran from 1960 to 1968, and is one of the classic examples of 1960s sitcoms. The main character is Andy Taylor, played by Andy Griffith. Andy is the sheriff of Mayberry, a little town where most people know each other’s business. The sheriff also has his own friendships with the citizens, and this show is mainly about them.
Barney Fifle plays the sheriff’s deputy, and Andy eventually becomes the town’s role model. Overall, the show is one that we can watch to forget the worries of our real lives and delve into the accent, somewhat simple world of Mayberry. Of course, there might be some jokes and situations that have aged poorly, so we might want to mentally prepare ourselves before settling down for a few feel-good episodes.
10. The Dick Van Dyke Show
This show ran from 1961 to 1966, and is still remembered as a hilarious sitcom. It starred Dick Van Dyke himself as the character Rob Petrie. Rob was a writer for a variety show, with the series showing both his work and home life. Mary Tyler Moore played the character of Rob’s wife.
The actors in this show are the best of their era, while the storylines are fun and engaging. What’s even better is that it showcases a healthy marriage alongside quality story writing. It’s still ranked among the best sitcoms ever.
If we plan to watch any of the 1960s sitcoms discussed above, we should keep in mind the ear when it was filmed. Some of the jokes and stereotypes might not be politically correct, while some characters might act in a downright offensive manner. Even so, television in the 1960s did have a lot of quality entertainment to offer. Watching the more modern reboots might not present the same issues, but the charm of these classic sitcoms is still unparalleled. Give one of these a shot next time and see if you like it!