Television: the golden years. Or at least, the mid-’60s and early ’70s

Michael, Davy, Peter and Micky. Everyone had a favourite Monkee, right? (Mine was Micky.)

The death of Davy Jones this week got me thinking about the TV shows that we (my sister and brothers and I; my parents weren’t much for TV) watched in the years we lived at the Queensborough Manse – The Monkees of course being one of them. Our TV set, which we had for the entire 11 years we lived there, was nothing to write home about – second-hand, I am sure, and black and white (which meant Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color didn’t mean all that much), and before too many years had passed the on/off switch stopped functioning so that we had to turn it on and off by plugging and unplugging it. (Obviously there was no such thing as a remote – or clicker, to use the technical term – in those days. One actually had to get off one’s bottom to change the channel.)

We got two channels initially: CKWS Channel 11, the CBC affiliate in Kingston, Ont. (and did you know that the call letters stand for Kingston Whig-Standard? I once worked at that newspaper); and WWNY Channel 7, the CBS affiliate in Watertown, N.Y., now apparently a Fox channel. The latter’s local star was a guy named Danny Burgess, and he seemed to be the host of every locally produced show, from Saturday-morning kids’ stuff to the weather report. He must have worked about a hundred hours a week.

It was very exciting a few years later when a CTV outlet, CJOH in Ottawa (home of newsreader Max Keeping) appeared on the dial at Channel 6. And finally, sometime in the early ’70s, the brand new Global Television Network (“It’s a brand new point of view!”) on Channel 3. (I would, much later in life, be an employee of Israel “Izzy” Asper, founder of Global, when his Canwest Global corporation bought the Montreal Gazette and the rest of the Southam newspaper chain from Conrad Black. I have to say that back when Global started it really was something. “New” and “fresh” were not operative terms on the Canadian TV scene at the time.)

Anyway, four channels. Talk about choice! That big old antenna really reeled ’em in.

So let’s get nostalgic. Sit back, relax, let the memories flow, and let those corny soundtracks echo in your head:

The Man From U.N.C.L.E.,  Petticoat Junction, Bonanza, Gilligan’s Island, That Girl, I Dream of Jeannie, Bewitched, The Partridge Family (the Partridge Family!! Worth a whole separate post), Emergency!, Green Acres, The Dick Van Dyke Show, various incarnations of Lucy, Romper Room, the Uncle Bobby Show (don’t get me started), The Girl from U.N.C.L.E., The Honeymooners, Lost in Space, Medical Center (how do I remember that? Was that the one with dreamy Chad Everett and his hair?), the Carol Burnett Show (watch this Tim Conway-Harvey Korman sketch) Hawaii Five-O, Gentle Ben, Cannon, The Streets of San Francisco, Scooby-Doo Where Are You?, Josie and the Pussycats, Mr. Dressup, Chez Hélène, The Friendly Giant, Adventures in Rainbow Country (whose lead character was the unimaginatively named Billy Williams, whose mother was played by none other than Miss Moneypenny, Lois Maxwell), The Beachcombers, Front Page Challenge.

And then there were those odd foreign ones – like Follyfoot, from England, which I liked partly because I never could figure out what the deuce was going on and why all these unrelated characters were hanging out together on a horse farm – and what on earth was that Lightning Tree theme song all about? And The Rovers, Australian, I believe. Come on now, sing along: “The Rovers, the Rovers, follow the wand’ring sun; the Rovers, the Rovers – their world’s exciting and it’s fun.” Let’s get a visual:

What have I missed? I’m sure readers will have many more to add. But rest assured I have not forgotten the best of all, the funniest TV show ever: Get Smart. I saved the best for last. Here are a few choice moments:

Who has more fun than we do?

28 thoughts on “Television: the golden years. Or at least, the mid-’60s and early ’70s

    • Howdy, Brian! Dobie Gillis was just before my time, though I’ve heard many good things about it, and Raymond is a fan. Gilligan as a beatnik – crazy stuff! Odd that I never even saw it in reruns; perhaps it aired on one of the two U.S. newtworks we didn’t get at the Manse, ABC and NBC.

      • Not sure who Brian is, or what he’s doing in Abu Dhabi, but apparently they produce some damnedly fine squares over there.

  1. Yeah, as the youngest of four, I was the designated remote control.

    Ahh, Get Smart. Good times, good times.

    The real battle in our house was Gilligan’s Island – my personal fave – and Hogan’s Heroes, which Megan always commanded we watch. The Hogan’s Hero theme song wins, hands down, though.

    • Hogan’s Heroes! How could I have forgotten that one? I loved that show! (So I’m with Megan on that.) But really, what an insane idea: a comedy set in a Nazi concentration camp. But it was so entertaining how Col. Hogan and his gang always got the best of the bumbling Nazis – Col. Klink, of course, but also the doofus from the Luftwaffe.

      But Val, I’m puzzled: I was always under the impression that the Paynes didn’t have a TV. I know you guys didn’t in the very early days, but perhaps by the time you arrived your parents had eased up on the prohibition. I know I was at your house during the final game of the Canada-Russia hockey series, and I’m trying to recall if I saw Paul Henderson’s goal on TV or heard it on the radio. (I’ve seen the replay so many times since that it wouldn’t matter that I didn’t see it live.)

