Remembering the Great Television Shows of the 50's and 60's 

By Victoria Miller 

Call me nostalgic, but I miss the television programs of yesteryear. In the 1950's and early 1960's, television was still coming into its own, so there was innocence and a simplicity that seems to have been lost over the years.  

Variety shows such as Ed Sullivan's "Toast of the Town", "Cavalcade of Stars" and "The Milton Berle Show" were popular family fare. Game shows were also big-- shows like "You Bet Your Life" and "What's My Line" often made it to the top of the ratings. 

n 1951, a daffy redhead and her Cuban husband blew everyone away with their televise show, which was a mix of romance and comedic genius. "I Love Lucy", starring Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, William Frawley and Vivian Vance became a smash hit comedy and it stayed at the top of the ratings for most of its six year run. A hint to how innocent television was in the 1950's? The Ricardo's, Lucy and Desi's fictional counterparts, were a happily married couple who never the less slept in separate twin beds. Still, when Lucille Ball's real life pregnancy coincided with the Ricardo's fictional pregnancy, fans across the country gathered in front of their television sets to watch the Ricardo baby's birth. The show garnered record breaking ratings and a brand new television magazine called TV Guide marked the occasion by placing the Arnaz baby on the front cover of their very first issue. History was indeed in the making! 

Other family shows like "The Honeymooner's" and "Father's Knows Best" were popular during this time, as well as dramas and westerns like "Gunsmoke", "77 Sunset Strip" and "Perry Mason".  

As the 1950's came to a close, television began to change. Programming was becoming bolder, and by the mid 1960's, many shows were even beginning to be shown in color. Fantasy-like comedies such as "Bewitched", "I Dream of Jeannie" and "The Munster's" were in vogue. Far fetched comedy series like "Get Smart", "The Flying Nun" and "Gilligan's Island" were loved by fans. Variety shows were back, albeit a tad more risqué than in the 50's, with shows like "Rowan and Martin's Laugh In" taking center stage. A 1964 appearance by the Beatles on "The Ed Sullivan Show" cemented the Liverpool rockers into television history. 

In the 1950's and 1960's, television families were much different than they are today. The kids on "Leave it to Beaver" were polite, obedient children (okay, except for that Eddie Haskell-- he was a rascal). Families ate dinner together every night. Divorces didn't happen. Even a mischievous child like Dennis Mitchell from the hit series "Dennis the Menace" was really good hearted when all was said and done. He just had bad luck, that's all. Hired help, like Shirley Booth's "Hazel" provided laughs as well as a day's work.

Even by the late 60's, when the real world was really changing, television was still a safe haven. A blended family came to the airways-- not via divorce, though. A widow and a widower, each with three children, married and became "The Brady Bunch". Still seen in syndication 35 years later, "The Brady Bunch" has proved to be a timeless pop culture phenomenon. Deemed unrealistic by critics, the kids on that show generally got along and never called each other anything worse than a "dumb head". But it was okay. Really. 

Sure, I may be nostalgic, but I'm not the only one. DVD box sets of classic TV series of the past are popping up all over the place-- and they're as popular as ever. I enjoy taking that ride down memory lane, to a time when life was simpler. And besides, in times like these, a little innocence and simplicity never hurt anyone.




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