Friday, February 4, 2011

52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History - Week 6 - TV Shows

Week 6 Challenge: Radio and Television. What was your favorite radio or television show from your childhood? What was the program about and who was in it?

Being a pop culture junkie my entire life, this is a challenge that I can definitely embrace. What's difficult is that I don't think I can narrow this down to just one TV show.

The 1950s:
  • I Love Lucy
  • Father Knows Best
  • Leave it to Beaver
  • Make Room for Daddy
  • The Andy Griffith Show
  • 77 Sunset Strip
  • Roy Rogers Show
  • Our Miss Brooks
  • The Real McCoys
  • I've Got a Secret
  • Perry Como Show
  • Ed Sullivan Show
This list would be an indication that, as a pre-teen, I liked sit-coms. Lucy was probably my favorite, but the shows that featured families are right up there. I remember when I was in my twenties and my Mom said to me, "You always thought that life was like Father Knows Best and it's just not like that." Truer words were never spoken. The character I related to on that show was Cathy/Kitten since we were about the same age. Of all of the shows listed, Father Knows Best is the one I never missed. And I had to get my hair washed around the Father Knows Best time slot.

In the 1950s, we had three over-the-air broadcast networks: ABC, CBS and NBC. The educational television network was in its infancy. The reception for the ABC affiliate in Omaha was horrible, so we didn't see very many ABC shows.

As a family we watched the entertainment shows like Ed Sullivan and Perry Como. We had a parakeet we named Perry. I don't know if he was named by me or my Mom. One day he was out of his cage, the front door was open and we never saw him again. I can actually remember watching Elvis Presley's first appearance on the Sullivan show. I remember that I grabbed a broom as my pretend guitar and started dancing around with it.

The 1960s
  • Bonanza
  • My Three Sons
  • Candid Camera
  • Dr. Kildare
  • The Beverly Hillbillies
  • The Dick Van Dyke Show
  • Gomer Pyle, USMC
  • Gilligan's Island
  • Ed Sullivan Show
  • My Favorite Martian
  • Get Smart
  • Green Acres
In the 1960s, color TV came to American households. Not ours - none of my immediate family had color TVs until about 1976. But my grandparents (Dad's Mom and his stepfather) were among the first to have a color TV. I remember going to their house to see our first TV show in color - Bonanza. I went to school the next day to tell my friends about the experience. I said, "you can even hear the horses snort better in color." Where do kids get this stuff? And why do I remember it?

As much as I loved Get Smart back then, I am furious that the phrase "Sorry 'bout That" has remained in the public consciousness. Whenever someone screws up, they say "Sorry 'bout That" and it's clear they really don't mean it.

Outside of national news events, the biggest TV event of the 1960s for me was The Beatles' first appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show on February 9, 1964. My life has always been divided into two time frames: before The Beatles and After The Beatles. Something that blog readers probably don't know is that for the past 13 years I have hosted an online discussion forum for more than 1,600 collectors of Beatles music and memorabilia.

Network News

Growing up, we were a Huntley-Brinkley family. It was NBC all the way. I was in my third year of journalism school in the 1970s when I transitioned over to Walter Cronkite on CBS. The around-the-clock news coverage of President Kennedy's assassination and funeral was a turning point for television news. The ability to bring news as it happened into American living rooms demonstrated the new power of the medium. I'll save my comments about how 24-hour news channels have contributed to the deterioration of journalism ethics for another day. (Recent examples: the inaccurate reports last month that Rep. Giffords was dead after being shot).

As I review the list of television programming that filled up much of my childhood, I'm amazed by how much of my life has been spent in front of a television screen. Putting this in a family history perspective, people from my parent's generation and back did not spend time watching television. Were they more connected with their nuclear family? Did they read books by lamplight in the evenings? Did they sew? Did they play cards or other parlor games? How did they know when something was funny without having a laugh track?

This list also makes me wonder how I managed to keep up with school work, read books, and participate in athletic and theatrical activities. Apparently, there was some kind of balance in the mix.

Something strange has occurred over the last few years. When I conduct training workshops (non-genealogy), I frequently use pop culture references in my talk to make a point. As an example: "Lu-cy, you got some 'splainin' to do." My audiences have become much younger and they have this glazed-over expression and I can tell they are thinking, "what on earth is she talking about?" Maybe one other person in the room has a clue what I'm talking about.

TV Theme Songs

What was best feature of these shows? The theme music! How many of these themes can you finish:
  • Come and listen to a story about a man named Jed . . .
  • Just sit right back and you'll hear a tale, a tale of a fateful trip . . .
  • Green Acres is the place for me . . .
  • I love Lucy and she loves me . . .
  • Here's a story of a man named ...
  • Well, we're movin' on up, to the East side . . .
  • Boy, the way Glenn Miller played . . .
  • Who can turn the world on with her smile . . .
And the best instrumental themes of all time
  • Hawaii Five-O
  • Magnum, P.I.
  • Dallas
  • Bonanza
  • Hill Street Blues
  • Mash (Suicide is Painless)
Share Your Comments
Please share some of your old favorite shows or theme songs in the Comments section below.

About 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History: Amy Coffin of We Tree Genealogy has created a third year of blogging prompts for genealogy bloggers. The theme for 2011 is 52 Weeks of Personal Genealogy and History. These are shared on the web site, hosted by Thomas MacEntee.


  1. Here are a few themes off the top of my head: Peter Gun, Car 54, Bat Masterson, Have Gun Will Travel, Mr. Ed, The Avengers ... I'll probably think of more later.

  2. You really opened up the floodgates of memories for me with this post. Thanks!

  3. Greta - how could I have forgotten A Horse is a Horse, of course, of course! I remember when I learned to play the theme from Peter Gunn on my guitar! Can't believe I missed those!

  4. Mother I would rather do it myself! ahh what commercials made it big and stuck.where's the beef? and they were part of us and our humor of our time. and glaze of eyes of youngsters. just as their comments pass over my head. s.I.c.k. i still don't know what they stand for.
    what era was laugh in. what a influnce. and hollywood squares. I bought pop magazines. knew a lot, but saw few of them. Smother brothers were so funny. sonny and cher was big for me. My favorite was the sat matinees.[Even black and white who cared.] They came on after morning long ranger or roy rogers. after school cartoons. yogi bear, or others. rocky.
    Nice post.

  5. I can relate to ALL you said and to the comments so far. Some favorites I'd add are Daniel Boone and Davy Crocket, The Fugitive, Man From Uncle, Johnny Yuma, Gunsmoke, Big Valley, Cheyenne, Fury, Sky King, Mighty Mouse, Captain Kangaroo, Romper Room...and does anyone remember Pete and Gladys? You can tell I was into horses, westerns, pioneers and manly men, LOL! (I was the only girl so I watched a lot of shows my dad and brothers liked). Great post Susan...very well written!