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Sunday, October 16, 2011

WEEKEND REWIND: Top 10 Shows of the 1960s

For the next several Weekend Rewinds, I will look at the best shows from each decade. I decided to skip the 1950s as I have not seen enough shows from that decade and aside from I Love Lucy, there's nothing I really love from the 1950s. For it to qualify as a show from the 1960s, the majority of its run had to be in the decade. I will also list episodes you should see that I feel are defining episodes from each show, not necessarily my favorites.

Close Calls: My Three Sons (1960-1972), Hazel (1961-1966), The Donna Reed Show (1958-1966), Gidget (1965-1966), Gilligan's Island (1964-1967)

10. F Troop (1965-1967)
It's silly without a doubt, it's midly offensive by today's standards, and it only ran two seasons but there's something endearing about this post-Civil War era sitcom. Of all the "dumb sitcoms" from the era, this had some real funny physical comedy and the relationship between Forrest Tucker's Sergeant O'Rourke and Larry Storch's Corporal Agarn was great. I'm not saying its a brilliant work, but there's no other sitcom quite like this one given the setting and it's a throwback to a bygone era of simple but fun sitcoms.
Episodes you should see: #7 "The Girl from Philadelphia" (10/26/65), #39 "The Great Troop Robbery" (10/6/66), #43 "Did Your Father Come from Ireland?" (11/3/66), #48 "The Return of Wrongo Starr" (12/8/66), #57 "That's Show Biz" (2/9/67)

9. The Twilight Zone (1959-1964)
Rod Serling's iconic creepy anthology varied wildly in quality from episode to episode but when it was at its best, it could be riveting television and the spookiness holds up even 50 years later. With a huge number of great guest stars from the era, no episode was alike as the setting, topic, and cast members changed each episode. This show has been revived a few times, most recently in an unsuccessful UPN revival in the early 2000s but I think, with the right people, it could be reinvented to great success.
Episodes you should see: #22 "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street" (3/4/60), #30 "A Stop at Willoughby" (5/6/60), #54 "The Odyssey of Flight 33" (2/24/61), #64 "Will the Real Martian Please Stand Up?" (5/26/61), #74 "Deaths-Head Revisited" (11/10/61)

8. The Lucy Show (1962-1968)
Lucille Ball's second sitcom wasn't anywhere close to the quality of the incomparable I Love Lucy but it had its moments, particularly early on. The early episodes harkened back to the greatness of I Love Lucy as Lucille Ball and Vivian Vance continued to find themselves in zany situations. There was also a nice feel to the early episodes, which were simple and quaint surrounding two women and their children. The show morphed into a guest star parade that was even worse on the subsequent Here's Lucy, but those early seasons are worth watching. If it wasn't being compared to I Love Lucy, it might actually seem like a great show. But it's only good because it's not like the one that came before it.
Episodes you should see: #3 "Lucy is a Referee" (10/15/62), #13 "Together for Christmas" (12/24/62), #18 "Lucy and Viv Put in a Shower" (1/28/63), #51 "Lucy Takes a Job at the Bank" (2/24/64), #85 "Lucy at Marineland" (9/13/65)

7. Petticoat Junction (1963-1970)
This rural sitcom was far better than the show it spun off from (The Beverly Hillbillies) or the show it spun off (Green Acres). While those other two shows were exceedingly stupid, this show had heart. It really capture a rural area and showcased it without making fun of it. The show was at its best when it focused on Kate Bradley (Bea Benaderet) and her three daughters. Much like The Andy Griffith Show's Mayberry (still to come on this list), Hooterville was a great fictional town and there's a comfort factor when watching this show that you don't get on TV today.
Episodes you should see: #3 "The President Who Came to Dinner" (10/8/63), #19 "Visit from a Big Star" (1/28/64), #82 "Hooterville a Go-Go" (11/9/65), #125 "Girls! Girls! Girls!" (1/24/67), #149 "With This Gown, I Thee Wed" (11/4/67)

6. That Girl (1966-1971)
Before there was Mary Tyler Moore, Ann Marie (Marlo Thomas) was the single girl who brought on a new era of sitcoms. Most women on TV were married housewives but Ann Marie was a single struggling actress in New York City. Of course she had a steady boyfriend, but it was a stepping stone for a new female lead. The relationship between Ann Marie and Donald (Ted Bessell) felt very natural and real and there was a sophisticated sense to this sitcom that was missing from many of its contemporary shows. Plus, who can resist the great theme song?
Episodes you should see: #5 "Anatomy of a Blunder" (10/6/66), #21 "Rain, Snow, and Rice" (2/2/67), #31 "Pass the Potatoes, Ethel Merman" (9/7/67), #66 "Secret Ballot" (10/31/68), #85 "Bad Day at Marvin Gardens" (3/20/69)

