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 (1964-1967)
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.
In this show, audiences followed the passengers of SS Minnow, whose three-hour tour shipwrecked them on an island in the Pacific. The cast included first mate Gilligan, short-tempered Skipper, movie star Ginger, girl-next-door Mary Ann, intelligent Professor, and snooty couple Lovey and Thurston Howell III. They were always finding a way off the island but never succeeded. The audience never cared because of the wacky adventures of these castaways.
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.
2. Bewitched (1964-1972)
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.
The comical magical situations and heartfelt themes made this sitcom loveable, and the show dipped subtlety but effectively at discrimination and feminism. Darrin and Samantha’s great husband-and-wife relationship in the show made them one of the best TV couples of the decade.
3. My Favorite Martian (1963-1966)
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 (1965-1971)
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. His wife, who insists on wearing ostentatious jewelry and full-length gowns even while on the farm, also provides much humor in the show.
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 (1964-1966)
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.
The traditional but unconventional family has each member inspired by classic characters. Frankenstein’s Monster was the inspiration for father, and husband Herman, Frankenstein’s bride was for mother and wife Lily, Dracula was for Grandpa, and the Wolf-Man was for their son Eddie.
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 (1965-1971)
A comedic off-shot of films like Von Ryan’s Express and Stalag 17, the series was about Colonel Robert Hogan, a German prisoner of War of Camp in World War II. Hogan and his fellow prisoners were engaged in escapes, espionage, and undermining their captors. Real-life prisoners were in dire situations, so imagining them getting the best of the enemy every week was comforting in the post-war era.
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 (1965-1970)
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’.
The creators of Get Smart, including the legendary Mel Brooks, saw the wild success of the spy movies, so they created a show to make a parody of the secret agent genre. The show helped revolutionize and popularize the spoof genre. It was very influential, as the film remake released in 2008 starring Steve Carell and Anne Hathaway grossed $230 million. It just proved that the spy genre, and the Get Smart Brand, were still a hit with the audiences.
8. The Addams Family (1964-1966)
Like The Munsters, this sitcom is about a strange and kooky family that freaks people out every time they come over and visit their house. This particular family loves everything dark, eerie, and macabre. But they are blissfully unaware that their lifestyle is out of the ordinary, making the show hilarious. Though it only ran for two seasons, The Addams Family remains one of the most well-known sitcoms ever. It had a lot of adaptations, with one currently running – the Netflix series Wednesday centers on Wednesday Addams from the same family who is the protagonist of this 60s sitcom.
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 (1960-1968)
When someone mentions 1960s television, this show is probably one of the first to come to mind. The Andy Griffith Show represented the desire for slow-paced life where problems become quickly resolved. The gentle storytelling of Sherriff Andy Taylor (played by Andy Griffith), his son Opie and aunt Bee, along with Deputy Barney Fife, in the rural town of Mayberry captured the hearts of audiences.
Andy and Barney do minimal police work, and the hilarity is mostly set around the eccentric townsfolk, romance, and wisdom that Andy tries to instill in his son. This show is brimming with traditional values, but it also showcases a family with a single father. However, many of its jokes aged poorly, so you might want to mentally prepare yourself before settling down for a few feel-good episodes.
10. The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966)
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 show was a perfect blend of intelligently-written comedy with slapstick humor, showcasing the talents of its cast in heartfelt, witty, and hilarious scenarios.
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.
11. The Beverly Hillbillies (1962-1971)
For many years, The Beverly Hillbillies has been the most-watched show on television and has one of the most memorable theme songs of the era. As one of the first and best sitcoms to feature a fish-out-of-water scenario, this show centered on the mountain Clampett family, who moved to Beverly Hills after they became suddenly wealthy when oil was found on their property. Their lives led to many hilarious adventures and misunderstandings, making this sitcom fun for the whole family.
As one of the decade’s most popular shows, it rose to number one faster than any other show in history. It also spawned two more rural-themed spin-off shows like, Green Acres and Petticoat Junction.
12. I Dream of Jeannie (1965-1970)
I Dream of Jeannie is a lighthearted comedy that centers around astronaut Major Tony Nelson and Jeannie, the 2,000-year-old genie who turns his life upside down. After crashing onto an island, Tony finds a bottle on the beach, only for Jeannie to appear before him and say he is now her master. The show involves Jeannie trying her best to use her magical powers to help his master and grant his wishes, but she always ends up making situations worse. She constantly put him in ridiculous situations that led to misunderstandings and trouble at NASA.
It’s a fun show with many similarities to Bewitched. It was also one of the first sitcoms to use the will-they/won’t-they TV couple tropes that have become popular in sitcoms until today. Also, it was revolutionary at the time as it portrayed an unmarried man and woman living under the same roof. However, it’s not as shocking as showing a belly button on the TV. Barbara Eden, the actress who played Jeannie, was not allowed to show her navel even when her costume exposed her midriff.
13. The Brady Bunch (1969-1974)
The Brady Bunch is usually considered a classic 70s show, but it debuted in 1969. It established the sitcom blueprint that focused on family hijinks with a different kind of family, influencing many sitcoms and shows in the years to come. This series became very influential in its five-year run, as it inspired many feature films, animated shows, spin-offs, and made-for-TV movies.
The show focuses on divorcee Carol and widower Mike who blended their two families. Carol’s three girls and Mike’s three boys are mostly the focus of this funny show, but some storylines also center on the parents, their maid Alice, and the family as a whole. The Brady Bunch was the first sitcom to feature a blended family on TV and the first to feature on-location family vacation episodes, influencing the sitcoms that followed to do the same.
14. My Three Sons (1960-1972)
This show is one of the most enduring, longest-running, and endearing shows of all time. Like other sitcoms in the 60s, My Three Sons was wholesome and heartwarming, featuring entertainment with gentle stories that involved a widower raising his three sons with the help of his father-in-law. Stories typically revolved around the boys getting into trouble, with their father doing his best to impart good morals and wisdom to them and show them, unconditional love.
In the later seasons, an adopted son, a stepdaughter, wives, and other generations of sons join the family. The show was conventional and traditional, but it was very popular with audiences who loved heartfelt stories.
15. The Monkees (1966-1968)
The Monkees is about a struggling pop group who engages in slapstick antics and spreads happiness and music anywhere they go. The 60s pop rock band, The Monkees, was created for this show, and the four members, Micky, Mike, Peter, and Davy, played fictional versions of themselves. The show was silly, surreal, and lighthearted, and it made the pop group quite popular, with many fans adoring them from then until now.
They sang catchy pop songs for the show, but the recordings featured studio musicians. Nevertheless, the quartet was truly an excellent musician who toured for many years after the series ended.
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!