      • I think we got a black and white TV–pocket-sized, by today’s standards–in the mid-70s. Mum had been adamant there wouldn’t be one in the house (she referred to television as “the idiot box”) but I really think what tipped the scales was that she didn’t want people to think we were too poor to afford one. Before that, though, I believe Dad would often rent one for the NHL playoffs . . .and possibly the Canada-Russia series!

  2. My honey is somewhat younger than I am and much more a fan of comedies than other TV shows. I was much more taken with westerns at the time. or 10 years before her time. Among my favorites were The Lone Ranger, The Rifleman, Wanted: Dead or Alive, Have Gun, Will Travel, Wagon Train, and Cheyenne. And, of course, there was the classic Gunsmoke, which played well into the 80s but was especially good in the early years. I still dream of Miss Kitty. By the way, in response to Brian, I think Dobie Gillis is an all-time classic. Zelda, love, I’m here!

  3. My favorite Monkee was Peter Tork. And my favorite shows were: Dick Van Dyke Show, I Dream of Jeannie (wonder why?) and Bewitched. Oh, and the Twilight Zone….always the Twilight Zone…even now!

  4. Four channels! Wow, for the longest while we in the Midland-Penetanguishene area could only pull in one – CKVR in Barrie. We wondered why the TV had a dial on it because ours was permanently on Channel 3.
    I’m so glad you included Get Smart. (You could have “missed it by THAT much!) I secretly had the hots for 99, what with those berets and her sexy voice, “Ohhhh, Max!”
    What about the Ed Sullivan Show, or am I only showing my age – again? It was the kind of variety show that would be unimaginable today – for every demographic possible. On any given Sunday evening Ed’s entertainment smograsbord could include Topo Gigo, ventriloquist Señor Wences, Wayne & Shuster, some opera diva or dancing bears from the Soviet Union. And where were you on Feb. 9, 1964, so soon after JFK was assassinated, when the Beatles first appeared on Ed’s show, or does that not fit into your Manse time frame? I recall my father’s sense of alarm at the excitement shown that night by me and my sister Liz and predicting that the Beatles would be a “two-week phenomenon.” We never let him forget that.

    • You know, shortly after I made that post I realized I’d forgotten Ed Sullivan, clearly one of the most important ones. I will always regret that I never saw the Beatles on that show, but well do I remember Topo Gigo (not that I ever really got what that was all about) – and didn’t the Flying Wallendas show up with some regularity? And Wayne and Shuster – I forgot that they were kind of a favourite of Ed’s. Actually Wayne and Shuster specials are another one I should have had in the list. But back to Ed: let’s have a little listen to a classic from the Mamas and the Papas from his stage:

  5. I really must ring in with the Beverly Hillbillies! That being said, Get Smart was the first show I ever remember watching and I think it will always be my favorite. My brother Jeff (17 months my junior) and I bonded over that show. We seemed to be forever telling each other, “I asked you not to tell me that” and holding our noses after walking into an imaginary steel door. Ahhh…the good ‘ol days! Thanks for yet another trip down memory lane. Luving this!

    • Thank you so much, Pam! I kind of thought a blast through the TV shows that we all grew up with would resonate with people. I can’t believe I forgot the Beverly Hillbillies. Miss Hathaway and Mr. Drysdale, what a pair! But yeah, Get Smart still makes me laugh, and always will.

  6. I feel so inadequate. We didn’t get a TV until I was 14. Every day I’d go to school and all the kids would be talking about stuff I had absolutely no concept of. And now you’re doing it again.
    Well screw you all. I had Batman (comics) and the the Hardy boys (hardcover) and a Crokinole board and my dog Rufus, and a mom saying ” quit bugging your little sister or I’ll get the yardstick out…if you’re so bored then go outside! ”
    Seriously the only time I ever watched TV as a kid was for about two weeks every year when dad rented one for the Stanley cup finals. Or when I came to the manse during march break to help haul sap. I’d be glued to every show possible in every spare moment. It drove John crazy… ” c’mon Bruce let’s go outside…”

  7. Yardstick? Now that reminds me of a fantastic stairway-related story from the manse days. Remember when I used to thump up the stairs with a big ol’ yardstick to pound the living shite out of John and Ken as they cowered under their covers in bed? Oh, man…..good times. I would bang it ominously against the closed-in walls of the back staircase as I made my dramatic way up the stairs, so they would know I was coming and scream like a couple of school-girls. They got the beating of their lives, but, strangely, never made any attempt to escape when they got wind of my intent. Did I mention? Good times indeed.
    Come on! How much can a yardstick hurt when you’re covered in 17 of Grandma’s mothball-y quilts? They loved it! In fact, they should thank me right now.

      • At least John and Katherines and mine are all green – always the odd man out heh Mick?

      • I’d be happy to brandish that yardstick over at your house someday. And I’ll make sure you’re not surrounded by any mothbally quilts. Just you and 36 inches of pain, my friend….What’s that?….I’m showing my age?…..Oh, hell….Decametres, or whatever it is…

  8. Me, how come your square is so plain?
    Also, with my new work email address, I believe that brings my total number of squares to three.

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