5. I Dream of Jeannie (1965-1970)
This is sort of the same thing as F Troop but a better version. Yes, it was silly. Yes, it was occasionally dumb. But it is fun to watch as sometimes simple, mindless entertainment is all you need. The performances of Barbara Eden, Larry Hagman, Billy Daily, and Hayden Rourke elevates often mediocre material. It was more slapsticky than its magical counterpart Bewitched but it has its charm. They made the mistake of marrying off Jeannie and Tony which broke the underlying sexual tension that made the show ever-so-slightly suggestive and gave it its edge. A brilliant piece of art? No, but it's a pop culture classic.
Episodes you should see: #1 "The Lady in the Bottle" (9/18/65), #31 "Happy Anniversary" (9/12/66), #39 "Who Needs a Green-Eyed Jeannie?" (11/7/66), #53 "The Greatest Entertainer in the World" (2/27/67), #61 "The Mod Party" (4/24/67), #82 "Please Don't Feed the Astronauts" (2/13/68)

4. The Andy Griffith Show (1960-1968)
Ah, Mayberry. The fictional town this show is set in is the real star of this show. The idyllic quaint southern town is perhaps an even more desirable place in 2011 than it was in the 1960s. The simplicity of it all made this show what it is and few shows have done a better job of creating the world around them so completely. Of course there were great performances too - Andy Griffith is the glue that holds it all together as Andy Taylor, Ron Howard is adorable as his son Opie, and Don Knotts is one of the all time great second bananas as the scene-stealing Barney Fife. Great writing and great performances helped to make Mayberry a much loved piece of Americana.
Episodes you should see: #11 "Christmas Story" (12/19/60), #35 "Andy and the Woman Speeder" (10/16/61), #79 "Man in a Hurry" (1/14/63), #96 "Opie the Birdman" (9/30/63), #106 "Citizen's Arrest" (12/16/63)

3. Get Smart (1965-1970)
At first glance, Get Smart might seem like another dumb 60s sitcom. But check it out again and you will see that it is a brilliant parody of so many things - 60s spy shows, the Cold War. It is a ridiculous show but really quite revolutionary for its era. Long before there were ironic parody shows, this show put a satirical spin on the era with humor and over-the-top situations. Don Adams as Maxwell Smart was a memorable klutz who always managed to escape death by "that much." With many great guest stars, this show was ahead of its time in many ways. It's a brilliant satire posing as a dumb 60s sitcom. And it's hilarious.
Episodes you should see: #13 "Aboard the Orient Express" (12/11/65), #33 "A Spy for a Spy" (10/1/66), #75 "The Groovy Guru" (1/13/68), #87 "The Impossible Mission" (9/21/68), #95 "With Love and Twitches" (11/16/68)

2. Bewitched (1964-1972)
The 1960s were full of fantasy premises from martians to genies to spooky families to talking horses. But this one stood above them all in so many ways. Yes, the premise was fantastical but the show was really rooted in reality. Beyond all the magic was a real relationship between a loving husband and wife. Samantha (Elizabeth Montgomery) and Darrin (Dick York)'s relationship was the first "mixed marriage" on TV and their relationship had such a sweetness to it. The show was really a domestic sitcom with a fantasy twist rather than the other way around and that's what made the show work. It was about the relationships not the magic. The chemistry between Montgomery and York was magic enough. Bewitched ran too long and lost its way when Dick Sargent took over for an ailing York, but in its early days, it was one of the best of all time, not just the 1960s.
Episodes you should see: #1 "I, Darrin, Take This Witch, Samantha" (9/17/64), #7 "The Witches are Out" (10/29/64), #17 "A is for Aardvark" (1/14/65), #37 "Alias Darrin Stephens" (9/16/65), #69 "Divided He Falls" (5/5/66) 

1. The Dick Van Dyke Show (1961-1966)
As I've already mentioned and you can see, most 1960s shows were domestic, fantasy, or just plain silly. And then there was The Dick Van Dyke Show. A show that was a head of its time in many ways. Most 60s shows that are well-loved are beloved because of their glimpse into a bygone era or nostalgia of classic sitcoms. But The Dick Van Dyke Show is well-loved because of its writing, quality, and characters. This show could debut in 2011 and it would be top-notch. The comedy is timeless and the acting is superb. Dick Van Dyke, Mary Tyler Moore, Rose Marie, and Morey Amsterdam along with many great supporting characters made the show hilarious yet elegant. It has always been associated with the Kennedy era because it was smart and sophisticated, urban and glamorous. It's a timeless TV classic that feels as fresh now as it did 50 years ago when it debuted.
Episodes you should see: #19 "Where Did I Come From?" (1/3/62), #51 "It May Look Like a Walnut" (2/6/63), #64 "That's My Boy???" (9/25/63), #76 "The Alan Brady Show Presents" (12/18/63), #128 "Coast to Coast Big Mouth" (9/15/65)

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